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Dick in the Everglades by A. W. Dimock

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and Internet Archive; University of Florida, Children

In the Everglades



Author of "Florida Enchantments"





[Illustration: author's handwritten note.]


Dick in the Everglades is a true story. All that imagination had to
do with it was to find names for the boys and arrange a sequence of
events. Other characters, white and Indian, appear under names
similar to, or identical with their own. Any old alligator hunter,
familiar with the swamps and the Ten Thousand Islands, can follow
the course of the explorers from the text of the story. It would be
possible for two fearless boys, imbued with a love of Nature and the
wilderness, to repeat, incident by incident, the feats of the
explorers in the identical places mentioned in the story.

Many of the stories are understatements, seldom is one exaggerated.
I have been asked if it were possible for a boy to handle a manatee
in the water as one of the boys was represented as doing. I have
done it myself three times with manatees three times the size of
these in the story. In the story the manatees escaped. Two of those
which I captured were sent to the New York Aquarium, where one of
them lived for twenty months. The crocodiles which the boys sent to
the Zoological Park may be seen to-day, alive and well in the
reptile house. The frequent swamping of canoes and skiffs by
porpoises, or dolphins, tarpon and manatees are all experiences of
my own.

Aside from the Government charts which give the coast line only, the
existing maps of the scene of the story are worse than useless. In
them a hundred square miles are given to Ponce de Leon Bay, which
doesn't exist, unless the little depression in the coast which is
called Shark River Bight is accounted a bay. Rivers are omitted; one
with a mouth fifty feet wide is represented as a mile broad. A
little stream four miles long is sent wandering over a hundred and
forty miles of imaginary territory. I have sailed and paddled for
days at a time over the watercourses of South Florida, with a
compass before me and a pad at hand on which every change of course
was noted and distances estimated, and although no attempt at
accurate charting has ever been made, I am quite sure that none of
the natural features or products of the country traversed by the
young explorers have been misrepresented in the book.

The pictures are from photographs taken on the scene of the
incidents they illustrate. They show more conclusively than can any
words of mine, how beautiful is the region traversed by the boy
explorers and what interesting and exciting adventures they enjoyed.



































































"Come in!"

The doctor's voice had a note of sternness which was not lost on the
two boys waiting outside his study door. The taller of the two, Ned
Barstow, turned the handle and stepped into the study, followed
immediately by Dick Williams. The doctor, sitting behind his desk,
looked decidedly uncompromising as he said:

"Now, Barstow and Williams, you were absent from your room last
night. Where were you?"

"Camping in Farmer Field's woods, sir," replied Ned Barstow.

"How often has this happened before?"

"Twice, sir."

"Was any one else with you?"

"Only last night, sir. Another boy was with us then," said Ned.

"Who was he?"

"I can't tell you, sir."

"Williams, you may go now. I will see you later."

After the door had closed on Williams, the doctor turned again to
Barstow, and said:

"Barstow, I have always felt that I could rely upon your influence
with the younger boys being for good. Now, I find you aiding to
upset the whole discipline of the school by this camping affair. I
hope there has been nothing worse. You know I never insist on
tale-bearing regarding mere boyish escapades, but I would like to
know if there was any other reason for your refusing to give up your
companion's name."

"Yes, sir, there was. We had a chicken for supper, that was taken
from Farmer Field's poultry-house."

"Did you or Williams steal that chicken, Barstow?"

"No, sir, but we knew about it and helped eat it, and are just as
much to blame as the boy who took it."

"And, now, you mean to protect the thief?"

"Well, you see, Doctor, a good many fellows don't look at hooking
apples, or nuts, or chickens as real stealing."

"What do you think about it?" asked the doctor.

"I think it was wrong and I am very sorry it happened. It won't
occur again."

"I have no fear that it will. But it is too serious an offence to
be lightly passed over. In the first place you and Williams must see
Farmer Field, tell him what you have done and pay for the chicken
that was--taken. After that I will talk with you. Now send Williams
to me."

When Dick Williams came in the doctor began:

"Williams, how much do you love your mother?"

"Why, more than anyone else in the world, sir."

"She is keeping you here at considerable expense. Don't you think
you owe it to her to pay more attention to your studies?"

"Yes, Doctor, and I am going to do better hereafter."

"How will your mother feel when she hears of this chicken-stealing

"Oh! Doctor; she mustn't hear of it that way. We didn't think of it
as stealing last night, but this morning Ned and I talked about it
and we are going to see Farmer Field and tell him what we did and
pay for the chicken."

"Do you mean, Dick," and the good doctor's voice shook a little as
he asked the question, "that you and Ned decided to tell Farmer
Field about the taking of his chicken, before you knew that I had
heard of your camping out?"

"Why, yes, sir. I supposed Ned had told you."

"Your friend Ned is rather a curious boy, but when you are in doubt
about the right and wrong of anything, you might do worse than ask
his advice."

"Oh! I get enough of that without asking for it," said Dick.

And the doctor laughed, but he soon looked pretty serious again, and

"Dick, I think no one will tell your mother and she need never know,
but I hope you will tell her all about it of your own accord."

"Sure!" said Dick, "I couldn't keep that or anythink else away from
Mumsey for five minutes after I saw her."

There was a significant pause, during which the doctor stroked his
chin meditatively before asking:

"Now, what in the world made you two boys go on that camping
escapade? I want you to tell me that, Dick."

The boy hesitated a moment and then said:

"Why, I really don't know, Doctor--we just wanted to. You see, there
are so many things to see and listen to at night that way. Birds and
animals, I mean. Ned and I are going to be explorers some day, you

"Hum!" said the doctor.

"Well, that will do for the present, Williams. I hope you understand
that you are escaping serious trouble very easily and that you mean
to be as good as you can for the rest of the time you are at the

Fanner Field received Ned and Dick with an air of gruffness that was
belied by twinkling blue eyes and, when Ned had finished telling
his story and offered to pay for the chicken, said:

"Did you take that chicken out of my poultry-house?"

"Not exactly, but it's the same thing. We knew about it and helped
eat it."

"Was it tender?" asked the farmer.

"No, sir, it was the toughest thing I ever put in my mouth."

"I thought so. Why, that rooster was a regular antique. He must have
been a hundred years old. Next time you want a chicken for a late
supper, better let me choose it for you. Who helped you eat that

"Please don't ask us that. We'll tell you anything about ourselves,
but we can't give him away."

"Wouldn't think much of you if you did. No need of it anyhow. I know
who it was."

"He must have told you then, for we haven't told anybody."

"Do you remember that while you were cooking that rooster out in my
woods, Steve Daly, your companion, said he heard somebody in the
bushes and you said it was only a dog?"

"Yes, I remember it. I did say that."

"Well, I was that dog!"

"And you never told on us?" asked Dick. "Then you've been mighty
kind and I'm ashamed to look you in the face."

"Never be ashamed to look anyone in the face, my boy. It isn't good
to take even a little thing that doesn't belong to you, but that
won't happen again to you. But weren't you playing truant when you
had that tough supper in my woods? Doesn't your conscience trouble
you at all about that?"

"Not a bit," said Dick; "that wasn't mean."

It was fortunate for Dick's peace of mind that his conscience wasn't
troubled by mischief, for he was never out of it and was at the root
of about all the purely mischievous happenings at the school.

Even the lesson of the camping incident and the doctor's kindly talk
wore off in a fortnight. Yet he was popular with teachers as well as
pupils. His head was crowned with a mass of sandy hair and his
impertinent face plastered with freckles. The boy was quick and full
of grace as a wildcat and so well built and lithe that he was a
terror on the football team.

Dick was often too busy to attend to his studies and fell behind in
his lessons, until the good doctor sent for him and gave him an
earnest but understanding talk which sent the boy back to his books,
filled with remorse and determined to get to the head of his class
in a hurry. One of these resolves was usually effective for about a
week. After which Dick generally suffered a severe relapse.

During his last winter at school, he frequently took long tramps in
the woods in the hours when he should have been at his books, and
was finally taken to task by his chum for the bad example he was
setting the younger boys by playing truant.

"But, Ned," said Dick, "I just can't keep away from the woods, and
they do me good, I know they do. I am a whole lot better every way
after a good long tramp by myself through the thickest woods I can
find. I'd like to camp out in them to-night and I believe I will."

"That's all right, Dick. I'll camp with you; only we've got to have
Doc's permission. He trusts us a lot, and we can't go back on him."

"Nice chance we've got of getting that. Maybe he'd camp with us!"
said Dick satirically.

"Shouldn't wonder if he would. You don't understand Doc. Did you
ever know him to refuse a fellow anything he squarely asked for,
unless he simply had to do it? Come along."

And the boys walked together to the study.

"Doctor," said Ned, "Dick and I want to camp out to-night in Farmer
Field's woods, if you have no objection."

"Want to camp out? Well, so do I, only I am afraid I might be needed
here. Do you know how to camp? What do you expect to take with you
and how will you keep warm?"

"We thought of taking a hatchet, a blanket for each of us and some
potatoes to roast. Then we will make a bed of hemlock boughs, build
a fire near it and roll up in our blankets."

