THE sun shone warm and softas it shines in winter time inthe hemi-tropics. The wind blew strongas it blows whenever and wherever itlisteth. Seven pelicans labored slowly through the air. A flock of ducks rosefrom the surface of the river. A school of mulletdisturbed by a sharkor someother unscrupulous pursuersprang suddenly out of the water just before usandfell into it again like the splashing of a sudden shower.
I lay upon the roof of the cabin of a little yacht.Euphemia stood belowher feet upon the mess-chestand her elbows resting onthe edge of the cabin roof. A sudden squall would have unshipped her; stillifone would be happy there are risks that must be assumed. At the open entrance ofthe cabinbusily writing on a hanging-shelf that served as a tablesat aPaying Teller. On the high box which during most of the day covered our stovewas a little ladywriting in a note-book. On the forward deckat the foot ofthe mastsat a young man in a state of placidness. His feet stuck out on thebowspritwhile his mildly contemplative eyes went out unto the roundabout. Atthe tiller stood our guide and boatmanhis somber eye steady on thesouth-by-east. Around the horizon of his countenance there spread a dark andsix-days' beardlike a slowly rising thundercloud; ever and anon there was agleam of white teethlike a bright break in the skybut it meant nothing.During all our tripthe sun never shone in that face. It never stormedbut itwas always cloudy. But he was the best boatman on those watersand when hestood at the helm we knew we sailed secure. We wanted a man familiar with stormsand squallsand if this familiarity had developed into facial sympathyitmattered not. We could attend to our own sunshine. At his feet sat humbly hisboy of twelvewhom we called "the crew." He was making fancy knots ina bit of rope. This and the occupation of growing up were the only labors inwhich he willingly engaged.
Euphemia and I had left Rudder Grangeto spend a month ortwo in Floridaand we were now on a little sloop-yacht on the bright waters ofthe Indian River. It must not be supposed thatbecause we had a Paying Tellerwith uswe had set up a floating bank. With this Paying Tellerfrom a distantStatewe had made acquaintance on our first entrance into Florida. He wastraveling in what Euphemia called "a group" which consisted of hiswife-- the little lady with the note-book-- the contemplative young man onthe forward deckand himself.
This Paying Teller had worked so hard and so rapidly at hisbusiness for several yearsand had paid out so much of his health and strengththat it was necessary for him to receive large deposits of these essentialsbefore he could go to work again. But the peculiar habits of his professionnever left him. He was continually paying out something. If you presented aconversational check to him in the way of a remarkhe wouldfigurativelyspeakingimmediately jump to his little window and proceed to cash itsometimes astonishing you by the amount of small change he would spread outbefore you.
When he heard of our intention to cruise on Indian River hewished to join his "group" to our partyand as he was a good fellowwe were glad to have him do so. His wife had beenor was stillaschool-teacher. Her bright and cheerful face glistened with information.
The contemplative young man was a distant connection of theTellerand his first name being Quincywas commonly called Quee. If he hadwanted to know any of the many things the little teacher wished to tell he wouldhave been a happy youth; but his contemplation seldom crystalized [sic] into aknowledge of what he did want to know.
"And how can I" she once said to Euphemia andmyself"be expected ever to offer him any light when he can never bringhimself to actually roll up a question?"
This was said while I was rolling a cigarette.
The "group" was greatly given to writing injournalsand making estimates. Euphemia and I did little of thisas it was ourholidaybut it was often pleasant to see the work going on. The business inwhich the Paying Teller was now engaged was the writing of his journaland hiswife held a pencil in her kidded fingers and a little blank-book on her knees.
This was our first day upon the river.
"Where are we?" asked Euphemia. "I know weare on the Indian Riverbut where is the Indian River?"
"It is here" I said.
"But where is here?" reiterated Euphemia.
"There are only three places in the world" saidthe teacherlooking up from her book
"As far as I am concerned" said Euphemia"the Indian River is in the last place."
"Then we must hasten to take it out" said theteacherand she dived into the cabinsoon re-appearing with a folding map ofFlorida. "Here" she said"do you see this wide river runningalong part of the Atlantic coast of the Stateand extending down as far asJupiter Inlet? That is Indian Riverand we are on it. Its chief characteristicsare that it is not a riverbut an arm of the seaand that it is full of fish."
"It seems to me to be so full" said I"thatthere is not room for them all -- that isif we are to judge by the way themullet jump out."
"I think" said the teachermaking a spot withher pencil on the map"that just now we are about here."
"It is the first time" said Euphemia"thatI ever looked upon an unknown region on the mapand felt I was there."
Our plans for travel and living were very simple. We hadprovided ourselves on starting with provisions for several weeksand while onthe river we cooked and ate on board our little vessel. When we reached JupiterInlet we intended to go into camp. Every night we anchored near the shore.Euphemia and I occupied the cabin of the boat; a tent was pitched on shore forthe Teller and his wife; and there was another tent for the captain and his boyand this was shared by the contemplative young man.
