Dick in the Everglades
by A. W. Dimock
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Dick In the Everglades



Author of "Florida Enchantments"






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

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

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

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


































































"Come in!"

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

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

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

"How often has this happened before?"

"Twice, sir."

"Was any one else with you?"

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

"Who was he?"

"I can't tell you, sir."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Dick Williams came in the doctor began:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boy hesitated a moment and then said:

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

"Hum!" said the doctor.

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

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

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

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

"Was it tender?" asked the farmer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, I was that dog!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the boys walked together to the study.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

/# Big Cypress Swamp, 20 miles from anywhere,

October 10th.


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

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

Always and forever your chum,

NED. #/

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

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

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

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

"But mother wants you to, so much."

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

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

"But, Dick—"

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



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

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

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

"All right, go ahead."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The captain laughed and said to Dick:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Give me a shovel and a chance."

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

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

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

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

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

"But the captain told me I could come."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tears were in Dick's voice as he said:

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

"Thank you again, Miss Brown-Eyes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A little. I can row better."

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A week later the captain said to the boy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Thought yesterday was your sailing day."

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

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

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

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

"Sure! What's his name?"

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

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



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

"Who taught you sailoring?"

"Captain Wilson taught me some, and—"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What you fellers doin'?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Where do I come in?" said Johnny.

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

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

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

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

About nine o'clock Dick said to the captain:

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

"Have your breakfast any time you want it."

"Want it now."

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny laughed and said:

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

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

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

"What is it?" asked Dick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

After supper Mr. Streeter said to Dick:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How do you know that?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

"Isn't Mr. Streeter a brick?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Want to save his skin?"

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

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

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

"Suppose you happened to touch those fangs?"

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

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

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

"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.

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