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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 15
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 15 Post by :tomfra Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :3169

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 15

BOOK I CHAPTER XV

The weather turned suddenly gusty and cold, and that afternoon it began to snow, and it kept on snowing. All night fine dry flakes fell in unexampled profusion, and by morning the face of the land was many inches deep. Nor did the snow then cease. All the morning it continued to fall with vigor. The train by which Aladdin was to go to the St. Johns' left at two-thirty, arriving there two hours later; and it was with numb feet and stinging ears that he entered the car reserved for smokers, and, bundling in a somewhat threadbare over coat, endeavored to make himself comfortable for the journey. As the train creaked and jerked out of the protecting station, the storm smote upon the windows with a noise like thrown sand, and a back draft down the chimney of the iron stove in one end of the car sent out puffs of smutty smoke at whatever points the various castings of the stove came together with insufficient snugness. There were but half a dozen people in the whole train.

"Troubles, old man," said Aladdin, for so he was in the habit of addressing himself at moments of self-communication, "this is going to be the slowest kind of a trip, but we're going to enjoy every minute of it, because it's taking us to the place where we would be-God bless her!"

Aladdin took a cigar from his breast pocket.

"Troubles," said he, "may I offer you a smoke? What? Oh, you're very much obliged and don't mind if you do. There you are, then." Aladdin sent out a great puff of white smoke; this turned into a blue wraith, drifted down the aisle, between the seats, gathering momentum as it went, and finally, with the rapidity of a mint julep mounting a sucked straw (that isn't split) and spun long and fine, it was drawn through a puncture of the isinglass in the stove door and went up the chimney in company with other smoke, and out into the storm. Aladdin, full of anticipation and glee, smoked away with great spirit. Presently, for the car was empty but for himself, Aladdin launched into the rollicking air of "Red Renard"


"Three scarlet huntsmen rode up to White Plains
With a carol of voices and jangle of chains,
For the morning was blue and the morning was fair,
And the word ran, "Red Renard" is waiting us there."


He puffed at his cigar a moment to be sure that its fire should not flag, and sang on:


"The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
Lirala, Lovely Morning, I'm glad I was born";
The second red huntsman he whistled an air,
And the third sang, "Red Renard" is waiting us there."


"Just such weather as this, Troubles," he said, looking out into the swirl of snow. "Just the beautifulest kind of cross-country weather!" He sang on:


Three lovely ladies they met at the meet,
With whips in their hands and with boots on their feet;
And the gentlemen lifted their hats with a cheer,
As the girls said, "Red Renard is waiting you here."


He quickened into the stanza he liked best:


Three scarlet huntsmen rode off by the side
Of three lovely ladies on horses of pride.
Said the first, "Call me Ellen"; the second, "I'm Claire";
Said the third, "I'm Red Renard--so called from my hair."


The train, which had been running more slowly, drew up with a chug, and some minutes passed before it again gathered itself and lurched on.

"That's all right," said Aladdin. He was quite warm now, and thoroughly happy.


Three scarlet huntsmen rode home from White Plains,
With its mud on their boots, and its girls on their brains;
And the first sang of Ellen, the second of Claire,
But the third sang, "Red Renard is waiting back there."

He made a waggish face to finish with:

Three scarlet huntsmen got into frock-coats,
And they pinched their poor feet, and they tortured their throats;
And the first married Ellen, the second wed Claire,
While the third said, "Re Renar izh waishing back zhere."


He assumed the expression for a moment of one astutely drunk.

"A bas!" he said, for this much of the French language was his to command, and no more. He turned and attempted to look out. He yawned. Presently he threw away the reeking butt of his cigar, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

The water below the veranda was alive with struggling fishes in high hats and frock-coats. Each fish had a label painted across his back with his name and address neatly printed on it, and each fish was struggling to reach a tiny minnow-hook, naked of bait, which dangled just out of reach above the water. The baitless hook was connected by a fine line (who ever heard of baiting a line at the wrong end?) with Margaret's hand. She had on a white dress stamped with big pink roses, and there was a pale-green ribbon round the middle of it; her hair was done up for the first time, and she was leaning over the railing, which was made of safety-lamps and stranglers alternately, painted light blue, regarding the struggling fishes with a look at once full of curiosity and pity. Presently one of the fishes' labels soaked off, and went hurtling out to sea, with the fish weeping bitterly and following at express speed, until in less than one moment both label and fish were hull down below the horizon. Then another label washed off, and then another and another, and fish after fish, in varying states of distraction, followed after and disappeared, until all you could see were two, whereof the one was labeled Manners and the other O'Brien (these continued to fight for the hook), and all you could hear was Neptune, from down, down, down in the sea, saying coquettishly to Cleopatra, "I'm Red Renard--so called from my hair." And then all of a sudden valiant Captain Kissed-by-Margaret went by on a log writing mottos for the wives of famous men. And then Manners and O'Brien, struggling desperately to drown each other, sank down, down, down, and Cleopatra could be heard saying perfectly logically to Neptune, "You didn't!" And then there was a tremendous shower of roses, and the dream went out like a candle.


Aladdin opened his eyes and stroked his chin. He was troubled about the dream. The senator had spoken to him of "others." Could Peter Manners possibly be there? Was that the especial demolishment that fate held in store for him? He was very wide awake now.

At times, owing to the opaqueness of the storm, it was impossible to see out of the car window. But there were moments when a sudden rush of wind blew a path for the eye, and by such occasional pictures--little long of the instantaneous--one could follow the progress of the blizzard. Aladdin saw a huddle of sheep big with snow; then a man getting into a house by the window; an ancient apple-tree with a huge limb torn off; two telegraph poles that leaned toward each other, like one man fixing another's cravat; and he caught glimpses of wires broken, loosened, snarled, and fuzzy with snow. Then the train crawled over a remembered trestle, and Aladdin knew that he was within four miles of his station, and within three of the St. Johns' house by the best of short cuts across country. He looked precisely in its direction, and kissed his fingers to Margaret, and wondered what she was doing. Then there was a rumbling, jumping jar, and the train stopped. Minute after minute went by. Aladdin waited impatiently for the train to start. The conductor passed hurriedly through.

"What's up?" called Aladdin after him.

"Up!" cried the conductor. "We're off the track."

"Can't we go on to-night?"

"Nup!" The conductor passed out of the car and banged the door.

"Got to sit here all night!" said Aladdin. "Not much! Get up, Troubles! If you don't think I know the way about here, you can stay by the stove. I'm going to walk."

Aladdin and Troubles rose, buttoned their coat, left the car, and set out in the direction of the St. Johns'. Aladdin's watch at starting read five o'clock.

"Our luggage is all checked, Troubles," he said, "and all we've got to face is the idea of walking three miles through very disagreeable weather, over a broad path that we know like the palm of our hand (which we don't know as well as we might), arriving late, wet to the skin, and without a change of clothes. On the other hand, we shall deserve a long drink and much sympathy. As for you, Troubles, you're the best company I know, and all is well."


The first scarlet huntsman blew into his horn,
"Lirala, Lovely Morning, I'm glad I was born."

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