"I admit it. You came to me from the employes and asked for a discussion of the differences between us. I thought you insolent, and refused to listen to you. Therein I did you all an injustice, for which I apologize."
"It gives me joy to hear you speak thus, Mr. Bradley."
"Seeing now my mistake, there is but the one course before me. I am convinced that in all cases of trouble like ours the court of first resort should be arbitration. The wish to be just is natural to every one, or at least to the majority of mankind. If the parties concerned cannot agree, they should appeal to those in whom both have confidence to bring about an agreement between them; that is according to the golden rule. Employer and employed, labor and capital, should be friends, and arbitration is the agent that shall bring about that happy state of things."
"But I do not see that there has been any arbitration in this dispute."
"But there has been all the same."
"Where is the arbitrator?"
"She sits on your knee wondering what all this talk means. I tell you, Hugh, there is a good deal more in those little heads than most people think. Yesterday morning, when Dollie sat in her high chair at the breakfast-table, she heard her aunt and me talking about the strike. Though she could not understand it all, she knew there was trouble between me and my employes. I was out of patience and used some sharp words. She listened for a few minutes while busy with her bread and milk, and then what do you think she said?"
"I am sure I have no idea," replied O'Hara, patting the head of the laughing child, "but whatever it was, it was something nice."
"She says, 'Brother Harvey, when I do anything wrong, you take me on your knee and talk to me and that makes me feel so bad that I never do that kind of wrong again. Why don't you take those bad men on your knee and talk to them, so they won't do so again?' I showed her that such an arrangement was hardly practicable, and then she fired her solid shot that pierced my ship between wind and water: 'Brother Harvey, maybe it's you that has done wrong; why don't you sit down on their knees and let them give you a talking to? Then you won't be bad any more."
Hugh and Harvey broke into laughter, during which Dollie, who had become tired of sitting still full two minutes, slid off O'Hara's knee and ran out of the room.
"We smile at the odd conceits of the little ones," continued Harvey, "but you know that the truest wisdom has come from the mouths of babes. I hushed her, but what she said set me thinking—'Why don't you let them give you a good talking to?' That was the very thing you had asked and I had refused. I set out to take a long walk, and was absent most of the day. Her question kept coming up to me, and I tried to drive it away. The effort made me angry and ended in a decision to be sterner than ever. I would not yield a point; I would import a body of men at large expense and keep them at work, just because I was too proud to undo what I knew was wrong.
"Still my conscience troubled me, but for all that I don't think I would have yielded. Pride, the greatest of all stumbling-blocks, was in my way. Reaching home, I learned that Dollie was lost; then, of course, every other thought went from my head. Nothing else could be done until she was found."
Harvey was about to tell his guest his suspicion that he had had a hand in the abduction of the child, but he was ashamed, and really there was no call for such a confession.
"Well, it was you who found her. I repeat that my debt to you can never be paid. And yet I do not believe that that obligation would have led me to yield, where I felt that a principle was at stake. It was the words of Dollie, spoken yesterday, that stuck to me. They kept me awake most of the night and played a part in the dreams that I had about her being lost in the woods and eaten up by panthers and all sorts of creatures. When I awoke this morning, the mists had cleared away. I saw my error, and fully made up my mind to do all I could to correct it. I went to the telegraph office before breakfast and sent a message to Vining countermanding the order for the men. Then I came back and had just finished my meal when a message was brought to my house. Odd, wasn't it?"
"I see nothing odd in a telegram for you."
"I mean in the telegram itself."
"I could not answer that unless I saw it."
"Of course," said Harvey with a laugh, wheeling about in his chair and picking up one of the yellow slips of paper which the Western Union furnishes its patrons gratis.
"There, read that," he added, passing it to Hugh O'Hara, who looked at it with no little curiosity.
It was dated in the city of New York and signed by Johnson W. Bradley, father of Harvey, and President of the Rollo Mills Company. This was the body of the telegram:
"Don't lose sight of the interests of your men. Before hiring other hands try arbitration."
"That is rather odd," said Hugh; leaning forward, so as to hand the telegram back to his employer, "but it is sound wisdom all the same."
"Undoubtedly; but are you convinced that I agree to your terms not because of gratitude, but because I believe them right?"
"I am satisfied," said Hugh; "have you sent the notice to the hands?"
"Yes. I wonder that you did not hear of it on the way here."
"Of course I heard of it. I knew it long ago, but I did not know why you had decided to restore our time to what it was and to pay the same wages; that I have learned from yourself. And now that you have done your part so well," added Hugh, rising to leave, "I assure you that we shall do ours; we shall give you the best service we can. No one shall misinterpret your action or try to take advantage of it."
The superintendent was wise enough to avoid a mistake to which persons, placed as was he, are liable—that is, he did not overdo his part. He was so happy over the return of his little sister that he was willing not only to give the old wages and time asked for by his employes, but he felt like adding to them. He meant to make the pay of O'Hara greater than before, but changed his purpose at the last moment.
Had he added to the pay of his chief foreman it would have changed the ratio between that and the wages of the others, unless theirs, too, was increased. In that event, a reproof was likely to come from the directors, and he would find it hard to retrace his steps.
Justice called for him to do just what he had done; it would be weak to do more. "Hugh," said he, also rising to his feet, "I am not quite through with you; I am now going to ask you to do me a favor."
"I guess it's safe to promise in advance that I will do it—that is, of course, if it be in my power to do it."
"It is in your power. Last night, when I was in the woods near your cabin, I noticed a strange odor in the air; I could not imagine its cause, but I know now what it was."
"What was it?" asked O'Hara, turning crimson.
"You and some of your friends have been illicitly making whiskey. You have a distillery somewhere in the mountains, and, while working in the mills during the day, you have taken turns in running the still at night. I will not ask you to tell me how long you have been doing this, but you know as well as I that it is a crime."
The two men were silent a moment and then Hugh, without any appearance of agitation, said:
"You have spoken the truth; the still was not more than a hundred feet from the cabin, and caused the smell you noticed."
"How could you three attend to it when you were in the cabin?"
"Some one was generally close by. The pipe that carried off the fumes ran into the chimney of our cabin and mixed with the smoke. We took turns in looking after it. Tom and I had been there earlier in the evening, and Jack was to look in now and then against our coming back. But," added Hugh, "you said you had a favor to ask of me."
"So I have; I ask you to destroy that still, root and branch, and never take a hand in anything of the kind again."
"I cannot do that."
"Why not? You are engaged in breaking the laws of your country, for which there is a severe penalty. Now that you will have steady work, you cannot make the plea that would have been yours if the strike continued. Why can't you do as I ask you to do?"
"Because it has already been done. After I got back to the cabin last night, Tom and Jack and I went out and wound up the business. The worm has been thrown down the rocks, where it can never be found, the mash has been scattered to the four winds, and everything smashed to general flinders. It took us nearly to daylight to finish it, but we stuck to it till the job was done."
"I am delighted to hear that, what was the cause of all this?"
"I guess it must have been the little arbitrator," said O'Hara, with a smile; "they say that when a man does a bad act he feels like doing others. That may or may not be true, but I know that when a man does a good deed, the impulse to do more is awakened, and whatever good there is in him is strengthened. I have been a bad man; I grew desperate after the death of Jennie; but when I held your Dollie in my arms it seemed that some of her goodness found its way into my heart. I resolved with the help of heaven to be a better man. The first step toward becoming so was to stop the unlawful work in which I had been engaged only a short time.
"I thought that Tom and Jack would make trouble, but I didn't care, for I could manage them. To my surprise, however, they seemed to feel just as I did. So they fell to work with a will, and the job couldn't have been done more thoroughly. Now, if you will allow me to kiss Dollie, who has come back, I will bid you both good day."
Harvey Bradley shook hands with his visitor, during which he handed him a liberal sum of money for Tom Hansell, who had taken part in the search for Dollie. He sent naught to Jack, for he deserved none. Then he went with Hugh to the outer door, giving him a number of encouraging words on the way.
The whistle of the Rollo Mills never screeched more cheerily than it did the next morning, and there was never a happier band of employes than the 300, young and old, who took their places again in the works.
A short time afterward Harvey Bradley opened and furnished a room where the best of reading was given free to all who chose to accept the privilege. Still later in the season a night school was started, and the skilled teacher who took charge was liberally paid by the board of directors, who never made a better investment of money.
The interest shown by the superintendent in the welfare of his employes proved to be seed sowed in good ground. All wrought faithfully and well, and when on the 1st of January the balance sheet was made up, lo! the net profits of the Rollo Mills were greater than ever before.
IN THE NICK OF TIME.
It may sound like slander for me to say that the elephant, which is admittedly one of the most intelligent members of the animal creation, is also one of the most vicious and treacherous. But it is a fact all the same. I have seen one of those beasts, that had been fed and treated with the greatest kindness for years by his keeper, turn upon him like a tiger, and, seizing him with that wonderful trunk of his, dash him to death before he could do more than utter a cry of protest and terror.
I have seen another, after waiting weeks for the opportunity, suddenly grasp an innocent person, and, kneeling upon him with his beam-like legs, knead him out of all semblance of humanity.
Columbus, who was the main attraction of Barnum's establishment some forty years ago, killed several keepers, and was likely to start on one of his terrible rampages at any moment. The giving away of a bridge in New England so injured him that he died, long before any of my young readers were born.
