By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mary Jane Down South
Author: Judson, Clara Ingram
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Jane Down South" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Illustration: “They turned south, down the quiet, narrow street at the
right” (_Page 90_) _Frontispiece_]






  NEW YORK, N. Y.      NEWARK, N. J.

  Copyright, 1919,





  “ALL ABOARD FOR FLORIDA!”                           11

  THE DAY IN BIRMINGHAM                               24

  AT THE OSTRICH FARM                                 39

  “THE BOAT’S A-FIRE!”                                53

  A BIT OF SUNNY SPAIN                                68

  “WHOA! PLEASE WHOA!”                                81

  LUNCHEON BY THE OLD WELL                            94

  A DAY ON THE BEACH                                 108

  AT SEA IN A STORM                                  122

  WALKING THE PLANK                                  135

  CATCHING THE BOAT                                  146

  ON THE OCKLAWAHA                                   159


  PIGS BY THE WAY                                    185

  HOME AGAIN                                         198


  “They turned south, down the quiet, narrow street
    at the right”                       _Frontispiece_


  “This is the living room and here’s the dining
    room and here, where you can see the river
    bed, is the porch”                              58

  “The owner of the orchard let the girls pick
   fruit and take pictures”                         80

  “They went in wading after crawdads”             114



The week between the time Mary Jane heard of the trip South and the
time for starting seemed unusually short. So short that Mary Jane
thought it surely must have had only three days in it--that is, she
thought that till she counted up and found to her surprise that this
very, very short week had had Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
Sunday, Monday and now a Tuesday just exactly as all other weeks have.

“But the days haven’t been the same, Alice, I just know they haven’t,”
insisted the little girl.

“Yes they have,” laughed Alice, “only you’ve had so much to do and so
much fun that you haven’t noticed how many hours have gone by--that’s
the difference.”

“I should say we _have_ done lots,” said Mary Jane, “if that’s the
matter. I never saw such lots to do--never!”

And indeed it had been a busy week in the Merrill household. On
Wednesday of the week before Mr. Merrill had announced that business
would take him on a two weeks’ trip South and that he would take all
the family with him. It seemed such a good chance to give the two
girls, Alice, a big girl of twelve, and Mary Jane, a busy kindergartner
of five, a glimpse of the tropical part of their country and a better
understanding of the geography Alice was already studying and Mary Jane
would soon begin.

But a week gave very little time to make ready so everybody had to
help. There were gingham dresses from last summer’s wardrobe to get
out and let down; each little girl had to have a new bathing suit,
for who wants to go South without a swim in the ocean? New hats must
be purchased because the velvet hats Alice and Mary Jane were wearing
would be very heavy in the warm southern sunshine. Then the house must
be shut up for its two weeks’ vacation, and everything must be made
snug so that cold weather would do no damage. Mary Jane was so busy
helping do errands and getting things out of drawers and closets and
helping to pack that it’s no wonder she thought the time went quickly.

“Better plan so you can get along without your trunk some days,”
suggested Mr. Merrill as he came into the house Tuesday evening,
“because when we’re on the jump as we will be you can’t always be sure
of getting your trunk every time.”

“Then I think I’ll have to take another hand bag,” said Mrs. Merrill

“Goody! Goody! Goody!” shouted Mary Jane. She was coming down the front
stairs as she heard her father speak and she dashed back up again,
hunted out the little black grip she was sure her mother meant to take
and began packing.

“She’ll want pencils in it, and paper and my Marie Georgannamore ’cause
I don’t ever have time to play with her when I’m in school,” said the
little girl as she packed the things. “And rubbers, Mother always
thinks about rubbers and--” but by that time Mary Jane was so excited,
she piled everything from the top of her dresser pell-mell into the
bag, and then hurried down stairs.

“Here it is, Mother,” she cried gayly, “you don’t have to pack it
’cause I’ve got it all done--every bit.” And she set the bag on the
living room table.

Mrs. Merrill glanced at Mary Jane’s flushed face and saw how eager she
was to help but that all the excitement and hustling were making her a
little tired so she said, “That’s the grip I want, Mary Jane, and thank
you for bringing it down to me. But before we pack it suppose you and
Alice sit down by me and plan just what we want to take.”

“Yes, only I want to carry it,” said Mary Jane; “I’m plenty bigger
’nough to carry my own grip.”

“Why, Mother,” exclaimed Alice, “you wouldn’t let her carry a grip of
her own, would you? She’s too little. I’ll be the one to carry it.”

“I thought you were going to carry your camera, Alice,” said Mrs.
Merrill quietly, “and one thing for each girl is enough to look after.
Suppose going down we pack yours and my things together in the suit
case and let Mary Jane have her own toilet things and extra dress in
the little grip. It isn’t too heavy for her to carry if she must. Then
you can have your camera. Coming back you may not want to take so many
pictures. We might pack your camera in the trunk and then you could
have _your_ things in the grip and take your turn traveling like a lady
all alone. How would that be?”

Both girls were pleased with that plan so Mrs. Merrill said she would
get just the right things to put in the bags while the girls went to
tell their best friends good-by.

Mary Jane’s little chum, Doris Dana, lived next door, so she didn’t
have far to go. Doris was at home and half way expecting Mary Jane
because she knew that the Merrills were to leave early in the morning.
She pulled Mary Jane into the living room in a jiffy and showed her
a big book of pictures she had been looking at. “Look at these, Mary
Jane,” she cried, “and these and these and these! Mother says you’ll
see them all down South. Oh, dear, but I wish I was going too!”

Mary Jane had never seen the big picture folder before (her father
had promised that she should have one and he was to bring it to her
that very evening) and she was as interested as Doris in the wonderful
pictures it contained. They spread the folder out on the floor and
looked at the big orange trees, the palm trees and the heavy Spanish
moss that made every sort of tree look so queer. They looked at rivers
and lakes and, most wonderful of all, a family of alligators.

“I like those best,” said Doris positively, “and why I like ’em is
because they’re so awful. I wish I had one, I do.”

“Do they really grow that way?” asked Mary Jane of Doris’s mother.

“Indeed they do,” laughed Mrs. Dana. “I’ve seen hundreds of them just
like that picture and you will too.”

“Oh, bring me one! Bring me one!” cried Doris; “will you, Mary Jane?”

Before Mary Jane had a chance to answer the telephone rang and Mrs.
Dana took a message from Mrs. Merrill that Mary Jane was to come home
at once. So, with a hasty promise whispered in Doris’s ear, that she
would surely send an alligator, Mary Jane ran skipping across the snowy
lawn to her home.

When dinner was over an hour later, Mr. Merrill went to the hall and
took from his coat pocket a bundle of railway folders.

“There you are, girls,” he said as he laid them on the table; “there
are the pictures I promised you. I think you’ll find something about
every place you’re going to visit.”

Alice and Mary both grabbed for folders and in two minutes time they
had spread them out on the floor in front of the cozy fireplace and
were peering through them eagerly. Mr. and Mrs. Merrill, who had taken
the same trip before, explained in just what order the pictures should
be put and told stories of their trip.

“Can’t we take these along with us?” asked Mary Jane; “that would be

“It might be fun,” agreed Mr. Merrill, “but it would also be a nuisance
because we’ll have plenty to carry as it is. Let’s fold them up--it’s
bed time now you see, girls--and put them in the table drawer here.
Then first thing when you come back you can get them out and see if you
really saw all we think you are going to.”

Mary Jane thought of course she never, never, never would go to sleep
because she kept thinking about riding on the train and what she would
order in the dining car and her new hat and lunch at the hotel the
next day (Mary Jane loved to eat at a hotel) and those queer looking
alligators she had seen pictures of and everything. But she must have
slept, for in about a minute (or so it seemed) she sat straight up in
bed and there was the sun shining straight on to her out-of-door bed
and father out at the garage was locking the door and saying, “There, I
guess that’s all done!”

She dashed into the house and bathed and dressed in a jiffy. Mother had
laid out her things so she put on everything she would wear on the trip
except the dress. Of course she wouldn’t put on her new traveling dress
till the last minute--an old frock would do till then. Just as she was
going down the stairs she met Alice coming up.

“There you are,” said Alice, “I was just coming up to call you,
breakfast’s ready!”

After breakfast each person helped and in short order the dishes were
washed and put away, the living room tidied and the upstairs set in
order. By half past nine, folks were dressed and ready to go. It surely
seemed good to get out into the sunshine because with the furnace fire
out so Father could be sure there was no danger of fire, the house was
beginning to get pretty shivery.

“Think about the flowers you’ll see Saturday, girls,” said Mr. Merrill,
“and dance around a bit to warm up. The car will be along in a minute.”

“Won’t we see flowers till Saturday?” asked Mary Jane. “I thought we
were going to-day.”

“So we are,” laughed Mr. Merrill, “but going takes a while. We start
South to-night. Then we ride all to-night and all to-morrow. To-morrow
night we get to Birmingham. You remember we are going to stop a day
with Uncle Will there. All day Friday you’ll be seeing wonderful things
in that city. Then Friday night we’ll get on a sleeper train again and
Saturday morning we’ll be in Jacksonville.”

“And there’s flowers,” added Mary Jane.

“Just so,” said Mr. Merrill.

“And alligators?” asked the little girl.

“Oh, lots of alligators they tell me,” laughed Mr. Merrill. But just
then the traction came along so Mary Jane didn’t have a chance to
explain her plan of bringing alligators home to Doris, which was
perhaps just as well, for Mr. Merrill had plenty to think of as it was.

With buying hats and shoes and getting lunch and dinner the day went on
wings and nine o’clock came before Mary Jane had had time to think of
being tired.

The big train pulled in just on time, its lights all a-blazing and the
observation car looking most inviting. The porter had the berths made
up ready and, in spite of the fact that Mary Jane had just declared she
was not tired a bit and could sit up for two hours yet, that soft white
pillow and turned down cover looked very nice. She decided that the
observation car could wait till morning for inspection.

The last thing she said, before Mrs. Merrill pulled the heavy curtains
together for the night was, “Mother, may I have anything I want for
breakfast? If I may, I’m going to have two orders of hashed brown
potatoes and not anything else!”


“Beg pardon, Miss?” The colored waiter in the dining car bent lower,
the better to hear Mary Jane’s order.

“That’s all I want,” said Mary Jane in surprise; “just two orders of
hashed brown potatoes and not anything else.”

“Oh, Mary Jane,” laughed Mrs. Merrill, “do have something else. And
you must have a little fruit. Suppose you get an orange and then some
cereal and then one order of potatoes--two would be too much.”

“Yes, it would if I had to eat all that first,” said Mary Jane sadly.
“But I’ve been _counting_ on those potatoes, Mother! You remember the
good ones we had on the diner coming home from Grandmother’s last
summer? And you know I ate more than one order _then_.”

“So you did,” agreed Mrs. Merrill, “and I promised you that you should
have all you wanted next time we ate in a diner. Very well, suppose we
compromise. You eat the orange and you may skip the cereal this time.
But I think she had better have only one order of potatoes at the
time,” she added to the waiter, “for they will get cool.”

While Mary Jane was eating her orange she looked out of the window at
the changing scene. All through the night when she had been soundly
sleeping, the train had carried her south through the prairies she
was used to seeing, south through the wooded stretches and dull brown
fields. And now, early the next morning, she found herself riding
through the edges of coal lands. Long strings of loaded coal cars stood
upon the railroad sidings; groups of workers stood about the tiny
stations the train flew past and the whole country seemed strange and
different to the little girl.

But with all her watching out of the window, Mary Jane didn’t miss
noticing the twinkle in the eye of the waiter and she whispered to
her sister, “Alice! I think that waiter man thinks it’s funny to like
potatoes and I think he’s making me some nice ones, I do.”

And so it proved, for when the orange was eaten, he set before Mary
Jane the biggest platter of hashed brown potatoes she had ever seen.
All brown and nice they were, with bits of parsley ’round the side and
a pat of butter for her own particular use.

“Yumy-yum!” exclaimed Mary Jane as the platter was put before her, “I’m
so glad I came!” And there was no watching scenery till every scrap of
potato on the platter was eaten up.

“Want your other order now?” asked Mrs. Merrill, when she saw that
nothing but parsley was left on the platter.

“Well--” replied Mary Jane doubtfully, “do you suppose they’ll have
hashed brown potatoes for lunch? ’Cause if they will, I think I’ll save
my other order till then. I’m not just as hungry as I was.”

“Good reason why,” laughed Alice, “come on, let’s not eat any more now.
Let’s go into the observation car.”

The girls found riding in the observation car almost as much fun as
eating in the diner. First they stood out on the “back porch” as Mary
Jane called it and got good breaths of fresh air; then they came
inside and settled themselves in big easy chairs and looked at all the
“funny papers” they found in the car library--that took a long time
because there were so many. Next they wrote letters, Mary Jane didn’t
really write to be sure, but she drew a very good picture of the coal
cars they passed on the way and of hills and valleys and put it in an
envelope ready to send to Doris; and Alice wrote a nice long letter to
her chum, Frances. And then, much to every one’s surprise, the dining
car man came through the train calling, “First call for luncheon!
Dining car third car in front!” and it was time to wash up ready to eat

In the afternoon the country they were passing proved so interesting
that Mary Jane and Alice didn’t even try to look at books or magazines.
For the mountains had grown higher and more interesting every mile of
the way. Now they passed great holes in the ground out from which came
little cars full of freshly mined coal, and Mr. Merrill explained to
the girls all about how coal was dug out of the earth, loaded on those
queer little cars and sent up to the sunshine ready to be loaded into
railroad cars to take away for folks to use. And they passed mining
villages tucked down in the valleys. Some had great, rough barracks
where all the miners lived. Some, and those were the most interesting
to the girls, had groups of tiny little shacks where the miners lived
with their families. They saw children playing, women working at their
house work, and here and there a miner, his lamp on his head, going off
to the mine for his work. Mary Jane and Alice had never realized till
they saw those funny little lamps, fastened to the miner’s cap, how
queer it must seem to work hours down, down, down, deep in the darkness
of the earth.

“I do believe,” said Alice thoughtfully, “that I’ll always notice more
about coal now that I can guess better how hard it is to work down in
the ground.”

As long as the daylight lasted, the girls strained their eyes to see
all that might be seen of the coal country. And just after the sun
set behind the iron mountains leaving the darkness of a winter evening
behind, they noticed flashes of light off to the south-east.

“The steel furnaces of Birmingham,” said Mr. Merrill, “and you shall
see them close too, to-morrow. But now it’s time to get our things on
to meet Uncle Will.”

They hustled back to their own car to find that the porter had
carefully picked up their things and that everything was ready for them
to slip into their wraps and get off the train. So there was still time
to watch out into the darkness and see more of those brilliant flashes
of light that made the sky glow so mysteriously.

Mrs. Merrill’s uncle was at the station and hurried them into a big
“boulevard bus” which would quickly take them home where aunt and
cousins and a good dinner were waiting.

“There’s just one thing I don’t like about this city,” said Mary Jane
later in the evening.

“So?” exclaimed Uncle Will, “why we think it’s a pretty nice sort of a

“I ’spect it is,” agreed Mary Jane politely, “but what I don’t like is
the dark--I can’t see anything!”

“We’ll soon fix that,” said Mrs. Merrill, “I’ll put my little girl to
bed and then the time till daylight will vanish.”

And sure enough it did. It wasn’t any time at all till Mary Jane sat
up in her sleeping porch couch and looked across the hills of the
beautiful city.

“Oh!” she exclaimed delightedly, “I like having houses on hills, ’cause
you can see so many of them!” Then she looked down at the street nearby
and saw a little negro boy, not so very much bigger than herself, who
was carrying on his head a great, big, heavy basket of washing.

“Boy! Boy! I don’t know your name but please wait a minute!” she
called. “My sister wants to take a picture of a boy like you--she said
she did!”

Fortunately Alice, who was in the house making the closer acquaintance
of her cousins, was dressed so it didn’t take but a minute to get her
camera and take the picture Mary Jane so hastily arranged for her. The
poor little boy didn’t quite know what had happened to him, but he
_did_ understand the quarter Mr. Merrill handed him. He went on his way
with such a broad smile on his face that Alice wished she had another
picture just to get that smile in.

While the picture was being taken, Mary Jane washed and dressed. She
came down the front stairs just in time to hear the plans for the day

“Yes, I wish we could stay more than one day,” Mr. Merrill was saying,
“but I have to be in Jacksonville to-morrow morning. So I think we’d
better make up our minds to visit all we can to-day and let the girls
see as much as may be of your city. Then perhaps on our next trip we
won’t be so hurried.”

“If that’s the case,” said Uncle Will as they responded to the
breakfast bell, “I believe we’d better plan to get right off. We’ll
go way out to the steel plant first so as to be sure to get in there.
Then if we get back in time, we can take our lunch at the Terrace
Restaurant--I know the girls will like that--then we’ll have the
afternoon for an auto ride.”

Mr. Merrill agreed that was a fine plan.

“Only I hope there isn’t any doubt about that lunch,” said Alice.

“Well-l,” said Uncle Will teasingly, “do you eat three times a day at
your house?”

“My no!” retorted Alice promptly, “not if I can help it! We eat _four_

“Then you’d better have another helping of this fish,” laughed Aunt
Mabel, “because with all that sight seeing to do, you’re not going to
have time to eat any four meals this day--I know that!”

In a few minutes they were off for the steel mills and Mary Jane and
Alice found it one of the most interesting rides they had ever taken.
Through narrow streets they went and then along boulevards; through
tiny villages and a larger “model village” where industrial workers
by the thousands made their homes. And finally great piles as high as
houses of grayish looking stuff that looked like cinders but which
Uncle Will said was “slag,” told them that they were approaching the

When they stepped off the car Alice exclaimed, “This looks exactly like
a picture of a mining town that’s in my geography!”

