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- Driven Back to Eden - 10/38 -
me go on a little and lay out your course."
"Oh, I wish we had stayed anywhere under shelter," said my wife.
"Courage," I cried. "When we get home, we'll laugh over this."
"Now," shouted Mr. Jones, "veer gradually off to the left toward my voice--all right;" and we jogged on again, stopping from time to time to let our invisible guide explore the road.
Once more he cried, "Stop a minute."
The wind roared and shrieked around us, and it was growing colder. With a chill of fear I thought, "Could John Jones have mistaken the road?" and I remembered how four people and a pair of horses had been frozen within a few yards of a house in a Western snow-storm.
"Are you cold, children?" I asked.
"Yes, I'm freezing," sobbed Winnie. "I don't like the country one bit."
"This is different from the Eden of which we have been dreaming," I thought grimly. Then I shouted, "How much farther, Mr. Jones?"
The howling of the wind was my only answer. I shouted again. The increasing violence of the tempest was the only response.
"Robert," cried my wife, "I don't hear Mr. Jones's voice."
"He has only gone on a little to explore," I replied, although my teeth chattered with cold and fear.
"Halloo--oo!" I shouted. The answering shriek of the wind in the trees overhead chilled my very heart.
"What has become of Mr. Jones?" asked my wife, and there was almost anguish in her tone, while Winnie and Bobsey were actually crying aloud.
"Well, my dear," I tried to say, reassuringly, "even if he were very near to us we could neither see nor hear him."
Moments passed which seemed like ages, and I scarcely knew what to do. The absence of all signs of Mr. Jones filled me with a nameless and unspeakable dread. Could anything have happened to him? Could he have lost his way and fallen into some hole or over some steep bank? If I drove on, we might tumble after him and perish, maimed and frozen, in the wreck of the wagon. One imagines all sorts of horrible things when alone and helpless at night.
"Papa," cried Merton, "I'll get out and look for Mr. Jones."
"You are a good, brave boy," I replied. "No; you hold the reins, and I'll look for him and see what is just before us."
At that moment there was a glimmer of light off to the left of us.
RESCUED AND AT HOME
All that the poets from the beginning of time have written about light could not express my joy as I saw that glimmer approaching on the left. Before it appeared I had been awed by the tempest, benumbed with cold, shivering in my wet clothes, and a prey to many terrible fears and surmises; but now I cried, "Cheer up; here comes a light."
Then in my gladness I shouted the greeting that met Mr. Jones everywhere, "How are YOU, JOHN?"
A great guffaw of laughter mingled with the howl of the storm, and my neighbor's voice followed from the obscurity: "That's famous-- keepin' up your courage like a soldier."
"Oh, I won't brag about keeping up my courage."
"Guess you didn't know what had become of me?"
"You're right and we didn't know what was to become of us. Now aren't we nearly home? For we are all half frozen."
"Just let me spy a bit with the lantern, and I'll soon tell you everything." He bobbed back and forth for a moment or two like a will-o'-the-wisp. "Now turn sharp to the left, and follow the light."
A great hope sprung up in my heart, and I hushed Winnie's and Bobsey's crying by saying, "Listen, and you'll soon hear some good news."
Our wheels crunched through the deep snow for a few moments, and soon I saw a ruddy light shining from the window of a dwelling, and then Mr. Jones shouted, "Whoa! 'Light down, neighbors; you're at your own door."
There was a chorus of delighted cries. Merton half tumbled over me in his eagerness to get down. A door opened, and out poured a cheerful glow. Oh the delicious sense of safety and warmth given by it already!
I seized Mousie, floundered through the snow up to my knees, and placed her in a big rocking-chair. Mr. Jones followed with Winnie, and Merton came in with Bobsey on his back. The little fellow was under such headway in crying that he couldn't stop at once, although his tears were rapidly giving place to laughter. I rushed back and carried in my wife, and then said, in a voice a little unsteady from deep feeling, "Welcome home, one and all."
Never did the word mean more to a half-frozen and badly frightened family. At first safety, warmth, and comfort were the uppermost in our thoughts, but as wraps were taken off, and my wife and children thawed out, eager-eyed curiosity began to make explorations. Taking Mousie on my lap, and chafing her hands, I answered questions and enjoyed to the full the exclamations of pleasure.
Mr. Jones lingered for a few moments, then gave one of his big guffaws by way of preface, and said: "Well, you do look as if you was at home and meant to stay. This 'ere scene kinder makes me homesick; so I'll say good-night, and I'll be over in the mornin'. There's some lunch on the table that my wife fixed up for you. I must go, for I hear John junior hollerin' for me."
His only response to our profuse thanks was another laugh, which the wind swept away.
"Who is John junior?" asked Merton.
"Mr. Jones's son, a boy of about your age. He was here waiting for us, and keeping the fire up. When we arrived he came out and took the horses, and so you didn't see him. He'll make a good playmate for you. To use his father's own words, 'He's a fairish boy as boys go,' and that from John Jones means that he's a good fellow."
Oh, what a happy group we were, as we gathered around the great, open fire, on which I piled more wood!
"Do you wish to go and look around a little?" I asked my wife.
"No," she replied, leaning back in her rocking-chair: "let me take this in first. O Robert, I have such a sense of rest, quiet, comfort, and hominess that I just want to sit still and enjoy it all. The howling of the storm only makes this place seem more like a refuge, and I'd rather hear it than the Daggetts tramping overhead and the Ricketts children crying down-stairs. Oh, isn't it nice to be by ourselves in this quaint old room? Turn the lamp down, Robert, so we can see the firelight flicker over everything. Isn't it splendid?--just like a picture in a book."
"No picture in a book, Winifred--no artist could paint a picture that would have the charm of this one for me," I replied, leaning my elbow on the end of the mantel-piece, and looking fondly down on the little group. My wife's face looked girlish in the ruddy light. Mousie gazed into the fire with unspeakable content, and declared she was "too happy to think of taking cold." Winnie and Bobsey were sitting, Turk-fashion, on the floor, their eyelids drooping. The long cold ride had quenched even their spirit, for after running around for a few moments they began to yield to drowsiness. Merton, with a boy's appetite, was casting wistful glances at the lunch on the table, the chief feature of which was a roast chicken.
There seemed to be no occasion for haste. I wished to let the picture sink deep into my heart. At last my wife sprang up and said:--
"I've been sentimental long enough. You're not of much account in the house, Robert"--with one of her saucy looks--"and I must see to things, or Winnie and Bobsey will be asleep on the floor. I feel as if I could sit here till morning, but I'll come back after the children are in bed. Come, show me my home, or at least enough of it to let me see where we are to sleep."
"We shall have to camp again to-night. Mrs. Jones has made up the one bed left in the house, and you and Mousie shall have that. We'll fix Winnie and Bobsey on the lounge; and, youngsters, you can sleep in your clothes, just as soldiers do on the ground. Merton and I will doze in these chairs before the fire. To-morrow night we can all be very comfortable."
I took the lamp and led the way--my wife, Mousie, and Merton following--first across a little hall, from which one stairway led to the upper chambers and another to the cellar. Opening a door opposite the living-room, I showed Winifred her parlor. Cosey and comfortable it looked, even now, through Mr. and Mrs. Jones's kind offices. A Morning Glory stove gave out abundant warmth and a rich light which blended genially with the red colors of the carpet.
"Oh, how pretty I can make this room look!" exclaimed my wife.
"Of course you can: you've only to enter it."
"You hurt your head when you fell out of the wagon, Robert, and are a little daft. There's no place to sleep here."
"Come to the room over this, warmed by a pipe from this stove."
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