Our second night on the river was tinged with incident. Wehad come to anchor near a small settlementand our craft had been moored to arude wharf. About the middle of the night a wind-storm aroseand Euphemia and Iwere awakened by the bumping of the boat against the wharf-posts. Through theopen end of the cabin I could see that the night was very darkand I began toconsider the question whether or not it would be necessary for me to get upmuch preferringhoweverthat the wind should go down. Before I had made up mymind we heard a step on the cabin above usand then a quick and hurriedtramping. I put my head out of the little window by meand cried: "Who'sthere?"
The voice of the boatman replied out of the darkness:
"She'll bump herself to pieces against this pier! I'mgoing to tow you out into the stream." And so he cast us looseand gettinginto the little boat which was fastened to our sternand always followed us asa colt its motherhe towed us far out into the stream. There he anchored usand rowed away. The bumps now ceasedbut the wind still blew violentlythewaves ran highand the yacht continually wobbled up and downtugging andjerking at her anchor. Neither of us was frightenedbut we could not sleep.
"I know nothing can happen" said Euphemia"for he would not have left us here if everything had not been all rightbut one might as well try to sleep in a corn-popper as in this bed."
After a while the violent motion ceasedand there wasnothing but a gentle surging up and down.
"I am so glad the wind has lulled" said Euphemiafrom the other side of the center-board partition which partially divided thecabin.
Although I could still hear the wind blowing stronglyoutsideI too was glad that its force had diminished so far that we felt nomore the violent jerking that had disturbed usand I soon fell asleep.
In the morningwhen I awokeI saw that the sun wasshining brightlyand that a large sea-grape bush was hanging over our stern. Isprang out of bedand found that we had runstern foremostupon a sandybeach. About forty feet awayupon the shorestood two 'possumsgazing withwhitetriangular faces upon our stranded craft. Except theseand some ducksswimming near uswith seven pelicans flying along on the other side of theriverthere was no sign of life within the range of my sight. I was not long inunderstanding the situation. It had not been the lulling of the stormbut theparting of our cable which had caused the uneasy jerking of our little yacht tocease. We had been blown I knew not how far down the riverfor the storm hadcome from the northand had stranded I knew not where. Taking out mypocket-compass I found that we were on the eastern shore of the riverand thatthe wind had changed completelyand was now blowingnot very strongfrom thesouth-east. I made up my mind what must be done. We were probably far from thesettlement and the rest of the partyand we must go back. The wind was in ourfavorand I knew I could sail the boat. I had never sailed a boat in my lifeand was only too glad to have the chanceuntrammeled by any interference.
I awoke Euphemia and told her what had happened. The two 'possumsstood upon the shoreand listened to our conversation. Euphemia was muchimpressed by the whole affairand for a time said nothing.
"We must sail her backI suppose" she remarkedat length"but do you know how to start her?"
"The hardest thing to do is to get her off thebeach" I answered"but I think I can do that."
I rolled up my trowsersand with bare feet jumped out uponthe sand. The two 'possums retired a littlebut still watched my proceedings.After a great deal of pushing and twisting and liftingI got the yacht afloatand then went on board to set the sail. After much pulling and tuggingandmaking myself very warmI hoisted the main-sail. I did not trouble myself aboutthe jibone sail being enough for me to begin with. As the wind was blowing inthe direction in which we wished to goI let the sail out until it stood nearlyat right angles with the vesseland was delighted to see that we immediatelybegan to move through the water. I took the tillerand steered gradually towardthe middle of the river. The wind blew steadily and the yacht moved bravely on.I was as proud as a man drawn by a conquered lionand as happy as one who didnot know that conquered lions may turn and rend. Sometimes the vessel rolled somuch that the end of the boom skimmed the surface of the waterand sometimesthe sail gave a little jerk and flapbut I saw no necessity for changing ourcourseand kept our bow pointed steadily up the river. I was delighted that thedirection of the wind enabled me to sail with what might be called a horizontaldeck. Of courseas the boatman afterward informed methis was the mostdangerous way I could steerfor if the sail should suddenly "jibe"there would be no knowing what would happen. Euphemia sat near meperfectlyplacid and cheerfuland her absolute trust in me gave me renewed confidence andpleasure. "There is one great comfort" she remarkedas she satgazing into the water-- "if anything should happen to the boat we can getout and walk."
There was some force in this remarkfor the Indian Riverin some of its widest parts is very shallowand we could now plainly see thebottoma few feet below us.
"Is that the reason you have seemed so trustful andcontent?" I asked.
"That is the reason" said Euphemia.
On we went and onthe yacht seeming sometimes a littlerestive and impatientand sometimes rolling more than I could see any necessityforbut still it proceeded. Euphemia sat in the shadow of the cabinserene andthoughtfuland Iholding the tiller steadily amidshipleaned back and gazedup into the clear blue sky.
