Part 2 out of 5
little channel to a clump of bushes that overhung the water from the
shore. Johnny pulled the bow of the canoe under the overhanging
branches and found a little creek through which the water was
flowing. They dragged the canoe into the stream and found water deep
enough to float it, but branches and vines obstructed them above,
while logs and snags troubled them below. They used their knives and
the axe more than they did their paddles. At times they lay down in
the canoe and dragged it under branches and at others got overboard,
and standing in water and mud, lifted it over logs. They were in the
deep gloom of a jungle from which the thick growth above shut out
nearly all the light. As they pushed the canoe forward, unseen vines
seized their throats in a garroting clutch, while solid masses of
spider-webs stuck to their faces and spiders the size of a saucer
ran over them. As Johnny sat in the bow, he collected the most
spiders, since Dick only got those which his companion managed to
dodge, but then Johnny was used to the critters and didn't mind
them, while Dick wasn't, and did.
"What kind of snakes are these swimming round my legs?" asked Dick,
as he stood nearly waist-deep in mud and water and helped lift the
canoe over the biggest log they had struck.
"Speckle-belly moccasins. Mustn't get scared o' them, if you're
goin' to hunt in this country. They ain't likely to bite if yer
don't step on 'em and they won't kill yer, nohow," said Johnny.
The stream was so crooked that the boys had to travel three miles to
gain one and as the troubles in their path seemed to increase they
talked of turning back. But as it was already too late to get out of
the creek before dark, they decided to keep on. As it was, darkness
overtook them while they were yet in the creek. Among their stores
was a lantern, by the light of which they progressed for a little
while, when Johnny proposed making camp.
"But we can't camp here. I'm not a merman, to sleep in the water,"
"You can stretch out in the canoe, if we tie it so it won't tip
over, and I'll build a brush bed good enough for me in ten minutes,"
said Johnny, who took the axe, and cut a short pole, which he rested
on the branches of two trees which grew side by side, so that the
stick lay parallel to a fallen tree trunk which lay about five feet
distant. Then he cut a number of inch saplings into six-foot
lengths, with which he made a platform from the pole to the tree,
and spreading his blanket on this elastic couch announced that his
bed was ready. The boys made a hearty supper from the fragments
that were left from the bountiful provision that Mrs. Streeter had
made for their dinner. Dick's bed in the canoe was probably softer
than Johnny's bed, but he didn't sleep as well. The sides of his
canoe were only five inches above the water which contained the
moccasins, and Dick was sure he could feel their tongues touch his
face as the reptiles searched for a soft place to strike. Then the
snarling from a tree beside him would have been less terrifying if
he had known that instead of being, as he supposed, two wildcats
quarreling for the first bite at him, it was merely a friendly
family discussion between two 'coons.
Things looked more cheerful by daylight, and when Johnny asked
whether they should go on or turn back, Dick replied:
"Go on just as long as the creek runs." But the creek became choked
with brush and turned back on its course, until Johnny said:
"If this crik gits any crookeder it'll fetch us back home."
The boys had to cut away two trees which had fallen across the creek
where the growth was so thick that to cut a path around would have
been more work than to clear away the logs. The trees were large,
their axe a little one, and when the boys came to three trees lying
near together across the stream Dick was so dismayed that he said to
"Let's get back out of this creek. We must be on the wrong track,
Mr. Streeter said Indians and hunters got through this country, but
they never got through this way. What do you think?"
"Hate to go back, but s'pose we've got ter."
Dick's spirits ran low during the return trip through the creek.
They were going in the wrong direction, and each hour was taking him
farther away from where he supposed Ned was. Many times he wished
they had kept on and fought their way through the creek. After
reaching the bay they had left the day before they turned to the
east and north as they followed labyrinthic channels that led around
big and little keys in that part of the ten times Ten Thousand
Islands. The work became confusing, the waterways they followed led
them toward every point in the compass. Sometimes a narrowing stream
made them think they had struck a creek which flowed from the
mainland, but always it opened into some small bay filled with
little keys. Late in the afternoon they found a point of land high
enough for a camp, where they spent the night. After they had eaten
their supper, Dick said:
"Johnny, do you know where we are?"
"Nope; bin goin' 'round so fast I've got dizzy."
"You mean we are lost?"
"Yep; but that's nothin' s' long's we don't stay lost."
"What shall we do, and where shall we go?"
"Go anywhere, only stick to it. Got ter do sumpthin; fresh water's
'most gone. Reckon we'd better go 'bout sou'west. We kin find a
river that'll take us t' the coast, 'nd I kin find a way that'll
take us where you wanter go."
An hour's paddling brought the boys to a bay in which were several
pretty keys, on one of which Dick saw a number of beautiful white
"What are those?" he asked.
"Egrets," said Johnny. "Want ter shoot 'em?"
"Of course not," replied Dick. "It's against the law, and wicked,
besides. They are the loveliest birds there are and never ought to
be killed just for fun."
"We never kill 'em for fun. Only tourists do that. If you Northern
fellers didn't pay us ter git plumes we'd never kill 'em. D'ye
remember that key over there?"
"No. What about it?"
"See that crik by the palmetter 'nd the big stump? Know it now?"
"What! Isn't that the creek we slept in night before last?"
"Sure! 'nd that's where we wanter go now. Them trees that we stopped
fer was cut by our fellers to keep off the Lossman River plume
hunters. We've got ter cut 'em out, er git 'round 'em if 't takes a
"How about water?"
"Find it t'other side o' the crik. I'd rather go without than go
back t' anybody's house fer it."
"But that old shack where we killed the rattler isn't far off, and I
saw a water-barrel under the caves."
"So did I, 'nd a possum floatin' in it, too. That's why I didn't
fill up there. We'll go slow on what we got 'nd do without a day 'r
two, 'nd we'll find some by then if we stick t' anything."
"We're going to stick to things hereafter, Johnny. It was plumb
foolish to lay down just because a tree got in our way, and it was
my fault, too. It isn't going to happen again, though. Let's get
through that creek to-night, if we have to work by the light of the
"Ain't you 'fraid o' the snakes?" said Johnny.
"No. I'm too ashamed of myself for backing out of that creek to be
afraid of anything, except doing it again."
When the boys got back to the trees which lay across the creek, they
took turns with the little axe, which was not much heavier than a
hatchet, until they had cleared an opening for the canoe. They found
other trees in their way, but they kept on. Once they unloaded the
canoe on stumps and logs until they could lift it over a log that
lay so deep in the water that it was hard to cut. Five minutes
later, and within a hundred yards of where they had turned back on
the previous day, the boys reached the end of the creek, where it
opened into a bay which seemed to Dick as beautiful as a dream. It
was dotted with little islands, on some of which were picturesque
groups of palmettos, and on others big trees filled with
white-plumaged birds. Two black dots on the surface of the water a
hundred yards from the canoe moved slowly across its bow. Johnny
stopped paddling and said:
"There's a 'gator. D'ye want him?"
"I don't see him."
"See them two black knobs on the water? The little one's his nose
'nd the big one's his eye. He's turnin' 'round 'nd showin' both
eyes, now. Shoot him in the eye if yer want t' kill him. It'll take
some time t' skin him, though, 'nd mebbe ye're in a hurry to get
"I sure am," replied Dick, and as the paddles dipped together in the
water, the alligator, suspicious of them, slowly sank from their
At the end of the bay the boys found a deep, narrow river with a
current which Dick supposed was tidal, but which Johnny thought came
from the Glades. Dick tasted the water and was surprised to find
that instead of being salt it had the sweetish taste of merely
brackish water. There were birds of many kinds in the trees on the
banks of the river, and as the boys paddled against the current
Johnny saw a brace of ducks swimming ahead of the canoe. He took in
his paddle and picked up the shotgun, which, with much forethought,
he had placed beside himself in the canoe before starting out. Dick
paddled very slowly and quietly toward the ducks until they were
within easy range. Johnny had been told that if he wanted to be a
real sportsman he must never fire at birds with a shotgun unless
they were flying. So he waited until the ducks rose before firing at
them. The next instant a bird fell heavily on the water a few yards
ahead of the canoe.
"Why, that bird fell out of this tree!" said the astonished Dick. "I
didn't know you fired up in a tree."
"I didn't," replied Johnny. "That was a water-turkey, and he isn't
hurt a bit. They often act so when they're scared. Watch out for him
under the bank."
In a minute or two Dick saw a long, snake-like head and neck thrust
out of the water by the bank. The head twisted about with a quick,
jerky motion till the bird's eyes rested on the canoe, when it
disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.
"What became of the ducks?" said Dick.
"Reckon we'll find one of 'em 'round that p'int. The other got
away." Johnny was right, and the duck was found just around the
At some places the river narrowed into deep creeks and at others
broadened out into wide, shallow bays, where the boys were puzzled
to find the inlet they wanted. It was nearly noon when they struck a
stream of quite a different sort from anything they had previously
seen. Its mouth lay between banks that were high for Florida, and
through it flowed a stream of crystal-clear water, which, to the
great relief and delight of the boys, was fresh as a mountain brook
The bed of the stream looked like sand to Dick, but when he thumped
it with his paddle he found it was coral rock. Suddenly Johnny
called to him:
"Watch out fur the boat," and resting his hands on the sides of the
craft leaped into the water without disturbing in the least the
balance of the canoe.
As Johnny swam rapidly under water, close to the white coral bottom
of the creek, Dick saw that he was chasing a turtle which was
skurrying toward the bank for protection. It got there all right,
but the bank didn't protect it, and soon Johnny came to the surface
hugging to his breast with his left hand a wildly flapping turtle,
while with his right he struck out for the canoe. Getting into the
canoe would have been a ticklish job, so Johnny handed the turtle to
his companion and swam to the bank while Dick followed with the
canoe. By the time Johnny had butchered the turtle, Dick had
constructed a very creditable camp-fire under a palmetto, in the
shade of which the boys rested while they waited for the turtle stew
to be ready for them. Their breakfast had been a cold one,
consisting entirely of fruit, and they had decided that for dinner
they would begin with turtle stew and end with broiled duck. When
the stew had been finished, Johnny inquired:
"Want that duck cooked now?"
"No, I don't. If I ate another mouthful I'd bust. Let's have the
duck next week."
Yet each of the boys managed to eat about a hatful of wild grapes,
which they found growing a short distance from their camp-fire.
