酷兔英语



THE JACK-KNIFE MAN

By Ellis Parker Butler

Author Of "Pigs Is Pigs," "The Confessions Of A Daddy," Etc.

Illustrated By Hanson Booth

New York The Century Co.

1913

MY FATHER

Whose heart has held many children.

Transcriber's Note: Chapter VI is succeeded by Chapter VIII without

a designated intervening Chapter VII. DW

I. THE JACK-KNIFE MAN

PETER LANE GEORGE RAPP, the red-faced livery-man from town, stood with

his hands in the pockets of his huge bear-skin coat, his round face

glowing, looking down at Peter Lane, with amusement wrinkling the

corners of his eyes.

"Tell you what I'll do, Peter," he said, "I'll give you thirty-five

dollars for the boat."

"I guess I won't sell, George," said Peter. "I don't seem to care to."

He was sitting on the edge of his bunk, in the shanty-boat he had spent

the summer in building. He was a thin, wiry little man, with yellowish

hair that fell naturally into ringlets: but which was rather thin on top

of his head. His face was brown and weather-seamed. It was difficult

to guess just how old Peter Lane might be. When his eyes were closed

he looked rather old-quite like a thin, tired old man-but when his eyes

were open he looked quite young, for his eyes were large and innocent,

like the eyes of a baby, and their light blue suggested hopefulness and

imagination of the boyish, aircastle-building sort.

The shanty-boat was small, only some twenty feet in length, with a short

deck at either end. The shanty part was no more than fifteen feet long

and eight feet wide, built of thin boards and roofed with tar paper.

Inside were the bunk--of clean white pine--a home-made pine table, a

small sheet-iron cook-stove, two wooden pegs for Peter's shotgun, a

shelf for his alarm-clock, a breadbox, some driftwood for the stove, and

a wall lamp with a silvered glass reflector. In one corner was a tangle

of nets and trot-lines. It was not much of a boat, but the flat-bottomed

hull was built of good two-inch planks, well caulked and tarred. Tar was

the prevailing odor. Peter bent over his table, on which the wheels and

springs of an alarm-clock were laid in careful rows.

"Did you ever stop to think, George, what a mighty fine companion a

clock like this is for a man like I am?" he asked. "Yes, sir, a tin

clock like this is a grand thing for a man like me. I can take this

clock to pieces, George, and mend her, and put her together again, and

when she's mended all up she needs mending more than she ever did. A

clock like this is always something to look forward to."

"I might give as much as forty dollars for the boat," said George Rapp

temptingly.

"No, thank you, George," said Peter. "And it ain't only when you 're

mending her that a clock like this is interesting. She's interesting all

the time, like a baby. She don't do a thing you'd expect, all day long.

I can mend her right up, and wind her and set her right in the morning,

and set the alarm to go off at four o'clock in the afternoon, and at

four o'clock what do you think she'll be doing? Like as not she'll be

pointing at half-past eleven. Yes, sir! And the alarm won't go off until

half-past two at night, maybe. Why I mended this clock once and left two

wheels out of her--"

"Tell you what I'll do, Peter," said Rapp, "I'll give _fifty_ dollars

for the boat, and five dollars for floating her down to my new place

down the river."

"I'm much obliged, but I guess I won't sell," said Peter nervously. "You

better take off your coat, George, unless you want to hurry away.

That stove is heating up. She's a wonderful stove, that stove is. You

wouldn't think, to look at her right now, that she could go out in a

minute, would you? But she can. Why, when she wants to, that stove can

start in and get red hot all over, stove-pipe and legs and all, until

it's so hot in here the tar melts off them nets yonder--drips off 'em

like rain off the bob-wires. You'd think she'd suffocate me out of here,

but she don't. No, sir. The very next minute she'll be as cold as ice.

For a man alone as much as I am that's a great stove, George."

"Will you sell me the boat, or won't you?" asked Rapp.

"Now, I wish you wouldn't ask me to sell her, George," said Peter

regretfully, for it hurt him to refuse his friend. "To tell you the

honest truth, George, I can't sell her because it would upset my plans.

I've got my plans all laid out to float down river next spring, soon as

the ice goes out, and when I get to New Orleans I'm going to load this

boat on to a ship, and I'm going to take her to the Amazon River, and

trap chinchillas. I read how there's a big market for chinchilla skins

right now. I'm goin' up the Amazon River and then I'm goin' to haul the

boat across to the Orinoco River and float down the Orinoco, and then--"

"You told me last week you were going down to Florida next spring and

shoot alligators from this boat," said Rapp.

Peter looked up blankly, but in a moment his cheerfulness returned.

"If I didn't forget all about that!" he began. "Well, sir, I'm glad I

did! That would have been a sad mistake. It looks to me like alligator

skin was going out of fashion. I'd be foolish to take this boat all

the way to Florida and then find out there was no market for alligator

skins, wouldn't I?"