In the midst of my gazing there came a shock that knockedthe tiller out of my hand. Euphemia sprang to her feet and screamed; there werescreams and shouts on the other side of the sailwhich seemed to be wrappingitself about some object I could not see. In an instant another mast beside ourown appeared above the main-sailand then a man with a red face jumped on theforward deck. With a quickdetermined airand without saying a wordorseeming to care for my permissionhe proceeded to lower our sail; then hestepped up on top of the cabinand looking down at me inquired what in thunderI was trying to do.
I made no answerbut looked steadily before me. Now thatthe sail was downI could see what had happened. I had collided with a yachtwhich we had seen before. It was larger than oursand contained a grandfatherand a grandmothera father and a motherseveral auntsand a great manychildren. They had started on the river the same day as ourselvesbut did notintend to take so extended a trip as ours was to be. The whole party was now inthe greatest confusion. I did not understand what they saidnor did I attend toit. I was endeavoringfor myselfto grasp the situation. Euphemia was callingto me from the cabininto which she had retreated; the man was still talking tome from the cabin roofand the people in the other boat were vociferating andscreaming; but I paid no attention to any one until I had satisfied myself thatnothing serious had happened. I had not run into them head onbut had come updiagonallyand the side of our bow had struck the side of their stern. Thecollisionas I afterward learnedhad happened in this wise: I had not seen theother boat becauselying back as I had beenthe sail concealed her from meand they had not seen us because their boatman was in the forward part of theircabincollecting materials for breakfastand the tiller was left in charge ofone of the boyswholike all the rest of his party who sat outsidehaddiscreetly turned his back to the sun.
The grandfather stood up in the stern. He wore a black silkhatand carried a heavy grape-vine cane. Unsteadily balancing himself on hislegsand shaking his cane at mehe cried:
"What is the meaning of thissir? Are you trying todrown a whole familysir?"
"If he'd run his bowsprit in among you" said theboatman from the cabin roof"he'd 'a' killed a lot of you beforeyou'd been drowned."
Euphemia screamed to me to come to her; the father wasstanding on his cabin roofshouting something to me; the women in the otherboat were violently talking among themselves; some of the little children werecrying; the girls were hanging to the ladiesand all the boys were clamberingon board our boat. It was a time of great excitement
"Have you any tea?" I saidaddressing the oldgentleman.
"Tea!" he roared. "What do you mean by that?"
"We have plenty of coffee on board" I answered"but some of our party can't drink it. If you have any teaI should liketo borrow some. I can send it to you when we reach a store."
From every person of the other party cameas in a chorusthe one word"Tea?" And Euphemia put her pale face out of the cabinand saidin a tone of wondering inquiry"Tea?"
"Did you bang into us in this way to borrow tea?"roared the old gentleman.
"I did not intendof courseto strike you sohard" I said"and I am sorry I did sobut I should like to borrowsome tea."
Euphemia whispered to me:
"We have tea."
I looked at herand she locked her lips.
"Of course we can give you some teaif you wantsome" said the red-faced boatman"but I never heered of a thing likethis since I was first bornnor ever shall againI hope."
"I don't want you to give me any tea" I said."I shall certainly return itand a very little will do -- just a handful."
The two boats had not drifted apartfor the fatherstanding on the cabin roofhad held tightly to our riggingand the boatmanstill mutteringwent on board his vessel to get the tea. He brought itwrappedin a piece of a newspaper.
"Here comes your man" he saidpointing to alittle boat which was approaching us. "We told him we'd look out for youbut we didn't think you'd come smashing into us like this."
In a few moments our boatman had pulled alongsidehis facefull of a dark inquiry. He looked at me for authoritative information.
"I came here" I said to him"aftertea."
"Before breakfastI should say!" cried the oldgentleman. And every one of his party burst out laughing.
Much was now saidchiefly by the party of the other partbut our boatman paid little attention to any of it. The boys scrambled on boardtheir own vessel. We pushed aparthoisted sailand were soon speeding away.
"Good-bye!" shouted the fathera genial man."Let us know if you want any more groceriesand we'll send them to you."
For six days from our time of starting we sailed down theIndian River. Sometimes the banks were miles apartand sometimes they were verynear each other; sometimes we would come upon a solitary houseor littlecluster of dwellings; and then there would be manymany miles of wooded shorebefore another human habitation was to be seen. Inlandto the weststretched avast expanse of lonely forest where panthersbearsand wild-cats prowled. Tothe east lay a long strip of landthrough whose tall palmettos came the roar ofthe great ocean. The blue sky sparkled over us every day; now and then we met alittle solitary craft; countless water-fowl were scattered about on the surfaceof the stream; a school of mullet was usually jumping into the air; an alligatormight sometimes be seen steadily swimming across the riverwith only his noseand back exposed; and nearly alwayseither to the right or to the leftgoingnorth or going southwere seven pelicansslowly flopping through the air.
