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Title: The Dusantes - A Sequel to "The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine"
Author: Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE DUSANTES

     THE DUSANTES

     A SEQUEL TO "THE CASTING AWAY OF MRS. LECKS
     AND MRS. ALESHINE"

     BY
     FRANK R. STOCKTON

     NEW-YORK
     THE CENTURY CO.



     COPYRIGHT, 1888, BY FRANK R. STOCKTON.

     ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

     THE DE VINNE PRESS.



THE DUSANTES

A SEQUEL TO "THE CASTING AWAY OF MRS. LECKS AND MRS. ALESHINE"

PART I


When the little party, consisting of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, Mr.
Enderton, my newly made wife, and myself, with the red-bearded
coxswain and the two sailor men, bade farewell to that island in the
Pacific where so many happy hours had been passed, where such pleasant
friendships had been formed, and where I had met my Ruth and made her
my wife, we rowed away with a bright sky over our heads, a pleasant
wind behind us, and a smooth sea beneath us. The long-boat was
comfortable and well appointed, and there was even room enough in it
for Mr. Enderton to stretch himself out and take a noonday nap. We
gave him every advantage of this kind, for we had found by experience
that our party was happiest when my father-in-law was best contented.

Early in the forenoon the coxswain rigged a small sail in the bow of
the boat, and with this aid to our steady and systematic work at the
oars we reached, just before nightfall, the large island whither we
were bound, and to which, by means of the coxswain's pocket-compass,
we had steered a direct course. Our arrival on this island, which was
inhabited by some white traders and a moderate population of natives,
occasioned great surprise, for when the boats containing the crew and
passengers of our unfortunate steamer had reached the island, it was
found that Mrs. Lecks, Mrs. Aleshine, and myself were missing. There
were many suppositions as to our fate. Some persons thought we had
been afraid to leave the steamer, and, having secreted ourselves on
board, had gone down with her. Others conjectured that in the darkness
we had fallen overboard, either from the steamer or from one of the
boats; and there was even a surmise that we might have embarked in the
leaky small boat--in which we really did leave the steamer--and so had
been lost. At any rate, we had disappeared, and our loss was a good
deal talked about, and, in a manner, mourned. In less than a week
after their arrival the people from the steamer had been taken on
board a sailing vessel and carried westward to their destination.

We, however, were not so fortunate, for we remained on this island for
more than a month. During this time but one ship touched there, and
she was western bound and of no use to us, for we had determined to
return to America. Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine had given up their
journey to Japan, and were anxious to reach once more their country
homes, while my dear Ruth and I were filled with a desire to found a
home on some pleasant portion of the Atlantic seaboard. What Mr.
Enderton intended to do we did not know. He was on his way to the
United States when he left the leaking ship on which he and his
daughter were passengers, and his intentions regarding his journey did
not appear to have been altered by his mishaps.

By the western-bound vessel, however, Mrs. Aleshine sent a letter to
her son.

Our life on this island was monotonous, and to the majority of the
party uninteresting; but as it was the scene of our honeymoon, Mrs.
Craig and I will always look back to it with the most pleasurable
recollections. We were comfortably lodged in a house belonging to one
of the traders, and although Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine had no
household duties to occupy their time, they managed to supply
themselves with knitting materials from the stores on the island, and
filled up their hours of waiting with chatty industry. The pipes of
our sailor friends were always well filled, while the sands of the
island were warm and pleasant for their backs, and it was only Mr.
Enderton who showed any signs of impatient repining at our enforced
stay. He growled, he grumbled, and he inveighed against the criminal
neglect of steamship companies and the owners of sailing craft in not
making it compulsory in every one of their vessels to stop on every
voyage at this island, where, at any time, intelligent and important
personages might be stranded.

At last, however, we were taken off by a three-masted schooner bound
for San Francisco, at which city we arrived in due time and in good
health and condition.

We did not remain long in this city, but soon started on our way
across the continent, leaving behind us our three sailor companions,
who intended to ship from this port as soon as an advantageous
opportunity offered itself. These men heard no news of their vessel,
although they felt quite sure that she had reached Honolulu, where
she had probably been condemned and the crew scattered. As some
baggage belonging to my wife and my father-in-law had been left on
board this vessel, I had hopes that Mr. Enderton would remain in San
Francisco and order it forwarded to him there; or that he would even
take a trip to Honolulu to attend to the matter personally. But in
this I was disappointed. He seemed to take very little interest in his
missing trunks, and wished only to press on to the East. I wrote to
Honolulu, desiring the necessary steps to be taken to forward the
baggage in case it had arrived there; and soon afterwards our party of
five started eastward.

It was now autumn, but, although we desired to reach the end of our
journey before winter set in, we felt that we had time enough to visit
some of the natural wonders of the California country before taking up
our direct course to the East. Therefore, in spite of some petulant
remonstrances on the part of Mr. Enderton, we made several trips to
points of interest.

From the last of these excursions we set out in a stage-coach, of
which we were the only occupants, towards a point on the railroad
where we expected to take a train. On the way we stopped to change
horses at a small stage station at the foot of a range of mountains;
and when I descended from the coach I found the driver and some of the
men at the station discussing the subject of our route. It appeared
that there were two roads, one of which gradually ascended the
mountain for several miles, and then descended to the level of the
railroad, by the side of which it ran until it reached the station
where we wished to take the train. The other road pursued its way
along a valley or notch in the mountain for a considerable distance,
and then, by a short but somewhat steep ascending grade, joined the
upper road.

It was growing quite cold, and the sky and the wind indicated that bad
weather might be expected; and as the upper road was considered the
better one at such a time, our driver concluded to take it. Six
horses, instead of four, were now attached to our stage, and as two of
these animals were young and unruly and promised to be unusually
difficult to drive in the ordinary way, our driver concluded to ride
one of the wheel horses, postilion fashion, and to put a boy on one of
the leaders. Mr. Enderton was very much afraid of horses, and objected
strongly to the young animals in our new team. But there were no
others to take their places, and his protests were disregarded.

My wife and I occupied a back seat, having been ordered to take this
comfortable position by Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, who had
constituted themselves a board of instruction and admonition to Mrs.
Craig, and, incidentally, to myself. They fancied that my wife's
health was not vigorous and that she needed coddling; and if she had
had two mothers she could not have been more tenderly cared for than
by these good women. They sat upon the middle seat with their faces
towards the horses, while Mr. Enderton had the front seat all to
himself. He was, however, so nervous and fidgety, continually twisting
himself about, endeavoring to get a view of the horses or of the bad
places on the road, that Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine found that a
position facing him and in close juxtaposition was entirely too
uncomfortable; and consequently, the back of their seat being
adjustable, they turned themselves about and faced us.

The ascent of the mountain was slow and tedious, and it was late in
the afternoon when we reached the highest point in our route, from
which the road descended for some eight miles to the level of the
railroad. Now our pace became rapid, and Mr. Enderton grew wildly
excited. He threw open the window and shouted to the driver to go
more slowly, but Mrs. Lecks seized him by the coat and jerked him back
on his seat before he could get any answer to his appeals.

"If you want your daughter to ketch her death o' cold you'll keep that
window open!" As she said this, she leaned back and pulled the window
down with her own strong right arm. "I guess the driver knows what he
is about," she continued, "this not bein' the first time he's gone
over the road."

"Am I to understand, madam," said Mr. Enderton, "that I am not to
speak to my driver when I wish him to know my will?"

To this question Mrs. Lecks made no answer, but sat up very straight
and stiff, with her back square upon the speaker. For some time she
and Mr. Enderton had been "out," and she made no effort to conceal the
fact.

Mr. Enderton's condition now became pitiable, for our rapid speed and
the bumping over rough places in the road seemed almost to deprive him
of his wits, notwithstanding my assurance that stage-coaches were
generally driven at a rapid rate down long inclines. In a short time,
however, we reached a level spot in the road, and the team was drawn
up and stopped. Mr. Enderton popped out in a moment, and I also got
down to have a talk with the driver.

"These hosses won't do much at holdin' back," he said, "and it worries
'em less to let 'em go ahead with the wheels locked. You needn't be
afraid. If nothin' breaks, we're all right."

Mr. Enderton seemed endeavoring to satisfy himself that everything
about the running-gear of the coach was in a safe condition. He
examined the wheels, the axles, and the whiffletrees, much to the
amusement of the driver, who remarked to me that the old chap probably
knew as much now as he did before. I was rather surprised that my
father-in-law subjected the driver to no further condemnation. On the
contrary, he said nothing except that for the rest of this down-hill
drive he should take his place on the driver's unoccupied seat. Nobody
offered any objection to this, and up he climbed.

When we started again Ruth seemed disturbed that her father should be
in such an exposed position, but I assured her that he would be
perfectly safe, and would be much better satisfied at being able to
see for himself what was going on.

We now began to go down-hill again at a rate as rapid as before. Our
speed, however, was not equal. Sometimes it would slacken a little
where the road was heavy or more upon a level, and then we would go
jolting and rattling over some long downward stretch. After a
particularly unpleasant descent of this kind the coach seemed suddenly
to change its direction, and with a twist and an uplifting of one side
it bumped heavily against something and stopped. I heard a great shout
outside, and from a window which now commanded a view of the road I
saw our team of six horses, with the drivers pulling and tugging at
the two they rode, madly running away at the top of their speed.

Ruth, who had been thrown by the shock into the arms of Mrs. Aleshine,
was dreadfully frightened, and screamed for her father. I had been
pitched forward upon Mrs. Lecks, but I quickly recovered myself, and
as soon as I found that none of the occupants of the coach had been
hurt, I opened the door and sprang out.

In the middle of the road stood Mr. Enderton, entirely uninjured, with
a jubilant expression on his face, and in one hand a large closed
umbrella.

"What has happened?" I exclaimed, hurrying around to the front of the
coach, where I saw that the pole had been broken off about the middle
of its length.

"Nothing has happened, sir," replied Mr. Enderton. "You cannot speak
of a wise and discreet act, determinately performed, as a thing which
has happened. We have been saved, sir, from being dashed to pieces
behind that wild and unmanageable team of horses; and I will add that
we have been saved by my forethought and prompt action."

I turned and looked at him in astonishment. "What do you mean?" I
said. "What could you have had to do with this accident?"

"Allow me to repeat," said Mr. Enderton, "that it was not an accident.
The moment that we began to go down-hill I perceived that we were in a
position of the greatest danger. The driver was reckless, the boy
incompetent, and the horses unmanageable. As my remonstrances and
counsels had no effect upon the man, and as you seemed to have no
desire to join me in efforts to restrain him to a more prudent rate of
speed, I determined to take the affair into my own hands. I knew that
the first thing to be done was to rid ourselves of those horses. So
long as we were connected with them disaster was imminent. I knew
exactly what ought to be done. The horses must be detached from the
coach. I had read, sir, of inventions especially intended to detach
runaway horses from a vehicle. To all intents and purposes our horses
were runaways, or would have become so in a very short time. I now
made it my object to free ourselves from those horses. I got out at
our first stop and thoroughly examined the carriage attachments. I
found that the movable bar to which the whiffletrees were attached was
connected to the vehicle by two straps and a bolt, the latter having a
ring at the top and an iron nut at the bottom. While you and that
reckless driver were talking together and paying no attention to me,
the only person in the party who thoroughly comprehended our danger, I
unbuckled those straps, and with my strong, nervous fingers, without
the aid of implements, I unscrewed the nut from the bolt. Then, sir, I
took my seat on the outside of the coach and felt that I held our
safety in my own hands. For a time I allowed our vehicle to proceed,
but when we approached this long slope which stretches before us, and
our horses showed signs of increasing impetuosity, I leaned forward,
hooked the handle of my umbrella in the ring of the bolt, and with a
mighty effort jerked it out. I admit to you, sir, that I had
overlooked the fact that the other horses were attached to the end of
the pole, but I have often noticed that when we are discreet in
judgment and prompt in action we are also fortunate. Thus was I
fortunate. The hindermost horses, suddenly released, rushed upon
those in front of them, and, in a manner, jumbled up the whole team,
which seemed to throw the animals into such terror that they dashed to
one side and snapped off the pole, after which they went madly tearing
down the road, entirely beyond the control of the two riders. Our
coach turned and ran into the side of the road with but a moderate
concussion, and as I looked at those flying steeds, with their riders
vainly endeavoring to restrain them, I could not, sir, keep down an
emotion of pride that I had been instrumental in freeing myself, my
daughter, and my traveling companions from their dangerous proximity."

The speaker ceased, a smile of conscious merit upon his face. For the
moment I could not say a word to him, I was so angry. But had I been
able to say or do anything to indicate the wild indignation that
filled my brain, I should have had no opportunity, for Mrs. Lecks
stepped up to me and took me by the arm. Her face was very stern, and
her expression gave one the idea of the rigidity of Bessemer steel.

"I've heard what has been said," she remarked, "and I wish to talk to
this man. Your wife is over there with Mrs. Aleshine. Will you please
take a walk with her along the road? You may stay away for a quarter
of an hour."

"Madam," said Mr. Enderton, "I do not wish to talk to you."

"I didn't ask you whether you did or not," said Mrs. Lecks. "Mr.
Craig, will you please get your wife away as quick and as far as you
can?"

I took the hint, and, with Ruth on my arm, walked rapidly down the
road. She was very glad to go, for she had been much frightened, and
wanted to be alone with me to have me explain to her what had
occurred. Mrs. Lecks, imagining from the expression of his countenance
that Mr. Enderton had, in some way, been at the bottom of the trouble,
and fearing that she should not be able to restrain her indignation
when she found how he had done it, had ordered Mrs. Aleshine to keep
Ruth away from her father. This action had increased the poor girl's
anxiety, and she was glad enough to have me take her away and tell her
all about our accident.

I did tell her all that had happened, speaking as mildly as I could of
Mr. Enderton's conduct. Poor Ruth burst into tears.

"I do wish," she exclaimed, "that father would travel by himself! He
is so nervous, and so easily frightened, that I am sure he would be
happier when he could attend to his safety in his own way; and I
know, too, that we should be happier without him."

I agreed most heartily with these sentiments, although I did not deem
it necessary to say so, and Ruth now asked me what I supposed would
become of us.

"If nothing happens to the driver and the boy," I replied, "I suppose
they will go on until they get to the station to which we were bound,
and there they will procure a pole, if such a thing can be found, or,
perhaps, get another coach, and come back for us. It would be useless
for them to return to our coach in its present condition."

"And how soon do you think they will come back?" she said.

"Not for some hours," I replied. "The driver told me there were no
houses between the place where we last stopped and the railroad
station, and I am sure he will not turn back until he reaches a place
where he can get either a new pole or another vehicle."

Ruth and I walked to a turn at the bottom of the long hill down which
our runaway steeds had sped. At this point we had an extended view of
the road as it wound along the mountain-side, but we could see no
signs of our horses nor of any living thing. I did not, in fact,
expect to see our team, for it would be foolish in the driver to come
back until he was prepared to do something for us, and even if he had
succeeded in controlling the runaway beasts, the quicker he got down
the mountain the better.

By the time we had returned we had taken quite a long walk, but we
were glad of it, for the exercise tranquilized us both. On our way
back we noticed that a road which seemed to come up from below us
joined the one we were on a short distance from the place where our
accident occurred. This, probably, was the lower road which had been
spoken of when we changed horses.

We found Mr. Enderton standing by himself. His face was of the hue of
wood ashes, his expression haggard. He reminded me of a man who had
fallen from a considerable height, and who had been frightened and
stupefied by the shock. I comprehended the situation without
difficulty, and felt quite sure that had he had the choice he would
have much preferred a thrashing to the plain talk he had heard from
Mrs. Lecks.

"What is the matter, father?" exclaimed Ruth. "Were you hurt?"

Mr. Enderton looked in a dazed way at his daughter, and it was some
moments before he appeared to have heard what she said. Then he
answered abruptly: "Hurt? Oh, no! I am not hurt in the least. I was
just thinking of something. I shall walk on to the village or town,
whichever it is, to which that man was taking us. It cannot be more
than seven or eight miles away, if that. The road is down-hill, and I
can easily reach the place before nightfall. I will then personally
attend to your rescue, and will see that a vehicle is immediately sent
to you. There is no trusting these ignorant drivers. No," he
continued, deprecatingly raising his hand, "do not attempt to dissuade
me. Your safety and that of others is always my first care. Exertion
is nothing."

Without further words, and paying no attention to the remonstrances of
his daughter, he strode off down the road.

I was very glad to see him go. At any time his presence was
undesirable to me, and under the present circumstances it would be
more objectionable than ever. He was a good walker, and there was no
doubt he would easily reach the station, where he might possibly be of
some use to us.

Mrs. Lecks was sitting on a stone by the roadside. Her face was still
stern and rigid, but there was an expression of satisfaction upon it
which had not been there when I left her. Ruth went to the coach to
get a shawl, and I said to Mrs. Lecks:

"I suppose you had your talk with Mr. Enderton?"

"Talk!" she replied. "I should say so! If ever a man understands what
people think of him, and knows what he is, from his crown to his feet,
inside and outside, soul, body, bones, and skin, and what he may
expect in this world and the next, he knows it. I didn't keep to what
he has done for us this day. I went back to the first moment when he
began to growl at payin' his honest board on the island, and I didn't
let him off for a single sin that he has committed since. And now I
feel that I've done my duty as far as he is concerned; and havin' got
through with that, it's time we were lookin' about to see what we can
do for ourselves."

It was indeed time, for the day was drawing towards its close. For a
moment I had thought we would give Mr. Enderton a good start, and then
follow him down the mountain to the station. But a little reflection
showed me that this plan would not answer. Ruth was not strong enough
to walk so far; and although Mrs. Aleshine had plenty of vigor, she
was too plump to attempt such a tramp. Besides, the sky was so
heavily overcast that it was not safe to leave the shelter of the
coach.

As might have been expected, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine took
immediate charge of the personal comfort of the party, and the first
thing they did was to make preparations for a meal. Fortunately, we
had plenty of provisions. Mrs. Aleshine had had charge of what she
called our lunch-baskets, which were, indeed, much more like
market-baskets than anything else; and having small faith in the
resources of roadside taverns, and great faith in the unlimited
capabilities of Mr. Enderton in the matter of consuming food on a
journey, she had provided bounteously and even extravagantly.

