THE GREAT WESTERN SERIES.
I. GOING WEST; or, The Perils of a Poor Boy.
II. OUT WEST; or, Roughing it on the Great Lakes.
III. LAKE BREEZES; or, The Cruise of the Sylvania.
IV. GOING SOUTH; or, Yachting on the Atlantic Coast.
V. DOWN SOUTH; or, Yacht Adventures in Florida.
VI. UP THE RIVER; or, Yachting on the Mississippi.
THE GREAT WESTERN SERIES
DOWN SOUTH OR YACHT ADVENTURES IN FLORIDA
AUTHOR OF YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD, THE ARMY AND NAVY SERIES, THE WOODVILLE SERIES, THE STARRY FLAG SERIES, THE BOAT CLUB STORIES, THE LAKE SHORE SERIES, THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES, THE YACHT CLUB SERIES, THE RIVERDALE STORIES, ETC.
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS
BOSTON LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS NEW YORK CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM 1881
COPYRIGHT, 1880, By WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
Electrotyped at the Boston Stereotype Foundry No. 4 Pearl Street.
TO MY YOUNG FRIEND, WILFORD L. WRIGHT, OF CAIRO, ILL.,
EX-PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL AMATEUR PRESS ASSOCIATION, WHO HAD THE COURAGE AND THE SELF-DENIAL TO RESIGN HIS OFFICE IN ORDER TO PROMOTE HIS OWN AND OTHERS' WELFARE,
This Book IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
"Down South" is the fifth and last volume but one of the "Great Western Series." The action of the story is confined entirely to Florida; and this fact may seem to belie the title of the Series. But the young yachtman still maintains his hold upon the scenes of his earlier life in Michigan, and his letters come regularly from that State. If he were old enough to vote, he could do so only in Michigan; and therefore he has not lost his right to claim a residence there during his temporary sojourn in the South. Besides, half his ship's company are Western boys, who carry with them from "The Great Western" family of States whatever influence they possess in their wanderings through other sections of the grand American Union.
The same characters who have figured in other volumes of the Series are again presented, though others are introduced. The hero is as straightforward, resolute, and self-reliant as ever. His yacht adventures consist of various excursions on the St. Johns River, from its mouth to a point above the head of ordinary navigation, with a run across to Indian River, on the sea-coast, a trip up the Ocklawaha, to the Lake Country of Florida, and shorter runs up the smaller streams. The yachtmen and his passengers try their hand at shooting alligators as well as more valuable game in the "sportsman's paradise" of the South, and find excellent fishing in both fresh and salt water.
Apart from the adventures incident to the cruise of the yacht in so interesting a region as Florida, the volume, like its predecessors in the Series, has its own story, relating to the life-history of the hero. But his career mingles with the events peculiar to the region in which he journeys, and many of his associates are men of the "sunny South." In any clime, he is the same young man of high aims and noble purposes. The remaining volume will follow him in his cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, and up the Mississippi.
DORCHESTER, MASS., August 25, 1880.
CHAPTER I. MAKING A FLORIDA PORT 13
CHAPTER II. OUR LIBERAL PASSENGERS 23
CHAPTER III. A NATIVE FLORIDIAN 33
CHAPTER IV. A TRIP UP THE SAN SEBASTIAN 43
CHAPTER V. SAVED FROM THE BURNING HOUSE 53
CHAPTER VI. MOONLIGHT AND MUSIC ON BOARD 63
CHAPTER VII. THE ENEMY IN A NEW BUSINESS 73
CHAPTER VIII. A DISAGREEABLE ROOM-MATE 83
CHAPTER IX. A BATTLE WITH THE SERPENT 93
CHAPTER X. THE FELLOW IN THE LOCK-UP 103
CHAPTER XI. THE HON. PARDON TIFFANY'S WARNING 113
CHAPTER XII. SUGGESTIONS OF ANOTHER CONSPIRACY 123
CHAPTER XIII. MR. COBBINGTON AND HIS PET RATTLESNAKE 133
CHAPTER XIV. THE EXCURSION TO FORT GEORGE ISLAND 143
CHAPTER XV. A WAR OF WORDS 153
CHAPTER XVI. GRIFFIN LEEDS AT A DISCOUNT 163
CHAPTER XVII. POOR GRIFF AND HIS COUNSEL 173
CHAPTER XVIII. THE EXCURSION TO MANDARIN 183
CHAPTER XIX. THE ADVENTURES OF AN INVALID 193
CHAPTER XX. DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DEPARTURE 203
CHAPTER XXI. A VISIT TO ORANGE PARK 213
CHAPTER XXII. FISHING IN DOCTOR'S LAKE 223
CHAPTER XXIII. TROLLING FOR BLACK BASS 233
CHAPTER XXIV. GREEN COVE SPRINGS AND GOVERNOR'S CREEK 243
CHAPTER XXV. ALLIGATOR-SHOOTING ON BLACK CREEK 253
CHAPTER XXVI. ON BOARD OF THE WETUMPKA 263
CHAPTER XXVII. UP THE OCKLAWAHA TO LAKE GRIFFIN 273
CHAPTER XXVIII. AN EXPEDITION TO INDIAN RIVER 283
CHAPTER XXIX. A MYSTERIOUS SHOT 293
CHAPTER XXX. SHOOTING IN THE FOREST AND BEING SHOT 303
DOWN SOUTH; OR, YACHT ADVENTURES IN FLORIDA.
MAKING A FLORIDA PORT.
"That's it, as true as you live, Captain Alick!" exclaimed Bob Washburn, the mate of the Sylvania, as he dropped the spy-glass from his right eye. "Your dead-reckoning was correct every time."
"I have no doubt you are right, Washburn," I replied, referring to an open volume that lay on the shelf under the forward windows of the pilot-house. "'A square tower, painted white, sixty-eight feet above the sea,'" I continued, reading from the Coast Pilot. "But there is another tower, more than twice that height. Ah, here is a note in pencil I made: 'The government has built a new tower, one hundred and sixty feet high.'"
"That must be St. Augustine Light: there can be no possible doubt of it. It fits the description; and that is exactly where we ought to find it," added the mate.
The Sylvania had been on a ten weeks' cruise to Nassau, Havana, and the Bermuda Islands. In Havana we had been startled by the report of a few cases of yellow fever, and we had hastily departed for the Bermudas, where we had cruised by sea and journeyed by land for a month. The steam-yacht was now on her return to Florida. The weather had been thick and rainy, and for the last two days I had failed to obtain an observation. But we had heaved the log every two hours, though there was rarely a variation of half a knot from our regular speed. We had made careful calculations and allowances for the current of the Gulf Stream, and the result was that we came out right when we made the Florida coast.
We had two sets of instruments on board; and Washburn and myself had each made an independent observation, when the sky was clear enough to permit us to do so, and had ciphered out the latitude and longitude. We had also figured up the dead-reckoning separately, as much for practice as to avoid mistakes. We had varied a little on the dead-reckoning, and it proved that I was the nearer right, as the position of St. Augustine Light proved.
The steam-yacht was under charter for a year to my cousin, Owen Garningham, a young Englishman, who was spending the winter in the South. The after cabin was occupied by four other persons, who were his guests,—Colonel Shepard, his wife, son, and daughter. Miss Edith, the daughter, was Owen's "bright particular star," and she was one of the most beautiful young ladies I ever saw. I may add that she was as gentle and amiable as she was pretty. All the Shepard family were very pleasant people, invariably kind to the ship's company; and though the Colonel was a very wealthy man, none of them ever "put on airs" in their relations with the crew.
Though I did not pride myself on the fact that some of my ship's company had "blue blood" in their veins, I certainly believed that no vessel was ever manned by a more intelligent, gentlemanly, and skilful crew. Robert C. Washburn, the mate, was a college student, who would return to his studies at the end of the voyage. He was one of the best fellows I had ever met, and was competent to command any vessel, on any voyage, so far at least as its navigation and management were concerned. We were devoted friends; but he received his wages and did his duty as though he and I had had no other relations than those of captain and mate.
Moses Brickland, the chief engineer, was the son of my guardian; and though he was still in his teens, he was competent to build an engine, or to run it after it was built. Bentley F. Bowman, the assistant engineer, was a full-grown man, and had a certificate, besides being one of the best seamen I ever sailed with. Our steward, who was our only waiter until we sailed from Jacksonville in December, had been chief steward of a large Western steamer, and fully understood all branches of his business. He was on the present voyage for the benefit of his health. Buck Lingley and Hop Tossford, the deck-hands, were young Englishmen, belonging to the "first families," and were friends of my cousin Owen; but two more daring, resolute, and skilful young seamen never trod a deck. The two firemen were young machinists I had shipped at Montreal when they were out of work. They were brothers, and the sons of a Vermont farmer. Washington Gopher, an excellent cook, was a gray-haired colored man, who had rendered the best of service on board.
The Sylvania had come all the way from Lake St. Clair, and it was expected that she would return there. The steam-yacht was my property, so far as a minor could hold property. She had been presented to me by the head of a wealthy Western family for a valuable service I had rendered. I had cruised in the Great Lakes in her, and had had some exciting adventures on board.
