A STORY OF ADVENTURE
GROSSET & DUNLAP
Publihen New York
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Primad is Ite U. A.
I. PREPARING TO LEAVE THE OLD HOME I
II. THE SCHOONER "NANCY BELL" .. II
IIL "CAPrTN LI's" STORY .. 20
IV. A WRaK ON THE FLORIDA REF .. 3
V. MARK AND RUTH ArrEND AN AUCTION 42
VI. A QUBER CHRISTMAs DAY. . 54
VII. ARRIVAL AT THE NEW HOME . 65
VIII. THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL AND MORE MYS-
TERIS . .. 77
IX. MARK DISCOVERS THE GHosr AND FINDn
HIM IN A TRYING PosrTON 91
X. A RUNAWAY'S STORY, AND IT HAPPY
ENDING . io2
XI. "THE ELMER MILL AND FERRY CoL-
PANY . 115
XII. THE GREAT MILL PcIC .... 127
XIII. FIGHTING A FOREST FIRE . 139
XIV. How THE BOYS CAUGHT AN ALLIGATOR 152
XV. A FIRE HUNT, AND MARK'S DISAPPEAR-
ANCE . .. 165
XVI. BURIED IN aN UNDERGROUND RIVR 177
XVII. Two Lrrmn AND A JowN 88
XVIII. THI BURnINO OF THi "WILDUM" =2
XIX. UNCLI CHUprTOPHI*I "GRAT ScHMin" 218
XX. EDNA MAY MARCH . 234
PREPARING TO LEAVE THE OLD HOME.
O VER and over again had Mark and Ruth
Elmer read this paragraph, which ap-
Speared among the "Norton Items" of the weekly
paper published in a neighboring town:
"We are sorry to learn that our esteemed fel-
low-townsman, Mark Elmer, Esq., owing to
delicate health, feels compelled to remove to a
warmer climate. Having disposed of his prop-
erty in this place, Mr. Elmer has purchased a
plantation in Florida, upon which he will set-
tie immediately. As his family accompany him
to this new home in the Land of Flowers, the
many school-friends and young playmates of
his interesting children will miss them sadly."
"I tell you what, Ruth," said Mark, after they
had read this item for a dozen times or more,
"we are somebodies after all, and don't you
forget it. We own a plantation, we do, and have
disposed of our property in this place."
As Mark looked from the horse-block on
which he was sitting at the little weather-beaten
house, nestling in the shadow of its glorious
trees, which, with its tiny grass-plot in front,
was all the property Mr. Elmer had ever owned,
he flung up his hat in ecstasy at the idea of
their being property owners, and tumbled over
backward in trying to catch it as it fell.
"What I like," said Ruth, who stood quietly
beside him, "is the part about us being inter-
esting children, and to think that the girls and
boys at school will miss us."
"Yes, and won't they open their eyes when
we write them letters about the alligators, and
the orange groves, and palm-trees, and bread-
fruit, and monkeys, and Indians, and pirates?
Whoop-e-e-el what fun we are going to havel"
"Bread-fruit, and monkeys, and pirates, and
Indians in Floridal what are you thinking of,
"Well, I guess 'Osceola the Seminole' lived
in Florida, and it's tropical, and pirates and
monkeys are tropical too, ain't they?"
Just then the tea-bqll rang, and the children
ran in to take the paper which they had been
reading to their father, and to eat their last sup-
per in the little old house that had always been
Mr. Elmer had, for fifteen years, been cashier
of the Norton Bank; and though his salary was
not large, he had, by practising the little econ-
omies of a New England village, supported his
family comfortably until this time, and laid by
a sum of money for a rainy day. And now the
"rainy day" had come. For two years past the
steady confinement to his desk had told sadly
upon the faithful bank cashier, and the stooping
form, hollow cheeks, and hacking cough could
no longer be disregarded. For a long time good
old Dr. Wing had said,
"You must move South, Elmer; you can't
stand it up here much longer."
Both Mr. Elmer and his wife knew that this
was true; but how could they move South?
where was the money to come from? and how
were they to live if they did? Long and anxious
had been the consultations after the children
were tucked into their beds, and many were
the prayers for guidance they had offered up.
At last a way was opened, "and just in time,
too," said the doctor, with a grave shake of his
head. Mrs. Elmer's uncle, Christopher Bangs,
whom the children called "Uncle Christmas,"
heard of their trouble, and left his saw-mills and
lumber camps to come and see "where the jam
was," as he expressed it. When it was all ex-
plained to him, his good-natured face, which
had been in a wrinkle of perplexity, lit up, and
with a resounding slap of his great, hard hand
on his knee, he exclaimed,
"Sakes alive why didn't you send for me,
Niece Ellen? why didn't you tell me all this
long ago, eh? I've got a place down in Florida,
that I bought as a speculation just after the war.
I hain't never seen it, and might have forgot it
long ago but for the tax bills coming in regular
every year. It's down on the St. Mark's River.
pretty nigh the Gulf coast, and ef you want to
go there and farm it, I'll give you a ten years'
lease for the taxes, with a chance to buy at your
own bigger when the ten years is up."
"But won't it cost a great deal to get there,
uncle?" asked Mrs. Elmer, whose face had
lighted up as this new hope entered her heart.
"Sakes alive no; cost nothing Why, it's
actually what you might call providential the
way things turns out. You can go down, slick
as a log through a chute, in the Nancy Bell, of
Bangor, which is fitting out in that port this
blessed minit. She's bound to Pensacola in bal-
last, or with just a few notions of hardware sent
out as a venture, for a load of pine lumber to
fill out a contract I've taken in New York. She
can run into the St. Mark's and drop you jest
as well as not But you'll have to pick up and
raft your fixin's down to Bangor in a terrible
hurry, for she's going to sail next week,
Wednesday, and it's Tuesday now."
So it was settled that they should go, and the
following week was one of tremendous excite-
ment to the children, who had never been from
home in their lives, and were now to become
such famous travellers.
Mark Elmer, Jr., as he wrote his name, was
as merry, harum-scarum, mischief-loving a boy
as ever lived. He was fifteen years old, the
leader of the Norton boys in all their games,
and the originator of most of their schemes
for mischief. But Mark's mischief was never
of a kind to injure anybody, and he was as hon-
est as the day is long, as well as loving and loyal
to his parents and sister Ruth.
Although a year younger than Mark, Ruth
studied the same books that he did, and was a
better scholar. In spite of this she looked up
to him in everything, and regarded him with the
greatest admiration. Although quiet and studi-
ous, she had crinkly brown hair, and a merry
twinkle in her eyes that indicated a ready hu-
mor and a thorough appreciation of fun.
It was Monday when Mark and Ruth walked
home from the post-office together, reading the
paper, for which they had gone every Monday
evening since they could remember, and they
were to leave home and begin their journey on
the following morning.
During the past week Mr. Elmer had re-
signed his position in the bank, sold the dear
little house which had been a home to him and
his wife ever since they were married, and in
which their children had been born, and with
a heavy heart made the preparations for
With the willing aid of kind neighbors Mrs.
Elmer had packed what furniture they were to
take with them, and it had been sent to Bangor.
Mark and Ruth had not left school until Fri-
day, and had been made young lions of all the
week by the other children. To all of her girl
friends Ruth had promised to write every single
thing that happened, and Mark had promised
so many alligator teeth, and other trophies of
the chase, that, if he kept all his promises, there
would be a decided advance in the value of
Florida curiosities that winter.
As the little house was stripped of all its fur-
niture, except some few things that had been
sold with it, they were all to go to Dr. Wing's
to sleep that night, and Mrs. Wing had almost
felt hurt that they would not take tea with her;
but both Mr. and Mrs. Elmer wanted to take
this last meal in their own home, and persuaded
her to let them have their way. The good
woman must have sent over most of the supper
she had intended them to eat with her, and this,
together with the good things sent in by other
neighbors, so loaded the table that Mark de-
dared it looked like a regular surprise-party
A surprise-party it proved to be, sure enough,
for early in the evening neighbors and friends
began to drop in to say good-bye, until the lower
rooms of the little house were filled. As the
chairs were all gone, they sat on trunks, boxes,
and on the kitchen table, or stood up.
Mark and Ruth had their own party, too,
right in among the grown people; for most of
the boys and girls of the village had come with
their parents to say good-bye, and many of them
had brought little gifts that they urged the young
Elmers to take with them as keepsakes. Of all
these none pleased Ruth so much as the album,
filled with the pictures of her school-girl
friends, that Edna May brought her.
Edna was the adopted daughter of Captain
Bill May, who had brought her home from one
of his voyages when she was a little baby, and
placed her in his wife's arms, saying that she
was a bit of flotsam and jetsam that belonged
to him by right of salvage. His ship had been
in a Southern port when a woman, with this
child in her arms, had fallen from a pier into
the river. Springing into the water after them,
Captain May had succeeded in saving the child,
but the mother was drowned. As nothing could
be learned of its history, and as nobody claimed
it, Captain May brought the baby home, and
she was baptized Edna May. She was now four-
teen years old, and Ruth Elmer's most intimate
friend, and the first picture in the album was a
good photograph of herself, taken in Bangor.
The others were only tin-types taken in the
neighboring town of Skowhegan; but Ruth
thought them all beautiful.
The next morning was gray and chill, for it
was late in November. The first snow of the
season was falling in a hesit-ring sort of a way,
as though it hardly knew whether to come or
not, and it was still quite dark when Mrs. Wing
woke Mark and Ruth, and told them to hurry,
for the stage would be along directly. They
were soon dressed and down-stairs, where they
found breakfast smoking on the table. A mo-
ment later they were joined by their parents,
neither of whom could eat, so full were they of
the sorrow of departure. The children were
also very quiet, even Mark's high spirits being
dampened by thoughts of leaving old friends,
and several tears found their way down Ruth's
cheeks during the meal.
After breakfast they said good-bye to the
Wings, and went over to their own house to pack
a few remaining things into hand-bags, and wait
for the Skowhegan stage.
At six o'clock sharp, with a "toot, toot, toot,"
pf the driver's horn, it rattled up to the gate, fol-
lowed by a wagon for the baggage. A few min-
utes later, with full hearts and tearful eyes, the
Elmers had bidden farewell to the little old
house and grand trees they might never see
again, and were on their way down the village
street, their long journey fairly begun.
THE SCHOONER "NANCY BELL."
IT lacked a few minutes of nine o'clock when
the stage in which the Elmers had left Nor-
ton drew up beside the platform of the railway
station in Skowhegan. There was only time to
purchase tickets and check the baggage, and
then Mark and Ruth stepped, for the first time
in their lives, on board a train of cars, and were
soon enjoying the novel sensation of being
whirled along at what seemed to them a tre-
mendous rate of speed. To them the train-boy,
who came through the car with books, papers,
apples, and oranges, and wore a cap with a gilt
band around it, seemed so much superior to ordi-
nary boys, that, had they not been going on such
a wonderful journey, they themselves would
have envied him his life of constant travel and
At Waterville they admired the great mills,
which they fancied must be among the largest
in the world; and when, shortly after noon, they
reached Bangor, and saw real ships, looking
very like the pictures in their geographies, only
many times more interesting, their cup of hap-
piness was full.
