A Story of the Everglades.



THERE was a long swell heaving in over the bar at the mouth of the river, but no breakers; and the little fleet, crossing it easily, laid a course down the coast. A stretch of twenty miles lay before them ere they would find another opening into which they could run for shelter, and they were therefore desirous of making the run before night. On most waters this would not have been difficult; but just here was a strong head current, that of the Gulf Stream, running fully three miles an hour, and they knew that to overcome this, and also to make twenty miles during the day, would tax the sailing powers of their small craft to the utmost. Nor could they all sail. The Hu-la-lah had no centerboard, and with the wind somewhat forward of abeam, the use of her sail would only have driven her off shore. The Lieutenant was therefore obliged to rely upon his paddle and keep close to the coast. The cruiser, being a slow sailer close-hauled, kept him company, but the Psyche and Cupid drew gradually ahead, and were soon out of hailing distance.

It was so delightful to find themselves again sailing, and their canoes were doing so splendidly, that the boys hated to stop. And why should they? There was nothing to fear. They knew where they were going, the others were in company, and a halting place for the night had been agreed upon. They would stop when they reached it, and that would be soon enough.

Until noon the breeze was very light, but after that it freshened and soon came off the land in angry little gusts that suggested the propriety of reefing. With a single reef in each of their sails, they ran until late in the afternoon, when they sighted a cut leading into the great landlocked sheet of Biscayne Bay. They were to enter this bay and cruise down behind its outer keys to Cape Florida, but it had been decided that they should camp on the upper side of the cut for that night.

The wind had increased in strength until now even double-reefed sails could hardly be carried on the canoes. The whole sky was covered with dark clouds, while a bank of inky blackness was rising in the west. It was evident that a wind squall of unusual violence would shortly burst upon them, and almost at the same moment both the canoemates lowered their sails, jointed their paddles, and headed straight in for land. As he lowered his sail and cast a glance astern in search of the other boats, Sumner noticed a large steamer coming down the coast. lie wondered if she were not too close in for safety, but the immediate demands of his situation quickly drove all thoughts of her from his mind.

In the teeth of the spiteful gusts, and facing the ominous blackness, they worked their way in until they could see the very place that the station keeper had described to them as being a suitable camping ground. Five minutes more would take them to its shelter. Just then Sumner shouted to Worth, and drew his attention to a strange craft that he had been watching for several minutes. It was coming out of the cut, running dead before the wind, but yawing and gybing in a manner that indicated either utter recklessness or absolute ignorance on then part of its crew. The two canoes were so close together that Worth could hear Sumner plainly as he shouted:

"It's an Indian canoe, and apparently unmanageable. I'm going to up sail and run down for a look at it. Do you paddle in to shore, and be out of harm's way before that squall bursts."

"Oh, Sumner, don't run any risks!" shouted Worth.

"All right, I'll be careful. But you'll make things a great deal easier for me if you will start at once for shore. That's a good fellow."

So Worth did as his friend desired, and Sumner, hoisting his double-reefed mainsail, bore down on the strange canoe, which would otherwise have passed him at quite a distance. It was going at a tremendous pace, and as the two craft neared each other, Sumner saw to his consternation that the sole occupant of the dugout was a child who stretched out its little arms imploringly towards him. He saw this as the runaway canoe, under full sail, shot across his bow.

A tumult of thought flashed through the boy's mind like lightning. He was near enough to land to reach it in safety. That child, if left alone, was rushing to certain destruction. He might be able to rescue it, and he might not. The chances were that he would lose his own life in the attempt. Very well; could he lose it in a better cause? What would his father have done under similar circumstances? That last question was sufficient. There was no longer any room for argument.

Even during his moment of hesitation the boy had been loosening the reef line of his mainsail, and simultaneously with his decision a quick pull at the halyard exposed its full surface to the wind. Over heeled the canoe, with Sumner leaning far out on the weather side. Then her head paid off, and under the influence of the first blast of the squall she sprang away like a frightened animal, in the direction taken by the runaway.

That same afternoon a fleet of Indian canoes, containing Ul-we and his companions, had crossed Biscayne Bay from the mainland. Instead of descending the river on which they had left our explorers, they had skirted the edge of the 'Glades to another that flowed into the bay, the secret of which they did not choose to have Lieutenant Carey learn. Although it still lacked a day of new moon, they decided to take advantage of the fair wind, cross the bay, and spend the intervening time in catching and smoking a supply of fish at a point several miles above Cape Florida.

