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