Mark and Ruth called all the vessels they saw
"ships;" but their father, who had made sev-
eral sea-voyages as a young man, said that most
of them were schooners, and that he would ex-
plain the difference to them when they got to sea
and he had plenty of time.
The children were bewildered by the noise of
the railroad station and the cries of the drivers
and hotel runners-all of whom made violent
efforts to attract the attention of the Elmer party.
At length they got themselves and their bags
safely into one of the big yellow omnibuses, and
were driven to a hotel, where they had dinner.
Mark and Ruth did not enjoy this dinner much,
on account of its many courses and the constant
attentions of the waiters.
It had stopped snowing, and after dinner the
party set forth in search of the Nancy Bell. By
making a few inquiries they soon found her, and
were welcomed on board by her young, pleasant-
faced captain, whose name was Eli Drew, but
whom all his friends called "Captain Li."
The Nancy Bell was a large three-masted
schooner, almost new, and as she was the first
vessel "Captain Li" had ever commanded, he
was very proud of her. He took them at once
into his own cabin, which was roomy and com-
fortable, and from which opened four state-
rooms-two on each side. Of these the captain
and his mate, John Somers, occupied those on
the starboard, or right-hand side, and those on
the other, or port side, had been fitted up, by the
thoughtful kindness of Uncle Christopher, for
the Elmers-one for Mrs. Elmer and Ruth, and
the other for Mark and his father.
"Ain't they perfectly lovely?" exclaimed
Ruth. "Did you ever see such cunning little
beds? They wouldn't be much too big for
Edna May's largest doll."
"You mustn't call them 'beds,' Ruth; the right
name is berths," said Mark, with the air of a
boy to whom sea terms were familiar.
"I don't care," answered his sister; "they are
beds for all that, and have got pillows and sheets
and counterpanes, just like the beds at home."
Mr. Elmer found that his furniture, and the
various packages of tools intended for their
Southern home, were all safe on board the
schooner and stowed down in the hold, and he
soon had the trunks from the station and the bags
from the hotel brought down in a wagon.
The captain said they had better spend the
night on board, as he wanted to be off by day-
light, and they might as well get to feeling at
home before they started. They thought so too;
and so, after a walk through the city, where,
among other curious sights, they saw a post-
office built on a bridge, they returned to the
Nancy Bell for supper.
Poor Mr. Elmer, exhausted by the unusual
exertions of the day, lay awake and coughed
most of the night, but the children slept like
tops. When Mark did wake he forgot where
he was, and in trying to sit up and look around,
bumped his head against the low ceiling of his
Daylight was streaming in at the round glass
dead-eye that served as a window, and to Mark's
great surprise he felt that the schooner was mov-
ing. Slipping down from his berth, and quietly
dressing himself, so as not to disturb his father,
he hurried on deck, where he was greeted by
"Captain Li," who told him he had come just
in time to see something interesting.
The Nancy Bell was in tow of a little puffing
steam-tug, and was already some miles from
Bangor down the Penobscot River. The clouds
of steam rising into the cold air from the sur-
face of the warmer water were tinged with gold
by the newly-risen sun. A heavy frost rested on
the spruces and balsams that fringed the banks
of the river, and as the sunlight struck one twig
after another, it covered them with millions of
points like diamonds. Many cakes of ice were
floating in the river, showing that its navigation
would soon be closed for the winter.
To one of these cakes of ice, towards which a
boat from the schooner was making its way, the
captain directed Mark's attention. On this
cake, which was about as large as a dinner-table,
stood a man anxiously watching the approach
of the boat.
"What I can't understand," said the captain,
"is where he ever found a cake of ice at this
time of year strong enough to bear him up."
"Who is he? How did he get there, and what
is he doing?" asked Mark, greatly excited.
"Who he is, and how he got there, are more
than I know," answered "Captain Li." "What
he is doing, is waiting to be taken off. The men
on the tug sighted him just before you came on
deck, and sung out to me to send a boat for him.
It's a mercy we didn't come along an hour
sooner, or we never would have seen him
through the mist."
"You mean we would have missed him," said
Mark, who, even upon so serious an occasion,
could not resist the temptation to make a pun.
By this time the boat had rescued the man
from his unpleasant position, and was returning
with him on board. Before it reached the
schooner Mark rushed down into the cabin and
called to his parents and Ruth to hurry on deck.
As they were already up and nearly dressed,
they did so, and reached it in time to see the
stranger helped from the boat and up the side
of the vessel.
He was so exhausted that he was taken into
the cabin, rolled in warm blankets, and given re-
storatives and hot drinks before he was ques-
tioned in regard to his adventure.
Meantime the schooner was again slipping
rapidly down the broad river, and Mark, who
remained on deck with his father, questioned
him about the "river's breath," as he called the
clouds of steam that arose from it
"That's exactly what it is, the 'river's breath,'"
said Mr. Elmer. "Warm air is lighter than cold,
and consequently always rises; and the warm,
damp air rising from the surface of the river
into the cold air above is condensed into vapor,
just as your warm, damp breath is at this very
"But I should think the water would be cold
with all that ice floating in it," said Mark.
"It would seem cold if we were surrounded
by the air of a hot summer day," answered his
father; "but being of a much higher tempera-
ture than the air above it, it would seem quite
warm to you now if you should put your bare
hand into it. We can only say that a thing is
warm by comparing it with something that is
colder, or cold by comparison with that which
When Mark and his father went down to
breakfast they found the rescued man still
wrapped in blankets, but talking in a faint voice
to the captain; and at the table the latter told
the Elmers what he had learned from him.
His name was Jan Jansen, and he was a
Swede, but had served for several years in the
United States navy. On being discharged from
it he had made his way to New Sweden, in the
northern part of Maine; but, a week before, he
had come to Bangor, hoping to obtain employ-
ment for the winter in one of the saw-mills. In
this he has been unsuccessful; and the previous
night, while returning from the city to the house
on its outskirts in which he was staying, he un-
dertook to cross a small creek, in the mouth
of which were a number of logs; these were so
cemented together by recently formed ice that
he fancied they would form a safe bridge, and
tried to cross on it. When near the middle of
the creek, to his horror the ice gave way with a
crash, and in another moment he was floating
away in the darkness on the cake from which
he had been so recently rescued. That it had
supported him was owing to the fact that it
still held together two of the logs. He had not
dared attempt to swim ashore in the dark, and
so had drifted on during the night, keeping his
feet from freezing by holding them most of the
time in the water.
After breakfast Mr. Elmer and the captain
held a consultation, the result of which was that
the former offered Jan Jansen work in Florida,
if he chose to go to the St. Mark's with them;
and Captain Drew offered to let him work his
passage to that place as one of the crew of the
Nancy Bell. Without much hesitation the poor
Swede accepted both these offers, and as soon as
he had recovered from the effects of his ex-
perience on the ice raft was provided with a
bunk in the forecastle.
"CAPTAIN LI'S" STORY.
ALL day the Nancy Bell was towed down
the broad river, the glorious scenery along
its banks arousing the constant enthusiasm of
our travellers. Late in the afternoon they
passed the gray walls of Fort Knox on the right,
and the pretty little town of Bucksport on the
left. They could just see the great hotel at Fort
Point through the gathering dusk, and soon
afterwards were tossing on the wild, windswept
waters of Penobscot Bay.
As they cleared the land, so as to sight Castine
Light over the port quarter, the tug cast loose
from them and sail was made on the schooner.
The last thing Mark Elmer saw as he left the
deck, driven below by the bitter cold, was the
gleam of the light on Owl's Head, outside which
Captain Drew said they should find the sea
The rest of the family had gone below some
time before, and Mark found that his mother
was already very sea-sick. He felt rather un-
comfortable himself, and did not care much for
the supper, of which his father and Ruth cat
so heartily. He said he thought he would go
to bed, before supper was half over, and did
so, although it was only six o'clock. Poor
Market it was a week before he again sat at table
or went on deck.
During this week the Nancy Bell sailed along
the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massa-
chusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. She
went inside of Martha's Vineyard, through
Vineyard Sound, in company with a great fleet
of coasters; but when they passed Gay Head,
and turned to the westward into Long Island
Sound, the Nancy was headed towards the
lonely light-house on Montauk Point, the ex-
treme end of Long Island. From here her
course was for the Cape May lightship on the
New Jersey coast, and for some time she was
out of sight of land.
So they sailed, day after day, ever southward,
and towards the warmth which was to make
Mr. Elmer well again.
Although Mark was very ill all this time,
Ruth was as bright and well as though she were
on land. This was very mortifying to her
brother; but "Captain Li," who went in to see
him every day, comforted him by telling him
of old sailors he had known who were always
sea-sick for the first few days of every voyage
The schooner was off Cape Hatteras before
Mark felt able to leave his berth. At last, one
evening when the sea was very quiet, "Captain
Li" said, "Come, Mark, I want you to turn out
and go on deck to see the last of Hatteras Light.
You know Cape Hatteras is one of the worst
capes along our entire Atlantic coast, and is
probably the one most dreaded by sailors.
When coming home from the West Indies, they
sing an old song which begins:
"'Now if the Bermudas let you pass,
Then look for Cape Hatteras.' "
Slowly dressing, with the captain's aid, Mark,
feeling very weak, but free from the horrible
sickness from which he had suffered so long,
managed to get out on deck. He was astonished
at the change that one week's sailing southward
had made in the general appearance of things.
When he was last on deck, it and the rigging
were covered with snow and ice. Now not a
particle of either was to be seen, and the air
was mild and pleasant. A new moon hung low
in the western sky, and over the smooth sea the
schooner was rippling along merrily, under
every stitch of canvas that she could spread.
Mark received a warm welcome from his
father, mother, and Ruth, who were all on deck,
but had not expected to see him there that
"Quick, Mark! Lookl Hatteras is 'most
gone," said Ruth, pointing, as she spoke, to a
little twinkle of light so far astern that it seemed
to rest on the very waters. Half an hour later
the captain said, "Now let's go below, where
it is warmer; and if you care to hear it, I will
spin you a yarn of Hatteras Light."
"Yes, indeed," said Ruth and Mark together.
"By all means; a story is just the thing," said
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer, also together, at which
they all laughed, hooked little fingers, and
When they had made themselves comfortable
in the cabin, Mark being allowed to occupy the
lounge on account of his recent illness, the cap-
tain began as follows:
"Ten years ago this winter I made my first
voyage of any length, though before that I had
made some short runs on a little coaster between
New York and down-East ports. Getting tired
of this, and wanting to see something more of
the world, I shipped in New York, early in
December, on board the very prettiest craft I
ever set eyes on, for a voyage to the West Indies.
