I noticed at this time, and afterward, that as the depth of the holes increased and it took longer journeys to reach the surface, the wasps always pressed the earth they wished to get rid of into these compact balls, and so managed to bring up a much greater quantity at once than would otherwise be possible. The wasp now walked entirely round the hole, pushing carefully back the loose sand which seemed likely to fall in again. This done, she was up and away. She was in search now of the insect near which to lay her egg, but although she came in sight of several, she could get no nearer.
The inhabitants of our garden were learning how dangerous these new settlers might be, and kept well out of her way. At last, as she poised herself high in the air, and rested on her broad, strong wings for an instant, she spied, far beneath her, a small grasshopper. It was the work of only a second to pounce upon him, and to lay him out on his back perfectly insensible.
But now a difficulty arose. How could she, borne down by this heavy weight, manage to rise into the air? The locust of the day before had been caught upon a high post, and in order to carry him the wasp had only to fly down. This was a wholly different case. At last an idea seemed to occur to her: she jumped astride of the grasshopper, seized its head with her fore feet, and ran along the ground.
Ha! This was famous; but hard work, nevertheless, and she had often to let go and rest. She entered the broad path in which her house was, but somehow she had become bewildered, and mistook a neighbor's hole for her own. As she dismounted before it, and looked in, the owner angrily darted out, buzzing in a frightful manner. Our poor friend, much abashed, proceeded to the next house, and the next, everywhere meeting with the same reception.
"How stupid of her," I thought, "not to know her own home!" but just then she saw the entrance, ran swiftly toward it, and in another minute she and her burden were both safely in-doors.
Presently she came out and again flew off. She had laid her egg close to the grasshopper, but the amount of provision was not enough, so she had now gone in search of another insect, with which to fill her larder.
As soon as she was out of sight, a tiny creature flew down into the hole. She, too, had her egg to lay, and here was just the opportunity. Inside of the digger-wasp's egg the little ichneumon fly placed another and a very much smaller one, after which she darted away, just in time to escape meeting the returning mother, who, coming back laden with a second grasshopper, placed it close to the first, and set about closing the door. But all her careful work would be of no avail; no child of hers would ever come out of this house a perfect full-grown insect like herself.
This is what happened:
In time the two eggs hatched. The young digger-wasp set to work upon the grasshopper, and the little ichneumon began to eat the wasp-grub. At last the young wasp died, and at that moment there flew out from his body a little fly.
It rested a minute, then turned and pushed its way through the soft earth till it reached daylight. It waved its wings gently up and down a few times, and darted away and out of sight.
The digger-wasps had been living for some weeks in our garden, when, one afternoon, there came up a fearful thunder-storm. The rain poured down in torrents. Where had been shortly before neatly kept paths about our house, we saw now rapid little rivers tearing up sand and gravel as they raced down-hill, and doing all the damage their short lives would allow. But all of a sudden the sun burst out from the clouds, the rain stopped, and the water which had fallen sank into the ground.
I did not waste many minutes in reaching the garden. What a sight met my eyes! The broad path stretched itself out before me smooth and wet; not a single hole remained,—all were buried deep under the sand. Instead of the air being, as was usual, fairly alive with busy, happy creatures, there was now, here and there, a miserable mud-covered insect clinging to a leaf, and wearily trying to clean its heavy wings.
What a sad ending to the gay, bright summer!
The next day, however, I found a few survivors hard at work digging again; but this time every hole was sloping instead of perpendicular. After much thought, I came to the conclusion that these clever little creatures had found the way to prevent such another calamity as had overtaken them the day before. Formerly, the first drops of an unusually hard shower filled the holes instantly, drowning the inmates. Now, this could not happen, especially if the openings were placed, as most of them were, under the shelter of the big grape-leaves which at many points rested on the edge of the path. This all took place two years ago; but each summer since then has brought with it some of our old friends, the digger-wasps.
THE EMERGENCY MISTRESS.
(A Fairy Tale.)
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON.
Jules Vatermann was a wood-cutter, and a very good one. He always had employment, for he understood his business so well, and was so industrious and trustworthy, that every one in the neighborhood where he lived, who wanted wood cut, was glad to get him to do it.
Jules had a very ordinary and commonplace life until he was a middle-aged man, and then something remarkable happened to him. It happened on the twenty-fifth of January, in a very cold winter. Jules was forty-five years old, that year, and he remembered the day of the month, because in the morning, before he started out to his work, he had remarked that it was just one month since Christmas.
The day before, Jules had cut down a tall tree, and he had been busy all the morning sawing it into logs of the proper length and splitting it up and making a pile of it.
When dinner-time came around, Jules sat down on one of the logs and opened his basket. He had plenty to eat,—good bread and sausage, and a bottle of beer, for he was none of your poor wood-cutters.
As he was cutting a sausage, he looked up and saw something coming from behind his wood-pile.
At first, he thought it was a dog, for it was about the right size for a small dog, but in a moment he saw it was a little man. He was a little man indeed, for he was not more than two feet high. He was dressed in brown clothes and wore a peaked cap, and he must have been pretty old, for he had a full white beard. Although otherwise warmly clad, he wore on his feet only shoes and no stockings and came hopping along through the deep snow as if his feet were very cold.
When he saw this little old man, Jules said never a word. He merely thought to himself: "This is some sort of a fairy-man."
But the little old person came close to Jules, and drawing up one foot, as if it was so cold that he could stand on it no longer, he said:
"Please, sir, my feet are almost frozen."
"Oh, ho!" thought Jules, "I know all about that. This is one of the fairy-folks who come in distress to a person, and if that person is kind to them, he is made rich and happy; but if he turns them away, he soon finds himself in all sorts of misery. I shall be very careful." And then he said aloud: "Well, sir, what can I do for you?"
"That is a strange question," said the dwarf. "If you were to walk by the side of a deep stream, and were to see a man sinking in the water, would you stop and ask him what you could do for him?"
"Would you like my stockings?" said Jules, putting down his knife and sausage, and preparing to pull off one of his boots. "I will let you have them."
"No, no!" said the other. "They are miles too big for me."
"Will you have my cap or my scarf in which to wrap your feet and warm them?"
"No, no!" said the dwarf. "I don't put my feet in caps and scarfs."
"Well, tell me what you would like," said Jules. "Shall I make a fire?"
"No, I will not tell you," said the fairy-man. "You have kept me standing here long enough."
Jules could not see what this had to do with it. He was getting very anxious. If he were only a quick-witted fellow, so as to think of exactly the right thing to do, he might make his fortune. But he could think of nothing more.
"I wish, sir, that you would tell me just what you would like for your cold feet," said Jules, in an entreating tone, "for I shall be very glad to give it to you, if it is at all possible."
"If your ax were half as dull as your brain," said the dwarf, "you would not cut much wood. Good-day!"—and he skipped away behind the wood-pile.
Jules jumped up and looked after him, but he was gone. These fairy-people have a strange way of disappearing.
Jules was not married and had no home of his own. He lived with a good couple who had a little house and an only daughter, and that was about the sum of their possessions. The money Jules paid for his living helped them a little, and they managed to get along. But they were quite poor.
Jules was not poor. He had no one but himself to support, and he had laid by a sum of money for himself when he should be too old to work.
But you never saw a man so disappointed as he was that evening as he sat by the fire after supper.
He had told the family all about his meeting with the dwarf, and lamented again and again that he had lost such a capital chance of making his fortune.
"If I only could have thought what it was best to do!" he said, again and again.
"I know what I should have done," said Selma, the only daughter of the poor couple, a girl about eleven years old.
"What?" asked Jules, eagerly.
"I should have just snatched the little fellow up, and rubbed his feet and wrapped them in my shawl until they were warm," said she.
"But he would not have liked that," said Jules. "He was an old man and very particular."
"I would not care," said Selma; "I wouldn't let such a little fellow stand suffering in the snow, and I wouldn't care how old he was."
"I hope you'll never meet any of these fairy-people," said Jules. "You'd drive them out of the country with your roughness, and we might all whistle for our fortunes."
Selma laughed and said no more about it.
Every day after that, Jules looked for the dwarf-man, but he did not see him again. Selma looked for him, too, for her curiosity had been much excited; but as she was not allowed to go to the woods in the winter, of course she never saw him.
But, at last, summer came; and, one day, as she was walking by a little stream which ran through the woods, whom should she see, sitting on the bank, but the dwarf-man! She knew him in an instant, from Jules' descriptions. He was busily engaged in fishing, but he did not fish like any one else in the world. He had a short pole, which was floating in the water, and in his hand he held a string which was fastened to one end of the pole.
When Selma saw what the old fellow was doing, she burst out laughing. She knew it was not very polite, but she could not help it.
"What's the matter?" said he, turning quickly toward her.
"I'm sorry I laughed at you, sir," said Selma, "but that's no way to fish."
"Much you know about it," said the dwarf. "This is the only way to fish. You let your pole float, with a piece of bait on a hook fastened to the big end of the pole. Then you fasten a line to the little end. When a fish bites, you haul in the pole by means of the string."
"Have you caught anything yet?" asked Selma.
"No, not yet," replied the dwarf.
"Well, I'm sure I can fish better than that. Would you mind letting me try a little while?"
"Not at all—not at all!" said the dwarf, handing the line to Selma. "If you think you can fish better than I can, do it by all means."
