It was about dark now; so I dropped the canoe down the river under some willows that hung over the bank, and waited for the moon to rise. I made fast to a willow; then I took a bite to eat, and by and by laid down in the canoe to smoke a pipe and lay out a plan. I says to myself, they’ll follow the track of that sackful of rocks to the shore and then drag the river for me. And they’ll follow that meal track to the lake and go browsing down the creek that leads out of it to find the robbers that killed me and took the things. They won’t ever hunt the river for anything but my dead carcass. They’ll soon get tired of that, and won’t bother no more about me. All right; I can stop anywhere I want to. Jackson’s Island is good enough for me; I know that island pretty well, and nobody ever comes there. And then I can paddle over to town nights, and slink around and pick up things I want. Jackson’s Island’s the place.
I was pretty tired, and the first thing I knowed I was asleep. When I woke up I didn’t know where I was for a minute. I set up and looked around, a little scared. Then I remembered. The river looked miles and miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from shore. Everything was dead quiet, and it looked late, and SMELT late. You know what I mean—I don’t know the words to put it in.
I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from oars working in rowlocks when it’s a still night. I peeped out through the willow branches, and there it was—a skiff, away across the water.
I couldn’t tell how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it was abreast of me I see there warn’t but one man in it. Think’s I, maybe it’s pap, though I warn’t expecting him. He dropped below me with the current, and by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy water, and he went by so close I could a reached out the gun and touched him. Well, it WAS pap, sure enough—and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.
I didn’t lose no time. The next minute I was a-spinning down stream soft but quick in the
shade of the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the middle of the river, because pretty soon I would be passing the ferry landing, and people might see me and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing. I heard what they said, too—every word of it. One man said it was
getting towards the long days and the short nights now. T’other one said THIS warn’t one of the short ones, he reckoned—and then they laughed, and he said it over again, and
they laughed again; then they waked up another fellow and told him, and laughed, but he didn’t laugh; he ripped out something brisk, and said let him alone. The first fellow said
he ‘lowed to tell it to his old woman—she would think it was pretty good; but he said that
warn’t nothing to some things he had said in his time. I heard one man say it was nearly three o’clock, and he hoped daylight wouldn’t wait more than about a week longer. After
that the talk got further and further away, and I couldn’t make out the words any more; but I could hear the mumble, and now and then a laugh, too, but it seemed a long ways off.