“Of course it is,” laughed Uncle Will, “because this _is_ a mining
town. All the mining isn’t done in the West you know. The iron ore and
the coal for the furnaces are mined right here on the spot--that’s the
reason these mills are just where they are, my dear.”

They walked along the narrow street where men, women and mule carts
mingled together in busy confusion, till they came to the company’s
office. There was some delay there because children were not usually
allowed in the plant but on the firm assurance from Mr. Merrill and
Uncle Will that each would take a girl under his especial care,
permission was granted.

“But be sure you watch ’em, Mr. Cole,” warned the guard as they started
and Uncle Will promised.

Mary Jane wondered at all this fuss because she and Alice had been
through factories at home and didn’t think much of it. But half an hour
later, when they were in the middle of the great plant, she stopped
wondering and clung to her father’s hand without being told. For the
noise and confusion and wonder of it all was beyond anything she had
ever dreamed of. Engines tooting and screeching, whistles blowing
orders, men shouting, great kettles of red hot iron sizzling and
smoking, clanging hammers pounding on metal, the clatter of tumbling
scrap iron and the clang and clank of the finished steel rails as they
were loaded on waiting freight cars made it a wonderland of sights and

Mary Jane held tight to her father’s hand and bravely went everywhere
the big folks did. But she wasn’t sorry when, an hour later, she
found herself seated on a quiet terrace on the fifteenth floor of
Birmingham’s biggest office building, ordering her lunch.

After luncheon they walked all around the terrace and looked at the
rows of mountains and the long stretch of valley dotted with huge smoke
stacks of the various steel mills.

“And there,” said Uncle Will, pointing off into the distance, “is the
place you were this morning.”

“Well,” said Mary Jane looking at it gravely, “I think I like it better
over there than when it’s right here--it isn’t so noisy, far away.”

Uncle Will laughed and suggested that if he and Mary Jane went down
stairs ahead of the others, it was just possible, just possible of
course, that they might have time to buy a box of candy before the auto
came around. And that settled sightseeing from the terrace.

All through the long beautiful afternoon they drove, seeing the busy
streets of the city, driving up the winding roadways lined with
beautiful homes and leading toward the mountains, and spinning along
the ridge roads that took them over the mountain crests.

It was almost dark when they stopped at Uncle Will’s for their bags and
they had to drive fast to get to the station in time for their train.

“Well!” sighed Mary Jane, as she dropped down in the broad seat of the
Pullman car a few minutes later, “I think that’s a city where you do a

“And _I_ think,” replied Mrs. Merrill, reaching down to kiss her little
girl, “that I know somebody not so very far from here, who’s going to
have dinner and go to bed just about as quick as a wink.”

“And _I_ think,” added Mr. Merrill, “that I know somebody who’d better
get to sleep as quick as they can, because to-morrow’s the day we see
flowers and--something else.”

And just then, before Mary Jane had a chance to ask a question the
porter came through the car calling, “Last call for dinner! Dinner in
the dining car! First car in the front of de train!”


The very first minute Mary Jane opened her eyes the next morning she
peeked out of the window to see if the Southern flowers she had read
about and seen pictures of, were in sight. She didn’t see flowers but
she did see palm trees--lots of them.

“Mother! Mother!” she called, peeking around into the next berth to
speak to her mother, “you ought to get up quick! They’re here, they
are, those funny trees with the trimming on the top just like the
pictures you showed us. Mother! May I get up and look at them from the
back porch?”

Mrs. Merrill looked at her watch and told Mary Jane it was high time
they were both getting up if they were to have time to dress and eat
breakfast before the train got into Jacksonville.

“Then I’ll beat you dressed, I will,” said Mary Jane gayly and she set
to work at the job of dressing. First she took down her stockings that
had hung all night over the little hammock by the window, and put those
on; then the shoes that had been in the hammock went on next. After
that she rolled up the covers clear to the bottom of the bed to get
them out of the way, took down her clothes that had been hanging all
night on a coat rack by the big curtains and put those on. She stopped
just long enough to call, “Didn’t I beat?” to her mother before she
hurried off to the wash room. She thought it so much fun to brush her
teeth in the funny little bowl made for that purpose that she wanted to
have plenty of time to enjoy the job.

But Alice was there before her, as excited as Mary Jane could possibly
be about the palm trees and the few very fierce looking razor-back
hogs she had seen grunting and snorting at the train, and so it was a
rather sketchy scrubbing they gave themselves. Mrs. Merrill joined them
in a minute to say that the diner was taken off in the night and that
breakfast would be served in the observation car.

“Then I may go back there now, mayn’t I, Mother?” asked Mary Jane, “and
I know the way all by myself. I’ll stay right on the back porch and not
go near the gate till you come.” The train was exactly the same as the
one on which the Merrills had come down to Birmingham two days before
and Mary Jane felt so at home after her whole day and two nights of
travel she almost thought the train was her own.

“Yes, you may if Alice is ready and if you promise to stay right
together,” said Mrs. Merrill; “it will be fine to have some fresh air
before breakfast.”

The girls hurried back through the train so as not to lose a minute.
The country looked entirely different from what they had seen before;
the hills and mountains were all gone; many different sorts of trees
made up the woods and even the grasses looked different from what the
girls were used to seeing. And the roads! Such queer muddy things they
were, with only an occasional brick paved road fit for automobile

All too soon Mr. Merrill came out and announced, “You can’t have
a regular breakfast this morning, girls, just fruit and a bite of
something the steward says, so you’d better come and get what there is
right away.”

“Oh, dear!” exclaimed Mary Jane in great distress, “won’t they have
hashed brown potatoes?”

“Haven’t you had enough of those yet?” laughed Mr. Merrill. But
Mary Jane’s fright proved to be a false alarm; there was plenty of
breakfast for folks who were used to simple food--hashed brown potatoes
for Mary Jane, eggs for Alice and her father and toast for Mrs. Merrill.

The train was running about forty minutes late the conductor reported
so there was time to go back onto the back platform a while before
Jacksonville was reached.

When Mary Jane got off the train at Jacksonville she had expected to
step right out to flower beds and summer beauties. Instead of that,
such a sight as met her eyes she never would have dreamed of! Smoke,
and dirt, and dripping water, and slush under foot, and the horrid
smell of burned wood and leather. And such confusion that Mary Jane
felt sure they must have fallen into a cyclone or something.

“What’s the trouble?” called Mr. Merrill to an usher who was trying to
get through the crowd to carry their bags, “what’s happened? Never saw
so much going on in this station before in all _my_ life.”

“Fire, sir!” replied the usher, “pretty bad fire, sir. The station, she
took a-fire last night and dey jes got her out ’bout an hour ago. Got
any luggage here, sir?”

“Not a bit, it’s on this train we came on,” answered Mr. Merrill.

“You’s lucky, sir, you is,” laughed the darky and he piloted them out
into the street.

They walked about a half a block away from the confusion of the station
and then Mrs. Merrill said, “Now look, girls!” And the girls looked
away from the burned roof of the pretty station and out toward the
city. And there they saw the summerland they had hoped for!--palm trees
and flowers growing in the parkways, summer dresses on the passersby
and a warmth and glow in the air.

“Oh, Mother!” exclaimed Alice happily, “it’s true, isn’t it? Summer
_is_ here--and please may we take off our coats?”

“Not so fast,” replied Mrs. Merrill, “you’ll find them none too warm
when you’re riding.” And sure enough, when they got into the taxi Mr.
Merrill signaled and started swiftly up the street, they weren’t a bit
too warm.

All too soon their hotel was reached, the girls would have liked to
ride all day.

“Never you mind,” said Mr. Merrill consolingly, “you shall ride again
in about a half an hour. But come in first and leave your bags, and me.”

“Leave you, Dadah?” asked Mary Jane, “you’re not going away from here,
are you?”

“I’m not, but you will be,” said Mr. Merrill. “I mean that my business
begins here this morning and that you and mother will have to get
around by yourselves while I work. But mother knows the way about just
as well as I do and she’ll see that you poke into every corner you
want to see.”

When the girls went around to the front of the hotel and saw the
beautiful park of palms and flowers that filled a whole block, they
were not anxious to leave it.

“Let’s not ride,” suggested Mary Jane, “let’s stay and play under those

“I don’t know about that,” replied Mrs. Merrill, “you see, I know what
there is to see on our ride and _you_ don’t. Better ride while you can
and play in the park this noon.”

So a few minutes later Mr. Merrill put them all three into a big car
and started off toward the business part of the city for his work.

The girls had never ridden in a sight seeing car before and they begged
a place right by the driver so they would be sure to see and hear
everything. Mrs. Merrill sat just behind them where they could speak
to her and also could have the comfortable feeling that she was very
near. First they drove down the river and saw glimpses of the broad St.
Johns River and enjoyed the pretty trees and gardens and homes that
nestled along its low banks. Then they turned back through the city and
out on the other side.

“Where we going now?” asked Mary Jane when she noticed that the houses
were getting smaller and fewer and further apart.

“Out to the Farm,” replied the driver.

“A regular farm where they grow chickens and things like my Grandmother
does?” asked the little girl.

“It’s a regular farm all right, Miss,” said the driver, “but they
don’t grow anything your Grandmother does. They grow alligators and

“My gracious!” exclaimed Mary Jane, her eyes open wide with amazement,
“do they plant ’em?”

The driver laughed and answered, “You just wait and see--we’re most
there now. See that white fence and those buildings? There we are!”

With a flourish he stopped by the big white gate and Mrs. Merrill and
the girls got out of the car. “You’ll wait for us?” she asked the

“Long as you like,” he replied, so without a bit of worry about time
they went into the “Farm.”

At first Mary Jane was disappointed for there seemed to be nothing in
the whole place but fences! But when they walked closer they easily
found the Alligator Farm and there the girls were so interested that
they forgot all about such creatures as ostriches. They saw big
alligators and little alligators and tiny, tiny little alligators that
would have easily been hidden in Mary Jane’s small hand. They saw the
great big fellow, more than a hundred years old, get his food and
such gleaming teeth as he had made Mary Jane glad he was inside an
iron fence--_there_ she liked to watch him, but she didn’t think he
was _quite_ the creature one would like to meet walking along a road.
They saw alligators flop their tails to music--or at least the keepers
_said_ they flopped to music so it must be so!--and most wonderful of
all, they saw alligators “shoot the shoots” into a small lake. There
was no pretend about that; the ’gators climbed slowly and careful up
the steps of the shoot, crawled over the top and then with a loud
“thud” dropped their clumsy bodies onto the shoot and slid down into
the water.

Mary Jane and Alice would have been glad to stay there all morning
watching these strange creatures and Mrs. Merrill had to remind them
twice about the ostriches and about lunch and more riding before they
could tear themselves away.

They wandered over to the ostrich section of the “Farm” and found the
queer looking birds poking their noses outside the wire fence begging
as plain as could be for food.

“You and Mary Jane feed them, Mother,” suggested Alice, “and I’ll take
your picture.”

Mrs. Merrill bought some food and she and Mary Jane stood close to the
fence and handed it in. The birds reached their long necks out and
_nearly_ helped themselves out of the bags, so tame were they. One
big bird seemed to take a fancy to Mary Jane and he was determined to
get his food from her. Just as Alice was ready to take the picture he
reached out and made a grab.

“Owh!” screamed the little girl, “he got it! Make him give it back
quick, Mother!”

“What did he get?” said Mrs. Merrill coming close.

“My pocket book!” screamed Mary Jane who was fairly dancing she was
so excited, “he just reached his bill out and grabbed it out of my
hand, he did.” And sure enough, the great bird was making off to his
nest just as fast as he could go (which was pretty fast) and from his
bill hung Mary Jane’s pretty new pocket book in which she had two best
kerchiefs and twenty-five cents of spending money.

The keeper heard Mary Jane’s screams (and so did lots of other folks by
the way) and he came running to see what had happened.

“Is that all!” he exclaimed, when Mrs. Merrill pointed out what the
ostrich had done, “we’ll have that bag in no time--I was afraid he’d
hurt the little girl though I did think he was too tame for doing harm.”

He unlocked the gate and hurried over to where the big bird stood. As
soon as the ostrich saw his keeper coming he dropped the bag and raced
off with his long funny stride just as though he knew he had done wrong
and wanted to get away. Mary Jane couldn’t help but laugh at him he
looked so afraid and so very comical. She got her pocket book back
undamaged and as the man handed it to her he said, “Too bad, Missy, too
bad. But you come again and I’ll make him behave. Wouldn’t you like a
little ’gator for a present, ’count of your scare?”

“Oh,” replied Mary Jane, her eyes shining with delight, “I don’t need
one myself ’cause I’m here to see ’em. But I want one for my little
chum--she’s home.”

“All right, Missy,” said the man, “I’d like to send her one if your
mother will allow me to.” And he pulled out his book and took down the

So that’s how it happened that a week later the expressman delivered a
box containing two live alligators to the amazed Dana family.


Fortunately they got back to the hotel a while before lunch time
and could take a walk through the beautiful little park. Alice in
particular was anxious to see every sort of flower and plant and to
learn its name. But dear me! with all the lovely flowers there it would
have taken a day to study them every one and she had to be content with
seeing only a small part of the grounds.

“Never mind,” said Mrs. Merrill, as they sat down to lunch, “the same
flowers will be all through Florida and you’ll have plenty of time to
see them all you wish.”

“Oh!” exclaimed a lady who sat at the same table with them, “your
little daughter doesn’t think _these_ flowers are the sights she is
to see, does she? Just wait till you get further south, this early in
the season every ten miles makes a difference and you’ll find lovelier
gardens the further you go.”

Alice and Mary Jane opened their eyes in amazement; lovelier flowers
than these! Weren’t they lucky to be seeing so much? Mrs. Merrill
continued the conversation with the table mates and asked where she
could find about trains going to the beach.

“I really don’t know,” replied the lady, who proved to be Mrs. Wilkins
of New York State, a friend of Mrs. Merrill’s cousin, “because we
hadn’t thought of going there. We can see the beach when we are further
south so we’re going to take a boat ride on the St. Johns River. That’s
something you can’t do at the beach resorts.”

“That sounds good,” agreed Mrs. Merrill, “what do you girls think?”

Alice and Mary Jane were delighted with the idea of a boat ride and
Mrs. Wilkins urged them to decide to go on “their” boat. They had
decided to go on a comfortable, safe looking steamer of fair size that
went up the river to Mandarin, the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
There, so they had been promised, they might see the very nook in the
trees where she did so much of the writing that made her famous.

So the lunch visit was cut short and the little party drove at once to
the dock and settled themselves on the upper, front deck of the river
boat. Mary Jane wasn’t in any particular hurry for the boat to start
because from her safe deck she could look down on the wharves and see
the bustle and hurry of shipping fruit and enjoy the fun of watching
the dozens of gay, lazy, little negro boys who were supposed to be
helping the work. They sang so well and helped themselves to fruit so
generously and teased each other so comically that Mary Jane thought it
was as good as watching a play to see them.

When the boat finally started away from the dock, Mr. Wilkins took
the two girls down to the engine room and explained the workings of
the boat to them. Mary Jane thought it very wonderful that the queer
looking engine that went “Phis-s-s-sh, _ping_; Phis-s-s-sh, _ping_!”
was the thing that sent so big a boat a-going through the water.

They must have stayed down stairs longer than they realized for when
they came on deck again, the city of Jacksonville was way, way off
and the boat was beginning to sidle up to the left bank of the river.
Before long they were landed at a ricketty old dock that stuck its nose
out into the river to greet them.

“Back in an hour!” the Captain called as the boat backed away, “plenty
of time to see the homestead. It’s only five minutes walk down the
river bank.”

The little party of tourists were quickly surrounded by a crowd of
children who ran out onto the dock to greet them and beg them to buy
bananas, grapefruit, oranges and flowers.

“Not till we come back,” said Mrs. Merrill firmly, “but if any of you
can show us Mrs. Stowe’s home we may buy something before we leave.”

Fortunately it wasn’t far to go. The beautiful trees along the river
bank, dripping with streamers of Spanish moss, made such nice play
corners that Mary Jane was much more interested in playing house than
in seeing famous sights!

“Please let me stay here and play while you look at houses, Mother,”
said the little girl. “I’ll stay right here, ’deed I will, and I can’t
get lost because in front there’s only the river and in back there’s
only the road and the house and you.”

“And let me stay too,” said Alice; “I could make the nicest play house
here--see, Mother, those twisted branches and the view across the

So the grown folks went on with the sightseeing and the two girls and
about eight of the neighbor children stayed by the river bank.

“Now,” said Alice, who was quite at home making playhouses even though
they were located in Florida, “this is the living room and here’s the
dining room and here, where you can see the river best, is the porch.”

“Where’s your walls?” asked one of the neighbor children who evidently
wasn’t used to making up houses as the Merrill girls were, “looks like
all one room to me!”

“But it isn’t,” explained Alice, “you have to pretend the walls.”

“You can’t pretend walls,” laughed the boy, “walls is real! Can’t you
make ’em?”

“Yes, we could if we had burrs,” said Alice thoughtfully looking
around. “Have you got anything here that will stick together easily?”

[Illustration: “This is the living room and here’s the dining room
and here, where you can see the river bed, is the porch” _Page 58_]

Three children darted off shouting “Yes! We’ll get it!” all in one
breath and in a few minutes they were back with great prickly branches.

“Goody! Goody! Goody!” shouted Mary Jane happily, “now we’ll have time
to make the whole house before mother gets back, ’cause those are so
nice and big.” She reached out for a branch so as to begin building her

But dear me, she didn’t know much about Florida “prickers” or she
wouldn’t have been in such a hurry! The branches had tiny, queer little
prickers far different from any she had ever touched or seen and in a
second her fingers were full of itching barbs.