Selma took the line and pulled in the pole. Then she unfastened the hook and bait which was on the end of the pole, and tied it to the end of the line, with a little piece of stone for a sinker. She then took up the pole, threw in the line, and fished like common people. In less than a minute she had a bite, and, giving a jerk, she drew out a fat little fish as long as her hand.
"Hurrah!" cried the little old man, giving a skip in the air; and then, turning away from the stream, he shouted, "Come here!"
Selma turned around to see whom he was calling to, and she perceived another gnome, who was running toward them. When he came near, she saw that he was much younger than the fisher-gnome.
"Hello!" cried the old fellow, "I've caught one."
Selma was amazed to hear this. She looked at the old gnome, who was taking the fish off the hook, as if she were astonished that he could tell such a falsehood.
"What is this other person's name?" said she to him.
"His name," said the old gnome, looking up, "is Class 60, H."
"Is that all the name he has?" asked Selma, in surprise.
"Yes. And it is a very good name. It shows just who and what he is."
"Well, then, Mr. Class 60, H," said Selma, "that old—person did not catch the fish. I caught it myself."
"Very good! Very good!" said Class 60, H, laughing and clapping his hands. "Capital! See here!" said he, addressing the older dwarf, and he knelt down and whispered something in his ear.
"Certainly," said the old gnome. "That's just what I was thinking of. Will you mention it to her? I must hurry and show this fish while it is fresh,"—and, so saying, he walked rapidly away with the little fish, and the pole and tackle.
"My dear Miss," said Class 60, H, approaching Selma, "would you like to visit the home of the gnomes,—to call, in fact, on the Queen Dowager of all the Gnomes?"
"Go down underground, where you live?" asked Selma. "Would it be safe down there, and when could I get back again?"
"Safe, dear miss? Oh, perfectly so! And the trip will not take you more than a couple of hours. I assure you that you will be back in plenty of time for supper. Will you go, if I send a trusty messenger for you? You may never have another chance to see our country."
Selma thought that this was very probable, and she began to consider the matter.
As soon as Class 60, H, saw that she was really trying to make up her mind whether or not to go, he cried out:
"Good! I see you have determined to go. Wait here five minutes and the messenger will be with you," and then he rushed off as fast as he could run.
"I didn't say I would go," thought Selma, "but I guess I will."
In a very few minutes, Selma heard a deep voice behind her say: "Well, are you ready?"
Turning suddenly, she saw, standing close to her, a great black bear!
Frightened dreadfully, she turned to run, but the bear called out: "Stop! You needn't be frightened. I'm tame."
The surprise of hearing a bear speak overcame poor Selma's terror; she stopped, and looked around.
"Come back," said the bear; "I will not hurt you in the least. I am sent to take you to the Queen Dowager of the Gnomes. I don't mind your being frightened at me. I'm used to it. But I am getting a little tired of telling folks that I am tame," and he yawned wearily.
"You are to take me?" said Selma, still a little frightened, and very certain that, if she had known a bear was to be sent for her, she never would have consented to go.
"Yes," said the bear. "You can get on my back and I will give you a nice ride. Come on! Don't keep me waiting, please."
There was nothing to be done but to obey, for Selma did not care to have a dispute with a bear, even if he were tame, and so she got upon his back, where she had a very comfortable seat, holding fast to his long hair.
The bear walked slowly but steadily into the very heart of the forest, among the great trees and the rocks. It was so lonely and solemn here that Selma felt afraid again.
"Suppose we were to meet with robbers," said she.
"Robbers!" said the bear, with a laugh. "That's good! Robbers, indeed! You needn't be afraid of robbers. If we were to meet any of them, you would be the last person they'd ever meet."
"Why?" asked Selma.
"I'd tear 'em all into little bits," said the bear, in a tone which quite restored Selma's confidence, and made her feel very glad that she had a bear to depend upon in those lonely woods.
It was not very long before they came to an opening in a bank of earth, behind a great tree. Into this the bear walked, for it was wide enough, and so high that Selma did not even have to lower her head, as they passed in. They were now in a long winding passage, which continually seemed as if it was just coming to an end, but which turned and twisted, first one way and then another, and always kept going down and down. Before long they began to meet gnomes, who very respectfully stepped aside to let them pass. They now went through several halls and courts, cut in the earth, and, directly, the bear stopped before a door.
"You get off here," said the bear; and, when Selma had slid off his back, he rose up on his hind legs and gave a great knock with the iron knocker on the door. Then he went away.
In a moment, the door opened, and there stood a little old gnome-woman, dressed in brown, and wearing a lace cap.
"Come in!" she said; and Selma entered the room. "The Queen Dowager will see you in a few minutes," said the little old woman. "I am her housekeeper. I'll go and tell her you're here, and, meantime, it would be well for you to get your answers all ready, so as to lose no time."
Selma was about to ask what answers she meant, but the housekeeper was gone before she could say a word.
The room was a curious one. There were some little desks and stools in it, and in the center stood a great brown ball, some six or seven feet in diameter. While she was looking about at these things, a little door in the side of the ball opened, and out stepped Class 60, H.
"One thing I didn't tell you," said he, hurriedly. "I was afraid if I mentioned it you wouldn't come. The Queen Dowager wants a governess for her grandson, the Gnome Prince. Now, please don't say you can't do it, for I'm sure you'll suit exactly. The little fellow has had lots of teachers, but he wants one of a different kind now. This is the school-room. That ball is the globe where he studies his geography. It's only the under part of the countries that he has to know about, and so they are marked out on the inside of the globe. What they want now is a special teacher, and after having come here, and had the Queen Dowager notified, it wouldn't do to back out, you know."
"How old is the Prince?" asked Selma.
"About seventy-eight," said the gnome.
"Why, he's an old man," cried Selma.
"Not at all, my dear miss," said Class 60, H. "It takes a long time for us to get old. The Prince is only a small boy; if he were a human boy, he would be about five years of age. I don't look old, do I?"
"No," said Selma.
"Well, I'm three hundred and fifty-two, next Monday. And as for Class 20, P,—the old fellow you saw fishing,—he is nine hundred and sixty."
"Well, you are all dreadfully old, and you have very funny names," said Selma.
"In this part of the world," said the other, "all gnomes, except those belonging to the nobility and the royal family, are divided into classes, and lettered. This is much better than having names, for you know it is very hard to get enough names to go around, so that every one can have his own. But here comes the housekeeper," and Class 60, H, retired quickly into the hollow globe.
"Her Majesty will see you," said the housekeeper; and she conducted Selma into the next room, where, on a little throne, with a high back and rockers, sat the Queen Dowager. She seemed rather smaller than the other gnomes, and was very much wrinkled and wore spectacles. She had white hair, with little curls on each side, and was dressed in brown silk.
She looked at Selma over her spectacles.
"This is the applicant?" said she.
"Yes, this is she," said the housekeeper.
"She looks young," remarked the Queen Dowager.
"Very true," said the housekeeper, "but she cannot be any older at present."
"You are right," said Her Majesty; "we will examine her."
So saying, she took up a paper which lay on the table, and which seemed to have a lot of items written on it.
"Get ready," said she to the housekeeper, who opened a large blank-book and made ready to record Selma's answers.
The Queen Dowager read from the paper the first question:
"What are your qualifications?"
Selma, standing there before this little old queen and this little old housekeeper, was somewhat embarrassed, and a question like this did not make her feel any more at her ease. She could not think what qualifications she had. As she did not answer at once, the Queen Dowager turned to the housekeeper and said:
"Put down, 'Asked, but not given.'"
The housekeeper set that down, and then she jumped up and looked over the list of questions.
"We must be careful," said she, in a whisper, to the Queen Dowager, "what we ask her. It won't do to put all the questions to her. Suppose you try number twenty-eight?"
"All right," said Her Majesty; and, when the housekeeper had sat down again by her book, she addressed Selma and asked:
"Are you fond of children?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Selma.
"Good!" cried the Queen Dowager; "that is an admirable answer."
And the housekeeper nodded and smiled at Selma, as if she was very much pleased.
"'Eighty-two' would be a good one to ask next," suggested the housekeeper.
Her Majesty looked for "Eighty-two," and read it out:
"Do you like pie?"
"Very much, ma'am," said Selma.
"Capital! capital!" said Her Majesty. "That will do. I see no need of asking her any other questions. Do you?" said she, turning to the housekeeper.
"None whatever," said the other. "She answered all but one, and that one she didn't really miss."
"There is no necessity for any further bother," said the Queen Dowager. "She is engaged."
And then she arose from the throne and left the room.
"Now, my dear girl," said the housekeeper, "I will induct you into your duties. They are simple."
"But I should like to know," said Selma, "if I'm to stay here all the time. I can't leave my father and mother——"
"Oh! you wont have to do that," interrupted the housekeeper. "You will take the Prince home with you."
"Home with me?" exclaimed Selma.
"Yes. It would be impossible for you to teach him properly here. We want him taught Emergencies—that is, what to do in case of the various emergencies which may arise. Nothing of the kind ever arises down here. Everything goes on always in the usual way. But on the surface of the earth, where he will often go, when he grows up, they are very common, and you have been selected as a proper person to teach him what to do when any of them occur to him. By the way, what are your terms?"
"I don't know," said Selma. "Whatever you please."
"That will suit very well,—very well indeed," said the housekeeper. "I think you are the very person we want."
