THE BULLER-PODINGTON COMPACT
BY FRANK RICHARD STOCKTON (1834-1902)
Humorous Short Stories
[From Scribner's Magazine, August, 1897. Republished in Afield and
Afloat, by Frank Richard Stockton; copyright, 1900, by Charles
Scribner's Sons. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.]
"I tell you, William," said Thomas Buller to his friend Mr. Podington,
"I am truly sorry about it, but I cannot arrange for it this year.
Now, as to my invitation—that is very different."
"Of course it is different," was the reply, "but I am obliged to say,
as I said before, that I really cannot accept it."
Remarks similar to these had been made by Thomas Buller and William
Podington at least once a year for some five years. They were old
friends; they had been schoolboys together and had been associated in
business since they were young men. They had now reached a vigorous
middle age; they were each married, and each had a house in the
country in which he resided for a part of the year. They were warmly
attached to each other, and each was the best friend which the other
had in this world. But during all these years neither of them had
visited the other in his country home.
The reason for this avoidance of each other at their respective rural
residences may be briefly stated. Mr. Buller's country house was
situated by the sea, and he was very fond of the water. He had a good
cat-boat, which he sailed himself with much judgment and skill, and it
was his greatest pleasure to take his friends and visitors upon little
excursions on the bay. But Mr. Podington was desperately afraid of the
water, and he was particularly afraid of any craft sailed by an
amateur. If his friend Buller would have employed a professional
mariner, of years and experience, to steer and manage his boat,
Podington might have been willing to take an occasional sail; but as
Buller always insisted upon sailing his own boat, and took it ill if
any of his visitors doubted his ability to do so properly, Podington
did not wish to wound the self-love of his friend, and he did not wish
to be drowned. Consequently he could not bring himself to consent to
go to Buller's house by the sea.
To receive his good friend Buller at his own house in the beautiful
upland region in which he lived would have been a great joy to Mr.
Podington; but Buller could not be induced to visit him. Podington was
very fond of horses and always drove himself, while Buller was more
afraid of horses than he was of elephants or lions. To one or more
horses driven by a coachman of years and experience he did not always
object, but to a horse driven by Podington, who had much experience
and knowledge regarding mercantile affairs, but was merely an amateur
horseman, he most decidedly and strongly objected. He did not wish to
hurt his friend's feelings by refusing to go out to drive with him,
but he would not rack his own nervous system by accompanying him.
Therefore it was that he had not yet visited the beautiful upland
country residence of Mr. Podington.
At last this state of things grew awkward. Mrs. Buller and Mrs.
Podington, often with their families, visited each other at their
country houses, but the fact that on these occasions they were never
accompanied by their husbands caused more and more gossip among their
neighbors both in the upland country and by the sea.
One day in spring as the two sat in their city office, where Mr.
Podington had just repeated his annual invitation, his friend replied
to him thus:
"William, if I come to see you this summer, will you visit me? The
thing is beginning to look a little ridiculous, and people are talking
Mr. Podington put his hand to his brow and for a few moments closed
his eyes. In his mind he saw a cat-boat upon its side, the sails
spread out over the water, and two men, almost entirely immersed in
the waves, making efforts to reach the side of the boat. One of these
was getting on very well—that was Buller. The other seemed about to
sink, his arms were uselessly waving in the air—that was himself. But
he opened his eyes and looked bravely out of the window; it was time
to conquer all this; it was indeed growing ridiculous. Buller had been
sailing many years and had never been upset.
"Yes," said he; "I will do it; I am ready any time you name."
Mr. Buller rose and stretched out his hand.
"Good!" said he; "it is a compact!"
Buller was the first to make the promised country visit. He had not
mentioned the subject of horses to his friend, but he knew through
Mrs. Buller that Podington still continued to be his own driver. She
had informed him, however, that at present he was accustomed to drive
a big black horse which, in her opinion, was as gentle and reliable as
these animals ever became, and she could not imagine how anybody could
be afraid of him. So when, the next morning after his arrival, Mr.
