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Peingle's Flat

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'You will have a beautiiul day, my dear,' said Mrs. Hope, as she looked admiringly flrst at lier son Diek, who was ilriving up to the door in his new buggy, then at her daughter-in-law, Mary Hope, whose honeymoon was at its full. I am so glad!' said the young wife. 'What lovely weather we have had ever since I carne here! noG at all like what some of my friends predicted wben they said we ought to spend our honeymaon in the east.' Diek Hope at that moment sprang out of his buggy lightly, and gallantly extended a hand to his wife. 'Xonsense!' exclaimed Mary Hope. 'I am not such a helpless creature that I can't get in myself ;' and she stepped lightly into the buggy with a merry laugh. Mrs. Hope the eider gave an approving nod: 'It's just as well to let Dick know you can help yourself. These western men - ' 'Need managing like other men,' interrupted her daughter-in-law with anotlier laugh. Old Mr. Hope, coming down frona the stables at that moment, eyed the horse, buggy, and harness (Dick had expended seven lmndred dollars on that turn-out), then stood pattingthe horse's neck kindly. He was an admirer of fine horses, and his judgment was sought far and wide on all points of horse-tlesh: 'There's fine mettle here, Dick.' 'I know it," said Dick proudly. 'Cheap at four hundred,' said Mr. Hope. 'Have you tried her yet ?' 'I think she's good for two-twentyone without much of an effort.' 'Why, isn't that a fast horse, Dick?' asked his wife, whose curiosity was aroused. 'Just middling.' answered her husband. 'We have them out here faster than that.' 'It is fast,' said his father. 'We used to think it impossible, but we have got so far on now there's no telling what's in a horse. I like this mare very much. If it was anybody else's, I'd - ' ' Come now, what would you give, fatlier ? ' said Dick banteringly. 'It's all in the family, so I'm saved a hundred dollars at least.' ' A hundred more wouldn't buy her, father. Just say to anybody that covets my new mare I won't take a cent less than seven hundred dollars. Why sbe goes like wind.' ' That reminds me, Dick : you'd best take the road round by Drake's.' 'And lose a good half-hour,' said Dick. ' That's a long way round, father," said the eider Mis. Hope. 'You take my advice." said her husband. 'I mean coming back. It doesn't matter going. If it should blow you will flnd it safest.' Dick, who was adjusting a strap, looked off east and west, smiled in a satisfed way, and observed, 'I don't see any signs of a storm.' 'Nor I,' said his father; 'but no one knows anything about the wind here. 111 never forget the sweep I got twenty years ago coming over Pringie's Flat.' 'That is where we are going, isn't it, Dick?' Mrs. Dick Hope looked the least trine anxious as she turned to her husband. 'Was it so bad, Mr. Hope ? ' 'Bad! Bad's no name for it. Why, it blew my wagon as far as from here to the barn, - blew the horses off their feet, tore up trees, and lodged me against a rock that saved my life.' That. must have been terrible,' aid Mary Hope, 'Don't let hiin frighten yoa,' said faif Hope. 'Di?.n lfc him frighten you,' said Dick smi'ingly: 'lightning never strikes twice in tüe ame place. I'm all right you see. il? On!y time I was blown away was when I w'1' ea8t for you. Are we all ready now ? sket in, mtther? Mrs. Hope nodded gayly, Dick lifted the reins lightly, and away the new buggy with its happy occupants sped sver the prairie. It was early morning. The flngers jf the dawn stretched upward, dissolving the shadowy mist that hung over the prairie and the thin line of woodland that lay away off to the west like fringe on a neatly-cut garment. The poung wife inhaled the perfumes exlialed from the flowers, filling the atmosphere with rich odors. There were lines upon lines of variegated tints a,bove the horizon. Such a sunrise Mary Hope had never looked onexcept simong the mountains. There were fciiits of crimson, amber, and gold; and above all white pillars rolled majestically,- palaces more magniflcent and atately than any that the human mind could conceive. 'How grand!' she said, as Dick looked smilingly at her. 