"You would," said Rapp. "And you might get down there in South America

and find there was no market for chinchillas. It looks to me as if the

style was veering off from chinchillas already. You'd better sell me

the boat, Peter."

"You know I'd sell to you if I would to anybody, George," said Peter,

pushing aside the works of the clock, "but this boat is a sort of home

to me, George. It's the only home I 've got, since Jane don't want me

'round no more. You're the best friend I've got, and you've done a lot

for me--you let me sleep in your stablewhenever I want to, and you give

me odd jobs, and clothes--and I appreciate it, George, but a man don't

like to get rid of his home, if he can help it. I haven't had a home I

could call my own since I was fourteen years old, as you might say, and

I'm going on fifty years old now. Ever since Jane got tired havin' me

'round I've been livin' in your barn, and in old shacks, and anywheres,

and now, when I've got a boat that's a home for me, and I can go

traveling in her whenever I want to go, you want me to sell her. No, I

don't want to sell her, George. I think maybe I'll start her down river

to-morrow, so as to be able to start up the Missouri when the ice goes

out--"

"I thought you said Amazon a minute ago," said Rapp.

"Well, now, I don't know," said Peter soberly. "The fevers they catch

down there wouldn't do my health a bit of good. Rocky Mountain air

is just what I need. It is grand air. If I can get seventy or eighty

dollars together, and a good rifle or two, I may start next spring. I

always wanted to have a try at bear shootin'. I've got sev'ral plans."

"And somehow," said Rapp, who knew Peter could no more raise seventy

dollars than freeze the sun, "somehow you always land right back in

Widow Potter's cove for the winter, don't you? She'll get you yet,

Peter. And then you won't need this boat. All you got to do is to ask

her."

Peter pushed the table away and stood up, a look of trouble in his blue

eyes.

"I wish you wouldn't talk like that, George," he said seriously. "It

ain't fair to the widow to connect up my name and hers that way. She

wouldn't like it if she got to hear it. You know right well she

don't think no more of me than she does of any other river-rat or

shanty-boatman that hangs around this cove all summer, and yet you keep

saying, 'Widow, widow, widow!' to me all the time. I wish you wouldn't,

George." He opened the door of his shanty-boat and looked out. The cove

in which the boat was tied was on the Iowa side of the Mississippi, and

during the summer it had been crowded with a small colony of worthless

shanty-boatmen and their ill-kempt wives and children, direly poor and

afflicted with all the ills that dirt is heir to. Here, each summer,

they gathered, coming from up-river in their shanty-boats and floating

on downriver just ahead of the cold weather in the fall. All summer

their shanty-boats, left high and dry by the receding high water of the

June flood, stood on the parched mud, and Peter looked askance on all of

them, dirty and lazy as they were, but somehow--he could not have told

you why--he made friends with them each summer, lending them dimes that

were never repaid, helping them set their trot-lines that the women

might have food, and even aiding in the caulking of their boats when his

own was crying to be built.

All summer and autumn Peter had been building his shanty-boat, rowing

loads of lumber in his heavy skiff from the town to the spot he had

chosen on the Illinois shore, five miles above the town. He had worked

on the boat, as he did everything for himself, irregularly and at odd

moments, and the boat had been completed but a few days before George

Rapp drove up from town, hoping to buy it. Peter believed he loved

solitude and usually chose a summer dwelling-place far above town, but

if he had gone to the uttermost solitudes of Alaska he would have found

some way of mingling with his fellow-men and of doing a good turn to

some one.

He never dreamed he was associating with the worthless shanty-boatmen,

yet, somehow, he spent a good part of his time with them. They were

there, they were willing to accept aid of any and all kinds, and on his

occasional trips to town Peter passed them. This was enough to draw

him into the entanglement of their woes, and to waste thankless days on

them. Yet he never thought of making one of their colony. He would row

the two miles to reach them, but he rowed back again each evening. It

was because he was better at heart, and not because he thought he was

better, that he remained aloof to this extent. In his own estimation he

ranked himself even lower than the shanty-boatmen, for they at least had

the social merit of having families, while he had none. His sister Jane

had told him many times just how worthless he was, and he believed it.

He was nothing to anybody--he felt--and that is what a tramp is.

Once each week or so Peter rowed to town to sell the product of his

jack-knife and such fish as he caught. He was not an enthusiastic

fisherman, but his jack-knife, always keen and sharp, was a magic tool

in his hand. When he was not making shapely boats for the shanty-boat

kids, or whittling for the mere pleasure of whittling, his jack-knife

shaped wooden kitchen spoons and other small household articles, or

net-makers' shuttles, out of clean maplewood, and these, when he went to

town, he peddled from door to door. What he could not sell he traded for

coffee or bacon at the grocery stores.