“Wait, wait, _wait_!” called one of the bigger girls, “don’t rub it!
Don’t touch it! I’ll get them out for you.” She must have had them in
her own fingers before, because she seemed to know exactly how to get
the troublesome things out. And then, when Mary Jane’s hand felt all
right again, the big girl, who said her name was Maggie, showed them
just how to handle the pricky cactus branches without getting the sharp
spines into fingers.

Then Alice showed them a plan of making the walls and the children
set to work. It was fun making a tree house in the crooked, gnarled,
moss-covered old tree and it was fun playing with new children who so
quickly learned to play just as the Merrill children did.

“What’s yer doing?” asked one girl as she saw Mary Jane apparently
pinch herself.

“I’m just a-pinching myself,” laughed Mary Jane; “couldn’t you see? I’m
a-pinching myself to see if I’m me! I feel like I was somebody else I’m
dreaming about ’way down here playing.”

“Well, you’re you, don’t you worry,” said Alice gayly, “and you better
hurry if you want to finish sticking flowers in this wall because I can
hear the folks coming back as sure as can be.”

“How pretty!” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, as she came close enough to see
the playhouse the children had made.

“And this is the very tree I was telling you about,” said the guide who
came with them; “this very branched tree is where Mrs. Stowe sat when
doing much of her writing.”

“Isn’t it interesting,” said Mrs. Merrill to the girls, “to think you
have made a playhouse in the very tree where Mrs. Stowe wrote parts of
‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’?”

“Yes, I _’spect_ it’s interesting,” said Mary Jane, “but I _know_ it’s
fun. And please, Mother, do we have to go yet? Can’t we build some

“I’m afraid not, girlies,” said Mrs. Merrill regretfully, “because our
hour is up and our boat should be coming around the bend of the river
this very minute.”

But though they all went back at once to the dock, they had a long,
long wait till the boat came. The sun began going down in the west and
the girls got so very hungry they were only too glad to buy generous
helpings of fruit from their new playmates. And finally when a boat
did come to the dock it wasn’t the nice boat they had come down on at
all! It was a small boat, oh, a very small boat, already so full of
passengers that when the new folks got on at the Mandarin dock it was
loaded almost to the water line.

“Never mind,” said Mr. Wilkins comfortingly; “it surely must be safe
and anyway it’s only a short trip. Perhaps we can get seats at the
back.” And there they settled themselves and waved good-by to their new
friends as the boat steamed down stream toward the distant city.

For a while the girls were content to sit and eat their oranges and
chat of the fun they had just had. But in the course of an hour, Mary
Jane began to fidget and to ask for something to do.

“Nothing much to do on this boat but to sit still, Mary Jane,” said
Mrs. Merrill. “It isn’t big enough for a little girl to walk around and
see things--you’d be in folks’ way. Suppose you just sit still and look
all around and see how much you can see. Maybe you’ll find something
interesting to talk about that way.”

So Mary Jane sat still (all but wiggling her feet and she thought that
didn’t count), and looked around the boat. She saw folks all around
her who had been sight-seeing and who had armfuls of flowers and fruit
they had brought from up the river. But in the front of the boat she
saw six or eight men in earnest talk at the prow--something seemed
to be exciting them very much. And then, queerest of all, up on the
tiny half deck of the boat she saw a man and a woman taking turns at
a strange looking pump sort of a thing that seemed not to work very
smoothly as they tried to make it go back and forth. For a minute she
watched them; then she turned to her mother and asked, “What is that
thing, Mother? And what are they doing with it? What’s the matter?”

Mrs. Merrill and Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins looked to where Mary Jane pointed
and Mr. Wilkins got up quickly and stepped up onto the little half deck.

But before he had had time to ask a question, the woman who was trying
to work the pump, turned and replied to Mary Jane’s questions.

“The boat’s a-fire!” she called, “that’s the matter! The boat’s a-fire
and the pump’s broke!”

Mr. Wilkins spoke up in a loud, firm voice, “But I think we can fix it
at once if every one will sit still. Will the Captain please put to
shore at once?”

But that was just what the Captain would not do. His crew had been
trying for some minutes to get him to turn in toward the nearest shore,
but he obstinately refused to do so.

“The pump’s broke,” he admitted, “but the fire ain’t much and we’ll get
to dock all right--now jes’ don’t get excited, folks!”

As he spoke, little puffs of smoke rose from the engine room and the
big pile of dry wood which had carelessly been piled too close to the
firebox showed signs of bursting out into great flames.

The passengers, remembering the crowded boat, tried to sit still and
be quiet and calm. But when they saw the twinkling lights of the city,
still so very far away; felt the fading light and the dampness of the
evening chill, and saw how far even the nearest shore of the wide river
seemed to be, they couldn’t help noticing that there wasn’t a life
belt or boat to be had. Almost everybody began to feel panicky.

And at that very minute Mary Jane began to cry. Not a loud panicky cry,
but a low, sobbing cry that sounded very heartbroken.

“Don’t be afraid, little girl,” said the man next to her; “we’ll get
you home safe some way!”

“I’m not afraid,” Mary Jane managed to say between sobs, “’cause I can
float. But if I have to get into the river and float, who’s going to
take care of this big banana I’m taking to my Dadah? He likes bananas!”

For a second every one on the boat stared. And then a general laugh
relieved the tension, and folks were willing to sit down and trust
to getting a-shore. The pump was kept working as hard as its broken
condition would let it; men dipped into the river with the only two
buckets aboard and tossed water onto the fire and slowly the lights of
the city twinkled nearer--and nearer--and nearer.

Other boats came comfortingly near and were passed; docks loomed out
of the twilight, and finally with a bump the little, overcrowded boat
slipped into its place by the shore.

There wasn’t a panic even then, but folks, some way, got off that boat
in a hurry. The firm land never had felt so good!

“Where’s the little girl who wanted to save her banana?” called the
Captain as he turned his boat over to the dock firemen. “I want to
thank her.”

But the Merrills were already out of hearing hurrying to their belated
dinner, their Dadah and jolly plan-making for the morrow.


“Early to bed, early to rise, and you can catch the first train in the
morning,” said Mr. Merrill as they came in from a little stroll through
the gayly lighted park that same evening. “And I really think that
you folks better forget about me for a few days and go on with your
sightseeing by yourselves. The first train for St. Augustine leaves
at nine in the morning and you can have lots more fun there than here
where everything is more citified.”

“But, Dadah,” said Mary Jane, “will there be flowers there and warm
weather and everything just the same?”

“Not a thing the same,” replied Mr. Merrill teasingly; “there’ll be
more flowers and more warm weather and more palm trees and more fun
for girls and lots more chance to play.”

“Then let’s go and you come as soon as you get through your business,
Dadah,” said Mary Jane.

So after an early breakfast and a brisk walk through the interesting
markets, Mrs. Merrill, Alice and Mary Jane got aboard the fine
“Special” train that went down the east coast.

The very first stop, some two hours later, was their station, and the
minute Mary Jane got off she felt a pang of disappointment. All there
was to see was a row of funny busses, a narrow parkway of flowers and
palms and then fields--just plains, fields or vacant lots and not
an interesting thing anywhere. But a ride of a mile in one of the
busses made a change. They came to the little town of St. Augustine
(“It doesn’t grow near the railroad, this town doesn’t,” Mary Jane
afterwards explained to her father, “because railroads are so very
now-a-days!”) and that was quaint and pretty enough to delight any
little girl.

After they had taken their bags to their big, sunny room, changed their
traveling clothes for cool, summer dresses, low shoes and parasols,
they went down to inspect their new home. It seemed like moving into
fairyland--living in that hotel did--and Mary Jane had to pinch herself
three or four times to make sure that she, really truly _she_ was to
live in that beautiful place for several days. There were gardens, oh,
beautiful gardens full of gay flowers, and brooks and bridges right in
the garden--inside the house! And on the bridge in the center of the
garden, stood a little girl just about Mary Jane’s age--a little girl
who looked all the world as though she would like a playmate.

“May I go and talk to her now?” asked Mary Jane.

“Perhaps we’d better have lunch first,” suggested Mrs. Merrill,
glancing at her watch. “Who’d have guessed it was nearly one o’clock!”

“I could have guessed that as easy as pie,” said Alice, “because I’m

“You won’t be long,” said Mrs. Merrill, laughingly, “because you’ll
find lots to eat here.” And they went toward the dining room.

“Now where would you like to sit?” asked the pompous head waiter as he
escorted Mary Jane, who happened to be leading her family, to a seat.

“If you’d just as soon,” replied Mary Jane politely, “I’d like to sit
at the table where there’s the most to eat. And Alice would like to sit
there too, ’cause she’s always just as hungry as I am. And mother’ll
have to sit there if we do ’cause she belongs to us.”

“Then this is the very place for you,” said the head waiter, as with
twinkling eyes he pulled out three chairs at a cosy window table.
“These little girls,” he added to their waiter, “are to have all they
can eat whether it’s early or late.”

“I think we’re going to like this place, Mother,” said Mary Jane
happily, as she unfolded her napkin, while the waiter went to get their
menu cards, “’cause they seem to like _us_.”

They had a royal luncheon, ending with two kinds of ice cream and a
promise from the waiter of another still different sort for evening

After luncheon they took a little walk through the “square,” enjoying
the gay shops and the curious houses and trees.

“Isn’t this the place where the ‘Fountain of Youth’ is?” said Alice
as she looked up from a window full of pictures. “That looks like the
picture of it in my geography.”

“Oh, I know all about the Fountain of Youth!” exclaimed Mary Jane
happily. “Miss Lynn told us about it in kindergarten. Is _this_ it?”

“Not right here,” replied Mrs. Merrill, “but only a mile or two outside
the city. Suppose we hail one of those pretty little surreys and ride
out there. I know you girls will like that and I love riding in those
little fringed surreys--they make me feel so gay.”

A few steps farther on they came across an empty surrey, driven by a
man who was plainly of Spanish descent and who seemed very glad to have
passengers who would like to hear his stories of the founding of the
little town.

Before they drove out to the “Fountain of Youth,” he took them through
a few of the little streets of the town and told them stories about the
houses and stores they passed. Then they turned northward and drove
past the city gates, the forts and the old cemetery toward the spring
the girls were so anxious to see.

“But, Mother!” exclaimed Alice, as they drew up in front of a rather
dilapidated, low building, “_this_ isn’t it! I know what it looks like
from the picture and it’s nothing like this.”

“This is the ‘Fountain of Youth’ all the same,” answered Mrs. Merrill.
“Those pictures that are used so much were taken years ago when there
was an open pavilion over the spring. In recent years it has been
housed in as you see it now. You won’t be disappointed with the inside
though--it’s as curious and interesting as ever. Come in and get a

Mary Jane and Alice followed her down three narrow steps, through a
low doorway and into a dim room. At first they couldn’t see anything
interesting but as they looked about longer they changed their minds.
Bubbling out of the ground, almost at their feet, was a little
spring--the very same spring that the Spaniard, Ponce de Leon, had
discovered over three hundred years ago.

“But, Mother,” objected Mary Jane, “couldn’t he see that this was just
a common, every-day spring and that it was just so ordinary this way?”

“Oh, it didn’t look ordinary to him, you may be sure,” said Mrs.
Merrill. “You must remember that he had landed after a long, long sea
voyage and fresh water, bubbling from the ground, looked more than
usually good. Then all this place where we are standing was a forest of
bloom--thousands of flowers he had never before seen were here and it
must have looked very lovely and magical to him.”

“Yes, that would make a difference,” admitted Alice.

“Then, too,” continued Mrs. Merrill, “even before he came here, the
Indians had a legend that this was a magic well and he who drank
thereof would never die. That, I think, is because it is a mineral
spring and the water tastes different from most spring water. Try it
yourselves and see.” And then as the girls filled their cups she added,
“So you can hardly blame the stranger if he thought he had found the
spring of youth he had set out to locate, can you?”

The girls made faces over the water--they didn’t like the taste a bit.
“I know why he called it the ‘Fountain of Youth,’” laughed Alice as she
tried to finish her cupful. “He had to call it something interesting or
folks would never drink it!”

“What are those stone paths?” asked Mary Jane as she set her cup down.

“Those aren’t paths, little girls,” said the guide who had stood
near by. “Those stones make a cross--but such a big cross you hardly
notice it at first. See! There are fifteen stones for one part and
thirteen for the other. We are told that Ponce de Leon himself laid
those here to mark the year he discovered the spring; that was in

As they went out from the dimness of the spring house into the warm
sunshine, who should they see coming toward them but the little girl
Mary Jane had seen that morning on the bridge in the hotel gardens.
Mary Jane hung back a minute to speak to her.

“I’m Mary Jane and you live in my house,” she said by way of

“No,” replied the little girl half shyly; “you live in mine because I
lived here first. I’m Ellen. Are you tired?”

“No-o!” answered Mary Jane positively; “what is there to be tired

“It’s such a long way out here,” said Ellen.

Ellen’s mother came up just then and seeing her little girl speaking to
the newcomers she added, “We tried to walk out here and I should have
known better because it’s much too far for Ellen. But she’ll have to
be a brave girl because there’s no other way to get back.”

“There is if you don’t mind being crowded a bit,” suggested Mrs.
Merrill hospitably. “We three can sit on the back seat and you and
Ellen can sit in front with the driver. We’re just ready to start back

On the way back the two ladies chatted and found they had many mutual
friends, and the little girls planned to play together as soon as they
got home. At the suggestion of Ellen’s mother, Mrs. Berry, they stopped
at an orange orchard and saw the funny little stoves that are set among
the trees to keep the orchard warmer in a cold spell. Mary Jane thought
those little stoves the queerest things she’d seen yet.

“You tell me when I leave the door open at home, Mother,” she said,
“that I must be trying to warm the whole out of doors and here they
really do it!” “So they do,” agreed Mrs. Merrill; “only you see we
haven’t an orchard to use the heat up our way!”

The owner of the orchard gave each girl an orange and was so nice to
them, showing them around and letting the girls pick fruit and take
pictures, that they could hardly bear to leave.

“I think,” said Mary Jane as they climbed into the little surrey, “that
when I’m big I’ll have me an orange orchard and let little girls come
to see me and give ’em fruit-- I think that’s an awfully nice business,
I do.”

It was almost dinner time when they got back to the hotel; no time for
play then. But after dinner Mary Jane took down her Marie Georgannamore
and Ellen brought her best doll, Fifi, and the two little girls sat out
on the terrace in great big comfy chairs and played together till after
eight o’clock. Then Mrs. Merrill came out to take Mary Jane upstairs.

“You’ll have to go to sleep as quickly as ever you can,” she said,
“because I know an awfully jolly surprise that’s coming to-morrow.
Coming if a certain little girl I’m acquainted with gets to sleep.”

“Is it something to play?” guessed Mary Jane.

“No guesses--not even one,” answered Mrs. Merrill, “and I’ll tell you
only this much. It’s very jolly; and you’ve often wanted to do it; and
you’ve never done it before in all your life.”

[Illustration: “The owner of the orchard let the girls pick fruit and
take pictures” _Page 80_]


“Now do we do it?” asked Mary Jane’s eager little voice; “this is

“Sure enough it is,” said Mrs. Merrill, sleepily. She looked over to
Mary Jane’s bed and saw that a certain young person was wide awake and
was sitting up straight and tall in her bed which stood right in the
path of the sunshine.

“Yes it is, Mother,” added Mary Jane, fearful that her mother wasn’t
really waked up yet; “see the sun? And you know this is the day when
the surprise comes. Do we have it now?”

“Dear me, no,” said Mrs. Merrill, “how could we? See, Alice is sound
asleep and none of us are dressed and the surprise is for three
folks--three folks who are in this room.”

“Don’t worry about Alice,” said Mary Jane gayly; “I’ll get her up!” And
with that threat she jumped out of bed and pulled the light covers off
her sister. “Come on, Alice,” she cried; “you can sleep at home! Let’s
get up and do the surprise.”

“Will I like it, Mother?” asked Alice and, luckily, she was too
interested in the surprise to mind that the covers had been pulled off.

“Will you?” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill. “You just wait and see! You’ve been
wanting to do this very thing for years and years and years.”

“Then let’s get dressed quick,” said Alice; “who’s going to tub first,
Mary Jane?”

“Not too fast there, my dears,” said Mrs. Merrill; “the surprise
doesn’t come till eleven o’clock.”

“MOTHER!” exclaimed both girls as though in one breath. And Mary Jane
added, “Do we have to wait _all that time_?”

“Well,” said Mrs. Merrill practically, as she glanced at her watch,
“I wouldn’t call that such a hopelessly long time if I were you. It’s
after seven now and nobody’s even started to dress. Of course you don’t
want any breakfast,” she added teasingly, “but--”

“Of course we _do_, you mean, Mother,” laughed Alice; “I hope the
surprise won’t interfere with eating--I wouldn’t like that.”

“Well then,” continued Mrs. Merrill, “if we have to dress and eat and
maybe take a little walk to look at the shops and maybe do something
else I know we _could_ do--and it’s nice, too--I think it’s a pretty
good thing the surprise doesn’t come till eleven.”

When the girls sat down to the breakfast table a half an hour later
they were glad they had plenty of leisure to enjoy their meal for such
fruit, such fish and such delicious Southern biscuit they never had
eaten before.

“I just wish there was two of me, one named Mary and one named Jane,”
said Mary Jane, as she eyed the plate of biscuits and the honey
regretfully, “’cause then one of me could eat some more. But seeing I’m
just one all together, I can’t!”

“I think it’s time for a walk anyway,” said Mrs. Merrill. “You know we
didn’t have a chance to look at all those nice little shops yesterday
and that’s sure to be fun.”

And it was. The girls and their mother too, enjoyed poking about in
the little sidewalk shops that lined the main street and they saw many
pretty things they thought of taking home to Grandmother Hodges or some

“Mother!” exclaimed Alice suddenly, “see that clock? It’s only quarter
before ten and the surprise doesn’t come till eleven. _How_ are we
going to wait all that time?”

