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The Junior Classics by Various

Part 8 out of 8

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I made my journey in the winter, because I was on my way to Lapland,
where it is easier to travel when the swamps and rivers are frozen,
and the reindeer-sleds can fly along over the smooth snow. It wras
very cold indeed, the greater part of the time; the days were short
and dark, and if I had not found the people so kind, so cheerful,
and so honest, I should have felt inclined to turn back, more than
once. But I do not think there are better people in the world than
those who live in Norrland, which is a Swedish province, commencing
about two hundred miles north of Stockholm.

They are a hale, strong race, with yellow hair and bright blue
eyes, and the handsomest teeth I ever saw. They live plainly, but
very comfortably, in snug wooden houses, with double windows and
doors to keep out the cold; and since they cannot do much out-door
work, they spin and weave and mend their farming implements in
the large family room, thus enjoying the winter in spite of its
severity. They are very happy and contented, and few of them would
be willing to leave that cold country and make their homes in a
warmer climate.

Here there are neither railroads nor stages, but the government has
established post-stations at distances varying from ten to twenty
miles. At each station a number of horses, and sometimes vehicles,
are kept, but generally the traveler has his own sled, and simply
hires the horses from one station to another. These horses are either
furnished by the keeper of the station or some of the neighboring
farmers, and when they are wanted a man or boy goes along with the
traveler to bring them back. It would be quite an independent and
convenient way of traveling, if the horses were always ready; but
sometimes you must wait an hour or more before they can be furnished.

I had my own little sled, filled with hay and covered with
reindeer-skins to keep me warm. So long as the weather was not too
cold, it was very pleasant to speed along through the dark forests,
over the frozen rivers, or past farm after farm in the sheltered
valleys up hill and down, until long after the stars came out, and
then to get a warm supper in some dark-red post cottage, while the
cheerful people sang or told stories around the fire. The cold
increased a little every day, to be sure, but I became gradually
accustomed to it, and soon began to fancy that the Arctic climate
was not so difficult to endure as I had supposed. At first the
thermometer fell to zero; then it went down ten degrees below; then
twenty, and finally thirty. Being dressed in thick furs from head
to foot, I did not suffer greatly; but I was very glad when the
people assured me that such extreme cold never lasted more than two
or three days. Boys of twelve or fourteen very often went with me
to bring back their father's horses, and so long as those lively,
red-cheeked fellows could face the weather, it would not do for me
to be afraid.

One night there was a wonderful aurora in the sky. The streamers
of red and blue light darted hither and thither, chasing each other
up the zenith and down again to the northern horizon with a rapidity
and a brilliance which I had never seen before. "There will be
a storm, soon," said my post-boy; "one always comes, after these
lights."

Next morning the sky was overcast, and the short day was as dark as
our twilight. But it was not quite so cold, and I travelled onward
as fast as possible. There was a long tract of wild and thinly-settled
country before me, and I wished to get through it before stopping
for the night. Unfortunately it happened that two lumber-merchants
were travelling the same way, and had taken the horses; so I was
obliged to wait at the stations until other horses were brought
from the neighbouring farms. This delayed me so much that at seven
o'clock in the evening I had still one more station of three Swedish
miles before reaching the village where I intended to spend the
night. Now a Swedish mile is nearly equal to seven English, so that
the station was at least twenty miles long.

I decided to take supper while the horse was eating his feed. They
had not expected any more travellers at the station, and were not
prepared. The keeper had gone on with the two lumber-merchants; but
his wife--a friendly, rosy-faced woman-prepared me some excellent
coffee, potatoes, and stewed reindeer-meat, upon which I made
an excellent meal. The house was on the border of a large, dark
forest, and the roar of the icy northern wind in the trees seemed
to increase while I waited in the warm room. I did not feel inclined
to go forth into the wintry storm, but, having set my mind on
reaching the village that night, I was loath to turn back.

"It is a bad night," said the woman, "and my husband will certainly
stay at Umea until morning. His name is Neils Petersen, and I think
you will find him at the post-office when you get there. Lars will
take you, and they can come back together."

"Who is Lars?" I asked.

"My son," said she. "He is getting the horse ready. There is nobody
else about the house to-night."

Just then the door opened, and in came Lars. He was about twelve
years old; but his face was so rosy, his eyes so clear and round
and blue, and his golden hair was blown back from his face in such
silky curls, that he appeared to be even younger. I was surprised
that his mother should be willing to send him twenty miles through
the dark woods on such a night.

"Come here, Lars," I said. Then I took him by the hand, and asked,
"Are you not afraid to go so far to-night?"

He looked at me with wondering eyes, and smiled; and his mother
made haste to say: "You need have no fear, sir. Lars is young; but
he'll take you safe enough. If the storm don't get worse, you'll
be at Umea by eleven o'clock."