"Well, you may go, and I will help out your commissariat with a
loaf of bread and a chicken. But be sure you have plenty of fuel
ready before dark. It will be a cold night and you will have to
replenish your fire three or four times before morning."

"Thank you, Doctor. You don't know how much obliged we are to you
for your kindness."

"And you don't know how much trouble I am in for, when the rest of
the boys hear of this escapade of yours."

But after the study door closed the doctor smiled quietly to himself
and said under his breath:

"Just like myself at their age--have the woods instinct."

Ned and Dick slept little that night. There was about a foot of snow
on the ground and they scraped bare a place for their camp-fire
beside a big stump and gathered enough fuel from windfalls for the
night. Then they rolled a log beside the fire for a seat and built a
soft bed with fragrant branches of hemlock and spruce. They roasted
the chicken over a thick bed of glowing coals and baked potatoes in
the ashes of the fire. The chicken was carved with their pocket
knives and they got along without forks or plates. By using bark
gathered from a birch and softening it over their fire they made
cups with which they brought water from a nearby brook. When supper
was finished the boys rolled up in their blankets and lying on the
bed they had built on the snow, inhaled its fragrance as they
watched the eddying smoke of their camp-fire and the stars that
shone through the spreading branches above them and listened to the
voices of the night, from the distant cry of an owl to the whish of
falling snow, shaken from evergreen boughs by the breeze. They had
visions of camps, scattered from the equator to the poles, some of
which were destined to be realized. Ned formed a plan that night, of
which he wrote to his father, but of which he said nothing at the
time to his chum.

But as Dick stood beside Ned in their last hour at Belleville, and
the sadness of parting was in the face and eyes from which fun
usually bubbled, Ned said:

"My father owns a tract of land in the Big Cypress Swamp of Florida.
There is a lot of fine timber on it and he intends to set up a
lumber mill in the swamp and perhaps build a railroad from Fort
Myers to some part of it. A surveyor with a guide is going into the
swamp this fall to locate the best timber and I'm going with them.
You know how we have planned to do real camping and exploring
together. Well, here's our chance. I've written to Dad and he
invites you to go with me. We can start any time. When can you be
ready, Dick?"

"Ned, I'd give all I have in the world to go with you, but I
can't--I can't. Mother has spent more than she could afford to keep
me at this school and sometimes I'm ashamed when I think how I've
wasted my time. Now I don't mean to be an expense to her or anyone
else hereafter. I won't take a penny that I don't earn, from
anybody, and I won't go on any trip, even with you, until I can pay
my own way, every cent of it."

"But, Dick, your companionship and the work you can do will be worth
all it costs, twice over, to me and to Dad and he will feel just
that way about it."

"It's like you, Ned, to say all that, but it's no use and you know
it. You've been mighty good to me ever since I came to this school
and I'm going to keep your good opinion by not accepting your offer
to go with you now. Some time, when I can keep up my end, I'll be
with you bigger than an Injun. If you ever find strange footprints
down in those Everglades, better foller 'em up. They'll likely be
mine. Good-bye, Ned."

The boys clasped hands and as Dick walked away tears rolled down his
freckled cheeks.

Four months after the parting of the two friends, at Belleville,
Dick received a letter postmarked "Immokalee, Florida," which was

Big Cypress Swamp, 20 miles from anywhere,

October 10th.


Here I am! on a prairie inside the Big Cypress Swamp, about
which we used to talk and where we planned to camp some day.
Well, it's bigger than anything we ever dreamed of and every
foot of it is alive. Sometimes I sleep in a tent, but more
often under the stars. Last night I heard the scream of a
panther, so near that it made me shiver, and the next minute
a frog dropped from the branch of a tree over my head and
fell on my face. I must have screamed louder than the
panther, for I scared Chris Meyer, the surveyor, who is
camping with me, pretty badly. The guide we expected didn't
come, so we are guiding for ourselves. I hope Chris knows
where we are, for I am sure I don't. We measure the big
cypress trees with a tape line and Chris calculates the
number of feet of lumber in each tree. Then we estimate the
trees in an acre and guess at the number of acres. At least
that's the way the business looks to me. Sometimes the
walking is easy, but to-day we had to wade through mud
waist-deep and the moccasins were pretty thick. I watched out
for the ugly things and it kept me on the jump, but Chris
marched straight ahead and paid no attention to them,
excepting once when a big cotton-mouth that was coiled on top
of a stump struck at him. Then he fell over backward into the
mud, and I had a good laugh at him--afterwards. Chris killed
that snake. It was a short, thick snake and about as pretty
as a Bologna sausage, but its mouth opened five inches and
its long, needle-like fangs were dripping with venom. I am
hungry all the time and enjoy our bill of fare very much,
although it is only bacon, grits and coffee, morning, noon
and night. We are traveling light, for we carry all our
baggage on our backs. We see deer and wild turkey every day
and it's pretty hard to keep my hands off my rifle, but I
promised Dad not to shoot anything out of season. In three
weeks the law will be off and then it will be bad for the
first buck I meet. Chris says it's good for me to see a lot
of deer before I shoot at any. He says I won't be so likely
to miss or only wound them when I really hunt them. I guess
he's about right, for when I first saw a deer--it was a big
buck and only twenty yards away--I had a regular attack of
buck ague and I couldn't have hit the side of a house even if
I'd been inside it. Now I can look at one, point a stick at
him and say _bang_, with my nerves just as quiet as if it
were a cow. I have seen a few bears, but they are very shy.
We'll turn loose on them, too, when we get round to hunting,
but in the mean time we are sticking to our timber job for
all there is in it.

An old alligator hunter is camping beside us to-night. He is
bound for Boat Landing, with a lot of alligator hides and
otter skins, and I am finishing up this letter to send by
him. Just as soon as this surveying business is over I am
going to have a glorious hunt. If only you were here we would
start out by our lonesomes and have all the adventures we
ever talked about. Probably Chris will go with me. I haven't
quite the pluck to try it alone, as I know you would do in my
place. I may brace up to it, though. Dad has given me
permission to do just as I please. He says he trusts me not
to be foolish or foolhardy and to keep him informed of my
plans. Isn't he a good Dad? Come if you can. Come when you

Always and forever your chum,


Dick's mother read Ned's letter and was quiet and sad all the rest
of the day. After Dick had gone to bed she went into his room, sat
down on the bed beside him, kissed him and said:

"Dicky boy, mother wants you to take a good, long vacation. You've
worked hard and been a great comfort to her since you left school
and now she's going to send you to your chum Ned, down in Florida
where she knows your heart is. Now--don't speak yet--mother knows
what you want to say. dear, but she can perfectly well afford to
send you and you will hurt her feelings if you don't let her."

Dick put his arms around his mothers' neck and as soon as he could
speak, half sobbed out:

"Oh, Mumsey, I can't take your money. You've got so little."

"But mother wants you to, so much."

Dick held his mother's face close to his own for a minute and then
said, very slowly:

"Mumsey, I'll go--and it's really and truly because you want me
to--but I won't take any of your money. Hush, now! Don't you say a
word, or I'll--disown you. I've got a ten-dollar bill of my own and
I'll keep that in my pocket just so you won't worry for fear I'm
hungry; and I will bet you ten dollars I'll bring that same bill
back to you and I won't go hungry one day either."

"But, Dick--"

"Not one word, Mumsey, except to say you'll take that bet. I can get
a ride to New York on a boat, any day. Then I'll go to the Mallory
Line and work my way to Key West on one of their boats; and from Key
West I can find a fishing boat that will land me on the west coast
of Florida somewhere within a hundred miles of Ned, and I'd walk
that far just for the fun of surprising him."



Three days after Dick's talk with his mother, he boarded a Key West
steamer just as it was leaving its New York pier. He sat on the deck
and watched busy ferry-boats in the river, fussy tugs and
chug-chugging launches in the harbor, and the white-winged yachts
and great ocean steamers in the lower bay. He looked back from the
Narrows upon the receding city, to the east upon Coney Island with
its pleasure palaces, and to the southwest upon the great curve of
Sandy Hook. Every step upon the deck near him brought his heart into
his mouth in dread of what he knew he had to face. When the steamer
was opposite Long Branch and there was small chance that he could be
sent back, he inquired for the captain, whom he found talking to
some young girls among the passengers. This somewhat reassured
Billy, for he felt that the captain wouldn't eat him up in the
presence of the young ladies, and he stood waiting with his cap in
his hand until the captain spoke to him.

"Do you want to see me, my boy?"

"If you are Captain Anderson, I do, sir."

"All right, go ahead."

"I want you to set me to work, sir."

"Why should I set you to work? Do you belong on the boat?"

"Not yet, but you see it's this way. I had to get to Key West and I
thought I'd work my passage with you."

"Why didn't you ask me before we left the dock?"

"Because I was afraid you wouldn't take me, if you could help it,
and I had to go."

"You cheeky little devil, I believe I'll chuck you overboard."

"Oh!" said a brown-eyed girl who stood beside the captain, "you
mustn't do that!"

