Part 2 out of 6
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
'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
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
'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
yams 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
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
'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
'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
THE ROBIN'S WEDDING
Young robin red breast hed a beautiful nest an' he says to his love
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
They were married next day, in the land o' the hay, the lady bird an'
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' 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
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
Some came down from Barleytown an' the neighbouring city o'
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
'"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
'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 as. 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
'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
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 m 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
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
''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
'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
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'intrnent" 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
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
''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
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 fm 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
'Wouldn't eggzac'ly say 'twas possible,' he drawled, 'but 'twas a
'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
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
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'
''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
''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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'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' itto 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
'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 comer 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 respectfiil 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 flill
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
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
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
'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
'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 spirmng 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
'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
'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 andent 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
'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, stoppmg 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
'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.
'Certanly,' she answered, blushing, 'you may come - if you care to
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.
As the last note died into silence I turned to Hope, and she was
'Why are you crying?' I asked, in as miserable a moment as I have
'It's the music,' she said.
*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.
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
'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 leamt 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
'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.'
'Eggzac'ly,' said David Brower, laughing. 'An' then she shall have
the best harness in the market.'
Hope did not seem to comprehend all the rustic metaphors that had
been applied to her. A look of puzzled amusement came over her
face, and then she ran away into the garden, her hair streaming
from under her white sun-bonnet.
'Never see sech a beauty! Beats the world,' said Uncle Eb in a
whisper, whereat both David and Elizabeth shook their heads.
'Lord o' mercy! Don't let her know it,' Elizabeth answered, in a low
tone. 'She's beginning to have-'
Just then Hope came by us leading her pet filly that had been born
within the month. Immediately Mrs Brower changed the subject.
'To have what?' David enquired as soon as the girl was out of
'Suspicions,' said Elizabeth mournflllly. 'Spends a good deal of her
time at the looking-glass. I think the other girls tell her and then
that young Livingstone has been turning her head.'
'Turning her head!' he exclaimed.
'Turning her head,' she answered. 'He sat here the other day and
deliberately told her that he had never seen such a complexion and
such lovely hair.'
Elizabeth Brower mocked his accent with a show of contempt that
feebly echoed my own emotions.
'That's the way o' city folks, mother,' said David.
'It's a bad way,' she answered. 'I do not thank he ought to come
here. Hope's a child yet, and we mustn't let her get notions.'
'I'll tell him not t' come any more,' said David, as he and Uncle Eb
rose to go to their work
'I'm 'fraid she ought not to go away to school for a year yet,' said
Elizabeth, a troubled look in her face.
'Pshaw, mother! Ye can't keep her under yer wing alwus,' said he.
'Well, David, you know she is very young and uncommonly - ' she
'Han'some,' said he, 'we might as well own up if she is our child.'
'If she goes away,' continued Elizabeth, 'some of us ought t' go with
Then Uncle Eb and David went to their work in the fields and I to
my own task That very evening they began to talk of renting the
farm and going to town with the children.
I had a stent of cording wood that day and finished it before two
o'clock Then I got my pole of mountain ash, made hook and line
ready, dug some worms and went fishing. I cared not so much for
the fishing as for the solitude of the woods. I had a bit of thing to
do. In the thick timber there was a place where Tinkle brook began
to hurry and break into murmurs on a pebble bar, as if its feet were
tickled. A few more steps and it burst into a peal of laughter that
lasted half the year as it tumbled over narrow shelves of rock into
a foamy pool. Many a day I had sat fishing for hours at the little
fall under a birch tree, among the brakes and moss. No ray of
sunlight ever got to the dark water below me - the lair of many a
big fish that had yielded to the temptation of my bait. Here I lay in
the cool shade while a singular sort of heart sickness came over
me. A wild partridge was beating his gong in the near woods all
the afternoon. The sound of the water seemed to break in the
tree-tops and fall back upon me. I had lain there thinking an hour
or more when I caught the jar of approaching footsteps. Looking
up I saw Jed Feary coming through the bushes, pole in hand.
'Fishin'?' he asked.
'Only thinking,' I answered.
'Couldn't be in better business,' said he as he sat down beside me.
More than once he had been my father confessor and I was glad he
'In love?' he asked. 'No boy ever thinks unless he's in love.'
'In trouble,' said I.
'Same thing,' he answered, lighting his pipe. 'Love is trouble with a
bit of sugar in it - the sweetest trouble a man can have. what's the
'It's a great secret,' I said, 'I have never told it. I am in love.'
'Knew it,' he said, puffing at his pipe and smiling in a kindly way.
'Now let's put in the trouble.'
'She does not love me,' I answered.
'Glad of it,' he remarked. 'I've got a secret t, tell you.'
'What's that?' I enquired.
'Wouldn't tell anybody else for the world, my boy,' he said, 'it's
between you an' me.'
'Between you an' me,' I repeated.
'Well,' he said, you're a fool.'
'That's no secret,' I answered much embarrassed.
'Yes it is,' he insisted, 'you're smart enough an' ye can have most
anything in this world if ye take the right road. Ye've grown t' be a
great big strapping fellow but you're only - sixteen?'
'That's all,' I said mournfully.
'Ye're as big a fool to go falling in love as I'd be. Ye're too young
an' I'm too old. I say to you, wait. Ye've got to go t' college.'
'College!' I exclaimed, incredulously.