“We’re not,” said Mrs. Merrill, as she made a sudden plan; “we’re going

“Swimming!” exclaimed Mary Jane; “where’s the lake?”

“Wait and see,” replied Mrs. Merrill and she led the way back to their
hotel. Mary Jane supposed they must be going back for bathing suits but
not so. They didn’t go to their room; they went down a long hallway
and up some stairs and along another hall. And by that time, Mary Jane
heard noises that sounded exactly like the sounds folks make when they
are in swimming and having a jolly time.

“Why, Mother!” she said in amazement, “do they keep the swim in the
house down here?”

“Sounds like it, doesn’t it?” answered Mrs. Merrill and she stopped
at a window long enough to buy three tickets, one pink and two blue.
“Sounds exactly like it--let’s look.” And she led them through a

Such a sight as the girls saw then, they never had imagined! In a
great room, surrounded with balconies on which folks walked and danced
and played, was a large tank of beautifully clear water. And in this
tank some fifty or more folks were swimming and playing. At one end
the children played and swam and at the other end the big folks who
evidently could swim better or walk in deeper water were enjoying

Mary Jane took a long breath as she looked in amazement about her, then
she said, “Come on, Mother! Let’s do it too!”

“Oh, may we?” exclaimed Alice rapturously; “will they let us?”

“That’s what our tickets are for,” explained Mrs. Merrill. “And we
dress right down in these nice dressing rooms at this end.”

Five minutes later the two girls, with their mother close behind, were
gingerly stepping into the water as it lapped on the marble steps at
the end of the pool. Mary Jane anxiously watched the first touch of the
water, then a happy expression came over her face and she exclaimed,
“It isn’t cold and it isn’t hot, Mother. It’s just like I am.”

Of course Mary Jane didn’t know how to swim but both Alice and Mrs.
Merrill could swim a little and they took turns holding Mary Jane’s
chin and showing her how it was done. Mary Jane had no trouble getting
her feet up--she got them up so far out of the water that her swimming
was more splashing than swimming but it was fun for them all just the
same. Nobody thought a bit about time till suddenly Alice looked at the
great clock that was at one end of the pool.

“Mother!” she cried, “it’s quarter to eleven!”

“Goodness!” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill; “we’ll have to fly for they’ll be
out in front promptly at eleven.”

“Who’ll be?” asked Mary Jane.

“Wait and see,” teased Mrs. Merrill as she drippingly made her way up
the steps and toward the dressing rooms.

Nobody took long to primp that time and at five minutes to eleven they
were leaving the Casino.

“That’s plenty of time,” said Alice comfortably.

“Well, none too much,” said Mrs. Merrill doubtfully, “because I have to
go up to the room and change my skirt.”

“Why, Mother,” said Alice, “that’s a nice one you have on.”

“Just so,” laughed Mrs. Merrill, “too nice. Let’s see, have you both
your gingham bloomers on this morning--I forgot to notice. Yes, you
have. Then you don’t need to change. You may wait for me here.” And
she hurried off toward the elevator.

Soon she was back, wearing an old denim skirt that the girls didn’t
remember ever seeing. They thought it an awfully queer looking thing
but had no time to ask questions because she hurried them right out
through the garden.

Through the garden, past the hedges and there--right by the leafy
gate--all saddled and bridled and ready to go, stood three of the
prettiest little ponies the girls had ever seen!

“Oh! I know! I know! I know!” shouted Alice; “we’re going to take a
pony ride.”

“Goody! Goody! Goody! I’m glad I’m me!” cried Mary Jane and she danced
up and down and clapped her hands so hard that the man who was holding
the ponies laughed and laughed.

“So you really think it will be fun?” asked Mrs. Merrill, happily, as
both girls, with never a thought that they were on the street, nearly
smothered her with a great bear hug; “well, I think so too. So let’s be
off. See, the ponies are pawing to go.”

First they decided which pony Mary Jane should ride. The groom put her
on one, but he seemed most too big so she was changed to another. Then
Alice was lifted up onto hers.

“Don’t bother about me,” said Mrs. Merrill, “I can manage very well
with this stone. Please start off with the girls.” So the groom trotted
after the girls whose ponies were walking briskly toward the market

When Mrs. Merrill caught up with them, she suggested that they turn
south, down the quiet, narrow street at the right, as the main street
seemed too crowded for even safe ponies when they were ridden by folks
who had never been pony-back before. So they rode a few blocks past
quaint old Spanish houses and gardens--which the girls didn’t even
glance at!--then east past the old barracks and south to the open
country. By the time they had ridden a couple of miles the girls were
getting “on to” the knack of sitting straight and of holding their
reins and guiding their steeds, so the groom suggested that they go
west, around the village and ride around the old fort at the north.

“Can you canter, Miss?” he asked Alice, who was riding very well for a

The pony must have caught the word for he hurried off and Alice
answered over her shoulder, “I-I-I did-d-n’t-t know-ow it b-b-but I-I-I

Mary Jane’s pony, seeing his mate start off so gayly, thought he must
be left behind so he started cantering too--much to Mary Jane’s dismay.

“Whoa! Please whoa!” shouted Mary Jane with more politeness than
success. The pony paid no attention to her! He cantered along rapidly
a half a block and then, spying a bit of choice green in a vacant lot,
turned suddenly in and began to eat.

“Hold on, dear!” called Mrs. Merrill reassuringly, as she hurried up
behind her little girl; “hold on and you’ll be all right.”

“I’m a-holdin’,” replied Mary Jane breathlessly; “when I go riding I
don’t let him leave me, ’deed I don’t!” and she clutched at the lines
with all her might. But evidently the pony had had no thought of
running away. He liked his eating so much that it took a hard pull on
the lines by the groom to make him raise his head and start on again.

For a little while the groom rode close by Mary Jane and held on to
the lines and Mrs. Merrill rode ahead with Alice. But the pony behaved
so very well that soon Mary Jane held her own reins again and proudly
rode all around the fort and back to the hotel.

“Oh, that was fun!” exclaimed Alice with a sigh of pure joy and
satisfaction as she was lifted off her pony.

“I think I’d like to ride every day,” said Mary Jane; “I like a pony
that runs and eats and takes me riding. Do they have ponies other
places?” And then, as Mrs. Merrill paid the groom and led the girls
back to the hotel, Mary Jane added, “Now what do we do next?”


But by the time she had had her luncheon, Mary Jane began to realize
that a long swim, or trying at swimming, and a pony ride of an hour
was almost enough for a little girl to do in one day. And when, as
they came from the dining room, she saw Ellen running toward her with
her French doll in her arms, Mary Jane was willing to promise to “play
dolls” in the courtyard garden all afternoon. Alice wanted to take a
few pictures in the gardens and write letters and send postals to her
friends at home, and Mrs. Merrill had letters and a bit of mending, so
the afternoon spent in the sunshine of the inner garden passed very

Next morning, as they were coming out from the dining room after
breakfast, Mrs. Merrill stopped a few minutes to talk with the steward
and the girls knew immediately that something nice was coming.

“What do you think,” she asked as she joined them a minute later, “of
having a picnic luncheon to-day? Remember that pretty street we rode
south on yesterday? All those old Spanish houses were built years and
years ago. The queer one, that has no garden in front, is supposed to
be the oldest house in America. When I was here before the kind lady
who takes care of the place sometimes let folks eat their luncheon in
the garden by the old well. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

Of course it would be jolly and both Alice and Mary Jane were eager to
be off.

“Let’s go down that same street we rode on, Mother,” suggested Alice,
“because when we were riding we didn’t see a thing but the ponies and
the road and I’d like to see everything--every single thing, in this
nice old town.”

“Very well,” agreed Mrs. Merrill, “that’s what we’ll do. Our luncheon
will be ready in a very little while. Let’s get our mail and tell Ellen
that Mary Jane can’t play this morning and I expect by that time it
will be waiting for us.”

Sure enough! By the time all necessary errands were finished the
steward came to the lobby with the luncheon all neatly packed in a nice

“And if that isn’t enough,” he said, with a glance in Mary Jane’s
direction, “maybe I can get the little ladies some ice cream when they
come back this afternoon.”

Mrs. Merrill and Mary Jane agreed to carry the lunch box between
them--a block a-piece--because Alice had her camera to look after. They
stopped just long enough to buy a new roll of films at the nearest
shop and then they set off down the pretty, narrow, old street.

The many palm trees, which Mary Jane insisted on calling “trees with
trimming on the top,” the gay poinsettias which bloomed everywhere and
the crimson and yellow blossoms on the vines which covered porches and
hedges made the street look very beautiful. Mary Jane had to pinch
herself two or three times again to make sure that she really was
awake! She simply couldn’t realize that up at home her playmates were
making snow forts and going to school.

“I think it’s funny,” said Alice thoughtfully, “why folks stay up north
at all in the winter. Why doesn’t everybody move south when it gets
cold and then go back home in the spring?”

“Sounds sensible,” laughed Mrs. Merrill, “and really very bird-like.
But just think of all you’d miss! Snow at Christmas time, skating, you
know how you love to skate, and coasting and fireside fun--oh, you’d
miss a lot!”

“I guess I would,” admitted Alice, “but I do love the flowers! Wait
a minute, Mother,” she added; “I want to get a picture of that vine.
See how it covers the house?” Mary Jane had gone on a few steps ahead,
but Mrs. Merrill, feeling sure the little girl was safe on that quiet
street, waited till Alice took the picture. But when they walked on
Mary Jane was not to be seen. Had she turned the corner? No, for Mrs.
Merrill hurried to look and no girl was in sight. Had she gone into one
of the gardens? Surely not, for Mary Jane would never think of going
into any one’s yard without an invitation. Alice shut up her camera and
hurriedly began to help hunt. Mrs. Merrill was just beginning to feel a
little anxious when she heard Mary Jane’s voice, close by, just inside
the hedge, say, “But please, first I have to tell my mother.” Mrs.
Merrill dashed into the yard, Alice close behind her, and both stood as
though petrified with amazement.

At the foot of the steps leading from the house stood a woman dressed
in the gorgeous long robes worn in Spain long years ago. By her side
stood a Spanish courtier of olden days, apparently just about to kneel
and kiss her hand. And, most astonishing of all, just back of the lady
stood Mary Jane, her eyes round with excitement and delight.

“Mary Jane!” cried Mrs. Merrill, “what are you doing? Where are you?
How did you come in here?”

“Through the gate just like you did, Mother,” replied Mary Jane,
answering the last question first, “and I came because he asked me
to, he did.” And she pointed her finger at a man who stood at Mrs.
Merrill’s left.

“The little girl is right,” said the man as he stepped up to Mrs.
Merrill, “and I must ask your pardon for the fright we seem to have
caused you. But I do beg of you to let us borrow your daughter for
about five minutes more--we have such need of her.”

Mrs. Merrill looked around the yard and saw what she had been too
excited before to notice. In the front of the yard, close by the hedge,
was a moving picture camera, and by it two men working under the
director who was speaking to her.

“Let me explain,” continued the man. “We are making a picture
supposably taken in Spain--not a hard thing to imagine with all these
Spanish houses and gardens around here,--and this lady is supposed to
be a queen. But at the last minute, just as we were ready to run the
picture through, the lady” (and he pointed to the courtly dressed woman
by the steps) “wanted some ladies or children-in-waiting to carry her
train. We have the robes but not the people here and I have to get the
picture done to-day. That explains why, when I looked out of the garden
and saw your daughter I ventured to borrow her a minute. If we may use
her long enough to throw a robe over her and get the picture of the
queen so attended walking down the walk, I’ll be very glad.”

Mrs. Merrill was just about to refuse for she had no desire to have
Mary Jane in a movie, when Alice nudged her and whispered, “Mother!
Couldn’t I be in it too?”

The director noticed the whisper and guessed what she was saying.
“We’d like to have this little girl too,” he said; “we have plenty of
clothes for two and I’m sure if one train bearer is good, two will be
better--isn’t that so, Miss Arlson?”

The pretty lady in the queen’s robe nodded and smiled and said she must
have two maids, so the director hurried away to get the costumes. In a
jiffy he was back and with two or three deft touches he tossed a robe
over each girl, covered Mary Jane’s bobbed hair and Alice’s braids with
lace head-dresses and showed them where to stand behind the queen.

Then with a hurried “click, click, click, click, click, click!” the
picture was taken and every one began to move about and talk. The girls
almost hated to give up their pretty costumes and Mary Jane remarked as
the director took hers off, “Those would make awfully nice ‘dress-up
clothes’ I think!”

“Do you like to play dress-up?” asked the man.

“’Deed we do!” exclaimed Mary Jane heartily; “we like it most the best
of anything!”

“Then you take these head-dresses you wore and keep them with my
compliments,” he said, and that is how it happened that two fine and
interesting bits of Spanish lace were taken home from the southern

“Mother!” exclaimed Alice when they were out on the street again, “did
you ever hear of such fun? And to think it happened to _us_!”

“Being in a movie!” cried Mary Jane, “and riding a pony and swimming in
a house--why just everything’s happening to us! If Dadah doesn’t come
with us pretty soon there won’t be anything left in the world to do.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” laughed Mrs. Merrill; “I know two or
three things left in the world to do. And it wouldn’t surprise me a
bit if you’d do them some day. But the thing we’re doing right now, is
seeing the oldest house in the United States. Alice, will you pound the

They stopped short and there, sure enough, they had come to the queer,
old house they had set out to see. Alice stepped up on the doorsill
and awesomely pounded at the brass knocker. A pleasant faced old lady
opened the door and peered out at them.

“Why, don’t I know you?” she asked as she spied Mrs. Merrill.

“I hoped you’d remember,” replied Mrs. Merrill, “though I don’t see how
you do when you see so many folks every year. And I hoped you’d let my
girls and me eat lunch by the old well as I did years ago.”

“Indeed I will that,” said the old lady cordially, “and they may pick
flowers in my garden, too, though that’s something very few folks are
allowed to do. But first they want to see the house.”

She took them all over the house, up stairs and down, and such a lot
of quaint, queer old things the girls had never seen. Candle sticks
hundreds of years old, cradles, dishes, andirons, pitchers, dresses,
chairs, sewing baskets, spinning wheels, looms, knitting racks, tables,
rugs--everything that one could think of as interesting and old seemed
to be crowded into that one small house. Mary Jane looked and looked
and looked till everything she saw seemed a confusion of queer old

“I think I’d better stop looking, Mother,” she said finally, “’cause
the looks get all mixed up in my head.”

“You’re right, Mary Jane,” said Mrs. Merrill sympathetically, “I’m
getting tired looking myself. Let’s go out into the garden and eat our

Nobody, looking at the outside of the house, would have even guessed
of the lovely garden behind the wall. There was an old well with its
windlass and sweep, several gnarled old trees and shrubs and bushes and
flowers in every corner. The little old lady was persuaded to come out
into the sunshine and share the luncheon with them and she told them,
while they ate, tales of the many famous folks who had visited this
very same garden and picnicked by this very same well.

Then, after they had finished eating, she showed Mary Jane how folks,
years ago, used to draw water from that same old well.

“I think it’s lots more fun to get water out of a well this way than to
turn on a faucet,” said Mary Jane as she tried the windlass herself and
drew up a brimming bucket.

“But what would you think,” asked Mrs. Merrill, “of getting up early in
the morning and coming out to draw the water for your bath?”

“Well,” said Mary Jane doubtfully, “I’d think that would be different.”

“I guess it would be,” laughed Alice, “I know I’d think so!”

“Now I must get back to my work,” said the little lady. “But make
yourselves at home here. And remember, the girls may pick flowers if
they wish.” And she went back into the house.

Alice was happy at the chance to pick a few flowers as she had wanted
to make a collection of pressed flowers that would include every
variety they saw on their trip. And in this one garden she found a
sample of every single sort she had seen thus far and two or three new
kinds besides. She took pictures of the garden and of Mary Jane at the
well and then it was time to go.

As they walked back under the palm trees to the hotel Mary Jane said,
“I think I’d like to live in this place all winter.”

“I’d like that myself,” said Mrs. Merrill, “but we can’t. To-morrow
morning, bright and early, we’ll be going on. And if you ask me, I’ll
tell you that there’s even more fun at the next place we go to--think
of that!”


It was with great reluctance that Alice and Mary Jane accompanied their
mother into the bus that was to drive them to the station the next
morning. They had had so much fun in the three full days they had spent
at dear old St. Augustine that it simply didn’t seem possible there
_could_ be as good a time waiting any place else. It was a comfort
though, to know that they might stop a day or two more at the old
Spanish city on their way home. Mrs. Merrill was trying to plan it that
way in the hope that Mr. Merrill could meet them there and have some of
the fun with them. And that was the reason why they had saved the old
fort till the next visit; Mrs. Merrill felt sure that Mr. Merrill could
show the girls the wonders and traditions of the old place better than
she could.

As the train sped southward through forests and fields Mary Jane forgot
all about being sorry to leave St. Augustine and began to make plans
for the new visit.

“What’s the name of the place we’re going to next, Mother,” she asked
as they settled themselves cosily on the big observation platform, “and
what we going to do when we get there?”

“We’re going to Daytona now, dear,” replied Mrs. Merrill, “and if this
fine weather keeps up you’ll have a chance to swim in the really truly
ocean to-morrow.”

“Couldn’t we do it to-day?” asked Alice who loved swimming.

“Not very well,” answered her mother. “You see, Daytona isn’t on the
ocean. It’s on a river that runs in from the ocean--I call it a river
though it really is more of a long, slim bay. The beach where you’ll go
swimming is a long way from the hotel where we will stop and to-day I
think we’d better get a bit acquainted with Daytona. You’ll like it I

And Mary Jane did like it very much. She liked it from the first minute
she stepped from the train into the bus that was waiting to take them
to the small hotel where rooms were reserved for them. She loved the
broad, modern streets--so different from the narrow foreign looking
ones that had charmed them at St. Augustine, she loved the many, many
beautiful flower beds and the great trees that made the streets look
like huge caves of green.