'The mind of man cannot measure all its beauties," said Dick, as he lighted a cigar and settled himself down for some 'solid enjoyment.' As the red and golden glories stretched above the horizon, a light breeze sprang up, fanning Mary Hope's cheeks, caressing her hair lightly, and sighing through the thin selvage of trees which Dick'a father kad planted along the roadway before his son was bom. The god of day wheeled his chariot aloft, radiating, as only the summer sun can, the rarest tints of amber, and crimson and gold, until the purple glories, rolling aloft like great billows, gradually arched themselves into the semblance of agateway, through which Mary Hope caught, in fancy, glimpses of the eelestial city. She did not speak, but sat perfectly quiet, drinking in the beauties of the most beautiful morning Dick Hope had ever witnessed in the west. Tliere is Pringle's Flat,' said Dick suddenly, pointing ahead. 'Surely we have not come seven miles, Dick?' 'Scarcely. IIow far is that ahead Y 'Is it a mile, Diek V Dick laughed loudly : 'It's nearer four.' 'I don't understand it.' 'ïliat's what the smart hunters from the East say when tlxey shoot and miss their game. It's the atmosphere, Mary.' 'It's a small place,' said his wife, as she looked forward to Pringle's Flat, lying a little below them. Beyond it thero was a ribbon of molten gold, made by the sun's slanting rays falling upon the river. 'And that is the river.' 'We'll be there in twenty minutes,' said Dick Hope, 'when I want to introdiiGe you to some of the nicest people in this end of the State.' xne peopie jjick rererrea to received the young couple in a manner that made Mary Hope's cheeks glow with gratiöcation. Her husband was a man universally admired, - as fine a specimen of his kind as was ever produced west of Pringle's Flat. The bride, during the two hours they remained in the town, created a ripple of talk. There was something about Dick and his wife that made peopie turn to look at them. When they drove away, a score of friends waved good wishes and tossed kisses after them. 'Xow for Dan's Rock,' said Dick, as he gave his mare the rein and cast a backward glance at Pringle's Flat. 'Pretty, isn't it ?' 'Pretty!' said his wife. 'Why, Dick, it's lovely! See the light onthechurchwindows : it looks as though it were really on fire. The houses are so pretty, too, the streets so wide, and there is such an air of peace and comfort about it ! AVhy, it is like a town that has grown up in a night, it is so wonderfuriy clean and neat, - just what a painter would makeif be were painting towns to please peopie.' ■i ui giau you iiKe n. xnat reminas me; do you see that house above the church, to the lef t ?' 'It looks charming, - the prettiest house there.' 'Glad you like it.' 'Why, Dick?' 'It's yours. I beught it before I went east for you. We'll look inside of it wlien we return, if we have time.' That was Dick Ilope's way. The drive to Dan's Hoek occupied an hour. 'Xow for a trial of your strength,' said Dick, as he tied his horse to a tree at the base of the great rock and assisted his wife to the ground where they were to lunch. 'Must I climb up there, Dick ?' said Mrs. Hope. 'That'a the programme, what we came out ior to-day. You've heard so much of the view from Dan's Koek that you want to see it for yourself. Do you know you remind me now of Parthenia fetching water from the spring ?' 'Parthenia tamed her husband, didn't she, Dick ? I'm glad your mother saved me that trouble.' That was a lunch Mary Hope often recalled in af ter years. Dick persisted in forcing all kinds of dainties upon her, 'Irish fashion,' as she said afterwapd. It was the first time she had ever had him to herself in the glad day with no curious eyes to peer on them, and she subjected her lord and master in lier turn to such straits thathegladly cried quits as he put his hair out of his eyes and viewed his tormentor. Then they slowly mounted the massire heap calleil Dan's Rock. Such a view! A swetp of forty miles in one direction, east, and almost as grand a view to the west. Dick sat down and handed his wife the glasses as he lighted a fresh cigar. 'Do you see that hill away off to the lef t there?' 'Hasn't it a curious shape ?' 