I was again on the point of remaining; but while I was deliberating
with myself, the boy had put on his overcoat of sheep-skin, tied
the lappets of his fur cap under his chin, and a thick woolen scarf
around his nose and mouth, so that only the round blue eyes were
visible; and then his mother took down the mittens of hare's fur
from the stove, where they had been hung to dry. He put them on,
took a short leather whip, and was ready.

I wrapped myself in my furs, and we went out together. The driving
snow cut me in the face like needles, but Lars did not mind it in
the least. He jumped into the sled, which he had filled with fresh,
soft hay, tucked in the reindeer-skins at the sides, and we cuddled
together on the narrow seat, making everything close and warm before
we set out. I could not see at all, when the door of the house was
shut, and the horse started on the journey. The night was dark,
the snow blew incessantly, and the dark fir-trees roared all around
us. Lars, however, knew the way, and somehow or other we kept the
beaten track. He talked to the horse so constantly and so cheerfully,
that after a while my own spirits began to rise, and the way seemed
neither so long nor so disagreeable.

"Ho there, Axel!" he would say. "Keep to the road,--not too far to
the left. Well done. Here's a level; now trot a bit."

So we went on--sometimes up hill, sometimes down hill--for a long
time, as it seemed. I began to grow chilly, and even Lars handed
me the reins, while he swung and beat his arms to keep the blood
in circulation. He no longer sang little songs and fragments of
hymns, as when we first set out; but he was not in the least alarmed,
or even impatient. Whenever I asked (as I did about every five
minutes), "Are we nearly there?" he always answered, "A little
farther."

Suddenly the wind seemed to increase.

"Ah," said he, "now I know where we are; it's one mile more." But
one mile, you must remember, meant seven.

Lars checked the horse, and peered anxiously from side to side in
the darkness. I looked also, but could see nothing.

"What is the matter?" I finally asked.

"We have got past the hills, on the left," he said. "The country
is open to the wind, and here the snow drifts worse than anywhere
else on the road. If there have been no ploughs out to-night we'll
have trouble."

You must know that the farmers along the road are obliged to turn
out with their horses and oxen, and plough down the drifts, whenever
the road is blocked up by a storm.

In less than a quarter of an hour we could see that the horse was
sinking in the deep snow. He plunged bravely forward, but made
scarcely any headway, and presently became so exhausted that he
stood quite still. Lars and I arose from the seat and looked around.
For my part, I saw nothing except some very indistinct shapes
of trees; there was no sign of an opening through them. In a few
minutes the horse started again, and with great labour carried us
a few yards farther.

"Shall we get out and try to find the road?" said I.

"It's no use," Lars answered. "In these drifts we would sink to
the waist. Wait a little, and we shall get through this one."

It was as he said. Another pull brought us through the deep part of
the drift, and we reached a place where the snow was quite shallow.
But it was not the hard, smooth surface of the road: we could feel
that the ground was uneven, and covered with roots and bushes.
Bidding Axel stand still, Lars jumped out of the sled, and began
wading around among the trees. Then I got out on the other side,
but had not proceeded ten steps before I began to sink so deeply
into the loose snow that I was glad to extricate myself and return.
It was a desperate situation, and I wondered how we should ever
get out of it.

I shouted to Lars, in order to guide him, and it was not long
before he also came back to the sled. "If I knew where the road
is," said he, "I could get into it again. But I don't know; and I
think we must stay here all night."

"We shall freeze to death in an hour!" I cried. I was already
chilled to the bone. The wind had made me very drowsy, and I knew
that if I slept I should soon be frozen.

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Lars cheerfully. "I am a Norrlander, and
Norrlanders never freeze. I went with the men to the bear-hunt
last winter, up on the mountains, and we were several nights in
the snow. Besides, I know what my father did with a gentleman from
Stockholm on this very road, and we'll do it to-night."

"What was it?"

"Let me take care of Axel first," said Lars. "We can spare him some
hay and one reindeer-skin."

It was a slow and difficult task to unharness the horse, but
we accomplished it at last. Lars then led him under the drooping
branches of a fir-tree, tied him to one of them, gave him an armful
of hay, and fastened the reindeer-skin upon his back. Axel began
to eat, as if perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. The Norrland
horses are so accustomed to cold that they seem comfortable in a
temperature where one of ours would freeze.

When this was done, Lars spread the remaining hay evenly over the
bottom of the sled and covered it with the skins, which he tucked
in very firmly on the side toward the wind. Then, lifting them up
on the other side, he said: "Now take off your fur coat, quick,
lay it over the hay, and then creep under it."