One side of the road was bordered by a forest, and on the ground was
an abundance of dead wood. I gathered a quantity of this, and made a
fire, which was very grateful to us, for the air was growing colder
and colder. When we had eaten a substantial cold supper and had
thoroughly warmed ourselves at the fire, we got into the coach to sit
there and wait until relief should come. We sat for a long time; all
night, in fact. We were not uncomfortable, for we each had a corner of
the coach, and we were plentifully provided with wraps and rugs.

Contrary to their usual habit, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine did not
talk much. When subjected to the annoyances of an ordinary accident,
even if it should have been the result of carelessness, their
disposition would have prompted them to take events as they came, and
to make the best of whatever might happen to them. But this case was
entirely different. We were stranded and abandoned on the road, on the
side of a lonely, desolate mountain, on a cold, bleak night; and all
this was the result of what they considered the deliberate and
fiendish act of a man who was afraid of horses, and who cared for no
one in the world but himself. Their minds were in such a condition
that if they said anything they must vituperate, and they were so
kindly disposed towards my wife, and had such a tender regard for her
feelings, that they would not, in her presence, vituperate her father.
So they said very little, and, nestling into their corners, were soon
asleep.

After a time Ruth followed their example, and, though I was very
anxiously watching out of the window for an approaching light, and
listening for the sound of wheels, I, too, fell into a doze. It must
have been ten or eleven o'clock when I was awakened by some delicate
but cold touches on my face, the nature of which, when I first opened
my eyes, I could not comprehend. But I soon understood what these cold
touches meant. The window in the door of the coach on my side had been
slightly lowered from the top to give us air, and through the narrow
aperture the cold particles had come floating in. I looked through the
window. The night was not very dark, for, although the sky was
overcast, the moon was in its second quarter, and I could plainly see
that it was snowing, and that the ground was already white.

This discovery sent a chill into my soul, for I was not unfamiliar
with snows in mountain regions, and knew well what this might mean to
us. But there was nothing that we could now do, and it would be
useless and foolish to awaken my companions and distress them with
this new disaster. Besides, I thought our situation might not be so
very bad after all. It was not yet winter, and the snowfall might
prove to be but a light one. I gently closed the window, and made my
body comfortable in its corner, but my mind continued very
uncomfortable for I do not know how long.

When I awoke, I found that there had been a heavy fall of snow in the
night, and that the flakes were still coming down, thick and fast.
When Ruth first looked out upon the scene she was startled and
dismayed. She was not accustomed to storms of this kind, and the snow
frightened her. Upon Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine the sight of the
storm produced an entirely different effect. Here was a difficulty, a
discomfort, a hardship, but it came in a natural way, and not by the
hand of a dastardly coward of a man. With naturally happening
difficulties they were accustomed to combat without fear or repining.
They knew all about snow, and were not frightened by this storm. The
difficulties which it presented to their minds actually raised their
spirits, and from the grim and quiet beings of the last evening they
became the same cheerful, dauntless, ready women that I had known
before.

"Upon my word," exclaimed Mrs. Aleshine, as she clapped her face to a
window of the coach, "if this isn't a reg'lar old-fashioned
snow-storm! I've shoveled my own way through many a one like it to git
to the barn to do my milkin' afore the men folks had begun makin'
paths, an' I feel jus' like as though I could do it ag'in."

"Now, Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks, "if you're thinkin' of
shovelin' your way from this place to where your cows is, you'd better
step right out and get at it, and I really do think that if you felt
they were sufferin' for want of milkin' you'd make a start."

"I don't say," answered Mrs. Aleshine, with an illuminating grin,
"that if the case was that way I mightn't have the hankerin' though
not the capableness, but I don't know that there's any place to shovel
our way to jus' now."

Mrs. Lecks and I thought differently. Across the road, under the great
trees, the ground was comparatively free from snow, and in some
places, owing to the heavy evergreen foliage, it was entirely bare. It
was very desirable that we should get to one of these spots and build
a fire, for, though we had been well wrapped up, we all felt numbed
and cold. In the boot at the back of the coach I knew that there was
an ax, and I thought I might possibly find there a shovel. I opened
the coach door and saw that the snow was already above the lower step.
By standing on the spokes of the back wheel I could easily get at the
boot, and I soon pulled out the ax, but found no shovel. But this did
not deter me. I made my way to the front wheel and climbed up to the
driver's box, where I knocked off one of the thin planks of the
foot-board, and this, with the ax, I shaped into a rude shovel with a
handle rather too wide but serviceable. With this I went vigorously
to work, and soon had made a pathway across the road. Here I chopped
off some low dead branches, picked up others, and soon had a crackling
fire, around which my three companions gathered with delight.

A strong wind was now blowing, and the snow began to form into heavy
drifts. The fire was very cheery and pleasant, but the wind was
cutting, and we soon returned to the shelter of the coach, where we
had our breakfast. This was not altogether a cold meal, for Mrs.
Aleshine had provided a little tea-kettle, and, with some snow-water
which I brought in boiling from the fire in the woods, we had all the
hot and comforting tea we wanted.

We passed the morning waiting and looking out and wondering what sort
of conveyance would be sent for us. It was generally agreed that
nothing on wheels could now be got over the road, and that we must be
taken away in a sleigh.

"I like sleigh-ridin'," said Mrs. Aleshine, "if you're well wrapped
up, with good horses, an' a hot brick for your feet, but I must say I
don't know but what I'm goin' to be a little skeery goin' down these
long hills. If we git fairly slidin', hosses, sleigh, an' all
together, there's no knowin' where we'll fetch up."

"There's one comfort, Barb'ry," remarked Mrs. Lecks, "and that is that
when we do fetch up it'll be at the bottom of the hills, and not at
the top; and as the bottom is what we want to get to, we oughtn't to
complain."

"That depends a good deal whether we come down hindpart foremost, or
forepart front. But nobody's complainin' so fur, specially as the
sleigh isn't here."

I joined in the outlooking and the conjectures, but I could not keep
up the cheerful courage which animated my companions; for not only
were the two elder women bright and cheery, but Ruth seemed to be
animated and encouraged by their example, and showed herself as brave
and contented as either of them. She was convinced that her father
must have reached the railroad station before it began to snow, and,
therefore, she was troubled by no fears for his safety. But my mind
was filled with many fears.

The snow was still coming down, thick and fast, and the wind was
piling it into great drifts, one of which was forming between the
coach and a low embankment on that side of the road near which it
stood.

About every half hour I took my shovel and cleared out the path across
the road from the other side of the coach to the wood. Several times
after doing this I made my way among the trees, where the snow did not
impede my progress, to points from which I had a view some distance
down the mountain, and I could plainly see that there were several
places where the road was blocked up by huge snow-drifts. It would be
a slow, laborious, and difficult undertaking for any relief party to
come to us from the station; and who was there, at that place, to
come? This was the question which most troubled me. The settlement at
the station was, probably, a very small one, and that there should be
found at that place a sleigh or a sledge with enough men to form a
party sufficiently strong to open a road up the mountain-side was
scarcely to be expected. Men and vehicles might be obtained at some
point farther along the railroad, but action of this kind would
require time, and it was not unlikely that the railroad itself was
blocked up with snow. I could form no idea, satisfactory to myself, of
any plan by which relief could come to us that day. Even the advent of
a messenger on horseback was not to be expected. Such an adventurer
would be lost in the storm and among the drifts. On the morrow relief
might come, but I did not like to think too much about the morrow;
and of any of my thoughts and fears I said nothing to my companions.

At intervals, after I had freshly cleared out the pathway, the three
women, well bundled up, ran across the road to the fire under the
trees. This was the only way in which they could keep themselves warm,
for the coach, although it protected us from the storm, was a very
cold place to sit in. But the wind and the snow which frequently drove
in under the trees made it impossible to stay very long by the fire,
and the frequent passages to and from the coach were attended with
much exposure and wetting of feet. I therefore determined that some
better way must be devised for keeping ourselves warm; and, shortly
after our noonday meal, I thought of a plan, and immediately set to
work to carry it out.

The drift between the coach and the embankment had now risen higher
than the top of the vehicle, against one side of which it was tightly
packed. I dug a path around the back of the coach, and then began to
tunnel into the huge bank of snow. In about an hour I had made an
excavation nearly high enough for me to stand in, and close to the
stage door on that side; and I cleared away the snow so that this door
could open into the cavern I had formed. At the end opposite the
entrance of my cave, I worked a hole upwards until I reached the outer
air. This hole was about a foot in diameter, and for some time the
light unpacked snow from above kept falling in and filling it up; but
I managed, by packing and beating the sides with my shovel, to get the
whole into a condition in which it would retain the form of a rude
chimney.

Now I hurried to bring wood and twigs, and having made a hearth of
green sticks, which I cut with my ax, I built a fire in this snowy
fire-place. Mrs. Lecks, Mrs. Aleshine, and Ruth had been watching my
proceedings with great interest; and when the fire began to burn, and
the smoke to go out of my chimney, the coach door was opened, and the
genial heat gradually pervaded the vehicle.

"Upon my word," exclaimed Mrs. Aleshine, "if that isn't one of the
brightest ideas I ever heard of! A fire in the middle of a snow-bank,
with a man there a-tendin' to it, an' a chimney! 'T isn't every day
that you can see a thing like that!"

"I should hope not," remarked Mrs. Lecks, "for if the snow drifted
this way every day, I'd be ready to give up the seein' business
out-an'-out! But I think, Mr. Craig, you ought to pass that shovel in
to us so that we can dig you out when the fire begins to melt your
little house and it all caves in on you."

"You can have the shovel," said I, "but I don't believe this snow-bank
will cave in on me. Of course the heat will melt the snow, but I think
it will dissolve gradually, so that the caving in, if there is any,
won't be of much account, and then we shall have a big open space here
in which we can keep up our fire."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Ruth, "you talk as if you expected to stay here
ever so long, and we certainly can't do that. We should starve to
death, for one thing."

"Don't be afraid of that," said Mrs. Aleshine. "There's plenty of
victuals to last till the people come for us. When I pack baskets for
travelin' or picnickin', I don't do no scrimpin'. An' we've got to
keep up a fire, you know, for it wouldn't be pleasant for those men,
when they've cut a way up the mountain to git at us, to find us all
froze stiff."

Mrs. Lecks smiled. "You're awful tender of the feelin's of other
people, Barb'ry," she said, "and a heart as warm as yourn ought to
keep from freezin'."

"Which it has done, so far," said Mrs. Aleshine complacently.

As I had expected, the water soon began to drip from the top and the
sides of my cavern, and the chimney rapidly enlarged its dimensions. I
made a passage for the melted snow to run off into a hollow, back of
the coach; and as I kept up a good strong fire, the drops of water and
occasional pieces of snow which fell into it were not able to
extinguish it. The cavern enlarged rapidly, and in a little more than
an hour the roof became so thin that while I was outside collecting
wood it fell in and extinguished the fire. This accident, however,
interrupted my operations but for a short time. I cleared away the
snow at the bottom of the excavation, and rebuilt my fire on the bare
ground. The high snow walls on three sides of it protected it from the
wind, so that there was no danger of the flames being blown against
the stage-coach, while the large open space above allowed a free vent
for the smoke.

About the middle of the afternoon, to the great delight of us all, it
stopped snowing, and when I had freshly shoveled out the path across
the road, my companions gladly embraced the opportunity of walking
over to the comparatively protected ground under the trees and giving
themselves a little exercise. During their absence I was busily
engaged in arranging the fire, when I heard a low crunching sound on
one side of me, and, turning my head, I saw in the wall of my
excavation opposite to the stage-coach and at a distance of four or
five feet from the ground an irregular hole in the snow, about a foot
in diameter, from which protruded the head of a man. This head was
wrapped, with the exception of the face, in a brown woolen comforter.
The features were those of a man of about fifty, a little sallow and
thin, without beard, whiskers, or mustache, although the cheeks and
chin were darkened with a recent growth.

The astounding apparition of this head projecting itself from the snow
wall of my cabin utterly paralyzed me, so that I neither moved nor
spoke, but remained crouching by the fire, my eyes fixed upon the
head. It smiled a little, and then spoke.

"Could you lend me a small iron pot?" it said.

I rose to my feet, almost ready to run away. Was this a dream? Or was
it possible that there was a race of beings who inhabited snow-banks?

The face smiled again very pleasantly. "Do not be frightened," it
said. "I saw you were startled, and spoke first of a familiar pot in
order to reassure you."

"Who, in the name of Heaven, are you?" I gasped.

"I am only a traveler, sir," said the head, "who has met with an
accident similar, I imagine, to that which has befallen you. But I
cannot further converse with you in this position. Lying thus on my
breast in a tunnel of snow will injuriously chill me. Could you
conveniently lend me an iron pot?"

I was now convinced that this was an ordinary human being, and my
courage and senses returned to me, but my astonishment remained
boundless. "Before we talk of pots," I said, "I must know who you are
and how you got into that snow-bank."

"I do not believe," said my visitor, "that I can get down, head
foremost, to your level. I will therefore retire to my place of
refuge, and perhaps we can communicate with each other through this
aperture."

"Can I get through to your place of refuge?" I asked.

"Certainly," was the answer. "You are young and active, and the
descent will not be so deep on my side. But I will first retire, and
will then project towards you this sheep-skin rug, which, if kept
under you as you move forward, will protect your breast and arms from
direct contact with the snow."

It was difficult to scramble up into the hole, but I succeeded in
doing it, and found awaiting me the sheep-skin rug, which, by the aid
of an umbrella, the man had pushed towards me for my use. I was in a
horizontal tunnel barely large enough for the passage of my body, and
about six feet in length. When I had worked my way through this and
had put my head out of the other end, I looked into a small wooden
shed, into which light entered only through a pane of glass set in a
rude door opposite to me. I immediately perceived that the whole place
was filled with the odor of spirituous liquors. The man stood awaiting
me, and by his assistance I descended to the floor. As I did so I
heard something which sounded like a titter, and looking around I saw
in a corner a bundle of clothes and traveling-rugs, near the top of
which appeared a pair of eyes. Turning again, I could discern in
another corner a second bundle, similar to, but somewhat larger than,
the other.

"These ladies are traveling with me," said the man, who was now
wrapping about him a large cloak, and who appeared to be of a tall
though rather slender figure. His manner and voice were those of a
gentleman extremely courteous and considerate. "As I am sure you are
curious--and this I regard as quite natural, sir--to know why we are
here, I will at once proceed to inform you. We started yesterday in a
carriage for the railway station, which is, I believe, some miles
beyond this point. There were two roads from the last place at which
we stopped, and we chose the one which ran along a valley and which we
supposed would be the pleasanter of the two. We there engaged a pair
of horses which did not prove very serviceable animals, and, at a
point about a hundred yards from where we now are, one of them gave
out entirely. The driver declared that the only thing to be done was
to turn loose the disabled horse, which would be certain, in time, to
find his way back to his stable, and for him to proceed on the other
animal to the station to which we were going, where he would procure
some fresh horses and return as speedily as possible. To this plan we
were obliged to consent, as there was no alternative. He told us that
if we did not care to remain in the carriage, there was a shed by the
side of the road, a little farther on, which was erected for the
accommodation of men who are sometimes here in charge of relays of
horses. After assuring us that he would not be absent more than three
hours, he rode away, and we have not seen him since. Soon after he
left us I came up to this shed, and finding it tight and comparatively
comfortable, I concluded it would give us relief from our somewhat
cramped position in the carriage, and so conducted the ladies here. As
night drew on it became very cold, and I determined to make a fire, a
proceeding which of course would have been impossible in a vehicle.
Fortunately I had with me, at the back of the carriage, a case of
California brandy. By the aid of a stone I knocked the top off this
case, and brought hither several of the bottles. I found in the shed
an old tin pan which I filled with the straw coverings of the bottles,
and on this I poured brandy, which, being ignited, produced a fire
without smoke, but which, as we gathered around it, gave out
considerable heat."

As the speaker thus referred to his fuel, I understood the reason of
the strong odor of spirits which filled the shed, and I experienced a
certain relief in my mind.

The gentleman continued: "At first I attributed the delay of the
driver's return to those ordinary hindrances which so frequently occur
in rural and out-of-the-way places; but, after a time, I could not
imagine any reasonable cause for his delay. As it began to grow dark I
brought here our provision baskets, and we partook of a slight
repast. I then made the ladies as comfortable as possible and awaited
with much anxiety the return of the driver.

"After a time it began to snow, and feeling that the storm might
interrupt communication with the carriage, I brought hither, making
many trips for the purpose, the rest of the brandy, our wraps and
rugs, and the cushions of the carriage. I did not believe that we
should be left here all night, but thought it prudent to take all
precautions and to prepare for remaining in a place where we could
have a fire. The morning showed me that I had acted wisely. As you
know, sir, I found the road in either direction completely blocked up
by snow, and I have since been unable to visit the carriage."

"Have you not all suffered from cold?" I inquired. "Have you food
enough?"

"I will not say," replied the gentleman, "that in addition to our
anxiety we have not suffered somewhat from cold, but for the greater
part of this day I have adopted a plan which has resulted in
considerable comfort to my companions. I have wrapped them up very
closely and warmly, and they hold in each hand a hard-boiled egg. I
thought it better to keep these for purposes of warmth than to eat
them. About every half hour I reboil the eggs in a little traveling
teapot which we have. They retain their warmth for a considerable
period, and this warmth in a moderate degree is communicated through
the hands to the entire person."

As he said this a low laugh again burst forth from the bundle in one
corner of the room, and I could not help smiling at this odd way of
keeping warm. I looked towards the jocose bundle and remarked that the
eggs must be pretty hard by this time.

"These ladies," said the gentleman, "are not accustomed to the cold
atmosphere of this region, and I have, therefore, forbidden them to
talk, hoping thus to prevent injury from the inhalation of frosty air.
So far we have not suffered, and we still have some food left. About
noon I noticed smoke floating over this shed, and I forced open the
door and made my way for some little distance outside, hoping to
discover whence it came. I then heard voices on the other side of the
enormous snow-drift behind us, but I could see no possible way of
getting over the drift. Feeling that I must, without fail, open
communication with any human beings who might be near us, I attempted
to shout, but the cold had so affected my voice that I could not do
so. I thereupon set my wits to work. At the back of this shed is a
small window closed by a wooden shutter. I opened this shutter and
found outside a wall of snow packed closely against it. The snow was
not very hard, and I believed that it would not be difficult to tunnel
a way through it to the place where the voices seemed to be. I
immediately set to work, for I feared that if we were obliged to
remain here another night without assistance we should be compelled
to-morrow morning to eat those four hard-boiled eggs which the ladies
are holding, and which, very shortly, I must boil again."

