Mrs. Elmer was much shocked at Mark’s story, and said she was very thankful that he had not only been the means of saving a human life, but had escaped unharmed himself. At the same time she made ready to receive the boy, and when the men brought him in she had a bed prepared for him, warm water and castile soap ready to bathe the wounds, and soft linen to bandage them.
Captain Johnson, who called himself “a rough and ready surgeon,” carefully felt of the wounded foot to ascertain whether or not any bones were broken. The boy bore this patiently and without a murmur, though one or two gasps of pain escaped him. When the captain said that, though he could not feel any fractured bones, the ankle-joint was dislocated, and must be pulled back into place at once, he clinched his teeth, drew in a long breath, and nodded his head. Taking a firm hold above and below the dislocated joint, the captain gave a quick twist with his powerful hands that drew from the boy a sharp cry of pain.
“There,” said the captain, soothingly, “it’s all over; now we will bathe it and bandage it, and in a few days you will be as good as you were before you met Mr. ’Gator. If not better,” he added, as he took note of the boy’s wretched clothes and general appearance.
After seeing the patient made as comfortable as possible, Mark and the two men went out, leaving him to the gentle care of Mrs. Elmer and Ruth.
“Mark,” said Captain Johnson, “let’s take the skiff and go and get that alligator. I guess Miss Ruth would like to see him. One of my men can go along to help us, or Jan, if he will.”
“All right,” said Mark, and Jan said he would go if it wouldn’t take too long.
“We’ll be back in less than an hour,” said the captain, “if it’s only a mile away, as Mark says.”
So they went, and it took the united strength of the three to get the alligator into the skiff when they found him. He measured ten feet and four inches in length, and Captain Johnson, who claimed to be an authority concerning alligators, said that was very large for fresh-water, though in tide-water they were sometimes found fifteen feet in length, and he had heard of several that were even longer.
While Mark was showing them just where the boy lay when he first saw him, Jan picked up an old muzzle-loading shot-gun and a pair of much-worn boots, that had heretofore escaped their notice. Both barrels of the gun were loaded, but one only contained a charge of powder, which surprised them.
“What do you suppose he was going to do with only a charge of powder?” asked Mark, when this discovery was made.
“I’ve no idea,” answered the captain; “perhaps he forgot the shot, or hadn’t any left.”
When they reached home with the big alligator, the whole household came out to look at it, and Mrs. Elmer and Ruth shuddered when they saw the monster that had so nearly dragged the boy into the river.