A Story of the Everglades.



IT was Quorum, sure enough, not only alive and well, but seemingly in the best of spirits. Where had he been ? Where were the boats ? How did he get back? and where had he come from? These are only samples of the dozens of questions with which he was plied while shaking hands with his friends, including the Lieutenant, who was as heartily rejoiced as the boys at again seeing the faithful fellow.

At one of the questions thus asked him, Quorum's face fell, and he answered:

"Whar de boats is, honey, I don't know, fer I hain't seen no likeness ob dem sence las' night 'bout dis time. Whar I is bin, an' what I is 'sperienced, is er long story; but hit's got ter be tole right now, kase dat's what I hyar fer. What we do nex' depen' on de way you all take hit when I is done tellin'."

Then they sat down, and forgetful of their hunger, their recent disappointment with the raft, and even of their unhappy predicament, the others listened with absorbed interest to Quorum's story.

He described the way in which he had been carried off, and his reception in the Indian camp.

"They were Indians, then?" interrupted the Lieutenant.

"Yes, sah, shuah 'nough Injuns, an' a powerful sight ob dem -- man, squaw, an' pickaninny, an' dey gib ole Quor' m one ob de fines' suppahs he ebber eat."

"I wish we had one like it here at this minute!" said Sumner, thus reminded of his hunger.

"Den we all smoke de peace pipe, so dey don't hab no fear oh me declarin' er war on em," continued Quorum.

"Them Injuns has got tobacco, then?" queried the sailor, whose smoking outfit had disappeared with the boats.

"Oh cose dey is, er plenty," answered Quorum. "An' den me an' de big chiefs sot down fer what yo' might call a considerashun oh de fac's. Dey say as what dey can't noways 'low dis hyer experdishun to pass troo de 'Glades, 'cep' on condishuns."

Told in more intelligible language than that used by Quorum, the substance of his talk with the Indians was as follows:

They had learned from a white man that the objects of Lieutenant Carey's expedition were to spy out their land, discover their numbers and the value of their property, and make preparations for their removal from that part of the country.

"I hope you told them differently, and explained our real objects," said the Lieutenant.

"Yes, sah; I done tell 'em to de full ob my knowingness oh yo' plans. But seein' as I hain't know nuffin' tall 'bout 'em, maybe I don't make hit berry cl'ar ter dem ignerant sabages; but I done hit as well as I know how."

The Indians had declared that they should resist any such attempt at an investigation of their resources and mode of life, and that the party must turn back from where it now was. If it would do so, its boats should be restored, and it would be allowed to depart in peace.

The difficulties in the way of accepting this proposition had at once been seen by Quorum. He had explained that as their small boats were not fitted to cruise in the open waters of the Gulf, and as their big boat was already on its way to the east coast, where they were to meet it, to turn back would be a great hardship.

The Indians had listened gravely to their interpreter's translation of all that he had to say on the subject, and assented to the force of his arguments. Then they proposed another plan. It was that if the whites would give up their arms and trust entirely to them, they would convey the party and their boats safely across the 'Glades to within a short distance of the east coast. There they should again receive their guns, and should be allowed to depart in peace, provided they would promise not to return.

"Seems to me that is quite a liberal proposition," said the Lieutenant, after Quorum had succeeded in making it clearly understood. "All we want is to cross the 'Glades and see the Indians. I would willingly have paid them to guide us, and Bow they offer to do so of their own accord. I can't conceive how you persuaded them to make such an offer, Quorum. You must be a born diplomat."

"Yes, sah," replied the negro, grinning from ear to ear, "I 'Specs I is." At the same time he had no more idea of what the Lieutenant meant than if he had talked in Greek.

"How does that plan Strike you, boys?" asked Lieutenant Carey, turning to Sumner and Worth.

"It strikes me as almost too good to be true," answered the former. "And I'm afraid there's Borne trick behind it all; but then I don't see what we can do except say yes to almost any offer they may choose to make."

"That is so," said the Lieutenant. "Without our boats, and with no means for making a raft, we are about as helpless as we well can be."

"It seems to me a splendid plan," said Worth, who saw visions of peaceful nights, and days pleasantly spent in hunting and in visiting Indian camps.

Although the sailor's opinion had not been asked, he could not help remarking: "I'm agin trusting an' Injin, sir. Injins and Malays and all them sort of niggers are notoriously deceitful."