The captain laughed and said to Dick:

"I hope you understand that you owe your life to this young lady.
Now, go and report yourself to the cook and tell him to put you on
the worst job he's got."

"Thank you very much, Captain, but couldn't you make it the engineer
instead of the cook? I'd rather work than wash dishes."

"I'd like to oblige so modest a boy. Report to the chief engineer,
give him my compliments and tell him you are to have the hottest
berth on the boat. He'll probably set you to shoveling coal."

Dick thanked him again; then looking into the face of the girl, he

"Thank you, Miss Brown-Eyes, for saving my life," and, bowing low,
turned away.

"Captain, couldn't you see that he was a gentleman? What made you
give him such hard work?" asked the girl.

"Because he was such a cheeky gentleman that if I let him stay on
deck he would take command of the boat by to-morrow and all you
young ladies who helped him would be guilty of mutiny and would have
to be executed."

Dick was put to work in the engine-room, oiling the machinery. Some
of the work was easy and safe, some of it was easy but not safe. Oil
cups had to be filled as they flew back and forth, bearings must be
oiled after great steel rods had flashed by and before they
returned. The swift, silent play of the great piston and the steady
motion of the resistless, revolving shaft, half hypnotized the boy
and he stood, dazed and in danger, until called down by the sharp
rebuff of the engineer.

"'Tend to your business, there. Don't watch that shaft or you'll go

On the second day of the trip there was trouble in the fire-room.
The steamer had started on the trip short of firemen and now a
fireman who had fallen in the furnace-room, striking his head on the
steel floor, was lying unconscious in his berth. The pointer on the
steam-gauge fell back, the engine slowed down, crisp commands came
from pilot-house to engine-room, sharper messages passed between
engine and fire rooms, while overworked men grew sullen and
threatened to throw down their shovels.

Dick offered to do the work of a fireman, but the engineer shook his
head and said:

"That's a man's work, boy."

"Give me a shovel and a chance."

And they were given him. He soon learned to throw the coal evenly
and feed the furnaces like a fireman, but his unseasoned body shrank
from the fierce heat; he staggered back from the hot blast every
time he swung open a great furnace door and, until the clang of its
closing, he could scarcely draw a breath. He threw off his jumper
and his white skin fairly gleamed in that grimy place. The other
firemen looked curiously at that slight, boyish form which was doing
a man's work like a man and there was no more shirking in front of
those furnaces. The fireman nearest the boy often pushed him aside
and spread shovelfuls of coal over his grates, rushing back to his
own work that it might not fall behind. A strong beam wind sprang up
and the boat rolled badly, while Dick, with his hands blistered,
fought fiercely to keep off seasickness and to keep up his fire.

Up in the main saloon and around the deck a young girl wandered as
if she wanted something without quite knowing what it was. She
climbed stairs under the sign "passengers not allowed," went in and
out of the pilot-house and, meeting the captain, asked if she
couldn't go wherever she wished on the boat. He replied:

"Yes, Miss. I appoint you third mate, with power to give any orders
you please and go wherever you wish."

A little later, with a dark waterproof drawn tightly over her light
dress, she opened the door leading to the engine-room, and clinging
to the heavy brass rail, climbed slowly down the narrow, greasy iron
stairway till she stood beside the mighty engine. The engineer
hastened to her side.

"It's against the rules and very dangerous, Miss, for a passenger to
come into this room."

"But the captain told me I could come."

"All right, but please be very careful and hold tight to that rail.
I am afraid I haven't any right to let you stay, anyhow."

"Thank you very much and I'll be very careful."

The girl watched the engine for some time and then crept slowly
along a steel bridge that looked like a spider's web, from which she
could look into the furnace-room, with its roaring fires, scorching
heat and constantly clanging iron doors. For some minutes she gazed
silently, then turning quickly, hurried across the bridge, up the
greasy stairs and on to the main saloon where she found her father
in a big arm-chair, buried in a book. The girl first pulled the book
out of her father's hands, then, sitting on the arm of his chair,
clasped her hands on his shoulder and whispered eagerly into his

"Daddy, I want you to get that boy out of that hot place down in
the bottom of the boat where he is at work. I know he's sick, for I
saw him lean up against the wall and shut his eyes and he was just
as white--"

"Why, Molly, where have you been to see all this?"

"First, I went where the big engine is, then I went a little farther
and saw--Oh! Daddy, hurry, please; if you don't I know he'll die."

"So you want me to get this boy up in the saloon to play with you?"

"I don't mean that at all, Daddy. I should think you'd hate to see
anybody worked to death down in that hot hole."

"Well, I'll see the captain about it as soon as I have finished my

"Don't you think you'd better see him now? I'm quite sure you won't
enjoy your book while I'm here and I've decided to stay with you for
the present."

"All right, Molly, come along," and they hunted up the captain, whom
they found sitting near the pilot-house.

"Captain, I have taken an interest in that stowaway of yours. Is
there any objection to having his name put on the cabin list, at my
expense, of course?"

"No kick coming from me," said the captain, "though we _are_
short-handed in the fire-room and the boy has been doing a man's
work there. I don't believe he will accept your offer, for he's an
independent little cub and, as I have put him to work, I can't
insist upon it."

The captain sent a deck-hand for Dick, and the boy appeared on deck
in overalls and jumper, cap in hand.

"Dick," said the captain, "this gentleman has put your name on the
passenger list. The purser will give you a room and a seat at the

"Oh, Captain, please don't take me from my work. I know I've got to
leave it if you say so, but--"

"No, you haven't," interrupted the captain; "you are on the pay-roll
and can hang on to your job as long as you do your work."

Dick's face was still troubled as he turned toward Molly and her
father, meeting a reproachful look from the girl, which made him
wonder if he had seemed ungrateful for the kindness shown him, and

"I want to thank you a thousand times for your kindness and I will
come to the cabin if you think I--Have you any boy of your own,

"Yes, I have a boy of about your age."

"If he were here, in my place, what would you like to have him do?"

"I'd be proud of him if he did just what you're doing, my boy."

Tears were in Dick's voice as he said:

"Thank you very much, sir," then, turning to Molly, a roguish smile
lit up his face as he bowed to her, saying:

"Thank you again, Miss Brown-Eyes."

The next day when Dick was off duty, instead of going to his bunk,
he dressed himself carefully and went up on the promenade deck. It
was quite contrary to the rules, but the officers only smiled and
looked away, while many of the passengers spoke to him, for the
story of his having refused cabin passage was pretty well known on
the boat. He walked about restlessly, as if in search of something
or somebody, until he caught sight of a girl in the extreme bow of
the boat, looking down upon the water twenty feet below her. Dick
suddenly discovered that he wanted to look over the bow, too. A
minute later he was leaning on the rail behind the girl, looking
down upon a school of porpoises, or herring hogs, which were playing
about the boat. A jet of water and spray curled upward from the
cutwater of the steamer, which was running at high speed, but the
graceful little creatures kept abreast of her without apparent
effort. There were twenty or thirty of them, gliding in and out as
gracefully as if they were moving to the measure of a waltz.
Sometimes one touched the prow or side of the boat; usually they
kept pace with the steamer as evenly as if they were a part of it;
but occasionally one darted ahead at a speed which left the boat
behind as if it were standing still. At last the girl, long
conscious that some one was standing beside her, putting out her
hand to that somebody, said:

"Aren't they dears? Oh!" she added, as her hand was taken and she
looked around, "I thought it was Daddy. Please excuse me."

Dick looked as if he might be persuaded to forgive her, and for some
minutes they stood in silence, leaning over the rail and looking at
the playful porpoises beneath them, when he said:

"I hope you don't think I didn't appreciate your father's lovely
offer. You will never know how grateful I really was to him--and to
somebody else, too, who, I think, had something to do with it."

"Of course I don't think you were ungrateful, but I did hate to see
you at work down in that hot place and I don't see why you couldn't
have come up in the cabin and been comfortable and not had to wear
such greasy clothes."

"How did you know where I was at work?"

"I happened to be looking at the big engine and I walked along a
little way and saw you way, way down near the bottom of the boat in
front of a hot furnace, shoveling coal into it."

"Now I know where that offer came from," said Dick, "and I want you
to see why I couldn't accept it. I wanted very, very much to get to
Key West and I was very glad of the chance to work my passage.
Perhaps it was wrong to come aboard the way I did. I guess it was.
But Captain Anderson gave me a job and made it all right. Now I'm
not ashamed to look anyone in the face, even when I have on my
fireman's clothes, while if I gave up my work and let a stranger
give me what I could earn myself I would feel like a charity scholar
and I don't think I'd have the cheek to speak to you or any one else
on board."

Molly told her father of her talk with Dick and he said:

"I can use that kind of a boy in my business. I'll have a talk with
him when we get to Key West."