I had spent my earliest days in the poor-house of a Maine town, from which a down-east skipper had taken me for the work I could do. But I was afterwards found near Lake St. Clair by my father, after a long and diligent search. But he had been obliged to leave me in charge of Mr. Brickland, my ever faithful friend and guardian, while he went to England to attend to some family affairs. He left property enough to make me independent for life, but it had all been lost by a fire, and I had nothing but the Sylvania.
The steam-yacht afforded me an abundant support while she was under charter to my cousin. Owen was the next heir to me of my father's title of baronet and his large estate. One Pike Carrington, my father's solicitor, had persuaded my cousin to enter into some vague conspiracy to "get rid of me in some manner." But, with the aid of Washburn, I had discovered the plot; and having the good fortune to save Owen's life in a storm, before he was fairly committed to the conspiracy, he had become my fast friend.
My cousin's mother was very rich, and it appeared that she gave him money without stint or limit. Carrington had bought the sister yacht of the Sylvania, the Islander, which was to take part in the conspiracy against me, and in which the solicitor had followed the Sylvania to Florida. He had employed Captain Parker Boomsby, the down-east skipper, then settled in Michigan, to command her, and to assist in carrying out his plan. One feature of the scheme was to make me believe that my father was dead; and for months I did believe it. Captain Boomsby claimed that I had been "bound out" to him till I was twenty-one; and he insisted upon the possession of my person and my property as much as though I had been his slave. My father had made an arrangement with him by which he had abandoned all his interest in me, but at the reported death of my father, Carrington had induced him to assert his claim again.
Captain Boomsby had followed me to Florida in the Islander, with the solicitor as his passenger. The former had evidently undertaken "to get rid of me;" but, instead of doing this, he had sacrificed the solicitor. Both he and the lawyer had become hard drinkers, and in the Captain's attempt to wreck me, he had sunk the Islander and drowned his employer. I judged that this would be the end of the conspiracy; and so it was, so far as my cousin Owen and the solicitor were concerned, but not on the part of Captain Boomsby.
I had left my "ancient enemy," as I had a right to regard Captain Boomsby, at Jacksonville when we sailed for the West Indies. I knew that his experiment of making money in Michigan had been a failure, and that he was looking for a more hopeful field of operations in some other section of the country. One of his men told me that he intended to run the Sylvania on the St. Johns River as a passenger boat, and that he felt sure of obtaining possession of her, because, he asserted, he was the rightful owner of her. The paper he had signed was destroyed with the rest of my valuables.
As the steam-yacht approached the coast of Florida I did not even think of my ancient enemy. I had left him in Jacksonville, where he was drinking all he could carry, every day. He was terribly bitter and revengeful towards me; for though my father had paid him a considerable sum of money to appease him, rather than to satisfy any just claim he had upon me, he could never be content until he obtained all that could be had, either by fair means or by foul. There was no more principle in him than there was in a paving-stone.
"That is St. Augustine Light," I continued. "There can be no mistake about it, for there is not another light within thirty-five miles of it; and we could not have gone so wide of the mark as that."
"You are right, Captain Alick, as you always are," laughed the mate.
"None of that, Bob! You know as well as the next fellow that I am not always right; I wish I were. How was it about going into St. George?" I replied.
"The exception always proves the rule. I was right by accident that time. But you never go ahead till you are sure where you are going."
"I shall not this time," I added, turning to the Coast Pilot again. "'Vessels coming from the northward will run down till the light-house bears west by north, keeping in three fathoms of water,'" I continued, reading from the book.
We kept the Sylvania moving at about half-speed until the tower bore in the required direction; then the mate directed Buck Lingley, who was on watch forward, to heave the lead.
"Mark under water three," reported the deck-hand.
"That's all right," I added. "Now how is the tide?"
We could cross the bar only when the water was above half-tide; and this was an important question. We found from our nautical almanac that it would be half-tide at nine o'clock in the forenoon; and it was not yet seven in the morning by the corrected time. We were as near the coast as I cared to go. We could just make out the square tower of the light-house in the fog, and I was not willing to trust myself in unknown waters near the shore without a pilot. I directed Washburn to stop the engine, and keep a sharp lookout for the drift of the steamer.
Leaving the pilot-house, I went forward, and presently discovered a pilot-boat coming out of the inlet. One of her crew was waving a flag to the port side from her bow. This meant that we were to bear to starboard. I told the mate to go ahead, bearing to the northward. In a few minutes more we had a pilot on board, whose first question was as to our draft of water. I gave it as nine feet, though it was considerably less when we had nearly emptied our coal-bunkers. The pilot decided that we must wait a couple of hours.
The sun rose at 6.26 on the first day of March, which was just ten minutes earlier than at Detroit. It soon burned off the fog inshore, so that we could see the ancient city of St. Augustine. Our passengers, who had become so accustomed to sea-life that they did not turn out before eight in the morning, soon began to appear. With the pilot at the wheel we went over the bar before nine, and a run of two miles more brought us to our anchorage off the sea-wall.
OUR LIBERAL PASSENGERS.
"Where are we now, Alick, my boy?" asked my cousin Owen Garningham, as he came on deck after we had anchored off the pier.
"We are at St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, founded by the Spaniards in 1565——"
"Cut it short, if you please, my affectionate cousin," interposed Owen, with an affected yawn. "I haven't been to breakfast yet; and surely you don't expect me to learn history so early in the morning. I simply asked you where we were, and you go back over three hundred years to answer the question."
"I thought you might want to know something about the place," I replied.
"Exactly so. Where are we?"
"We are here."
Owen bit his lip, smiled, and then looked about him at the various objects in sight.
"If you will tell me exactly what you want to know, I will answer your questions; at least, I will tell you all I know," I added.
"Don't do that: it would take too long," he replied, yawning again.
"I wouldn't listen to all a fool knew before breakfast; and it would take you two years to tell all you know, sweet cousin."
"Not so long as that. We made the land about six this morning, in a fog——"
"You made the land! Well, you didn't have a very bad job of it, for it is nothing but house sand. Of course I know we are somewhere on the coast of Florida, for when we left the Bermudas we were bound to St. Augustine. We have got there, you say; and I thank you for telling me. After breakfast, when I have a cigar, I will, with your leave, read the history of the place."
"You have my permission; and I will furnish the book from which you may read it."
"Thanks. Now, could you, Alick, without straining yourself too much, tell me something about what we may see by looking about us in just this place—never mind the other parts of the State," continued Owen, looking around him.
"I will tell you all I know about it," I replied.
"I wish everybody would tell only that."
"The opening you see on the other side of the bay, and through which we came in from sea, is between Anastasia Island on the south, and the main land on the north. The water to the north and south of us, inside the land, is Matanzas River. The works you see to the north is Fort Marion. The sea-wall extends from that to the point, south of us, a mile: it is built of coquina, a kind of rock quarried on Anastasia Island, formed of sand and shells——"
"Spare me, cousin!"
"From the point to the south of us, you see an opening in the land: that is the mouth of the San Sebastian River. The city of St. Augustine is built on the tongue of land between the two rivers. The buildings near the point are the United States Barracks. The structure extending out into the river from the sea-wall is a wharf or pier, built for the convenience of vessels landing freight or passengers."
"But what does a vessel do that has both freight and passengers?" asked Owen, gravely. "I dare say she has to go to Jacksonville, where they have more than one wharf."
"I stand corrected: a vessel landing passengers and freight," I added. "But I can't say, of my own knowledge, that the same vessel lands both here, for I never saw the place before in my life."
"It is well to be sure," said Owen, as the breakfast-bell rang.
Before we left Jacksonville in December, I had taken an additional person on board, who did duty in the cabin as a waiter. Though Peeks, the steward, never complained, I saw that he had too much to do. The distance from the cook's galley to the companion-way of the after cabin made it hard work to serve the table in the latter. The distance to the forward cabin, where the ship's company messed, was hardly less. I found that the officers and crew sometimes had to wait for their meals, and that the discipline of the vessel was thus broken in upon. The steward and the waiter had about all they could do to take care of the five passengers in the after cabin, who were very uncertain in their hours in the morning.
I had decided to have another waiter for the forward cabin, and thus allow Peeks to do the proper work of a chief steward in looking out for the whole of his department. We had been in port so much during the winter that I found I could well afford the additional expense, for my payments had been less than the estimate. Though we were to cruise on the St. Johns River and other streams during the month, there would be a great deal of boat-work for the deck-hands and firemen, for the latter did not complain if called to other duty than that of the fire-room, and by this time were good sailors.
I went to my breakfast, which had been waiting an hour for me on the galley, for I never left the deck till the anchor was overboard. There was no one to bring my meal, and the mate's watch had taken theirs while I was talking to Owen. It was half an hour before the steward or the waiter could attend to my wants; and the dignity of the commander of the Sylvania did not permit him to carry his own breakfast from the galley, while there were passengers on board. I hoped I should be able to find another waiter at St. Augustine, though I supposed they would all be in demand at the hotels. At last I heard the voices of the passengers on deck. I did not ring the call-bell on the table until I was sure they had finished their morning meal, for all on board made it a point to give up everything for them.
