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In the Wilds of Florida: A Tale of Warfare and Hunting

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  In the Wilds of Florida, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  In this book by Kingston we are introduced to Florida in the mid-19thcentury, when the tail-end of the wars between the Cherokee and SeminoleIndians was still rumbling on, and the white man was still occasionallydisturbed by attacks by Indians.

  Large areas of the territory are swamp, water, and densely overgrownplains. All this is described in detail.

  Our hero this time is a "school-leaver" from Ireland, whose father seemsto have had just one too many sons for him to be able to provide for allof them. His estate is a little encumbered by debt: he is what wasknown as a squireen. While trying to make up his mind what to do theboy decides to visit relatives in the USA, and that is why he went toFlorida.

  It must be said that he appeared quite thankful to get back more or lessin one piece!

  As an audiobook this will play for about ten hours.





  I had just left school, in a very undecided state of mind as to whatprofession I should select. The honest truth is, that I had no greatfancy for one more than for another. I should have preferred that of agentleman at large, with an independent fortune. But it had been soordained that I should not possess the latter very satisfactory means ofsubsistence; and it was necessary, if I wished to support myself like agentleman, that I should choose some calling by which I could at leastobtain an income, supposing that I had not the talent to realise a largefortune.

  My father, Captain Michael Kearney, had a small estate, but it wasslightly encumbered, like many another in old Ireland; and he had nointention of beggaring my brother and sister in order to benefit me. Ina certain sense, it is true, they were provided for. Ellen had marriedCaptain Patrick Maloney of the Rangers, who had, however, little beyondhis pay to live on. My younger brother, Barry, had entered the navy;but as he drew fifty pounds a year and occasionally other sums from myfather's pocket, it cannot be said that he was off his hands. I alsohad once thought of becoming a sailor, for the sake of visiting foreignlands; but I had allowed the time to pass, and was now considered tooold to go to sea. I then took a fancy for the army; but my fatherdeclared that he could not afford to purchase a commission for me, and Ihad no chance of getting one in any other way. I talked of the law; butwhen I heard of the dry books I should have to study, and the drierparchments over which I should have to pore, I shuddered at the thought,and hastily abandoned the idea.

  My kind aunt, Honor Molloy,--the sister of my mother, who had been deadsome years,--pathetically urged me to enter the church, in the hope, asshe said, that that would keep me in the right way; but I honestly feltthat the church was not my vocation, and that I was much more likely togo the wrong way if I assumed an office for which I was unfit. Then sheproposed that I should become a doctor; but I declared that I hatedphysic, and could never bring myself to drug my fellow-creatures withstuff which I would not take myself. My father offered to try to get meinto a government office, though he acknowledged that he had but slightinterest with people in authority, and that I might have a long time towait before I could obtain a satisfactory appointment. He suggested, inthe meantime, that I might become a clerk in a mercantile house, andthat I might one day become a partner; but that day seemed so very faroff in the perspective, that I begged he would not trouble himself aboutthe matter, deciding rather to seek for some government appointment,either at home or abroad.

  "Well, Maurice, my boy, you'll become wiser as you grow older, andyou'll be glad to accept the first offer made you," remarked my father.

  He, however, immediately wrote to Dublin, to the only friend of thefamily who was likely to render us assistance. This was CouncillorRoacharty, who in the course of a few days replied that he would do hisbest; but that his friend Maurice must put his impatience under lock andkey until Ireland had her rights, and Irishmen ruled their green islandhome. As I confidently hoped that this happy event would soon be anaccomplished fact, I was content; but my father was not so wellsatisfied as I was with the councillor's reply.

  Meantime I shot, fished, hunted, and visited our neighbours, and wasrapidly adopting the habits and customs of Irish squireens, when oneday, returning home from shooting, just before dinner, I found my fatherdeeply engaged in reading a foreign-looking letter. So absorbed was hein its contents that he did not perceive my entrance. Not wishing todisturb him, I retired to get rid of my muddy boots and leggings; and onmy return, dinner was on the table. During the meal he was unusuallysilent, not even inquiring what sport I had had. Dinner over, he drewhis chair to the fire, and I followed his example. Taking the letter Ihad before seen out of his pocket, he glanced it over, and then lookingup at me, he said--

  "Maurice, you'll be after wondering about the contents of this epistle.I have been thinking over it before telling you."

  "I observed that you had received a letter," I answered. "I hope itcontains no bad news."