Just as the boys were starting out again, Dick saw a turtle, and,
laying down his paddle, said:
"Johnny, if you can catch turtles, I can. See me go for that one."
"Hold on," shouted Johnny, as Dick was about to jump overboard.
"That's an alligator turtle. Bites worse'n a bulldog, and ain't good
fur much t' eat, nohow."
As they kept on up the creek, its banks came nearer together, trees
were more numerous, and the bushes thicker. Soon these began to
close overhead, while the stream itself broke up into several
smaller ones. As these twisted about, forming a labyrinth of little
channels bounded by hundreds of tiny keys, all cohered by an
interlaced canopy of leaves and branches, Dick wondered if ever they
could find their way out. But he had resolved that morning that
never again would he turn back in his exploring so long as it was
possible to go on. The little streams continued to become smaller
and the turns shorter, until to get around the bends the axe was in
constant use to clear a path, while the boys waded and often dragged
or carried the canoe. It was wearing work, and they frequently sat
down to rest. On one of these occasions Johnny inquired:
"How long you want ter keep this up? This ain't the right creek,
not the one Mr. Streeter told about."
"I know that. The creek he spoke of must be away south of this, but
this will probably take us to the Everglades, or near them. So we
had better keep on till the brook gives out and then travel to the
east, toting the canoe till we get to the Glades. We may be away
north of Osceola's camp, but there will likely be a trail that will
help us to find it, and anyhow we will be near the line that Mr.
Streeter thinks Ned and the Indian will follow. Don't you like the
"Me? Sure! I don't want any better fun than t' keep on t' the
Atlantic Ocean, only 'fraid it'd be too hard fer you."
Night found the toys in a narrow stream, scarcely more than the
width of the canoe, with bushes around them so thick that they found
it hard to clear a place big enough to sleep on. They were tired
enough to sleep soundly, in spite of the occasional cries of the
birds and beasts of the forest.
They made an early start in the morning, and, although the creek was
crooked and they had to cut away many small trees, they were
encouraged to find the bushes becoming less abundant as the water
grew more shallow, and by dark they were on the border of an open
prairie, where they made camp for the night.
THE MEETING IN THE GLADES
"The Everglades at last!" said Dick the next morning as the rays of
the rising sun fell on the waters of the Everglades in the distance
and lit up the clumps of cypress and groups of palmettos that dotted
the prairie before him. A little to the north and extending into the
Glades was a row of willows which Johnny visited and found that it
marked the course of a slough that crossed the prairie and extended
far out into the Glades.
[Illustration: "THE EVERGLADES AT LAST"]
They were soon afloat in this slough, paddling toward the
Everglades, but the channel which they followed was crooked and it
was an hour before they reached them. The boys made their camp
beside a little group of palmettos on a bit of dry ground which had
often been used for that purpose. Johnny pointed to a faint line in
the grass of the Glades and told Dick that it was an Indian trail.
Dick was excited at the thought that the chum he had come so far to
meet might even now be in sight. When, far to the north, he saw what
Johnny said was an Indian canoe with two people poling it, he could
scarcely restrain himself from paddling out to meet it. The canoe
came on rapidly, and Dick's excitement increased until he began to
fancy that in one of the faces that showed above the grass he could
make out the features of his chum, when Johnny dashed his hopes to
the ground by saying:
"Them's Injuns. Squaws, too. B'lieve I know 'em."
Then as the approaching faces showed more clearly through the tall
"Sure thing. It's Miami Billy's girls. They'll savvy where Charley
The Indian girls were poling past the canoe without appearing to see
it, when Johnny spoke to them. Then the girls, who were clothed in
the brightest of prints, with masses of beads on their necks, sat
down in their canoe and had a pow-wow with Johnny that was
altogether unintelligible to Dick. When the girls had gone, Johnny
"Squaws say: 'Think so Charley Tommy not been Osceola Camp, two
moons. Been Big Cypress; hunt 'gator. Maybe so hunt with white man.
Not been Charley Tiger camp this moon.' The girls left that camp day
'fore yesterday. Only other trail from Tiger's camp goes t' Miami.
We c'n camp right here 'nd ketch 'em sure."
Johnny proposed that while waiting they do some alligator hunting.
They got out their canvas and rigged up a regular camp. Dick wrote a
few lines on a scrap of paper, addressed it "Mr. Edward Barstow,"
and fastened it on a palmetto tree, in such a way that no one
passing along the trail could fail to see it. The boys then unpacked
the canoe, and turning it upside down on a bit of dry land stowed
their stores under it. They gathered a lot of grass for their beds,
arranged for an early start in the morning, and slept dreamlessly
till morning came. The hunt was to be on foot, and Johnny insisted
that Dick carry the rifle, while he made up a light pack for himself
of axe, frying-pan, forks and a little bacon, corn meal, bait and
matches. When Dick saw Johnny's pack, he said to him:
"Won't we get back to-night?"
"Mebbe so, but you can't allers tell. We might get to follerin'
sumthin and be gone two or three days. I don't reckon we're goin' to
get lost, though we may be bothered some."
"If there's a chance of that we haven't got enough to eat."
"Got plenty. All we really want is a rifle, matches and salt. They'd
be good for a month."
"What do you do for bread?"
"Cut the bud out of a cabbage tree."
The boys tramped across the prairie to a belt of cypress, where
Johnny stopped for some minutes, looking back to study the landscape
and take note of every clump of trees and bit of water in sight.
"I thought you were not afraid of getting lost," said Dick.
"I ain't afraid. I could alters git home all right, but I'd hate to
lose the canoe."
The cypress strand was swampy, and they crossed it by stepping from
root to root, excepting that once, when Dick was looking at a
moccasin, he made a misstep and landed in the mud, where he sank to
his waist. The woods were narrow, and beyond them was a broad
prairie with clumps of trees and pools of water scattered through
it. As they walked and waded they crossed the tracks of many animals
and birds, to most of which Johnny could give names. There were
plenty of 'coons, a few wildcats, some deer, and one bear, while
between the little ponds alligators had worn regular paths.
"What's that?" said Dick as a lizard-like creature scuttled through
the grass some fifty yards in front of him.
"'Gator! Shoot quick, 'fore he gits t' that pond!"
Dick fired, and his bullet spattered the mud over the reptile's back
as it slid into the water.
Dick was very much chagrined at missing his quarry, but Johnny
"I'll git ye another shot at him. I'll call him out o' the water,
and if he don't come I'll take a stick an' go in there an' run him
Johnny stood beside the pond and grunted in imitation of a young
alligator. In a few minutes two black dots appeared on the surface
of the water, and, slowly rising, disclosed the eyes and the point
of the nose of an alligator. Johnny grunted again, and the big
mouth opened wide to take in the baby 'gator which the reptile
thought he heard. Then the horny ridges of the back began to appear,
and soon the whole body of the reptile lay on the surface. Johnny
whispered to Dick:
"Shoot him in that hump behind his eyes." Dick took careful aim and
fired. The alligator rolled slowly over, with its yellow belly on
top and its four paws uplifted. Johnny waded into the pond and
dragged out the body of the reptile, which Dick helped him skin.
When this had been done Johnny cut from the creature a round strip
of white flesh, about a foot long, beginning at the hind leg and
running toward the tail.
"What's that for?" said Dick.
"Fur dinner. I told ye we'd find 'nuff t' eat."
"Do yon s'pose I'm going to eat that?"
"Sure! 'nd yer goin' ter like it."
"Then I wish I hadn't helped skin it."
Just as the boys were leaving the pond they heard a little grunt,
and turning around saw a baby alligator, less than two feet long,
lying on the surface.
"Want ter ketch that alive?" asked Johnny.
"Can you do it?"
"I'll show' yer."
And Johnny took off his shoes and waded into the pond. He waded
about the pond, feeling in the mud with his toes until he felt the
reptile, when, slipping his toes under it he lifted his foot
suddenly and brought the alligator near enough to the surface to be
able to seize him. Dick was delighted with the captive, but was
frank enough to say:
"Johnny, I said once that I could learn to do anything that you
could. I take that back. I couldn't learn to do what you did then in
a thousand years."
Johnny laughed and said:
"You'd do it this afternoon, and I'll bet on it."
Johnny tied a string around the jaws of their little pet and handed
it to Dick, who carried the wiggly thing so awkwardly that Johnny
took it back and, opening the bosom of his shirt, put the alligator
where he would have a soft bed and plenty of room to prowl around.
"That's another thing I'd be scared to do," said Dick.
Johnny led the way to a clump of palmettos beside a clear little
spring and a nice shady bit of ground, where they made a camp-fire,
after driving away a family of moccasins that seemed to own the
place. A slice of alligator steak, nicely browned, was served on a
palmetto fan to Dick, who nibbled squeamishly at the delicate morsel
at first, but soon handed back his leafy plate for another helping.
"Wouldn't have believed it," said Dick, "but I never tasted any
"Wait till I cook ye a rattler. That beats fried chicken."
"No, thank you. I draw the line at snakes."
"You drawed it at 'gators this mornin'. Want some more?"
And Dick shamelessly passed up his plate.
The boys walked and waded several miles, until they were near a
heavily wooded tract, which Johnny said was cypress swamp. It was
late in the day, and they were about to turn back when Dick saw a
turkey, which was holding her head half as high as his own, step
silently into the cover of the woods, followed by half a dozen of
her half-grown brood. Johnny saw the birds almost as soon as Dick,
and exclaimed excitedly:
"We've got ter have one of them young turks if it takes all night."
They entered the swamp and got sight of one of the turkeys as he ran
along a log, and they walked to where they saw the bird, only to get
another glimpse at about the same distance. Again they followed the
birds, this time as cautiously as if they had been stalking hostile
Indians. Often they saw one or more of the turkeys, but never within
"Better try a long shot. They're gettin' wild," said Johnny.
"No, you try 'em, Johnny; you're used to the rifle and you're a
better shot than I, anyhow."
[Illustration: "WE'VE GOTTER HAVE ONE OF THEM YOUNG TURKS IF IT
TAKES ALL NIGHT"]
Johnny took the weapon, and his chance came soon. One of the young
birds lit on a stump within long range of him and remained there
until he had taken a careful sight and fired. The bird fell, and
the rest of the brood flew into the depths of the swamp. When the
boys were ready to start back to camp, Dick discovered to his
chagrin that he had no idea of the direction in which they should
travel. Johnny, too, was in some doubt, and as it was already
growing dark and they had been traveling in the swamp for an hour or
two, he proposed that they camp right where they were.
