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Down South or Yacht Adventure in Florida

 

CHAPTER II.

OUR LIBERAL PASSENGERS.

"Where are we now, Alick, my boy?" asked my cousin Owen Garningham, as he came on deck after we had anchored off the pier.

"We are at St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, founded by the Spaniards in 1565----"

"Cut it short, if you please, my affectionate cousin," interposed Owen, with an affected yawn. "I haven't been to breakfast yet; and surely you don't expect me to learn history so early in the morning. I simply asked you where we were, and you go back over three hundred years to answer the question."

"I thought you might want to know something about the place," I replied.

"Exactly so. Where are we?"

"We are here."

Owen bit his lip, smiled, and then looked about him at the various objects in sight.

"If you will tell me exactly what you want to know, I will answer your questions; at least, I will tell you all I know," I added.

"Don't do that: it would take too long," he replied, yawning again.

"Thank you."

"I wouldn't listen to all a fool knew before breakfast; and it would take you two years to tell all you know, sweet cousin."

"Not so long as that. We made the land about six this morning, in a fog----"

"You made the land! Well, you didn't have a very bad job of it, for it is nothing but house sand. Of course I know we are somewhere on the coast of Florida, for when we left the Bermudas we were bound to St. Augustine. We have got there, you say; and I thank you for telling me. After breakfast, when I have a cigar, I will, with your leave, read the history of the place."

"You have my permission; and I will furnish the book from which you may read it."

"Thanks. Now, could you, Alick, without straining yourself too much, tell me something about what we may see by looking about us in just this place--never mind the other parts of the State," continued Owen, looking around him.

"I will tell you all I know about it," I replied.

"I wish everybody would tell only that."

"The opening you see on the other side of the bay, and through which we came in from sea, is between Anastasia Island on the south, and the main land on the north. The water to the north and south of us, inside the land, is Matanzas River. The works you see to the north is Fort Marion. The sea-wall extends from that to the point, south of us, a mile: it is built of coquina, a kind of rock quarried on Anastasia Island, formed of sand and shells----"

"Spare me, cousin!"

"From the point to the south of us, you see an opening in the land: that is the mouth of the San Sebastian River. The city of St. Augustine is built on the tongue of land between the two rivers. The buildings near the point are the United States Barracks. The structure extending out into the river from the sea-wall is a wharf or pier, built for the convenience of vessels landing freight or passengers."

"But what does a vessel do that has both freight and passengers?" asked Owen, gravely. "I dare say she has to go to Jacksonville, where they have more than one wharf."

"I stand corrected: a vessel landing passengers and freight," I added. "But I can't say, of my own knowledge, that the same vessel lands both here, for I never saw the place before in my life."

"It is well to be sure," said Owen, as the breakfast-bell rang.

Before we left Jacksonville in December, I had taken an additional person on board, who did duty in the cabin as a waiter. Though Peeks, the steward, never complained, I saw that he had too much to do. The distance from the cook's galley to the companion-way of the after cabin made it hard work to serve the table in the latter. The distance to the forward cabin, where the ship's company messed, was hardly less. I found that the officers and crew sometimes had to wait for their meals, and that the discipline of the vessel was thus broken in upon. The steward and the waiter had about all they could do to take care of the five passengers in the after cabin, who were very uncertain in their hours in the morning.

I had decided to have another waiter for the forward cabin, and thus allow Peeks to do the proper work of a chief steward in looking out for the whole of his department. We had been in port so much during the winter that I found I could well afford the additional expense, for my payments had been less than the estimate. Though we were to cruise on the St. Johns River and other streams during the month, there would be a great deal of boat-work for the deck-hands and firemen, for the latter did not complain if called to other duty than that of the fire-room, and by this time were good sailors.

I went to my breakfast, which had been waiting an hour for me on the galley, for I never left the deck till the anchor was overboard. There was no one to bring my meal, and the mate's watch had taken theirs while I was talking to Owen. It was half an hour before the steward or the waiter could attend to my wants; and the dignity of the commander of the Sylvania did not permit him to carry his own breakfast from the galley, while there were passengers on board. I hoped I should be able to find another waiter at St. Augustine, though I supposed they would all be in demand at the hotels. At last I heard the voices of the passengers on deck. I did not ring the call-bell on the table until I was sure they had finished their morning meal, for all on board made it a point to give up everything for them.

