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Dick in the Everglades by A. W. Dimock

Part 5 out of 5

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two fins shown by a wandering shark swept swiftly across a bank, or
three big reddish fins moving in a straight line slowly behind a
great, swaying, four-foot weapon marked the course of a fifteen-foot
sawfish. There was water to float the power boat in the channels
between the banks, and families of porpoises or dolphins were always
ready to serve as pilots and point the path through these
labyrinthine waterways. A school of porpoises, rolling in the water
and leaping in the air, passed the motor boat as if they had been
telephoned for in the greatest haste. Two minutes later, a quarter
of a mile away, a great splashing could be seen and huge bodies
hurled in the air, which seemed to be filled with flying fragments.

The power boat, with Molly at the wheel, started for the fray at its
best speed and when it reached the battlefield its occupants saw a
little band of porpoises in the midst of a great school of silver
mullet. Each blow of a porpoise tail sent several mullet flying in
the air, each blow that was struck was followed by a quick turn or
leap of the agile animal for the victim which it caught before it
fell. Ned and Dick were in the skiff which had been towed by the
power boat, hoping to harpoon a sawfish or a shark. They had not
before thought of the swift and wary porpoise. They called to the
captain to cast them loose, and soon Ned was poling the skiff toward
the busy porpoises while Dick stood in the bow of the skiff with his
harpoon handy. Quick as a flash the porpoises separated and
scattered in every direction and the boys followed several in vain.
Then Molly took a hand in the game and sent the power boat at one
after another of them until the captain called to her:

"If you'll stick to one you'll run him down."

Then Molly kept steadily after a single porpoise, until the animal
came to understand that it was the chosen victim, and quickly put
half a mile between it and its pursuer. In a few minutes the half
mile between them had vanished and the creature made another frantic
dash. After that it swam back and forth as if confused, and traveled
in narrowing circles, wasting its strength, while the wheel of the
pursuing boat rolled back and forth without ceasing as it followed
the course of the animal or took short cuts to head it off. The boys
came near with the skiff, but the worried quarry paid so little heed
to them that soon Dick sunk his harpoon in the tail of the porpoise.
All the life and strength of the creature seemed to come back and it
threw a column of water in the air which nearly swamped the skiff,
while Dick's hands were torn and blistered by the outgoing harpoon
line, before way could be had on the skiff. The frantic creature
tore back and forth, sometimes striking the skiff a powerful blow
with its tremendous tail as it passed, sometimes towing it at high
speed until Dick, who was not yet strong, was more tired than the
porpoise. He changed places with Ned and the two were nearly worn
out when the porpoise surrendered.

They took the harpoon from the animal's tail and tried to drag the
creature over the gunwale of the skiff, but found it too heavy for
them. At length they lifted and dragged the porpoise up on the
gunwale of the skiff which they pressed down until the water was
beginning to flow over it. Half of the animal was now over the side
of the skiff and the boys threw their weight backward expecting to
roll the porpoise into the bottom of the craft. This would have
happened if the porpoise had kept still, which it neglected to do.
With a blow of its tail on the water the animal threw its own body
forward and Ned and Dick found assistance instead of resistance as
they pulled, and promptly went over backward into the water with the
porpoise and the capsized skiff on top of them. When they got to the
surface their captive had escaped, but the power boat was beside
them with three highly edified occupants. After the skiff had been
righted and bailed out and the floating poles, oar, hats, and line
tub gathered in, Ned saw the fin and swaying tail of a shark cutting
the surface of the water near them, and calling on Dick to take the
harpoon, began to pole the skiff toward the tiger of the sea.

"Look out," shouted the captain. "That's a shark. You'll lose your
iron if you strike him."

Th captain spoke too late, for the shark was struck and the skiff
was towed at speed for a hundred feet by the angry fish, which then
turned and rolled up on the taut line till it caught the rope in its
mouth and bit it in two as easily as scissors snip thread.

"Told you so," said the captain. "A shark always bites the line and
often rolls up in it. An alligator always rolls up in it, but can't
bite it. I've had an alligator roll up against a skiff and pretty
near come aboard after I'd harpooned it. There's another harpoon on
the _Irene_, and I'll fix it to-night with a few feet of wire for
the next shark to bite on. I reckon it'll give him a surprise."