With the coming of cool weather and the "fall rise" of the river the

shanty-boat colony left the cove, to float down-river ahead of the

frost, and Peter hurried the completion of his boat that he might float

it across to the cove. Rheumatism often gave him a twinge in winter and

when the river was "closed" the walk to town across the ice was cold

and long. The Iowa side was more thickly populated, too, for the Iowa

"bottom" was narrow, the hills coming quite to the river in places,

while on the Illinois side five or six miles of untillable "bottom"

stretched between the river and the prosperous hill farms. The Iowa side

offered opportunities for corn-husking and wood-sawing and other

odd jobs such as necessity sometimes drove Peter to seek. These

opportunities were the reasons Peter gave himself, but the truth was

that Peter loved people. If he was a tramp he was a sedentary tramp, and

if he was a hermit he was a socialistic hermit. He liked his solitudes

well peopled.

This early November day Peter had brought his shanty-boat across the

river to the cove. A fair up-river breeze and his rag of a sail had

helped him fight the stiff current, but it had been a hard, all-day pull

at the oars of his skiff, and when he had towed the boat into the cove

and had made her fast by looping his line under the railway track that

skirted the bank, he was wet and weary. His tin breadbox was empty and

he had but a handful of coffee left, but he was too tired to go to town,

and he had nothing to trade if he went, and he knew by experience that

an appeal to a farmer--even to Widow Potter--meant wood-sawing, and he

was too tired to saw wood. But he was accustomed to going without a meal

now and then, and there being nothing else to do, he tightened his belt,

made a good fire, took off his shoes, and dissected his alarm-clock. He

was reassembling it when George Rapp arrived.

George Rapp was a bluff, hearty, loud-voiced, duck-hunting liveryman.

He ran his livery-stable for a living and, like many other men in the

Mississippi valley, he lived for duck-hunting. He owned the four best

duck dogs in the county. He had traded a good horse for one of them.

Although George Rapp would not have believed it, it was a blessing that

he could not hunt ducks the year around. The summer and winter months

gave him time to make money, and he was making all he needed. Some of

his surplus he had just paid for a tract of low, wooded bottom-land, in

the section where ducks were most plentiful in their seasons. The land

was swamp, for the most part, and all so low that the river spread

over it at every spring "rise" and often in the autumn. It was cut by a

slough (or bayou, as they are called farther south) and held a rice lake

which was no more than a widening of the slough. This piece of property,

far below the town, Rapp had bought because it was a wild-duck haunt,

and for no other reason, and after looking it over he wisely decided

that a shanty-boat moored in the slough would be a better hunting cabin

than one built on the shore, where it would be flooded once, or perhaps

twice a year, the river leaving a deposit of rich yellow mud and general

dampness each time. But Peter would not sell his boat, and Peter's boat,

new, clean and sturdy of hull, was the boat Rapp wanted.

"I wish you wouldn't talk that way about the widow, George," said Peter,

looking out of the open door. The liveryman's team was tied to a fence

at the foot of the hills, and between the road and the railway tracks

that edged the river a wide corn-field extended. A cold drizzle half hid

the hillside where Widow Potter's low, white farmhouse, with its green

shutters, stood in the midst of a decaying apple orchard. "I wisht the

widow lived farther off. There ain't no place like this cove to winter

a boat, and when I'm here I've got to saw wood for her, and shuck corn,

and do odd jobs for her, and then she lights into me. I don't say I'm

any better than a tramp, George, but the way the widow jaws at me, and

the things she calls me, ain't right. She thinks I'm scum--just common,

low-down, worthless scum! So that's all there is to that."

"Oh, shucks!" said George Rapp.

But Peter believed it. For five years the Widow Potter had kept a

jealous eye on Peter Lane. Tall and thin, penny-saving and hard-working,

she had been led a hard life by the late Mr. Potter, who had been

something rather worse than a brute, and since death had removed

Mr. Potter the widow had given Peter Lane the full benefit of her

experienced tongue whenever opportunity offered. It was her way of

showing Peter unusual attention, but Peter never suspected that when she

glared at him and told him he was a worthless, good-for-nothing loafer

and a lazy, paltering, river-rat, and a no-account, idling vagabond

she was showing him a flattering partiality. He knew she could make him

squirm. It was Love-in-Chapped-Hands, but Mrs. Potter herself did not

know she scolded Peter because she liked him. She counted him as a poor

stick, of little account to himself or to any one else, but what her

mind could not, her heart did recognize--that Peter was Romance. He was

a whiff of something that had never come into her life before; he was a

gentleman, a chivalrous gentleman, a gentleman down at the heel, but a

true gentleman for all that.