An elephant, fully as bad as Columbus, was Vladdok, who was brought to this country when quite young. A glimpse at his enormous ears told his African nativity at once, those from Asia and Ceylon having much smaller ears. He belonged to the old traveling circus of Blarcom & Burton, and made several journeys through our country in the days when those establishments found no use for the railways, but patiently plodded from town to town, delighting the hearts and eyes of our grandfathers and grandmothers when they were children just as we are now.
Vladdok had killed two keepers, besides badly wounding a couple of spectators in Memphis, when he yielded to one of his vicious moods. He had been fired upon and wounded more times than any one could remember, and Mr. Blarcom, who always traveled with his show, had been on the point more than once of ordering his destruction; but he was of such large size and possessed such extraordinary intelligence, that he constituted the main attraction of the exhibition and he hesitated, well aware that sooner or later, the wicked fellow would die "with his boots on."
It was after an afternoon performance in one of the Western States that Vladdok indulged in his last rampage. His sagacious keeper had come to understand the animal so well, that he knew the outbreak was coming. While Vladdok was unusually tractable and obedient, there was a dangerous glitter in his small eyes, and an occasional nervous movement of his head, which proved that he was only biding his time and waiting for the grand chance to present itself.
Fortunately, he did not rebel until after the exhibition was over, and the crowds had departed. Then, with a fierce trumpeting and one vast shiver of his enormous bulk, he made a dash which snapped his chains like so much whip-cord and went through the side of the tent as though it were cardboard.
On his wild charge, which set all the rest of the animals in a panic, he reached for his keeper, who with prodding spear and shouts, interposed himself in his path and tried to check him. But the man's inimitable dexterity and good fortune enabled him to dodge the beast and escape by a hair's breadth. The next minute, the elephant reached the public highway, down which he swung awkwardly but swiftly, on an excursion that was destined to be the most tragic in his whole career.
The first object on which he vented his wrath was a team of horses, driven by a farmer, whose wife was sitting beside him on the front seat. Neither they nor the team knew their danger until the avalanche of fury was upon them. The animals screamed in an agony of fright, and were rearing and plunging, when Vladdok grasped one with his trunk, lifted him in the air and dashed him to death. The other broke loose and plunged off at such headlong speed, that the elephant followed him only a few paces, when he turned to attack the man and woman.
But they were nowhere in sight, and, with a trumpet of disgust, he wheeled about, and turning from the highway, took to the woods.
The couple were saved by a singular occurrence. The violent rearing and backing of the horses overturned the wagon body, and the farmer and his better half were caught beneath it, before they could escape. They had sense enough to remain quiet, until the brute left, when they crept out, none the worse for their mishap.
"Consarn his pictur!" exclaimed the husband; "if that don't beat all creation! I allers said that circuses and shows was a burnin' shame, and now I know it; I'll make the owner of that elephant pay ten thousand dollars for the damage he done us, for he scart you and me so bad Betsy, that we'll never grow another inch."
Meanwhile, the runaway kept things moving. He knew his keeper and attendants were hot on his trail, and his sudden change of course was undoubtedly with a view of misleading them. It is hardly to be supposed that he expected to find any "game" in the woods, but nevertheless he did.
It so happened that Jack Norton and Billy Wiggins, a couple of boys not more than fourteen years of age, were engaged on a little hunt that same afternoon. The teachers had sent such bad reports home about them that their parents inflicted the most awful kind of punishment; they did not permit them to attend the circus, to which they had been looking forward for weeks. The father of Billy was specially stern, and forbade his hopeful to take his gun, when he joined Jack on a little hunting ramble in the woods. Mr. Norton felt some slight compunctions, when he noted how patiently his boy accepted his fate, and relented to that degree that he permitted him to take his rifle, though he knew there was little chance of his securing any game.
The boys had walked about a mile, and, coming to a fallen tree, sat down to rest awhile, for the day was warm and the gun which they had taken turns in carrying, was heavy.
"I guess this hunt ain't agoin' to amount to much," sighed Jack, as he leaned the rifle against the prostrate trunk, on which they were seated.
"Why not?" asked Billy.
"'Cause there ain't nothin' to hunt; I heerd Budge Jones say that when he was a boy, these woods used to be full of bears and deers and tigers and lions and giraffes and that sort of thing."
"Yes, and the folks were so mean they killed 'em all, but I've the idea, Jack, that maybe some of the lions or tigers has hid somewhere in the woods and we might find 'em."
"Golly! I don't know whether I'd want to find 'em or not," replied Jack, looking about him, with a scared expression.
"Why not? Hain't you got a gun?"
"Yes, but while I was killin' one the others might chaw me all to pieces; but if there was only one, I wouldn't care, if he was an elephant as big as a barn——"
"My gracious! there he comes!"
A terrific crashing of the undergrowth caused both lads to glance affrightedly behind them, and there, sure enough, was Vladdok, the fearful elephant, almost upon them. They started to run, their courses so diverging that the beast was forced to select one and let the other alone for the moment. He fixed upon Billy Wiggins, who had taken barely twenty steps, when the trunk of the beast inclosed his waist and he was lifted, as if he was a feather from the ground, and the next instant he felt himself whizzing through space.
A marvelous providence saved him. Instead of dashing him against a tree, or upon the ground, the elephant, in one of his mad freaks, flung him from him as though he was a ball. He spun through the air, the leaves and limbs whizzing against his face and body, and instinctively clutching with both hands, succeeded in grasping enough branches to support the weight of his body and check his descent.
Then, when he collected his senses and stared around, he found that he was a dozen yards above the ground, with the elephant beneath, looking up, and apparently waiting for him to fall within his reach, that he might finish him.
"Not much," muttered Billy; "I'm going to stay here and I don't believe you know how to climb a tree. Helloa! how do you like that?"
Jack Norton had dashed only a few yards, when the terrified look he cast over his shoulder told him the elephant was giving his whole attention to Billy, and seemed to have forgotten all about him. Instantly he was filled with alarm for his young friend, and started back to the log to get his rifle, that neither had thought of in the panic.
As he knelt behind the fallen tree, to make his aim sure, he descried a queer object going through the limbs of a large oak, and did not identify it, until it lodged fast, as his friend Billy Wiggins.
Jack had no more idea of the fatal point at which to aim his weapon than you have, but knowing that he must do something, and, with a dread that the elephant after all, might succeed in climbing the oak and getting at his friend, he let fly.
Gordon Cumming himself could not have done better. The tiny bullet bored its way into the vast bulk, just back of the fore leg and went directly through the heart. The huge brute, as if conscious that he was mortally hurt, swung part way round, so as to face the point whence the shot had come. Catching sight of the kneeling youngster, with the muzzle of his rifle still smoking, he plunged toward him. He took a couple of steps, swayed to one side, moved uncertainly forward again, then stopped, tried to steady himself, and finally went over sideways, like a mountain, crashing the saplings and undergrowth near him, and snapping one of his magnificent tusks into splinters. He was dead.
When the boys fully comprehended what had taken place, they were not a little alarmed and puzzled, and started home, wondering whether their game was a descendant of the creatures that used to inhabit that section, or whether he was a visitor to these parts. They had not gone far, however, when they met the attaches of the menagerie and circus to whom they related what had occurred.
The proprietors were relieved on learning the whole truth, for there could be little doubt that the sudden ending of the career of Vladdok was the means of saving more than one person from death.
As for Jack Norton and Billy Wiggins, it was generally conceded that they spoke the truth, when they declared:
"Our fathers wouldn't let us go to the circus that afternoon, but I guess we had a bigger circus than any of you all to ourselves."
LOST IN THE SOUTH SEA.
Captain William Gooding was commander of the Tewksbury Sweet, of Portland, Maine, and was lost in the South Pacific in the spring of 1889. This fine American bark sailed from New Castle, New South Wales, on the 17th of March, bound for Hong Kong. Everything went well until the 9th of the following month, when she encountered a severe gale. Despite all that skillful seamanship could do, and in the face of the most strenuous exertions, she struck the dangerous Susanne Reef, near Poseat Island, one of the Caroline group of the South Sea.
The wreck was a total one. The vessel broke up rapidly, and seeing that nothing could be done, the captain and crew, numbering ten men in all, took to one of the boats, carrying with them only a single chronometer belonging to the ship. Even after entering the small boat they were still in great danger, and only succeeded after the utmost difficulty in reaching a small islet some miles to the southward. The storm was still raging so violently that the shelter was a most welcome one, though as there were no animals or vegetation, or even water upon the island, their stay of necessity could be only temporary. They had saved nothing to eat or drink, and to remain where they were meant a lingering death.
After several hours waiting, the tempest abated somewhat, and launching their boat once more, they rowed toward the main island.
"The end is likely to be the same in either case," remarked the captain to the second mate, George W. Harrison, as they approached the land.
"And why?" inquired the latter: "we shall find food and water there."
"True enough; but there are no fiercer savages on the South Sea than those of this island, and I have never heard that they were particularly friendly toward the crews of shipwrecked vessels."
"They may not discover us until we can signal some passing ship."
"There is no possibility of any such good fortune as that."
"Stranger things have happened, and—"
"Does that look like it?" interrupted the captain in some excitement, pointing toward the island.