The bus was a bit crowded so the girls sat up on the driver’s seat
which they thought was a real lark. This driver was a nice northern boy
of eighteen who by some chance had obtained the job of driving the bus
for the winter. He told the girls that he had two sisters at home just
their ages and that he wished they would ride on the bus with him that
afternoon because he got so homesick for his sisters.

After they had their luncheon Alice asked her mother if they could
ride. She explained all about what the boy had told them, of
course, and said that he had promised they could see the whole of
Daytona--every bit--if they went with him that afternoon, because his
errands were so scattered. Mrs. Merrill talked with friends who had
been some days at the hotel and all spoke so well of the driver that
Mrs. Merrill gave her consent. And a very proud and gay pair of little
girls perched up on the front seat and drove away about two o’clock.

“Be very careful, girlies,” said Mrs. Merrill, as the engine began to
hum; “you know I’ll be right here if you want anything. And Mary Jane,
you must do what Alice says for she’s always so good to you. Have a
fine time!”

Tom surely did take them all over the town. They went down south first,
out into the edge of the country, where they got a man who was to take
a two-thirty train. Then they went north to take some folks who came
on the same train that took the man away. Then they went east across
one of the long bridges and then north and home over another one. Mary
Jane liked those bridges. They were so nice and low and long. But that
wasn’t all. They were toll bridges and each time an auto went across
the driver had to stop at the toll office and pay for the privilege of
driving across. Mary Jane had never heard of such a thing before and
she thought it awfully funny to pay to ride across a bridge.

By half past four, when Tom brought the girls back, they were old
friends; they’d told him all about their trip so far and about their
plans for swimming to-morrow. And they really felt very well acquainted
with Daytona they had ridden around so much of it.

Bright and early the next morning the Merrills three were up and
making ready for the trip to the beach. Mrs. Merrill planned to get
their luncheon at the Casino by the bathing beach so there was little
to attend to after breakfast. Bathing suits were tucked into a rubber
bag and then, as soon as the postman had come with the morning mail,
they set out for the beach. The girls were sure they could walk to the
beach; it was only about two miles and they wanted to show their mother
some of the sights they had seen the day before. And really, with
seeing the great palm trees along the river and looking in the shop
windows along Main Street and counting the planks on the bridge--Mary
Jane was determined to count every board--the walk seemed no distance
at all.

It was just about eleven when they reached the bath house and the crowd
was already assembling. Such a jolly crowd it was too, very happy, and
gay, and full of fun. There were no high waves that day; just nice low
ones, actually made for girls who were not used to the big ocean, and
Mary Jane and Alice could hardly wait till they got into the water. It
wasn’t cold at all--of course it wouldn’t be in that fine, warm sun,
and they could safely wade and swim and play on the sand for an hour or

After the girls and Mrs. Merrill had been in the water till they were a
bit tired, they sat down on the beach, near the water’s edge, to rest
awhile. Suddenly Mary Jane screamed. “Ugh! Mother! Look! See that funny

“Pooh!” exclaimed Alice laughingly, “it isn’t a bug! It’s a crawdad!”

“But look,” cried Mary Jane; “he’s gone!”

To be sure! Even as Mary Jane was watching him, the queer little
crawdad had quickly dug himself a hole in the ground and hidden down
in it.

[Illustration: “They went in wading after crawdads” _Page 114_]

“It’s like magic!” cried Mary Jane; “look! There goes another one!”

“Mary Jane, I’ll tell you what let’s us do!” exclaimed Alice, “let’s
find crawdads on the beach and then watch ’em dig in.”

“What’ll we put ’em in when we find ’em?” asked Mary Jane excitedly.

“Oh,” Alice hesitated and looked around, “I know. Put them in here.”
She whisked off her rubber bathing cap and made it into a bag shape and
ran down nearer the water to find the tiny crabs.

It wasn’t hard to do. Each wave that rolled upon the beach left two or
three of the queer little creatures, but one had to grab very quickly
for the instant the water receded and left them stranded on the sand,
they began to dig themselves in. Mary Jane grabbed at the sand and as
fast as she caught a crab she dropped it into Alice’s cap.

“Don’t they make your hands feel funny?” she asked as she held one a
second more than she needed to. “I don’t know if I like them and I
don’t know if I don’t.”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Alice. “I know I don’t like to hold them but I do like
to watch them dig. Come on, sis, we’ve a lot. Let’s go back to mother
and let ’em hide.”

They raced back to where Mrs. Merrill had been sitting and dumped
their trophies on the sand one at a time. And it really was funny to
see those wiggling little crawdads squirm themselves out of sight in
the sand in such a jiffy! Just a wiggle, wiggle, wiggle and they were
gone--the sand closed up over them as though they had never been there.
Mary Jane tried to poke her finger down into the sand and dig them up;
but the crawdads were too smart for her and not a one did she find!

“Why don’t you collect some shells to take home,” suggested Mrs.
Merrill after awhile; “there are many pretty kinds here.”

“I know it, Mother,” answered Alice, “and I was just going to ask you
if we could take any home when Mary Jane found these crawdads. Let’s
start now.”

But just at that minute the whistle on the bath house blew for one
o’clock--the girls hadn’t guessed it was nearly that late and of course
the minute they knew the time they were starving hungry.

“Then let’s take one more dip to get the sand off,” suggested Mrs.
Merrill, “before we dress and have lunch. And while our suits dry, you
may collect all the shells you are willing to carry.”

Down into the water they ran and just in time too for when they heard
a noise they looked up from the water and there, coming quickly to the
earth, was a great aeroplane that landed right at the very spot where
they had been sitting.

“I do think this is the excitingest beach,” said Mary Jane in an
awestruck voice; “first there’s the ocean and then there’s crawdads and
then an airship. What do you suppose they’ll have next?”

“Lunch, I hope,” said Alice laughingly, “and I’ll beat you to the bath
house to dress for it.”

Later when they had had their good luncheon and were sitting on the
veranda of the Casino where they could watch the airship take on a
passenger and sail away toward the north for a long flight, Mary Jane
remembered about the shells.

“Of course we want to get some,” said Alice; “let’s go now.”

“You girls start while I see about the bath locker,” suggested Mrs.
Merrill. “Maybe we can arrange to leave our things here till we come
again; then we could carry more shells.”

When she got down to the beach a little later she found that the girls
had already collected a great pile of shells from the many there were
to be found on the beach.

“You wouldn’t want to take any but perfect ones home, I’m sure,” said
Mrs. Merrill; “suppose we spread every shell out where it can be seen.
Then we’ll throw all the ones that are not perfect back into the ocean.
The others we’ll take home.”

Alice and Mary Jane set to work examining the shells and they found
that in their eagerness for collecting they had picked up a good many
that were not worth carrying home. So it was quite a respectable sized
pile they finally decided they wanted to take.

“There,” said Mary Jane with a sigh of content, when the sorting was
finished, “there they are and if it wasn’t ten miles home, I’d be glad
we had them.”

“You’ll be glad anyway, dear,” said Mrs. Merrill, “because we’re going
to ride home. I ordered a taxi when I was up at the bath house. Here
it comes now.”

And sure enough! There it was coming right down by the water to meet
them. Mary Jane was sure the wheels would get stuck in the sand; but
they didn’t; they didn’t even sink in. They just acted as though that
beach was a regular road--which it wasn’t.

It seemed fine to spin home over the beach, across the bridge and down
the river street, and by the time home was reached Mary Jane was rested
enough to play again. That was a good thing for who should she see on
the hotel porch but Ellen, her little friend from St. Augustine.

“Why, Ellen!” she exclaimed as she ran from the taxi to greet her; “how
did you get here?”

“On the train and the bus,” said Ellen happily. “And mother’s here too.”

“We came down unexpectedly for two days,” explained Mrs. Berry,
“because I found that a dear old friend of mine was here. Can’t we all
plan a picnic for to-morrow?” she added. “The girls will like it and
I know a beautiful place to go--way down the beach and back into the

“Oh, goody! Let’s!” exclaimed Mary Jane, dancing happily; “let’s have a
picnic or something every day.”

“Seems to me that’s about what you are doing,” laughed Mrs. Merrill,
“but I’m ready for more fun.” While the mothers planned the party, the
three girls went off to find some fun of their own and to talk of what
they would do at the picnic.


There seemed to be a great mystery about that picnic. Mrs. Merrill and
Mrs. Berry wouldn’t let the girls help with the baskets and even kind
Mrs. Trudy, the hostess at the hotel, merely smiled and put her finger
to her lips when the girls asked her what was going on.

“I think we ought to see what they’re taking to eat,” said Ellen as she
hung on to the porch railing out in front; “maybe we won’t like it.”

“No danger,” said Alice positively; “mother’s there and she always
makes nice lunches.”

“But we ought to see it,” insisted Ellen. “I tell you what let’s do.
There’s a window in Aunt Sue’s room” (Aunt Sue was Mrs. Berry’s friend)
“that opens onto a roof, a low roof just by the kitchen. I know ’cause
we had that room ourselves last year. Let’s climb out the window and
peep down into the kitchen.”

“I don’t know if mother’d like us to peek,” replied Mary Jane
doubtfully, “but we might climb out on the roof and see if we _could_
peek. And then when we saw if we could we could decide about doing it.”

“Anyway let’s go,” said Ellen, who had no particular scruples about
peeking. So they ran up stairs and climbed out of Aunt Sue’s window
and sure enough, they could look right down into the kitchen without
half trying. They saw Mrs. Merrill standing by a table and Mrs. Berry
bending over a basket on a chair, but before they really had time to
see what each was doing, Tom came out the kitchen door.

“Say, girls,” he called, “want a ride? I have to go up to the store for
paper napkins and your mothers say you may go along.”

“Oh, dear,” said Alice who, being the oldest felt responsible for
letting the girls come out on the roof, “but we’re not down ready to

“You will be in a minute,” said Tom laughingly; “watch me.” He went
over to the orange tree near by, picked up the ladder that leaned
against it and set the ladder up to the side of the house. “There you
are, young ladies,” he said proudly; “walk right down!”

“Ugh!” cried Ellen, “I’m scared to.”

“No you’re not,” answered Alice; “it’s fun to climb ladders. Here, let
me go first and then I turn around and hold your hand and you won’t be
scared a bit.”

Nor was she, for Alice showed her how to go down backwards so she could
look up all the time and Ellen thought it so much fun that she wanted
to climb up again just for the fun of coming down.

“Not to-day,” said Tom, “for we have to be off. You help Mary Jane,
Alice, while I get out the bus. They wanted us to hurry back with the
napkins, you know, because they’re almost through packing the picnic

By the time they came back with the napkins the luncheon was all packed
and the three ladies, hatted and ready to go, were sitting on the
front porch waiting, so there was no more temptation to peek into the
kitchen. In about five minutes the big seven-passenger car that was to
take them on the trip, drove up and they all piled in.

“Should we take wraps?” asked Mrs. Merrill at the last minute.

“Wraps!” laughed Mrs. Berry; “look at the sun! We’ll have sunshine all
day if I’m any weather guesser.”

Alice, being the oldest girl, sat on the front seat with the driver;
Mary Jane and Ellen had the two folding seats in the back and the
three ladies had the long back seat to themselves.

“And don’t put your feet into the lunch,” warned Alice, as she leaned
back and saw that the precious basket was right between the two little

“Hump!” grunted Mary Jane, “think we want stepped-on lunch? We’re just
as particular about the basket as any older body, we are!”

First they drove across the bridge toward the ocean; then they turned
and started down the long wide beach.

“We’ll go along here this way for miles and miles,” said the driver to
Alice, “and if you watch you’ll see queer things on the beach.”

“Queer things?” questioned Alice; “what kind of things?”

Before the driver had a chance to answer he spied something he wanted
the girls to see and with a skid and a whirl he brought the car to a
sudden stop right down by the edge of the waves.

“There,” he said, pointing to a lump of something that lay on the sand,
“that’s what I mean. I’ll get it for you.” He jumped out of the car,
picked up the messy looking thing and handed it to Alice. “It’s a jelly
fish,” he explained; “there are lots of them washed up on the beach
here. See, this is the way it sails on the water.”

The girls looked at the thing in open eyed amazement. They couldn’t
realize that that queer looking mess that looked all the world like
spoiled gelatine, could have been a creature sailing on the water.

“You just wait,” laughed the driver; “I’ll show you some out in the
water before we turn off this beach.” He kept his word, too. About a
half mile farther down the beach he spied a live jelly fish riding the
waves. When the girls saw _that_ they thought first he must be joking
them for it looked quite a bit like a sail boat some child had made and
which had tipped over and blown out to sea. But when he stopped the car
they could see plainly that it was just such a creature as he had shown
them before.

“They certainly do have queer folks down at this place,” said Mary
Jane, “queerer folks than live up at my home, I’m sure of that!”

Soon they turned off of the beach and went back across a bridge to
a great orange orchard Aunt Sue wanted Ellen to see. The owner of
the orchard was expecting them and he himself took them out to where
oranges were being picked and then to the packing room where the golden
fruit was scrubbed and sorted and packed. Mary Jane like the sorting
the best of all.

“It’s just like a marble game,” she exclaimed excitedly as she watched
the fruit come rolling down the trough. “See! That little one goes in
there and the middle sized one goes in _there_ and the great big orange
goes way down to the end. Let’s stay and watch some more.”

“Not this time,” replied Mrs. Merrill regretfully; “if we are to have a
picnic we must be on our way because it’s nearly noon now.”

The orchard man loaded the girls with oranges and tangerines for their
lunch and urged them to come again some time. They sped along the hard
shell road, passed inlet after inlet where the water from the ocean,
rising now with the turn of the tide, came close up to the road; and
finally they turned in at a clean, pretty woods and the car came to a

“This _is_ a nice place,” said Mrs. Merrill to Mrs. Berry, “and we’re
certainly glad you brought us along to your party. Girls, I’ll race you
to that oak tree!”

The girls, each one, had intended to suggest eating lunch the very
first minute they got out of the car; but they couldn’t let a
challenge like that go by. Off they raced, Alice leading easily as they
neared the great tree which was the goal.

“Let’s give her a handicap,” Mrs. Merrill said, as they measured up how
very much Alice had beaten; “she’s so old she needs one.” So they made
Alice stand five feet behind as they raced back and then the race came
out exactly a tie.

“I say the winners get a luncheon for a prize,” suggested Mrs. Merrill,
laughingly; “I think that’s safe when we all won, don’t you?”

While they had been racing, Mrs. Berry and her friend had spread the
white table cloth and had unpacked most of the tempting food, so each
girl dropped down by the nearest napkin and prepared to be served.
No wonder the ladies had wanted to keep that lunch basket for a
surprise--it was a meal fit for a king and each hungry eater was loud
in the praises of kind Mrs. Trudy who had given them such a feast.
There was fried chicken, each piece frilled with white paper and rolled
up by itself; and sandwiches and rolls and jelly and olives and pickles
and salad and cake and, oh, just everything good a person could think
of. And last of all the real surprise--a can of fine ice cream which
not one had guessed was tucked in under the back seat; no one, that is,
but the driver, whom Mrs. Trudy had let into the secret.

After lunch was over the girls gathered moss and shells and acorns;
they played games and had such a good time that no one even thought of
home or the sky or weather or anything like that till suddenly Mrs.
Merrill noticed that the sun wasn’t shining.

“We should have brought wraps after all!” exclaimed Mrs. Berry in
dismay, “but who’d have guessed that this fine day would end in a rain.
Come quick, girlies, we’ll have to bustle our things into the car in a
jiffy and make for home. I know these southern storms and this starts
out like a bad one.”

Even as she spoke the sky grew suddenly blacker and a great flash of
lightning lit up the woods with a weird light.

“I never saw anything so sudden!” cried Mrs. Merrill; “look! There’s
a drop of rain now! Hadn’t we better put up the curtains on the car
before we start? It would be a bad thing for us to get wet so far from

The three ladies helped and the girls held curtains from the inside so
the job didn’t take very long. But even that little time made a great
difference. The great drops of water came faster and faster and the
driver got soaked when he jumped out to lock the gate that led from
woods to road.

“There’s no one on the road, driver,” said Aunt Sue, as they started
north, “so let her out. The roads are good and we can get home through
the woods if you drive fast so as to make it before the roads get too

On they dashed; past bridges, woods, gullies and inlets. They were
taking the inside road as that would get them home quicker than the
beach road they had used coming down. The girls thought it was a lark
to sit cuddled up safe and dry in the car while the lightning flashed
and the rain beat upon the leather roof over their heads.

On they went, past more woods and orchards and creeks, all the time
having near them on one side or the other the wide stretches of water
that now, at high tide, came up so close to the road. The shell road
made fine driving but no one, not even the driver who was used to that
country, realized how very slick the road might be in such a storm.
On, and on, through the lightning that lit up the dark shadows of the
groves they raced past.

And then a sudden whirl--a slip--a splash! The car had skidded from the
road into the bay and stood hub deep in a vast inlet of water.


For a minute all seven folks in that car were too amazed to speak;
then, suddenly every one began to talk at once.

“Will we sail out to sea?” asked Mary Jane.

“Driver, do you know when the tide is high?” from Mrs. Merrill.

“Of course, there’ll be no one along this road while the storm lasts!”
cried Mrs. Berry.

“Will we just sit here and drown?” exclaimed Ellen.

“I guess I’ll swim ashore!” laughed Alice, who thought the experience a
lark it was so unusual.

And as they talked the lightning flashed and sparkled; the thunder
roared deafeningly and the rain on the car and on the water around
them made so much noise they had to yell to make each other hear.