She was the hundred-ton schooner-yacht
Mirage, and her owner had determined to try
and make her pay him something during the
winter by running her as a fruiter. She carried
a crew of five men, besides the captain, mate,
and steward-all young and able seamen. I was
the youngest and least experienced, but was
large for my age, and passed muster with the
"We had a pleasant run down to Havana,
passing Moro Castle and dropping anchor on
the seventh day out from New York, but found
some trouble there in getting a cargo for the
home voyage. The delay worried our skipper
considerably, for he had calculated on being
home with his wife and baby at Christmas; but
we of the crew enjoyed the city, and I for one
got leave to go ashore whenever I could, and
made the most of my opportunity to see the
"We had laid there about ten days, when one
morning, as the old man came up the after
companion-way from the cabin, a big gray rat
rushed out on deck ahead of him, scampered
to the side, and plumped overboard. We all
saw it in the water, swimming for the quay,
which was but a short distance from us, and,
quick as a thought, the skipper had jumped back
into the cabin for his pistol, and before the
beast had got more than half-way he had fired
several shots at it. The bullets struck all around
the rat, but didn't hit it, and we saw him dis-
appear through a crevice between the stones
of the quay.
"Our captain was a very superstitious man,
and this incident troubled him, for I heard him
say to the mate that he never knew any ship
to have good luck when once the rats began
to leave her.
"Soon after this we took in our cargo of pine-
apples and bananas and started for home. Our
first three days' run was as pretty as ever was
made, and with the Gulf Stream to help us, it
seemed as though we might make New York in
time for Christmas, after all. Then there came
a change-first a gale that drove us to the west-
ward, and then light head-winds, or no winds at
all; and so we knocked round for three days
more, and on the day before Christmas we
hadn't rounded Hatteras, let alone made Sandy
Hook, as we had hoped to do.
"It was a curious sort of a day, mild and hazy,
with the sun showing round and yellow as an
orange. The skipper was uneasy, and kept
squinting at the weather, first on one side and
then the other. We heard him say to the mate
that something was coming, for the mercury was
falling faster than he had ever seen it Things
stood so until sunset, when the haze settled down
thicker than ever. I was at the wheel, when
the skipper came on deck and ordered all can-
vas to be stripped from her except the double-
reefed main-sail and a corner of the jib. He
sung out to me to keep a sharp lookout for Hat-
teras Light, and then went below again.
"When I caught sight of the light, about an
hour later, and reported it, it wasn't any brighter
than it looked when you came on deck, a while
ago, Mark, and we were heading directly for
it. When the skipper came up and looked at
it he told me to 'keep her so' while he took a
squint at the chart.
"He hadn't more than gone below again when
there came such a gust of wind and rain, with
thunder and lightning close after, as to hide the
light and keep me busy for a few minutes hold-
ing the schooner up to it.
"The squall passed as suddenly as it came,
and there was the light, right over the end of
the flying-jib-boom, burning as steady as ever,
but looking mighty blue, somehow. I thought
it was the effect of the mist, and tried to keep
her headed for it. As I was getting terribly
puzzled and fussed up by what I thought was
the strange action of the compass, and by the
way the little spiteful gusts of wind seemed to
come from every quarter at once, the skipper
came on deck. Before he had cleared the com-
panion-way he asked,
"'How does Hatteras Light bear?'
"'Dead ahead, sir,' said I.
"As he stepped on deck he turned to look at it,
and I saw him start as though he saw something
awful. He looked for half a minute, and then
in a half-choked sort of voice he gasped out,
'The Death-Light '
"At the same moment the light, that I had
took to be Hatteras, rolled slowly, like a ball of
fire, along the jib-top-sail stay to the top-mast
head, and then I knew it was a St. Elmo's fire,
a thing I'd heard of but never seen before.
"As we all looked at it, afraid almost to say
a word, there came a sound like a moan over
the sea, and in another minute a cyclone, such
as I hope never to see again, laid us, first on our
beam ends, and then drove us at a fearful rate
directly towards the coast.
"We drove this way for an hour or more,
unable to do a thing to help ourselves, and then
she struck on Hatteras sands. Her masts went
as she struck, and as they fell a huge sea, rush-
ing over the poor craft, swept overboard the
captain and two men. It was some time before
we knew they were gone, for we could see noth-
ing nor hear anything but the howl of the
"At last we got rid of the floating wreck of
spars by clearing the tangled rigging with our
knives, and, thus relieved, the schooner was
driven a good bit farther over the sands. Finally
she struck solid, and began to break up. One of
her boats was stove and worthless, and in try-
ing to clear away the other, a metallic life-boat,
another man was swept overboard and lost.
"The mate and two of the crew besides my-
self finally got away from the wreck in this
boat, and were driven in to the beach, on which
we were at last flung more dead than alive.
"The next morning we made our way to the
light-house, where we were kindly cared for,
but where our Christmas dinner was a pretty
"The captain's body was washed up on the
beach, and a week from that day we took it
and the news of his death together to his wife
in New York.
"Since then I have always felt easier when
I have left Hatteras Light well astern, as we
have for this time, at any rate. Well, there's
eight bells, and I must be on deck, so good-night
to you all, and pleasant dreams."
"Is there any such thing as a 'death-light' that
warns people of coming disaster?" asked Ruth
of her father, when the captain had left them.
"No, my dear," he answered, "there is not.
The St. Elmo's light, or St. Elmo's fire, is fre-
quently seen in tropical seas, though rarely as
far north as Cape Hatteras; and as it is gen-
erally accompanied by cyclones or hurricanes,
sailors have come to regard it as an omen of
evil. It is not always followed by evil conse-
quences, however, and to believe that it fore-
tells death is as idle and foolish as superstitions
of all kinds always are."
A WRECK ON THE FLORIDA REEF.
AFTER leaving Hatteras not another evi-
dence of land was seen by the passengers
of the Nancy Bell for three days. At last one
afternoon "Captain Li" pointed out and called
their attention to a slender shaft rising appar-
ently from the sea itself, far to the westward.
He told them that it was the light-house at
Jupiter Inlet, well down on the coast of Florida,
and they regarded it with great interest, as giv-
ing them their first glimpse of the land that was
so soon to be their home.
The weather had by this time become very
warm and instead of wearing the thick clothing
with which they had started, the Elmers found
the very thinnest of their last summer's things
all that they could bear.
Mark had almost forgotten his sea-ickness,
and spent much of his time with Jan Jansen,
who taught him to make knots and splices, to
box the compass and to steer. Both Mark and
Ruth were tanned brown by the hot sun, and
Mr. Elmer said the warmth of the air had al-
ready made a new man of him.
Before the light but steady trade-wind, that
kept the air deliciously cool, the Nancy Bell
ran rapidly down the coast and along the great
Florida Reef, which, for two hundred miles,
bounds that coast on the south.
Captain Drew stood far out from the reef,
being well aware of the strong currents that
set towards it from all directions, and which
have enticed many a good ship to her destruc-
tion. Others, however, were not so wise as he,
and at daylight one morning the watch on deck
"Wreck off the starboard bowl"
This brought all hands quickly on deck, and,
sure enough, about five miles from them they
saw the wreck looming high out of the water,
and evidently stranded. As her masts, with
their crossed yards, were still standing, "Captain
Li" said she must have struck very easily, and
stood a good chance of being saved if she could
only be lightened before a blow came that would
roll a sea in on her.
"Are you going to her assistance?" asked Mr.
"Certainly I am," answered the captain. "I
consider that one of the first duties of a sailor
is to give aid to his fellows in distress. Besides,
if we succeed in saving her and her cargo, we
stand a chance of making several thousand dol-
lars salvage money, which I for one do not care
to throw away."
"You are quite right," said Mr. Elmer. "It
is seldom that we are offered an opportunity of
doing good and being well paid for it at the
same time, and it would be foolish, as well as
heartless, not to render what assistance lies in
The schooner was already headed towards-
the wreck, but approached it very slowly, owing
to the light breeze that barely filled her sails.
As the sun rose, and cast a broad flood of light
over the tranquil scene, the captain anxiously
scanned the line of the reef in both directions
through his glass.
"Ah, I thought so he exclaimed; "there they
come, and there, and there. I can count six
already. Now we shall have a race for it."
"Who? what?" asked Mark, not understand-
ing the captain's exclamations.
"Wreckersl" answered the captain. "Take
the glass, and you can see their sails coming
from every direction; and they have seen us
long ago too. I actually believe those fellows
can smell a wreck a hundred miles off. Halloo
there, forward Stand by to lower the gig."
"What are you going to do?" asked Mr.
"I am going to try and reach that wreck be-
fore any of the boats whose sails you can see
slipping out from behind those low keys. The
first man aboard that ship is 'wreck-master,'
and gets the largest share of salvage money."
So saying, "Captain Li" swung himself over
the side and into the light gig, which, with its
crew of four lusty young Maine sailors, had
already been got overboard and now awaited
him. As he seized the tiller ropes he shouted,
"Now, then, give wayl and a hundred dollars
extra salvage to you four if this gig is the first
boat to lay alongside of that wreck."
At these words the long ash oars bent like wil-
low wands in the grasp of the young Northern
giants, and the gig sprang away like a startled
bonito, leaving a long line of bubbles to mark
The wreck was still three miles off; and, with
the glass, small boats could be seen shooting
away from several of the approaching wreck-
"It's a race between Conchs and Yankees,"
said Jan Jansen to Mark.
"What are Conchs?" asked the boy.
"Why, those fellows in the other boats. Most
of them come from the Bahama Islands, and
all Bahamians are called 'Conchs,' because they
eat so many of the shell-fish of that name."
"Well, I'll bet on the Yankeesl" cried Mark.
"So will I," said the Swede. "Yankee baked
beans and brown bread make better muscle than
fish, which is about all the fellows down this
way get to live on."
As seen from the deck of the schooner, the
race had by this time become very exciting; for,
as their boat approached the wreck on one side,
another, manned by red-shirted wreckers, who
were exhibiting a wonderful amount of pluck
and endurance for "Conchs," as Jan called
them, was rapidly coming up on the other. It
was hard to tell which was the nearer; and while
Majk shouted in his excitement, Mrs. Elmer
and Ruth waved their handkerchiefs, though
their friends were too far away to be encouraged
by either the shouts or wavings.
At last "Captain Li's" boat dashed up along-
side the wreck, and almost at the same instant
the wrecker's boat disappeared from view on
the opposite side.
With their glasses, those on the schooner saw
their captain go up the side of the ship, hand
over hand, along a.rope that had been thrown
him, and disappear over the bulwarks. They
afterwards learned that he reached the deck of
the ship, and thus made himself master of the
wreck, just as the head of his rival appeared
above the opposite side.
The wreck proved to be the ship Goodipeed,
Captain Gillis, of and for Liverpool, with cot-
ton from New Orleans. During the calm of the
preceding night she had been caught by one
of the powerful coast currents, and stealthily
but surely drawn into the toils. Shortly before
daylight she had struck on Pickle Reef, but so
lightly and so unexpectedly that her crew could
hardly believe the slight jar they felt was any-
thing more than the shock of striking some large
fish. They soon found, however, that they were
hard and fast aground, and had struck on the
very top of the flood tide, so that, as it ebbed,
the ship became more and more firmly fixed in
her position. As the ship settled with the ebbing
tide she began to leak badly, and Captain Gillis
was greatly relieved when daylight disclosed
to him the presence of the Nancy Bell, and he
greeted her captain most cordially as the latter
gained the deck of his ship.