"I haven't had my breakfast yet," I said, as Peeks came down into the cabin. "I have been waiting here half an hour for it."
"I am very sorry, but it happens so sometimes, even when I do my best," replied Peeks, evidently much disturbed by the situation. "It is all I can do, with the waiter, to get what the passengers want when they all come to the table at once. We have to cook everything after they order it, or it would not be fit to eat."
"I don't blame you, and I have no fault to find," I added, soothingly. "I shall give you another waiter as soon as one can be found."
"I think we need another. If the meals could be served at fixed hours, we could get along very well; but the passengers take their breakfast anywhere from eight to eleven."
"I understand it perfectly; but they have a right to do just as they please, and I shall not interfere with their habits," I replied; and the steward went for my breakfast.
It was fifteen minutes before he returned, for Gopher insisted on using me as well as those that sat at the cabin-table when I was late to my meals, and cooked me a fresh dish of ham and eggs. I was blessed with a good appetite, and still liked country fare best, though Gopher made hotel dishes, with French names, for the after cabin. When I went on deck, I found Owen smoking his cigar in the pilot-house. He was reading one of a pile of Florida guide-books I had procured in Jacksonville, which I had placed by the binnacle for his use.
"I have been waiting for you, Captain Alick," said he.
"And I have been waiting for my breakfast. I shall get another waiter, so that no one will have to wait," I answered.
"Well, I was in no hurry, my dear fellow: if I had been, I should have sent for you. This is the first day of March. Have you the accounts?"
I had them all ready, and went to my desk in my room, just abaft the pilot-house, for them. I gave them to him, but he hardly condescended to look at anything except the total. Throwing away his cigar, he went into my room, where he wrote all his letters, and seated himself at his desk. I followed him, in order to give him a receipt.
"Don't leave, Robsy," said Owen to Washburn, as the mate began to move out of the room.
Washburn resumed his toilet, for he had just donned the new uniform, with which all hands had provided themselves at St. George. Owen handed me a draft, which I saw was for just three hundred dollars more than the amount of the bill I had rendered. I was astonished that he should make such a mistake.
"This is not correct," I began, as soon as I had looked at the amount of the draft.
"Quite correct; but I see you have got to make a quarrel with me; and I want Robsy to stand by me in this fight," replied Owen.
"Of course I won't take three hundred dollars more than is my due," I protested.
"Cut it short!" exclaimed my cousin. "I told Colonel Shepard I never could get out of it in the world, and he was putting a load on me I could never carry. Where is that bloody contract? Will you do me the favor to burn it?"
"Certainly not," I replied. "I intend to keep my copy, and to abide by its provisions."
"Provisions means grub, don't it?"
"Sometimes it does; but it don't now," I replied, tossing the draft on the desk, at which he was still seated. "I will take only what is due me."
"But I have had a row with Colonel Shepard," protested Owen. "He said he should insist on paying his share of the expenses of this cruise before we left Jacksonville; but I kept him quiet till yesterday. In the first place, as we have put you to extra expense, Alick, we insisted on adding one hundred dollars a month to the amount I was to pay."
I objected, and explained that I had been obliged to pay only the expense of a waiter, as he paid all the coal and provision bills, but he persisted, and finally appealed to Washburn, who decided in his favor. As I agreed to the decision of the umpire beforehand, I had to submit.
"I made it up with the Colonel by letting him pay half of the bills, though he would pay four-fifths of them at first," chuckled Owen, as though he had won a victory over his fellow-passenger.
I had paid every one of the ship's company his wages when they were due; I had painted the steamer at St. George, while the passengers were travelling on shore; I had taken in a large supply of engine stores; and still had about eleven hundred dollars on hand. I felt that I was getting rich very fast, though a season of idleness might scatter all my wealth.
By this time our passengers had seen all there was to be seen from the hurricane-deck of the steamer. Though the sun had come out, it was rather a cool day to our party, who had spent a portion of the winter in the tropics. Owen informed me that his friends desired to go on shore. I had hardly sent them off in both boats, before a well-dressed gentleman came on deck, and desired to see the captain.
A NATIVE FLORIDIAN.
The gentleman who wished to see the captain came off in a small boat, pulled by a man who might have been a mulatto, a Cuban, or a Spaniard. I noticed that he was a fine-looking fellow, lightly but handsomely built. If he had been brown, instead of slightly yellow, I should have taken him for a white man. He had a fine eye, and both his form and his face attracted my attention.
I invited the gentleman in the stern sheets, who wished to see me, to come on board, and then conducted him to my state-room. He was not more than thirty-five, and was dressed rather jauntily in a suit of light-colored clothes. He looked and acted like a gentleman, and his speech indicated that he was a person of refinement. I gave him a chair, and took one myself. Washburn had gone ashore in one of the boats, and I had the room to myself. Before he seated himself he handed me a card, on which was engraved "Kirby Cornwood." There was nothing more to indicate his business.
"Take a seat, Mr. Cornwood," I said, when I had read his name.
"Thank you, Captain Garningham," he replied: and I wondered where he had learned my name, for I had not yet been ashore to report at the custom-house.
"You will excuse me for calling upon you so soon after your arrival; but business is business, and sometimes if it is not attended to in season, it can't be done at all."
"Quite true, sir; and I was going ashore as soon as the boats returned to report at the custom-house," I replied, for the want of something sensible to say. "I do not remember to have met you before, Mr. Cornwood."
"I dare say you do not remember it; but I have met you none the less."
"Indeed! Where was that?" I asked, looking the stranger over again, though I could not recall his form or features.
"In Jacksonville, last December. I was at the funeral of Mr. Carrington, and I saw you several times. I was on the point of offering my services to you then, as I shall now, when I learned that you were soon to sail for the West Indies," answered Mr. Cornwood, with a very pleasant smile, which might have captured any young man of less experience in the ways of the world than myself.
In spite of his explanation I did not remember him. I had met a great many people at the time of the exciting events attending the arrival of the Sylvania at Jacksonville. I concluded that he was some dealer in provisions, ice, or coal, who wished to furnish the steamer with his wares; and I began to lose all interest in the interview. I had a great many people call upon me who wished to sell something, and I was used to such calls.
"I am willing to admit that it is my fault, but I do not remember you, Mr. Cornwood," I replied, rather coldly, for the chief engineer bought the coal, and the steward the provisions and ice.
"I can well understand why you should not remember me, Captain Garningham, for you met a great many people about the time I saw you, and your mind was occupied with some peculiar matters, such as the sinking of the other steamer."
"Exactly so," I answered, looking out the window, as though I was ready to terminate the interview.
"As I said, I was about to offer my services to you then; and I shall take the liberty to do so now," he continued, not at all disturbed by anything I said or did.
"I don't think we need the services of any gentleman like yourself."
To my astonishment, he broke into a laugh; and it was some time before he could proceed with his business. I was not aware that I had said anything that was funny: if I had, I should have been highly complimented by the manner in which my joke was received.
"This is not the first time I have been taken for a gentleman," said he, as soon as he was in condition to speak.
"Then you think I made a mistake, do you?" I asked.
"By no means: I have not sunk so low as that yet; and I still believe I am a gentleman, whatever anybody else may think."
He paused, and I waited for him to proceed with his business, instead of asking him what he meant, as he evidently expected me to do.
"Yes, captain: I claim to be a gentleman," he continued, when I showed no inclination to ask any questions. "I belong to the legal profession, though I don't work at it now."
"I am sure we don't need any law on board of this vessel at the present time," I added.
"I do not offer my services in that capacity. I am a native Floridian, a regular corn-cracker," he continued, laughing. "I was born and raised here in St. Augustine. There is not a river, lake, harbor or inlet in all Florida, and hardly a square mile of territory, that I have not explored."
"As a lawyer?" I asked; and his plump statement rather attracted my attention.
"Certainly not. When I was seventeen I began to study for the bar; but my health broke down, and for the next ten years I roamed over the state, now at my own expense, and then as a member of the state surveying party, or the government coast-survey. I am a pilot for any waters in Florida."
"Have you a branch or a warrant?"
"Nothing of the sort: I am only an amateur pilot. I am a hunter and a fisherman, and I know the flora and the fauna of the State. Seven years ago I resumed my studies, and have been admitted to the bar. But my health would not allow me to spend my days in an office or a court-room. Captain Garningham, I offer my services to you as a guide for Florida."
Mr. Kirby Cornwood folded his arms in his chair, and looked as complacent as though he had just informed me that he was the governor of the State. He evidently believed it was no use to say anything more, and he was silent.
"I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Cornwood, for your offer of service," I replied. "As you are a guide for Florida, could you inform me where the custom-house is?"
"Can I inform you where the custom-house is!" exclaimed the guide for Florida. "How could I have been born and raised in St. Augustine without knowing where the custom-house is?"
"I don't know."
He looked at me as though he thought I was a young man to be pitied. Was there anything relating to Florida that he did not know, was the expression on his face. He could take me to any custom-house in the State by land or water. He could tell me the depth of any lake, stream, or puddle from the Atlantic to the Gulf.