Suddenly Mrs. Merrill happened to think of time. She glanced at her
watch and exclaimed, “It’s four o’clock! If I recall rightly from
yesterday on the beach that’s nearly high tide. If that’s the case the
water won’t get any higher.”

“What’s tide?” asked Mary Jane.

“It’s the rising and falling of the water, dear,” said Mrs. Merrill.
“Twice a day the water spreads out a few feet over the land and twice a
day it goes back. Some other time I’ll tell you more about it. If the
water doesn’t come up much deeper here we’ll not be in any real danger
and I think we’d better sit still till the storm goes over. Surely such
a hard storm will not last long.”

So they tried to settle themselves comfortably for a long wait. But
it wasn’t easy. The roar of the thunder and the water and the weird
light from the storm’s bright flashes made them all uneasy. They
played twenty questions and they counted the seconds on Mrs. Merrill’s
watch between the lightning and the thunder. But nothing seemed very

“I’ll tell you what let’s do,” suggested Mrs. Berry, “let’s talk about
where we are going and what we plan to see before we go back up north.
That will be fun.”

And it was. Mrs. Merrill said she and the girls planned to go back to
Jacksonville in a day or two where they hoped to meet Mr. Merrill.

“You don’t mean to tell me,” exclaimed Mrs. Berry, “that these girls
are going home without a ride up the Ocklawaha? That seems a shame!”

“The Ocklawaha?” questioned Mrs. Merrill; “I don’t believe I know that

“Then you surely must take it,” said Mrs. Berry; “the girls will love
riding on that great, queer boat through the wild forests where they
can see alligators and snakes and turtles and orange groves and Indian
battle fields and everything, right close at hand. When we get home
I’ll show you the folders.”

“Do they have really truly alligators growing outside a fence?” asked
Mary Jane, her eyes big with wonder.

“Do they?” answered Mrs. Berry vigorously; “you just wait and see!
Alligators along the banks and in the water and right near the boat.”

“Ugh!” exclaimed Mary Jane, as a sudden thought struck her; “are there
any here?”

“I hope not,” said Mrs. Berry with a shiver; “no, girls, I was just
joking,” she added as she saw the three girls glance fearfully at the
water; “alligators like jungles and heavy vegetation. They would never
come up so near a road--you may be sure of that.”

“Listen!” exclaimed Alice suddenly; “wasn’t that thunder farther away?”

The driver loosened the front curtain and peered out. Yes, the storm
was going away, that was plain to see. The thunder was getting fainter
every minute, the lightning was only a glow and the rain had nearly

“I do believe it’s going away as quickly as it came,” said Aunt Sue
hopefully. “What time is it now anyway?”

“Five o’clock,” replied Mrs. Merrill; “how’s the tide, driver?”

“Going down,” he answered; “see? It’s below the running board a-ready.
I guess I’ll see if I can start her up.” He pressed the button on his
starter and the wheels of the auto began to spin but the car didn’t
move an inch. “Just as I was afraid!” he muttered; “stuck in the mud.
I’ll wade to shore and walk down the road till I come to a house where
I can get help to pull us out. I reckon you’ll all be safe enough.” He
pulled off his shoes and socks, waded to shore and set off up the road.
By this time the rain had stopped and the sun was breaking through the
clouds, so sitting in a car out in the water seemed much less dismal.

He hadn’t been gone more than fifteen minutes before an auto pulled up
in front of the stranded car and out jumped the driver and two men.
“I met ’em up the road,” their driver explained, “and we’ve brought a
plank and a rope.”

“Yes, we’ll soon have you all out and a-riding home,” said one of the

First they laid the great long plank from the road to the running board
of the car. Then Mrs. Merrill, who had been loosening the curtains,
stepped out to walk to shore.

“Better let the little lady go first to see if it’s all right,”
suggested the driver. “Here, Alice, your mother can hold you to start
and I’ll meet you to finish.”

So Alice climbed out and holding tightly to her mother’s out-stretched
hand, started the scary looking walk to shore. The plank did tip and
sway, but the men stood on the shore end so it would not slip and she
made the journey safely.

“That wasn’t hard a bit!” exclaimed Alice; “I’d like to do it again!”

“One at a time, please, one at a time,” laughed the driver. “You’ll be
playing pirate first thing you know--I remember I used to read about
walking the plank in pirate books, though goodness knows it wasn’t
anything like this! Who’s coming next?”

Mrs. Merrill lifted Mary Jane out and set her on the plank; then she
walked close behind and held onto the little girl’s shoulders as they
slowly crept to shore. Mrs. Berry came next with Ellen held in front
of her the same way and last of all Aunt Sue. Then the men waded out,
tied the heavy rope onto the car, fastened it onto their own machine
and with a great tugging and pulling and jerking the car was pulled
loose from the river bed and dragged up onto the road.

“There you are!” exclaimed one of the men, “all ready to drive. Now,
young man,” he said to the driver, “suppose you see if your engine’s
damaged and then we’ll be going.” While the driver inspected his engine
Mrs. Merrill paid the two men for their trouble so that when the engine
was found to be unharmed they started home at once. The water had
drained off the hard shell roads very quickly and the drive home was
not half so unpleasant as might have been expected.

In a very short time they came to a stop in front of their own hotel.
“Well, I surely am glad to be back!” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill.

“And we surely are glad to have you here safe and sound!” cried good
Mrs. Trudy coming out to greet them. “We’ve all been anxious about you.
Did the storm hit your way?”

“Did it?” answered Mrs. Merrill; “ask the girls!”

The three girls began talking at once and it was a wonder Mrs. Trudy
could hear a thing.

“I just knew something had happened when you were so late,” she said
when the girls stopped for breath. “And you must be starved--did you
know it’s after seven? I saved some hot dinner for you so run right in
and eat it.”

Other guests had long finished eating but they followed the little
party into the dining room and listened to the story of the exciting
experience. But after dinner was eaten and the story had been told
and re-told till every one had heard it many a time, the girls found
they were tired and nobody, for a wonder, objected when Mrs. Merrill
suggested going to their rooms.

“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Trudy, suddenly, “where did he put that box? Tom
had something for you, Mary Jane, and he was so particular you should
have it first thing when you came home but for the life of me I don’t
know where it is!” She hunted around diligently for a minute or two and
then said, “Well, he must have taken it off with him. You’d better get
to bed, little lady, so you can get up early in the morning and see
what it is.”

“Can’t you tell?” coaxed Mary Jane.

“Tell!” exclaimed Mrs. Trudy. “I should say I couldn’t! Tom will tell
you himself because it’s his. He comes early you know, so you may come
down the first minute you are dressed and I’ll wager he’ll be looking
for you.”

“Won’t you even _hint_?” asked Mary Jane as she started up the stairs.

“Well,” laughed Mrs. Trudy, “I might tell you that it’s alive and
it’s red or brown or green or yellow--I don’t know which just at this
minute--if that’s any help to you.”

“I guess I might as well go to bed,” said Mary Jane after she had
thought hard for a minute, “’cause that doesn’t help a bit. I guess
I’ll just have to go to bed and get up in the morning, I guess I will.”


When Mary Jane went down stairs the next morning she spied a queer
looking box with holes cut in the sides lying on the big table in the

“Now I wonder if that’s it?” she thought. “And I wonder if I can look
at it now.”

Fortunately, she didn’t have to wonder long. Tom was sitting in a
corner reading the paper while waiting for her and as soon as he heard
her whisper he bobbed up and said good morning.

“Look what I’ve got for you!” he exclaimed as he gave her the box.
“No,” he added as he saw she hesitated about taking the cover off, “you
don’t need to be afraid. I think he’s too sleepy to run away. Look and
see what it is.”

Mary Jane carefully lifted off the cover and there inside, nestled down
on the grass, was a tiny little creature, about three inches long, with
bead-like black eyes and a tail fully as long as his body.

“What is it?” cried Mary Jane; “it looks like a baby alligator only
they’re brown.”

“Yes, it does look something like that,” agreed Tom, “but it isn’t an
alligator. It’s a chameleon.”

“A chameleon?” repeated Mary Jane; “what’s a chameleon?”

Alice came running down the stairs just in time to hear what Mary Jane
said. “I know,” she cried eagerly, “it’s a creature that changes its

“But this doesn’t change any color,” said Mary Jane skeptically;
“this’n green.”

“Yes,” said Tom, “because it’s on green grass. You just wait and I’ll
show you.” He picked up the little creature by its tail and, holding it
gently, laid it on the brown table cover. To the girls’ amazement the
brilliant green color faded and like magic the creature before them was
all of brown.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mary Jane, in an awe-struck voice; “what makes it do

“They say,” replied Tom, “that it’s got a set of air cells that catch
the color of whatever the creature’s on. But I don’t believe they
really for sure certain know what _does_ do it.”

“But that’s not yellow!” said Mary Jane, remembering that Mrs. Trudy
had said three colors.

“Of course not,” laughed Tom, “because the table cover’s brown. Here,
you put it on Alice’s yellow dress and see what happens.”

Very gingerly, Mary Jane picked up the little creature and laid it in
Alice’s lap. And sure enough! Like magic again the chameleon changed
its color--this time a golden yellow that was streaked a bit with
brown at the sides--made it look utterly unlike the green animal Mary
Jane had first seen in the box.

“I think that’s the wonderfulest thing I ever saw,” she exclaimed. “I’m
just going to change it around all day and see what it does.”

Fortunately Mrs. Merrill had made no special plans for that day. She
thought that if they were to take the boat trip so recommended to them,
the girls had better have a day of rest and quiet play before they set
off. So Mary Jane had plenty of time to play with her chameleon to her
heart’s content. Later in the morning, Tom found one for Alice too and
they made a nest for them out in the fern box on the big front porch.

There were things to do besides play with the chameleons too. The yard
was full of squirrels which would eat out of the girls’ hands. And back
of the house a beautifully shaded canal proved to be the home of many
sorts and sizes of turtles. So interesting did the girls find their
play that they didn’t care to leave it even for a walk up town when
Mrs. Merrill decided that she would go up and get the boat tickets for

The first thing Mary Jane heard the next morning was her mother’s voice
saying, “Alice! Mary Jane! Do wake up quickly! We’ve over slept and the
train goes in an hour and a half. Lucky I packed up the trunk and all
your shells last night for we’ll have to fly now.”

The girls tumbled out of bed in a jiffy. They had talked with folks in
the hotel the evening before about the Ocklawaha River trip and they
were eager to take it. So it needed no urging to get them tubbed and
dressed and down to the dining room in short order.

“You’ve plenty of time,” said Mrs. Trudy reassuringly; “your trunk
will go right now--I’ll tend to that and Tom is ready to drive you to
the station, so take your time at breakfast. The train doesn’t go till
nine, you know.”

Later Mrs. Merrill had looked over her mail and the girls had said
good-by to all their new friends and were just getting into the station
bus when the telephone rang. “Train’s an hour late,” said Mrs. Trudy as
she hung up the receiver, “aren’t you glad you did not rush more?”

“But will that give us plenty of time to make the boat?” asked Mrs.
Merrill; “let’s see--two hours for the trip and the boat goes at twelve
forty-five. Yes, that ought to be plenty of time. Girls, you may run
out and take a last look at your chameleons if you like.” That was
welcome permission. Of course they had wanted to take the chameleons
home with them but Mrs. Merrill thought it wasn’t possible as they were
stopping so many places en route. But it was fun to hunt them up and
play a few minutes with their changing colors.

As the minutes went by Mrs. Merrill became uneasy and a second
telephone message bringing news that the train was an hour and a half
late confirmed her suspicion that they might have trouble making

“I think I’ll phone the agency where I got the tickets,” she said
finally. “Perhaps they will wire and have the boat held for us.” The
ticket lady was most reassuring and was certain that the boat would
wait so Mrs. Merrill felt comforted. But it was eleven o’clock when the
train finally came and it lost more time all the way up.

“Girls,” said Mrs. Merrill, as they neared their station at half
past one, “get your bags and camera ready for a dash. If I see a car
anywhere around the station I’ll take it in a jiffy and we’ll drive as
fast as possible for that boat. I have an uneasy feeling that they
won’t wait this long for us and I don’t want to lose a minute’s time.”

They stepped off the train the instant it stopped and Mrs. Merrill ran
toward a small car that, with chugging engine and waiting driver, stood
near by.

“Will you take us to the boat?” she cried eagerly.

“Sure, lady,” said the driver cheerfully; “pile right in.”

Grabbing the luggage the girls carried, a small bag and Alice’s camera,
Mrs. Merrill tossed it with her own bag into the back, pushed the girls
in and, jumping in herself, slammed the door behind her. And that same
instant a man who evidently had been up at the front of the train
jumped in the front seat by the driver, and with a lurch the car dashed

“The boat, you know,” said Mrs. Merrill as soon as she got her breath;
“we want the Ocklawaha boat.”

“Sure, lady,” said the man, “we’ll make it.” He waved a yellow telegram
before her, but with the jolting of the car and the rush of the wind,
Mrs. Merrill couldn’t tell what it said nor could she hear the rest of
his words.

“Well, no use getting excited,” she said, sitting back where she could
brace herself better. “Evidently they wired to meet us here and that
certainly was thoughtful. Hang on to the seat there, Mary Jane, or
you’ll bounce out, child,” she added quickly as an extra big lurch of
the car threatened to toss Mary Jane out over the side.

On they dashed through the noon sunshine: past houses and streets and
out into the open country. And no sign of a boat landing anywhere.

“Something’s wrong, I know,” said Mrs. Merrill with concern. “I know
we’ve been at least four miles and the boat landing was only two
miles from the station. They’ve got to stop and tell me where they are
going.” She braced herself firmly and then reached front and shouted to
the driver.

“Stop! Stop right here! I told you I want to go to the boat landing and
you’re not taking us in that direction.”

The driver slowed up a bit so they could talk better but he didn’t
stop. The man with him swung around in his seat and began to explain.

“The boat isn’t at the landing, lady,” he said much to Mrs. Merrill’s
dismay; “she left an hour back.”

“Then where are you taking us?” demanded Mrs. Merrill.

“To the boat,” he said. “You see it’s this way, lady. The first part of
that trip is on the St. John’s River and right here” (he swung his arm
off to the left) “the river makes a bend. We had to let the boat go on
time because folks don’t like to wait, but we’ll take you across the
bend straight, you see, and catch the boat at the first stop. We can do
in half an hour in this car what it takes her about an hour and a half
to do on the water. Never you fear, now, you’ll catch the boat right
enough, lady.”

“Then we might as well enjoy the ride,” said Mrs. Merrill to the girls
as, fairly satisfied with his explanation, she settled back in her

“If you call this enjoying,” laughed Alice, as she tossed from front to
back as they sped over the rough road.

“Here,” said Mrs. Merrill, “let me sit in the middle and hold each of
you.” Alice moved over and Mrs. Merrill sat in the middle of the seat
with an arm around each girl. “Now we have the fun of knowing that if
any one bounces out we all will!”

None too soon did they brace themselves either, for at that minute
the driver turned off from the road into a woods. If the road had
been rough, there’s no describing the roughness of the rude path they
followed through the woods. Hardly more than a trail it was and over it
they bumped and tossed and hurried down a hill, through the trees and
out onto a rude dock on the bank of a great river.

“Boat come yet?” asked the driver of a lone fisherman.

“Yeh,” he replied, “she come an’ gone fifteen minutes er-go!”

Mrs. Merrill exclaimed with dismay but the driver didn’t stop for
consultation. With a whirl of his wheel that sent the car spinning he
turned around and dashed back up the hill.

“Girls,” said Mrs. Merrill solemnly, “I think he’s crazy. But all I can
see for us to do is to sit still and hang together. Maybe sometime
we’ll get somewhere--let’s hope. Here, Mary Jane, snug up close so you
won’t bounce out!”

And turning onto the road, the car dashed off toward the south.


It seemed to Mary Jane that she surely must be in a funny dream. It
couldn’t be possible that folks, really live, wide-awake folks, would
go racing over the country in a strange car as they were racing; and
she glanced up at her mother questioningly to see if she too was
thinking it queer. But Mrs. Merrill, her arms around her two daughters,
was looking straight ahead in a puzzled way and Mary Jane couldn’t
guess what she was thinking about.

The little car raced on. Through sandy roads that would have stalled a
heavier machine; across bridges; through woods dim with the shelter of
moss laden trees; by small fields where they caught glimpses of tiny
truck gardens--they dashed.

“Government camphor reservation!” shouted the driver over his shoulder
as they drove between rows and rows of low, close-cropped trees set
in neat orderly fashion and the Merrills got a whiff of the smell of
camphor as they rushed by the rough factory where the camphor leaves
are crushed to make the drug so many folks use.

“Now we’ll _have_ to stop!” said Mrs. Merrill with a sigh of relief
as they swung around a short curve and came upon a toll bridge at the
end of which stood an old man, hand out-stretched for his fee. But she
didn’t know the driver! He didn’t intend to stop for mere toll--not he!

“Pay you on the way back,” shouted the driver and on they rode.

After what seemed, oh at least a day! but which really was only an
hour, the car slowed up in a tiny village and rolled down a hill to a
fishing dock by the St. Johns river.

“There we are!” said the driver as he brought the car to a full stop
and, jumping out, opened the door with a flourish. “In plenty of time
too, I’ll say!” He helped Mrs. Merrill and the girls out, then rubbing
his hands in satisfaction added, “I guess that’ll please him--no,
lady,” as he saw Mrs. Merrill reaching for her purse; “you don’t owe me
a cent--not a cent! Glad to do it for him!”

“For who?” asked Mrs. Merrill, puzzled but greatly relieved because she
had begun to be anxious about the hole this ride might leave in her
pocket book!

“For Mr. Merrill,” replied the driver, “aren’t you Mrs. C. F. Merrill?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merrill, still puzzled.