Buller was asked by his host if he would like to take a drive, he
suppressed a certain rising emotion and said that it would please him
When the good black horse had jogged along a pleasant road for half an
hour Mr. Buller began to feel that, perhaps, for all these years he
had been laboring under a misconception. It seemed to be possible that
there were some horses to which surrounding circumstances in the shape
of sights and sounds were so irrelevant that they were to a certain
degree entirely safe, even when guided and controlled by an amateur
hand. As they passed some meadow-land, somebody behind a hedge fired a
gun; Mr. Buller was frightened, but the horse was not.
"William," said Buller, looking cheerfully around him,
"I had no idea that you lived in such a pretty country. In fact, I
might almost call it beautiful. You have not any wide stretch of
water, such as I like so much, but here is a pretty river, those
rolling hills are very charming, and, beyond, you have the blue of the
"It is lovely," said his friend; "I never get tired of driving through
this country. Of course the seaside is very fine, but here we have
such a variety of scenery."
Mr. Buller could not help thinking that sometimes the seaside was a
little monotonous, and that he had lost a great deal of pleasure by
not varying his summers by going up to spend a week or two with
"William," said he, "how long have you had this horse?"
"About two years," said Mr. Podington; "before I got him, I used to
drive a pair."
"Heavens!" thought Buller, "how lucky I was not to come two years
ago!" And his regrets for not sooner visiting his friend greatly
Now they came to a place where the stream, by which the road ran, had
been dammed for a mill and had widened into a beautiful pond.
"There now!" cried Mr. Buller. "That's what I like. William, you seem
to have everything! This is really a very pretty sheet of water, and
the reflections of the trees over there make a charming picture; you
can't get that at the seaside, you know."
Mr. Podington was delighted; his face glowed; he was rejoiced at the
pleasure of his friend. "I tell you, Thomas," said he, "that——"
"William!" exclaimed Buller, with a sudden squirm in his seat, "what
is that I hear? Is that a train?"
"Yes," said Mr. Podington, "that is the ten-forty, up."
"Does it come near here?" asked Mr. Buller, nervously. "Does it go
over that bridge?"
"Yes," said Podington, "but it can't hurt us, for our road goes under
the bridge; we are perfectly safe; there is no risk of accident."
"But your horse! Your horse!" exclaimed Buller, as the train came
nearer and nearer. "What will he do?"
"Do?" said Podington; "he'll do what he is doing now; he doesn't mind
"But look here, William," exclaimed Buller, "it will get there just as
we do; no horse could stand a roaring up in the air like that!"
Podington laughed. "He would not mind it in the least," said he.
"Come, come now," cried Buller. "Really, I can't stand this! Just stop
a minute, William, and let me get out. It sets all my nerves
Mr. Podington smiled with a superior smile. "Oh, you needn't get out,"
said he; "there's not the least danger in the world. But I don't want
to make you nervous, and I will turn around and drive the other way."
"But you can't!" screamed Buller. "This road is not wide enough, and
that train is nearly here. Please stop!"
The imputation that the road was not wide enough for him to turn was
too much for Mr. Podington to bear. He was very proud of his ability
to turn a vehicle in a narrow place.
"Turn!" said he; "that's the easiest thing in the world. See; a little
to the right, then a back, then a sweep to the left and we will be
going the other way." And instantly he began the maneuver in which he
was such an adept.
"Oh, Thomas!" cried Buller, half rising in his seat, "that train is
"And we are almost——" Mr. Podington was about to say "turned
around," but he stopped. Mr. Buller's exclamations had made him a
little nervous, and, in his anxiety to turn quickly, he had pulled
upon his horse's bit with more energy than was actually necessary, and
his nervousness being communicated to the horse, that animal backed
with such extraordinary vigor that the hind wheels of the wagon went
over a bit of grass by the road and into the water. The sudden jolt
gave a new impetus to Mr. Buller's fears.