"How can we camp here? Water's knee-deep, there's no place for a
fire, and I'd starve to death before morning. Don't you expect to
have anything to eat until to-morrow?"
"Bet yer I do! What's the matter with young turkey?"
"Young turkey's bully, but raw turkey's bum."
Johnny laughed and waded to where a fallen tree had left a level
place among its upturned roots. A few minutes' work with the
hatchet, which Johnny always carried when hunting, cleared out a
good foundation for a fire.
"Bully for you! I'll dress the turkey while you build a fire," said
By the time the bird was ready for the frying-pan, Johnny had not
only built the fire, but had cut a lot of poles and rigged up a
rough cot between the fallen tree and a rotten log that lay near it.
Johnny cut some thin slices of bacon for the frying-pan and then
filled it with thick slices and chunks of turkey. When this had been
cooked and disposed of, Dick still looked hungry, and another panful
of the bird was fried. Dick slept some during the night, but
complained that he had a map of his bunk on his back, which had been
printed deeply. When breakfast was over and the last bone of the
turkey had been picked, the boys turned their faces to the east and
started for their camp. They soon reached an open glade, which was
quite unfamiliar to them, and were about to enter it, when Johnny,
who was ahead, slipped behind a tree and held up his hand warningly
to Dick, who promptly got behind another. Two deer were in the
opening, about a hundred yards to windward of the boys, toward whom
they were slowly feeding. Dick was excited and was nervously raising
his rifle, when Johnny whispered:
"Don't hurry. Got lots o' time."
Dick was ashamed of his nervousness, and determined to conquer it,
even if he didn't fire at all. One of the deer was a buck with fine
antlers, and Dick watched his slow advance, as he looked around for
a moment and then browsed for a minute or two, until the boy felt
that his nerves were steady once more. The buck was within fifty
yards when Dick lifted the rifle to his shoulder and let his cheek
rest upon its stock. In another instant the hunted deer had caught
sight of the hunter, but it was too late. The beautiful creature
stood motionless for half a minute, while Dick wondered if he could
have missed, and then sank slowly to the ground, dead. At the report
of the rifle the other deer, which was a doe, scampered a few
yards, then, turning back her head, gazed with wondering eyes upon
her fallen mate. Johnny took from his pocket a cartridge, and,
holding it between thumb and finger, looked inquiringly at Dick.
Dick shook his head, and in another instant the doe had scampered
out of danger. Dick helped Johnny skin and dress the deer, and
learned a lot while doing so, but he seemed less happy than a boy
should be after killing his first deer.
"Johnny, I wish that buck hadn't looked at me out of his big eyes
just when I was killing him. If I had waited a second I believe I
wouldn't have fired."
"Glad ye didn't wait, then. Why didn't yer worry about th' 'gator?
'Gators has fine eyes."
When the boys started on again they counted their loads light, but
after they had crossed the glade and waded and wallowed through a
mile or two of swamp they were of a different opinion. When at last
they had crossed the swamp and only a bit of prairie lay between
them and the Everglades, they were glad enough to throw down their
packs for a long rest. The Everglades were before them, but where
was their camp? In that open country they could have seen it for
three, perhaps four, miles. Johnny had studied the country around
the camp when they left it the day before, but could see nothing
familiar now. However, the boy wasn't worried.
"Reckon we're too fur north. Better go south a few miles, 'nd if we
don't find it we'll turn 'round 'nd go t'other way. All we got ter
do is t' stick t' the saw-grass," said he.
For a quarter of a mile the tramp was an easy one. Then the boys
struck a hit of boggy ground, in which they sank over their knees at
every step. When the ground became firmer the water got deeper, and
after wading half a mile without a chance to lay down his pack and
rest, Dick said:
"Johnny, I always heard that Florida deer were small, but this one
must have weighed a ton. Wonder if your half is as heavy as mine.
I've got to sit down on that hummock and rest."
Dick waded to the hummock and sat down on it, wondering what Johnny
was laughing at. The next minute he understood, for the hummock gave
a heave and Dick rolled off into the water, while a scared alligator
scurried away through the water and mud of the prairie. The hummock
was only a pile of loose grass such as alligators often collect and
under which they live in the Everglades and the submerged prairies
about them. Soon the boys found dryer ground, and after a brisk
tramp of half an hour were cheered by the sight of their camp. There
was no sign of life about it, to the great disappointment of Dick,
who had been hoping that Ned had found it. Before reaching their
camp they had to cross a slough that was wide and deep.
"Reckon we've got ter swim," said Johnny as he found a dry place on
the bank for his pack and his rifle before wading into the stream.
But the bottom was of coral and hard, the water reached only to his
arm-pits, and the boys crossed without trouble, carrying their packs
on their heads. Dick decided to wait for Ned at the camp, and Johnny
collected wood and proceeded to smoke their venison. For two days
they stayed by the camp, watching the trail and keeping the buzzards
away from the venison by day and listening to the cries of the wild
creatures in the woods near-by at night, when Dick's patience gave
"Johnny," said he on the morning of the third day, "we've got to
find Ned Barstow. Do you s'pose if he knew that I was within fifty
miles of him he'd loaf in camp for a week expecting me to run over
him? Not much he wouldn't. He'd be sky-hootin' from daylight till
dark over the whole country till he lit on me. Mr. Streeter said
Charley Tommy couldn't get past Tiger Tail's camp under four days.
Now, what's the matter with our meeting him there? Can't you follow
the trail of those squaws bade to Tiger's camp?"
"I kin try. Mebbe 'tain't so easy's you think, though."
"What risk do we run in trying it?"
"Nothin', 'cept we may miss your man. We're all right 'nd could live
anywhere in this country for a year on what we've got and could pick
"Then let's hike out. I can't keep still any longer."
The boys followed the trail by which the squaws had come without
difficulty for a few miles. Then came a stretch of open water, where
their eyes failed to catch the faint traces of the passing canoes
among the few scattering blades of grass that appeared on the
surface. Several times they picked up the trail after they had lost
it, but at last they missed it for miles. They decided not to go
back, and kept on, hoping to find it again. They kept in the light
grass as much as they could, but in avoiding the strands of the
heavy saw-grass of the Glades they were forced farther and farther
to the east, until night found them in the open Everglades with no
hope of a place to camp.
They made their way to a flooded key of sweet-bay, myrtle and cocoa
plums, and Johnny piled up brush on which he tried to sleep, while
Dick lay in the canoe, which had been lashed between two little
trees. They were awakened by a deluge of rain, and in a few minutes
there wasn't a dry rag between them. They used their canvas to
protect guns, ammunition and such things as had to be kept dry. A
cold wind chilled them to the bone, and they had to sit down in the
water to get warm. It was a short-lived storm, and when the rain
ceased and the stars came out Dick said to his companion:
"It's no use trying to sleep to-night; let's pull out for Tiger
When morning came the boys saw, far to the northwest, an Indian
camp which they knew must belong to Charley Tiger Tail. But between
them and the camp was an almost impassable barrier of saw-grass.
They paddled to the east, keeping on the southern border of the
saw-grass strand, and whenever an opening appeared they followed it
until turned back by grass too heavy for them to force their way
through. They worked until noon and were out of sight of the Indian
camp when they saw, a mile north of them, a couple of Indians poling
their canoe. Johnny waved his hand to the Indians, who stopped
poling and waited for the boys to get to them. He was soon
pow-wowing with them, and translating to Dick as he talked.
"These Injuns, Charley Jumper and Cypress Tiger. This Miami trail.
Goes Tiger Tail's camp, 'bout six mile. Hooray! Charley Tommy 'nd
your man there. No, went away this mornin'. They say think so on
Osceola trail. That's the trail the squaws was on, 'nd we lost it."
"Can't we cut across to that trail and head them off, or catch up
"I asked 'em. They say: 'No good, trail bad, trail to Charley Tiger
good, then go Osceola trail. Maybe so Charley Tommy stop Osceola
camp, maybe Miami Billy camp, maybe so not stop anywhere.' They say
they sick _ojus_, want _whyome_. That means they're awful sick and
want whisky, but all Injuns is that. These is good Injuns. Better
do what they say."
The trail to the Indian's camp was a crooked one, but Johnny
followed it without trouble, although it was nearly dark when they
reached the camp. They slept on one of the high tables which the
Seminoles use for their beds, and found Charley Tiger Tail quite a
civilized Indian, who spoke a little English, sold whisky and dealt
in the contraband plumes of the egret.
The boys were up and off at daylight, for they had agreed to do two
days' work in every twenty-four hours till they caught the canoe
they were chasing. Johnny had talked with Tiger about the Osceola
trail, until he felt he could follow it blind-folded, and little
time was lost in studying as they poled and paddled that day.
Soon after their start in the morning Dick had said, as he threw his
weight on the paddle, which he was using as a pole:
"Are you game, Johnny, to camp to-night where we jerked the
"I kin stand it if you kin. Them squaws took two days, though, 'nd I
ain't lookin' ter beat Injuns much with a canoe."
It is doubtful if the boys could have made the camp, for darkness
came before they were in sight of it, had not Dick said:
"Johnny, isn't that a light over there toward the land? I've seen
it two or three times. Do you s'pose it's a fire in the woods?"
"Don't see it," said Johnny. "Yes, I do, now," adding excitedly an
instant later: "Don't you 'member th' big bend in th' trail jest
after we left th' camp we're lookin' fer? That fire ain't in th'
woods. It's at our old camp, 'nd Charley Tommy built that fire, sure
Dick was faint with excitement, and could scarcely hold his paddle.
"We must get there soon as we can," said he.
"Sure!" said Johnny. "Only let's go quiet 'nd s'prise 'em."
If Charley Tommy had been a white man the plan would probably have
been successful. As the boys approached the camp they moved more and
more slowly, until Dick laid down his paddle and Johnny did all the
work. There was not a sound that Dick could hear, and when the canoe
was within a hundred feet of the fire he could see Ned Barstow
resting his elbow on a log near it, while the Indian lay beside a
palmetto, apparently asleep. But as the canoe continued to approach,
Charley Tommy lifted his head, took a swift look around, and, half
rising, gazed keenly out over the water toward the boys in the
canoe. Further concealment was impossible, and Dick called out:
"Hello, the camp!"
