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Down South : or, Yacht adventures in Florida online

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were no holes or cracks through which the snake

96 down south; or,

could again force himself into my unwilling com-
pany. I could find no opening of any kind. For
the present I felt entirely safe.

Though I did not know anything about the kind
of snake I was shut up with, I felt from the begin-
ning that he was poisonous, and that his bite would
make an end of me. I had closeted him ; and now
I had time to consider the situation. I came
promptly to the conclusion that he was put into
that closet for my benefit. The conspiracy seemed
to be almost too crafty for Captain Boomsby;
though I knew that he was capable of doing such a

When I had considered this subject for a few
minutes, I found my blood boiling with indigna-
tion. Before I saw the snake, I was more inclined
to regard the whole trick in the light of a practical
joke, rather than as a serious matter. It seemed
to me just then that my ancient enemy, in his bar-
gain with Carrington, intended to resort to some
such device to get rid of me.

I did not intend to spend the night in that attic
chamber ; and when my blood began to boil, I
aimed a blow at one of the panels of the door with
the heavy stick in my hand. The thin board that
formed this part of the door split under the blow.


I followed it up as though I had been chopping
wood. The panel shivered under the vigorous
assault I made upon it. In a minute, I had a hole
through. Inserting my stick in the opening, I
pried out the rest of the panel. But the hole was
not big enough to admit the passage of my body.

I had hardly succeeded in making a breach in
the door, before I heard the most lusty screams in
the lower part of the house. I had no difficulty in
recognizing the voice of Mrs. Boomsby. She heard
the noise of my bombardment, and was calling her
husband in her usual affectionate manner. But I
was not at all disturbed by the outcry. I was even
willing they should bring the police to their assist-
ance. But I did not expect any outside aid would
be called in, for that would do the Boomsby s more
harm than it would me. In a word, I did not care
who came : I intended to break my way out of my
prison, all the same.

Placing my stick edgeways in the opening I had
made, I had a good leverage, the end of the bar
being outside of the stile of the door, and the face
of it against the middle piece. I pushed against
the end of the lever with all the power I had. The
middle stile snapped in the mortise, for the whole
door was not more than an inch and a quarter thick.

98 DOWN south; or,

I had broken out the mortise, and the lever went
" home." I could no longer apply the implement
with effect, and I expected every minute to see the
portly form of Captain Boomsby on the stairs,
hurrying up to save his prisoner. But I had no
fear of him : if he attempted to prevent my depart-
ure, I should use the stick as an argument with
him, as I had done with the door.

Finding I could no longer use the lever to ad-
vantage, I grasped the middle piece of the door
with both hands, and gave a desperate pull at it.
There were no nails or pins to resist me, and the
parts of the door snapped like pipe-stems. I
wrenched out the middle piece, and then the other
panel. Then I had an opening in the door eighteen
inches wide, which was almost enough to permit
the passage of my fat foe.

The middle piece and both panels of the upper
part of the door lay in many pieces on the floor,
in the room, and in the hall. I used all reasonable
haste in making my way through the opening I had
forced. When I was in the hall, I began to feel
good-natured again ; for I will not deny that I was
mad when I realized my relations with that snake.
I did not care a straw for Captain Boomsby. If it
came to the worst, I believed I could "handle"


him, to use his own choice phrase, with the aid of
the stick in my hand. I was determined not to let
the piece of hard pine go out of my hands while I
remained in the house.

Mrs. Boomsby was still shouting for "Parker
Boomsby," for she always called him by his full
name when she was excited. I was willing: she
should shout. I felt quite cool, composed, and
pleasant. I was ready to make an orderly retreat
from the house. But I had not lost all interest in
that snake, which I believed was intended for my
executioner. I put my head into the opening I
had made in the door. I found I could reach the
door of the closet ; and with a very hasty move-
ment I threw it wide open.

I wondered whether or not I had killed his snake-
ship when I poked him back into his prison. The
last I had seen of him he was wriggling on the
floor, stirring himself up in the most lively manner.
But the reptile immediately proved that I had not
killed him by darting out into the room as lively
as he had done the same thing before. I did not
believe it was possible for him to get out through
the opening by which I had escaped from my
prison ; but I was not quite willing to wait to test
the question. The villain could crawl like most


other snakes with which I was familiar, but he also
had a talent for leaping. I considered it wise and
prudent to begin my retreat without any delay.