A portion of the riverfar southwardcalled "TheNarrows" presented a very peculiar scene. The banks were scarcely fiftyfeet apartand yet there were no banks. The river was shut in to the right bythe inland shoreand to the left by a far-reaching islandand yet there was noinland shorenor any island to the left. On either side were great forests ofmangrove treesstanding tiptoe on their myriad down-dropping rootseach rootmidleg in the water. As far as we could see among the treesthere was no signof ground of any kind -- nothing but a grotesque network of rootson which theforest stood. In this green-bordered avenue of waterwhich extended nine or tenmilesthe thick foliage shut out the breezeand our boatman was obliged to goahead in his dinkyas he called the little boatand tow us along.
"There are Indians out West" said Euphemiaasshe sat gazing into the mangroves"who live on rootsbut I don't believethey could live on these. The pappooses [sic] would certainly fallthrough."
At Jupiter Inletabout a hundred and fifty miles from ourpoint of startingwe went into campin which delightful condition we proposedto remain for a week or more. There was no trouble whatever in finding asuitable place for a camp. The spot selected was a point of land swept by coolbreezeswith a palmetto forest in the rear of it. On two sides of the pointstretched the clear waters of the riverwhile half a mile to the east wasJupiter Inleton each side of which rolled and tumbled the surf of the Atlantic.About a mile away was Jupiter Light-housethe only human habitation withintwenty miles. We built a palmetto hut for a kitchen; we set up the tents in apermanent way; we constructed a little pier for the yacht; we built a wash-
Fishing was to be the great work here. Near the Inletthrough which the waters of the ocean poured into and out of our riveron alongsandy beachwe stood in linetwo or three hours every day except Sundayand fished. Such fishing we had never imagined! -- there were so many fishesand they were so big. The Paying Teller had never fished in his life before hecame to Florida. He had tried at St. Augustinewith but little success. "Ifthe sport had been to chuck fish into the river" he had said"thatwould be more in my line of business; but getting them out of it did not seem tosuit me." But here it was quite a different thing. It was a positivedelight to himhe saidto be obliged so often to pay out his line.
One daywhen tired of struggling with gamy blue-fish andpowerful cavalhos (if that is the way to spell it)I wound up my lineandlooked about to see what the others were doing. The Paying Teller stood nearontiptoeas usualwith his legs wide aparthis hat thrown backhis eyesflashing over the waterand his right arm stretched far outready for a jerk.Quee was farther along the beach. He had just landed a fishand was standinggazing meditatively upon it as it lay upon the sand. The hook was still in itsmouthand every now and then he would give the line a little pullas if to seeif there really was a connection between it and the fish. Then he would stand alittle longerand meditate a little morestill looking alternately at the lineand the fish. Having made up his mindat lastthat the two things must beseparatedhe kneeled down upon his flopping prize and proceeded meditatively toextract the hook. The teacher was struggling at her line. Hand over hand shepulled it in. As it came nearer and nearerher fish swam wildly from side tosidemaking the tightened line fairly hiss as it swept through the water. Butstill she pulled and pulleduntilred and breathlessshe landed her prizeupon the sand.
"Hurrah!" shouted the Paying Teller. "That'sthe biggest blue-fish yet!" But he did not come to take the fish from thehook. He was momentarily expecting a bite.
Euphemia was not to be seen. This did not surprise measshe frequently gave up fishing long before the othersand went to stroll uponthe sea-beacha few hundred yards away. She was fond of fishingbut it soontired her. "If you want to know what it is like" she wrote to afriend in the North"just tie a long string around your boy Charlieandtry to haul him in out of the back yard."
But Euphemia was not upon the sea-beach to-day. I walked amile or so along the sandbut did not find her. She had gone around the littlebluff to our shark-line. This was a long ropelike a clothes-linewith a shortchain at the end and a great hookwhich was baited with a large piece of fish.It was thrown out every daythe land end tied to a stout stake driven into thesandand the whole business given into the charge of "the crew" whowas to report if a shark should bite. But to-day the crew had wandered awayandEuphemia was managing the line.
"I thought I would try to catch a shark all by myself"she said. "I wonder if there's one on the hook now. Would you mind feelingthe line?"
I laughed as I took the rope from her hand.
"If you had a shark on the hookmy dear" saidI"you would have no doubt upon the subject."
"It would be a splendid thing to catch the firstone" she said"and there must be lots of them in herefor we haveseen their back fins so often."
I was about to answer this remark when I began to walk outinto the water. I did not at the time know exactly why I did thisbut it seemedas if some one had taken me by the hand and was leading me into the depths. Butthe water splashing above my ankles and a scream from Euphemia made me drop thelinewhich immediately spun out to its full lengthmaking the stake creak andmove in the sand.
"Goodness gracious!" cried Euphemiaher facepale as the beach. "Isn't it horrible? We've got one!"
"Horrible!" I cried. "Whydidn't you wantto get one?" and seizing the axwhich lay near byI drove the stake downdeep into the sand. "Now it will hold him!" I cried. "He can'tpull that out!"
"But how are we to pull him in?" exclaimedEuphemia. "This line is as tight as a guitar-string."