Ned sprang to his feet, and looking across the water in the
direction from which the dream voice seemed to have come, was
silent until he saw the shadowy outline of a canoe, when he spoke in
a voice that trembled with emotion:
"Dicky boy, is that you?"
"Yes, Neddy!" And soon the reunited chums had grabbed and hugged one
another till both were breathless. Then they began asking and
answering questions, sometimes by turns and sometimes together, till
they were breathless again.
"How did you come to recognize my voice so quickly?" asked Dick.
"Because I was thinking of you, Dick, and wondering when we could
take the trips we planned in that camp in the North. Now those
wonderful dreams have come true!"
OLD DREAMS REALIZED
There was a long council around the camp-fire that night, and it was
settled that Ned and Dick were to take the light canoe with their
own stores and start off by themselves on the hunting and exploring
tour of which they had dreamed for years. Johnny was to go on an
alligator hunt with Charley Tommy. Johnny thought the Indian could
stand the work about two months, after which they would go to
Chokoloskee and sell the hides. Ned paid the Indian for his time and
made him a present, in addition, of an outfit of clothing from hat
to shoes, without any objection from Charley. But when Dick came to
settle with Johnny there was trouble. For Johnny refused to take any
pay and said that if Dick paid him for coming to where Ned was he
would have to pay Dick for carrying him to where Charley was. Ned
had to chip in before Johnny could be persuaded to take the pay he
had earned. Ned had a better equipment than Dick and a much larger
lot of stores. These he shared with Johnny, so that the boy was
provided with more luxuries than are often carried on an alligator
When the boys were about to start away in the morning, Johnny told
them that Tommy wanted to go to Osceola's camp for a day or two, and
he proposed that the boys come with them. Johnny said that if they
went to the Indian camp with Tommy the Indians would talk and the
boys could learn a lot of Seminole in two or three days, enough to
pull them through in their visits to other camps. The chance was too
good to be lost, and the long, heavy Indian canoe was followed down
the Glades by the light Canadian canoe of the boys.
Ned and Dick were pretty husky youths, and as their canoe didn't
weigh more than one-fourth that of the one just ahead of them, they
thought they were in for a picnic. Very soon they changed their
minds. Sometimes they could paddle, but generally they used their
paddles as poles. They had one oar for pushing, which helped them a
little. A light push sent the canoe forward, but when the push ended
so did the motion. It took a stronger push to start the Seminole
canoe, but the stroke was much longer, and when the stroke ended the
motion continued. The boys were game and wouldn't admit that it
tired them to keep up. But when a strand of heavy saw-grass had to
be crossed they found trouble to burn. The round, heavy wooden
cylinder of Seminole make slid slowly through the tall, stiff,
saw-edged mass. But the light canoe was thrown back from each
stroke by the elastic grass. Dick never liked to be beaten, so he
went overboard and floundered along the trail ahead of the canoe,
dragging it by the painter, while Ned got out and pushed from behind
the stern. The sharp, serrated edges of the grass cut their faces
and lacerated their hands. No air was stirring at the foot of those
tall spears, and Dick thought of his hours in the fire room of the
Southern steamer. Sometimes a big, deadly cotton-mouth, the ugliest
snake in the world, swam in front of Dick as he struggled forward,
but though his flesh quivered he said nothing lest he make Ned
nervous. Then occasionally a poisonous brown moccasin rose out of
the mud which the canoe stirred up, and, with uplifted head and open
mouth, threatened Ned as he stumbled behind the craft, but he was
silent about it lest he worry the chum who was new to the country.
The saw-grass strand was only two hundred yards across, although it
seemed a mile to the boys, who made light of it when they reached
the other canoe, but their bleeding hands, torn by the terrible
grass, told another story.
The canoes and cargoes arrived at Osceola's late in the afternoon,
and Ned and Dick saw their second Seminole camp. It was the best
camp in the Everglades, as Osceola himself was perhaps the best
specimen of the Florida Seminole.
The three buildings which constituted the camp consisted merely of
high roofs, beautifully constructed of palmetto, which came within
four feet of the ground at their outer edges. Below this they were
entirely open. These buildings were nearly filled with tables, about
four feet high, on which the Indians slept at night and occupied as
a floor during the day. The buildings were placed about a round
shed, under which the cooking for the whole camp was done. The fire
was built in the usual Seminole fashion. Logs of wood were arranged
like the spokes of a wheel, and the fire built at the hub. When the
cooking was finished the logs were drawn back a few inches and the
fire went down to coals, but continued to smolder. When the logs
were brought together again the fire blazed up.
Ned and Johnny made their bed on one of the tables and slept well,
but they kicked at dipping their hands in the family stew, and
broiled their venison and made their coffee over the common fire. It
was a good-natured camp, but the boys made life a burden to the
Indians for two days by their incessant attempts at conversation in
the Indian tongue. Some of the old Indians were sociable, and the
boys got along very well with them, but the younger ones were shy
and refused to talk until, having put on the white man's clothes
that Ned had given him, Tommy took several of the young squaws and
pickaninnies out in an Indian canoe. The young Indians laughed so
much at Tommy that they began to forget their shyness, and when
Tommy bought for Ned a bright-colored Indian shirt that a squaw had
just made and the boy put it on, the Indians gathered around him
and made fun, very much as white children would have done. One of
the squaws brought him a red handkerchief, such as many of the
Indians wore, and when Ned nodded and tied it around his neck they
all laughed. Another squaw motioned at Ned's hat, and then at
several Indians who were bareheaded. Ned nodded again and tossed his
hat aside. Then as a squaw pointed at his trousers and afterwards at
the bare-legged Indians about him, Ned shook his head vigorously,
and even the older Indians joined in the laughter.
The children of the camp were shy things, and peeped out at the
strangers from behind trees and out of hiding-places, but Dick was
fond of all wild creatures and few of them could resist his friendly
advances. Soon every pickaninny in the place was tagging after him.
The older ones took him out in canoes, which soon were capsized, and
all hands swam back, each accusing the other of having upset the
When the boys went to the Osceola camp of Seminoles with Tommy they
found a people as stolid and taciturn as those of any Indian tribe
of which they had read. After four days, during which all
hospitality was extended to them, they left behind them a kindly
group of untaught native Americans, who went out of their way to
show friendliness to their guests. Johnny nearly cried over the
parting, and would have bartered his hopes of the hereafter to have
been allowed to accompany the boys, while Tommy, clothed again in
his native costume and in his right mind, preceded them for two
miles in his canoe to show them a blind, side trail which they were
to take. When they turned to take their last look at him, the
Seminole was standing in his canoe, leaning on his long pole and
looking fixedly at them.
[Illustration: "THE SEMINOLE WAS STANDING IN HIS CANOE LOOKING
FIXEDLY AT US"]
For a few miles the trail was easy, but then became too dry for
paddles, and Dick pushed with an oar, while Ned used a pole which he
had brought along for use with a harpoon. As the trail grew dryer,
it became impossible to pole the canoe, and Ned took the painter
and, stepping into the nearly dry ditch in front of the canoe,
dragged the craft, while Billy got overboard and pushed from behind.
Sometimes Ned stopped to kick something out of his path, and at last
Dick called to him:
"What are you kicking, Ned?"
"Nothing but yellow-bellies and once in a while a brown moccasin. I
used to worry myself half sick over them, but after seeing Chris
Meyer wade through bunches of them in the Big Cypress without paying
any attention to them, I got ashamed of being afraid, and now I
don't mind moccasins much unless they are cotton-mouths."
"But they have all got fangs, are all poisonous, and all seem
anxious to bite," said Dick.
"But their bite isn't fatal. Tommy told me that he had been bitten
six times, and when I asked if the bites made him sick, he said:
'Lilly bit, one moon.' I asked him about rattlesnake bites, and he
said: 'Make sick _ojus_ (heap), think so big sleep come pretty
quick.' He told me that the moccasins bit him while he was pushing
his canoe and stepped on them."
"Neddy, Johnny used to talk just as you do, and Mr. Streeter said a
lot more, but it makes me sick to hear it. I can feel the little
squirmy beasts under my feet every step I take."
About noon the boys struck a creek, where their paddles came into
play, and very glad they both were. For a time grass troubled them,
and their progress was slow, but the stream gradually broadened and
deepened, while its banks became covered with trees and vines, and
the very sound of their paddles dipping into the clear water was a
joy to them. Again the brook widened, this time into a shallow bay,
but a narrow, deep channel remained, which soon led the boys into a
They were about to follow the current of the river when the head of
some strange animal was lifted above the surface of the water near
them, followed by a mass of water thrown high in the air by a big
tail, which flashed in sight for a moment. A line of great swirls,
like those made by the propeller of a steamboat, led out in the bay
and marked the course of the fleeing creature. Ned and Dick forgot
that they were tired, and paddled furiously on the trail until they
reached the end of it. Another line of swirls showed where the
creature had gone, and once more they followed him. Again and again
they were led on until they had traveled a couple of miles, when
they lost the trail completely. While they were trying to find it
Dick saw the head of the thing lifted for an instant, some two
hundred yards away, at the mouth of a little cove. When they reached
the cove they found the water clear and deep, and while drifting
quietly on its surface they saw resting on the bottom near them a
curious creature about ten feet long, with flippers like a seal and
a big, powerful tail set crosswise like that of a dolphin.
"I know what that is," said Ned excitedly. "I've been reading about
the fauna of Florida lately, and this isn't a fish. It's a very rare
mammal, a manatee, or sea-cow. It's perfectly harmless. I wonder if
we could catch it. Let's try it. I'll fix a lasso and throw it over
the manatee's head when it comes up to breathe."
"S'pose you get your rope over its head, what will happen next to
the canoe--and to us?"
"That's what I want to find out. Please paddle a little nearer very
quietly. He is beginning to rise," said Ned, who had made a noose in
the end of a harpoon line and was standing in the bow of the canoe,
ready to throw it the instant the creature's nose reached the
"I see our finish," said Dick as he held his paddle ready to steady
the canoe, which was already endangered by Ned's standing up in it.
The next instant the manatee came to the surface, and as the
creature lifted its head Ned threw his lasso over it. An upward
stroke of the big tail of the manatee sent a column of water in the
air which half filled the canoe and nearly capsized it, in spite of
Dick's best efforts. When the commotion subsided Ned had
disappeared. Dick looked wildly over the surface and then into the
water, and was just going overboard to search the bottom when Ned's
head appeared on the surface. At first the boy seemed confused and
swam away from the canoe, but turned when Dick called to him. The
canoe was half full of water, and as it would have been difficult
for Ned to get aboard without capsizing it, he swam to the nearest
key, while Dick paddled the canoe to the shoal water beside it. As
the boys stood in the water bailing out the canoe and examining its
cargo, Dick said to Ned:
"What did your book say about the manatee being a perfectly harmless
animal? I'd sure hate to be spanked by that harmless tail."