Three days later the great steamer lay beside her wharf in Key West.
Dick was paid the full wages of a fireman for the trip and when he
said he wasn't worth so much, was good-naturedly told to shut up and
advised that if he refused to take money that was offered him in
that town he was likely to be caught and exhibited as a freak. He
shed his jumper and overalls and exchanged hearty good-byes with the
whole crew of the steamer. He walked through the saloons, but it was
early, most of the passengers were yet in their berths and neither
Molly nor her father was to be seen. Dick went out on the dock to
inquire for a boat to Chokoloskee, Caxambas or Marco. He was
referred to a Captain Wilson, who told him that the boat for
Chokoloskee had just sailed, was beyond hailing distance and
wouldn't leave again for a week, and that there was no Caxambas or
Marco boat in port. Dick found the captain so genial and friendly
that he told him something of his story.

"I'll fix you out," said Captain Wilson. "I own a sponging outfit
and am just starting out on a cruise, but I'm one man short. So you
come in his place. It will be a short trip, not over four weeks.
You'll make good wages and I'll find you a chance to get to
Chokoloskee when we get back. You can live on board till I find it.
If you stay here you are bound to lose a week and your board

"I'd like to go first rate, but I don't know anything about

"You'll learn fast enough. Can you scull?"

"A little. I can row better."

"Have to scull in sponging, but you'll pick that up. Can you come
aboard now? I want to be off."

"I need some clothes and would like to say 'good-bye' to some
friends on the steamer."

"I can fit you out on board with all the clothes you will need on
the cruise, so hurry up and see your friends. I'll wait here for

But Molly and her father had left the steamer and Dick went with
Captain Wilson aboard his sloop, which sailed at once.

The captain hunted up some clothes for Dick to wear while sponging
and as the boy came on deck after putting them on, his first glance
fell on the white sails of a schooner yacht which had just passed
them, but was then two hundred yards away. The beauty of the boat
appealed to Dick and his eyes rested lingeringly upon her. How much
greater would have been his interest had he known that the two
forms which he could see on the deck of the yacht, near the
companionway, were the Molly of whom he was thinking at that moment,
and her father, and that they were talking of him. What a pity that
he couldn't have known that Key West had been searched for him and
that Molly's father had offered a reward for his name and address!
Had Dick come on deck two minutes sooner the bow of the yacht
_Gypsey_ would have been thrown up in the wind and that tiny launch
lowered from the boat's davits in less time than it takes to tell of
it. And then, had Molly's father known Dick's name, he would have
taken the boy to his yacht, if he had had to tie him to do it, but
if Dick had once heard the name of Molly's father it would not have
been necessary to tie him. However, if either had known the name of
the other this story would not have been written.



The yacht sailed on and Dick, walking up to Captain Wilson, who
stood at the wheel, said, as he lifted his cap:

"I beg to report for duty, sir." The captain grinned, as he replied:

"I hope you'll always be as polite. You'll sure be a curiosity on
this coast. I'll put you in with Pedro. He doesn't know much
English, but you can talk enough for both. There he is, that
black-mustached fellow, with little rings in his ears. He will let
you know what your duties are."

A string of four dingies trailed behind the sponger and as many
poles, each thirty feet long, with a sponge-hook at one end, lay
upon the deck. Pedro was examining one of these poles when Billy
went to him and said:

"Pedro, I am to go in your boat. What do I have to do?"

"You scull where I tell you--slow--I look in glass--see sponge--take
up pole--you stop still--then you scull where pole go--you work
good or I keek you."

"Pedro, if you ever keek me, you'll go overboard queek and don't you
forget it."

The sponger lay at anchor on the sponging ground for nearly a week
before the water was clear enough for work. Dick spent most of his
time sculling his dingy and soon learned to throw his weight on the
big sculling oar to the best advantage without going overboard very
often. One day while Pedro sat in the bow, they saw a 400-pound
loggerhead turtle lying asleep on the water. Pedro motioned to Dick
to scull up to the turtle and when the dingy was within three feet
of the creature he jumped on its back and seized the edge of its
shell just behind the head, with both hands. Pedro's weight was so
far aft on the turtle's deck that the bow pointed upward and the
reptile's struggles only served to keep its head above water and
thus carry the man comfortably on its back. Soon Pedro shifted his
right hand to the tail-end of the turtle and thereafter navigated
his living craft with ease. Dick sculled the dingy beside the turtle
and, while trying to make fast the boat's painter around the
creature, fell overboard. Pedro didn't know enough English to
express his feelings fully, and so talked Spanish for a while. Dick
thought he could get the rope around the turtle more easily if he
stayed in the water, and he finally succeeded, though the reptile
got one of the sleeves of his shirt while he was doing it. Then the
boy and Pedro got into the boat and pulled the turtle beside it. In
rolling the reptile aboard they shipped a lot of water and as the
turtle dropped suddenly to the bottom of the dingy Dick fell
backwards out of the boat. Pedro began to express himself in Spanish
again, and, as the sponger was less than two hundred yards distant,
Dick swam to it, leaving his companion to bail out the dingy and
scull it to the big boat. The boat's tackle was required to hoist
the turtle aboard, where it was turned over to the Cook, who
butchered it on deck. The heart of the reptile continued to beat for
hours after it had been removed from the body, so strongly that its
throbbing could not be restrained by the grip of the most powerful
hand. Pedro said that the heart would beat till the sun went down,
and it did.

For days Dick hunted all the turtles he saw lying on the water. At
last he got near enough to one to grab him before he dove. But he
got hold too far back, the reptile's head was already turned
downward and his flippers forced him rapidly forward. Dick hung on
as well as he could, which wasn't for long, for the strong rush of
the water and its great pressure as the reptile made for the bottom
quickly compelled the boy to let go. Yet he was under water so long
that when he came to the surface Captain Wilson was in a dingy
sculling like mad to reach him. The captain gave the boy a kindly
warning, which affected him so much that in ten minutes he was off
after another turtle, which he saw asleep. The creature began his
dive just as Dick jumped for him, and the boy got hold of his
tail-end as it was lifted above the water, in time to get a sharp
slap in the face from the heavy hind flipper of the turtle. Dick
sculled for an hour without seeing another turtle, when, as he was
returning to the boat and within a hundred yards of it, one rose
beside the dingy so near that the boy was on its back before it
could go under the surface. He soon had his charger in fair control,
but the science of riding a big loggerhead turtle isn't picked up in
a minute. One of the crew came out in a dingy to help, but Dick
asked him to pick up his boat and oar and take them to the sponger
and said that he would ride back on the turtle. Sometimes his steed
was manageable, and once he got within a few yards of the big boat,
when it broke loose and carried him fifty yards away. Then, as Dick
tried to check the reptile, he pulled its head too far and tipped it
over on its back on top of himself, with his own head so near the
parrot-like jaws of the loggerhead that when they were snapped in
his face they missed his nose by about an inch. The turtle was as
anxious to turn over as the boy, and, by favoring his motions, Dick
soon had the creature right side up, while he again rode
triumphantly on his back. In another hour the halyards were fast to
the turtle and Billy had made good his promise to ride it back to
the boat.


When the water became clear the dingies were sent out with two men
in each, one of whom sculled while the other sat with his face in a
water-glass watching the bottom for sponges. The water-glass is a
bucket with a glass bottom which so smooths the surface of the water
as to produce the effect of a perfect calm to one who is looking
through it. The first day of sponging was like a dream to Dick. The
water was smooth as a mirror and no water-glass was needed. He
sculled slowly over water so clear that he seemed to be floating in
the air. Beneath him was fairyland, filled with waving sea-feathers
and anemones, paved with curious shells, strangely beautiful forms
of coral and sponges of various kinds, and alive with fish of many
varieties. Sometimes there floated on the surface of the water
Portuguese men-of-war, most beautiful of created things, like
iridescent bubbles, with long silken filaments, delicately lined in
pink, purple and entrancing blue. Lighter than thistledown, fitted
to drift with the merest zephyr, they can nevertheless force their
way against a breeze. Harmless as a soap-bubble in appearance, each
of them is charged with virulent poison, and when Dick touched one
with his hand he received a shock that made him wonder if a bunch of
hornets had hidden in that innocent-looking bubble.

Sometimes schools of little fish gliding beneath the dingy began to
dash wildly about, and a moment later a group of jackfish or Spanish
mackerel could be seen darting around and picking up stragglers from
the little school, which often huddled for protection close beside
and beneath the dingy. Dick like all brave boys, was on the side of
the under dog, and he laughed with glee when a quick-moving mackerel
shark appeared among the pursuers of the little fish and picked up a
few of them for his breakfast as he drove the rest away. As Dick
sculled easily with one hand, he kept an eye upon Pedro, and obeyed
the signals of his hand, to go to the right, the left, or stop, as
sponges were seen. Then from time to time the long pole with the
claw at the end was lowered to the bottom and a sponge torn loose.

