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´╗┐Title: Driven Back to Eden
Author: Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Driven Back to Eden" ***

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DRIVEN BACK TO EDEN


BY


E. P. ROE



THIS VOLUME

IS LOVINGLY DEDICATED TO

"JOHNNIE"



PREFACE

Months since, with much doubt and diffidence, I began this simple
story. I had never before written expressly for young people, and I
knew that the honest little critics could not be beguiled with words
which did not tell an interesting story. How far I have succeeded, the
readers of this volume, and of the "St. Nicholas" magazine, wherein the
tale appeared as a serial, alone can answer.

I have portrayed no actual experience, but have sought to present one
which might be verified in real life. I have tried to avoid all that
would be impossible or even improbable. The labors performed by the
children in the story were not unknown to my own hands, in childhood,
nor would they form tasks too severe for many little hands now idle in
the cities.

The characters are all imaginary; the scenes, in the main, are real:
and I would gladly lure other families from tenement flats into green
pastures.

E. P. R.

CORNWALL-ON-THE-HUDSON,

August 10, 1885.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I A PROBLEM

CHAPTER II I STATE THE CASE

CHAPTER III NEW PROSPECTS

CHAPTER IV A MOMENTOUS EXPEDITION

CHAPTER V A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS IN A CITY FLAT

CHAPTER VI A BLUFF FRIEND

CHAPTER VII MR. JONES SHOWS ME THE PLACE

CHAPTER VIII TELLING ABOUT EDEN

CHAPTER IX "BREAKING CAMP"

CHAPTER X SCENES ON THE WHARF

CHAPTER XI A VOYAGE UP THE HUDSON

CHAPTER XII A MARCH EVENING IN EDEN

CHAPTER XIII RESCUED AND AT HOME

CHAPTER XIV SELF-DENIAL AND ITS REWARD

CHAPTER XV OUR SUNNY KITCHEN

CHAPTER XVI MAKING A PLACE FOR CHICKENS

CHAPTER XVII GOOD BARGAINS IN MAPLE SUGAR

CHAPTER XVIII BUTTERNUTS AND BOBSEY'S PERIL

CHAPTER XIX JOHN JONES, JUN

CHAPTER XX RASPBERRY LESSONS

CHAPTER XXI THE "VANDOO"

CHAPTER XXII EARLY APRIL GARDENING

CHAPTER XXIII A BONFIRE AND A FEAST

CHAPTER XXIV "NO BLIND DRIFTING"

CHAPTER XXV OWLS AND ANTWERPS

CHAPTER XXVI A COUNTRY SUNDAY

CHAPTER XXVII STRAWBERRY VISIONS AND "PERTATERS"

CHAPTER XXVIII CORN, COLOR, AND MUSIC

CHAPTER XXIX WE GO A-FISHING

CHAPTER XXX WEEDS AND WORKING FOR DEAR LIFE

CHAPTER XXXI NATURE SMILES AND HELPS

CHAPTER XXXII CHERRIES, BERRIES, AND BERRY-THIEVES

CHAPTER XXXIII GIVEN HIS CHOICE

CHAPTER XXXIV GIVEN A CHANCE

CHAPTER XXXV "WE SHALL ALL EARN OUR SALT"

CHAPTER XXXVI A THUNDERBOLT

CHAPTER XXXVII RALLYING FROM THE BLOW

CHAPTER XXXVIII AUGUST WORK AND PLAY

CHAPTER XXXIX A TRIP TO THE SEASHORE

CHAPTER XL A VISIT TO HOUGHTON FARM

CHAPTER XLI HOARDING FOR WINTER

CHAPTER XLII AUTUMN WORK AND SPORT

CHAPTER XLIII THANKSGIVING DAY

CHAPTER XLIV WE CAN MAKE A LIVING IN EDEN



DRIVEN BACK TO EDEN



CHAPTER I

A PROBLEM


"Where are the children?"

"They can't be far away," replied my wife, looking up from her
preparations for supper. "Bobsey was here a moment ago. As soon as my
back's turned he's out and away. I haven't seen Merton since he brought
his books from school, and I suppose Winnie is upstairs with the
Daggetts."

"I wish, my dear, you could keep the children at home more," I said, a
little petulantly.

"I wish you would go and find them for me now, and to-morrow take my
place--for just one day."

"Well, well," I said, with a laugh that had no mirth in it; "only one
of your wishes stands much chance of being carried out. I'll find the
children now if I can without the aid of the police. Mousie, do you
feel stronger to-night?"

These words were spoken to a pale girl of fourteen, who appeared to be
scarcely more than twelve, so diminutive was her frame.

"Yes, papa," she replied, a faint smile flitting like a ray of light
across her features. She always said she was better, but never got
well. Her quiet ways and tones had led to the household name of
"Mousie."

As I was descending the narrow stairway I was almost overthrown by a
torrent of children pouring down from the flats above. In the dim light
of a gas-burner I saw that Bobsey was one of the reckless atoms. He had
not heard my voice in the uproar, and before I could reach him, he with
the others had burst out at the street door and gone tearing toward the
nearest corner. It seemed that he had slipped away in order to take
part in a race, and I found him "squaring off" at a bigger boy who had
tripped him up. Without a word I carried him home, followed by the
jeers and laughter of the racers, the girls making their presence known
in the early December twilight by the shrillness of their voices and by
manners no gentler than those of the boys.

I put down the child--he was only seven years of age--in the middle of
our general living-room, and looked at him. His little coat was split
out in the back; one of his stockings, already well-darned at the
knees, was past remedy; his hands were black, and one was bleeding; his
whole little body was throbbing with excitement, anger, and violent
exercise. As I looked at him quietly the defiant expression in his eyes
began to give place to tears.

"There is no use in punishing him now," said my wife. "Please leave him
to me and find the others."

"I wasn't going to punish him," I said.

"What are you going to do? What makes you look at him so?"

"He's a problem I can't solve--with the given conditions."

"O Robert, you drive me half wild. If the house was on fire you'd stop
to follow out some train of thought about it all. I'm tired to death.
Do bring the children home. When we've put them to bed you can figure
on your problem, and I can sit down."

As I went up to the Daggetts' flat I was dimly conscious of another
problem. My wife was growing fretful and nervous. Our rooms would not
have satisfied a Dutch housewife, but if "order is heaven's first law"
a little of Paradise was in them as compared to the Daggetts'
apartments. "Yes," I was told, in response to my inquiries; "Winnie is
in the bed-room with Melissy."

The door was locked, and after some hesitation the girls opened it. As
we were going downstairs I caught a glimpse of a newspaper in my girl's
pocket. She gave it to me reluctantly, and said "Melissy" had lent it
to her. I told her to help her mother prepare supper while I went to
find Merton. Opening the paper under a street lamp, I found it to be a
cheap, vile journal, full of flashy pictures that so often offend the
eye on news-stands. With a chill of fear I thought, "Another problem."
The Daggett children had had the scarlet fever a few months before.
"But here's a worse infection," I reflected. "Thank heaven, Winnie is
only a child, and can't understand these pictures;" and I tore the
paper up and thrust it into its proper place, the gutter.

"Now," I muttered, "I've only to find Merton in mischief to make the
evening's experience complete."

In mischief I did find him--a very harmful kind of mischief, it
appeared to me. Merton was little over fifteen, and he and two or three
other lads were smoking cigarettes which, to judge by their odor, must
certainly have been made from the sweepings of the manufacturer's floor.

"Can't you find anything better than that to do after school?" I asked,
severely.

"Well, sir," was the sullen reply, "I'd like to know what there is for
a boy to do in this street."

During the walk home I tried to think of an answer to his implied
question. What would I do if I were in Merton's place? I confess that I
was puzzled. After sitting in school all day he must do something that
the police would permit. There certainly seemed very little range of
action for a growing boy. Should I take him out of school and put him
into a shop or an office? If I did this his education would be sadly
limited. Moreover he was tall and slender for his age, and upon his
face there was a pallor which I dislike to see in a boy. Long hours of
business would be very hard upon him, even if he could endure the
strain at all. The problem which had been pressing on me for
months--almost years--grew urgent.

With clouded brows we sat down to our modest little supper. Winifred,
my wife, was hot and flushed from too near acquaintance with the stove,
and wearied by a long day of toil in a room that would be the better
for a gale of wind. Bobsey, as we called my little namesake, was
absorbed--now that he was relieved from the fear of punishment--by the
wish to "punch" the boy who had tripped him up. Winnie was watching me
furtively, and wondering what had become of the paper, and what I
thought of it. Merton was somewhat sullen, and a little ashamed of
himself. I felt that my problem was to give these children something to
do that would not harm them, for do SOMETHING they certainly would.
They were rapidly attaining that age when the shelter of a narrow city
flat would not answer, when the influence of a crowded house and of the
street might be greater than any we could bring to bear upon them.

I looked around upon the little group for whom I was responsible. My
will was still law to them. While my little wife had positive ways of
her own, she would agree to any decided course that I resolved upon.
The children were yet under entire control, so that I sat at the head
of the table, commander-in-chief of the little band. We called the
narrow flat we lived in "home." The idea! with the Daggetts above and
the Ricketts on the floor beneath. It was not a home, and was scarcely
a fit camping-ground for such a family squad as ours. Yet we had stayed
on for years in this long, narrow line of rooms, reaching from a
crowded street to a little back-yard full of noisy children by day, and
noisier cats by night. I had often thought of moving, but had failed to
find a better shelter that was within my very limited means. The
neighborhood was respectable, so far as a densely populated region can
be. It was not very distant from my place of business, and my work
often kept me so late at the office that we could not live in the
suburb. The rent was moderate for New York, and left me some money,
after food and clothing were provided, for occasional little outings
and pleasures, which I believe to be needed by both body and mind.
While the children were little--so long as they would "stay put" in the
cradle or on the floor--we did not have much trouble. Fortunately I had
good health, and, as my wife said, was "handy with children." Therefore
I could help her in the care of them at night, and she had kept much of
her youthful bloom. Heaven had blessed us. We had met with no serious
misfortunes, nor had any of our number been often prostrated by
prolonged and dangerous illness. But during the last year my wife had
been growing thin, and occasionally her voice had a sharpness which was
new. Every month Bobsey became more hard to manage. Our living-room was
to him like a cage to a wild bird, and slip away he would, to his
mother's alarm; for he was almost certain to get into mischief or
trouble. The effort to perform her household tasks and watch over him
was more wearing than it had been to rock him through long hours at
night when he was a teething baby. These details seem very homely no
doubt, yet such as these largely make up our lives. Comfort or
discomfort, happiness or unhappiness, springs from them. There is no
crop in the country so important as that of boys and girls. How could I
manage my little home-garden in a flat?

I looked thoughtfully from one to another, as with children's appetites
they became absorbed in one of the chief events of the day.

"Well," said my wife, querulously, "how are you getting on with your
problem?"

"Take this extra bit of steak and I'll tell you after the children are
asleep," I said.

"I can't eat another mouthful," she exclaimed, pushing back her almost
untasted supper. "Broiling the steak was enough for me."

"You are quite tired out, dear," I said, very gently.

Her face softened immediately at my tone and tears came into her eyes.

"I don't know what is the matter with me," she faltered. "I am so
nervous some days that I feel as if I should fly to pieces. I do try to
be patient, but I know I'm growing cross!"

"Oh now, mamma," spoke up warm-hearted Merton; "the idea of your being
cross."

"She IS cross," Bobsey cried; "she boxed my ears this very day."

"And you deserved it," was Merton's retort. "It's a pity they are not
boxed oftener."

"Yes, Robert, I did," continued my wife, sorrowfully. "Bobsey ran away
four times, and vexed me beyond endurance, that is, such endurance as I
have left, which doesn't seem to be very much."

"I understand, dear," I said. "You are a part of my problem, and you
must help me solve it." Then I changed the subject decidedly, and soon
brought sunshine to our clouded household. Children's minds are easily
diverted; and my wife, whom a few sharp words would have greatly
irritated, was soothed, and her curiosity awakened as to the subject of
my thoughts.



CHAPTER II

I STATE THE CASE


I pondered deeply while my wife and Winnie cleared away the dishes and
put Bobsey into his little crib. I felt that the time for a decided
change had come, and that it should be made before the evils of our lot
brought sharp and real trouble.

How should I care for my household? If I had been living on a far
frontier among hostile Indians I should have known better how to
protect them. I could build a house of heavy logs and keep my wife and
children always near me while at work. But it seemed to me that Melissa
Daggett and her kin with their flashy papers, and the influence of the
street for Merton and Bobsey, involved more danger to my little band
than all the scalping Modocs that ever whooped. The children could not
step outside the door without danger of meeting some one who would do
them harm. It is the curse of crowded city life that there is so little
of a natural and attractive sort for a child to do, and so much of evil
close at hand.

My wife asked me humorously for the news. She saw that I was not
reading my paper, and my frowning brow and firm lips proved my problem
was not of a trifling nature. She suspected nothing more, however, than
that I was thinking of taking rooms in some better locality, and she
was wondering how I could do it, for she knew that my income now left
but a small surplus above expenses.

At last Winnie too was ready to go to bed, and I said to her, gravely:
"Here is money to pay Melissa for that paper. It was only fit for the
gutter, and into the gutter I put it. I wish you to promise me never to
look at such pictures again, or you can never hope to grow up to be a
lady like mamma."

The child flushed deeply, and went tearful and penitent to bed. Mousie
also retired with a wistful look upon her face, for she saw that
something of grave importance occupied my mind.

No matter how tired my wife might be, she was never satisfied to sit
down until the room had been put in order, a green cloth spread upon
the supper-table and the student lamp placed in its centre.

Merton brought his school-books, and my wife took up her mending, and
we three sat down within the circle of light.

"Don't do any more work to-night," I said, looking into my wife's face,
and noting for a few moments that it was losing its rounded lines.

Her hands dropped wearily into her lap, and she began gratefully: "I'm
glad you speak so kindly to-night, Robert, for I am so nervous and out
of sorts that I couldn't have stood one bit of fault-finding--I should
have said things, and then have been sorry all day to-morrow. Dear
knows, each day brings enough without carrying anything over. Come,
read the paper to me, or tell me what you have been thinking about so
deeply, if you don't mind Merton's hearing you. I wish to forget
myself, and work, and everything that worries me, for a little while."

"I'll read the paper first, and then, after Merton has learned his
lessons, I will tell you my thoughts--my purpose, I may almost say.
Merton shall know about it soon, for he is becoming old enough to
understand the 'why' of things. I hope, my boy, that your teacher lays
a good deal of stress on the WHY in all your studies."

"Oh, yes, after a fashion."

"Well, so far as I am your teacher, Merton, I wish you always to think
why you should do a thing or why you shouldn't, and to try not to be
satisfied with any reason but a good one."

Then I gleaned from the paper such items as I thought would interest my
wife. At last we were alone, with no sound in the room but the low roar
of the city, a roar so deep as to make one think that the tides of life
were breaking waves.

I was doing some figuring in a note-book when my wife asked: "Robert,
what is your problem to-night? And what part have I in it?"

"So important a part that I couldn't solve it without you," I replied,
smiling at her.

"Oh, come now," she said, laughing slightly for the first time in the
evening; "you always begin to flatter a little when you want to carry a
point."

"Well, then, you are on your guard against my wiles. But believe me,
Winifred, the problem on my mind is not like one of my ordinary brown
studies; in those I often try to get back to the wherefore of things
which people usually accept and don't bother about. The question I am
considering comes right home to us, and we must meet it. I have felt
for some time that we could not put off action much longer, and
to-night I am convinced of it."

Then I told her how I had found three of the children engaged that
evening, concluding: "The circumstances of their lot are more to blame
than they themselves. And why should I find fault with you because you
are nervous? You could no more help being nervous and a little
impatient than you could prevent the heat of the lamp from burning you,
should you place your finger over it. I know the cause of it all. As
for Mousie, she is growing paler and thinner every day. You know what
my income is; we could not change things much for the better by taking
other rooms and moving to another part of the city, and we might find
that we had changed for the worse. I propose that we go to the country
and get our living out of the soil."

"Why, Robert! what do you know about farming or gardening?"

"Not very much, but I am not yet too old to learn; and there would be
something for the children to do at once, pure air for them to breathe,
and space for them to grow healthfully in body, mind, and soul. You
know I have but little money laid by, and am not one of those smart men
who can push their way. I don't know much besides bookkeeping, and my
employers think I am not remarkably quick at that. I can't seem to
acquire the lightning speed with which things are done nowadays; and
while I try to make up by long hours and honesty, I don't believe I
could ever earn much more than I am getting now, and you know it
doesn't leave much of a margin for sickness or misfortune of any kind.
After all, what does my salary give us but food and clothing and
shelter, such as it is, with a little to spare in some years? It sends
a cold chill to my heart to think what should become of you and the
children if I should be sick or anything should happen to me. Still, it
is the present welfare of the children that weighs most on my mind,
Winifred. They are no longer little things that you can keep in these
rooms and watch over; there is danger for them just outside that door.
It wouldn't be so if beyond the door lay a garden and fields and woods.
You, my overtaxed wife, wouldn't worry about them the moment they were
out of sight, and my work, instead of being away from them all day,
could be with them. And all could do something, even down to pale
Mousie and little Bobsey. Outdoor life and pure air, instead of that
breathed over and over, would bring quiet to your nerves and the roses
back to your cheeks. The children would grow sturdy and strong; much of
their work would be like play to them; they wouldn't be always in
contact with other children that we know nothing about. I am aware that
the country isn't Eden, as we have imagined it--for I lived there as a
boy--but it seems like Eden compared to this place and its
surroundings; and I feel as if I were being driven back to it by
circumstances I can't control."