Molly was in full command of the power boat for the day, and as
harpooning was over, she ran it at her own sweet will. Sometimes the
captain helped her with a hint when he saw her heading for water
that was too shoal. The course she took was southerly and brought
her near Man-o'-war Bush, from which rose hundreds of man-o'-war
hawks, or frigate pelicans, the most graceful bird on the continent,
excepting the fork-tailed kite. These birds soared high overhead,
circling, rising and falling with scarcely a perceptible motion of
their wings. From another key a flock of roseate spoon-bill, or pink
curlew, flew at the approach of the boat, while young herons sat
fearlessly on branches of trees or spread wings and stretched long
legs as they fled in affright.

That night Mr. Barstow called a council on the cabin top.

"Boys, I would like to have you make Miami in four days from now, if
you can manage it."

"That's easy," said Ned. "We can make the trip in a day. That leaves
us one day here and two at Madeira Hammock to find Dick's pet

"If you're going to Miami by way of Madeira Hammock," said the
captain, "you'd better allow two days for the trip. You're likely to
get some tangled up in that country."

"Then we'll cut out our day here. We have had our share of fun out
of this place. What is there in that bay to the east of us,

"There's a creek that leads to the Cuthbert Rookery, but it isn't
the season for that. It's a hard trip anyway, through small
salt-water lakes and little overgrown creeks where you have to drag
your skiff most of the way. And you've got to carry all the water
you drink and you won't find that a joke."

"We have had all we want of that kind of country, Captain, so we'll
hike out of here at daylight and get to Madeira Hammock quick as you
can find the way."

"I can find the way now, anyhow as far as Lignum Vitae Key, and if
the tide doesn't bother me too much in the cut, maybe to Hammer
Point. Beyond that I want daylight and then I ain't sure. Do you
want to make a night run?"

"Sure," said both the boys together.

"If you will excuse me from any share in this night navigation,"
said Mr. Barstow, "I think I will turn in. How is it with you,

"Oh, I'll stay up a while and help Captain Hull navigate the ship."

The moon rose soon after the anchor was broken out, and its light
reflected from the white canvas of the bellying sails and the tops
of the white-capped waves, gave a dream-like beauty to the night.
Captain Molly called to Engineer Dick:

"Stop that noise in the engine room!" and Dick promptly shut off the
gasoline from the motor. Captain Hull made no complaint of this
mutinous interference with his authority, but said:

"That's right, we don't need the engine now and I reckon we ain't
going to need it to-night."

The wind was fair and strong from the north, and every minute its
sweep grew wider and the waves bigger as the _Irene_ drew from under
the shelter of the cape. The captain and Ned stood by the wheel,
while the girl and Dick sat on the front of the cabin in the
moonlight, watching the white water that rose from under the bow of
the clumsy craft, with each heavy blow that it struck upon the


As they sailed the wind grew stronger and at Horse-neck Shoals the
crest of breaking waves covered the deck of the _Irene_ with foam.
Following the swish of each heaving wave as it lifted and swept
past the boat came a heavy jar as the craft struck in the soft mud
beneath her and her headway was checked.

"It's all right," said the captain, in answer to Ned's look of
anxiety. "I expected her to touch, but she'll pull through."

No one else was alarmed, for Mr. Barstow was asleep in his bunk
below, while Molly and Dick were too busy watching the effect of the
moonlight on the breaking waves and the distant keys to notice that
anything unusual was happening. Soon the water became deeper, the
waves ceased breaking and subsided, and the _Irene_ sailed smoothly
on till she was hauled up in the wind to enter the cut in the bank
near Lignum Vitae Key, through which an adverse tide was pouring.
Dick was called from his post near the bow to start the motor, which
was kept running until the boat had made her way through the channel
between the white banks that showed clear under the moon as daylight
could have made them. Then the motor was shut off and Dick returned
to his post and resumed his study of moonlight effects as its rays
fell on the palms of Lignum Vitae, the line of outer keys, the
Matecumbies, and the jewel of an Indian Key, of which he told Molly
the legend. At this Molly jumped up and said:

"It's all too lovely for anything and Daddy has got to come on deck
and see it."

She went below and when she returned had Mr. Barstow in tow, to
whom she pointed out the beauties of sea and sky, of clouds and
light just as Dick had been doing to her. Then she went for Captain
Hull, who turned the wheel over to Ned and came forward, where he
answered the rapid fire of the girl's questions, about Shell,
McGinty and other keys as they passed them and about the channel and
cuts through which their course lay, until he assured her he had
told all he knew and if she remembered it she was as good a pilot as
he. But questions continued until, having passed Tavernier Creek and
neared Hammer Point, the _Irene_ was anchored for the night.