“Just so,” replied the driver; “well, you see, last time he was down
here I was a-working in Jacksonville and he did me a good turn. Now I’m
a workin’ with the boat folks and when we see by the agent’s telegram
that it’s you that’s late, seys I to them, ‘Now’s when I do _them_ a
good turn’--see? So here you are and the boat’ll be comin’ along in a

“I hope it does,” said Alice.

“And I hope it’s got a pantry on it cause I’m about starved,” said Mary
Jane fervently.

“Sure faith!” exclaimed the man; “of course you are and it’s most four
o’clock! Well, let’s see what we can do for you!” He turned to go up
the hill in the hope that he might find some fruit in an orchard near
at hand, but he hadn’t gone a dozen steps before a long, low whistle in
the distance sent him hurrying back.

“There she comes!” he shouted, “I hear her! Look!”

Mrs. Merrill and the girls looked up the river and sure enough,
swinging around the bend of the river was the boat they were waiting
for. The driver and his companion hurried down to the dock and put up
a great red flag they found in the dock house, then fearing that that
might not be enough, they brought the dust robe from the car and waved
it too. In a couple of minutes a reassuring “toot-toot!” from the boat
gave back the answer they were waiting for and they knew the captain
had seen their signal and would stop at the dock.

There was just time to thank the men for the ride, which, now that it
was safely over, the Merrills realized had been a very interesting one,
and to get bags and camera from the car before the boat sidled up to
the dock.

“Can’t stop to tie up!” shouted the Captain, as the boat brushed the
weather worn dock; “jump aboard!” There was just barely time for the
Merrills to jump from the dock to the broad open lower deck; then a
bell rang, the engines again began working and the space between boat
and dock widened--they were off. Mary Jane and Alice waved good-by
to the men on the dock and Mrs. Merrill turned to greet the waiting

“I am afraid you have had a hurried ride,” he said, politely, “but
the gentleman yonder,” he waved his hand toward the dock, “who is now
our advertising man, was sure he could meet us at the other dock and
he wanted you to take the trip. It seems he feels indebted to your

“We certainly are indebted to him,” said Mrs. Merrill, “for the nice
ride--though it did seem a bit hurried at the time” (she smiled at
the girls as they all thought of the wild jolting!)--“and for getting
us to the boat in time. We go back north soon and we would have been
sorry to miss the trip. But I wonder if my little girls could have some
lunch--they haven’t had a bite since breakfast.”

For answer the captain rang a bell for the steward and the order he
gave made the girls hungrier than ever. “Ham,” he said, “browned to a
turn, all the fresh eggs they can eat and some of your good biscuits.
Can you have that in twenty minutes?”

“Yis sir, yis sir, bery good, sir!” said the darky steward, smiling
broadly at the hungry folks, “and if you like, sir, they’s jest a few
more strawberries than I’ll be a needin’ fo’ suppa to-night. If the
little ladies would like to eat them a-while they’re a-waitin’?”

Would they? Mary Jane’s face shone and Alice smiled so sweetly that
the steward nearly tumbled over his feet in his eagerness to get them
comfortably settled at once. Upon the broad second deck a table was
set--“we won’t ask you to sit in doors this time of day,” said the
captain, “because you’ll want to see the scenery as we just now turn
from the St. Johns into the Ocklawaha.” And on the table were three big
dishes of great, red, luscious strawberries.

“Yumy yum!” exclaimed Alice; “Mother, do you know what Dadah did to get
us all this?”

“I haven’t an idea,” replied Mrs. Merrill; “he’s always doing things
for folks, I know, but I never heard him speak of anything special down
this way. Whatever he did though, I’m glad he did it--it certainly is
lucky for us that these folks have good memories.”

Mary Jane and Alice felt like queens as they sat there eating their
berries and real cream and smelling the odors of broiling ham that came
invitingly up the companionway.

“I’m glad we hurried up and got the boat!” exclaimed Mary Jane
appreciatively as she scraped up the last bit of cream and the last
half berry she had saved for a final tit-bit, “and I’m _very_ glad
we’re on a boat that has a pantry, _I_ am!”

“Wouldn’t you like to look over the boat and find your rooms?” asked
the captain some half an hour later; “in a few minutes we’ll be turning
into the narrow Ocklawaha and then all my attention will be taken up
with the steering. I like to have all my passengers comfortably settled
so they will feel at home aboard.”

Mrs. Merrill, Alice and Mary Jane followed him around the boat which
they thought the most curious they had even seen. It looked like a
great two story house with porches front and back and a pilot house set
on the upstairs front porch. Of course it was flat bottomed, for the
small river they would travel was too shallow in places for any other
sort of boat. The captain told them that even though it drew but two
feet of water it often went aground and had to be pushed off shore by
means of great poles--“that’s the reason we have to carry such a big
crew,” he added.

Inside were two floors with bedrooms--staterooms Mary Jane found they
were called--all around the sides of each. Mrs. Merrill’s rooms, two of
them, were side by side on the upper floor; that was nice for it was
easy to speak through the thin wooden wall that was the only partition.

“But I see the wooden shutter is nailed shut,” said Mrs. Merrill as she
stepped into the larger room and attempted to raise the old fashioned
sliding shutter. “We’re fresh air fiends, Captain,” she explained
laughingly, “and I guess I’ll have to trouble you to raise that blind.”

“Well, er--well,” said the captain hesitatingly.

“Of course if it’s too much trouble,” said Mrs. Merrill, in a puzzled

“Not a bit,” answered the captain, “not a bit. But you see, in the
night we go through pretty wild country and the trees over-hang the
boat. It doesn’t often happen,” he added half apologizing, “but
occasionally a snake drops off a tree and gets in if the window is

“Ugh!” shivered Mrs. Merrill, “between snakes and no air, I think I’ll
take the poor air _one_ night! I had no idea we were going through such
wild regions!” she added a bit skeptically.

When they returned to the deck after they had arranged their bags and
seen to covers for the night, they were amazed at the difference in the
scenery. The boat had left the big St. Johns River and was twisting
and turning up the winding little Ocklawaha which was wild enough to
satisfy any one. The girls found two other children on the deck, Ned
and Katherine Ritter of New York, and the four of them sat at the very
front of the boat and kept count of the creatures, snakes, turtles,
squirrels and wild hogs that they saw on the bank. Ned counted the
snakes because they were the worst. Alice had the turtles because they
were the hardest to see; Katherine did the squirrels and Mary Jane the
hogs--she liked those the best because they made such fearful grunting
noises--noises that made a person glad they were on a boat counting
instead of walking in those deep woods.

After supper the passengers all came out on the deck again and the deep
night of the forest was weirdly lit up by a great searchlight that
flashed from the top of the boat; it made the trees and mosses look
like a great fairyland of dreams.

“Couldn’t I just go to sleep in my chair here?” asked Mary Jane when
her mother suggested bed time; “I’m so comfy here.”

“Indeed no!” laughed Mrs. Merrill; “you’d be stiff as a poker in the
morning. I’ll go in with you and Alice and stay till you get in bed,
then in about an hour I’m coming to bed too. You know we want to be up
early in the morning.”

“What do we do in the morning?” asked Mary Jane, slipping out of the
chair and taking her mother’s hand.

“Oh, we ride on the boat till ten o’clock and then we stop at an orange
grove and then we ride some more. And I shouldn’t wonder but what we’d
see some of those alligators you’ve been wanting to see. To-morrow’s
the time for them.”

“Then I’ll go to bed quick,” said Mary Jane willingly, “’cause I want
to be up and see ’em before Ned does. ’Cause the first one who see ’em
gets to count ’em.”

“Good night, Mr. Captain,” she called as they passed the pilot house,
“I’m going to see alligators in the morning.” And in barely ten
minutes, Mary Jane was sound asleep.


“Those girls won’t be awake for an hour yet!” said a voice just
outside Mary Jane’s window the next morning; “I’ll bet I see the first
alligator all right!” But Ned Ritter shouldn’t have been so sure! He
little guessed that as he was taking his early morning walk around the
boat with his father, he made that rash remark just outside the Merrill
girls’ window. And still less did he guess that Alice, just waking up,
heard him.

“Mary Jane! Mary Jane!” she whispered; “let’s get up!”

No answer.

“I’ll have to wake her,” said Alice to herself. She bent over the edge
of the upper berth where she was sleeping and gave Mary Jane’s elbow a
vigorous pull. Mary Jane was that surprised she sat straight up in bed
even before she opened her eyes.

“Where is it?” she asked, evidently thinking of alligators.

“Goodness knows!” laughed Alice in a more natural voice now, for Ned
and his father had walked out of hearing. “But if we want to see
anything first, we’d better be getting up, Mary Jane, because Ned’s out
on deck and maybe Katherine is too.”

“Let’s ask mother if we can’t get up now,” suggested Mary Jane and she
tapped on the partition. They had made up a code before they went to
bed the night before so Mrs. Merrill knew exactly what they meant to
say. One tap meant “Mother, are you there?” two taps meant “Please I
want a drink,” and three taps meant “Is it time to get up?”

“I was just listening for those taps,” said Mrs. Merrill, at the door
of the stateroom; “open the door, girls, and I’ll help you dress. I’m
all ready and you want to get out doors as soon as you can--it’s a
beautiful morning!”

With her help at buttons and with their hair the dressing business went
very quickly and in a very few minutes all three were out on the deck.

“No alligators yet,” Ned’s disappointed voice greeted them.

“I should say not!” laughed the captain who went by just in time to
hear what was said. “Wait till the sun gets up high and the air is
hotter--then you’ll see them! Had breakfast yet?”

After breakfast he took the four children up by his pilot house and let
them sit on a bench there that gave them a fine view of the river and
woods. But though they looked and watched till their eyes ached, not a
’gator did they see!

“I don’t believe there are any,” exclaimed Alice in disgust, “and I’m
going to walk around the back of the boat. When we go around that bend
we’re coming to I’m sure I can pull some leaves off that great tree.
And I’d love to have them in my collection--‘leaves pulled from the
boat on the Ocklawaha’--wouldn’t that look well in my book?”

“I think I’ll go too,” said Katherine, who, when she saw how interested
Alice was in her collection, immediately wanted to make one for herself.

“I think I’ll fish,” said Ned; “Father said once he caught a turtle
from the boat.” And he too disappeared from the captain’s deck.

Mary Jane, left alone, couldn’t quite make up her mind what to do. It
wasn’t any fun staying up there all alone, for the captain was so busy
with his steering that he wasn’t a bit of company; she had a notion to
go to the back of the boat with the other girls.

Just as she was slipping down from the bench she heard a splash at the
bank on the south side of the river, and looking quickly, she spied a
great log floating slowly down the stream.

“What made that log fall in?” she asked curiously; “I didn’t see
anybody push it!”

Splash! There went another one!

“Funny!” exclaimed Mary Jane to herself now much interested; “now what
made _that_ one go, I wonder.” Just then Mrs. Merrill came to the foot
of the ladder leading to the captain’s deck.

“All right, Mary Jane?” she asked; “want some company?”

“’Deed yes, Mother,” cried the little girl; “do come up here and see
these funny logs! What makes them fall into the river when nobody
pushes them? There!” she exclaimed, excitedly, “there goes another

Mrs. Merrill looked quickly to where Mary Jane pointed and was just in
time to see--a great alligator go sliding into the water!

“Those aren’t logs,” she said, “those are alligators, child! Quick!
Let’s call to the others so they can see them too!” But just as she
spoke the captain’s voice rang out, “Alligators on the left!” and all
the passengers rushed over to see the great creatures as they floated,
log-like, down the river.

“That was a good sight,” said the captain; “you must be a mascot, Mary
Jane; because we haven’t seen three together yet this season.”

The Merrills found the trip all that it had been promised them. They
saw great virgin forests where the trees locked arms over the river;
they saw Indian battlefields and Indian burying grounds and then later
in the morning, the forests cleared away and about eleven o’clock
the boat stopped by an orange grove and everybody piled off for

“Eat all you can,” said the owner cordially, “but all you want to
carry away, you have to pay for. Just help yourselves, children, help
yourselves!” he added as the children hesitated.

“Goody!” said Alice; “this is the first time I ever had the chance to
save money by eating! Come on, Mary Jane, let’s begin!”

The pretty little orchard lay on the side of a hill and the orange and
lemon and tangerine and kumquot trees were set in neat rows on either
side of the walk that led up to the house at the top. The trees were
young and the children could easily reach the branches and pick their
own fruit.

“I like oranges best,” said Katherine, running to a pretty orange tree.

“I’m after tangerines,” called Alice as she spied a tree of her
favorites not far away.

“Well, I don’t want lemons--sour old things!” exclaimed Mary Jane
when she saw that she had picked the wrong tree; “I want those little

“Kumquots,” said Mrs. Merrill; “I do too, dear. Here’s a tree.”

It was fun to pick the fruit directly from the long hanging branches;
and still more fun to suck the sweet juice with which the golden fruit
was filled.

“Who’d have guessed,” exclaimed Alice, “that tangerines could be so
juicy--not I!”

But after a little while, appetites were satisfied and the children
wanted to play.

“I’ll tell you what let’s do,” suggested Mary Jane after she had eaten
about a dozen kumquots and had decided that she simply couldn’t eat
another suck; “let’s play house and each tree’ll be a house and that
great big old tree’ll be a hotel.”

“And we’ll dress up and be queens and go to visit,” added Alice.

“How you going to dress up in an orange orchard where there aren’t any
clothes?” asked Katherine.

“Oh, you don’t have to have real clothes to dress up in--not every
time, you don’t,” said Mary Jane scornfully; “Alice can fix it--you
see!” and she turned to hear her sister’s plan.

“We’ll make crowns out of orange leaves,” said Alice, quickly picking
a few and weaving them together; “see how pretty and glossy they are.
Just put them on your head this way, Katherine. There! That’s becoming!
Now you make a bigger one and I’ll do one for Mary Jane and for me. You
girls pick the leaves for me so I can make them quickly.”

“Then if we’re queens we shouldn’t live in a house, should we?” asked

“I should say _not_!” exclaimed Mary Jane. “These aren’t houses,” she
added, waving her hand grandly toward the trees nearest at hand; “these
are palaces--your palace and Alice’s palace and mine. And that big one
over there we were going to have be a hotel, it’s a banquet hall now.”

Just as the royal play was getting well under way a man came around
with paper bags. “Put all the fruit you want to buy in these,” he
announced, “and pay for it at the dock when you get aboard the boat.”

“Let’s not bother,” said Katherine; “we don’t want to stop playing.”

“We don’t have to,” replied Alice laughingly, and she picked up the bag
the man had laid under her tree; “these are cloth of gold sacks and
we’ll fill them with gold nuggets to take to the good queen mother.”

“Why, so we can!” cried Katherine happily; “come on, let’s hurry and
get a lot!”

It was a good thing they did hurry for even so the boat’s great whistle
sounded before the bags were full and the captain’s call through a
megaphone urged them to hurry aboard.

“Well, seems to me you don’t intend to be hungry for a few days,” said
Mrs. Merrill laughingly as she saw what full bags the children were
carrying. “I thought you were too busy playing to pick any and so I got
enough for us all. But never mind,” she added, as she saw the girls
were looking disappointed; “it’s all so good and it’s wholesome eating
too, so we’ll keep it if you don’t mind carrying it.”

The rest of that day’s wonderful ride seemed to Mary Jane like living
in a picture show. Not long after they left the orange orchard the
great boat turned into the tiny Clear River that runs into the
Ocklawaha and it almost seemed as if the broad decks were spreading
over the whole of the little stream! Here the water was clear as
crystal and the girls could see every fish and turtle and water snake
that scurried out of their way as they steamed up stream. In the
bright noon sunshine they came into the little lake at the head of the
stream and there they got out of the big boat and were rowed around in
a small glass bottomed boat. It seemed awfully queer to look through
the glass at their feet and see the bubbling of the hidden springs and
to watch the bright colored pebbles and stones that tumbled about deep
down among the rocks like gay pieces of confetti tossed about in the

Then there was the scramble into the big touring car, the drive across
country to Ocala, luncheon at the queer station dining room where Mary
Jane, for the first time in her life, had the fun of sitting up to a
counter to eat, and the rush for the train that was to take them up to
Jacksonville and Dadah.

“Well,” said Mary Jane with a sigh of relief as she sank into the
comfortable Pullman seat, “I just a-going to sit here all afternoon
and think and think and think--I am!” But she didn’t count on the many
queer things that may happen in Florida.


For more than an hour Mary Jane sat and thought as she had planned
to; she thought of all the interesting sights she had seen since she
left home; she thought of the new friends she had made and of the fun
she had had playing in the many places she had been. Then suddenly it
occurred to her that their train was standing still.

“Doesn’t this train go like regular trains, Mother?” she asked.

“Evidently not,” replied Mrs. Merrill, who also had been noticing how
much time was being lost; “we stop at every corner store, I do believe,
and wait to chat about the weather.”

Mary Jane laughed at the idea of a train stopping to talk about the
weather. “What’s it saying now?” she asked and she sat up straight
and looked out of the window. Such a sight! “Yumy yum, yum!” she cried
eagerly. “Mother, may we have some too?”

Mrs. Merrill and Alice had been watching out the window while Mary
Jane had been thinking and resting so they knew just what she meant.
On either side of the train, stretching as far as a person could see,
were rows and rows and rows of--strawberries. Strawberries so big and
red and ripe and luscious that they could be seen--those on the nearest
vines of course--from the train window. And all the strawberry plants
near and far showed signs of being loaded with fruit. Over the rows
bent the pickers, busily working, and here and there were groups of
workers sorting and packing the berries into boxes and crates ready for

“Oh, Mother!” exclaimed Mary Jane, “I’ll bet they’re taking them onto
our train! I just know they are.”

