Mark discovers the ghost and finds him in A trying position.
Mark dashed through the bushes for a hundred yards, heedless of the clinging thorns of the rattan vine that tore his clothes, and scratched his face and hands until they bled, before reaching the scene of what sounded like a terrible struggle. The screams for help told him that at least one of the contestants was a human being in sore distress, and in thus rushing to his assistance Mark did not give a moment’s thought to his own safety. As he burst from the bushes he found himself in a little open glade on the opposite side of the point from that on which he had landed. Here he came upon a struggle for life such as rarely takes place even in the wilder regions of the South, and such as but few persons have ever witnessed.
On the farther side of the glade, clinging with the strength of despair to the trunk of a young magnolia-tree, lay a boy of about Mark’s own age. His arms were nearly torn from their sockets by some terrible strain, and his eyes seemed starting from his head with horror. As he saw Mark he screamed, “Fire! Fire quick! His eyes! I’m letting go.”
Looking along the boy’s body Mark saw a pair of great jaws closed firmly upon his right foot, though the rest of the animal, whatever it was, was hidden in a thicket of bushes which were violently agitated. He could see the protruding eyes; and, springing across the opening, he placed the muzzle of the rifle close against one of them, and fired.
The horrid head was lifted high in the air with a bellow of rage and pain. As it fell it disappeared in the bushes, which were beaten down by the animal’s death struggle, and then all was still.
Upon firing, Mark had quickly thrown another cartridge from the magazine into the chamber of his rifle, and held it in readiness for another shot. He waited a moment after the struggles ceased, and finding that no further attack was made, turned his attention to the boy, who lay motionless and as though dead at his feet. His eyes were closed, and Mark knew that he had fainted, though he had never seen a person in that condition before.
His first impulse was to try and restore the boy to consciousness; but his second, and the one upon which he acted, was to assure himself that the animal he had shot was really dead, and incapable of making another attack. Holding his rifle in one hand, and cautiously parting the bushes with the other, he peered, with a loudly beating heart, into the thicket. There, stretched out stiff and motionless, he saw the body of a huge alligator. It was dead— dead as a mummy; there was no doubt of that; and without waiting to examine it further, Mark laid down his rifle and went to the river for water.
He brought three hatfuls, and dashed them, one after another, in the boy’s face before the latter showed any signs of consciousness. Then the closed eyes were slowly opened, and fixed for an instant upon Mark, with the same look of horror that he had first seen in them, and the boy tried to rise to his feet, but fell back with a moan of pain.