"Having accomplished all that I came on board for, permit me to take my leave, with the hope that you will consider my offer," said Mr. Cornwood, rising from his chair. "I shall be happy to conduct you to the custom-house when you go on shore, or to take your party to all the points of interest in the city."
"Thank you, Mr. Cornwood," I replied.
I had no idea that he intended to leave me, for one does not get rid of such applicants so easily. He bowed gracefully, and much to my astonishment, left my room, walked to the gangway, and went down into his boat. A moment later, I saw the boatman pulling him towards the landing-place. I could not help thinking of his offer after he had gone. It would be exceedingly convenient to have a man on board all the time who could guide us to any object of interest. He was a pilot for any waters of the State.
But I felt that I could not believe more than one-tenth of what he had said. I sat down, and thought over the matter. An extra hundred had just been added to my monthly stipend. I had not thought of having such a person on board before he suggested the idea. I had expected to depend on local guides for information and direction.
If only one-half of Mr. Kirby Cornwood's story was true, and he could perform only one-half of what he promised, he would be a valuable person to our party. He was airy in his manner; but I could not say that this was not the worst part of him. If he had spent ten years of his life with state and national surveys and exploring parties, he ought to be very familiar with the travelled localities of Florida. I was rather sorry I had not detained him a little longer, and learned something more of his ability to do what he said he could do. But I could find him again; or I had no doubt he would soon find me. If he had not left me with so much dignity, and without pressing his offer of service, I should not probably have given a second thought to him.
Washburn's boat was the first to return, and I went on shore in it. I wanted the mate to see Mr. Cornwood; but I did not mention him, for I wanted my friend to make up his mind in regard to the Floridian without any suggestion from me, and without his knowing that he was doing duty as a judge. I asked Washburn to take a stroll with me. He told his crew he should not want them for a couple of hours, and we walked up the pier.
When we reached the head of it, I saw Mr. Cornwood rushing across the intersecting street as if he meant business, though he was not headed towards me. He did not even seem to see me at first; but as he was about to cross my path, he could not well help doing so. He raised his Panama hat, and bowed politely to me. He evidently did not mean to stop to speak to me; but I hailed him, and asked where the custom-house was. He described the building, and indicated in what direction I was to go.
"If you will excuse me for a few moments, Captain Garningham, I will join you," said he, hurrying along towards the St. Augustine Hotel, which faces the harbor.
The Floridian certainly did not seem to be very anxious to make an engagement with me; and this fact improved his chances with me. I went to the custom-house, and transacted my business there. As I came out with the mate, I met Mr. Cornwood at the door. I introduced Washburn to him; and the Floridian was as polite to him as to me.
"I am at your service, gentlemen; and, pardon me, captain, without regard to any future engagement," said Mr. Cornwood, with an extra flourish, as he turned to me.
"Thanks. I think you said you were born in Florida," I added.
"Not only in Florida, but here in St. Augustine. If you doubt my statement, I will show you the house in which I first drew the breath of life," he replied, with a deprecatory smile.
Showing the house would prove it; but I thought more of the fact that he seemed to have an inkling of my trouble in regard to his statements. I told him I was willing to accept his statement without seeing the house.
"My father and mother both died of consumption," he continued. "They came down here from Virginia, and lived twenty years longer than they would in the Old Dominion. My father left me twelve thousand dollars, every cent of which I spent in travelling in this state. But here is your party, captain."
Our passengers were strolling along St. George Street when we met them.
A TRIP UP THE SAN SEBASTIAN.
Strange as it may seem, the Shepards, though they had resided two winters in Jacksonville, had never been to St. Augustine, or even up the St. Johns River. The state of Mrs. Shepard's health had not permitted her to travel for several years, until the preceding summer. They had simply left the ancient city and the up-river glories of "The Land of Flowers" to a more propitious season in the future.
"How do you like the looks of St. Augustine, Miss Edith?" I asked, after we had passed the civilities of the moment, though I did not venture to present Mr. Kirby Cornwood to the party.
"I like it well enough," replied the pretty young lady, with something like a yawn. "But I am getting tired of it so soon; for we have seen so many old Spanish cities in Spain and in the West Indies, that St. Augustine reads like an old story."
The face of the native Floridian wore an expression of horror as he listened to the remark of Miss Edith. Possibly he might have abated his astonishment at this partially unfavorable opinion of his native city if he had known that she and Owen spent most of their time in thinking of other matters than an old city.
"I am delighted with the place," added Mrs. Shepard. "But we pass various objects of interest without knowing what they are. We have not even a guide-book to help us out."
Mr. Cornwood smiled, but he said nothing. I wondered that he did not offer his services to the lady; but he manifested what seemed to be a very strange modesty for him, standing a little apart from the rest of us, and not even looking at the pretty face of Miss Edith. I took the liberty to introduce the Floridian. He removed his Panama, and bowed low when I mentioned his name; but he did not even speak, much less indulge in any of his pretentious speeches. The walk was resumed, and in the course of the forenoon we had explored the city, from Fort San Marco, on the north, to the point at the south of the city.
Mr. Cornwood proved that he knew all about St. Augustine. I had studied the history of the place and the state very carefully during the leisure hours of the voyage from the Bermudas, and I was able to confirm the truth of all he said, so far as my knowledge extended, though he went far beyond me. In a little while he was the very centre of the party. It is true that Owen several times requested him to "cut it short," at which the Floridian did not seem to be at all offended; but he soon found that the rest of the company did not wish to have even the historical portions of the guide's discourse abbreviated.
I do not intend to give the history or describe the objects of interest we saw in Florida, except incidentally, for it would take all my space to do these, and I do not pretend to do much more than tell my story. I must say that I was very much interested in the history and descriptions of Mr. Cornwood; and I have no doubt my readers would be equally interested, if I had pages enough at my disposal to include them.
The Floridian did his duty modestly, though he had become the most important person of the party for the time being. There was not a particle of the "brag" and pretension which had caused me to distrust everything he said. As we walked from place to place he kept at a respectful distance from the passengers, and never intruded himself upon them, though he was always ready to answer any questions. After a three-hours' run we returned to the pier.
I had expected that the party would prefer to go on shore, after their sea-voyage, and take up their residence for our stay at the principal hotel; but they manifested no such intention. As they had taken nothing on shore with them, I had told the steward to have dinner ready for them at the usual hour. The port quarter-boat, which was mine, had come to the landing-place, and the party embarked. I invited Mr. Cornwood to go on board with me, and he accepted the invitation. He took his place in the fore-sheets of the boat, apparently for the purpose of maintaining his respectful distance from the passengers.
In a few minutes we were on the deck of the Sylvania. The passengers retired to the cabin, and Cornwood followed me to my state-room. As soon as we entered the apartment his manner underwent a sudden change. He was as free and familiar as he had been at our interview on board in the morning. As I interpreted his conduct, he considered himself on an entire equality with me, while he intended to treat my passengers with the utmost deference and respect. I did not object to his view of the relations to be maintained to my passengers and myself; on the contrary, his view was precisely my own.
"What is your price for the service you propose to render, Mr. Cornwood?" I asked, when we were seated.
"Five dollars a day, including Sundays," he replied, without any hesitation. "Of course this salary is besides my board and all expenses."
"That is only three times my own wages," I added with a smile.
"If you will engage me for a year, I will call it fifty dollars a month, and be glad to make this slight reduction of two-thirds," he answered promptly, and with the most easy assurance. "I can make hay only when the sun shines, captain; and I could make more at your wages twice over than I can at my own. The year is not often more than four months long for my business. I attend upon first-class parties only, and I charge eight dollars a day when I am engaged for only a single week. Your party want to go up the St. Johns for at least a month. However, if you object to the price, there is a party at the St. Augustine Hotel who want me for a week to go to Indian River with them. They are willing to give me ten dollars a day; but I prefer to go with your party at the price I named."
"I am very much obliged to you for this mark of consideration on your part," I replied. "Though you are a perfect stranger to me, I suppose it would not be regarded as an insult for me to ask for any testimonials."
"Not at all. Though I could procure a bushel or two of them, I do not happen to have any with me; but I will refer you to the landlords, and to any resident of St. Augustine."
He seemed to be ready to answer anything I could ask him, and he named a dozen persons of whom I might inquire in regard to him. While the passengers were on shore in the forenoon, I had directed the hands to spread the awnings on the quarter-deck and forecastle. When dinner was over the party seemed to be very well satisfied to remain on board after their walk, for after the sea-voyage the exertion tired them. Owen told me they should not go on shore again, and I decided to inquire into the character and antecedents of Mr. Cornwood.
When we came up from dinner I found Owen smoking his cigar on the forecastle. My passenger asked Cornwood a question, and they were soon engaged in conversation in regard to Florida. Taking the port boat, with Ben Bowman and Hop Tossford, I left the steamer. I did not even take the trouble to tell the Floridian where I was going. If my inquiries were satisfactorily answered, I intended to engage him for the time we remained in Florida. He had mentioned the name of a family that boarded on the west side of the city, near the San Sebastian River, and I decided to make the first inquiries there.
