In that fragrant deep of leaves one might lie undiscovered a long time. He could hear roaring like that of water at every move of the finder, wallowing nearer and nearer possibly, in his search. Old Fred came generally rooting his way to us in the deep drift with unerring accuracy.
And shortly winter came out of the north and, of a night, after rapping at the windows and howling in the chimney and roaring in the big woods, took possession of the earth. That was a time when hard cider flowed freely and recollection found a ready tongue among the older folk, and the young enjoyed many diversions, including measles and whooping cough.
I had a lot of fun that first winter, but none that I can remember more gratefully than our trip in the sledgehouse—a tight little house fitted and fastened to a big sledge. Uncle Eb had to go to mill at Hillsborough, some twelve miles away, and Hope and I, after much coaxing and many family counsels, got leave to go with him. The sky was cloudless, and the frosty air was all aglow in the sunlight that morning we started. There was a little sheet iron stove in one corner of the sledgehouse, walled in with zinc and anchored with wires; a layer of hay covered the floor and over that we spread our furs and blankets. The house had an open front, and Uncle Eb sat on the doorstep, as it were, to drive, while we sat behind him on the blankets.
'I love you very much,' said Hope, embracing me, after we were seated. Her affection embarrassed me, I remember. It seemed unmanly to be petted like a doll.
'I hate to be kissed,' I said, pulling away from her, at which Uncle Eb laughed heartily.
The day came when I would have given half my life for the words I held so cheaply then.
'You'd better be good t' me,' she answered, 'for when mother dies I'm goin' t' take care o' you. Uncle Eb and Gran'ma Bisnette an' you an' everybody I love is goin' t' come an' live with me in a big, big house. An' I'm goin' t' put you t' bed nights an' hear ye say yer prayers an everything.'
'Who'll do the spankin?' Uncle Eb asked.
'My husban',' she answered, with a sigh at the thought of all the trouble that lay before her.
'An' I'll make him rub your back, too, Uncle Eb,' she added. 'Wall, I rather guess he'll object to that,' said he.
'Then you can give 'ins five cents, an' I guess he'll be glad t' do it,' she answered promptly.
'Poor man! He won't know whether he's runnin' a poorhouse er a hospital, will he?' said Uncle Eb. 'Look here, children,' he added, taking out his old leather wallet, as he held the reins between his knees. 'Here's tew shillin' apiece for ye, an' I want ye t' spend it jest eggsackly as ye please.' The last words were spoken slowly and with emphasis.
We took the two silver pieces that he handed to us and looked them all over and compared them.
'I know what I'll do,' said she, suddenly. 'I'm goin' t' buy my mother a new dress, or mebbe a beautiful ring,' she added thoughtfully.
For my own part I did not know what I should buy. I wanted a real gun most of all and my inclination oscillated between that and a red rocking horse. My mind was very busy while I sat in silence. Presently I rose and went to Uncle Eb and whispered in his ear.
'Do you think I could get a real rifle with two shilin'?' I enquired anxiously.
'No,' he answered in a low tone that seemed to respect my confidence. 'Bime by, when you're older, I'll buy ye a rifle—a real rip snorter, too, with a shiny barrel 'n a silver lock. When ye get down t, the village ye'll see lots o' things y'd rather hev, prob'ly. If I was you, children,' he added, in a louder tone, 'I wouldn't buy a thing but nuts 'n' raisins.'
'Nuts 'n' raisins!' Hope exclaimed, scornfully.
'Nuts 'n' raisins,' he repeated. 'They're cheap 'n' satisfyin'. If ye eat enough uv 'em you'll never want anything else in this world.'
I failed to see the irony in Uncle Eb's remark and the suggestion seemed to have a good deal of merit, the more I thought it over.
''T any rate,' said Uncle Eb, 'I'd git somethin' fer my own selves.'
'Well,' said Hope, 'You tell us a lot o' things we could buy.'
'Less see!' said Uncle Eb, looking very serious. 'There's bootjacks an' there's warmin' pans 'n' mustard plasters 'n' liver pads 'n' all them kind o' things.'
We both shook our heads very doubtfully.
'Then,' he added, 'there are jimmyjacks 'n' silver no nuthin's.'
There were many other suggestions but none of them were decisive.
The snow lay deep on either side of the way and there was a glimmer on every white hillside where Jack Frost had sown his diamonds. Here and there a fox track crossed the smooth level of the valley and dwindled on the distant hills like a seam in a great white robe. It grew warmer as the sun rose, and we were a jolly company behind the merry jingle of the sleigh bells. We had had a long spell of quiet weather and the road lay in two furrows worn as smooth as ice at the bottom.
'Consarn it!' said Uncle Eb looking up at the sky, after we had been on the road an hour or so. 'There's a sun dog. Wouldn't wonder if we got a snowstorm' fore night.
I was running behind the sledge and standing on the brake hooks going downhill. He made me get in when he saw the sun dog, and let our horse—a rat-tailed bay known as Old Doctor—go at a merry pace.
We were awed to silence when we came in sight of Hillsborough, with spires looming far into the sky, as it seemed to me then, and buildings that bullied me with their big bulk, so that I had no heart for the spending of the two shillings Uncle Eb had given me. Such sublimity of proportion I have never seen since; and yet it was all very small indeed. The stores had a smell about them that was like chloroform in its effect upon me; for, once in them, I fell into a kind of trance and had scarce sense enough to know my own mind. The smart clerks, who generally came and asked, 'Well, young man, what can I do for you?' I regarded with fear and suspicion. I clung the tighter to my coin always, and said nothing, although I saw many a trinket whose glitter went to my soul with a mighty fascination. We both stood staring silently at the show cases, our tongues helpless with awe and wonder. Finally, after a whispered conference, Hope asked for a 'silver no nothing', and provoked so much laughter that we both fled to the sidewalk. Uncle Eb had to do our buying for us in the end.
'Wall, what'll ye hev?' he said to me at length.
I tried to think-it was no easy thing to do after all I had seen.
'Guess I'll take a jacknife,' I whispered.
'Give this boy a knife,' he demanded. 'Wants t' be good 'n sharp. Might hev t' skin a swift with it sometime.'
'What ye want?' he asked, then turning to Hope.
'A doll,' she whispered.
'White or black?' said he.
'White,' said she, 'with dark eyes and hair.'
'Want a reel, splendid, firs'-class doll,' he said to the clerk. 'Thet one'll do, there, with the sky-blue dress 'n the pink apron.'
We were worn out with excitement when we left for home under lowering skies. We children lay side by side under the robes, the doll between us, and were soon asleep. It was growing dark when Uncle Eb woke us, and the snow was driving in at the doorway. The air was full of snow, I remember, and Old Doctor was wading to his knees in a drift. We were up in the hills and the wind whistled in our little chimney. Uncle Eb had a serious look in his face. The snow grew deeper and Old Doctor went slower every moment.
'Six mild from home,' Uncle Eb muttered, as he held up to rest a moment. 'Six mild from home. 'Fraid we're in fer a night uv it.'
We got to the top of Fadden's Hill about dark, and the snow lay so deep in the cut we all got out for fear the house would tip over. Old Doctor floundered along a bit further until he went down in the drift and lay between the shafts half buried. We had a shovel that always hung beside a small hatchet in the sledgehouse—for one might need much beside the grace of God of a winter's day in that country—and with it Uncle Eb began to uncover the horse. We children stood in the sledgehouse door watching him and holding the lantern. Old Doctor was on his feet in a few minutes.
''Tain' no use tryin',' said Uncle Eb, as he began to unhitch. 'Can't go no further t'night.'
Then he dug away the snow beside the sledgehouse, and hitched Old Doctor to the horseshoe that was nailed to the rear end of it. That done, he clambered up the side of the cut and took some rails off the fence and shoved them over on the roof of the house, so that one end rested there and the other on the high bank beside us. Then he cut a lot of hemlock boughs with the hatchet, and thatched the roof he had made over Old Doctor, binding them with the reins. Bringing more rails, he leaned them to the others on the windward side and nailed a big blanket over them, piecing it out with hemlock thatching, so it made a fairly comfortable shelter. We were under the wind in this deep cut on Fadden's Hill, and the snow piled in upon us rapidly. We had a warm blanket for Old Doctor and two big buffalo robes for our own use. We gave him a good feed of hay and oats, and then Uncle Eb cut up a fence rail with our hatchet and built a roaring fire in the stove. We had got a bit chilly wading in the snow, and the fire gave us a mighty sense of comfort.
'I thought somethin' might happen,' said Uncle Eb, as he hung his lantern to the ridge pole and took a big paper parcel out of his great coat pocket. 'I thought mebbe somethin' might happen, an' so I brought along a bite o' luncheon.'
He gave us dried herring and bread and butter and cheese.
''S a little dry,' he remarked, while we were eating, 'but it's drier where there's none.'
We had a pail of snow on top of the little stove and plenty of good drinking water for ourselves and the Old Doctor in a few minutes.
After supper Uncle Eb went up the side of the cut and brought back a lot of hemlock boughs and spread them under Old Doctor for bedding.
Then we all sat around the stove on the warm robes and listened to the wind howling above our little roof and the stories of Uncle Eb. The hissing of the snow as it beat upon the sledgehouse grew fainter by and by, and Uncle Eb said he guessed we were pretty well covered up. We fell asleep soon. I remember he stopped in the middle of a wolf story, and, seeing that our eyes were shut, pulled us back from the fire a little and covered us with one of the robes. It had been a mighty struggle between Sleep and Romance, and Sleep had won. I roused myself and begged him to go on with the story, but he only said, 'Hush, boy; it's bedtime,' and turned up the lantern and went out of doors. I woke once or twice in the night and saw him putting wood on the fire. He had put out the light. The gleam of the fire shone on his face when he opened the stove door.
