ALLIGATORS AND MAHOGANY
Merchant seamen as a rule have very little acquaintance with the appalling alligator, whose unappeasable ferocity and diabolical cunning make him so terrible a neighbour.
Had the alligator been a seafarer, it is in my mind that mankind would have heard little of the savagery of the shark, who, to tell the truth fairly, is a much maligned monster; incapable of seven-tenths of the crimes attributed to him, innocent of another two-tenths, and in the small balance of iniquity left, a criminal rather from accident than from design. But all the atrocities attributed by ignorance to the shark may truthfully be predicated of the alligator, and many more also, seeing that the great lizard is equally at home on land or in the water.
I speak feelingly, having had painful experience of the ways of the terrible saurian during my visits to one of the few places where sailors are brought into contact with him. Tonala River, which empties itself into the Gulf of Mexico, has a sinister notoriety, owing to the number of alligators with which it is infested; and through the proverbial carelessness of seamen and their ignorance of the language spoken by the people ashore, many an unrecorded tragedy has occurred there to members of the crews of vessels loading mahogany in the river.