By the time the schooner had approached the
wreck, as nearly as her own safety permitted,
and dropped anchor for the first time since leav-
ing Bangor, a dozen little wrecking craft,
manned by crews of swarthy spongers and fisher-
men, had also reached the spot, and active
preparations for lightening the stranded ship
were being made. Her carefully battened
hatches were uncovered, whips were rove to her
lower yards, and soon the tightly pressed bales
of cotton began to appear over her sides, and
find their way into the light draught wrecking
vessels waiting to receive them. As soon as one
of these was loaded, she transferred her cargo
to the Nancy Bell and returned for another.
While the wreckers were busily discharging
the ship's cargo, her own crew were overhauling
long lines of chain cable, and lowering two large
anchors and two smaller ones into one of the
wrecking boats that had remained empty on
purpose to receive them. The cables were paid
out over the stern of the ship, and made fast
to the great anchors, which were carried far
out into the deep water beyond the reef. Each
big anchor was backed by a smaller one, to
which it was attached by a cable, and which was
carried some distance beyond it before being
When the anchors were thus placed in posi-
tion, the ends of the cables still remaining on
board the ship were passed around capstans,
and by means of the donkey-engine drawn taut.
At high tide that night a heavy strain was
brought to bear on the cables, in hopes that the
ship might be pulled off the reef; but she did
not move, and the work of lightening her and
searching for the leak continued all the next
While all this work was going on the Elmers
spent most of their time in exploring the reef in
the captain's gig, which was so light that Mr.
Elmer and Mark could easily row it.
As the clear water was without a ripple, they
could look far down into its depths, and see the
bottom of branching coral, as beautiful as
frosted silver. From among its branches sprang
great sea-fans, delicate as lace-work, and show-
ing, in striking contrast to the pure white of
the coral, the most vivid reds, greens, and royal
purple. These, and masses of feathery sea-
weeds, waved to and fro in the water as though
stirred by a light breeze, and among them darted
and played fish as brilliant in coloring as tropi-
cal birds. The boat seemed suspended in mid-
air above fairy-land, and even the children
gazed down over its sides in silence, for fear
lest by speaking they should break the charm,
and cause the wonderful picture to vanish.
By noon the heat of the sun was so great that
they sought shelter from it on a little island, or
key, of about an acre in extent, that was covered
with a luxuriant vegetation, and shaded by a
group of stately cocoa-nut palms. Mr. Elmer
showed Mark how to climb one of these by
means of a bit of rope fastened loosely around
his body and the smooth trunk of the tree, and
the boy succeeded in cutting off several bunches
of the great nuts that hung just below the wide-
spreading crown of leaves. They came to the
ground with a crash, but the thick husk in which
each was enveloped saved them from breaking.
The nuts were quite green, and Mr. Elmer with
a hatchet cut several of them open and handed
them to his wife and children. None of them
contained any meat, for that had not yet formed,
but they were filled with a white, milky fluid,
which, as all of the party were very thirsty,
proved a most acceptable beverage.
After eating the luncheon they had brought
with them, and satisfying their thirst with the
cocoa-nut milk, Mark and Ruth explored the
beach of the little island in search of shells,
which they found in countless numbers, of
strange forms and most beautiful colors, while
their parents remained seated in the shade of
"Wouldn't it be gay if we could stay here
always?" said Mark.
"No," answered the more practical Ruth; "I
don't think it would be at all. I would rather be
where there are people and houses; besides, I
heard father say that these little islands are
often entirely covered with water during great
storms, and I'm sure I wouldn't want to be here
It was nearly sunset when they returned to the
schooner, with their boat well loaded with the
shells and other curiosities that the children had
At high tide that night the strain on the cables
proved sufficient to move the stranded ship, and,
foot by foot, she was pulled off into deep water,
much to the joy of Captain Gillis and those who
had worked with him.
The next morning the entire fleet-ship,
schooner, and wrecking boats-set sail for Key
West, which port they reached during the after-
noon, and where they found they would be
obliged to spend a week or more while an Ad-
miralty Court settled the claims for salvage.
MARK AND RUTH ATTEND AN AUCTION.
ALTHOUGH Mr. and Mrs. Elmer regret-
ted the delay in Key West, being anxious
to get settled in their new home as soon as possi-
ble, the children did not mind it a bit; indeed,
they were rather glad of it. In the novelty of
everything they saw in this queerest of Ameri-
can cities, they found plenty to occupy and
The captain and their father were busy in
the court-room nearly every day, and Mrs. El-
mer did not care to go ashore except for a walk
in the afternoon with her husband. So the chil-
dren went off on long exploring expeditions by
themselves, and the following letter, written
during this time by Ruth to her dearest friend,
Edna May, will give an idea of some of the
things they saw:
"KBY WEST, FLA., December 15, i88-.
"MY DEAREST EDNA,-It seems almost a year since I left
you in dear old Norton, so much has happened since then.
This is the very first chance I have had since I left to
send you a letter, so I will make it a real long one, and try
to tell you everything.
"I was not sea-sick a bit, but Mark was.
"In the Penobscot River we rescued a man from a
floating cake of ice, and brought him with us. His name
is Jan Jansen, but Mark calls him Jack Jackson. A few
days before we got here we found a wreck, and helped get
it off, and brought it here to Key West. Now we are
waiting for a court to say how much it was worth to do it.
I shouldn't wonder if they allowed as much as a thousand
dollars, for the wreck was a big ship, and it was real hard
"This is an awfully funny place, and I just wish you
were here to walk round with Mark and me and see it.
It is on an island, and that is the reason it is named 'Key,'
because all the islands down here are called keys. The
Spaniards call it 'Cayo Hueso,' which means bone key, or
bone island; but I'm sure I don't know why, for I haven't
seen any bones here. The island is all made of coral, and
the streets are just hard white coral worn down. The
island is almost flat, and 'Captain Li'-he's our captain-
says that the highest part is only sixteen feet above the
"Oh, Edna! you ought to see the palm-trees. They grow
everywhere, great cocoa-nut and date palms, and we drink
the milk out of the cocoa-nuts when we go on picnics and get
thirsty. And the roses are perfectly lovely, and they have
great oleanders and cactuses, and hundreds of flowers that
I don't know the names of, and they are all in full bloom
now, though it is nearly Christmas. I don't suppose I
shall hang up my stocking this Chrisa; they don't e
to do it down her
'The other day we went out to the soldiers barracks,
and saw a banyan-tree that 'Captain Li' says is the only
one in the United States, but we didn't see any monkeys
or elephants. Mark says he don't think this is very tropical,
because we haven't sen any bread-fruit-trees nor a single
pirate; but they used to have them here-I mean pirates.
Anyhow, we have custard apples, and they sound tropical,
don't they? And we have sapadilloes that look like pota-
toes, and taste like-well, I think they tate horrid, but
mst people seem to like them.
"It is real hot here, and I am wearing my last summer's
bet straw hat and my thinnest linen dresses-ou know,
those I had last vacation. The thermometer got up to
"Do write, and tell me all about yourself and the girls.
Has Susie Rand got well enough to go to school yet? and
who's head in the algebra class? Mark wants to know
how's the skating, and if the boys have built a snow fort
yet? Most all the people here are black, and everybody
talks Spanish: it is o funny to hear them.
"Now I must say good-bye, because Mark is calling me
to go to the fruit auction. I will tell you about it some
"With love to everybody, I am your own lovingest friend,
"P.S.-Don't forget that you are coming down here to
see me next winter."
Before Ruth finished this letter Mark began
calling to her to hurry up, for the bell had
stopped ringing, and the auction would be all
over before they got there. She hurriedly di-
rected it, and put it in her pocket to mail on
the way to the auction, just as her brother called
out that he "did think girls were the very
They had got nearly to the end of the wharf
at which the schooner lay, when Ruth asked
Mark if he had any money.
"No," said he, "not a cent. I forgot all about
it Just wait here a minute while I run back
and get some from mother."
"Well," said Ruth, "if boys ain't the very
carelessestl" But Mark was out of hearing be-
fore she finished.
While she waited for him, Ruth looked in
at the open door of a very little house, where
several colored women were making beautiful
flowers out of tiny shells and glistening fish-
scales. She became so much interested in their
work that she was almost sorry when Mark came
running back, quite out of breath, and gasped,
"I've got itl Now let's hurry upt"
Turning to the left from the head of the
wharf, they walked quickly through the narrow
streets until they came to a square, on one cor-
ner of which quite a crowd of people were
collected. They were all listening attentively to
a little man with a big voice, who stood on a
box in front of them and who was saying as
fast as he could,
"Forty, forty, forty. Shall I have the five?
Yes, sir; thank you. Forty-five, five, five-who
says fifty? Fifty, fifty, forty-five-going, going,
gone I and sold at forty-five to Mr. Beg
pardon; the name, sir? Of course, certainly
And now comes the finest lot of oranges ever
offered for sale in Key West What am I bid
per hundred for them? Who makes me an
offer? I am a perfect Job for patience, gentle-
men, and willing to wait all day, if necessary,
to hear what you have to say."
Of course he was an auctioneer, and this was
the regular fruit auction that is held on this
same corner every morning of the year. Many
other things besides fruit are sold at these auc-
tions; in fact, almost everything in Key West
is bought or sold at auction; certainly all fruit
is. For an hour before the time set for the
auction a man goes through the streets ringing
a bell and announcing what is to be sold. This
morning he had announced a fine lot of oranges,
among other things, and as Mrs. Elmer was
anxious to get some, she had sent Mark and
Ruth to attend the auction, with a commission
to buy a hundred if the bids did not run too
The children had already attended several
auctions as spectators, and Mark knew enough
not to bid on the first lot offered. He waited
until somebody who knew more about the value
of oranges than he should fix the price. He and
Ruth pushed their way as close as possible to
the auctioneer, and watched him attentively.
"Come, gentlemen," said the little man, "giv-
me a starter. What am I to have for the first
lot of these prime oranges?"
"Two dollars called a voice from the crowd.
"Two," cried the auctioneer. "Two, two,
two and a half. Who says three? Shall I hear
it? And three. Who bids three? That's right.
Do I hear the quarter? They are well worth
it, gentlemen. Will no one give me the quarter?
Well, time is money, and tempus fugit. Going
at three-at three; going, going, and sold at
Several more lots sold so rapidly at three
dollars that Mark had no opportunity of mak-
ing himself beard or of catching the auctiooneer's
eye, until, finally, in a sort of despair he called
out "Quarter," just a another lot was about to
be knocked down to a dealer at three dollars.
"Ahl" said the auctioneer, "that is something
like. It takes a gentleman from the North to
appreciate oranges at their true value. A quar-
ter is bid. Shall I have a half? Do I hear it?
Half, half, half; and sold at three dollars and
a quarter to Mr. what name, please? El-
der. Oh yes; good old name, and one you can
live up to more and more every day of your
life. John, pick out a hundred of the best for
The oranges selected by John were such beau-
tics that neither Mark nor his mother regretted
the extra quarter paid for them. After that,
during the rest of their stay in Key West, when-
ever Mark went near a fruit auction he was
addressed politely by the auctioneer as "Mr.
Elder," and invited to examine the goods offered
for sale that day.
One day Mark and Ruth rowed out among
the vessels of the sponging fleet that had just
come in from up the coast. Here they scraped
acquaintance with a weather-beaten old sponger,
who sat in the stern of one of the smallest of
the boats, smoking a short pipe and overhauling
some rigging; and from him they gained much
new information concerning sponges.
"We gets them all along the reef as far as
Key Biscayne," said the old sponger; "but the
best comes from Rock Island, up the coast nigh
to St. Mark's."
"Why, that's where we're going 1" interrupted
"Be you, sissy? Wal, you'll see a plenty raked
up there, I reckon. Did you ever hear tell of a
"No," said Ruth, "I never did."
"Wal," said the old man, "here's one; maybe
you'd like to look through it." And he showed
them what looked like a wooden bucket with a
glass bottom. "Jest take an' hold it a leetle ways
down into the water and see what you can see."
Taking the bucket which was held out to her,
Ruth did as the old man directed, and uttered
an exclamation of delight. "Why, I can see
the bottom just as plain as looking through a
"To be sure," said the old sponger; "an' that's
the way we sees the sponges lying on the bottom.
An' when we sees 'em we takes those long-
handled rakes there an' hauls 'em up to the top.
When they fust comes up they's plumb black,
and about the nastiest things you ever did see,
I reckon. We throws 'em into crawls built in
shallow water, an' lets 'em rot till all the animal
matter is dead, an' we stirs 'em up an beats 'em
with sticks to get it out. Then they has to be
washed an' dried an' trimmed, an' handled con-
sider'ble, afore they's ready for market. Then
they's sold at auction."
The sponge crawls of which the old man
spoke are square pens make of stakes driven
into the sand side by side, and as close as possible
together. In some of them at Key West Mark
and Ruth saw little negro boys diving to bring
up stray sponges that the rakes had missed.
They did not seem to enjoy this half as much
as Mark and his boy friends used to enjoy div-
ing in the river at Norton, and they shivered as
though they were cold, in spite of the heat of
When the children told Mr. Elmer about
these little, unhappy-looking divers that night,
"That shows how what some persons regard
u play, may become hard and unpleasant work
to those who are compelled to do it"
Several days after this Mr. Elmer engaged a
carriage, and took his wife and the children on
a long drive over the island. During this drive
the most interesting things they saw were old
Fort Taylor, which stands just outside the city,
and commands the harbor, the abandoned salt-
works, about five miles from the city, and the
Martello towers, built along the southern coast
of the island. These are small but very strong
forts, built by the government, but as yet never
occupied by soldiers.
In one of them the Elmers were shown a
large, jagged hole, broken through the brick
floor of one of the upper stories. This, the
sergeant in charge told them, had been made by
a party of sailors who deserted from a man-of-
war lying in the harbor, and hid themselves in
this Martello tower. They made it so that
through it they could point their muskets and
shoot anybody sent to capture them as soon as
he entered the lower rooms. They did not have
a chance to use it for this purpose, however, for
the officer sent after them just camped outside
the tower and waited patiently until hunger
compelled the runaways to surrender, when he
quietly marched them back to the ship.
In all of the forts, as well as in all the houses
of Key West, are great cisterns for storing rain-
water, for there are no wells on the island, and
the only fresh-water to be had is what can be
caught and stored during the rainy season.
It was a week after the orange auction that
Mr. Elmer came into the cabin of the schooner
one afternoon and announced that the court had
given its decision, and that they would sail the
This decision of the court gave to the schooner
Nancy Bell five thousand dollars, and this,
"Captain Li" said, must, according to wrecker's
law, be divided among all who were on board
the schooner at the time of the wreck. Accord-
ingly, he insisted upon giving Mr. and Mrs.
Elmer each two hundred dollars, and Mark,
Ruth, and Jan each one hundred dollars. As
neither of the children had ever before owned
more than five dollars at one time, they now felt
wealthy enough to buy the State of Florida, and
regarded each other with vastly increased re-
spect While their father took charge of this
money for them, he told them they might invest
it as they saw fit, provided he and their mother
thought the investment a good one.
At daylight next morning the Nancy Bell
again spread her sails, and soon Key West was
but a low-lying cloud left far behind. For three
days they sailed northward, with light winds,
over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
On the evening of the third day a bright light'
flashed across the waters ahead of them, and
"Captain Li" said it was at the mouth of the
St. Mark's River. As the tide was low, and no
pilot was to be had that night, they had to stand
off and on, and wait for daylight before crossing
the bar and sailing up the river beyond it.
A QUEER CHRISTMAS-DAY.
ALL night long the Nancy Bell sailed back
and forth within sight of the light that
marked the mouth of the river. Soon after day-
light a pilot-boat was seen approaching her in
answer to the signal which was flying from the
main rigging. As the boat ran alongside, a
colored pilot clambered to the deck and de-
dared it did him good to see a big schooner
waiting to come into the St. Mark's once more.
"Uster be a plenty of 'em," said he to "Cap-
tain Li," "but dey's scurcer'n gole dollars now-
adays, an' I'se proud to see 'em coming' ag'in."
By the time breakfast was over and the El-
mers came on deck, they found the schooner
running rapidly up a broad river, between wide
expanses of low salt-marshes, bounded by distant
pine forests, and studded here and there with
groups of cabbage palms. The channel was a
regular zig-zag, and they ran now to one side
and then far over to the other to escape the
coral reefs and oyster bars with which it is filled.
This occupied much time; but the breeze was
fresh, and within an hour they had run eight
miles up the river, and were passing the ruins
of the old Spanish Fort of St. Mark's. A few
minutes later sails were lowered, and the
schooner was moored to one of the rotten old
wharves that still remain to tell of St. Mark's
"And is this St. Mark's?" asked Mrs. Elmer,
looking with a feeling of keen disappointment
at the dozen or so tumble-down frame buildings
that, perched on piles above the low, wet land,
looked like dilapidated old men with shaky legs,
and formed all that was to be seen of the town.
"Yes, miss," answered the colored pilot, who
seemed to consider her question addressed to
him. "Dis yere's St. Mark's, or what de gales
has lef' of hit. 'Pears like dey's been mighty
hard on de ole town, sence trade fell off, an'
mos' of de folkses moved away. Uster be
wharves all along yere, an' cotton-presses, an'
big war'houses, an' plenty ships in de ribber;
but now dey's all gone. Dem times we uster
hab fo' trains of kyars a day; but now dere's
only one train comes tree times in de week, an'
hit's only got one kyar. Ole St. Mark's a-eein'
bad times now, for sho."
As soon as he could get ashore, Mr. Elmer,
accompanied by Mark and the captain, went up
into the village to find out what he could regard-
ing their destination and future movements. In
about an hour he returned, bringing a package
of letters from the post-office, and the informa-
tion that Uncle Christopher Bangs's place was
at Wakulla, some six miles farther up the river.
As the river above St. Mark's is quite crooked,
and bordered on both sides by dense forests, and
as no steam-tug could be had, the captain did
not care to attempt to carry the schooner any
farther up. Mr. Elmer had therefore chartered
a large, flat-bottomed lighter, or scow, to carry
to Wakulla the cargo of household goods, tools,
building material, etc., that they had brought
As "Captain Li" was anxious to proceed on
his voyage to Pensacola as quickly as possible,
the lighter was at once brought alongside the
schooner, and the work of discharging the El-
mers' goods into her was begun.
"By-the-way, Mark," said Mr. Elmer, as the
schooner's hatches were removed, "I am just
reminded that this is Christmas-day, and that
there is a present down in the hold for you from
your Uncle Christmas. It will be one of the
first things taken out, so see if you can recog-
He had hardly spoken before the sailors, who
had gone down into the hold, passed carefully
up to those on deck a beautiful birch-bark canoe,
with the name Ruth painted on its bows.
"That's it, father! that's itl I'm sure it is.
Ohl isn't she a beauty?" shouted Mark, wild
with delight. "Oh! father, how did he know
just exactly what I wanted most?" and the ex-
cited boy rushed down into the cabin to beg his
mother and Ruth to come on deck and see his
The canoe was followed by two paddles
painted a bright vermilion, and as they were
placed in her, and she was laid to one side of
the deck, she was indeed as pretty a little craft
as can be imagined, and one that would delight
any boy's heart.
"I knew we were going to live near a river,
my dear," said Mr. Elmer, in answer to his
wife's anxious expression as she looked at the
canoe, "and as Mark is a good swimmer and
very careful in boats, I thought a canoe would
afford him great pleasure, and probably prove
very useful to all of us. So when Uncle Chris-
topher asked me what I thought the boy would
like most for a Christmas present, I told him
"Well, I hope it will prove safe," sighed Mrs.
Elmer; "but I wish it were flat-bottomed, and
built of thick boards instead of that thin bark."
"Oh, mother said Mark, "you might as well
wish it were a canal-boat at once."
"Yes, I believe canal-boats are generally con-
sidered safer than canoes," answered his mother
with a smile. "By-the-way, Mark"-and she
turned to her husband-"one of the letters you
brought was from Uncle Christopher, and he
says he thinks he forgot to tell us that there is
a house on his place, which he hopes we will
find in a fit condition to occupy."
Mr. Elmer had expected to have to build
a house, and had accordingly brought with him
sashes, doors, blinds, the necessary hardware,
and in fact everything except lumber for that
purpose. This material was now being trans-
ferred from the schooner to the lighter, and now
it seemed almost a pity to have brought it; still
they were very glad to learn that they were
likely to find a house all ready to move into.
It wanted but two hours of sundown when
the last of the Elmers' goods were stowed in the
lighter, and as there was nothing to detain him
any longer, "Captain Li" said he should take
advantage of the ebb tide that night to drop
down the river and get started for Pensacola.
As rowing and poling the heavy lighter up the
river would at best prove but slow work, and as
there was no hotel or place for them to stay in
St. Mark's, Mr. Elmer thought they too had
better make a start, and take advantage of the
last of the flood tide and what daylight still
So good-byes were exchanged, and feeling
very much as though they were leaving home
for the second time, the Elmers left the com-
fortable cabin that had sheltered them for nearly
a month. Followed by Jan, they went on board
their new craft, and the lines were cast off. The
crew of four strong colored men bent over the
long sweeps, and followed by a hearty cheer
from the crew of the schooner, the scow moved
slowly up the river. In a few minutes a bend
hid St. Mark's and the tall masts of the Nancy
Bell from sight, and on either side of them ap-
peared nothing but unbroken forest.
The river seemed narrow and dark after the
open sea to which the Elmers had been so long
accustomed, and from its banks the dense growth
of oak, cedar, magnolia, palm, bay, cypress, elm,
and sweet gum trees, festooned with moss, and
bound together with a net-work of vines, rose
like walls, shutting out the sunlight Strange
water-fowl, long-legged and long-billed, flew
screaming away as they advanced, and quick
splashes in the water ahead of them told of the
presence of other animal life.