This was true. I took hold of the ropebut could make noimpression on it. Suddenly it slackened in my hand.
"Hurrah!" I cried. "We may have him yet! Butwe must play him."
"Play him!" exclaimed Euphemia. "You cannever play a huge creature like that. Let me go and call some of the others tohelp."
"Nono!" I said. "Perhaps we can do it allby ourselves. Wind the line quickly around the top of the stake as I pull itin."
Euphemia knelt down and rapidly wound several yards of theslack cord around the
"Therenow!" said Euphemia. "He is offagain! You can never haul him innow."
"Just wait" I said. "When he finds that hecannot break away he rushes toward shoretrying to bite the line above thechain. Then I must haul it in and you must wind it up. If you and I and theshark continue to act in this wayperhapsafter a timewe may get him intoshallow water. But don't scream or shout. I don't want the others to knowanything about it."
Sure enoughin a minute or two the line slackened againwhen it was rapidly drawn in and wound around the stake.
"There he is!" exclaimed Euphemia. "I cansee him just under the waterout there."
The dark form of the sharkappearing at first like theshadow of a little cloudcould be seen near the surfaceabout twenty-fiveyards away. Then his back fin rosehis tail splashed violently for an instantand he disappeared. Again the line was loosenedand again the slack was hauledin and wound up. This was repeatedI don't know how many timeswhen suddenlythe shark in his desperation rushed into shallow water and grounded himself. Hewould have floundered off in a few momentshoweverhad we not quicklytightened the line. Now we could see him plainly. He was eight or nine feet longand struggled violentlyexciting Euphemia so much that it was only by clappingher hand over her mouth that she prevented herself from screaming. I would havepulled the shark farther in shorebut this was impossibleand it was needlessto expect him to move himself into shallower water. Soquickly rolling up mytrowsersI seized the ax and waded in toward the floundering creature.
"You needn't be afraid to go right up to him"said Euphemia. "So long as he don't turn over on his back he can't bite you."
I had heard this bit of natural history beforebutneverthelessI went no nearer to the shark than was necessary in order to whackhim over the head with the ax. This I did several timeswith such effect thathe soon became a dead shark.
When I came out triumphantEuphemia seized me in her armsand kissed me.
"This is perfectly splendid!" she said. "Whocan show as big a fish as this one? None of the others can ever crow over youagain."
"Until one of them catches a bigger shark" Isaid.
"Which none of them ever will" said Euphemiadecidedly. "It isn't in them."
The boatman was now seen approaching in his dinky to takethe party back to campand the crewhaving returned to his dutywas sent offin a state of absolute amazement to tell the others to come and look at ourprize. Our achievement certainly created a sensation. Even the boatman couldfind no words to express his astonishment. He waded in and fastened a rope tothe shark's tailand then we all took hold and hauled the great fish ashore.
"What is the good of it now you have got it?"asked Quee.
"Glory is some good!" exclaimed Euphemia.
"And I'm going to have you a belt made from a strip ofits skin" I said.
This seemed to Euphemia a capital idea. She would bedelighted to have such a trophy of our deedand the boatman was set to work tocut a suitable strip from the fish. And this belthaving been properly tannedlinedand fitted with bucklesis now one of her favorite adornmentsand costI am bound to addabout three times as much as any handsome leathern belt to bebought in the stores.
Every day the Paying Tellerhis wifeand Quee carefullyset down in their note-books the weight of fish each individual had caughtwithall necessary details and specifications relating thereunto; every day wewandered on the beachor explored the tropical recesses of the palmetto woods;every evening the boatman rowed over to the light-house to have a bit of gossipand to take thither the fish we did not need; every day the sun was soft andwarmand the sky was blue; and every morninggoing oceanwardand everyeveninggoing landwardseven pelicans flew slowly by our camp.
My greatest desire at this time was to shoot a pelicantohave him properly preparedand to take him to Rudder Grangewheresuitablyset upwith his wings spread outfull seven feet from tip to tiphe would bea grand trophy and reminder of these Indian River days. This was the reason whynearly every morning and every eveningI took a shot at these seven pelicans.But I never hit one of them. We had only a shot-gunand the pelicans flew at aprecautionary distance; butbeing such big birdsthey always looked to me muchnearer than they were. Euphemia earnestly desired that I should have a pelicanand although she always wished I should hit one of theseshe was always gladwhen I did not.
"Think how mournful it would be" she said"if they should take their accustomed flights morning and evening with oneof their number missing."
"Repeating Wordsworth's versesI suppose"remarked the little teacher.
I had been disappointed in the number of
One daythe boatman told us that a man at the light-housewas an amateur photographerand thatif we likedhe would come down and takea picture of us in camp. This idea was received with great favor. I have noticedthat everybody who goes into campor engages in outdoor sports of any kindlikes to be photographed in some phase of his untrammeled life. Thus it is thatno living creature prowls more frequently through our woods and wilds than thephotographer.