In the canoe with Ul-we was his six-year-old brother, the little Ko-wik-a, who was sometimes allowed to hold the sheet while they were sailing, and who considered himself fully competent to manage the boat alone. However, being very wise in some things, he did not say this nor express in words his longing for a chance to prove his skill. He simply waited for an opportunity that was not long in coming.

After the Indians had pitched their camp, Ul-we, taking Ko-wik-a with him, went up to the cut to set a net into which fish would run with the flood tide. Beaching the place, he went into the mangroves to cut some poles, leaving his little brother in the canoe.

This was Ko-wik-a's chance, and he was quick to seize it. He would now show Ul-we that if he was little, he could sail a boat. The big brother had hardly disappeared when the little one shoved the canoe out from the mangroves and grasped the sheet in his chubby hands. The sail was already hoisted. He did not try to steer, but the wind and swiftly ebbing tide did that for him. n A minute later and he was running out of the cut at racing speed, wholly jubilant over the complete success of his experiment. When he got ready to turn round and go back, he became a little frightened to find out that something more than wishing to do so was necessary. When his craft shot out from the cut, and, leaving the land behind, headed out into an infinitely larger body of water than the little fellow had ever before seen, he became thoroughly demoralized, and began to call loudly for Ul-we.

Poor Ul-we had just discovered that both his little brother, whom he loved better than anyone or anything in the world, and his canoe had disappeared, and was rushing frantically towards the outer beach. His instinct told him what had happened, and his one hope was to reach the end of the cut in time to swim off and intercept the runaway.

When he did get there it was only in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of his own well-known sail far out at sea, with another much whiter and smaller one behind it. Then a cruel squall burst over the ocean. In a cloud of rain and mist, borne forward by the fierce wind, the two sails disappeared and the whole landscape was blotted from view.

From a place of safety on the opposite side of the cut, though unseen by Ul-we, Worth Manton strained his eyes for a last glimpse of the Psyche's fluttering signal flag, and the others, rapidly nearing him, wondered at his gesture of despair as it was blotted out.

The squall was long and fierce, and by the time it had passed, the darkness of night had shut in and the stars were shining.



ALTHOUGH the Psyche was flying at racing speed dead before the wind, which freshened with each moment, and was rolling frightfully under her press of canvas, she was no match in running for the long dugout of which she was in pursuit. Had the latter been properly trimmed and steered, the light cedar canoe could never have caught it. As it was, Sumner saw that he was gaining, but so slowly that he could not hope to overtake it before being carried miles out to Sea. In that weather and with night coming on, this was by no means a cheerful prospect. Still he had no thought of turning back. He had entered upon this race with a full knowledge of its possible consequences, and he would either save the helpless little figure that had appealed to him so imploringly, or perish with it.

So the clutch on his deck tiller tightened, and the taut mainsheet held in the other hand was not slackened a single inch, until the hissing rush of the black squall was in his ears. Then the canoe was sharply luffed, the Sheet was dropped, the halyard cast off, and the white sail fell to the deck like a broken wing. As it was gathered in and made fast with a turn of the sheet, the squall burst on the stanch little craft and heeled it far over. It offered too little resistance to be capsized, and a minute later, steadied by the double-bladed paddle, it was once more got before the wind and was scudding under bare poles.

While doing all this, Sumner had been too busy to look after the object of his pursuit. Now he could not see it, and he almost choked with the thought that his brave effort had been made in vain, after all. No, there it was, close at hand, but no longer showing a sail or flying from him. Heeling over before the blast, its long boom had been thrust into the water, and in an instant the slender craft had been upset. Now, full of water, it floated on one side like a log. At first, Sumner failed to see its tiny occupant, and the thought that he had been drowned almost within reach was a bitter one. But no. Hurrah! There he is! With head just above the water, and chubby hands clutching at the slippery sides of his craft, the plucky little chap was still fighting for life.

As the Psyche swept alongside, steered to a nicety, Sumner reached out, and, nearly overturning his canoe by the effort, caught the little fellow by an arm. The water was pouring in over the cockpit coaming, and had the child been a pound heavier, the next instant would have seen two helplessly drifting canoes instead of one. As it was, he was hauled in and safely deposited in the inch or more of water that swashed above the cockpit floor.


With infinite self-possession the child smiled up into the face of his rescuer and lisped: "How, Summer !"

Then the boy recognized the little Ko-wik-a whose acquaintance he had made in Ul-we's camp, and as a relief to his own overstrained; nerves, called him a littler imp, and abused him roundly for getting them into such a scrape. At the same time tears stood in his eyes, and he could have hugged the child cuddling between his knees and smiling so confidingly in his face.

