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   Chapter 9 THE THREE GRAY BEANS.

A Jolly Fellowship By Frank R. Stockton Characters: 15501

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Corny went ashore, but she did not stay there three minutes. From the edge of the wharf we could see that Silver Spring was better worth looking at than anything we should be likely to see on shore. The little lake seemed deeper than a three-story house, and yet, even from where we stood, we could see down to the very bottom.

There were two boys with row-boats at the wharf. We hired one of the boats right off, and Corny gave me such a look, that I told her to get in. After she was in the boat, she asked her mother, who was standing on the deck of the steam-boat, if she might go. Mrs. Chipperton said she supposed so, and away we went. When we had rowed out to the middle of the spring, I stopped rowing, and we looked down into the depths. It was almost the same as looking into air. Far down at the bottom we could see the glittering sand and the green rocks, and sometimes a fish, as long as my arm, would slowly rise and fall, and paddle away beneath us. We dropped nickels and copper cents down to the bottom, and we could plainly see them lying there. In some parts of the bottom there were "wells," or holes, about two feet in diameter, which seemed to go down indefinitely. These, we were told, were the places where the water came up from below into the spring. We could see the weeds and grasses that grew on the edges of these wells, although we could not see very far down into them.

"If I had only known," said Rectus, "what sort of a place we were coming to, I should have brought something to lower down into these wells. I tell you what would have been splendid!-a heavy bottle filled with sweet oil and some phosphorus, and a long cord. If we shook up the bottle it would shine, so that, when we lowered it into the wells, we could see it go down to the very bottom, that is, if the cord should be long enough."

At this instant, Corny went overboard! Rectus made a grab at her, but it was too late. He sprang to his feet, and I thought he was going over after her, but I seized him.

"Sit down!" said I. "Watch her! She'll come up again. Lean over and be ready for her!"

We both leaned over the bow as far as was safe. With one hand I gently paddled the boat, this way and that, so as to keep ourselves directly over Corny. It would have been of no use to jump in. We could see her as plainly as anything.

She was going down, all in a bunch, when I first saw her, and the next instant she touched the bottom. Her feet were under now, and I saw her make a little spring. She just pushed out her feet.

Then she began to come right up. We saw her slowly rising beneath us. Her face was turned upward, and her eyes were wide open. It was a wonderful sight. I trembled from head to foot. It seemed as if we were floating in the air, and Corny was coming up to us from the earth.

Before she quite reached the surface, I caught her, and had her head out of water in an instant. Rectus then took hold, and with a mighty jerk, we pulled her into the boat.

Corny sat down hard and opened her mouth.

"There!" she said; "I didn't breathe an inch!"

And then she puffed for about two minutes, while the water ran off her into the bottom of the boat. I seized the oars to row to shore.

"How did you fall over?" said Rectus, who still shook as if he had had a chill.

"Don't know," answered Corny. "I was leaning far over, when my hand must have slipped, and the first thing I knew I was into it. It's good I didn't shut my eyes. If you get into water, with your eyes shut, you can't open them again." She still puffed a little. "Coming up was the best. It's the first time I ever saw the bottom of a boat."

"Weren't you frightened?" I asked.

"Hadn't time at first. And when I was coming up, I saw you reaching out for me."

"WE SAW HER SLOWLY RISING BENEATH US."

"Did you think we'd get you?" said Rectus, his face flushing.

"Yes," said Corny, "but if you'd missed me that time, I'd never have trusted you again."

The gentleman-with-a-wife-and-a-young-lady was in another boat, not very far off, but it was nearer the upper end of the little lake, and none of the party knew of our accident until we were pulling Corny out of the water. Then they rowed toward us as fast as they could, but they did not reach us until we were at the wharf. No one on shore, or on the steam-boat, seemed to have noticed Corny's dive. Indeed, the whole thing was done so quietly, and was so soon over, that there was not as much of a show as the occasion demanded.

"I never before was in deep water that seemed so little like real water," said Corny, just before we reached the wharf. "This was cold, and that was the only thing natural about it."

"Then this is not the first time you've been in deep water?" I asked.

"No," said Corny, "not the very first time;" and she scrambled up on the wharf, where her mother was standing, talking to some ladies.

"Why, Cornelia!" exclaimed Mrs. Chipperton, as soon as she saw the dripping girl, "have you been in the water again?"

