Mark had already seen that the boy’s right foot was terribly mangled and covered with blood, and he went quickly for more water with which to bathe it. After he had washed off the blood, and bound the wounded foot as well as he could with his handkerchief and one of his shirt sleeves torn into strips, he found that the boy had again opened his eyes, and seemed to have fully recovered his consciousness.
“Do you feel better?” asked Mark.
“Yes,” answered the boy. “I can sit up now if you will help me.”
Mark helped him into a sitting position, with his back against the tree to which he had clung when the alligator tried to drag him into the water. Then he said,
“Now wait here a minute while I bring round the canoe. I’ll get you into it, and take you home, for your foot must be properly attended to as soon as possible.”
Hurrying back to where he had left the canoe, Mark brought it around the point, very close to where the boy was sitting, and pulled one end of it up on the bank. Then going to the boy, he said,
“If you can stand up, and will put both arms around my neck, I’ll carry you to the canoe; it’s only a few steps.”
Although he almost cried out with the pain caused by the effort, the boy succeeded in doing as Mark directed, and in a few minutes more was seated in the bottom of the canoe, with his wounded foot resting on Mark’s folded jacket.
Carefully shoving off, and stepping gently into the other end of the canoe, Mark began to paddle swiftly up the river. The boy sat with closed eyes, and though Mark wanted to ask him how it had all happened, he waited patiently, fearing that his companion was too weak to talk. He noticed that the boy was barefooted and bareheaded, that his clothes were very old and ragged, and that he had a bag and a powder-horn slung over his shoulders. He also noticed that his hair was long and matted, and that his face, in spite of its present paleness, was tanned, as though by long exposure to the weather. It had a strangely familiar look to him, and it seemed as though he must have seen that boy somewhere before, but where he could not think.
Just before they reached the “Go Bang” landing-place the boy opened his eyes, and Mark, no longer able to restrain his curiosity, asked,
“How did the alligator happen to catch you?”
“I was asleep,” answered the boy, “and woke up just in time to catch hold of that tree as he grabbed my foot and began pulling me to the water. He would have had me in another minute, for I was letting go when you came;” and the boy shuddered at the remembrance.
“Well,” said Mark, a little boastfully, “he won’t catch anybody else. He’s as dead as a door-nail now. Here we are.”
Jan and Captain Johnson were at the landing, and they listened with astonishment to Mark’s hurried explanation of what had happened. The captain said they would carry the boy to the house, while Mark ran on and told his mother who was coming, so that she could prepare to receive him.