"You'll upset!" he cried, and not thinking of what he was about, he
laid hold of his friend's arm. The horse, startled by this sudden jerk
upon his bit, which, combined with the thundering of the train, which
was now on the bridge, made him think that something extraordinary was
about to happen, gave a sudden and forcible start backward, so that
not only the hind wheels of the light wagon, but the fore wheels and
his own hind legs went into the water. As the bank at this spot sloped
steeply, the wagon continued to go backward, despite the efforts of
the agitated horse to find a footing on the crumbling edge of the
"Whoa!" cried Mr. Buller.
"Get up!" exclaimed Mr. Podington, applying his whip upon the plunging
But exclamations and castigations had no effect upon the horse. The
original bed of the stream ran close to the road, and the bank was so
steep and the earth so soft that it was impossible for the horse to
advance or even maintain his footing. Back, back he went, until the
whole equipage was in the water and the wagon was afloat.
This vehicle was a road wagon, without a top, and the joints of its
box-body were tight enough to prevent the water from immediately
entering it; so, somewhat deeply sunken, it rested upon the water.
There was a current in this part of the pond and it turned the wagon
downstream. The horse was now entirely immersed in the water, with the
exception of his head and the upper part of his neck, and, unable to
reach the bottom with his feet, he made vigorous efforts to swim.
Mr. Podington, the reins and whip in his hands, sat horrified and
pale; the accident was so sudden, he was so startled and so frightened
that, for a moment, he could not speak a word. Mr. Buller, on the
other hand, was now lively and alert. The wagon had no sooner floated
away from the shore than he felt himself at home. He was upon his
favorite element; water had no fears for him. He saw that his friend
was nearly frightened out of his wits, and that, figuratively
speaking, he must step to the helm and take charge of the vessel. He
stood up and gazed about him.
"Put her across stream!" he shouted; "she can't make headway against
this current. Head her to that clump of trees on the other side; the
bank is lower there, and we can beach her. Move a little the other
way, we must trim boat. Now then, pull on your starboard rein."
Podington obeyed, and the horse slightly changed his direction.
"You see," said Buller, "it won't do to sail straight across, because
the current would carry us down and land us below that spot."
Mr. Podington said not a word; he expected every moment to see the
horse sink into a watery grave.
"It isn't so bad after all, is it, Podington? If we had a rudder and a
bit of a sail it would be a great help to the horse. This wagon is not
a bad boat."
The despairing Podington looked at his feet. "It's coming in," he said
in a husky voice. "Thomas, the water is over my shoes!"
"That is so," said Buller. "I am so used to water I didn't notice it.
She leaks. Do you carry anything to bail her out with?"
"Bail!" cried Podington, now finding his voice. "Oh, Thomas, we are
"That's so," said Buller; "she leaks like a sieve."
The weight of the running-gear and of the two men was entirely too
much for the buoyancy of the wagon body. The water rapidly rose toward
the top of its sides.
"We are going to drown!" cried Podington, suddenly rising.
"Lick him! Lick him!" exclaimed Buller. "Make him swim faster!"
"There's nothing to lick," cried Podington, vainly lashing at the
water, for he could not reach the horse's head. The poor man was
dreadfully frightened; he had never even imagined it possible that he
should be drowned in his own wagon.
"Whoop!" cried Buller, as the water rose over the sides. "Steady
yourself, old boy, or you'll go overboard!" And the next moment the
wagon body sunk out of sight.
But it did not go down very far. The deepest part of the channel of
the stream had been passed, and with a bump the wheels struck the
"Heavens!" exclaimed Buller, "we are aground."
"Aground!" exclaimed Podington, "Heaven be praised!"
As the two men stood up in the submerged wagon the water was above
their knees, and when Podington looked out over the surface of the
pond, now so near his face, it seemed like a sheet of water he had
never seen before. It was something horrible, threatening to rise and
envelop him. He trembled so that he could scarcely keep his footing.