I steered the boat around the point into the river, and soon passed the more thickly settled portion of the town. Orange groves lined the shore, and the fragrant jasmine scented the air. If I had not been all winter in the tropics, I should have gone into ecstasies over the scene that was spread out before me. But orange groves were nothing new to me now, and I was familiar with banana and palm trees.
I could not be insensible to the beauties of the region, and in that mild atmosphere I could not help enjoying it. On the shore were the dwellings of wealthy men who spent their winters in this delightful locality. Soon we came to a house, on the very bank of the river, with a kind of pier built out into the river, at which several sail and row boats were moored. This was the large boarding-house to which I had been directed by the Floridian.
I identified it from his description some time before we reached it. As the boat approached the house, and I ran in towards the pier, I noticed there was a great commotion in the vicinity. The inmates were rushing out of the house, negroes were running here and there, apparently without any settled purpose, and not a few women were screaming.
"I wonder what the matter is at that house," I said to the oarsmen, who were back to the scene, and could see nothing of it.
"Matter enough, I should say," replied Ben Bowman, who pulled the bow-oar, as he looked behind him. "The house is on fire!"
The immense live-oaks that half concealed the house from my view had prevented me from seeing the volume of smoke and flame that was rising from one corner of the mansion. The fire had already made considerable progress.
"Give way, lively, my men!" I called to the rowers. "We shall be needed there."
Ben and Hop pulled a strong stroke, and they exerted themselves until the oars bent before their vigorous muscles. I headed the boat for some steps I saw on the pier, and in a few moments more we were within hailing distance of the wharf.
"Way enough!" I called to the oarsmen. They ceased rowing, and brought their oars to a perpendicular, man-of-war fashion, as required by our boat-drill.
Ben Bowman went to the bow, fended off, and then jumped ashore with the painter in his hand. Hop Tossford and I followed him in good order, as all were instructed to move when in the boats; and in a moment we were on the pier. My men broke into a run for the scene of the fire; but I moved more slowly, and studied the situation as I walked up the wharf.
The inmates of the house and the neighbors who had gathered appeared to be in utter confusion, and incapable of doing anything, if there was anything that could be done. It seemed to me that the fire had progressed too far to be checked, and that the entire destruction of the house was inevitable. But certainly some portion of the property in the building could be saved, and the people seemed to have no power even to attend to this duty. Our boat's crew could set a good example in this way, if in no other; and I hurried my steps as soon as I could decide what to do.
As soon as I reached the garden in the rear of the house, I found there was something more important to be done than saving furniture. A gentleman whom I judged to be about forty years of age was on the point of rushing into the burning house when he was held back by others. They said the stairs were already in flames, and the second story could be reached only from the outside.
"My daughter is asleep in the corner-room!" gasped the gentleman, pointing to the window of the chamber.
The next instant Hop Tossford was running up the posts of the veranda.
SAVED FROM THE BURNING HOUSE.
By this time the flames, which had been confined to half a dozen windows, were breaking out through the roof of the house. Ben Bowman and I followed Hop Tossford to the roof of the veranda, which surrounded the building, though, as we had waited to hear more of the situation, we were considerably behind him. We all attempted the ascent by different posts. That which Ben took slipped out, and tumbled over; and the fire was so hot where I was that I had some difficulty in getting a foothold on the roof.
I had hardly accomplished my purpose when I heard a scream. The next instant I saw Hop leap from the window near the corner with a lady in his arms. She was still screaming; but it appeared that she had been alarmed only at finding herself in the arms of a stranger. She had not been aroused from her sleep till Hop lifted her from the bed.
The deck-hand set her on her feet as soon as he reached the roof of the veranda. She looked about her, and she could not help seeing and hearing the devouring flames. She comprehended the situation, and ceased to scream. By this time a ladder was raised to the roof of the veranda, and as soon as Hop saw the top of it, he assisted the lady to descend, which she accomplished in safety. I saw her in the arms of her father, and both of them were weeping.
As soon as I saw that the young lady was safe, I led the way into the rooms on the side of the house which was not yet on fire, though the flames were now breaking into them, and proceeded to throw out the baggage and other articles we found. Hop took the chamber from which he had just saved the occupant, and removed a trunk and all the drawers of a bureau. These articles were carried down the ladder by the guests and others. We worked until we were driven from the veranda by the flames.
When I reached the ground, I found the lady who had been saved out on the pier with her father, with their trunks which had been removed there by the latter. She had transferred from the drawers of the bureau brought out by Hop, all her clothing. She had quite recovered from her fright. She was not more than sixteen, and with the exception of Edith Shepard, I never saw a prettier girl.
"We are under very great obligations to you, gentlemen," said the father of the fair young lady. "I am sure my daughter would have perished without the assistance of one of your number."
"This is the young man that brought your daughter out of the house," I replied, pointing to Hop.
"I thank you with all my heart and soul for what you have done," said the stranger, taking Hop's hand. "It seems that my daughter was asleep when you entered her chamber, and she would surely have been burned to death without your bold effort."
"And I thank you with all my heart and soul!" exclaimed the young lady, blushing as she took the hand of her gallant deliverer. "I was fast asleep when you lifted me from the bed, and I only screamed because I thought some man was carrying me off. At first, I thought it was a dream."
"I was very clumsy about it; and I beg your pardon for frightening you so. I might have spoken before I took you from the bed. But I have had no experience in such business," pleaded Hop. "I shall know better how to do it next time."
"You did it exceedingly well," said the lady, with emphasis.
"It matters little how it was done, so it was done," said the father.
"That is just what I think, papa. I can't express anything at all that I feel towards this gentleman for the great service he has done me. I wish I could say just what is in my heart!" exclaimed the fair young lady.
"I am very glad you can not," added Hop, who seemed to be embarrassed by the gratitude of the young lady and her father.
"We shall never forget the service of this young gentleman. Everybody else was paralyzed, and unable to do anything," continued the stranger. "I had been to walk; and on my return I saw the smoke long before I reached the house. I did not think of my daughter being in her room at first, but it occurred to me that she has been in the habit of taking a nap after dinner lately. As I did not see her among the other people of the house, I was paralyzed by the thought that she might be asleep."
"I owe my life to your coming; and I never shall forget this service, any more than my father," added the young lady, as she bestowed a grateful look upon Hop.
"We shall see more of you, gentlemen; and I hope I shall be able to prove to you that I properly value the service you have rendered. But, Margie, we are turned out of house and home by the fire."
"But we have saved all our luggage, thanks to these gentlemen! We are not so badly off as some of the people in the house, who must have lost everything."
"There are some others here who will have occasion to be thankful for your arrival; for I don't think anything would have been saved if you had not taken the lead. But, Margie, we haven't even a carriage to convey us to a hotel."
"I think I can manage that for you, sir," I interposed. "We can take you and your trunks into our boat, and convey you to the other side of the town."
"Thanks; you are very kind. But we are not willing to take up any more of your time," protested the stranger. "Besides, I don't know where to go, unless we take the next train for Jacksonville; for yesterday, and when we arrived a week ago, the hotels and boarding-houses were all full to overflowing. I only got in where I was by the landlord and his daughter giving us their rooms, while they went to a cottage of a friend. Perhaps we had better leave the place at once, for I am sure we can't find lodgings. I looked the place all over for accommodations."
"But we are too late to leave the place to-night, papa," replied Miss Margie, and both she and her father seemed to be very anxious about the situation.
"We shall find some kind of accommodations at the hotels, though it be nothing better than the servants' rooms. They won't let us sleep in the streets," added the father, more cheerfully.
"I think I can take care of you for a few days," I interposed; "at any rate, until you find better quarters."
"Pardon me, sir; but you look like sailors; and you all went up the posts under the veranda as though you were sailors," added the gentleman.
"We are sailors, and we belong to a steam-yacht lying at anchor on the other side of the city," I replied. "We will take you and your daughter around to her, with your baggage; and then you can make such arrangements for the future as you desire."
"We thank you; you are very kind, and we accept your offer," said the gentleman. "The place is so crowded with visitors that it is very difficult to get anything done for you; and we might have to stay here a long time before we could get a carriage to convey us and our luggage to another place. Besides, this fire will turn forty or fifty people out of their house, and there will be an increased demand for rooms."
"I can take care of you for a few days, at any rate," I replied. "Put those trunks into the fore sheets of the boat, Ben."
The trunks and the other baggage were stowed in the forward part of the boat, and I assisted the fair stranger and her father to the cushioned seats in the stern sheets. When we were all in, the boat was pretty well loaded down. Ben shoved her well off into the stream, and I took the tiller-lines, seated between my two passengers.
"Up oars! Let fall! Give way!" I continued, giving the usual orders. Ben and Hop bent to their oars, while all of us took a parting view of the scene of the fire. The house was burned to the ground; and it seemed to me that nearly the whole population of the city was gathered in the vicinity. A fire was not a common thing, and people went to see it as a curiosity.
