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How the Thing started.
I FIRST made the acquaintance of the two young fellows whose photographs adorn the opposite page at one of our peculiarly national “institutions,” — a railroad smash-up. We were moving along at ordinary express-rate from Portland to Boston viâ a certain line which has since acquired a rather sanguinary reputation. The car was not a little crowded. I distinctly remember having the seat next the stove, at the extreme forward end. Fortunately there was no fire, — this being in June, — otherwise our narrative might never have been written; or, at least, come down a good deal singed. Well, every traveler of any considerable experience (and that we all are, or affect to be) knows how it comes. A truck had broken, it was said. The narrator’s head made a very respectable dint in the zinc sheathing past the stove. At the same time, his heels were nearly cut off by the back of the seat whirling over and striking down upon the backs of his ankles. As all the passengers seemed to have business at the forward end of the car just then, I was not alone: on the contrary, one fellow seemed to have taken it into his head to ride me much as Capt. Waterton is said to have ridden the cayman. He came over on the back of the seat, and had bestrided me in a twinkling, sitting down with no great gentleness on the “small” of my back. I could also, by a sidewise glance, discern another youngster in between the stovepipe and the side of the car, — a position he seemed to dislike exceedingly, judging from the thrashing about he made, his boot-heel occasionally coming down beside my cheek. Though a little giddy from my attempt at dieting the zinc, I still felt pretty tolerably certain that I had not been killed; but judged it best to keep quiet, especially since I could not do much else. There was a great uproar and shouting overhead. Some blockhead was battering at the car-door on the outside with an ax. Every stroke sent the glass from the broken window rattling about our ears. Presently the young Rarey who had mounted me squirmed a little, and then gave me a punch with his knuckles.
“Say! you dead?” he demanded.
“I — believe — not.”
“Then I presume you would like to have me get off.”
I suppose I replied to the effect, that, if it were convenient for him, it would be very gratifying to me.
“Just so. I’ll see what can be done. Wash,” addressing somebody, “for Heaven’s sake do quit kicking me in the ribs!”
“Am I, though?” cried the chap behind the stovepipe. “Beg your forgiveness. But what’s a fellow to do? Here I’m wedged in.”
“Can’t you use the other foot?” suggested my rider.
“No, no! don’t use that!” I exclaimed. “Your boot-heel’s right in my ear now.”
Just then the man with the ax knocked in the door, which flew back, mashing up a whole caucus of hats, and spatting one old gentleman flat in the face. The conductor crowded in side-foremost, and seeing “Wash” first of anybody, I suppose, pulled him out from behind the stove. “Rarey” crawled up off my back, and we all three got out at the door. The car had left the rails, turned half around, and headed down the bank. Nobody was killed outright. One man had a broken leg, and swore he would have handsome damages for the same.
There were several limpers.
One lady had the whole skirt of her dress torn off, and was carrying this in one hand, and a big dumpling-colored chignon in the other. There were also several others carrying chignons of various colors.
Everybody, save the broken-legged man, pleasantly concurred in the opinion that it was “quite a little bump!” — one of those small jolts to which life is unavoidably heir to, and which are to be borne as good-humoredly as possible.
It was about a mile and a half to the next station. Fifteen minutes after the “bump,” the majority of the passengers were walking along the track in twos and threes.
Whoever doubts our claim to be ranked a nation of philosophers should witness our general deportment after a not-too-shocking railroad smash-up. I do not believe there was a person on the train who would have betrayed to his neighbor that he was not a world-wide traveler by any undue fluster; nor, not to be nominated for President.
