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assert itself; but it cannot be developed to its full extent without complete knowledge of the mechanical processes needed to create the desired impression, and mechanical-or, if the word be displeasing, executive-excellence can be reached by practice, and by practice only. The only real school of acting is the stage, and in this, as in every other school, the student must begin at the bottom and work his way up. Mr. Gilbert is a past-master of his art, who uses, with unerring precision, all the resources acquired in half a century of intelligent observation and laborious application. His skill is so complete that everything he does has
the effect of intuition; but neither he nor any other expert in acting equal to him can impart the faculty which he possesses. He can tell how he does it, but that will not enable anybody else to do it off-hand in the same way. There was a glimmer of this truth in the mind of Mr. Squeers when he sent his students in practical philosophy to clean his windows. It will be a blessed day for the theater when the agile dolls who masquerade nowadays as comedians begin to comprehend that mimicry is not acting, and that, if it were, they would be inferior in this respect to many of the anthropoid apes. J. Ranken Towse.
A SEQUEL TO "THE CASTING AWAY OF MRS. LECKS AND MRS. ALESHINE."
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON,
Author of "Rudder Grange," "The Lady, or the Tiger?" etc.
FTER a second night spent in the stage-coach on that lonely and desolate mountain road where we were now snow-bound, I arose early in the morning and went into the forest to collect some fuel; and while thus engaged I made the discovery.that the snow was covered with a hard crust which would bear my weight. After the storm had ceased the day before, the sun had shone brightly and the temperature had moderated very much, so that the surface of the snow had slightly thawed. During the night it became cold again, and this surface froze into a hard coating of ice. When I found I could walk where I pleased, my spirits rose, and I immediately set out to view the situation. The aspect of the road gave me no encouragement. The snow-fall had been a heavy one, but had it not been for the high wind which accompanied it, it would have thrown but moderate difficulties in the way of our rescuers. Reaching a point which commanded a considerable view along the side of the mountain, I could see that in many places the road was completely lost to sight on account of the great snow-drifts piled up on it. I then walked to the point where the two roads met, and crossing over, I climbed a slight rise in the ground which had cut off my view in this direction, and found myself in a position from which I could look directly down the side of the mountain below the road. Here the mountain-side, which I had supposed to be very steep and rugged, descended in a long and gradual slope to the plains below, and for the greater part of the distance was covered by a smooth shining surface of frozen snow, unbroken by rock or tree. This snowy slope apparently extended for a mile or more, and then I could see that it gradually blended itself into the greenish-brown turf of the lower country. Down there in the valley there still were leaves upon the trees, and
there were patches of verdure over the land. The storm which had piled its snows up here had given them rain down there and had freshened everything. It was like looking down into another climate, and on another land. I saw a little smoke coming up behind a patch of trees. It must be that there was a house there! Could it be possible that we were within a mile or two of a human habitation? Yet, what comfort was there in that thought? The people in that house could not get to us nor we to them, nor could they have heard of our situation, for the point where our road reached the lower country was miles farther on.
As I stood thus and gazed, it seemed to me that I could make a run and slide down the mountain-side into green fields, into safety, into life. I remembered those savage warriors who, looking from the summits of the Alps upon the fertile plains of Italy, seated themselves upon their shields and slid down to conquest and rich spoils.
An idea came into my mind, and I gave it glad welcome. There was no time to be lost. The sun was not yet high, but it was mounting in a clear sky, and should its rays become warm enough to melt the crust on which I stood, our last chance of escape would be gone. To plow our way to any place, through deep, soft snow, would be impossible. I hurried back to our coach, and found three very grave women standing around the fire. They were looking at a small quantity of food at the bottom of a large basket.
"That's every crumb there is left," said Mrs. Aleshine to me, "and when we pass in some to them unfortunates on the other side of the drift, which, of course, we 're bound to do, we 'll have what I call a skimpy meal. And that's not the worst of it. Until somebody gets up to us, it will be our last meal."