CHAPTER III

NEW PROSPECTS


There is no need of dwelling further on the reasons for or against the
step we proposed. We thought a great deal and talked it over several
times. Finally my wife agreed that the change would be wise and best
for all. Then the children were taken into our confidence, and they
became more delighted every day as the prospect grew clearer to them.

"We'll all be good soon, won't we?" said my youngest, who had a rather
vivid sense of his own shortcomings, and kept them in the minds of
others as well.

"Why so, Bobsey?"

"'Cause mamma says that God put the first people in a garden and they
was very good, better'n any folks afterwards. God oughter know the best
place for people."

Thus Bobsey gave a kind of divine sanction to our project. Of course we
had not taken so important a step without asking the Great Father of
all to guide us; for we felt that in the mystery of life we too were
but little children who knew not what should be on the morrow, or how
best to provide for it with any certainty. To our sanguine minds there
was in Bobsey's words a hint of something more than permission to go up
out of Egypt.

So it was settled that we should leave our narrow suite of rooms, the
Daggetts and the Ricketts, and go to the country. To me naturally fell
the task of finding the land flowing with milk and honey to which we
should journey in the spring. Meantime we were already emigrants at
heart, full of the bustle and excitement of mental preparation.

I prided myself somewhat on my knowledge of human nature, which, in
regard to children, conformed to comparatively simple laws. I knew that
the change would involve plenty of hard work, self-denial and careful
managing, which nothing could redeem from prose; but I aimed to add to
our exodus, so far as possible, the elements of adventure and mystery
so dear to the hearts of children. The question where we should go was
the cause of much discussion, the studying of maps, and the learning of
not a little geography.

Merton's counsel was that we should seek a region abounding in Indians,
bears, and "such big game." His advice made clear the nature of some of
his recent reading. He proved, however, that he was not wanting in
sense by his readiness to give up these attractive features in the
choice of locality.

Mousie's soft black eyes always lighted up at the prospect of a
flower-garden that should be as big as our sitting-room. Even in our
city apartments, poisoned by gas and devoid of sunlight, she usually
managed to keep a little house-plant in bloom, and the thought of
placing seeds in the open ground, where, as she said, "the roots could
go down to China if they wanted to," brought the first color I had seen
in her face for many a day.

Winnie was our strongest child, and also the one who gave me the most
anxiety. Impulsive, warm-hearted, restless, she always made me think of
an overfull fountain. Her alert black eyes were as eager to see as was
her inquisitive mind to pry into everything. She was sturdily built for
a girl, and one of the severest punishments we could inflict was to
place her in a chair and tell her not to move for an hour. We were
beginning to learn that we could no more keep her in our sitting-room
than we could restrain a mountain brook that foams into a rocky basin
only to foam out again. Melissa Daggett was of a very different type--I
could never see her without the word "sly" coming into my mind--and her
small mysteries awakened Winnie's curiosity. Now that the latter was
promised chickens, and rambles in the woods, Melissa and her secrets
became insignificant, and the ready promise to keep aloof from her was
given.

As for Bobsey, he should have a pig which he could name and call his
own, and for which he might pull weeds and pick up apples. We soon
found that he was communing with that phantom pig in his dreams.



CHAPTER IV

A MOMENTOUS EXPEDITION


By the time Christmas week began we all had agreed to do without candy,
toys, and knick-knacks, and to buy books that would tell us how to live
in the country. One happy evening we had an early supper and all went
to a well-known agricultural store and publishing-house on Broadway,
each child almost awed by the fact that I had fifteen dollars in my
pocket which should be spent that very night in the purchase of books
and papers. To the children the shop seemed like a place where tickets
direct to Eden were obtained, while the colored pictures of fruits and
vegetables could portray the products of Eden only, so different were
they in size and beauty from the specimens appearing in our market
stalls. Stuffed birds and animals were also on the shelves, and no
epicure ever enjoyed the gamy flavor as we did. But when we came to
examine the books, their plates exhibiting almost every phase of
country work and production, we felt like a long vista leading toward
our unknown home was opening before us, illumined by alluring pictures.
To Winnie was given a book on poultry, and the cuts representing the
various birds were even more to her taste than cuts from the fowls
themselves at a Christmas dinner. The Nimrod instincts of the race were
awakened in Merton, and I soon found that he had set his heart on a
book that gave an account of game, fish, birds, and mammals. It was a
natural and wholesome longing. I myself had felt it keenly when a boy.
Such country sport would bring sturdiness to his limbs and the right
kind of color into his face.

"All right, Merton," I said: "you shall have the book and a
breech-loading shot-gun also. As for fishing-tackle, you can get along
with a pole cut from the woods until you have earned money enough
yourself to buy what you need."

The boy was almost overwhelmed. He came to me, and took my hand in both
his own.

"O papa," he faltered, and his eyes were moist, "did you say a gun?"

"Yes, a breech-loading shot-gun on one condition--that you'll not smoke
till after you are twenty-one. A growing boy can't smoke in safety."

He gave my hand a quick, strong pressure, and was immediately at the
farther end of the store, blowing his nose suspiciously. I chuckled to
myself: "I want no better promise. A gun will cure him of cigarettes
better than a tract would."

Mousie was quiet, as usual; but there was again a faint color in her
cheeks, a soft lustre in her eyes. I kept near my invalid child most of
the time, for fear that she would go beyond her strength. I made her
sit by a table, and brought the books that would interest her most. Her
sweet, thin face was a study, and I felt that she was already enjoying
the healing caresses of Mother Nature. When we started homeward she
carried a book about flowers next to her heart.

Bobsey taxed his mother's patience and agility, for he seemed all over
the store at the same moment, and wanted everything in it, being sure
that fifteen dollars would buy all and leave a handsome margin; but at
last he was content with a book illustrated from beginning to end with
pigs.

What pleased me most was to see how my wife enjoyed our little outing.
Wrapped up in the children, she reflected their joy in her face, and
looked almost girlish in her happiness. I whispered in her ear, "Your
present shall be the home itself, for I shall have the deed made out in
your name, and then you can turn me out-of-doors as often as you
please."

"Which will be every pleasant day after breakfast," she said, laughing.
"You know you are very safe in giving things to me."

"Yes, Winifred," I replied, pressing her hand on the sly; "I have been
finding that out ever since I gave myself to you."

I bought Henderson's "Gardening for Profit" and some other practical
books. I also subscribed for a journal devoted to rural interests and
giving simple directions for the work of each month. At last we
returned. Never did a jollier little procession march up Broadway.
People were going to the opera and evening companies, and carriages
rolled by, filled with elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen; but my
wife remarked, "None of those people are so happy as we are, trudging
in this roundabout way to our country home."

Her words suggested our course of action during the months which must
intervene before it would be safe or wise for us to leave the city. Our
thoughts, words, and actions were all a roundabout means to our
cherished end, and yet the most direct way that we could take under the
circumstances. Field and garden were covered with snow, the ground was
granite-like from frost, and winter's cold breath chilled our
impatience to be gone; but so far as possible we lived in a country
atmosphere, and amused ourselves by trying to conform to country ways
in a city flat. Even Winnie declared she heard the cocks crowing at
dawn, while Bobsey had a different kind of grunt or squeal for every
pig in his book.



CHAPTER V

A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS IN A CITY FLAT


On Christmas morning we all brought out our purchases and arranged them
on a table. Merton was almost wild when he found a bright
single-barrelled gun with accoutrements standing in the corner. Even
Mousie exclaimed with delight at the bright-colored papers of
flower-seeds on her plate. To Winnie were given half a dozen china eggs
with which to lure the prospective biddies to lay in nests easily
reached, and she tried to cackle over them in absurd imitation. Little
Bobsey had to have some toys and candy, but they all presented to his
eyes the natural inmates of the barn-yard. In the number of domestic
animals he swallowed that day he equalled the little boy in Hawthorne's
story of "The House of the Seven Gables," who devoured a ginger-bread
caravan of camels and elephants purchased at Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon's
shop.

Our Christmas dinner consisted almost wholly of such vegetables as we
proposed to raise in the coming summer. Never before were such
connoisseurs of carrots, beets, onions, parsnips, and so on through
almost the entire list of such winter stock as was to be obtained at
our nearest green-grocery. We celebrated the day by nearly a dozen
dishes which the children aided my wife in preparing. Then I had Merton
figure the cost of each, and we were surprised at the cheapness of much
of country fare, even when retailed in very small quantities.

This brought up another phase of the problem. In many respects I was
like the children, having almost as much to learn as they--with the
advantage, however, of being able to correct impressions by experience.
In other words, I had more judgment; and while I should certainly make
mistakes, not many of them would be absurd or often repeated. I was
aware that most of the homely kitchen vegetables cost comparatively
little, even though (having in our flat no good place for storage) we
had found it better to buy what we needed from day to day. It was
therefore certain that, at wholesale in the country, they would often
be exceedingly cheap. This fact would work both ways: little money
would purchase much food of certain kinds, and if we produced these
articles of food they would bring us little money.

I will pass briefly over the period that elapsed before it was time for
us to depart, assured that the little people who are following this
simple history are as eager to get away from the dusty city flat to the
sunlight, breezy fields, brooks, and woods as were the children in my
story. It is enough to say that, during all my waking hours not devoted
to business, I read, thought, and studied on the problem of supporting
my family in the country. I haunted Washington Market in the gray dawn
and learned from much inquiry what products found a ready and certain
sale at some price, and what appeared to yield to the grower the best
profits. There was much conflict of opinion, but I noted down and
averaged the statements made to me. Many of the market-men had hobbies,
and told me how to make a fortune out of one or two articles; more gave
careless, random, or ignorant answers; but here and there was a plain,
honest, sensible fellow who showed me from his books what plain,
honest, sensible producers in the country were doing. In a few weeks I
dismissed finally the tendency to one blunder. A novice hears or reads
of an acre of cabbages or strawberries producing so much. Then he
figures, "if one acre yields so much, two acres will give twice as
much," and so on. The experience of others showed me the utter folly of
all this; and I came to the conclusion that I could give my family
shelter, plain food, pure air, wholesome work and play in plenty, and
that not very soon could I provide much else with certainty. I tried to
stick closely to common-sense; and the humble circumstances of the vast
majority living from the soil proved that there was in these pursuits
no easy or speedy road to fortune. Therefore we must part reluctantly
with every penny, and let a dollar go for only the essentials to the
modest success now accepted as all we could naturally expect. We had
explored the settled States, and even the Territories, in fancy; we had
talked over nearly every industry from cotton and sugarcane planting to
a sheep-ranch. I encouraged all this, for it was so much education out
of school-hours; yet all, even Merton, eventually agreed with me that
we had better not go far away, but seek a place near schools, markets,
churches, and well inside of civilization.

"See here, youngsters, you forget the most important crop of all that I
must cultivate," I said one evening.

"What is that?" they cried in chorus.

"A crop of boys and girls. You may think that my mind is chiefly on
corn and potatoes. Not at all. It is chiefly on you; and for your sakes
mamma and I decided to go to the country."

At last, in reply to my inquiries and my answers to advertisements, I
received the following letter:--

Maizeville, N.Y. March 1st, '83

Robert Durham, Esq.

Dear Sir

I have a place that will suit you I think. It can be bought at about
the figure you name. Come to see it. I shan't crack it up, but want you
to judge for yourself.

Resp'y    John Jones

I had been to see two or three places that had been "cracked up" so
highly that my wife thought it better to close the bargain at once
before some one else secured the prize--and I had come back disgusted
in each instance.

"The soul of wit" was in John Jones's letter. There was also a
downright directness which hit the mark, and I wrote that I would go to
Maizeville in the course of the following week.



CHAPTER VI

A BLUFF FRIEND


The almanac had announced spring; nature appeared quite unaware of the
fact, but, so far as we were concerned, the almanac was right. Spring
was the era of hope, of change, and hope was growing in our hearts like
"Jack's bean," in spite of lowering wintry skies. We were as eager as
robins, sojourning in the south, to take our flight northward.

My duties to my employers had ceased the 1st of March: I had secured
tenants who would take possession of our rooms as soon as we should
leave them; and now every spare moment was given to studying the
problem of country living and to preparations for departure. I obtained
illustrated catalogues from several dealers in seeds, and we pored over
them every evening. At first they bewildered us with their long lists
of varieties, while the glowing descriptions of new kinds of vegetables
just being introduced awakened in us something of a gambling spirit.

"How fortunate it is," exclaimed my wife, "that we are going to the
country just as the vegetable marvels were discovered! Why, Robert, if
half of what is said is true, we shall make our fortunes."

With us, hitherto, a beet had been a beet, and a cabbage a cabbage; but
here were accounts of beets which, as Merton said, "beat all creation,"
and pictures of prodigious cabbage heads which well-nigh turned our
own. With a blending of hope and distrust I carried two of the
catalogues to a shrewd old fellow in Washington Market. He was a dealer
in country produce who had done business so long at the same stand that
among his fellows he was looked upon as a kind of patriarch. During a
former interview he had replied to my questions with a blunt honesty
that had inspired confidence. The day was somewhat mild, and I found
him in his shirt-sleeves, smoking his pipe among his piled-up barrels,
boxes, and crates, after his eleven o'clock dinner. His day's work was
practically over; and well it might be, for, like others of his
calling, he had begun it long before dawn. Now his old felt hat was
pushed well back on his bald head, and his red face, fringed with a
grizzled beard, expressed a sort of heavy, placid content. His small
gray eyes twinkled as shrewdly as ever. With his pipe he indicated a
box on which I might sit while we talked.

"See here, Mr. Bogart," I began, showing him the seed catalogues, "how
is a man to choose wisely what vegetables he will raise from a list as
long as your arm? Perhaps I shouldn't take any of those old-fashioned
kinds, but go into these wonderful novelties which promise a new era in
horticulture."

The old man gave a contemptuous grunt; then, removing his pipe, he blew
out a cloud of smoke that half obscured us both as he remarked,
gruffly, "'A fool and his money are soon parted.'"

This was about as rough as March weather; but I knew my man, and
perhaps proved that I wasn't a fool by not parting with him then and
there.

"Come now, neighbor," I said, brusquely, "I know some things that you
don't, and there are affairs in which I could prove you to be as green
as I am in this matter. If you came to me I'd give you the best advice
that I could, and be civil about it into the bargain. I've come to you
because I believe you to be honest and to know what I don't. When I
tell you that I have a little family dependent on me, and that I mean
if possible to get a living for them out of the soil, I believe you are
man enough both to fall in with my plan and to show a little friendly
interest. If you are not, I'll go farther and fare better."

As I fired this broadside he looked at me askance, with the pipe in the
corner of his mouth, then reached out his great brown paw, and said,--

"Shake."

I knew it was all right now--that the giving of his hand meant not only
a treaty of peace but also a friendly alliance. The old fellow
discoursed vegetable wisdom so steadily for half an hour that his pipe
went out.

"You jest let that new-fangled truck alone," he said, "till you get
more forehanded in cash and experience. Then you may learn how to make
something out of them novelties, as they call 'em, if they are worth
growing at all. Now and then a good penny is turned on a new fruit or
vegetable; but how to do it will be one of the last tricks that you'll
learn in your new trade. Hand me one of them misleadin' books, and I'll
mark a few solid kinds such as produce ninety-nine hundredths of all
that's used or sold. Then you go to What-you-call-'em's store, and take
a line from me, and you'll git the genuine article at market-gardeners'
prices."

"Now, Mr. Bogart, you are treating me like a man and a brother."

"Oh thunder! I'm treating you like one who, p'raps, may deal with me.
Do as you please about it, but if you want to take along a lot of my
business cards and fasten 'em to anything you have to sell, I'll give
you all they bring, less my commission."

"I've no doubt you will, and that's more than I can believe of a good
many in your line, if all's true that I hear. You have thrown a broad
streak of daylight into my future. So you see the fool didn't part with
his money, or with you either, until he got a good deal more than he
expected."

"Well, well, Mr. Durham, you'll have to get used to my rough ways. When
I've anything to say, I don't beat about the bush. But you'll always
find my checks good for their face."

"Yes, and the face back of them is that of a friend to me now. We'll
shake again. Good-by;" and I went home feeling as if I had solid ground
under my feet. At supper I went over the whole scene, taking off the
man in humorous pantomime, not ridicule, and even my wife grew
hilarious over her disappointed hopes of the "new-fangled truck." I
managed, however, that the children should not lose the lesson that a
rough diamond is better than a smooth paste stone, and that people
often do themselves an injury when they take offence too easily.

"I see it all, papa," chuckled Merton; "if you had gone off mad when he
the same as called you a fool, you would have lost all his good advice."

"I should have lost much more than that, my boy, I should have lost the
services of a good friend and an honest man to whom we can send for its
full worth whatever we can't sell to better advantage at home. But
don't mistake me, Merton, toadyism never pays, no matter what you may
gain by it; for you give manhood for such gain, and that's a kind of
property that one can never part with and make a good bargain. You see
the old man didn't mean to be insolent. As he said, it was only his
rough, blunt way of saying what was uppermost in his mind."