'That's where the wind comes from. They manufacture it up there.' 'What do you mean, Dick ?' 'There's a valley back there that extends full forty miles northwest, where you come to prairie-land like ours back of Pringle's Flat, nly there is ten times more of it. The wind rolls down the valley and plays the very deuce with things on the river mt the Point. Sometimes it rains, id then you'd think the heavens were emptying; all the water in the valley sweeps down below us here, filis the valley where it narrows there like tke neck of a bottle, aud then - look out for trouble. I saw it once; that is all I want to eee.' 'Is it soawfu.1, Dick?' 'It is really awful, Mary.' 'And now it looks like- like the píaí'." Of I can't conceive of inything íurbing the perfect peace of this beautiiJ scène. See that cloud away off there, Dici.' 'About the size of a man's hand '? ï see it.' It's the only speek in the sky,' said iiis wife. 'It's not like our sky, then,' saia Dick, as he kissed her standing on the very top of Dan's Rock. 'Do you know it is time we were moving now?' 'We have only been here a little while.' 'It's three hours sinee we stopped at the foot of Dan's Rock.' 'My goodness, Dick!' 'Thafs what I'm always saying to myself when I think you töok me before all the other ffcllows.' 'It can't be.' 'Look for yourself,' said Dick, holding out his watch. 'It's the grandest day of my life, Dick. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.' He gave her his hand and helped her down the rough places. Once in a while Mary would stop to gather bits ot moss and flowers as mementos of a red-letter day. At least an hour was consumed in the descent. Then they got into the buggy and turned homeward, but not on the road leading pust Drake's. 'We want to see all that can be seen, don't we?' said Dick. 'By all means,' answered his wife, as she tied her hat loosely and prepared to enjoy the drive home. 'But didn't your father teil you to go home by Drake's?' 'The other is the better road.' 'You know lest, Dick.' Dick's mare went at a slapping pace. 'Shesmells oats,' said Dick. 'Look at Pringle's Flat, Dick.' 'Precty, isn't it T 'There is not a leaf stirring, one would think. It looks so restful over theie! It might be a deserted village!' 'It does look unasually quiet, now I notice it. But then tlüs sim is terrible. See if you can find our house over there, Mary.' There was a long suence, then the young wife gleefully pointed out the houue, and there was another long silence, which was broken by Mrs. Hope saying suddenly, 'What is that curioua sound I hear?' 'I he;ir nothing.' 'ïhere! Do you hear it now ?' Dick inclined au ear. They were fairly clear of the rough land at the base of Dan's Rock now, and the mare was trotting rapidly. Suddenly her driver's linn hand brought her upon her haunches. Dick listened intently. His wife was right; lier ears were keener than his. There was something in the air. At that instant.Mary's hand chitched his arm convulsively as she wied out: 'Oh, Dick, what is that back of us?' She was looking back with horrorstricken eyes and pale lips. Dick turned. A cloud like a black ■ ■" - " " 'tl 'lililí ViVÍ 11 11 VU JÍÍJÍÍI m ÍV seemed to Dick Ilope's eyes as black as ink. An awful ifcar possessed him. There was a hush, a stillness in the air as chilling as the terrible elouds behind them. 'Go 'longl' he exclaimed desperately, cutting the mare fiercely with his whip. The mare shot out like an arrow, and at that moment another sound smote their ears - a sound that was like the crash of worlds. The mare plunged, reared, then resumed her onward course. Her owner had lost all control over her. But one thought animated Dick Hope as he clasped his wife with his right arm, while he held f ast to the reins with his left hand, shutting his teeth like a vise. That thought was, 'Pray God we reach the river-bottom !' The earth groaned under L'nür fet. A sound like the rush and roar and scream of a million locomotives deafened them. Dick Hope instinctively turned and clasped his young wife in his arms. He did not see the mare : he saw nothing but his wife's face, and something in it struck terror to his lieart. Ilis own was ashy gray at that moment as his young wife's when slie ttirned her last appealing look upon