At sunset they were nearly two miles from
St. Mark's, and opposite a cleared spot on the
bank, where was piled a quantity of light-wood
or pitch-pine. Here the captain and owner of
the lighter, who was a young white man named
Oliver Johnson, proposed that they should tie
up for the night.
To this Mr. Elmer consented, and as soon as
the boat was made fast to the bank, active prepa-
rations were begun for cooking supper, and for
making everything as snug and comfortable as
A large sail was stretched across some 'poles,
in the form of a tent, over the after-part of the
lighter, and beneath this two comfortable beds
were made up from the abundant supply of mat-
tresses and blankets belonging to the Elmers.
Jan Jansen and Captain Johnson, who, Mark
said, must be related, as their names were the
same, spread their blankets in the forward end
of the boat. On shore the negro crew built for
themselves a thatched lean-to of poles and palm-
leaves beside the fire, that was already throwing
its cheerful light across the dark surface of the
While the men were busy arranging the shel-
ters and bedding, Mrs. Elmer and Ruth, assisted
by one of the negroes, were cooking supper over
a bed of coals that had been raked from the fire.
A huge pot of coffee sent forth clouds of fra-
grant steam, and in two frying-pans some freshly
caught fish sizzled and browned in a most
gratifying and appetizing manner. In a couple
of kettles hung over the fire hominy and sweet
potatoes bubbled, boiled, and tried to outdo each
other in getting done. Fresh-made bread and a
good supply of butter had been brought from
the schooner. When the supper was all ready,
and spread out on a green table-cloth of palm-
leaves, Mark and Ruth declared that this picnic
was even jollier than the one on the island of
the Florida Reef, and that this was after all one
of the very best Christmases they had ever
After supper, and when the dishes had all
been washed and put away, the Elmers, Captain
Johnson, and Jan sought the shelter of the can-
vas awning from the heavy night-dew which
had begun to fall as soon as the sun went down.
They lifted the sides, so that they could look
out and see the fire around which the crew were
gathered. After a while one of these started
a plaintive negro melody, which sounded very
sweetly through the still air. The others took
it up, and they sang for an hour or more, greatly
to the delight of the children, to whom such
music was new. Many of the words were com-
posed as they sang, and Mark and Ruth could
not help laughing at some of them, which,
though sung very soberly, sounded funny. One
song which they afterwards remembered was:
"Oh, dey put John on de island'
When de Bridegroom come;
Yes, dey put John on de islan'
When de Bridegroom come;
An' de rabens come an' fed him
When de Bridegroom come;
Yes, de rabens come an' fed him
When de Bridegroom come.
An' five of dem was wise
When de Bridegroom come;
Yes, five of dem was wise
When de Bridegroom come;
An' five of dem was foolish
When de Bridegroom come;
Yes, five of dem was foolish
When de Bridegroom come.
Oh, gib us of yo' ile
When de Bridegroom come;
Oh, gib us of yo' ile
When de Bridegroom come;
Fo' you'll nebber get to heaben
When de Bridegroom come;
No, you'll nebber get to heaben
When de Bridegroom come;
Aless you's ile a-plenty
When de Bridegroom come;
Aless you's ile a-plenty
When de Bridegroom come."
In the midst of the singing a voice called out
from the tree-tops,
"Who, who, who, who's there?" or at least
so it sounded.
Immediately the singing stopped, and one of
the negroes answered,
"Some folkses from de Norf, Marse Owl, an'
Cap'n Johnsin, an' me, an' Homer, an' Virgil,
"What does he mean by that?" asked Mr.
Elmer of the captain.
"Oh," answered he, "it's one of their super-
stitions that they'll have bad luck if they don't
answer an owl politely when he asks 'Who's
there?' and give the names of all the party, if
they know them."
Soon after this all hands sought their blankets,
good-nights were said, the fire died down, and
all was quiet in the camp, though several times
some sleepy negro roused himself sufficiently
to answer the owl's repeated question of "Who's
It must have been nearly midnight when the
camp was startled by a crash, a series of smoth-
ered cries, and a loud splashing in the water.
It was evident that something serious had hap-
pened, but what it was no one could make out in
ARRIVAL AT THE NEW HOME.
SOME light-wood splinters were quickly
thrown upon the smouldering remains of
the fire, and as it blazed up brightly, the lighter,
in which the whites had been sleeping, was seen
to be on its beam ends. One side rested high
up on the bank and the other down in the mud
at the bottom of the river, just on the edge of
the channel. Some little distance down stream
a sorry-looking figure, which was hardly recog-
nizable as that of Jan, was floundering through
the mud and water towards the bank. On the
lower side of the lighter the canvas, that had
been spread like a tent over the afterpart, had
broken from its fastenings, and was now tossing
and heaving in a most remarkable manner.
From beneath it came the smothered cries of
the Elmers, who had been suddenly wakened
to find themselves mixed together in the most
perplexing way, and entangled in their blankets
and the loose folds of the canvas.
Captain Johnson seemed to be the only person
who had his wits about him, and who was in a
condition to render any assistance. As soon as
he could pick himself up he made his way to
the other end of the boat and dragged the canvas
from off the struggling family. First Mr.
Elmer emerged from the confusion, then Mrs.
Elmer and Ruth were helped out, and last of
all poor Mark, who had been buried beneath
the entire family, was dragged forth, nearly
smothered and highly indignant.
"It's a mean trick, and I didn't think-" he
began, as soon as he got his breath; but just then
his eye fell upon the comical figure of Jan. He
was walking towards the fire, dripping mud and
water from every point, and Mark's wrath was
turned into hearty laughter at this sight. In
it he was joined by all the others as soon as they
saw the cause of his mirth.
After the Elmers had been helped up the
steep incline of the boat, and were comfortably
fixed near the fire, Captain Johnson and Jan,
who said he didn't mind mud now any more
than an alligator, took light-wood torches and
set out to discover what had happened. As Jan
climbed down the bank into the mud, and held
his torch beneath the boat, he saw in a moment
the cause of the accident, and knew just how it
As the tide ebbed the lighter had been gradu-
ally lowered, until it rested on the upright
branches of an old water-logged tree-top that
was sunk in the mud at this place. The water
falling lower and lower, the weight upon these
branches became greater and greater, until they
could support it no longer, and one side of the
lighter went down with a crash, while the other
rested against the bank. Jan, who had been
sleeping on the upper side of the boat, was
thrown out into the water when it fell, as some
of the Elmers doubtless would have been had
not their canvas shelter prevented such a catas-
The rest of the night was spent around the
fire, which was kept up to enable Jan to dry
his clothes. By daylight the tide had risen, so
that the lighter again floated on an even keel.
By sunrise a simple breakfast of bread-and-but-
ter and coffee had been eaten, and our emigrants
were once more afloat and moving slowly up the
About ten o'clock Captain Johnson pointed to
a huge dead cypress-tree standing on the bank
of the river some distance ahead, and told the
Elmers that it marked one of the boundary-lines
of Wakulla. They gazed at it eagerly, as
though expecting it to turn into something dif-
ferent from an ordinary cypress, and all felt
more or less disappointed at not seeing any clear-
ings or signs of human habitations. It was not
until they were directly opposite the village that
they saw its score or so of houses through the
trees and undergrowth that fringed the bank.
As the Bangs place, to which the children
gave the name of "Go Bang"-a name that ad-
hered to it ever afterwards-was across the river
from the village, the lighter was poled over to
that side. There was no wharf, so she was made
fast to a little grassy promontory that Captain
Johnson said was once one of the abutments
of a bridge. There was no bridge now, how-
ever, and already Mark saw that his canoe was
likely to prove very useful.
The first thing to do after getting ashore and
seeing the precious canoe safely landed was to
find the house. As yet they had seen no trace
of it, so heavy was the growth of trees every-
where, except at the abutment, which was built
of stone, covered with earth and a thick sod.
From here an old road led away from the river
through the woods, and up it Mr. and Mrs.
Elmer and Captain Johnson now walked, Mark
and Ruth having run on ahead. The elders
had gone but a few steps when they heard a loud
cry from Ruth, and hurried forward fearing
that the children were in trouble. They met
Ruth running back towards them, screaming,
"A snake! a snake! a horrid big snake"
"I've got him!" shouted Mark from behind
some bushes, and sure enough there lay a black
snake almost as long as Mark was tall, which
he had just succeeded in killing with a stick.
Mrs. Elmer shuddered at the sight of the
snake, though her husband assured her that it
had been perfectly harmless even when alive.
Not far from where the snake had been killed
they found a spring of water bubbling up, as
clear as crystal, from a bed of white sand, but
giving forth such a disagreeable odor that the
children declared it was nasty. Mr. Elmer,
however, regarded it with great satisfaction, and
told them it was a sulphur spring, stronger than
any he had ever seen, and that they would find
it very valuable. They all drank some of the
water out of magnolia-leaf cups; but the chil-
dren made faces at the taste, and Mark said it
made him feel like a hard-boiled egg.
A path leading from the spring at right an-
gles to the road from the river took them into
a large clearing that had once been a cultivated
field, and on the farther side of this field stood
the house. As they approached it they saw that
it was quite large, two stories in height, with
dormer windows in the roof, but that it bore
many signs of age and long neglect. Some of
the windows were broken and others boarded
up, while the front door hung disconsolately
on one hinge.
The house stood in a grove of grand live-
oaks, cedars, and magnolias, and had evidently
been surrounded by a beautiful garden, enclosed
by a neat picket-fence; but now the fence was
broken down in many places, and almost hid-
den by a dense growth of vines and creepers.
In the garden, rose-bushes, myrtles, oleanders,
and camellias grew with a rank and untrained
luxuriance, and all were matted together with
vines of honeysuckle and clematis.
The front porch of the house was so rotten
and broken that, after forcing their way through
the wild growth of the garden, the party had to
cross it very carefully in order to enter the open
door. The interior proved to be in a much bet-
ter condition than they had dared hope, judg-
ing from the outside appearance of the house.
It was filled with the close, musty odor common
to deserted buildings, and they quickly threw
wide open all the windows and doors that were
not nailed up. On the first floor were four large
rooms, each containing a fireplace and several
closets, and up-stairs were four more, lighted by
the dormer windows in the roof. A broad hall
ran through the house from front to rear, open-
ing upon a wide back porch which was also
much out of repair. Beneath this porch Mr.
Elmer discovered a brick cistern half full of
dirty water, which he knew must be very foul,
as the gutters along the roof were so rotten and
broken that they could not have furnished a
fresh supply in a long time.
Behind the main house, and surrounded by
large fig-trees, they found another building, in
a fair state of preservation, containing two
rooms, one of which had been the kitchen. In
the huge fireplace of this kitchen they were sur-
prised to see freshly burned sticks and a quan-
tity of ashes, while about the floor were scat-
tered feathers and bones, and in one corner was
a pile of moss that looked as though it has been
used for a bed. Beyond the kitchen were the
ruins of several out-buildings that had fallen
by reason of their age, or been blown down dur-
ing a gale.