"How did you manage to cut through the snow?" I asked. "Had you a
shovel?"

"Oh, no," replied the other. "I used the tin pan. I found it answered
very well as a scoop. Each time that I filled it I threw the contents
out of our door."

"It must have been slow and difficult work," I said.

"Indeed it was," he replied. "The labor was arduous and occupied me
several hours. But when I saw a respectable man at a fire, and a
stage-coach near by, I felt rewarded for all my trouble. May I ask
you, sir, how you came to be thus snow-bound?"

I then briefly related the circumstances of our mishap, and had
scarcely finished when a shrill sound came through the tunnel into the
shed. It was the voice of Mrs. Aleshine.

"Hello!" she screamed, "are you in there? An' you don't mean to tell
me there are other people in that hole?"

Feeling quite certain that my wife and her companions were in a state
of mental agitation on the other side of the drift, I called back that
I would be with them in a moment, and then explained to the gentleman
why I could not remain with him longer. "But before I go," I said, "is
there anything I can do for you? Do you really want an iron pot?"

"The food that remains to us," he answered, "is fragmentary and rather
distasteful to the ladies, and I thought if I could make a little stew
of it, it might prove more acceptable to them. But do not let me
detain you another instant from your friends, and I advise you to go
through that tunnel feet foremost, for you might otherwise experience
difficulties in getting out at the other end."

I accepted his suggestion, and by his assistance and the help of the
rough window-frame, I got into the hole feet first, and soon ejected
myself into the midst of my alarmed companions. When they heard where
I had been, and what I had seen, they were naturally astounded.

"Another party deserted at this very point!" exclaimed Ruth, who was
both excitable and imaginative. "This looks like a conspiracy! Are we
to be robbed and murdered?"

At these words Mrs. Aleshine sprang towards me. "Mr. Craig," she
exclaimed, "if it's robbers, don't lose a minute! Never let 'em git
ahead of you! Pull out your pistol and fire through the hole!"

"Gracious me, Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks, "you don't suppose
the robbers is them poor unfortunates on the other side of the drift!
And I must say, Mrs. Craig, that if there was any such thing as a
conspiracy, your father must have been in it, for it was him who
landed us just here. But of course none of us supposes nothin' of that
kind, and the first thing we've got to think of is what we can do for
them poor people."

"They seem to have some food left, but not much," I said, "and I fear
they must be suffering from cold."

"Couldn't we poke some wood to them through this hole?" said Mrs.
Aleshine, whose combative feelings had changed to the deepest
compassion. "I should think they must be nearly froze, with nothin'
to warm 'em but hard-b'iled eggs."

I explained that there was no place in their shed where they could
build a fire, and proposed that we should give them some hot tea and
some of our provisions.

"That's so!" said Mrs. Aleshine. "An' jus' shout in to them that if
they'll shove them eggs through the hole, I'll bile 'em fur 'em as
often as they want 'em."

"I've just got to say this," ejaculated Mrs. Lecks, as she and Mrs.
Aleshine were busily placing a portion of our now very much reduced
stock of provisions in the smallest of our baskets: "This is the first
time in my life that I ever heard of people warmin' themselves up with
hens' eggs and spirits, excep' when mixed up into eggnog; and that
they resisted that temptation and contented themselves with plain
honest heat, though very little of it, shows what kind of people they
must be. And now do you suppose we could slide this basket in without
upsettin' the little kittle?"

I called to the gentleman that we were about to send him a basket, and
then, by the aid of an umbrella, I gently pushed it through the
snow-tunnel to a point where he could reach it. Hearty thanks came
back to us through the hole, and when the basket and kettle were
returned, we prepared our own evening meal.

"For the life of me," said Mrs. Lecks, as she sipped a cup of tea, "I
can't imagine, if there was a shed so near us, why we didn't know it."

"That has been puzzling me," I replied; "but the other road, on which
the shed is built, is probably lower than this one, so that the upper
part of the shed could not have projected far above the embankment
between the two roads, and if there were weeds and dead grasses on the
bank, as there probably were, they would have prevented us from
noticing the top of a weatherworn shed."

"Especially," said Mrs. Lecks, "as we wasn't lookin' for sheds, and,
as far as I know, we wasn't lookin' for anythin' on that side of the
coach, for all my eyes was busy starin' about on the side we got in
and out of, and down the road."

"Which mine was too," added Mrs. Aleshine. "An' after it begun to snow
we couldn't see nothin' anyhow, partic'larly when everything was all
covered up."

"Well," added Mrs. Lecks in conclusion, "as we didn't see the shed,
it's a comfort to think there was reasons for it and that we are not
born fools."

It was now growing dark, and but few further communications took place
through the little tunnel.

"Before we get ready to go to sleep," said Mrs. Aleshine, "for, havin'
no candles, I guess we won't sit up late, hadn't we better rig up some
kind of a little sled to put in that hole, with strings at both ends,
so that we kin send in mustard-plasters and peppermint to them poor
people if they happen to be sick in the night?"

This little project was not considered necessary, and after receiving
assurances from the gentleman on the other side that he would be able
to keep his party warm until morning, we bade each other good-night,
and after having replenished the fire, I got into the stage, where my
companions had already established themselves in their corners. I
slept very little, while I frequently went out to attend to the fire,
and my mind was racked by the most serious apprehensions. Our food was
nearly gone, and if relief did not come to us very soon I could see
nothing but a slow death before us, and, so far as I could imagine,
there was no more reason to expect succor on the following day than
there had been on the one just passed. Where were the men to be found
who could cut a road to us through those miles of snow-drifts?

Very little was said during the night by my companions, but I am sure
that they felt the seriousness of our situation, and that their
slumbers were broken and unrefreshing. If there had been anything to
do, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine would have been cheered up by the
prospect of doing it; but we all felt that there was nothing we could
do.



PART II


After a second night spent in the stage-coach on that lonely and
desolate mountain-road where we were now snow-bound, I arose early in
the morning and went into the forest to collect some fuel; and while
thus engaged I made the discovery that the snow was covered with a
hard crust which would bear my weight. After the storm had ceased the
day before, the sun had shone brightly and the temperature had
moderated very much, so that the surface of the snow had slightly
thawed. During the night it became cold again, and this surface froze
into a hard coating of ice. When I found I could walk where I pleased,
my spirits rose, and I immediately set out to view the situation. The
aspect of the road gave me no encouragement. The snowfall had been a
heavy one, but had it not been for the high wind which accompanied it,
it would have thrown but moderate difficulties in the way of our
rescue. Reaching a point which commanded a considerable view along
the side of the mountain, I could see that in many places the road was
completely lost to sight on account of the great snow-drifts piled up
on it. I then walked to the point where the two roads met, and
crossing over, I climbed a slight rise in the ground which had cut off
my view in this direction, and found myself in a position from which I
could look directly down the side of the mountain below the road.

Here the mountain-side, which I had supposed to be very steep and
rugged, descended in a long and gradual slope to the plains below, and
for the greater part of the distance was covered by a smooth, shining
surface of frozen snow, unbroken by rock or tree. This snowy slope
apparently extended for a mile or more, and then I could see that it
gradually blended itself into the greenish-brown turf of the lower
country. Down there in the valley there still were leaves upon the
trees, and there were patches of verdure over the land. The storm
which had piled its snows up here had given them, rain down there and
had freshened everything. It was like looking down into another
climate, and on another land. I saw a little smoke coming up behind a
patch of trees. It must be that there was a house there! Could it be
possible that we were within a mile or two of a human habitation! Yet,
what comfort was there in that thought? The people in that house could
not get to us nor we to them, nor could they have heard of our
situation, for the point where our road reached the lower country was
miles farther on.

As I stood thus and gazed, it seemed to me that I could make a run and
slide down the mountain-side into green fields, into safety, into
life. I remembered those savage warriors who, looking from the summits
of the Alps upon the fertile plains of Italy, seated themselves upon
their shields and slid down to conquest and rich spoils.

An idea came into my mind, and I gave it glad welcome. There was no
time to be lost. The sun was not yet high, but it was mounting in a
clear sky, and should its rays become warm enough to melt the crust on
which I stood, our last chance of escape would be gone. To plow our
way to any place, through deep, soft snow, would be impossible. I
hurried back to our coach, and found three very grave women standing
around the fire. They were looking at a small quantity of food at the
bottom of a large basket.

"That's every crumb there is left," said Mrs. Aleshine to me, "and
when we pass in some to them unfortunates on the other side of the
drift,--which, of course, we're bound to do,--we'll have what I call a
skimpy meal. And that's not the worst of it. Until somebody gets up to
us, it will be our last meal."

I took my poor Ruth by the hand, for she was looking very pale and
troubled, and I said: "My dear friends, nobody can get up to this
place for a long, long time; and before help could possibly reach us
we should all be dead. But do not be frightened. It is not necessary
to wait for any one to come to us. The snow is now covered with a
crust which will bear our weight. I have thought of a way in which we
can slide down the mountain-side, which, from a spot where I have been
standing this morning, is no steeper than some coasting hills, though
very much longer. In a few minutes we can pass from this region of
snow, where death from cold and starvation must soon overtake us, to a
grassy valley where there is no snow, and where we shall be within
walking distance of a house in which people are living."

Ruth grasped my arm. "Will it be safe?" she exclaimed.

"I think so," I answered. "I see no reason why we should meet with any
accident. At any rate, it is much safer than remaining here for
another hour; for if the crust melts, our last chance is gone."

"Mr. Craig," said Mrs. Lecks, "me and Mrs. Aleshine is no hands at
coastin' down-hill, havin' given up that sort of thing since we was
little girls with short frocks and it didn't make no matter any way.
But you know more about these things than we do; and if you say we can
get out of this dreadful place by slidin' down-hill, we're ready to
follow, if you'll just go ahead. We followed you through the ocean
with nothin' between our feet and the bottom but miles o' water and
nobody knows what sorts of dreadful fish, and when you say it's the
right way to save our lives, we're ready to follow you again. And as
for you, Mrs. Ruth, don't you be frightened. I don't know what we're
goin' to slide on, but, whatever it is, even if it's our own selves,
me and Mrs. Aleshine will take you between us, and if anything is run
against, we'll get the bumps, and not you."

I was delighted to see how rapidly my proposition was accepted, and we
made a hasty breakfast, first sending in some of our food to the other
party. The gentleman reported through the hole of communication that
they were all fairly well, but a good deal stiffened by cold and want
of exercise. He inquired, in a very anxious voice, if I had
discovered any signs of approaching relief. To this I replied that I
had devised a plan by which we could get ourselves out of our present
dangerous situation, and that in a very short time I would come around
to the door of his shed--for I could now walk on the crusted snow--and
tell him about it. He answered that these words cheered his heart, and
that he would do everything possible to coöperate with me.

I now went to work vigorously. I took the cushions from the coach,
four of them altogether, and carried them to the brink of the slope
down which I purposed to make our descent. I also conveyed thither a
long coil of rawhide rope which I had previously discovered in the
boot of the coach. I then hurried along the other road, which, as has
been said before, lay at a somewhat lower level than the one we were
on, and when I reached the shed I found the door had been opened, and
the gentleman, with his tin pan, had scooped away a good deal of the
snow about it, so as to admit of a moderately easy passage in and out.
He met me outside, and grasped my hand.

"Sir, if you have a plan to propose," he said, "state it quickly. We
are in a position of great danger. Those two ladies inside the shed
cannot much longer endure this exposure, and I presume that the
ladies in your party--although their voices, which I occasionally
hear, do not seem to indicate it--must be in a like condition."

I replied that, so far, my companions had borne up very well, and
without further waste of words proceeded to unfold my plan of escape.

When he had heard it the gentleman put on a very serious expression.
"It seems hazardous," he said, "but it may be the only way out of our
danger. Will you show me the point from which you took your
observations?"

"Yes," said I, "but we must be in haste. The sun is getting up in the
sky, and this crust may soon begin to melt. It is not yet really
winter, you know."

We stepped quickly to the spot where I had carried the cushions. The
gentleman stood and silently gazed, first at the blocked-up roadway,
then at the long, smooth slope of the mountain-side directly beneath
us, and then at the verdure of the plain below, which had grown
greener under the increasing brightness of day. "Sir," said he,
turning to me, "there is nothing to be done but to adopt your plan, or
to remain here and die. We will accompany you in the descent, and I
place myself under your orders."

"The first thing," said I, "is to bring here your carriage cushions,
and help me to arrange them."

When he had brought the three cushions from the shed, the gentleman
and I proceeded to place them with the others on the snow, so that the
whole formed a sort of wide and nearly square mattress. Then, with a
rawhide rope, we bound them together in a rough but secure net-work of
cordage. In this part of the work I found my companion very apt and
skillful.

When this rude mattress was completed, I requested the gentleman to
bring his ladies to the place while I went for mine.

"What are we to pack up to take with us?" said Mrs. Aleshine, when I
reached our coach.

"We take nothing at all," said I, "but the money in our pockets and
our rugs and wraps. Everything else must be left in the coach, to be
brought down to us when the roads shall be cleared out."

With our rugs and shawls on our arms we left the coach, and as we were
crossing the other road we saw the gentleman and his companions
approaching. These ladies were very much wrapped up, but one of them
seemed to step along lightly and without difficulty, while the other
moved slowly and was at times assisted by the gentleman.

A breeze had sprung up which filled the air with fine frozen particles
blown from the uncrusted beds of snow along the edge of the forest,
and I counseled Ruth to cover up her mouth and breathe as little of
this snow powder as possible.

"If I'm to go coastin' at all," said Mrs. Aleshine, "I'd as lief do it
with strangers as friends; and a little liefer, for that matter, if
there's any bones to be broken. But I must say that I'd like to make
the acquaintance of them ladies afore I git on to the sled,
which,"--at that moment catching sight of the mattress,--"you don't
mean to say that that's it?"

"Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks from underneath her great woolen
comforter, "if you want to get your lungs friz, you'd better go on
talkin'. Manners is manners, but they can wait till we get to the
bottom of the hill."

Notwithstanding this admonition, I noticed that as soon as the two
parties met, both Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine advanced and shook
hands with the ladies who had been their neighbors under such peculiar
circumstances, and that Mrs. Lecks herself expressed a muffled hope
that they might all get down safely.

I now pushed the mattress which was to serve as our sled as close as
was prudent to the edge of the descent, and requested the party to
seat themselves upon it. Without hesitation Mrs. Lecks and Mrs.
Aleshine sat down, taking Ruth between them, as they had promised to
do. My young wife was very nervous, but the cool demeanor of her
companions, and my evident belief in the practicability of the plan,
gave her courage, and she quietly took her seat. The younger of the
two strange ladies stepped lightly on the cushions, and before seating
herself stood up for a good look at the far-extending bed of snow over
which we were to take our way. The prospect did not appear to deter
her, and she sat down promptly and with an air that seemed to say that
she anticipated a certain enjoyment from the adventure. The elder
lady, however, exhibited very different emotions. She shrank back from
the cushions towards which the gentleman was conducting her, and
turned her face away from the declivity. Her companion assured her
that it was absolutely necessary that we should descend from the
mountain in this way, for there was no other; and asserting his belief
that our slide would be a perfectly safe one, he gently drew her to
the mattress and induced her to sit down.

I now, for the first time, noticed that the gentleman carried under
one arm, and covered by his long cloak, a large package of some sort,
and I immediately said to him: "It will be very imprudent for us to
attempt to carry any of our property except what we can put in our
pockets or wrap around us. Everything else should be left here, either
in your carriage or our coach, and I have no fear that anything will
be lost. But even if our luggage were in danger of being molested we
cannot afford to consider it under circumstances such as these."

"My dear sir," said the gentleman, speaking very gravely, "I
appreciate the hazards of our position as keenly as yourself. Our
valises, and all the light luggage which we had with us in our
carriage, I have left there, and shall not give them another thought.
But with the parcel I hold under this arm I cannot part, and if I go
down the mountain-side on these cushions, it must go with me. If you
refuse in such a case to allow me to be one of your party, I must
remain behind, and endeavor to find a board or something on which I
can make the descent of the mountain."

He spoke courteously, but with an air of decision which showed me that
it would be of no use to argue with him. Besides, there was no time
for parleying; and if this gentleman chose to take his chances with
but one arm at liberty, it was no longer my affair. I therefore
desired him to sit down, and I arranged the company so that they sat
back to back, their feet drawn up to the edge of the mattress. I then
took the place which had been reserved for me as steersman, and having
tied several shawls together, end to end, I passed them around the
whole of us under our arms, thus binding us all firmly together. I
felt that one of our greatest dangers would be that one or more of the
party might slip from the mattress during the descent.

When all was ready I asked the gentleman, who, with the elder lady,
sat near me, at the back of the mattress, to assist in giving us a
start by pushing outward with his heels while I thrust the handle of
my wooden shovel into the crust and thus pushed the mattress forward.
The starting was a little difficult, but in a minute or two we had
pushed the mattress partly over the brink, and then, after a few more
efforts, we began to slide downward.

The motion, at first slow, suddenly became quite rapid, and I heard
behind me a cry or exclamation, from whom I knew not, but I felt quite
sure it did not come from any of our party. I hoped to be able to make
some use of my shovel in the guidance of our unwieldy raft or
mattress-sled, but I soon found this impossible, and down we went over
the smooth, hard-frozen slope, with nothing to direct our course but
the varying undulations of the mountain-side. Every moment we seemed
to go faster and faster, and soon we began to revolve, so that
sometimes I was in front and sometimes behind. Once, when passing over
a very smooth sheet of snow, we fairly spun around, so that in every
direction feet were flying out from a common center and heels grating
on the frozen crust. But there were no more cries or exclamations.
Each one of us grasped the cordage which held the cushions together,
and the rapidity of the motion forced us almost to hold our breath.

