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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER V. The Steamboat.

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It was dark when we reached the landing place
on the river, and we had but just time to get our
baggage on to the dock, before we heard the distant
ringing of the steamboat bell, which was soon
followed by the noise of her wheels splashing in
the water, and the hissing of the steam, and then
the boat herself came in sight, vomiting forth
smoke and fire. It was the first steamer I had
ever seen, and the dim outline of her huge form,
partially illuminated by the lights on her deck, as
she floated past on the dark bosom of the river,
filled my mind with extravagant and grotesque
ideas of her size and shape. As I stood gazing
at her with absorbing curiosity, a small boat suddenly
darted up to the dock with the velocity of
lightning, the sparkling white foam rising from
her bows like a snow drift. Two men jumped on
to the dock, and began to throw the baggage into
the boat, and one by one, my companions in
travel all disappeared. I was completely bewildered,
and at a loss what to do with myself.

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“Bear a hand,” cried a gruff voice from the
boat, “or you'll be left.”

“Why don't you get in, boss?” said one of the
men on the dock.

“I don't see how I can,” I replied, looking
over the end of the wharf. Without more ado,
somebody gave me a push, and I tumbled headlong
into the boat; fortunately, I lighted upon a
heap of carpet bags, and although I was not much
hurt, I was most terribly frightened. The boat
was drawn with amazing velocity through the water,
and we were very soon alongside of the steamer.
The passengers scrambled on board, but as
I had so far recovered my senses as to perceive
my beautiful fellow traveller sitting in the stern
of the boat, I resolved not to let this last opportunity
escape of showing my gallantry, and seeing
somebody near her, I stepped briskly past, and
asked her if I should have the pleasure of assisting
her out of the boat; she thanked me very
sweetly, and took hold of my extended hand; but
as I stepped back my foot slipped, and I fell my
whole length in the bottom of the boat. When
I got upon my feet again, she was gone. I hobbled
on board the steamer, but I could see nothing
of her; I had caught her pocket handkerchief
in my fall, and as I could not find her to

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restore it, I put it into my pocket, to keep in remembrance
of her.

The deck of the steamboat was crowded with
passengers, and a little bow-legged negro was running
about, with a bell in his hand, crying out,
“passengers what hasn't paid his passages ull
please call to the capn's office and set-tel.” So
I obeyed the call of the little negro, and having
paid my passage, I ascended a pair of stairs close
by, and found myself alone on the upper deck.
There was no moon, but the stars were shining in
all their brightness and beauty, and by their light
I could trace the outline of the banks of the river,
which rose high above my head in black and indistinct
masses. The water looked black and cold,
and the night wind was damp and chilly. Below,
all was light and life; but here, a step removed, all
was solitary, dark, and still. I took the handkerchief
of my beautiful fellow-traveller from my pocket
and kissed it, and pressed it to my heart; I felt
very grand, and clasped my hands together, and
looked up to the stars, but blushed as the thought
crossed my mind, that they might be intelligent existences,
which were looking down into my breast,
and reading my thoughts.

I now felt that I was in reality afloat upon the
wide world, ignorant of its ways, with no definite

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object of pursuit, and with but slender means of
support. I thought of my mother and sister, and
my eyes filled with tears. Vague and indistinct
apprehensions of evil rushed through my mind,
and I looked forward to the termination of my
journey, and the return of day, with dread. And
then I called to mind the scornful prediction of my
proud cousin, and the feelings it awakened absorbed
all others. I threw my hands above me with
a feeling of confidence and pride, and I vowed
never to despair, nor to slacken in my exertions,
until I had attained to wealth and fame, and proved
my haughty cousin a liar.

To prevent a return of dull and gloomy forebodings,
I left the upper deck, and found my way
down into the cabin, where the brilliancy and
gayety of the scene completely staggered me; so
great was the change from darkness and solitude,
to light and revelry. The cabin was crowded with
passengers; some were lolling on the sofas; some
were reading; but the greater part were clustered
around the card tables, where they were playing
for money. My fellow traveller in the lilac shirt
was dealing out the cards at one of these tables,
and after dealing them round for a few times, he
exclaimed, “vantoon,” and without more ceremony,
he caught up a little heap of sixpences and

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shillings, and rose up from the table; and seeing me
standing by, took me by the arm, and would make
me drink with him at the little bar at one end of
the cabin; and then we went on deck together,
when he pulled out his pocket book, and asked me
to accept his card; it was as follows:





Presented by J. Lummucks.

I read this card over and over several times before
I could exactly understand its import; but the
thought occurred to me that it was intended for an
introduction, and that my new friend must be Mr.
Lummucks. I felt very much embarrassed, for I
had no card of my own to return, and I was at a
loss how to make myself known to him.

“Mr. Lummucks, I presume?” I said, inquiringly.

“Yes, sir,” replied the gentleman, lifting his hat.

“I have no card about me,” I said, “but my
name is Franco.”

“Mr. Franco, how do you do,” said Mr. Lummucks,
taking my hand and shaking it very

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warmly, as though he had met with an old friend after a
long separation, “I am very happy to see you.”

“I am very well, I thank you, sir,” I replied,
with as much solemnity as though I had an insurance
upon his life, “how is your health?”

So our introduction being over, we talked quite
freely again, and I thought Mr. Lummucks was
the noblest hearted, the genteelest, and the finest
fellow breathing; and I looked upon it as a very
favorable omen, that I should in the very outset of
my career, gain the friendship of so fine a gentleman.
Finding that I was unacquainted in New
York, he invited me to go with him to the City
Hotel, where he lived. I promised to do so, and
we parted for the night.

Being tired and sleepy, I went down into the
cabin again to go to bed, but to my amazement, I
found not only all the births occupied with sleepers,
but all the settees, and chairs, and tables. I looked
all about, but I could find no vacant spot to
stretch myself out upon. The cabin was very warm,
and the air disagreeable, and the music of three or
four hundred men snoring in concert, was any
thing but pleasant. I went on deck again, and
having found a vacant place, I spread out my plaid
cloak and lay down to sleep. Seeing something

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round and glossy near me, and supposing it to be
a pumpkin, I rested my head upon it for a pillow,
and should very soon have been fast asleep, but for
the difficulty of keeping it steady. It kept rolling
away from under my head, till at length I caught
hold of it with both hands, determined, if possible,
to keep it still.

“Murdther! murdther! murdther!” cried out a
voice close by my ear. I started up affrighted, and
half a dozen men, in red shirts and begrimed faces,
came running to the place where I lay, when I discovered
by the light of a lantern, which one of
them carried, that the pumpkin which I had been
trying to keep under my head, was the bald pate
of a drunken deck passenger. When I had succeeded
in convincing the men that I had no murderous
designs upon the deck passenger, I crept
away to another part of the boat, and was soon
fast asleep.

When I awoke, it was broad day light, the boat
had arrived at the wharf, and the passengers were
hurrying ashore; I jumped up and rubbed my
eyes, very much alarmed, for fear that Mr. Lummucks
had gone off and left me; but luckily I
found him, and he called a coach, and we rode up
to the City Hotel together, where I was

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accommodated with a room in the fifth story; it was a weary
long way up to it, and when I got there, I felt no
disposition to go down again. I had never been
so far from the earth before.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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