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- Aladdin O'Brien - 4/32 -


to the decoys of the nearest gunner, went roaring into the oaks and hickories of New York, warmed the veins of New England fruit-trees, and finally coming to the giant fog, rent it apart by handfuls as you pluck feathers from a goose, and hurled it this way and that, until once more the sky and land could look each other in the face. Then the great wind laughed and ceased. For a long time Margaret looked down the cleared face of the river, but there was no trace of Aladdin, and in life but one comfort: the sun was hot and she was getting warm.

After a time, in the woods directly behind where she sat hoping and fearing and trying to dry her tears, a gun sounded like an exclamation of hope. Had Aladdin by any incredible circumstance returned so soon? Mindful of his warning not to stray from where she was, Margaret stood up and called in a shrill little voice

"Here I am! Here I am!"

Silence in the woods immediately behind where Margaret stood hoping and fearing!

"Here I am!" she cried. And it had been piteous to hear, so small and shrill was the voice.

Presently, though much farther off, sounded the merry yapping bark of a little dog, and again, but this time like an echo of itself, the exclamation of hope--hope deferred.

"Here I am! Here--I--am!" called Margaret.

Then there was a long silence--so long that it seemed as if nothing in the world could have been so long. Margaret sat down gasping. The sun rose higher, the river ran on, and hope flew away. And just as hope had gone for good, the merry yapping of the dog broke out so near that Margaret jumped, and bang went the gun--like a promise of salvation. Instantly she was on her feet with her shrill,

"Here I am! Here I am!"

And this time came back a lusty young voice crying:

"I'm coming!"

And hard behind the voice leaves shook, and a boy came striding into the sunlight. In one hand he trailed a gun, and at his heels trotted a waggish spaniel of immense importance and infinitesimal size. In his other hand the boy carried by the legs a splendid cock-grouse, ruffled and hunger-compelling. The boy, perhaps two years older than Aladdin, was big and strong for his age, and bore his shining head like a young wood-god.

Margaret ran to him, telling her story as she went, but so incoherently that when she reached him she had to stop and begin over again.

"Then Senator St. John is your father?" said the boy at length. "You know, he's a great friend of my father's. My father's name is Peter Manners, and he used to be a congressman for New York. Are you hungry?"

Margaret could only look it.

They sat down, and the boy took wonderful things out of his wonderful pockets--sandwiches of egg and sandwiches of jam; and Margaret fell to.

"I live in New York," said the boy, "but I'm staying with my cousins up the river. They told me there were partridges on this island, and I rowed down to try and get some, but I missed two." The boy blushed most becomingly whenever he spoke, and his voice, and the way he said words, were different from anything Margaret had ever heard. And she admired him tremendously. And the boy, because she had spent a night on a desert island, which he never had, admired her in turn.

"Maybe we'll find 'Laddin on the way," said Margaret, cheerfully, and she looked up with great eyes at her godlike young friend.

V

Meanwhile to Aladdin and his log divers things had occurred, but the wonderful lamp, burning low or high at the will of the river, had not gone out. Sliding through the smoking fog at three miles an hour, kicking and paddling, all had gone well for a while. Then, for he was more keen than Margaret to note the fog's promise to lift, at the very moment when the shores began to appear and mark his course as favorable, at the very moment when the sun struck one end of the log, an eddy of the current struck the other, and sent the stanch little craft Good Luck and her captain by a wide curve back up the river. The backward journey was slow and tortuous, and twice when the Good Luck turned turtle, submerging Aladdin, he gave himself up for lost; but amidships of the island, fairly opposite to the spot where he had left Margaret, the log was again seized by the right current, and the voyage recommenced. But the same eddy seized them, and back they came, with only an arm stiffened by cold between Aladdin and death. The third descent of the river, however, was more propitious. The eddy, it is true, made a final snatch, but its fingers were weakened and its murderous intentions thwarted. They passed by the knob of trees at the narrowing of the river, and swept grandly toward the town. Past the first shipyard they tore unnoticed, but at the second a shouting arose, and a boat was slipped overboard and put after them. Strong hands dragged Aladdin from the water, and, gulp after gulp, water gushed from his mouth. Then they rowed him quickly to land, and the Good Luck, having done her duty, went down the river alone. Years after, could Aladdin have met with that log, he would have recognized it like the face of a friend, and would have embraced and kissed it, painted it white to stave off the decay of old age, and set it foremost among his Lares and Penates.

For the present he was insensible. They put him naked into coarse, warm horse-blankets, and laid him before the great fire in the blacksmith's shop across the road from the shipyard. And at the same time they sent one flying with a horse and buggy to the house of Hannibal St. John, for Aladdin had not passed into unconsciousness without partly completing his mission.

"Margaret--is--up--at--" he said, and darkness came.

At the moment when Aladdin came to, the door of the smithy was darkened by the tremendous figure of Hannibal St. John. Wrapped in his long black cloak, fastened at the throat by three links of steel chain, his face glowering and cavernous, the great man strode like a controlled storm through the awed underlings and stopped rigid at Aladdin's side.

"Can the boy speak?" he said.

To Aladdin, looking up, there was neither pity nor mercy apparent in the senator's face, and a great fear shook him. Would the wrath descend?

"Do you know where my daughter is?"

The great rolling voice nearly broke between the "my" and the "daughter," and the fear left Aladdin.

"Mister St. John," he said, "she's up at one of the islands. We went in a boat and couldn't get back. If you'll only get a boat and some one to row, I can take you right to her." Then Aladdin knew that he had not said all there was to say. "Mister St. John," said Aladdin, "I done it all."

Men ran out of the smithy to prepare a boat.

"Who is this boy?" said St. John.

"It's Aladdin O'Brien, the inventor's boy," said the smith.

"Are you strong enough to go with me, O'Brien?" said the senator.

"Yes, sir; I've got to go," said Aladdin. "I said I'd come back for her."

"Give him some whisky," said St. John, in the voice of Jupiter saying "Poison him," "and wrap him up warm, and bring him along."

They embarked. Aladdin, cuddled in blankets, was laid in the bow, St. John, not deigning to sit, stood like a black tree-trunk in the stern, and amidships were four men to row.

A little distance up the river they met a boat coming down. In the stern sat Margaret, and at the oars her godlike young friend. Just over the bow appeared the snout and merry eyes of the spaniel, one of his delightful ears hanging over on each side.

"I am glad to see you alive," said St. John to Margaret when the boats were within hailing distance, and to her friend he said, "Since you have brought her so far, be good enough to bring her the rest of the way." And to his own rowers he said, "Go back." When the boats came to land at the shipyard, Margaret's father lifted her out and kissed her once on each cheek. Of the godlike boy he asked his name, and when he learned that it was Peter Manners and that his father was Peter Manners, he almost smiled, and he shook the boy's hand.

"I will send word to your cousins up the river that you are with me," he said, and thus was the invitation extended and accepted.

"O'Brien," said the great man to Aladdin, "when you feel able, come to my house; I have something to say to you."


Aladdin O'Brien - 4/32

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