Sometimes Dick changed places with Pedro, and manipulated the long
pole with the claw, while Pedro handled the sculling oar. Then Dick
began to learn the difference between coarse grass and common cup
sponges, and the finer fibred glove and choice sheep's wool
varieties. For when he was clumsy with the pole, Pedro only swore
softly in Spanish, but when he brought up a worthless grass sponge,
the big oar was lifted, and the boy might have been knocked
overboard but for the iron claw which he held high, while a purpose
gleamed in his eye which made Pedro peaceful. But Dick felt that
Pedro was half right and he set to work studying sponges until he
knew them almost as well as his teacher. His strength and skill with
the sponge hook were less than the Spaniard's, but his eye was
quicker and Pedro's chronic growls were often changed to grunts of
approval. When the surface of the water was ruffled by a breeze it
was needful to use the water-glass. Then Pedro sat with his head in
the bucket, studying the bottom, and when he took up the heavy pole
which lay on the thwarts of the dingy and dipped it vertically in
the water, it was the duty of Dick to stop sculling at once. But
once while Dick was sculling and looking for sponges he saw gliding
beneath the dingy, a whip-ray, the most beautiful member of the ray
family. Shaped like a butterfly, its back is covered with small,
light rings on a black background. Its long, slim tail is like the
lash of a coach-whip and at its base is a row of little spears with
many barbs, which are capable of inflicting exceedingly painful
wounds. The roof of the mouth and the tongue of the fish are hard as
ivory and shell-fish are ground between them as rock is pulverized by
the jaws of a quartz-crusher. As Billy watched the graceful swaying
of the body of the whip-ray under the impulse of its wings, a
wandering shark came upon it. In its first rush the tiger of the sea
almost caught the beautiful creature, which fluttered for a hundred
yards upon the surface of the water, with the jaws of its pursuer
opening and closing within a few inches of its body.

Dick was so busy watching the chase and so earnest in his sympathy
with the frightened, fleeing whip-ray that he quite forgot his
duties. He was reminded of them when Pedro, who had been frantically
signaling him, took his head from the bucket and made a speech in
Spanish to Dick that must have used up all the bad adjectives in
that language. Dick's conscience hampered him so much that he was
quite unable to reply fittingly, and the battle of words was won by
Pedro. The dingy drifted so far during the discussion that they were
unable to find the sheep's wool sponge that Pedro had seen, and
which he now described as the finest one ever found.

Each day the spongers in the dingies worked farther from the sloop
and each day more time was lost when the sloop made its round to
pick up the spongers for dinner. There were too few sponges to
please Captain Wilson, who sailed over the ground whenever the water
was smooth, studying the bottom with practiced eye and throwing out
little floats, with anchors attached, wherever a sponge was seen.

"I'm going to the 'Lake,'" said the captain, one afternoon at the
end of a day of little success. "It's a feast or a famine there. You
get rich or go broke."

"What is there at the 'Lake'?" asked Dick.

"Sponge, all sponge, the bottom lined with sponge. If the weather is
just right we'll pile the deck with sponges in a week till you can't
see over them. If the weather isn't exactly right we won't get a
sponge. On one cruise there, the men on this sloop averaged
twenty-five dollars a day apiece. I've been there five times since
without ever making enough to pay for our salt."

A week later the captain said to the boy:

"Dick, you are a mascot. You've brought us big luck. We never had
such weather here but once and I don't care now how soon it comes on
to blow. I reckon it'll begin to-night from the looks and we'll hike
for Key West to-morrow."

Dick was glad to go. The week had been a hard one, the work
incessant and each night he felt as if his back were broken. He was
used to the fresh, sweet air of his country home and the sloop he
was in was arranged like most of the sponging craft, with quarters
sufficient for half the crew it carried. The deck of the sponger was
piled with the result of the work of the week. The sponge of
commerce, the one you buy at the drug store, is the skeleton of the
creature; the thing taken from the water is its corpse. Not until
this body has rotted away is it pleasant to live with. Day by day
the stench, like that of a charnel house, became more unbearable to
Dick. The crew seemed never to notice it, which caused the boy much
wonderment that noses had ever been given them. He was glad when a
strong wind came and swept some of the smell away instead of leaving
it to settle in chunks in every nook and cranny on the boat.

At Key West most of the crew went to their homes, but Dick was
invited to live on the sloop till he found a boat for the coast he
wanted to reach.

Cargoes sent to Key West for a market are almost always sold at
auction and the auction houses in the early morning are busy marts.
Cargoes of sponge, fruit, vegetables, lumber and other goods are
sold in lots to suit purchasers, who range from the dealer who buys
by the cargo, or the small merchant who takes a few boxes of pines,
oranges, grape-fruit, or tomatoes, to the housewife who wants a
watermelon or a bunch of bananas. On the day following their arrival
at Key West Captain Wilson handed Dick a roll of bills containing a
hundred dollars, saying to him:

"That's about your share in the cruise, Dick. The sponge hasn't been
sold yet, but you are in a hurry to get off and I reckon that's
about right."

Dick was dazed as he took the roll, but a moment later he handed it
back to the captain, saying:

"I can't take that, Captain Wilson. It is ten times as much as I
have earned. You took me on as a boy and I want you to pay me just
what you would have paid any other boy."

"Put that money in your pocket, Dick. You've done a man's work and
now you've got a man's pay and that's all there is to it. Lucky for
you, though, that the weather was good at the Lake. If it hadn't
been you wouldn't have got anything but your board. Now come ashore
and we'll hunt up a boat for Marco or Chokoloskee."

They stopped at an auction room in Key West for a minute, when
Captain Wilson sang out to a boy who was passing:

"Hi, Johnny! Where's the _Etta_?"

"Same old place, off the end of the dock."

"Thought yesterday was your sailing day."

"So it was, but Cap'n's in the calaboose. Got drunk yest'd'y and
had a fight. I got ter raise th' cash ter git him out."

"Why don't the boss bounce him? He's drunk most of the time."

"Boss says Cap'n Tom's a better sailor when he's drunk than any of
th' others when they're sober."

"Well, I'll get Tom out of limbo for you and charge it to the boss.
Only you must take this friend of mine with you to Chokoloskee."

"Sure! What's his name?"

"Name's Dick. Can you make an alligator-hunter of him?"

"Reckon I kin, or kill him tryin'."



The next morning the _Etta_, with Dick on board, started for
Chokoloskee. The weather was bad, with a succession of squalls from
the southwest, and the captain kept in the lee of the line of keys
instead of taking the straight course across the Gulf. But he
carried all sail till the rotten main-sheet parted at the boom, and
when he came up in the wind to lower the sail the main throat
halyard refused to unreeve. Before an order was given Dick was half
way up the mast and soon came riding down to the deck on the gaff.
When reefs had been taken in the sails, the sheet replaced, and the
boat was again under way, the captain said to Dick:

"Who taught you sailoring?"

"Captain Wilson taught me some, and--"

"That's enough. You don't need to mention anybody else. What Wilson
doesn't know about sailing, sponging and fishing isn't worth

By noon they were about twenty miles southwest of North-West Cape
and, as the wind had moderated, the reefs were shaken out and the
bow of the _Etta_ pointed due north, straight for Sand-Fly Pass.
The breeze grew less and less, and in two hours had died away
entirely. From the northeast a black, threatening cloud was moving
slowly toward them, while the sails flapped idly as the _Etta_
rolled to a heavy ground swell. The cloud came nearer and grew
blacker, while swirling little tails dropped from it, almost
touching the water, and then suddenly returned to the black mass

"What a funny cloud," said Dick to Captain Tom. "Does it mean a

"No. This is the hurricane month, but hurricanes always give a day
or two's warning through the barometer and that hasn't changed a
tenth in a week. But this is worse than a hurricane if it hits us.
Those are waterspouts in the making, that you see dropping from the
big cloud, and when one of them gets a good hold on the water you
will see something that you won't forget as long as you live, which
won't be a great while if it hits us," said the captain.

Almost as he spoke a great inverted cone of cloud settled down from
the mass above and touching the surface of the water set it whirling
furiously. The water from the Gulf was lifted skyward, in a column
which constantly grew broader at the base while its pointed top,
mingling with the almost equally solid cloud, gave hour-glass form
to the huge, swirling, threatening mass that bore down on the
_Etta_, within a half mile now. Suddenly the waterspout separated
from the great cloud mass and moved rapidly eastward. For ten
minutes the crew of the _Etta_ watched it until, when more than a
mile distant, the waterspout collapsed more suddenly than it had
formed and from the foam-covered water a great wave rolled outward,
spreading until the _Etta_ rocked in its path.

"Thank goodness, that trouble's over," said Dick to the captain.

"Yes, but how about this one?" replied Captain Tom, as he pointed to
the big cloud which was now within two hundred yards of them and
more threatening than ever. Another waterspout was forming and soon
its roar filled their ears, while a towering mass seemed to spread
over their heads, ready to fall upon and crush them. Already,
spiteful patches of wind, torn from the revolving cyclone, slapped
the sails of the _Etta_ as if to tear them from the mast.

"Shan't I take in sail?" asked Johnny of the captain.

"No use," was the reply. "When that thing strikes us nothing will
make any difference and a bit of breeze in the next minute might
pull us out."

For a long minute they watched the approaching demon which was now
within a hundred yards and its tremendous suction was already
disturbing the water about them when the captain shouted:

"Launch the dingy and get aboard; leave the oars to me!"