I took a last look at the snake. He had re-
treated to the corner of the room opposite the
closet-door and coiled himself up, with his head in
the centre. He kept his eyes fixed on me, or I
fancied he did. He looked as ugly as sin itself.
He seemed to me to be as near like Captain
Boomsby as one pin is like another. They both
did business on the same principle. Mentally I
bade him an affectionate adieu. So far as I was
concerned, he seemed to have none of the serpent's
power of fascination, for I had not the slightest
inclination to continue gazing at him after I had
gratified my curiosity. I descended the upper
flight of stairs. The doors of the rooms on this
floor were all open, and I saw that the two rear
chambers were furnished as bedrooms.

I went into one of these rooms, and seated my-
self in a chair. Mrs. Boomsby was on the floor
below, standing at the head of the stairs, calling
for her husband. It has taken me a long time to
record the incidents of my escape so far, and my
reflections upon them ; but when I looked at my
watch I found that only eight minutes had elapsed


since I consulted it before, at half past five. Prob-
ably it was not live minutes from the time I first
saw the snake till I was seated in the chair in the
room below. The lady of the house had not,
therefore, stood a great while in her present posi-
tion. Her husband had had time enough to come
up-stairs since he was first called, but he probably
had a customer in the saloon.

As I sat in the chair, I suddenly began to wonder
whether snakes had a talent for coming down-stairs.
The idea was just a little bit appalling, for I had
no desire to meet his snakeship again. Neither
the stairs nor the halls were carpeted. If he came
down in the usual way, I should be likely to hear
him tumbling down the steps. But I rejected this
idea ; for on further reflection I concluded that a
snake would not come down like a man, when there
was a better way for one of his habits to accom-
plish the purpose. Whatever the villain was, if
he came down at all, he would take to the stair-
rail. I felt sure of this, for it seemed to be the
most natural thing for a snake to do.

I could not see how the snake was to get out of
the room. I did not think he could crawl up to
the opening I had made, for there was nothing for
him to fasten to in his ascent. It did not seem to

102 down south; or,

me that he could get out unless he made a flying
leap through the opening. I was by no means
sure he could not do this ; and I did not care to
wait for him to experiment on the matter. Just
then it occurred to me that I was not the only
person liable to be bitten by that snake. As I
thought of it, I walked down the stairs. I knew
that Mrs. Boomsby had a mortal terror of snakes
when I lived with the family.

She confronted me in the hall of the second story.




YOU abominable wretch!" exclaimed Mrs.
Boomsby, placing her arms akimbo, and
looking at me with the utmost ferocity, so that
between her and the snake I found there was little
choice. "What are you a-doin' in my house?"

" Getting out of it, Mrs. Boomsby," I replied,
with the good-nature I had been nursing up-stairs
for several minutes.

I wondered whether she knew anything about
the snake. The bare thought was enough to assure
me that she did not. She would no more have
permitted the captain, or any other person, to
bring the most harmless reptile into the house,
than she would have opened her sleeping apart-
ment for the reception of the sea-serpent, in which
both she and her husband believed as in the ocean

" What are you a-doin' here ? Can't you let us
be here no more'n you could in Michigan ? Must

104 DOWN south; or,

you pursue us wherever we go?" demanded the
lady, putting the matter in an entirely new light
to me, for I believed I had always been able and
willing to keep away from the Boomsbys.

" I was invited up-stairs to see you," I began.

" Don't tell me that ! Do you think I live in
the garret?"

" I thought we were going rather high up ; but
I supposed Captain Boomsby knew where to find
you," I replied, smiling as sweetly as though there
were no snakes in the Land of Flowers. " But it
seems that your husband lured me up there to
make a prisoner of me. He locked me into the
little room in the rear attic, which he had fitted
up for me by screwing boards over the window."