Though the rescue of Ko-wik-a had been so happily accomplished, they were still in a sad plight -- driving out to sea in an eggshell, with no chance of battling back against the tempest, and the darkness of night enshrouding them. With each moment the storm-lashed waves were mounting higher. All Sumner's skill was required to prevent the canoe from broaching to and turning over. How much longer would his strength hold out? Already he felt it failing. He would soon become exhausted, and then --

Hark! What was that? The note of a steam whistle? Yes, and another, and still others, struggling back hoarsely against the wind; Then a light twinkled through the darkness, and directly other lights were outlining a huge black shape right in their track.

Sumner remembered the steamer he had seen just before parting from Worth. Could this be she? What was she doing there, apparently at anchor?

Driving under her stern, a few minutes' hard paddling brought the canoe into the quiet calm of the towering lee. Then Sumner shouted again and again, but the voice of the ship calling for aid in her own distress drowned his cries. After a while the whistle notes ceased, and he shouted again. This time he was beard, and an answering hail came from the deck high above him, "Who is it, and where are you?"

Sumner answered, and in a few minutes a port low down in the ship's side was flung open, and a flood of light poured from it. Two ropes were lowered, and Sumner getting the bights under the bow and stern of his canoe, it, with its occupants, was lifted to the level of the open port. Strong arms first received the little Ko-wik-a, and then helped the young canoeman aboard the steamer.

"Where is your vessel?" demanded the captain, who was among those assembled to witness this unexpected arrival.

"There," answered Sumner, pointing to the Psyche.

"You don't mean to say that you are navigating the ocean in that cockleshell?"

"Yes, I do; though I don't expect I should have navigated it much longer if I hadn't fallen in with you just as I did. How do you happen to be at anchor here, and what were you whistling for?"

"We are not at anchor. We are aground, and I was blowing the whistle in the hope of attracting some vessel or vessels, into which we could lighter our cargo. Now I suppose I shall have to throw it overboard."

"What for?" asked Sumner. "With this offshore wind there won't be any heavy sea, and unless you have stove a hole in her bottom she ought to float with the flood tide."

"Flood tide! Isn't it the top of the flood now?" exclaimed the captain.

"No; it's the very last of the ebb, and the flood will give you a couple of feet more water."

"Are you certain of that?"


"Then you are a trump!" cried the captain. "And I'm away out of my reckoning, somehow. Your coming just as you have has undoubtedly saved my cargo, for I should have begun heaving it overboard by this time. You see, I was hugging the coast to escape the force of the Gulf as much as possible, but was keeping a sharp lookout for the red buoy that marks the end of the reef. I can't imagine how we missed it, unless it has gone; but we did, and when Fowey was lighted, I saw that we were too close in shore. I didn't know that we were inside of the reef; but we struck within five minutes after I altered her course, and that was nearly half an hour ago. We don't seem to have hit very hard, and she lies easy without making any water; but she's here to stay, unless, as you say, the flood tide will lift her off. You are certain that this is the last of the ebb ?"

"As certain as that I am standing here," answered Sumner, who had a very distinct recollection of how the current had rushed out through the cut.

"Then let us go up into my room and have some supper. There you can tell me how you happened to be out here in such weather with a pickaninny aboard while we wait for the tide."

How safe and comfortable the great ship seemed, after that wild race to sea in a canoe! How the captain and mates and passengers marveled at Sumner's adventures, and what a pet they all made of little Ko-wik-a. As for that self-possessed young Indian, he accepted all the attentions lavished upon him in the most matter-of-fact manner, and with the utmost composure. He expressed no surprise at anything he saw; but his keen little eyes studied all the details of his novel surroundings, and he stored away scraps of startling information with which to astonish his young Everglade comrades for many a day.

The squall passed and the sea smoothed out its wrinkles soon after the crew of the Psyche came aboard, and shortly before midnight the rising tide lifted the great ship gently off the reef. She was backed to a safe distance from it, and there anchored to await the coming of daylight.

Knowing what anxiety his friends and Ko-wik-a's friends must be suffering on their account, Sumner determined to return to them at the earliest possible moment. The first signs of dawn, therefore, found the Psyche, with her crew and passenger, once more afloat. A hearty cheer followed the brave little craft as she glided away from the great ship, and in less than an hour she was paddled gently up to where the other canoes and the cruiser lay on the beach.

It had been a sad night to the inmates of that lonely camp, and most of its long hours had been spent in a fruitless watching for the return of the well-loved lad, whom most of them had such slight hopes of ever again seeing. Only Worth had faith, and declared that while he did not know how Sumner would manage it, he was confident that he would turn up again all right somehow. Towards morning their anxiety found relief in a troubled sleep, and as Sumner walked into the camp there was none to greet him or note his coming.

"Hello, in the camp!" he shouted. "Here it is almost sunrise and no breakfast ready yet!"

No surprise could be more complete or more joyful than that. Worth was the first to spring to his feet.

"He's come hack safe and sound!" he shouted. "Oh, Sumner, I knew you would! I was sure of it, and told them so!"

"The next time I let you away from my side it will only be at the end of a long rope, you young rascal, you!" said the Lieutenant, after the extravagant joy of the first greeting had somewhat subsided.

After an unusually late and happy breakfast, they sailed through the cut and into the beautiful bay to which it led. They soon discovered the camp to which Ko-wik-a belonged, and the canoe that had rescued him had the honor of bearing him to it. He was received with a wondering joy that was none the less real for its lack of extravagant manifestation. As Ul-we took the child from Sumner's arms, be turned his face away to hide the emotion that would be unbecoming in an Indian and a warrior. It was there, however, and the look of intense gratitude that he gave the boy was more expressive than any words that he could have uttered.

Then the Indians broke their camp, and they and the whites sailed away together to the appointed rendezvous on Cape Florida.



ON their entire cruise our young canoemates had not enjoyed a day's run so much as they did this one in company with the Indians who had crossed the Everglades with them, but of whom they had seen so little. The wind was so fair that the boats without centerboards could sail as well as those with, and the run was a series of match races, of which the Psyche and Cupid were winners in nearly every case.

As Ul-we's canoe had been lost the night before, the Lieutenant invited both him and the little Ko-wik-a to a sail in the Hu-la-lah, and even the self-contained young Indian was compelled to express his admiration of the graceful craft. When he ventured to ask what such a canoe would cost, and the price was named, his face indicated his despair at ever being able to accumulate such a sum, and he murmured:

"Heap money! Injun no get um."

At Cape Florida, while the camps were being pitched but a short distance from each other, the boys went with Ul-we to set another fish trap, such as he had been about to prepare when Ko-wik-a ran away with his canoe the day before. The little fellow went with them, but he no longer showed any inclination to go sailing on his own hook. After Ul-we had fixed his trap they went over to a submerged bank that extends southward several miles from the cape. Here, while the boys waded in the shoal water collecting sea porcupines, urchins, tiny squids, bits of live coral, and numberless other marine curiosities, Ul-we was busy gathering and throwing into his canoe a quantity of big greenish shells that looked like so many rocks. When they were ready to go back, and Sumner saw this novel cargo, he exclaimed:

"Good! Now we will have some conch soup for dinner!"

"How do you know?" asked Worth.

"Because here are the conchs, and Ul-we has enough for all of us."

"Those things!" cried Worth, in a tone of disgust. "You surely don't mean that they are good to eat?"

"Yes, I do," laughed Sumner, picking up one of the shells and showing Worth the white meat with which its exquisitely pink interior was filled. "I mean that these fellows can be made into the very best soup I know of."

"Seems to me I have seen that kind of a shell before," said Worth, "but I never knew that any one ever ate their contents."

"Of course you have seen the shells. You will find them in half the farmhouses of the country, where, with the point of the small end cut off, they are used as dinner horns. As for the eating part, you wait till Quorum gives you a chance to test it this evening. If you don't find it fully as good as sofkee, then I shall be mistaken."

The boys had been greatly disappointed at not finding either the Man tons' yacht nor the Transit awaiting them at the cape. Several times in the course of the afternoon they climbed to the top of an abandoned lighthouse tower near their camp, in the hope of sighting a sail bound in that direction. As they did so just before sunset, they saw several far over towards the mainland, but they were too distant for their character to be distinguished.

Never had they seen anything so exquisitely beautiful or so royally gorgeous as that Southern sunset, and they lingered at the top of the tower until the last of its marvellous flame tints had burned out, and the delicate crescent of the new moon was sinking into the 'Glades behind the distant pine trees of the mainland.

At supper time Worth was introduced to conch soup, and he agreed with Sumner that it was fully equal to sofkee.

After supper the boys strolled over to the Indian camp, to which Lieutenant Carey was attracted soon afterwards by their shouts of laughter. He did not recognize the boys until they spoke to him, for they had persuaded Ul-we to array them as he had after the forest fire, and they were now in full Indian costume.

In the mean time the distant sails that they had sighted from the top of the old tower had been running across the bay before a brisk breeze, and two vessels had quietly come to anchor just inside the cape. The glow of the campfires could be seen from these, and from one of them a boat containing several persons pulled in to the beach. A minute later two gentlemen, whose footsteps were unheard in the sand, stood on the edge of the circle of firelight, and one of them said to the other, in a low and disappointed tone:

"It's only an Indian camp after all, Tracy,"

"So it is," replied the other, regretfully. "Still, they may be able to give us some news. Let's go in and inquire."

At that moment the attention of the Indians was equally divided between Sumner, who was apparently accumulating a fortune by taking half dollars from little Ko-wik-a's mouth and ears, and Worth, who was attempting to dance what he called a clog with Indian variations, to the music of Lieutenant Carey's whistle. Suddenly little Ko-wik-a, who was nervously excited over Sumner's wonderful performance, uttered a startled cry and sprang to one side, staring into the darkness.

All the others looked in the same direction, and probably the dignified Mr. Manton was never more surprised in his life than when a young Indian bounded to his side, flung his arms about his neck, and called him "Dear father!" His brother was equally amazed when another young Indian sprang to where he was standing, seized his hand, and called him "Mr. Tracy!"

When they discovered, by their voices and by what they were incoherently saying, that these young Indians were not Indians at all, but the very boys of whom they were in search, tanned to the color of mahogany, and dressed in borrowed finery, the surprise and delight of the two gentlemen can better be imagined than described.

"Is it possible," cried Mr. Manton, holding Worth off at arm's-length so that the firelight shone full upon him, "that this can be the pale faced chap with a cough who left me in St. Augustine a couple of months ago? Why, son, you've grown an inch taller and, I should say, six in breadth!" Then, turning to the other boy, and scanning his features closely, he added: "And is this Sumner Rankin, the son of my old schoolmate Rankin, whom I lost sight of after he went into the navy? My boy, for your father's sake, and for the sake of what you have done for Worth; this winter, I want you hereafter to regard me as a father, and continue to act as this boy's elder brother. Ever since Tracy told me of you T have been almost as impatient to meet you as to rejoin Worth, for as schoolmates your father and I were as dear to each other as own brothers."

While this joyful meeting was taking place, a boat from the Transit had come ashore, and Ensign Sloe was reporting to Lieutenant Carey. Then the whole party had to sit down where they were, and, surrounded by the grave-faced Indians, tell and listen to as much of the past two months' experience as could be crowded into as many hours.

The Mantons were charmed with Lieutenant Carey, and he with them, while towards Ul-we their gratitude was unbounded. Old Quorum, too, was introduced, and warmly thanked for his fidelity to the young canoemates.

Be fore the schooners sailed for Key West, which they did the next day Lieutenant Carey presented Ul-we with the Hu-la-lah, and Worth

gave him the handsomest

rifle in his father's collection, besides promising to send little Ko-wik-a a light canoe for his very own. Mr. Manton and Uncle Tracy between them not only purchased from the Indians, at fabulous prices, the costumes in which they found the boys, but everything else they could think of that would aid in reproducing their present appearance and surroundings for the benefit of their Northern friends. The properties they thus acquired included bear, wolf, panther, and deer skins, and even a sofkee kettle with its great wooden spoon. Besides this, they and the Lieutenant so loaded the Indian canoes with provisions, tobacco, cartridges for their rifles and shotguns, and other useful things, that this occasion formed a theme for conversation about every campfire throughout the length and breadth of the Everglades for many a long day. Should Lieutenant Carey and his party ever care to penetrate those wilds again, they will be certain of a hearty welcome, and of being allowed to go where they please.

Then the two yachts set sail for their run down the reef to Key West, where another joyful greeting awaited the young canoemates.

Before the Mantons left there, it was arranged that Mrs. Rankin should dispose of her Key West home as soon as possible, and sail for New York, where Mr. Manton said he had a cosy little house waiting for just such tenants as herself and Sumner.

"Be sure and come as quickly as you can," he said, "for I want my new boy to design and build me a yacht this summer for next winter's cruising."

"I shall need one too," added Uncle Tracy, "and I think I know of several more that will be wanted."

"Don't forget to bring the Psyche with you, Sumner!" shouted Worth, the last thing.

"As if I would!" answered Sumner. "Whatever boats I may own, I will never part with that dear canoe so long as I live."

That evening, as the boy and his mother sat discussing their pleasant prospects for the future, Sumner said:

"Well, mother, I have learned one thing from the past two months' experience, and that is that wealthy people can be just as kind and considerate, and may be as dearly loved, as poor ones. I didn't believe it at one time, but now I know it."






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

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