I obeyed as rapidly as possible. For an instant I shuddered in the
icy air; but the next moment I lay stretched in the bottom of the
sled, sheltered from the storm. I held up the ends of the reindeer-skins
while Lars took off his coat and crept in beside me. Then he drew
the skins down and pressed the hay against them. When the wind seemed
to be entirely excluded Lars said we must pull off our boots, untie
our scarfs, and so loosen our clothes that they would not feel
tight upon any part of the body. When this was done, and we lay
close together, warming each other, I found that the chill gradually
passed out of my blood. My hands and feet were no longer numb; a
delightful feeling of comfort crept over me; and I lay as snugly
as in the best bed. I was surprised to find that, although my head
was covered, I did not feel stifled. Enough air came in under the
skins to prevent us from feeling oppressed. There was barely room
for the two of us to lie, with no chance of turning over or rolling
about. In five minutes, I think, we were asleep, and I dreamed
of gathering peaches on a warm August day, at home. In fact, I did
not wake up thoroughly during the night; neither did Lars, though
it seemed to me that we both talked in our sleep. But as I must have
talked English and he Swedish, there could have been no connection
between our remarks. I remember that his warm, soft hair pressed
against my chin, and that his feet reached no farther than my
knees. Just as I was beginning to feel a little cramped and stiff
from lying so still I was suddenly aroused by the cold wind on
my face. Lars had risen up on his elbow, and was peeping out from
under the skins.

"I think it must be near six o'clock," he said. "The sky is clear,
and I can see the big star. We can start in another hour."

I felt so much refreshed that I was for setting out immediately;
but Lars remarked very sensibly that is was not yet possible to
find the road. While we were talking, Axel neighed.

"There they are!" cried Lars, and immediately began to put on his
boots, his scarf, and heavy coat. I did the same, and by the time
we were ready we heard shouts and the crack of whips. We harnessed
Axel to the sled, and proceeded slowly in the direction of the
sound, which came, as we presently saw, from a company of farmers,
out thus early to plough the road. They had six pairs of horses
geared to a wooden frame, something like the bow of a ship, pointed
in front and spreading out to a breadth of ten or twelve feet.
This machine not only cut through the drifts but packed the snow,
leaving a good, solid road behind it. After it had passed, we sped
along merrily in the cold morning twilight, and in a little more
than an hour reached the post-house at Ume, where we found Lars'
father prepared to return home. He waited, nevertheless, until Lars
had eaten a good warm breakfast, when I said good-bye to both, and
went on towards Lapland.

Some weeks afterwards, on my return to Stockholm, I stopped at the
same little station. This time the weather was mild and bright,
and the father would have gone with me to the next post-house; but
I preferred to take my little bed-fellow and sled-fellow. He was
so quiet and cheerful and fearless, that although I had been nearly
all over the world, and he had never been away from home,--although
I was a man and he a young boy,--I felt that I had learned a lesson
from him, and might probably learn many more if I should know him
better. We had a merry trip of two or three hours, and then I took
leave of Lars forever.

HOW JUNE FOUND MASSA LINKUM

By Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

June laid down her knives upon the scrubbing-board, and stole softly
out into the yard. Madame Joilet was taking a nap upstairs, and,
for a few minutes at least, the coast seemed to be quite clear.

Who was June? and who was Madame Joilet?

June was a little girl who had lived in Richmond ever since she could
remember, who had never been outside of the city's boundaries, and
who had a vague idea that the North lay just above the Chick-ahominy
River and the Gulf of Mexico about a mile below the James. She could
not tell A from Z, nor the figure 1 from 40; and whenever Madame
Joilet made those funny little curves and dots and blots with pen
and ink, in drawing up her bills to send to the lodgers upstairs,
June considered that she was moved thereto by witches. Her authority
for this theory lay in a charmig old woman across the way, who
had one tooth, and wore a yellow cap, and used to tell her ghost
stories sometimes in the evening.

Somebody asked June once how old she was.

"'Spect I's a hundred,--dunno," she said gravely. Exactly how old
she was nobody knew. She was not tall enough to be more than seven,
but her face was like the face of a little old woman. It was a queer
little face, with thick lips and low forehead, and great mournful
eyes. There was something strange about those eyes. Whenever they
looked at one, they seemed to cry right out, as if they had a
voice. But no one in Richmond cared about that. Nobody cared about
June at all. When she was unhappy, no one asked what was the matter;
when she was hungry, or cold, or frightened, Madame Joilet laughed
at her, and when she was sick she beat her. If she broke a teacup
or spilled a mug of coffee, she had her ears boxed, or was shut up
in a terrible dark cellar, where the rats were as large as kittens.
If she tried to sing a little, in her sorrowful, smothered way,
over her work, Madame Joilet shook her for making so much noise.
When she stopped, she scolded her for being sulky. Nothing that
she could do ever happened to be right; everything was sure to be
wrong. She had not half enough to eat, nor half enough to wear.
What was worse than that, she had nobody to kiss, and nobody to
kiss her; nobody to love her and pet her; nobody in all the wide
world to care whether she lived or died, except a half-starved kitten
that lived in the wood-shed. For June was black, and a slave; and
this Frenchwoman, Madame Joilet, was her mistress.

