The group had reached the wire enclosure where the giant turtle lived, and Joe went inside. The reptile poked its head out of the shell and looked at him.
The Indian pulled a little musical pipe from his pocket and played a tune. To the girls’ surprise, the turtle began to dance. When Joe stopped the music, the amusing creature went up and down on its forefeet as if bowing.
“Wonderful!” Bess exclaimed.
The girls clapped and laughed, and Joe said he would have the flamingo put on an act next. When he spoke to the beautiful pink-legged bird, it went over to him and touched the Indian’s lips.
“Thank you for my morning kiss,” Joe said. “Now suppose you do your war dance.”
The flamingo flapped its wings up and down furiously while running around the lawn. At one point the bird soared off and the girls were worried that it might not return. In a few moments it came back and strode about in a circle. Every few feet the bird jumped high into the air and landed neatly a few yards away. When the flamingo became tired of showing off, it walked back to Joe.
“That’s great!” George exclaimed. “You must have a lot of patience to train these creatures.”
The Indian said he loved animals and did not find it hard to work with any of them. “Now let’s go over and call on Lord and Lady Charming,” he added.
On the way Joe stopped at a large toolshed. He opened the door and the girls noticed a refrigerator inside. Joe took out a large chunk of meat that he wrapped in paper. He rejoined the girls and said to Nancy, “I want you to feed this to Lord Charming when I tell you.”
“Is this breakfast or lunch?” George asked, grinning.
Joe smiled. “It’s just a snack. Watch how fast it disappears!”
When they arrived at the concrete wall that surrounded the crocodile pen, he picked up a pole from the edge, then jumped over the fence and walked up to the reptile who was resting on the sand.
“Lady Charming,” he said, “you’d better flip over and not give us any trouble.”
He prodded her with the spiked pole until he was able to flip her over. Now she would take a few minutes to get back on her feet.
Lord Charming was lying in the water at one end of the pen, under the shade of the mangrove trees that hid the wall of the pen at this point. As Joe approached him, he said to the girls, “Notice his eyeteeth and see how they protrude below the gums? That’s one way you can tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile. The alligator’s teeth are more even and do not show below the jaw when it’s tightly closed.”
He went on to say that Nancy was to throw the meat after he got the crocodile to open his jaws. She figured that from the angle where she stood, her aim would be poor, so she vaulted the fence and stood at the edge of the water.
Joe looked worried. “I wanted you to throw it over the fence!” he said. “But maybe Lord Charming will behave if you don’t make a fuss.”
He tossed a little stone, which hit the crocodile lightly on the snout. At once his jaws opened. Instantly Nancy threw the chunk of beef. Her aim was perfect and the meat disappeared within a second.
Nancy was so fascinated as she watched the reptile that she failed to retreat. Suddenly the crocodile moved its great tail. In a moment it would hit Nancy hard and injure her!
“Look out!” George shouted.
With a leap Nancy cleared the top of the concrete wall surrounding the crocodile pen. She avoided the swishing tail by inches!
Joe shouted at the reptile in the Seminole language and prodded him with his heavy wooden pole. Finally the creature became quiet and the Indian hurried out of the pen.
Nancy jumped to the ground, still trembling slightly. She looked over the wall and said, “Lord Charming, your manners are pretty bad. That was no way to thank me for the meat.”