The sight that met the gaze of every one was startling. Fully thirty canoes, each filled with eight or ten natives, were putting off from shore and heading toward them. Several of the crew favored turning about, and putting to sea; but that would have been not only hopeless, but would have invited attack. Nothing is so encouraging to an enemy as flight on the part of his opponent. It impels him to greater exertions and gives him a bravery which otherwise he may not feel.
The savages, in their light, graceful craft, and with their great skill in manipulating them, would have overhauled the white men "hand over hand." There was a faint hope that by presenting a bold front, and acting as though they believed in the friendship of the savages that they might spare the unfortunates. At any rate, it was clear there was no choice but to go ahead, and the white men did so, rowing leisurely and calmly, though the chances in doing so were hastening their own doom.
There could be no mistaking the ardor of the ferocious natives. They paddled with might and main, and fully a dozen, in their eagerness, leaped into the sea and swam ahead of their canoes. They were magnificent swimmers, speeding through the water like so many dolphins. The Americans, even in their frightful peril, could not repress their admiration.
"Did you ever see anything like it?" asked first mate Watchman; "they are like so many sharks."
"They are indeed," was the significant response of Captain Gooding, "and I would like it better if they were real sharks."
"Here they are!"
Sure enough; they surrounded the boat in a twinkling, and shouting and screeching like so many demons, clambered over the gunwales until there was danger of swamping the craft.
Had our friends possessed firearms, they would have made a desperate resistance, and possibly might have beaten off their assailants; but, as it was, they acted the part of wisdom in offering no opposition to the presence or actions of their unwelcome visitors.
The latter proved that they meant business from the first, for hardly were they in the boat when they began stripping the officers and sailors of their property. When they ceased the men had nothing left but their undershirts, their despoilers flinging the garments into the canoes that now crowded around.
No more plunder being obtainable, the fleet headed for land, with their captives in anything but a cheerful frame of mind. The shore was lined with women and children, who answered the shouts of their friends in the boats by running back and forth, screeching and yelling and dancing, as if unable to restrain themselves until the arrival of their victims.
The sailors believed they would be speedily killed and eaten, the latter horror might have been escaped had they known, what they afterward learned, that the savages of those islands are not cannibals.
The poor fellows stepped from their boat upon the shore, where they were immediately environed by the fierce men, women and children, half naked, wild, boisterous, and seemingly impatient to rend them to pieces. The prisoners could do nothing but meekly await the next step in the tragedy.
It was during these trying moments that the sailors were astounded to hear, amid the babel of voices, several words spoken in English. Staring about them to learn the meaning of such a strange thing, they saw a man attired as were the others, that is with only a piece of cloth about his hips, whose complexion and features showed that he belonged to the same race with themselves.
He advanced in a cheery, hearty way, and shaking hands with the new arrivals, said:
"I think you did not expect to find me here."
"Indeed we did not," was the reply; "you appear to be an Englishman."
"So I am, and I am anxious to give you all the help I can, for your situation is anything but a desirable one."
"There can be no doubt of that. But how is it that you are here? Were you shipwrecked like ourselves?"
"No; I may say I was deserted. My name is Charles Irons, and I was left at Poseat by a trading vessel four years ago."
"How came that?"
"I was to act as the agent of a company of traders on the Cocoanut Islands. Well, the vessel left me, as I first told you, and that was the last of it. They forgot all about me, or more likely, did not care to keep their promise, for I have never seen anything of the vessel since."
"What an outrage!"
"It was, and there couldn't have been a more wretched person than I was for several months. I looked longingly out to sea for the ship that never came, and chafed like a man who is bound hand and foot. But," added the Englishman with a smile, "there is nothing like making the best of things. You can accustom yourself almost to anything if you will only make up your mind to do so. I was among these people and there was no help for it, so I decided to adopt their ways and become one of them."
"You decided when in Rome to do as the Romans do," suggested the captain, who, like his companions, was greatly cheered, not only by the presence and friendship of the Englishman, but by the fact that the savages, who watched the interview with interest, showed no disposition to interfere.
"That's it. There are a great many worse people in this world than these. They are not cannibals, as are many of their neighbors, and they have never harmed me."
"But what about us?" was the anxious inquiry.
The Englishman looked grave.
"I cannot say what their intentions are, but I am afraid they are bad. They have been used ill by some of the vessels that have stopped here, and are naturally suspicious of all white people. Then, too, they are revengeful, and like all barbarians are satisfied, if aggrieved against our race, to get their satisfaction out of any member of it, whether he is the one who injured them, or is entirely innocent."
"You seem to be regarded with high favor here."
"I am. I stand next to the chief in authority, so you see I have reason to believe I may be of some service to you. You may be sure that I shall leave no stone unturned to help you."
The captain and his companions gave expression to their deep gratitude, and Irons continued in his bluff, pleasant manner:
"I guess I am about as much a savage as any of them. If I hadn't been I never would have obtained any control over them. I have seven native wives, and find I am forgetting a great many details of civilization, while my desire to return home is growing less every day. After all, what difference does it make where you are? A man has only a few years to live, and as long as he is contented, he is a fool to rebel."
There may have been good philosophy in all this, and the captain did not attempt to gainsay it, but, all the same, it was hard for him to understand how any one could be so placed as to lose his yearning for his home and his native land.
It was several days afterward, when the captives had become somewhat accustomed to their surroundings, that Captain Gooding found he and his men were mixed in their reckoning.
"It is a question among us whether this is Thursday or Friday," said he, addressing Irons; "can you settle it for us?"
The Englishman looked at the captain in an odd way and replied:
"I haven't the remotest idea of what day in the week it is, nor what is the month. It seems four years ago that I was left here, but I am not sure of it. Will you please give me the year and month?"
"This is April, 1889."
The Englishman bent his head for a few minutes in deep thought. He was recalling the past, with its singular incidents of his career. When he looked up he said:
"Yes; it is four years and more since I was abandoned, and if you stay that long you will be content to remain all your lives."
The captain shook his head, and his eyes were dimmed as he replied:
"I never could forget the loved ones at home, Irons; I would prefer death at once to a lingering imprisonment here."
"Well, I am going to help you all to leave just as soon as it can be done. I understand how you feel, and sympathize with you."
The Englishman proved himself the most valuable kind of a friend. The authority which he possessed over these savage South Sea Islanders was stretched to the utmost, but he never hesitated to employ it. But for his presence the Americans would have been put to death within a few hours at most of their arrival on the mainland, and without his aid it would have been impossible for them ever to have gotten away.
When everything was in shape, Irons hired a canoe of the natives for the use of his friends. The craft was not large enough to contain all the party, and since all real peril had passed, there was no fear in following the course that had been agreed upon.
Captain Gooding, second mate Harrison; and one of the sailors left Poseat in the canoe, first mate Watchman and his six companions remaining on the island. This was ten days after the loss of the Tewksbury Sweet.
Captain Gooding and all the sailors were in the best of spirits, for they were confident that their wearisome captivity was substantially over. The three made their way from island to island, stopping at eight different points, sometimes for days, and even weeks. Finally they arrived at Ruk, where they found a missionary station, and received the most hospitable treatment.
The good men owned a boat abundantly large enough to carry twenty persons, and the captain asked its use with which to bring the rest of his crew from Poseat. This was asking more than would be supposed, for the missionaries told them that they were surrounded by hostile natives, who were liable to an outbreak at any hour, in which event the only means of escape the white men possessed was the boat.
The missionaries, however, gave their consent, and Captain Gooding, hoisting sail in the staunch centre-boarder, set sail for Poseat, where he safely arrived, without unnecessary delay. He found the first mate and his sailors well and in high spirits, though they were beginning to wonder whether their captain, like the friends of Irons, had not forgotten, and concluded to leave them to themselves.
No objection was offered to their departure, and bidding an affectionate good-by to the Englishman, who had proven the best kind of a friend, they returned to the missionary island. Two months later the missionary vessel, the Morning Star, arrived, and carried them all to Honolulu, which was reached in November. Thence Captain Gooding and a part of the crew were brought by the steamer Australia to San Francisco, from which point the captain made his way to his home in Yarmouth, where his family and friends welcomed him back as one risen from the dead, for they had long given up hope of ever seeing him again.
AN UNPLEASANT COMPANION.
"Say, Jack, the shellbarks are droppin' thick down in Big Woods. What a chance for a fellow to lay up a bushel or two before the crowd gets down there in the morning."
"Wouldn't it, though, Ned!" I replied wistfully, for if there was anything I had a fondness for, it was shellbarks.
We were trudging home to our dinner, for Ned and I lived close to the schoolhouse, much to the envy of some less fortunate pupils who brought their noonday meal with them in tin pails. It was a late September Friday, and a soft golden haze lay on hillside and woodland, and the quail were whistling in the furrows; and, as Ned spoke, I could see in my mind's eye just how Big Woods would look that afternoon with the soft sunlight slanting through the trees, and glimmering on the quiet waters of the creek.
"Well, Jack, will you go?" said Ned abruptly.
"You mean will I play truant?" I asked, a little startled.
"Yes; there's no danger, Jack; we'll tell the teacher we had to stay home to cut corn."
At first, I resisted Ned's appeal. I had played truant once before, a long time ago, and the memory of the punishment that I received in the woodshed at home was still strongly impressed on my memory.