Exactly what was the use of living under such circumstances June
never could clearly see. She cherished a secret notion that, if she
could find a little grave all dug out somewhere in a clover-field,
she would creep in and hide there. Madame Joilet could not find her
then. People who lived in graves were not supposed to be hungry;
and, if it were ever so cold, they never shivered. That they could
not be beaten was a natural consequence, because there was so much
earth between, that you wouldn't feel the stick. The only objection
would be leaving Hungry. Hungry was the kitten. June had named it
so because it was black. She had an idea that everything black was
hungry.

That there had been a war, June gathered from old Creline, who told
her the ghost stories. What it was all about, she did not know.
Madame Joilet said some terrible giants, called Yankees, were coming
down to eat up all the little black girls in Richmond. Creline said
that the Yankees were the Messiah's people, and were coming to set
the negroes free. Who the Messiah was, June did not know; but she
had heard vague stories from Creline, of old-time African princes,
who lived in great free forests, and sailed on sparkling rivers in
boats of painted bark, and she thought that he must be one of them.

Now, this morning, Creline had whispered mysteriously to June, as
she went up the street to sell some eggs for Madame Joilet, that
Massa Linkum was coming that very day. June knew nothing about
Massa Linkum, and nothing about those grand, immortal words of his
which had made every slave in Richmond free; it had never entered
Madame Joilet's plan that she should know. No one can tell, reasoned
Madame, what notions the little nigger will get if she finds it out.
She might even ask for wages, or take a notion to learn to read,
or run away, or something. June saw no one; she kept her prudently
in the house. Tell her? _No, no, impossible_!

But June had heard the beautiful news this morning, like all the
rest; and June was glad, though she had not the slightest idea why.
So, while her mistress was safely asleep upstairs, she had stolen
out to watch for the wonderful sight,--the mysterious sight that
every one was waiting to see. She was standing there on tiptoe on
the fence, in her little ragged dress, with the black kitten in
her arms, when a great crowd turned a corner, and tossed up a cloud
of dust, and swept up the street. There were armed soldiers with
glittering uniforms, and there were flags flying, and merry voices
shouting, and huzzas and blessings distinct upon the air. There
were long lines of dusky faces upturned, and wet with happy tears.
There were angry faces, too, scowling from windows, and lurking in
dark corners.

It swept on, and it swept up, and June stood still, and held her
breath to look, and saw, in the midst of it all, a tall man dressed
in black. He had a thin, white face, sad-eyed and kindly and quiet,
and he was bowing and smiling to the people on either side.

"God bress yer, Massa Linkum, God bress yer!" shouted the happy
voices; and then there was a chorus of wild hurrahs, and June laughed
outright for glee, and lifted up her little thin voice and cried,
"Bress yer, Massa Linkum!" with the rest, and knew no more than
the kitty what she did it for.

The great man turned, and saw June standing alone in the sunlight,
the fresh wind blowing her ragged dress, her little black shoulders
just reaching to the top of the fence, her wide-open, mournful
eyes, and the kitten squeezed in her arms. And he looked right at
her, oh, so kindly! and gave her a smile all to herself--one of
his rare smiles, with a bit of a quiver in it,--and bowed, and was
gone.

"Take me 'long wid yer, Massa Linkum, Massa Linkum!" called poor
June faintly. But no one heard her; and the crowd swept on, and
June's voice broke into a cry, and the hot tears came, and she laid
her face down on Hungry to hide them. You see, in all her life,
no one had ever looked so at June before.

"June, June, come here!" called a sharp voice from the house. But
June was sobbing so hard she did not hear.

"Venez ici,--vite, vite! June! Voila! The little nigger will be
the death of me. She tears my heart. June, vite, I say!"

June started, and jumped down from the fence, and ran into the
house with great frightened eyes.

"I just didn't mean to, noways, missus. I want to see Massa Linkum,
an' he look at me, an' I done forget eberyting. O missus, don't
beat me dis yere time, an' I'll neber--"

But Madame Joilet interrupted her with a box on the ear, and
dragged her upstairs. There was a terrible look on Madame's face.
Just what happened upstairs, I have not the heart to tell you.

