A scene I snipped out today. I rather liked this grumpy ferryman, but had whittled down his part in the story to this one scene, which, upon reflection, I decided to summarize in a couple of sentences instead, for pacing's sake.
Except I rescued one small passage and inserted it elsewhere, because I liked it too dang much. Guess you'll have to read the book one day to know which bit it is. God willing!
Another interesting tidbit. I learned today that the most accurate word count can be taken from a text only (.txt) document, rather than a Word document or Rich Text Format (.rtx) file. So I saved a copy of the manuscript in .txt format and did a word count. And promptly lost 1100 words. Nice.
Copyright 2009 Lori Benton
[I post a copyright on the outtakes because, yanno, this is a work in progress, and some of this stuff may end up back in the final draft.]
“… raisin’ a ruckus afore dawn-break… hollerin’ fit ter wake ol’ Scratch hisself.”
Ian, holding fast to Ruaidh’s bridle, caught snatches of the grumbles emanating from the rumpled figure sharing the deck of the river ferry. It wasn’t the ferryman who poled him across the Yadkin last time. This fellow, older, puffy-jowled and stumpy, hunched his fleshy head, obliterating any hint of neck, dug the pole into the river’s bed, and waddled backward the length of the ferry to push it along. As the vessel creaked along its guide rope, a pair of bulging eyes peered at Ian over a woolen muffler.
Ian pushed his hat down on his head. He’d reached the ford long after nightfall, too late to cross by ferry, and at first light had shouted himself hoarse before the squat figure emerged from a cabin across the river and came to fetch him over.
“Out in this pea-soup afore me fire’s stoked… or me breakfast et.”
Ignoring the man, Ian peered ahead to the landing, or what could be seen of it—a post lantern, its yellow flame haloed in the mist lying thick across the river bottom. The small craft jerked, caught by the current as the ferryman paused to pole away some floating debris, sending it spinning out into the swirl of brown. Ruaidh tossed his head and shied.
“Steady yer horse!” the ferryman croaked, sparing Ian a jaundiced eye. “Ain’t from nigh here, are ye?”
"I’m from… a way off, aye.” Scotland, he might have said, or Boston. The northern frontier. A hill-farm just over the Carraways. Each answer balanced on his tongue, yet none tasted of truth. Too long he’d been borne on a current of circumstances, little more resisting than the bit of debris now on its way downriver. Then he looked ahead at the shimmer of light beckoning the ferry to shore, and he knew. It was Seona. She was the place his soul had anchored.
The ferryman passed again, his gaze on Ruaidh. “Looks like one of them ponies what the tribes breed, yonder in the Tennessee. You some sort of backwoods trader? Trapper? Indian agent?”
Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor. The old rhyme ran through Ian’s mind. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief…. Aye, if forced to it.
With a jolt, the ferry scraped bottom. The ferryman coiled a rope around a post and jumped to shore. While he tied off the ferry and lowered the gangplank, Ian slipped the knots in the cross-ties and led Ruaidh onto solid ground. “Ye wouldn’t have ferried a peddler across late yesterday?” he asked the man, who took the lantern from its post and made for the cabin. Ian caught him up, leading Ruaidh up the muddy rise to the Salisbury road.
The man paused at the track to his cabin. “By chance, were a peddler hollered for me nigh to suppertime. Had hisself a wagon, mule-drawn. Talkative chap. Like to chewed my ear off—”
“German?” Ian broke in.
“By his speech.”
“And a wee fellow?”
“Eh?” The ferryman lifted his head—which barely reached the center of Ian’s chest—to look him up and down. “S’ppose you’d call him so. Good day to ye!”
And with that he shuffled off, disappearing into the cabin’s depths like a burrowing toad.