But this, I thought, was an exceptional case, I badly wanted a bushel or two of shellbarks, and I knew full well that, unless they were gathered that afternoon, they wouldn't be gathered at all; for bright and early the next morning all the boys in the neighborhood would be down in Big Woods, armed with clubs and baskets and sacks, and even the squirrels would stand a poor show after that invasion.
In our selfishness, we never thought that other people might have a fondness for shellbarks as well as ourselves. So, after a little more pleading on Ned's part, I gave in, and we agreed to meet down at the foot of our orchard, as soon as dinner was over, for Ned lived right across, on the next farm. In a corner of the barn, I found my old chestnut club, a hickory stave, well coiled with lead at the top. Shoving this under my jacket, so no prying eyes could see it, I joined Ned at the meeting-place, and off we went in high spirits for the Yellow-breeches.
It was a good mile to Big Woods, for we had to circle away down to Hake's Mill to get across the creek, but we felt well repaid for our trouble when we arrived there. The fallen nuts lay thick amid the dead leaves, and up on the half-naked trees the splitting hulls hung in clusters, willing to drop their burden at the least rustle of the breeze.
We heaped the shellbarks in great piles, ready to stow away in Ned's big wheat bag; and, when the ground was cleaned up pretty well, and the leaves had been thoroughly raked, we turned our attention to a close cluster of trees that stood close by the creek. These nuts were unusually large, and thin-shelled. The hulls were cracked apart, but very few nuts lay on the ground, so I hauled out my club, and drove it fairly into the heart of the tree. A shower of nuts came down, with a merry clatter that gladdened our hearts; but the club, striking the trunk of the tree, bounded sideways and lodged in the crotch of a limb overhanging the creek, some twenty or thirty feet above the water.
Here was a dilemma. I didn't want to lose that club, for it had done good service in past autumns, and had gone through a great many hairbreadth escapes.
If we tried to dislodge it by hurling sticks or stones, it would fall into the water, and just at that point the creek was very deep, and moreover, as popular tradition held, a treacherous undertow existed which would render the recovery of the club impossible.
"Climb the tree, Jack," said Ned; "that's your only chance."
I was always considered a pretty good climber, so, after a little hesitation (for this was an unusually difficult tree), I started up the slippery trunk, and, with Ned's friendly aid, pulled myself among the lower limbs.
It was an easy matter to reach the particular bough that I wanted, but then came the tug. I was half-inclined to give up the whole thing and go down to the ground, but Ned kept egging me on so confidently that I determined to go through with it.
Straddling the limb, I took a firm hold with both hands in front of me, for no other boughs were close enough to be grasped, and thus inch by inch I moved cautiously forward.
The branch creaked and groaned, and at last began to bend in such an alarming fashion that I stopped short.
There was the club, not four feet away now, and far below I could see the quiet waters of the creek, wrinkling the reflected foliage as a dropping nut or stray leaf rippled the surface.
"You're nearly there, now," cried Ned, with hearty encouragement; "just a little more, Jack, and you'll have it.
"But the limb will break," I called down.
"No, it won't," he insisted, "don't be afraid."
That settled it. I wasn't afraid, and Ned should know it.
I took a firmer grip on the bough, and slid forward half a foot.
Crack, crack,—the big branch slowly began to split, and as I made a frantic effort to crawl back, a strange noise from the bushy part of the tree overhead turned my gaze upward.
It's a wonder my hair didn't turn white that very instant, for what I saw was a big, tawny wild-cat, with blazing eyes and quivering claws, crouched on a narrow limb. I knew the animal was going to spring, and I tried to shout as loudly as I could, but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, and the only sound I made was an odd cry that caused Ned to laugh, for he couldn't see what was the matter from where he stood.
Then like a streak the brute plumped down on my back, and with a tremendous splash, limb, wildcat, and myself went into the creek.
I heard Ned shout, as the water closed over me, and then everything became dark.
I rose to the surface terribly frightened, for, sad to relate, I had never learned to swim, and Ned could do very little in that direction. Instead of clutching at the empty air, as most drowning persons do, I caught hold of something substantial; and when the water was out of my eyes and out of my stomach, for I had swallowed about a pint, I saw that I was hanging to the bushy end of the broken limb. That was all very well, but the next thing I observed was not so pleasant, for six feet distant, on the thick part of the branch, sat the wild-cat, apparently none the worse for his fall. His sharp claws were driven into the bark, and he was calmly licking his dripping fur. Meanwhile the current was sweeping us down stream, and Ned was running along the bank in a sad state of fright and excitement. My back began to hurt pretty badly, and I discovered that my face was torn and bleeding in one or two places, though whether this was caused by the fall or by the wild-cat I did not know.
"Swim, Jack, let go and swim," shouted Ned, and then, remembering perhaps that I was unable to follow his instructions, he suddenly turned and ran back through the woods at the top of his speed, instead of making any effort to help me.
I was badly scared before, and now, when I saw, as I supposed, my last hope vanish, I began to shout for help as loudly as I could.
But at the very first cry the wild-cat lifted his head, and emitted a vicious snarl. As I howled louder than ever, he advanced a foot or two along the limb, ripping off the bark, and fixing his big glaring eyes savagely on my face.
I was terrified into silence, and, as soon as I ceased shouting, the brute stopped and coolly proceeded to lick his fur again.
Apparently, he did not object to my presence so long as I remained quiet. The worst of it was that my end of the branch was pretty far down in the water, and threatened every moment to carry me entirely under the surface.
In this precarious situation, I drifted down the creek, until the bend drew near that sweeps round to Hake's Mill. Here the country was a little more open, and a farmhouse came into sight over the brow of a hill.
There was a chance of rescue, and in spite of my previous experience, I decided to try it, for my limbs were becoming chilled, and I knew I could not hold on much longer.
"Help! Help!" I cried with might and main. No answer came back, but before I could shout a third time the wild-cat uttered a snarl, and began creeping toward me, inch by inch, and lashing the water fiercely with his tail. Lower and lower sank the branch, until my shoulders were submerged, and still the beast kept advancing.
I continued to shout, but no welcome voice responded, only empty echoes floating back from the hills.
Then I must have given up all hope, for I remember wondering vaguely what had become of Ned, and what they were doing in school, and whether my absence was noticed or not.
The cold water was rippling about my neck now, and the wild-cat was so close that I could note the horrible colors of the glaring eyes, and feel the hot breath in my face. I wondered how it would feel when those two rows of needle-like teeth met in my flesh; and then, before I could think any more, a deafening report filled my ears, and, through the cloud of smoke that rolled over the creek, the wild-cat bounded high in air, and fell into the water with a loud splash. That was all I remembered then. The next thing I knew, I was lying in a grassy hollow, alongside the creek, while Ned and an old farmer bent over me, and threw water in my face. Ned's desertion was explained. He had cut off the bend in the creek by running over the hill, and, accompanied by the farmer, who happened to be down in the woods hunting rabbits, they had arrived just in time to shoot the wild-cat and drag me out of the water. That was the last time I played truant. I didn't lose my share of the shellbarks, for Ned went down early the next morning and got them, but I did lose the chestnut club, and what was worse, in spite of my sore back, I spent a very unpleasant quarter of an hour out in the woodshed, just two days later, and Ned, I am happy to say, passed through the same edifying experience.
A STIRRING INCIDENT.
India is the home of the deadliest serpents and fiercest wild beasts on the globe. When it is stated that more than twenty thousand persons are killed annually by the snakes and animals of that country, some idea may be formed of its attractions in the way of a residence. To this should be added the fact that, during certain seasons, the climate is like that of Sahara itself. For days and nights the thermometer stands above one hundred degrees in the shade and in the city of Madras, unacclimated persons have died at midnight in their beds from apoplexy caused by the appalling temperature.
Among the venomous serpents of India, the cobra di capello holds foremost rank, though it is claimed that a still more deadly reptile has been found in the interior, and I believe the British Museum has one of these terrible creatures, whose bite brings death with the suddenness of the lightning stroke. However, the cobra has been known to strike two persons in instant succession, proving fatal to both within ten minutes of each other. It is hard to conceive of any serpent more venomously destructive than this.
On one of the flaming Sunday mornings, when there was not a cloud in the brazen skies, a well known missionary came home from early service and seated himself at the breakfast-table with his family. The door of the dining-room was open and the Teluga school-teacher was outside, when he became interested in a novel sight. A frog was hopping along the front veranda, with an immense cobra chasing it. The serpent struck at it repeatedly, but the fugitive, in its desperation, eluded each blow, giving utterance to pitiful cries, as a frog will do when pursued by a snake.
The end of the veranda reached, the frog leaped off, and the cobra dropped to the ground in hot pursuit, but a box, standing near, offered shelter. The creature scrambled beneath, just in time to avoid another swift blow of the reptile, which was unable to follow it. The cobra glided around the box, seeking some avenue by which to reach his victim, but, finding none, moved off in the grass and disappeared.
The teacher hurried into the dining-room, with the announcement of what he had seen. The missionary listened gravely and then inquired:
"Where is the cobra now?"
"I cannot tell, sir; he moved off among the flower-pots, but I do not know whither he went."
"It is not my practice to go shooting on Sunday," remarked the minister, "but it won't do to have that serpent where it is liable to bite one of us. He must have a hole somewhere near the flower-pots; please keep watch while I get my pistol."
The missionary always kept a loaded revolver for use when traveling through the jungle at night, and he speedily stepped out on the veranda, with the weapon in hand, and started to find the cobra.