That night, June was crouched, sobbing and bruised, behind the
kitchen stove, when Creline came in on an errand for her mistress.
Madame Joilet was obliged to leave the room for a few minutes,
and the two were alone together. June crawled out from behind the
stove. "I see him,--I see Massa Linkum, Creline."

"De Lord bress him foreber'n eber. Amen!" exclaimed Creline fervently,
throwing up her old thin hands.

June crept a little nearer, and looked all around the room to see
if the doors were shut.

"Creline, what's he done gone come down here fur? Am he de Messiah?"

"Bress yer soul, chile! don' ye know better'n dat ar?"

"Don' know nuffin," said June sullenly. "Neber knows nuffin; 'spects
I neber's gwine to. Can' go out in de road to fine out,--she beat
me. Can' ask nuffin,--she jest gib me a push down cellar. O Creline,
der's sech rats down dar now,--dar is!"

"Yer poor critter!" said Creline, with great contempt for her
ignorance. "Why, Massa Linkum, eberybody knows 'bout he. He's done
gone made we free,--whole heap on we."

"Free!" echoed June, with puzzled eyes.

"Laws, yes, chile; 'pears like yer's drefful stupid. Yer don'
b'long--" Creline lowered her voice to a mysterious whisper, and
looked carefully at the closed door,--"yer don' b'long to Missus
Jolly no more dan she b'long to you, an' dat's de trufe now, 'case
Massa Linkum say so,--God bress him!"

Just then Madame Joilet came back.

"What's that you're talking about?" she said sharply.

"June was jes' sayin' what a heap she tink ob you, missus," said
Creline with a grave face.

June lay awake a long time that night, thinking about Massa Linkum,
and the wonderful news Creline had brought, and wondering when
Madame Joilet would tell her that she was free.

But many days passed, and Madame said nothing about it. Creline's
son had left his master and gone North. Creline herself had asked
and obtained scanty wages for her work. A little black boy across
the street had been sentenced to receive twenty-five lashes for
some trifling fault, and they had just begun to whip him in the
yard, when a Union officer stepped up and stopped them. A little
girl, not a quarter of a mile away, whose name June had often
heard, had just found her father, who had been sold away from her
years ago, and had come into Richmond with the Yankee soldiers.
But nothing had happened to June. Everything went on as in the old
days before Master Linkum came. She washed dishes, and scrubbed
knives, and carried baskets of wood, so heavy that she tottered
under their weight, and was scolded if she dropped so much as a
shaving on the floor. She swept the rooms with a broom three times
as tall as she was, and had her ears boxed because she sould not
get the dust up with such tiny hands. She worked and scrubbed and
ran on errands from morning to night, till her feet ached so she
cried out with the pain. She was whipped and scolded and threatened
and frightened and shaken, just as she had been ever since she could
remember. She was kept shut up like a prisoner in the house, with
Madame Joilet's cold gray eyes forever on her, and her sharp voice
forever in her ear. And still not a word was said about Massa Linkum
and the beautiful freedom he had given to all such as little June,
and not a word did June dare to say.

But June _thought_. Madame Joilet could not help that. If Madame
had known just what June was thinking, she would have tried hard
to help it.

Well, so the days passed, and the weeks, and still Madame said
not a word; and still she whipped and scolded and shook, and June
worked and cried, and nothing happened. But June had not done all
her thinking for nothing.

One night Creline was going by the house, when June called to her
softly through the fence.

"Creline!"

"What's de matter?" said Creline, who was in a great hurry. "I's
gwine to fine Massa Linkum,--don' yer tell nobody. Law's a massy,
what a young un dat ar chile is!" said Creline, thinking that June
had just waked up from a dream, and forthwith forgetting all about
her.

Madame Joilet always locked June in her room, which was nothing
but a closet with a window in it, and a heap of rags for a bed. On
this particular night she turned the key as usual, and then went
to her own room at the other end of the house, where she was soon
soundly asleep.

About eleven o'clock, when all the house was still, the window
of June's closet softly opened. There was a roofed door-way just
underneath it, with an old grapevine trellis running up one side of
it. A little dark figure stepped out timidly on the narrow, steep
roof, clinging with its hands to keep its balance, and then down
upon the trellis, which it began to crawl slowly down. The old wood
creaked and groaned and trembled, and the little figure trembled
and stood still. If it should give way, and fall crashing to the
ground!

She stood a minute looking down; then she took a slow, careful
step; then another and another, hand under hand upon the bars. The
trellis creaked and shook and cracked, but it held on, and June
held on, and dropped softly down, gasping and terrified at what
she had done, all in a little heap on the grass below.

She lay there a moment perfectly still. She could not catch her
breath at first, and she trembled so that she could not move.