"William," said his companion, "you must sit down; if you don't,
you'll tumble overboard and be drowned. There is nothing for you to
"Sit down," said Podington, gazing blankly at the water around him, "I
can't do that!"
At this moment the horse made a slight movement. Having touched bottom
after his efforts in swimming across the main bed of the stream, with
a floating wagon in tow, he had stood for a few moments, his head and
neck well above water, and his back barely visible beneath the
surface. Having recovered his breath, he now thought it was time to
At the first step of the horse Mr. Podington began to totter.
Instinctively he clutched Buller.
"Sit down!" cried the latter, "or you'll have us both overboard."
There was no help for it; down sat Mr. Podington; and, as with a great
splash he came heavily upon the seat, the water rose to his waist.
"Ough!" said he. "Thomas, shout for help."
"No use doing that," replied Buller, still standing on his nautical
legs; "I don't see anybody, and I don't see any boat. We'll get out
all right. Just you stick tight to the thwart."
"The what?" feebly asked the other.
"Oh, the seat, I mean. We can get to the shore all right if you steer
the horse straight. Head him more across the pond."
"I can't head him," cried Podington. "I have dropped the reins!"
"Good gracious!" cried Mr. Buller, "that's bad. Can't you steer him by
shouting 'Gee' and 'Haw'?"
"No," said Podington, "he isn't an ox; but perhaps I can stop him."
And with as much voice as he could summon, he called out: "Whoa!" and
the horse stopped.
"If you can't steer him any other way," said Buller, "we must get the
reins. Lend me your whip."
"I have dropped that too," said Podington; "there it floats."
"Oh, dear," said Buller, "I guess I'll have to dive for them; if he
were to run away, we should be in an awful fix."
"Don't get out! Don't get out!" exclaimed Podington. "You can reach
over the dashboard."
"As that's under water," said Buller, "it will be the same thing as
diving; but it's got to be done, and I'll try it. Don't you move now;
I am more used to water than you are."
Mr. Buller took off his hat and asked his friend to hold it. He
thought of his watch and other contents of his pockets, but there was
no place to put them, so he gave them no more consideration. Then
bravely getting on his knees in the water, he leaned over the
dashboard, almost disappearing from sight. With his disengaged hand
Mr. Podington grasped the submerged coat-tails of his friend.
In a few seconds the upper part of Mr. Buller rose from the water. He
was dripping and puffing, and Mr. Podington could not but think what a
difference it made in the appearance of his friend to have his hair
plastered close to his head.
"I got hold of one of them," said the sputtering Buller, "but it was
fast to something and I couldn't get it loose."
"Was it thick and wide?" asked Podington.
"Yes," was the answer; "it did seem so."
"Oh, that was a trace," said Podington; "I don't want that; the reins
are thinner and lighter."
"Now I remember they are," said Buller. "I'll go down again."
Again Mr. Buller leaned over the dashboard, and this time he remained
down longer, and when he came up he puffed and sputtered more than
"Is this it?" said he, holding up a strip of wet leather.
"Yes," said Podington, "you've got the reins."
"Well, take them, and steer. I would have found them sooner if his
tail had not got into my eyes. That long tail's floating down there
and spreading itself out like a fan; it tangled itself all around my
head. It would have been much easier if he had been a bob-tailed
"Now then," said Podington, "take your hat, Thomas, and I'll try to
Mr. Buller put on his hat, which was the only dry thing about him, and
the nervous Podington started the horse so suddenly that even the
sea-legs of Buller were surprised, and he came very near going
backward into the water; but recovering himself, he sat down.
"I don't wonder you did not like to do this, William," said he. "Wet
as I am, it's ghastly!"
Encouraged by his master's voice, and by the feeling of the familiar
hand upon his bit, the horse moved bravely on.
But the bottom was very rough and uneven. Sometimes the wheels struck
a large stone, terrifying Mr. Buller, who thought they were going to
upset; and sometimes they sank into soft mud, horrifying Mr.
Podington, who thought they were going to drown.
Thus proceeding, they presented a strange sight. At first Mr.
Podington held his hands above the water as he drove, but he soon
found this awkward, and dropped them to their usual position, so that
nothing was visible above the water but the head and neck of a horse
and the heads and shoulders of two men.
Now the submarine equipage came to a low place in the bottom, and even
Mr. Buller shuddered as the water rose to his chin. Podington gave a
howl of horror, and the horse, with high, uplifted head, was obliged
to swim. At this moment a boy with a gun came strolling along the
road, and hearing Mr. Podington's cry, he cast his eyes over the
water. Instinctively he raised his weapon to his shoulder, and then,
in an instant, perceiving that the objects he beheld were not aquatic
birds, he dropped his gun and ran yelling down the road toward the
But the hollow in the bottom was a narrow one, and when it was passed
the depth of the water gradually decreased. The back of the horse came
into view, the dashboard became visible, and the bodies and the
spirits of the two men rapidly rose. Now there was vigorous splashing
and tugging, and then a jet black horse, shining as if he had been
newly varnished, pulled a dripping wagon containing two well-soaked
men upon a shelving shore.
"Oh, I am chilled to the bones!" said Podington.
"I should think so," replied his friend; "if you have got to be wet,
it is a great deal pleasanter under the water."
There was a field-road on this side of the pond which Podington well
knew, and proceeding along this they came to the bridge and got into
the main road.
"Now we must get home as fast as we can," cried Podington, "or we
shall both take cold. I wish I hadn't lost my whip. Hi now! Get
Podington was now full of life and energy, his wheels were on the hard
road, and he was himself again.
When he found his head was turned toward his home, the horse set off
at a great rate.
"Hi there!" cried Podington. "I am so sorry I lost my whip."
"Whip!" said Buller, holding fast to the side of the seat; "surely you
don't want him to go any faster than this. And look here, William," he
added, "it seems to me we are much more likely to take cold in our wet
clothes if we rush through the air in this way. Really, it seems to me
that horse is running away."
"Not a bit of it," cried Podington. "He wants to get home, and he
wants his dinner. Isn't he a fine horse? Look how he steps out!"
"Steps out!" said Buller, "I think I'd like to step out myself. Don't
you think it would be wiser for me to walk home, William? That will
warm me up."
"It will take you an hour," said his friend. "Stay where you are, and
I'll have you in a dry suit of clothes in less than fifteen minutes."
"I tell you, William," said Mr. Buller, as the two sat smoking after
dinner, "what you ought to do; you should never go out driving without
a life-preserver and a pair of oars; I always take them. It would make
you feel safer."
Mr. Buller went home the next day, because Mr. Podington's clothes did
not fit him, and his own outdoor suit was so shrunken as to be
uncomfortable. Besides, there was another reason, connected with the
desire of horses to reach their homes, which prompted his return. But
he had not forgotten his compact with his friend, and in the course of
a week he wrote to Podington, inviting him to spend some days with
him. Mr. Podington was a man of honor, and in spite of his recent
unfortunate water experience he would not break his word. He went to
Mr. Buller's seaside home at the time appointed.
Early on the morning after his arrival, before the family were up, Mr.
Podington went out and strolled down to the edge of the bay. He went
to look at Buller's boat. He was well aware that he would be asked to
take a sail, and as Buller had driven with him, it would be impossible
for him to decline sailing with Buller; but he must see the boat.
There was a train for his home at a quarter past seven; if he were not
on the premises he could not be asked to sail. If Buller's boat were a
little, flimsy thing, he would take that train—but he would wait and
There was only one small boat anchored near the beach, and a
man—apparently a fisherman—informed Mr. Podington that it belonged
to Mr. Buller. Podington looked at it eagerly; it was not very small
and not flimsy.
"Do you consider that a safe boat?" he asked the fisherman.
"Safe?" replied the man. "You could not upset her if you tried. Look
at her breadth of beam! You could go anywhere in that boat! Are you
thinking of buying her?"