Down the smooth, white slope we sped as a bird skims through the air.
It seemed to me as if we passed over miles and miles of snow.
Sometimes my face was turned down the mountain where the snow surface
seemed to stretch out illimitably, and then it was turned upward
towards the apparently illimitable slopes over which we had passed.

Presently, my position now being in front of the little group that
glanced along its glittering way, I saw at some distance below me a
long rise or terrace which ran along the mountain-side for a
considerable distance, and which cut off our view of everything below
us. As we approached this hillock the descent became much more gradual
and our progress slower, and at last I began to fear that our acquired
velocity would not be sufficient to carry us up the side of this
elevation, and so enable us to continue our descent. I therefore
called to everybody in the rear to kick out vigorously, and with my
shovel I endeavored to assist our progress. As we approached the
summit of the elevation, we moved slower and slower. I became very
anxious, for, should we slide backward, we might find it difficult or
impossible to get ourselves and the mattress up this little hill. But
the gentleman and myself worked valiantly, and as for Mrs. Lecks and
Mrs. Aleshine, they kicked their heels through the frozen crust with
such energy that we moved sidewise almost as much as upward. But in a
moment the anxious suspense was over, and we rested on the ridge of
the long hillock with the mountain-side stretching down to the plain,
which lay not very far below us.

I should have been glad to remain here a few minutes to regain breath,
and to give some consideration to the rest of our descent, but some
of those behind continued to push--the mattress slid over the edge of
the terrace, and down again we went. Our progress now was not so
rapid, but it was very much more unpleasant. The snow was thinner;
there was little or no crust upon it, and we very soon reached a wide
extent of exposed turf over which we slid, but not without a good deal
of bumping against stones and protuberances. Then there was another
sheet of snow, which quickened our downward impetus; and, after that,
the snow was seen only in occasional patches, and our progress
continued over a long slope of short, partly dried grass, which was
very slippery, and over which we passed with considerable quickness.

I wished now to bring our uncouth sled to a stop, and to endeavor to
make the rest of the descent on foot. But although I stuck out my
heels and tried to thrust the handle of my shovel into the ground, it
was of no use. On we went, and the inequalities of the surface gave an
irregularity of motion which was uncomfortable and alarming. We turned
to this side and that, we bounced and bumped, and the rawhide ropes,
which must have been greatly frayed and cut by the snow crust, now
gave way in several places, and I knew that the mattress would soon
separate into its original cushions, if indeed they still could be
called cushions. Fearing increased danger should we now continue bound
together in a bunch, I jerked apart the shawl-knot under my arms, and
the next moment, it seemed to me, there was a general dissolution of
our connection with each other. Fortunately, we were now near the
bottom of the slope, for while some of us stuck fast to the cushions,
others rolled over, or slid, independent of any protection; while I,
being thrown forward on my feet, actually ran down-hill! I had just
succeeded in stopping myself, when down upon me came the rest of the
company, all prostrate in some position or other.

And now from an unwieldy mass of shawls came a cry:

"O Albert Dusante! Where are you? Lucille! Lucille!"

Instantly sprang to one foot good Mrs. Aleshine, her other foot being
entangled in a mass of shawls which dragged behind her. Her bonnet was
split open and mashed down over her eyes. In her left hand she waved a
piece of yellow flannel, which in her last mad descent she had torn
from some part of the person of Mrs. Lecks, and in the other a bunch
of stout dead weeds, which she had seized and pulled up by the roots
as she had passed them. Her dress was ripped open down her rotund
back, and the earth from the weed roots had bespattered her face. From
the midst of this dilapidation her round eyes sparkled with
excitement. Hopping on one foot, the shawls and a part of a cushion
dragging behind her, she shouted:

"The Dusantes! They are the Dusantes!"

Then pitching forward on her knees before the two strange ladies, who
had now tumbled into each other's arms, she cried:

"Oh, which is Emily, and which is Lucille?"

I had rushed towards Ruth, who had clung to a cushion, and was now
sitting upon it, when Mrs. Lecks, who was close beside her, arose to
her feet and stood upright. One foot was thrust through her own
bonnet, and her clothes gave evidence of the frenzy and power of Mrs.
Aleshine's grasp, but her mien was dignified and her aspect stately.

"Barb'ry Aleshine!" she exclaimed, "if them Dusantes has dropped down
from heaven at your very feet, can't you give 'em a minute to feel
their ribs and see if their legs and arms is broken?"

The younger lady now turned her head towards Mrs. Aleshine. "I am
Lucille," she said.

In a moment the good woman's arms were around her neck. "I always
liked you the best of the two," she whispered into the ear of the
astonished young lady.

Having found that Ruth was unhurt, I ran to the assistance of the
others. The gentleman had just arisen from a cushion, upon which,
lying flat on his back, he had slid over the grass, still holding
under one arm the package from which he had refused to part. I helped
him to raise the elder lady to her feet. She had been a good deal
shaken, and much frightened, but although a little bruised, she had
received no important injury.

I went to fill a leather pocket-cup from a brook near by, and when I
returned I found the gentleman standing, confronted by Mrs. Lecks,
Mrs. Aleshine, and Ruth, while his own companions were regarding the
group with eager interest.

"Yes," he was saying, "my name is Dusante, but why do you ask at this
moment? Why do you show such excited concern on the subject?"

"Why?" exclaimed Mrs. Lecks. "I will tell you why, sir. My name is
Mrs. Lecks, and this is Mrs. Aleshine, and if you are the Mr. Dusante
with the house on the desert island, this is the Mrs. Craig who was
married in that very house, and the gentleman here with the water is
Mr. Craig, who wrote you the letter, which I hope you got. And if that
isn't reason enough for our wanting to know if you are Mr. Dusante,
I'd like to be told what more there could be!"

"It's them! Of course it's them!" cried Mrs. Aleshine. "I had a
feelin' while we were scootin' down-hill that they was near and dear
to us, though exactly why and how, I didn't know. And she's told me
she's Lucille, and of course the other must be Emily, though what
relations----"

"Am I to understand," interrupted the gentleman, looking with earnest
animation from one to the other of us, "that these are the good people
who inhabited my house on the island?"

"The very ones!" cried Mrs. Aleshine. "And what relation are you to
Emily? and Lucille to her?"

The gentleman stepped backward and laid down the package which he had
held under his arm, and advancing towards me with outstretched hands,
and with tears starting to his eyes, he exclaimed:

"And this man then, to whom I owe so much, is Mr. Craig!"

"Owe me!" I said. "It is to you that we owe our very lives, and our
escape from death in mid-ocean."

"Do not speak of it," he said, shaking his head with a sorrowful
expression on his face. "You owe me nothing. I would to Heaven it were
not so! But we will not talk of that, now. And this is Mrs. Craig,"
he continued, taking Ruth by the hand,--"the fair lady whose nuptials
were celebrated in my house. And Mrs. Lecks, and Mrs. Aleshine." As he
spoke he shook hands with each. "How I have longed to meet you! I have
thought of you every day since I returned to my island, and discovered
that you had been--I wish I could say--my guests. And where is the
reverend gentleman? And the three mariners? I hope that nothing has
befallen them!"

"Alas!--for three of them at least," ejaculated Mrs. Aleshine; "they
have left us, but they are all right. And now, sir, if you could tell
us what relation you are to Emily, and what Lucille----"

"Barb'ry!" cried Mrs. Lecks, making a dash towards her friend, "can't
you give the man a minute to breathe? Don't you see he's so
dumflustered that he hardly knows who he is himself! If them two
women was to sink down dead with hunger and hard slidin' right afore
your very eyes while you was askin' what relation they was to each
other and to him, it would no more 'n serve you right! We'd better be
seein' if anythin' 's the matter with 'em, and what we can do for
'em."

At this moment the younger of Mr. Dusante's ladies quickly stepped
forward. "O Mrs. Craig, Mrs. Lecks, and Mrs. Aleshine!" she
exclaimed, "I'm just dying to know all about you!"

"And which, contrariwise," cried Mrs. Aleshine, "is the same with us,
exactly."

"And of all places in the world," continued the young lady, "that we
should meet here!"

No one could have been more desirous than I was to know all about
these Dusantes, and to discuss the strange manner of our meeting, but
I saw that Ruth was looking very pale and faint, and that the elder
Dusante lady had sat down again upon the ground, as though obliged to
do so by sheer exhaustion, and I therefore hailed with a double
delight the interruption of further explanations by the appearance of
two men on horseback who came galloping towards us.

They belonged to the house which I had noticed from the road above,
and one of them had seen our swift descent down the mountain-side. At
first he had thought the black object he saw sliding over the snow
slopes was a rock or mass of underbrush, but his keen eye soon told
him that it was a group of human beings, and summoning a companion, he
had set out for the foot of the mountain as soon as horses could be
caught and saddled.

The men were much surprised when they heard the details of our
adventure, but as it was quite plain that some members of our party
needed immediate nourishment and attention, the questions and
explanations were made very short. The men dismounted from their
horses, and the elder Dusante lady was placed upon one of them, one
man leading the animal and the other supporting the lady. Ruth mounted
the other horse, and I walked by her to assist her in keeping her
seat, but she held fast to the high pommel of the saddle and got on
very well. Mr. Dusante took his younger companion on one arm, and his
package under the other, while Mrs. Lecks, having relieved her foot
from the encircling bonnet, and Mrs. Aleshine, now free from the
entangling shawls, followed in the rear. The men offered to come back
with the horses for them if they would wait; but the two women
declared that they were quite able to walk, and intended to do no
waiting, and they trudged vigorously after us. The sun was now high,
and the air down here was quite different from that of the
mountain-side, being pleasant and almost warm. The men said that the
snows above would probably soon melt, as it was much too early in the
season for snow to lie long on these lower sides of the mountains.

Our way lay over an almost level plain for about a mile. A portion of
it was somewhat rough, so that when we reached the low house to which
we were bound, we were all very glad indeed to get there. The house
belonged to the two men, who owned a small ranch here. One of them was
married, and his wife immediately set herself to work to attend to our
needs. Her home was small, its rooms few, and her larder very plain in
quality; but everything she had was placed at our disposal. Her own
bed was given to the elder Dusante lady, who took immediate possession
of it; and after a quickly prepared but plentiful meal of fried pork,
corn-bread, and coffee, the rest of us stretched ourselves out to rest
wherever we could find a place. Before lying down, however, I had, at
Ruth's earnest solicitation, engaged one of the men to ride to the
railroad station to inquire about Mr. Enderton, and to inform him of
our safety. By taking a route which ran parallel with the mountain
chain, but at some distance from it, the station, the man said, could
be reached without encountering snow.

None of us had had proper rest during the past two nights, and we
slept soundly until dark, when we were aroused to partake of supper.
All of us, except the elder Dusante lady, who preferred to remain in
bed, gathered around the table. After supper a large fire,
principally of brush-wood, was built upon the hearth; and with the
bright blaze, two candles, and a lamp, the low room appeared light and
cheery. We drew up about the fire--for the night was cool--on whatever
chairs, stools, or boxes we could find, and no sooner had we all
seated ourselves than Mrs. Aleshine exclaimed:

"Now, Mr. Dusante, it ain't in the power of mortal man, nor woman
neither,--an' if put the other way it might be stronger,--to wait any
longer before knowin' what relation Lucille is to Emily, and you to
them, an' all about that house of yours on the island. If I'd blown up
into bits this day through holdin' in my wantin' to know, I shouldn't
have wondered! An' if it hadn't been for hard sleep, I don't believe I
could have held in nohow!"

"That's my mind exactly," said Mrs. Lecks; "and though I know there's
a time for all things, and don't believe in crowdin' questions on
played-out people, I do think, Mr. Dusante, that if I could have
caught up with you when we was comin' over here, I'd have asked you to
speak out on these p'ints. But you're a long-legged walker, which Mrs.
Aleshine is not, and it wouldn't have done to leave her behind."

"Which she wouldn't 'a' been," said Mrs. Aleshine, "long legs or
short."

Ruth and I added our entreaties that Mr. Dusante should tell his
story, and the good ranch man and his wife said that if there was
anything to be done in the story-telling line they were in for it,
strong; and quitting their work of clearing away supper things, they
brought an old hair trunk from another room and sat down just behind
Mrs. Lecks.

The younger Dusante lady, who, having been divested of her wraps, her
veil, and the woolen shawl that had been tied over her head, had
proved to be a very pretty girl with black eyes, here declared that it
had been her intention at the first opportunity to get us to tell our
story, but as we had asked first, she supposed we ought to be
satisfied first.

"I do not wish, my good friends," said Mr. Dusante, "to delay for a
moment longer than necessary your very pardonable curiosity concerning
me and my family; and I must say at the same time that, although your
letter, sir, gave me a very clear account of your visit to my island,
there are many things which naturally could not be contained within
the limits of a letter, and about which I am most anxious to make
inquiries. But these I will reserve until my own narration is
finished.

"My name is Albert Dusante. It may interest you to know that my father
was a Frenchman and my mother an American lady from New England. I was
born in France, but have lived very little in that country, and for a
great part of my life have been a merchant in Honolulu. For the past
few years, however, I have been enabled to free myself in a great
degree from the trammels of business, and to devote myself to the
pursuits of a man of leisure. I have never married, and this young
lady is my sister."

"Then what relation," began Mrs. Aleshine, "is she to----?"

At this moment the hand of Mrs. Lecks, falling heavily into the lap of
the speaker, stopped this question, and Mr. Dusante proceeded:

"Our parents died when Lucille was an infant, and we have no near
blood relations."

At this, the faces of both Mrs. Aleshine and Mrs. Lecks assumed
expressions as if they had each just received a letter superscribed in
an unknown hand, and were wondering who it could possibly be from.

"The lady who is now resting in the adjoining room," continued Mr.
Dusante, "is a dear friend who has been adopted by me as a mother."

"Upon my word!" burst from Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, in as much
unison of time and tone as if the words had been a response in a
church service, while Miss Lucille leaned back against the wall near
which she sat, and laughed gleefully. Mr. Dusante, however, continued
his statements with the same quiet gravity with which he had begun.

"This lady was a dear friend of my mother, although younger than she.
I adopted her as a mother to my little orphan sister, and,
consequently, placed her in the same maternal relation to myself,
doing this with much earnest satisfaction, for I hoped to be able to
return, as a son, something of the tender care and affection which she
would bestow on Lucille as a daughter."

"And she is Emily?" cried Mrs. Aleshine.

"She adopted our name," answered the speaker, "and she is Mrs. Emily
Dusante."

"And she is your adopted _mother_?" said Mrs. Aleshine.

"Adopted mother!" ejaculated Mrs. Lecks.

"Yes," answered Mr. Dusante.

"And that is the only relation she is to you two?" said Mrs. Lecks.

"And you to her?" added Mrs. Aleshine.

"Most assuredly," answered Mr. Dusante.

Here Mrs. Lecks leaned back in her chair, folded her hands in her lap,
and ejaculated: "Well, well!" and then allowed her face to assume a
rigid intention of having nothing more to say at the present moment.

"One thing is certain," remarked Mrs. Aleshine, in a tone which
indicated that she did not care who heard her, "I always liked Lucille
the best!"

At this Ruth and I exchanged smiles with Miss Lucille, and Mr. Dusante
proceeded:

"I do not wish to occupy too much of your time with our personal
affairs, and will therefore state that the island on which you found
refuge, and where I wish, most heartily, I had been present to act as
host, was bought by me as a retreat from the annoyances of business
and the exactions of society. I built there a good house----"

"Which it truly was," said Mrs. Aleshine, "with fixtures in it for
water, and letting it off, which I never saw in a house so far out of
town."

"I furnished it suitably," said Mr. Dusante. "We had books and music,
and for several years we passed vacations there which were both
enjoyable and profitable. But of late my sister has found the place
lonely, and we have traveled a good deal, making intermittent and
often short visits to the island.

"As I never cared to leave any one on that lonely spot during our
absences from it, I arranged a gateway of bars across the only opening
in the reef, with the intention of preventing marauding visits from
fishing-boats or other small craft which might be passing that way. As
the island was out of the ordinary track of vessels, I did not imagine
that my bars would ever prove an obstacle to unfortunate castaways who
might seek a refuge there."

"Which they didn't," remarked Mrs. Aleshine, "for under we bobbed."

"I never exactly understood," said Mr. Dusante, "and I hope to have it
explained to me in due time, how you passed my bars without removing
them, and I have had a sore weight upon my conscience since I
discovered that shipwrecked persons, fleeing to my house from the
perils of the sea, should have found those inhospitable bars in their
way----"

"Which is a weight you might as well cast off and be done with it,"
said Mrs. Lecks, her deep-set notions on the rights of property
obliging her to speak; "for if a man hasn't a right to lock up his
house when he goes away and leaves it, I don't know what rights
anybody has about anything. Me, or Mrs. Aleshine, or anybody else here
who has a house, might just as well go off travelin' or to town
visitin' and leave our front door unlocked and the yard gate swingin'
on its hinges, because we was afraid that some tramp or other body
with no house or home might come along and not be able to get in and
make himself comfortable. Your business, sir, when you left that house
and all your belongin's on that island, was to leave everything tight
and safe, and the business of people sailin' in ships was to go on
their proper way and not be runnin' into each other. And if these last
mentioned didn't see fit to do that and so got into trouble, they
should have gone to some island where there were people to attend to
'em, just as the tramps should go to the poor-house. And this is what
we would have done--not meanin' the poor-house--if we hadn't been so
over long-headed as to get into a leaky boat, which, I wish it
understood, is sayin' nothin' against Mr. Craig."

"That's true," said Mrs. Aleshine, "for nobody has got a right to
complain that a fellow-bein' locks his own door after him. But it does
seem to me, sir, that in such scattered neighborhoods as your island
is in, it might be a good thing to leave something to eat and
drink--perhaps in a bottle or in a tin pail--at the outside of your
bars for them as might come along shipwrecked and not be able to get
inside on account of bein' obliged to come in a boat, an' not as we
did; an' so when they found they'd have to go on, they might have
somethin' to keep up their strength till they got to another house."

"Now, Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks, "when you start off on a
journey to Japan or any other place an' leave mince-pies and buttered
toast a-stickin' on the p'ints of your palin's for tramps that might
come along and need 'em, you can do that kind of talkin'. But as that
time hasn't come, let's hear the rest of Mr. Dusante's story."

"When I first visited my island this year," continued the narrator,
"we made but a short stay, as we were all desirous of taking a
somewhat extended sea voyage in my steam yacht. We visited several
places of interest, and when we returned, just six weeks ago
to-day----"

"Just one week, lackin' a day," exclaimed Mrs. Lecks, "after we left
that spot!"

"If I'd 'a' knowed," said Mrs. Aleshine, rising to her feet, "that
you'd be back so soon, I'd 'a' made them sailor men live on fish, I'd
'a' eat garden truck myself, and I'd be bound I'd 'a' made the flour
hold out for six days more for the rest of 'em, if I'd 'a' had to work
my fingers to the skin and bone to do it!" Then she sat down solemnly.

"When we returned," continued Mr. Dusante, "I was pleased to find my
bars intact; and when these were unlocked, and the boat from our yacht
went through with ourselves and our servants, it was very agreeable to
notice the good order which seemed to prevail everywhere. As we passed
from the wharf to the house, not even fallen boughs or weeds were seen
to indicate that we had been away from the place for more than two
months. When we entered the house, my mother and sister immediately
ascended to their chambers, and when the windows had been opened I
heard them from above calling to each other and remarking upon the
freshness and cleanliness of the rooms. I went to my library, and when
I had thrown open the window I was struck with the somewhat peculiar
air of order which seemed to obtain in the room. The books stood upon
their shelves with a remarkable regularity, and the chairs and other
furniture were arranged with a precision which impressed me as
unusual. In a moment, sir, I saw your letter upon the table addressed
to me. Greatly astonished, I opened and read it.

"When I had finished it, my amazement was great indeed; but obeying
an instant impulse, I stepped into the dining-room which a servant had
opened, and took the ginger-jar from the mantel-piece. When I lifted
from it the little brown-paper parcel, and beneath it saw the money
which had been mentioned in the letter, you may imagine the condition
of my mind. I did not take out the money, nor count it; but covering
it again with the paper parcel, which I believe contained fish-hooks,
and with the jar in my hands, I returned to the library, where I sat
down to ponder upon these most astounding revelations. While so doing,
my mother and sister hastily entered the room. Lucille declared in an
excited manner that she believed that the brownies or some other
fairies had been there while we were away and had kept the house in
order. The whole place was actually cleaner, she said, than when we
left it. She had taken down a thin dress from her closet, and it
positively looked as if it had just come from the hand of a laundress,
with the ruffles ironed smoother and more evenly than they had ever
been since it was first stitched together. 'Albert,' said my mother,
her face pale, 'there has been somebody in this house!' Then she went
on to say that the windows, which were left unwashed because we went
away in somewhat of a hurry, were as bright and clean as if the maids
had just been rubbing them; the floors and furniture were cleaner and
freer from dust than they had ever been before; and the whole house
looked as if we had just left it yesterday. 'In fact,' she said, 'it
is unnaturally clean!'"

During this part of Mr. Dusante's story, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine
sat very quiet, with an air of sedate humility upon their faces; but I
could see by the proud light in their eyes that they felt their
superiority to ordinary women, although they were properly resolved
not to show such feeling.

"At that moment," continued Mr. Dusante, "a servant came hurrying into
the room, and informed us that the flour was all gone, and that there
was scarcely anything in the pantries to eat. At this my mother and my
sister, who knew that an abundance of provisions had been left in the
house, looked at each other aghast. But before they could express
their consternation in words, I addressed them. 'My dear mother,' said
I, 'and Lucille, there truly has been some one in this house. By this
letter I am informed that for several weeks eight persons have lived
here under this roof; a marriage has been solemnized, and the happy
couple have gone forth from our doors. These persons have eaten our
food, they have made use of our property, and this has been their
temporary home. But they are good people, honest and true-hearted, for
they have left the house in better order than they found it, and more
than the price of all they have consumed is in that ginger-jar.' And,
thereupon, I read them your letter, sir.

"I cannot undertake to describe the wonder and absorbing interest with
which this letter filled our minds. All needful stores were brought
ashore from the yacht, which lay outside the reef, and we began our
usual life on the island; but none of the occupations or recreations
in which we formerly employed our time now possessed any attractions
for us. Our minds were filled with thoughts of the persons who had
been so strangely living in our house; and our conversation was mainly
made up of surmises as to what sort of people they were, whether or
not we should ever see them, and similar suppositions."

"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Miss Lucille, "I thought of you by day and by
night, and pictured you all in various ways, but never as you really
are. Sometimes I used to think that the boat in which you went away
had been sunk in a storm in which you were all drowned, and that
perhaps your ghosts would come back and live in our house, and sleep
in our beds, and clean our windows, and wash and iron our clothes, and
do all sorts of things in the night."

"Goodnessful, gracious me!" cried Mrs. Aleshine, "don't talk that way!
The idea of bein' a cold ghost, goin' about in the dark, is worse than
slidin' down a snow mountain, even if you had to do it on the bare of
your back."

"Barb'ry!" said Mrs. Lecks, severely.

"The idea is jus' as chillin'," replied her undaunted friend.

"Two things connected with this matter," continued Mr. Dusante,
"weighed heavily on my mind. One of these I have already
mentioned--the cruel inhospitality of the barred entrance."

I had refrained from adding to the interruptions to Mr. Dusante's
narrative, but I now felt impelled to assure the gentleman, on behalf
of myself and wife, that we shared the opinions of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs.
Aleshine, and felt that he could in no way be blamed for thus
protecting his private property.

"You are very good," said Mr. Dusante, "but I will say here that there
are now no bars to that entrance. I have left some people on the
island, who will take care of my property and succor any unfortunate
castaways who may arrive there. The other matter to which I alluded
was, however, the heavier load which oppressed me. This was the money
in the ginger-jar. I could not endure to reflect that I had been paid
actual money for the hospitality I would have been so glad to offer to
you poor shipwrecked people. Every sentiment of my being rebelled
against such a thing. I was grieved. I was ashamed. At last I
determined I would bear no longer the ignominy of this brand of
inhospitality, and that, with the ginger-jar in my hand, I would
search over the world, if necessary, for the persons who in my absence
had paid board to me, and return to them the jar with its contents
uncounted and untouched. Your letter informed me of the island to
which you were bound, and if I did not find you there I could discover
to what port you had taken your departure. There I could make further
inquiries, and so follow you. When I proposed this plan to my family
they agreed to it instantly, for their interest in the matter was
almost as great as mine; and in a day or two we started on our quest.

"I easily traced you to San Francisco, and found the hotel at which
you had stopped. Here I obtained fresh news of you, and learned that
you had started East, and that the destination of the party was
believed to be Philadelphia. I had hoped that I should meet with you
before you left California; but supposing that by that time you had
reached your destination, or were, at least, far on your way, I
yielded to the solicitations of my sister and made some excursions in
California, intending then to follow you to Philadelphia and there to
advertise for Mr. Craig, if he could not otherwise be found. However,
by the rarest and most fortunate of chances, we have met thus early,
and for this I can never be too devoutly thankful."

"Nor we," said I earnestly; "for our greatly desired acquaintance with
you and your family could not have begun too soon."

"Now," said Mr. Dusante, "I will perform the duty for which my journey
was undertaken, and I assure you it is a great pleasure to me to be
able, so soon, to carry out this cherished purpose."

He then took up from the floor by his side the package which he had so
safely guarded during his swift and perilous descent of the
mountain-side, and which he had since kept close by him. Placing this
upon his knee, he removed the light shawl in which it had been rolled,
and then several pieces of wrapping-paper, revealing to our eyes the
familiar fat little ginger-jar which had stood on the mantel-piece of
the dining-room in the house on the island, and in which we had
deposited our board-money.

"It would be simply impossible for me," said Mr. Dusante, "to consent
to retain in my possession money paid for the aid which I
involuntarily rendered to shipwrecked people. Had I been present on
the island that aid would have been most heartily and freely given,
and the fact of my absence makes no difference whatever in regard to
my feelings on the subject of your paying for the food and shelter you
found at my house. Having understood from Mr. Craig's letter that it
was Mrs. Lecks who superintended the collection and depositing of the
money, I now return to you, madam, this jar with its contents."

"And which," said Mrs. Lecks, sitting up very rigidly, with her hands
clasped behind her, "I don't take. If it had been a day and a night,
or even two nights and over a Sunday, it wouldn't have mattered; but
when me and Mrs. Aleshine--and the rest of the party can speak for
themselves--stays for weeks and weeks, without leave or license, in a
man's house, we pay our board--of course, deductin' services.
Good-night."

With that she arose, and walked very erect into the adjoining room.

"It was all very well, Mr. Dusante," said Mrs. Aleshine, "for you to
try to carry out what you thought was right, but we have our ideas as
to what our duty is, and you have your ideas as to what your duty is,
an' consciences is even."

And she followed her friend.

Mr. Dusante looked surprised and troubled, and he turned towards me.
"My dear sir," said I, "those two good women are very sensitive in
regard to right and justice, and I think it will be well not to press
this subject upon them. As for my wife and I, neither of us would
consent to touch money which was placed in that jar by Mrs. Lecks with
the expectation that no one but you or one of your family would take
it out."

"Very well, sir," said Mr. Dusante, replacing the wrapping-paper
around the jar; "I will drop the subject for the present. But you will
allow me to say, sir, that I also am very sensitive in regard to right
and justice."

Early the next morning the man who had been sent to the railroad
station came back bringing news that a four-horse wagon would shortly
be sent for us, and also bearing a letter from Mr. Enderton to Ruth.
In this that gentleman informed his daughter that he was quite well,
but that he had suffered anxiety on account of her probable hardships
in the abandoned stage-coach. He had hoped, however, that the snow
which had precluded his return with assistance had fallen lightly in
the elevated position in which she had been left; and he had trusted
also that Mr. Craig had bethought himself to build a fire somewhere
near the coach, where his daughter might be warmed; and that the
provisions, of which he knew an ample quantity had been packed for the
trip, had been properly heated for her and given to her at suitable
intervals. This anxiety, he said, had added very much to his own
mental disquietude occasioned by the violent vituperations and unjust
demands of the driver of the stage-coach, who had seen fit to attack
him with all manner of abuse, and might even have resorted to personal
violence had it not been for the interference of by-standers and the
locking of his room-door. He was now, however, much relieved by the
departure of this driver, and by the news that his daughter had
reached a place of safety, which, of course, he had supposed she would
do, her detention having occurred on an ordinary route of travel.

While waiting for the arrival of the wagon, the adventures of Mrs.
Lecks, Mrs. Aleshine, and myself, as well as those of Ruth and her
father, from the time the one party left America and the other China,
were related at length to the Dusantes, who showed a deep interest in
every detail and asked many questions.

Mrs. Dusante, whose nervous equilibrium had been fully restored by her
night's rest, and who, although feeling a little stiff and bruised,
now declared herself quite well, proved to be a very pleasant lady of
fifty-five or thereabouts. She was of a quiet disposition, but her
speech and manner showed that in former years, at least, she had been
a woman of society, and I soon found out that she was much interested
in the study of character. This interest was principally shown in the
direction of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, whom she evidently looked
upon as most remarkable women. If any of her sentiments were those of
admiration, however, they were not returned in kind: Mrs. Lecks and
Mrs. Aleshine had but a small opinion of her.

"There's mother-in-laws, and step-mothers, and real mothers, and
grandmothers, and sometimes great-grandmothers livin'," said Mrs.
Lecks to me apart; "but though Mr. Dusante may be a well-meanin'
man--and I don't doubt he is--and wishing I haven't the least reason
to disbelieve, to do his whole duty by his fellow-men, still, I must
say, bein' brought up as I was, he hasn't any right to make a new
kind of mother. To be sure, a man can adopt children, but that isn't
goin' backward like this is, which is agen nat'ral law, and gospel."

"I expect," said Mrs. Aleshine, who was with us, "that them French has
got fashions that we don't know about, and thankful we ought to be
that we don't! I never had no patience with French heels an' French
arsenic-green beans, an' now if there's to be adoptin' of mothers in
this country, the next thing will be gullotynes."

"I don't see," said I, "why you look upon the Dusantes as French
people. They are just as much American as French."

"Well," said Mrs. Lecks, "it's not for me and Mrs. Aleshine to set
ourselves up to judge other people. In our part of the country we
don't adopt mothers, but if they do it in France, or the Sandwich
Islands, or down East, I don't know that we ought to have anythin' to
say."

"He might as well have adopted a father at the same time," said Mrs.
Aleshine, "although, to be sure, he would 'a' had to been particular to
take one that was acquainted with Mrs. Dusante, and not had 'em
strangers to each other, though parents to him."

"If I was you, Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks, "I'd adopt some
sort of rag to the top of my head to serve for a bonnet, for here
comes the wagon, and I suppose now we'll be off."

We took leave of the kind-hearted ranch people, who looked upon us as
a godsend into their lonely life, and disposed ourselves as
comfortably as we could in the large wagon. Our journey of seven or
eight miles to the railroad station was slow, and over ways that were
rough. Mrs. Dusante was a delicate woman and not used to hardship,
whereas Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine were exceedingly vigorous and
tough. The consequence of this difference was that the kindly hearts
of the latter prompted them to do everything they could to prevent
Mrs. Dusante feeling the bumps and jolts, and to give her such
advantages of wraps and position as would help her to bear better the
fatigues of the journey.

In doing this these good women gradually forgot the adopted mother and
came to think only of the very pleasant lady who needed their
attentions, and who took such a lively and agreeable interest in their
family histories, their homes, their manner of living, and everything
that pertained to them; and before we reached the end of our trip,
these three were talking together like old friends. Ruth and Miss
Lucille had also struck up a warm acquaintance, while I found Mr.
Dusante a very entertaining man,--of sedate and careful speech,
ingenious ideas, and of a very courteous disposition.

When we arrived at the railroad station we were met by Mr. Enderton,
who showed a moderate degree of pleasure at seeing us and an
immoderate amount of annoyance, exhibited principally to me, in being
obliged to give up to the women of our party the large room he had
occupied in the only lodging-house in the little settlement.

When I informed him that the strangers with us were the Dusantes, on
whose island we had been staying, he at first listened vaguely. He had
always looked upon the Dusante family as a sort of fable used by Mrs.
Lecks to countenance her exactions of money from the unfortunate
sojourners on the island. But when I told him what Mr. Dusante had
done, and related how he had brought the board-money with him, and had
offered to pay it back to us, an eager interest was aroused in him.

"I do not wonder," he exclaimed, "that the conscience-stricken man
wishes to give the money back, but that any one should refuse what
actually belongs to him or her is beyond my comprehension! One thing
is certain--I shall receive my portion. Fifteen dollars a week for my
daughter and myself that woman charged me, and I will have it back."

"My dear sir," I said, "your board was reduced to the same sum as that
paid by the rest of us,--four dollars a week each."

"I call to mind no reduction," said Mr. Enderton. "I remember
distinctly the exorbitant sum charged me for board on a desert island.
It made a deep impression upon me."

"I do not care to talk any further on this subject," I said. "You must
settle it with Mrs. Lecks."

Mr. Enderton gave a great sniff, and walked away with dignity. I could
not but laugh as I imagined his condition two minutes after he had
stated his opinions on this subject to Mrs. Lecks.

When Mr. Dusante had started from San Francisco on his search for us,
he had sent his heavy baggage ahead of him to Ogden City, where he
purposed to make his first stop. He supposed that we might possibly
here diverge from our homeward-bound route in order to visit the
Mormon metropolis; and, if we had done so, he did not wish to pass us.
It was therefore now agreed that we should all go to Ogden City, and
there await the arrival of our effects left in the snowed-up vehicles
on the mountain-side. We made arrangements with the station-master
that these should be forwarded to us as soon as the stage-coach and
the carriage could be brought down. All the baggage of my party was on
the coach, and it consisted only of a few valises bought in San
Francisco, and a package containing two life-preservers, which Mrs.
Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine said they would take home with them, if they
took nothing else.

On the morning after our arrival at Ogden City, Mr. Dusante took me
aside. "Sir," he said, "I wish to confide to you my intentions
regarding the jar containing the money left by your party in my house,
and I trust you will do nothing to thwart them. When your baggage
arrives, you, with your party, will doubtless continue your eastern
way, and we shall return to San Francisco. But the jar, with its
contents, shall be left behind to be delivered to Mrs. Lecks. If you
will take charge of the jar and hand it to her, sir, I shall be
obliged greatly."

I promised Mr. Dusante that I would not interfere with his intentions,
but asserted that I could, on no account, take charge of the jar. The
possession of that piece of pottery, with its contents, was now a
matter of dispute between him and Mrs. Lecks, and must be settled by
them.

"Very well, then, sir," he said. "I shall arrange to depart before you
and your company, and I shall leave the jar, suitably packed, in the
care of the clerk of this hotel, with directions to hand it to Mrs.
Lecks after I am gone. Thus there will be nothing for her to do but to
receive it."

Some one now came into the smoking-room, where we were sitting, and no
more was said, on this subject. Mr. Dusante's statement of his
intention very much amused me, for Mrs. Lecks had previously taken me
into her confidence in regard to her intentions in this matter. "Mr.
Dusante," she had said, "hasn't dropped a word more about the money in
that ginger-jar, but I know just as well as he does what he is goin'
to do about it. When the time comes to go, he's goin' to slip off
quietly, leavin' that jar behind him, thinkin' then I'll be obliged to
take it, there bein' nobody to give it back to. But he'll find me just
as sharp as he is. I've got the street and number of his business
place in Honolulu from his sister,--askin' about it in an off-hand
way, as if it didn't mean anything,--an' if that jar is left for me,
I'll pack it in a box, money and all, and I'll express it to Mr.
Dusante; and when he gets to Honolulu he'll find it there, and then
he'll know that two can play at that sort of game."

Knowing Mr. Dusante, and knowing Mrs. Lecks, I pictured to myself
a box containing a ginger-jar, and covered with numerous
half-obliterated addresses, traveling backward and forward between the
Sandwich Islands and Pennsylvania during the lifetime of the
contestants, and, probably, if testamentary desire should be regarded,
during a great part of the lifetime of their heirs. That the wear and
tear of the box might make it necessary to inclose it in a keg, and
that, eventually, the keg might have to be placed in a barrel, and
that, after a time, in a hogshead, seemed to me as likely as any other
contingencies which might befall this peregrinating ginger-jar.

We spent three days in Ogden City, and then, the weather having
moderated very much, and the snow on the mountains having melted
sufficiently to allow the vehicles to be brought down, our effects
were forwarded to us, and my party and that of Mr. Dusante prepared to
proceed on our different ways. An eastward-bound train left that
evening an hour after we received our baggage, but we did not care to
depart upon such short notice, and so determined to remain until the
next day.

In the evening Mr. Dusante came to me to say that he was very glad to
find that the westward train would leave Ogden City early in the
morning, so that he and his family would start on their journey some
hours before we should leave. "This suits my plans exactly," he said.
"I have left the ginger-jar, securely wrapped, and addressed to Mrs.
Lecks, with the clerk of the hotel, who will deliver it to-morrow
immediately after my departure. All our preparations are made, and we
purpose this evening to bid farewell to you and our other kind
friends, from whom, I assure you, we are most deeply grieved to part."

I had just replied that we also regretted extremely the necessity for
this separation, when a boy brought me a letter. I opened it, and
found it was from Mr. Enderton. It read as follows:

   DEAR SIR: I have determined not to wait here until to-morrow, but
   to proceed eastward by this evening's train. I desire to spend a
   day in Chicago, and as you and the others will probably not wish
   to stop there, I shall, by this means, attain my object without
   detaining you. My sudden resolution will not give me time to see
   you all before I start, but I have taken a hurried leave of my
   daughter, and this letter will explain my departure to the rest.

   I will also mention that I have thought it proper, as the natural
   head of our party, both by age and position, to settle the
   amicable dispute in regard to the reception and disposition of
   the money paid, under an excusable misapprehension, for our board
   and lodging upon a desert island. I discovered that the
   receptacle of this money had been left in the custody of the
   clerk, addressed to Mrs. Lecks, who has not only already refused
   to receive it, and would probably do so again, but who is, in my
   opinion, in no wise entitled to hold, possess, or dispose of it.
   I, therefore, without making any disturbance whatever, have taken
   charge of the package, and shall convey it with me to Chicago.
   When you arrive there, I will apportion the contents among us
   according to our several claims. This I regard as a very sensible
   and prudent solution of the little difficulty which has
   confronted us in regard to the disposition of this money. Yours
   hurriedly,

     DAVID J. ENDERTON.

   P. S. I shall stop at Brandiger's Hotel, where I shall await you.



PART III


Mr. Enderton's letter astonished and angered me, but, in spite of my
indignation, I could not help smiling at the unexpected way in which
he had put a stop to the probable perpetual peregrinations of the
ginger-jar. I handed the letter to Mr. Dusante, and when he had read
it his face flushed, and I could see that he was very angry, although
he kept his temper under excellent control.

"Sir," he said presently, "this shall not be allowed. That jar, with
its contents, is my property until Mrs. Lecks has consented to receive
it. It is of my own option that I return it at all, and I have decided
to return it to Mrs. Lecks. Any one interfering with my intentions
steps entirely beyond the line of just and warrantable procedure. Sir,
I shall not go westward to-morrow morning, but, with my family, will
accompany you to Chicago, where I shall require Mr. Enderton to
return to me my property, which I shall then dispose of as I see fit.
You must excuse me, sir, if anything I have said regarding this
gentleman with whom you are connected has wounded your sensibilities."

"Oh, don't think of that!" I exclaimed. "Pitch into Enderton as much
as you please, and you may be sure that I shall not object. When I
took the daughter to wife, I did not marry the father. But, of course,
for my wife's sake I hope this matter will not be made the subject of
public comment."

"You need have no fear of that," said Mr. Dusante; "and you will allow
me to remark that Mr. Enderton's wife must have been a most charming
lady."

"Why do you think so?" I asked.

"I judge so," he answered, with a bow, "from my acquaintance with Mrs.
Craig."

I now went immediately to Ruth, who, I found, knew nothing of what had
occurred, except that her father had gone on to Chicago in advance of
our party, and had had time only to bid her a hasty good-bye. I made
no remarks on this haste which would not allow Mr. Enderton to take
leave of us, but which gave him time to write a letter of some length;
and as Ruth knew nothing of this letter, I determined not to mention
it to her. Her father's sudden departure surprised her but little,
for she told me that he always liked to get to places before the rest
of the party with whom he might be journeying. "Even when we go to
church," she said, "he always walks ahead of the rest of us. I don't
understand why he likes to do so, but this is one of his habits."

When I informed Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine of what had happened,
they fairly blazed.

"I don't know what Mr. Dusante calls it," exclaimed Mrs. Lecks, "but I
know what I call it!"

"Yes, indeed!" cried Mrs. Aleshine, her round eyes sparkling with
excitement; "if that isn't ex-honesty, then he ain't no ex-missionary!
I pity the heathen he converted!"

"I'll convert him," said Mrs. Lecks, "if ever I lay eyes on him!
Walkin' away with a package with my name on it! He might as well take
my gold spectacles or my tortoise-shell comb! I suppose there's no
such thing as ketchin' up with him, but I'll telegraph after him; an'
I'll let him know that if he dares to open a package of mine, I'll put
the law on him!"

"That's so," said Mrs. Aleshine. "You kin send telegraphs all along
the line to one station an' another for conductors to give to him in
the cars, an' directed to Mr. Enderton, a tall man with gray-mixed
hair an' a stolen bundle. That's the way they did in our place when
Abram Marly's wife fell into the cistern, an' he'd jus' took the cars
to the city, an' they telegraphed to him at five different stations to
know where he'd left the ladder."

"Which ain't a bad idea," said Mrs. Lecks, "though his name will be
enough on it without no description; an' I'll do that this minute, an'
find out about the stations from the clerk."

"You must be very careful," I said, "about anything of that kind, for
the telegrams will be read at the stations, and Mr. Enderton might be
brought into trouble in a way which we all should regret; but a
dispatch may be worded so that he, and no one else, would understand
it."

"Very well," said Mrs. Lecks, "an' let's get at it; but I must say
that he don't deserve bein' saved no trouble, for I'm as sure as that
I'm a livin' woman that he never saved nobody else no trouble sence
the first minute he was born."

The following dispatch was concocted and sent on to Bridger, to be
delivered to Mr. Enderton on the train:

   The package you know of has been stolen. You will recognize the
   thief. If he leaves it at Chicago hotel, let him go. If he opens
   it, clap him in jail.

     MRS. LECKS.

"I think that will make him keep his fingers off it," said Mrs. Lecks;
"an' if Mr. Dusante chooses to send somethin' of the same kind to some
other station, it won't do no harm. An' if that Enderton gets so
skeered that he keeps out of sight and hearin' of all of us, it'll be
the best thing that's happened yet. An' I want you to understan', Mr.
Craig, that nothin' 's goin' to be said or done to make your wife feel
bad; an' there's no need of her hearin' about what's been done or
what's goin' to be done. But I'll say for her, that though, of course,
Mr. Enderton is her father and she looks up to him as such, she's a
mighty deal livelier and gayer-hearted when he's away than when he's
with her. An' as for the rest of us, there's no use sayin' anythin'
about our resignedness to the loss of his company."

"I should say so," said Mrs. Aleshine; "for if there ever was a man
who thought of himself ninety-nine times before he thought of anybody
else once, an' then as like as not to forgit that once, he's the man.
An' it's not, by no means, that I'm down on missionaries, for it's
many a box I've made up for 'em, an' never begrudged neither money nor
trouble, an' will do it ag'in many times, I hope. But he oughtn't to
be called one, havin' given it up,--unless they gave him up, which
there's no knowin' which it was,--for if there's anything which shows
the good in a man, it's his bein' willin' to give up the comforts of a
Christian land an' go an' convert heathens; though bein' willin' to
give up the heathens an' go for the comforts shows him quite
different, besides, as like as not, chargin' double, an' only half
convertin'."

Mr. Dusante was fully determined to go on with us until he had
recovered possession of the ginger-jar. His courteous feelings towards
Mrs. Craig and myself prevented his saying much about Mr. Enderton,
but I had good reason to believe that his opinions in regard to my
father-in-law were not very different from those of Mrs. Lecks and
Mrs. Aleshine. Ever since Mr. Enderton had shown his petulant
selfishness, when obliged to give up his room at the railroad station
for the use of the women of his party, Mr. Dusante had looked upon him
coldly, and the two had had but little to say to each other.

We were all very glad that our pleasant party was not to be broken up;
and although there was no resignation at the absence of the
ginger-jar, we started on our journey the next day in a pleasanter
mood for the absence of Mr. Enderton. Before we left, Mr. Dusante sent
a telegram to Kearney Junction, to be delivered to Mr. Enderton when
he arrived there. What this message was I do not know, but I imagine
its tone was decided.

Our journey to Chicago was a pleasant one. We had now all become very
well acquainted with each other, and there was no discordant element
in the combined party. Some of us were a little apprehensive of
trouble, or annoyance at least, awaiting us in Chicago, but we did not
speak of it; and while Ruth knew nothing of her father's misbehavior,
it might have been supposed that the rest had forgotten it.

At Chicago we went at once to Brandiger's Hotel, and there we found,
instead of Mr. Enderton, a letter from him to Ruth. It read as
follows:

   MY DEAR DAUGHTER: I have determined not to wait here, as
   originally intended, but to go on by myself. I am sorry not to
   meet you here, but it will not be long before we are together
   again, and you know I do not like to travel with a party. Its
   various members always incommode me in one way or another. I had
   proposed to go to Philadelphia and wait for you there, but have
   since concluded to stop at Meadowville, a village in the interior
   of Pennsylvania, where, as they have informed me, the two women,
   Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, reside. I wish to see the party all
   together before I take final leave of them, and I suppose the two
   women will not consent to go any farther than the country town in
   which they live. Inclosed is a note to your husband relating to
   business matters. I hope that he will take the best of care of
   you during the rest of the journey, and thus very much oblige

     YOUR AFFECTIONATE FATHER.

This was my note:

   MR. CRAIG. SIR: I should have supposed that you would have been
   able to prevent the insolent messages which have been telegraphed
   to me from some members of your party, but it is my lot to be
   disappointed in those in whom I trust. I shall make no answer to
   these messages, but will say to you that I am not to be
   browbeaten in my intention to divide among its rightful claimants
   the money now in my possession. It is not that I care for the
   comparatively paltry sum that will fall to myself and my
   daughter, but it is the principle of the matter for which I am
   contending. It was due to me that the amount should have been
   returned to me, and to no other, for me to make the proper
   division. I therefore rest upon my principles and my rights; and,
   desiring to avoid needless altercations, shall proceed to
   Meadowville, where, when the rest of my party arrive, I shall
   justly apportion the money. I suppose the man Dusante will not be
   foolish enough to protract his useless journey farther than
   Chicago. It is your duty to make him see the impropriety of so
   doing.

     Yours, etc.,
     D. J. ENDERTON.

Ruth's letter was shown to all the party, and mine in private to Mr.
Dusante, Mrs. Lecks, and Mrs. Aleshine. When the first moments of
astonishment were over, Mrs. Lecks exclaimed:

"Well, after all, I don't know that I'm so very sorry that the old
sneak has done this, for now we're rid of him for the rest of the
trip; an' I'm pretty certain, from the way he writes, that he hasn't
dipped into that jar yet. We've skeered him from doin' that."

"But the impidence of him!" said Mrs. Aleshine. "Think of his goin' to
the very town where we live an' gittin' there fust! He'll be settin'
on that tavern porch with every loafer in the place about him, an'
tellin' 'em the whole story of what happened to us from beginning to
end, till by the time we git there it'll be all over the place an' as
stale as last week's bread."

"'The man Dusante,'" quietly remarked that individual, "will not
abandon the purpose of his journey. He left his island to place in the
hands of Mrs. Lecks, on behalf of her party, the ginger-jar with the
money inclosed. He will therefore go on with you to Meadowville, and
will there make formal demand, and, if necessary, legal requisition,
for the possession of that jar and that money; after which he will
proceed to carry out his original intentions."

We all expressed our pleasure at having him, with his ladies, as
companions for the remainder of our journey, and Mrs. Lecks
immediately offered them the hospitalities of her house for as long a
time as they might wish to stay with her.

"The weather there," she said, "is often splendid till past
Thanksgivin' Day, an' nobody could be welcomer than you."

"I'd have asked you myself," said Mrs. Aleshine, "if Mrs. Lecks hadn't
done it,--which of course she would, bein' alive,--but I'm goin' to
have Mr. Craig an' his wife, an' as our houses is near, we'll see each
other all the time. An' if Mr. Enderton chooses to stay awhile at the
tavern, he can come over to see his daughter whenever he likes. I'll
go as fur as that, though no further can I go. I'm not the one to turn
anybody from my door, be he heathen, or jus' as bad, or wuss. But tea
once, or perhaps twice, is all that I can find it in my heart to offer
that man after what he's done."

As the Dusantes and Ruth expressed a desire to see something of
Chicago, where they had never been before, we remained in this city
for two days, feeling that as Mr. Enderton would await our coming,
there was no necessity for haste.

Early in the afternoon of the second day I went into the parlor of the
hotel, where I expected to find our party prepared for a sight-seeing
excursion; but I found the room tenanted only by Mrs. Aleshine, who
was sitting with her bonnet and wraps on, ready to start forth. I had
said but a few words to her when Mrs. Lecks entered, bonnetless and
shawlless, and with her knitting in her hand. She took a seat in a
large easy-chair, put on her spectacles, and proceeded to knit.

"Mrs. Lecks!" exclaimed her friend in surprise, "don't you intend
goin' out this afternoon?"

"No," said Mrs. Lecks. "I've seen all I want to see, an' I'm goin' to
stay in the house an' keep quiet."

"Isn't Mr. Dusante goin' out this afternoon?" asked Mrs. Aleshine.

Mrs. Lecks laid her knitting in her lap; then she took off her
spectacles, folded them, and placed them beside the ball of yarn; and,
turning her chair around, she faced her friend. "Barb'ry Aleshine,"
said she, speaking very deliberately, "has any such a thing got into
your mind as that I'm settin' my cap at Mr. Dusante?"

"I don't say you have, an' I don't say you haven't," answered Mrs.
Aleshine, her fat hands folded on her knees, and her round face
shining from under her new bonnet with an expression of hearty
good-will, "but this I will say,--an' I don't care who hears it,--that
if you was to set your cap at Mr. Dusante there needn't nobody say
anything agin it, so long as you are content. He isn't what I'd choose
for you, if I had the choosin', for I'd git one with an American name
an' no islands. But that's neither here nor there, for you're a grown
woman an' can do your own choosin'. An' whether there's any choosin'
to be done is your own business too, for it's full eleven years sence
you've been done with widder fixin's; an' if Mr. Lecks was to rise up
out of his grave this minute, he couldn't put his hand on his heart
an' say that you hadn't done your full duty by him, both before an'
after he was laid away. An' so, if you did want to do choosin', an'
made up your mind to set your cap at Mr. Dusante, there's no word to
be said. Both of you is ripe-aged an' qualified to know your own
minds, an' both of you is well off enough, to all intents an'
purposes, to settle down together, if so inclined. An' as to his
sister, I don't expect she will be on his hands for long. An' if you
can put up with an adopted mother-in-law, that's your business, not
mine; though I allus did say, Mrs. Lecks, that if you'd been
'Piscopalian, you'd been Low Church."

"Is that all?" said Mrs. Lecks.

"Yes," replied the other; "it's all I have to say jus' now, though
more might come to me if I gave my mind to it."

"Well, then," said Mrs. Lecks, "I've somethin' to say on this p'int,
and I'm very glad Mr. Craig is here to hear it. If I had a feelin' in
the direction of Mr. Dusante that he was a man, though not exactly
what I might wish, havin' somethin' of foreign manners with ties in
the Sandwich Islands, which I shouldn't have had so if I'd had the
orderin' of it, who was still a Christian gentleman,--as showed by his
acts, not his words,--a lovin' brother; an' a kind an' attentive son
by his own adoption; and who would make me a good husband for the rest
of our two lives; then I'd go and I'd set my cap at him--not bold nor
flauntin', nor unbecomin' to a woman of my age, but just so much
settin' of it at him, that if he had any feelin's in my direction, and
thought, although it was rather late in life for him to make a change,
that if he was goin' to do it he'd rather make that change with a
woman who had age enough, and experience enough in downs as well as
ups, and in married life as well as single, to make him feel that as
he got her so he'd always find her; then I say all he'd have to do
would be to come to me an' say what he thought, an' I'd say what I
thought, an' the thing would be settled, an' nobody in this world need
have one word to say, except to wish us joy, an' then go along and
attend to their own business.

"But now I say to you, Barb'ry Aleshine, an' just the same to you, Mr.
Craig, that I haven't got no such feelin's in the direction of Mr.
Dusante, an' I don't intend to set my cap at him, an' if he wore such
a thing and set it at me, I'd say to him, kind though firm, that he
could put it straight again as far as I was concerned; an' that if he
chose to set it at any other woman, if the nearest an' dearest friend
I have on earth, I'd do what I could to make their married lives as
happy as they could be under the circumstances; and no matter what
happened, I wouldn't say one word, though I might think what I
pleased. An' now you have it, all straight and plain: if I wanted to
set caps, I'd set 'em; and if I didn't want to set 'em, I wouldn't. I
don't want to, and I don't."

And, putting on her spectacles, she resumed her knitting.

Mrs. Aleshine turned upon her friend a beaming face.

"Mrs. Lecks," she said, "your words has lifted a load from off my
mind. It wouldn't ha' broke me down, an' you wouldn't never have
knowed I carried it; but it's gone, an' I'm mighty glad of it. An' as
for me an' my cap,--an' when you spoke of nearest and dearest friends,
you couldn't meant nobody but me,--you needn't be afraid. No matter
what I was, nor what he was, nor what I thought of him, nor what he
thought of me, I couldn't never say to my son when he comes to his
mother's arms, all the way from Japan: 'George, here's a Frenchman who
I give to you for a father!'"

Here I burst out laughing, but Mrs. Lecks gravely remarked: "Now I
hope this business of cap-settin' is settled an' done with."

"Which it is," said Mrs. Aleshine, as she rose to meet the rest of our
party as they entered the room.

For several days I could not look upon the dignified and almost
courtly Mr. Dusante without laughing internally and wondering what he
would think if he knew how, without the slightest provocation on his
side, a matrimonial connection with him had been discussed by these
good women, and how the matter had been finally settled. I think he
would have considered this the most surprising incident in the whole
series of his adventures.

On our journey from Chicago to the little country town in the interior
of Pennsylvania we made a few stops at points of interest for the sake
of Ruth and the Dusante ladies, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine
generously consenting to these delays, although I knew they felt
impatient to reach their homes. They were now on most social terms
with Mrs. Dusante, and the three chatted together like old friends.

"I asked her if we might call her Emily," said Mrs. Aleshine in
confidence to me, "an' she said, 'yes,' an' we're goin' to do it. I've
all along wanted to, because it seemed to come nat'ral, considerin' we
knowed 'em as Emily and Lucille before we set eyes on 'em. But as long
as I had that load on my mind about Mrs. Lecks and Mr. Dusante, I
couldn't 'Emily' his adopted mother. My feelin's wouldn't ha' stood
it. But now it's all right; an' though Emily isn't the woman I
expected her to be, Lucille is the very picter of what I thought she
was. And as for Emily, I never knowed a nicer-mannered lady, an' more
willin' to learn from people that's had experience, than she is."

We arrived at Meadowville early in the afternoon, and when our party
alighted from the train we were surprised not to see Mr. Enderton on
the platform of the little station. Instead of him, there stood three
persons whose appearance amazed and delighted us. They were the
red-bearded coxswain and the two sailor men, all in neat new clothes
and with their hands raised in maritime salute.

There was a cry of joy. Mrs. Aleshine dropped her bag and umbrella,
and rushed towards them with outstretched hands. In a moment Mrs.
Lecks, Ruth, and myself joined the group, and greeted warmly our
nautical companions of the island.

The Dusante party, when they were made acquainted with the mariners,
were almost as much delighted as we were, and Mr. Dusante expressed in
cordial words his pleasure in meeting the other members of the party
to whom his island had given refuge.

"I am so glad to see you," said Mrs. Aleshine, "that I don't know my
bonnet from my shoes! But how, in the name of all that's wonderful,
did you git here?"

"'T ain't much of a story," said the coxswain, "an' this is just the
whole of it. When you left us at 'Frisco we felt pretty downsome, an'
the more that way because we couldn't find no vessel that we cared to
ship on; an' then there come to town the agent of the house that owned
our brig, and we was paid off for our last v'yage. Then, when we had
fitted ourselves out with new togs, we began to think different about
this shippin' on board a merchant vessel, an' gittin' cussed at an'
livin' on hard-tack an' salt prog, an' jus' as like as not the ship
springin' a leak an' all hands pumpin' night an' day, an' goin' to
Davy Jones after all. An' after talkin' this all over, we was struck
hard on the weather bow with a feelin' that it was a blamed sight
better--beggin' your pardon, ma'am--to dig garden-beds in nice soft
dirt, an' plant peas, an' ketch fish, an' all that kind of shore work,
an' eatin' them good things you used to cook for us, Mrs. Aleshine,
and dancin' hornpipes fur ye, an' tamin' birds when our watch was off.
Wasn't that so, Jim an' Bill?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" said the black-bearded sailor men.

"Then says I, 'Now look here, mates, don't let's go and lark away all
this money, but take it an' make a land trip to where Mrs. Aleshine
lives,' which port I had the name of on a piece of paper which you
give me, ma'am."

And here Mrs. Aleshine nodded vigorously, not being willing to
interrupt this entrancing story.

"'An' if she's got another garden, an' wants it dug in, an' things
planted, an' fish caught, an' any other kind of shore work done, why,
we're the men for her; an' we'll sign the papers for as long a v'yage
as she likes, an' stick by her in fair weather or foul, bein' good for
day work an' night work, an' allus ready to fall in when she passes
the word.' Ain't that so, Jim and Bill?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" returned the sailor men with sonorous earnestness.

"Upon my word!" cried Mrs. Aleshine, tears of joy running down her
cheeks, "them papers shall be signed if I have to work night an' day
to find somethin' for you to do. I've got a man takin' keer of my
place now; but many a time have I said to myself that, if I had
anybody I could trust to do the work right, I'd buy them two fields of
Squire Ramsey's an' go into the onion business. An' now you sailor men
has come like three sea angels, an' if it suits you we'll go into the
onion business on sheers."

"That suits us tip-top, ma'am," said the coxswain; "an' we'll plant
inyans for ye on the shears, on the stocks, or in the dry-dock. It
don't make no dif'rence to us where you have 'em; jes pass the word."

"Well, well," said Mrs. Lecks, "I don't know how that's goin' to work,
but we won't talk about it now. An' so you came straight on to this
place?"

"That did we, ma'am," said the coxswain. "An' when we got here we
found the parson, but none of you folks. That took us aback a little
at fust, but he said he didn't live here, an' you was comin' pretty
soon. An' so we took lodgin's at the tavern, an' for three days we've
been down here to meet every train, expectin' you might be on it."

Our baggage had been put on the platform, the train had moved on, and
we had stood engrossed in the coxswain's narrative, but now I thought
it necessary to make a move. There was but one small vehicle to hire
at the station. This would hold but two persons, and in it I placed
Mrs. Dusante and Ruth, the first being not accustomed to walking, and
the latter very anxious to meet her father. I ordered the man to drive
them to the inn, which was about a mile from the station, where we
would stay until Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine should get their houses
properly aired and ready for our reception.

"Mrs. Craig will be glad to get to the tavern and see her father,"
said Mrs. Aleshine. "I expect he forgot all about its bein' time for
the train to come."

"Bless you, ma'am!" exclaimed the coxswain, "is she gone to the
tavern? The parson's not there!"

"Where is he, then?" asked Mrs. Aleshine.

"He's at your house, ma'am," replied the coxswain.

"An' what in the name of common sense is he doin' at my house!"
exclaimed Mrs. Aleshine, her eyes sparkling with amazement and
indignation.

"Well, ma'am, for one thing," said the coxswain, "he's had the front
door painted."

"What!" cried Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine in one breath.

"Yes," continued the coxswain; "the parson said he hated to see men
hangin' around doin' nothin'. An' then he looked about, an' said the
paint was all wore off the front door, an' we might as well go to work
an' paint that, an' he sent Jim to a shop to git the paint an'
brushes----"

"An' have 'em charged to me?" cried Mrs. Aleshine.

"Yes, ma'am," continued the coxswain. "An' Jim an' Bill holy-stoned
all the old paint off the door an' I painted it, havin' done lots of
that sort of thing on shipboard; an' I think it's a pretty good job,
ma'am--red at top and bottom an' white in the middle, like a steamer's
smoke-stack."

Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine looked at each other. "An' he told you to
do that?" said Mrs. Lecks.

"Yes, ma'am," answered the coxswain. "The parson said he never liked
to be nowhere without doin' what good he could. An' there was some
other paintin' he talked of havin' done, but we ain't got at it yit.
I s'posed he was actin' under your orders, an' I hope I haven't done
no wrong, ma'am."

"You're not a bit to blame," said Mrs. Aleshine; "but I'll look into
this thing. No fear about that! An' how did he come to go to my house?
An' how did he get in, I'd like to know?"

"All I know about that," said the coxswain, "is what the gal that's
livin' there told me, which she did along of askin' us if we was
comin' to live there too, an' if she should rig up beds for us
somewhere in the top-loft, but we told her no, not havin' no orders,
an' payin' our own way at the tavern. She said, said she, that the
parson come there an' 'lowed he was a friend of Mrs. Aleshine's an'
travelin' with her, an' that if she was at home she wouldn't let him
stay at no tavern; an' that knowin' her wishes he'd come right there,
an' 'spected to be took care of till she come. She said she felt
oncertain about it, but she tuck him in till she could think it over,
an' then we come an' certified that he was the parson who'd been along
with Mrs. Aleshine an' the rest of us. Arter that she thought it was
all right, an', beggin' your pardon if we was wrong, so did Jim an'
Bill an' me, ma'am."

"Now," exclaimed Mrs. Aleshine, "if that isn't exactly like Elizabeth
Grootenheimer! To think of Elizabeth Grootenheimer thinkin'! The
Grootenheimers always was the dumbest family in the township, an'
Elizabeth Grootenheimer is the dumbest of 'em all! I did say to myself
when I went away: 'Now, Elizabeth Grootenheimer is so stone dumb that
she'll jus' stay here an' do the little I tell her to do, an' hasn't
sense enough to git into no mischief.' An' now, look at her!"

She waved her hand in the direction of the invisible Elizabeth
Grootenheimer.

Mrs. Lecks had said very little during this startling communication,
but her face had assumed a stern and determined expression. Now she
spoke.

"I guess we've heard about enough, an' we'd better be steppin' along
an' see what else Mr. Enderton an' Elizabeth Grootenheimer is doin'."

The homes of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine were not far from each
other, and were situated about midway between the station and the
village inn, and in the direction of these our party now started. Mrs.
Aleshine, contrary to her custom, took the lead, and walked away with
strides of unusual length. Mrs. Lecks was close behind her, followed
by the two Dusantes and myself, while the three mariners, who insisted
upon carrying all the hand-baggage, brought up the rear. We stepped
quickly, for we were all much interested in what might happen next;
and very soon we reached Mrs. Aleshine's house. It was a good-sized
and pleasant-looking dwelling, painted white, with green shutters and
with a long covered piazza at the front. Between the road and the
house was a neat yard with grass and flower beds, and from the gate of
the picket-fence in front of the yard a brick-paved path led up to the
house.

Our approach had been perceived, for on the piazza, in front of the
gayly painted door, stood Mr. Enderton, erect and with a bland and
benignant smile upon his face. One hand was stretched out as if in
welcome, and with the other he gracefully held the ginger-jar, now
divested of its wrappings.

At this sight Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine made a simultaneous dash at
the gate, but it was locked. The two women stamped their feet in fury.

"Put down that jar!" shouted Mrs. Lecks.

"Elizabeth Grootenheimer! Elizabeth Grootenheimer!" screamed Mrs.
Aleshine. "Come here and open this gate."

"Break it down!" said Mrs. Lecks, turning to the sailors.

"Don't you do it!" exclaimed Mrs. Aleshine, throwing herself in front
of it. "Don't you break my gate! Elizabeth Grootenheimer!"

"My friends," said Mr. Enderton in clear, distinct tones, "be calm. I
have the key of that gate in my pocket. I locked it because I feared
that on your first arrival you would hurry up to the house in a
promiscuous way, and give heed to irrelevant matters. I wished to
address you in a body and in a position where your attention would not
be diverted from me. I hold here, my friends, the receptacle
containing the money which, under a misapprehension, was paid for our
board while on a desert island. This money I have taken care of, and
have carefully guarded for the benefit of us all. Unfortunately
objections have arisen to this guardianship, which were forwarded to
me by telegraph, but I have not heeded them. If you cannot see for
yourselves the propriety of my assumption of this trust, I will not
now undertake to enlighten you. But I hope there is no necessity for
this, for, having had time to give the matter your fullest attention,
I doubt not that you entirely agree with me. I will merely add, for I
see you are impatient, that the sum which will fall to the share of
each of us is comparatively insignificant, and in itself not worth
striving for; but what I have done has been for the sake of principle.
For the sake of principle I have insisted that this money should be
received by its rightful owners; for the sake of principle I assumed
the custody of it; and for the sake of principle I shall now empty the
contents of this jar--which by me has not been examined or
touched--upon the floor of this piazza, and I shall then proceed to
divide said contents into five suitable portions--the three mariners,
as I understand, having paid no board. The gate can then be opened,
and each one can come forward and take the portion which belongs to
him or to her. The portion of my daughter, whom I saw pass here in a
carriage, going, doubtless, to the inn, will be taken charge of by
myself."

"You man!" shrieked Mrs. Lecks, shaking her fist over the fence, "if
you as much as lift that paper of fish-hooks from out the top of that
ginger-jar, I'll----"

Here she was interrupted by the loud, clear voice of Mr. Dusante, who
called out: "Sir, I require you to put down that jar, which is my
property."

"I'll let you know," said Mrs. Lecks, "that other people have
principles!"

But what more she said was drowned by the voice of Mrs. Aleshine, who
screamed for Elizabeth Grootenheimer, and who was now so much excited
that she was actually trying to break open her own gate.

I called out to Mr. Enderton not to make trouble by disturbing the
contents of the jar; and even Miss Lucille, who was intensely amused
at the scene, could be heard joining her voice to the general clamor.

But the threats and demands of our united party had no effect upon Mr.
Enderton. He stood up, serene and bland, fully appreciating the
advantage of having the key of the gate's padlock in his pocket and
the ginger-jar in his hand.

"I will now proceed," said he. But at that moment his attention was
attracted by the three mariners, who had clambered over the pointed
pales of the fence and who now appeared on the piazza, Bill to the
right hand of Mr. Enderton, Jim to the left, and the red-bearded
coxswain at his back. They all seemed to speak at once, though what
they said we could not hear, nothing but a few hoarse mutterings
coming down to us.

But in consequence of what Bill said, Mr. Enderton handed him the key
of the gate; and in consequence of what Jim said, Mr. Enderton
delivered to him the ginger-jar; and in consequence of what the
coxswain said, he and Mr. Enderton walked off the piazza; and the two
proceeded to a distant corner of the yard, where they stood out of the
way, as it were, while the gate was opened. Bill bungled a little, but
the padlock was soon removed, and we all hurried through the gate and
up to the piazza, where Jim still stood, the ginger-jar held
reverently in his hands.

The coxswain now left Mr. Enderton, and that gentleman proceeded to
the open gate, through which he passed into the road, and then turned,
and in a loud and severe tone addressed Mrs. Aleshine:

"I leave your inhospitable house and go to join my daughter at the
inn, where I request you to send my valise and umbrella as soon as
possible."

Mrs. Aleshine's indignation at this invasion of her home and this
trampling on her right to open her own gate had entirely driven away
her accustomed geniality, and in angry tones she cried:

"Jus' you stop at that paint-shop when you git to the village, an' pay
for the paint you had charged to me; an' when you've done that you can
send for your things."

"Come, now, Barb'ry," said Mrs. Lecks, "don't let your feelin's run
away with you. You ought to be thankful that he's let you off so easy,
an' that he's gone."

"I'm all that," said Mrs. Aleshine; "an' on second thoughts, every
whip-stitch of his bag and baggage shall be trundled after him as soon
as I kin git it away."

We all now stood upon the piazza, and Mrs. Aleshine, in calmer tones,
but with her face still flushed from her recent excitement, turned to
us and said: "Now, isn't this a pretty comin' home? My front gate
fastened in my very face; my front door painted red and white; the
inside of the house, as like as not, turned upside down by that man
jus' as much as the outside; an' where in the world, I'd like to know,
is Elizabeth Grootenheimer?"

"Now, don't you be too hard on her," said Mrs. Lecks, "after havin'
been away from her so long. I haven't a doubt she's feedin' the pigs;
and you know very well she never would leave them as long as she felt
they needed her. You needn't mind if your house is upset, for none of
us is comin' in, havin' only intended to see you to your door, which I
must say is a pretty blazin' one."

"And now, Mrs. Lecks," said Mr. Dusante, taking, as he spoke, the
ginger-jar from the hand of Jim, "I think this is a suitable
opportunity for me to accomplish the object for which my present
journey was undertaken, and to return to you the contents of this
jar."

"Which," said Mrs. Lecks, in a very decided tone, "I don't take now no
more'n I did before."

Mr. Dusante looked surprised and troubled. After all the dangers and
adventures through which that ginger-jar had gone, I believe that he
expected Mrs. Lecks would at last relent and consent to accept it from
him.

"Now, look here," said Mrs. Aleshine, "don't let us have any more fuss
about the ginger-jar, or anything else. Let's put off talkin' about
that till we're all settled and fixed. It won't do for you to take the
jar to the tavern with you, Mr. Dusante, for like as not Mr. Enderton
will git hold of it ag'in, an' I know Mrs. Lecks won't let it come
into her house; so, if you like, you may jus' leave it here for the
present, and you may make up your minds nobody'll touch it while I'm
about. An' about I intend to be!"

This arrangement was gladly agreed upon, and the jar being delivered
to Mrs. Aleshine, we took our leave of her.

Mrs. Lecks found no difficulty in entering her gate, where she was
duly welcomed by a man and his wife she had left in charge, while the
Dusantes and myself walked on to the inn, or "Hotel," as its sign
imported, about which the greater part of the little town clustered.
The three mariners remained behind to await further orders from Mrs.
Aleshine.

By the afternoon of the next day the abodes of those two most
energetic and capable housewives, Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, were
fully prepared for the reception of their visitors, and the Dusante
family were ensconced beneath the roof of the one, while my wife and I
were most warmly welcomed at the gayly adorned door of the other.

Mr. Enderton remained at the inn, where he found very comfortable
quarters, an arrangement satisfactory to all parties.

In Mrs. Aleshine's dwelling, where, from the very first, Lucille took
her position as a most constant visitor, being equally welcomed by
Ruth and the mistress of the house, all was satisfaction and high good
humor. The ceaseless activity and cheerful spirits of our hostess
seemed to animate us all. At Mrs. Lecks's home the case was different.
There, I could plainly see, there was a certain uneasiness amounting
almost to stiffness between Mrs. Lecks and Mr. Dusante. The latter had
not accomplished the purpose for which he had made this long journey;
and though, if things had turned out as he wished, he would have been
very glad to be the guest of Mrs. Lecks, still, under the present
circumstances, the situation did not suit him. Mrs. Lecks, too,
possessed an unsettled mind. She did not know when Mr. Dusante would
again endeavor to force back upon her the board-money in the
ginger-jar, and in this state of uneasy expectancy she was not at her
best.

"He's not satisfied," said she to me, on the morning after the
Dusantes had come to her; "he wants to do somethin', or else to go
away. I wish that ginger-jar had dropped into the bottom of the sea
while he was bringin' it, or else had smashed itself into a thousand
bits while he was slidin' down the mountain, and the money had melted
itself into the snow. S'posin' at the end of the week he was to come
to me and offer to pay me board for himself and his family, sayin'
that was no more than I'd done to him! Of course the two cases are not
a bit alike; for we went to his house strangers, without leave or
license, while he comes to mine as a friend, bein' fully invited and
pressed. But I don't suppose I could make him see it in that light,
and it worries me."

I was convinced that something ought to be done to end this unpleasant
state of affairs, and I took my wife and Miss Lucille into council on
the subject. After we had deliberated a little while an idea came to
Ruth.

"In my opinion," said she, "the best thing we can do with that
board-money is to give it to those three sailors. They are poor and
will be glad to get it; Mr. Dusante and Mrs. Lecks ought to be fully
satisfied, for the one doesn't keep it, and the other doesn't take it
back, and I'm sure that this plan will please all the rest of us."

This proposition was agreed to by the council, and I was appointed to
go immediately and lay it before the parties interested.

Mr. Dusante gave his ready consent to this proposal. "It is not what I
intended to do," said he, "but it amounts to almost the same thing.
The money is in fact restored to its owners, and they agree to make a
certain disposition of it. I am satisfied."

Mrs. Lecks hesitated a little. "All right," said she. "He takes the
money and gives it to who he chooses. I've nothin' to say against it."

Of course no opposition to the plan was to be expected from anybody
else, except Mr. Enderton. But when I mentioned it to him I found, to
my surprise, that he was not unwilling to agree to it. Half closing
the book he had been reading, he said: "What I have done was on behalf
of principle. I did not believe, and do not believe, that upon an
entirely deserted island money should be paid for board. I paid it
under protest, and I do not withdraw that protest. According to all
the laws of justice and hospitality the man who owned that island
should not retain that money, and Mrs. Lecks had no right to insist
upon such retention. But if it is proposed to give the sum total to
three mariners, who paid no board and to whom the gift is an absolute
charity, I am content. To be sure, they interfered with me at a moment
when I was about to make a suitable settlement of the matter, but I
have no doubt they were told to do so; and I must admit that while
they carried out their orders with a certain firmness characteristic
of persons accustomed to unreasoning obedience, they treated me with
entire respect. If equal respect had been shown to me at the beginning
of these disputes, it would have been much better for all concerned."

And opening his book, he recommenced his reading.

That afternoon all of us, except Mr. Enderton, assembled on Mrs.
Aleshine's piazza to witness the presentation of the board-money. The
three sailors, who had been informed of the nature of the proceedings,
stood in line on the second step of the piazza, clad in their best
toggery, and with their new tarpaulin hats in their hands. Mrs.
Aleshine went into the house and soon reappeared, carrying the
ginger-jar, which she presented to Mr. Dusante. That gentleman took
it, and stood holding it for a moment as if he were about to speak;
but even if he had intended to say anything he had no further
opportunity, for Mrs. Lecks now stepped forward and addressed him:

"Mr. Dusante," said she, "from what I have seen of you myself and
heard tell of you from others, I believe you are a man who tries to do
his duty, as he sees it, with a single heart and no turnin' from one
side to the other. You made up your mind that you'd travel over the
whole world, if it had to be done, with that ginger-jar and the
board-money inside of it, till you'd found the people who'd been
livin' in your house; and then that you'd give back that jar, jus' as
you'd found it, to the person who'd took upon herself the over-seein'
of the reg'lar payin' of the money, and the puttin' of it therein.
With that purpose in your mind you carried that jar over the ocean;
you wandered with it up and down California; and holdin' it tight fast
in your arms, you slid down the slipperiest mountain that was ever
made yet, I believe, and if it had been your only infant child, you
couldn't have held it firmer, nor regarded it more careful. Through
ups and downs, and thicks and smooths, you carried that jar or
followed it, and for the sake of doin' what you'd set your mind on you
came all the way to this place; to which, if it hadn't been for that
one idea, it isn't likely you'd ever dreamed of comin'. Now, Mr.
Dusante, we've all agreed on what we think is the right thing to do,
and you agreed with us, but I can see by your face that you're
disapp'inted. The thing you set out to do you haven't done; an' I'm
not goin' to have it to say to myself that you was the only one of all
of us that wasn't satisfied, and that I was the stumblin'-block that
stood in your way. So I'll back down from sayin' that I'd never touch
that jar again, and you can put it into my hands, as you set out to
do."

Mr. Dusante made no answer, but stepped forward, and taking Mrs.
Lecks's large brown and work-worn hand, he respectfully touched it
with his lips. It is not probable that Mrs. Lecks's hand had ever
before been kissed. It is not probable that she had ever seen any one
kiss the hand of another. But the hard sense and keen insight of that
independent country-woman made her instantly aware of what was meant
by that old-fashioned act of courteous homage. Her tall form grew
more erect; she slightly bowed her head; and received the salute with
a quiet dignity which would have become a duchess.

This little scene touched us all, and Mrs. Aleshine afterwards
informed me that for a moment she hadn't a dry eye in her head.

Mr. Dusante now handed the ginger-jar to Mrs. Lecks, who immediately
stepped towards Ruth and Lucille.

"You two young ones," she said, "can jus' take this jar, an' your
hands can be the first to lift off that paper of fish-hooks and take
out the money, which you will then divide among our good friends,
these sailor men."

Ruth and Lucille immediately sat down on the floor of the piazza and
the one emptied the board-money into the lap of the other, where it
was speedily divided into three equal portions, one of which was
placed in the hands of each mariner.

The men stood motionless, each holding his money in his open right
hand, and then the red-bearded coxswain spoke.

"It ain't for me, nor for Bill, nor for Jim nuther, to say a word agin
what you all think is right and square. We've stood by ye an' obeyed
orders since we first shipped on that island, an' we intend to do so
straight along, don't we, Jim an' Bill?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" said Jim and Bill, in hearty hoarse response.

"There's some of ye, 'specially Mrs. Aleshine, though meanin' no
disrespec' to anybody else, that we'd foller to the cross-trees of the
top-gallant mast of the tallest ship that ever floated in the middle
of the ragin'est typhoon that ever blowed. Wouldn't we, Jim and Bill?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" sang out Jim and Bill.

"But though we stand ready to obey orders," said the coxswain, "we
made up our minds, when we heard what was goin' to be done, that we'd
listen keerful fer one thing, an' we have listened keerful an' we
haven't heard that one thing, an' that thing was what we should do
with this money. An' not havin' heard it, an' so bein' under no orders
as to the spendin' of it, we take the money, an' thank you kindly, one
an all. Don't we, Jim and Bill?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" said Jim and Bill.

And into the pocket of each mariner clinked the money.

Mr. Dusante now took up the ginger-jar and approached Mrs. Lecks. "I
hope, madam," he said, "that as the subject of our little differences
has now been removed from this jar, you will consent to accept it from
me as a memento of the somewhat what remarkable experiences through
which it has accompanied us."

"Take it, sir?" said she. "To be sure I will. An' very glad am I to
get it. As long as I live it shall stand on the mantel-piece in my
parlor; an' when I die it shall be left to my heirs, to be taken care
of as long as it holds together."

Every reason for dissatisfaction having now been banished from our
little company, we all settled down for a season of enjoyment. Even
Mr. Enderton, who had found on the top shelf of a closet in his room a
lot of old leather-bound books, appeared to be in a state of perfect
content. To the Dusantes a residence in this absolutely rural portion
of our Middle States in the autumnal season was an entirely novel
experience. The crisp and invigorating air, the mists and the glowing
hues of the Indian summer time, the softness of the sunshine, and even
those masses of limbs and twigs which had already dropped their leaves
and spread themselves in a delicate network against the clear blue
sky, were all full of a novel beauty for these people who had lived so
long in tropical lands and among perennial foliage, and had never
known the delights of an American country life out of season. Having
enjoyed Mrs. Lecks's hospitality for a suitable period, they proposed
to that sensible woman that she should receive them as boarders until
the winter should set in; and to this practical proposition she gave a
ready assent, hoping that the really cold weather would long defer its
coming.

Ruth and I established ourselves on the same terms with Mrs. Aleshine.
A prolonged holiday from the labors of my business had been the object
of my attempted journey to Japan, and I could think of no place where
it would better please my young wife and myself to rest for a time
than here among these good friends.

A continual source of amusement to us were the acts and doings of Mrs.
Aleshine and her three sailor men. These bold mariners had enlisted,
soul and body, into the service of the thrifty housewife; and as it
was impossible to do anything in connection with the growing of the
onions until the desired fields should be acquired and the spring
should open, many and diverse were the labors at which the coxswain
and those two able-bodied seamen, Bill and Jim, set themselves, or
were set by Mrs. Aleshine.

The brilliantly painted front-door, which at first had excited the
good woman's ire, gradually came to command her admiration; and when
her sailor men had done everything else that they could in the barns,
the fields, or at the wood-pile, she gave them privilege to paint
various portions of her property, leaving designs and colors to their
own taste and fancy. Whether they milked the cows, cut the wood, or
painted the sides of the house, they always worked like good fellows,
and in nautical costume. They holy-stoned the front deck, as they
called the floor of the piazza, until it seemed sacrilegious to set
foot upon it; and when the house and the pale-fence had been suitably
painted, they allowed their fancies lofty flights in the decoration of
the smaller out-buildings and various objects in the grounds. One of
the men had a pocket-chart of the colors adopted by the different
steamship companies all over the world, and now smoke-houses,
corn-cribs, chicken-houses, and so on, down to pumps and
hitching-posts, were painted in great bands of blue-and-red and
white-and-black, arranged in alternating orders, until an observer
might have supposed that a commercial navy had been sunk beneath Mrs.
Aleshine's house-grounds, leaving nothing but its smoke-stacks
visible.

The greatest work of decoration, however, was reserved by the
red-bearded coxswain for himself, designed by his own brain, and
executed by his own hands. This was the tattooing of the barn. Around
this building, the sides of which were already of a color sufficiently
resembling a well-tanned human skin, the coxswain painted, in blue
spots resembling tattooing, an immense cable passing several times
about the structure, a sea-serpent almost as long as the cable, eight
anchors, two ships under full sail, with a variety of cannons and
flags which filled up all the remaining spaces. This great work was a
long time in execution, and before it was half finished its fame had
spread over the surrounding country.

The decoration of her premises was greatly enjoyed by Mrs. Aleshine.
"It gives 'em somethin' to do," said she, "till the onion-season comes
on; it makes 'em happy; an' the leaves an' flowers bein' pretty nigh
gone, I like to see the place blossomin' out as if it was a
cold-weather garden."

In the evenings, in the large kitchen, the sailor men danced their
hornpipes, and around the great fireplace they spun long yarns of haps
and mishaps on distant seas. Mrs. Aleshine always, and the rest of us
often, sat by the fire and enjoyed these nautical recreations.

"Havin' myself done housekeepin' in the torrid zone," she once said,
"a lot of the things they tell come home to me quite nat'ral. An' I'd
do anything in the world to make 'em content to live on dry land like
common Christians, instid of cavoortin' about on the pitchin' ocean,
runnin' into each other, an' springin' leaks with no likelihood of
findin' a furnished island at every p'int where their ship happened to
go down."

On one subject only did any trouble now come into the mind of Mrs.
Aleshine, and she once had a little talk with me in regard to it.

"I've been afeared from the very beginnin'," she said, "an' after a
while I more 'n half believed it, that Elizabeth Grootenheimer was
settin' her cap at the coxswain, so I just went to him an' I spoke to
him plain. 'This sort o' thing won't do at all,' says I; 'an' although
I haven't a doubt you see it for yourself, I thought it my dooty to
speak my mind about it. There's plenty of young women in this township
that would make you sailor men fust-rate wives, an' glad enough I'd be
to see you all married an' settled an' gone to farmin' right here
amongst us, but Elizabeth Grootenheimer won't do. Settin' aside
everythin' else, if there was to be any children, they might be
little coxswains, but they'd be Grootenheimers too; stone-dumb
Grootenheimers; an' I tell you plain that this county can't stand no
more Grootenheimers!' To which he says, says he, 'I want you to
understan', ma'am, that if ever me or Jim or Bill makes up our mind
to set sail for any sort of a weddin' port, we won't weigh anchor till
we've got our clearance papers from you.' By which he meant that he'd
ask my advice about courtin'. An' now my mind is easy, an' I can look
ahead with comfort to onion-time."

I found it necessary to go to Philadelphia for a day or two to attend
to some business matters; and the evening before I started, the
coxswain came to me and asked a favor for himself and his mates.

"It mayn't have passed out of your mind, sir," said he, "that when me
an' Jim an' Bill took that money that you all give us, which wasn't
zackly like prize-money, because the rest of the crew, to put it that
way, didn't get any, we listened keerful to see if anything was said
as to what we was to do with the money; an' nothin' bein' said, we
took it, an' we wasn't long makin' up our minds as to what we was
goin' to do with it. What we wanted to do was to put up some sort of
signal what couldn't get blowed away, or, more like, a kind of reg'lar
moniment as would make them that looked at it remember the rough
squalls an' the jolly larks we've gone through with together, an' it
was when we was talkin' about Mrs. Lecks bein' give' the ginger-jar to
put on her mantel-piece an' keep forever, that me an' Jim an' Bill we
said, says we, that Mrs. Aleshine should have a ginger-jar too, havin'
as much right to one as her mate, an' that that would be the
signal-flag or the moniment that we'd put up. Now, sir, as you're
goin' to town, we ask you to take this money, which is the whole lot
that was give' us, an' have a ginger-jar built, jus' the size an'
shape an' gen'ral trim of that other one, but of no pottery-stuff, for
you kin buy em' jus' like that, an' that ain't what we want. We want
her built of good oak, stout an' strong, with live-oak knees inside to
keep her stiff an' save her from bein' stove in, in case of a
collision. We want her bottom coppered up above the water-line with
real silver, an' we want a turtle-back deck with a round hatchway,
with a tight-fittin' hatch, jus' like common jars. We want her sides
caulked with oakum, an' well scraped an' painted, so that with water
inside of her or outside of her she won't leak. An' on the bottom of
her, so they kin be seen if she keels over, we wants the names of me,
an' Jim, an' Bill, which we've wrote on this piece of paper. An' on
her sides, below the water-line, on the silver copperin' we want the
names of all the rest of you, an' the latitood an' longitood of that
island, an' anythin' out of the logs that might 'a' been kep' by any
of you, as might help to be remembered the things what happened. An'
then, if there's any room left on the copperin' an' any money lef' to
pay for 'em, you might have cut on as many anchors, an' hearts, an'
bits of cable, an' such like suitable things as would fill up. An'
that jar we're goin' to give to Mrs. Aleshine to put on her
mantel-piece, to stay there as long as she lives, or anybody that
belongs to her. An', by George, sir!" he added behind his hand,
although there was nobody to hear, "if ever them two jars run into
each other, it won't be Mrs. Aleshine's that'll go down!"

I undertook this commission, and in due course of time there came to
the village the most astonishing ginger-jar that was ever built, and
which satisfied the three mariners in every particular. When it was
presented to Mrs. Aleshine, her admiration of this work of art, her
delight in its ownership, and her gratitude to the donors were alike
boundless.

"However could I have had the idee," said she privately to me, "that
any one of them noble sailor men could have brought himself down to
marry Elizabeth Grootenheimer!"

It was not long after this happy event that another great joy came to
Mrs. Aleshine. Her son returned from Japan. He had heard of the loss
of the steamer in which his mother and Mrs. Lecks had set sail, and
was in great trouble of mind until he received a letter from his
mother which brought him speedily home. He had no intention of
settling in Meadowville, but it had been a long time since he had seen
his mother.

He was a fine young man, handsome and well educated, and we were all
delighted with him; and in a very short time he and Lucille Dusante,
being the only young bachelor and maiden of the company, became so
intimate and super-friendly that it was easy to see that to Mrs.
Aleshine might come the unexpected rapture of eventually being the
mother of Lucille.

We staid much later at Meadowville than we had expected. Even after
the little hills and vales had been well covered with snow, sleighing
and coasting parties, led by the lively new-comer, offered
attractions, especially to Lucille, which bound us to the cheery homes
of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine. But, after a time, the Dusantes
considered it prudent to go to Florida for the rest of the winter; Mr.
Enderton had long since read all the books on his closet shelf and
departed for New York; and Ruth and I determined that we, too, must
move eastward.

But, before our little company separated, Mrs. Aleshine's son and
Lucille Dusante had settled it between them that when the spring-time
came they would set sail for a wedding port. This match was a highly
satisfactory one to all concerned, for Mr. Dusante could scarcely have
found a young brother-in-law who would make his sister so happy, and
who was, at the same time, so well fitted by disposition and previous
occupation to assist in his increasing business cares.

In the spring the Dusante family came North again and Lucille and her
lover were married; and then all of us, except Mr. Enderton, who had
obtained a most congenial position as assistant librarian in a public
institution seldom visited, gathered at Meadowville to spend a week or
two together before Ruth and I repaired to the New England town which
was to be our home; and the Dusante family, the young husband
included, set out on a tour, partly of business and partly of
pleasure, through Canada and the far North-west.

It was arranged that, whenever it should be possible, Lucille and Mrs.
Dusante should spend their summers at Meadowville; and as this would
also give her much of the society of her son, the heart of Mrs.
Aleshine could ask no more.

This visit to Meadowville was in the onion-season; and one morning
Ruth and I sat upon a fence and watched the three sailor men busily
at work. The soil looked so fine and smooth that one might almost
have supposed that it had been holy-stoned; and the three nautical
farmers, in their tight-waisted, loose-bottomed trousers, their
tarpaulin hats, and their wide-collared shirts, were seated on the
ground at different points, engrossed in the absorbing task of setting
out young onions as onions had never been set out before. All the
careful attention to patient minutiæ which nautical handiwork had
taught them was now displayed in their new vocation. In a portion of
the field which had been first planted the onions had sprouted, and we
could see evidences of astonishing designs. Here were anchors in
onions; hearts in onions; brigs, barks, and schooners in onions; and
more things pertaining to ships, the heart's affections, and the
raging main outlined in onions than Ruth and I could give names to.

"It seems to me," said I, "that there must have been some sort of
enchantment in that little island in the Pacific, for in one way or
another it has made us all very happy."

"That is true," answered Ruth; "and, do you know, I believe the cause
of a great part of that happiness was the board-money in the
ginger-jar!"


     THE END.





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Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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