CHAPTER VII

MR. JONES SHOWS ME THE PLACE


The next day, according to appointment, I went to Maizeville. John
Jones met me at the station, and drove me in his box-sleigh to see the
farm he had written of in his laconic note. I looked at him curiously
as we jogged along over the melting snow. The day was unclouded for a
wonder, and the sun proved its increasing power by turning the
sleigh-tracks in the road into gleaming rills. The visage of my new
acquaintance formed a decided contrast to the rubicund face of the
beef-eating marketman. He was sandy even to his eyebrows and
complexion. His scraggy beard suggested poverty of soil on his lantern
jaws. His frame was as gaunt as that of a scare-crow, and his hands and
feet were enormous. He had one redeeming feature, however--a pair of
blue eyes that looked straight at you and made you feel that there was
no "crookedness" behind them. His brief letter had led me to expect a
man of few words, but I soon found that John Jones was a talker and a
good-natured gossip. He knew every one we met, and was usually greeted
with a rising inflection, like this, "How are you, John?"

We drove inland for two or three miles.

"No, I didn't crack up the place, and I ain't a-goin' to," said my
real-estate agent. "As I wrote you, you can see for yourself when we
get there, and I'll answer all questions square. I've got the sellin'
of the property, and I mean it shall be a good bargain, good for me and
good for him who buys. I don't intend havin' any neighbors around
blamin' me for a fraud;" and that is all he would say about it.

On we went, over hills and down dales, surrounded by scenery that
seemed to me beautiful beyond all words, even in its wintry aspect.

"What mountain is that standing off by itself?" I asked.

"Schunemunk," he said. "Your place--well, I guess it will be yours
before plantin'-time comes--faces that mountain and looks up the valley
between it and the main highlands on the left. Yonder's the house, on
the slope of this big round hill, that'll shelter you from the north
winds."

I shall not describe the place very fully now, preferring that it
should be seen through the eyes of my wife and children, as well as my
own.

"The dwelling appears old," I said.

"Yes; part of it's a good deal more'n a hundred years old. It's been
added to at both ends. But there's timbers in it that will stand
another hundred years. I had a fire made in the livin'-room this
mornin', to take off the chill, and we'll go in and sit down after
we've looked the place over. Then you must come and take pot-luck with
us."

At first I was not at all enthusiastic, but the more I examined the
place, and thought it over, the more it grew on my fancy. When I
entered the main room of the cottage, and saw the wide, old-fashioned
fireplace, with its crackling blaze, I thawed so rapidly that John
Jones chuckled. "You're amazin' refreshin' for a city chap. I guess
I'll crack on another hundred to the price."

"I thought you were not going to crack up the place at all."

"Neither be I. Take that old arm-chair, and I'll tell you all about it.
The place looks rather run down, as you have seen. Old Mr. and Mrs.
Jamison lived here till lately. Last January the old man died, and a
good old man he was. His wife has gone to live with a daughter. By the
will I was app'inted executor and trustee. I've fixed on a fair price
for the property, and I'm goin' to hold on till I get it. There's
twenty acres of plowable land and orchard, and a five-acre wood-lot, as
I told you. The best part of the property is this. Mr. Jamison was a
natural fruit-grower. He had a heap of good fruit here and wouldn't
grow nothin' but the best. He was always a-speerin' round, and when he
come across something extra he'd get a graft, or a root or two. So he
gradually came to have the best there was a-goin' in these parts. Now I
tell you what it is, Mr. Durham, you can buy plenty of new, bare
places, but your hair would be gray before you'd have the fruit that
old man Jamison planted and tended into bearing condition; and you can
buy places with fine shade trees and all that, and a good show of a
garden and orchard, but Jamison used to say that an apple or cherry was
a pretty enough shade tree for him, and he used to say too that a tree
that bore the biggest and best apples didn't take any more room than
one that yielded what was fit only for the cider press. Now the p'int's
just here. You don't come to the country to amuse yourself by
developin' a property, like most city chaps do, but to make a livin'.
Well, don't you see? This farm is like a mill. When the sun's another
month higher it will start all the machinery in the apple, cherry, and
pear trees and the small fruits, and it will turn out a crop the first
year you're here that will put money in your pocket."

Then he named the price, half down and the rest on mortgage, if I so
preferred. It was within the limit that my means permitted.

I got up and went all over the house, which was still plainly furnished
in part. A large wood-house near the back door had been well filled by
the provident old man. There was ample cellar room, which was also a
safeguard against dampness. Then I went out and walked around the
house. It was all so quaint and homely as to make me feel that it would
soon become home-like to us. There was nothing smart to be seen,
nothing new except a barn that had recently been built near one of the
oldest and grayest structures of the kind I had ever seen. The
snow-clad mountains lifted themselves about me in a way that promised a
glimpse of beauty every time I should raise my eyes from work. Yet
after all my gaze lingered longest on the orchard and fruit-trees that
surrounded the dwelling.

"That's sensible," remarked Mr. Jones, who followed me with no trace of
anxiety or impatience. "Paint, putty, and pine will make a house in a
few weeks, but it takes a good slice out of a century to build up an
orchard like that."

"That was just what I was thinking, Mr. Jones."

"Oh, I knowed that. Well, I've got just two more things to say, then
I'm done and you can take it or leave it. Don't you see? The house is
on a slope facing the south-east. You get the morning sun and the
southern breeze. Some people don't know what they're worth, but I,
who've lived here all my life, know they're worth payin' for. Again,
you see the ground slopes off to the crick yonder. That means good
drainage. We don't have any malary here, and that fact is worth as much
as the farm, for I wouldn't take a section of the garden of Eden if
there was malary around."

"On your honor now, Mr. Jones, how far is the corner around which they
have the malaria?"

"Mr. Durham, it ain't a mile away."

I laughed as I said, "I shall have one neighbor, it seems, to whom I
can lend an umbrella."

"Then you'll take the place?"

"Yes, if my wife is as well satisfied as I am. I want you to give me
the refusal of it for one week at the price you named."

"Agreed, and I'll put it in black and white."

"Now, Mr. Jones," I began with an apologetic little laugh, "you grow
one thing up here in all seasons, I fancy--an appetite. As I feel now,
your pot-luck means good luck, no matter what is in it."

"Now you talk sense. I was a-hankerin' myself. I take stock right off
in a man or a critter with an appetite. They're always improvin'. Yes,
sir; Maizeville is the place to grow an appetite, and what's more we
can grow plenty to satisfy it."

Mrs. Jones made a striking contrast to her husband, for she first
impressed me as being short, red, and round; but her friendly, bustling
ways and hearty welcome soon added other and very pleasant impressions;
and when she placed a great dish of fricasseed chicken on the table she
won a good-will which her neighborly kindness has steadily increased.



CHAPTER VIII

TELLING ABOUT EDEN


Never was a traveller from a remote foreign clime listened to with more
breathless interest than I as I related my adventures at our late
supper after my return. Mousie looked almost feverish in her
excitement, and Winnie and Bobsey exploded with merriment over the name
of the mountain that would be one of our nearest neighbors. They dubbed
the place "Schunemunks" at once. Merton put on serious and
sportsman-like airs as he questioned me, and it was evident that he
expected to add largely to our income from the game he should kill. I
did not take much pains to dispel his illusions, knowing that one day's
tramp would do this, and that he would bring back increased health and
strength if nothing else.

No fairy tale had ever absorbed the children like the description of
that old house and its surroundings; and when at last they were induced
to retire I said to my wife, after explaining more in practical detail
the pros and cons to be considered: "It all depends on you. If you wish
I will take you up the first pleasant day, so that you can see for
yourself before we decide."

She laughed as she said, "I decided two minutes after you arrived."

"How is that?"

"I saw you had the place in your eyes. La, Robert! I can read you like
a book. You give in to me in little things, and that pleases a woman,
you know. You must decide a question like this, for it is a question of
support for us all, and you can do better on a place that suits you
than on one never quite to your mind. It has grown more and more clear
to me all the evening that you have fallen in love with the old place,
and that settles it."

"Well, you women have a way of your own of deciding a question."

My wife was too shrewd not to make a point in her favor, and she
remarked, with a complacent nod, "I have a way of my own, but there are
women in the world who would have insisted on a smart new house."

"Little wife," I said, laughing, "there was another girl that I was a
little sweet on before I met you. I'm glad you are not the other girl."

She put her head a little to one side with the old roguish look which
used to be so distracting when the question of questions with me was
whether pretty Winnie Barlow would give half a dozen young fellows the
go-by for my sake, and she said, "Perhaps the other girl is glad too."

"I've no doubt she is," I sighed, "for her husband is getting rich. I
don't care how glad she is if my girl is not sorry."

"You do amuse me so, Robert! You'd like to pass for something of a
philosopher, with your brown studies into the hidden causes and reasons
for things, yet you don't half know yet that when a woman sets her
heart on something, she hasn't much left with which to long for
anything else. That is, if she has a heart, which seems to be left out
of some women."

"I think it is, and others get a double allowance. I should be content,
for I was rich the moment I won yours."

"I've been more than content; I've been happy--happy all these years in
city flats. Even in my tantrums and bad days I knew I was happy, deep
in my heart."

"I only hope you will remain as blind about your plodding old husband
who couldn't make a fortune in the city."

"I've seen men who made fortunes, and I've seen their wives too."

I thanked God for the look on her face--a look which had been there
when she was a bride, and which had survived many straitened years.

So we chose our country home. The small patrimony to which we had added
but little--(indeed we had often denied ourselves in order not to
diminish it)--was nearly all to be invested in the farm, and a debt to
be incurred, besides. While yielding to my fancy, I believed that I had
at the same time chosen wisely, for, as John Jones said, the mature
fruit trees of the place would begin to bring returns very soon.



CHAPTER IX

"BREAKING CAMP"


We were now all eager to get away, and the weather favored our wishes.
A warm rain with a high south wind set in, and the ice disappeared from
the river like magic. I learned that the afternoon boat which touched
at Maizeville would begin its trips in the following week.

I told my wife about the furniture which still remained in the house,
and the prices which John Jones put upon it. We therefore found that we
could dispose of a number of bulky articles in our city apartments, and
save a goodly sum in cartage and freight. Like soldiers short of
ammunition, we had to make every dollar tell, and when by thought and
management we could save a little it was talked over as a triumph to be
proud of.

The children entered into the spirit of the thing with great zest. They
were all going to be hardy pioneers. One evening I described the
landing of the "Mayflower," and some of the New-England winters that
followed, and they wished to come down to Indian meal at once as a
steady diet. Indeed, toward the last, we did come down to rather plain
fare, for in packing up one thing after another we at last reached the
cooking utensils.

On the morning of the day preceding the one of our departure I began to
use military figures of speech.

"Now we must get into marching order," I said, "and prepare to break
camp. Soldiers, you know, when about to move, dispose of all their
heavy baggage, cook several days' provisions, pack up and load on
wagons what they mean to take with them, and start. It is a trying
time--one that requires the exercise of good soldierly qualities, such
as prompt obedience, indifference to hardship and discomfort, and
especially courage in meeting whatever happens."

Thus the children's imaginations were kindled, and our prosaic breaking
up was a time of grand excitement. With grim satisfaction they looked
upon the dismantling of the rooms, and with sighs of relief saw carts
take away such heavy articles as I had sold.

Winnie and Bobsey were inclined to take the children of neighbors into
their confidence, and to have them around, but I said that this would
not do at all--that when soldiers were breaking camp the great point
was to do everything as secretly and rapidly as possible. Thenceforward
an air of mystery pervaded all our movements.

Bobsey, however, at last overstepped the bounds of our patience and
became unmanageable. The very spirit of mischief seemed to have entered
his excited little brain. He untied bundles, placed things where they
were in the way, and pestered the busy mother with so many questions,
that I hit upon a decided measure to keep him quiet. I told him about a
great commander who, in an important fight, was strapped to a mast, so
that he could oversee everything. Then I tied the little fellow into a
chair. At first he was much elated, and chattered like a magpie, but
when he found he was not to be released after a few moments he began to
howl for freedom. I then carried him, chair and all, to one of the back
rooms. Soon his cries ceased, and tender-hearted Mousie stole after
him. Returning she said, with her low laugh, "He'll be good now for a
while; he's sound asleep."

And so passed the last day in our city rooms. Except as wife and
children were there, they had never appeared very homelike to me, and
now they looked bare and comfortless indeed. The children gloated over
their appearance, for it meant novelty to them. "The old camp is about
broken up," Merton remarked, with the air of a veteran. But my wife
sighed more than once.

"What troubles you, Winifred?"

"Robert, the children were born here, and here I've watched over them
in sickness and health so many days and nights."

"Well, my dear, the prospects are that in our new home you will not
have to watch over them in sickness very much. Better still, you will
not have to be so constantly on your guard against contagions that harm
the soul as well as the body. I was told that there are rattle-snakes
on Schunemunk, but greater dangers for Winnie and Merton lurk in this
street--yes, in this very house;" and I exulted over the thought that
we were about to bid Melissa Daggett a final good-by.

"Oh, I know. I'm glad; but then--"

"But then a woman's heart takes root in any place where she has loved
and suffered. That tendency makes it all the more certain that you'll
love your new home."

"Yes; we may as well face the truth, Robert. We shall suffer in the new
home as surely as in the old. There may be stronger sunshine, but that
means deeper shadow."



CHAPTER X

SCENES ON THE WHARF


The last night in the city flat was in truth like camping out, the
fatigues of the day brought us sound sleep, and we looked and felt like
emigrants. But in the morning we rose with the dawn, from our
shakedowns on the floor, to begin eagerly and hopefully our final
preparations for departure. In response to my letters John Jones had
promised to meet us at the Maizeville Landing with his strong covered
rockaway, and to have a fire in the old farmhouse. Load after load was
despatched to the boat, for I preferred to deal with one trusty
truckman. When all had been taken away, we said good-by to our
neighbors and took the horse-car to the boat, making our quiet exit in
the least costly way. I knew the boat would be warm and comfortable,
and proposed that we should eat our lunch there.

The prospect, however, of seeing the wharves, the boats, and the river
destroyed even the children's appetites. We soon reached the crowded
dock. The great steamer appeared to be a part of it, lying along its
length with several gangways, over which boxes, barrels, and packages
were being hustled on board with perpetual din. The younger children
were a little awed at first by the noise and apparent confusion. Mousie
kept close to my side, and even Bobsey clung to his mother's hand. The
extended upper cabin had state-rooms opening along its sides, and was
as comfortable as a floating parlor with its arm and rocking chairs.
Here, not far from the great heater, I established our headquarters. I
made the children locate the spot carefully, and said: "From this point
we'll make excursions. In the first place, Merton, you come with me and
see that all our household effects are together and in good order. You
must learn to travel and look after things like a man."

We spent a little time in arranging our goods so that they would be
safer and more compact. Then we went to the captain and laughingly told
him we were emigrants to Maizeville, and hoped before long to send a
good deal of produce by his boat. We therefore wished him to "lump" us,
goods, children, and all, and deliver us safely at the Maizeville wharf
for as small a sum as possible.

He good-naturedly agreed, and I found that the chief stage of our
journey would involve less outlay than I had expected.

Thus far all had gone so well that I began to fear that a change must
take place soon, in order that our experience should be more like the
common lot of humanity. When at last I took all the children out on the
afterdeck, to remove the first edge of their curiosity, I saw that
there was at least an ominous change in the weather. The morning had
been mild, with a lull in the usual March winds. Now a scud of clouds
was drifting swiftly in from the eastward, and chilly, fitful gusts
began to moan and sigh about us. A storm was evidently coming, and my
hope was that we might reach our haven before it began. I kept my fears
to myself, and we watched the long lines of carts converging toward the
gang-planks of our own and other steamboats.

"See, youngsters," I cried, "all this means commerce. These loads and
loads of things will soon be at stores and homes up the river,
supplying the various needs of the people. Tomorrow the residents along
the river will bring what they have to sell to this same boat, and by
daylight next morning carts will be carrying country produce and
manufactured articles all over the city. Thus you see commerce is made
by people supplying themselves and each other with what they need. Just
as soon as we can bring down a crate of berries and send it to Mr.
Bogart we shall be adding to the commerce of the world in the best way.
We shall become what are called the 'producers,' and but for this class
the world would soon come to an end."

"'Rah!" cried Bobsey, "I'm goin' to be a p'oducer."

He promised, however, to be a consumer for a long time to come,
especially of patience. His native fearlessness soon asserted itself,
and he wanted to go everywhere and see everything, asking questions
about machinery, navigation, river craft, the contents of every box,
bale, or barrel we saw, till I felt that I was being used like a town
pump. I pulled him back to the cabin, resolving to stop his mouth for a
time at least with the contents of our lunch basket.

Winnie was almost as bad, or as good, perhaps I should say; for,
however great the drain and strain on me might be, I knew that these
active little brains were expanding to receive a host of new ideas.

Mousie was quiet as usual, and made no trouble, but I saw with renewed
hope that this excursion into the world awakened in her a keen and
natural interest. Ever since the project of country life had been
decided upon, her listless, weary look had been giving place to one of
greater animation. The hope of flowers and a garden had fed her life
like a deep, hidden spring.

To Merton I had given larger liberty, and had said: "It is not
necessary for you to stay with me all the time. Come and go on the boat
and wharf as you wish. Pick up what knowledge you can. All I ask is
that you will use good sense in keeping out of trouble and danger."

I soon observed that he was making acquaintances here and there, and
asking questions which would go far to make good his loss of schooling
for a time. Finding out about what one sees is, in my belief, one of
the best ways of getting an education. The trouble with most of us is
that we accept what we see, without inquiry or knowledge.

The children were much interested in scenes witnessed from the side of
the boat farthest from the wharf. Here in the enclosed water-space were
several kinds of craft, but the most curious in their eyes was a group
of canal boats--"queer travelling houses" Mousie called them; for it
was evident that each one had a family on board, and the little
entrance to the hidden cabin resembled a hole from which men, women,
and children came like rabbits out of a burrow. Tough, hardy,
barefooted children were everywhere. While we were looking, one
frowsy-headed little girl popped up from her burrow in the boat, and,
with legs and feet as red as a boiled lobster, ran along the guards
like a squirrel along a fence.

"O dear!" sighed Mousie, "I'd rather live in a city flat than in such a
house."

"I think it would be splendid," protested Winnie, "to live in a
travelling house. You could go all over and still stay at home."

I was glad on our return to find my wife dozing in her chair. She was
determined to spend in rest the hours on the boat, and had said that
Mousie also must be quiet much of the afternoon.

Between three and four the crush on the wharf became very great. Horses
and drays were so mixed up that to inexperienced eyes it looked as if
they could never be untangled. People of every description, loaded down
with parcels, were hurrying on board, and it would seem from our point
of view that American women shared with their French sisters an aptness
for trade, for among the passengers were not a few substantial,
matronly persons who appeared as if they could look the world in the
face and get the better of it.



CHAPTER XI

A VOYAGE UP THE HUDSON


As four P.M. approached, I took the children to a great glass window in
the cabin, through which we could see the massive machinery.

"Now," said I, "watch the steel giant; he is motionless, but in a
moment or two he will move."

True enough, he appeared to take a long breath of steam, and then
slowly lifted his polished arms, or levers, and the boat that had been
like a part of the wharf began to act as if it were alive and were
waking up.

"Now," I asked, "shall we go to the after-deck and take our last look
at the city, or forward and see the river and whither we are going?"

"Forward! forward!" cried all in chorus.

"That's the difference between youth and age," I thought. "With the
young it is always 'forward.'" But we found that we could not go out on
the forward deck, for the wind would have carried away my light, frail
Mousie, like a feather. Indeed it was whistling a wild tune as we stood
in a small room with glass windows all round. The waves were crowned
with foaming white-caps, and the small craft that had to be out in the
gale were bobbing up and down, as if possessed. On the river was a
strange and lurid light, which seemed to come more from the dashing
water than from the sky, so dark was the latter with skurrying clouds.

Mousie clung timidly to my side, but I reassured her by saying: "See
how steadily, how evenly and boldly, our great craft goes out on the
wide river. In the same way we must go forward, and never be afraid.
These boats run every day after the ice disappears, and they are
managed by men who know what to do in all sorts of weather."

She smiled, but whispered, "I think I'll go back and stay with mamma;"
but she soon found much amusement in looking at passing scenes from the
windows of the warm after-cabin--scenes that were like pictures set in
oval frames.

The other children appeared fascinated by the scene, especially Winnie,
whose bold black eyes flashed with excitement.

"I want to see everything and know everything," she said.

"I wish you to see and know about things like these," I replied, "but
not such things as Melissa Daggett would show you."

"Melissy Daggett, indeed!" cried Winnie. "This beats all her stories.
She tried to tell me the other day about a theatre at which a woman
killed a man--"

"Horrid! I hope you didn't listen?"

"Only long enough to know the man came to life again, and danced in the
next--"

"That will do. I'm not interested in Melissa's vulgar stories. As you
say, this, and all like this, is much better, and will never prevent
you from becoming a lady like mamma."

Winnie's ambition to become a lady promised to be one of my strong
levers in uplifting her character.

I confess that I did not like the looks of the sky or of the
snow-flakes that began to whirl in the air, but the strong steamer
plowed her way rapidly past the city and the villa-crowned shores
beyond. The gloom of the storm and of early coming night was over all,
and from the distant western shores the Palisades frowned dimly through
the obscurity.

My wife came, and after a brief glance shivered and was turning away,
when I said, "You don't like your first glimpse of the country,
Winifred?"

"It will look different next June. The children will take cold here.
Let them come and watch the machinery."

This we all did for a time, and then I took them on excursions about
the enclosed parts of the boat. The lamps were already lighted, and the
piled-up freight stood out in grotesque light and shadow.

Before very long we were standing by one of the furnace rooms, and the
sooty-visaged man threw open the iron doors of the furnace. In the
glare of light that rushed forth everything near stood out almost as
vividly as it would have done in a steady gleam of lightning. The
fireman instantly became a startling silhouette, and the coal that he
shovelled into what was like a flaming mouth of a cavern seemed
sparkling black diamonds. The snow-flakes glimmered as the wind swept
them by the wide-open window, and in the distance were seen the lights
and the dim outline of another boat rushing toward the city. Clang! the
iron doors are shut, and all is obscure again.

"Now the boat has had its supper," said Bobsey. "O dear! I wish I could
have a big hot supper."

The smoking-room door stood open, and we lingered near it for some
moments, attracted first by a picture of a great fat ox, that suggested
grassy meadows, plowing, juicy steaks, and other pleasant things. Then
our attention was drawn to a man, evidently a cattle-dealer, who was
holding forth to others more or less akin to him in their pursuits.

"Yes," he was saying, "people in the country eat a mighty lot of
cow-beef, poor and old at that. I was buying calves out near Shawangunk
Mountains last week, and stopped at a small tavern. They brought me a
steak and I tried to put my knife in it--thought the knife might be
dull, but knew my grinders weren't. Jerusalem! I might have chawed on
that steak till now and made no impression. I called the landlord, and
said, 'See here, stranger, if you serve me old boot-leather for steak
again I'll blow on your house.'--'I vow,' he said, 'it's the best I kin
get in these diggin's. You fellers from the city buy up every likely
critter that's for sale, and we have to take what you leave.' You see,
he hit me right between the horns, for it's about so. Bless your soul,
if I'd took in a lot of cow-beef like that to Steers and Pinkham,
Washington Market, they'd 'a taken my hide off and hung me up 'longside
of my beef."

"Grantin' all that," said another man, "folks in the country would be a
sight better off if they'd eat more cow-beef and less pork. You know
the sayin' about 'out of the frying-pan into the fire'? Well, in some
parts I've travelled they had better get out of the fryin'-pan, no
matter where they fetch up."

We went away laughing, and I said: "Don't you be troubled, Mousie; we
won't go to the frying-pan altogether to find roses for your cheeks.
We'll paint them red with strawberries and raspberries, the color put
on from the inside."

As time passed, the storm increased, and the air became so thick with
driving snow that the boat's speed was slackened. Occasionally we
"slowed up" for some moments. The passengers shook their heads and
remarked, dolefully, "There's no telling when we'll arrive."

I made up my mind that it would be good economy for us all to have a
hearty hot supper, as Bobsey had suggested; and when, at last, the gong
resounded through the boat, we trooped down with the others to the
lower cabin, where there were several long tables, with colored waiters
in attendance. We had not been in these lower regions before, and the
eyes of the children soon wandered from their plates to the berths, or
sleeping-bunks, which lined the sides of the cabin.

"Yes," I replied, in answer to their questions; "it is a big
supper-room now, but by and by it will be a big bedroom, and people
will be tucked away in these berths, just as if they were laid on
shelves, one over the other."

The abundant and delicious supper, in which steaks, not from cow-beef,
were the chief feature, gave each one of us solid comfort and
satisfaction. Bobsey ate until the passengers around him were laughing,
but he, with superb indifference, attended strictly to business.

My wife whispered, "You must all eat enough to last a week, for I
sha'n't have time to cook anything;" and I was much pleased at the good
example which she and Mousie set us.

Both before and after supper I conducted Bobsey to the wash-room, and
he made the people laugh as he stood on a chair and washed his face.
But he was a sturdy little fellow, and only laughed back when a man
said he looked as though he was going to dive into the basin.

Mousie at last began to show signs of fatigue; and learning that it
would be several hours still before we could hope to arrive, so severe
was the storm, I procured the use of a state-room, and soon Bobsey was
snoring in the upper berth, and my invalid girl smiling and talking in
soft tones to her mother in the lower couch. Winnie, Merton, and I
prowled around, spending the time as best we could. Occasionally we
looked through the windows at the bow, and wondered how the pilot could
find his way through the tempest. I confess I had fears lest he might
not do this, and felt that I should be grateful indeed when my little
band was safe on shore. The people in charge of the boat, however, knew
their business.



CHAPTER XII

A MARCH EVENING IN EDEN


At length we were fast at the Maizeville Landing, although long after
the usual hour of arrival. I was anxious indeed to learn whether John
Jones would meet us, or whether, believing that we would not come in
such a storm, and tired of waiting, he had gone home and left us to
find such shelter as we could.

But there he was, looking in the light of the lanterns as grizzled as
old Time himself, with his eyebrows and beard full of snow-flakes. He
and I hastily carried the three younger children ashore through the
driving snow, and put them in a corner of the storehouse, while Merton
followed with his mother.

"Mr. Jones," I exclaimed, "you are a neighbor to be proud of already.
Why didn't you go home and leave us to our fate?"

"Well," he replied, laughing, "'twouldn't take you long to get snowed
under to-night. No, no; when I catch fish I mean to land 'em. Didn't
know but what in such a buster of a storm you might be inclined to stay
on the boat and go back to the city. Then where would my bargain be?"

"No fear of that. We're in for it now--have enlisted for the war. What
shall we do?"

"Well, I vow I hardly know. One thing first, anyhow--we must get Mrs.
Durham and the kids into the warm waiting-room, and then look after
your traps."

The room was already crowded, but we squeezed them in, white from
scarcely more than a moment's exposure to the storm. Then we took hold
and gave the deck-hands a lift with my baggage, Merton showing much
manly spirit in his readiness to face the weather and the work. My
effects were soon piled up by themselves, and then we held a council.

"Mrs. Durham'll hardly want to face this storm with the children,"
began Mr. Jones.

"Are you going home?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. I'd rather travel all night for the sake of being home in
the morning."

"To tell the truth I feel the same way," I continued, "but reason must
hold the reins. Do you think you could protect Mrs. Durham and the
children from the storm?"

"Yes, I think we could tuck 'em in so they'd scarcely know it was
snowin', and then we could sled your things up in the mornin'.
'Commodations on the landin' to-night will be pretty crowded."

"We'll let her decide, then."

When I explained how things were and what Mr. Jones had said, she
exclaimed, "Oh, let us go home."

How my heart jumped at her use of the word "home" in regard to a place
that she had never seen. "But, Winifred," I urged, "do you realize how
bad a night it is? Do you think it would be safe for Mousie?"

"It isn't so very cold if one is not exposed to the wind and snow," she
replied, "and Mr. Jones says we needn't be exposed. I don't believe
we'd run as much risk as in going to a little hotel, the best rooms of
which are already taken. Since we can do it, it will be so much nicer
to go to a place that we feel is our own!"

"I must say that your wishes accord with mine."

"Oh, I knew that," she replied, laughing. "Mr. Jones," she added,
sociably, "this man has a way of telling you what he wishes by his
looks before asking your opinion."

"I found that out the day he came up to see the place," chuckled my
neighbor, "and I was half a mind to stick him for another hundred for
being so honest. He don't know how to make a bargain any more than one
of the children there. Well, I'll go to the shed and get the hosses,
and we'll make a pull for home. I don't believe you'll be sorry when
you get there."

Mr. Jones came around to the very door with the rockaway, and we tucked
my wife and children under the buffalo robes and blankets till they
could hardly breathe. Then we started out into the white, spectral
world, for the wind had coated everything with the soft, wet snow. On
we went at a slow walk, for the snow and mud were both deep, and the
wheeling was very heavy. Even John Jones's loquacity was checked, for
every time he opened his mouth the wind half filled it with snow. Some
one ahead of us, with a lantern, guided our course for a mile or so
through the dense obscurity, and then he turned off on another road. At
first I hailed one and another in the black cavern of the rockaway
behind me, and their muffled voices would answer, "All right." But one
after another they ceased to answer me until all were fast asleep
except my wife. She insisted that she was only very drowsy, but I knew
that she was also very, very tired. Indeed, I felt myself, in a way
that frightened me, the strange desire to sleep that overcomes those
long exposed to cold and wind.

I must have been nodding and swaying around rather loosely, when I felt
myself going heels over head into the snow. As I picked myself up I
heard my wife and children screaming, and John Jones shouting to his
horses, "Git up," while at the same time he lashed them with his whip.
My face was so plastered with snow that I could see only a dark object
which was evidently being dragged violently out of a ditch, for when
the level road was reached, Mr. Jones shouted, "Whoa!"

"Robert, are you hurt?" cried my wife.

"No, are you?"

"Not a bit, but I'm frightened to death."

Then John Jones gave a hearty guffaw and said:

"I bet you our old shanghai rooster that you don't die."

"Take you up," answered my wife, half laughing and half crying.

"Where are we?" I asked.

"I'm here. Haven't the remotest idea where you be," replied Mr. Jones.

"You are a philosopher," I said, groping my way through the storm
toward his voice.

"I believe I was a big fool for tryin' to get home such a night as
this; but now that we've set about it, we'd better get there. That's
right. Scramble in and take the reins. Here's my mittens."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to 'light and smell out the road. This is equal to any
blizzard I've read of out West."

"How far have we to go now?"

"Half a mile, as nigh as I can make out;" and we jogged on again.

"Are you sure you are not hurt?" Mousie asked me.

"Sure; it was like tumbling into a feather bed."

"Stop a bit," cried Mr. Jones. "There's a turn in the road here. Let me
go on a little and lay out your course."

"Oh, I wish we had stayed anywhere under shelter," said my wife.

"Courage," I cried. "When we get home, we'll laugh over this."

"Now," shouted Mr. Jones, "veer gradually off to the left toward my
voice--all right;" and we jogged on again, stopping from time to time
to let our invisible guide explore the road.

Once more he cried, "Stop a minute."

The wind roared and shrieked around us, and it was growing colder. With
a chill of fear I thought, "Could John Jones have mistaken the road?"
and I remembered how four people and a pair of horses had been frozen
within a few yards of a house in a Western snow-storm.

"Are you cold, children?" I asked.

"Yes, I'm freezing," sobbed Winnie. "I don't like the country one bit."

"This is different from the Eden of which we have been dreaming," I
thought grimly. Then I shouted, "How much farther, Mr. Jones?"

The howling of the wind was my only answer. I shouted again. The
increasing violence of the tempest was the only response.

"Robert," cried my wife, "I don't hear Mr. Jones's voice."

"He has only gone on a little to explore," I replied, although my teeth
chattered with cold and fear.

"Halloo--oo!" I shouted. The answering shriek of the wind in the trees
overhead chilled my very heart.

"What has become of Mr. Jones?" asked my wife, and there was almost
anguish in her tone, while Winnie and Bobsey were actually crying aloud.

"Well, my dear," I tried to say, reassuringly, "even if he were very
near to us we could neither see nor hear him."

Moments passed which seemed like ages, and I scarcely knew what to do.
The absence of all signs of Mr. Jones filled me with a nameless and
unspeakable dread. Could anything have happened to him? Could he have
lost his way and fallen into some hole or over some steep bank? If I
drove on, we might tumble after him and perish, maimed and frozen, in
the wreck of the wagon. One imagines all sorts of horrible things when
alone and helpless at night.

"Papa," cried Merton, "I'll get out and look for Mr. Jones."

"You are a good, brave boy," I replied. "No; you hold the reins, and
I'll look for him and see what is just before us."

At that moment there was a glimmer of light off to the left of us.



CHAPTER XIII

RESCUED AND AT HOME


All that the poets from the beginning of time have written about light
could not express my joy as I saw that glimmer approaching on the left.
Before it appeared I had been awed by the tempest, benumbed with cold,
shivering in my wet clothes, and a prey to many terrible fears and
surmises; but now I cried, "Cheer up; here comes a light."

Then in my gladness I shouted the greeting that met Mr. Jones
everywhere, "How are YOU, JOHN?"

A great guffaw of laughter mingled with the howl of the storm, and my
neighbor's voice followed from the obscurity: "That's famous--keepin'
up your courage like a soldier."

"Oh, I won't brag about keeping up my courage."

"Guess you didn't know what had become of me?"

"You're right and we didn't know what was to become of us. Now aren't
we nearly home? For we are all half frozen."

"Just let me spy a bit with the lantern, and I'll soon tell you
everything." He bobbed back and forth for a moment or two like a
will-o'-the-wisp. "Now turn sharp to the left, and follow the light."

A great hope sprung up in my heart, and I hushed Winnie's and Bobsey's
crying by saying, "Listen, and you'll soon hear some good news."

Our wheels crunched through the deep snow for a few moments, and soon I
saw a ruddy light shining from the window of a dwelling, and then Mr.
Jones shouted, "Whoa! 'Light down, neighbors; you're at your own door."

There was a chorus of delighted cries. Merton half tumbled over me in
his eagerness to get down. A door opened, and out poured a cheerful
glow. Oh the delicious sense of safety and warmth given by it already!

I seized Mousie, floundered through the snow up to my knees, and placed
her in a big rocking-chair. Mr. Jones followed with Winnie, and Merton
came in with Bobsey on his back. The little fellow was under such
headway in crying that he couldn't stop at once, although his tears
were rapidly giving place to laughter. I rushed back and carried in my
wife, and then said, in a voice a little unsteady from deep feeling,
"Welcome home, one and all."

Never did the word mean more to a half-frozen and badly frightened
family. At first safety, warmth, and comfort were the uppermost in our
thoughts, but as wraps were taken off, and my wife and children thawed
out, eager-eyed curiosity began to make explorations. Taking Mousie on
my lap, and chafing her hands, I answered questions and enjoyed to the
full the exclamations of pleasure.

Mr. Jones lingered for a few moments, then gave one of his big guffaws
by way of preface, and said: "Well, you do look as if you was at home
and meant to stay. This 'ere scene kinder makes me homesick; so I'll
say good-night, and I'll be over in the mornin'. There's some lunch on
the table that my wife fixed up for you. I must go, for I hear John
junior hollerin' for me."

His only response to our profuse thanks was another laugh, which the
wind swept away.

"Who is John junior?" asked Merton.

"Mr. Jones's son, a boy of about your age. He was here waiting for us,
and keeping the fire up. When we arrived he came out and took the
horses, and so you didn't see him. He'll make a good playmate for you.
To use his father's own words, 'He's a fairish boy as boys go,' and
that from John Jones means that he's a good fellow."

Oh, what a happy group we were, as we gathered around the great, open
fire, on which I piled more wood!

"Do you wish to go and look around a little?" I asked my wife.

"No," she replied, leaning back in her rocking-chair: "let me take this
in first. O Robert, I have such a sense of rest, quiet, comfort, and
hominess that I just want to sit still and enjoy it all. The howling of
the storm only makes this place seem more like a refuge, and I'd rather
hear it than the Daggetts tramping overhead and the Ricketts children
crying down-stairs. Oh, isn't it nice to be by ourselves in this quaint
old room? Turn the lamp down, Robert, so we can see the firelight
flicker over everything. Isn't it splendid?--just like a picture in a
book."

"No picture in a book, Winifred--no artist could paint a picture that
would have the charm of this one for me," I replied, leaning my elbow
on the end of the mantel-piece, and looking fondly down on the little
group. My wife's face looked girlish in the ruddy light. Mousie gazed
into the fire with unspeakable content, and declared she was "too happy
to think of taking cold." Winnie and Bobsey were sitting, Turk-fashion,
on the floor, their eyelids drooping. The long cold ride had quenched
even their spirit, for after running around for a few moments they
began to yield to drowsiness. Merton, with a boy's appetite, was
casting wistful glances at the lunch on the table, the chief feature of
which was a roast chicken.

There seemed to be no occasion for haste. I wished to let the picture
sink deep into my heart. At last my wife sprang up and said:--

"I've been sentimental long enough. You're not of much account in the
house, Robert"--with one of her saucy looks--"and I must see to things,
or Winnie and Bobsey will be asleep on the floor. I feel as if I could
sit here till morning, but I'll come back after the children are in
bed. Come, show me my home, or at least enough of it to let me see
where we are to sleep."

"We shall have to camp again to-night. Mrs. Jones has made up the one
bed left in the house, and you and Mousie shall have that. We'll fix
Winnie and Bobsey on the lounge; and, youngsters, you can sleep in your
clothes, just as soldiers do on the ground. Merton and I will doze in
these chairs before the fire. To-morrow night we can all be very
comfortable."

I took the lamp and led the way--my wife, Mousie, and Merton
following--first across a little hall, from which one stairway led to
the upper chambers and another to the cellar. Opening a door opposite
the living-room, I showed Winifred her parlor. Cosey and comfortable it
looked, even now, through Mr. and Mrs. Jones's kind offices. A Morning
Glory stove gave out abundant warmth and a rich light which blended
genially with the red colors of the carpet.

"Oh, how pretty I can make this room look!" exclaimed my wife.

"Of course you can: you've only to enter it."

"You hurt your head when you fell out of the wagon, Robert, and are a
little daft. There's no place to sleep here."

"Come to the room over this, warmed by a pipe from this stove."

"Ah, this is capital," she cried, looking around an apartment which
Mrs. Jones had made comfortable. "Wasn't I wise when I decided to come
home? It's just as warm as toast. Now let the wind blow--Why, I don't
hear it any more."

"No, the gale has blown itself out. Finding that we had escaped, it got
discouraged and gave up. Connected with this room is another for Mousie
and Winnie. By leaving the door open much of the time it will be warm
enough for them. So you see this end of the house can be heated with
but little trouble and expense. The open fire in the living-room is a
luxury that we can afford, since there is plenty of wood on the place.
On the other side of the hall there is a room for Merton. Now do me a
favor: don't look, or talk, or think, any more to-night. It has been a
long, hard day. Indeed"--looking at my watch--"it is already to-morrow
morning, and you know how much we shall have to do. Let us go back and
get a little supper, and then take all the rest we can."

Winifred yielded, and Bobsey and Winnie waked up for a time at the word
"supper." Then we knelt around our hearth, and made it an altar to God,
for I wished the children never to forget our need of His fatherly care
and help.

"I will now take the children upstairs and put them to bed, and then
come back, for I can not leave this wood fire just yet," remarked my
wife.

I burst out laughing and said, "You have never been at home until this
night, when you are camping in an old house you never saw before, and I
can prove it by one question--When have you taken the children UPSTAIRS
to bed before?"

"Why--why--never."

"Of course you haven't--city flats all your life. But your nature is
not perverted. In natural homes for generations mothers have taken
their children upstairs to bed, and, forgetting the habit of your life,
you speak according to the inherited instinct of the mother-heart."

"O Robert, you have so many fine-spun theories! Yet it is a little
queer. It seemed just as natural for me to say upstairs as--"

"As it was for your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother."

"Very well. We are in such an old house that I suppose I shall begin to
look and act like my great-grandmother. But no more theories
to-night--nothing but rest and the wood fire."

She soon joined me at the hearth again. Merton meanwhile had stretched
himself on the rag-carpet, with his overcoat for a pillow, and was in
dreamless sleep. My wife's eyes were full of languor. She did not sit
down, but stood beside me for a moment. Then, laying her head on my
shoulder, she said, softly, "I haven't brains enough for theories and
such things, but I will try to make you all happy here."

"Dear little wife!" I laughed; "when has woman hit upon a higher or
better wisdom than that of making all happy in her own home? and you
half asleep, too."

"Then I'll bid you good-night at once, before I say something awfully
stupid."

Soon the old house was quiet. The wind had utterly ceased. I opened the
door a moment, and looked on the white, still world without. The stars
glittered frostily through the rifts in the clouds. Schunemunk Mountain
was a shadow along the western horizon, and the eastern highlands
banked up and blended with the clouds. Nature has its restless moods,
its storms and passions, like human life; but there are times of
tranquillity and peace, even in March. How different was this scene
from the aspect of our city street when I had taken my farewell look at
a late hour the previous night! No grand sweeping outlines there, no
deep quiet and peace, soothing and at the same time uplifting the mind.
Even at midnight there is an uneasy fretting in city life--some one not
at rest, and disturbing the repose of others.

I stole silently through the house. Here, too, all seemed in accord
with nature. The life of a good old man had quietly ceased in this
home; new, hopeful life was beginning. Evil is everywhere in the world,
but it seemed to me that we had as safe a nook as could be found.



CHAPTER XIV

SELF-DENIAL AND ITS REWARD


I remember little that followed until I was startled out of my chair by
a loud knocking. The sunlight was streaming in at the window and John
Jones's voice was at the door.

"I think we have all overslept," I said, as I admitted him.

"Not a bit of it. Every wink you've had after such a day as yesterday
is like money put in the bank. But the sleighing is better now than it
will be later in the day. The sun'll be pretty powerful by noon, and
the snow'll soon be slush. Now's your chance to get your traps up in a
hurry. I can have a two-hoss sled ready in half an hour, and if you say
so I can hire a big sleigh of a neighbor, and we'll have everything
here by dinner-time. After you get things snug, you won't care if the
bottom does fall out of the roads for a time. Well, you HAVE had to
rough it. Merton might have come and stayed with us."

"Oh, I'm all right," said the boy, rubbing his eyes open as he rose
from the floor, at the same time learning from stiff joints that a
carpet is not a mattress.

"Nothing would suit me better, Mr. Jones, than your plan of prompt
action, and I'm the luckiest man in the world in having such a
long-headed, fore-handed neighbor to start with. I know you'll make a
good bargain for the other team, and before I sleep to-night I wish to
square up for everything. I mean at least to begin business in this way
at Maizeville."

"Oh, go slow, go slow!" said Mr. Jones. "The town will mob you if they
find you've got ready money in March. John junior will be over with a
pot of coffee and a jug of milk in a few minutes, and we'll be off
sharp."

There was a patter of feet overhead, and soon Bobsey came tearing down,
half wild with excitement over the novelty of everything. He started
for the door as if he were going head first into the snow.

I caught him, and said: "Do you see that chair? Well, we all have a
busy day before us. You can help a good deal, and play a little, but
you can't hinder and pester according to your own sweet will one bit.
You must either obey orders or else be put under arrest and tied in the
chair."

To go into the chair to-day would be torture indeed, and the little
fellow was sobered at once.

The others soon joined us, eager to see everything by the broad light
of day, and to enter upon the task of getting settled. We had scarcely
come together before John junior appeared with the chief features of
our breakfast. The children scanned this probable playmate very
curiously, and some of us could hardly repress a smile at his
appearance. He was even more sandy than his father. Indeed his hair and
eyebrows were nearly white, but out of his red and almost full-moon
face his mother's black eyes twinkled shrewdly. They now expressed only
good-will and bashfulness. Every one of us shook hands with him so
cordially that his boy's heart was evidently won.

Merton, to break the ice more fully, offered to show him his gun, which
he had kept within reach ever since we left the boat. It made him feel
more like a pioneer, no doubt. As he took it from its stout cloth cover
I saw John junior's eyes sparkle. Evidently a deep chord was touched.
He said, excitedly: "To-day's your time to try it. A rabbit can't stir
without leaving his tracks, and the snow is so deep and soft that he
can't get away. There's rabbits on your own place."

"O papa," cried my boy, fairly trembling with eagerness, "can't I go?"

"I need you very much this morning."

"But, papa, others will be out before me, and I may lose my chance;"
and he was half ready to cry.

"Yes," I said; "there is a risk of that. Well, YOU shall decide in this
case," I added, after a moment, seeing a chance to do a little
character-building. "It is rarely best to put pleasure before business
or prudence. If you go out into the snow with those boots, you will
spoil them, and very probably take a severe cold. Yet you may go if you
will. If you help me we can be back by ten o'clock, and I will get you
a pair of rubber boots as we return."

"Will there be any chance after ten o'clock?" he asked, quickly.

"Well," said John junior, in his matter-of-fact way, "that depends. As
your pa says, there's a risk."

The temptation was too strong for the moment. "O dear!" exclaimed
Merton, "I may never have so good a chance again. The snow will soon
melt, and there won't be any more till next winter. I'll tie my
trousers down about my boots, and I'll help all the rest of the day
after I get back."

"Very well," I said quietly: and he began eating his breakfast--the
abundant remains of our last night's lunch--very rapidly, while John
junior started off to get his gun.

I saw that Merton was ill at ease, but I made a sign to his mother not
to interfere. More and more slowly he finished his breakfast, then took
his gun and went to the room that would be his, to load and prepare. At
last he came down and went out by another door, evidently not wishing
to encounter me. John junior met him, and the boys were starting, when
John senior drove into the yard and shouted, "John junior, step here a
moment."

The boy returned slowly, Merton following. "You ain't said nothin' to
me about goin' off with that gun," continued Mr. Jones, severely.

"Well, Merton's pa said he might go if he wanted to, and I had to go
along to show him."

"That first shot wasn't exactly straight, my young friend John. I told
Merton that it wasn't best to put pleasure before business, but that he
could go if he would. I wished to let him choose to do right, instead
of making him do right."

"Oho, that's how the land lays. Well, John junior, you can have your
choice, too. You may go right on with your gun, but you know the length
and weight of that strap at home. Now, will you help me? or go after
rabbits?"

The boy grinned pleasantly, and replied, "If you had said I couldn't
go, I wouldn't; but if it's choosin' between shootin' rabbits and a
strappin' afterward--come along, Merton."

"Well, go along then," chuckled his father; "you've made your bargain
square, and I'll keep my part of it."

"Oh, hang the rabbits! You shan't have any strapping on my account,"
cried Merton; and he carried his gun resolutely to his room and locked
the door on it.

John junior quietly went to the old barn, and hid his gun.

"Guess I'll go with you, pa," he said, joining us.

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Mr. Jones. "It was a good bargain to back out of.
Come now, let's all be off as quick as we can. Neighbor Rollins down
the road will join us as we go along."

"Merton," I said, "see if there isn't a barrel of apples in the cellar.
If you find one, you can fill your pockets."

He soon returned with bulging pockets and a smiling face, feeling that
such virtue as he had shown had soon brought reward. My wife said that
while we were gone she and the children would explore the house and
plan how to arrange everything. We started in good spirits.

"Here's where you thought you was cast away last night," Mr. Jones
remarked, as we passed out of the lane.

The contrast made by a few short hours was indeed wonderful. Then, in
dense obscurity, a tempest had howled and shrieked about us; now, in
the unclouded sunshine, a gemmed and sparkling world revealed beauty
everywhere.

For a long distance our sleighs made the first tracks, and it seemed
almost a pity to sully the purity of the white, drift-covered road.

"What a lot of mud's hid under this snow!" was John Jones's prose over
the opening vistas. "What's more, it will show itself before night. We
can beat all creation at mud in Maizeville, when once we set about it."

Merton laughed, and munched his apples, but I saw that he was impressed
by winter scenery such as he had never looked upon before. Soon,
however, he and John junior were deep in the game question, and I noted
that the latter kept a sharp lookout along the roadside. Before long,
while passing a thicket, he shouted, "There's tracks," and floundered
out into the snow, Merton following.

"Oh, come back," growled his father.

"Let the boys have a few moments," I said. "They gave up this morning
about as well as you could expect of boys. Would Junior have gone and
taken a strapping if Merton hadn't returned?"

"Yes, indeed he would, and he knows my strappin's are no make-believe.
That boy has no sly, mean tricks to speak of, but he's as tough and
obstinate as a mule sometimes, especially about shooting and fishing.
See him now a-p'intin' for that rabbit, like a hound."

True enough, the boy was showing good woodcraft. Restraining Merton, he
cautiously approached the tracks, which by reason of the lightness and
depth of the snow were not very distinct.

"He can't be far away," said Junior, excitedly. "Don't go too fast till
I see which way he was a-p'intin'. We don't want to follow the tracks
back, but for'ard. See, he came out of that old wall there, he went to
these bushes and nibbled some twigs, and here he goes--here he
went--here--here--yes, he went into the wall again just here. Now,
Merton, watch this hole while I jump over the other side of the fence
and see if he comes out again. If he makes a start, grab him."

John Jones and I were now almost as excited as the boys, and Mr.
Rollins, the neighbor who was following us, was standing up in his
sleigh to see the sport. It came quickly. As if by some instinct the
rabbit believed Junior to be the more dangerous, and made a break from
the wall almost at Merton's feet, with such swiftness and power as to
dash by him like a shot. The first force of its bound over, it was
caught by nature's trap--snow too deep and soft to admit of rapid
running.

John Jones soon proved that Junior came honestly by his passion for
hunting. In a moment he was floundering through the bushes with his son
and Merton. In such pursuit of game my boy had the advantage, for he
was as agile as a cat. But a moment or two elapsed before he caught up
with the rabbit, and threw himself upon it, then rose, white as a
snow-man, shouting triumphantly and holding the little creature aloft
by its ears.

"Never rate Junior for hunting again," I said, laughingly, to Mr.
Jones. "He's a chip of the old block."

"I rather guess he is," my neighbor acknowledged, with a grin. "I own
up I used to be pretty hot on such larkin'. We all keep forgettin' we
was boys once."

As we rode on, Merton was a picture of exultation, and Junior was on
the sharp lookout again. His father turned on him and said: "Now look
a' here, enough's as good as a feast. I'll blindfold you if you don't
let the tracks alone. Mrs. Durham wants her things, so she can begin to
live. Get up there;" and a crack of the whip ended all further hopes on
the part of the boys. But they felt well repaid for coming, and Merton
assured Junior that he deserved half the credit, for only he knew how
to manage the hunt.



CHAPTER XV

OUR SUNNY KITCHEN


Before we reached the landing I had invested a goodly sum in four pairs
of rubber boots, for I knew how hopeless it would be to try to keep
Winnie and Bobsey indoors. As for Mousie, she would have to be prudent
until the ground should become dry and warm.

There is no need of dwelling long on the bringing home of our effects
and the getting to rights. We were back soon after ten, and found that
Winnie and Bobsey, having exhausted the resources of the house, had
been permitted to start at the front door, and, with an old fire-shovel
and a piece of board, had well-nigh completed a path to the well,
piling up the snow as they advanced, so that their overshoes were a
sufficient protection.

After we had carried in the things I interceded with Mr. Jones and then
told the boys that they could take their guns and be absent two or
three hours if they would promise to help faithfully the rest of the
day.

I had bought at Maizeville Landing such provisions, tools, etc., as I
should need immediately. Therefore I did not worry because the fickle
March sky was clouding up again with the promise of rain. A heavy
downpour now with snow upon the ground would cause almost a flood, but
I felt that we could shut the door and find the old house a very
comfortable ark.

"A smart warm rain would be the best thing that could happen to yer,"
said Mr. Jones, as he helped me carry in furniture and put up beds; "it
would take the snow off. Nat'rally you want to get out on the bare
ground, for there's allus a lot of clearin' up to be done in the spring
and old man Jamison was poorly last year and didn't keep things up to
the mark."

"Yes," I replied, "I am as eager to get to work outdoors as the boys
were to go after rabbits. I believe I shall like the work, but that is
not the question. I did not come to the country to amuse myself, like
so many city people. I don't blame them; I wish I could afford farming
for fun. I came to earn a living for my wife and children, and I am
anxious to be about it. I won't ask you for anything except advice.
I've only had a city training, and my theories about farming would
perhaps make you smile. But I've seen enough of you already to feel
that you are inclined to be kind and neighborly, and the best way to
show this will be in helping me to good, sound, practical, common-sense
advice. But you mustn't put on airs, or be impatient with me. Shrewd as
you are, I could show you some things in the city."

"Oh, I'd be a sight queerer there than you here. I see your p'int, and
if you'll come to me I won't let you make no blunders I wouldn't make
myself. Perhaps that ain't saying a great deal, though."

By this time everything had been brought in and either put in place or
stowed out of the way, until my wife could decide where and how she
would arrange things.

"Now," I said, when we had finished, "carry out our agreement."

Mr. Jones gave me a wink and drove away.

Our agreement was this--first, that he and Mr. Rollins, the owner of
the other team, should be paid in full before night; and second, that
Mrs. Jones should furnish us our dinner, in which the chief dish should
be a pot-pie from the rabbit caught by Merton, and that Mr. Jones
should bring everything over at one o'clock.

My wife was so absorbed in unpacking her china, kitchen-utensils, and
groceries that she was unaware of the flight of time, but at last she
suddenly exclaimed, "I declare it's dinner-time!"

"Not quite yet," I said; "dinner will be ready at one."

"It will? Oh, indeed! Since we are in the country we are to pick up
what we can, like the birds. You intend to invite us all down to the
apple barrel, perhaps."

"Certainly, whenever you wish to go; but we'll have a hot dinner at one
o'clock, and a game dinner into the bargain."

"I've heard the boys' guns occasionally, but I haven't seen the game,
and it's after twelve now."

"Papa has a secret--a surprise for us," cried Mousie; "I can see it in
his eyes."

"Now, Robert, I know what you've been doing. You have asked Mrs. Jones
to furnish a dinner. You are extravagant, for I could have picked up
something that would have answered."

"No; I've been very prudent in saving your time and strength, and
saving these is sometimes the best economy in the world. Mousie is
nearer right. The dinner is a secret, and it has been furnished chiefly
by one of the family."

"Well, I'm too busy to guess riddles to-day; but if my appetite is a
guide, it is nearly time we had your secret."

"You would not feel like that after half an hour over a hot stove. Now
you will be interrupted, in getting to rights, only long enough to eat
your dinner. Then Mousie and Merton and Winnie will clear up
everything, and be fore night you will feel settled enough to take
things easy till to-morrow."

"I know your thoughtfulness for me, if not your secret," she said,
gratefully, and was again putting things where, from housewifely
experience, she knew they would be handy.

Mr. and Mrs. Jamison had clung to their old-fashioned ways, and had
done their cooking over the open fire, using the swinging crane which
is now employed chiefly in pictures. This, for the sake of the picture
it made, we proposed to keep as it had been left, although at times it
might answer some more prosaic purpose.

At the eastern end of the house was a single room, added unknown years
ago, and designed to be a bed-chamber. Of late it had been used as a
general storage and lumber room, and when I first inspected the house,
I had found little in this apartment of service to us. So I had asked
Mr. Jones to remove all that I did not care for, and to have the room
cleansed, satisfied that it would just suit my wife as a kitchen. It
was large, having windows facing the east and south, and therefore it
would be light and cheerful, as a kitchen ever should be, especially
when the mistress of the house is cook. There Mr. Jones and I set up
the excellent stove that I had brought from New York--one to which my
wife was accustomed, and from which she could conjure a rare good
dinner when she gave her mind to it. Now as she moved back and forth,
in such sunlight as the clouding sky permitted, she appeared the
picture of pleased content.

"It cheers one up to enter a kitchen like this," she said.

"It is to be your garden for a time also," I exclaimed to Mousie. "I
shall soon have by this east window a table with shallow boxes of
earth, and in them you can plant some of your flower-seeds. I only ask
that I may have two of the boxes for early cabbages, lettuce, tomatoes,
etc. You and your plants can take a sun-bath every morning until it is
warm, enough to go out of doors, and you'll find the plants won't die
here as they did in the dark, gas-poisoned city flat."

"I feel as if I were going to grow faster and stronger than the
plants," cried the happy child.

Junior and Merton now appeared, each carrying a rabbit. My boy's face,
however, was clouded, and he said, a little despondently, "I can't
shoot straight--missed every time; and Junior shot 'em after I had
fired and missed."

"Pshaw!" cried Junior; "Merton's got to learn to take a quick steady
sight, like every one else. He gets too excited."

"That's just it, my boy," I said. "You shall go down by the creek and
fire at a mark a few times every day, and you'll soon hit it every
time. Junior's head is too level to think that anything can be done
well without practice. Now, Junior," I added, "run over home and help
your father bring us our dinner, and then you stay and help us eat it."

Father and son soon appeared, well laden. Winnie and Bobsey came in
ravenous from their path-making, and all agreed that we had already
grown one vigorous rampant Maizeville crop--an appetite.

The pot-pie was exulted over, and the secret of its existence
explained. Even Junior laughed till the tears came as I described him,
his father, and Merton, floundering through the deep snow after the
rabbit, and we all congratulated Merton as the one who had provided our
first country dinner.



CHAPTER XVI

MAKING A PLACE FOR CHICKENS


Before the meal was over, I said, seriously, "Now, boys, there must be
no more hunting until I find out about the game-laws. They should be
obeyed, especially by sportsmen. I don't think that we are forbidden to
kill rabbits on our own place, particularly when they threaten to be
troublesome; and the hunt this morning was so unexpected that I did not
think of the law, which might be used to make us trouble. You killed
the other rabbits on this place, Junior?"

"Yes, sir, both of 'em."

"Well, hereafter you must look after hawks, and other enemies of
poultry. Especially do I hope you will never fire at our useful
song-birds. If boys throughout the country would band together to
protect game when out of season, they would soon have fine sport in the
autumn."

In the afternoon we let Winnie and Bobsey expend their energy in making
paths and lanes in every direction through the snow, which was melting
rapidly in the south wind. By three o'clock the rain began to fall, and
when darkness set in there was a gurgling sound of water on every side.
Our crackling fire made the warmth and comfort within seem tenfold more
cheery.

A hearty supper, prepared in our own kitchen, made us feel that our
home machinery had fairly started, and we knew that it would run more
and more smoothly. March was keeping up its bad name for storm and
change. The wind was again roaring, but laden now with rain, and in
gusty sheets the heavy drops dashed against the windows. But our old
house kept us dry and safe, although it rocked a little in the blasts.
They soon proved a lullaby for our second night at home.

After breakfast the following morning, with Merton, Winnie, and Bobsey,
I started out to see if any damage had been done. The sky was still
clouded, but the rain had ceased. Our rubber boots served us well, for
the earth was like an over-full sponge, while down every little incline
and hollow a stream was murmuring.

The old barn showed the need of a good many nails to be driven here and
there, and a deal of mending. Then it would answer for corn-stalks and
other coarse fodder. The new barn had been fairly built, and the
interior was dry. It still contained as much hay as would be needed for
the keeping of a horse and cow until the new crop should be harvested.

"Papa," cried Winnie, "where is the chicken place?"

"That is one of the questions we must settle at once," I replied. "As
we were coming out I saw an old coop in the orchard. We'll go and look
at it."

It was indeed old and leaky, and had poultry been there the previous
night they would have been half drowned on their perches. "This might
do for a summer cottage for your chickens, Winnie," I continued, "but
never for a winter house. Let us go back to the barn, for I think I
remember a place that will just suit, with some changes."

Now the new barn had been built on a hillside, and had an ample
basement, from which a room extending well into the bank had been
partitioned, thus promising all one could desire as a cellar for apples
and roots. The entrance to this basement faced the east, and on each
side of it was a window. To the right of the entrance were two
cow-stalls, and to the left was an open space half full of mouldy
corn-stalks and other rubbish.

"See here, Winnie and Merton," I said, after a little examination, "I
think we could clear out this space on the left, partition it off, make
a door, and keep the chickens here. After that window is washed, a good
deal of sunlight can come in. I've read that in cold weather poultry
need warmth and light, and must be kept dry. Here we can secure all
these conditions. Having a home for ourselves, suppose we set to work
to make a home for the chickens."

This idea delighted Winnie, and pleased Merton almost as much as
hunting rabbits. "Now," I resumed, "we will go to the house and get
what we need for the work."

"Winifred," I said to my wife, "can you let Winnie have a small pail of
hot water and some old rags?"

"What are you up to now?"

"You know all about cleaning house; we are going to clean barn, and
make a place for Winnie's chickens. There is a window in their future
bedroom--roost-room I suppose I should call it--that looks as if it had
never been washed, and to get off the dust of years will be Winnie's
task, while Merton, Bobsey, and I create an interior that should
satisfy a knowing hen. We'll make nests, too, children, that will
suggest to the biddies that they should proceed at once to business."

"But where are the chickens to come from?" my wife asked, as she gave
the pan to Merton to carry for his sister.

"Oh, John Jones will put me in the way of getting them soon;" and we
started out to our morning's work. Mousie looked after us wistfully,
but her mother soon found light tasks for her, and she too felt that
she was helping. "Remember, Mousie," I said, in parting, "that I have
three helpers, and surely mamma needs one;" and she was content.

Merton at first was for pitching all the old corn-stalks out into the
yard, but I said: "That won't do. We shall need a cow as well as
chickens, and these stalks must be kept dry for her bedding. We'll pile
them up in the inner empty stall. You can help at that, Bobsey;" and we
set to work.

Under Winnie's quick hands more and more light came through the window.
With a fork I lifted and shook up the stalks, and the boys carried them
to the empty stall. At last we came to rubbish that was so damp and
decayed that it would be of no service indoors, so we placed it on a
barrow and I wheeled it out to one corner of the yard. At last we came
down to a hard earth floor, and with a hoe this was cleared and made
smooth.

"Merton," I said, "I saw an old broom upstairs. Run and get it, and
we'll brush down the cobwebs and sweep out, and then we shall be ready
to see about the partition."



CHAPTER XVII

GOOD BARGAINS IN MAPLE SUGAR


By eleven o'clock we had all the basement cleaned except the one
cow-stall that was filled to the ceiling with litter; and Winnie had
washed the windows. Then John Jones's lank figure darkened the doorway,
and he cried, "Hello, neighbor, what ye drivin' at?"

"Look around and see, and then tell us where to get a lot of chickens."

"Well, I declare! How you've slicked things up! You're not goin' to
scrub the dirt floor, are you? Well, well, this looks like
business--just the place for chickens. Wonder old man Jamison didn't
keep 'em here; but he didn't care for fowls. Now I think of it, there's
to be a vandoo the first of the week, and there was a lot o' chickens
printed on the poster."

I smiled.

"Oh, I don't mean that the chickens themselves was on the poster, but a
statement that a lot would be sold at auction. I'll bid 'em in for you
if they're a good lot. If you, a city chap, was to bid, some
straw-bidder would raise 'em agin you. I know what they're wuth, and
everybody there'll know I do, and they'll try no sharp games with me."

"That will suit me exactly, Mr. Jones. I don't want any game-fowls of
that kind."

"Ha, ha! I see the p'int. Have you looked into the root-cellar?"

"Yes; we opened the door and looked, but it was dark as a pocket."

"Well, I don't b'lieve in matches around a barn, but I'll show you
something;" and he opened the door, struck a match, and, holding it
aloft, revealed a heap of turnips, another of carrots, five barrels of
potatoes, and three of apples. The children pounced upon the last with
appetites sharpened by their morning's work.

"You see," resumed Mr. Jones, "these were here when old man Jamison
died. If I hadn't sold the place I should have taken them out before
long, and got rid of what I didn't want. Now you can have the lot at a
low figure," which he named.

"I'll take them," I said, promptly.

"The carrots make it look like a gold-mine," cried Merton.

"Well, you're wise," resumed Mr. Jones. "You'll have to get a cow and a
horse, and here's fodder for 'em handy. Perhaps I can pick 'em out for
you, too, at the vandoo. You can go along, and if anything strikes your
fancy I'll bid on it."

"O papa," cried the children, in chorus, "can we go with you to the
vandoo?"

"Yes, I think so. When does the sale take place?"

"Next Tuesday. That's a good breed of potatoes. Jamison allus had the
best of everything. They'll furnish you with seed, and supply your
table till new ones come. I guess you could sell a barrel or so of
apples at a rise."

"I've found a market for them already. Look at these children; and I'm
good for half a barrel myself if they don't decay too soon. Where could
we find better or cheaper food? All the books say that apples are
fattening."

"That's true of man and beast, if the books do say it. They'll keep in
this cool, dark cellar longer than you'd think--longer than you'll let
'em, from the way they're disappearin'. I guess I'll try one."

"Certainly, a dozen, just as if they were still yours."

"They wasn't mine--they belonged to the Jamison estate. I'll help
myself now quicker'n I would before. I might come it over a live man,
you know, but not a dead one."

"I'd trust you with either."

While I was laughing at this phase of honesty, he resumed: "This is the
kind of place to keep apples--cool, dry, dark, even temperature. Why,
they're as crisp and juicy as if just off the trees. I came over to
make a suggestion. There's a lot of sugar-maple trees on your place,
down by the brook. Why not tap 'em, and set a couple of pots b'ilin'
over your open fire? You'd kill two birds with one stone; the fire'd
keep you warm, and make a lot of sugar in the bargain. I opinion, too,
the children would like the fun."

They were already shouting over the idea, but I said dubiously, "How
about the pails to catch the sap?"

"Well," said Mr. Jones, "I've thought of that. We've a lot of spare
milk-pails and pans, that we're not usin'. Junior understands the
business; and, as we're not very busy, he can help you and take his pay
in sugar."

The subject of poultry was forgotten; and the children scampered off to
the house to tell of this new project.

Before Mr. Jones and I left the basement, he said: "You don't want any
partition here at present, only a few perches for the fowls. There's a
fairish shed, you remember, in the upper barnyard, and when 'tain't
very cold or stormy the cow will do well enough there from this out.
The weather'll be growin' milder 'most every day, and in rough spells
you can put her in here. Chickens won't do her any harm. Law sakes!
when the main conditions is right, what's the use of havin' everything
jes' so? It's more important to save your time and strength and money.
You'll find enough to do without one stroke that ain't needful." Thus
John Jones fulfilled his office of mentor.



CHAPTER XVIII

BUTTERNUTS AND BOBSEY'S PERIL


I restrained the children until after dinner, which my wife hastened.
By that time Junior was on hand with a small wagon-load of pails and
pans.

"Oh, dear, I wanted you to help me this afternoon," my wife had said,
but, seeing the dismayed look on the children's faces, had added,
"Well, there's no hurry, I suppose. We are comfortable, and we shall
have stormy days when you can't be out."

I told her that she was wiser than the queen of Sheba and did not need
to go to Solomon.

The horse was put in the barn, for he would have mired in the long
spongy lane and the meadow which we must cross. So we decided to run
the light wagon down by hand.

Junior had the auger with which to bore holes in the trees. "I tapped
'em last year, as old Mr. Jamison didn't care about doin' it," said the
boy, "an' I b'iled the pot of sap down in the grove; but that was slow,
cold work. I saved the little wooden troughs I used last year, and they
are in one of the pails. I brought over a big kittle, too, which mother
let me have, and if we can keep this and yours a-goin', we'll soon have
some sugar."

Away we went, down the lane, Junior and Merton in the shafts, playing
horses. I pushed in some places, and held back in others, while Winnie
and Bobsey picked their way between puddles and quagmires. The snow was
so nearly gone that it lay only on the northern slopes. We had heard
the deep roar of the Moodna Creek all the morning, and had meant to go
and see it right after breakfast; but providing a chickenhome had
proved a greater attraction to the children, and a better investment of
time for me. Now from the top of the last hillside we saw a great flood
rushing by with a hoarse, surging noise.

"Winnie, Bobsey, if you go near the water without me you march straight
home," I cried.

They promised never to go, but I thought Bobsey protested a little too
much. Away we went down the hill, skirting what was now a good-sized
brook. I knew the trees, from a previous visit; and the maple, when
once known, can be picked out anywhere, so genial, mellow, and generous
an aspect has it, even when leafless.

The roar of the creek and the gurgle of the brook made genuine March
music, and the children looked and acted as if there were nothing left
to be desired. When Junior showed them a tree that appeared to be
growing directly out of a flat rock, they expressed a wonder which no
museum could have excited.

But scenery, and even rural marvels, could not keep their attention
long. All were intent on sap and sugar, and Junior was speedily at
work. The moment he broke the brittle, juicy bark, the tree's
life-blood began to flow.

"See," he cried, "they are like cows wanting to be milked."

As fast as he inserted his little wooden troughs into the trees, we
placed pails and pans under them, and began harvesting the first crop
from our farm.

This was rather slow work, and to keep Winnie and Bobsey busy I told
them they could gather sticks and leaves, pile them up at the foot of a
rock on a dry hillside, and we would have a fire. I meanwhile picked up
the dead branches that strewed the ground, and with my axe trimmed them
for use in summer, when only a quick blaze would be needed to boil the
supper kettle. To city-bred eyes wood seemed a rare luxury, and
although there was enough lying about to supply us for a year, I could
not get over the feeling that it must all be cared for.

To children there are few greater delights than that of building a fire
in the woods, and on that cloudy, chilly day our blaze against the rock
brought solid comfort to us all, even though the smoke did get into our
eyes. Winnie and Bobsey, little bundles of energy that they were,
seemed unwearied in feeding the flames, while Merton sought to hide his
excitement by imitating Junior's stolid, business-like ways.

Finding him alone once, I said: "Merton, don't you remember saying to
me once, 'I'd like to know what there is for a boy to do in this
street'? Don't you think there's something for a boy to do on this
farm?"

"O papa!" he cried, "I'm just trying to hold in. So much has happened,
and I've had such a good time, that it seems as if I had been here a
month; then again the hours pass like minutes. See, the sun is low
already."

"It's all new and exciting now, Merton, but there will be long
hours--yes, days and weeks--when you'll have to act like a man, and to
do work because it ought to be done and must be done."

"The same would be true if we stayed in town," he said.

Soon I decided that it was time for the younger children to return, for
I meant to give my wife all the help I could before bedtime. We first
hauled the wagon back, and then Merton said he would bring what sap had
been caught. Junior had to go home for a time to do his evening
"chores," but he promised to return before dark to help carry in the
sap.

"There'll be frost to-night, and we'll get the biggest run in the
morning," was his encouraging remark, as he made ready to depart.

Mrs. Jones had been over to see my wife, and they promised to become
good friends. I set to work putting things in better shape, and
bringing in a good pile of wood. Merton soon appeared with a brimming
pail. A kettle was hung on the crane, but before the sap was placed
over the fire all must taste it, just as it had been distilled by
nature. And all were quickly satisfied. Even Mousie said it was "too
watery," and Winnie made a face as she exclaimed, "I declare, Merton, I
believe you filled the pails from the brook!"

"Patience, youngsters; sap, as well as some other things, is better for
boiling down."

"Oh what a remarkable truth!" said my wife, who never lost a chance to
give me a little dig.

I laughed, and then stood still in the middle of the floor, lost in
thought.

"A brown study! What theory have you struck now, Robert?"

"I was thinking how some women kept their husbands in love with them by
being saucy. It's an odd way, and yet it seems effective."

"It depends upon the kind of sauce, Robert," she said with a knowing
glance and a nod.

By the time it was dark, we had both the kettles boiling and bubbling
over the fire, and fine music they made. With Junior for guest, we
enjoyed our supper, which consisted principally of baked apples and
milk.

"'Bubble, bubble,' 'Toil' and no 'trouble'--"

"Yet, worth speaking of," said my wife; "but it must come, I suppose."

"We won't go half-way to meet it, Winifred."

When the meal was over, Junior went out on the porch and returned with
a mysterious sack.

"Butternuts!" he ejaculated.

Junior was winning his way truly, and in the children's eyes was
already a good genius, as his father was in mine.

"O papa!" was the general cry, "can't we crack them on the hearth?"

"But you'll singe your very eyebrows off," I said.

"Mine's so white 'twouldn't matter," said Junior; "nobody'd miss 'em.
Give me a hammer, and I'll keep you goin'."

And he did, on one of the stones of the hearth, with such a lively
rat-tat-snap! that it seemed a regular rhythm.

"Cracked in my life well-nigh on to fifty bushel, I guess," he
explained, in answer to our wonder at his skill.

And so the evening passed, around the genial old fireplace; and before
the children retired they smacked their lips over sirup sweet enough to
satisfy them.

The following morning--Saturday--I vibrated between the sugar-camp and
the barn and other out-buildings, giving, however, most of the time to
the help of my wife in getting the house more to her mind, and in
planning some work that would require a brief visit from a carpenter;
for I felt that I must soon bestow nearly all my attention on the
outdoor work. I managed to keep Bobsey under my eye for the most part,
and in the afternoon I left him for only a few moments at the
sugar-bush while I carried up some sap. A man called to see me on
business, and I was detained. Knowing the little fellow's proneness to
mischief, and forgetfulness of all commands, I at last hastened back
with a half guilty and worried feeling.

I reached the brow of the hill just in time to see him throw a stick
into the creek, lose his balance, and fall in.

With an exclamation of terror, his own cry forming a faint echo, I
sprang forward frantically, but the swift current caught and bore him
away.



CHAPTER XIX

JOHN JONES, JUN


My agonized shout as I saw Bobsey swept away by the swollen current of
the Moodna Creek was no more prompt than his own shrill scream. It so
happened, or else a kind Providence so ordered it, that Junior was
further down the stream, tapping a maple that had been overlooked the
previous day. He sprang to his feet, whirled around in the direction of
the little boy's cry, with the quickness of thought rushed to the bank
and plunged in with a headlong leap like a Newfoundland dog. I paused,
spellbound, to watch him, knowing that I was much too far away to be of
aid, and that all now depended on the hardy country lad. He disappeared
for a second beneath the tide, and then his swift strokes proved that
he was a good swimmer. In a moment or two he caught up with Bobsey, for
the current was too swift to permit the child to sink. Then, with a
wisdom resulting from experience, he let the torrent carry him in a
long slant toward the shore, for it would have been hopeless to try to
stem the tide. Running as I never ran before, I followed, reached the
bank where there was an eddy in the stream, sprang in up to my waist,
seized them both as they approached and dragged them to solid ground.
Merton and Winnie meanwhile stood near with white, scared faces.

Bobsey was conscious, although he had swallowed some water, and I was
soon able to restore him, so that he could stand on his feet and cry:
"I--I--I w-won't d-do so any--any more."

Instead of punishing him, which he evidently expected, I clasped him to
my heart with a nervous force that almost made him cry out with pain.

Junior, meanwhile, had coolly seated himself on a rock, emptied the
water out of his shoes, and was tying them on again, at the same time
striving with all his might to maintain a stolid composure under
Winnie's grateful embraces and Merton's interrupting hand-shakings. But
when, having become assured of Bobsey's safety, I rushed forward and
embraced Junior in a transport of gratitude, his lip began to quiver
and two great tears mingled with the water that was dripping from his
hair. Suddenly he broke away, took to his heels, and ran toward his
home, as if he had been caught in some mischief and the constable were
after him. I believe that he would rather have had at once all the
strappings his father had ever given him than to have cried in our
presence.

I carried Bobsey home, and his mother, with many questionings and
exclamations of thanksgiving, undressed the little fellow, wrapped him
in flannel, and put him to bed, where he was soon sleeping as quietly
as if nothing had happened.

Mrs. Jones came over, and we made her rubicund face beam and grow more
round, if possible, as we all praised her boy. I returned with her, for
I felt that I wished to thank Junior again and again. But he saw me
coming, and slipped out at the back door. Indeed, the brave, bashful
boy was shy of us for several days. When at last my wife got hold of
him, and spoke to him in a manner natural to mothers, he pooh-poohed
the whole affair.

"I've swum in that crick so often that it was nothin' to me. I only had
to keep cool, and that was easy enough in snow water, and the swift
current would keep us both up. I wish you wouldn't say anything more
about it. It kinder makes me feel--I don't know how--all over, you
know."

But Junior soon learned that we had adopted him into our inmost hearts,
although he compelled us to show our good-will after his own off-hand
fashion.

Sunday was ushered in with another storm, and we spent a long, quiet,
restful day, our hearts full of thankfulness that the great sorrow,
which might have darkened the beginning of our country life, had been
so happily averted.

On Sunday night the wind veered around to the north, and on Monday
morning the sky had a clear metallic hue and the ground was frozen
hard. Bobsey had not taken cold, and was his former self, except that
he was somewhat chastened in spirit and his bump of caution was larger.
I was resolved that the day should witness a good beginning of our
spring work, and told Winnie and Bobsey that they could help me.
Junior, although he yet avoided the house, was ready enough to help
Merton with the sap. Therefore soon after breakfast we all were busy.

Around old country places, especially where there has been some degree
of neglect, much litter gathers. This was true of our new home and its
surroundings. All through the garden were dry, unsightly weeds, about
the house was shrubbery that had become tangled masses of unpruned
growth, in the orchard the ground was strewn with fallen branches, and
I could see dead limbs on many of the trees.

Therefore I said to my two little helpers: "Here in this open space in
the garden we will begin our brush-pile, and we will bring to it all
the refuse that we wish to burn. You see that we can make an immense
heap, for the place is so far away from any buildings that, when the
wind goes down, we can set the pile on fire in safety, and the ashes
will do the garden good."

During the whole forenoon I pruned the shrubbery, and raked up the
rubbish which the children carried by armfuls to our prospective
bonfire. They soon wished to see the blaze, but I told them that the
wind was too high, and that I did not propose to apply the match until
we had a heap half as big as the house; that it might be several days
before we should be ready, for I intended to have a tremendous fire.

Thus with the lesson of restraint was given the hope of something
wonderful. For a long time they were pleased with the novelty of the
work, and then they wanted to do something else, but I said: "No, no;
you are gardeners now, and I'm head gardener. You must both help me
till dinner-time. After that you can do something else, or play if you
choose; but each day, even Bobsey must do some steady work to earn his
dinner. We didn't come to the country on a picnic, I can tell you. All
must do their best to help make a living;" and so without scruple I
kept my little squad busy, for the work was light, although it had
become monotonous.

Mousie sometimes aided her mother, and again watched us from the window
with great interest. I rigged upon the barrow a rack, in which I
wheeled the rubbish gathered at a distance; and by the time my wife's
mellow voice called, "Come to dinner"--how sweet her voice and summons
were after long hours in the keen March wind!--we had a pile much
higher than my head, and the place began to wear a tidy aspect.

Such appetites, such red cheeks and rosy noses as the outdoor workers
brought to that plain meal! Mousie was much pleased with the promise
that the bonfire should not be lighted until some still, mild day when
she could go out and stand with me beside it.

Merton admitted that gathering the sap did not keep him busy more than
half the time; so after dinner I gave him a hatchet, and told him to go
on with the trimming out of the fallen branches in our wood lot--a task
that I had begun--and to carry all wood heavy enough for our fireplace
to a spot where it could be put into a wagon.

"Your next work, Merton, will be to collect all your refuse trimmings,
and the brush lying about, into a few great heaps; and by and by we'll
burn these, too, and gather up the ashes carefully, for I've read and
heard all my life that there is nothing better for fruit then
wood-ashes. Some day, I hope, we can begin to put money in the bank;
for I intend to give all a chance to earn money for themselves, after
they have done their share toward our general effort to live and
thrive. The next best thing to putting money in the bank is the
gathering and saving of everything that will make the ground richer. In
fact, all the papers and books that I've read this winter agree that as
the farmer's land grows rich he grows rich."



CHAPTER XX

RASPBERRY LESSONS


It must be remembered that I had spent all my leisure during the winter
in reading and studying the problem of our country life. Therefore I
knew that March was the best month for pruning trees, and I had gained
a fairly correct idea how to do this work. Until within the last two or
three years of his life, old Mr. Jamison had attended to this task
quite thoroughly; and thus little was left for me beyond sawing away
the boughs that had recently died, and cutting out the useless sprouts
on the larger limbs. Before leaving the city I had provided myself with
such tools as I was sure I should need; and finding a ladder under a
shed, I attacked the trees vigorously. The wind had almost died out,
and I knew I must make the most of all still days in this gusty month.
After playing around for a time, Winnie and Bobsey concluded that
gathering and piling up my prunings would be as good fun as anything
else; and so I had helpers again.

By the middle of the afternoon Mr. Jones appeared, and I was glad to
see him, for there were some kinds of work about which I wanted his
advice. At one end of the garden were several rows of blackcap
raspberry bushes, which had grown into an awful snarl. The old canes
that had borne fruit the previous season were still standing, ragged
and unsightly; the new stalks that would bear the coming season
sprawled in every direction; and I had found that many tips of the
branches had grown fast in the ground. I took my neighbor to see this
briery wilderness, and asked his advice.

"Have you got a pair of pruning-nippers?" he asked.

Before going to the house to get them, I blew a shrill whistle to
summon Merton, for I wished him also to hear all that Mr. Jones might
say. I carried a little metallic whistle one blast on which was for
Merton, two for Winnie, and three for Bobsey. When they heard this call
they were to come as fast as their feet could carry them.

Taking the nippers, Mr. Jones snipped off from one-third to one-half
the length of the branches from one of the bushes and cut out the old
dead cane.

"I raise these berries myself for home use," he said; "and I can tell
you they go nice with milk for a July supper. You see, after taking off
so much from these long branches the canes stand straight up, and will
be self-supporting, no matter how many berries they bear; but here and
there's a bush that has grown slant-wise, or is broken off. Now, if I
was you, I'd take a crow-bar 'n' make a hole 'longside these weakly and
slantin' fellers, put in a stake, and tie 'em up strong. Then, soon as
the frost yields, if you'll get out the grass and weeds that's started
among 'em, you'll have a dozen bushel or more of marketable berries
from this 'ere wilderness, as you call it. Give Merton a pair of old
gloves, and he can do most of the job. Every tip that's fast in the
ground is a new plant. If you want to set out another patch, I'll show
you how later on."

"I think I know pretty nearly how to do that."

"Yes, yes, I know. Books are a help, I s'pose, but after you've seen
one plant set out right, you'll know more than if you'd 'a' read a
month."

"Well, now that you're here, Mr. Jones, I'm going to make the most of
you. How about those other raspberries off to the southeast of the
house?"

"Those are red ones. Let's take a look at 'em."

Having reached the patch, we found almost as bad a tangle as in the
blackcap patch, except that the canes were more upright in their growth
and less full of spines or briers.

"It's plain enough," continued Mr. Jones, "that old man Jamison was too
poorly to take much care of things last year. You see, these red
raspberries grow different from those black ones yonder. Those increase
by the tips of the branches takin' root; these by suckers. All these
young shoots comin' up between the rows are suckers, and they ought to
be dug out. As I said before, you can set them out somewhere else if
you want to. Dig 'em up, you know; make a trench in some out-of-the-way
place, and bury the roots till you want 'em. Like enough the neighbors
will buy some if they know you have 'em to spare. Only be sure to cut
these long canes back to within six inches of the ground."

"Yes," I said, "that's all just as I have read in the books."

"So much the better for the books, then. I haven't lived in this
fruit-growin' region all my life without gettin' some ideas as to
what's what. I give my mind to farmin'; but Jamison and I were great
cronies, and I used to be over here every day or two, and so it's
natural to keep comin'."

"That's my good luck."

"Well, p'raps it'll turn out so. Now Merton's just the right age to
help you in all this work. Jamison, you see, grew these raspberries in
a continuous bushy row; that is, say, three good strong canes every
eighteen inches apart in the row, and the rows five feet apart, so he
could run a horse-cultivator between. Are you catchin' on, Merton?"

"Yes, sir," said the boy, with much interest.

"Well, all these suckers and extra plants that are swampin' the ground
are just as bad as weeds. Dig 'em all out, only don't disturb the roots
of the bearin' canes you leave in the rows much."

"How about trimming these?" I asked.

"Well, that depends. If you want early fruit, you'll let 'em stand as
they be; if you want big berries, you'll cut 'em back one-third. Let me
see. Here's five rows of Highland Hardy; miserable poor-tastin' kind;
but they come so early that they often pay the best. Let them stand
with their whole length of cane, and if you can scatter a good
top-dressin' of fine manure scraped up from the barnyard, you'll make
the berries larger. Those other rows of Cuthbert, Reliance, and Turner,
cut back the canes one-third, and you'll get a great deal more fruit
than if you left more wood on 'em. Cuttin' back'll make the berries
big; and so they'll bring as much, p'raps, as if they were early."

"Well, Merton, this all accords with what I've read, only Mr. Jones
makes it much clearer. I think we know how to go to work now, and
surely there's plenty to do."

"Yes, indeed," resumed Mr. Jones; "and you'll soon find the work
crowdin' you. Now come to the big raspberry patch back of the barn, the
patch where the canes are all laid down, as I told you. These are
Hudson River Antwerps. Most people have gone out of 'em, but Jamison
held on, and he was makin' money on 'em. So may you. They are what we
call tender, you see, and in November they must be bent down close to
the ground and covered with earth, or else every cane would be dead
from frost by spring. About the first week in April, if the weather's
mild, you must uncover 'em, and tie 'em to stakes durin' the month."

"Now, Mr. Jones, one other good turn and we won't bother you any more
to-day. All the front of the house is covered by two big grape-vines
that have not been trimmed, and there are a great many other vines on
the place. I've read and read on the subject, but I declare I'm afraid
to touch them."