"Thank you," said Selma; and just then a door opened and the Queen Dowager put in her head.
"Is she inducted?" she asked.
"Yes," said the housekeeper.
"Then here is the Prince," said the Queen Dowager, entering the room and leading by the hand a young gnome about a foot high. He had on a ruffled jacket and trousers, and a little peaked cap. His royal grandmother led him to Selma.
"You will take him," she said, "for a session of ten months. At the end of that time we shall expect him to be thoroughly posted in emergencies. While he is away, he will drop all his royal titles and be known as Class 81, Q. His parents and I have taken leave of him. Good-bye!"
And she left the room, with her little handkerchief to her eyes.
"Now, then," said the housekeeper, "the sooner you are off, the better. The bear is waiting."
So saying, she hurried Selma and the Prince through the school-room, and, when they opened the door, there stood the bear, all ready. Selma mounted him, and the housekeeper handed up the Prince, first kissing him good-bye. Then off they started.
The Prince, or, as he must now be called, Class 81, Q, was a very quiet and somewhat bashful little fellow; and, although Selma talked a good deal to him, on the way, he did not say much. The bear carried them to the edge of the woods, and then Selma took the little fellow in her arms and ran home with him.
It may well be supposed that the appearance of their daughter with the young gnome in her arms greatly astonished the worthy cottagers, and they were still more astonished when they heard her story.
"You must do your best, my dear," said her mother, "and this may prove a very good thing for you, as well as for this little master here."
Selma promised to do as well as she could, and her father said he would try and think of some good emergencies, so that the little fellow could be well trained.
Everybody seemed to be highly satisfied, even Class 81, Q, himself, who sat cross-legged on a wooden chair surveying everything about him; but when Jules Vatermann came home, he was very much dissatisfied, indeed.
"Confound it!" he said, when he heard the story. "I should have done all this. That should have been my pupil, and the good luck should have been mine. The gnome-man came first to me, and, if he had waited a minute, I should have thought of the right thing to do. I could teach that youngster far better than you, Selma. What do you know about emergencies?"
Selma and her parents said nothing. Jules had been quite cross-grained since the twenty-fifth of January, when he had met the gnome, and they had learned to pay but little attention to his fault-finding and complaining.
The little gnome soon became quite at home in the cottage, and grew very much attached to Selma. He was quiet, but sensible and bright, and knew a great deal more than most children of five. Selma did not have many opportunities to educate him in her peculiar branch. Very commonplace things generally happened in the cottage.
One day, however, the young gnome was playing with the cat, and began to pull his tail. The cat, not liking this, began to scratch Class 81, Q. At this, the little fellow cried and yelled, while the cat scratched all the more fiercely. But Selma, who ran into the room on hearing the noise, was equal to the emergency. She called out, instantly:
"Let go of his tail!"
The gnome let go, and the cat bounded away.
The lesson of this incident was then carefully impressed on her pupil's mind by Selma, who now thought that she had at last begun to do her duty by him.
A day or two after this, Selma was sent by her mother on an errand to the nearest village. As it would be dark before she returned, she did not take the little gnome with her. About sunset, when Jules Vatermann returned from his work, he found the youngster playing by himself in the kitchen.
Instantly, a wicked thought rushed into the mind of Jules. Snatching up the young gnome, he ran off with him as fast as he could go. As he ran, he thought to himself:
"Now is my chance. I know what to do, this time. I'll just keep this young rascal and make his people pay me a pretty sum for his ransom. I'll take him to the city, where the gnomes never go, and leave him there, in safe hands, while I come back and make terms. Good for you, at last, Jules!"
So, on he hurried, as fast as he could go. The road soon led him into a wood, and he had to go more slowly. Poor little Class 81, Q, cried and besought Jules to let him go, but the hard-hearted wood-cutter paid no attention to his distress.
Suddenly, Jules stopped. He heard something, and then he saw something. He began to tremble. A great bear was coming along the road, directly toward him!
What should he do? He could not meet that dreadful creature. He hesitated but a moment. The bear was now quite near, and, at the first growl it gave, Jules dropped the young gnome, and turned and ran away at the top of his speed. The bear started to run after him, not noticing little Class 81, Q, who was standing in the road; but as he passed the little fellow, who had never seen any bear except the tame one which belonged to the gnomes, and who thought this animal was his old friend, he seized him by the long hair on his legs and began to climb up on his back.
The bear, feeling some strange creature on him, stopped and looked back. The moment the young gnome saw the fiery eyes and the glittering teeth of the beast, he knew that he had made a mistake; this was no tame bear.
The savage beast growled, and, reaching back as far as he could, snapped at the little fellow on his back, who quickly got over on the other side. Then the bear reached back on that side, and Class 81, Q, was obliged to slip over again. The bear became very angry, and turned around and around in his efforts to get at the young gnome, who was nearly frightened to death. He could not think what in the world he should do. He could only remember that, in a great emergency,—but not quite as bad a one as this,—his teacher had come to his aid with the counsel, "Let go of his tail." He would gladly let go of the bear's tail, but the bear had none—at least, none that he could see. So what was he to do? "Let go of his tail!" cried the poor little fellow, to himself. "Oh, if he only had a tail!"
Before long, the bear himself began to be frightened. This was something entirely out of the common run of things. Never before in his life had he met with a little creature who stuck to him like that. He did not know what might happen next, and so he ran as hard as he could go toward his cave. Perhaps his wife, the old mother-bear, might be able to get this thing off. Away he dashed, and, turning sharply around a corner, little Class 81, Q, was jolted off, and was glad enough to find himself on the ground, with the bear running away through the woods.
The little fellow rubbed his knees and elbows, and, finding that he was not at all hurt, set off to find the cottage of his friend Selma, as well as he could. He had no idea which way to go, for the bear had turned around and around so often that he had become quite bewildered. However, he resolved to trudge along, hoping to meet some one who could tell him how to go back to Selma.
After a while, the moon rose, and then he could see a little better; but it was still quite dark in the woods, and he was beginning to be very tired, when he heard a noise as if some one was talking. He went toward the voice, and soon saw a man sitting on a rock by the road-side.
When he came nearer, he saw that the man was Jules, who was wailing and moaning and upbraiding himself.
"Ah me!" said the conscience-stricken wood-cutter, "Ah me! I am a wretch indeed. I have given myself up into the power of the Evil One. Not only did I steal that child from his home, and from the good people who have always befriended me, but I have left him to be devoured by a wild beast of the forest. Whatever shall I do? Satan himself has got me in his power, through my own covetousness and greed. How—oh! how—can I ever get away from him?"
The little gnome had now approached quite close to Jules, and, running up to him, he said:
"Let go of his tail!"
If the advice was good for him in an emergency, it might be good for others.
Jules started to his feet and stood staring at the youngster he had thought devoured.
"Whoever would have supposed," said he, at last, "that a little heathen midget like that, born underground, like a mole, would ever come to me and tell me my Christian duty. And he's right, too. Satan would never have got hold of me if I hadn't been holding to him all these months, hoping to get some good by it. I'll do it, my boy. I'll let go of his tail, now and forever." And, without thinking to ask Class 81, Q, how he got away from the bear, he took him up in his arms and ran home as fast as he could go.
During the rest of the young gnome's stay with Selma, he had several other good bits of advice in regard to emergencies, but none that was of such general application as this counsel to let go of a cat's tail, or the tail of anything else that was giving him trouble.
At the expiration of the session, the Queen Dowager was charmed with the improvement in her grandson. Having examined him in regard to his studies, she felt sure that he was now perfectly able to take care of himself in any emergency that might occur to him.
On the morning after he left, Selma, when she awoke, saw lying on the floor the little jacket and trousers of her late pupil. At first, she thought it was the little fellow himself; but when she jumped up and took hold of the clothes, she could not move them. They were filled with gold.
This was the pay for the tuition of Class 81, Q.
BY SARA KEABLES HUNT.
I'm such an unfortunate dog, oh, dear! To leave my nap and the sunshine clear, And down in the cellar—the cold dark place— I must turn my steps and sorrowful face, And begin the daily churning.
To be sure, I've enough to eat, you know, And I can rest while the men must mow; But oh! how I'd like to hide away When I hear them come to the door and say: "It's time for the dog to be churning!"
So here I tread, and the wheel goes round, And the dasher comes down with a weary sound; But after awhile the butter is done, Then off I go to some richer fun Than this weary, dreary churning.
There's a lesson, though, in this work of mine, That thou, little one, may'st take to be thine: We each have our duties, both great and small, And, if we want butter for bread at all, Some one must do the churning.
And then, again, I think that this life, With its tread-mill of duties, joy and strife, Is like to a churn. Press on! Press on! For by and by the work will be done,— With no more need of churning.
THE MOON, FROM A FROG'S POINT OF VIEW.
BY FLETA FORRESTER.
Miss Frog sat, in the cool of the evening, under a plantain-leaf, by the side of her blue and placid lake.
The day had been excessively warm, and so, as she sat, she gracefully waved, backward and forward, one of her delicate web feet.
It was a beautiful, natural fan, and served, admirably, the purpose intended.
Around Miss Frog arose the varied warble of other frogs. The little polliwogs had all been put to bed; and now, came stealing on, the season for silent thoughts. Always anxious to improve her mind, Miss Frog gazed about her to find a subject on which to fasten her attention.