Having thus made a hasty exploration of their
new home, the party returned to the landing, to
which their goods were being unloaded from the
lighter by Jan and the crew. Leaving Mrs. El-
mer and Ruth here, Mr. Elmer and Mark
crossed the river to the village to see what they
could procure in the way of teams and help.
Of the twenty houses in the village, many
of which were in a most dilapidated condition,
only two were occupied by white families, the
rest of the population being colored. There
were no stores nor shops of any kind, the only
building not used as a dwelling-house being a
small church very much out of repair. The
white men living in the village were away from
home, but from among the colored people, who
were much excited at the arrival of strangers
in their midst, Mr. Elmer engaged two men and
their wives to cross the river and go to work at
once. He also engaged a man who owned a
team of mules and a wagon, and who would go
over as soon as the lighter was unloaded and
could be used to ferry him across.
On its return to the other side, the canoe was
followed by a skiff containing the newly en-
gaged colored help, whose amazement at every-
thing they saw, and especially at the canoe, was
unbounded. One of the men expressed his won-
der at the little craft by saying, "Dat ar trick's
so light, I reckon it's gwine leab de water some
fine day, an' fly in de yair, like a duck."
Mrs. Elmer provided the women with
brooms, mops, and pails, and took them up to
the house, where they proceeded to put the lower
story in order for immediate occupation. Mr.
Elmer armed the men with axes, and soon had
them engaged in a struggle with the tangled
growth in the front yard, through which they
cut a broad path to the house. While they were
doing this, Mr. Elmer and Jan cut and placed
in position some temporary supports under the
rickety porches, and Mark was set work at the
windows. From these he knocked away all the
boards, letting in floods of blessed sunlight, that
drove from their snug retreats numbers of bats
and several comical little owls.
One of the colored women-"Aunt Chloe
Cato," as she called herself, because she was
Cato's wife-was sent into the kitchen to clean
it and to make a fire in the great fireplace. She
could not explain the traces of recent occupa-
tion, but 'lowed 'twere de ghoses, kase dis yere
ole Bang place done bin wanted."
"Well, it'll be wantedd' now by the Elmer
family," said Mark, who overheard her, "and
they'll make it lively for any other 'ghoses' that
"Don't ye, now, honey don't ye go fo' to set
up yo'sef agin de ghoses, kase dey's powerful
pernickety when dey's crashed," said the old
woman, whom Mark, with his love for nick-
names, had already called "Ole Clo."
At noon all hands stopped work to eat a hasty
lunch, and soon afterwards the lighter, being
unloaded, was poled across the river for the
team. With the help of Captain Johnson and
his crew, who had agreed to remain over that
night, most of the household goods were moved
up to the house during the afternoon and placed
While this work was going on, one of the
white men from the village came over to see
his new neighbors. He brought with him a
wild-turkey, half a dozen ducks, and a string
of freshly caught fish, as cards of introduction.
His name was Bevil, and he welcomed the El-
mers most heartily, and said that he considered
their coming a sign of better times for that sec-
tion of the country. He told Mr. Elmer that
the Bangs place used to be considered one of
the finest plantations in the county, and that its
lands were as rich now as ever.
Before night the lower story of the old house
looked quite comfortable, and almost homelike;
and when the family sat down to dinner, it was
with the keen appetites resulting from hard
work. The dinner was a bountiful meal, largely
composed of Mr. Bevil's game and fish; and
before they ate it Mr. Elmer offered up a heart-
felt thanksgiving for the mercies that had been
granted them thus far, and prayed for a bless-
ing on their new home.
That evening he arranged with Captain John-
son to start at daylight and go with his lighter
to the nearest saw-mill, sixty miles away, for a
load of lumber and shingles. He also com-
missioned him to buy and bring back a large
skiff, such as were used on the river.
The tired household went early to bed that
first night in their new home, and though their
beds were made down on the floor, they all slept
All but Mark, who, after sleeping for some
hours, woke suddenly to find himself sitting
bolt-upright in bed, and staring at the broken
window in front of him, through which a flood
of moonlight was pouring. He was as certain
as he could be of anything that he had seen a
face at that window as he started up-a wild,
haggard face, framed by long unkempt hair.
He sprang from his bed and looked out, but
could see nobody, and heard no unusual sound
except the distant "who-who-whoo" of an owl.
THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL, AND MORE MYSTERIES.
IT must be confessed that, before getting to
sleep again, Mark thought of what Aunt
Chloe had said about the "ghoses"; but having
been taught to disbelieve in such things, and
always to seek for some natural explanation of
whatever appeared supernatural or unreal, he
made up his mind to wait and make the attempt
to unravel this mystery by himself before say-
ing anything about it.
The four days that remained of the week were
very busy days for the Elmers and those whom
they had employed to help them. During this
time the interior of the old house was thor-
oughly cleansed and sweetened by the energetic
use of soap and water, and straw matting was
laid on the floors of the rooms down-stairs. The
broken windows were all repaired by Mark,
who found several boxes of glass and a bladder
of putty among the building material they
had brought from Bangor, and who, after a few
trials, became quite a skilful glazier. The cis-
tern was emptied of its stagnant water and thor-
oughly cleansed, and the gutters were repaired
as well as they could be before the arrival of
Captain Johnson and the lumber.
It was not until the windows and gutters were
repaired that Mrs. Elmer would allow any of
the furniture, not absolutely needed, to be un-
packed, for fear it might be injured by the
dampness. Among the packages that thus re-
mained boxed up, or wrapped in burlaps, was
one which none of them could remember having
teen before. It was large and square, and dif-
ferent in shape from anything that had stood
in their house in Norton. What could it be?
Mark and Ruth asked each other this question
a dozen times a day, and, but for their mother's
refusal to allow them to do so, would have long
since solved the riddle by opening the package.
On Friday night the house was pronounced
to be practically water-tight, and at breakfast-
time the following morning Mrs. Elmer said
they would unpack and arrange the furniture
"And the mystery?" cried Mark. "May we
open that first?"
"Certainly," replied his mother; "you may,
if you wish, open that the moment you have
"That's this very minute, ain't it, Ruth?
Come along. We'll soon find out what's inside
those burlaps," exclaimed the boy, pushing back
his chair, and rising from the table as he spoke.
He brought a hammer with which to knock
off the rough frame of boards that almost
formed a box around the package, and Ruth
ran for the shears to cut the stitches of the
The frame quickly fell to pieces under Mark's
vigorous blows, and then his penknife assisted
Ruth's shears. Beneath the burlaps was a thick
layer of straw; then came heavy wrapping-
paper, and, under this, layers and wads of news-
paper, until the children began to think the
whole package was nothing but wrappings.
At last the papers were all pulled away, and
there stood revealed, in all its beauty of struc-
ture and finish, a little gem of a cabinet organ.
To one of its handles was tied a card, on which
was printed in big letters:
"A Christmas Present, with wishes for a very
merry Christmas, from Uncle 'Christmas' to his
grandniece Ruth Elmer."
"Ohl ohl ohl ain't it lovely?" cried Ruth.
"Dear old 'Uncle Christmasl' And I thought
he had forgotten me, and only remembered
The organ was placed in the parlor, and from
that day forth was a source of great pleasure,
not only to Ruth and the Elmer family, but to
their neighbors across the river, who frequently
came over in the evening to hear Ruth play.
Among the events of that week were two that
impressed Mark deeply, as they seemed to be
connected in some way with the face he had seen
at the window. One of these was the mysterious
disappearance, on that same night,of a loaf of
bread and a cold roast duck from the kitchen.
The other was the appearance, two days later,
at the kitchen door, of a poor wounded dog, who
dragged himself out from the woods back of
the house, and lay down on the step, evidently
in great pain.
Ruth saw him as he lay there, panting and
moaning, and ran to tell Mark, and her father
and mother, of their visitor and his wretched
plight They all went to see him, and after a
careful examination of the suffering animal,
Mr. Elmer said he had been cruelly treated and
badly wounded; but that, with proper treatment
and care, he could be cured. "He is a cross
between a pointer and a hound," continued Mr.
Elmer, "and looks like a valuable dog. The
wounds from which he is suffering are those
caused by a charge of small shot, that must have
been fired into him quite recently. I will do
what I can for him, and then I shall turn him
over to you and Ruth, Mark, and if he recovers
he shall belong to you both. His present owner
has forfeited all claim to him by cruel treat-
ment, for without our care now the poor beast
would certainly die. The first thing to do is to
give him water, for he is very feverish."
The dog seemed to know, as well as his human
friends, that the pain he suffered, while most of
the shot were extracted on the point of a pen-
knife, was for his good; for while he moaned
and whined during the operation, he lay per-
fectly still, and did not offer the slightest re-
sistance. After his wounds had been dressed,
he was carefully removed to a bed of soft moss
on the back porch, and here he lay quietly, only
feebly wagging his tail whenever any of his
new friends came to see him.
"Who could have shot this dog?" and "Why
did the animal drag himself to our kitchen
door?" were questions that puzzled Mark con-
siderably during the rest of that day and for
some days afterwards.
During that week Jan Jansen and the two
negroes had worked hard at cutting away the
undergrowth immediately around the house,
and by Saturday night they had wonderfully
improved the general appearance of things.
The garden in front of the house had been
cleared of everything except the ornamental
shrubs properly belonging there. The fence
had been freed from its crushing weight of
vines, and its broken panels repaired, so that
it now only needed a coat of paint to make it
look as good as new. Back of the house they
had cleared an acre of what had formerly been
the kitchen-garden, and had opened a broad
avenue down to the river, so that the back win-
dows of the house now looked out upon it and
the village beyond.
Late on Saturday evening Captain Johnson
returned to Wakulla with a lighter-load of shin-
gles, window-blinds, fence-pickets, and assorted
lumber. He also brought the skiff that Mr.
Elmer had commissioned him to buy.
The next day being Sunday, every member of
the little community was prepared to enjoy a
well-earned rest. During the morning they all
crossed the river to the village, leaving "Go
Bang" closed, and unprotected save by "Bruce,"
as the children had named the wounded dog.
In the village they found the little church
closed and empty; so they went to the house of
Mr. Bevil, whom they found at home, and who
introduced them to his family. Mrs. Bevil ex-
pressed great pleasure at meeting Mrs. Elmer,
and apologized for not having called; and Ruth
was delighted to find that the eldest of the three
Bevil children was a girl of about her own age,
In reply to Mr. Elmer's inquiries, the Bevils
said that no regular services were held in the
church, and that it was only opened when some
preacher happened to visit them.
Mr. Elmer proposed that they should organ-
ize a Sunday-school, to be held in the church
every Sunday, and that they should make a be-
ginning that very day.
To this the Bevils gladly consented, and two
servants were immediately sent out-one to open
the church and ring the bell, and the other to
invite all the colored people of the place to meet
there in an hour.
Then the Elmers and Bevils went together
to the house of Mr. Carter, the other white man
of the village. Here were two children, a girl
and a boy, both younger than Ruth; and Mr.
and Mrs. Carter readily agreed to help estab-
lish the Sunday-school, and promised to be at
the church at the appointed time.