"So it is harmless, and if we can tire one out I'm not afraid to go
overboard and tackle him in the water."
"Neither am I afraid, and I'll go overboard with you, only I'm
afraid that by the time we've tired one of those things I won't be
able to swim at all."
Late that afternoon, as the boys were paddling through a long narrow
bay of many keys, they became anxious, because for hours they had
not seen a bit of ground on which they could camp.
"Looks as if we've got to sleep in the water," said Dick. "If Johnny
were here he would fix up a camp anywhere, and I'll do the best I
can. Let's keep on to that point where the palmettos are. If we
don't find land there we'll camp on mangrove roots."
The boys were in luck, for under the palmettos on the point was a
regular Indian camping-ground, with logs for the camp-fire in place
and poles ready for stretching a canvas covering, or rigging up
It was the boys' first real camp together, the very camp of which
they had talked and dreamed for years in that far-off Belleville,
now more than a thousand miles away. Never before was there so
wonderful a supper as the boys enjoyed that night. There was
venison, superbly broiled by Ned; a perfect ash-cake, built and
baked by Dick, and a pot of gorgeous coffee, for which both claimed
credit. They lingered long over their supper, and then talked for
half the night as they lay on their bed of palmetto leaves and
watched the stars that looked down upon them through the tops of the
trees. From the deep water that flowed past the point on which they
were encamped came the occasional snort of a dolphin, the crash of a
whip-ray as he struck the water after a leap high in the air, and
the splashing of fish as they pursued others or were pursued by
them. From the thicket behind their camp came the snarling of
wildcats, while in the more distant woods the curdling cry of the
panther, or mountain lion, could be heard from time to time. A long
roar that rose and fell and seemed to come from all sides at once
was recognized by Ned as the bellowing of an alligator. Sometimes
they heard the beating of invisible wings as flocks of birds flew
over them, while the "Hoo! hoo hoo! hoo hoo!" of talkative owls as
they conversed lasted throughout the night.
Ned was so anxious for another chance at a manatee that the boys
decided to camp where they were and hunt the creature regularly.
"We'll leave all our stores in camp," said Ned, "because we might
"Oh, yes! We _might_ get capsized! Is there a chance on earth that
we might _not_ get capsized? We'll leave everything in camp
excepting the paddles and that lasso of yours which did you so much
"You like to talk, Dick, but you know you wouldn't miss that manatee
hunt for a farm. We will have to put it off a day or two, though,
until we kill a deer and jerk the venison. We've just eaten the last
scrap of meat in camp. There's a trail running back into the bushes
that must lead to a meadow where we can walk and probably find
"All right. You'll take your rifle and I'll tag on with the
shotgun, just to see that you keep out of mischief."
The trail which the boys followed did lead to a meadow where there
were plenty of deer tracks, but no deer. They waded and tramped
through the meadow to its farther side, where they entered a wooded
swamp. Here they started up a deer, at which Ned took two snap-shots
as the creature ran away. They traveled in the swamp for an hour,
when they came to another meadow, on the farther side of which two
deer were feeding. The wind must have carried a hostile scent to the
quarry, for they slipped quietly into the swamp, and when the boys
entered it were not to be seen. Again the young hunters sought their
game through the swamp. They worked their way through thickets,
among tangles of roots and vines, and wallowed through
moccasin-infested pools of water and mud. In the excitement of the
chase the boys took no note of time or of the direction in which
they were traveling. It was late in the day when, with clothing
muddied and torn, the boys, exhausted and discouraged, sat on a log
in a swamp and decided to give up the hunt and go back to camp. They
turned back and Ned led the way while Dick followed until they
brought up against an impassable mangrove swamp. Ned looked to the
right and the left, and then turning to Billy asked if he knew where
"No," said Dick.
"Then we're lost."
"Of course. You're always lost in a swamp. Mr. Streeter says so. He
says you may lose your boat or your camp, but with a rifle, matches
and a little salt you can travel over all South Florida.".
Ned looked so unhappy over their prospects that Dick took the lead,
"If we don't get out of this swamp pretty soon we'll have to camp in
it, and we'll need some daylight to fix up in."
At this moment a night heron lit on a branch near Dick, who raised
his gun and shot it.
"That's our supper, Ned. I wouldn't shoot a bird sitting unless I
was starving. Don't the woods look lighter over there?" In a few
minutes the boys were in an open prairie, where Dick produced a
waterproof match-box, which was well filled, and a small bag of
salt. A fire was soon built, the heron dressed, broiled and eaten
with only fingers for forks. The boys washed down their dinners with
water from a pool, which they first examined for moccasins by the
light of a burning palmetto fan.
Ned slept with his rifle by his side, and Dick was awakened in the
morning by its discharge. He saw Ned sitting beside him with the
rifle in his hand, while a hundred yards away, on the edge of the
clearing, a buck lay on his back kicking. While the boys were
hoisting the carcass to the branch of a tree, Ned said to Dick:
"I was in a blue funk yesterday afternoon. I want you to promise to
kick me if I get scared that way again."
Dick laughed and replied:
"That would be all right, Ned, if I felt sure what you would be
doing while I was kicking you."
After breakfast, which consisted of venison, Dick suggested that
they go to work systematically to find their lost camp, and
proceeded to climb a tall palmetto that stood in the clearing to
take an observation. When half way up the tree he slid back to the
ground looking like a chimney-sweep. For the outside of the
palmetto, like most of those that grow on prairies, had been turned
into charcoal by the burning of the prairie grass.
"Ned," said Dick, when the former had stopped laughing at the
blackamoor before him because he was out of breath, "I guess it's
your turn to kick me. Do you see that trail where I stopped last
night to build our camp-fire because I didn't know the way to camp?"
"See it now. Didn't know it was there before, though."
"No more did I; but I saw it yesterday morning, and I took special
notice of this palmetto and made sure that I'd never forget this
prairie. Why, Ned, this is our own camping-ground, and I could throw
a biscuit from this prairie to our canoe. Now you can kick."
After the boys had carried their venison to their camp, Ned said:
"Dick, do you know how to jerk venison?"
"I've seen Johnny smoke it. Is that the same thing?"
"Sure! So while you're skinning the buck I'll lam into that black
mangrove log and build a fire under the little scaffold of small
poles there, which you hadn't seen, but which was built to cure
venison. Say, Dick, don't you want to hire out as a scout?"
Dick grinned, but made no other reply, and they began the work of
jerking the venison. They cut it in thin strips and hung it over the
fire of the black mangrove, which is one of the smokiest woods on
earth. All day long they fed the fire and watched the venison, while
scores of buzzards sat around on the trees and overlooked the work.
Far into the night the boys lay beside the fire, watched its curling
smoke, and talked of that camp in the snow in the North of the long
THE CAPTURE OF THE MANATEE
The manatee hunt began as soon as the venison had been cured. The
boys explored the waters about their camp, making each day a longer
trip and taking careful note of all the waters they explored. They
usually hunted through the forenoon, and after dinner Ned mapped out
the course they had taken while Dick took a walk with the shot-gun
and picked up an Indian hen, or limp-kin, or a brace of ducks for
supper. Within a week Ned had made a good working chart of the
country about them, both land and water, and the boys had come to
know their surroundings as if they had been born among them. Nearly
every day they found and chased a manatee. Sometimes they found
three or four in a day, but the creatures always swam faster than
their pursuers and were still frisky when the boys were worn to
One morning a big manatee which they were chasing happened to come
up beside the canoe to breathe, when Ned splashed it with his paddle
and drove it under water before it could catch its breath. The
sea-cow had to come up again in a few seconds and was once more
driven below the surface by Ned. Almost instantly the creature
lifted its head so far above the surface that Ned dropped his paddle
and seized the soft nose of the manatee with both hands.
"Look out!" yelled Dick, but he was the one to have looked out. For,
as the sea-cow threw down its head and tail, Ned was dragged out of
the canoe onto his upward-arching back. Then the animal's back was
curved downward and the flat tail thrown violently upward into the
air. As the stern of the canoe was over the tail and Dick was in the
stern of the canoe, both boy and canoe went suddenly in the air with
a few barrels of water over and around them. When Dick came to the
surface he saw his companion being savagely tossed about by an angry
monster that seemed to be holding him between his jaws. Dick was
terribly frightened and swam as swiftly as possible to Ned's help,
but before he could reach him the boy had been tossed aside and the
manatee had disappeared.
"Are you hurt?" said Dick, as soon as he got enough breath to speak.
"Course not! Manatees are harmless. Told you so before. But, say,
Dicky boy, why didn't you get there a minute sooner and grab a
flipper? He'd be our manatee now, if you had."
"More likely he'd have had us, Neddy. You didn't see what he did to
me with just one slap of his tail."
The boys collected their paddles and swam with the canoe to shoal
water, where they lifted it, poured out the water and got aboard.
On their next hunt the boys put a number of chunks of wood in the
canoe and when a manatee was started they paddled quietly and tried
not to frighten the creature by going too near it at first. Then Ned
took in his paddle and armed himself with chunks of wood, while Dick
paddled toward the quarry. When the sea-cow lifted its nose out of
water, for air, it was hit or splashed by a chunk. The frightened
animal dove quickly, but came up again almost immediately for the
air it had to have. Another chunk hit its nose, but, confused and
half strangled, the manatee hardly moved until Dick had driven the
canoe beside it and Ned had landed on its back. Ned failed to grasp
the creature's nose with his right hand, but caught the manatee by
the flipper with his left and clung to it, although tossed off of
the back of the animal. But Dick was in the river a second after his
companion and was clutching the right flipper of the manatee with
one hand and reaching for its nose with the other. The sea-cow threw
its tail high in the air, then lashing it downward, plunged,
head-foremost, deep in the water. The boys went under but hung on to
the flippers, and Dick got a grip on the creature's nose. Both of
the boys were expert swimmers and divers, and were prepared to stay
under water as much as a minute rather than release their quarry,
but within half that time the animal wanted to breathe and rose to
the surface. After that the boys had little trouble, and the
manatee, which was a small one, became almost tame. They swam with
it to a shoal place where, standing in water a little more than
waist deep, they petted and soothed their prize until it seemed
quite friendly. Suddenly, Dick exclaimed:
"What's become of the canoe? I capsized it when I went overboard and
haven't thought of it since."
