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Kastle Krags by Absalom Martin

KASTLE KRAGS

A STORY OF MYSTERY

BY ABSALOM MARTIN

NEW YORK DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 1922

Copyright, 1921, 1922 BY DUFFIELD & COMPANY

Printed in U. S. A.

KASTLE KRAGS

CHAPTER I

Who could forget the Ochakee River, and the valley through which it flows! The river itself rises in one of those lost and nameless lakes in the Floridan central ridge, then is hidden at once in the live oak and cypress forests that creep inland from the coasts. But it can never be said truly to flow. Over the billiard-table flatness of that land it moves so slowly and silently that it gives the effect of a lake stirred by the wind. These dark waters, and the moss-draped woodlands through which they move, are the especial treasure-field and delight of the naturalist and scientist from the great universities of the North.

It is a lost river; and it is still a common thing to see a brown, lifeless, floating log suddenly flash, strike, and galvanize into a diving alligator. The manatee, that grotesque, hair-lipped caricature of a sea-lion, still paddles in the lower waters; and the great gar, who could remember, if he would, the days when the nightmare wings of the pterodactyls whipped and hummed over his native waters, makes deadly hunting-trips up and down the stream, sword-like jaws all set and ready; and all manner of smaller fry offer pleasing possibilities to the sportsmen. The water-fowl swarm in countless numbers: fleet-winged travelers such as ducks and geese, long-legged dignitaries of the crane and heron tribe, gay-colored birds that flash by and out of sight before the eye can identify them, and bitterns, like town-criers, booming the river news for miles up and down the shores. And of course the little perchers are past all counting in the arching trees of the river-bank.

In the forests the fleet, under-sized Floridan deer is watchful and furtive because of the activities of that tawny killer, the "catamount" of the frontier; and the black bear sometimes grunts and soliloquizes and gobbles persimmons in the thickets. The lynx that mews in the twilight, the raccoon that creeps like a furtive shadow through the velvet darkness, the pink-nosed 'possum that can only sleep when danger threatens, and such lesser folk as rabbit and squirrel, weasel and skunk, all have their part in the drama of the woods. Then there are the game-birds: wild turkey, pheasant, and that little red quail, the Bob White known to Southern sportsmen.

Yet the Ochakee country conveys no message of brightness and cheer. Some way, there are too many


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