" Don't tell me such a ry-dicerlous story ! I
don't believe a word on't. Nobody ever could
believe a word you say, Sandy Duddleton ! "

" You know very well that I was up there ; for
I heard your husband tell you so. You talked
with him about it, and insisted upon seeing me.
But I don't wish to dispute about this matter
with you, for I don't think you understand all
his plans," I replied, moving towards the head of
the stairs, while she planted herself before me so
as to prevent my going down.


"Don't talk to me, Sandy Duddleton ! "

" I won't talk to you if you will get out of my
way, and let me out of the house," I replied, try-
ing to get by her.

" What be you go'n' to do with that stick ? " she
asked, as she placed herself in front of me.

But I saw that she had a reasonable respect for
the stick, and she was milder than I had seen her
twenty times before. I looked about me to see
if there was any other flight of stairs which would
take me to the street, or to the back yard, which
opened into a lane by the shore of the river.
From the lower hall a door opened into the sa-
loon ; and this was the way by which I had come
up. I stood in the hall with my back to a door,
which I concluded must lead to the rear of the
house. Without turning around, I opened this

"What be you a-doin' ?" demanded Mrs. Booms-
by, when she saw that she was flanked ; for a
glance behind me revealed the back stairs. " Par-
ker Boomsby, come right up here, this minute ! "
she called down the front stairs.

" I won't trouble the captain," I interposed. " I
have a word to say to you before I go, Mrs.
Boomsby. n I don't think you knew there was a


snake about three feet long in the room where
your husband made me a prisoner."

" A snake ! " gasped the lady of the house,
starting: back with alarm. " I don't believe a
word on't ! "

But she did believe it, whatever she said.

" Yes, a snake ; and I have no doubt he is a
poisonous one, put there to bite me, and make an
end of me, so that the captain could get posses-
sion of the steam-yacht ! " I continued, rather vig-
orously, for I was afraid I should be interrupted
by the coming of the captain.

" A snake in this house ! a pizen one, too ! "
groaned Mrs. Boomsby.

" He was put in the closet ; and when I opened
the door he came out and made a spring at me.
I left him in that room."

"Didn't you kill him, Sandy Duddleton? You
used to kill snakes."

" I didn't kill this one, though I struck at him.
I broke through the door, and, for aught I know,
the snake is following me down-stairs," I replied
deliberately. " I think you will see him coming
down on the stair-rail."

She did not wait to hear any more, but, with a
tremendous scream, rushed by me, bolted into the


front room, and closed and locked the door behind
her. I certainly did not wish the reptile to bite
her or her children ; bnt I did not think there was
much danger of the villain getting out of the room
through the opening I had made in the door.

The scream of the, stout lady did not appear to
move her husband, who was probably used to this
sort of thing. I had put her on her guard in case
the snake did work his way out of the room and
down the stairs. I had done my duty, and I
walked leisurely down to the hall. The door lead-
ing into the saloon was still wide open. The uses
of this door were many and various. I had been
not a little surprised in some of the Southern cities
to notice that the drinking-saloons were all closed
on Sunday. In some of them not even a cigar
could be bought at the hotel on that day.

Doubtless the law was as strict in Jacksonville
as elsewhere ; but I had noticed that every saloon
had a side door for Sunday use. The front door
of the house was closed on other days ; on Sun-
day it was left open, as an intimation that the
saloon could be reached in that way. I thought of
this Sunday rum-selling as I noticed the arrange-
ment of the doors. Of course the police under-
stood it.


I approached the door opening into the saloon,
for I heard the voice of my former tyrant. I
wanted to assure him that I was happy still, and
that he had better look out for the snake before
he bit any of his family.

" He never could get out of there in this world ! "
exclaimed Captain Boomsby, as I was about to en-
ter the saloon.

"Do you think so, Captain Boomsby?" I coolly
asked, as I walked into the room.

To my astonishment, the person to whom the
Captain's remark appeared to be addressed was
Mr. Kirby Cornwood, whom I had left on board
of the Sylvania, asleep under the awning. The
Floridian was evidently as much astonished to see
me as I was to see him.