  "Faith, it is difficult to say whether it's good or bad," he replied."You have heard me speak about your Uncle Nicholas, who went away manyyears ago to America, but of whose subsequent adventures, or whether hewas alive or dead, I had obtained no certain tidings. This letter isfrom him. He tells me that after knocking about in various parts of theUnion, he found his way to Florida, down south, where he married aSpanish lady, Donna Maria Dulce Gallostra, of ancient family, young andbeautiful, and, what was of no small consequence, considering his ownfinancial condition, the owner of a fine estate. She has blessed himwith three children,--two daughters, Rita and Juanita, and a son,Carlos: the former take after him, and are regular Irish girls, fair andpretty, fond of riding, fishing, and boating, full of life and spirits;while the boy, Carlos, takes after his mother, being a dark-eyed,handsome little chap, but restive as an unbroken colt, and passionate inthe extreme when roused,--for his mother has humoured and spoiled himuntil she has lost all control over the young rascal, so that he fancieshe can rule the roost better than his parents. Your uncle describes thecountry as being in a somewhat disturbed condition. The Indians aregreatly irritated, and even threaten the destruction of the whites, inconsequence of the intention of the United States Government to drivethem out of the country across the Mississippi. His own health haslately been giving way, and he is very anxious as to what would becomeof his wife and daughters in the event of his death. His wife, DonnaMaria, he says, though a charming woman, has very little notion how tomanage the estate, and his son is too young to help her, or to take careof himself; while his daughters, delightful young creatures as they are,do not appear to possess the requisite qualifications. Having latelyseen my name in an Irish newspaper, and knowing from this that I hadcome back to the old place, he determined to write to me, to implore me,by the brotherly affection which always existed between us when we weretogether, to come out and take charge of his daughters, whom he proposesto leave to my care in his will. Carlos will, on the death of hismother, inherit the Florida estate, unless in the meantime the boysuccumbs, which my brother fears is not improbable. In that case hisdaughters w
ould come into possession of the property; but as it is notin a part of the country in which it is desirable that they should live,he has arranged for the sale of the estate on the death of their mother.The girls have had three or four years' schooling in Philadelphia, andhave only lately returned to the south. Although they appear at presentto enjoy the untrammelled life they lead, he thinks they will soon growtired of it, and wish for a more civilised state of existence. Heappeals to me so earnestly that I am unwilling to refuse his request;and he urges me to cross the Atlantic immediately, if I desire to be ofservice to him before he dies."

  "Sure then, father, what could be easier than to take me with you!" Iexclaimed. "I would help you, and look after my cousins; and I daresayCarlos and I would get on together very well. Besides, I should like tosee Florida. I have heard something about the country--that there is noend of game and sport of all sorts to be had in it."

  "Bless my heart, I never thought of that!" exclaimed my father. "Well,as it may be some time before you can possibly obtain employment,perhaps you could not do better than accompany me. There will be theadditional expense; but your uncle generously offers to pay the cost ofmy voyage, and I shall see what funds I can raise. We'll leave oldMolly in charge of the place till we return, so that there will not bethe expense of housekeeping. As my brother urges me to come withoutdelay, we will forthwith set about our preparations. I have been toolong in a marching regiment to require many hours for getting ready."

  I was delighted that my father had agreed to my proposal, and that hecould not think of any other way to dispose of me. We talked the matterover until we settled that we should start for Dublin the next day ifpossible, and thence crossing to Liverpool, look out there for a vesselbound for one of the southern ports of the United States,--eitherCharleston or Savannah.

  As soon as we had finished our talk, I jumped up and set about gettingour traps in order.

  "You're the boy not to let the grass grow under your feet," observed myfather, well pleased at my alacrity.

  Our first care was to look over our guns and sporting gear; the next, toput up such clothing as we thought we should require. My father thensent off for his agent; and I, meantime, wrote by his direction severalletters of business.

  While I was thus engaged, Tim Flanagan--an old follower of my father,who had served in his regiment, and on getting his discharge had come tolive with us, uniting the offices of butler, groom, and generalfactotum--made his appearance, I having told him to come in as soon ashis work was over.

  "Tim, I'm thinking of running across to America for a few weeks, ormonths it may be, with Maurice here. I have not quite made up my mindhow to find you employment. In the meantime, Molly will look after thehouse, and Dan Rafferty will mind the farm."

  "Sure, if your honour's going to foreign lands, you wouldn't be aftherleavin' me behind?" interrupted Tim. "An' the young masther going awaytoo! Though there might be work enough for me, I had much rather befollowin' you, capt'n, whether it's fighting or hunting you'd be afther.It isn't wages I want; so just let it be settled, if you plase, that Igo with you and the young masther. I've heard say that there areIndians, rattlesnakes, and panthers, and all sorts of wild beasts out inthem parts, an' he'll be wantin' a steady man to be at hand to help him;and sure Tim Flanagan's the right person to be following his masther'sson. So just say the word, capt'n dear, an' I'll be ready to march themoment I get the route."

  To my infinite satisfaction, my father answered, "If you wish it, Tim,you shall accompany us. In case anything should happen to me, I shouldbe glad to think that Maurice had some one ready to stand by his side;and there's no human being to whom I would so readily intrust him as toyou."

  "It's mighty thankful I am to ye, capt'n; an' we'll be afther seeingabout the baggage, and getting all things ready for the march."

  Molly came in after Tim, and frequently applied her apron to her eyes,as my father went on to describe his plans. She was distressed athearing of the illness of Master Nicholas, as she called my uncle, andat the thought of our going away.