All hands were on deck when the rays of the next morning's sun first
fell on the mirror-like water about them, but Ned spoke sadly as he

"I've shipped as cook and I s'pose I've got to get breakfast, but I
wish my assistant didn't waste so much of her time."

"If you'd let me keep the cook I hired we'd have crawfish for
breakfast," said Captain Hull.

"Where would we get them?" inquired Ned.

"Every one of these coral keys is built on crawfish and Snake Creek
here is full of 'em."

"Then after you've shown us a lot of crawfish and we've caught them
we'll have breakfast."

Captain Hull lashed two tarpon hooks to broomsticks, and getting in
the skiff with Molly and the two boys, poled to the nearest key.
Beneath the water the steep coral banks of the key were filled with
deep holes from out of many of which long feelers projected. Pushing
a hook into one of these holes the captain gave it a quick turn and
brought out a squirming, squeaking imitation of a young lobster.
Then he handed the hooks to the boys. Ned got overboard and began to
haul out crawfish at the rate of two a minute. Dick was less
successful, for Molly had promptly commandeered his hook and left
him nothing to do but watch her when she tried to hook the
shell-fish. They didn't get many fish and when Ned came along with a
bunch of crawfish which he dropped in the skiff, he said:

"Here, you kids, you aren't earning your salt. Just take my hook,
Dick, and catch some crawfish. I'll help Molly do whatever she's

On the way to the _Irene_ Molly called out:

"Oh, the beautiful, beautiful, bubble!"

"Don't touch it," shouted Dick.

But he was too late, for Molly had picked up a Portuguese man-o'-war
and sat wringing her hands with the pain of its poison. For, while
nothing in nature is more exquisite, few things are more virulent
than this animated, opalescent, iridescent bubble with its long,
delicate, purplish tentacles.

Molly's hand pained her all that day and the next, while Dick's
commiseration was boundless, but was kept in restraint by Ned, who
frequently assured both of them that, although a surgical case, it
was probably not quite hopeless. A run of two hours in directions
that varied, but averaged northwest, brought the _Irene_ to Madeira
Hammock, where the anchor was dropped.




Mr. Barstow wanted to explore Deer Key which was nearby and Ned took
him there in the power boat. The captain took Molly and Dick out in
the skiff to show them a crocodile and Dick stood in the bow with
the harpoon while Molly sat amidship and the captain poled. Almost
as they left the _Irene_ they saw a crocodile swimming under water
near them, but failed to get another sight of him. They cruised
vainly in open water, beside banks and in narrow channels. Finally
while going through a narrow creek a wave rolling high ahead of the
skiff showed that some big creature was fleeing before them. The
next moment a four-foot weapon of a hand's breadth, armed with a
double row of teeth, was lifted for a second above the surface and
was followed by the three fins, tandem, that proved the presence of
a sawfish. Dick fairly quivered with excitement as he held his
harpoon at ready.

"Captain," said he sharply, "will there be the least bit of danger
to Miss Barstow if I strike that fish now?"

"There'll be some, of course. If he turns round and comes back at
us in this narrow creek the only safe place will be in the bottom of
the boat."

"Dick Williams, don't you stop for me. I'm not a bit afraid. If you
don't harpoon that sawfish and give me his saw, I won't speak to you
for a week," said the excited girl.

"No use, Molly, I wouldn't do it if it meant that you'd never speak
to me."

"If Miss Barstow will wait on the bank for half an hour you can
bring her the saw, all right," said the captain, who seemed anxious
to oblige both of the passengers.

"Put me ashore quick, then."

The girl was soon standing on the bank and the chase was renewed. A
hundred yards farther up the narrow stream the great sawfish was
found swimming slowly across a bank where the water was shoal, with
his two fins and tail showing in line above the water. As the
harpoon pole was lifted and Dick's every muscle strained for the
throw, the captain shouted:

"Throw three feet ahead of that forward fin. That's where his back

The harpoon struck the fish in the middle of his wide back and as
the freed pole splashed in the water the sawfish made a mighty swirl
and was off at express speed. The line was strong, the barb of the
harpoon was under the tough leather of the creature's back, and the
skiff seemed to fly through the water as Dick gave the line a turn
around his hand and the captain fended the skiff from the banks when
sharp turns were made by the flying fish as it followed the channels
of the crooked creeks. Sometimes the stream broadened, often it
narrowed; once the sawfish dashed through an overgrown waterway
where Dick and the captain crouched to the gunwale to avoid the
arching branches that swept over and tore at the sides of the skiff.
There was half an hour of this work. Dick's hands were blistered and
numb and his brain dizzy with the quick turns and changing courses
of the fish, when suddenly he became panic-stricken and called to
his companion:

"Captain! Are you perfectly _sure_ you know where you are? _Sure_
you can find Miss Barstow?"