'Gittin' a leetle cool here, Uncle Eb,' he was saying to himself.
We were up at daylight, and even then it was snowing and blowing fiercely. There were two feet of snow on the sledgehouse roof, and we were nearly buried in the bank. Uncle Eb had to do a lot of shoveling to get out of doors and into the stable. Old Doctor was quite out of the wind in a cave of snow and nickering for his breakfast. There was plenty for him, but we were on short rations. Uncle Eb put on the snow shoes, after we had eaten what there was left, and, cautioning us to keep in, set out for Fadden's across lots. He came back inside of an hour with a good supply of provisions in a basket on his shoulder. The wind had gone down and the air was milder. Big flakes of snow came fluttering slowly downward out of a dark sky. After dinner we went up on top of the sledgehouse and saw a big scraper coming in the valley below. Six teams of oxen were drawing it, and we could see the flying furrows on either side of the scraper as it ploughed in the deep drifts. Uncle Eb put on the snow shoes again, and, with Hope on his back and me clinging to his hand, he went down to meet them and to tell of our plight. The front team had wallowed to their ears, and the men were digging them out with shovels when we got to the scraper. A score of men and boys clung to the sides of that big, hollow wedge, and put their weight on it as the oxen pulled. We got on with the others, I remember, and I was swept off as soon as the scraper started by a roaring avalanche of snow that came down upon our heads and buried me completely. I was up again and had a fresh hold in a jiffy, and clung to my place until I was nearly smothered by the flying snow. It was great fun for me, and they were all shouting and hallooing as if it were a fine holiday. They made slow progress, however, and we left them shortly on their promise to try to reach us before night. If they failed to get through, one of them said he would drive over to Paradise Valley, if possible, and tell the Browers we were all right.
On our return, Uncle Eb began shoveling a tunnel in the cut. When we got through to the open late in the afternoon we saw the scraper party going back with their teams.
'Guess they've gi'n up fer t'day,' said he. 'Snow's powerful deep down there below the bridge. Mebbe we can get 'round to where the road's clear by goin' 'cross lots. I've a good mind t' try it.'
Then he went over in the field and picked a winding way down the hill toward the river, while we children stood watching him. He came back soon and took down a bit of the fence and harnessed Old Doctor and hitched him to the sledgehouse. The tunnel was just wide enough to let us through with a tight pinch here and there. The footing was rather soft' and the horse had hard pulling. We went in the field, struggling on afoot—we little people—while Uncle Eb led the horse. He had to stop frequently to tunnel through a snowdrift, and at dusk we had only got half-way to the bridge from our cave in the cat. Of a sudden Old Doctor went up to his neck in a wall of deep snow that seemed to cut us off completely. He struggled a moment, falling on his side and wrenching the shafts from the runners. Uncle Eb went to work vigorously with his shovel and had soon cut a narrow box stall in the deep snow around Old Doctor. Just beyond the hill dipped sharply and down the slope we could see the stubble sticking through the shallow snow. 'We'll hev t' stop right where we are until mornin',' he said. 'It's mos' dark now.
Our little house stood tilting forward about half-way down the hill, its runners buried in the snow. A few hundred yards below was a cliff where the shore fell to the river some thirty feet It had stopped snowing, and the air had grown warmer, but the sky was dark We put nearly all the hay in the sledgehouse under Old Doctor and gave him the last of the oats and a warm cover of blankets. Then Uncle Eb went away to the fence for more wood, while we spread the supper. He was very tired, I remember, and we all turned in for the night a short time after we had eaten. The little stove was roaring like a furnace when we spread our blankets on the sloping floor and lay down, our feet to the front, and drew the warm robes over us. Uncle Eb, who had had no sleep the night before, began to snore heavily before we children had stopped whispering. He was still snoring, and Hope sound asleep, when I woke in the night and heard the rain falling on our little roof and felt the warm breath of the south wind. The water dripping from the eaves and falling far and near upon the yielding snow had many voices. I was half-asleep when I heard a new noise under the sledge. Something struck the front corner of the sledgehouse—a heavy, muffled blow—and brushed the noisy boards. Then I heard the timbers creak and felt the runners leaping over the soft snow. I remember it was like a dream of falling. I raised myself and stared about me. We were slipping down the steep floor. The lantern, burning dimly under the roof, swung and rattled. Uncle Eb was up on his elbow staring wildly. I could feel the jar and rush of the runners and the rain that seemed to roar as it dashed into my face. Then, suddenly, the sledgehouse gave a great leap into the air and the grating of the runners ceased. The lantern went hard against the roof; there was a mighty roar in my ears; then we heard a noise like thunder and felt the shock of a blow that set my back aching, and cracked the roof above our heads. It was all still for a second; then we children began to cry, and Uncle Eb staggered to his feet and lit the lantern that had gone out and that had no globe, I remember, as he held it down to our faces.
'Hush! Are you hurt?' he said, as he knelt before us. 'Git up now, see if ye can stand.'
We got to our feet, neither of us much the worse for what had happened—My knuckles were cut a bit by a splinter, and Hope had been hit on the shins by the lantern globe as it fell.
'By the Lord Harry!' said Uncle Eb, when he saw we were not hurt. 'Wonder what hit us.'
We followed him outside while he was speaking.
'We've slid downhill,' he said. 'Went over the cliff Went kerplunk in the deep snow, er there'd have been nuthin' left uv us. Snow's meltin' jest as if it was July.'
Uncle Eb helped us into our heavy coats, and then with a blanket over his arm led us into the wet snow. We came out upon clear ice in a moment and picked our way along the lowering shore. At length Uncle Eb clambered up, pulling us up after him, one by one. Then he whistled to Old Doctor, who whinnied a quick reply. He left us standing together, the blanket over our heads, and went away in the dark whistling as he had done before. We could hear Old Doctor answer as he came near, and presently Uncle Eb returned leading the horse by the halter. Then he put us both on Old Doctor's back, threw the blanket over our heads, and started slowly for the road. We clung to each other as the horse staggered in the soft snow, and kept our places with some aid from Uncle Eb. We crossed the fence presently, and then for a way it was hard going. We found fair footing after we had passed the big scraper, and, coming to a house a mile or so down the road called them out of bed. It was growing light and they made us comfortable around a big stove, and gave us breakfast. The good man of the house took us home in a big sleigh after the chores were done. We met David Brower coming after us, and if we'd been gone a year we couldn't have received a warmer welcome.
Of all that long season of snow, I remember most pleasantly the days that were sweetened with the sugar-making. When the sun was lifting his course in the clearing sky, and March had got the temper of the lamb, and the frozen pulses of the forest had begun to stir, the great kettle was mounted in the yard and all gave a hand to the washing of spouts and buckets. Then came tapping time, in which I helped carry the buckets and tasted the sweet flow that followed the auger's wound. The woods were merry with our shouts, and, shortly, one could hear the heart-beat of the maples in the sounding bucket. It was the reveille of spring. Towering trees shook down the gathered storms of snow and felt for the sunlight. The arch and shanty were repaired, the great iron kettle was scoured and lifted to its place, and then came the boiling. It was a great, an inestimable privilege to sit on the robes of faded fur, in the shanty, and hear the fire roaring under the kettle and smell the sweet odour of the boiling sap. Uncle Eb minded the shanty and the fire and the woods rang with his merry songs. When I think of that phase of the sugaring, lam face to face with one of the greatest perils of my life. My foster father had consented to let me spend a night with Uncle Eb in the shanty, and I was to sleep on the robes, where he would be beside me when he was not tending the fire. It had been a mild, bright day, and David came up with our supper at sunset. He sat talking with Uncle Eb for an hour or so, and the woods were darkling when he went away.
When he started on the dark trail that led to the clearing, I wondered at his courage—it was so black beyond the firelight. While we sat alone I plead for a story, but the thoughts of Uncle Eb had gone to roost early in a sort of gloomy meditation.
'Be still, my boy,' said he, 'an' go t' sleep. I ain't agoin' t' tell no yarns an' git ye all stirred up. Ye go t' sleep. Come mornin' we'll go down t' the brook an' see if we can't find a mink or tew 'n the traps.'
I remember hearing a great crackling of twigs in the dark wood before I slept. As I lifted my head, Uncle Eb whispered, 'Hark!' and we both listened. A bent and aged figure came stalking into the firelight His long white hair mingled with his beard and covered his coat collar behind.
'Don't be scairt,' said Uncle Eb. ''Tain' no bear. It's nuthin' but a poet.'
I knew him for a man who wandered much and had a rhyme for everyone—a kindly man with a reputation for laziness and without any home.
'Bilin', eh?' said the poet
'Bilin',' said Uncle Eb.
'I'm bilin' over 'n the next bush,' said the poet, sitting down.
'How's everything in Jingleville?' Uncle Eb enquired.
Then the newcomer answered:
'Well, neighbour dear, in Jingleville We live by faith but we eat our fill; An' what w'u'd we do if it wa'n't fer prayer? Fer we can't raise a thing but whiskers an' hair.'
'Cur'us how you can talk po'try,' said Uncle Eb. 'The only thing I've got agin you is them whiskers an' thet hair. 'Tain't Christian.'
''Tain't what's on the head, but what's in it—thet's the important thing,' said the poet. 'Did I ever tell ye what I wrote about the birds?'
'Don' know's ye ever did,' said Uncle Eb, stirring his fire.
'The boy'll like it, mebbe,' said he, taking a dirty piece of paper out of his pocket and holding it to the light.