Then she crept along on tiptoe to the wood-shed. She ran a great
risk in opening the wood-shed door, for the hinges were rusty,
and it creaked with a terrible noise. But Hungry was in there. She
could not go without Hungry. She went in, and called in a faint
whisper. The kitten knew her, dark as it was, and ran out from the
wood-pile with a joyful mew, to rub itself against her dress.

"We's gwine to fine Massa Linkum, you an' me, bof two togeder,"
said June.

"Pur! pur-r-r!" said Hungry, as if she were quite content; and June
took her up in her arms, and laughed softly. How happy they would
be, she and Hungry! and how Massa Linkum would smile and wonder
when he saw them coming in! and how Madame Joilet would hunt and
scold!

She went out of the wood-shed and out of the yard, hushing the soft
laugh on her lips, and holding her breath as she passed under her
mistress's window. She had heard Creline say that Massa Linkum had
gone back to the North; so she walked up the street a little way,
and then she turned aside into the vacant squares and unpaved roads,
and so out into the fields where no one could see her.

It was very still and very dark. The great trees stood up like
giants against the sky, and the wind howled hoarsely through them.
It made June think of the bloodhounds that she had seen rushing
with horrible yells to the swamps, where hunted slaves were hiding.

"I reckon 'tain't on'y little ways, Hungry," she said with a shiver;
"we'll git dar 'fore long. Don' be 'fraid."

"Pur! pur-r-r!" said Hungry, nestling her head in warmly under
June's arm.

"'Spect you lub me, Hungry,--'spect you does!"

And then June laughed softly once more. What would Massa Linkum
say to the kitty? Had he ever seen such a kitty in all his life?

So she folded her arms tightly over Hungry's soft fur, and trudged
away into the woods. She began to sing a little as she walked, in
that sorrowful, smothered way, that made Madame Joilet angry. Ah,
that was all over now! There would be no more scolding and beating,
no more tired days, no more terrible nights spent in the dark and
lonely cellar, no more going to bed without her supper, and crying
herself to sleep. Massa Linkum would never treat her so. She never
once doubted, in that foolish little trusting heart of hers, that
he would be glad to see her, and Hungry too. Why should she? Was
there anyone in all the world who had looked so at poor June?

So on and away, deep into the woods and swamps, she trudged cheerily;
and she sang low to Hungry, and Hungry purred to her. The night
passed on and the stars grew pale, the woods deepened and thickened,
the swamps were cold and wet, the brambles scratched her hands and
feet.

"It's jes' ober here little ways, Hungry," trying to laugh. "We'll
fine him purty soon. I's terrible tired an'--sleepy, Hungry."

She sat down there on a heap of leaves to rest, and laid her head
down upon her arm, and Hungry mewed a little, and curled up in
her neck. The next she knew, the sun was shining. She jumped up
frightened and puzzled, and then she remembered where she was, and
began to think of breakfast. But there were no berries but the
poisonous dog-wood, and nothing else to be seen but leaves and
grass and bushes. Hungry snapped up a few grasshoppers, and looked
longingly at an unattainable squirrel, who was flying from tree-top
to tree-top; then they went slowly on.

About noon they came to a bit of a brook. June scooped up the water
in her hands, and Hungry lapped it with her pink tongue. But there
was no dinner to be found, and no sign of Massa Linkum; the sun was
like a great ball of fire above the tree-tops, and the child grew
faint and weak.

"I didn't'spect it was so fur," groaned poor June. "But don't yer
be 'feard now, Hungry. 'Pears like we'll fine him berry soon."

The sun went down, and the twilight came. No supper, and no sign
of Massa Linkum yet. Nothing but the great forest and the swamps
and the darkening shadows and the long, hungry night. June lay
down once more on the damp ground where the poisonous snakes hid
in the bushes, and hugged Hungry with her weak little arms, and
tried to speak out bravely: "We'll fine him, Hungry, sure, to-morrer.
He'll jes' open de door an' let us right in, he will; an' he'll
hab breakfas' all ready an' waitin'; 'pears like he'll hab a dish
ob milk up in de corner for you now,--tink o' dat ar, Hungry!" and
then the poor little voice that tried to be so brave broke down
into a great sob. "Ef I on'y jes' had one little mouthful now,
Hungry!--on'y one!"

So another night passed, and another morning came. A faint noise
woke June from her uneasy sleep, when the sun was hardly up.
It was Hungry, purring loudly at her ear. A plump young robin lay
quivering between her paws. She was tossing it to and fro with
curves and springs of delight. She laid the poor creature down
by June's face, looking proudly from June to it, saying as plainly
as words could say, "Here's a fine breakfast. I got it on purpose
for you. Why don't you eat, for pity's sake? There are plenty more
where this came from!"

But June turned away her eyes and moaned; and Hungry, in great
perplexity, made away with the robin herself.

