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Out In The Storm


"That story about the baby in the storm? Oh yes, I'll tell you all about it. See, there's the scar on his dear little forehead yet he'll carry it all his life, they say but I shall never get over being thankful he came out of it so much better than I did, the darling." And Janet glanced at her poor crooked arm as she settled herself more comfortably for a long talk. "This was the way it came about. Mother said to me one Saturday afternoon. `Janet, I am going over to the village; I will take the little girls with me, and I want you to take good care of Harry till I come back.' This arrangement did not suit me at all. I had other plans for the afternoon, and I said, `But mother, I promised Mary Hathaway I would go down there this afternoon. She is going to show me a new stitch for my embroidery.'

" ' I don't like to interfere with you, dear,' mother said, 'but it seems to me you have been running there quite often this week, and I must have your help now.' 'Can't Bridget take care of him?' I said. 'No, she has too much else to do.' 'I hate being tied to babies all the time.' I snarled. ' I think we might keep a nurse as well as the Hathaways. Mary never has to be bothered with the younger ones.' Mother looked at me with a look which begged for something better from me, but I kept the scowl on my face till I saw them drive from the gate.

"I carried baby out into the grove at the back of the house, and dumped him into the hammock, feeling cross and miserable enough. He sat there cooing and crowing and laughing in a way which would have put a better temper into any one but me. I sat on the ground beside him, fussing away at my embroidery, but I could not get it right, and I got crosser and crosser. At last Harry stretched over toward me, and took rather a rough grasp of one of my ears and a good handful of hair with it. He did it to pull my face around for a kiss, but as his pretty face came against mine with a little bump, I jumped up and spoke sharply to him. I laid him down with a shake, saying, 'Go to sleep now you little tease.' He put up a grieved lip, and sobbed as I swung him. It was about the time of his afternoon nap, and he was asleep in a few minutes. Then I tried my embroidery again, but it was no use, I could not get the right stitch without some help from Mary. Then a thought came across my mind why could I not just run down there? Baby would surely sleep for an hour, and I could easily be back in that time. So I tied him in very carefully-he gave another little sob as I kissed him. In ten minutes more I was running in at Mrs. Hathaway's gate.

"I had been going toward the north, so I did not notice that a black, curiously shaped cloud, which lay low in the south as I left home, was rising very fast. Mrs. Hathaway told me Mary was out in an arbor back of the house, so I ran out there, and for a little while we were so deep in the embroidery that I forgot to notice how dark it was getting. Then there was a flash of lightning oh, how white and terrible that lightning was! It came all about us; we seemed wrapped up in it; and such a burst of thunder as I never heard before or since. As soon as we could move we flew into the house. I was wild with fright as I saw the awful blackness in the sky. Great drops of rain began to fall, and peal after peal of thunder came. As I snatched my bonnet and rushed to the door, Mary seized my arm and held me back. She cried, ` You must not go; indeed you shall not go out in such a storm.' I think they almost meant to keep me by force; but I screamed out, `I must go! I will! I will!' and I broke away from them, and rushed out into that blinding storm. I could' nt think of anything except the poor baby I had left all alone. There was no one there to take care of him, no one knew where he was, and in the noise of the storm nobody could hear him scream.

"The rain poured down in sheets by the time I reached Mrs. Hathaway's gate. It seemed almost to beat me down to the ground, and the water was over my shoes in half a minute. The lightning seemed like one long flash, and the thunder never stopped. I staggered on, and floundered on, and slipped down and got up again, all the time just saying to myself, 'The baby! the baby! if I could only reach him and find him alive!' Then it seemed as if night came down all at once. It got dark in one minute, and I heard a horrible roaring sound behind me louder than all the thunder. I heard a long, rattling crash, and then another. It was Mrs. Hathaway's house and barn going to pieces, but I didn't know it then. I heard people scream; I heard all sorts of things whizzing about me, but it was too dark to see much. Things came striking against me, and soon a heavy thing came banging against me on one side, and just as I was falling down, something seemed to pick me up, and I was whirled and twisted round and round, till I did' nt know anything more.