Two large native flower-pots stood within a couple of yards of the veranda. Each contained a fragrant rose, of which the good man's wife was very fond. Every day she spent some time sprinkling them with water or removing the dead leaves, never suspecting what proved to be the fact that while thus employed, she continually moved about a spot where an immense cobra lay coiled.
An opening was discovered directly between the flower pots, partly concealed by the grass. It was about as thick as a man's wrist, and descended perpendicularly, expanding into a small chamber.
The minister called for a hand-mirror, and with little trouble threw the bright reflection of the sun into the hole, a little more than a foot deep, fully lighting up the interior.
The cobra was there! It lay motionless in a glistening coil, as if resting from its fruitless pursuit of the frog and brooding over its disappointment. It was an alarming sight, but the good man kept cool, and meant business from the start.
Taking a piece of broken wagon tire, he thrust it slantingly into the hole, to hold the serpent a prisoner, and shoving the muzzle of his revolver forward, he let fly.
Not the slightest motion followed. He had missed. He now gently turned the tire edgewise and fired again. A furious writhing followed, proving that the snake had been hit hard. The tire was instantly turned over flat to prevent its coming out. It struck fiercely at the iron, which in a minute was shifted on its edge again, and the missionary emptied the remaining chambers of his revolver down the hole. Then he turned up the tire once more, and allowed the hideous head to dart forth.
The minister had brought with him a pair of large hedge shears, with which he seized the protruding neck, drew out the snake and gave it a flirt toward the compound. He was so absorbed with his task that he had not noticed the crowd of men, women and children that had gathered to watch the results of his hunt. When they saw a huge cobra flying through the air toward them, there was a scampering and screaming, which might have been less had they known that the grip of the shears had dislocated the serpent's neck.
The good man did not forget that whenever you find one deadly serpent, another is quite certain to be close at hand. He had passed the wagon tire to the teacher, when he began pulling out the wounded cobra, and asked him to insert it again without an instant's delay. This was done, and returning with the hand-glass, the missionary once more conveyed the rays into the underground chamber.
Sure enough a second cobra was there, wriggling and squirming in a way to show that he had received some of the bullets intended for his companion. The revolver was reloaded and a fusillade opened, standing off a few paces, the marksman waited for the head to come forth that he might seize and draw it out as he had done with the other.
The wounded reptile continued its furious squirming and striking, but its head did not appear, until shot after shot had been fired. At last it showed itself, and was immediately gripped with the shears. Dropping the pistol, the missionary employed both hands in the effort, and running backward a few steps, the whole frightful length of the serpent was drawn out upon the ground.
Remembering their former experience, the crowd moved away, but the missionary spared them a second fright.
Both cobras being helpless, an examination was made of them. The second one showed the marks of fourteen pistol balls through his body, any three of which would have proved fatal, but he was still full of fight, and died while trying to strike the persons near him.
The serpents were now stretched out on the veranda and measured one of them five feet eleven inches long, and the other six feet two inches. The last is an extraordinary size, rarely seen even in the favorite haunts of the reptile. An investigation of their home left no doubt that they had been living for months right among the flower pots that were attended to daily, and within six feet of the veranda and twelve feet of the door of the missionary's study.
As for the frog that crawled under the box just in time to save himself, he was well and flourishing at the last accounts.
CYCLONES AND TORNADOES.
Science as yet has not been able to grasp the laws that govern cyclones. They seem to be the result of some intensely electric condition of the elements, which finds an expression in that form. Cyclones, until within a few years, meant those circular tempests encountered in the Pacific and Indian oceans. They are the most destructive of all storms, being far more deadly than monsoons and tornadoes.
All navigators, when caught in a cyclone know how to get out of it. They have only to sail at right angles to the wind, when they will either pass beyond the outer rim of the circular sweep, or reach the center, where the ocean is calm.
The diameters of the ocean cyclones range from fifty to five hundred or a thousand miles. Professor Douglas, of Ann Arbor University, entertains his friends now and then by manufacturing miniature cyclones. He first suspends a large copper plate by silken cords. The plate is heavily charged with electricity, which hangs below in a bag-like mass. He uses arsenious acid gas, which gives the electricity a greenish tint. That mass of electricity becomes a perfect little cyclone. It is funnel-shaped and spins around like a top. When he moves the plate over a table, his cyclone catches up pennies, pens, pith balls and other small articles, and scatters them in every direction.
Cyclones never touch the equator, though the ocean ones are rare outside the torrid one. They are caused by the meeting of contrary currents of winds, and are known under the names of hurricanes, typhoons, whirlwinds or tornadoes. Those terrifying outbursts which now and then cause so much destruction in our own country seem to be the concentration of the prodigious force of an immense ocean cyclone within a small space, which renders them resistless.
A writer in the N. Y. Herald gives some interesting facts regarding these scourges of the air. While the cyclone, as we have shown, may have a diameter of hundreds of miles, the track of a tornado is often limited to a few hundred feet, and rarely has the width of half a mile.
The cyclone carries with it a velocity of as much as 100 to 140 miles an hour. It sends a certain amount of warning ahead of its track, and the acceleration of the wind's speed at any given point, is gradual.
The tornado falls almost without notice, or rather the indications are often so similar to those of an ordinary thunderstorm that only a skilled and careful observer can detect the difference.
The phenomena and effects of cyclones in the West Indies have long been subjects of study and observation. As the center approaches a ship she is assaulted by wind of a terrible force and a sea that is almost indescribable. The water no longer runs in waves of regular onward motion, but leaps up in pyramids and peaks. The wind swirls and strikes until wherever there is a chance for vibration or flutter, even in tightly furled sails, the fabric soon gives way. I once saw a brig go drifting past us in a West Indies cyclone with everything furled and closely lashed with sea gaskets. We were in company nearly at the height of the storm, when the center was only a few miles away. There was a spot in the bunt of the foretopsail where the sail was not tightly stowed, and for several hours it had doubtless been fluttering under tremendous pressure. As I watched her a little white puff went out of the bunt of the topsail, and then the destruction of the sail was rapid. Long ribbons of canvas went slithering off as if a huge file had rasped the yard arm, and in a short time there was nothing left on the yard except the bolt ropes and the reef tackles. We could do nothing to help the crew, for it was doubtful whether we could keep off the reefs ourselves, and the brig passed out of sight to her certain doom.
The local tornado that so frequently plays havoc with property and life in the West is, like the cyclone, a revolving force, but it carries with it a variety of phenomena wholly distinct from those that accompany the larger storm. Many of the effects of one tornado are wholly absent in others, and the indications that in one case have been followed by a terrible disaster are not infrequently found at other times to presage merely a heavy thunder shower.
The freaks of a tornado are wholly unaccountable. In some cases not an object in its track will fail to feel its power for long distances; in other instances it will seem to act like a cannon-ball that plows up the earth on striking, then rises and strikes again, leaving the space between untouched. Sometimes it will go through a forest leveling the trees as though a gang of axemen had plied their tools on lines laid out by surveyors, nothing outside the track being touched; but again in similar windfalls there will be found occasional pockets scored in the forest growth jutting off the right line, like small lagoons opening into a flowing stream. These seem to have been caused by a sort of attendant whirlwind—a baby offspring from the main monster, which, having sprung away from the chief disturbance, scoops a hole in the woods and then expires or rejoins the original movement.
I have seen one of the most violent and, so to speak, compressed of these storms, cut a road through thick woods so that at a distance the edges stood out clear and sharp against the sky as would those of a railway cutting through earth. Trees standing at the edge of the track had their branches clean swept one side while on the other there was no perceptible disturbance of the foliage.
Sometimes the tornado acts like an enormous scoop, catching up every movable thing and sweeping it miles away: and again it becomes a depositor, as if, tired of carrying so much dead weight, it dumped it upon the earth preparatory to grabbing up a new cargo. These effects are particularly noticeable in the tornado that goes by jumps. When it strikes and absorbs a mass of debris it seems to spring up again like a projectile that grazes the surface. For a space there will be a very high wind and some damage, but no such disaster as the tornado has previously wrought. Out of the clouds will come occasional heavy missiles and deluges of water. Then down goes the tornado again crashing and scattering by its own force and adding to its destructive power by a battery of timbers and other objects brought along from the previous impact. Relieved of these masses, it again gathers up miscellaneous movables and repeats its previous operation.
The force with which these objects strike is best seen when they fall outside of the tornado's path, since the work done by the missile is not then disturbed by the general destructive force of the storm. Thus, near Racine, Wis., I have known an ordinary fence rail, slightly sharpened on one end, to be driven against a young tree like a spear and pierce it several feet. The velocity of the rail must have been something enormous, or otherwise the rail would have glanced from such a round and elastic object.
Many of the settlers in the tornado districts of Southern Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska excavate a deep cellar beneath their houses and cover it with heavy timbers as a place of refuge for their families when a tornado threatens to strike them. While these dugouts are usually effective, they are not always so. There have been instances where families having only time to descend and not time enough to close the trap door have been exposed to the storm's full fury by the tornado getting into the opening and lifting off the whole roof after having first swept away the house above. Another pathetic case resulted in the death of a whole family by an extraordinary freak of the tornado. The storm first struck a large pond and swept up all the water in it. Its next plunge deposited this water on one of these dugouts, and the family were drowned like chipmunks in a hole.