When the Elmers entered the church they
found nearly fifty men, women, and children
assembled, and waiting with eager curiosity to
see what was going to be done. The church
was as dilapidated as most of the buildings in
the village, and many of its windows were
broken. In that climate, where snow is un-
known and frost comes but seldom, this made
little difference, and this Sunday was so warm
and bright that the breeze coming in through
the broken windows was very refreshing.
Mr. Elmer made a short address to the peo-
ple, telling them that he and his family had
come to live among them, and that he thought
it would be very pleasant for them all to meet
in that house every Sunday, for the purpose
of studying the Bible and mutually helping one
another. Then he asked all who were willing
to help him establish a Sunday-school to hold
up their hands, and every hand was immediately
Mr. Bevil moved that Mr. Elmer be made
superintendent of the Sunday-school, Mr. Car-
ter seconded the motion, and it was unanimously
The rest of the hour was occupied in forming
classes and giving out lessons to be learned for
the next Sunday. As most of the colored people
could not read, it seemed important that they
should be taught this first, and both Mark and
Ruth were made teachers of A B C classes com-
posed of the younger children.
Before the meeting closed Mr. Bevil made
some remarks, in which he thanked the Elmers
for what they had undertaken, reminded the
school that the next day was the first of a new
year, and said that, as he had already told Mr.
Elmer, the coming and settling of these stran-
gers among them marked the dawn of a new
era of prosperity for Wakulla.
As the Elmers neared their home after Sum-
day-school they heard Bruce bark loudly; but
when they reached it they found him cowed and
whimpering. His eyes were fixed upon the
point of woods nearest the house, and he ex-
hibited signs of great fear. They also found
the kitchen door standing wide open, though
Mrs. Elmer was certain she had fastened it be-
Again Mark thought of the "ghoses," but
still he said nothing, and the opening of the door
was finally credited to the wind.
That afternoon Mr. Bevil came over to make
a call, and was much interested in the improve-
ments already made and proposed. He declared
that it reminded him of old times, when that
side of the river was inhabited by a dozen or
more families, and when Wakulla was one of
the most prosperous towns in the State. He
showed Mr. Elmer the sites or the old foundry
and mills that once stood on that side of the
river, and told him of the wharves that had
lined both banks, the great cotton-presses, and
the many vessels that used to fill it from bank
to bank as they lay awaiting their loads of cot-
ton. In those days a line of steam-ships plied
regularly between Wakulla and New Orleans,
and a steam-tug was kept constantly busy towing
vessels between the town and the mouth of the
river. Then a fine plank-road reached back
from Wakulla a hundred miles into the coun-
try, and the two hotels of the place were con-
stantly crowded with invalids, who came to
receive the benefits of its famous sulphur and
mineral springs. In those days six large stores
were hardly sufficient for the business of the
place, and then the land on both sides of the
river for miles was cultivated, and produced
heavy crops of cotton.
Now all that remained to tell of this former
prosperity were a few rotten piles in the river
where the wharves had stood, the bridge abut-
ments, a handful of tumble-down houses, and
here and there in the dense woods traces of cul-
tivated fields, and an occasional brick chimney
or pile of stone to mark the site of some old
Mr. Elmer was much interested in all this,
and mentally resolved that he would do all that
lay in his power to revive the old-time pros-
perity of the place in which he had established
"What we most need here now," concluded
Mr. Bevil, "is a bridge over the river and a mill.
It ought to be a saw-mill, grist-mill, and cotton-
gin all in one."
The next morning Mr. Elmer said that he
must go to Tallahassee, the nearest city, on busi-
ness, and that he might be absent several days.
Before going he laid out- the work that he
wanted each one to do while he was away.
Mark was to take him down the river to the
railroad station at St. Mark's, in his canoe, and
on his return he and Jan were to go into the
woods after as many cedar fence-posts as they
could cut. The colored men were to prepare
the large cleared field in front of the house, in
which were about ten acres, for ploughing, and
to dig post-holes around it on lines that he had
marked. Captain Johnson and his crew were
to unload the lighter and haul all the lumber
and shingles up to the house.
When he and Mark went down to the canoe,
it seemed to the latter that she was not just where
he had left her the day before, and he thought
she looked as though she had been recently
used; but as he could not be certain, he said
nothing about it to his father.
Mr. Elmer took a light rifle with him in
the canoe, saying that there was no knowing but
what they might find a chance to use it going
down the river, and that Mark could bring it
back. Mark was glad of this, for he inherited
a love for shooting from his father, and having
been carefully instructed, was a capital shot.
The day was unusually warm and bright for
that season of the year, and as they floated
quietly down-stream they surprised a number
of alligators lying on the banks sunning them-
selves. As they were the first of these great
reptiles that either Mr. Elmer or Mark had ever
seen, they watched them with curiosity not un-
mixed with fear lest they should attack and up-
set the light canoe. They afterwards learned
that their fears were groundless, and that cases
of this kind are almost unknown.
They reached St. Mark's in time for Mr. El-
mer to catch the train, and after he had gone
Mark got the mail, of which quite a quantity
had collected here for them, there being no
post-office in Wakulla, and started for home.
On the way up the river the boy was strangely
oppressed by the solitude and almost unbroken
silence about him, and was very glad when he
found himself within a mile of home.
Suddenly the silence was broken by a cry
so terrible and agonized that he was for a mo-
ment nearly petrified with fright. He quickly
recovered his presence of mind, and the first
cry being followed by screams for help and a
crashing of the bushes on a small wooded point
that jutted into the river just ahead of him, he
hastily ran the canoe up to the bank, seized his
rifle, and sprang ashore.
MARK DISCOVERS THE GHOST AND FINDS HIM IN
A TRYING POSITION.
MARK dashed through the bushes for a
hundred yards, heedless of the clinging
thorns of the rattan vine that tore his clothes,
and scratched his face and hands until they bled,
before reaching the scene of what sounded like
a terrible struggle. The screams for help told
him that at least one of the contestants was a
human being in sore distress, and in thus rush-
ing to his assistance Mark did not give a mo-
ment's thought to his own safety. As he burst
from the bushes he found himself in a little open
glade on the opposite side of the point from that
on which he had landed. Here he came upon
a struggle for life such as rarely takes place
even in the wilder regions of the South, and
such as but few persons have ever witnessed.
On the farther side of the glade, clinging with
the strength of despair to the trunk of a young
magnolia-tree, lay a boy of about Mark's own
age. His arms were nearly torn from their
sockets by some terrible strain, and his eyes
seemed starting from his head with horror. As
he saw Mark he screamed, "Firel Fire quick!
His eyes I'm letting go."
Looking along the boy's body Mark saw a
pair of great jaws closed firmly upon his right
foot, though the rest of the animal, whatever it
was, was hidden in a thicket of bushes which
were violently agitated. He could see the pro-
truding eyes; and, springing across the opening,
he placed the muzzle of the rifle close against
one of them, and fired.
The horrid head was lifted high in the air
with a bellow of rage and pain. As it fell it
disappeared in the bushes, which were beaten
down by the animal's death struggle, and then
all was still.
Upon firing, Mark had quickly thrown an-
other cartridge from the magazine into the
chamber of his rifle, and held it in readiness
for another shot. He waited a moment after
the struggles ceased, and finding that no fur-
ther attack was made, turned his attention to the
boy, who lay motionless and as though dead at
his feet. His eyes were closed, and Mark knew
that he had fainted, though he had never seen
a person in that condition before.
His first impulse was to try and restore the
boy to consciousness; but his second, and the
one upon which he acted, was to assure himself
that the animal he had shot was really dead, and
incapable of making another attack. Holding
his rifle in one hand, and cautiously parting the
bushes with the other, he peered, with a loudly
beating heart, into the thicket. There, stretched
out stiff and motionless, he saw the body of a
huge alligator. It was dead-dead as a
mummy; there was no doubt of that; and with-
out waiting to examine it further, Mark laid
down his rifle and went to the river for water.
He brought three hatfuls, and dashed them,
one after another, in the boy's face before the
latter showed any signs of consciousness. Then
the closed eyes were slowly opened, and fixed
for an instant upon Mark, with the same look
of horror that he had first seen in them, and the
boy tried to rise to his feet, but fell back with
a moan of pain.
Mark had already seen that the boy's right
foot was terribly mangled and covered with
blood, and he went quickly for more water with
which to bathe it. After he had washed off the
blood, and bound the wounded foot as well as
he could with his handkerchief and one of his
shirt sleeves torn into strips, he found that the
boy had again opened his eyes, and seemed to
have fully recovered his consciousness.
"Do you feel better?" asked Mark.
"Yes," answered the boy. "I can sit up now
if you will help me."
Mark helped him into a sitting position, with
his back against the tree to which he had clung
when the alligator tried to drag him into the
water. Then he said,
"Now wait here a minute while I bring round
the canoe. I'll get you into it, and take you
home, for your foot must be properly attended
to as soon as possible."
Hurrying back to where he had left the canoe,
Mark brought it around the point, very close
to where the boy was sitting, and pulled one
end of it up on the bank. Then going to the
boy, he said,
"If you can stand up, and will put both arms
around my neck, I'll carry you to the canoe;
it's only a few steps."
Although he almost cried out with the pain
caused by the effort, the boy succeeded in doing
as Mark directed, and in a few minutes more
was seated in the bottom of the canoe, with his
wounded foot resting on Mark's folded jacket.
Carefully shoving off, and stepping gently
into the other end of the canoe, Mark began to
paddle swiftly up the river. The boy sat with
closed eyes, and though Mark wanted to ask
him how it had all happened, he waited pa-
tiently, fearing that his companion was too weak
to talk. He noticed that the boy was bare-
footed and bareheaded, that his clothes were
very old and ragged, and that he had a bag and
a powder-horn slung over his shoulders. He
also noticed that his hair was long and matted,
and that his face, in spite of its present paleness,
was tanned, as though by long exposure to the
weather. It had a strangely familiar look to
him, and it seemed as though he must have seen
that boy somewhere before, but where he could
Just before they reached the "Go Bang" land-
ing-place the boy opened his eyes, and Mark,
no longer able to restrain his curiosity, asked,
"How did the alligator happen to catch you?"
"I was asleep," answered the boy, "and woke
up just in time to catch hold of that tree as he
grabbed my foot and began pulling me to the
water. He would have had me in another min-
ute, for I was letting go when you came;" and
the boy shuddered at the remembrance.
"Well," said Mark, a little boastfully, "he
won't catch anybody else. He's as dead as a
door-nail now. Here we are."
Jan and Captain Johnson were at the land-
ing, and they listened with astonishment to
Mark's hurried explanation of what had hap-
pened. The captain said they would carry the
boy to the house, while Mark ran on and told
his mother who was coming, so that she could
prepare to receive him.
Mrs. Elmer was much shocked at Mark's
story, and said she was very thankful that he
had not only been the means of saving a human
life, but had escaped unharmed himself. At
the same time she made ready to receive the boy,
and when the men brought him in she had a bed
prepared for him, warm water and castile soap
ready to bathe the wounds, and soft linen to
Captain Johnson, who called himself "a