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Down South or Yacht Adventure in Florida

 

CHAPTER XV.

A WAR OF WORDS.

Washburn had reported to me that, while I was dining with the passengers in the cabin, Griffin Leeds had gone into the pilot-house and had a short interview with Cornwood. Of course we used the octoroon as a waiter; and even Gopher took a hand at the same occupation, for he liked to hear what the party said about the dinner. Griffin must have taken the time while the waiters were clearing the tables for the last course, or while the gentlemen were amusing themselves with the American custom of making speeches. In either case, it was almost a sin for a waiter to leave his post.

Cornwood was sulky when I said I wanted him. Doubtless he had business on shore, as I had for him on board. I paid him five dollars a day and expenses; and I thought I had the best right to his services.

"Mr. Cornwood, I desire to have you map out a practicable trip up the river for a steamer that draws nine feet of water, with her bunkers full of coal," I began, as I seated myself in my room.

The words were hardly out of my mouth when Hop Tossford came in with a message written on an old envelope, from Owen.

"Come to the Colonel's house at once.

Owen."

"At once" meant immediately; and I was not a little annoyed by the summons, since it prevented me from carrying out my part of Washburn's little plan.

"I have the cruise all mapped out, Captain Garningham," replied Cornwood, while I was reading the message from my cousin.

He took from his breast-pocket a document, which he handed to me with a stiff bow. On opening it, I found it was a carefully prepared outline of the proposed cruise up the river, with detours in various bays and smaller streams.

"I will examine this at my leisure; for I am called to the house of Colonel Shepard by Mr. Garningham," I continued. "Very likely he desires to give me instructions in regard to the up-river trip. If he does, I wish to see you as soon as I return; and I may not be gone more than an hour."

Cornwood made no reply; but I saw that he was biting his lip. My request was equivalent to an order to remain on board, and he was not exactly in position to set my wishes at defiance. I went ashore as soon as a boat could be dropped into the water, and hastened to the house of the Colonel. Owen said he was very glad to see me; and from the excitement of his manner, I judged that something was in the wind.

"To-morrow will be Saturday," said he, walking up and down the parlor where I had seated myself. "The same party we had to-day, including the Silver Cornet Band, will make a little run up the river, and stop for a while at Mrs. Mitchell's place, if it is practicable, with a dinner at four o'clock."

"It is not practicable----"

"It is not practicable!" exclaimed Owen, stopping in front of me.

"You did not hear me out, my dear charterer of the Sylvania," I replied, amused at the sudden check put upon his enthusiasm. "It is not practicable to run the steamer up to the pier at Mrs. Mitchell's place; but we can land the passengers in the boats. Of course we can go up the river as far as Pilatka, and perhaps farther."

"We don't want to go up to--what's that place you mentioned? I have heard of it before, and it is forty or fifty miles up," added Owen, who had been too busy looking after Miss Edith to pay any attention to the geography of the State.

"The place is Pilatka; and it is seventy-five miles up."

"It would take all day to go to Pilatka; besides, I don't wish to spoil all the fun of the trip we are to take next week. There's a Chinese town or city, where Mrs. What's-her-name lives, about a dozen miles up," continued my cousin.

"A Chinese town? There are no Chinamen of any consequence in Florida."

"No, no! A town with a Chinese name, where the lady that wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin lives," interposed Owen impatiently.

"Mandarin," I added, after I had consulted a pamphlet guide I had picked up in one of the hotels. "It is fifteen miles from here."

"That's the place; and it is just the right distance!" exclaimed Owen. "We will go to Mandarin. By the way, you must have a lunch on board about twelve."

"All this is quite practicable."

"And why can't you take the steamer up to the pier at Mrs. Mitchell's place?" demanded my passenger.

"Because the bottom is too near the top of the water," I replied, laughing at the puzzled expression on my cousin's face.

"Couldn't you have the bottom put farther down for this occasion?" he inquired very seriously.

"Certainly, if you are willing to pay the bills and to wait long enough for the work to be done."

"I don't object to the bills, but we can't wait."

"I see that you have become quite an American traveller; you don't dispute any bills, and you can't wait."

"I can't wait to have a channel dredged out up to that pier, for very likely it would take all day to do it."

"It would take you Britishers three months to do it; Americans would do it in a week."