"Yes, ma'am," said Corny, drawing her shoulders up to her ears, "and I must be rubbed down and have dry clothes as quick as lightning."

And with this, she and her mother hurried on board the steam-boat.

Rectus and I went back on the lake, for we had not gone half over it when Corny went into it. We had rowed about for half an hour or so, and were just coming in, when Corny appeared on the deck of the steam-boat, with a handkerchief tied around her head.

"Are you going to take a walk on shore?" she called out.

"Yes!" we shouted.

"All right," said she; "if you'll let me, I'll go with you, for mother says I must take a good run in the sun. I look funny, don't I? but I haven't any more hats."

We gave her a good run, although it was not altogether in the sun. The country hereabout was pretty well wooded, but there were roads cut through the woods, and there were some open places, and everywhere, underfoot, the sand was about six inches deep. Rectus took Corny by one hand, and I took her by the other, and we made her trot through that sand, in sunshine and shade, until she declared she was warm enough to last for a week. The yellow-legged party and some of the other passengers were wandering about, gathering the long gray moss,-from limbs where they could reach it,-and cutting great palmetto leaves which grew on low bushes all through the woods, and carrying them about as fans or parasols; but although Corny wanted to join in this fun, we would not stop. We just trotted her until she was tired, and then we ran her on board the boat, where her mother was waiting for her.

"Now, then," said Mrs. Chipperton, "immediately to bed."

The two disappeared, and we saw no more of Corny until supper-time. Her mother was certainly good at cure, if she didn't have much of a knack at prevention.

Just as the boat was about to start off on her return trip, and after she had blown her whistle two or three times, Mr. Chipperton appeared, carrying an immense arm-load of gray moss. He puffed and blew as he threw it down on deck. When his wife came out and told him of Corny's disaster, he stopped dusting his clothes, and looked up for an instant.

"I declare," said he, "Corny must keep out of the water. It seems to me that I can never leave her but she gets into some scrape. But I'm sure our friends here have proved themselves good fellows, indeed," and he shook hands with both of us.

"Now then, my dear," said he to his wife, "I've enough moss here for the parlor and sitting-room, and the little back-room, upstairs. I didn't get any for the dining-room, because it might blow about and get into the food."

"Do you mean to take that moss all the way home?" asked Mrs. Ch

ipperton, in surprise. "Why, how will you ever carry it?"

"Of course I mean to take it home," said he. "I gathered this with my own hands from the top of one of the tallest trees on the banks of this famous Silver Spring."

"Mr. Chipperton!" exclaimed his wife.

"To be sure, the tree was cut down, but that makes no difference in the fact. It is both an ornament and a trophy of travel. If necessary, I'll buy a trunk for it. What did you do with Corny after they got her out?"

Our journey home was very much like our trip up the river, but there were a few exceptions. There was not so much firing, for I think the ammunition got pretty low; we saw more alligators, and the yellow-legged party, which had joined us at Pilatka, went all the way to St. Augustine with us. There was still another difference, and that was in Rectus. He was a good deal livelier,-more in the spirit that had hatched out in him in the cemetery at Savannah. He seemed to be all right with Corny now, and we had a good time together. I was going to say to him, once, that he had changed his mind about girls, but I thought I wouldn't. It would be better to let well enough alone, and he was a ticklish customer.

The day after we returned to St. Augustine, we were walking on the sea-wall, when we met Corny. She said she had been looking for us. Her father had gone out fishing with some gentlemen, and her mother would not walk in the sun, and, besides, she had something to say to us.

So we all walked to the fort and sat down on the wide wall of the water-battery. Rectus bestrode one of the cannon that stood pointing out to sea, but Corny told him she wanted him to get down and sit by her, so that she wouldn't have to shout.

"Now then," said she, after pausing a little, as if she wanted to be sure and get it right, "you two saved my life, and I want to give you something to remember me by."

We both exclaimed against this.

"You needn't do that," said I, "for I'm sure that no one who saw you coming up from the bottom, like the fairy-women float up on wires at the theatre, could ever forget you. We'll remember you, Corny, without your giving us anything."

"But that wont do," said she. "The only other time that I was ever really saved was by a ferryman, and father gave him some money, which was all right for him, but wouldn't do for you two, you know; and another time there wasn't really any danger, and I'm sorry the man got anything; but he did.

"We brought scarcely anything with us, because we didn't expect to need things in this way; but this is my own, and I want to give it to you both. One of you can't use it by himself, and so it will be more like a present for both of you together, than most things would be." And she handed me a box of dominoes.