These “bumps,” however, do have the effect to break up the reserve between fellow-passengers. In fact, one can’t very well maintain his pet re serve toward a fellow who sits astride his back, or vice versa. I dare say the two youths in the seat behind me would have ridden all day under ordinary circumstances, without, either by smile or look, seeming to be aware of my presence in the seat in front. I should not have presumed to address them. But, on getting out of the broken car, we somehow kept together as we walked on to the dépôt, and, after a few mutual endeavors, succeeded in starting a general conversation, in the course of which it was ascertained that they were returning from a certain well-reputed “fitting-school” in South-eastern New Hampshire; fitting for Harvard, — ether the college or the scientific school; they hadn’t quite decided which. Latterly they inclined to the scientific school.
Well, so did I.
“Science” was getting to be of more account than Greek and Latin.
Of course it was.
They were chums, and both lived in Boston.
I lived “way down Bangor way;” but I was going to Boston.
That was good.
‘Twas rather queer that we should run into each other so.
Queer indeed! We were about to say nice, but thought that would be a little too much at present.
Another train was made up, and we went on to Boston in company. I recollect that we got on very comfortably in talk. Our general opinions seemed to tally agreeably, particularly on Latin and Greek. We were at peace in our politics too (as was learned after much delicate sounding). That was very favorable; and, on arriving quite late in the evening, we exchanged cards, they giving me a cordial invitation to “call round” the next day.
Thus far I had not learned their names, save that one was Wash, and the other “Red,” to judge from the way Wash pronounced it. I therefore examined the cards with some curiosity. One bore the address of “G. W. Burleigh, No.—, Columbus Ave.;” the other, “J. Warren Raedway, No.—, Tremont Street.”
The first was probably Wash; for, after putting them in my pocket at the dépôt, I could not tell which from which. G. W. doubtless stood for George Washington: as a rule, all the G. W.’s in the United States stand for that. Then the other must be “Red;” and, come to look at it, the first syllable of the surname might very likely be pronounced “Red.”
The next afternoon I called round on Raed. Wash happened to be there. In the evening they took me to hear the “big organ,” there being a concert at Music Hall that night. The next morning we went over to Charlestown to visit that most attractive of all localities for your young citizen of fifteen and seventeen, — the Navy Yard. Match it if you can, with its rows of heavy cannon and its wonderful pyramids of balls in the park; the dry-dock; the huge old receiving ship “Ohio;” and, best of all, the rusty “monitors” with their shot-proof turrets, into which we climbed through the ports. Then we went on board the frigate “Franklin.” As we stood on the quarter-deck in the fresh breeze, a smart little schooner came scudding along from the harbor.
“It’s the commodore’s yacht,” said Wash. “Isn’t she a beauty?”
“Oh, if we only had that!” exclaimed Raed to Wash.
“That isn’t nearly so fast nor so clean built as some in the New York Club, or even in the Eastern Club,” replied Wash.
“Don’t care for that,” said Raed. “It’s a stanch little craft. Just the thing for us to go out along the coast with this summer.”
“Do you know Herb. Belcher has just bought a new yacht?”
“Yes: Jem Atwood told me last night. And Clat Maynard’s having one built. ‘Most done; too.”
“Those fellows are just going in; ain’t they?” exclaimed Wash. “Too bad we can’t.”
“Why can’t you?” I asked, — rather injudiciously, I am afraid.
“Can’t raise the wind,” laughed Wash, a little discontentedly.
“Why, how much would it cost?” I inquired.
“Well, such a yacht as we should want would cost all the way from a thousand up to twenty-five hundred. Then there’s the expense of running her, — two hundred dollars a month. Can’t do it much less than that: hire a skipper, you know. It cost those New-York fellows four hundred, they say. Nice, if a fellow’s rich.”
“But I don’t care so much for a yacht, to belong to a club, and race at regattas, as I do to go out in on my own hook, and even make quite long voyages along the coast,” explained Raed. “What I should really like to do,” he exclaimed, “would be to have a good strong yacht, and go off as far as Halifax, Newfoundland, and even up to Iceland, or across to England.”
“Oh, it could be done easy enough!” exclaimed Raed. “What’s to hinder? To tell the truth,” he went on, “I’m not just satisfied with the way we’re getting our education. Here we’re cooped up in one little town to study year after year. All we can get is a mere book-knowledge. Come to go out into the world, we’re as green and greener than before we went to college. I doubt if it be a good plan to stuff one’s head with mere printed descriptions of things and places. A fellow ought to travel as he studies, I say. What I should want to do would be to pack my books aboard this yacht I spoke of, and so sail away to read up, and see the world as I read.”
“That’s the way to get an education; and that’s the way it will be done before many years,” concluded Raed, somewhat flushed by so long and so earnest a speech.
“The only trouble is, we haven’t got the ‘rocks’ to do it,” remarked Wash. “That’s one of the fine things that might be done if we only had plenty of money.”
“You will have to come down to our country,” said I, “and find the ‘lost lode.’”
“The lost lode!” said Raed. “What’s that?”
Thereupon I told them the favorite legend of my native neighborhood, that a Penobscot Indian, while hunting moose near Mount Katahdin, had found, on one of the northern peaks or spurs of the ridge, a lode of lead, so pure that he had cut off quantities of it with his knife to run into bullets.
“But is there any truth in it?” asked Wash. “A great many think there is,” I replied.
“I should think you would hunt for it,” said Raed. “If there’s much of it, it would be valuable.”
“I have had thoughts of hunting for it,” said I. “You had better go down there this summer and help me find it. We’ll go shares.”
“Not a bad idea!” exclaimed Wash. “We’re going out somewhere after it gets hot. Last summer we went up to Lake Winnipiseogee. No great shakes up there: too many round. I suppose you could show us some good fishing and shooting if we didn’t find the lead?”
At that I dilated at large on the trout, partridges, caribou, and ‘coons of my natal country; promising, moreover, to take them on a moose-hunt.
“But can we come as well as not?” asked Raed. “Can you have us?”
I assured them there would be no difficulty on that score, and guaranteed them a warm welcome from my grandfather, with whom I then resided.
“Then we will come, no mistake,” said Wash.
So much for a friendship begun by a broken car-truck. I was in the city only a week; but I saw a good deal of them during that time: in fact, we talked the matter over nearly every day; and, after I went home, we wrote back and forth. I sent them a box of flying-squirrels, and one containing a black squirrel, by express.
The gist of our correspondence was their proposed visit, and the expedition we meant to make to find the lead.
One of these letters, which bears the date of June 29, contains the following paragraph, which I copy to show how we felt and talked at that time.
It was from Raed, though Wash wrote fully as often. He thus concludes: —
“Look for us about the 25th of next month (July). We can get to come by that time, I think. You are sure it will be all right with your grand father? We shall bring fish-hooks and all the fixin’s. But we want to learn something as well a3 have an out-and-out good time. Wash is reading up on natural history, and I am taking geology (about the earth and the rocks, you know). We’re posting up. You ought to take something for your part. That’s the way they do in regular scientific expeditions. Have one man for the natural history, another for the geology, and another for the botany. I’ve been looking at specimens of galena (lead) ore; also at specimens of gold-bearing rocks, and at gold in the ore. I shall know what it is if we come to it anywhere. Can’t sell me out on copper pyrites, like what we read of the early Virginians.
“We’re going to bring some big bottles to put snakes in. Can we get alcohol up your way? (to put the snakes in, of course.) We shall bring a rifle, and plenty of cartridges. You’ve got a good shot-gun, I believe you said: an army rifle bored out for shot, isn’t it? We shall bring our last winter suits for camping out in. Can you furnish some blankets? We will bring a lot of mosquito‑netting, as you suggested. About the 25th, I hope; but you write, and we will write again before then.
“Very truly yours, &c.,
J. W. RAEDWAY.
“P. S. — That black squirrel came all right. He’s a beauty. We’ve had no end of fun with him. We have him in a cage; and he makes the wheel spin good. I guess you could get the fox through to us. Put him in a big box. We can stand the ex press-bill. Wash thinks you had best take mineralogy (the part about the various kinds of rock). Says he will send you a book on it, if you want one. We shall need to be well posted on geology and mineralogy, you know. Now write and tell us what other things you think we shall want.
“J. W. R.”
Eight days after, Wash writes, —
“Kit, I’m stuck. I’ve got a cousin here; just arrived in the city; came up from the South last week. I’ve kind of got him on my hands to amuse and put him round, you know. His father was a pretty big rebel in the war: so my father says. Was one of those that went down to South America, Brazil. You know, a lot of those rebels did. Meant to found a slave empire in the Valley of the Amazon, — some such nonsense. Guess they never made out much; though old man Additon (that’s the name) is down there yet. They say he’s got a plantation started. But the Emperor of Brazil has rather gone back on them; talks of freeing all the slaves. Rough on those rebs who went down there to keep up slavery! Serves ‘em right, though, I say. But I try to made Wade (his name’s Wade Hampton Additon, — just think of that! Wade Hampton!) as comfortable as I can; and father’s helped the family a good deal since the war. They lost about everything. Aunt Addition and Wade never have been to Brazil: they’ve been staying at their old plantation in South Carolina. But what with Ku-Klux troubles, etc., things got so nasty there this spring, that aunt came on to Baltimore to live; and Wade came up here to us, to stay till they can hear from Capt. Additon, and find out what to do.
“So here I am with him sort of tied to me. I can’t very well go off and leave him. He’s a good fellow enough, and mighty smart in his way; but he’s a dreadful rebel. Tell you, his eyes will snap when he gets to talking about the war. He fought against us, too, when Sherman marched down through there to Savannah. Was in two or three skirmishes. Only thirteen then. You know, the Southern boys most all bore arms at that time.
“Well, Wade’s got wind of our expedition, and wants to go with us. But Raed says we ought not to think of taking him out among Northern folks, — uninvited, too. I thought I would just write you how it is, and then do as you think best.
“P. S. — Wade has got one of the queerest dogs you ever saw. It’s a ‘Chinaman.’ Wade bought him in New York; but he had just been brought through from San Francisco and China. Hasn’t got a hair on him! Skin bare as your hand, but hard and tough like an elephant’s; just about the color of an elephant too. Wade calls him Ding-bat; says that’s his Chinese name. Barks about the brogyest you ever heard, — two yaps at once! All the other dogs here go for him the moment they set eyes on him, same’s the paddies go for “John” at San Francisco. Wade says he’s a lizard-hunter. Big lizards in China, I expect. Now, we shall rather need a dog, you know. What say for Ding-bat?
“I told you before, I believe, that we are going to bring a compass.
“Raed has got lead on the brain, sure. He talks of nothing save lead assay and shot-towers. Have to chuck him into an asylum to cool him off! Do you really suppose we shall find that lode? And what’s this you wrote about an ‘Indian devil’? (for I had said something concerning the Indian tradition that Pomoola guards the summit of Katahdin.) Tell me more about that.
“G. W. B.”
I wrote back to bring the Southerner by all means, and Ding-bat; that we would all make allowance for his peculiar opinions; and that I hoped we should be able to reconstruct him. Reconstruction was the chief subject of talk at that time.
And yet another letter, received two days later from Raed, contains the following item: —
“This young Additon knows something of surveying and engineering. He studied a while under one of the military engineers of the Confederate army. We can appoint him engineer to the expedition. He has with him an aneroid barometer — to measure heights above the sea-level with. We rather need a theodolite to measure angles with; but they are somewhat expensive: besides, it is a heavy thing, — clumsy to carry. Additon has a semicircular protractor and a pair of dividers. He says he can measure angles roughly with those instruments; and, as the engineering is not to be the most important department, I think we shall not try to take the theodolite.
“Hope you are getting on with the mineralogy We are preparing note-books.