The poem interested me, young as I was, not less than the strange figure of the old poet who lived unknown in the backwoods, and who died, I dare say, with many a finer song in his heart. I remember how he stood in the firelight and chanted the words in a sing-song tone. He gave us that rude copy of the poem, and here it is:
THE ROBIN'S WEDDING
Young robin red breast hed a beautiful nest an' he says to his love says he: It's ready now on a rocking bough In the top of a maple tree. I've lined it with down an' the velvet brown on the waist of a bumble-bee.
They were married next day, in the land o' the hay, the lady bird an' he. The bobolink came an' the wife o' the same An' the lark an' the fiddle de dee. An' the crow came down in a minister gown—there was nothing that he didn't see.
He fluttered his wing as they ast him to sing an' he tried fer t' clear out his throat; He hemmed an' he hawed an' be hawked an' he cawed But he couldn't deliver a note. The swallow was there an' he ushered each pair with his linsey an' claw hammer coat.
The bobolink tried fer t' flirt with the bride in a way thet was sassy an' bold. An' the notes that he took as he shivered an' shook Hed a sound like the jingle of gold. He sat on a briar an' laughed at the choir an' said thet the music was old.
The sexton he came—Mr Spider by name—a citizen hairy and grey. His rope in a steeple, he called the good people That live in the land o' the hay. The ants an' the squgs an' the crickets an' bugs—came out in a mighty array.
Some came down from Barleytown an' the neighbouring city o' Rye. An' the little black people they climbed every steeple An' sat looking up at the sky. They came fer t' see what a wedding might be an' they furnished the cake an' the pie.
I remember he turned to me when he had finished and took one of my small hands and held it in his hard palm and looked at it and then into my face.
'Ah, boy!' he said, 'your way shall lead you far from here, and you shall get learning and wealth and win—victories.'
'What nonsense are you talking, Jed Ferry?' said Uncle Eb.
'O, you all think I'm a fool an' a humbug, 'cos I look it. Why, Eben Holden, if you was what ye looked, ye'd be in the presidential chair. Folks here 'n the valley think o' nuthin' but hard work—most uv 'em, an' I tell ye now this boy ain't a goin' t' be wuth putty on a farm. Look a' them slender hands.
'There was a man come to me the other day an' wanted t' hev a poem 'bout his wife that hed jes' died. I ast him t' tell me all 'bout her.
'"Wall," said he, after he had scratched his head an' thought a minute, "she was a dretful good woman t' work."
'"Anything else?" I asked.
'He thought agin fer a minute.
'"Broke her leg once," he said, "an' was laid up fer more'n a year."
"Must o' suffered," said I.
'"Not then," he answered. "Ruther enjoyed it layin' abed an' readin' an' bein' rubbed, but 'twas hard on the children."
'"S'pose ye loved her," I said.
'Then the tears come into his eyes an' he couldn't speak fer a minute. Putty soon he whispered "Yes" kind o' confidential. 'Course he loved her, but these Yankees are ashamed o' their feelin's. They hev tender thoughts, but they hide 'em as careful as the wild goose hides her eggs. I wrote a poem t' please him, an' goin' home I made up one fer myself, an 'it run 'bout like this:
O give me more than a life, I beg, That finds real joy in a broken leg. Whose only thought is t' work an' save An' whose only rest is in the grave. Saving an' scrimping from day to day While its best it has squandered an' flung away Fer a life like that of which I tell Would rob me quite o' the dread o' hell.
'Toil an' slave an' scrimp an' save—thet's 'bout all we think uv 'n this country. 'Tain't right, Holden.'
'No, 'tain't right,' said Uncle Eb.
'I know I'm a poor, mis'rable critter. Kind o' out o' tune with everybody I know. Alwus quarrelled with my own folks, an' now I ain't got any home. Someday I'm goin' t' die in the poorhouse er on the ground under these woods. But I tell ye'—here he spoke in a voice that grew loud with feeling—'mebbe I've been lazy, as they say, but I've got more out o' my life than any o' these fools. And someday God'll honour me far above them. When my wife an' I parted I wrote some lines that say well my meaning. It was only a log house we had, but this will show what I got out of it.' Then he spoke the lines, his voice trembling with emotion.
'O humble home! Thou hadst a secret door Thro' which I looked, betimes, with wondering eye On treasures that no palace ever wore But now—goodbye!
In hallowed scenes what feet have trod thy stage! The babe, the maiden, leaving home to wed The young man going forth by duty led And faltering age.
Thou hadst a magic window broad and high The light and glory of the morning shone Thro' it, however dark the day had grown, Or bleak the sky.
'I know Dave Brower's folks hev got brains an' decency, but when thet boy is old enough t' take care uv himself, let him git out o' this country. I tell ye he'll never make a farmer, an' if he marries an' settles down here he'll git t' be a poet, mebbe, er some such shif'less cuss, an' die in the poorhouse. Guess I better git back t' my bilin' now. Good-night,' he added, rising and buttoning his old coat as he walked away.
'Sing'lar man!' Uncle Eli exclaimed, thoughtfully, 'but anyone thet picks him up fer a fool'll find him a counterfeit.'
Young as I was, the rugged, elemental power of the old poet had somehow got to my heart and stirred my imagination. It all came not fully to my understanding until later. Little by little it grew upon me, and what an effect it had upon my thought and life ever after I should not dare to estimate. And soon I sought out the 'poet of the hills,' as they called him, and got to know and even to respect him in spite of his unlovely aspect.
Uncle Eb skimmed the boiling sap, put more wood on the fire and came and pulled off his boots and lay down beside me under the robe. And, hearing the boil of the sap and the crackle of the burning logs in the arch, I soon went asleep.
I remember feeling Uncle Eb's hand upon my cheek, and how I rose and stared about me in the fading shadows of a dream as he shook me gently.
'Wake up, my boy,' said he. 'Come, we mus' put fer home.'
The fire was out. The old man held a lantern as he stood before me, the blaze flickering. There was a fearsome darkness all around.
'Come, Willy, make haste,' he whispered, as I rubbed my eyes. 'Put on yer boots, an' here's yer little coat 'n' muffler.'
There was a mighty roar in the forest and icy puffs of snow came whistling in upon us. We stored the robes and pails and buckets and covered the big kettle.
The lofty tree-tops reeled and creaked above us, and a deep, sonorous moan was sweeping through the woods, as if the fingers of the wind had touched a mighty harp string in the timber. We could hear the crash and thunder of falling trees.
'Make haste! Make haste! It's resky here,' said Uncle Eb, and he held my hand and ran. We started through the brush and steered as straight as we could for the clearing. The little box of light he carried was soon sheathed in snow, and I remember how he stopped, half out of breath, often, and brushed it with his mittens to let out the light. We had made the scattering growth of little timber at the edge of the woods when the globe of the lantern snapped and fell. A moment later we stood in utter darkness. I knew, for the first time, then that we were in a bad fix.
'I guess God'll take care of us, Willy,' said Uncle Eb. 'If he don't, we'll never get there in this world never!'
It was a black and icy wall of night and storm on every side of us. I never saw a time when the light of God's heaven was so utterly extinguished; the cold never went to my bone as on that bitter night. My hands and feet were numb with aching, as the roar of the trees grew fainter in the open. I remember how I lagged, and how the old man urged me on, and how we toiled in the wind and darkness, straining our eyes for some familiar thing. Of a sudden we stumbled upon a wall that we had passed an hour or so before.
'Oh!' he groaned, and made that funny, deprecating cluck with his tongue, that I have heard so much from Yankee lips.
'God o' mercy!' said he, 'we've gone 'round in a half-circle. Now we'll take the wall an' mebbe it'll bring us home.'
I thought I couldn't keep my feet any longer, for an irresistible drowsiness had come over me. The voice of Uncle Eb seemed far away, and when I sank in the snow and shut my eyes to sleep he shook me as a terrier shakes a rat.
'Wake up, my boy,' said he, 'ye musn't sleep.'
Then he boxed my ears until I cried, and picked me up and ran with me along the side of the wall. I was but dimly conscious when he dropped me under a tree whose bare twigs lashed the air and stung my cheeks. I heard him tearing the branches savagely and muttering, 'Thanks to God, it's the blue beech.' I shall never forget how he turned and held to my hand and put the whip on me as I lay in the snow, and how the sting of it started my blood. Up I sprang in a jiffy and howled and danced. The stout rod bent and circled on me like a hoop of fire. Then I turned and tried to run while he clung to my coat tails, and every step I felt the stinging grab of the beech. There is a little seam across my cheek today that marks a footfall of one of those whips. In a moment I was as wide awake as Uncle Eb and needed no more stimulation.
The wall led us to the pasture lane, and there it was easy enough to make our way to the barnyard and up to the door of the house, which had a candle in every window, I remember. David was up and dressed to come after us, and I recall how he took Uncle Eb in his arms, when he fell fainting on the doorstep, and carried him to the lounge. I saw the blood on my face as I passed the mirror, and Elizabeth Brower came running and gave me one glance and rushed out of doors with the dipper. It was full of snow when she ran in and tore the wrappings off my neck and began to rub my ears and cheeks with the cold snow, calling loudly for Grandma Bisnette. She came in a moment and helped at the stripping of our feet and legs. I remember that she slit my trousers with the shears as I lay on the floor, while the others rubbed my feet with the snow. Our hands and ears were badly frosted, but in an hour the whiteness had gone out of them and the returning blood burnt like a fire.
'How queer he stares!' I heard them say when Uncle Eb first came to, and in a moment a roar of laughter broke from him.