"We were speaking of a fellow who was ar-
rested last night," said Cornwood, with one of his
blandest smiles. "I think he will get out of the
lock-up in less than three days ; but the keeper
of this place remarked that he would never get
out in this world. Only a slight difference of

" I tell you the fellow will never get out ; he
isn't smart enough in the first place, and the
lock-up is stronger than you think for, Mr. — I


don't know 's I know your name, though I cal'late
I have seen you somewhere afore," added Captain

"I reckon you have seen me here before," re-
plied Cornwood, taking his card from his pocket
and presenting it to the captain.

" I can't read it without my glasses," said the
saloon-keeper, holding the card off at arm's length.

" My name is Kirby Cornwood," added the Flo-

" Well, Mr. Corngood, do you — "

" My name is Cornwood," interposed the guide.

"I beg your parding, Mr. Cornwool."

" Cornwood," repeated the owner of that name,
rather indignantly.

"All right, Mr. Cornwood. Do you want to
bet sunthin' that man Avon't git out within three
days?" continued Captain Boomsby.

" I don't care to*bet on it ; in fact I never bet,"
replied Mr. Cornwood, glancing at me, as though
he expected me to approve this position, which I
certainly did, though I said nothing.

" I will bet five dollars agin three the feller gits
out in less than three days, Mr. Woodcorn," per-
sisted Captain Boomsby.

I could not see what the captain was driving at,

110 DOWN south; or,

unless it was to vex the Floridian by miscalling
his name. I had known him to do the same thing
before. If my old tyrant had manifested some
surprise at first at seeing me, he seemed to have
got over it very quickly. I was very glad indeed
to be satisfied that Cornwood had no knowledge
of my imprisonment in the attic, as I supposed he
had when I entered the saloon. I had employed
him, and was then paying him five dollars a day
for doing nothing. I did not wish to believe that
he was a friend of my ancient enemy.

" Captain Boomsby, I had to break a hole
through the door of the room in which you
locked me, in order to get out," I said, as soon
as I had an opportunity to get in a word.

"Then you must pay for it, for the landlord
will charge it to me," said he, promptly.

w I think not ; and if it were not for the time it
would take, I would complain of you at the police
office. I don't know what kind of a snake it was
you put into the closet for my benefit ; but I
think you will find him running about your house
by this time," I replied. "I gave Mrs. Boomsby
warning of the danger, and she has locked her-
self into her room."

"What snake, Sandy Duddleton? What you


talking about?" demanded the captain. But I
could see that he was not a little disturbed by
the information.

"You put a poisonous snake into the closet
of that room where you locked me in. You ex-
pected me to open the door of the closet, and let
him out. I did open the closet-door and let him
out ; but I did not give him a chance to bite me,"
I continued, rehearsing the facts for the benefit of
Cornwood rather than my tyrant.

"What on airth are you talking about, Sandy?
I don't know nothin' about no snake," protested
Captain Boomsby.

"I think you know all about the snake, and
that you put him there for my benefit. I have
nothing further to say about the matter, except
that the creature is still in your house, and that
he will bite one of your children as readily as he
would me. I advise you to attend to the matter,
and have him killed," I continued, moving toward
the door.

" Stop a minute, Sandy," called my persecutor.
K What sort of a snake was it ? "

" I don't know ; I never saw one like it before."

"I guess I know sunthin' about it, arter all,"
said Captain Boomsby, with a troubled look.


"I had a lodger in the house, and he had an attic
room. He had a lot of young alligators, rattle-
snakes, lizards, and other critters ; and I let him
put 'em in that room. He screwed the boards over
the winder so they couldn't git out. I cal'late this
was one of his snakes."

I had no doubt this story was all an invention,
but I had no means of showing to the contrary.
He begged me to go up-stairs, and help him kill
the "varmint;" but I declined to do this, for I
was not willing again to make myself the vic-
tim of his treachery. The captain called his son
Nicholas from the front shop, which was a cigar
store, and told him to look out for the bar.

Before he could go up-stairs two black police-
men entered the saloon, armed with sticks. Mrs.
Boomsby had told them what the matter was, and
they had come in to kill the reptile. I left the
premises, followed by Corn wood.




