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Seth Piper's Contrivance

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It caused a good deal of excitement in Piperville for some time. Nobody knew what it was. Some people said it was one thing, others thought it might be sometbing else; but everybody agreed that it was rather startling to behold on a dark nigbt A boy named Torn Jackson, who had deen put out of singing school one evening, for making a disturbance, was the ürst to discover it; and it was said that his hair " stood on end " when he rushed back into the school-house and shouted to everybody to come out. A few moments later all Piperville stood outdoor in the darkness and wind, looking at it - the bright image of a man in the sky, holding a long sword raised above its head in the right hand, and something that glimmered like a lantern in the lef t. First it appeared to be ascending straight up then it paused awhile, and aftorward moved off across the river, where it remained stationary some minutes. Next it carne down slowly and hesitatingly, uutil it seemed almost to touch the top of ene of the tall pines on the opposite side of tha river. Then suddenly it went up, up, higher and higher, and vanished. Not even the schoolmaster attempted to explain what it was. Comets, falling stars, an eclipse or two, and several other celestial wonders had been predicted for the year in the almanac and newspapers; but nothing like this mysterious thing had been mentioned. It made everybedy feel si trifle awed, if not really scared, and the next day hardly anything else was talked about. "I believe it's one of those pesky things that there's always picture3 of in the front of the almanac," said a boy named Jake Pixley. "It's got loose somehow and is flyin' round, I reckon." "Wal, I guess not sonny," replied i good-natured oíd man, Únele Simeón. " But maybe now its the Angel Gabriel a-huntin' for sombody. Jest as like as not that's what 'tis." ïhey were among the crowd gathered around the stove in the village grocery store, and Seth Piper stood near at hand, listening to all that was said. He was a round-faced, thick-set, quiet kind of a boy, who never talked much, but " always kept up a good deal of thinking," people said. Any one watching him closely on the present occasion might have f ancied he wanted to laugh when Únele Simeón suggested that the stranse phenomenon was the Angel Gabriel. His eyes twinkled and the corners of bis inouth twitched a little; hut he suppressed whateyer risible t'eeling he had and continued to whittle quietly a stick he held in one hand. " I don't believe any thing like it has ever been seen in this 'ere part of the world before or anywheres else," said the store-keeper. " Nor 1 either," agreed a bronzed old farmer, who was . sitting on a barrel and resting his cowhide boot3 on the rim of ,the stove. "According to my idee, it's one of those kind of thinga that don't turn up every day in the year." "I never heared teil of anything like it afore," Únele Simeón said. "If it was the Angel Gabriel, perhaps he was af ter thieves," Seth ventured to suggest, turning a trifle red and looking around. "Thieves!" said the storekeeper, a little surprised. "Thieves! Eh!" queried Uncle Simeon. "Why, sonny, what put that idee into your head? " "Oh! nothing much. I was only thinking lie miglit light on those fellows who've been shearing my sheep over on the island. Stealing the wool, you know." Seth let the glance he cast at those about him rest just an instant longer, perhaps, on Jake Pixley and his brothr Dave than on any of the others, and ;hen went on whittling as before. The farmer said it beat all how mean some people could be, and during a moment or two the conversation took a new turn. Seth was the widow Piper's boy, for whom all had much respect. The sheep were a flock he had raised from a few cossets, and everybody knew that the money he usually obtained in the Spring for their wool helped him to pay for a term at the academy in the Winter. Consequently.fthose who had a kindly fellowfeeling expressed their sentiments; but shortly the phenomenon was the chief topic again. Nobody could ever imagine, of course, that it's appearance really had anything to do with the thieves, or that Setb knew anything more about it than he did of the man in the moon; yet, strangely enough, it turned out in the end that such was the fact. During the next two weeks, while all were on the watch every night for another glimpse of the image, Seth waa busy watching Jake and Pave, whom he suspected were the guilty ones. He had laid several traps to detect them, but without success. One night he had concealed himself among the trees on the island and waited for them until daylight; another time he patroled around the island In a boat; but they always seemed to be aware of his movements and either escaped before he could come near or postponed their visits till he was out of the way. What he was waiting for ow, however, was a good blustering, dark niglit, with a breeze blowiug across the river. Then, if they chanced to be on the island, he meant to try their courage. As it happened, Jake and Dave Pixley also were waiting for about such a night and finally it arrived. Scarcely a star was visible and the wind blew iust enough to ruflle the river in waves and inake a lonesome, melaucholy noise in the pine grove on the island. Both boys got into their boat about ten o'clock and pushed off into the darknes8 very quietly. " They'er all up to the school-house, and we can have a clear show, I reekon," said Jake, in a low tone. " Go slow and keep quiet with your oar," his brother whisperd. When they reaelied the island, they drew the boat up carefully and partly hid it under some bushes. Then they crept here and there stealthy und examined the surroundings before finally venturing in the direction of a long open shed, where the sheep were huddled together. " Somehow or other, I feel kind of shakey," Jake wliispered. " It's mighty risky business." " Come on and don't be a calf," Dave growled. But before either had gone a dozen steps further both crouched down suddenly and listened. Just over the gloomy trees at their lef t a dry limb snapped, and they heard it. For a moment the shadowy outline of a