(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

It was early summer. A young man carrying a carpetbag was walking to Boonville, New York, when a peddler named Jacob Turnesa picked him up. The young man said his name was Dan Harrow, lately a farmhand and now looking for work on the Erie Canal. A farm woman stopped them for news and gave them some root beer. She and Turnesa talked about Gentleman Joe Calash, a highwayman on the canal.

While Dan was looking for lodgings in one of the taverns, he saw Gentleman Joe Calash quarreling with Jotham Klore, canal bully. The highwayman struck Klore with his revolver and rode off in the darkness. Dan made no effort to give the alarm, not even for the two thousand dollars reward. Inwardly, he felt sympathy for the robber, who was, like himself, alone and without friends.

Looking for work, Dan went to the Ella-Romeyn, the canal boat of Hector Berry. He found Berry playing cards with Sol Tinkle and Mrs. Gurget, Sol’s cook. Mrs. Gurget was enormously fat and addicted to rum noggins with lots of lemon in them. Mrs. Berry was away, and so Hector, who could make no decisions without his wife, could only offer Dan a job for the short haul to Rome. Later that day, Mrs. Berry came aboard. She was suspicious of Dan because he was a stranger. Dan left the boat on reaching Rome.

At Rome, he went to Hennessy’s Saloon to see Julius Wilson about a job. While he waited, he overheard more talk of Gentleman Joe Calash and of the reward for capturing him. Then Molly Larkins, a pretty canal cook, joined him. Molly cooked for Jotham Klore. When Klore came in, he accused Dan of getting too familiar with Molly. Angry, Dan hit Klore. Gentleman Joe suddenly appeared, knocked out Klore, and held Molly and Dan with his weapon. When they promised not to give the alarm, he made his escape.

A little later, Wilson hired Dan for the haul to Albany on his boat, the Xerxes. Ben Rae was the captain and William Wampy, the cook and fiddler. Near Utica, they saw a tall thin man running from a crowd that chased him into a haymow. They learned that the man was a traveling preacher who had been paid for six sermons but had tried to sneak out without giving the last one. Cornered, the minister preached a fire-and-brimstone sermon from the mow. After he had finished, Ben Rae took the minister aboard. He explained that, though he had been trained for the ministry, he was not really a preacher. His name was Fortune Friendly.

At the next stop, Dan went ashore and encountered Molly Larkin again. She had given up her job with Klore and was going to Lucy Cashdollar’s place to get a new position. Later that night, Dan got into another fight with Klore and was knocked out. When he regained consciousness, he found that someone had carried him to the boat. He caught a glimpse of Gentleman Joe.

At Albany, Samson Weaver, captain of the Sarsy Sal, hired him to drive his team. On the first day of their haul, they saw a burning...

(The entire section is 1200 words.)