"When I opened my eyes the rain was falling on my face. It was lighter, and I saw boards and timbers and trees and branches and bushes, lying all about me. I was in a field not far from home. I felt dizzy and didn't remember anything at first, and then I thought of little Harry, and sprang up to run to him. But, oh, how sick and sore I felt! When I tried to lift a heavy branch which was lying partly over me, I could raise only one of my arms. But my feet were all right, and I ran as fast as I could toward home. I saw my father in the road in front of the house, looking up and down, with a white, frightened face. He hurried toward me. 'Where have you been, child?' he said, `I must go to see if anything has happened to your mother, but I could not go till I knew you and Harry were safe why, dear, you are hurt!' But I ran past him crying, 'The baby, father, he's in the hammock come quick!' When we got around to the grove I screamed at what I saw. The trees lay about as if a scythe had mown them down. I hardly knew the place, or where to look for Harry.

" One of the trees that the hammock was tied to was lying exactly where I had left my little brother. Another tree was blown right across it. Father did not stop to look, but called the hired men, and they brought axes and saws. I stooped down and listened, though I felt sure the dear little one must be dead. But I heard a sad little sob, as if he had cried till he was worn out. I was so glad, I got up and danced. But father shook his head and said, `He's alive, but how do we know how he may be hurt.' They chopped away at the branches, while I held my breath, oh, how long, long it seemed to wait! I crouched down and crept as near the baby as I could. I called to him and he gave a pitiful little cry; he expected me to take him at once, and I was glad he got angry because he had to wait. He tried to free himself from the ham-mock, and I began to hope he might not be much hurt.

" At last a great branch was taken away, and I got closer to him, I called father, and we looked under, and I 'heard him say, 'Thank God!'

"There the little darling was, in a kind of little bower made by two big branches which came down on each side of him. They had saved him when the other tree fell. His forehead was scratched deeply, but nothing else ailed him. Father reached in and cut away the hammock with his knife, and drew him out with hands that shook as if he had an ague fit. The little fellow held out his arms to me, but as I tried to take him my strength all seemed to go away. I grew dizzy and fell down. Bridget took the child, and father carried me in and laid me on a bed. Then he and Bridget tried to get us into dry clothes. But I cried out every time they touched me, till father was nearly at his wit's end. I called aloud for mother; I knew she would not hurt me so. `I will go now and see where she is, dear,' father said at last, wiping his forehead. 'The good Lord only knows where she may be and the little ones. I'll bring some one to help you, poor child.' The sun was shining brightly again by this time, but as I lay there, with a great deal of pain in my arm and head, I seemed to feel that black storm coming after me yet. The roar, roar, roar, kept on in my head, and the bed was whirling up in the clouds with me, and Mary Hathaway was holding me, while some one pelted me with the stars; and mother said, " Oh, my poor darling look at her head!"

"Then the moon peeped at me, and said, `Her arm is broken in two places.' It was the doctor said this, and mother had really come to me. After that I seemed to be climbing and climbing through trees oh, so long ! I kept on for years, always hunting for little Harry, hearing him cry for me, and never able to reach him. But at last I saw a light I had been in the dark all the time and I struggled toward it and looked out. Mother was there, but not Harry. ' Where is he?' I cried. 'Who, dear?' she said. 'Why, the baby-little Harry,' I said. 'I was almost up to him.' 'Here he is.' She lifted him up to me, and I tried to take him, but I could not raise myself, and was glad to find that I was in my own bed. I went off into a long sleep, and when I awoke I didn't want anything except to lie quiet and know mother was caring for me, and that Harry sometimes came toddling into my room, for he had learned to walk during the long weeks I had been sick.

"Well, this is about all there is of it. My arm was a long time getting well, and will always be crooked like this. The doctor said it would have got entirely well if it had not been for the fever.

"But, dear me, how much thinking I did when my head got clear enough to think! When I was out in the storm all I had ever heard about the wrath of God on the children of disobedience seemed to come back to me. How I was punished! If I had been faithful to my duty I should have been safe at home when the storm came. I shall always feel as if I knew something of that awful wrath, for wasn't I taken up in God's terrible hand?

"When I was getting well, I began to wonder why Mary Hathaway never came to see me. Mother put off telling me as long as she could that she and a younger sister had been killed in a moment by the falling of their house, and that Mrs. Hathaway was crippled for life. None of us had been hurt but me. Mother had got beyond the track of the worst part of the storm, but her horse was killed by the lightning. Father lost his barns, most of his stock, and nearly all his crops.

"That's the story of the terrible tornado. Its path was not more than half a mile wide, and it was over in less than half an hour. Mother says I grew five years older on that day, and I think she is right."

( Originally Published 1887 )

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Out In The Storm

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Rest At Last

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