"The way me and her hates each other, George, is like cats and dogs,"


生词表:
  • amusement [ə´mju:zmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.娱乐;文娱设施   (初中英语单词)
  • wooden [´wudn] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.木制的;呆板的   (初中英语单词)
  • companion [kəm´pæniən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.同伴;同事;伴侣   (初中英语单词)
  • florida [´flɔridə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.佛罗里达   (初中英语单词)
  • stable [´steibəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.马棚 a.稳固的   (初中英语单词)
  • whenever [wen´evə] 移动到这儿单词发声  conj.&ad.无论何时   (初中英语单词)
  • appreciate [ə´pri:ʃieit] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.评价;珍惜;感激   (初中英语单词)
  • freeze [fri:z] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.结冰;凝固;冷淡   (初中英语单词)
  • seriously [´siəriəsli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.严肃;严重,重大   (初中英语单词)
  • mississippi [,misi´sipi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.密西西比(河)   (初中英语单词)
  • lumber [´lʌmbə] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.伐木 n.木材   (初中英语单词)
  • illinois [,ili´nɔi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.伊利诺斯   (初中英语单词)
  • willing [´wiliŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.情愿的,乐意的   (初中英语单词)
  • extent [ik´stent] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.长度;程度;范围   (初中英语单词)
  • prosperous [´prɔspərəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.繁荣的;顺利的   (初中英语单词)
  • breeze [bri:z] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.微风;不费力的事   (初中英语单词)
  • valley [´væli] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.谷;河谷;流域   (初中英语单词)
  • blessing [´blesiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.祝福   (初中英语单词)
  • deposit [di´pɔzit] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.存放,存储 n.存款   (初中英语单词)
  • hillside [´hilsaid] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.山腰   (初中英语单词)
  • orchard [´ɔ:tʃəd] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.果园   (初中英语单词)
  • unusual [ʌn´ju:ʒuəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不平常的;异常的   (初中英语单词)
  • account [ə´kaunt] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.说明 vt.认为 n.帐目   (初中英语单词)
  • romance [rəu´mæns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.中世纪骑士小说   (初中英语单词)
  • mighty [´maiti] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.强有力的 ad.很   (高中英语单词)
  • crowded [´kraudid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.充(拥)满了的   (高中英语单词)
  • alaska [ə´læskə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.阿拉斯加(州)   (高中英语单词)
  • worthless [´wə:θləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.无价值的   (高中英语单词)
  • grocery [´grəusəri] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.食品杂货店   (高中英语单词)
  • hurried [´hʌrid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.仓促的,慌忙的   (高中英语单词)
  • thickly [´θikli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.厚厚地;密密地   (高中英语单词)
  • hermit [´hə:mit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.隐士   (高中英语单词)
  • handful [hændful] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.一把,少数,一小撮   (高中英语单词)
  • appeal [ə´pi:l] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.&n.请求;呼吁;上诉   (高中英语单词)
  • hearty [´hɑ:ti] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.热忱的;强健的   (高中英语单词)
  • surplus [´sə:pləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&a.剩余(的)   (高中英语单词)
  • plentiful [´plentifəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.丰富的;多的   (高中英语单词)
  • wisely [´waizli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.明智地,聪明地   (高中英语单词)
  • sturdy [´stə:di] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.坚强的;坚定的   (高中英语单词)
  • farmhouse [´fɑ:mhaus] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.农场住房,农舍   (高中英语单词)
  • flattering [´flætəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.谄媚的;奉承的   (高中英语单词)
  • boyish [´bɔiiʃ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.少年的;幼稚的   (英语四级单词)
  • nervously [´nə:vəsli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.神经质地;胆怯地   (英语四级单词)
  • orleans [ɔ:´liənz] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.奥尔良   (英语四级单词)
  • amazon [´æməzən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.女战士   (英语四级单词)
  • soberly [´səubəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.严肃地;清醒地   (英语四级单词)
  • completion [kəm´pli:ʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.完成;完整   (英语四级单词)
  • rheumatism [´ru:mətizəm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.风湿病   (英语四级单词)
  • socialistic [,səuʃə´listik] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.社会主义(者)的   (英语四级单词)
  • wooded [´wudid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.多树林的   (英语四级单词)
  • prevailing [pri´veiliŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.占优势的;主要的   (英语六级单词)
  • suffocate [´sʌfəkeit] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.使窒息,闷死   (英语六级单词)
  • cheerfulness [´tʃiəfulnis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.高兴,愉快   (英语六级单词)
  • uttermost [´ʌtəməust] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&n.=utmost   (英语六级单词)
  • estimation [,esti´meiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.估计;评价;判断   (英语六级单词)
  • hunting [´hʌntiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.打猎   (英语六级单词)
  • extended [iks´tendid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.伸长的;广大的   (英语六级单词)
  • chivalrous [´ʃivəlrəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.勇武的;武士的   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 18:28:20
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