In an instant the little dingy had been slid overboard and the boys
were sitting in the stern; then Captain Tom stepped aboard and was
soon pulling mightily away from the _Ella_ and across the line of
progress of the waterspout. But it was all too late. The dingy was
less than two hundred feet from the _Etta_ when she began to toss,
lifting her bow high and then plunging it deep beneath the surface.
The first touch of the waterspout carried away mast and sails and
swept clear the deck. In another instant the schooner was engulfed,
but her bulk broke the back of the waterspout and it began to sway;
its straight, smooth column began to kink up and break, and many
hundred tons of water fell crashing into the Gulf. When the great
column fell the dingy was within three hundred feet and, as Captain
Tom threw his weight on the oars in a last effort to increase the
distance, one of the oars snapped and the captain fell on his back
in the bow of the boat, striking his head on the gunwale with a
force that stunned him. At this moment the outflowing wave from the
falling water swept over the skiff, rolling it upside down. Dick,
who was a regular water-dog, saw the big wave coming and, as it
rolled the dingy over, he sank for a moment beneath the surface till
the wave had passed, then came up with all his senses alert. He swam
to the capsized dingy, which was near him, and was soon joined by

"Where's the captain?" shouted Dick. "We've got to find him. Look
everywhere, Johnny."

The broken water was now tossing madly and it seemed an age to Dick
before he caught a glimpse of the captain's head on the crest of a
wave two boat's lengths distant. He swam to the place, and searched
the water above and below, diving until he was exhausted. He was
losing hope when once more the captain's body came to the surface
and Dick seized it. He started for the dingy with his burden, but
was fearing he would never make it, when he found Johnny beside him,

"Here, you're played out. Put your hand on my shoulder. I can take
care of the cap'n, too."

"All right, you take care of the captain. I can get back to the

When they reached the dingy the water had become so much smoother
that they were able to rest while clinging to the side of the dingy
and holding the captain's face out of water.

"Don't 'spose Cap'n's dead, do yer?" said Johnny.

"Don't think so, but we've got to get this dingy bailed out and get
him in it, mighty soon. Then I know what to do to bring him to, if
there's life in him. Lend me your cap and I'll bail out the dingy."

"That ain't the way we bail boats down here," said Johnny, who got
into the dingy and began to rock it. In about a minute he had rocked
it nearly dry and finished the job with his cap. Dick then climbed
into the dingy and the boys pulled the body of the captain beside it
and, bearing down on the gunwale until water began to come in,
dragged it aboard, half filling the dingy as they did it. As Johnny
began to bail again a feeble voice beside him whispered:

"What you fellers doin'?"

The captain soon got stronger, and said he was all right but for a
headache which was splitting his skull. He tried to rise, but fell
back in a faint, and Dick told him he must lie still and give
orders, which Johnny and he would obey. Then Dick stood on a thwart
and studied the water as far as he could see, hoping to find an oar.
He saw a mast, a hatch cover and some broken fragments from the
_Etta_ and at last the blade from the oar which the captain had
broken. Johnny and he paddled with their hands until they recovered
the oar blade. As a light breeze had sprung up from the south, which
was causing them to drift northward, they headed south, paddling and
watching by turns, until they found the lost oar. Then Dick, resting
the oar in the sculling hole, called on the captain for orders.

"Better strike out due east and make for Nor'-West Cape. That's the
nearest land and we're liable to be struck by a squall 'most any
minute. Then there's a cocoanut grove at the Cape and you'll be
thirsty by the time you get there."

"Gee!" said Dick, "I'm thirsty now. Wish you hadn't spoken of it."

Dick put his weight on the oar and as he swung back and forth on it
the captain called out:

"You sure can scull, boy, but take it easy; you've got over a dozen
miles of it to the Cape and near fifty more up the coast, after

"Where do I come in?" said Johnny.

"Go 'way, child, this is man's work," replied Dick, as he swung
easily on his oar, but with a vim that drove the dingy through the
water at good speed.

Johnny begged for his turn, but didn't get it for two hours, by
which time the tops of the cocoa palms could be seen. Then Captain
Tom began to feel better and talked of doing his share of the work,
upon which Dick whistled a few bars of "Go 'Way Back and Sit Down,"
which the captain seemed to understand, for he gave no more trouble.

It was nearly dark when they landed on a beach at the border of a
forest of cocoa palms and in a few minutes Johnny had a dozen young
nuts on the ground and was hacking at the tough husk of one with his
knife. When the ape-faced end of the nut had been laid bare and the
eye cut out with a pen-knife blade, he gave the nut to Dick, who was
soon absorbing the most delicious drink of his life. There was about
a pint of milk in each nut, and it took a round dozen to quench the
thirst of the three. They broke open half-grown or custard nuts and
ate their pulpy meat and they tried some of the hard flesh of the
mature nut.

The castaways built a fire on the beach for cheer and warmth and
piled up fallen leaves of the palm to soften their beds on the sand.
Captain Tom told the boys that the plantation house was not
occupied, and that the next house down the coast was a number of
miles distant and just opposite to the course they wanted to take.
He then added that he was no more captain now than his companions
and would give no orders, but he advised that they start up the
coast before sun-up and do a lot of their sculling in the cool of
the morning. The boys collected a couple of dozen of nuts to keep
down their thirst and when the sun rose they were several miles up
the coast.

About nine o'clock Dick said to the captain:

"I wish it was breakfast time. I'm starving."

"Have your breakfast any time you want it."

"Want it now."

"All right," said the captain, who was sculling, and he headed the
dingy for shore, where it struck on a reef at the mouth of a stream.

"Now, if you boys will rustle some wood I'll have your breakfast

"I don't see anything to eat round here," said Dick.

"How would an oyster roast strike you?" asked the captain.

"My, but wouldn't an oyster taste good? Do you s'pose there is one
within ten miles?"

Johnny laughed and said:

"What you standin' on? Must be a hundred barrels on 'em."

Dick looked down and was amazed to see that the whole reef was
composed of oysters--oysters of all sizes, oysters single, in small
bunches and in great masses.

"Woods are full of 'em," said the captain, and he pointed to the
mangrove trees that lined the stream, the lower branches of which
were burdened with bunches of oysters bigger than Dick's head. A
fire was made and branches of these trees containing bunches of
oysters were thrown on it. A few minutes later the branches were
taken off of the fire, with shells bursting open showing hot,
steaming oysters ready for the sharp sticks which took the place of
forks with the castaways. After Dick had filled himself with roast
oysters, he ate a few dozen raw, by way of a change, and then went
back to his roasting, until he was so full that he told Johnny that
he never wanted to eat again as long as he lived, at which Johnny
grinned. Only three hours later, as Johnny was sculling over a
shallow bank, he stopped work and began to thump the bottom with his

"What is it?" asked Dick.

"Bottom covered with clams. Reckon I'll pick up a few for Cap'n and
me. You said you didn't want to eat again, ever," replied Johnny.

But both of the boys went overboard and in a few minutes had put
more clams aboard the dingy than the whole party could have eaten in
a week.

The castaways camped on their second night at the mouth of Lossman's
River, where they had a famous clam-roast. They found a fisherman's
house where they got fresh water and a can to hold it, also some
cornmeal, with which Johnny made an ash-cake, or, as Dick called it,
Johnny-cake. The captain said it was the best thing he had ever
eaten, and Dick engaged him on the spot as a camping companion on
his hunt for his chum.


The next morning the boys slept till the sun had risen and the
captain awoke them to look upon a gorgeous picture seldom to be
seen. The unclouded sun was shining brilliantly and the eastern sky
clear and bright, but in the west a storm was gathering. There were
snow-clad peaks brilliant with sunshine, thunder-heads black as
midnight from which lightning was playing, while above and beneath
them all shone a perfect double rainbow and an equally perfect
reflection of it from the mirror-like surface of the Gulf. So
perfect a double-circled rainbow the captain had never before seen,
and, though he lived near the coast, Johnny had never seen one at
all. By the time they had finished their breakfast of roast clams
and ash-cake the rainbow had melted away and the storm-clouds were
nearer, but Dick wanted to start on up the coast. The captain shook
his head and Johnny recited:

"Rainbow in the mornin', sailors take warnin'."

Half an hour later all hands were glad to run to the fisherman's
house, from the doorway of which they looked out upon storm-driven
sheets of rain that shut out the Gulf and fell in hissing masses
upon the palmetto roof that covered them, while the continuous blaze
of lightning and crash of thunder gave Dick his first taste of a
tropical thunderstorm. Half an hour later the sky was cloudless, the
sun more brilliant than ever, and the only reminder of the storm
that had passed was the sullen roar of the surf as the big waves
broke on the beach.

When Johnny proposed to renew their voyage and the captain assented,
it was Dick who held back.

"What can we do out there?" said he, waving his hand toward the
white-capped waves that were sweeping in and sending their foam high
up the beach. Johnny only laughed in reply, but the captain and he
dragged the dingy, in which two poles had been placed, out into the
surf until the waves rolled waist deep past them.

