The Rudder Grangers Abroad and Other Stories HTML version
Euphemia Among The Pelicans
The sun shone warm and soft, as it shines in winter time in the semi-tropics. The wind
blew strong, as it blows whenever and wherever it listeth. Seven pelicans labored slowly
through the air. A flock of ducks rose from the surface of the river. A school of mullet,
disturbed by a shark, or some other unscrupulous pursuer, sprang suddenly out of the
water just before us, and fell into it again like the splashing of a sudden shower.
I lay upon the roof of the cabin of a little yacht. Euphemia stood below, her feet upon the
mess-chest, and her elbows resting on the edge of the cabin roof. A sudden squall would
have unshipped her; still, if one would be happy, there are risks that must be assumed. At
the open entrance of the cabin, busily writing on a hanging-shelf that served as a table, sat
a Paying Teller. On the high box which during most of the day covered our stove was a
little lady, writing in a note-book. On the forward deck, at the foot of the mast, sat a
young man in a state of placidness. His feet stuck out on the bowsprit, while his mildly
contemplative eyes went forth unto the roundabout.
At the tiller stood our guide and boatman, his sombre eye steady on the south-by-east.
Around the horizon of his countenance there spread a dark and six-days' beard, like a
slowly rising thunder-cloud; ever and anon there was a gleam of white teeth, like a bright
break in the sky, but it meant nothing. During all our trip, the sun never shone in that
face. It never stormed, but it was always cloudy. But he was the best boatman on those
waters, and when he stood at the helm we knew we sailed secure. We wanted a man
familiar with storms and squalls, and if this familiarity had developed into facial
sympathy, it mattered not. We could attend to our own sunshine. At his feet sat humbly
his boy of twelve, whom we called "the crew." He was making fancy knots in a bit of
rope. This and the occupation of growing up were the only labors in which he willingly
Euphemia and I had left Rudder Grange, to spend a month or two in Florida, and we were
now on a little sloop-yacht on the bright waters of the Indian River. It must not be
supposed that, because we had a Paying Teller with us, we had set up a floating bank.
With this Paying Teller, from a distant State, we had made acquaintance on our first
entrance into Florida. He was travelling in what Euphemia called "a group," which
consisted of his wife,--the little lady with the note-book,--the contemplative young man
on the forward deck, and himself.
This Paying Teller had worked so hard and so rapidly at his business for several years,
and had paid out so much of his health and strength, that it was necessary for him to
receive large deposits of these essentials before he could go to work again. But the
peculiar habits of his profession never left him. He was continually paying out
something. If you presented a conversational check to him in the way of a remark, he
would, figuratively speaking, immediately jump to his little window and proceed to cash
it, sometimes astonishing you by the amount of small change he would spread out before