him and moved her lips. His one prayer was that they might die togetro . It seemed to them then that all the sound i a the air and earth was condensed, gaihered into one awful shriek. Earth and aky were obliterated. Dick Hope feit himself lifted up and flung like a flake through the air. When he recovered his senses he was lying where hehad prayed to tee, - in the river-bottom, with his wife close beside him. The awful storm did not divide them. The tornado, like a raging bea. had simply taken them up in its tr h, so to speak, tossed them aside, and pursued its patK Where they were lying the water w: s so shoal that it scarcely covered them. t)ick sat up and spoke to his wife, she did not answer. Then he put one hand up involuntarily, in a weak, helpless way. There was blood on his face ; he could not see; his eyes were full of sand. He struck himself iu des pair, and, again grasping L s wife, said in a boarse voice, ' You are not dead, Mary?' Whether it was the water from the river he dashed into his face or the gush of tears that came into his eyes, Dick does not know to this day, but suddenly his eyes became clear, and he could see his wife lying with her face next him and the water washing her long haii over her breast. He lifted her up. He feit her hands, her cheeks. Then suddenly he summoned all his remaining strength for one supreme effort and dragged rather than carried her up to the dry shelving bciich under the bluff. Mary Hope slowly opened her eyes and looked at her husband. Then shfi put her hands slowly up to her face and cvered it. Dick saw the tears coursing down her cheeks. 'Dom't! - don't Mary!' he said. '1 can't help it. I am not crying with pain or grief; it's because you are living, - because we are both spared.' Dick's strength returned to him. He stood up and looked about him. Until that moment he did not know that he was coatless and without vest or shirt; he was naked. He pressed his eyes with kis hands and looked down on himself like one awakening ut of a dream. He looked at his wife, still sitting with her face covered with her tiands: 'Mary, we are almost naked. There ig nothing on me, and your dress ls in ribbons.' He looked up and down the river in a helpless way, still pressing a hand to his heart. 'I don't see - any sign oí - the buggy or horse.' Then liecast his glance at the bluff back of ;hem. Come, let me go up on the bank.' He had to carry her. 'It is the horrible fright, dear Dick. I'll soon get over it,' she said when he set lier down gently on the level jround, 'Mary, look over there. Do you ses any thing ? My eyes are so f uil of sand, 80 sore, I can't make it out quite. Everything looks blurred.' She did not answer him. It was not because her eyes were not clear. As she looked wonderingly, her hand, that had never relinquished her husband's from the moment he seated her on the prairie, clasped his convulsively. Then she uttered a loud cry. 'I - -I expeeted as much,' said Dick, speaking more to himself' than to his wife. 'Nothing - nothing man ever made could stand before that storm.' 'Oh, Dick,' she exclaimed sobbingly, 'there is nothing left of the town, - not a house. I can only see a heap hero and there, - something like fallen chimneys, and smoke and flre.' 'That's the end of Pringle's Flat, Mary.' He looked back over the prairie, - back to the fringe of trees that skirted a portion of the road near the base of Dan's Koek but a little while since. He could not recognize the place he had looked on a hundred times. The trees had disappeared; they hal been swept from the face of the earth. Then he shaded his eyes with his hand and looked across to where Pringle's Flat had stood in all the pride of a new Western town. Dick Hope su Idenly knelt by Jiis wife's side, still holding her hand, saying, 'Let us pray.' Among all those who witnessed the awe-inspiring tornado that swept Pringle's Plat until not one stone stood upon another, killing, maiining all living ereatures in its path, none have such vivid recollections as Di;k Hope and nis wife. When they refer to tlieir experience on that terrible day, they speak in a low tone, reverently, as though standing in the presence of the dead.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat