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OF MAGIC FRUIT
By CAPTAIN J. M. ELLICOTT, U. S. N.
ON the south side of Cuba and out near its eastern end, forty miles or more beyond the scene of our naval battle of Santiago, lies a large, beautiful bay which Cuba has ceded to our Government for a naval station. It is called Guantanamo. Our warships gather there at least once a year for drills and exercises, and thither our new battle-shipsaresent as soon as completed to “shake down,” that is to say, get sufficiently organized and drilled to take their places in the fleet. The tropical jungle about the bay is sparsely settled; in fact, at the time of this story, it was not settled at all, and was to us an entirely unknown land. One winter, soon after we had acquired Guantanamo Bay, when my ship was lying there “shaking down,” some ragged Cuban fishermen sailed into the harbor in a paintless, patched-up canoe laden with a rare variety of West Indian fish seldom found in Cuban Waters. “Where do you catch these fish?” we asked in our best Spanish. “In El Puerto Escondido,” they replied. Now Puerto Escondido is Spanish for “Hidden Harbor,” so, with aroused curiosity, we made them describe its location. They spoke an almost unintelligible patois, but we finally gathered that a harbor “shaped like a man's hand” and so hidden that its entrance could only be found by sailing close along the cliffs, lay about six miles to the eastward; that this harbor was full of fine edible fish; that it was surrounded by jungle and swamps and soft, engulfing mud-flats infested with alligators; and that in the midst of the harbor was an island of magic fruit. With still greater curiosity we made them describe “La Isla de Fruto Magico,” and gathered that it was a small, round, swampy island on which stood three huge trees densely covered with dark green leaves all the way to the ground, and surrounded by quicksand mud-flats infested with alligators and waterserpents. When seen from a distance, all the upper limbs of these trees are covered with big, round, red, luscious fruit like large mangos, but when the island is reached the fruit always vanishes. So uncanny was the island that no one had ever been known to land on it to solve its mystery.
When the fishermen had gone we dragged out and searched our charts, but no body of water was shown on them as described by the Cubans. The “Hidden Harbor” and the “Isle of Magic Fruit” formed a topic of conversation and conjecture for the remainder of the week. In fact, our officers' mess became divided into two factions: the scoffers, who contended that the fishermen had told the tale to scare us away from their fishing-grounds, and the imaginative ones, who believed that there must be some foundation for the story. On Sunday, a number of us who were naturally adventurous and fond of “hiking” started overland to find Puerto Escondido. In torrid heat we labored over mountains covered with thickets and forests and through valleys of moist jungle and tangled vines until, panting and exhausted, we reached a crowning summit and looked down into a broad, semicircular valley through which spread out the glittering waters of a bay, like the palm and fingers of a man's hand. In its center was a dark knoll of an island—a cluster of broad, tall, densely green trees, encircled by slimy mud-flats. With binoculars, we examined the trees. Sure enough, all their upper branches were covered with large fruit, like the reddest of apples; and in their midst, flocks of jet-black birds, too large for crows and too small for vultures, were fighting and feeding. Sometimes these birds could be seen to fly away with a whole fruit and devour it in mid-air. Having no boat, we could not reach the island, but we returned to the ship highly elated, and prepared for an expedition by sea. On the following Sunday we set forth, provided with a day's provisions, fishing-tackle, and rifles. We sailed along an unbroken coast of rugged looking clay bluffs for two hours or more, and actually passed the entrance to the hidden harbor before seeing it, so completely was it concealed by an overlapping of the cliffs. The entrance, except for its ragged sides, was like a long, deep, curving railroad-cutting. Then the bay opened up before us in a beautiful panorama, with the Isle of Magic Fruit standing tall and green in its midst. And there again was the beautiful fruit covering all the trees' branches and seemingly undiminished in quantity by the voracious birds, still fighting and quarreling over it. The wind had fallen to a hot, breathless calm, so we doused sail and rowed eagerly toward our goal. But when still a hundred yards away, our boat began to ground and hang in the surrounding shoals of mud. At the noise and clatter we made in trying to push closer, the birds flew away with loud hoarse cries, and circled about high over our heads. We all looked up and saw with amazement that there was absolutely no fruit left on the trees. Our dismay was relieved, however, when we looked at the birds and found that nearly every one of them had carried off a big red fruit and was slowly consuming it in the air. We watched them until the last fruit had disappeared, then rowed around the island to see if some had not been left on the trees; but there was not a single One. Disconsolately we rowed away to a sandy point near the entrance, where we landed under shady palms and spread our lunch; but we had scarcely begun to eat when some one pointed to the island saying excitedly, “Look!” And there were the birds back in the trees, and the branches were again laden with the rich red fruit! We scrambled into the boat and rowed frantically back to the island; when again the birds flew away, each carrying a luscious looking fruit and leaving the tree bare; and again we watched with open-mouthed astonishment the uncanny black creatures circling high above us until each had devoured its prize. Then we grounded the boat on the muddy shore, determined to search under the trees for fruit that might have dropped from the branches. But the first man over the boat's side sank nearly to his waist in the soft ooze, and would have continued to sink had he not been quickly seized and pulled back. So again we crossed the bay, to lunch and apply logic to our mystery. Before long, the birds were back in the trees quarreling over the fruit, which had reappeared on the branches in undiminished numbers, but we had determined not to seek it again until we had formed some plan. After much speculation and discussion which suggested nothing, a wise and silent member spoke up. “The only way to get that fruit is to kill the birds when they fly away with it before they can eat it.”
It was the first logical suggestion. We repacked our lunch things, loaded our rifles, and once more pulled toward the island. Again the birds flew into the air, carrying all the fruit with them. Six rifles were quickly aimed at the flock and six shots rang out almost together. The frightened creatures scattered and volplaned in all directions, but one crashed down through the trees and fell with a thud in the mud beneath them, startling from under the lower branches a long, brown, horny, serpentine looking creature with huge jaws, which, smearing a path to
FRIGATE-BIRD WITH AIR-SAC INFLATED
the edge of the water, disappeared beneath it, followed by several smaller and similar reptiles. No one cared to seek the dead bird, and again we rowed away to give its companions in the air a chance to return; but before we had gone far, we espied an inert, black object floating in the water, and in a few minutes we had it in the boat. It proved to be a scrawny, feathered thing of the buzzard type, though smaller, but alas, it had no fruit. Very naturally, we supposed this had dropped from the bird's bill, and we carefully searched the waters round about, but without result. Presently our wise and silent member, who had been one of the scoffers on board ship, gave a short laugh, seized the bird, and, holding it tightly by the neck, blew strongly into its mouth. Gradually there swelled out from under the feathers of the bird's throat a hidden red air-sac, which grew fuller and rounder until it resembled a big red apple. This solved the mystery of the “Isle of Magic Fruit”—a flock of frigate-birds!
A LIVE LATIN CLUB By GRACE HUMPHREY
“I DECLARE, it's just a shame, a live shame, Betty, that you could n’t have come to visit us last week! Of course, we're delighted to have you now, and we 'll find plenty of things to do. But you ’ve missed the Latin Club party, and it's the last one of the year.” “Latin Club? Oh, Latin!” said Betty, with a wry face and an expressive shrug. “Well, if I had to miss anything, I’m glad it was Latin. I just hate it!” “You would n't, Betty dear, if you had it in our school,” said her cousin. “Yes, I should!” she persisted, “I’d hate it just as much as ever. Old dead language! Why did n't Dickens say Marley was dead as Latin, instead of a door nail? I only go on with it to keep the peace with my guardian, who 's got it into his head that he wants to send me to college; and when I said I did n’t want to go, he announced grimly that I must be ready for it, in case I changed my mind. But since it 's the first and only thing he 's ever asked of me, I say to myself that the least I can do is to learn it just to please him—but ugh! ugh! how I do hate it!” “But you would n’t feel that way in our school,” began Lois. “You see, we have-” “In your school!” Betty interrupted scornfully. “Why do you all say in your school? Latin is Latin, just plain dead Latin! And when I went to school with you, that day last year, Katherine, and followed you about from room to room, why—I thought your Latin class was just as stupid and dull and dead and uninteresting and hateful as ours! And as for the teacher, she was like all the rest of them—they're all as dead as the Latin! I do believe that teaching it makes them wither and dry up. Why, not one of them is really alive! “I won't deny,” she went on, “that your school is n’t way ahead of ours, only see what you have to work with! And some of your teachers were splendid, just splendid! Why, I remember yet, in the English class I went to, she stopped the lesson to show you her picture postals of the Old Cheshire Cheese, and told how she had gone there for luncheon, even what they had to eat! I tell you, I've never forgotten about Dr. Johnson and Boswell since; and what 's more, I've never mixed him with Ben Jonson, because she told a funny story of some tourists she