  "It's your honour and Mr. Maurice going off that grieves me," she said."Sure, if you must go, you must. I'll not let the house go to ruin forwant of dusting and cleaning, and looking afther the poultry and thepigs, and Dan Rafferty and the boys!"

  Molly was much comforted when my father assured her that he couldintrust the place to her care with perfect confidence.

  In pretty good spirits she set to work to overhaul our wardrobe, andprepare everything for packing. There was little sleep for any of usthat night; and the next morning, as soon as my father had made certainnecessary arrangements with Mr. Nolan, the attorney, his agent, westarted for Dublin by Bianconi's car, which passed our gate. Havingsettled some money matters, we visited Councillor Roacharty, who, with abland smile, assured me that he would not forget my wishes during myabsence. We then went on to Belfast, whence we crossed to Liverpool.Here, on our arrival, we immediately called on various shipping agents,and, much to our satisfaction, found that a vessel which was to sailthat evening for Savannah had cabin accommodation for two or threeadditional passengers. A few hours after, we found ourselves againafloat on board the good ship _Liberty_, of four hundred tons, belongingto Liverpool, gliding down the Mersey with a fair breeze, which, wehoped, would carry us quickly across the Atlantic.

  My father and Tim, who were old voyagers, lost no time in makingthemselves at home--the former with the captain, mates, and cabinpassengers; the latter with the seamen and his companions in thesteerage.

  We had an assemblage of various nationalities. Almost every one onboard was interested to some extent in the growth of cotton, the chiefproduce of Georgia, to the principal port of which we were bound. Whilewe sat round the table at supper, the relative values of sea-islandcotton and upland cotton, and the best modes of manufacturing sugar andtobacco, were the general subjects of conversation; but as I knew nomore about these articles than I did of the cultivation of cloves andnutmegs, I could only sit and listen: though I was able to note theremarks of others, and tried to gain some idea of the character of thespeakers. Two other persons were at first as silent as myself. One ofthem at length began to ask a few questions, speaking with a strongFrench accent. He appeared far more interested in what was said thanthe other. I heard him addressed as Monsieur Lejoillie. On inquiringabout him from the gentleman who sat next me, he replied--

  "What! don't you know him? If you had seen his luggage coming on boardyou would have guessed--cases of all sorts, mostly empty, except a fewcontaining instruments and bottles. He is a great naturalist,--and, Imay add, linguist, for I don't know how many languages he speaks. Notequal to our own Audubon, I guess, but a man of wonderful talent,notwithstanding. But, to confess the truth, I am not very well versedin the matters in which he excels."

  This information impressed me with a due respect for Monsieur Lejoillie,and I hoped to become better acquainted with him before long.

  A remark made by the hitherto silent personage on the subject ofslavery, which caused many of the party to prick up their ears and castangry looks at the speaker, showed me that he was a fellow-countryman.

  I heard Monsieur Lejoillie say to him, in a low voice, "Hush, my youngfriend! Liberty, equality, and fraternity may be very fine things totalk about in the Old World; for being incompatible with our advancedstate of civilisation, people can there afford to laugh at such notions.It is quite a different thing in the New World, where hostile races arebrought close together; and I would advise you not to give expression toyour opinions except among intimate friends, or they may proveinconvenient, if not dangerous to you."

  "My heart burns with indignation when I think of the wrongs inflicted onthose noble red men, the rightful inheritors of the soil, and on thedown-trodden negroes, dragged from their native land to become thehelpless slaves of arbitrary tyrants," answered the other.

  "Hush, hush, my friend!" again repeated Monsieur Lejoillie. "Suchwords, just as they may be, a
re not suited to the atmosphere of the landfor which we are bound. I entreat you not to let them pass your lips inmixed society, such as is here assembled."

  Fortunately at this moment a warm discussion engaged the attention ofmost of the persons at table, who failed to hear the remarks made by mycountryman, or the friendly advice given him by the naturalist. I sawthat an old gentleman was seated near the former, a young lady onlyintervening. The old gentleman, who was listening to what was said,cast a look more of pity than of anger at the young man, but did notspeak. The lady smiled, and said in a pleasant, sweet voice, "I wouldcounsel you, Mr. Rochford, to follow the advice of Monsieur Lejoillie.There are some on board who would resent such remarks as you have made.You must pass some time among us before you can form a correct opinionas to the way the Indians or the slaves are treated. You may discoverthat the red men are not quite the heroes you suppose, and that thenegroes are far better off with us than they would be in their owncountry."

  "Faith! I cannot but desire to be guided by so fair an adviser,"answered Rochford, in a rich Irish brogue, bowing as he spoke.

  The next day, as we were sailing down the Channel, I spoke to mycountryman, Maulins Rochford--for such I learned was his name--notletting him understand that I had overheard his remarks on the previousevening. When he found that I was a countryman, he became frank andcommunicative. He was two or three years older than myself. Hisappearance and manner were prepossessing, and we at once becameintimate. He had lately, by the death of his parents, come into a smallproperty; but instead of spending his time idly at home in hunting andshooting, as many in his position do, he was