The idea that he would think of buying a boat made Mr. Podington
laugh. The information that it would be impossible to upset the little
vessel had greatly cheered him, and he could laugh.
Shortly after breakfast Mr. Buller, like a nurse with a dose of
medicine, came to Mr. Podington with the expected invitation to take a
"Now, William," said his host, "I understand perfectly your feeling
about boats, and what I wish to prove to you is that it is a feeling
without any foundation. I don't want to shock you or make you nervous,
so I am not going to take you out today on the bay in my boat. You are
as safe on the bay as you would be on land—a little safer, perhaps,
under certain circumstances, to which we will not allude—but still it
is sometimes a little rough, and this, at first, might cause you some
uneasiness, and so I am going to let you begin your education in the
sailing line on perfectly smooth water. About three miles back of us
there is a very pretty lake several miles long. It is part of the
canal system which connects the town with the railroad. I have sent my
boat to the town, and we can walk up there and go by the canal to the
lake; it is only about three miles."
If he had to sail at all, this kind of sailing suited Mr. Podington. A
canal, a quiet lake, and a boat which could not be upset. When they
reached the town the boat was in the canal, ready for them.
"Now," said Mr. Buller, "you get in and make yourself comfortable. My
idea is to hitch on to a canal-boat and be towed to the lake. The
boats generally start about this time in the morning, and I will go
and see about it."
Mr. Podington, under the direction of his friend, took a seat in the
stern of the sailboat, and then he remarked:
"Thomas, have you a life-preserver on board? You know I am not used to
any kind of vessel, and I am clumsy. Nothing might happen to the boat,
but I might trip and fall overboard, and I can't swim."
"All right," said Buller; "here's a life-preserver, and you can put it
on. I want you to feel perfectly safe. Now I will go and see about the
But Mr. Buller found that the canal-boats would not start at their
usual time; the loading of one of them was not finished, and he was
informed that he might have to wait for an hour or more. This did not
suit Mr. Buller at all, and he did not hesitate to show his annoyance.
"I tell you, sir, what you can do," said one of the men in charge of
the boats; "if you don't want to wait till we are ready to start,
we'll let you have a boy and a horse to tow you up to the lake. That
won't cost you much, and they'll be back before we want 'em."
The bargain was made, and Mr. Buller joyfully returned to his boat
with the intelligence that they were not to wait for the canal-boats.
A long rope, with a horse attached to the other end of it, was
speedily made fast to the boat, and with a boy at the head of the
horse, they started up the canal.
"Now this is the kind of sailing I like," said Mr. Podington. "If I
lived near a canal I believe I would buy a boat and train my horse to
tow. I could have a long pair of rope-lines and drive him myself; then
when the roads were rough and bad the canal would always be smooth."
"This is all very nice," replied Mr. Buller, who sat by the tiller to
keep the boat away from the bank, "and I am glad to see you in a boat
under any circumstances. Do you know, William, that although I did not
plan it, there could not have been a better way to begin your sailing
education. Here we glide along, slowly and gently, with no possible
thought of danger, for if the boat should suddenly spring a leak, as
if it were the body of a wagon, all we would have to do would be to
step on shore, and by the time you get to the end of the canal you
will like this gentle motion so much that you will be perfectly ready
to begin the second stage of your nautical education."
"Yes," said Mr. Podington. "How long did you say this canal is?"
"About three miles," answered his friend. "Then we will go into the
lock and in a few minutes we shall be on the lake."
"So far as I am concerned," said Mr. Podington, "I wish the canal were
twelve miles long. I cannot imagine anything pleasanter than this. If
I lived anywhere near a canal—a long canal, I mean, this one is too
"Come, come now," interrupted Buller. "Don't be content to stay in the
primary school just because it is easy. When we get on the lake I will
show you that in a boat, with a gentle breeze, such as we are likely
to have today, you will find the motion quite as pleasing, and ever so
much more inspiriting. I should not be a bit surprised, William, if
after you have been two or three times on the lake you will ask
me—yes, positively ask me—to take you out on the bay!"