'Yes! an' thet's another secret,' said he. I tol' David Brower what I
thought o' your writing thet essay on bugs in pertickier - an' I tol'
'im what people were sayin' o' your work in school.'
'What d' he say?' I asked.
'Said Hope had tol' him all about it - that she was as proud o' you as
she was uv her curls, an' I believe it. "Well," says I, "y' oughter sen'
that boy t' college." "Goin' to," says he. "He'll go t' the 'Cademy this
fall if he wants to. Then he can go t' college soon's he's ready."
Threw up my hat an' shouted I was that glad.'
As he spoke the old man's face kindled with enthusiasm. In me he
had one who understood him, who saw truth in his thought, music
in his verse, a noble simplicity in his soul. I took his hand in mine
and thanked him heartily. Then we rose and came away together.
'Remember,' he said, as we parted at the corner, 'there's a way laid
out fer you. In God's time it will lead to every good thing you
desire. Don't jump over the fence. Don't try t' pass any milestun
'fore ye've come to it. Don't mope. Keep yer head cool with
philosophy, yer feet warm with travel an' don't worry bout yer
heart. It won't turn t' stun if ye do keep it awhile. Allwus hev
enough of it about ye t' do business with. Goodbye!'
Gerald Brower, who was a baby when I came to live at Faraway,
and was now eleven, had caught a cold in seed time, and he had
never quite recovered. His coughing had begun to keep him awake,
and one night it brought alarm to the whole household. Elizabeth
Brower was up early in the morning and called Uncle Eb, who
went away for the doctor as soon as light came. We ate our
breakfast in silence. Father and mother and Grandma Bisnette
spoke only in low tones and somehow the anxiety in their faces
went to my heart. Uncle Eb returned about eight o'clock and said
the doctor was coming. Old Doctor Bigsby was a very great man in
that country. Other physicians called him far and wide for
consultation. I had always regarded him with a kind of awe
intensified by the aroma of his drugs and the gleam of his lancet.
Once I had been his patient and then I had trembled at his
approach. when he took my little wrist in his big hand, I remember
with what reluctance I stuck out my quivering tongue, black, as I
feared with evidences of prevarication.
He was a picture for a painter man as he came that morning erect
in his gig. who could forget the hoary majesty of his head - his
'stovepipe' tilted back, his white locks flying about his ears? He
had a long nose, a smooth-shaven face and a left eye that was a
trifle turned. His thoughts were generally one day behind the
calendar. Today he seemed to be digesting the affairs of yesterday.
He was, therefore, absentminded, to a degree that made no end of
gossip. If he came out one day with shoe-strings flying, in his
remorse the next he would forget his collar; if one told him a good
joke today, he might not seem to hear it, but tomorrow he would
take it up in its turn and shake with laughter.
I remember how, that morning after noting the symptoms of his
patient, he sat a little in silent reflection. He knew that colour in
the cheek, that look in the eye - he had seen so much of it. His legs
were crossed and one elbow thrown carelessly over the back of his
chair. We all sat looking at him anxiously. In a moment he began
chewing hard on his quid of tobacco. Uncle Eb pushed the
cuspidor a bit nearer. The doctor expectorated freely and resumed
his attitude of reflection. The clock ticked loudly, the patient
sighed, our anxiety increased. Uncle Eb spoke to father, in a low
tone, whereupon the doctor turned suddenly, with a little grunt of
enquiry, and seeing he was not addressed, sank again into
thoughtful repose. I had begun to fear the worst when suddenly the
hand of the doctor swept the bald peak of benevolence at the top of
his head. Then a smile began to spread over his face. It was as if
some feather of thought had begun to tickle him. In a moment his
head was nodding with laughter that brought a great sense of relief
to all of us. In a slow, deliberate tone he began to speak:
'I was over t' Rat Tupper's t'other day,' said he, 'Rat was sitting with
me in the door yard. Purty soon a young chap came in, with a
scythe, and asked if he might use the grindstun. He was a new
hired man from somewhere near. He didn't know Rat, an' Rat
didn't know him. So Rat o' course had t' crack one o' his jokes.
'"May I use yer grindstun?" said the young feller.
'"Dunno," said Rat, "I'm only the hired man here. Go an' ask Mis'
'The ol' lady had overheard him an' so she says t' the young feller,
"Yes - ye can use the grindstun. The hired man out there'll turn it
'Rat see he was trapped, an' so he went out under the plum tree,
where the stun was, an' begun t' turn. The scythe was dull an' the
young feller bore on harder'n wuz reely decent fer a long time. Rat
begun t' git very sober lookin'.
'"Ain't ye 'bout done," said he.
'"Putty nigh," said the young feller bearin' down a leetle harder all
'Rat made the stun go faster. putty soon he asked agin, "Ain't ye
'"putty nigh!" says the other feeling o' the edge.
'"I'm done," said Rat, an' he let go o' the handle. "I dunno 'bout the
scythe but I'm a good deal sharper'n I wuz."
'"You're the hired man here ain't ye?" said the young feller.
'"No, I ain't," said Rat. "'D rather own up t' bein' a liar than turn that
stun another minnit."
As soon as he was fairly started with this droll narrative the strain
of the situation was relieved. We were all laughing as much at his
deliberate way of narration as at the story itself.
Suddenly he turned to Elizabeth Brower and said, very soberly,
'Will you bring me some water in a glass?'
Then he opened his chest of medicine, made some powders and
told us how to give them.
'In a few days I would take him into the big woods for a while,' he