Presently June crawled feebly to her feet, and pushed on through
the brambles. The kitten, purring in her arms, looked so happy and
contented with her breakfast that the child cried out at the sight
of it in sudden pain.

"O, I tought we'd git dar 'fore now, an' I tought he'd jes' be
so glad to see us!"--and then presently, "He jes' look so kinder
smilin' right out ob his eyes, Hungry!"

A bitter wind blew from the east that day, and before noon the rain
was falling, dreary and chilly and sharp. It soaked June's feet and
ragged dress, and pelted in her face. The wind blew against her,
and whirled about her, and tossed her to and fro,--she was such a
little thing, and so weak now and faint.

Just as the early twilight fell from the leaden sky, and the shadows
began to skulk behind the bushes, and the birds gathered to their
nests with sleepy twitter, she tripped over a little stone, fell
weakly to the ground, and lay still. She had not the strength to
get to her feet again.

But somehow June felt neither troubled nor afraid. She lay there
with her face upturned to the pelting rain, watching it patter from
leaf to leaf, listening to the chirp of the birds in the nests,
listening to the crying of the wind. She liked the sound. She had
a dim notion that it was like an old camp-meeting hymn that she
had heard Creline sing sometimes. She never understood the words,
but the music came back like a dream. She wondered if Massa Linkum
ever heard it. She thought he _looked like it_. She should like to
lie there all night and listen to it; and then in the morning they
would go on and find him,--in the morning; it would come very soon.

The twilight deepened, and the night came on. The rain fell faster,
and the sharp wind cried aloud.

"It's bery cold," said June sleepily, and turned her face over to
hide it on the kitten's warm, soft fur. "Goo' night, Hungry. We'll
git dar to-mor-rer. We's mos' dar, Hungry."

Hungry curled up close to her cold, wet cheek--Hungry did not care
how black it was--with a happy answering mew; but June said nothing
more.

The rain fell faster, and the sharp wind cried aloud. The kitten
woke from a nap, and purred for her to stir and speak; but June
said nothing more.

Still the rain fell, and the wind cried; and the long night and
the storm and the darkness passed, and the morning came.

Hungry stirred under June's arm, and licked her face, and mewed
piteously at her ear. But June's arm lay still, and June said no
word.

Somewhere, in a land where there was never slave and never mistress,
where there were no more hungry days and frightened nights, little
June was laughing softly, and had found some one to love her
at last. And so she did not find Massa Linkum after all? Ah!--who
would have guessed it? To that place where June had gone, where
there are no masters and no slaves, he had gone before her.

And don't I suppose his was the first face she saw, as she passed
through the storm and the night to that waiting, beautiful place?
And don't I suppose he smiled as he had smiled before, and led
her gently to that other Face, of which poor little June had known
nothing in all her life? Of course I do.

THE STORY OF A FOREST FIRE

By Raymond S. Spears

For more than six weeks no rain had fallen along the southwest side
of the Adirondacks. The ground was parched. In every direction
from Seabury Settlement fires had been burning through the forest,
but as yet the valley of the West Canada had escaped.

But one night a careless man threw a burning match into a
brush-heap. When morning came the west wind, blowing up the valley,
was ash-laden and warm with the fire that was coming eastward toward
the settlement in a line a mile wide.

Soon after daybreak Lem Lawson met the fire on his way to
Noblesborough, and warned the settlement of its danger. One man
hastened to Noblesborough for the fire-warden, two went up the
West Canada to the lumber-camps. The rest of the male population,
including boys, hastened down the main road to an old log trail.

It was hoped the fire might be stopped at the open the road afforded.

With hoes and shovels the men dug a trench through the loam to the
sand, scattering the dirt over the leaves toward the fire. When
the first flames came along, they redoubled their efforts amid the
flying sparks and suffocating smoke, but without avail. The sparks
and great pieces of flaming birch curls carried the flames over the
road into the woods beyond the men, fairly surrounding them with
fire.

The men could only go before it, pausing now and then to throw dirt
on a spark. Those who lived in the settlement glanced from side to
side, wondering if the fire would cross the brook, where they now
determined to make another and the last possible stand.

The settlement was built along the brink of a steep side-hill. The
bed of the stream was only a few feet wide,--chiefly sand-bar and
dry boulders at this time,--and beyond it, toward the fire, was a
flat, or bottom, sixty rods wide, averaging not two feet above the
bed of the brook.

Should the fire cross the brook, it would climb the hill and burn
the buildings. Then it would sweep across the narrow fields of
grass, or go round the ends of the settlement clearing, into the
"big woods."

