Motor Boat Boys Among the Florida Keys - lightnovelgate.com
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"And I do be saying that it's a clever schame, that does Nick credit,"
was the verdict of Jimmy.
"That settles it, then, Nick," Jack decided. "It's unanimous, you hear; and if you want, you can go and get the block and tackle arranged right now."
"Oh! do you think, then, I'll surely need it, Jack?" asked the fat boy, trembling with joyous anticipations; for from the tenor of Jack's words he expected that they all believed he had caught the biggest of sharks, one that would make that little porpoise of Jimmy's look like a baby.
"I wouldn't be surprised if you did," Jack replied, with a reassuring nod.
Accordingly, after he had cleaned off his pannikin, and not a second sooner, Nick hunted up the rope and blocks with which they had hauled the _Comfort_ out on skids at the time of her accident.
By a skillful use of such an apparatus, one man's strength is made equal to that of several; and the boys had learned this fact through actual experience.
"Let us know when you expect to get busy," called out Herb, as Nick went off with the falls.
"Yes, because we want to enjoy it all, you know, Nick," sang out George.
Perhaps half an hour passed, with the fat boy busily engaged getting his apparatus ready. Then they heard him give a call.
"Hi! hello, there! fellers; suppose somebody starts a fire agoing for me here; that's allowable, ain't it, Jack?" he demanded.
"Why, of course, since it hasn't anything to do with getting the shark ashore," the one addressed responded, as all of them jumped up.
"I'm ready to begin yanking him in now; but it's so pesky gloomy I ain't able to see just right," Nick continued. "It'd be a shame now if I lost this dandy chap just because I didn't see how to work him."
Some of the boys gathered dead leaf stalks from under a nearby palmetto, and in next to no time they had a fine, ruddy blaze crackling close by the spot where Nick was standing, his shirt sleeves rolled up, and an air of grim determination about his whole person.
The first thing he did was to make sure the rope went twice around the snubbing post, so that he might always have a hitch. Then he fastened the end of the rope belonging to the falls to the strained fish line, a dozen feet beyond the snubbing post.
His operations were watched with considerable interest by his mates, who realized that quite a transformation was rapidly taking place in the character of the once placid and indolent fat boy.
"Here goes, then!" exclaimed Nick, as he threw his full weight on the rope that went through the several blocks.
They could hear him grunting at a great rate, which indicated what an effort it was to get the shark started shoreward against his will.
"Bully! he's beginning to make it!" whooped George, greatly excited.
"Hurrah for Nick!" shouted Josh.
"Walk away with it, me bhoy!" cried Jimmy, as though quite forgetting that success for Nick meant defeat for him.
The stout fisherman was indeed doing just what Jimmy advised, and walking away with things. When he had gone as far as he could, he managed to whip the rope around some object. Then, returning to the now slack fishing line, above the spot where he had fastened the falls, he drew it taut around the snubbing post.
"He gained at least ten feet that time," declared Jack.
"But, oh! my! ain't the old terror mad, though?" exclaimed George. "Just see how he pulls, would you, boys?"
"Give him another turn, Nick," advised Jack.
Unfastening the falls, Nick took the second hitch, and as before this was some distance below the snubbing post.
Again he bent his stout back, and, aided by the tackle, he succeeded in bringing the struggling sea monster closer in to the shore.
Everything was working smoothly, and by the time he had repeated his effort a good many times they could see from the terrific splashing that the prisoner was already in shoal water.
"Do you think I'm going to get him?" gasped poor, winded Nick, as he wiped his streaming forehead, and tried to get ready for the hardest tug of all; for, with a dead weight on the sand to haul, he could no longer count on the buoyancy of the water.
"Well, I should smile, yes," declared George. "At him again, Ginger; never say die! Set 'em up in the other alley! This is a great treat to us, Nick, I tell you!"
But Nick was already busy. With the rope over his shoulder, and his toes digging in the sand, he tugged away like a good fellow, gaining inch by inch. This time he succeeded in dragging the shark all the way out of the water, so that it lay exposed to their view.
"Hurroo! he done it!" shouted Jimmy, with an utter disregard for the rules of grammar, that would have horrified his teachers, had any of them heard him; but Jimmy had one set of rules to mark his vacation manners, and another covering his connection with the seats of learning; and when he wished could talk just as correctly as the next one.
They gathered around, full of wonder at the size and ferocity of the monster, that even then lay there on the sand, snapping savagely at everything.
"Will it beat Jimmy's porpoise?" asked Nick, proudly.
"Half again as heavy!" declared Jack; "for I reckon it must weigh all of four hundred pounds."
WHERE AMBITION LED.
True to his word, the generous Irish lad was the very first to grasp Nick's blistered hand and congratulate him on his wonderful success.
"That's what comes of stick-at-it-tiveness," declared Herb, ponderously, as he, too, gripped the fingers of the successful shark fisherman.
Nick was allowed to get the rifle, and wind up the career of the savage sea monster. In the morning they estimated his weight, just as they had done with others in the past. Everybody was satisfied to agree with that first guess which Jack made, and call it four hundred. And they declared that Nick was a wonder, in that with only the assistance of the falls, he had dragged such a monster up on the beach.
The voyage was resumed that day, and for the better part of a week they were put to it dodging storms, making outside runs when the fair weather allowed of their braving the open gulf, and extricating themselves from various unpleasant predicaments, when they managed to lose themselves in what had promised to be a convenient cut-off, but which proved a trap in the shape of shallow water, with many chances of the boats sticking in the mud.
After Pensacola would come Mobile; and then the next place they expected to reach would be their destination, New Orleans.
Each night as they figured on the time that still remained, a sense of gloom would descend upon the camp, though Jack or else Jimmy soon dissipated it by some joking remark, or it might be by bursting out into ragtime song. But they had had such a glorious time since starting out on this remarkable voyage that they viewed its approaching finish with a feeling bordering on dismay.
Jimmy had now taken to being haunted by a desire to eclipse the great feat of his stout rival. Though it did not seem that there might be one chance in fifty of his succeeding in capturing a fish that would exceed the weight of that monster shark, Jimmy had developed an industrious trait.
Early and late his mind was set upon the game. Nick had generously turned over his shark tackle to the other. He guaranteed that it was sound, and capable of sustaining any strain.
So Jimmy would each night do just what the other had been engaged in until recently; and the way he attended to that line was worthy of all praise.
But, although hardly a night went by that he did not make some sort of capture, his best effort fell far short of the necessary heft, and Nick began to feel that the wager was as good as won. Nevertheless, he watched all that Jimmy did with a certain amount of interest, not to say anxiety, knowing that there is, according to the old saying, "many a slip between the cup and the lip."
All of them were in the very best of health, and in this the voyage down the coast, and around the end of Florida among the keys had done them good. Even Josh seemed to have recovered from his spell of indigestion, and was able to do his share of the eating.