The captain laughed.

"Find her? Why she's here within a hundred feet of you now."

And, sure enough, the next turn in the creek showed the girl
standing on the bank by the water's edge.

"Can't I get aboard?" she called out as the skiff swept past, and
Dick would have said "Yes," but the captain shook his head.

"There's trouble ahead. That fish is just getting ready to fight."

Before they had passed out of sight of the girl, the sawfish turned
around and for the first time headed for the skiff.

"Down, quick!" yelled the captain and both Dick and he crouched low
in the skiff as a great broad sword, swung with all the power of the
tremendous fish, swept over their heads. As the angry creature
passed them, a second blow which fell upon the skiff and threatened
to wreck it was echoed by a cry from the girl. The attack on the
skiff was the last great effort of the fish, and though he still
swam strongly he could be controlled. The captain ran the skiff on a
shallow bank and helped Dick with the line until sixteen feet of
fierceness lay stranded on the bank. As the sawfish is a species of
shark, Dick had no hesitancy about killing it, but wanted Molly to
first see his captive and have a look at her saw, before it left the
place where it grew. The captain brought the girl, and then a rope
was made fast to the saw of the fish and tied to a tree, after which
the brute's brain was explored with an axe and the saw cut off as a


"Better wake up," shouted the captain the next morning, before the
boys were stirring. "There's a shark outside waiting for you, and
I've wired your harpoon line."

The boys omitted their ablutions that morning and must have hurried
their devotions, for three minutes after they were called found them
aboard the skiff which they drove toward a big fin and a swaying
tail, which was cutting the water a hundred yards from the _Irene_.
As they neared the shark, Dick took the harpoon pole and made ready
with the harpoon, while Ned sculled quietly in the wake of the ugly
fish. Twice the shark heard them and darted away, but on the third
approach Dick drove the iron deep in the back of the brute. The
shark lashed out with its tail, sending the water flying as the
harpoon struck, and then made a straight-away dash for a hundred
yards while the boys rode in triumph behind it. Then the maddened
creature turned, and rolling up on the line, bit it savagely but

Again and again the brute dashed away and again and again it turned,
biting at the line and attacking the boat with its teeth. Dick held
the skiff close to the shark, which lifted its head and seized the
gunwale in its huge mouth, when Ned struck the furious creature a
powerful blow on its nose with the axe. For a moment the brute
seemed paralyzed, but soon returned to the attack, when the boy
drove the point of the big gaff through the tough hide of the tiger
of the sea.

Ned held on to the handle of the gaff, although almost dragged
overboard during the first wild struggles of his captive, and then
hauled the head of the brute over the gunwale, where a few blows
with the axe ended the trouble.

When the boys got back to the _Irene_, Ned was happily surprised to
find ready a dainty breakfast which his assistant had graciously
prepared for all hands and which drew from him the unusual praise:

"A girl on a cruise is a mighty nice thing--sometimes."

The day was to be devoted to crocodile hunting and Dick went in the
skiff with the captain, while Molly was put in command of the power
boat with Ned as engineer and Mr. Barstow as passenger.

Several crocodile caves were found, but none of the inhabitants were
at home. One large crocodile showed itself for an instant, but the
river was deep, the overhanging banks offered good hiding places,
and the reptile escaped. It was after they had given the hunt up for
the day and were on their way to the _Irene_ that Dick, who had
stood faithfully at his post in the bow, with his harpoon ready,
threw hastily at something he saw crawling on the bottom and found
on the end of his line a squirming baby crocodile, scarcely four
feet long. The harpoon had barely touched the side of the little
reptile and the barb held by a thread-like bit of skin. When the boy
saw how lightly the iron was held he dropped the line and grabbed
the baby with both hands. His arms were scratched and his clothing
torn by the needle-like teeth before he could tie the jaws of the
creature, after which he took the baby crocodile in his arms and
tucked it away in the bow of the skiff. Before he had time to tie
the little reptile in its crib Ned shouted from the power boat:

"There's one under that bank, a big fellow."