She had been once sent to a southern lake to finish her education, and was really quite superior to ordinary frogs.
"There is no one here, in this mud-hole, to appreciate me," she regretfully sighed, as two silly frogs passed her leaf, flirting so hard that neither of them observed her.
She drew around her her shawl of lace, made from the finest cobwebs of Florida—and sulked.
Just then arose the moon, taking its solitary, silvery way across the sky.
Her attention was arrested at once.
"How like to a polliwog it is!" she rapturously exclaimed, "save that it lacks a tail."
"And a glorified polliwog it is, daughter of the water!" croaked a sudden hoarse voice beside her.
She hopped with fright, and gasped as if about to faint; but calmed herself again as she recognized the tones of the rough-skinned Sage of the Frogs, who dwells alone in some remote corner of the lake. He it is who always sings, "Kerdunk!" when he condescends to sing at all.
This learned hermit, after clearing his throat repeatedly, thus explained himself:
"There is a legend, connected with our race, that runs in this wise:"
* * * * *
Upon a time, in a certain valley, where once flowed a considerable stream, the waters suddenly failed and the stream died away.
Upon the unfortunate frogs who dwelt there, in vast numbers, the hot summer sun shone its fiercest rays unhindered.
* * * * *
"Dreadful!" piped Miss Frog.
"Yes, it did!" said the Sage, reproachfully, "and if you wish to hear this story, you must be careful not to interrupt me again, thoughtless girl!"
As Miss Frog was very desirous, indeed, of hearing the story, she remained quiet, and the hermit frog continued:
* * * * *
The waters dried away, and hundreds of wretched frogs died on those scorching fields. Dying fishes gasped with their last breath for a drop of cool water, and joined their wails to those of our suffering kindred.
At length, one old trout, who had held out to the last, confessed:
"Miserable I! and wicked! I have caused this drouth! And now I have no power to remedy the evil I have done!"
At this, all of the frogs who were not yet dead gathered around the tough old trout, and listened to his words.
"That was an evil day," gasped the speckled sinner, "when I poked my nose out of water to dare a saucy kingfisher, who was mocking the whole fish tribe in his usual dashing manner. 'Catch me, if you can!' I cried, darting about at my ease.
"But the bird beguiled me. He made me believe that, if I would only work a little hole through that dam there, I could descend with the escaping waters to the stream below, and make my way to the sea, where, as I heard, the fishes were all kings, and ate nothing but diamonds for dinner.
"I enticed all the trout that I could influence to assist me, and we wriggled and wriggled our noses into the gravel for a long time, apparently to no purpose.
"But, at last, a little leak started, and our water dripped away, drop by drop; but not in sufficient volume to carry us with it.
"When the waters had receded, so as to make the stream very low, back came that artful kingfisher, to dive for us in the shallow pools.
"And now, what the drouth had not destroyed that tempter has gorged himself upon.
The frogs freely forgave him because he cried.
But the problem remained, how was the supply of water to be renewed.
At this juncture, an earnest, meek-eyed polliwog flopped feebly, and said: "Show me the place where these waters leak away."
Astonished at her manner, the sobbing trout indicated the spot.
"Drag me thither by my tail!" exclaimed the heroine, resolutely.
Then the frogs used their last remaining strength to do as she bade them, and waited, in exhausted surprise, to see what would happen next.
"Good-bye!" wept the brave little polliwog, wriggling with feeling, and groaning some. "If any of you survive me, tell it to your children that I laid myself in the breach!"
With these few farewell words she crowded herself into the hole, out of their sight.
Presently, the stream began to rise and the pools to fill up. The frogs sat knee-deep in water, and the fishes swam upon their sides.
Day by day things improved, and the fishes began to sit up in bed, while the frogs were heard incessantly blessing the little polliwog. One night, she appeared to them in the sky, as you see her to-night; returning nightly, for many nights, to beam at them; growing larger and brighter at every appearance.
* * * * *
"Such," said the Sage, concluding, "is our Legend of the Moon!" And he leaped into the waves with a resounding plump!
Miss Frog felt so many different sensations at once that she dropped her lower jaw involuntarily, and sat so, unconscious of aught until awakened from her reverie by a cricket jumping suddenly into her throat.
Hastily gulping him down, she gathered her shawl about her, and, with a spring, sprawled graciously toward her wave.
DAB KINZER: A STORY OF A GROWING BOY.
BY WILLIAM O. STODDARD.
Ham Morris was a thoughtful and kind-hearted fellow, beyond a doubt, and a valuable friend for a growing boy like Dab Kinzer. It is not everybody's brother-in-law who would find time, during his wedding trip, to hunt up even so very pretty a New England village as Grantley, and inquire into questions of board and lodging and schooling.
Mrs. Myers, to the hospitalities of whose cool and roomy-looking boarding-house Ham had been commended by Mr. Hart, was so crowded with "summer boarders," liberally advertised for in the great city, that she hardly had a corner for Ham and his bride. She was glad enough that she had made the effort to find one, however, when she learned what was the nature of the stranger's business. There was a look of undisguised astonishment on the faces of the regular guests, all around, when they gathered for the next meal. It happened to be supper, but they all looked at the table and then at one another; and it was a pity Ham and Miranda did not understand those glances, or make a longer visit. They might have learned more about Mrs. Myers if not the Academy. As it was, they only gained a very high opinion of her cookery and hospitality, as well as an increase of respect for the "institution of learning," and for that excellent gentleman, Mr. Hart, with a dim hope that Dabney Kinzer might enjoy the inestimable advantages offered by Grantley and Mrs. Myers, and the society of Mr. Hart's two wonderful boys.
Miranda was inclined to stand up for her brother, somewhat, but finally agreed with Ham that—
"What Dabney needs is schooling and polish, my dear. It'll be good for him to board in the same house with two such complete young gentlemen."
"Of course, Ham. And then he'll be sure of having plenty to eat. There was almost too much on the table."
"Not if the boarders had all been boys of Dab's age and appetite. Mrs. Myers is evidently accustomed to them, I should say."
So she was, indeed, as all the summer boarders were ready to testify at the next morning's breakfast-table. There was one thing, among others, that Mrs. Myers failed to tell Mr. and Mrs. Morris. She forgot to say that the house she lived in, with the outlying farm belonging to it and nearly all the things in it, were the property of Mr. Joseph Hart, having cost that gentleman very little more than a sharp lawsuit. Neither did she say a word about how long or short a time Mr. Hart had given her to pay him his price for it. All that would have been none of Ham's business or Miranda's. Still, it might have had its importance.
So it might, if either or both of them could have been at the breakfast-table of the Hart homestead the morning after Annie Foster's sudden departure. The table was there with the breakfast things on it, and husband and wife, one at either end, as usual; but the side-seats were vacant.
"Where are Joe and Foster, Maria?" asked Mr. Hart.
"Gone on some errand of their own, I think. Something about Annie."
"About Annie! Look here, Maria, if Annie can't take a joke——"
"So I say," began his wife; but just then a loud voice sounded in the entry, and the two boys came in and took their places at the table. In a moment more "Fuz" whispered to his brother:
"I'm glad Annie's gone, for one. She was too stiff and steep for any kind of comfort."
"Boys," said Mr. Hart, observing them, "what have you been up to now? I'm afraid there wont be much comfort for anybody till you fellows get back to Grantley."
"Well," replied Joe, "so we didn't have to board at Mother Myers', I wouldn't care how soon we go."
"Well, your cousin is sure to go, and I'm almost certain of another boy besides the missionary's son. That'll fill up Mrs. Myers' house, and you can board somewhere else."
"Hurrah for that!" exclaimed the young gentleman whose name, from that of his lawyer relative, had been shortened to mere "Fuz." And yet they were not so bad-looking a pair, as boys go. The elder, Joe,—a loud, hoarse-voiced, black-eyed boy of seventeen,—was, nevertheless, not much taller than his younger brother. The latter was as dark in eyes and hair as Joe, but paler, and with a sidewise glance of his unpleasant eyes, which suggested a perpetual state of inquiry whether anybody else had anything he wanted. The two boys were the very sort to play the meanest kind of practical jokes, and yet there was something of a resemblance between their mother and her sister, the mother of Ford and Annie Foster. There's really no accounting for some things, and the two Hart boys were, as yet, among the unaccountables.
Not one of that whole list of boys, however, inland or on the sea-shore, had any notion whatever of what things the future was getting ready for them. Dab Kinzer and Ford Foster, particularly, had no idea that the world contained such a place as Grantley, or such a landlady as Mrs. Myers.
As for Dabney, it would hardly be fair to leave him standing there any longer, with his two strings of fish in his hands, while Ford Foster volubly narrated the stirring events of the day.
"Are you sure the black boy was not hurt, Ford?" asked his kind-hearted mother.
"Hurt, mother? Why, he seems to be a kind of fish. They all know him, and went right past my hook to his all the while."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Foster, "I forgot. Annie, this is Ford's friend, Dabney Kinzer, our neighbor."
"Wont you shake hands with me, Mr. Kinzer?" asked Annie, with a malicious twinkle of fun in her merry blue eyes.
Poor Dabney! He had been in quite a "state of mind" for at least three minutes; but he would hardly have been his own mother's son if he had let himself be entirely "posed." Up rose his long right arm with the heavy string of fish at the end of it, and Annie's fun burst out into a musical laugh, just as her brother exclaimed:
"There, now, I'd like to see the other boy of your size can do that. Look here, Dab, where'd you get your training?"