Some of the western tornadoes are accompanied by electrical manifestations to an extent that has originated a belief in electricity as their cause. These disturbances are very marked in some cases, while in others they have not been noticed. In one tornado in Central Illinois electricity played very peculiar antics not only in the tornado's track, but also at some distance from it. In the ruined houses all the iron work was found to have been strongly magnetized, so that pokers, flatirons and other metal objects were found adhering to each other. Just off the tornado's track the same effects were noticed, and several persons experienced sharp electric shocks during the passage of the storm. Afterward it was found that the magnetic influence was so strong that clocks and watches were stopped and rendered wholly useless.
The scooping action of the tornado sometimes makes considerable changes in the topography of the country, as when it gathers up the water of a large pond or water course and makes a new pond or opens a new channel. At Wallingford the water in a pond of very large size was taken bodily from its bed, carried up a hill and dropped nearly in one mass, so that gullies and ravines were cut in every direction.
There is a divide in Northeastern Illinois between streams flowing into Lake Michigan and those running to the Mississippi. So level is a portion of the land on the summit, and so slight the elevation above the lake, that in wet seasons the surface-water seems almost as willing to go one way as the other; and on one occasion the upper streams of the Desplaines River were nearly permanently diverted toward the lake by a tornado that gathered up the water and scored the surface in its track toward the east.
Many are the stories told of the way in which objects are carried away by the wind and left in strange places. In one Illinois tornado two children and an infant were caught up. The dead bodies of the children were found only a few hundred feet distant, but the infant was picked up alive more than a mile away from the spot where the tornado swept the children up. An accordion that must have come a long distance—for it was never claimed—was found so entangled in the branches of a tree that it was alternately pulled apart and pressed together by the wind, thus creating such weird and uncanny music during a whole night that an already sufficiently scared settlement of negroes were kept in a state of frantic dismay until daylight revealed the cause.
In another case a farmer who followed the tornado's track in search of missing cattle was astonished to discover one of his cows lodged about twenty feet above the ground in the branches of a half-stripped maple.
"I allers knew that was an active heifer," he remarked, as he came in sight of her hanging over the slanting limb, "but I never allowed she could climb a tree."
LOST IN A BLIZZARD.
If I were given my choice between a visit from a cyclone or a blizzard, I would unhesitatingly choose the former. True, there is no resisting its terrific power, and a man caught in its embrace is as helpless as a child when seized by a Bengal tiger; but there is a chance of escape, and the whole thing is over in a few minutes. You may be lifted into the air and dropped with only a few broken bones, or, by plunging into a "cyclone pit," the fury of the sky may glide harmlessly over your head; but in the case of a blizzard, however, let me tell you the one woeful experience of my life.
The snow fell steadily for two days and nights, and looking out from my home in western Kansas I saw that it lay fully three feet on a level. By a strange providence my wife, who had been my brave and faithful helper for several years, was away on a visit to her friends in Topeka, and my only companion was my servant Jack, a middle-aged African, who in his youth was a slave in Kentucky.
Things had not gone well with us of late. The grasshoppers and drought played the mischief with out crops, and it was a question with me for months whether the wisest course to take was not to throw up my hands, let everything go to the bow-wows and, in the dry-goods firm, that I knew was returning to St. Louis, resume my situation still open for me. A man hates to confess himself beaten, and I decided to remain where I was one more year. Then, if there was no improvement, I would turn my back on Kansas forever.
"Master Thomas," said Jack, as the dismal December afternoon drew to a close, "thar isn't a pound ob flour in de house. Shall I go to de village and get some?"
"No; I will go myself."
It was the sudden realization of the unutterable loneliness I would feel without any companion that led me to this rash declaration. The town was only a mile distant, but it would require hours to make the journey there and back, and I could not bear the thought of being without the society of any one for that time. I had read everything in the house; the single horse and cow I owned had been looked after, and there was absolutely nothing to do but to sit down before the scant fire, listen to the sifting of the snow against the window panes, and give way to gloomy reverie.
Anything was preferable to this, and it was with a feeling akin to relief that I added:
"I might do so had I not noticed this afternoon that he had gone lame."
"Better let de flour go, den, for de snow am too deep and de storm to heavy for you to tramp all de way to town and back again."
"No; while I haven't much fear of our starving, yet, if the snow-fall continues, we shall be in a bad way. I can carry twenty-five pounds without trouble, and will be back in a few hours; then the storm may rage as hard as it pleases, for all we care."
The preparations were quickly made, and, to shorten my story, I may say that, after a laborious tramp, I reached the village without mishap, bought my quarter of a hundred of flour, slung it over my shoulder, and started on my return.
By this time I had made several disquieting discoveries. The snow was falling faster than ever, the cold was increasing, a gale was blowing, and, under the circumstances, of course there was not a glimmer of light in the sky. My course was directly across the prairie, and in the event of my tracks being obliterated by the snow—as was almost certain to be the case—it was almost impossible for me to prevent myself from going astray.
My hope lay in Jack's promise that he would keep a bright light burning in the upper story to guide me on my course. On a clear night this light was visible from the village, but somehow or other I failed to take into account the state of the weather. The air was full of eddying flakes, which would render the headlight of a locomotive invisible a hundred yards distant. Strange that this important fact never occurred to me until I was fully a fourth of a mile from the village. Then, after looking in vain for the beacon light, the danger of my situation struck me, and I halted.
"I am certain to go wrong," I said to myself.
"It is out of my power to follow a direct course without something to serve as a compass. I will go back to the village and wait till morning."
Wheeling about in my tracks, I resumed my wearisome tramp through the heavy snow, and kept it up until I was certain I had travelled fully a fourth of a mile. Then when I paused a moment and gazed ahead and around, I was confronted by blank darkness on every hand. What a proof of a man's tendency to go wrong, that in aiming at a village of fifty dwellings, and only a fourth of a mile away, I had missed it altogether!
This discovery gave me my first thrill of real alarm. I shouted, but my voice fell dead in the snowy air. The gale was blowing more furiously than ever, and the cold was so intense that it penetrated my thick clothing and caused my teeth to rattle together!
"You can be of no use to me," I exclaimed, flinging away the small bag of flour. "The village can't be far off, and I will find it."
Determined to retain my self-possession, I made a careful calculation of the proper course to follow, and plunged into my work with more vigor than ever. I continually glanced up in quest of the flickering lights, and listened, in the hope of hearing some sound that could guide me, but nothing of the kind was seen or heard, and it was not long before the terrible truth burst upon me that I was lost.
Aye, and lost in a blizzard! The wind had risen almost to a hurricane; the cold cut through the thickest clothing, and the snow struck my face like the prick of millions of needles. I shouted again, but, convinced that it was a useless waste of strength, I soon ceased.
It was certain death to remain motionless, and almost equally fatal to push on; but there was a possibility that I might strike the right direction, and anything was preferable to remaining idle. And so, with a desperation akin to despair, I threw all the vigor at my command into my benumbed limbs, and bent every possible energy to the life and death task before me.
The sleet drove against my cheeks with such spiteful and penetrating fierceness that I could make no use of my eyes, I could only bend my head to the blast and labor through the snow, praying that Providence would guide my footsteps in the right direction.
I was plodding forward in this heavy, aimless fashion when I noticed that the violence of the gale was drifting the snow. Sometimes I would strike a space of several yards where it did not reach to my ankles. Then I would suddenly lurch into a wall that reached to my shoulders. After wallowing through this, I might strike a shallow portion again, where, while walking quite briskly, a windrow of snow would be hurled against my breast and face with such fury as to force me backward and off my feet.
Bracing myself, I waited until there was a sufficient lull in the blizzard for me to make some use of my eyes. I blinked and peered toward the different points of the compass, but without catching the first twinkle of light.
"I am lost—lost—" I moaned; "there is no help for me!"
An extraordinary collapse must have come over me, for my senses seemed to forsake me on the instant. I went down in the eddying, blinding snow, and knew no more.
At the moment of giving way I was less than a hundred yards from the easternmost house of the village. My despairing cry was heard, and hospitable hands carried me into the dwelling within a quarter of an hour after losing my consciousness. Intelligent and prompt treatment prevented any serious consequences, but the remembrance of that brief time exposed to the fury of the blizzard will remain with me to my dying day.
THROWING THE RIATA.
The skill shown by cattlemen in throwing the riata or lasso often approaches the marvelous. What is more wonderful than the duel described in the San Francisco Examiner, between Mexican vaqueros, in which the only weapons used were their riatas? The victor overcame the other by throwing his noose, so that his enemy's noose passed right through it, and the conqueror lassoed the other man's arms against his side and jerked him from his steed.
The despatch then went on to tell of the skill of the victorious riata man, and mentioned among other wonderful feats, his lassoing an antelope running at high speed 100 feet away. To make the test more extraordinary, the correspondent wrote that he would pick out one of the animal's feet and get the noose around that alone.
An Examiner reporter called on Louis Ohnimus, Superintendent of Woodward's Gardens, who wielded a riata for many years, and probably knows as much about throwing the lasso as any man on the coast, and asked him if the feats referred to were possible.