man in the same direction was in danger also of being discovered. But they did not see it and went on. " It beats all," the man whispered, keeping his eyes on them, " how mean some people can be. I'll tackle 'em, though, in a minute, without leave or license from any one." He sat down, pulled off his cowhide boots, and then began to crawl along on his hands and knees slowly and cautiously toward the shed. In the meanwhile, over in the village it had been noticed that the frightiul image was again hovering in the sky and every one was becoming excited. A sleight-of-hand entertainment, which had been astonishing an audience in the school-house, was just ñnished, and as the crowd carne out all saw the thing at once. This time it was away up high over the river, and was maneuvering around at a great rate, brandishing its sword, swinging its lantern, and now and then diving through the darkness, as though fighting the wind. "Sakes alive! "VVhat on earth can it be?" Únele Simeón exclaimed, standing stock-still with his wife Folly clinging to his arm. "It's got a heap more gumption than I like to see," said the storekeeper, nervously. " I wish it would clear out." In fact, most everybody feit a little relieved when it began to move toward the. island, instead of coming nearer. The sleightof-hand man, however who was a stranger and a tall, mysterious kind of a person, with very long hair, said, coolly, that he guessed he could shoot the thii ;( easily enough, i f any one would get 1 n a gun. ïhere was somehesitation, for the idea oí shootin,? at anything of the kind seemed rather preposterous at (lrst; but, flnally, Torn Jackson ran home, and brought back a rifle that belonged to his fathev. The magician then loaded it with much deliberation, in the presence of the wondering crowd, gauged the sight carefully, and walked away a few yards; to calcúlate the distance. " It's too far off," lie saitl at length, somewhat perplexed; "but, if there's a boat handy and a couple of yon will row me out within range of it, 111 show you a thing or two about shooting. Hi3 bravado and confidence in his skill induced the schoolmaster and a stout lad, named Sawyer, to volunteer their services, and in the course of sev en or eight minutes tlie crowd stood on the bank of the river, ghastly silent, listening to the dip of the oars .and awaiting the turn of eyents. The image, pheuomenon, or whatever it might be called was now directly over the island. Indeed, the man prowling on his hands and knees in the shadow of the pines (who, it may as well be stated, was the bronzed old farmer) had discovered it also by this time, and was wishing that he might be anywhere else in the world just then. Springing to his feet and Beizing a heavy stick, he almost held his breath while he watched it slowly descend. If the tliing really was a judgement on those thieving boys, he meant to stand aside and let it have its own way. It appeared, thougii, to be coming down on him, instèad of them, and he didn't want any mistake made. In the confusión of the next few moments, he saw the young Pixley's run out from the shed into an open space and look up at the image, aa if they were suddenly struck dumb. It was coming down faster and taster, and he shouted at the top of his lungs: "There they arel There they are, Gabriel, over by the shed! " Instantly there followed a loud, sharp report, and the old man leaped into the air several feet, and then atruck out for the shore. without hat or boots, wildly intent on reaching home in spite of ñre or water. The three in the boat, a shert distance away from the island, saw him rush pell-mell up and down the shore, and the boy Sawyer declared in some trepidation that he was the thing itself with the brightness.gone; but the magician said impatiently, "Bosh! Nonsense!" and standing up called out: " Helio there! Who are you ? " " Helio! " the old man returned, as soon as he could get breath. "l'm - I guesg l'm Zekiel Tomkins. Who are you?" In a moment or two the boat touched the shore, and the magician and the schoolmaster sprang out. " Did you see anything bright come down among the trees up yonder, a few minutes ago?"the former said, coolly. " Yes, sir-oe. I reckon I did," Mr. Tomkins answered, pufflng. "Come along, then, and show us where it is." "Wal, I guess not, stranger. Not while I got legs to run the other way. It's my opinión the tarnation thing ia up there somewheres busted. You'd better keep clear of it." The man of magie laughed contemptuously and walked off to the grove. He believed he knew what it was, he said, and he meant to see i f he ïad'nt put a hole through it. What he found hanging among the imbs of the pinea perhaps the reader can easily guess; but the old farmer and most of the waiting crowd across the river where somewhat taken aback when they saw that the mysterious hing was a huge kite, having the representation of a man drawn on it with damp phosphorus. that shed a bright. wierd light. It was made of tout, coarse paper, colored black, so hat no part could be visible except he phosphoreecent figure. This had a I common pasteboard mask stitched on !or a face, and the arms, sword, aud antern were also ingeniously fashioned of the same material. The magician's bullet had broken part of the main frame of the kite, wbich made it collapse. "While the store-keeper, Uncle Siuieon, and everybody else examined the contrivance over and over, and exnessed themselves in more ways than one about it, Seth Piper arrived from omewhere or other, a little out of )reath, and looked on rather anxiously The thing was the pet invention of his mature years and ho could hardly reist claiming it; but his bump of discretion kept him from doing so. At any rale, he believed he had succeeded n giving tho3e who stole his wol a good scare. And he had. The next day Jake and Dave Pixley were missing, and heir boat was found floating bottomide-up in the river. A week later Jncle Simeón, who was the postmaster, ecieved a crude letter scrawled on wrapping paper, which he po3tod up where all could read it. It ran as 'ollows: " üncle Sim, if the angelí Gabrill is til hangin round you kan let him no me aud Dave has left and haint no deir of cuming back write of. in ïast.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat