But the etiquette of the river taught
him to avoid that sort of rashness, and so he managed to hold his peace.
He chafed and puzzled a few minutes longer, then retired to his
apartments. But soon he was out again, and apparently more perplexed
than ever. Presently he ventured to remark, with deference -
'Pretty good stage of the river now, ain't it, sir?'
'Well, I should say so! Bank-full IS a pretty liberal stage.'
'Seems to be a good deal of current here.'
'Good deal don't describe it! It's worse than a mill-race.'
'Isn't it easier in toward shore than it is out here in the middle?'
'Yes, I reckon it is; but a body can't be too careful with a steamboat.
It's pretty safe out here; can't strike any bottom here, you can depend
The captain departed, looking rueful enough. At this rate, he would
probably die of old age before his boat got to St. Louis. Next day he
appeared on deck and again found Stephen faithfully standing up the
middle of the river, fighting the whole vast force of the Mississippi,
and whistling the same placid tune. This thing was becoming serious. In
by the shore was a slower boat clipping along in the easy water and
gaining steadily; she began to make for an island chute; Stephen stuck
to the middle of the river.