"I'd forgotten it, too. It must have floated with the tide a good
ways down the river by this time. I'll swim down stream and hunt it
up, if you will stay here and take care of the manatee, unless you
think we had better turn it loose and both go for the canoe. We will
be in a bad fix if we lose it. If you can take care of the manatee I
can find the canoe." And Ned swam away down the river.
Helped by the current he had swum a mile when the stream spread out
into a bay that was a mile long and nearly as wide, which was filled
with eel-grass and covered with moss. He soon found one of the
paddles, but in getting it became entangled in the long grass, until
he was in great danger of drowning. By lying lengthways on the
paddle, keeping his legs extended and swimming with long over-hand
strokes, he got out of the tangle. He had been pretty well
frightened, and swimming to the shore, climbed up on some mangrove
roots. After looking for a long time, Ned made out the bow of the
submerged little canoe sticking out from a bunch of moss in the
eel-grass. It was about an eighth of a mile away and he started for
it, swimming along the edge of the field of grass, but sheering away
constantly, as the treacherous current seemed striving to sweep him
within the clinging clutch of the swaying blades of the rope-like
When Ned got opposite the canoe he found that it was forty feet
within the field of grass. He dreaded to put himself again within
that deadly grasp, but the thought of Dick waiting for him, alone
with that strange beast, nerved him to make the plunge. Again he lay
on the paddle, keeping his feet quiet and making his way slowly with
his hands toward the canoe. At last he reached the craft, but could
do nothing with it. He could not pull it and it refused to be
pushed. He could touch the bottom with his feet, but it was of soft
mud and the thick grass tangled him worse than ever. He got into the
canoe and lay on his back under the thwarts, with only part of his
head out of water. By rocking the canoe, with a short, jerky motion,
he got rid of some of the water and finished the bailing with his
hat. It was not easy to paddle out through the grass and moss to the
open water, but Ned accomplished it. Standing up in the canoe, he
searched for the other paddle and soon saw and recovered it. He had
now more than a mile to paddle against a tide that was still strong,
and he saw, to his alarm, that it was nearly sunset. It was about
midday when they tackled the manatee, and Dick must have been alone
with it for a good many hours. Ned was so anxious that he paddled
furiously and was glad enough when he found Dick standing in water
shoulder deep, hanging on to the flipper of the manatee, and
occasionally patting its nose with his hand.
[Illustration: "HE FOUND DICK STANDING IN WATER SHOULDER DEEP,
HANGING ON TO THE FLIPPER OF THE MANATEE"]
"Oh, Ned! I'm glad to see you," was Dick's greeting to his chum. "A
hundred times, I've almost let this beast go so that I could swim
down the river and look for you. If I hadn't heard you coming a few
minutes ago I'd have been off by now, anyhow."
"What could you have done, swimming down a big river like this, in
"What could I have done here, or back in camp, without you, Ned?"
Ned gave an amusing account of his adventures and made fun of his
"Now tell me what happened to you, in those long hours. Did you get
scared, too, Dick?"
"Most of my scare was about you, though I did have one or two little
troubles of my own. For a good while after you swam away the baby
behaved like a cherub. He let me put my arm around him, as far as it
would go, and when I rubbed his soft mouth with my hand he seemed to
like it. Then, suddenly he lashed out with his tail, threw me off my
feet and carried me out into deep water. I don't quite know how I
managed to turn him around and get back with him into shoal water. I
know I was under water a good deal and got very much out of breath.
I guess, though, from the grip I kept on that baby's nose, that he
was short of wind himself. Anyhow, when we got back and I let go,
he lifted his head out of water and sniffed and snorted like a cow
with the consumption. Then, just as I was feeling pretty good and
thinking what a nice nurse for a manatee baby I was and what an easy
job it seemed, I got a terrible jar.
"Something punched me gently in the back, and when I turned my head
I saw a monster that must have been twelve feet long, and weighed a
ton or two. It was Baby's ma! She poked her nose all over him and
even rubbed it against my arm, which was around him, but I never
flinched, though there ought to be some stronger word than scared to
fully express my feelings, when I felt that big mouth against my
arm. The great manatee mother didn't seem to mind me a bit, as she
swam around us two or three times, but I squirmed a good deal when
that tremendous tail, which was moving so slowly, came opposite me,
and I wondered if it was going to mash me as flat as a sheet of
paper, or only knock me over the tops of the mangroves. But that
scare was nothing to the next one. After Ma Manatee had gone, Baby
and I had a quiet hour or so and I was getting pretty tired and
beginning to worry a lot about you, when something happened to set
me to worrying about myself. This is a big, deep river, and there
was enough going on to amuse me, dolphins, turtles and tarpon coming
up to blow as they passed and small fish jumping out of the water
most of the time.
"Sometimes a splash and the scattering of little fish when a big
one got after them startled me for a minute, but I got over minding
it much, when a big, big splash came and there was a long struggle
in the river near me. Perhaps I wouldn't have minded it so much, but
Baby got crazy again and I couldn't soothe him. Next minute I didn't
blame him, for I was 'most crazy myself. Out from all the ruction in
the water, there came, swimming slowly toward us, a great leopard
shark. I knew him from the spots which covered his body, for he was
so near that I could have counted them. He was certainly over ten
feet long and looked as if he had plenty of room in his stomach for
both the baby and me. I remembered that Mr. Streeter had told me
that no shark in this country had ever attacked a human being, so I
braced up a little and pulled that splashing manatee baby out toward
the shark, and I splashed some myself and acted as if I wanted to
eat that Tiger of the Sea. Would you believe it? He was scared silly
and, though I was in a blue funk myself, I laughed so that you might
have heard me if you had been listening. For behind that shark was a
wake such as a big motor boat would have made. After the shark had
gone, I had another worrying fit. You had been gone a long time, and
the thought kept coming to me that you might have met that shark.
Neddy boy, next time you go off alone on a long swim, I'm going with
you. Now what shall we do with the baby? The tide will turn before
long and I s'pose we could get him to camp. He'd go along all
right, but it would be a mile swim, though we could take turns at
"I'd rather swim all the way," said Ned, "than to climb into this
canoe once, from the river. But what's the use? There's no grass at
the camp and the water is too deep for an infant like Baby. Why not
tie him here for to-night? Then to-morrow we will take him down to
that big bay and make a nursery for him in a shallow little cove
that I saw there. It's full of nice manatee grass and we can put
stakes across the mouth, or pasture Baby at the end of a rope. But
what are we going to do with him, after that?"
"Don't borrow trouble, Ned. That question will come up later. The
next thing for us to do is to tie this little beast. So trot out
that harpoon line."
Dick untied the harpoon line, which was kept lashed to a thwart in
the canoe, and, after getting overboard, carefully fastened the
painter of the canoe to a mangrove root. The boys made a harness for
the little manatee of one end of the line, by making one loop around
the body of the baby, just behind his flippers, another around his
tail and then connecting the two. The other end of the harpoon line
was then fastened to a mangrove tree on the bank and the baby was
turned loose. Dick steadied the canoe while Ned climbed aboard, but
when Ned tried to steady it for Dick to get in it, there was a
capsize. Dick apologized for his clumsiness and Ned complained that
he hated to get wet. The next attempt was successful and the boys
were soon eating venison and drinking coffee at their camp. They
were tired and talkative when they lay down for the night, and both
went to sleep in the middle of a sentence.
The boys hurried through their breakfast the next morning, anxious
to see their captive, which they found where they left him, quite
friendly and almost unafraid. Dick took the line in the stern of the
canoe, while Ned paddled from the bow. Baby was tractable and
allowed himself to be towed, even swimming himself. He behaved best
when his head was brought beside the canoe and seemed to like the
petting that Dick gave him. When the baby had been tied in the
little cove that Ned had discovered, in such a way that he could
range over the whole of his nursery, the boys decided not to put a
row of poles across the mouth of it. Dick thought it was too much
work and Ned said it was no use, because Ma Manatee would knock the
whole business over the tree-tops with one gentle little whack of
They paddled back to their camp and hunted over the prairies behind
it all the afternoon. Ned shot another buck, this time in a very
boggy swamp. It was not a big buck, but before they got out of the
swamp with it the boys had learned several ways in which a deer
should not be carried. First, one took the carcass by the tail-end
and the other by the head. The middle of the body sagged down in the
mud and pulled the boys after it. Then the creature was slung on a
pole, which they took on their shoulders. This was better, but every
time one stumbled, which was most of the time, both landed in the
bog. Then Ned remembered what all boys should know, and the legs of
the buck were skinned up to the knee joints. With these loose ends
of skin, the legs were so tied together in pairs as to form a loop
through which the arms could be thrust and the whole body of the
deer worn like a coat.
By taking turns at toting the thing, the boys got their venison to
camp without very much trouble. While jerking it they were very glad
to lie around camp and rest, and gossip. But their talk always came
around to one subject--what to do with their captive. Ned wanted to
send him North to some aquarium, but didn't quite see how to do it.
Dick offered to swim him down the rivers to the Gulf of Mexico if
Ned would sail him up the coast to Marco or Myers, for shipment by
water or rail.
"I'm really in earnest about this, Dick, because I know father would
like it so much. He is always looking out for curiosities to send to
museums or his collecting friends, and this would be such a rare
"Would your father stand for a good big bill to get Baby north?"
"He'd stand for anything! What's in your noddle, Dick?"
"It can be done, easy. We're not many miles from the coast, and
I've been wrecked on that coast, Neddy, so I remember it. We will
paddle down this river, and as many more as are necessary, until we
get to the Gulf. Then we'll paddle along the coast to the shack of a
fisherman whom I know. He's got a sloop and all you've got to do is
to offer him enough, to make him hustle around for lumber and make a
water-tight box big enough for Baby to travel in. Then we will help
him get the infant aboard, start him for the railroad and go back to
our hunt. Has your father an agent in Myers who'd take your word for
the bill? Coz if he didn't the account would likely be settled with
"Agent? Why, dad will be there himself by that time. And if he
isn't, the agent is there all right, all right. So if your pirate
settles with me with a shot-gun, I'll settle with that agent, same
As soon as the meat was cured, the boys started for the coast in
their canoe. On the way they stopped at the nursery and found Baby
almost glad to see them, and when Ned put half a banana in his
mouth, the little manatee seemed really grateful. Ned even thought
that when he pressed the baby's flipper good-bye, the pressure was
returned, at least that is what he told Dick. The canoeists had
trouble in avoiding the grass and moss of the big bay, but two hours
of paddling carried them to the coast, where a strong on-shore wind
was sending long rollers up on the beach. Dick knew where they
were, and said that they had come down Broad River, and that the
fisherman's ranch was only six or seven miles up the coast.
