Why not? asked the captain, very much surprised at the boys interference.
Because it does not belong to us.
Thats so, the captain replied, seeing at once that James was right.
Probably the captain had never stopped to think whether the custom of fighting for a lock was right or not. But the suggestion of James seemed to act as an inspiration on him, and he called out to his bowman:
Hold on! hold on, boys!
The men looked up in surprise, as if wondering what had happened. One minute more, and some hard knocks would have been given.
Hold on! repeated the captain, in the loudest tone of authority that he could command. Let them have the lock.
The order was obeyed; the free fight was prevented; the other boat entered the lock; peace reigned in Warsaw. James commanded the situation. His principles prevailed.
The boat was all night getting through the twenty-one locks, but at sunrise was on Lake Summit, moving forward under as bright a day-dawning as ever silvered the waters. The mules were moving on a slow trot, under the crack of the drivers whip, and everything was hopeful. Breakfast was called. George Lee, the steersman, came out and sat down to the table, and the first word he spoke was:
Jim, whats the matter with ye?
Nothing; I never felt better in my life, replied James.
What did you give up the lock for, last night?
Because it didnt belong to us.
Jim, continued Lee, in a tone of bitterness, accompanied with his usual profanity, yer are a coward; yer aint fit to be a boatman. Yer may do to chop wood or milk cows, but a man or a boy isnt fit for a boat who wont fight for his rights.
James only smiled at his fellow-boatman, and went on with his breakfast, making no reply. The captain heard the remarks, and admired the more the courage, coolness, and principle of his boy-driver. He saw that there was a magnanimous soul under that dirty shirt, and he enjoyed the evidence of its reign.
The boat reached Beaver, and a steamer was about to tow her up to Pittsburg, when the following incident occurred, just as the captain describes it:
James was standing on deck, with the setting-pole against his shoulders, and several feet away stood Murphy, one of the boat-hands, a big, burly fellow of thirty-five, when the steamboat threw the line, and, owing to a sudden lurch of the boat, it whirled over the boys shoulders, and flew in the direction of the boatman.
Look out, Murphy! shouted James; but the rope had anticipated him, and knocked Murphys hat off into the river.
It was an accident, Murphy, exclaimed James, by way of excuse. Im very sorry.
Ill make yer sorry, bellowed Murphy, thoroughly mad, and, like a reckless bull, he plunged at James with his head down, thinking to knock him over, perhaps, into the water, where his hat had gone; but
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