I LEARNED the next day, from one of the
negro policemen who had been called in, that
the snake had got out of the room where I left
him, and that he had been found on the stair-rail,
a floor below where I had confronted him. My
informant told me he had killed him as he was
crawling along the rail, on his way down another

" He was only try in' to git away, sah," added the
policeman. " Dey alius run away when dey can,
dem moccasins do ; but dey spring at folks, and
bite when dey git cornered. Awful bad snake,
sah. Wuss'n a rattlesnake. Bite kill a man, suah."
When I left the saloon, I walked with Cornwood
to the post-office. When we were in the street,
he volunteered the opinion that Captain Boomsby
was the greatest scoundrel in Jacksonville ; and
without going into the comparative merits of the
question, I was not disposed to dispute the point.

114 down south; or,

Cornwood seemed to feel relieved after he had ex-
pressed this opinion, and the subject was dropped.

I had told a colored clerk in the post-office to
keep all letters for me until my return, for when
we left Jacksonville I could not tell where we were
going, and I expected to be back a month sooner.
He greeted me very politely when I presented my-
self at the window, and handed me a large package
of letters, secured with a rubber band. I thanked
him for his kindness ; and I must add that this one
and another colored clerk I saw in Charleston, were
more polite and gentlemanly than many a white
clerk I have encountered in more northern cities.

Though I had received no letters for over two
months, I had not failed to write them regularly to
Mr. Brickland, and to my father since I had been
assured that he was still living. I looked over the
package that had been handed to me. There were
two from my father. My heart thrilled with emo-
tion when I recognized the handwriting. I thought
no more of Captain Boomsby and his snake.

" Will there be anything I can do for you to-day
or to-night, Captain Garningham?" asked Corn-
wood, as I stood looking at the outside of my

"Nothing," I replied.


" Then I think I will sleep on shore, if you have
no objection," he added.

"None whatever," I answered; and with the
bundle of letters in my hand, I was glad to get rid
of him, for he was rather officious, and often inter-
rupted me in my state-room when there was not
the least need of it.

Cornwood raised his Panama hat, bowed politely
to me, and then hastened out of the building. He
had hardly disappeared before the Hon. Mr. Tiffany
came into the office. He dropped some letters
into the box, and then approached me with a smil-
ing face. All I had seen of this gentleman pleased
me very much. My father called him his best
friend in the letter of introduction brought to me.
For this reason, if for no other, I should have re-
spected and esteemed him ; but I was not glad to
see him at this moment. I wanted to be alone
with my letters.

" Good evening, Captain Alick," said he. "I
see you have a large packet of letters, and I won't
interrupt you but for a moment. Are you going
on board of the steamer now ? "

V Yes, sir ; I thought I would go on board and
read my letters. Two of them are from my father
— the first I have received from him for many


months," I replied, wishing to have him under-
stand my situation fully.

" I will not keep you from them a moment," he
added, considerately. " But I suppose you will
not attempt to read them till you go on board ? "

" No, sir," I answered, putting the two letters
from my father into my breast-pocket, with my
most valuable papers, and dropping the others into
a side-pocket. "I can't read them very well in
the street."

" Then I will walk with you to your boat," con-
tinued Mr. Tiffany.

" I shall go to the wharf on which the market is
located, and hail the steamer. I have found that
is the best place to land."

We left the office, and walked up the street.
My companion evidently had something to say to
me, and had possibly started to go on board for
the purpose of seeing me. I did not feel much
interest in anything he might have to say under
the circumstances.

"Just before I joined you in the post-office, I
saw you with Mr. Cornwood. Pray don't think I
wish to meddle impertinently with your affairs,
Captain Alick," said Mr. Tiffany ; and he seemed
to be somewhat embarrassed about saying what he
wished to say.


"By no means, sir," I replied, beginning to feel
an interest in the conversation ; but rather on ac-
count of the manner than the matter of what he

" Then if you won't take offence, I wish to say
that I desire to warn you in regard to this man
Cornwood," continued the friend of my father.

" You desire to warn me in regard to Mr. Corn-
wood ! " I exclaimed, stopping short on the side-
walk, so great was my surprise at his words, as
well as his manner.

" I beg you will not take any offence at what I
say, Captain Alick, for I assure you I have nothing

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