"We can walk up the beach to it and save time. The water is too
rough for the canoe," said Ned.
"I don't know about that. I've lived on the water some and I've seen
curious things done with canoes. Let's try it."
"Better try the waves with an empty canoe first. Then I'll be with
The canoe was unloaded on a quiet bit of the beach which lay behind
a shoal and the boys by turns got into the canoe and paddled out
among the breakers. Then they went out together and through it all
the canoe rose to the waves like a duck. Then they reloaded their
canoe and started up the beach. At times the wind was stronger and
the waves bigger, but always the canoe rode them with a gait like a
rocking-chair. They paddled easily, "taking the waves on the bias,"
as Dick observed, heading a little off-shore to balance the push of
the wind and the waves.
The fisherman was at home, and Ned soon closed a contract with him
to carry Baby Manatee to Myers at Ned's cost and risk, payment to be
made in Myers by Mr. Barstow or his agent. The man had just got in
some lumber to build a skiff. This would serve to build the box, and
the charge for it would be five dollars. The fisherman said he would
need the help of his son; that the charge for the two would be four
dollars a day, and he "reckoned" it would take eight days, so the
contract was closed for thirty-seven dollars. He was ready to start
right off and catch the evening tide up Broad River.
"Don't you want to make the box first?" said Ned.
"Reckon not. 'Druther see the manatee 'fore I spile good lumber.
Manatees is mighty scurse in this country."
Dick flared up, and said to the fisherman:
"Do you mean that we've been lying about a manatee?"
"Course not, not lyin'; manatee's all right, only you ain't much ust
to 'em and it may be bigger'n you think, 'nd I'd hate to make th'
box too little."
The lumber was taken on board, the canoe unloaded and laid on the
deck of the sloop, the sails reefed and with her skiff drawn close
up under her stern the craft was soon flying down the coast. When
she reached the river the reefs were shaken out and in little more
than an hour anchor was dropped beside the manatee cove. It was
nearly dark and work was to begin the next morning, but all hands
wanted a look at the little manatee. The fisherman and his son went
in their own skiff while Ned and Dick led the way in the canoe.
"Now I'll show you something worth seeing," said Ned, as he took
hold of the end of the line and pulled it all easily in. As Ned sat
looking at the broken end of the line, half stupefied by the
greatness of his surprise, the fisherman laughed and said:
"That sure was worth seem', 'nd I reckon I've saved you five
dollars by not makin' that box till I got here 'nd saw the critter."
"I'll keep the contract. It isn't your fault that the manatee has
"No, I reckon 'twan't anybody's fault, much. All I want out o' you
is four dollars for one day's work," and the fisherman laughed
again, adding a moment afterward:
"I'm 'most ashamed to take that much, but I reckon the joke's been
wuth it ter you."
Ned paid the four dollars and the boys paddled back to their old
camp for the night. On the way back Ned stopped paddling, and
turning back, said to Dick:
"Did that old fellow mean that he didn't believe we had caught a
manatee at all?"
"If I thought he did, I'd go back and punch his head."
"No, you wouldn't. He isn't to blame. He only thought what everybody
who hears of it and don't know us will think. I hope he won't tell
about it in Myers, so that it will get to Dad's ears."
"I shouldn't think you'd care for that," said Dick.
"Well, Dad enjoys a joke and I would likely hear of 'Ned's manatee'
pretty frequent for some time."
HARPOONING FROM A CANOE
Do you want to go for any more manatees?" asked Dick, the next
"Guess not. We're pretty well acquainted with the critters already
and if we tackled another it would likely be a bigger one, and the
sample we had was about all we could manage. But the bay here is
full of big fish. Suppose we get out the little harpoon and pick up
some drum-fish, channel-bass or a whip-ray?"
When the boys started out for a day of harpooning, Dick sat high up
on the stern of the canoe with the paddle, while Ned stood in the
bow with the harpoon.
"Hadn't you better sit down in the bottom of the canoe to paddle?
The canoe feels wobbly to me," said Ned.
"What's the matter with your nerves, Neddy? I'm not going to capsize
you. S'pose I practiced half a day with that papoose for nothing?"
"Most of that practice was swimming, wasn't it? I don't want any of
that in mine to-day."
Ned harpooned several large drum-fish, and finally got a
channel-bass, after missing several.
"We've got a lot more fish than we can eat now. Let's go for
something big and have some fun. Hit that shark over there."
"That shark could bite this canoe in two and then swallow the
pieces. I wouldn't mind that so much if we were in the Glades, but I
don't want to be set afoot so far from fresh water. See that big
whip-ray! It's a beaut;--paddle up to it, Dick."
Dick paddled toward the fish, which was shaped like a butterfly,
with a back six feet broad, covered with beautiful little white
rings placed on a jet black background. The graceful creature
fluttered along the surface of the bay with a bird-like motion, at a
speed that soon took it nearly out of sight of the boys. Dick
followed it, as it zigzagged about the bay, sometimes skimming on
the very surface and then disappearing in the depths for minutes at
a time. Once it was out of sight for five minutes, and Dick had just
stopped paddling, saying:
"Got to give it up. That big butterfly is the other side of the bay
by this time," when Ned saw the broad back of the creature gliding
beneath his harpoon, beside the canoe and a foot or two under the
surface. His quick side-throw was doubly effective, for the harpoon
was buried in the back of the quarry, while Ned and Dick were buried
in the water of the bay. The center of gravity of the canoe's cargo
of boys was at least two feet above the gunwales of the craft, and
when Ned's side-thrust threw him out of balance, the canoe popped
from under him, and as Dick sat on the stern of the canoe and quite
outside of it, he was in the water as soon as his chum. The whip-ray
had darted away at high speed as soon as the iron touched him, but
before the line which was coiled in the harpoon tub had run out, Ned
had seized the tub, which was floating near him when he came to the
The end of the line was fast to the tub and when it was reached Ned
was hauled through the water by the fish. If Ned had been built like
a canoe, he would probably have caught the whip-ray, but the drag of
the boy in the water was too much for the hold the iron had in the
body of the creature, and the harpoon tore out. The boys managed to
rock the water out of the canoe, but swamped it several times while
trying to get in it without going ashore. After they had succeeded,
Dick took the harpoon, while Ned sat in the bottom of the canoe with
"Now go ahead and harpoon your fish and I'll show you how to keep a
canoe trimmed. What you really need is a scow," said Ned.
"If I couldn't throw a harpoon over the side of a canoe without
going over the other side myself, I'd give up fishing and try
farming. Now just paddle softly in the wake of that big fin. Know
what it is? I thought not. Well, it's the bayonet fin of the tarpon,
my son, and if you'll paddle quietly and stay inside the boat, you
shall have the fun of your life."
The tarpon was tame, and Ned paddled within twenty feet of it
without frightening it, but Dick made a poor shot. The back of a
tarpon is narrow and a small mark for a harpoon when thrown from
behind the fish, and Dick's weapon grazed its side, while the pole
fell across the back of the tarpon, causing it to give one wild leap
and depart for regions unknown. Dick was now out for tarpon, and
paid no attention to smaller fish, many of which came within
striking distance. Tarpon were scarce that day, and Dick's next
chance was an hour in coming, and then the fish happened to be
headed for the canoe. The boy had not learned the difficulty of
throwing an iron through the coat of mail of a tarpon excepting from
abaft the beam of the fish, and he drew in his harpoon with a
beautiful four-inch scale fixed on its point.
"Take the harpoon, Ned. I couldn't hit a house."
"Yes, you could. You hit that tarpon. Only trouble was, you didn't
know where to hit it. Keep on practicing. You said I'd have the fun
of my life, and I'm having it."
[Illustration: "THE STRICKEN TARPON LEAPED SIX FEET IN THE AIR"]
Half an hour later Dick made a beautiful, long throw of nearly
thirty feet, and the stricken tarpon leaped six feet in the air. For
two hundred yards the frantic fish towed the canoe in a straight
line, at a high rate of speed, and then began a series of leaps in
the air. Some of these were long jumps which barely cleared the
surface of the water, while others were from eight to ten feet
vertically upward. The tarpon then darted away in a new direction,
blistering Dick's hands as the line tore through them. For a quarter
of an hour the drag of the canoe made little difference in the speed
of the tarpon, but then it began to slacken and Dick was able to
pull the canoe up beside the fish, which gave a leap and a sweep of
its tail that drenched both of the boys and, if the tarpon had been
a foot nearer, would have wrecked their craft. Again the creature
dashed away, getting back most of the line that Dick had taken in.
Once more the fish weakened, and the canoe was drawn up beside it,
and once more it sprang in the air and dashed away. But with each
fresh effort the tarpon became weaker, until Dick said to Ned:
"He's about played out. Better take the gaff next time I get near
him and see if you can land him in the canoe."
"No," replied Ned, "he's your tarpon and you can gaff him yourself.
He'll capsize the canoe when he comes aboard and I want to be ready
[Illustration: "THE TARPON BEGAN A SERIES OF LEAPS"]
Dick drew the canoe beside the tarpon and, dropping the
harpoon-line, held the handle of the big gaff-hook in both hands,
ready to strike. But the fish saw the uplifted weapon and sheered
away, swimming with renewed vigor, and Dick had to work for another
half hour before his quarry was quiet enough for the blow. This
delay was fortunate for the boys, since it left the tarpon too tired
to struggle. When Dick sank the steel gaff deep in the throat of
the Silver King and dragged it over the side of the frail canoe,
Ned sat in the bottom of the craft with a hand on each gunwale,
ready to balance the boat or swim, as events might indicate.
The boys took a lot of the big silver scales as souvenirs and then
slid the body of the tarpon into the bay, where it was soon devoured
by a couple of wandering sharks.
GHOSTS AND ALLIGATORS
The boys spent a day exploring the bay to the east and south,
finding but a single creek, which lost itself in the jungle after
wandering a few miles.