The captain sculled the skiff slowly toward the crocodile, which was
lying on the water, just under the bank. As they approached, the
creature slowly sank beneath the surface of the water, which was
shallow, and beneath it a bottom of mud in which the fleeing reptile
had left his trail. The captain followed the trail by the
furrow-like track of the tail, the spoor of the paws and the roiled
water, until Dick got a shot with his harpoon. Then the crocodile
towed the skiff into the deeper channels of the river, among logs
and snags and under banks, sometimes rolling up on the line and
biting at the skiff while Dick vainly tried to get a bight of the
harpoon line around the creature's jaw. The reptile was too wary for
him, until finally the captain threatened the crocodile with a pole,
while Dick got a line around its jaws and took it in the skiff.
There was so little room in the skiff that Dick sat on the back of
his captive until they reached the _Irene_. If he had tried this
with an alligator he would have gone overboard, _pronto_, but when a
crocodile's jaws are tied he is gentler than most lambs.


As soon as Dick had his new pets safely on the _Irene_ he examined
them carefully and then shouted to Ned:

"This is my old crocodile, the very one we turned loose when we were
here before. I'd know him in a thousand. Don't you remember the
broken point to the tooth that stuck out through his upper jaw, on
the right side, too? Why, Crocky, old boy, how are you? I'm mighty
glad to see you again."

"Don't you want to set them free to-morrow, Dick?" asked Mr.

"I don't, but I've got to."

"Would you rather send them North to be educated?"

"I surely would. I wish I could."

"I think it can be managed. I know of a zoological collection where
they will be very welcome. If you think they haven't been injured, I
will ship both of them North from Miami."

"They are all right. I know that. I made two bad throws and barely
touched both of them. I don't believe you could find where either of
them was hit, now."

"Then North they go."

The boys made a box for the little crocodile, gathered a lot of
grass for his bed and stowed him away in the hold where he would be
safe from the attentions of Tom. There was not enough lumber on
board to make a box for the big crocodile and the brute was put
overboard to pasture at the end of a hundred-foot line. As soon as
the crocodile was overboard Dick drew it beside the boat and untied
its jaws. At first it tried to get away, but soon gave it up and
thereafter rose to the surface every few minutes and gazed gravely
upon its new friends on the boat. When later the _Irene_ was ready
to sail, Dick drew his pet up to the side of the boat and tied his
jaws without remonstrance from the reptile. It took three of them to
haul the creature aboard, where it was fastened to a ringbolt on
deck for the first stage of its journey to the Zoo.


"Captain Hull," said Ned, as the whole party were watching the stars
from the cabin top and waiting for the moon to rise that night, "we
have got back from the Madeira Hammock every thing we lost there, so
we will start for Miami to-morrow."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"You know you said we might lose a day round here, and now we have
got a day to spare."

"You'll be lucky if you don't lose it. There's lots of chances
between here and Miami, or between here and anywhere. There isn't
six inches between the _Irene's_ bottom and the rocks this minute
and we're going to stir the mud a dozen times to-morrow."

"Supposing a storm comes while we are anchored so near the rocks?"

"Anybody who supposes in this country won't ever do anything else."

"Would we make anything by another night run?"

"Make sure to pile up on a bank so high that you'd have time to
homestead a farm before you got off."

The _Irene_ stirred the mud a few times the next day, but passed
through Blackwater, Barnes and Card sounds and all the cuts and
channels to Biscayne Bay without trouble. There a high wind and a
heavy sea held her back, so that it was dusk when the anchor was
dropped just outside of the mouth of Miami River. During this, their
last evening on the cabin roof of the _Irene_, Mr. Barstow said to

"Do you feel perfectly well and strong again?"

"Never felt so well before in my life and am getting my strength
back fast."

"Then vacation ends for you and Ned to-day. To-morrow morning you
will take the train for the North, where you will have about two
weeks to spend with your mother. I will wire her from Miami about
our arrangement, which I am sure she will approve, and tell her when
she may expect you. Very soon you will receive your instructions.
You and Ned will be together, work the same, pay the same, and both
of you have my perfect confidence that you will justify every hope I
have of you."

"Mr. Barstow, I haven't any words--"

"Don't say anything, Dick, I understand it all, my boy. Just go
ahead and make good, both for yourself and me."


In the morning Ned and the captain distinguished themselves by
waking up a dealer, buying some lumber, hustling it aboard and
having the two crocodiles boxed up for transportation North in time
for the train of that day. How much of a feat that was requires a
residence in South Florida to appreciate.

The _Irene_ was run up the river to the railroad dock, where the
crocodiles were put on the cars and the boys took their train for
the North. When the good-byes were said, the captain carried Tom
across the dock on his shoulder and Dick's last act before leaving
was to formally present him to Molly.


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