One of the fire-fighters was Will Borson, son of the man who had
thrown the match, and as he fought with his hoe along the road he
heard the men on each side of him cursing his father by name for
his carelessness. More than once these men turned on Will, and told
him he ought to put that fire out, since his father was to blame
for it.

Will did his best. Sparks burned holes in his shirt; a flare of
sheet fire from a brush-heap singed his eyelashes and the hair over
his forehead. When old Ike Frazier cried out, "It's no use here
any more, boys!" Will was the last one to duck his head and run
for the road up the creek to the settlement.

Half a dozen men were detailed to go to the houses and help the
women carry the furniture and other household goods out in the
fields to the watering-troughs; the rest hastened to the brook
and scattered along it, and threw water on the brush at the edge,
hoping the flames would be deadened when they came.

Among them worked Will Borson, thinking with all his might and
looking up and down the creek as if the dry gray boulders, with the
scant thread of water oozing down among them, would give him some
inspiration. The width of the stream was only a few feet on an
average, and twenty feet at the widest pools, over which the flame
and sparks would quickly jump.

The fire reached the flat at the foot of the ridge and came toward
the brook in jumps. The men worked faster than ever with their
ten-quart pails. Old Ike Frazier glanced up the stream, and saw
Will leaning on his hoe-handle, doing nothing.

"Hi there!" yelled the man. "Get to work!"

"You tell the men they want to be looking out!" Will called back.
"Something'll happen pretty quick!" With that he dropped his hoe
and went climbing up the side-hill toward his home at the top.
Mrs. Borson was just piling the last of her bedding on the wagon
when she saw Will coming toward her. He unhitched the horse from
the wagon, and had the harness scattered on the ground before his
mother could control herself enough to cry:

"Those things'll be burned here! What are you taking the horse
for--we--we--"

Then she sank to the ground and cried, while Will's younger brothers
and sisters joined in.

Will did not stop to say anything, but leaped to the back of the
horse, and away he went up the road, to the amazement of those who
were taking their goods from the houses. But he was soon in the
woods above the settlement and out of sight of every one.

He was headed for the dam. He had thought to open the little sluice
at the bottom of it, which would add to the volume of the water in
the stream--raise it a foot, perhaps.

He reached the dam, and prying at the gate, opened the way. A stream
of water two feet square shot from the bottom of the dam and went
sloshing down among the rocks.

"That water'll help a lot," he thought. Then he heard the roar of
the fire down the brook, and saw a huge dull, brick-colored flash
as a big hemlock went up in flame. The amount of water gushing from
the gate of the dam seemed suddenly small and useless. It would not
fill the brook-bed. In a little shanty a hundred yards away were
the quarrying tools used in getting out the stone for the Cardin
house. To this Will ran with all his speed.

With an old ax that was behind the shanty he broke down the door.
Inside he picked up a full twelve-pound box of dynamite, and bored
a hole the size of his finger into one side. Then with a fuse and
cap in one hand and the box under his arm, he hurried back to the
dam.

He climbed down the ladder to the bottom of the dam, and fixing
the fuse to the cap, ran it into the hole he had bored till it was
well among the sawdust and sticks of dynamite. He cut the fuse to
two minutes' length, and carried the box back among the big key
logs that held the dam. He was soon ready. He jammed the box under
water among beams where it would stick. A match started the fuse
going, and then Will climbed the ladder and ran for safety.

In a few moments the explosion came. Will heard the beams in the
gorge tumbling as the dam gave way, and the water behind was freed.
Away it went, washing and pounding down the narrow ravine, toward
the low bottom.

The fire-fighters heard the explosion and paused, wondering, to
listen. The next instant the roar of the water came to their ears,
and the tremble caused by logs and boulders rolling with the flood
was felt. Then every man understood what was done, for they had
been log-drivers all their lives, and knew the signs of a loosed
sluicegate or of a broken jam.

They climbed the steep bank toward the buildings, to be above the
flood-line, yelling warnings that were half-cheers.

In a few moments the water was below the mouth of the gorge, and
then it rushed over the low west bank of the brook and spread out
on the wide flat where the fire was raging. For a minute clouds of
steam and loud hissing marked the progress of the wave, and then
the brush-heaps from edge to edge of the valley bottom were covered
and the fire was drowned.

The fires left in the trees above the high-water mark and the
flames back on the ridge still thrust and flared, but were unable
to cross the wide, wet flood-belt. The settlement and the "big
woods" beyond were saved.

Sol Cardin reached the settlement on the following day, and heard
the story of the fire. In response to an offer from Will, he replied:

"No, my boy, you needn't pay for the dam by working or anything
else. I'm in debt to you for saving my timber above the settlement,
instead." Then he added, in a quiet way characteristic of him,
"It seems a pity if wit like yours doesn't get its full growth."

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