"I haven't had my breakfast yet," I said, as Peeks came down into the cabin. "I have been waiting here half an hour for it."

"I am very sorry, but it happens so sometimes, even when I do my best," replied Peeks, evidently much disturbed by the situation. "It is all I can do, with the waiter, to get what the passengers want when they all come to the table at once. We have to cook everything after they order it, or it would not be fit to eat."

"I don't blame you, and I have no fault to find," I added, soothingly. "I shall give you another waiter as soon as one can be found."

"I think we need another. If the meals could be served at fixed hours, we could get along very well; but the passengers take their breakfast anywhere from eight to eleven."

"I understand it perfectly; but they have a right to do just as they please, and I shall not interfere with their habits," I replied; and the steward went for my breakfast.

It was fifteen minutes before he returned, for Gopher insisted on using me as well as those that sat at the cabin-table when I was late to my meals, and cooked me a fresh dish of ham and eggs. I was blessed with a good appetite, and still liked country fare best, though Gopher made hotel dishes, with French names, for the after cabin. When I went on deck, I found Owen smoking his cigar in the pilot-house. He was reading one of a pile of Florida guide-books I had procured in Jacksonville, which I had placed by the binnacle for his use.

"I have been waiting for you, Captain Alick," said he.

"And I have been waiting for my breakfast. I shall get another waiter, so that no one will have to wait," I answered.

"Well, I was in no hurry, my dear fellow: if I had been, I should have sent for you. This is the first day of March. Have you the accounts?"

I had them all ready, and went to my desk in my room, just abaft the pilot-house, for them. I gave them to him, but he hardly condescended to look at anything except the total. Throwing away his cigar, he went into my room, where he wrote all his letters, and seated himself at his desk. I followed him, in order to give him a receipt.

"Don't leave, Robsy," said Owen to Washburn, as the mate began to move out of the room.

Washburn resumed his toilet, for he had just donned the new uniform, with which all hands had provided themselves at St. George. Owen handed me a draft, which I saw was for just three hundred dollars more than the amount of the bill I had rendered. I was astonished that he should make such a mistake.

"This is not correct," I began, as soon as I had looked at the amount of the draft.

"Quite correct; but I see you have got to make a quarrel with me; and I want Robsy to stand by me in this fight," replied Owen.

"Of course I won't take three hundred dollars more than is my due," I protested.

"Cut it short!" exclaimed my cousin. "I told Colonel Shepard I never could get out of it in the world, and he was putting a load on me I could never carry. Where is that bloody contract? Will you do me the favor to burn it?"

"Certainly not," I replied. "I intend to keep my copy, and to abide by its provisions."

"Provisions means grub, don't it?"

"Sometimes it does; but it don't now," I replied, tossing the draft on the desk, at which he was still seated. "I will take only what is due me."

"But I have had a row with Colonel Shepard," protested Owen. "He said he should insist on paying his share of the expenses of this cruise before we left Jacksonville; but I kept him quiet till yesterday. In the first place, as we have put you to extra expense, Alick, we insisted on adding one hundred dollars a month to the amount I was to pay."

I objected, and explained that I had been obliged to pay only the expense of a waiter, as he paid all the coal and provision bills, but he persisted, and finally appealed to Washburn, who decided in his favor. As I agreed to the decision of the umpire beforehand, I had to submit.

"I made it up with the Colonel by letting him pay half of the bills, though he would pay four-fifths of them at first," chuckled Owen, as though he had won a victory over his fellow-passenger.

I had paid every one of the ship's company his wages when they were due; I had painted the steamer at St. George, while the passengers were travelling on shore; I had taken in a large supply of engine stores; and still had about eleven hundred dollars on hand. I felt that I was getting rich very fast, though a season of idleness might scatter all my wealth.

By this time our passengers had seen all there was to be seen from the hurricane-deck of the steamer. Though the sun had come out, it was rather a cool day to our party, who had spent a portion of the winter in the tropics. Owen informed me that his friends desired to go on shore. I had hardly sent them off in both boats, before a well-dressed gentleman came on deck, and desired to see the captain.


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