“To be sure!” agreed Mrs. Merrill, “that’s the reason we stop so often.
This is the strawberry and lettuce country and every time we stop we
take on piles of express that will go to hungry folks up north. Now you
know how we get our early lettuce and berries and what sort of a place
it comes from.”

“Yes, I know it,” said Mary Jane, “but couldn’t we eat some now.”

“Yes, Mother, couldn’t we?” urged Alice, “just look at those berries!”
she added as a team of horses pulled a great wagon by their window--a
wagon piled high with crates of strawberries, as they could tell by the
glimpses of red fruit inside.

Just then a little negro boy came by their window peddling berries and
Mrs. Merrill was able to buy a box of berries for the girls--berries
so clean and sweet and ripe that they could be eaten at once without a
thought of washing or of sugar.

As the train pulled up for another stop some fifteen minutes later, the
Pullman conductor came into their car and spoke to Mrs. Merrill.

“There’s something at this stop that your girls may enjoy seeing,” he
said, “and if you will allow me to escort you--”

“Something my girls should see?” questioned Mrs. Merrill in surprise.

“You see, madam,” explained the man, “the cook on the diner we carry
has made friends with the pigs on the way and he always likes the
children aboard the train to see the fun.”

“Sounds like Greek to me,” said Mrs. Merrill still more puzzled, “but
if there is something my girls should see, let’s see it--we don’t want
to miss anything!” And taking Mary Jane’s hand and motioning Alice to
come too, she followed the conductor through the train.

They went through two cars, then, as the train was just jerking to a
stop, the man quickly pulled open the vestibule door and hurried them
down the steps to the ground. Ahead of them--just the next car--was
the diner. At the high door of the kitchen end of the diner stood a
grinning negro. He was dressed all in spotless white and his face
fairly shone with joy. In his hands he held a great bucket which was
poised as though he was about to empty it out of the door.

“Here you be, missies!” he shouted, grinning and nodding to the
children; “now you jes’ watch--here she comes! Here she comes! Betta
watch out her way!”

Just at that instant Mrs. Merrill heard a great grunting behind them
and dodged out of the way of a great hog who, grunting and sniffing and
puffing, was rooting her way along the side of the train.

“She knows me!” shouted the cook from his doorway; “now you jes’ watch!”

No need to tell folks to watch! With that great creature grunting near
(though the girls did notice that she seemed tame enough) nobody wanted
to look at anything else! The hog sniffed along till she found the
dining car door; then, with a snort of satisfaction, she raised up on
her hind legs, forelegs braced against the train and--yes, the girls
could hardly believe it!--ate out of the bucket the cook held for her.

For a few minutes no one said a word, but as the hog’s hunger was
partly satisfied the cook jumped down from the car door, the hog
dropping down just at the same time and following him, and set the
bucket on the ground. In an instant pigs came running from here and
there and there was a wild scramble around that bucket!

“He’s trained them--that cook has,” explained the conductor as a
whistle from the engine sent them all hurrying back into the train.
“We pass here every other day at just this same time and that old
cook--he’s just as regular with his bucket of scraps as the road is
running the train! And I’ll declare it does seem to me those pigs are
the smartest about knowing which is the dining car! They don’t miss
it. And that one old hog, he’s got her trained to climb up to the door
every time! Who’s ever heard of a cook like that? And he always wants
the children on the train to see it--that cook does!”

“Don’t they do the queerest things in Florida!” exclaimed Mary Jane as
she settled back into her seat and picked up her box of strawberries
again. “First there were orstriches and alligators--’member how they
slid down that shoot, Alice?”

“Do I?” cried Alice, laughing at the recollection; “and remember the
jelly fish and the crawdads, Mary Jane?” Mary Jane giggled.

“But who would ever have thought of pigs eating from the dining car?”
continued Alice.

The ride that afternoon seemed long and the girls had almost tired of
drawing pictures and counting stops and talking of the sights they had
seen when the twilight brought the porter to light the lamps and the
dining car man shouting, “First call for dinner! Dinner in the dining

They were due to get into Jacksonville at seven, but Mrs. Merrill
thought as the train was already a little late it would be better for
the girls to eat a leisurely dinner on board so that the evening would
be free for visiting with their father. So they strolled into the diner
and ate chicken (and of _course_ hashed brown potatoes!) and the very
best strawberry shortcake they had ever tasted.

When the train pulled into Jacksonville at eight o’clock Mr. Merrill
was nearly smothered with embraces and with a whirlwind of tales about
all they had seen and done. The pretty little station was cleaned and
garnished; flowerbeds had been put in order and looked very lovely
under the glow of the brilliant lights and there was nothing to mar
their happy reunion.

Mr. Merrill’s business was finished that very afternoon and he was free
to spend a day in any way the girls liked. Then the next day, they
would start back home.

“Dear me!” exclaimed Alice in dismay, “only one day?”

“That’s the wrong way to say it,” said her father; “say all of one
day--that sounds a lot more. Now where shall we spend it?”

“Oh, let’s go to St. Augustine,” said Mary Jane eagerly; “where is
it?” And she looked around the streets of Jacksonville as though she
expected to find it there.

“Oh! let’s go to bed first,” mimicked her father laughingly. “You
remember you have to ride on the train an hour or more before you get
to St. Augustine. Let’s go to bed to-night and then take the first
train down to St. Augustine in the morning. How does that sound?”

“Pretty fine!” replied Mary Jane with a little skip of joy.

“But Dadah,” objected Alice, “I feel so celebrating this
evening--having you with us and all that! I wish there was something we
could do now.”

“I’ll tell you a secret,” answered Mr. Merrill, “I feel that same way
myself. Let’s get into this taxi,” he suggested as he hailed a passing
car, “and ride up to the ‘square’ and get some ice cream and buy a lot
of picture post cards for folks back home.”

The “square” was gay enough to suit even Alice. The lights glowed
brilliantly among the palms and bright flowers; the band was playing
in a stand nearby and the streets on the four sides were filled with
people strolling along or making purchases at the many little shops.
The Merrills were happy to find just the sorts of cards they wanted to
take home. They bought a whole set--pictures of every place they had
been--for Alice and another whole set for Mary Jane to keep.

“I wish I had some to take to my kindergarten, I do,” said Mary Jane as
she proudly slipped her set into her own little hand bag; “I’d like to
take one picture to each person there.”

“How many are there in your room?” asked Mr. Merrill.

“Let me see,” said Mary Jane, counting out the classes, “there’s ten,
and nine, and fifteen, and teachers and--how many is that, Dadah?”

“It’s enough for a whole set of cards,” replied Mr. Merrill; “we’ll get
fifty and then there will surely be enough.” Mary Jane slipped the
second set into her bag and began making plans that very minute about
giving them to Miss Lynn.

That was the very first Mary Jane had thought of home and school since
the day she had sent the alligators to Doris, more than a week ago. But
now that it had once come to her mind, she found herself thinking of
the pleasant kindergarten many times through the next days and making
plans for what she would do when she returned home.

Early the next morning the Merrills took the train to St. Augustine and
spent a happy day exploring the old fort. The tunnels and dungeons made
Mary Jane shiver they were so cold and dark and slimy, but the rooms
opening onto the main courtyard--the rooms where the soldiers quartered
in the fort had lived--the girls thought were lovely. The walls were
covered with great plants of beautiful maiden hair fern, the biggest
and loveliest the girls had ever seen. Alice thought it would be no
hardship to live there though she did admit it would likely be damp!

At the end of the day they went back to Jacksonville in time to catch
the nine o’clock limited for the North.

“Just think,” said Mary Jane as she slipped off her stockings and shoes
and tucked them into the little hammock by the window of her berth,
“I’m going to ride on this train all this night and all to-morrow and
all another night and then I’ll be home!”

“I wonder if it’s snowing up there?” Alice was asking as she too began
to undress at the same time; “wouldn’t snow seem funny?”


“Look! Look! Just look there, Dadah!” cried Mary Jane the second
morning later as their train dashed through the familiar woods and
fields of their own state. “Look what it’s doing!”

The weather was indeed trying to give the returning travelers a frosty
welcome. The fields were white with snow and great sheets of driving
snowflakes piled up on the car window sill. The girls dressed in a
hurry and went to the back platform to see the sight better. But they
didn’t stay long! Not out there! The cold wind sent them scurrying into
the warm car in a jiffy.

The train was late because of the storm, connections were bad in the
city near their home town and the ride over home was slow and cold. So
it was a rather weary and half frozen set of travelers who stiffly got
off the traction line a couple of blocks from their own house.

“Ugh!” said Mrs. Merrill shivering, “I always like to come home, but
I’ll declare I almost dread the next hour. The house will be clammy
cold and it will take a while to get the furnace going and there won’t
be a thing to eat.”

Mr. Merrill didn’t reply with his usual sympathy. He merely picked up
the bag and walked off up the street--nobody guessed that he had to
hurry off to keep the twinkle in his eye from being seen! Alice was
glad to let him carry her bag too--her hands, used for some days to
the summer heat, were cold and stiff; she could hardly manage a little
swing of her arms when her mother suggested run and exercise to warm
her up.

Mary Jane, hoping Doris might be at a window, had run ahead, but the
snow laden hedge made it impossible to see the house.

But when they turned past the hedge at their own gateway, every one
stopped still in amazement--all but Mr. Merrill, that is! Smoke was
coming from both the chimneys of their own pretty home; the gleam of a
fire in the living room fireplace showed from the front windows, and
Amanda swung open the front door.

“I see de limited a-goin’ by,” she exclaimed, with a welcoming grin,
“and I jes’ seys to myself ‘there’s my folks!’ So I run and put the
kettle on! Come right in and I’ll have yo’ a cup o’ tea in a jiffy!”

“How in the world?” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill happily as she and the girls
settled themselves cosily before the big, cheerful fire.

“Telegraphing, my dear,” said Mr. Merrill; “you may not know it, but
this country has a fairly complete telegraph system and once in a
while I think to use it!” He rubbed his hands by the blaze and smiled
gayly over the success of his surprise.

“You certainly picked out the right thing to do, Dad,” said Alice as
Amanda wheeled the little tea wagon before the fire and Alice spied a
piled up plate full of hot cinnamon toast; “it’s worth the fun of going
away, just to come home--it really is!”

The first thing after they were warmed and fed, Mary Jane got out
her picture folders and spread them on the floor in front of the
fire--folder after folder till the rug was almost covered.

“Now,” she said when she had them all in place where she could see
them, “I’m going to see if I saw every place I intended to.”

“See if you got the worth of your money, you mean, do you?” laughed her
father; “well you just go ahead and see. But if any two girls ever saw
more of Florida and were away from home only fourteen days and fifteen
nights--I’d like to see them! I’d like to know how they did it!”

And indeed, when Mary Jane and Alice began counting the pictures they
had seen they realized more than even before, how very much they _had_
seen. For there were not more than a dozen pictures out of that whole
collection that did not look familiar. Think of that!

The next morning Mary Jane buttoned on her leggings, put on her storm
rubbers and heavy coat and cap and muff and started off through the
snow to school. On her arm in her own little bag she carried all the
picture post cards she had brought for her friends in kindergarten. At
Doris’s gate she met her friends and Mr. Dana who was taking Doris to
school on her sled.

“Pile on, Mary Jane,” he said cordially; “always room for one more on a
sled you know. Hold tight, now! Here we go!” And away they dashed down
the street and to the school.

When Miss Lynn saw the fine cards Mary Jane had brought for the pupils
she at once suggested that they stop regular work for part of the
morning and make a party in honor of Mary Jane’s return.

“We can hang the cards all around the room at the edge of the board,”
she said, going to her desk to get the box of hangers; “and then as we
march around and look at them, you can tell us about each picture.”

Mary Jane and pretty Miss Amerion, the assistant, set busily to work
and by the time the bell rang a few minutes later all the pictures were
hung in place. It was lots of fun to march around the room at the head
of the class and tell interesting things about the pictures. She told
about the fire on the boat and about riding the ponies and seeing the
queer stoves in the orange orchard and everything she could think of.
And she didn’t wonder a bit that the boys and girls (and teachers too)
laughed when she told them about their wild ride in the auto in chase
of a boat.

“What did you think was the strangest thing you saw, Mary Jane?” asked
Miss Lynn when Mary Jane had finished.

“Well--” Mary Jane hesitated. She thought quickly of the jelly
fish, the chameleon, the queer sword fish she had seen swimming in
Clear River, but none of those seemed quite as queer as the big old
alligators that looked so like logs.

“I think the alligators were the queerest,” she said decidedly, and she
told how she had been fooled into thinking one was a real log.

Then suddenly she happened to think. “I sent Doris an alligator. I sent
her two of ’em. Couldn’t she bring them to school so everybody could
see? They were just baby ones of course, but they were funny all the

The whole school looked over to Doris and saw the poor little girl
flushed with embarrassment and hanging her head.

“Have you got them, dear?” asked Miss Lynn encouragingly; “maybe we
could wrap them up warm and snug and bring them to school to-morrow.”

“Well, you see--” Doris hesitated and then blurted out suddenly, “we
had ’em two days and then they both crawled down the register and they
haven’t ever come back--not yet they haven’t.”

“They must have thought this country too cold,” said Miss Lynn; “but
don’t you worry. We’ve nice pictures to look at and if the alligators
ever come back you can bring them to us then.” And Doris was comforted.

For two months after they came home from Florida, Mary Jane went to
kindergarten and played with her little friends and helped about the
house just as she had loved to do before they went away for those
wonderful two weeks. The piled up snows of winter melted into little
dirty piles that finally slipped off into the ground without anybody
noticing when they went. The buds on the lilac bush began to swell
and two gay robins appeared in the garden to announce that spring was

One warm noon time Mary Jane stopped on the front steps to make into a
chain the first gay dandelions of the season she had picked on the way
home from school.

“See, Dadah!” she exclaimed to her father as he came up the walk, “I
got seven and I making them into a chain for mother--won’t she be

“Indeed she will,” replied Mr. Merrill, but Mary Jane noticed that his
voice sounded as though he was thinking of something else. “Do you
like it so very well here, Mary Jane?” he asked and he waved his hand
out toward the yard.

“Why yes, Dadah,” replied Mary Jane, puzzled at his manner, “don’t you?”

“Of course,” said Mr. Merrill, “but would you like to live somewhere
else, do you think?”

Mary Jane looked out over the pretty front yard, where the grass was
so green and the crocuses were peeking up here and there. “Well,” she
said, “I like it here and I don’t know what you mean. But I think I’d
like it anywhere you and mother and Alice were.”

“That’s my girl!” exclaimed her father as he hugged her close. “Come
here, folks,” he added as Alice came up the walk just then and Mrs.
Merrill opened the door to greet them; “I’ll tell you the news.” He
pulled a yellow telegram from his pocket. “See that? That means new
work and a promotion. And it means that we move to Chicago.”

“Leave here?” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill.

“Leave here inside of a month,” he replied. “Leave here and live in the
big city.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mary Jane, “go on the train again! Hashed brown
potatoes! And have a moving wagon and boxes of things just like other
folks! Oh me! Goody! Is it really for true?”

And if you want to read about all the fun Mary Jane had getting
acquainted with the big city, exploring its parks and going to school,
you will find it all told in



  _By Clara Ingram Judson_

  Cloth, 12 mo. Illustrated

  Mary Jane is the typical American little girl who bubbles over
  with fun and the good things in life. We meet her here on a visit
  to her grandfather’s farm where she becomes acquainted with farm
  life and farm animals and thoroughly enjoys the experience.
  We next see her going to kindergarten and then on a visit to
  Florida, and then--but read the stories for yourselves.

  Exquisitely and charmingly written are these books which every
  little girl from five to nine years old will want from the first
  book to the last.


             BARSE & CO.
  New York, N. Y.    Newark, N. J.

Elizabeth Ann Series


  _For Girls from 7 to 12_

  Elizabeth Ann is a little girl whom we first meet on a big train,
  travelling all alone. Her father and mother have sailed for
  Japan, and she is sent back East to visit at first one relative’s
  home, and then another. Of course, she meets many new friends,
  some of whom she is quite happy with, while others--but you
  must read the stories for yourself. Every other girl who reads
  the first of these charming books will want all the rest; for
  Elizabeth Ann is certainly worth the cultivating.


             BARSE & CO.
  New York, N. Y.    Newark, N. J.


  _By Dorothy Whitehill_

  Cloth, 12 mo. Illustrated.

  Here is a sparkling new series of stories for girls--just what
  they will like, and ask for more of the same kind. It is all
  about twin sisters, who for the first few years in their lives
  grow up in ignorance of each other’s existence. Then they are
  at last brought together and things begin to happen. Janet is
  an independent go-ahead sort of girl; while her sister Phyllis
  is--but meet the twins for yourself and be entertained.

   1. JANET, A TWIN.

             BARSE & CO.
  New York, N. Y.    Newark, N. J.

_The Joyce Payton Series_


  _For girls from 8 to 14_

Between the covers of these new books will be found the most intensely
interesting cast of characters, whose adventures in school and at
home keep one guessing continually. Joyce Payton, known as “Joy” with
her knowledge of gypsy ways, is bound to become a universal favorite;
there is also Pam, her running mate, and her best chum; Gypsy Joe, the
little Romany genius, and his magical “fiddle,” with which he talks to
the birds, squirrels, and in fact all of Animated Nature. Then there
is among the host of others Gloria, the city-bred cousin, a spoiled
darling; who feels like a “cat in a strange garret” when in the company
of Joy and her friends.


             BARSE & CO.
  New York, N. Y.    Newark, N. J.

Transcriber’s Note:

  Page 13
  for its two week’s vacation _changed to_
  for its two weeks’ vacation

  Page 49
  the ’gaters climbed slowly _changed to_
  the ’gators climbed slowly

  Page 58
  wall’s is real! _changed to_
  walls is real!

  Page 74
  there was an open pavalion _changed to_
  there was an open pavilion

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Jane Down South" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.