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- Sara, a Princess - 6/43 -
Arrived here, she sought with assured footsteps a certain zig-zag way-- it could hardly be called a path--which wound in and out among the bowlders, skipping some, leaping others, trenching on the edges of little pools left in some rocky hollow by the high tide, and finally led her, after a last steep scramble, into a niche of the sea's own hollowing, which she had always claimed as her own.
Seated just within, she could look down upon a narrow causeway, into which the water came tumbling through an aperture in the rocks much like a roughly shaped gothic window, and, having tumbled in, tumbled out again, with much curling and confusion, leaving its angry foam in sudsy heaps along the rocky edges which opposed its farther advance.
This bit of nature was named the "Devil's Causeway" by the natives, who have a way of bestowing all particularly grand and rugged sites upon that disagreeable personage; but Sara, having no mind to give up her favorite spot to his satanic majesty, always named it to herself the "Mermaid's Castle," and had a childish legend of her own about an enchanted princess confined here and guarded by the sea until the coming of the prince,--her lover.
Happy to be here once more, Sara leaned back against the rock, which felt warm, kindly, and familiar; then, removing her sun-bonnet, fanned her flushed face, and looked dreamily away to the pale opaline horizon, against which some sails showed inkily, like silhouettes.
She was wondering vaguely why sails should look so white in shore and so black far out to sea, when she was startled by a sharp tap! tap! apparently at her very elbow.
She jumped a little, then listened wonderingly. It came again--tap! tap! tap!--then a pause; and then an unmistakably human exclamation of impatience, while a bit of rock went whirling past her, to plunge with a resounding thud into the torrent below.
She leaned just the least bit forward and looked around the side of her alcove to see a funny sight. There stood a little man in the attitude of the Colossus of Rhodes, his bare bald head red and perspiring, and his eyes glaring through huge gold-bowed glasses at a bit of rock in one hand, which he had evidently just broken off with the hammer in the other.
He was muttering something unintelligible to Sara, and looked altogether quite queer and cross enough to be a denizen of this ill-named locality.
Sara, laughing to herself at the funny apparition, was drawing into the rocky shell again, when a mischievous puff of wind suddenly caught her gingham bonnet from her limp grasp, and sent it flying down the chasm after the piece of rock.
She heard the exclamation again, louder and more guttural than before, then the full moon of a face peered around her sheltering wall, and the voice said,--
"Hein! A yoong mees! Beg pardong, then--have I deesturb you?"
"No, sir," rising to her feet; "only I've lost my sunbonnet!" looking ruefully down to where it hung tantalizingly in sight, but far out of reach, on a jutting point of rock. He looked too, then shrugged his shoulders with a sympathetic air.
"If I have only been some tall now, mees, or if I could some climb down there--but, alas!"
He shook his head, and threw out his hands with a helpless motion, and just then a clear whistle rose from the base of the cliff, giving the tune of "Annie Laurie." The two looking down then caught a glimpse of a strong white hand, issuing from a black coat-sleeve, which was extended towards them, as the nervous-looking fingers grasped a ledge of rock preparatory to a spring, when the little man burst out,--
"Ha! Mine nevew! Robare, Robare, look! look dis way!"
The whistle ceased, and a head was thrust forward,--a well-cropped, chestnut head,--while a voice as clear as the whistle sang out,--
"Hello, uncle! That you, up there? How did you make it? Haven't got a rope to give me a lift, have you?"
"No, no, vait! Dat--dat--zing--Oh, you tell he!" turning impatiently to Sara, for, in trying to speak quickly, his limited English had quite deserted him.
She called out obediently, in her rich young voice,--
"Wait, please! Do you see the sunbonnet just above your head? If you will get it and go around to the beach, I'll meet you, and point out the way up here." "Indeed I will!" was the quick and courteous response; and she saw the fingers tighten, then the head give a little spring upwards, when the hand clutched the bonnet, and all disappeared.
"I have it," was called up an instant later. "Now for the beach!" Sara turned with a smile to the little man, who nodded kindly, raising his head to lift the hat that was not there, then, with a bewildered look, he whirled around two or three times and gazed at her helplessly.