"Tumble aboard, both of you," ordered the captain, as he stood by
the stern of the craft, holding its bow squarely against the
incoming waves. The boys climbed aboard, and Dick, following
Johnny's example, seized a pole and together they held the boat
against the sweep of the surf until the captain was aboard with the
oar in his hands. It was exciting work and as they pushed on and
out, with each new wave tossing the bow of the boat in the air and
spilling its crest of water and foam over the gunwales, Dick

"Isn't it glorious? I never had such fun," and even the captain
smiled assent.

They pushed on until outside of the breakers and among the
smooth-rolling waves, where the deepening water made poling
difficult and they resumed their sculling. The captain took the
first trick, while Johnny bailed out, with his cap, the water that
the waves had spilled aboard.

Everything went smoothly and there was no more excitement on the
trip until in the afternoon, when Dick was working the sculling oar.
He was swinging it slowly, as he looked down into the water, when
there appeared suddenly, just under the dingy, a great black
creature, broader than the boat was long. As it rose nearer to the
surface, almost touching the craft, he saw a great open mouth, three
feet across, with a heavy black horn on each side of it, which
looked quite equal to disposing of Dick and his boat at a single
bite. The sight was so frightful that Dick impulsively thrust his
oar against the creature, and was instantly thrown from his feet as
the stern of the dingy was tossed in the air and a column of water
fell upon and around him. When the commotion was over and Johnny had
crawled back into the submerged boat and was rocking it dry, Dick
said to Captain Tom, who was swimming beside him:

"I believe I'll swim the rest of the way. I'm getting tired of being
pitched overboard every few minutes."

After they were all aboard and Dick had resumed his work with the
oar, he asked the captain:

"What was that thing that looked like a devil, that I hit and that
hit back?"

"That was a devil-fish. They are perfectly harmless," said the
captain, adding, reflectively, "unless you punch 'em."

The tide favored the castaways at Sand-Fly Pass and they reached
Chokoloskee Bay without further adventure, but then came the painful
part of the trip: telling the owner of the _Etta_ of its destruction
by a waterspout. All the comment Mr. Streeter made was:

"Glad none of you went down with the boat."

The captain and Johnny went to their homes, while Dick accepted Mr.
Streeter's invitation to stay with him.



The Streeter home was on the bank of a little river that emptied
into Chokoloskee Bay, and Dick, for the first time, saw oranges and
grape-fruit growing and tasted the delicious alligator pear and the

After supper Mr. Streeter said to Dick:

"Johnny tells me you have got a friend lying around loose somewhere
in the Big Cypress Swamp, or the Everglades, and that you and he are
going to take a day off to look him up."

"That's about the size of it, only of course I don't expect to find
him in a day or a week. I had some hope that a month would do. I
suppose it all seems very silly to you?"

"Not a bit, not a bit. The Big Swamp isn't a bad place, if you've
sand and sense, and I reckon you have both or you wouldn't have got
as far as you have. I suppose it's Ned Barstow you're looking for?"

"Who in the world could have told you? I haven't spoken his name
since I left home."

"Nobody told me, but last week Chris Meyer, the surveyor, was here
and, as we are old friends, we talked half the night. He told me of
his work for Mr. Barstow, the big lumber man, and said that Ned
Barstow, his son, had been out in the swamp with him as surveyor's
assistant for 'most a month, Chris told me that when he left, Ned
was arranging to go on a hunting trip with Billy Tommy, a Seminole
Indian. He thought the plan was to hunt slowly through the swamp to
Tommy's canoe, which he had left somewhere between Boat Landing and
Charley Tiger's. Ned expected then to work down through the
Everglades to Cape Sable if possible."

"Is there any chance of my finding him in that great wilderness, Mr.
Streeter? It looks so much bigger than it did from up north. How is
it possible to keep from getting lost?"

"Don't have to. Soon as you begin to worry because you don't know
where you are, trouble begins. More than one man in this country has
gone crazy and killed himself because he thought he was lost. Why,
you can't be really lost. If you're worried just start for the North
Star. You'll hit somebody before you strike the North Pole. But it's
a heap easier to keep from worrying if you've got company. Lordy,
the picnic you and Johnny are going to have! I wish I was as young
as you and going with you. Your best way to find Ned will not be to
follow his trail, but to head him off somewhere in the Glades.
That's easier than you think. I could pretty nearly figure out to a
mile where he is this minute. You see, he's with Billy Tommy, and I
know that Injun. Couldn't make him hurry if he tried, and he won't
try. He'll be so busy shootin' things and skinnin' 'em and fussin'
'round camp that they'll get ahead mighty slow. Shouldn't wonder if
it took 'em a week from the time they started to get to where Tommy
left his canoe. Then they will put out in the Glades and head
straight for Charley Tiger's camp."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I know Tommy and because it's the only Injun camp 'round
there where he'd be sure to find _whyome_--that's whisky, or rum, or
anything that'll make drunk come."

"But suppose Ned wouldn't go that way?"

"Oh, Tommy'd fix that. He'd point to the west and say, 'Big Swamp,
canoe no can take!' Then he'd wave his hand to the east, 'No trail,
_oko suchescha_ (water all gone), saw-grass _ojus_ (heaps)!' No,
they never got past Tiger's camp without stopping. Then Tommy got
drunk and Ned couldn't move him under four days. It's an even chance
that they are right there now."

"How far from here is Tiger's camp?" asked Dick.

"Less than forty miles, but you'd think it was four hundred before
you got there, if you tried to cross the swamp to reach it. Besides,
they would certainly be gone before you could possibly get to the
camp. Then you couldn't take a boat, and you've got to have one to
follow your friend."

"Can I buy or hire a skiff, here?"

"You can do a lot better. One of your Northern tourists left a
little beauty of a canoe with me, to be sold first chance I got. It
cost seventy dollars, delivered here, and you can have it for
twenty. It's only fifteen feet long and about two feet wide
amidships, but it weighs only forty pounds and when there isn't
water enough for the canoe to carry you, why, you can carry the
canoe. Then a few little traps go with it which you may find useful.
There's a broken fly-rod, which you can fix all right, and a little
single-barrel shot-gun, not worth much, but you can always pick up a
supper with it. There are also a pair of grains, a light harpoon,
and a cast-net which is torn some, but Johnny can fix it. Johnny's
got a rifle and all the camp kit two tough boys will need.

"Better take a piece of light, waterproofed canvas big enough to
keep off some of the rain when it storms, an axe, a bag of salt to
save the hides of the alligators you will be sure to kill if Johnny
goes with you, and some grits and bacon. Oh! you may need a
mosquito-bar, and if you do want it you're likely to want it bad.
Make it of cheese-cloth; that'll keep out sand-flies, too. Some of
my folks will run it up on the machine for you in a few minutes.
There may be some other little things that you'll need, but you can
trust Johnny to think of 'em. Now, Dick, you don't have to pay for
any of these things till you get good and ready. I'm used to giving
long credits and this time I'm glad to do it."

"Oh, Mr. Streeter, you don't know how grateful I am to you for all
you are doing for me. The money is the least part of it and I can
fix that all right. You wouldn't think I was a capitalist to look at
me, would you?" said Dick, laughingly. "Since I left home I've
rolled up quite a fortune as a fireman and a sponger and I can pay
my little bills and have money to burn besides. How soon do you
think we can get off?"

"You ought to start to-morrow. You can get ready in an hour. Know
anything about canoeing?"

"Not much, but I've rowed some in a shell."

"That'll help you a little, but it leaves you something to learn.
The man whose canoe you have bought was cruising down here with his
family and he told me that every time one of 'em stepped in that
canoe he went overboard. He said he had to choose between the canoe
and his family and had concluded to let the canoe go. One of my boys
owns a little Indian canoe in which Johnny and he have poled around
a good deal, so I reckon Johnny can keep inside of your canoe, but
you'd better spend the forenoon to-morrow practicing in it with a
paddle, then you can get off right after dinner and your clothes
will be dry before you make camp at night."

"Does Johnny know the course we ought to take from here?"

"Not far, but I can help you some and you'll find out the rest for
yourselves. You'll have to. Then Johnny savvies Injun talk pretty
well and you're sure to run across them or their camps. And he'll
likely know them, and if Ned's anywhere in their country or has been
there they'll sure know it. You will leave this bay by way of
Turner's River, which will take you into the most tangled up part of
the Ten Thousand Islands. You will go through rivers and bays,
around keys, along twisting channels and up narrow, crooked creeks.
You'll be lost from the start, but you don't want to think of that.
Just make your course average southeast for the first fifty miles,
which you ought to cover in three days. Then hunt for some creek
coming from the east. It will be a little one, you will have to drag
your canoe, perhaps for miles, under branches that close over the
creek and you may have to carry your canoe and pack your dunnage
over prairie land. In a day you ought to strike the Everglades. Then
turn to the north and look for Indian trails, which you want to
follow whenever they lead anywhere near where you are trying to go.
They will help you to dodge the worst of the saw-grass which is
likely to be your greatest trouble.