Mr. Podington smiled, and leaning backward, he looked up at the
beautiful blue sky.
"You can't give me anything better than this, Thomas," said he; "but
you needn't think I am weakening; you drove with me, and I will sail
The thought came into Buller's mind that he had done both of these
things with Podington, but he did not wish to call up unpleasant
memories, and said nothing.
About half a mile from the town there stood a small cottage where
house-cleaning was going on, and on a fence, not far from the canal,
there hung a carpet gaily adorned with stripes and spots of red and
When the drowsy tow-horse came abreast of the house, and the carpet
caught his eye, he suddenly stopped and gave a start toward the canal.
Then, impressed with a horror of the glaring apparition, he gathered
himself up, and with a bound dashed along the tow-path. The astounded
boy gave a shout, but was speedily left behind. The boat of Mr. Buller
shot forward as if she had been struck by a squall.
The terrified horse sped on as if a red and yellow demon were after
him. The boat bounded, and plunged, and frequently struck the grassy
bank of the canal, as if it would break itself to pieces. Mr.
Podington clutched the boom to keep himself from being thrown out,
while Mr. Buller, both hands upon the tiller, frantically endeavored
to keep the boat from the bank.
"William!" he screamed, "he is running away with us; we shall be
dashed to pieces! Can't you get forward and cast off that line?"
"What do you mean?" cried Podington, as the boom gave a great jerk as
if it would break its fastenings and drag him overboard.
"I mean untie the tow-line. We'll be smashed if you don't! I can't
leave this tiller. Don't try to stand up; hold on to the boom and
creep forward. Steady now, or you'll be overboard!"
Mr. Podington stumbled to the bow of the boat, his efforts greatly
impeded by the big cork life-preserver tied under his arms, and the
motion of the boat was so violent and erratic that he was obliged to
hold on to the mast with one arm and to try to loosen the knot with
the other; but there was a great strain on the rope, and he could do
nothing with one hand.
"Cut it! Cut it!" cried Mr. Buller.
"I haven't a knife," replied Podington.
Mr. Buller was terribly frightened; his boat was cutting through the
water as never vessel of her class had sped since sail-boats were
invented, and bumping against the bank as if she were a billiard-ball
rebounding from the edge of a table. He forgot he was in a boat; he
only knew that for the first time in his life he was in a runaway. He
let go the tiller. It was of no use to him.
"William," he cried, "let us jump out the next time we are near enough
"Don't do that! Don't do that!" replied Podington. "Don't jump out in
a runaway; that is the way to get hurt. Stick to your seat, my boy; he
can't keep this up much longer. He'll lose his wind!"
Mr. Podington was greatly excited, but he was not frightened, as
Buller was. He had been in a runaway before, and he could not help
thinking how much better a wagon was than a boat in such a case.
"If he were hitched up shorter and I had a snaffle-bit and a stout
pair of reins," thought he, "I could soon bring him up."
But Mr. Buller was rapidly losing his wits. The horse seemed to be
going faster than ever. The boat bumped harder against the bank, and
at one time Buller thought they could turn over.
Suddenly a thought struck him.
"William," he shouted, "tip that anchor over the side! Throw it in,
Mr. Podington looked about him, and, almost under his feet, saw the
anchor. He did not instantly comprehend why Buller wanted it thrown
overboard, but this was not a time to ask questions. The difficulties
imposed by the life-preserver, and the necessity of holding on with
one hand, interfered very much with his getting at the anchor and
throwing it over the side, but at last he succeeded, and just as the
boat threw up her bow as if she were about to jump on shore, the
anchor went out and its line shot after it. There was an irregular
trembling of the boat as the anchor struggled along the bottom of the
canal; then there was a great shock; the boat ran into the bank and
stopped; the tow-line was tightened like a guitar-string, and the
horse, jerked back with great violence, came tumbling in a heap upon
Instantly Mr. Podington was on the shore and running at the top of his
speed toward the horse. The astounded animal had scarcely begun to
struggle to his feet when Podington rushed upon him, pressed his head
back to the ground, and sat upon it.
