Read CHAPTER XXXIX of The Young Surveyor / Jack on the Prairies, free online book, by J. T. Trowbridge, on ReadCentral.com.

FOLLOWING UP THE MYSTERY.

In the course of the day Mr. Betterson and Rufe visited the supposed scene of Rad’s disaster, and there met by chance Jack and his friend Forrest Felton, who for a similar object had driven up from North Mills.

The river had gone down almost as rapidly as it had risen, and fording it now by daylight was no such difficult matter. But there still were the timbers and tree-tops amidst which the vehicles had passed the night before.

Jack showed marks on one of his wheels where the spokes had been sharply raked, and told how, examining Snowfoot by daylight, he had found muddy splashes on his flank, as if he had been struck there by a bough or branch drenched in turbid water.

“I think,” said he, “that as Rad was getting the buggy clear, the limb of a tree turned over and hit the horse. That started him, and away he went. I don’t believe Rad is drowned.”

Search was made among the rubbish at the bridge, and for some distance down the river; but no traces of Rad were discovered.

“Maybe he has gone home by water,” was Rufe’s rather too playful way of saying that the drowned body might have floated down stream.

“If he got out alive,” said Jack’s friend Felton, “he must have found his way to some house near by, in quest of pantaloons.” And the party now proceeded to make inquiries at the scattered huts of the Dutch or rather German settlers along the edge of the timber.

At the first two doors where they stopped they found only women and children, who could speak no English. But at the next house they saw a girl, who eagerly answered “Yah! yah!” to their questions, and ran and called a man working at the back door.

He was a short, thick-set man, with a big russet beard and serious blue eyes.

“Goot morgin,” he said, coming to the road to greet the strangers. “Der been some vind dis vay, you see some? vas las’ ebening.”

The strangers acknowledged that they had experienced some effects of the wind the night before, and repeated their questions regarding Radcliff.

“Young man, no priches, yah! yah!” replied Meinheer. “He come ’long here, vas ’pout nine hours, may pe some more.”

“A little after nine o’clock last night?” suggested Jack.

“Yah, yah! I vas bed shleepin’, somebody knock so loud, I git some candle light, and make de door open, and der vas some young feller, his face sick, his clo’es all so vet but his priches, his priches vas not vet, for he has no priches, only some shoes.”

“Where did he come from?”

“He say he come from up stream; he pass de pridge over, and der vas no pridge; and he dhrive ’cross de vaser, and he cannot dhrive ’cross; so he git out, only his priches not git out, for de vaser vas vet, and his priches keeps in de vagón, vile he keeps in de vaser; he make some lift on some logs, and someding make de hoss fright, and de hoss jump and jerk de vagón, and de vagón jerk someding vat jerk him; and de priches rides off, and he shtop in de vaser, and dhink some, and git sick, and he say de log in his shtomach and so much vaser was pad, and I mus’ give him some dhink viskey and some dry priches, and I gives ’em.”

“A pair of your breeches?” cried Rufe, eying the baggy proportions of Meinheer’s nether garments.

“I have no oder; I fetch ’em from faderland; and I gives him some. He stick his legs in, and some of his legs come too much under; de priches vas some too vide, and some not long genoof. He dhink more viskey, and feel goot, and say he find his team and bring back my priches to-morrow, and it is to-morrow yet, and he not come.”

Even the grave uncle of the luckless nephew had to laugh as he thought of the slim legs pursuing their travels in the short but enormous “priches” fetched from fatherland.

“How much were your breeches worth?” Lord said, taking out some money.

“I don’t know I don’t keeps priches to sell; may pe vun tollar.”

Betterson gave the German a dollar, saying,

“Allow me to pay for them; for, if I mistake not, you will never see the young man or your breeches again.”

He was quite right: the German never did.

Neither it may as well be said here did Radcliff’s own relatives see him again for many years. What various adventures were his can only be surmised, until one of the “Philadelphia partners,” settling up his accounts with the world, left him a legacy of six thousand dollars, when he once more bloomed out as a fine gentleman, and favored his Western friends with a visit.

He ran through his little fortune in a few months, and once more disappeared from view, to turn up again, five or six years later (when Jack and Vinnie saw him for the last time), as a runner for one of the great Chicago hotels.