NATURE IN TRAVAIL.





"I say, professor?"



"Very well, Waldo; proceed."



"Wonder if this isn't a portion of the glorious climate, broken

loose from its native California, and drifting up this way on a

lark?"



"If so, said lark must be roasted to a turn," declared the third

(and last) member of that little party, drawing a curved

forefinger across his forehead, then flirting aside sundry drops

of moisture. "I can't recall such another muggy afternoon, and

if we were only back in what the scientists term the cyclone

belt--"



"We would be all at sea," quickly interposed the professor, the

fingers of one hand vigorously stirring his gray pompadour, while

the other was lifted in a deprecatory manner. "At sea, literally

as well as metaphorically, my dear Bruno; for, correctly

speaking, the ocean alone can give birth to the cyclone."



"Why can't you remember anything, boy?" sternly cut in the

roguish-eyed youngster, with admonitory forefinger, coming to the

front. "How many times have I told you never to say blue when

you mean green? Why don't you say Kansas zephyr? Or

windy-auger? Or twister? Or whirly-gust on a corkscrew

wiggle-waggle? Or--well, almost any other old thing that you

can't think of at the right time? W-h-e-w! Who mentioned

sitting on a snowdrift, and sucking at an icicle? Hot? Well,

now, if this isn't a genuine old cyclone breeder, then I wouldn't

ask a cent!"



Waldo Gillespie let his feet slip from beneath him, sitting down

with greater force than grace, back supported against a gnarled

juniper, loosening the clothes at his neck while using his other

hand to ply his crumpled hat as a fan.



Bruno laughed outright at this characteristic anticlimax, while

Professor Featherwit was obliged to smile, even while compelled

to correct.



"Tornado, please, nephew; not cyclone."



"Well, uncle Phaeton, have it your own way. Under either name, I

fancy the thing-a-ma-jig would kick up a high old bobbery with a

man's political economy should it chance to go bu'st right there!



And, besides, when I was a weenty little fellow I was taught

never to call a man a fool or a liar--"



"Waldo!" sharply warned his brother, turning again.



"So long as I knew myself to be in the wrong," coolly finished

the youngster, face grave, but eyes twinkling, as they turned

towards his mistaken mentor. "What is it, my dear Bruno?"



"There is one thing neither cyclone nor tornado could ever

deprive you of, Kid, and that is--"



"My beauty, wit, and good sense,--thanks, awfully! Nor you, my

dear Bruno, although my inbred politeness forbids my explaining

just why."



There was a queer-sounding chuckle as Professor Featherwit turned

away, busying himself about that rude-built shed and shanty which

sheltered the pride of his brain and the pet of his heart, while

Bruno smiled indulgently as he took a few steps away from those

stunted trees in order to gain a fairer view of the stormy

heavens.



Far away towards the northeast, rising above the distant hill,

now showed an ugly-looking cloud-bank which almost certainly

portended a storm of no ordinary dimensions.



Had it first appeared in the opposite quarter of the horizon,

Bruno would have felt a stronger interest in the clouds, knowing

as he did that the miscalled "cyclone" almost invariably finds

birth in the southwest. Then, too, nearly all the other symptoms

were noticeable,--the close, "muggy" atmosphere; the deathlike

stillness; the lack of oxygen in the air, causing one to breathe

more rapidly, yet with far less satisfying results than usual.



Even as Bruno gazed, those heavy cloud-banks changed, both in

shape and in colour, taking on a peculiar greenish lustre which

only too accurately forebodes hail of no ordinary force.



His cry to this effect brought the professor forth from the

shed-like shanty, while Waldo roused up sufficiently to speak:



"To say nothing of yonder formation way out over the salty drink,

my worthy friends, who intimated that a cyclone was born at sea?"



Professor Featherwit frowned a bit as his keen little rat-like

eyes turned towards that quarter of the heavens; but the frown

was not for Waldo, nor for his slightly irreverent speech.



Where but a few minutes before there had been only a few light

clouds in sight, was now a heavy bank of remarkable shape, its

crest a straight line as though marked by an enormous ruler,

while the lower edge was broken into sharp points and irregular

sections, the whole seeming to float upon a low sea of grayish

copper.



"Well, well, that looks ugly, decidedly ugly, I must confess,"

the wiry little professor spoke, after that keen scrutiny.



"Really, now?" drawled Waldo, who was nothing if not contrary on

the surface. "Barring a certain little topsy-turvyness which is

something out of the ordinary, I'd call that a charming bit

of--Great guns and little cannon-balls!"



For just then there came a shrieking blast of wind from out the

northeast, bringing upon its wings a brief shower of hail,

intermingled with great drops of rain which pelted all things

with scarcely less force than did those frozen particles.



"Hurrah!" shrilly screamed Waldo, as he dashed out into the

storm, fairly revelling in the sudden change. "Who says this

isn't 'way up in G?' Who says--out of the way, Bruno! Shut that

trap-door in your face, so another fellow may get at least a

share of the good things coming straight down from--ow--wow!"



Through the now driving rain came flashing larger particles, and

one of more than ordinary size rebounded from that curly pate,

sending its owner hurriedly to shelter beneath the scrubby trees,

one hand ruefully rubbing the injured part.



Faster fell the drops, both of rain and of ice, clattering

against the shanty and its adjoining shed with an uproar audible

even above the sullenly rolling peals of heavy thunder.



The rain descended in perfect sheets for a few minutes, while the

hailstones fell thicker and faster, growing in size as the storm

raged, already beginning to lend those red sands a pearly tinge

with their dancing particles. Now and then an aerial monster

would fall, to draw a wondering cry from the brothers, and on

more than one occasion Waldo risked a cracked crown by dashing

forth from shelter to snatch up a remarkable specimen.



"Talk about your California fruit! what's the matter with good

old Washington Territory?" he cried, tightly clenching one fist

and holding a hailstone alongside by way of comparison. "Look at

that, will you? Isn't it a beauty? See the different shaded

rings of white and clear ice. See--brother, it is as large as my

fist!"



But for once Professor Phaeton Featherwit was fairly deaf to the

claims of this, in some respects his favourite nephew, having

scuttled back beneath the shed, where he was busily stowing away

sundry articles of importance into a queerly shaped machine which

those rough planks fairly shielded from the driving storm.



Having performed this duty to his own satisfaction, the professor

came back to where the brothers were standing, viewing with them

such of the storm as could be itemised. That was but little,

thanks to the driving rain, which cut one's vision short at but a

few rods, while the deafening peals of thunder prevented any

connected conversation during those first few minutes.



"Good thing we've got a shelter!" cried Waldo, involuntarily

shrinking as the plank roof was hammered by several mammoth

stones of ice. "One of those chunks of ice would crack a

fellow's skull just as easy!"



Yet the next instant he was out in the driving storm, eagerly

snatching at a brace of those frozen marvels, heedless of his own

risk or of the warning shouts sent after him by those

cooler-brained comrades.



Thunder crashed in wildest unison with almost blinding sheets of

lightning, the rain and hail falling thicker and heavier than

ever for a few moments; but then, as suddenly as it had come, the

storm passed on, leaving but a few scattered drops to fetch up

the rear.



"Isn't that pretty nearly what people call a cloudburst, uncle

Phaeton?" asked Bruno, curiously watching that receding mass of

what from their present standpoint looked like vapour.



"Those wholly ignorant of meteorological phenomena might so

pronounce, perhaps, but never one who has given the matter either

thought or study," promptly responded the professor, in no wise

loth to give a free lecture, no matter how brief it might be,

perforce. "It is merely nature seeking to restore a disturbed

equilibrium; a current of colder air, in search of a temporary

vacuum, caused by--"



"But isn't that just what produces cy--tornadoes, though?"

interrupted Waldo, with scant politeness.



"Precisely, my dear boy," blandly agreed their mentor, rubbing

his hands briskly, while peering through rain-dampened glasses,

after that departing storm. "And I have scarcely a doubt but

that a tornado of no ordinary magnitude will be the final outcome

of this remarkable display. For, as the record will amply prove,

the most destructive windstorms are invariably heralded by a fall

of hail, heavy in proportion to the--"



"Then I'd rather be excused, thank you, sir!" again interrupted

the younger of the brothers, shrugging his shoulders as he

stepped forth from shelter to win a fairer view of the space

stretching away towards the south and the west. "I always

laughed at tales of hailstones large as hen's eggs, but now I

know better. If I was a hen, and had to match such a pattern as

these, I'd petition the legislature to change my name to that of

ostrich,--I just would, now!"



Bruno proved to be a little more amenable to the law of

politeness, and to him Professor Featherwit confined his sapient

remarks for the time being, giving no slight amount of valuable

information anent these strange phenomena of nature in travail.



He spoke of the different varieties of land-storms, showing how a

tornado varied from a hurricane or a gale, then again brought to

the front the vital difference between a cyclone, as such, and

the miscalled "twister," which has wrought such dire destruction

throughout a large portion of our own land during more recent

years.



While that little lecture would make interesting reading for

those who take an interest in such matters, it need scarcely be

reproduced in this connection, more particularly as, just when

the professor was getting fairly warmed up to his work, an

interruption came in the shape of a sharp, eager shout from the

lips of Waldo Gillespie.



"Look--look yonder! What a funny looking cloud that is!"



A small clump of trees growing upon a rising bit of ground

interfered with the view of his brother and uncle, for Waldo was

pointing almost due southeast; yet his excitement was so

pronounced that both the professor and Bruno hastened in that

direction, stopping short as they caught a fair sight of the

object indicated.



A mighty mass of wildly disturbed clouds, black and green and

white and yellow all blending together and constantly shifting

positions, out of which was suddenly formed a still more ominous

shape.



A mass of lurid vapour shot downwards, taking on the general

semblance of a balloon, as it swayed madly back and forth, an

elongating trunk or tongue reaching still nearer the earth, with

fierce gyrations, as though seeking to fasten upon some support.



Not one of that trio had ever before gazed upon just such another

creation, yet one and all recognised the truth,--this was a

veritable tornado, just such as they had read in awed wonder

about, time and time again.



Neither one of the brothers Gillespie were cravens, in any sense

of the word, but now their cheeks grew paler, and they seemed to

shrink from yonder airy monster, even while watching it grow into

shape and awful power.



Professor Featherwit was no less absorbed in this wondrous

spectacle, but his was the interest of a scientist, and his pulse

beat as ordinary, his brain remaining as clear and calm as ever.



"I hardly believe we have anything to fear from this tornado, my

lads," he said, taking note of their uneasiness. "According to

both rule and precedent, yonder tornado will pass to the east of

our present position, and we will be as safe right here as though

we were a thousand miles away."



"But,--do they always move towards the northeast, uncle Phaeton?"



"As a rule, yes; but there are exceptions, of course. And unless

this should prove to be one of those rare ex--er--"



"Look!" cried Waldo, with swift gesticulation. "It's coming this

way, or I never--ISN'T it coming this way?"



"Unless this should prove to be one of those rare exceptions, my

dear boy, I can promise you that--Upon my soul!" with an abrupt

change of both tone and manner, "I really believe it IS coming

this way!"



"It is--it is coming! Get a move on, or we'll never know--hunt a

hole and pull it in after you!" fairly screamed Waldo, turning in

flight.





NATHAN REPROVING THE KING. NEW ORLEANS, LA. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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