"I give it to you because you're the oldest, but, remember, it's for both of you."

Of course we took it, and Corny was much pleased. She was a good little girl and, somehow or other, she seemed to be older and more sensible when she was with us than when she was bouncing around in the bosom of her family.

We had a good deal of talk together, and, after a while, she asked how long we were going to stay in St. Augustine.

"Until next Tuesday," I said, "and then we shall start for Nassau in the 'Tigris.'"

"Nassau!" she exclaimed, "where's that?"

"Right down there," I said, pointing out to sea with a crook of my finger, to the south. "It's on one of the Bahamas, and they lie off the lower end of Florida, you know."

"No," said she; "I don't remember where they are. I always get the Bahamas mixed up with the Bermudas, anyway. So does father. We talked of going to one of those places, when we first thought of travelling for his lung, but then they thought Florida would be better. What is there good about Nassau? Is it any better than this place?"

"Well," said I, "it's in the West Indies, and it's semi-tropical, and they have cocoa-nuts and pineapples and bananas there; and there are lots of darkeys, and the weather is always just what you want--"

"I guess that's a little stretched," said Corny, and Rectus agreed with her.

"And it's a new kind of a place," I continued; "an English colony, such as our ancestors lived in before the Revolution, and we ought to see what sort of a thing an English colony is, so as to know whether Washington and the rest of them should have kicked against it."

"Oh, they were all right!" said Corny, in a tone which settled that little matter.

"And so, you see," I went on, "Rectus and I thought we should like to go out of the country for a while, and see how it would feel to live under a queen and a cocoa-nut tree."

"Good!" cried Corny. "We'll go."

"Who?" I asked.

"Father and mother and I," said Corny, rising. "I'll tell them all about it; and I'd better be going back to the hotel, for if the steamer leaves on Tuesday, we'll have lots to do."

As we were walking homeward on the sea-wall, Rectus looked back and suddenly exclaimed:

"There! Do you see that Crowded Owl following us? He's been hanging round us all the afternoon. He's up to something. Don't you remember the captain told us he was a bad-tempered fellow?"

"What did he do?" asked Corny, looking back at the Indian, who now stood in the road, a short distance from the wall, regarding us very earnestly.

"Well, he never did anything, much," I said. "He seemed to be angry, once, because we would not buy some of his things, and the captain said he'd have him told not to worry us. That may have made him madder yet."

"He don't look mad," said Corny.

"Don't you trust him," said Rectus.

"I believe all these Indians are perfectly gentle, now," said Corny, "and father thinks so, too. He's been over here a good deal, and talked to some of them. Let's go ask him what he wants. Perhaps he's only sorry."

"If he is, we'll never find it out," I remarked, "for he can only speak one word of English."

I beckoned to Crowded Owl, and he immediately ran up to the wall, and said "How?" in an uncertain tone, as if he was not sure how we should take it. However, Corny offered him her hand, and Rectus and I followed suit. After this, he put his hand into his pocket, and pulled out three sea-beans.

"There!" said Rectus. "At it again. Disobeying military orders."

"But they're pretty ones," said Corny, taking one of the beans in her hand.

They were pretty. They were not very large, but were beautifully polished, and of a delicate gray color, the first we had seen of the kind.

"These must be a rare kind," said Rectus. "They are almost always brown. Let's forgive him this once, and buy them."

"Perhaps he wants to make up with you," said Corny, "and has brought these as a present."

"I can soon settle that question," said I, and I took the three beans, and pulled from my pocket three quarter-dollars, which I offered to the Indian.

Crowded Owl took the money, grinned, gave a bob of his head, and went home happy.

If he had had any wish to "make up" with us, he had shown it by giving us a chance at a choice lot of goods.

"Now," said I, reaching out my hand to Corny, "here's one for each of us. Take your choice."

"For me?" said Corny. "No, I oughtn't to. Yes, I will, too. I am ever so much obliged. We have lots of sea-beans, but none like this. I'll have a ring fastened to it, and wear it, somehow."

"That'll do to remember us by," said I.

"Yes," said Rectus, "and whenever you're in danger, just hold up that bean, and we'll come to you."

"I'll do it," said Corny. "But how about you? What can I do?"

"Oh, I don't suppose we shall want you to help us much," I said.

"Well, hold up your beans, and we'll see," said Corny.

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