“’Tis of no consequence,” said Jonas; “we can’t be far from the shore. I’ll keep straight on, and we shall strike the land somewhere, not far from the house.”
But it is much easier to get bewildered in a storm than Jonas had supposed. The darkness, the obscurity produced by the falling snow, the perfect and unvarying level of the surface, in every direction the same, and the agitation of mind which even the most resolute must experience in such a situation, all conspired to make it difficult, in a case like this, to find the way. Jonas drove on in the direction which he thought would have led to the shore; but, after going amply far enough to reach it, no shore was to be seen. The fact was, that he had insensibly deviated just so far from his course, as to be going along parallel with the shore, instead of in the direction towards it. Jonas began to be somewhat concerned, and Josey was in a state of great anxiety and fear.
He rose up in the sleigh, and attempted to look around; and his fear was suddenly changed into terror, at seeing a large black animal, like a bear, coming furiously up behind them, bounding over the snow. Josey screamed aloud.
“What is the matter?” said the woman.
“Why, Franco! Franco!” said Jonas, “how could you get here?”
It was Franco, true enough. He came swiftly along, leaping and staggering through the deep snow; and he seemed delighted to have found Jonas and his party at last. Jonas patted his head. Both Jonas and Franco were overjoyed to see each other.
[Illustration: “‘That can’t be the way, Franco,’ said Jonas.”]
Jonas patted Franco’s head and praised him, while the dog wagged his tail, whisked about, and shook the snow off from his back and sides.
“What dog is that?” said the woman.
“This is Franco,” said Jonas. “Franco Ney is his name. Now we shall have no trouble in getting out.”
Franco turned off, short, from the road in which Jonas was going. He knew by instinct which way the shore lay from them. Jonas at first hesitated about following him.
“That can’t be the way, Franco,” said he.
But Franco, after plunging on a few steps, looked round and whined. Then he came back towards Jonas again a few steps, looking him full in the face, and then whisked about again, and went on farther than before,—and then stopped and looked back, as if to see whether Jonas was going to follow him. Jonas stood just in advance of the oxen, hesitating.
“That must be the way,” said Jonas. “Franco knows.”
“No, that isn’t the way,” said the woman; “the dog don’t know any thing about it. We must go straight forward.”
“No,” said Jonas, “it will be safest to follow Franco.” And so saying, he began to turn his oxen in the direction indicated by Franco.
The woman remonstrated against this with great earnestness. She said that they should only get entirely lost, for he was leading them altogether out of their way. But Jonas considered that the responsibility properly belonged to him, and that he must act according to his own discretion. So he pushed forward steadily after Franco.