"Hi! Wha' yo' say dere 'bout niggahs, yo' sailorman?" exclaimed Quorum, in high dudgeon. "Yo' call 'em notorious, eh?"

"Not black ones," answered the sailor, apologetically -- " not black ones, Quorum; but them as is red and yellow."

"Dat's all right, sah, an' I 'cept yo' 'pology. At de same time I is bankin' on de squar'ness ob dem Injuns who I bin councillin' wif."

"You believe it will be safe to trust them, then?" asked the Lieutenant.

"Yes, sah; yo' kin trus' 'em same like a black man."

"Very well," said Lieutenant Carey; "as I don't see how, in the present state of affairs, we can do anything else, I will take your word for their honesty, and accept their conditions; only I will not promise never to come into the 'Glades again. I will only promise not to turn directly back from the east coast after they have left us."

"Dat's wha' dey mean, sah. I is berry 'tic'lar on dat pint ob de controbersy."

"Then we will consider it us settled, and would like to leave here for a place where there is something to eat as quickly as possible. Where are your Indian friends?"

"Out dere, sah, in de cooners. Dey say when yo' ready, den I holler like er squinch-owl, an' brung down all yo' uns' guns an' resolvers de fustes' t'ing."

"Very well, squinch away then, and here are my pistols. It is certainly humiliating to be disarmed to please a lot of Indians; but hunger and necessity are such powerful persuaders that it is best to Submit to them with as good grace as possible."

So Quorum "squinched" in a manner that no self-respecting owl would have recognized; but which answered the purpose so well that an answer was immediately heard from the water, over which the evening shadows were now fast falling.

Directly afterwards a canoe, containing the Indian who had acted as interpreter during Quorum's council with the chiefs, appeared at the opening in the bushes. Without stepping ashore, this Indian, whose name was Ul-we (the tall one), exchanged a few words with Quorum, whereby he learned that the Seminole conditions were accepted by the white men. He then bade the negro place the guns and pistols in the canoe and enter it himself. Then he shoved off, and another canoe, containing two Indians, made its appearance.

The Lieutenant bade Sumner and Worth step into it first; but the moment they had done so, it too was shoved off, and another canoe, also containing two Indians, appeared in its place. This received the Lieutenant and the sailor. By the time it was poled into the channel the foremost canoe had disappeared in the darkness, nor was it again seen.

During their journey both the Lieutenant and Sumner tried to enter into conversation with the Indians in their respective canoes, but after a few futile attempts they gave it up. To all their questions they received the same answer, which was "Un-cah" (Yes), and not another word could the Indians be persuaded to utter.

The Lieutenant consoled himself with the thought that he would be able to talk to the chiefs through the interpreter; while the boys looked forward with eager anticipations to seeing the Indian village that Quorum had described. As for the sailor, Indians and their villages were matters of indifference to him.

What he looked forward to was a good supper and a pipe of tobacco.

Thus, all of them awaited with impatience their journey's end, and wished it were light enough for them to see whither they were being taken.



THE darkness, which comes so quickly after sunset in that far Southern country, with almost no intervening twilight, effectually prevented our explorers from seeing where they were going. They only knew from the stars that their general direction was east, or directly into the heart of the Everglades. They were even unable to Study the countenances, dress, or general appearance of the young Indians who, standing in the bow and stern of each canoe, drove it forward with unerring judgment and at a considerable speed by means of long push poles. These poles were quite slender; but each terminated at its lower end in an enlargement, formed by fastening a short bit of wood to either side that prevented it from sinking deeply into the sand or grass roots against which it was set.

The canoes in which our voyagers were now traveling were as different from their own dainty craft as one boat can be from another. Nor did they bear the least resemblance to the bark canoes of Northern Indians, there being no Southern bark similar to that of the Northern birch, or suitable for canoe-building. They were simply dugouts, from twenty to twenty-five feet long by about three feet broad, hollowed with great skill from huge cypress logs. Their lines were fine, and, as our friends afterwards discovered, they are capital sailing craft in any wind, except dead ahead.