"I think my uncle, your father, is a Britisher. But I have no time to quarrel with you about that matter now; it will keep. We will be landed at the pier in boats, since you are not willing to accommodate us in any other manner."

"I will arrange the landing so that it shall be satisfactory," I added, thinking of a large barge I had seen at the boat-wharf.

"Then we are all right for to-morrow, are we, Alick?" asked my facetious cousin.

"All right. Whenever you tell me what you want, it shall be done."

"But just now you objected to taking your steamer up to that pier."

"I should have qualified the declaration----"

"Merciful Hotandsplosh!"

"Is that man your idol?"

"You take my breath away with your stunning long words!"

"I won't take your breath away, for you will want it all. I will do all you want when I can," I added.

"How much prettier that sounds than 'qualified the declaration.'"

"I see that I must write out all my speeches in words of not more than four letters, so as to bring them down to the dull brain of a Briton."

"The dull brain of a Briton is good."

"So your friend Hotandsplosh would say."

"I will introduce him to you some time."

"I don't want to know him; he is too slow for me."

"Come, come, Alick; we are quarrelling when we have business to do," said Owen, shaking his shoulders like a vexed child.

"You are quarrelling; I am not. You pick me up on my language as though you were my schoolmaster, and then complain that I am impeding the business of the conference."

"Cut it short! 'Impeding the business of the conference!' That jaw of yours will need to be patched up by a dentist, man!"

"Your jaw does all the mischief; and you are at it again, with your pedagogical----"

"Cut it short! What a word! A young man of high aims ought not to use such a word; and anybody else ought to be hung for it!"

"Still at it!"

"I wish to say something about the run up the river," continued Owen, who was very fond of criticising my language, and would even neglect important business to do it.

"Say it, then."

"Where do we go?"

"Wherever you say."

"Merciful Hotandsplosh! Am I to study up the geography of this State, so as to tell you where to go?" demanded my passenger.

"I will select a route, in consultation----"

"Oh dear!" gasped Owen, throwing himself at full length on a sofa, with his legs hanging over one end of it, as though he were in utter despair.

"I will talk with K-u-r-n-e-l, Colonel, S-h-e-p-a-r-d, Shepard, a-bout the r-o-u-t-e, route."

"Good! Shove it off on the Colonel!" exclaimed Owen. "I know what you say now; and I feel better."

"Perhaps you would like to know where it is possible for us to go," I continued, taking Cornwood's paper from my pocket as Owen sprang to his feet. "Here are some suggestions in regard to where we may go; it was made up by our guide;" and I handed him the paper, which he opened to the fold of the sheet, and turned it over and over.

"Merciful Grand Panjandrum!"

"Another friend of yours!"

"I got him out of an American book; and that accounts for it! Am I to read all this? Tempus fugit. Let it fugit! I should have to be buried in the blue sands of Florida if I read all this;" and he turned it over several times more.

"You would have to be buried in thought for a short time if you read it."

"Let me see, what did you call what's in this paper? Suggestions, was it? If these are only suggestions, what must the real thing be! No, no, Alick! Go where you please; but don't ask me to read that paper. Only give us some shooting and fishing. Don't bother me with any more suggestions."

"You sent for me, and I came."

"I know you did. You are a young lamb, Alick. Now go and put it to the Colonel and Tiffany."

Presently Colonel Shepard's party came into the parlor. They had just arrived at the house, for they had stopped to see some alligators, and to buy Gulf beans and alligator's teeth, ornamented, for watch-charms and other wear. Miss Margie had seen an alligator six feet long, and thought he was very terrible. The baby reptiles she considered "very cunning little pets."

I proceeded at once to talk with Colonel Shepard about the up-river trip. He looked the paper over, but he and Mr. Tiffany were almost as much perplexed over it as Owen had been.

"We must go up the St. Johns to Enterprise, at least, and up the Ocklawaha to Lake Griffin," said the Colonel.

"But the Sylvania draws too much water to go far beyond Pilatka. After we get the anthracite coal out of the bunkers we shall carry up eight feet," I replied.

"Carry up eight feet! You have only two to carry, and an alligator may bite off one of them," shouted Owen, who it seemed had been listening to me, instead of giving attention to Miss Edith's charms, about which she was talking.

"Give heed to my charms, Mr. Garningham!" said Miss Edith.

"That's just what I have done since I first saw you!" exclaimed Owen.

I promised to consult the Floridian, and took my leave.


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