'I'll never fergit,' said he presently, 'if I live a thousan' years, the lickin' I gin thet boy; but it hurt me worse'n it hurt him.'
Then he told the story of the blue beech.
The next day was that 'cold Friday' long remembered by those who felt its deadly chill—a day when water thrown in the magic air came down in clinking crystals, and sheaths of frost lay thick upon the windows. But that and the one before it were among the few days in that early period that lie, like a rock, under my character.
Grandma Bisnette came from Canada to work for the Browers. She was a big, cheerful woman, with a dialect, an amiable disposition and a swarthy, wrinkled face. She had a loose front tooth that occupied all the leisure of her tongue. When she sat at her knitting this big tooth clicked incessantly. On every stitch her tongue went in and out across it' and I, standing often by her knees, regarded the process with great curiosity.
The reader may gather much from these frank and informing words of Grandma Bisnette. 'When I los' my man, Mon Dieu! I have two son. An' when I come across I bring him with me. Abe he rough; but den he no bad man.'
Abe was the butcher of the neighbourhood—that red-handed, stony-hearted, necessary man whom the Yankee farmer in that north country hires to do the cruel things that have to be done. He wore ragged, dirty clothes and had a voice like a steam whistle. His rough, black hair fell low and mingled with his scanty beard. His hands were stained too often with the blood of some creature we loved. I always crept under the bed in Mrs Brower's room when Abe came—he was such a terror to me with his bloody work and noisy oaths. Such men were the curse of the cleanly homes in that country. There was much to shock the ears and eyes of children in the life of the farm. It was a fashion among the help to decorate their speech with profanity for the mere sound of it' and the foul mouthings of low-minded men spread like a pestilence in the fields.
Abe came always with an old bay horse and a rickety buckboard. His one foot on the dash, as he rode, gave the picture a dare-devil finish. The lash of his bull-whip sang around him, and his great voice sent its blasts of noise ahead. When we heard a fearful yell and rumble in the distance, we knew Abe was coming.
'Abe he come,' said Grandma Bisnette. 'Mon Dieu! he make de leetle rock fly.'
It was like the coming of a locomotive with roar of wheel and whistle. In my childhood, as soon as I saw the cloud of dust, I put for the bed and from its friendly cover would peek out' often, but never venture far until the man of blood had gone.
To us children he was a marvel of wickedness. There were those who told how he had stood in the storm one night and dared the Almighty to send the lightning upon him.
The dog Fred had grown so old and infirm that one day they sent for Abe to come and put an end to his misery. Every man on the farm loved the old dog and not one of them would raise a hand to kill him. Hope and I heard what Abe was coming to do, and when the men had gone to the fields, that summer morning, we lifted Fred into the little wagon in which he had once drawn me and starting back of the barn stole away with him through the deep grass of the meadow until we came out upon the highroad far below. We had planned to take him to school and make him a nest in the woodshed where he could share our luncheon and be out of the way of peril. After a good deal of difficulty and heavy pulling we got to the road at last. The old dog, now blind and helpless, sat contentedly in the wagon while its wheels creaked and groaned beneath him. We had gone but a short way in the road when we heard the red bridge roar under rushing wheels and the familiar yell of Abe.
'We'd better run,' said Hope, ''er we'll git swore at.'
I looked about me in a panic for some place to hide the party, but Abe was coming fast and there was only time to pick up clubs and stand our ground.
'Here!' the man shouted as he pulled up along side of us, 'where ye goin' with that dog?'
'Go 'way,' I answered, between anger and tears, lifting my club in a threatening manner.
He laughed then—a loud guffaw that rang in the near woods.
'What'll ye give me,' he asked leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, 'What'll ye give me if I don't kill him?'
I thought a moment. Then I put my hand in my pocket and presently took out my jack-knife—that treasure Uncle Eb had bought for me—and looked at it fondly.
Then I offered it to him.
Again he laughed loudly.
'Anything else?' he demanded while Hope sat hugging the old dog that was licking her hands.
'Got forty cents that I saved for the fair,' said I promptly.
Abe backed his horse and turned in the road.
'Wall boy,' he said, 'Tell 'em I've gone home.'
Then his great voice shouted, 'g'lang' the lash of his whip sang in the air and off he went.
We were first to arrive at the schoolhouse, that morning, and when the other children came we had Fred on a comfortable bed of grass in a corner of the woodshed. What with all the worry of that day I said my lessons poorly and went home with a load on my heart. Tomorrow would be Saturday; how were we to get food and water to the dog? They asked at home if we had seen old Fred and we both declared we had not—the first lie that ever laid its burden on my conscience. We both saved all our bread and butter and doughnuts next day, but we had so many chores to do it was impossible to go to the schoolhouse with them. So we agreed to steal away that night when all were asleep and take the food from its hiding place.
In the excitement of the day neither of us had eaten much. They thought we were ill and sent us to bed early. When Hope came into my room above stairs late in the evening we were both desperately hungry. We looked at our store of doughnuts and bread and butter under my bed. We counted it over.
'Won't you try one o' the doughnuts,' I whispered hoping that she would say yes so that I could try one also; for they did smell mighty good.
''Twouldn't be right,' said she regretfully. 'There ain't any more 'n he'll want now.
''Twouldn't be right,' I repeated with a sigh as I looked longingly at one of the big doughnuts. 'Couldn't bear t' do it—could you?'
'Don't seem as if I could,' she whispered, thoughtfully, her chin upon her hand.
Then she rose and went to the window.
'O my! how dark it is!' she whispered, looking out into the night.
'Purty dark!' I said, 'but you needn't be 'fraid. I'll take care o' you. If we should meet a bear I'll growl right back at him—that's what Uncle Eb tol' me t' do. I'm awful stout—most a man now! Can't nuthin' scare me.'
We could hear them talking below stairs and we went back to bed, intending to go forth later when the house was still. But' unfortunately for our adventure I fell asleep.
It was morning when I opened my eyes again. We children looked accusingly at each other while eating breakfast. Then we had to be washed and dressed in our best clothes to go to meeting. When the wagon was at the door and we were ready to start I had doughnuts and bread and butter in every pocket of my coat and trousers. I got in quickly and pulled the blanket over me so as to conceal the fullness of my pockets. We arrived so late I had no chance to go to the dog before we went into meeting. I was wearing boots that were too small for me, and when I entered with the others and sat down upon one of those straight backed seats of plain, unpainted pine my feet felt as if I had been caught in a bear trap. There was always such a silence in the room after the elder had sat down and adjusted his spectacles that I could hear the ticking of the watch he carried in the pocket of his broadcloth waistcoat. For my own part I know I looked with too much longing for the good of my soul on the great gold chain that spanned the broad convexity of his stomach. Presently I observed that a couple of young women were looking at me and whispering. Then suddenly I became aware that there were sundry protuberances on my person caused by bread and butter and doughnuts, and I felt very miserable indeed. Now and then as the elder spoke the loud, accusing neigh of some horse, tethered to the fence in the schoolyard, mingled with his thunder. After the good elder had been preaching an hour his big, fat body seemed to swim in my tears. When he had finished the choir sang. Their singing was a thing that appealed to the eye as well as the ear. Uncle Eb used to say it was a great comfort to see Elkenah Samson sing bass. His great mouth opened widely in this form of praise and his eyes had a wild stare in them when he aimed at the low notes.
Ransom Walker, a man of great dignity, with a bristling moustache, who had once been a schoolmaster, led the choir and carried the tenor part. It was no small privilege after the elder had announced the hymn, to see him rise and tap the desk with his tuning fork and hold it to his ear solemnly. Then he would seem to press his chin full hard upon his throat while he warbled a scale. Immediately, soprano, alto, bass and tenor launched forth upon the sea of song. The parts were like the treacherous and conflicting currents of a tide that tossed them roughly and sometimes overturned their craft. And Ransom Walker showed always a proper sense of danger and responsibility. Generally they got to port safely on these brief excursions, though exhausted. He had a way of beating time with his head while singing and I have no doubt it was a great help to him.
The elder came over to me after meeting, having taken my tears for a sign of conviction.
'May the Lord bless and comfort you, my boy!' said he.
I got away shortly and made for the door. Uncle Eb stopped me.
'My stars, Willie!' said he putting his hand on my upper coat pocket' 'what ye got in there?'
'Doughnuts,' I answered.
'An' what's this?' he asked touching one of my side pockets.
'Doughnuts,' I repeated.
'An' this,' touching another.
'That's doughnuts too,' I said.
'An' this,' he continued going down to my trousers pocket.
'Bread an' butter,' I answered, shamefacedly, and on the verge of tears.
'Jerusalem!' he exclaimed, 'must a 'spected a purty long sermon.
'Brought 'em fer ol' Fred,' I replied.
'Ol' Fred!' he whispered, 'where's he?'
I told my secret then and we both went out with Hope to where we had left him. He lay with his head between his paws on the bed of grass just as I had seen him lie many a time when his legs were weary with travel on Paradise Road, and when his days were yet full of pleasure. We called to him and Uncle Eb knelt and touched his head. Then he lifted the dog's nose, looked a moment into the sightless eyes and let it fall again.
'Fred's gone,' said he in a low tone as he turned away. 'Got there ahead uv us, Willy.'
Hope and I sat down by the old dog and wept bitterly.
Uncle Eb was a born lover of fun. But he had a solemn way of fishing that was no credit to a cheerful man. It was the same when he played the bass viol, but that was also a kind of fishing at which he tried his luck in a roaring torrent of sound. Both forms of dissipation gave him a serious look and manner, that came near severity. They brought on his face only the light of hope and anticipation or the shadow of disappointment.
