"If they had built the Mississippi levees as I told them to, long before the war, they wouldn't be washed away every year," said Doc' Horne.
"You've been through that flood country, have you, Doc?" asked the lush.
"As often as you have fingers and toes," replied Doc.' "I think it was in 1857 that I went out from Cairo in charge of a relief expedition, and the river was so high that, as far as yon could see in any direction, nothing but tree tops and the roofs of houses showed above the water."
"Those floods must be awful," said the dentist.
"My uncle didn't think so," remarked the lush, with a palpable wink at the lightning dentist. "My uncle was down south for his health, and was living in a small house a short distance from Vicksburg. He occupied an upper room, and his two negro servants slept downstairs. Well, when the flood season came, his neighbors were uneasy, and some of them moved away, but he was never much of a man to worry about trouble until it actually came. He believed the levee was strong enough to hold the current, and he said that even if there was an overflow it wouldn't do any more harm than dampen his front yard. He took his regular sleep every night, and didn't fret. Now what do you think? This will interest you, Doc'."
"Yes?" said Doc', inquiringly.
"Yes, sir, he awoke one morning and saw a tree just outside his window. He didn't know what to make of it. There hadn't been any tree there the night before. He began to think some one had worked a miracle on him, so he got up and looked out of the window, and there was a whole clump of timber in front of him, and the whole country, as far as he could see, was inundated. You see, the levee had broken during the night and flooded the country for miles. The water simply lifted my uncle's house off its wooden foundation and floated it a half-mile or so, and lodged it against this patch of timber. He slept through it all."
"Were the servants drowned?" asked the dentist.
"No, they ran away. They were so frightened they didn't even stop to arouse my uncle, and he always said he was glad they hadn't aroused him, because he hated to get up in the night. If I remember it right, the two servants were found in a cottonwood tree the next day. It may have been some other kind of a tree, but I think it was a cottonwood."
"It's not unlikely," said Doc , with a look of dry disdain at the lush. "That country used to be full of cottonwood trees when I was along there making contracts for steamboat fuel."
"Your uncle must have had a hard time getting his house back to where it belonged," suggested the race-track man.
"I suppose he waited until there was another flood, and then let it float back," said the dentist.
"Now, here; this is right—what I'm telling you," said the lush, who pretended to resent these interruptions. "He didn't have to move the house at all. The new location over by the patch of timber suited him so well that he bought the land, had a new foundation put under the house, and it so happened that the flood set it down almost exactly on a north and south line, so that it didn't have to be moved more than three inches to make it face exactly east. The flood brought the stable along, too, and dropped it just a short distance from the house, so that uncle didn't have very many things to move over from the old location."
"Would you like to have a true story?" asked Doc' Horne. "When I was out in charge of this same relief expedition, we picked up in mid-river a cradle in which a baby was asleep. We learned afterward that the baby had floated some thirty miles before we found it. I presume that the water gave a gentle rocking movement to the cradle and kept the child asleep."
There was a pause of a few moments, and then the dentist said: "Well, anyway, I don't like this wet season of the year."
"Yes, but we're better off here than they are out in the country, where the roads are muddy," said the lush.
"That's a fact. Down in Indiana, where I used to live, we had the black prairie mud. At this time of the year it would take four horses to pull a two-wheeled cart with a man and a sack of flour in it."
"I don't doubt it," said Doc.' "Any one who was acquainted with this western country in the early days can tell you some remarkable stories of what we had to contend with in overland travel. Why, right here in Chicago, before they put down the corduroy roads, wagons used to mire in Clark Street, and any one who lived as far out as Evanston or La Grange had to swim half of the way to get to Chicago at this time of the year....