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We judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in, and that was what we was after. We would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way up the Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out of trouble.
Well, the second night a fog begun to come on, and we made for a tow-head to tie to, for it wouldnít do to try to run in fog; but when I paddled ahead in the canoe, with the line, to make fast, there warnít anything but little saplings to tie to. I passed the line around one of them right on the edge of the cut bank, but there was a stiff current, and the raft come booming down so lively she tore it out by the roots and away she went. I see the fog closing down, and it made me so sick and scared I couldnít budge for most a half a minute it seemed to me-and then there warnít no raft in sight; you couldnít see twenty yards. I jumped into the canoe and run back to the stern and grabbed the paddle and set her back a stroke. But she didnít come. I was in such a hurry I hadnít untied her. I got up and tried to untie her, but I was so excited my hands shook so I couldnít hardly do anything with them.
As soon as I got started I took out after the raft, hot and heavy, right down to the towhead. That was all right as far as it went, but the tow-head warnít sixty yards long, and the minute I flew by the foot of it I shot out into the solid white fog, and hadnít no more idea which way I was going than a dead man. Thinks I, it wonít do to paddle; first I know Iíll run into the bank or a towhead or something; I got to set still and float, and yet itís mighty fidgety business to have to hold your hands still at such a time. I whooped and listened. Away down there, somewheres, I hears a small whoop, and up comes my spirits. I went tearing after it, listening sharp to hear it again. The next time it come, I see I warnít heading for it but heading away to the right of it. And the next time, I was heading away to the left of itand not gaining on it much, either, for I was flying around, this way and that and Ďtother, but it was going straight ahead all the time.
I did wish the fool would think to beat a tin pan, and beat it all the time, but he never did, and it was the still places between the whoops that was making the trouble for me. Well, I fought along, and directly I hears the whoop behind me. I was tangled good, now. That was somebody elseís whoop, or else I was turned around.
I throwed the paddle down. I heard the whoop again; it was behind me yet, but in a different place; it kept coming and kept changing its place, and I kept answering, till by-and-by it was in front of me again and I knowed the current had swung the canoeís head down stream and I was all right, if that was Jim and not some other raftsman hollering. I couldnít tell nothing about voices in a fog, for nothing donít look natural nor sound natural in a fog.
The whooping went on, and in about a minute I come a booming down on a cut bank with smoky ghosts of big trees on it, and the current throwed me off to the left and shot by, amongst a lot of snags that fairly roared, the current was tearing by them so swift.
In another second or two it was solid white and still again. I set perfectly still, then, listening to my heart thump, and I reckon I didnít draw a breath while it thumped a hundred.
I just give up, then. I knowed what the matter was. That cut bank was an island, and Jim had gone down Ďtother side of it. It warnít no tow-head, that you could float by in ten minutes. It had the big timber of a regular island; it might be five or six mile long and more than a half a mile wide.
I kept quiet, with my ears cocked, about fifteen minutes, I reckon. I was floating along, of course, four or five mile an hour; but you donít ever think of that.
No, you feel like you are laying dead still on the water; and if a little glimpse of a snag slips by, you donít think to yourself how fast youíre going, but you catch your breath and think, my! how that snagís tearing along. If you think it ainít dismal and lonesome out in a fog that way, by yourself, in the night, you try it onceyouíll see.
Next, for about a half an hour, I whoops now and then; at last I hears the answer a long ways off, and tries to follow it, but I couldnít do it, and directly I judged Iíd got into a nest of tow-heads, for I had little dim glimpses of them on both sides of me, sometimes just a narrow channel between; and some that I couldnít see, I knowed was there, because Iíd hear the wash of the current against the old dead brush and trash that hung over the banks. Well, I warnít long losing the whoops, down amongst the tow-heads; and I only tried to chase them a little while, anyway, because it was worse than chasing a Jack-o-lantern. You never knowed a sound dodge around so, and swap places so quick and so much.
I had to claw away from the bank pretty lively, four or five times, to keep from knocking the islands out of the river; and so I judged the raft must be butting into the bank every now and then, or else it would get further ahead and clear out of hearing-it was floating a little faster than what I was.
Well, I seemed to be in the open river again, by-and-by, but I couldnít hear no sign of a whoop nowheres. I reckoned Jim had fetched up on a snag, maybe, and it was all up with him. I was good and tired, so I laid down in the canoe and said I wouldnít bother no more. I didnít want to go to sleep, of course; but I was so sleepy I couldnít help it; so I thought I would take just one little cat-nap.
But I reckon it was more than a cat-nap, for when I waked up the stars was shining bright, the fog was all gone, and I was spinning down a big bend stern first. First I didnít know where I was; I thought I was dreaming; and when things begun to come back to me, they seemed to come up dim out of last week.
It was a monstrous big river here, with the tallest and the thickest kind of timber on both banks; just a solid wall, as well as I could see, by the stars. I looked away down stream, and seen a black speck on the water. I took out after it; but when I got to it warnít nothing but a couple of saw-logs made fast together. Then I see another speck, and chased that; then another, and this time I was right. It was the raft.