"The Mexican may have won the duel by lassoing his adversary, riata and all," was the answer. "It is not an uncommon thing for them to settle their differences by such a fight, and I have heard of the trick of ringing the other man's rope, but if that man can catch an antelope one hundred feet away, by the foot or any other way, he is a better riata man than I ever encountered. In the first place mighty few men are strong enough to throw a rope such a distance. Then an ordinary riata is only fourteen or sixteen yards long—twenty yards is a very long one. So, you see, a forty-foot throw is a pretty good one."
He was asked to explain how to throw a lasso, and consented to do so.
"The first thing about this business," said Mr. Ohnimus, "is to have a perfect riata. If you have one perfectly stretched, oiled, and in a thoroughly good condition, you can throw well; if your rope is kinky or uneven, you will find it impossible to do accurate work."
"What do you consider a good riata?"
"Well, I can only tell you how a good one is made. First, the rawhide is cut in thin strips, as long as possible, and half tanned with the hair on. Then these strips are soaked and stretched over a block. Then they are braided into a rope, care being taken, of course, to pull the strands as tight as possible. When the riata is made it should be buried for a week, ten days, or even a fortnight, in the sand. It takes up moisture from the ground, without getting hard. Soaking it in water won't do, nor will anything else that I know of except, as I say, burying it. When the riata is resurrected it should again be left for a time stretched over a block, with a weight to hold it taut. Then the hair should be sandpapered off the outside, and when the riata is greased with mutton tallow and properly noosed it is ready for use. Every vaquero that pretends to take care of his apparatus will bury his riata and stretch it every six or eight months.
"A hair rope does not make a good riata. It is useful to stretch around camp at night to keep snakes away. For some reason snakes will not cross a hair rope.
"Now, as to throwing it:
"The riata, say, is hanging from the horn of the saddle—not tied, but ready for use. No vaquero who understands his trade ties his rope to his saddle. He knows that his life may depend on his ability to let go of his rope in an instant, and he isn't going to chance killing himself or his horse. You see, the vaquero might be on a side hill, and a bull or steer he wishes to catch be on a trail below him, and the ground between them to be too steep to admit of his riding down to it. Now, suppose the noose, instead of catching around the horns of the steer, should circle his neck and draw down to his shoulders? Accidents are, of course, as likely to happen in catching cattle as in anything else, and give a bull such a hold and he could pull a house, let alone a mustang. That would be one case where it would be very handy to let go quickly. Then a man is likely to get his hand caught, and if he can't let his rope go free he is likely to lose a finger or two.
"Our vaquero is trotting along with his rope hanging at his saddle bow or fastened behind him. He sees a deer or whatever else he wants to catch, and grabs his rope with the left hand if he is a right-handed man, though a man to really excel in this business should be ambi-dextrous. A right-handed man can, under ordinary circumstances, rope a steer; but he has frequently to turn his horse to gain a good position. Now it sometimes happens that your horse is in a position where you can't turn; then it would be awkward, unless you could throw with either hand. I usually throw with my left hand, though I can use either.
"I take up the rope from the saddle bow, so."
He lifted his riata in his right hand. His little finger held the standing end of the rope, the third and middle finders supported the coil, and the noose dangled from his first finger, while his thumb steadied the whole rope and held it from slipping. The coils were not more than a foot or a foot and a half in diameter. The noose was the same size.
"That's a smaller noose than you would use on the range, is it not?"
"No," answered Mr. Ohnimus, "the vaquero never carries his noose long. If he did, it would be constantly getting tangled up in the horse's legs. He makes it larger when he swings it. But to get back to the process of lassoing. As our cowboy gets close to his quarry, he takes the noose in his lasso hand. I will use my left, as it is a trifle handier for me. He grips the rope, not too firmly, holding the standing part and the side of the noose about half the length of the loop away from the knot. That is to enable him to swing the noose so that it will fall open. If he holds it at the knot he will throw a long, narrow noose that is very likely to cross and kink.
"Meanwhile I, representing our cowboy, hold the remaining coils in my other hand, only changing the position of my forefinger so as to secure better control of the coils. Then comes the third maneuver—enlarging the noose. Of course, you have to have a larger noose than one a foot in diameter to drop over a steer's horns forty feet away. The noose is enlarged by swinging the noose in your lasso hand until the centrifugal force pulls it out the size you wish (this is the reason you do not grasp it too firmly), letting go with the other hand, of course, as many coils as are necessary to make the noose the right size. Now you have the noose in the air you do not cease making it circle around your head until you let it go. When the noose has been let out to the right size the next trouble is to keep it open and to avoid entangling it in the brush or other surrounding obstructions. You keep it open, as I said, by holding the noose from quarter to half its length from the knot, and by a peculiar twist of the wrist that is only attainable by practice. To keep it clear of the brush is often a more difficult job, for the cowboy is not always in a clear place when he wants to throw his rope. Then it is that his judgment comes into play and determines whether his cast is a lost one or not. I have seen vaqueros swing a lasso swiftly almost in the midst of a thicket, and keep it clear without losing speed, and then let it drive straight as an arrow between two close trees and rope an object that could not pass where the noose had gone. Such skill, to be sure, comes only after long practice.
"Well, now we have got the noose circling about the vaquero's head, and the next thing is to let it fly. There is not much to describe about this part of throwing a riata, important though it may be. It is only incessant practice that will enable a man to make a certain cast. The main thing is to swing the rope just long enough—neither so long as to give it a side-wise motion when you throw it, nor short enough to prevent its getting all the force you require. Then the riata man must throw at a particular limb or projection. This thing of tossing blindly at an object and trusting to luck that the animal will get into the rope somehow will not do. You must pick out your mark as carefully as if you were shooting at it, and then time it. A steer jumping along changes his position constantly as regards you. If you throw at his head high up the chances are that it will be away down when your rope reaches him, and you will overthrow. Now, if you pick out a foot you must reckon so that that foot will be off the ground when your rope reaches him. The noose does not travel like a bullet, and this element of time is most important.
"Of even more importance is it that the distances are gauged correctly. You remember I spoke about holding the coils lightly in two or three fingers. Well, that is done in order that as many coils as may be considered necessary may be let go. If you are wielding a riata you know that each of your coils is almost two feet or two and one half feet long. So if you want to lasso something twenty feet away you let go ten coils.
"As to letting go, you simply open your hand at the correct time and the rope slips off.
"But even after you have roped your steer your work is not over. Almost any animal can pull you from your horse, and to prevent this you must get your rope around the horn of your saddle. There is where you have to be quick. There are two ways of making this hitch that are used ordinarily. The one I prefer is simply to take two turns around the horn, taking care that the second turn comes lower and overlaps the other. No pull in the world could make that rope slip, while I can, simply by throwing off one turn, let it all slide off. This other fashion, which is really taking a 'half-inch' around the horn, holds just as fast, but you have to push the rope through to loosen it. You see, in making this sudden twist, a finger is very likely to get caught, and I have known many fingers being taken off before such a hitch could be unfastened.
"It is often advisable to take an extra twist around anything you have lassoed, and this is done by simply throwing a coil. Practice again is the only thing that can teach this.
"Now you have the whole theory of throwing a rope.
"There are four sorts of throws, but they are all made alike, only the position of the arm being different. They are the overthrow, the underthrow, the sidethrow, and the backthrow."
"Yes, backthrow—catching an object behind you—something that you need not even see. That sounds difficult, does it? Well, you stand behind me and you can see it done."
The reporter took his station twenty feet behind Mr. Ohnimus, quite out of sight, of course. He swung the loop around his head, and, without turning, let it fly backward. It circled the newspaper man exactly, and by pulling it quickly Ohnimus had his arms pinioned to his side.
"Are there any more trick throws?" asked the reporter.
"Lots of them. I never put myself up as a crack riata man, and I am out of practice now, but I can lay the noose on the ground at my feet and kick it around your neck, or pick it off the ground from my horse and land it around you while the horse is going at full speed, and do lots of things like that, but none of them is any good. That backthrow has been used by the Mexican highwaymen to considerable advantage. You see, in that country the traveler always looks out for danger from the rear and is prepared for it, but when a pleasant horseman rides past him, playing with his riata, and wishing him 'Good-day' as he passes, he is likely to consider the danger as gone by, as well as the man. That has caused the death of a good many. The bandit gets the right distance ahead and then lassoes him as I did you. A touch of his spur jerks his victim from the saddle and that ends it."
"How is the lasso as a weapon of defence?"
"Good. A quick riata man can beat a fellow with a pistol at fairly close quarters."
"Well, here is a pistol. Put it in your pocket and draw it on me as I come toward you."
The reporter did as he was directed. He had not raised the weapon when the noose was around his hand and the pistol was jerked a dozen feet.
"Try again, and tighter," said Ohnimus.
The reporter did so. The pistol was not jerked from his hand this time, but before he could snap it Ohnimus had thrown a coil around his neck and pulled his pistol hand up over his shoulder. In another instant a second coil was around the reporter's body, and both arms were fastened firmly to his sides. He could not move that pistol an inch. No clearer demonstration of the use of the lasso as a weapon of defence was possible.
"What is the most difficult animal, in your opinion, to catch with the lasso?" was asked.
"A sea lion," answered the rope thrower. "I have caught them off the southern coast. They go right through a noose. The only way to get them is to throw the rope around his neck and back of one flipper. A hog is hard to catch, too. He pulls his legs out of a noose without half trying, and you can't hold him by the neck or body. The only way is to get him like the sea lion—back of one foreleg."