Euphemia had very strong ideas on this subject. "Iwould associate the photographer" she said"more closely with oursocial and domestic being. Instead of going to him to have our heads takenasif we were a lot of Bluebeard's wiveshe should come to us and photograph us inour homes. How many an absent husband would be overjoyed to see his wife sittingat her sewingwith all the familiar objects cluttered about her in the way heknew so well! How many a loved onefarfar from homewould be gratified toreceive a picture of the family at supperwhere he could recognize even thecracks in the familiar cups and plates! And how charmed an absent wife would beto get a photograph of her husband at work in his officeorif belonging to alower classdigging with his spadeor carrying his hod! Such a picture wouldbe infinitely more comforting than his unfamiliar appearance with merely headand shoulders."
This eloquent pleading was scarcely necessary. We allwanted the photographer anywayand we sent for him. When he camea great dealof time was taken up in the composition and grouping of the intended picture. Wetried to manage matters so that everything would show -- the palmetto hutwithas many kitchen utensils as possible disposed near the doorthe boat moored bythe shorethe tentthe wash-standthe tablethe benchsome choice fish hungup in prominent positionsandlastlyourselvesgrouped with natural ease.The photographer interfered a good deal with our arrangement of ourselvesas hedesired each face should show as plainly as possibleand that no one of usshould be more prominent than the others. The consequence of this was thatafter many changeswe gradually became arranged in a straight line. The boatmanand his boy were allowed to place themselves as they choseand theythereforetook admirable positions on one side.
When the pictures were finishedwe looked at them ratherblankly. Everything was thereto be surebut the palmetto hut looked very muchlike the tree it was under; and only a few of the pots and panson which we hadrelied to give a gypsy or backwoods look to our encampmentpeered through thegloom of that corner of the picture; the hull of our yacht was almost entirelyout of sight behind the bank on which we stood; the top of the palmetto treeunder which our tents were pitchedhad been greatly influenced by the wind atthe critical momentand appeared to be spread along the sky in irregularpatches; whileas for ourselvesit was impossible to recognize any one of us.Iby Euphemia's commandhad stood up as straight as I could; the Paying Tellerwho had a habit of sinking into his socketsshut himself up as much as possible;while Quee had stood on a little elevation between us. Thuswe all appeared ofabout the same heightandindeedlike little triplicates of the same man.
"Our friends can tell which is you" saidEuphemia"by your standing next to me."
But as it was impossible to distinguish Euphemia from theteacherthis method of identification did not appear to me to possess muchvalue.
One figurehowevertook admirably. A large fish whichhung on a pole was placed so far in the foreground that it looked a littlelarger than any of us. As the portrait of a big fishwith the camp and figuresin the distanceour photograph was a success.
It was a great thinghoweverto have pictures ofourselves showing exactly how we looked when in campand as soon as we reacheda post-officewe mailed copies to our distant friends. If the big fish had hadany friends they would have beenperhapsthe most appropriate individuals toreceive the pictures.
A few days after thiswe broke up our campand startednorthward. We had all been very happy and contented during our ten days' sojournin this delightful place; but when at last our departure was determined uponthe Paying Teller became possessed with a wild desire to gogogo. There wassome reasonnever explained nor fully expressedwhy no dayhourminuteorsecond should be lost in speeding to the far North-west. The boatmantooimpelled by what impulse I know notseemed equally anxious to get home. As forthe Paying Teller's
Only one cause for delay seemed tolerable to the PayingTeller. This was to stop at every post-office. We had received but one mailwhile in campwhich had been brought in a sail-boat from an office twenty milesaway. But the Paying Teller had given and written the most intricate and complexdirections for the retention or forwarding of his mail to every postmaster inthe country we had passed throughand these directionsas we afterward foundhad so puzzled and unsettled the minds of these postmasters that for severalweeks his letters had been moving like shuttle-cocks up and down the St. John'sand Indian rivers -- never stopping anywherenever being deliveredbutcrossing and recrossing each other as if they were imbued with their owner'sdesire to gogogo. Some of the post-offices where we stopped were lonelylittle buildings with no other habitation near. These we usually found shut upbeing opened only on mail-daysand in such cases nothing could be done but toslip a protesting postal into the little slit in the wall apparently intendedfor letters. Whether these postals were eaten by rats or read by the P. M.'swenever discovered. Wherever an office was found openwe left behind us an iratepostmaster breathing all sorts of contemplated vengeance upon the disturbers ofhis peace. We heard of letters that had been sent north and sent southbutthere never was any at the particular place where we happened to beand Isuppose that the accumulated mail of the Paying Teller may for several yearsdrop gradually upon him through the meshes of the Dead-Letter Office.
