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4. "Blasphemious Swearin'"
"Steve Waterman's an awful nice feller," exclaimed Ivory Dunn just then. Stephen had
been looking intently across the river, watching the Shapleys' side door, from which Rose
might issue at any moment; and at this point in the discussion he had lounged away from
the group, and, moving toward the bridge, began to throw pebbles idly into the water.
"He's an awful smart driver for one that don't foller drivin' the year round," continued
Ivory; "and he's the awfullest clean-spoken, soft-spoken feller I ever see."
"There's be'n two black sheep in his family a'ready, an' Steve kind o' feels as if he'd ought
to be extry white," remarked Jed Towle. "You fellers that belonged to the old drive
remember Pretty Quick Waterman well enough? Steve's mother brought him up."
Yes; most of them remembered the Waterman twins, Stephen's cousins, now both dead,--
Slow Waterman, so moderate in his steps and actions that you had to fix a landmark
somewhere near him to see if he moved; and Pretty Quick, who shone by comparison
with his twin. "I'd kind o' forgot that Pretty Quick Waterman was cousin to Steve," said
the under boss; "he never worked with me much, but he wa'n't cut off the same piece o'
goods as the other Watermans. Great hemlock! but he kep' a cussin' dictionary, Pretty
Quick did! Whenever he heard any new words he must 'a' writ 'em down, an' then studied
'em all up in the winter-time, to use in the spring drive."
"Swearin' 's a habit that hed ought to be practiced with turrible caution," observed old Mr.
Wiley, when the drivers had finished luncheon and taken out their pipes. "There's three
kinds o' swearin',--plain swearin', profane swearin', an' blasphemious swearin'. Logs air
jest like mules: there's times when a man can't seem to rip up a jam in good style 'thout a
few words that's too strong for the infant classes in Sunday-schools; but a man hed n't
ought to tempt Providence.When he's ridin' a log near the falls at high water, or cuttin' the
key-log in a jam, he ain't in no place for blasphemious swearin'; jest a little easy, perlite
'damn' is 'bout all he can resk, if he don't want to git drownded an' hev his ghost walkin'
the river-banks till kingdom come.
"You an' I, Long, was the only ones that seen Pretty Quick go, wa'n't we?" continued Old
Kennebec, glancing at Long Abe Dennett (cousin to Short Abe), who lay on his back in
the grass, the smoke-wreaths rising from his pipe, and the steel spikes in his heavy,
calked-sole boots shining in the sun.
"There was folks on the bridge," Long answered, "but we was the only ones near enough
to see an' hear. It was so onexpected, an' so soon over, that them as was watchin'
upstream, where the men was to work on the falls, would n't 'a' hed time to see him go
down. But I did, an' nobody ain't heard me swear sence, though it's ten years ago. I allers