"I mustn't drop the fish, you see," began Dab, but Ford interrupted him with:
"No, indeed. You've given me half I've got, as it is. Annie, have you looked at the crabs? You ought to have seen Dick Lee with a lot of 'em gripping in his hair."
"In his hair?"
"When he was down through the bottom of his boat. They'd have eaten him up if they'd had a chance. You see he's no shell on him."
"Exactly," said Annie, as Dab lowered his fish. "Well, Dabney, I wish you would thank your mother for sending my trunk over. Your sisters, too. I've no doubt we shall be very neighborly."
It was wonderfully pleasant to be called by his first name, and yet it seemed to bring something into Dabney Kinzer's throat.
"She considers me a boy, and she means I'd better take my fish home," was the thought which came to him, and he was right to a fraction. So the great lump in his throat took a very wayward and boyish form, and came out as a reply, accompanied by a low bow.
"I will, thank you. Good afternoon, Mrs. Foster. I'll see you to-night, Ford, about Monday and the yacht. Good afternoon, Annie."
And then he marched out with his fish.
"Mother, did you hear him call me 'Annie?'"
"Yes; and I heard you call him 'Dabney.'"
"But he's only a boy——"
"I don't care!" exclaimed Ford, "he's an odd fellow, but he's a good one. Did you see how wonderfully strong he is in his arms? I couldn't lift those fish at arm's length to save my life."
It was quite likely that Dab Kinzer's rowing, and all that sort of thing, had developed more strength of muscle than even he himself was aware of; but, for all that, he went home with his very ears tingling, "Could she have thought me ill-bred or impertinent?" he muttered to himself.
Poor Dab Kinzer! Annie Foster had so much else to think of, just then, for she was compelled to go over, for Ford's benefit, the whole story of her tribulations at her uncle's, and the many rudenesses of Joe Hart and his brother Fuz.
"They ought to be drowned," said Ford.
"In ink," added Annie; "just as they drowned my poor cuffs and collars."
"Look at Dabney Kinzer," whispered Jenny Walters to her mother, in church, the next morning. "Did you ever see anybody's hair as smooth as that?"
And smooth it was, certainly; and he looked, all over, as if he had given all the care in the world to his personal appearance. How was Annie Foster to guess that he had got himself up so unusually on her account? She did not guess it; but when she met him at the church door, after service, she was careful to address him as "Mr. Kinzer," and that made poor Dabney blush to his very eyes.
"There!" he exclaimed; "I know it."
"Know what?" asked Annie.
"Know what you're thinking."
"Do you, indeed?"
"Yes, you think I'm like the crabs."
"What do you mean?"
"You think I was green enough till you spoke to me, and now I'm boiled red in the face."
Annie could not help laughing,—a little, quiet, Sunday morning sort of a laugh,—but she was beginning to think her brother's friend was not a bad specimen of a Long Island "country boy." Ford, indeed, had come home, the previous evening, from a long conference with Dab, brimful of the proposed yachting cruise, and his father had freely given his consent, much against the will of Mrs. Foster.
"My dear," said the lawyer, "I feel sure a woman of Mrs. Kinzer's good sense would not permit her son to go out in that way if she did not feel safe about him. He's been brought up to it, you know, and so has the colored boy who is to go with them."
"Yes, mother," argued Ford, "there isn't half the danger there is in driving around New York in a carriage."
"There might be a storm."
"The horses might run away."
"Or you might upset."
"So might a carriage."
But the end of it all was that Ford was to go, and Annie was more than half sorry she could not go with him. She said so to Dabney, as soon as her little laugh was ended, that Sunday morning.
"Some time or other, I'd be glad to have you," replied Dab, "but not this trip."
"We mean to go right across the bay and try some fishing."
"Couldn't I fish?"
"Well, no. I don't think you could."
"Why couldn't I?"
"Because,—well, because you'd most likely be too sea-sick by the time we got there."
Just then a low, clear voice, behind Dabney, quietly remarked: "How smooth his hair is!" And Dab's face turned red again. Annie Foster heard it as distinctly as he did, and she walked right away with her mother, for fear she should laugh again.
"It's my own hair, Jenny Walters," said Dab, almost savagely.
"I should hope it was."
"I should like to know what you go to church for, anyhow?"
"To hear people talk about sailing and fishing. How much do you s'pose a young lady like Miss Foster cares about small boys?"
"Or little girls either? Not much; but Annie and I mean to have a good sail before long."
"Annie and I!"
Jenny's pert little nose seemed to turn up more than ever as she walked away, for she had not beaten her old playfellow quite as badly as usual. There were several sharp things on the very tip of her tongue, but she was too much put out and vexed to try to say them just then. As for Dabney, a "sail" was not so wonderful a thing for him, and that Sunday was therefore a good deal like all others; but Ford Foster's mind was in a sort of turmoil all day. In fact, just after tea, that evening, his father asked him:
"What book is that you are reading, Ford?"
"Captain Cook's 'Voyages.'"
"And the other in your lap?"
"Well, you might have worse books than they are, even for Sunday, that's a fact, though you ought to have better; but which of them do you and Dabney Kinzer mean to imitate to-morrow?"
"Crusoe," promptly responded Ford.
"I see. And so you've got Dick Lee to go along as your Man-Friday."
"He's Dab's man, not mine."
"Oh, and you mean to be Crusoe number two? Well, don't get cast away on too desolate an island, that's all."
Ford slipped into the library and put the books away. It had been Samantha Kinzer's room, and had plenty of shelves, in addition to the very elegant "cases" Mr. Foster had brought from the city with him.
The next morning, within half an hour after breakfast, every member of the two families was down at the landing to see their young sailors make their start, and they were all compelled to admit that Dab and Dick seemed to know precisely what they were about. As for Ford, that young gentleman was wise enough, with all those eyes watching him, not to try anything he was not sure of, though he explained that "Dab is captain, Annie, you know. I'm under his orders to-day."
Dick Lee was hardly the wisest fellow in the world, for he added, very encouragingly: "An' you's doin' tip-top for a green hand, you is."
The wind was blowing right off shore, and did not seem to promise anything more than a smart breeze. It was easy enough to handle the little craft in the inlet, and in a marvelously short time she was dancing out upon the blue waves of the spreading "bay." It was a good deal more like a land-locked "sound" than any sort of a bay, with that long, low, narrow sand-island cutting it off from the ocean.
"I don't wonder Ham Morris called her the 'Swallow,'" remarked Ford. "How she skims! Can you get in under the deck, there, forward? That's the cabin?"
"Yes, that's the cabin," replied Dab; "but Ham had the door put in with a slide, water-tight. It's fitted with rubber. We can put our things in there, but it's too small for anything else."
"What's it made so tight for?"
"Oh, Ham says he's made his yacht a life-boat. Those places at the sides and under the seats are all air-tight. She might capsize, but she'd never sink. Don't you see?"
"I see. How it blows!"
"It's a little fresh. How'd you like to be wrecked?"
"Good fun," said Ford. "I got wrecked on the cars the other day."
"On the cars?"
"Why, yes. I forgot to tell you about that."
And then followed a very vivid and graphic description of the sad fate of the pig and the locomotive. The wonder was how Ford should have failed to tell it before. No such failure would have been possible if his head and tongue had not been so wonderfully busy about so many other things ever since his arrival.
"I'm glad it was I instead of Annie," he said, at length.
"Of course. Didn't you tell me your sister came through all alone?"
"Yes; she ran away from those cousins of mine. Oh, wont I pay them off when I get to Grantley!"
"Where's that? What did they do?"
The "Swallow" was flying along nicely now, with Dab at the tiller and Dick Lee tending sail, and Dab could listen with all his ears to Ford Foster's account of his sister's tribulations.
"Aint they older and bigger than you?" asked Dabney, as Ford closed his recital. "What can you do with two of 'em?"
"They can't box worth a cent, and I can. Anyhow, I mean to teach them better manners."
"You can box?"
"Had a splendid teacher."
"Will you show me how, when we get back?"
"We can practice all we choose. I've two pair of gloves."
"Hurrah for that! Ease her, Dick! It's blowing pretty fresh. We'll have a tough time tacking home against such a breeze as this. May be it'll change before night."
"Capt'in Dab," calmly remarked Dick, "we's on'y a mile to run."
"Well, what of it?"
"Is you goin' fo' de inlet?"
"Of course. What else can we do? That's what we started for."
"Looks kind o' dirty, dat's all."
So far as Ford could see, both the sky and the water looked clean enough, but Dick was right about the weather. In fact, if Captain Dabney Kinzer had been a more experienced and prudent seaman, he would have kept the "Swallow" inside the bar, that day, at any risk of Ford Foster's good opinion. As it was, even Dick Lee's keen eyes hardly comprehended how threatening was the foggy haze that was lying low on the water, miles and miles away to seaward.
It was magnificently exciting fun, at all events, and the "Swallow" fully merited all that had been said in her favor. The "mile to run" was a very short one, and it seemed to Ford Foster that the end of it would bring them up high and dry on the sandy beach.
The narrow "strait" of the inlet was hardly visible at any considerable distance. It opened to view, however, as they drew near, and Dab Kinzer rose higher than ever in his friend's good opinion as the swift little vessel shot unerringly into the contracted channel.