"Hurrah!" he cried, waving his hat above his head. "Get out, Buller;
he is all right now!"
Presently Mr. Buller approached, very much shaken up.
"All right?" he said. "I don't call a horse flat in a road with a man
on his head all right; but hold him down till we get him loose from my
boat. That is the thing to do. William, cast him loose from the boat
before you let him up! What will he do when he gets up?"
"Oh. he'll be quiet enough when he gets up," said Podington. "But if
you've got a knife you can cut his traces—-I mean that rope—but no,
you needn't. Here comes the boy. We'll settle this business in very
short order now."
When the horse was on his feet, and all connection between the animal
and the boat had been severed, Mr. Podington looked at his friend.
"Thomas," said he, "you seem to have had a hard time of it. You have
lost your hat and you look as if you had been in a wrestling-match."
"I have," replied the other; "I wrestled with that tiller and I wonder
it didn't throw me out."
Now approached the boy. "Shall I hitch him on again, sir?" said he.
"He's quiet enough now."
"No," cried Mr. Buller; "I want no more sailing after a horse, and,
besides, we can't go on the lake with that boat; she has been battered
about so much that she must have opened a dozen seams. The best thing
we can do is to walk home."
Mr. Podington agreed with his friend that walking home was the best
thing they could do. The boat was examined and found to be leaking,
but not very badly, and when her mast had been unshipped and
everything had been made tight and right on board, she was pulled out
of the way of tow-lines and boats, and made fast until she could be
sent for from the town.
Mr. Buller and Mr. Podington walked back toward the town. They had not
gone very far when they met a party of boys, who, upon seeing them,
burst into unseemly laughter.
"Mister," cried one of them, "you needn't be afraid of tumbling into
the canal. Why don't you take off your life-preserver and let that
other man put it on his head?"
The two friends looked at each other and could not help joining in the
laughter of the boys.
"By George! I forgot all about this," said Podington, as he unfastened
the cork jacket. "It does look a little super-timid to wear a
life-preserver just because one happens to be walking by the side of a
Mr. Buller tied a handkerchief on his head, and Mr. Podington rolled
up his life-preserver and carried it under his arm. Thus they reached
the town, where Buller bought a hat, Podington dispensed with his
bundle, and arrangements were made to bring back the boat.
"Runaway in a sailboat!" exclaimed one of the canal boatmen when he
had heard about the accident. "Upon my word! That beats anything that
could happen to a man!"
"No, it doesn't," replied Mr. Buller, quietly. "I have gone to the
bottom in a foundered road-wagon."
The man looked at him fixedly.
"Was you ever struck in the mud in a balloon?" he asked.
"Not yet," replied Mr. Buller.
It required ten days to put Mr. Buller's sailboat into proper
condition, and for ten days Mr. Podington stayed with his friend, and
enjoyed his visit very much. They strolled on the beach, they took
long walks in the back country, they fished from the end of a pier,
they smoked, they talked, and were happy and content.
"Thomas," said Mr. Podington, on the last evening of his stay, "I have
enjoyed myself very much since I have been down here, and now, Thomas,
if I were to come down again next summer, would you mind—would you
"I would not mind it a bit," replied Buller, promptly. "I'll never so
much as mention it; so you can come along without a thought of it. And
since you have alluded to the subject, William," he continued, "I'd
like very much to come and see you again; you know my visit was a very
short one this year. That is a beautiful country you live in. Such a
variety of scenery, such an opportunity for walks and rambles! But,
William, if you could only make up your mind not to——"
"Oh, that is all right!" exclaimed Podington. "I do not need to make
up my mind. You come to my house and you will never so much as hear of
it. Here's my hand upon it!"
"And here's mine!" said Mr. Buller.
And they shook hands over a new compact.