There were a great many points of interest which we hadpassed on our downward tripthe boatman assuring us thatwith the wind we hadand which might cease at any momentthe great object was to reach Jupiter assoon as possibleand that we would stop at the interesting places on the wayup. But now the windaccording to his reasoningmade it necessary that weshould again push forward as fast as we could; andas I said beforetheirresistible attraction of the North-west so worked upon the Paying Teller thathe was willing to pause nowhereduring the day-timebut at a post-office. Atone placehoweverI was determined to land. This was Pelican Island. Theboatmanpaying no attention to his promise to stop here and give me anopportunity to shoot one of these birdsdeclaredwhen near the placethat itwould never dowith such a windto drop anchor for a trifle like a pelican.The Paying Teller and Quee also strongly objected to a stop; andwhile theteacher had a great desire to investigate the subject of ornithologyespeciallywhen exemplified by such a subject as a pelicanshe felt herself obliged to beloyal to her "group" and so quietly gave her voice to go on. But Isupported by Euphemiaremained so firm that we anchored a short distance fromPelican Island.
None of the others had any desire to go ashoreand so Iwith the gun and Euphemiatook the dinky and rowed to the island. While we werehere the others determined to sail to the opposite side of the river to look fora little post-officethe existence of which the boatman had not mentioned untilit had been determined to make this stoppage here.
As we approached the island we saw hundreds of pelicanssome flying aboutsome sitting on trunks and branches of dead treesand somewaddling about on the shore.
"You might as well shoot two of them" saidEuphemia"and then we will select the better to take to Rudder Grange."
The island was very boggy and muddyandbefore I hadfound a good place to landand had taken up the gun from the bow of the boatevery pelican in sight took wing and flew away. I stood up and fired bothbarrels at the retreating flock. They swerved and flew oceanwardbut not one ofthem fell. I helped Euphemia on shoreand thengun in handI made my way aswell as I could to the other end of the island. There might be some deaf oldfellows left who had not made up their minds to fly. The ground was very muddyand drift-wood and underbrush obstructed my way. StillI pressed onand wentnearly half around the islandfindinghowevernot a single pelican.
Soon I heard Euphemia's voicecalling loud. She seemed tobe about the center of the islandand I ran toward her.
"I've got one!" I heard her crybefore I came insight of her. She was sitting at the root of a crookeddead tree. In front ofher she heldone hand grasping each legwhat seemed to me to be an ungainlyand wingless goose. All about her the ground was soft and boggy. Her clotheswere muddyher face was redand the creature she held was struggling violently.
"What on earth have you got?" I exclaimedapproaching as near as I could"and how did you get out there?"
"Don't you come any closer!" she cried. "You'llsink up to your waist! I got here by
"But what is that thing?" I repeated.
"It's a young pelican" she replied. "Ifound a lot of nests on the ground over thereand this was in one of them. Ichased it all aboutuntil it flopped out here and hid itself on the other sideof this tree. Then I came out quietly and caught it. But how am I going to getit to you?"
This seemedindeeda problem. Euphemia declared that sheneeded both hands to work her way back by the means of the longhorizontal limbwhich had assisted her passage to the place where she satand she also neededboth hands to hold her prize. It was likewise plain that I could not get to her.IndeedI could not see how her light steps had taken her over the soft andmarshy ground that lay between us. I suggested that she should throw the pelicanto me. This she declined to do.
"I could never throw it so far" she said"and it would surely get away. I don't want to lose this pelicanfor Ibelieve it is the last one on the island. If there are other young ones theyhave scuttled off by this timeand I should dreadfully hate to go back to theyacht without any pelican at all."
"I don't call that much of one" I said.
"It's a real pelican for all that" she replied"and about as curious a bird as I ever saw. Its wings wont [sic] stretchout seven feetto be sure."
"About seven inches" I suggested.
"But it is a great deal easier to carry a young onelike this" she persisted"and I expect a baby pelican is a much moreuncommon sight in the North than a grown one."
"No doubt of it" I said. "We must keep himnow you've got him. Can't you kill him?"
"I've no way of killing him" returned Euphemia."I wonder if you could shoot him if I were to hold him out."
Thiswith a shot-gunI positively declined to do. Even ifI had had a rifleI suggested that she might swerve. For a few moments weremained nonplussed. I could not get to Euphemia at alland she could not getto me unless she released her birdand this she was determined not to do.
"Euphemia" I saidpresently"the groundseems hard a little way in front of you. If you step over there I will go out onthis stripwhich seems pretty solid. Then I'll be near enough to you for you toswing the bird to meand I'll catch hold of him."
Euphemia arose and did as I told herand we soon foundourselves about six feet apart. She took the bird by one leg and swung it towardme. With outstretched arm I caught it by the other footbut as I did so Inoticed that Euphemia was growing shorterand also felt myself sinking in thebog. InstantlyI entreated Euphemia to stand perfectly stillforif westruggled or movedthere was no knowing into what more dreadful depths we mightget.Euphemia obeyed meand stood quite stillbut I could feel that sheclutched the pelican with desperate vigor.
"How much farther down do you think we shall sink?"she askedher voice trembling a little.
"Not much farther" I said. "I am sure thereis firm ground beneath usbut it will not do to move. If we should fall down wemight not be able to get up again."