We had finished our stent early the day of which lam writing. When we had dug our worms and were on our way to the brook with pole and line a squint of elation had hold of Uncle Eb's face. Long wrinkles deepened as he looked into the sky for a sign of the weather, and then relaxed a bit as he turned his eyes upon the smooth sward. It was no time for idle talk. We tiptoed over the leafy carpet of the woods. Soon as I spoke he lifted his hand with a warning 'Sh—h!' The murmur of the stream was in our ears. Kneeling on a mossy knoll we baited the hooks; then Uncle Eb beckoned to me.
I came to him on tiptoe.
'See thet there foam 'long side o' the big log?' he whispered, pointing with his finger.
'Cre-e-ep up jest as ca-a-areful as ye can,' he went on whispering. 'Drop in a leetle above an' let 'er float down.'
Then he went on, below me, lifting his feet in slow and stealthy strides.
He halted by a bit of driftwood and cautiously threw in, his arm extended, his figure alert. The squint on his face took a firmer grip. Suddenly his pole gave a leap, the water splashed, his line sang in the air and a fish went up like a rocket. As we were looking into the treetops it thumped the shore beside him, quivered a moment and flopped down the bank He scrambled after it and went to his knees in the brook coming up empty-handed. The water was slopping out of his boot legs.
'Whew!' said he, panting with excitement, as I came over to him. 'Reg'lar ol' he one,' he added, looking down at his boots. 'Got away from me—consarn him! Hed a leetle too much power in the arm.'
He emptied his boots, baited up and went back to his fishing. As I looked up at him he stood leaning over the stream jiggling his hook. In a moment I saw a tug at the line. The end of his pole went under water like a flash. It bent double as Uncle Eb gave it a lift. The fish began to dive and rush. The line cut the water in a broad semicircle and then went far and near with long, quick slashes. The pole nodded and writhed like a thing of life. Then Uncle Eb had a look on him that is one of the treasures of my memory. In a moment the fish went away with such a violent rush, to save him, he had to throw his pole into the water.
'Heavens an' airth!' he shouted, 'the ol' settler!'
The pole turned quickly and went lengthwise into the rapids. He ran down the bank and I after him. The pole was speeding through the swift water. We scrambled over logs and through bushes, but the pole went faster than we. Presently it stopped and swung around. Uncle Eb went splashing into the brook. Almost within reach of the pole he dashed his foot upon a stone, falling headlong in the current. I was close upon his heels and gave him a hand. He rose hatless, dripping from head to foot and pressed on. He lifted his pole. The line clung to a snag and then gave way; the tackle was missing. He looked at it silently, tilting his head. We walked slowly to the shore. Neither spoke for a moment.
'Must have been a big fish,' I remarked.
'Powerful!' said he, chewing vigorously on his quid of tobacco as he shook his head and looked down at his wet clothing. 'In a desp'rit fix, ain't I?'
'Too bad!' I exclaimed.
'Seldom ever hed sech a disapp'intment,' he said. 'Ruther counted on ketchin' thet fish—he was s' well hooked.'
He looked longingly at the water a moment 'If I don't go hum,' said he, 'an' keep my mouth shet I'll say sumthin' I'll be sorry fer.'
He was never quite the same after that. He told often of his struggle with this unseen, mysterious fish and I imagined he was a bit more given to reflection. He had had hold of the 'ol' settler of Deep Hole'—a fish of great influence and renown there in Faraway. Most of the local fishermen had felt him tug at the line one time or another. No man had ever seen him for the water was black in Deep Hole. No fish had ever exerted a greater influence on the thought' the imagination, the manners or the moral character of his contemporaries. Tip Taylor always took off his hat and sighed when he spoke of the 'ol' settler'. Ransom Walker said he had once seen his top fin and thought it longer than a razor. Ransom took to idleness and chewing tobacco immediately after his encounter with the big fish, and both vices stuck to him as long as he lived. Everyone had his theory of the 'ol' settler'. Most agreed he was a very heavy trout. Tip Taylor used to say that in his opinion ''twas nuthin' more'n a plain, overgrown, common sucker,' but Tip came from the Sucker Brook country where suckers lived in colder water and were more entitled to respect.
Mose Tupper had never had his hook in the 'ol' settler' and would believe none of the many stories of adventure at Deep Hole that had thrilled the township.
'Thet fish hes made s' many liars 'round here ye dimno who t' b'lieve,' he had said at the corners one day, after Uncle Eb had told his story of the big fish. 'Somebody 't knows how t' fish hed oughter go 'n ketch him fer the good o' the town—thet's what I think.'
Now Mr Tupper was an excellent man but his incredulity was always too bluntly put. It had even led to some ill feeling.
He came in at our place one evening with a big hook and line from 'down east'—the kind of tackle used in salt water.
'What ye goin' t' dew with it?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'Ketch thet fish ye talk 5' much about—goin' t' put him out o' the way.'
''Tain't fair,' said Uncle Eb, 'its reedic'lous. Like leading a pup with a log chain.'
'Don't care,' said Mose, 'I'm goin' t' go fishin t'morrer. If there reely is any sech fish—which I don't believe there is—I'm goin' t' rassle with him an' mebbe tek him out o' the river. Thet fish is sp'llin' the moral character o' this town. He oughter be rode on a rail—thet fish hed.'
How he would punish a trout in that manner Mr Tupper failed to explain, but his metaphor was always a worse fit than his trousers and that was bad enough.
It was just before haying and, there being little to do, we had also planned to try our luck in the morning. When, at sunrise, we were walking down the cow-path to the woods I saw Uncle Eb had a coil of bed cord on his shoulder.
'What's that for?' I asked.
'Wall,' said he, 'goin' t' hev fun anyway. If we can't ketch one thing we'll try another.'
We had great luck that morning and when our basket was near full we came to Deep Hole and made ready for a swim in the water above it. Uncle Eb had looped an end of the bed cord and tied a few pebbles on it with bits of string.
'Now,' said he presently, 'I want t' sink this loop t' the bottom an' pass the end o' the cord under the driftwood so 't we can fetch it 'crost under water.'
There was a big stump, just opposite, with roots running down the bank into the stream. I shoved the line under the drift with a pole and then hauled it across where Uncle Eb drew it up the bank under the stump roots.
'In 'bout half an hour I cal'late Mose Tupper'll be 'long,' he whispered. 'Wisht ye'd put on yer clo's an' lay here back o' the stump an' hold on t' the cord. When ye feel a bite give a yank er two an' haul in like Sam Hill—fifteen feet er more quicker'n scat. Snatch his pole right away from him. Then lay still.'
Uncle Eb left me, shortly, going up stream. It was near an hour before I heard them coming. Uncle Eb was talking in a low tone as they came down the other bank.
'Drop right in there,' he was saying, 'an' let her drag down, through the deep water, deliberate like. Git clus t' the bottom.'
Peering through a screen of bushes I could see an eager look on the unlovely face of Moses. He stood leaning toward the water and jiggling his hook along the bottom. Suddenly I saw Mose jerk and felt the cord move. I gave it a double twitch and began to pull. He held hard for a jiffy and then stumbled and let go yelling like mad. The pole hit the water with a splash and went out of sight like a diving frog. I brought it well under the foam and driftwood. Deep Hole resumed its calm, unruffled aspect. Mose went running toward Uncle Eb.
''S a whale!' he shouted. 'Ripped the pole away quicker'n lightnin'.'
'Where is it?' Uncle Eb asked.
'Tuk it away f'm me,' said Moses. 'Grabbed it jes' like thet,' he added with a violent jerk of his hand.
'What d' he dew with it?' Uncle Eb enquired.
Mose looked thoughtfully at the water and scratched his head, his features all a tremble.
'Dunno,' said he. 'Swallered it mebbe.'
'Mean t' say ye lost hook, line, sinker 'n pole?'
'Hook, line, sinker 'n pole,' he answered mournfully. 'Come nigh haulin' me in tew.'
''Tain't possible,' said Uncle Eb.
Mose expectorated, his hands upon his hips, looking down at the water.
'Wouldn't eggzac'ly say 'twas possible,' he drawled, 'but 'twas a fact.'
'Yer mistaken,' said Uncle Eb.
'No I hain't,' was the answer, 'I tell ye I see it.'
'Then if ye see it the nex' thing ye orter see 's a doctor. There's sumthin' wrong with you sumwheres.'
'Only one thing the matter o' me,' said Mose with a little twinge of remorse. 'I'm jest a natural born perfec' dum fool. Never c'u'd b'lieve there was any sech fish.'
'Nobody ever said there was any sech fish,' said Uncle Eb. 'He's done more t' you 'n he ever done t' me. Never served me no sech trick as thet. If I was you I'd never ask nobody t' b'lieve it 'S a leetle tew much.'
Mose went slowly and picked up his hat. Then he returned to the bank and looked regretfully at the water.
'Never see the beat o' thet,' he went on. 'Never see sech power 'n a fish. Knocks the spots off any fish I ever hearn of.'
'Ye riled him with that big tackle o' yourn,' said Uncle Eb. 'He wouldn't stan' it.'
'Feel jest as if I'd hed holt uv a wil' cat,' said Mose. 'Tuk the hull thing—pole an' all—quicker 'n lightnin'. Nice a bit o' hickory as a man ever see. Gol' durned if I ever heem o' the like o' that, ever.'
He sat down a moment on the bank.
'Got t' rest a minute,' he remarked. 'Feel kind o' wopsy after thet squabble.'
They soon went away. And when Mose told the story of 'the swallered pole' he got the same sort of reputation he had given to others. Only it was real and large and lasting.
'Wha' d' ye think uv it?' he asked, when he had finished.
'Wall,' said Ransom Walker, 'wouldn't want t' say right out plain t' yer face.'
''Twouldn't he p'lite,' said Uncle Eb soberly.
'Sound a leetle ha'sh,' Tip Taylor added.
'Thet fish has jerked the fear o' God out o' ye—thet's the way it looks t' me,' said Carlyle Barber.
'Yer up 'n the air, Mose,' said another. 'Need a sinker on ye.' They bullied him—they talked him down, demurring mildly, but firmly.
'Tell ye what I'll do,' said Mose sheepishly, 'I'll b'lieve you fellers if you'll b'lieve me.'
'What, swop even? Not much!' said one, with emphasis. ''Twouldn't be fair. Ye've ast us t' b'lieve a genuwine out 'n out impossibility.'
Mose lifted his hat and scratched his head thoughtfully. There was a look of embarrassment in his face.
'Might a ben dreamin',' said he slowly. 'I swear it's gittin' so here 'n this town a feller can't hardly b'lieve himself.'
'Fur '5 my experience goes,' said Ransom Walker, 'he'd be a fool 'f he did.'
''Minds me o' the time I went fishin' with Ab Thomas,' said Uncle Eb. 'He ketched an ol' socker the fast thing. I went off by myself 'n got a good sized fish, but 'twant s' big 's hisn. So I tuk 'n opened his mouth n poured in a lot o' fine shot. When I come back Ab he looked at my fish 'n begun t' brag. When we weighed 'em mine was a leetle heavier.
'"What!" says he. "'Tain't possible thet leetle cuss uv a trout 's heavier 'n mine."
''Tis sarrin,' I said.
'"Dummed deceivin' business," said he as he hefted 'em both. "Gittin' so ye can't hardly b'lieve the stillyards."'
The fifth summer was passing since we came down Paradise Road—the dog, Uncle Eb and I. Times innumerable I had heard my good old friend tell the story of our coming west until its every incident was familiar to me as the alphabet. Else I fear my youthful memory would have served me poorly for a chronicle of my childhood so exact and so extended as this I have written. Uncle Eb's hair was white now and the voices of the swift and the panther had grown mild and tremulous and unsatisfactory and even absurd. Time had tamed the monsters of that imaginary wilderness and I had begun to lose my respect for them. But one fear had remained with me as I grew older—the fear of the night man. Every boy and girl in the valley trembled at the mention of him. Many a time I had held awake in the late evening to hear the men talk of him before they went asleep—Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor. I remember a night when Tip said, in a low awesome tone, that he was a ghost. The word carried into my soul the first thought of its great and fearful mystery.
'Years and years ago,' said he, 'there was a boy by the name of Nehemiah Brower. An' he killed another boy, once, by accident an' run away an' was drownded.'
'Drownded!' said Uncle Eb. 'How?'
'In the ocean,' the first answered gaping. 'Went away off 'round the world an' they got a letter that said he was drownded on his way to Van Dieman's Land.'
'To Van Dieman's Land!'
'Yes, an some say the night man is the ghost o' the one he killed.'
I remember waking that night and hearing excited whispers at the window near my bed. It was very dark in the room and at first I could not tell who was there.
'Don't you see him?' Tip whispered.
'Where?' I heard Uncle Be ask
'Under the pine trees—see him move.'
At that I was up at the window myself and could plainly see the dark figure of a man standing under the little pine below us.
'The night man, I guess,' said Uncle Be, 'but he won't do no harm. Let him alone; he's going' away now.'
We saw him disappear behind the trees and then we got back into our beds again. I covered my head with the bedclothes and said a small prayer for the poor night man.
And in this atmosphere of mystery and adventure, among the plain folk of Faraway, whose care of me when I was in great need, and whose love of me always, I count among the priceless treasures of God's providence, my childhood passed. And the day came near when I was to begin to play my poor part in the world.
It was a time of new things—that winter when I saw the end of my fifteenth year. Then I began to enjoy the finer humours of life in Faraway—to see with understanding; and by God's grace—to feel.
The land of play and fear and fable was now far behind me and I had begun to feel the infinite in the ancient forest' in the everlasting hills, in the deep of heaven, in all the ways of men. Hope Brower was now near woman grown. She had a beauty of face and form that was the talk of the countryside. I have travelled far and seen many a fair face hut never one more to my eye. I have heard men say she was like a girl out of a story-book those days.
Late years something had come between us. Long ago we had fallen out of each other's confidence, and ever since she had seemed to shun me. It was the trip in the sledgehouse that' years after, came up between us and broke our childish intimacy. Uncle Be had told, before company, how she had kissed me that day and bespoke me for a husband, and while the others laughed loudly she had gone out of the room crying. She would have little to say to me then. I began to play with boys and she with girls. And it made me miserable to hear the boys a bit older than I gossip of her beauty and accuse each other of the sweet disgrace of love.
But I must hasten to those events in Faraway that shaped our destinies. And first comes that memorable night when I had the privilege of escorting Hope to the school lyceum where the argument of Jed Feary—poet of the hills—fired my soul with an ambition that has remained with me always.
Uncle Be suggested that I ask Hope to go with me.
'Prance right up to her,' he said, 'an' say you'd be glad of the pleasure of her company.
It seemed to me a very dubious thing to do. I looked thoughtful and turned red in the face.
'Young man,' he continued, 'the boy thet's 'fraid o' women'll never hev whiskers.'
'How's that?' I enquired.
'Be scairt t' death,' he answered,' 'fore they've hed time t' start Ye want t' step right up t' the rack jes' if ye'd bought an' paid fer yerself an' was proud o' yer bargain.'
I took his advice and when I found Hope alone in the parlour I came and asked her, very awkwardly as I now remember, to go with me.
She looked at me, blushing, and said she would ask her mother.
And she did, and we walked to the schoolhouse together that evening, her hand holding my arm, timidly, the most serious pair that ever struggled with the problem of deportment on such an occasion. I was oppressed with a heavy sense of responsibility in every word I uttered.
Ann Jane Foster, known as 'Scooter Jane', for her rapid walk and stiff carriage, met us at the corners on her way to the schoolhouse.
'Big turn out I guess,' said she. 'Jed Feary 'n' Squire Town is comin' over from Jingleville an' all the big guns'll be there. I love t' hear Jed Feary speak, he's so techin'.'
Ann Jane was always looking around for some event likely to touch her feelings. She went to every funeral in Faraway and, when sorrow was scarce in her own vicinity, journeyed far in quest of it.
'Wouldn't wonder 'f the fur flew when they git t' going',' she remarked, and then hurried on, her head erect, her body motionless, her legs flying. Such energy as she gave to the pursuit of mourning I have never seen equalled in any other form of dissipation.
The schoolhouse was nearly full of people when we came in. The big boys were wrestling in the yard; men were lounging on the rude seats, inside, idly discussing crops and cattle and lapsing into silence, frequently, that bore the signs both of expectancy and reflection. Young men and young women sat together on one side of the house whispering and giggling. Alone among them was the big and eccentric granddaughter of Mrs Bisnette, who was always slapping some youngster for impertinence. Jed Feary and Squire Town sat together behind a pile of books, both looking very serious. The long hair and beard of the old poet were now white and his form bent with age. He came over and spoke to us and took a curl of Hope's hair in his stiffened fingers and held it to the lamplight.
'What silky gold!' he whispered.' 'S a skein o' fate, my dear girl!'
Suddenly the schoolteacher rapped on the desk and bade us come to order and Ransom Walker was called to the chair.
'Thet there is talent in Faraway township,' he said, having reluctantly come to the platform, 'and talent of the very highest order, no one can deny who has ever attended a lyceum at the Howard schoolhouse. I see evidences of talent in every face before me. And I wish to ask what are the two great talents of the Yankee—talents that made our forefathers famous the world over? I pause for an answer.'
He had once been a schoolmaster and that accounted for his didactic style.
'What are the two great talents of the Yankee?' he repeated, his hands clasped before him.
'Doughnuts an' pie,' said Uncle Be who sat in a far corner.
'No sir,' Mr Walker answered, 'there's some hev a talent fer sawin' wood, but we don't count that. It's war an' speakin', they are the two great talents of the Yankee. But his greatest talent is the gift o' gab. Give him a chance t' talk it over with his enemy an' he'll lick 'im without a fight. An' when his enemy is another Yankee—why, they both git licked, jest as it was in the case of the man thet sold me lightnin' rods. He was sorry he done it before I got through with him. If we did not encourage this talent in our sons they would be talked to death by our daughters. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me pleasure t' say that the best speakers in Faraway township have come here t' discuss the important question:
'Resolved, that intemperance has caused more misery than war?
'I call upon Moses Tupper to open for the affirmative.'
Moses, as I have remarked, had a most unlovely face with a thin and bristling growth of whiskers. In giving him features Nature had been generous to a fault. He had a large red nose, and a mouth vastly too big for any proper use. It was a mouth fashioned for odd sayings. He was well to do and boasted often that he was a self-made man. Uncle Be used to say that if Mose Tupper had had the 'makin' uv himself he'd oughter done it more careful.'
I remember not much of the speech he made, but the picture of him, as he rose on tiptoe and swung his arms like a man fighting bees, and his drawling tones are as familiar as the things of yesterday.
'Gentlemen an' ladies,' said he presently, 'let me show you a pictur'. It is the drunkard's child. It is hungry an' there ain't no food in its home. The child is poorer'n a straw-fed hoss. 'Tain't hed a thing t' eat since day before yistiddy. Pictur' it to yourselves as it comes cryin' to its mother an' says:
'"Ma! Gi' me a piece o' bread an' butter."
'She covers her face with her apron an' says she, "There am none left, my child."
'An' bime bye the child comes agin' an' holds up its poor little han's an' says: "Ma! please gi' me a piece O' cake."
'An' she goes an' looks out O' the winder, er mebbe pokes the fire, an' says: "There am' none left, my child."
'An' bime bye it comes agin' an' it says: "Please gi' me a little piece O' pie."
'An' she mebbe flops into a chair an' says, sobbin', "There ain' none left, my child."
'No pie! Now, Mr Chairman!' exclaimed the orator, as he lifted both hands high above his head, 'If this ain't misery, in God's name, what is it?
'Years ago, when I was a young man, Mr President, I went to a dance one night at the village of Migleyville. I got a toothache, an' the Devil tempted me with whiskey, an' I tuk one glass an' then another an' purty soon I began t' thank I was a mighty hefty sort of a character, I did, an' I stud on a corner an' stumped everybody t' fight with me, an' bime bye an accomanodatin' kind of a chap come along, an' that's all I remember O' what happened. When I come to, my coat tails had been tore off, I'd lost one leg O' my trousers, a bran new silver watch, tew dollars in money, an a pair O' spectacles. When I stud up an' tried t' realise what hed happened I felt jes' like a blind rooster with only one leg an' no tail feathers.'
A roar of laughter followed these frank remarks of Mr Tupper and broke into a storm of merriment when Uncle Eb rose and said:
'Mr President, I hope you see that the misfortunes of our friend was due t' war, an' not to intemperance.'
Mr Tupper was unhorsed. For some minutes he stood helpless or shaking with the emotion that possessed all. Then he finished lamely and sat down.
The narrowness of the man that saw so much where there was so little in his own experience and in the trivial events of his own township was what I now recognise as most valuable to the purpose of this history. It was a narrowness that covered a multitude of people in St Lawrence county in those days.
Jed Feary was greeted with applause and then by respectful silence when he rose to speak. The fame of his verse and his learning had gone far beyond the narrow boundaries of the township in which he lived. It was the biggest thing in the county. Many a poor sinner who had gone out of Faraway to his long home got his first praise in the obituary poem by Jed Feary. These tributes were generally published in the county paper and paid for by the relatives of the deceased at the rate of a dollar a day for the time spent on them, or by a few days of board and lodging glory and consolation that was, alas! too cheap, as one might see by a glance at his forlorn figure. I shall never forget the courtly manner, so strangely in contrast with the rude deportment of other men in that place, with which he addressed the chairman and the people. The drawling dialect of the vicinity that flavoured his conversation fell from him like a mantle as he spoke and the light in his soul shone upon that little company a great light, as I now remember, that filled me with burning thoughts of the world and its mighty theatre of action. The way of my life lay clear before me, as I listened, and its days of toil and the sweet success my God has given me, although I take it humbly and hold it infinitely above my merit. I was to get learning and seek some way of expressing what was in me.
It would ill become me to try to repeat the words of this venerable seer, but he showed that intemperance was an individual sin, while war was a national evil. That one meant often the ruin of a race; the other the ruin of a family; that one was as the ocean, the other as a single drop in its waters. And he told us of the full of empires and the millions that had suffered the oppression of the conqueror and perished by the sword since Agamemnon.
After the debate a young lady read a literary paper full of clumsy wit, rude chronicles of the countryside, essays on 'Spring', and like topics—the work of the best talent of Faraway. Then came the decision, after which the meeting adjourned.
At the door some other boys tried 'to cut me out'. I came through the noisy crowd, however, with Hope on my arm and my heart full of a great happiness.
'Did you like it?' she asked.
'Very much,' I answered.
'What did you enjoy most?'
'Your company,' I said, with a fine air of gallantry.
'Honestly. I want to take you to Rickard's sometime?'
That was indeed a long cherished hope.
'Maybe I won't let you,' she said.
'You'd better ask me sometime and see.'
'I shall. I wouldn't ask any other girl.'
'Well,' she added, with a sigh, 'if a boy likes one girl I don't think he ought to have anything to do with other girls. I hate a flirt.'
I happened to hear a footfall in the snow behind us, and looking back saw Ann Jane Foster going slow in easy hearing. She knew all, as we soon found out.
'I dew jes love t' see young folks enjoy themselves,' said she, 'it's entrancin'.'
Coming in at our gate I saw a man going over the wall back of the big stables. The house was dark.
'Did you see the night man?' Elizabeth Brower whispered as I lit the lamp. 'Went through the garden just now. I've been watching him here at the window.'
The love of labour was counted a great virtue there in Faraway. As for myself I could never put my heart in a hoe handle or in any like tool of toil. They made a blister upon my spirit as well as upon my hands. I tried to find in the sweat of my brow that exalted pleasure of which Mr Greeley had visions in his comfortable retreat on Printing House Square. But unfortunately I had not his point of view.
Hanging in my library, where I may see it as I write, is the old sickle of Uncle Eb. The hard hickory of its handle is worn thin by the grip of his hand. It becomes a melancholy symbol when I remember how also the hickory had worn him thin and bent him low, and how infinitely better than all the harvesting of the sickle was the strength of that man, diminishing as it wore the wood. I cannot help smiling when I look at the sickle and thank of the soft hands and tender amplitude of Mr Greeley.
The great editor had been a playmate of David Brower when they were boys, and his paper was read with much reverence in our home.
'How quick ye can plough a ten-acre lot with a pen,' Uncle Eb used to say when we had gone up to bed after father had been reading aloud from his Tribune.
Such was the power of the press in that country one had but to say of any doubtful thing, 'Seen it in print,' to stop all argument. If there were any further doubt he had only to say that he had read it either in the Tribune or the Bible, and couldn't remember which. Then it was a mere question of veracity in the speaker. Books and other reading were carefully put away for an improbable time of leisure.
'I might break my leg sometime,' said David Brower, 'then they'll come handy.' But the Tribune was read carefully every week.
I have seen David Brower stop and look at me while I have been digging potatoes, with a sober grin such as came to him always after he had swapped 'hosses' and got the worst of it. Then he would show me again, with a little impatience in his manner, how to hold the handle and straddle the row. He would watch me for a moment, turn to Uncle Eb, laugh hopelessly and say: 'Thet boy'll hev to be a minister. He can't work.'
But for Elizabeth Brower it might have gone hard with me those days. My mind was always on my books or my last talk with Jed Feary, and she shared my confidence and fed my hopes and shielded me as much as possible from the heavy work. Hope had a better head for mathematics than I, and had always helped me with my sums, but I had a better memory and an aptitude in other things that kept me at the head of most of my classes. Best of all at school I enjoyed the 'compositions'—I had many thoughts, such as they were, and some facility of expression, I doubt not, for a child. Many chronicles of the countryside came off my pen—sketches of odd events and characters there in Faraway. These were read to the assembled household. Elizabeth Brower would sit looking gravely down at me, as I stood by her knees reading, in those days of my early boyhood. Uncle Eb listened with his head turned curiously, as if his ear were cocked for coons. Sometimes he and David Brower would slap their knees and laugh heartily, whereat my foster mother would give them a quick glance and shake her head. For she was always fearful of the day when she should see in her children the birth of vanity, and sought to put it off as far as might be. Sometimes she would cover her mouth to hide a smile, and, when I had finished, look warningly at the rest, and say it was good, for a little boy. Her praise never went further, and indeed all those people hated flattery as they did the devil and frowned upon conceit She said that when the love of flattery got hold of one he would lie to gain it.
I can see this slender, blue-eyed woman as I write. She is walking up and down beside her spinning-wheel. I can hear the dreary buz-z-z-z of the spindle as she feeds it with the fleecy ropes. That loud crescendo echoes in the still house of memory. I can hear her singing as she steps forward and slows the wheel and swings the cradle with her foot:
'On the other side of Jordan, In the sweet fields of Eden, Where the tree of Life is blooming, There is rest for you.
She lays her hand to the spokes again and the roar of the spindle drowns her voice.
All day, from the breakfast hour to supper time, I have heard the dismal sound of the spinning as she walked the floor, content to sing of rest but never taking it.
Her home was almost a miracle of neatness. She could work with no peace of mind until the house had been swept and dusted. A fly speck on the window was enough to cloud her day. She went to town with David now and then—not oftener than once a quarter—and came back ill and exhausted. If she sat in a store waiting for David, while he went to mill or smithy, her imagination gave her no rest. That dirt abhorring mind of hers would begin to clean the windows, and when that was finished it would sweep the floor and dust the counters. In due course it would lower the big chandelier and take out all the lamps and wash the chimneys with soap and water and rub them till they shone. Then, if David had not come, it would put in the rest of its time on the woodwork. With all her cleaning I am sure the good woman kept her soul spotless. Elizabeth Brower believed in goodness and the love of God, and knew no fear. Uncle Eb used to say that wherever Elizabeth Brower went hereafter it would have to be clean and comfortable.
Elder Whitmarsh came often to dinner of a Sunday, when he and Mrs Brower talked volubly about the Scriptures, he taking a sterner view of God than she would allow. He was an Englishman by birth, who had settled in Faraway because there he had found relief for a serious affliction of asthma.
He came over one noon in the early summer, that followed the event of our last chapter, to tell us of a strawberry party that evening at the White Church.
'I've had a wonderful experience,' said he as he took a seat on the piazza, while Mrs Brower came and sat near him. 'I've discovered a great genius—a wandering fiddler, and I shall try to bring him to play for us.'
'A fiddler! why, Elder!' said she, 'you astonish me!'