When a Seminole decides to build one of these canoes, he first selects and fells his tree, cutting off a section of the required length, and free from knots or cracks. The upper surface of this is hewn smooth, with a slight sheer rise fore and aft. On this smooth surface a plan of the canoe is carefully outlined with charcoal, and then the outside is laboriously worked into shape with hatchets. The hollowing out of the inside is accomplished by fire and hatchets, and, considering the limited supply of tools at the builders' disposal, the result is a triumph of marine architecture. Hatchets and knives are the only tools used in the making of the masts, spars, paddles, push poles, and spear handles that are needed for the equipment of each canoe. The ingenious builders also cut and sew their own sails, which they make of unbleached muslin bought from the trader on Biscayne Bay. Although they use no keels, centerboards, nor leeboards, they manage by holding their paddles firmly against the side of the canoe and deep in the water to sail closehauled, and to keep her up to the wind in a manner that is truly surprising. The Indians take great pride in their canoes and value them highly, for, as they are without horses, roads, or any considerable area of dry land, these are their sole means of transportation and communication between the different parts of the vast territory over which they roam.

After traveling several miles, this first voyage of our explorers in Indian canoes ended at a heavily wooded islet, between the trees of which they could see the welcome glow of a campfire. To their great delight, as they reached the shore, they found their own canoes and the cruiser safely moored to it. In spite of their joy at again seeing these, they were too hungry and too impatient to visit the Indian village to do more just then than assure themselves that their own boats were all right. Then they hurried towards the fire.

There was a roomy palmetto hut standing near it; but to their surprise the firelight disclosed only a single human figure, which, as they drew near, proved to be that of Quorum. He was hard at work cooking supper, and only acknowledged their presence with a grin, and the announcement that it would be ready in a few minutes.

Turning to the hut, they saw that it had been recently erected, and that it Contained their own rolls of bedding, besides the little bags of toilet articles belonging to Lieutenant Carey and the boys, which Quorum had thoughtfully taken from the canoes and placed ready for their use.

"I never realized the luxury of brushes and combs before!" exclaimed Worth, as he occupied the time before supper with making what was probably the most elaborate toilet ever seen in the Everglades.

Meanwhile the Lieutenant was questioning Quorum as to the location of the Indian village, and was disappointed to find the negro as ignorant on the subject as himself. Quorum thought it must be on some other island, as this certainly was not the place to which he had been taken the night before. He said that on arriving there he had found the canoes and cruiser, the hut built, and the fire lighted. The young Indian who had brought him had helped carry the things up to the hut, and also given him some venison and vegetables in exchange for a small quantity of coffee and sugar. He had remained there until shortly before the arrival of the others, and Quorum had not noticed when he disappeared. Before leaving, he had told Quorum that, by the chief's orders, the white men would remain on that island until the following evening.

"Oh, we will, will we?" said Lieutenant Carey, whose pride chafed against receiving orders from an Indian, even if he was a chief. "With our own boats at hand, I don't see what is to hinder us from leaving when we please. I wish that chief would hurry up and put in an appearance. I want to have a few words with him."

He now for the first time realized that the young Indians who had brought them there had not followed them to the camp, and he stepped down to the water's edge to see what they were doing. To his dismay he found that they had not only disappeared, but had taken the canoes and cruiser with them. Greatly provoked at this, he returned to the camp in a very unpleasant frame of mind, mentally abusing the Indians, and regretting that, by accepting their conditions, he had so completely placed himself in their power. His good nature was somewhat restored by the supper, which was most bountiful and well cooked, and by the soothing pipe smoke that followed it; for among other things, Quorum had not neglected to bring up a plentiful supply of tobacco.

After supper, as he and the boys lay outstretched on their blankets within the hut, the open side of which faced the fire, the Lieutenant acknowledged that their present position was a vast improvement on that of the night before. The boys agreed with him, though at the same time they were even more disappointed than he at not finding. themselves in an Indian village. That was one of the things they had most counted on seeing in the Everglades. Having finally decided to make the best of their situation, and to obtain the greatest possible amount of comfort and pleasure from it, they turned in, and slept soundly until morning.

They were so thoroughly tired with their various hardships and labors of the two preceding days and nights that they slept late, and the sun had already been up for several hours before they answered the negro's call to breakfast. He said that though he had been down to the shore several times after water, he had seen no signs of either canoes or Indians. Thus to all appearances they were not only the sole occupants of the island, but of the 'Glades as well.

As they had nothing else to do, the Lieutenant proposed to the boys that they should explore this new island, and make such discoveries of other islands and the intervening 'Glades as could be seen from its shores. They readily agreed to this, and the three set forth. They had not gone more than a hundred yards from camp when they were suddenly confronted by a young Indian, armed with a rifle, which he pointed at them, at the same time making other signs to them to go back. At first they were greatly startled by his unexpected appearance. Then the Lieutenant undertook to remonstrate with him, and to explain that they only wanted to walk harmlessly about and view the landscape, but all in vain. The stolid-faced young savage either could not or would not understand. He only shook his head without uttering a word, but continued to make signs for them to go back.

"This is one of the strangest and most irritating things that I ever heard of!" exclaimed Lieutenant Carey, after finding his efforts to communicate with the Indian unavailing. "If we only had our guns, I'd make that fellow let us pass or know the reason why. As we haven't any, and he has one, the argument is too one-sided, and we might as well retire from it as gracefully as possible. Let us try another direction, and find out if that is also guarded." They tried in two other places, only to be repulsed by other determined young guards who, mute as statues, were equally stolid and impervious to argument.

There was nothing to do but to return to the hut and make the best of the situation. From there no signs of an Indian was to be seen; but let one of the inmates of the camp stroll beyond its limits in any direction, and the woods seemed to swarm with them, though the guards probably did not number more than half a dozen in all.

The day was passed in eating, sleeping, and in discussing their peculiar situation. They were evidently prisoners, though to all appearances as free as air; but, as Lieutenant Carey said, there was no chance of their escaping from the island anyhow, so why they should be denied the privilege of walking about it he could not understand. Quorum was equally in the dark with the rest, and said that nothing of the kind had been intimated by the chiefs during their talk with him. It was finally decided that instead of being on a small island as they had supposed, they must be at one end of a large one that contained a village at the other, which, for some unknown reason, the Indians did not choose they should visit. With this solution of the problem they were forced to content themselves, and they waited with impatience the coming of night, when, according to what Ul-we had told Quorum, their journey was to be resumed.




THEY had an early supper, so as to be all ready for a start whenever their jailers should see fit to make one. By sunset their blankets were rolled up, and they were impatiently awaiting some signal; but none came until darkness had fully set in. Then once more from the direction of the water came the now familiar cry of a screech owl. It was answered from several points about the camp, which showed their Indian guards to be still on duty. As Quorum had been allowed to go freely to the shore for water during the day, the Lieutenant now told him to go down again and discover the meaning of the signal. lie returned a minute later with the news that Ul-we was waiting for him and the cooking utensils, and that the canoes for the other passengers would arrive with the setting of the new moon, which hung low in the western sky.

So Quorum left them, as on the previous night. As the silver crescent of Halissee, the night timepiece of the Everglades, sank from sight, the others went to the shore, carrying their blankets with them. There they found two canoes, apparently manned by the same silent crews of the evening before, awaiting them.

As they shoved off and plunged once more into the trackless 'Glades, the Lieutenant turned for a look at the island. He could distinguish its black outlines from end to end, and it was a very small one. This overthrew the only theory they had formed concerning their close imprisonment, and left him more than ever puzzled as to its object.

Hour after hour the long poles were steadily wielded by the silent Indians, who seemed not to know fatigue nor to require rest. All through the night the heavy dugouts pursued their steady way, crashing through the crisp bonnets, and bending down the long grasses, that flew up with a "swish" behind them. It was a marvel to the passengers that the channels, followed as unerringly by the dusky canoemen as though it had been daylight, always led into one another. Their own experience had been that, even with sunlight to guide them, half the channels they had attempted to follow proved blind leads. But with the Indians it was never so.


Through the night Lieutenant Carey pondered his situation, and studied their course by the Stars. These told him that it was a little to the north of east, the very one he would have chosen, and in this respect the situation was satisfactory. But what information was he gaining concerning the Everglades, their resources, and present population? About as little as was possible for one who was actually passing through them. Could he obtain any more? Evidently not, under the circumstances. Long and deeply as he pondered the subject, he could not think of a single feasible plan for altering the existing state of affairs. lie was compelled to acknowledge himself completely outwitted by the simpleminded sons of the forest into whose power he had so curiously fallen. "If I could only get at them, and talk to them, and explain matters to them!" he said aloud; and the sailor answered:

"It wouldn't do no good, sir. There's none in the woild so obstinate as Injins and Malays. Once they gets an idea inside their skulls, all the white talk you could give 'em wouldn't drive it out. Fighting is the only argument they Can understand; and, if you say the word, I'll have these two heathen pitched overboard in no time."

"No," said the Lieutenant, "it wouldn't do any good, and my orders are to treat such Indians as I may meet with all possible friendliness. I only wish I could meet with some besides these two young automatons, but there does not seem to be any prospect of it."

At the same time Sumner and Worth, crouched snugly among their blankets in the bottom of the other canoe, were also talking of their strange situation.

"Do you suppose any other two fellows ever had such queer times on a canoe trip as we are having?" asked Worth.

"Indeed I do not," replied Sumner. "And this is the very queerest part of it. Here we are still on a canoe cruise, without our own canoes, without knowing where we are going, and without having anything to do with the management of the craft we are cruising in. It will be a queer experience to tell about when you get back to New York, won't it?"

"Yes, indeed, it will, though New York seems so very far away that it is hard to realize that I shall ever get there again. If we could only see an Indian village, though! It seems too bad to be going right through an Indian country and yet see nothing of its people."

"Oh, well, we are not through with the 'Glades yet, and you may still have a chance to see plenty of Indians."

In spite of Sumner's hopefulness, Worth's wish did not seem any nearer being gratified four days from that time than it did then. Each night's journey was a repetition of the first, except that they grew shorter with the growing moon. The Indians refused to travel except in darkness, and never came for their passengers until after the moon had set. Each day was spent in a comfortable camp, to which they were so closely confined that they could learn nothing of their Surroundings. These camps were always located on small islands, and were always reached before daylight.

Quorum always arrived at the camping place some time in advance of the others, and he always found the canoes and the cruiser awaiting him. From them he was allowed to take whatever he thought the party would need, but after that first night the boats invariably disappeared before the others reached them.

Sumner said this was a trick the canoes had learned early on the cruise, and they had probably taught it to the other boat.

Who caused their disappearance or where they went to, none of them knew; and but for Quorum the owners of the several craft would have heard nothing of their whereabouts or welfare.

During this strange journey, as they were un,able to do any hunting or foraging for themselves, Quorum was obliged to exchange So many of their stores for fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables, that he finally announced them to be nearly exhausted.

At length, one very dark night, the passengers, who were half dozing in the bottoms of the canoes, became conscious of a change. The darkness all at once grew more intense, until they could barely distinguish the forms of the Indians in the bow and stern of their respective boats. A rank odor of decaying vegetation filled the air, while the swish of grass and bonnets was no longer heard. They seemed to be moving more Swiftly and easily than usual. Finally, when they landed, it did not seem as though they were on an island; and as they made their way towards the light of the campfire, about which Quorum was already busy, they suddenly realized that it was reflected from a background of pine trees.

"Hurrah, boys!" shouted Lieutenant Carey; "there is a Sign that our trip is nearly ended. Pine trees don't grow in the 'Glades, and there fore we must be somewhere near the coast. I can't say that I am sorry, for the trip has been a most disappointing one to me. It has been a decidedly unique and remarkable one, though -- has it not? I wonder how many people will believe us when we say that we have crossed the entire width of the Everglades without learning anything about them, and almost without Seeing them? When we add that we have passed dozens of Indian villages, and yet have not seen an Indian village; have been surrounded by Indians, but cannot describe their appearance; have come all the way by water, and brought our own boats with us, and yet have not set eyes on our own boats since the day we entered the 'Glades -- I am afraid that we shall be regarded much as the old woman regarded her sailor son when he told her that he had seen fish with wings and able to fly. In fact, I am afraid they will doubt our veracity. How I am going to get up any kind of a report to send to Washington, I am sure I don't know. By the way, Quorum, were our canoes here when you landed?"

"No, sah, dey wasn't; an' I is troubled in my min' frum worryin' about dem. I is ask dat feller Ul-we, but he don't say nuffin.' 'Pears like he done los' he tongue, like de res' ob de Injuns. De wust ob hit is, sah, dat de grub jes about gin out, an' I is got er mighty pore 'pology fer a breakfus."

So excited were our explorers over their new surroundings, and over this report that their boats were again missing, that instead of turning in for a nap, as usual, they sat round the fire and waited impatiently for daylight. Sumner was the most uneasy of the party, and every few minutes he would get up and walk away from the firelight, the better to see if the day were not breaking.

On one of these occasions he was gone so much longer than usual that the others were beginning to wonder what had become of him. All at once they heard him shouting from the direction of the place at which they had landed:

"Hello! in the camp! Come down here, quick! I've got something to show you."




© 2001 Craig O'Donnell, editor & general factotum.
May not be reproduced without my permission. Go scan your own damn stuff.

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