"Pretty near where we're to try our fishing, aint we?" he asked.
"Just outside, there. Get ready, Dick. Sharp now!"
And then, in another minute, the white sails were down, jib and main, the "Swallow" was drifting along under "bare poles," and Dick Lee and Ford were waiting for orders to drop the grapnel.
Over went the iron.
"Now for some weak-fish. It's about three fathoms, and the tide's near the turn."
Alas for human calculations! The grapnel caught on the bottom, surely and firmly; but the moment there came any strain on the seemingly stout hawser that held it, the latter parted like a thread, and the "Swallow" was adrift!
"Somebody's done gone cut dat rope!" shouted Dick, as he caught up the treacherous bit of hemp.
There was an anxious look on Dab's face for a moment, as he shouted: "Sharp now, boys, or we'll be rolling in the surf in three minutes! Haul away, Dick! Haul with him, Ford! Up with her! There, that'll give us headway."
Ford Foster looked out to seaward, even as he hauled his best on the sail halliards. All along the line of the coast, at distances varying from a hundred yards or so to nearly a mile, there was an irregular line of foaming breakers. An awful thing for a boat like the "Swallow" to run into.
Perhaps; but ten times worse for a larger craft, for the latter would be shattered on the shoals where the bit of a yacht would find plenty of water under her, if she did not at the same time find too much over her.
"Can't we go back through the inlet in the bar?" asked Ford.
"Not with this wind in our teeth, and it's getting worse every minute. No more will it do to try and keep inside the surf."
"What can we do, then?"
"Take the smoothest places and run 'em. The sea isn't very rough outside. It's our only chance."
Poor Ford Foster's heart sank within him, but he saw a resolute look on "Captain Kinzer's" face which gave him a little confidence, and he turned to look at the surf. The only way for the "Swallow" to penetrate that dangerous barrier of broken water was to "take it nose on," as Dick Lee expressed it, and that was clearly what Dab Kinzer intended.
There were places of comparative smoothness, here and there, in the foaming and plunging line, but they were bad enough, at the best, and would have been a great deal worse but for that stiff breeze off shore.
Bows foremost, full sail, rising like a cork on the long, strong billows, which would have rolled her over and over if she had not been really so skillfully handled,—once or twice pitching dangerously, and shipping water enough to wet her brave young mariners to the skin, and call for vigorous baling afterward,—the "Swallow" battled gallantly with her danger for a few minutes, and then Dab Kinzer shouted:
"Hurrah, boys! We're out at sea!"
"Dat's so," said Dick.
"So it is," remarked Ford, a little gloomily; "but how will we ever get ashore again?"
"Well," replied Dab, "if it doesn't come on to blow too hard, we'll run right on down the coast. If the wind lulled, or whopped around a little, we'd find our way in, easy enough, long before night. We might have a tough time beating home across the bay. Anyhow, we're safe enough now."
"How about fishing?"
"Guess we wont bother 'em much, but you might try for a blue fish. Sometimes they're capital fun, right along here."
There's no telling how many anxious people there may have been in that region, after tea-time that evening, but of two or three circles we may be reasonably sure. Good Mrs. Foster could not endure to stay at home, and her husband and Annie were very willing to go over to the Kinzers' with her, and listen to the encouraging talk of Dabney's stout-hearted and sensible mother.
"O, Mrs. Kinzer, do you think they are in any danger?"
"I hope not. I don't see why they need be, unless they try to return across the bay against this wind."
"But don't you think they'll try? Do you mean they wont be home to-night?" exclaimed Mr. Foster, himself.
"I sincerely hope not," said the widow, calmly. "I should hardly feel like trusting Dabney out in the boat again if he should do so foolish a thing."
"But where can he stay?"
"At anchor, somewhere, or on the island. Almost anywhere but tacking on the bay. He'd be really safer out at sea than trying to get home."
"Out at sea!"
There was something dreadful in the very idea of it, and Annie Foster turned pale enough when she thought of the gay little yacht, and her brother out on the broad Atlantic in it, with no better crew than Dab Kinzer and Dick Lee. Samantha and her sisters were hardly as steady about it as their mother, but they were careful to conceal their misgivings from their neighbors, which was very kindly, indeed, in the circumstances.
There was little use in trying to think or talk of anything else besides the boys, however, with the sound of the "high wind" in the trees out by the road-side, and a very anxious circle was that, up to the late hour at which the members of it separated for the night.
But there were other troubled hearts in that vicinity. Old Bill Lee himself had been out fishing, all day, with very poor luck; but he forgot all about that when he learned that Dick and his young white friends had not returned. He even pulled back to the mouth of the inlet, to see if the gathering darkness would yield him any signs of his boy. He did not know it; but, while he was gone, Dick's mother, after discussing her anxieties with some of her dark-skinned neighbors, half weepingly unlocked her one "clothes-press," and took out the suit which had been the pride of her absent son. She had never admired them half as much before, but they seemed to need a red neck-tie to set them off; and so the gorgeous result of Dick's fishing and trading came out of its hiding-place, and was arranged on the white coverlet of her own bed with the rest of his best garments.
"Jus' de t'ing for a handsome young feller like Dick," she muttered to herself:
"Wot for'd an ole woman like me want to put on any sech fool finery. He's de bestest boy in de worl', he is. Dat is, onless dar aint not'in' happened to 'im."
But if the folks on shore were uneasy about the "Swallow" and her crew, how was it with the latter themselves, as the darkness closed around them, out there upon the tossing water?
Very cool, indeed, had been Captain Dab Kinzer, and he had encouraged the others to go on with their blue-fishing, even when it was pretty tough work to keep the "Swallow" from "scudding." He was anxious not to get too far from shore, for there was no telling what sort of weather might be coming. It was curious, too, what very remarkable luck they had, or rather, Ford and Dick; for Dab would not leave the tiller a moment. Splendid fellows were those blue-fish, and work it was to pull in the heaviest of them. That's just the sort of weather they bite best in; but it is not often such young fishermen venture to take advantage of it. Only the stanchest and best-seasoned old salts of Montauk or New London would have felt altogether at home, that afternoon, in the "Swallow."
"Don't fish any more," said Dabney, at last. "You've caught ten times as many as we ever thought of catching. Whoppers, too, some of 'em."
"Biggest fishing ever I did," remarked Ford, as if that meant a great deal.
"Or mos' anybody else out dis yer way," added Dick. "I isn't 'shamed to show dem fish anywhar."
"No more I aint," said Dab; "but you're getting too tired, and so am I. We must have a good hearty lunch, and put the "Swallow" before the wind for a while. I daren't risk any more of these cross-seas. We might get pitched over any minute."
"Dat's so," said Dick. "And I's awful hungry."
The "Swallow" was well enough provisioned, not to speak of the blue-fish, and there was water enough on board for several days, if they should happen to need it; but there was very little danger of that, unless the wind should continue to be altogether against them.
It was blowing hard when the boys finished their dinner, but no harder than it had already blown, several times, that day, and the "Swallow" seemed to be putting forth her very best qualities as a "sea-boat." No immediate danger, apparently; but there was one "symptom" which Dab discerned, as he glanced around the horizon, which gave him more anxiety than either the stiff breeze or the rough sea.
The coming darkness?
No; for stars and light-houses can be seen at night, and steering is easy enough by them.
A fog is the darkest thing at sea, whether by night or day, and Dabney saw signs of one coming. Rain might come with it, but that would be of small account.
"Boys," said Dabney, "do you know we're out of sight of land at last?"
"Oh no, we're not," replied Ford, confidently; "look yonder."
"That isn't land, Ford; that's only a fog-bank, and we shall be all in the dark in ten minutes. The wind is changing, too, and I hardly know where we are."
"Look at your compass."
"That tells me the wind is changing a little, and it's going down; but I wouldn't dare to run toward the shore in a fog and in the night."
"Why? Don't you remember those breakers? Would you like to be blown through them, and not see where you were going?"
"No," said Ford. "I rather guess I wouldn't."
"Jest you let Capt'in Kinzer handle dis yer boat," almost crustily, interposed Dick Lee. "He's de on'y feller on board dat un'erstands nagivation."
"Shouldn't wonder if you're right," said Ford, good humoredly. "At all events I sha'n't interfere. But, Dab, what do you mean to do?"
"Swing a lantern at the mast-head and sail right along. You and Dick get a nap, by and by, if you can. I wont try to sleep till daylight."
"Sleep! Catch me sleeping!"
"You must, and so must Dick, when the time comes. Wont do to get all worn out together. Who'd handle the boat?"
Ford's respect for Dabney Kinzer was growing, hourly. Here was this overgrown gawk of a green country boy, just out of his roundabouts, who had never spent more than a day at a time in the great city, and never lived in any kind of a boarding-house: in fact, here was a fellow who had had no advantages whatever, coming out as a sort of a hero. Even Ford did not quite understand it, Dab was so quiet and matter-of-course about it all; and as for the youngster himself, he had no idea that he was behaving any better than any other boy could, should and would have behaved, in those very peculiar circumstances.
At all events, however, the gay and buoyant little "Swallow," with her signal-lantern swinging at her mast-head, was soon dancing away through the deepening darkness and the fog, and her steady young commander was congratulating himself that there seemed to be a good deal less of wind and sea, even if more of mist.