Doubtless many of my readers have heard of the dreadful encounters of vessels with waterspouts, when the ship escaped destruction by firing a cannon-ball into the waterspout, thus causing it to break apart.
Now these things are by no means such terrible objects as many believe. No doubt the vessels of the present day are larger and stronger than formerly, and perhaps waterspouts have become smaller. Be as it may, the people who go down to the sea in ships need give themselves no uneasiness about them, for really they amount to little.
The Slavonia, of the Hamburg line left Brunshausen, on the Elbe, on February 26 last, under the command of Capt. H. Schmidt. She had only two passengers. The weather was squally and the air full of mist when she reached the outer Banks, 900 miles from New York, shortly after sunrise on Sunday, March 16. The big vessel was heading west by north, when, at 7 o'clock, Second Mate Erichsen, who was on the bridge, saw emerge through the mist on the starboard side of the ship, at the distance of about a thousand feet, a towering column which united sea and sky. The column was in front of the ship to starboard, and was moving in a southeasterly direction, apparently at the rate of eight knots an hour.
Although the Slavonia was running 9 1/2 knots, the column seemed likely to pass in front of the steamship when their paths crossed. Accordingly Erichsen did not try to alter the course of the Slavonia; indeed, he would not have altered it had he known ship and spout were sure to meet, for he had encountered waterspouts before and wasn't afraid of them. All he did—in fact, all he had time to do—was to call Third Mate Lorentzen, also an expert in waterspouts.
On rushed the Slavonia, heading west by north: nearer came the waterspout, heading south by east. It soon became evident that the spout could not get by before the Slavonia reached it, and it was now too late to slow up—indeed, a collision was manifestly unavoidable from the start. Lorentzen had scarcely reached the bridge when the watery Philistine was upon the Samson. It just hit the steamer's bows on the starboard side, as depicted in the second cut. A rushing noise accompanied the column, and the water foamed in its wake. Immediately above was a great black cloud from which clouds less dark descended to form a funnel, or inverted cone. The middle of the column was white, apparently because it contained snow.
The column's narrowest diameter was about twelve feet, while it was three times as broad as its base, which reproduced in water and inverted the cloud-formed funnel above. The whole column rotated with a spiral motion.
The waterspout, when it approached, took all the wind out of the fore-staysail of the steamship, which went blind, but the schooner-sail still kept full, and presently the fore-staysail filled again.
The Slavonia shook under the shock caused by contact with the column of water, but kept on her course none the worse for the collision. A few flakes of snow on her bow were the only evidence of the collision after the pillar of water had passed off to port.
While the vessel was uninjured, the waterspout soon showed signs that it had received its death-blow. As it sailed off to the southeast it parted in the middle, and the cone of water which formed its base and the cone of cloud which formed its top began to grow smaller by degrees. The waterspout was slowly but surely ceasing to be a waterspout when it disappeared from view in the misty distance some fifteen minutes or more from the time it was sighted.
The Slavonia's encounter with the waterspout took place in latitude 42 degrees 22 minutes north and longitude 52 degrees 35 minutes west. This is rather far north for waterspouts so early in the year. The waterspout crop is generally more plentiful when thunder and lightning are on top, which is in warmer weather. The temperature of the air at the time of the encounter was 37 degrees; water 54 degrees. It had been cold during the night, but grew warmer in the morning. The clouds which overspread the firmament were of the cumulus pattern.
Erichsen and Lorentzen have not only seen other waterspouts, but the first, when on a sailing vessel in the tropics, ran into the very middle of one with no worse result than to deluge the deck of the ship with water as a heavy shower would have done. He thinks an unusually large waterspout might possibly sink a very small vessel, say a pilot boat, but with a ship of ordinary size he considers bombarding a waterspout with cannon a waste of powder.
AN HEROIC WOMAN.
Every boy and girl should learn to swim. When one recalls how easily the art is acquired, and the many occasions that are liable to arise, we cannot but wonder that the accomplishment is so universally neglected by the other sex. It is pleasant to note, however, that swimming is growing to be popular among women, and the day is not far distant, when the majority of young ladies will become the rivals of their brothers in their ability to keep their heads above water.
Torres Strait separates Australia from Papua or New Guinea; and connects the Arafura Sea on the west, with the Coral Sea on the east. Its current is swift and the waters from time immemorial have been dangerous to navigation. It has been the scene of many shipwrecks, and it is only a few months since that the steamer Quetta was lost in those waters. One hundred and sixteen persons perished on that terrible night in the South Pacific, but among the survivors was Miss Lacy, whose experience was not only among the most interesting and thrilling ever recorded, but emphasizes the statement we have made at the opening of our sketch.
Miss Lacy says she was sitting in the saloon, engaged in writing a letter, the other ladies practicing for a concert which it was intended to give on shipboard. Everything was going along, merrily, and all were in high spirits, when, without the least warning, they were startled by a harsh, grating noise, the steamer rocked violently, and nearly every one was thrown into the wildest panic.
The confusion and shouts above showed that some fearful disaster had occurred. Instantly Miss Lacy made a rush for the deck to learn what it meant. Quick as were her movements, she found the ship was already sinking. Going aft was like climbing a steep hill, but she saw that one portion was high above water, and she struggled bravely to reach it. But, so rapidly did the Quetta go down that she had hardly gone forward, when the steamer was swallowed up in the furious waters.
That which followed is beyond description. In an instant, two hundred human beings were struggling frantically, shrieking in their terror for the help which was nowhere to be found, clutching each other, praying and drowning by the score.
Miss Lacy was caught in this fearful swirl, and was in imminent danger of being dragged down by those around her, who were crazed by the one wild, despairing hope of saving themselves, no matter at what cost. But she was a powerful swimmer, and retaining her self-command, she shook herself free of several who attempted to cling to her. The whirlpool caused by the sinking of the steamer pulled her beneath the water, but, with the same wonderful presence of mind she had shown from the first, she fought her way to the surface, and swam from the dangerous spot.
Finding herself her own mistress, and fully aware that her life now depended on her ability to swim, she removed all her superfluous clothing and moved hither and thither in the darkness, in the hope of coming upon some of the survivors.
It was about midnight, that she heard some one shout. The gloom was too powerful for her to distinguish anything, but she swam toward the point, whence the call issued, and came upon a raft, that had been hastily thrown together by the chief officer of the Quetta. Several persons were clinging to it, and she accepted the invitation to avail herself of the temporary refuge and give her weary limbs a rest.
The dismal hours wore slowly away, and at last the growing light in the eastern sky told that the longed-for day was breaking. As soon as the rays of the sun illumined the wild waste of waters, every eye scanned the ocean in quest of some sail; but on every side was the vast heavy sea, with no sign of life except on the little raft. It was water, water everywhere, with not a drop to drink nor a morsel of food to eat, and with no prospect of escaping a lingering death of the most distressing nature.
The discouraging feature of the situation to Miss Lacy was that their rude support was making no progress at all. They had no means of propelling it, and, had they possessed such means, no one knew what course to follow. It looked as if days and nights must be passed on the raft, until one by one the survivors succumbed or ended their sufferings by plunging into the sea which they had striven so hard to escape.
Far away, however, on the verge of the horizon, an object rose dimly to view, which, after carefully studying for some time, the shipwrecked people agreed was a small island, but, as we have stated, they were powerless to propel their craft thither, and could only gaze and sigh for the refuge that was as much beyond their reach, as though it were a thousand leagues distant.
"I am going to swim to it!" exclaimed Miss Lacy.
"Are you mad?" demanded the astonished chief-officer; "it is utterly impossible."
"I prefer to risk it rather than remain here."
"But it is much further off than it seems to be; these waters are full of sharks and you will never live to swim half the distance. Dismiss the idea at once."
And the brave woman took a header into the sea, and with a long graceful stroke, that compelled the admiration of every one of the amazed survivors, began swimming toward the supposed refuge.
But the chief-officer knew more about the difficulties in her way than she did. She grievously miscalculated the distance, and, though she was a swimmer of amazing skill and endurance, she began to believe she had undertaken a task beyond her power of accomplishment.
She swam directly toward the island, husbanding her strength like a wise person, but making steady progress, until before the afternoon was half gone, she knew she had placed many a long mile behind her. When she looked back she could see nothing of the raft and her friends, but as she rose on the crest of an immense swell, she plainly discerned the island. It still was in the verge of the horizon, and it was hard for her to see that she was apparently no nearer to it than when she started.
Besides this alarming fact, she was threatened by a still greater peril. As the chief-officer had warned her, the waters abounded with sharks, of the man-eating species, who were liable to dart forward and seize her at any moment; but, in recalling her extraordinary experience, Miss Lacy says that at no time did she feel any fear of them. She knew they were liable to discover her at any moment, but they did not, and fortunately indeed she escaped their ferocious jaws.
Her greatest suffering was from the blazing sun, whose rays shot downward upon her head with pitiless power. When she found her brain growing dizzy, she averted the danger of sunstroke by dropping or swimming for some distance below the surface. This always cooled or refreshed her, though she felt her face and neck blistering under the fierce rays.
In striving to recall her experience, Miss Lacy is unable to remember a large portion of the time she spent in the water. She believes she slept for several hours. What an extraordinary situation! Alone in the midst of the vast strait in the southern Pacific, surrounded by sharks, with no friendly sail in sight, and yet slumbering and unconscious.