"I don't believe we can get through this way," said Dick to his
chum, as they were resting, after an hour of hard work, cutting away
branches of trees and dragging the canoe. "Mr. Streeter told me that
the Indians say there is no creek between the bays at the head of
Broad River, where we are, and the rivers south of it. Suppose we
work our way to the mouth of this river and then follow the coast
down to Harney's, which is the next river south of us and the
longest one in South Florida."
"All right, and we can explore that big creek running west from the
foot of this bay, which we saw yesterday."
The boys found the creek to be deep with swift water, but so crooked
that a snake would have had to slow up to get through it. After two
miles of paddling, which advanced them about half a mile, they found
themselves in a broad smooth-flowing river, the most beautiful
stream they had ever seen. The big trees on the banks were clothed
with airplants, draped with long, flowing gray moss and garlanded
with flowering and sweet-scented vines. Sometimes an opening in the
forest showed broad savannahs, or prairies, or disclosed groups of
tall palmettos or magnificent royal palms, the grandest tree that
grows. The water was mirror-like, and the great trees, capped by a
mass of white clouds in the blue of the heavens, were repeated below
in a reflection that was perfect. The boys paddled for a long time,
silent as if in a dream, when Ned spoke in a voice so low that his
companion could scarcely hear what he said:
"Does it make you think of Heaven, Dick?"
"Guess it does; only," added Dick, in a louder tone, "it will make
you think of the other place, pretty soon."
"What do you mean?"
"It's a deserted river. Only ghosts stay here. The plantations are
grown over, the houses rotting and little sticks in the ground tell
where the old owners are. The climate is so bad that skull and bone
notices grow on the trees. Then things happen. People eat something
and die, or fall out of their boats and drown, or go out in the
woods and stay till the buzzards find them. Oh, but it's the
peaceful, lovely Rodgers River!"
"Why, where did you hear all that, Dick?"
"From Mr. Streeter. He talked a lot and I didn't forget much that
he said. Then Johnny had heard the talk of convicts, and others who
ought to have been, and told me about them almost in a whisper, for
fear somebody would hear him."
"There's a rotting old shack, now, by that date palm. Are you afraid
"No, rather like 'em. I wouldn't mind camping with them for a day or
two, with you for company."
[Illustration: "GROUPS OF TALL PALMETTOS, OR MAGNIFICENT TALL
The house looked too spooky and snaky to live in, and the boys made
their camp in the open, near a tamarind tree and, as they observed
later, beside an overgrown grave. An old barrel under the eaves of
the house was nearly full of rain water, which they were likely to
need, since their only supply of fresh water was contained in a
five-gallon can, which would hold about two days' requirements. The
rain water was good and would have been better but for Ned's
"You don't suppose it has been poisoned, do you, Dick?"
On their first afternoon the boys crossed the swampy jungle in the
rear of the old plantation and found themselves on a typical South
Florida prairie. On it were oases of fire-blackened palmettos,
little ponds, palmetto scrub and bits of soggy meadow, in which they
often sank to their knees, as they plodded across them. There were
tracks of wild animals in the meadows and regular trails of
alligators between the ponds. Billy stopped beside one of the ponds
and grunted, as he had been taught by Johnny, until a little 'gator
showed his head.
"See that alligator, Ned? Let's go in there and fetch him out."
"Not much do I go in that mud-hole, alligator or no alligator."
"Then, just you watch me," said Dick, as he took off his shoes and
"See here, Dicky boy, come out of there," said Ned.
But Dick kept on, wading all round the pond before he felt the
wiggle he wanted. Perhaps his toes were less tough than Johnny's, or
maybe he didn't manage them as well, for one of them got in a baby
'gator's mouth. Dick couldn't suppress a yell as two rows of
needle-like teeth sunk into his flesh, and he jerked his foot away
so violently that he lost the chance of bagging his game. Then Ned
came floundering through the mud and almost dragged him out of the
"I mean to get that little alligator if it takes all day, only I
won't try him barefoot again," said Dick, as he slowly drew his
stocking over his aching toe.
Dick waded out into the pond again and for half an hour explored
with his feet for the reptile he was after, but all in vain. Several
times he thought he touched the creature with his shoe, but could
not be sure. Then he waded ashore and began taking off his shoes.
"What are you going to do now, Dick?" said Ned.
"Johnny waded barefoot into just such a pond as that and brought out
a 'gator. I told him then that what he could do, I could. I'm plumb
scared to go in that pond barefoot, but that young Cracker, who's a
year younger than I, waded right in without stopping to think
whether it was safe or not. If Johnny was here he'd have that 'gator
out of that pond, toes or no toes, and that's what I'm going to do,"
and Dick waded barefoot into the pond again and began feeling around
in the mud with his toes.
"If you feel that way about it, I'm with you, Dick," said Ned, as he
began to take off his shoes. But before he reached the water the
reptile had been caught, and Dick waded ashore with the wriggling
little alligator in his hand.
"There's a bigger one in there. He whacked me on the shin with his
tail, just after I caught the little one. Let's get him."
The boys waded side by side, the length of the pond, several times
without finding another 'gator, although the occasional roiling of
the water showed that there were others in the pond. They were about
to give up the hunt when something struck Ned's leg and, grabbing
suddenly at the thing, he found that he had a five-foot alligator by
the head. He held the jaws of the 'gator shut while Dick seized the
hind legs of the reptile, and together they carried the creature
"I wonder where that fellow was hidden," said Dick, after the
alligator had been safely tied. "My toes have felt in every inch of
the mud in the bottom of that pond. Maybe there's another one. Let's
get him," and Dick started into the pond.
"Wait till I get some clubs and I'll be with you. There may be a big
'gator in there who wouldn't be satisfied with a toe."
It was well they had clubs when they went back in the pond, for
after a few minutes' searching, Dick struck something, and the tail
of a reptile came to the surface beside him. As he grabbed it with
both hands, and hung on with all his strength, a long body curved
upward from it, a big head was uplifted, and two rows of ivory teeth
gleamed from wide-opened jaws before Dick's eyes. Before the boy
could move or the beast strike, Ned's club came crashing down on the
reptile's head. As the jaws closed and the head fell back, a second
and yet more furious blow fell upon it. As they dragged the stunned
or dead 'gator out of the pond, Ned said:
"I'm going to round-skin this alligator and save the skull, for
mounting. I'll keep it in my den as a reminder of this trip and of
"If it hadn't been for your club, it would have been more of a
reminder of me than it is now."
The alligator came to life a few times, while they were skinning it,
and had to be killed over again, and the tail did some wiggling even
after the spine had been severed. When the skinning operation was
over the boys went back to camp, where they found an old kettle, in
which they boiled the skull of the alligator and cleaned it of flesh
and brains in preparation for mounting.
[Illustration: "HE HELD THE JAWS OF THE 'GATOR SHUT, WHILE DICK
SEIZED THE HIND LEGS OF THE REPTILE"]
"How did you sleep last night, Dick?" asked Ned, the next morning.
"Didn't sleep at all. This place is sure bad medicine. First the
hoots of the owls and the snarls of the wildcats kept me awake, then
the booming of the big alligators worried me, and after I did get to
sleep, the ghost of that alligator that we killed to-day shook his
white teeth in my face, and I could feel the man in the grave under
me trying to push me off of it. Let's get out of this river this
As they paddled down Rodgers River, in the bright sunshine, Dick's
spirits rose and when they were off the mouth of the river, headed
down the coast and bound for Harney's River, two miles distant, he
took in his paddle and, calling to Ned to hold steady, vaulted
lightly from the canoe, without even jarring it, and landed on a
sandbank in water that was but little above his waist. Stooping
under the water he picked up clams of several pounds weight each,
with which the bottom was paved, until clam-roasts for days had been
provided for. Getting back into the canoe was a ticklish operation,
but was accomplished without disaster, although a pailful or two of
water was taken aboard.
HUNTING IN HARNEY'S RIVER
The boys had chosen the last of the ebb tide for the trip down
Rodgers River, which gave them low water for their work on the clam
bar and a flood tide to help them up Harney's River. They made a
false start at the mouth of the river by taking a channel that ran
too far to the east and led them a mile or two out of their course,
before they discovered their mistake and returned. After entering
the channel, the course up the river, which averaged east-northeast,
was plain, there being but a single branch to mislead them, in the
first six miles. At the end of these the lower section of Harney's
unites with a branch of Shark River to form Tussock Bay. This bay is
a labyrinth of channels and keys and opens into creeks large and
small, and water-courses shallow and deep, grass-choked and clear.
After exploring its mazes for miles, Dick and Ned found, near the
northeast end of the bay, a tiny key marked by two tall palmettos,
on which were the signs of an old Indian camp. Here they roasted a
mess of clams and spent the night. An entire day was wasted in
following creeks that led nowhere and blind trails. That night they
slept again at the Indian camp and on the following day found a
small channel which, through twisting creeks and crooked waterways,
led to the broad waters of the upper section of Harney's River,
which they followed until they were stopped by the Everglades. They
made their camp by a lime tree which was burdened with fruit, and
went out from it each day to hunt fish or explore and to study and
chart the country about them. The waters of the streams were all
flowing clear and fresh from the Everglades. The creeks were alive
with fish of many kinds, and their surfaces dotted with the heads of
Alligators were abundant and otters could often be seen sliding down
the banks, or in families, playing together in the water. Ned had
seen a pet otter at Myers and wanted one for himself. He had brought
with him an otter trap, with smooth jaws instead of the cruel teeth
which are customary, and he set it near an otter slide. The next day
as the canoe approached the point where the trap had been set the
rattling of the chain that held it told of the victim it had made.
The hind leg of the otter was held firmly by the trap, but he sprang
fiercely at Ned as he came near, and the sharp teeth snapped
together within a few inches of the boy's face as the short chain
straightened out. The boys went back to their camp, where Ned made a
cage out of the box in which they kept most of their stores, and
then returned to their captive.
"How are you going to get him into the cage, Ned?"
"Hold his head down with a forked stick, take him round the neck
with my hand so he can't bite, take the trap off of his leg and poke
him in the cage."
"Ned! He'll eat you up. I'd rather tackle a wildcat."
"Just watch him eat me up. You stand by, when I've got a good hold,
and take off that trap quick as you can. Then I'll drop him in the
box and--there you are."
"No, we won't be there--not all of us. I wish I was the otter. He'll
have all the fun."