"Keep along the border line between the Everglades and the cypress
country and you will probably hit Osceola's camp. He's about the
whitest Seminole in the State and he'll help you all he can.
Remember, when in an Indian camp, that their brand of politeness is
different from a white man's, though it may be just as sincere. If
you're hungry, and don't see a spoon lying around, just dip your
hand in the family pot, if you can eat that way. If you want to
sleep lie down on the nearest unoccupied bunk. If you make a mistake
they won't tell you of it.

"Now, remember above all things, that you mustn't get rattled.
That's the biggest risk you'll run in this country. If you get
separated from Johnny and think about being lost and get excited and
begin to walk fast, or run, stop right there and sit down and don't
go on till you're perfectly cool, not if you have to camp right
where you are for a night, or a day, or both. Just as soon as you
have taught yourself that when you get excited you have got to sit
still for an hour or two, you'll stop getting excited. There is
mighty little real danger where you are going. There are bear and
panther, but the only thing on earth that's a bigger coward than a
bear is a panther. People from your country think the alligator is a
dangerous brute. I have lived among them, killed them, dealt in
their hides, of which I have shipped north the biggest consignments
sent from this coast, since before you were born, and I never knew
of a human being having been harmed by one. This deep river running
in front of my door used to be full of them, and there are some
there now, but my whole family of children swim in it almost every
day without thought of danger. Only two weeks ago Johnny killed a
ten-foot 'gator right in front of my house and within a hundred
feet of it. Any of our hunters will wade into a pond where there are
fifty alligators, to drag out one they have shot; many of them will
tackle, with nothing but a stick, any 'gator under six feet that
they can catch on a prairie or asleep on a bank, and a few of the
boys will wade bare-footed and bare-handed into a pond on the
prairie and bring out little alligators. Johnny is a dabster at
that. Likely you'll see him do it before many days.

"Of course rattlesnakes are bad, but they always give warning,
usually a good long one. I've killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of
them and never been bitten. Cotton-mouth moccasins are poisonous,
but they are sluggish and not so very plenty. You'll have to get
used to the smaller moccasins. You will find lots of them. I've
kicked them out of my path on the prairies and in the marshes for a
good many years without having been bitten by one.

"Sharks have a bad name, and Florida waters are full of them, but
there is no authentic instance on record of their having killed a
man, woman, or child in this country. There are convicts and other
outlaws in the Ten Thousand Islands. They may steal something from
your camp, but they won't harm you. Some of them are bad men, and
when they kill their own kind, people here don't mind it, but the
outlaws know that the community wouldn't stand for their hurting any
of you boys."

Dick was ashamed when he got up to breakfast to find that Mr.
Streeter and Johnny had been at work for an hour and had got
everything ready for a start, even to the mosquito-bar, which one of
the family had already made.

The outfit consisted of a fly-rod, with reel, line and flies; rifle
and shot-gun, with fifty cartridges for each; pair grains, harpoon,
line and pole; cast-net, fish hooks and lines; forks, tin-cups and
plates, two each; light axe, saucepan and frying-pan; piece of
waterproofed canvas, six by eight feet; lantern, kerosene, and bag
of salt; white bacon, hominy and corn meal, five lbs. each; canoe,
two paddles and one long oar; five gallon can of water, and bucket;
waterproof box filled with matches.

Each of the boys carried a clasp knife and a pocket, watertight
match safe.

Nothing had been loaded on the canoe, as Mr. Streeter wanted to be
sure that Dick could stay in it, before he filled it with goods that
water might harm. He was soon satisfied on this point, for although
Dick got into the canoe with exceeding care, he kept his balance
perfectly, and after the first few strokes appeared perfectly at
home in the craft. He paddled for a few minutes kneeling on the
bottom of the boat, then sitting on a thwart, and finally came back
to the dock sitting on the stern, while the bow of the canoe tilted
up in the air. Then Johnny got in with him and the boys maneuvered
the craft until Mr. Streeter called out to them:

"You kids are all right and don't need to waste any more time.
Better pack up and be off, and save half a day." They loaded the
canoe carefully and took their positions, Dick in the stern and
Johnny in the bow. Then lifting their caps to the family, who had
come down to the dock to see them off, the boys dipped their paddles
together in the river and began Dick's hunt for his chum.



An hour's paddling brought Dick and Johnny to the mouth of Turner's
River, up which they headed the canoe. A strong tide setting up the
river nearly doubled their speed.

"Lucky for us that the tide is running our way," said Dick.

"Not much luck about it. Mr. Streeter knew about the tide. That's
why he hurried us off 'fore dinner. Tide'll be other way this
evenin'," replied Johnny.

"Isn't Mr. Streeter a brick?"

"He's all that. Lots o' people 'd have hard times 'f he moved away.
He helps th' Injuns, too, when they're in hard luck."

The first fork in the river was a mile from its mouth and Dick, who
was steering, took the right branch, which led southeast, although
it was much the smaller stream. At the next parting of the stream
one branch led to the east and the other due south. Fortunately
Johnny knew which fork to take, and for a mile or two there was no
trouble. Then the river opened out into a broad shallow bay, filled
with little keys, but nothing to tell Dick which way to steer. He
tried to keep to a southeast course, but ran into shallows which
soon ended in a pocket from which they had to back out. Often they
followed a good channel for a mile, only to have it end in an oyster
reef, and again they had to turn back. A pair of dolphins lifted
their heads above the surface in front of the canoe and with a sniff
of fright started away across the bay like an express train. They
were great creatures, nearly nine feet long, and were followed in
their flight by a baby dolphin less than half their size, which rose
within reach of Dick's paddle, sniffed impertinently in his face and
skittered away after his mother as fast as he could wiggle his funny
flat tail.

"Better foller them porpoises," said Johnny; "they know the

The dolphin is so uniformly miscalled porpoise, on the west coast
and everywhere else, that the creature will soon come to think that
it really is a porpoise.

Dick followed the dolphins as long as he could see them and was led
into a deep channel which opened out into a series of broad bays
through which they paddled until, among the sunken lands of the
flooded mangrove keys, they came upon a shell mound, the site of an
old abandoned plantation. Dick's aching muscles and Johnny's
clamorous stomach had long been pleading for a rest, and the boys
landed on the mound for a picnic dinner. They opened a box which
Mrs. Streeter had given them as they started from her home, and
found a bountiful lunch of cold venison, baked sweet potatoes,
boiled eggs, bread, butter, orange marmalade and two pineapples.

"Gee!" said Dick. "Are we going to live this way, Johnny?" but
Johnny only grinned.

After the boys had eaten, as only boys can eat, they crawled through
the vines and among the thorns of the overgrown plantation. They
found stalks of sugar-cane and bunches of bananas; wide-spreading
guava and lime trees, loaded with fruit; and tall Avocado pear trees
from which hung purpling globes of that great, creamy, most
delicious fruit, commonly called alligator pear. They filled with
fruit the shirts they wore, till they bulged like St. Nicholas, and
made many trips between the trees and their canoe. As Dick was
standing beside a lime tree, he heard a sound near him like the
whirring of a big locust. Dick had never before heard the angry
jarring of the rattles of the great king of snakes, but he didn't
need to be told the meaning of the blood-curdling sound, which
seemed to come from all directions at once. He gazed about him for a
moment, with every muscle tense, until he caught sight of the head
of the reptile waving slowly to and fro above the irregular coils of
his body. The snake seemed to be within striking distance and the
unnerved boy sprang suddenly away from it, landing among the
thorn-bearing branches of a big lime tree. Dick soon recovered his
nerve, and hunting up a big stick, went cautiously in search of the
reptile, which he found still coiled. He broke the creature's back
with his first blow and had struck several more when Johnny came
crawling through the undergrowth, and called out:

"Want to save his skin?"

"Sure," replied Dick, who hadn't thought of it before.

"Then don't smash him any more and I'll show you how to round-skin
him. He's dead enough, now. A feller from New York showed me how. He
skinned 'em for a livin'. Birds, too. Said he'd give me ten dollars
if I'd get him the skin of one of these fork-tailed kites. He wanted
the nest and eggs, too. Say, but he could skin things. Skin a bird
without losin' a feather or gettin' a drop o' blood on it. Said the
best way to skin snakes was 'fore they was dead."

As Johnny began cutting the skin free from the jaws of the reptile,
the long, needle-like fangs dripped yellow venom and Dick, looking
on with a white face, half whispered:

"Suppose you happened to touch those fangs?"

"Ain't a-goin' to touch 'em. Wish I had my pliers here, to pull 'em
out. You oughter save 'em, and the skull, too. The feller I was
tellin' yer about always did."

"I don't want them; makes me sick to look at them," said Dick, who
looked mightily relieved when, the head having been skinned, it was
cut off and thrown into the bay. After that he became interested
and helped Johnny with his work until he held in his hand the
beautiful skin of a diamondback rattlesnake, over six feet long.

In the afternoon the boys entered a big bay that seemed to have no
other outlet. They followed its shore for an hour, exploring every
little bay that looked big enough to hide the smallest creek. They
sounded the depth of the water with their paddles and traced a

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