"How glad I am" she said"that we are notentirely separatedeven if it is only a baby pelican that joins us."
"Indeed I am glad!" I saidgiving the warmpressure to the pelican's leg that I would have given to Euphemia's handif Icould have reached her. Euphemia looked up at me so confidently that I could butbelieve that in some magnetic way that pressure had been transmitted through thebird.
"Do you think they will come back?" she saiddirectly.
"Ohyes" I replied"there's no manner ofdoubt of that."
"They'll be dreadfully cross" she said.
"I shouldn't wonder" I replied. "But itmakes very little difference to me whether they are or not."
"It ought to make a difference to you" saidEuphemia. "They might injure us very much."
"If they tried anything of the kind" I replied"they'd find it worse for them than for us."
"That is boasting" said Euphemiaa littlereproachfully"and it does not sound like you."
I made no answer to thisand then she asked:
"What do you think they will do when they come?"
"I think they will put a plank out here and pull usout."
Euphemia looked at me an instantand then her eyes filledwith tears.
"Ohdear!" she exclaimed"it's dreadful!You know they couldn't do it. Your mind is giving way!"
She sobbedand I could feel the tremor run through thepelican.
"What do you mean?" I criedanxiously. "Mymind giving way?"
"Yes -- yes" she sobbed. "If you were in
I looked at her in astonishment.
"Pelicans!" I exclaimed. "Did you think Imeant the pelicans were coming back?"
"Of course" she said. "That's what I wasasking you about."
"I wasn't thinking of pelicans at all" Ianswered. "I was talking of the people in the yacht."
Euphemia looked at meand then the little pelican betweenus began to shake violently as we burst out laughing.
"I know people sometimes do lose their minds when theyget into great danger" she saidapologetically.
"Hello!" came a voice from the water. "Whatare you laughing about?"
"Come and see" I shouted back"and perhapsyou will laughtoo."
The three men came; they had to wade ashore; and when theycame they laughed. They brought a plankand with a good deal of trouble theydrew us outbut Euphemia would not let go of her leg of the little pelicanuntil she was sure I had a tight hold of mine.
Day after day we now sailed northwarduntil we reached thelittle town at which we had embarked. Here we discarded our blue flannels andthree half-grown beardsand slowly made our way through woods and lakes andtortuous streams to the upper waters of the St. John's. In this region thepopulation of the river shores seemed to consist entirely of alligatorsinwhich monsters Euphemia was greatly interested. But she seldom got a near viewof onefor the sportsmen on our little steamer blazed away at every alligatoras soon as it came into distant sight; andalthough the ugly creatures wereseldom hitthey made haste to tumble into the water or disappear among the tallreeds. Euphemia was very much annoyed at this.
"I shall never get a good close look at an alligatorat all" she said. "I am going to speak to the captain."
The captaina biggood-natured manlistened to herandentirely sympathized with her.
"Tom" said he to the pilot"when you seeanother big 'gator on shoredon't sing out to nobodybut call meand slowup."
It was not long before chocolate-colored Tom called to thecaptainand rang the bell to lessen speed.
"Gentlemen" said the captainwalking forward tothe group of sportsmen"there's a big 'gator ahead therebut don't noneof you fire at him. He's copyrighted."
The men with the guns did not understand himbut none ofthem firedand Euphemia and the other ladies soon had the satisfaction ofseeing an enormous alligator lying on the bankwithin a dozen yards of theboat. The great creature raised its headand looked at us in apparent amazementat not being shot at. Thenprobably considering that we did not know thecustoms of the riveror were out of ammunitionhe slowly slipped away amongthe reeds with an air as iflike Mr. Turveydrophe had done his duty inshowing himselfand if we did not take advantage of itit was no affair of his.
"If we only had a fellow like that for a trophy!"ejaculated Euphemia.
"He'd do very well for a trophy" I answered"but ifin order to get himI had to hold him by one leg while you heldhim by anotherI would prefer a baby pelican."
Our trip down the St. John's met with no obstacles exceptthose occasioned by the Paying Teller's return tickets. He had provided himselfand his group with all sorts of return tickets from the various points he hadexpected to visit in Florida. These were good only on particular steam-boatsand could be used only to go from one particular point to another. Fortunatelyhe had lost several of thembut there were enough left to give us a good dealof trouble. We did not wish to break up the partyand consequently we embarkedand disembarked whenever the Paying Teller's group did so; and thusin timeweall reached that wide-spread and sandy city which serves for the gate toFlorida.
From herethe Paying Teller and his groupwithcomplicated ticketsthe determinate scope and purpose of which no one manliving could be expected to understandhurried wildly toward the far North-west;while wein slower fashionreturned to Rudder Grange.
Therein a place of honor over the dining-room doorstands the baby pelicanits little flippers wide outstretched.
"How often I think" Euphemia sometimes says"of that moment of perilwhen the only actual bond of union between us wasthat little pelican!"