I took my poor Ruth by the hand, for she was looking very pale and troubled, and I said: "My dear friends, nobody can get up to this place for a long, long time; and before help could possibly reach us we should all be Copyright, 1887, by Frank R. Stockton. All rights reserved.
dead. But do not be frightened. It is not necessary to wait for any one to come to us. The snow is now covered with a crust which will bear our weight. I have thought of a way in which we can slide down the mountain-side, which, from a spot where I have been standing this morning, is no steeper than some coasting hills, though very much longer. In a few minutes we can pass from this region of snow, where death from cold and starvation must soon overtake us, to a green valley where there is no snow, and where we shall be within walking distance of a house in which people are living."
Ruth grasped my arm. she exclaimed.
"Will it be safe?"
"I think so," I answered. "I see no reason why we should meet with any accident. At any rate, it is much safer than remaining here for another hour; for if the crust melts, our last chance is gone."
"Mr. Craig," said Mrs. Lecks, "me and Mrs. Aleshine is no hands at coastin' down-hill, havin' given up that sort of thing since we was little girls with short frocks and it did n't make no matter any way. But you know more about these things than we do; and if you say we can get out of this dreadful place by slidin' downhill, we 're ready to follow, if you'll just go ahead. We followed you through the ocean with nothin' between our feet and the bottom but miles o' water and nobody knows what sorts of dreadful fish, and when you say it's the right way to save our lives, we 're ready to follow you again. And as for you, Mrs. Ruth, don't you be frightened. I don't know what we 're goin' to slide on, but, whatever it is, even if it's our own selves, me and Mrs. Aleshine will take you between us, and if anything is run against, we 'll get the bumps, and not you." I was delighted to see how readily my proposition was accepted, and we made a hasty breakfast, first sending in some of our food to the other party. The gentleman reported through the hole of communication that they were all fairly well, but a good deal stiffened by cold and want of exercise. He inquired, in a very anxious voice, if I had discovered any signs of approaching relief. To this I replied that I had devised a plan by which we could get ourselves out of our present dangerous situation, and that in a very short time I would come around to the door of his shed - for I could now walk on the crusted snow- and tell him about it. He replied that these words cheered his heart, and that he would do everything possible to coöperate with me.
I now went to work vigorously. I took the cushions from the coach, four of them altogether, and carried them to the brink of the slope down which I purposed to make our de
scent. I also conveyed thither a long coil of rawhide rope which I had previously discovered in the boot of the coach. I then hurried along the other road, which, as has been said before, lay at a somewhat lower level than the one we were on, and when I reached the shed I found the door had been opened, and the gentleman, with his tin pan, had scooped away a good deal of the snow about it, so as to admit of a moderately easy passage in and out. He met me outside, and grasped my hand.
"Sir, if you have a plan to propose," he said, "state it quickly. We are in a position of great danger. Those two ladies inside the shed cannot much longer endure this exposure, and I presume that the ladies in your party — although their voices, which I occasionally hear, do not seem to indicate itmust be in a like condition."
I replied that, so far, my companions had borne up very well, and without further waste of words proceeded to unfold my plan of escape.
When he had heard it the gentleman put on a very serious expression. "It seems hazardous," he said, "but it may be the only way out of our danger. Will you show me the point from which you took your observations?"
"Yes," said I, "but we must be in haste. The sun is getting up in the sky, and this crust may soon begin to melt. It is not yet really winter, you know."
We stepped quickly to the spot where I had carried the cushions. The gentleman stood and silently gazed, first at the blocked-up roadway, then at the long, smooth slope of the mountain-side directly beneath us, and then at the verdure of the plain below, which had grown greener under the increasing brightness of day. "Sir," said he, turning to me, "there is nothing to be done but to adopt your plan, or to remain here and die. We will accompany you in the descent, and I place myself under your orders."
"The first thing," said I, "is to bring here your carriage cushions, and help me to arrange them."
When he had brought the three cushions from the shed, the gentleman and I proceeded to place them with the others on the snow, so that the whole formed a sort of wide and nearly square mattress. Then, with the rawhide rope, we bound them together in a rough but secure net-work of cordage. In this part of the work I found my companion very apt and skillful.
When this rude mattress was completed I requested the gentleman to bring his ladies to the place while I went for mine.
"What are we to pack up to take with us?" said Mrs. Aleshine, when I reached our coach.
"We take nothing at all," said I, "but the money in our pockets and our rugs and wraps. Everything else must be left in the coach, to be brought down to us when the roads shall be cleared out."
With our rugs and shawls on our arms we left the coach, and as we were crossing the other road we saw the gentleman and his companions approaching. These ladies were very much wrapped up, but one of them seemed to step along lightly and without difficulty, while the other moved slowly and was at times assisted by the gentleman.
A breeze had sprung up which filled the air with fine frozen particles blown from the uncrusted beds of snow along the edge of the forest, and I counseled Ruth to cover up her mouth and breathe as little of this snow powder as possible.
"If I'm to go coastin' at all," said Mrs. Aleshine, "I'd as lief do it with strangers as friends; and a little liefer, for that matter, if there's any bones to be broken. But I must say that I'd like to make the acquaintance of them ladies afore I git on to the sled, which" - at that moment catching sight of the mattress" you don't mean to say that that 's it ?"
"Barb'ry Aleshine," said Mrs. Lecks from underneath her great woolen comforter, "if you want to get your lungs friz, you'd better go on talkin'. Manners is manners, but they can wait till we get to the bottom of the hill."
Notwithstanding this admonition, I noticed that as soon as the two parties met, both Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine advanced and shook hands with the ladies who had been their neighbors under such peculiar circumstances, and that Mrs. Lecks herself expressed a muffled hope that they might all get down safely. I now pushed the mattress which was to serve as our sled as close as was prudent to the edge of the descent, and requested the party to seat themselves upon it. Without hesitation Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine sat down, taking Ruth between them, as they had promised to do. My young wife was very nervous, but the cool demeanor of her companions, and my evident belief in the practicability of the plan, gave her courage, and she quietly took her seat. The younger of the two strange ladies stepped lightly on the cushions, and before seating herself stood up for a good look at the far-extending bed of snow over which we were to take our way. The prospect did not appear to deter her, and she sat down promptly and with an air that seemed to say that she anticipated a certain enjoyment from the adventure. The elder lady, however, exhibited very different
emotions. She shrank back from the cushions towards which the gentleman was conducting her, and turned her face away from the declivity. Her companion assured her that it was absolutely necessary that we should descend from the mountain in this way, for there was no other; and asserting his belief that our slide would be a perfectly safe one, he gently drew her to the mattress and induced her to sit down.
I now, for the first time, noticed that the gentleman carried under one arm, and covered by his long cloak, a large package of some sort, and I immediately said to him: "It will be very imprudent for us to attempt to carry any of our property except what we can put in our pockets or wrap around us. Everything else should be left here, either in your carriage or our coach, and I have no fear that anything will be lost. But even if our luggage were in danger of being molested if left here, we cannot afford to consider it under circumstances such as these."
"My dear sir," said the gentleman, speaking very gravely, "I appreciate the hazards of our position as keenly as yourself. Our valises, and all the light luggage which we had with us in our carriage, I have left there, and shall not give them another thought. But with the parcel I hold under this arm I cannot part, and if I go down the mountainside on these cushions, it must go with me. If you refuse in such a case to allow me to be one of your party, I must remain behind, and endeavor to find a board or something on which I can make the descent of the mountain."
He spoke courteously but with an air of decision which showed me that it would be of no use to argue with him. Besides, there was no time for parleying; and if this gentleman chose to take his chances with but one arm at liberty, it was no longer my affair. I therefore desired him to sit down, and I arranged the company so that they sat back to back, their feet drawn up to the edge of the mattress. I then took the place which had been reserved for me as steersman, and having tied several shawls together, end to end, I passed them around the whole of us under our arms, thus binding us all firmly together. I felt that one of our greatest dangers would be that one or more of the party might slip from the mattress during the descent.
When all was ready I asked the gentleman, who, with the elder lady, sat near me, at the back of the mattress, to assist in giving us a start by pushing outward with his heels while I thrust the handle of my wooden shovel into the crust and thus pushed the mattress forward. The starting was a little difficult, but in a min
ute or two we had pushed the mattress partly over the brink, and then, after a few more efforts, we began to slide downward.
The motion, at first slow, suddenly became quite rapid, and I heard behind me a cry or exclamation, from whom I knew not, but I felt quite sure it did not come from any of our party. I hoped to be able to make some use of my shovel in the guidance of our unwieldy raft or mattress-sled, but I soon found this impossible, and down we went over the smooth, hard-frozen slope, with nothing to direct our course but the varying undulations of the mountain-side. Every moment we seemed to go faster and faster, and soon we began to revolve, so that sometimes I was in front and sometimes behind. Once, when passing over a very smooth sheet of snow, we fairly spun around, so that in every direction feet were flying out from a common center and heels grating on the frozen crust. But there were no more cries or exclamations. Each one of us grasped the cordage which held the cushions together, and the rapidity of the motion forced us almost to hold our breath.
Down the smooth, white slope we sped as a bird skims through the air. It seemed to me as if we passed over miles and miles of snow. Sometimes my face was turned down the mountain where the snow surface seemed to stretch out illimitably, and then it was turned upward towards the apparently illimitable slopes over which we had passed.
Presently, my position now being in front of the little group that glanced along its glittering way, I saw at some distance below me a long rise or terrace which ran along the mountain-side for a considerable distance, and which cut off our view of everything below us. As we approached this hillock the descent became much more gradual and our progress slower, and at last I began to fear that our acquired velocity would not be sufficient to carry us up the side of this elevation, and so enable us to continue our descent. I therefore called to everybody in the rear to kick out vigorously, and with my shovel I endeavored to assist our progress. As we approached the summit of the elevation, we moved slower and slower. I became very anxious, for, should we slide backward, we might find it difficult or impossible to get ourselves and the mattress up this little hill. But the gentleman and myself worked valiantly, and as for Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, they kicked their heels through the frozen crust with such energy that we moved sidewise almost as much as upward. But in a moment the anxious suspense was over, and we rested on the ridge of the long hillock with the mountain-side stretching down to the plain, which lay not very far below us.
I should have been glad to remain here a few minutes to regain breath, and to give some consideration to the rest of our descent, but some of those behind continued to push-the mattress slid over the edge of the terrace, and down again we went. Our progress now was not so rapid, but it was very much more unpleasant. The snow was thinner; there was little or no crust upon it, and we very soon reached a wide extent of exposed turf over which we slid, but not without a good deal of bumping against stones and protuberances. Then there was another sheet of snow, which quickened our downward impetus; and, after that, the snow was seen only in occasional patches, and our progress continued over a long slope of short, partly dried grass, which was very slippery, and over which we passed with considerable quickness.
I wished now to bring our uncouth sled to a stop, and to endeavor to make the rest of the descent on foot. But although I stuck out my heels and tried to thrust the handle of my shovel into the ground, it was of no use. On we went, and the inequalities of the surface gave an irregularity of motion which was uncomfortable and alarming. We turned to this side and that, we bounced and bumped, and the rawhide ropes, which must have been greatly frayed and cut by the snow crust, now gave way in several places, and I knew that the mattress would soon separate into its original cushions, if indeed they still could be called cushions. Fearing increased danger should we now continue bound together in a bunch, I jerked apart the shawl knot under my arms, and the next moment, it seemed to me, there was a general dissolution of our connection with each other, Fortunately, we were now near the bottom of the slope, for while some of us stuck fast to the cushions, others rolled over, or slid, independent of any protection; while I, being thrown forward on my feet, actually ran down-hill! I had just succeeded in stopping myself, when down upon me came the rest of the company, all prostrate in some position or other.
And now from an unwieldy mass of shawls came a cry:
"O Albert Dusante! Where are you? Lucille! Lucille!"
Instantly sprang to one foot good Mrs. Aleshine, her other foot being entangled in a mass of shawls which dragged behind her. Her bonnet was split open and mashed down over her eyes. In her left hand she waved a piece of yellow flannel, which in her last mad descent she had torn from some part of the person of Mrs. Lecks, and in the other a bunch of stout dead weeds, which she had seized and pulled up by the roots as she had