_"Los'!"_ he murmured, with so comical a look of dismay that Sara could scarcely keep from laughing outright. "Los'! an' it ees tree now of dose hat that ees gone, alas!"
"Perhaps I can find it," she said encouragingly. "Why, what's that?" suddenly catching sight of a bundle of things in a hollow just below.
Sure enough, there was the hat, also a coat, and a round tin box Sara was afterwards to know as a specimen-case. She sprang lightly down, handed them up to the absent-minded little geologist, and went on her way, meeting the nephew on the lower ledge.
He lifted his hat politely as he saw her, and, holding out the bonnet, said,--
"I presume this is your property?"
"Yes, thank you," she returned, flushing a little as she received it. "You were very kind to get it for me."
"Indeed, no; it is you who are kind, rather! Did you pilot my Uncle Leon up that steep place?"
"Oh, no, sir! He found the way. See, after you get around this rough ledge it is easy till the last climb; that is quite steep. Just follow me a moment, please."
"As long as you wish"--he began gallantly, but she did not wait to hear; and, having led him to a spot whence he could see his uncle, she pointed out the further way, slightly bowed her head in adieu, and, waiting for no further parley, turned about and walked briskly homewards, remembering it was high time to return to the baby, and begin a search for that hidden money.
* * * * *
It was late afternoon of the next day, and poor Sara stood in the midst of her family and household treasures, looking the picture of despair. Around her was collected every description of bag, box, and bundle, also the baby, while Morton and Molly (the latter secretly delighted with all this excitement) were turning things upside-down and wrongside-out, with vim enough to have furnished Pinkerton's whole force.
But now they had come to a halt; for so far, though everything on the premises had apparently been emptied, no money had appeared, and the three stood confronting each other, with dismay written on their faces.
"_Can't_ you think of another place, Molly?" asked Sara in desperation. "She couldn't have torn up the floor, could she?"
Molly's eyes danced.
"What if we had to take up every board! My! 'twould tear the old house all to pieces, wouldn't it? But, Sara, there isn't another place anywhere; we've been everywhere that even a mouse could get, I'm sure!"
"Then it _must_ be among these things, and we have overlooked it. Here, Morton, you take that pile; you this, Molly; and I'll attack these rags; though it doesn't seem possible that she could have put it in a rag-bag."
For a moment there was silence, as each delved and peered, the baby more industrious than all the rest, snatching at everything, to clap to his mouth, only to toss it aside for something else when he found it was not eatable.
"Well, Sara, say what you will, I'm sure 'tisn't in my heap," said Morton. "What shall I do with all these bits and papers, anyhow?"
"Let's see, it is nearly tea-time. Put them right into the fireplace, and light them to boil the kettle."
"All right; and O Sara! do let's have some crisp fried potatoes with our herring: this work has made me as hungry as a black bear!"
"Yes, yes, do, Sara!" cried Molly, hopping up and down. "And some molasses on our bread too; the butter's all gone."
"Well, Molly, you'll have to slice the potatoes then."
"Of course I will; where's the knife?" whirling about over the thickly strewn floor, glad of any change from what was becoming a wearisome and fruitless task.
"Molly! Molly! You're making everything fly! Do be more careful!"
"Yes'm," dropping suddenly into a ludicrous imitation of the waddle of a goose; "I'll stop flying, and paddle."
"You need a paddle!" muttered Morton, contemptuous of such antics; and he proceeded to stuff the rubbish into the chimney-place, adding a light stick or two.
Soon there was a leaping blaze under the squat black kettle, which the boy watched with satisfaction.
"There!" he said, "we won't have to look those over again. Why, what's baby got? It looks just like a wad of tobacco. Here, Neddie! Neddie! don't put that in your mouth; give it to brother, quick!"
But master baby had no idea of giving up his treasure-trove, and resisted so stoutly that a regular scramble ensued. For his dimpled fingers were shut so tightly over the wad that Morton could not at first undo them, and the baby, wrenching his hand away, crept rapidly to Sara,
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