'Nothing but sacred music,' he said, lifting his hand. 'I heard him play all the grand things today—"Rock of Ages", "Nearer My God, to Thee", "The Marseillaise" and "Home, Sweet Home". Lifted me off my feet! I've heard the great masters in New York and London, but no greater player than this man.'
'Where is he and where did he come from?'
'He's at my house now,' said the good man. 'I found him this morning. He stood under a tree by the road side, above Nortlrup's. As I came near I heard the strains of "The Marseillaise". For more than an hour I sat there listening. It was wonderful, Mrs Brower, wonderful! The poor fellow is eccentric. He never spoke to me. His clothes were dusty and worn. But his music went to my heart like a voice from Heaven. When he had finished I took him home with me, gave him food and a new coat, and left him sleeping. I want you to come over, and be sure to bring Hope. She must sing for us.'
'Mr Brower will be tired out, but perhaps the young people may go,' she said, looking at Hope and me.
My heart gave a leap as I saw in Hope's eyes a reflection of my own joy. In a moment she came and gave her mother a sounding kiss and asked her what she should wear.
'I must look my best, mother,' she said.
'My child,' said the elder, 'it's what you do and not what you wear that's important.'
'They're both important, Elder,' said my foster mother. You should teach your people the duty of comeliness. They honour their Maker when they look their best.'
The spirit of liberalism was abroad in the sons of the Puritans. In Elizabeth Brower the ardent austerity of her race had been freely diluted with humour and cheerfulness and human sympathy. It used to be said of Deacon Hospur, a good but lazy man, that he was given both to prayer and profanity. Uncle Eb, who had once heard the deacon swear, when the latter had been bruised by a kicking cow, said that, so far as he knew, the deacon never swore except when 'twas necessary. Indeed, most of those men had, I doubt not, too little of that fear of God in them that characterised their fathers. And yet, as shall appear, there were in Faraway some relics of a stern faith.
Hope came out in fine feather, and although I have seen many grand ladles, gowned for the eyes of kings, I have never seen a lovelier figure than when, that evening, she came tripping down to the buggy. It was three miles to the white Church, and riding over in the twilight I laid the plan of my life before her. She sat a moment in silence after I had finished.
'I am going away, too,' she remarked, with a sigh.
'Going away!' I said with some surprise, for in all my plans I had secretly counted on returning in grand style to take her back with me.
'Going away,' said she decisively.
'It isn't nice for girls to go away from home,' I said.
'It isn't nice for boys, either,' said she.
We had come to the church, its open doors and windows all aglow with light. I helped her out at the steps, and hitched my horse under the long shed. We entered together and made our way through the chattering crowd to the little cloakroom in one corner. Elder Whitmarsh arrived in a moment and the fiddler, a short, stout, stupid-looking man, his fiddle in a black box under his arm, followed him to the platform that had been cleared of its pulpit The stranger stood staring vacantly at the crowd until the elder motioned him to a chair, when he obeyed with the hesitating, blind obedience of a dog. Then the elder made a brief prayer, and after a few remarks flavoured with puns, sacred and immemorial as the pulpit itself, started a brief programme of entertainment. A broad smile marked the beginning of his lighter mood. His manner seemed to say: 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you will give good heed, you shall see I can be witty on occasion.'
Then a young man came to the platform and recited, after which Hope went forward and sang 'The Land o' the Leal' with such spirit that I can feel my blood go faster even now as I thank of it, and of that girlish figure crowned with a glory of fair curls that fell low upon her waist and mingled with the wild pink roses at her bosom. The fiddler sat quietly as if he heard nothing until she began to sing, when he turned to look at her. The elder announced, after the ballad, that he had brought with him a wonderful musician who would favour them with some sacred music. He used the word 'sacred' because he had observed, I suppose, that certain of the 'hardshells' were looking askance at the fiddle. There was an awkward moment in which the fiddler made no move or sign of intelligence. The elder stepped near him and whispered. Getting no response, he returned to the front of the platform and said: 'We shall first resign ourselves to social intercourse and the good things the ladies have provided.'
Mountains of frosted cake reared their snowy summits on a long table, and the strawberries, heaped in saucers around them, were like red foothills. I remember that while they were serving us Hope and I were introduced to one Robert Livingstone—a young New Yorker, stopping at the inn near by, on his way to the big woods. He was a handsome fellow, with such a fine air of gallantry and so trig in fashionable clothes that he made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
'I have never heard anything more delightful than that ballad,' he said to Hope. 'You must have your voice trained—you really must. It will make a great name for you.'
I wondered then why his words hurt me to the soul. The castle of my dreams had fallen as he spoke. A new light came into her face—I did not know then what it meant.
'Will you let me call upon you before I leave—may I?' He turned to me while she stood silent. 'I wish to see your father,' he added.
'Certainly,' she answered, blushing, 'you may come—if you care to come.
The musician had begun to thrum the strings of his violin. We turned to look at him. He still sat in his chair, his ear bent to the echoing chamber of the violin. Soon he laid his bow to the strings and a great chord hushed every whisper and died into a sweet, low melody, in which his thought seemed to be feeling its way through sombre paths of sound. The music brightened, the bow went faster, and suddenly 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' came rushing off the strings. A look of amazement gathered on the elder's face and deepened into horror. It went from one to another as if it had been a dish of ipecac. Ann Jane Foster went directly for her things, and with a most unchristian look hurried out into the night. Half a dozen others followed her, while the unholy music went on, its merry echoes rioting in that sacred room, hallowed with memories of the hour of conviction, of the day of mourning, of the coming of the bride in her beauty.
Deacon Hospur rose and began to drawl a sort of apology, when the player stopped suddenly and shot an oath at him. The deacon staggered under the shock of it. His whiskers seemed to lift a bit like the hair of a cat under provocation. Then he tried to speak, but only stuttered helplessly a moment as if his tongue were oscillating between silence and profanity, and was finally pulled down by his wife, who had laid hold of his coat tails. If it had been any other man than Deacon Hospur it would have gone badly with the musician then and there, but we boys saw his discomfiture with positive gratitude. In a moment all rose, the dishes were gathered up, and many hurried away with indignant glances at the poor elder, who was busy taking counsel with some of the brethren.
I have never seen a more pathetic figure than that of poor Nick Goodall as he sat there thrumming the strings of which he was a Heaven-born master. I saw him often after that night—a poor, halfwitted creature, who wandered from inn to inn there in the north country, trading music for hospitality. A thoroughly intelligible sentence never passed his lips, but he had a great gift of eloquence in music. Nobody knew whence he had come or any particular of his birth or training or family. But for his sullen temper, that broke into wild, unmeaning profanity at times, Nick Goodall would have made fame and fortune.
He stared at the thinning crowd as if he had begun dimly to comprehend the havoc he had wrought. Then he put on his hat, came down off the platform, and shuffled out of the open door, his violin in one hand, its box in the other. There were not more than a dozen of us who followed him into the little churchyard. The moon was rising, and the shadows of lilac and rose bush, of slab and monument lay long across the green mounds. Standing there between the graves of the dead he began to play. I shall never forget that solemn calling of the silver string:
'Come ye disconsolate where'er ye languish.'
It was a new voice, a revelation, a light where darkness had been, to Hope and to me. We stood listening far into the night, forgetful of everything, even the swift flight of the hours.
Loud, impassioned chords rose into the moonlit sky and sank to a faint whisper of melody, when we could hear the gossip of the birds in the belfry and under the eaves; trembling tones of supplication, wailing notes of longing and regret swept through the silent avenues of the churchyard, thrilling us with their eloquence. For the first time we heard the music of Handel, of Mendelssohn, of Paganini, and felt its power, then knowing neither name nor theme. Hour by hour he played on for the mere joy of it. When we shook hands with the elder and tiptoed to the buggy he was still playing. We drove slowly and listened a long way down the road. I could hear the strains of that ballad, then new to me, but now familiar, growing fainter in the distance:
O ye'll tak' the high road an' I'll tak' the low road An' I'll be in Scotland afore ye; But me an' me true love will never meet again On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.
what connection it may have had with the history of poor Nick Goodall [*1] I have often wondered.
[*1] Poor Nick Coodall died in the almshouse of Jefferson County some thirty years ago. A better account of this incident was widely printed at that time.
As the last note died into silence I turned to Hope, and she was crying.
'Why are you crying?' I asked, in as miserable a moment as I have ever known.
'It's the music,' she said.
We both sat in silence, then, hearing only the creak of the buggy as it sped over the sandy road. Well ahead of us I saw a man who suddenly turned aside, vaulting over the fence and running into the near woods.
'The night man!' I exclaimed, pulling up a moment to observe him.
Then a buggy came in sight, and presently we heard a loud 'hello' from David Brower, who, worried by our long stay, had come out in quest of us.
Hope's love of music became a passion after that night. Young Mr Livingstone, 'the city chap' we had met at the church, came over next day. His enthusiasm for her voice gave us all great hope of it. David Brower said he would take her away to the big city when she was older. They soon decided to send her in September to the big school in Hillsborough.
'She's got t' be a lady,' said David Brower, as he drew her into his lap the day we had all discussed the matter. 'She's learnt everything in the 'rithinetic an' geography an' speller. I want her t' learn somethin' more scientific.'
'Now you're talkin',' said Uncle Eb. 'There's lots o' things ye can't learn by cipherin'. Nuthin's too good fer Hope.'
'I'd like t' know what you men expect of her anyway,' said Elizabeth Brower.
'A high stepper,' said Uncle Eb. 'We want a slick coat, a kind uv a toppy head, an a lot O' ginger. So't when we hitch 'er t' the pole bime bye we shan't be 'shamed o' her.'