"I couldn't expect everything to suit me," he said to himself. "And now I hope we sha'n't run down anybody. Hullo! Isn't that a red light, though the haze, yonder?"
There was yet another "gathering" of human beings on the wind-swept surface of the Atlantic, that evening, to whose minds it had come with no small degree of anxiety. Not, perhaps, as great as that of the three families over there on the shore of the bay, or even of the boys, tossing along in their bubble of a yacht; but the officers, and not a few of the passengers and crew, of the great, iron-builded ocean steamer, were anything but easy in their minds.
Had they no pilot on board? To be sure they had, but they had, somehow, seemed to bring that fog along with them, and the captain had a half-defined suspicion that neither he nor the pilot knew exactly where they were. That is a bad condition for a great ship to be in, and that, too, so near a coast which requires good seamanship and skillful pilotage in the best of weather. Not that the captain would have confessed his doubt to the pilot, or the pilot to the captain, and that was where the real danger lay. If they could only have permitted themselves to speak of their possible peril, it would probably have disappeared.
The steamer was French and her captain a French naval officer, and very likely he and the pilot did not understand each other any too well. That speed should be lessened, under the circumstances, was a matter of course; but not to have gone on at all would have been even wiser. Not to speak of the shore they were nearing, they might be sure they were not the only craft steaming or sailing over those busy waters, and vessels have sometimes run against one another in a fog as thick as that. Something could be done in that direction, and lanterns with bright colors were freely swung out; but the fog was likely to diminish their usefulness, somewhat. None of the passengers were in a mood to go to bed, with the end of their voyage so near, and they seemed, one and all, disposed to discuss the fog. All but one, and he a boy.
A boy of about Dab Kinzer's age, slender and delicate looking, with curly, light-brown hair, blue eyes, and a complexion which would have been fair but for the traces it bore of a hotter sun than that of either France or America. He seemed to be all alone, and to be feeling very lonely, that night; and he was leaning over the rail, peering out into the mist, humming to himself a sweet, wild air, in a strange, musical tone.
Very strange. Very musical. Perhaps no such words had ever before gone out over the waves of that part of the Atlantic; for Frank Harley was a missionary's son, "going home to be educated," and the sweet, low-voiced song was a Hindustanee hymn which his mother had taught him in far-away India.
Suddenly the hymn was cut short by the hoarse voice of the look-out, as it announced: "A white light, close aboard, on the windward bow."
And that was rapidly followed by even hoarser hails, replied to by a voice which was clear and strong enough but not hoarse at all. The next moment something, which was either a white sail or a ghost, came slipping along through the fog, and then the conversation did not require to be shouted any longer. Frank could even hear one person say to another, out there in the mist: "Aint it a big thing, Ford, that you know French. I mean to study it as soon as we get home."
"It's as easy as eating. Shall I tell 'em we've got some fish?"
"Of course. Sell 'em the whole cargo."
"Sell them? Why not make them a present?"
"We may need the money to get home with. They're a splendid lot. Enough for the whole cabin full."
"Dat's a fack. Capt'in Dab Kinzer's de man for me, he is."
"How much then?"
"Twenty-five dollars for the lot. They're worth it. 'Specially if we lose Ham's boat."
Dab's philosophy was a little out of gear, but a perfect rattle of questions and answers followed, in French, and, somewhat to Frank Harley's astonishment, the bargain was promptly concluded.
How were they to get the fish on board? Nothing easier, since the little "Swallow" could run along so nicely under the stern of the great steamer, while a large basket was swung out at the end of a long, slender spar, with a pulley to lower and raise it. Even the boys from Long Island were astonished at the number and size of the prime, freshly caught blue-fish to which they were treating the passengers of the "Prudhomme," and the basket had to come and go again and again.
The steamer's steward, on his part, avowed that he had never before met so honest a lot of Yankee fishermen. Perhaps not; for high prices and short weight are apt to go together where "luxuries" are selling. The pay itself was handed out in the same basket which went for the fish.
The wind was not nearly as high as it had been, and the sea had for some time been going down.
Twenty minutes later, Frank Harley heard, for he understood French very well:
"Hallo, the boat! What are you following us for?"
"Oh, we wont run you down. Don't be alarmed. We've lost our way out here, and we're going to follow you in. Hope you know where you are."
And then there was a cackle of surprise and laughter among the steamer's officers, in which Frank and some of the passengers joined, and the saucy little "fishing-boat" came steadily on in the wake of her gigantic guide.
"This is grand for us," remarked Dab Kinzer to Ford, as he kept his eyes on the after-lantern of the "Prudhomme." "They pay all our pilot fees."
"But they're going to New York."
"So are we, if to-morrow doesn't come out clear and with a good wind to go home by."
"It's better than crossing the Atlantic in the dark, anyhow. But what a price we got for those fish!"
"They're ready to pay well for such things at the end of the voyage," said Dab. "I expected they'd try and beat us down a peg. They generally do. We only got about fair market price, after all, only we got rid of our whole catch at one sale."
Hour followed hour, and the "Swallow" followed the steamer, and the fog followed them both so densely that sometimes even Dick Lee's keen eyes could with difficulty make out the "Prudhomme's" light. And now Ford Foster ventured to take a bit of a nap, so sure did he feel that all the danger was over, and that "Captain Kinzer" was equal to what Dick Lee called the "nagivation" of that yacht. How long he had slept he could not have guessed, but he was suddenly awakened by a great cry from out the mist beyond them, and the loud exclamation of Dab Kinzer, still at the tiller:
"I believe she's run ashore!"
It was a loud cry, indeed, and there was good reason for it. Well for all on board the great French steamship that she was running no faster at the time, and that there was no hurricane of a gale to make things worse for her. Pilot and captain had both together missed their reckoning,—neither of them could ever afterward tell how,—and there they were stuck fast in the sand, with the noise of breakers ahead of them and the dense fog all around.
Frank Harley peered anxiously over the rail again, but he could not have complained that he was "wrecked in sight of shore;" for the steamer was anything but a wreck yet, and there was no such thing as a shore in sight.
"It's an hour to sunrise," said Dab to Ford, after the latter had managed to comprehend the situation. "We may as well run further in and see what we can see."
It must have been aggravating to the people on the steamer to see that cockle-shell of a yacht dancing safely along over the shoal on which their "leviathan" had struck, and to hear Ford Foster sing out: "If we'd known you meant to run in here, we'd have followed some other pilot."
"They're in no danger at all," said Dab. "If their own boats don't take 'em all ashore, the coast-wreckers will."
"The Government life-savers, I s'pose you mean?"
"Yes, they're all along here, everywhere. Hark! there goes the distress gun. Bang away! It sounds a good deal more mad than scared."
So it did, and so they really were—captain, pilot, passengers and all.
"Captain Kinzer" found that he could safely run in for a couple of hundred yards or so; but there were signs of surf beyond, and he had no anchor to hold on by. His only course was to tack back and forth, as carefully as possible, and wait for daylight, as the French sailors were doing, with what patience they could command.
In less than half an hour, however, a pair of long, graceful, buoyant-looking life-boats, manned each by an officer and eight rowers, came shooting through the mist, in response to the repeated summons of the steamer's cannon.
"It's all right now," said Dab. "I knew they wouldn't be long in coming. Let's find where we are."
That was easy enough. The steamer had gone ashore on a sand-bar a quarter of a mile from the beach and a short distance from Seabright, on the Jersey coast; and there was no probability of any worse harm coming to her than the delay in her voyage, and the cost of pulling her out from the sandy bed into which she had so blindly thrust herself. The passengers would, most likely, be taken ashore with their baggage, and sent to the city overland.
"In fact," said Ford Foster, "a sand-bar isn't as bad for a steamer as a pig is for a locomotive."
"The train you was wrecked in," said Dab, "was running fast. Perhaps the pig was. Now, the sand-bar was standing still, and the steamer was going slow. My! what a crash there'd have been, if she'd been running ten or twelve knots an hour with a heavy sea on."
By daylight there were plenty of other craft around, including yachts and sail-boats from Long Branch, and "all along shore," and the Long Island boys treated the occupants of these as if they had sent for them and were glad to see them.
"Seems to me, your're inclined to be inquisitive, Dab," said Ford, as his friend peered sharply into and around one craft after another, but just then Dabney sung out:
"Hullo, Jersey, what are you doing with two grapnels? Is that boat of yours balky?"
"Mind your eye, youngster. They're both mine, I reckon."
"You might sell me one cheap," continued Dab, "considering how you got 'em. Give you ten cents for the big one."
Ford thought he understood the matter, and said nothing; but the "Jersey wrecker" had "picked up" those two anchors, one time and another, and had no objection at all to talking "trade."
"Ten cents! Let you have it for fifty dollars."
"Is it gold, or only silver gilt?"
"Pure gold, my boy, but seein' it's you, I'll say ten dollars."
"Take your pay in clams?"
"Oh, hush, I haint no time to gabble. Mebbe I'll git a job here, 'round this yer wreck. If you want the grapn'l, what'll you gimme?"
"Five dollars, gold, take it or leave it," said Dab, as he pulled out a coin from the pay he had taken for his blue-fish.
In three minutes more the "Swallow" was furnished with a much larger and better anchor than the one she had lost the day before, and Dick Lee exclaimed:
"It jes' takes Capt'in Kinzer!"
For some minutes before this, as the light grew clearer and the fog lifted a little, Frank Harley had been watching them from the rail of the "Prudhomme" and wondering if all the fisher-boys in America dressed as well as these two.
"Hullo, you!" was the greeting which now came to his ears. "Go ashore in my boat?"
"Not till I have eaten some of your fish for breakfast," replied Frank. "What's your name?"
"Captain Dabney Kinzer, of 'most anywhere on Long Island. What's yours?"
"Frank Harley, of Rangoon."
"I declare!" almost shouted Ford Foster, "if you're not the chap my sister Annie told me of. You're going to Albany, to my uncle, Joe Hart's, aren't you?"
"Yes, to Mr. Hart's, and then to Grantley, to school."
"That's it. Well, you just come along with us, then. Get your kit out of your state-room. We can send over to the city for the rest of your baggage after it gets in."
"Along with you, where?"
"To my father's house, instead of ashore among those wreckers and hotel-people. The captain'll tell you it's all right."
It was a trifle irregular, no doubt, but there was the "Prudhomme" ashore, and all "landing rules" were a little out of joint by reason of that circumstance. The "Swallow" lay at anchor while Frank got his breakfast, and such of his baggage as was not "stowed away," and, meantime, Captain Kinzer and his "crew" made a very deep hole in their own supplies, for their night of danger and excitement had made them wonderfully hungry.
"Do you mean to sail home?" asked Ford, in some astonishment.
"Why not? If we could do it in the night and in a storm, we surely can in a day of such splendid weather as is coming. The wind's all right too, what there is of it."
The wind was indeed "all right," but even Dab forgot, for the moment, that the "Swallow" would go further and faster before a gale than she was likely to with the comparatively mild southerly breeze which was blowing. He was by no means likely to get home by dinner-time. As for danger, there would be absolutely none, unless the weather should again become stormy, which was not at all probable at that season. And so, with genuine boyish confidence in boys, after some further conversation over the rail, Frank Harley went on board the "Swallow" as a passenger, and the gay little craft slipped lightly away from the neighborhood of the very forlorn-looking stranded steamer.
"They'll have her off in less'n a week," said Ford to Frank. "My father'll know just what to do about your baggage, and so forth."
There were endless questions to be asked and answered on both sides, but at last Dab yawned a very sleepy yawn and said: "Ford, you've had your nap. Wake up Dick there, and let him take his turn at the tiller. The sea's as smooth as a lake, and I believe I'll go to sleep for an hour or so. You and Frank keep watch while Dick steers."
Whatever Dab said was "orders," now, on board the "Swallow," and Ford's only reply was: "If you haven't earned a good nap, then nobody has."
In five minutes more the patient and skillful young "captain" was sleeping like a top.
"Look at him," said Ford Foster to Frank Harley. "I don't know what he's made of. He's been at that tiller for twenty-three hours, by the watch, in all sorts of weather, and never budged."
"They don't make that kind of boy in India," replied Frank.
"He's de best feller you ebber seen," added Dick Lee. "I's jes' proud of 'im, I is."
Smoothly and swiftly and safely the "Swallow" was bearing her precious cargo across the summer sea, but the morning had brought no comfort to the two homes at the head of the inlet, or the cabin in the village. Old Bill Lee was out in the best boat he could borrow, by early daylight, and more than one of his sympathizing neighbors followed him a little later. There was no doubt at all that a thorough search would be made of the bay and the island, and so Mr. Foster wisely remained at home to comfort his wife and daughter.
"That sort of boy," mourned Annie, "is always getting into some kind of mischief."
"Annie," exclaimed her mother, "Ford is a good boy, and he does not run into mischief."
"I didn't mean Ford; I meant that Dabney Kinzer. I wish we'd never seen him, or his sail-boat either."
"Annie," said her father, reprovingly, "if we live by the water, Ford will go out on it, and he'd better do so in good company. Wait a while."
Summer days are long, but some of them are a good deal longer than others, and that was one of the longest any of those people had ever known. For once, even dinner was more than half neglected in the Kinzer family circle. At the Fosters' it was forgotten almost altogether. Long as the day was, and so dreary, in spite of all the bright, warm sunshine, there was no help for it; the hours would not hurry, and the wanderers would not return. Tea-time came at last, and with it the Fosters all came over to Mrs. Kinzer's again, to take tea and to tell her of several fishermen who had returned from the bay without having discovered a sign of the "Swallow" or its crew.
Stout-hearted Mrs. Kinzer talked bravely and encouragingly, nevertheless, and did not seem to abate an ounce of her confidence in her son. It seemed as if, in leaving off his roundabouts, Dabney must have suddenly grown a great many "sizes" in his mother's estimation. Perhaps that was because he did not leave them off too soon.
There they sat, the two mothers and the rest, looking gloomy enough, while, over there in her bit of a brown house in the village, Mrs. Lee sat in very much the same frame of mind, trying to relieve her feelings by smoothing imaginary wrinkles out of her boy's best clothes, and planning for him any number of bright red neck-ties, if he would only come back to wear them.
The neighbors were becoming more than a little interested and even excited about the matter; but what was there to be done?
Telegrams had been sent to other points on the coast, and all the fishermen notified. It was really one of those puzzling cases where even the most neighborly can do no better than "wait a while."
Still, there were nearly a dozen people, of all sorts, including Bill Lee, lingering around the "landing" as late as eight o'clock, when some one of them suddenly exclaimed:
"There's a light, coming in."
And others followed with: "And a boat under it." "Ham's boat carried a light." "I'll bet it's her." "No, it isn't." "Hold on and see."
There was not long to "hold on," for in three minutes more the "Swallow" swept gracefully in with the tide, and the voice of Dab Kinzer shouted merrily: "Home again! Here we are!"
Such a ringing volley of cheers answered him! It was heard and understood away there in the parlor of the Morris house, and brought every soul of that anxious circle right up standing.
"Must be it's Dab!" exclaimed Mrs. Kinzer.
"Oh, mother," said Annie, "is Ford safe?"
"They wouldn't cheer like that, my dear, if anything had happened," remarked Mr. Foster, but, in spite of his coolness, the city lawyer forgot to put his hat on, as he dashed out of the front gate, and down the road toward the landing.
Then came one of those times that it takes a whole orchestra and a gallery of paintings to tell anything about, for Mrs. Lee as well as her husband was at the beach, and within a minute after "Captain Kinzer" and his crew had landed, poor Dick was being hugged and scolded within an inch of his life, and the other two boys found themselves in the midst of a tumult of embraces and cheers.
Frank Harley's turn came soon, moreover, for Ford Foster found his balance, and introduced the "passenger from India" to his father.
"Frank Harley!" exclaimed Mr. Foster, "I've heard of you, certainly, but how did you—boys, I don't understand——"
"Oh, father, it's all right! We took Frank off the French steamer after she ran ashore."
"Yes; down the Jersey coast. We got in company with her in the fog, after the storm. That was yesterday evening."
"Down the Jersey coast! Do you mean you've been out at sea?"
"Yes, father; and I'd go again, with Dab Kinzer for captain. Do you know, father, he never left the rudder of the 'Swallow' from the moment we started until seven o'clock this morning?"
"You owe him your lives!" almost shouted Mr. Foster; and Ford added, "Indeed, we do."
It was Dab's own mother's arms that had been around him from the instant he made his appearance, and Samantha and Keziah and Pamela had had to be content with a kiss or so apiece; but dear old Mrs. Foster stopped smoothing Ford's hair and forehead, just then, and gave Dab a right motherly hug, as if she could not express herself in any other way.
As for Annie Foster, her face was suspiciously red at the moment, but she walked right up to Dab, after her mother released him, and said:
"Captain Kinzer, I've been saying dreadful things about you, but I beg pardon."
"I'll be entirely satisfied, Miss Annie," returned Dabney, "if you'll ask somebody to get us something to eat."
"Eat!" exclaimed Mrs. Kinzer, "Why, the poor fellows! Of course they're hungry."
Of course they were, every one; and the supper-table, after all, was the best place in the world to hear the particulars of their wonderful cruise.
Meantime, Dick Lee was led home to a capital supper of his own, and as soon as that was over he was rigged out in his Sunday clothes,—red silk neck-tie and all,—and invited to tell the story of his adventures to a roomful of admiring neighbors.
He told it well, modestly ascribing pretty much everything to Dab Kinzer; but there was no reason, in anything he said, for one of his father's friends to ask, next morning:
"Bill Lee, does you mean for to say as dem boys run down de French steamah in dat ar' boat?"
"Not dat, not zackly."
"'Cause, if you does, I jes' want to say I's been down a-lookin' at her, and she aint even snubbed her bowsprit."
(To be continued.)
BY MARGARET W. HAMILTON.
Ugh! How cold it was!—sleet driving in your face, wind whistling about your ears, cold penetrating everywhere! "A regular nipper," thought Dick Kelsey, standing in a door-way, kicking his feet in toeless boots to warm them, and blowing his chilled fingers, for in the pockets of his ragged trousers the keen air had stiffened them. He was revolving a weighty question in his mind. Which should he do,—go down to "Ma'am Vesey's" and get one of her hot mutton pies, or stray a little farther up the alley, where an old sailor kept a little coffee-house for the benefit of newsboys and boot-blacks such as he? Should it be coffee or mutton pie?
"I'll toss up for it!" said Dick, finally; and, fumbling in his pockets, the copper was produced ready for the test.