met there who did n’t know there were two of them. That's what I call real teaching— to make it so interesting that you can’t ever forget it. She was alive, that English teacher!—But Cicero and Caesar? Oh no, no, no! Even a live teacher could n’t do anything with them; and anyway, who ever heard of a live Latin teacher?” “Well, Betty, we 'll have to convert you. You ’re a good subject, and we can do it, can’t we, girls?” “Indeed we can!” they answered in chorus. “With Miss Hill to tell about,” said Jane. “And the Latin Club parties,” put in Mildred. “And the tableaux,” added Nan. “And the postal cards,” said Ruth. “Stop, stop! One at a time!” pleaded Betty. “I never heard of such goings on! Tableaux, and parties, and picture postals— of what, pray?” “Everything you can think of, in connection with what we were reading—from all parts of Italy and Sicily, and museums everywhere, but mostly Rome, of course. Anything Miss Hill had, to make things real to us—” began Katherine. “And make it so interesting that you can't forget it, like Dr. Johnson and the Cheshire Cheese,” interrupted Lois, with a sly little smile at the guest. “Well, what sort of pictures? The only ones in the books are just old statues, stupid and—and dead!” “Those are n’t the right adjectives for anything Miss Hill has or does,” Lois responded quickly. “She uses her cards to explain things in the lesson—“AEneas picks up a bowl to sacrifice,” for example. We used to translate it just a bowl, or cup; but Miss Hill stops, when you 've read that far, and says, “This is the kind of bowl AEneas had,” or, “In this picture a man is pouring out the oil and wine from the bowl in to-day's lesson; and here 's another, a very rare one in the British Museum.’” “Or perhaps it 's a village that Cicero mentions,” Jane took up the story. “Then she tells us about going there to spend the day, and how it looks now, and how much of it is old and unchanged—and about the inscriptions even she could n’t read, till the professor gave a hint or two to start her.”
“Well, that does sound interesting. Did she go to school there, really?”
“Yes indeed, in Rome, for a whole year. And they had excursions all the time, for an afternoon or the day, and week-end trips; and long ones for the Christmas and Easter holidays. And everywhere she bought postal cards, all she could find. She laughs and says they were her one extravagance; that they often went third class on the train to buy extra cards! Why, she has over two thousand!”
“What I liked best of all,” Nan added, “was the day at Pompeii, when Miss Hill watched a moving-picture company act out
“Well, we meet once a month,” Nan began, “and a committee of the girls decides what to do. No, Miss Hill did the first one herself. You see, that is n’t much work for any one girl, somebody in the group is sure to have an idea, or a hint of one at least; and they all plan it out, and then talk it over with Miss Hill, who always has suggestions to make it better, or less work.” “But you don't tell me exactly what you do, and I want to know everything,” insisted Betty, now thoroughly interested. “Jane, you tell about the first one, since you won the prize.” “You know, Betty, winning the prize
a part of a play, in a real Roman house and garden, with real Roman furniture, and— and everything!” “I see,” Betty said thoughtfully. “She’s been everywhere, so she can make it real and alive for you. But did n’t you say something about a club? Do you have meetings, and spend time out of class on—on Latin?” “Indeed we do!” replied Mildred, with emphasis. “You don’t have to belong, of course, but everybody does. Our school ’s just crowded with clubs, you know; Mother says sometimes I'm in too many. But the Latin Club is the nicest one of all, and by far the most fun. Latin dead! Why, our club 's the livest one in the whole school!” “Do tell me about it, all you can.”
was n’t much,” Jane said modestly. “But it was such fun! It was a parody on the first chapter in Caesar. Miss Hill wrote it in Latin, and we each had a mimeographed copy to translate. She gave a foreign photograph for the first translation handed in that was right. No, it was n’t hard to do; but it was so funny and so clever that the girls laughed over each sentence, instead of writing it down fast. I wish I could remember all of it; but the beginning was: “All this school is divided into three parts, of which the first are called the Seniors, the second, Juniors, and the last, in our language, Sophomores, but in their's—Oh, what was that funny word?—‘Of these,” it went on, ‘the wisest are the Seniors (as they think!).’