The month of March is one of the most trying in the whole year in the North, and vast numbers of people had come down to Florida to escape its rigors. All the watering-places in the State were crowded with visitors, and in St. Augustine, the most popular resort, there was not a vacant room to be had. While my new passengers were gazing at the remains of the fire and the crowd that surrounded them, I began to think how I should dispose of my guests on board of the Sylvania. I was not quite willing to intrude upon Owen's party by putting them in the after cabin; but I could easily make two rooms of the captain's large apartment, while Washburn and I found quarters in the forward cabin.
The vigorous strokes of Ben and Hop soon brought us to the steamer. The passengers were still seated under the awning of the quarter-deck; and Owen had finished his cigar and joined Miss Edith, whose shadow he was when his cigar did not need attention. They all rose from their seats when they saw that I had company, for of course their curiosity was excited. We pulled around the stern, and came up to the port gangway, where the steps were rigged out.
Hop Tossford handed Miss Margie up the steps to the deck, while I assisted the gentleman, whose name I did not yet know, though I had read "P. T." on the ends of the trunks. I conducted the new passengers to the captain's room. I wanted Washburn, in order to have him remove his clothes and other articles into the forward cabin. When I looked for him, he was with the party on the quarter-deck. I went to him. In a few words I explained the situation to him. He was very willing to change his quarters, and declared that he would sleep on the fore-yard, if necessary.
"I beg your pardon, Captain Alick, but what had you in the boat?" asked Owen, as Washburn went forward.
"I had a gentleman and his daughter, with their luggage, as we say in England," I replied.
"I beg your pardon again; but who are the gentleman and his daughter?"
"I haven't the least idea. They were in a house over the other side of the city, and some way up, which has just been burned to the ground. Very likely that young lady would have been burned to death if Hop had not brought her out of her room, where she was asleep. Every hotel and boarding-house in the place is full, and they had no place to go: so I brought them on board till they can find a hotel."
"Very good of you; but what were you just saying to Robsy?" demanded Owen.
"I told him to move his traps out of our room; and I shall do the same with mine," I replied.
"You will do nothing of the sort," protested my cousin.
"What's the reason I won't?"
"Because the lady shall have my state room; and her father and I will just take berths in the cabin."
Before I could say anything more, Owen rushed down into the cabin, and I followed him.
MOONLIGHT AND MUSIC ON BOARD.
Owen called the steward and the waiter, and directed them to move all his luggage from the state-room. He assisted himself in the work, and seemed to be very much in earnest.
"I don't ask you to do this, Owen; and I didn't expect you to do it," I protested.
"Did you expect me to be a swine?" demanded he indignantly.
"No, certainly not; but I have no right to do anything to deprive you of the comfort you pay for," I replied.
"But who are these people, Alick?"
"They haven't even given me their names; I know nothing whatever in regard to them. Rather than have them stay out in the street, I was ready to give up my room."
"It's all right, Alick. Give the lady my state-room, and I will take a berth. The curtains draw out in such a way as to make a little room in front of each bunk, and I shall be just as well off as in my room."
"I don't like to have you do this. Won't you take my room? I will have it fitted up for you in as good style as this cabin; and it is twice as large as this room."
"No, I thank you, Alick. I shall be very comfortable in one of these berths. Let me hear no more objections. Now bring the gentleman and his daughter down into the cabin, and assure them they are as welcome as they would be in their own house."
It was useless to say anything more to Owen; for when he insisted on having his own way, he had it. I went forward and invited the strangers below. Ben brought their trunks and other baggage after them, and they were soon installed in their new quarters.
"What a lovely little room!" exclaimed Miss Margie, as I showed the state-room. "It is ever so much nicer than the one I had in the steamer I came across the ocean in!"
"I am sorry I have not another state-room for you, sir," I said to her father, as I came out of the daughter's room. "But we will do the best we can for you."
I pulled out the slide to which the curtains were attached, in front of one of the berths.
"Nothing could be better than that," replied the gentleman, with enthusiasm. "We are better lodged than we were in that boarding-house. The only fear is that we are intruding."
"Not at all, sir. The gentleman that charters the yacht wished me to say to you that you are as welcome as you could be in your own house."
"I will soon pay my respects to him. I dare say he is the owner of this delightful little craft."
"No, sir; he only charters her."
"And who is the owner of her?"
"I am the owner, sir."
"Bless me! You are quite a young man to be the owner of such a fine little vessel," said the new passenger. "Will you favor me with your name?"
"Alexander Garningham," I replied, not supposing my name could be of any particular consequence to him.
"Garningham! I half suspected it!" ejaculated the gentleman. "I have a letter for you."
"A letter for me, sir!" I exclaimed, wondering who could have given him such a missive.
"It is very strange that I should stumble on you in this manner, when I have been looking for you all over the country," continued the gentleman, fumbling his pockets for the letter.
I almost came to the conclusion that he was a "fraud," trying to play some trick upon me, in the interest of Captain Boomsby, or some other designing person, when he produced the letter. He handed it to me. I instantly recognized the peculiar handwriting of my father. It thrilled me to my very soul. I glanced at the superscription. It was my name in the familiar writing. Under it was, "By the hand of the Hon. Pardon Tiffany."
"Mr. Tiffany, I am very happy to meet you," I said, when I had read what was on the outside of the letter.
"Captain Alick Garningham, I am more than happy to see you," he replied, grasping my hand. "I know all about you from your father."
I excused myself, and opened the letter; but it was only an introduction, written just before my father started for India. He spoke of Mr. Tiffany as his best and truest friend in England, who was to travel a year or more in America.
"How long have you been in this country, Mr. Tiffany?" I asked, thinking it very strange, from the date of the letter, that I had not seen him before.
"Less than four months. I was ill after your father started for India, and was unable to leave home till six months later than I had intended," he replied. "I suppose you hear from your father occasionally?"
"I have not heard from him since he left for India," I replied.
I saw that he knew nothing of the events which had occurred since I left Lake St. Clair. It took me an hour to tell the story in full. He seemed to be greatly astonished when I told him that the person who chartered the steam-yacht was my cousin, Owen Garningham. He knew most of the family, though he had never met Owen, who had been away at school, or on his travels on the Continent, when he visited my father.
Miss Margie had come out of her state-room some time before I finished my story; but she busied herself with a book till we had concluded our conference. I asked them both to go on deck with me, and I introduced them to my passengers. Owen did not appear to know Mr. Tiffany, or to know of him when his name was mentioned. I thought it was best not to say anything at present. Both of the guests were treated with the utmost consideration and kindness by Owen and the Shepards. The story of the fire was rehearsed, and Miss Margie was the heroine of the hour.
The afternoon was wearing away, and I had yet made no inquiries in regard to Cornwood. I knew not where to find the person to whom he had referred me at the house which had been burned. I ordered the boat again, and went on shore. I found a party at one of the hotels who had employed the Floridian, and they spoke in the highest terms of him. The natives of St. Augustine usually smiled when I asked about Cornwood; but no one said anything against him that I did not know—that he was "airy" and given to "brag." It was about dark when I returned, but the Floridian was still on board.
"I am sorry to hear that Colonel Estwell's house has been burned," said Cornwood, as I came on deck. "It was doing a good business, and the fire will be a heavy blow to the Colonel. I suppose you heard nothing bad about me."
"Nothing very bad. I engage you at the terms you named for the time the steam-yacht remains in Florida," I added. "You will have a berth in the forward cabin, and mess with the officers."
"You will have no occasion to regret what you have done," said the Floridian, confidently.
"I hope not. Now, can you find a waiter for me?" I continued, explaining the need of additional help in the steward's department.
"A waiter! Fifty more than there are in the city could find places in one hour," said he, laughing at the apparent absurdity of the question. "However, as you have applied to me, I have no doubt I can find one for you."
"Do you think you can?" I asked, rather anxiously. "I have added two more persons to the company to be cared for at the cabin-table, and we shall get nothing to eat in the forward cabin if we don't have more help."
"You shall have a waiter if I have to take him out of the dining-room of the St. Augustine Hotel," replied Mr. Cornwood, with as much assurance as though all the waiters in the city were under his charge.
I sent him ashore in the starboard boat; and Buck and Landy, the crew, were glad to spend an hour in the city. In less than that time the Floridian returned, and with him was the waiter. When the new man came into my room to see me, I was not a little surprised to find he was the same "yellow man" I had seen in the boat that brought off the guide the first time he boarded the Sylvania.
He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, and I soon ascertained that he was as intelligent as he was handsome. His name was Griffin Leeds. He was neither a Spaniard nor an Italian, but an octoroon.
Both the guide and the waiter brought off their baggage in the boat. Among the effects of Griffin Leeds I noticed a violin-case. Tom Sands, the cabin-waiter, whom I had obtained at Jacksonville, played the banjo in the most artistic manner. Neither of the waiters were any common sort of colored men; and I soon found that race distinctions were vastly more insisted on by these men than by any white man on board, unless it was the Floridian.
We had a full table in the forward cabin at supper that night, and Griffin Leeds showed that he thoroughly understood his business, and that he was active and zealous besides. I was very well pleased with him, and so were all the other officers of the steamer.
It was a bright moonlight evening, and the air was soft and balmy. I sat with the passengers under the awning on the quarter-deck. By this time Edith and Margie had got along far enough to sit with their arms around each other's waists. One would think they had known each other for years, they were so affectionate. We were talking about the voyage down from the Great Lakes, when the attention of the whole party was attracted by the music of a violin on the hurricane-deck. The instrument was well played. Presently the volume of the music was increased by the addition of a banjo.
"That's good," said Owen. "I think music, even if it isn't first-class, is delightful on the water."
"It is perfectly charming!" exclaimed Edith.
"It seems almost like fairy-land!" added Margie.
I saw that all hands were in the gangway; then a violoncello, of whose existence on board I was not aware, was passed up to the hurricane-deck. Landy Perkins played on this instrument, which had been purchased at St. George. I knew that Ben Bowman had formerly played in the Montomercy Brass Band, and I saw him mount the ladder with his cornet. In a few minutes our band was playing "There's music in the air," though the first attempts were evidently not entirely satisfactory to the musicians. After an hour's practice together the music improved.
We sat on deck till a late hour. The next day, under the guidance of Mr. Cornwood, the party visited the coquina quarries on Anastasia Island, and wandered over the city again. In the evening the band played again, reinforced by the Floridian, who played the cornet. He told me confidentially that he was not in the habit of playing with "niggers," but he was willing to do anything to contribute to the pleasure of the party. I thought it was very condescending in him.
After three days at St. Augustine we sailed for Jacksonville.
THE ENEMY IN A NEW BUSINESS.
We had three ladies on board; but Tom Sands was the bedroom steward as well as waiter, and I thought this was not just the thing. I came to the conclusion, before we left St. Augustine, that we ought to have a stewardess to wait upon the ladies. I spoke to Mr. Cornwood, and in a few hours more we had Chloe, the wife of Griffin Leeds, duly installed in that position.
She had no children, and did not appear to be more than twenty years old. She was very neat and lively, and the ladies were much pleased with her. She had had experience on a Charleston and a St. Johns steamer. The forecastle of the Sylvania had not been used on the cruise except as a store-room, and I had this prepared for the use of Leeds and his wife. Peeks and Sands slept in the cabin; and if the stewardess was wanted in the night, she could be called.
It was only a six or seven hours' run to Jacksonville, especially as we had a strong south-westerly breeze, and carried all sail in addition to our steam. We started at an early hour in the morning, so as to have the tide right to cross the bar at the mouth of the river.
"You needn't put that flag in the fore-rigging," said Mr. Cornwood, when he discovered the signal for a pilot flying, as we approached the bar.
"Why not?" I asked, forgetting some of the wonderful things he had told me he could do.
"I am a pilot for any waters of Florida, and I can take the steamer across the bar as well as any man you will pay for this service," he added, apparently hurt by the appearance of the ensign on the foremast.
"But you have neither branch nor warrant; and if anything should happen to the Sylvania while she has not a regular pilot on board, my passengers would never forgive me."
"But I know that bar as well as I knew the rooms in my father's house," protested the Floridian.
"But you are not an authorized pilot," I insisted.
I could not see why he was so strenuous about the matter, unless it was because he thought I distrusted his ability. The steamer was not insured, so that nothing depended upon that matter; but I could not trust a pilot whose ability had not been proved. Cornwood was quite sulky about the matter for some time, and declared that, if he was to be of no use on board he did not care to remain. He had some self-respect, and he could not take his salary if he did not earn it.
When the pilot came on board it proved to be the same one who had taken us over in December. He had a great deal to say about the exciting events of that day; and as he stood at the wheel he asked many questions about the steamer and the man who had attempted to wreck her.
"I took an ice schooner up to Jacksonville about three weeks ago, and I stopped a day in the city," said the pilot. "You see, I live on Fort George Island, and when I go up to the city I always come down again as soon as I can; but this time I stopped over for a day, for I had a chance to bring a vessel down. I went into a saloon on Bay Street, and who should I see behind the bar but the man that ran the other steam-yacht into this one, or tried to do so, and got the boot on t'other leg."
"What, Captain Boomsby?" I asked, astonished at the information.
"Yes, that's the name. I had forgotten what it was; and he hadn't got his sign out then."
"Do you mean to say that he is in business in Jacksonville?" I asked.
"He keeps a saloon there."
"What sort of a saloon?"
"Why, a bar-room," replied the pilot, laughing. "He told me he had been up north since I saw him, and had brought his family down. He lives overhead the saloon; and he seemed to be doing a lively business."
"I am afraid he will be his own best customer," I added.
"I reckon he is, for he was getting rather full when I saw him."
"He talked about coming to Florida when I saw him in Michigan; but he said he was going into the business of raising early vegetables and oranges."
"He has got a place up the river, and means to raise truck for the market besides. He must have some money."
"I think he has considerable property. He did not find farming in Michigan as profitable as he expected. He is one of those men who want to coin money all at once."
Shortly after noon we came to anchor off the city. The pilot leaped into his canoe, and boarded a steamer going down the river. Colonel Shepard was in a hurry to go on shore, and I landed him at once. The steward went off to the market for ice and fresh provisions in the other boat. I did not expect all my passengers to remain on board while we were at Jacksonville. The Colonel had a house which had been badly damaged by fire while we were here in December, and I had no doubt he would occupy it, with his family, while we remained here.
He was not absent more than an hour, for his house was on St. James Park, a short distance from the shore. Everything about it had been put in complete repair, and it was ready for occupancy. In the afternoon we landed the family, and the Hon. Mr. Tiffany and his daughter were invited to go with them. The Sylvania seemed to be deserted when they were gone; but in a few days we were to begin the trip up the river, and in the meantime take the party on such excursions as they desired to make. Of course Owen went with the Shepards.
Chloe had made herself so agreeable to the ladies that they desired her to accompany them on shore. The steamer was in first-rate condition, and there was nothing for anybody to do but eat and sleep. Mr. Kirby Cornwood was still sulky because he had not been permitted to pilot the vessel up from the ocean; but I was not disposed to comfort him. About four o'clock, it was so quiet on board, I thought I would go on shore for a while. Washburn was asleep in our room, and I did not disturb him, for we had all been up till after midnight the night before, listening to the music, and enjoying the moonlight.
I landed at the boat wharf opposite the Grand National Hotel, on Bay Street. This is the principal street of the city, and both sides of it are lined with stores, warehouses, and the principal public buildings. It extends parallel with the river. At one end of it is the railroad station and the Grand National; near the other end are the Carlton Hotel and the Yacht Club house. Nearly all the business of the city is done on this street.
When the stranger leaves Bay Street he seems to enter another country in passing the distance of a single square. About all the other streets are bordered with live-oaks or water-oaks, and every house has a flower-garden and an orange grove, on a small scale. The balconies and verandas are loaded with vines, which are in full flower in March. The air is scented with the fragrance of the jasmine. The sidewalks are of wood, and the roads are the original soil, which looks like the blue house-sand of the North.
St. James Park is two squares from Bay Street. All of one side of it is occupied by the St. James Hotel. In the centre of the park is a small kiosk, from which one may take in the surroundings. Like all the rest of Florida, even the fertile orange groves, the soil looks like blue sand. There are plenty of semi-tropical plants, and the scene is as unlike anything in the North as possible. In every lot there are orange-trees, with oranges on them; but they are not the eatable fruit. They are bitter or sour oranges, which remain on the trees all winter.
The orange-trees blossom in March; and then the air is densely loaded with their perfume. The leaves remain green all winter; but in the early spring they begin to put forth new shoots and leaves. The old leaves are dark green, and the new ones light. On the same tree may be seen the old and the new leaves, the ripe fruit, and the richly-scented blossoms. Coming from the frozen North in March, the traveller seems to be hurled into "eternal summer," more like fairy-land than anything else, as the wheels whirl him into Jacksonville.
I had seen the place in December, coming from the summer of a more northern latitude. I had spent the winter in more tropical regions, and the flowers and the oranges were nothing new to me. When I landed I was thinking of the post-office, which was my first objective point. We had been moving about so much that I had not received a single letter since I left Jacksonville in December. The post-office is on Bay Street, nearer the northern than the southern end of the street. I walked in that direction; but I had not gone ten rods before I saw Captain Boomsby standing at the door of one of the numerous saloons on that street.
I halted to look at him. His face was very red, and he had grown quite stout since he sailed the Great West, in which I had had the roughest experience of my lifetime with him. He wore no coat, for his fat and the fires of the whiskey he drank kept him in a fever-heat all the time. I kept back behind a pile of goods on the sidewalk while I surveyed him, and I hoped he would not see me. He seemed to be waiting for customers; and though I desired him to have none, I wished him to retire within his shop, and allow me to pass without being seen.
I was dressed in the full uniform of the steam-yacht, with a white canvas cap. He had seen me in this rig enough to know it, and my chances of passing him without being seen were very small. But I was not afraid of him, and I was rather ashamed of the idea of dodging him. Taking the outside of the sidewalk, and looking intently at the other side of the street, where the retail dry-goods and curiosity shops were located, I attempted to get by the saloon without being seen by its proprietor.
"Why, Sandy, how are you?" demanded Captain Boomsby, rushing out to me and seizing me by the hand.
In spite of my hanging back, he dragged me to the door of the saloon.
"How do you do, Captain Boomsby?" I replied coldly.
"Come in and take sunthin', Sandy," he persisted, dragging me into the saloon in spite of my resistance. "You are about man-grown now, and I cal'late you can take a drop of whiskey, on a pinch."
"No, I thank you; I never take any," I replied, disgusted with his manner and his invitation.
"You hain't been to sea all this time without learnin' to take your grog?" he continued, with a coarse laugh.
"I never drank a drop in my life, and I don't mean to do so," I answered.
"You'll learn in good time. Set down, Sandy, and tell me where you've been."
I told him in as few words as possible where I had been, and answered all his questions about my passengers. Then he told me he lived over the saloon, and insisted that I should go up and see the "old woman." I was a little curious to see Mrs. Boomsby, and I followed him up-stairs.
A DISAGREEABLE ROOM-MATE.
I had not seen Mrs. Boomsby for several years; and though I had no reason to expect anything but abuse from her, my curiosity induced me to see her. If anything, she was more of a tyrant than her brutal husband, and I had no occasion to thank her for anything she had done for me. She was the more plucky of the pair, and it had surprised me, years before, to learn that she "ruled the roost." At that time the captain was actually afraid of her.
"You have got pretty well up in the world, Captain Boomsby," I said when we had gone up two flights of stairs and were about to ascend a third.
"Well, you see, I let all these lower rooms; and the folks is jest as well off up three pair of stairs as up one," he replied, almost out of breath, for the stairs told more heavily on him than on me. "Besides, I like to have the old woman as far as I can from the business; she don't interfere so much then."
The old reprobate chuckled then as though he had said something smart; but I would have given a quarter to have had his wife overhear the remark, for the fun of the scene that would have ensued.
"Parker Boomsby! where on earth air you goin'?" shouted a shrill, but very familiar voice on the floor below us.
"All right," replied the captain, evidently much disturbed by the call. "I thought she was up here; but she always turns up just where you don't want her. But come up, Sandy; I want to show you a room I've fixed up."
"No, I thank you; as Mrs. Boomsby is not up here, I think I will go down," I replied, beginning to retrace my steps.
"What are you doin' with strangers up gerret, Parker Boomsby?" demanded the lady on the floor below.
"I've got sunthin' up here that belongs to you, Sandy; I want to give it to you," pleaded the captain. "I fetched you up here to give it to you afore I took you in to see the old woman."
I concluded that he had some reason for taking me to the attic of the house, and I was curious to know what it was. It is true he had led me to believe that his wife was in this part of the house; but that might have been one of his huge jokes. I followed him up the last flight of stairs. I was then on the fourth floor of the house. There were two large and two small chambers in this attic, none of which appeared to be furnished.
"It is in this room," said Captain Boomsby, leading me into the rear hall chamber. "It's a little grain dark in here."
I saw that the window that looked out on the river-side of the house had been boarded up. He led the way into the room, and I followed him.
"I've got a picter of you when you wasn't more'n four year old. It was taken when you was in the poor-house, by a feller that come along taking picters, to show what he could do. It hangs on the wall over here," continued the captain, passing between me and the door. "You can look at it all the rest of the day, if you like."
Suddenly he dodged out of the door, and I heard the bolt spring as he locked the door behind him. I had not expected that he would resort to any trick to get possession of me; and I had been as unsuspicious as though I were on board of the Sylvania. In fact, I was amazed at the hardihood of the man in attempting to make a prisoner of me in this manner. For some reason or other, I was not at all alarmed at my situation. I did not consider the door absolutely invulnerable; and I was confident that I had strength enough to remove the boards that had been nailed up before the window.
When I had been in the room a few minutes, there was light enough which came through the cracks in the boards before the window to enable me to see where I was. There was not an article of furniture of any kind in the apartment. The boards appeared to be securely fastened, not with nails, as I had supposed, but with screws. The boards were of hard pine, and about as strong as oak. My prison was stronger than it seemed at first.
I came to the conclusion before I had been in the room ten minutes, that this apartment had been prepared for my reception. Captain Boomsby knew that the Sylvania was to return to Jacksonville, as others did. It was plain that he had not yet given up the idea of possessing the steamer. He claimed to be my guardian, and to have the legal right to possess whatever belonged to me. Carrington had told him my father was dead, and he believed he could carry his point. I had certainly been bound out to him until I was of age; but he had surrendered all his claims to me in writing to my father, though this document had been destroyed in the fire.
The fact that I had a father, rendered his claim upon me of no value. I was satisfied that no lawyer would undertake the case he proposed to make out against me. I learned that he had tried in Charleston to employ a legal gentleman to assist him in his work of getting possession of the steamer; but no one could furnish any warrant of law for the proceeding. I was not disposed to bother my head with the legal aspect of the case, for my ancient enemy certainly had no legal right to kidnap me, and make me a prisoner in his own house. I was a prisoner; and when I came to a realizing sense of the fact, I was ready for business.
"What on airth are you doin' up here, Parker Boomsby?" snarled the wife of that worthy; and as I stood at the door of my prison, I could hear her pant from the violence of her exertions in ascending the stairs, for, like her liege lord, she had greatly increased her avoirdupois since I lived with the family at Glossenbury. Possibly she drank too much whiskey, like the companion of her joys and sorrows, though I had no information on this point. I only knew that she used to take a little when she was too hot or too cold, when she was wet or when she was dry.
"Hush, Nancy! Don't cut up now!" pleaded the master of the house, as perhaps he supposed he was.
"Don't talk to me, Parker Boomsby! What are you a-doin' up here? What sort of a con-spy-racy be you gittin' up at this blessed moment? Don't talk to me about cuttin' up! It is you that is allus cuttin' up, and never tellin' your peaceful, sufferin' wife what you are doin'," replied Mrs. Boomsby; and I was confident she had been drinking to some extent, from her maudlin tones.
"Hush, Nancy! I've got Sandy Duddleton, with all his fine sodjer's clothes on, in that room," said the captain, in a tone of triumph. "I shall make him give up that steam-yachet; and I shall run her as a reg'lar line up to Green Cove Springs, stoppin' at our orange farm both ways," replied Captain Boomsby, using his best efforts to appease the anger of his spouse.
"Hev you got him in there?" demanded the lady, evidently entirely mollified by the announcement of her husband. "I want to see him. I hain't sot eyes on him sence I see him in Michigan."
"It won't do to open the door: he'll git away if I do. Wait till he gits tamed down a little, and then you shall see him. Good gracious! I forgot all about the bar! Jest as like as not some nigger will come in and help hisself to the best liquor behind the counter. Run down, Nancy, and tell Nicholas to tend to the bar," said the captain.
"Run down yourself, you old fool!" replied the amiable lady. "Do you think I come clear up here for nothin'? I want to see Sandy Duddleton in his sodjer's clothes."
"It won't do to open that door: he will git out if you do. But I must go down and look out for the bar. I shouldn't wonder if I had lost ten cents by this time," replied Captain Boomsby; and I heard his heavy step on the stairs as he went down.
A moment later I heard a hand applied to the handle of the door, and I had no doubt it was Mrs. Boomsby trying to open it in order to obtain a view of "Sandy Duddleton," which was the name by which I was known when an inmate of the poor-house. But the door was locked, and the key was in the pocket of the proprietor of the saloon. The lady seemed to be angry because she could not get into the room where I was; and I must add that I was also sorry she could not, for if she could get in, I could get out.
She tried the door several times, but she could not get in. She said nothing to me; and as I expected no assistance from her, I said nothing. Presently I heard her step on the stairs, hardly less heavy than that of her husband. I concluded that it must be five o'clock by this time; and looking at my watch, I found it was half an hour later. I wanted to get out before dark; and so far, I had not matured any plan to accomplish this purpose. I went to the window, and examined the boards which had been screwed up before it.
I had a large jack-knife in my pocket, which I had carried for several years. It had a kind of scimitar-shaped blade I had used when at work on rigging. But I had little hope of being able to remove the screws from the hard pine, which was as hard to work as oak. I struck a match I had in my pocket, and by the light of it made a careful examination of the screw-heads in the boards. I saw that holes had been bored in the wood to admit the screws: indeed, it would have been impossible to get them through without boring. Of course this would make it easier to remove the screws.
But what was the use of taking down the boards in front of the window? I could not jump down from the attic floor of the building. Yet I could go to the next window, come into the house again, and then go down-stairs, the same as anybody would. I noticed that the lowest board was not more than two inches wide: it had been cut to fit what remained uncovered of the window. I applied my knife to the screws in this narrow strip. Though they were hard to move, I succeeded in getting them out. But the labor of taking down the rest of the boards, or enough of them to enable me to pass out, was so great that I was discouraged in the attempt to accomplish it. The end of the knife-blade did not fit the slit of the screw.