"Now, you're beyond my depth. I've got a lot of vines home, and I trim
'em in my rough way, but I know I ain't scientific, and we have pretty
poor, scraggly bunches. They taste just as good, though, and I don't
raise any to sell. There's a clever man down near the landin' who has a
big vineyard, and he's trimmed it as your vines ought to have been long
ago. I'd advise you to go and see him, and he can show you all the
latest wrinkles in prunin'. Now, I'll tell you what I come for, in the
first place. You'll remember that I said there'd be a vandoo to-morrow.
I've been over and looked at the stock offered. There's a lot of
chickens, as I told you; a likely-looking cow with a calf at her side;
a fairish and quiet old horse that ought to go cheap, but he'd answer
well the first year. Do you think you'll get more'n one horse to start
with?"

"No; you said I could hire such heavy plowing as was needed at a
moderate sum, and I think we can get along with one horse for a time.
My plan is to go slow, and, I hope, sure."

"That's the best way, only it ain't common. I'll be around in the
mornin' for you and such of the children as you'll take."

"On one condition, Mr. Jones. You must let me pay you for your time and
trouble. Unless you'll do this in giving me my start, I'll have to
paddle my own canoe, even if I sink it."

"Oh, I've no grudge against an honest penny turned in any way that
comes handy. You and I can keep square as we go along. You can give me
what you think is right, and if I ain't satisfied, I'll say so."

I soon learned that my neighbor had no foolish sensitiveness. I could
pay him what I thought the value of his services, and he pocketed the
money without a word. Of course, I could not pay him what his advice
was really worth, for his hard common-sense stood me in good stead in
many ways.



CHAPTER XXI

THE "VANDOO"


The next morning at about eight o'clock Mr. Jones arrived in a long
farm-wagon on springs, with one seat in it; but Junior had half filled
its body with straw, and he said to Merton, "I thought that p'raps, if
you and the children could go, you'd like a straw-ride."

The solemnity with which Winnie and Bobsey promised to obey orders gave
some hope of performance; so I tossed them into the straw, and we drove
away, a merry party, leaving Mousie consoled with the hope of receiving
something from the vendue.

"There's allers changes and breakin's up in the spring," said Mr.
Jones, as we drove along; "and this family's goin' out West. Everything
is to be sold, in doors and out."

The farmhouse in question was about two miles away. By the time we
arrived, all sorts of vehicles were converging to it on the muddy
roads, for the weather had become mild again. Stylish-looking people
drove up in top-buggies, and there were many heavy, springless wagons
driven by rusty-looking countrymen, whose trousers were thrust into the
top of their cowhide boots. I strolled through the house before the
sale began, thinking that I might find something there which would
please Mousie and my wife. The rooms were already half filled with the
housewives from the vicinity; red-faced Irish women, who stalked about
and examined everything with great freedom; placid, peach-cheeked dames
in Quaker bonnets, who softly cooed together, and took every chance
they could to say pleasant words to the flurried, nervous family that
was being thrust out into the world, as it were, while still at their
own hearth.

I marked with my eye a low, easy sewing-chair for my wife, and a rose
geranium, full of bloom, for Mousie, purposing to bid on them. I also
observed that Junior was examining several pots of flowers that stood
in the large south window. Then giving Merton charge of the children,
with directions not to lose sight of them a moment, I went to the
barn-yard and stable, feeling that the day was a critical one in our
fortunes. True enough, among the other stock there was a nice-looking
cow with a calf, and Mr. Jones said she had Jersey blood in her veins.
This meant rich, creamy milk. I thought the animal had a rather ugly
eye, but this might be caused by anxiety for her calf, with so many
strangers about. We also examined the old bay horse and a market wagon
and harness. Then Mr. Jones and I drew apart and agreed upon the limit
of his bids, for I proposed to act solely through him. Every one knew
him and was aware that he would not go a cent beyond what a thing was
worth. He had a word and a jest for all, and "How ARE YOU, JOHN?"
greeted him wherever he went.

At ten o'clock the sale began. The auctioneer was a rustic humorist,
who knew the practical value of a joke in his business. Aware of the
foibles and characteristics of the people who flocked around and after
him, he provoked many a ripple and roar of laughter by his telling hits
and droll speeches. I found that my neighbor, Mr. Jones, came in for
his full share, but he always sent back as good as he received. The
sale, in fact, had the aspect of a country merrymaking, at which all
sorts and conditions of people met on common ground, Pat bidding
against the best of the landed gentry, while boys and dogs innumerable
played around and sometimes verged on serious quarrels.

Junior, I observed, left his mark before the day was over. He was
standing, watching the sale with his usual impassive expression, when a
big, hulking fellow leered into his face and cried.

"Tow head, white-head, Thick-head, go to bed."

The last word was scarcely out of his mouth before Junior's fist was
between his eyes, and down he went.

"Want any more?" Junior coolly asked, as the fellow got up.

Evidently he didn't, for he slunk off, followed by jeers and laughter.

At noon there was an immense pot of coffee with crackers and cheese,
placed on a table near the kitchen door, and we had a free lunch. To
this Bobsey paid his respects so industriously that a great, gawky
mountaineer looked down at him and said, with a grin, "I say, young
'un, you're gettin' outside of more fodder than any critter of your
size I ever knowed."

"'Tain't your fodder," replied Bobsey, who had learned, in the streets,
to be a little pert.

The day came to an end at last, and the cow and calf, the old bay
horse, the wagon, and the harness were mine. On the whole, Mr. Jones
had bought them at reasonable rates. He also bid in for me, at one
dollar per pair, two cocks and twenty hens that looked fairly well in
their coop.

For my part, I had secured the chair and blooming geranium. To my
surprise, when the rest of the flowers were sold, Junior took part in
the bidding for the first time, and, as a result, carried out to the
wagon several other pots of house-plants.

"Why, Junior," I said, "I didn't know you had such an eye for beauty."

He blushed, but made no reply.

The chickens and the harness were put into Mr. Jones's conveyance, the
wagon I had bought was tied on behind, and we jogged homeward, the
children exulting over our new possessions. When I took in the geranium
bush and put it on the table by the sunny kitchen window, Junior
followed with an armful of his plants.

"They're for Mousie," he said; and before the delighted child could
thank him, he darted out.

Indeed, it soon became evident that Mousie was Junior's favorite. She
never said much to him, but she looked a great deal. To the little
invalid girl he seemed the embodiment of strength and cleverness, and,
perhaps because he was so strong, his sympathies went out toward the
feeble child.

The coop of chickens was carried to the basement that we had made
ready, and Winnie declared that she meant to "hear the first crow and
get the first egg."

The next day the horse and the cow and calf were brought over, and we
felt that we were fairly launched in our country life.

"You have a bigger family to look after outdoors than I have indoors,"
my wife said, laughingly.

I was not long in learning that some of my outdoor family were anything
but amiable. The two cocks fought and fought until Junior, who had run
over before night, showed Merton that by ducking their heads in cold
water their belligerent spirit could be partially quenched. Then he
proceeded to give me a lesson in milking. The calf was shut up away
from the cow, which was driven into a corner, where she stood with
signs of impatience while Junior, seated on a three-legged stool,
essayed to obtain the nectar we all so dearly loved. At first he did
not succeed very well.

"She won't let it down--she's keepin' it for the calf," said the boy.
But at last she relented, and the white streams flowed. "Now," said
Junior to me, "you see how I do it. You try."

As I took his place, I noticed that Brindle turned on me a vicious
look. No doubt I was awkward and hurt her a little, also; for the first
thing I knew the pail was in the air, I on my back, and Brindle
bellowing around the yard, switching her tail, Junior and Merton
meanwhile roaring with laughter. I got up in no amiable mood and said,
roughly, to the boys, "Quit that nonsense."

But they couldn't obey, and at last I had to join in the laugh.

"Why, she's ugly as sin," said Junior. "I'll tell you what to do. Let
her go with her calf now, and in the morning we'll drive her down to
one of the stalls in the basement of the barn and fasten her by the
head. Then we can milk her without risk. After her calf is gone she'll
be a great deal tamer."

This plan was carried out, and it worked pretty well, although it was
evident that, from some cause, the cow was wild and vicious. One of my
theories is, that all animals can be subdued by kindness. Mr. Jones
advised me to dispose of Brindle, but I determined to test my theory
first. Several times a day I would go to the barn-yard and give her a
carrot or a whisp of hay from my hand, and she gradually became
accustomed to me, and would come at my call. A week later I sold her
calf to a butcher, and for a few days she lowed and mourned deeply, to
Mousie's great distress. But carrots consoled her, and within three
weeks she would let me stroke her, and both Merton and I could milk her
without trouble. I believe she had been treated harshly by her former
owners.



CHAPTER XXII

EARLY APRIL GARDENING


Spring was coming on apace, and we all made the most of every pleasant
hour. The second day after the auction proved a fine one; and leaving
Winnie and Merton in charge of the house, I took my wife, with Bobsey
and Mousie, who was well bundled up, to see the scientific
grape-grower, and to do some shopping. At the same time we assured
ourselves that we were having a pleasure-drive; and it did me good to
see how the mother and daughter, who had been kept indoors so long,
enjoyed themselves. Mr. Jones was right. I received better and clearer
ideas of vine-pruning in half an hour from studying work that had been
properly done, and by asking questions of a practical man, than I could
ever have obtained by reading. We found that the old bay horse jogged
along, at as good a gait as we could expect, over the muddy road, and I
was satisfied that he was quiet enough for my wife to drive him after
she had learned how, and gained a little confidence. She held the reins
as we drove home, and, in our own yard, I gave her some lessons in
turning around, backing, etc.

"Some day," I said, "you shall have a carriage and a gay young horse."
When we sat down to supper, I was glad to see that a little color was
dawning in Mousie's face.

The bundles we brought home supplemented our stores of needful
articles, and our life began to take on a regular routine. The
carpenter came and put up the shelves, and made such changes as my wife
desired; then he aided me in repairing the out-buildings. I finished
pruning the trees, while Merton worked manfully at the raspberries, for
we saw that this was a far more pressing task than gathering wood,
which could be done to better advantage in the late autumn. Every
morning Winnie and Bobsey were kept steadily busy in carrying our
trimmings to the brush heap, which now began to assume vast
proportions, especially as the refuse from the grape-vine and raspberry
bushes was added to it. As the ground became settled after the frost
was out, I began to set the stakes by the side of such raspberry canes
as needed tying up; and here was a new light task for the two younger
children. Bobsey's little arms could go around the canes and hold them
close to the stake, while Winnie, a sturdy child, quickly tied them
with a coarse, cheap string that I had bought for the purpose. Even my
wife came out occasionally and helped us at this work. By the end of
the last week in March I had all the fruit-trees fairly pruned and the
grape-vines trimmed and tied up, and had given Merton much help among
the raspberries. In shallow boxes of earth on the kitchen table,
cabbage, lettuce, and tomato seeds were sprouting beside Mousie's
plants. The little girl hailed with delight every yellowish green germ
that appeared above the soil.

The hens had spent their first few days in inspecting their quarters
and becoming familiar with them; but one morning there was a noisy
cackle, and Winnie soon came rushing in with three fresh-laid eggs. A
week later we had all we could use, and my wife began to put some by
for the first brooding biddies to sit upon.

The first day of April promised to be unusually dry and warm, and I
said at the breakfast table: "This is to be a great day. We'll prove
that we are not April-fools by beginning our garden. I was satisfied
yesterday that a certain warm slope was dry enough to dig and plant
with hardy vegetables, and I've read and studied over and over again
which to plant first, and how to plant them. I suppose I shall make
mistakes, but I wish you all to see how I do it, and then by next
spring we shall have learned from experience how to do better. No
doubt, some things might have been planted before, but we've all been
too busy. Now, Merton, you go and harness old Bay to the cart I bought
with the place, and I'll get out my treasure of seeds. Mousie, by ten
o'clock, if the sun keeps out of the clouds, you can put on your
rubbers and join us."

Soon all was bustle and excitement. Among my seeds were two quarts of
red and two of white onion sets, or little bits of onions, which I had
kept in a cool place, so that they should not sprout before their time.
These I took out first. Then with Merton I went to the barn-yard and
loaded up the cart with the finest and most decayed manure we could
find, and this was dumped on the highest part of the slope that I meant
to plant.

"Now, Merton, I guess you can get another load, while I spread this
heap and begin to dig;" and he went off with the horse and cart, having
an increased idea of his importance. I marked a long strip of the sunny
slope, fifteen feet wide, and spread the manure evenly and thickly, for
I had read, and my own sense confirmed the view, that a little ground
well enriched would yield more than a good deal of poor land. I then
dug till my back ached; and I found that it began to ache pretty soon,
for I was not accustomed to such toil.

"After the first seeds are in," I muttered, "I'll have the rest of the
garden plowed."

When I had dug down about four feet of the strip, I concluded to rest
myself by a change of labor; so I took the rake and smoothed off the
ground, stretched a garden line across it, and, with a sharp-pointed
hoe, made a shallow trench, or drill.

"Now, Winnie and Bobsey," I said, "it is time for you to do your part.
Just stick these little onions in the trench about four inches apart;"
and I gave each of them a little stick of the right length to measure
the distance; for they had vague ideas of four inches. "Be sure," I
continued, "that you get the bottom of the onion down. This is the top,
and this is the bottom. Press the onion in the soil just enough to make
it stand firm, so. That's right. Oh, you're learning fast. Now I can
rest, you see, while you do the planting."

In a few moments they had stuck the fifteen feet of shallow trench, or
drill, full of onions, which I covered with earth, packing it lightly
with my hoe. I then moved the line fourteen inches further down and
made another shallow drill. In this way we soon had all the onion sets
in the ground. Merton came back with his load in time to see how it was
done, and nodded his head approvingly. I now felt rested enough to dig
awhile, and Merton started off to the barn-yard again. We next sowed,
in even shallower drills, the little onion seed that looked like
gunpowder, for my garden book said that the earlier this was planted
the better. We had completed only a few rows when Mr. Jones appeared,
and said: "Plantin' onions here? Why, neighbor, this ground is too dry
and light for onions."

"Is it? Well, I knew I'd make mistakes. I haven't used near all my
onion seed yet, however."

"Oh, well, no great harm's done. You've made the ground rich, and, if
we have a moist season, like enough they'll do well. P'raps it's the
best thing, after all, 'specially if you've put in the seed thick, as
most people do. Let 'em all grow, and you'll have a lot of little
onions, or sets, of your own raisin' to plant early next spring. Save
the rest of your seed until you have some rich, strong, deep soil
ready. I came over to say that if this weather holds a day or two
longer I'll plow the garden; and I thought I'd tell you, so that you
might get ready for me. The sooner you get your early pertaters in the
better."

"Your words almost take the ache out of my back," I said. "I fear we
shouldn't have much of a garden if I had to dig it all, but I thought
I'd make a beginning with a few early vegetables."

"That's well enough, but a plow beats a fork all hollow. You'll know
what I mean when you see my plow going down to the beam and loosenin'
the ground from fifteen to twenty inches. So burn your big brush-pile,
and get out what manure you're goin' to put in the garden, and I'll be
ready when you are."

"All right. Thank you. I'll just plant some radishes, peas, and beans."

"Not beans yet, Mr. Durham. Don't put those in till the last of the
month, and plant them very shallow when you do."

"How one forgets when there's not much experience to fall back upon! I
now remember that my book said that beans, in this latitude, should not
be planted until about the 1st of May."

"And lima beans not till the 10th of May," added Mr. Jones. "You might
put in a few early beets here, although the ground is rather light for
'em. You could put your main crop somewhere else. Well, let me know
when you're ready. Junior and me are drivin' things, too, this
mornin';" and he stalked away, whistling a hymn-tune in rather lively
time.

I said: "Youngsters, I think I'll get my garden book and be sure I'm
right about sowing the radish and beet seed and the peas. Mr. Jones has
rather shaken my confidence."

When Merton came with the next load I told him that he could put the
horse in the stable and help us. As a result, we soon had several rows
of radishes and beets sown, fourteen inches apart. We planted the seed
only an inch deep, and packed the ground lightly over it. Mousie, to
her great delight, was allowed to drop a few of the seeds. Merton was
ambitious to take the fork, but I soon stopped him, and said: "Digging
is too heavy work for you, my boy. There is enough that you can do
without overtaxing yourself. We must all act like good soldiers. The
campaign of work is just opening, and it would be very foolish for any
of us to disable ourselves at the start. We'll plant only half a dozen
rows of these dwarf peas this morning, and then this afternoon we'll
have the bonfire and get ready for Mr. Jones's plow."

At the prospect of the bonfire the younger children set up shouts of
exultation, which cheered me on as I turned over the soil with the
fork, although often stopping to rest. My back ached, but my heart was
light. In my daily work now I had all my children about me, and their
smaller hands were helping in the most practical way. Their voices were
as joyous as the notes of the robins, song-sparrows, and bluebirds that
were singing all about us. A soft haze half obscured the mountains, and
mellowed the sunshine. From the springing grass and fresh-turned soil
came odors sweet as those which made Eden fragrant after "a mist went
up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground."

All the children helped to plant the peas, which we placed carefully
and evenly, an inch apart, in the row, and covered with two inches of
soil, the rows being two feet distant one from another. I had decided
to plant chiefly McLean's Little Gem, because they needed no stakes or
brush for support. We were almost through our task when, happening to
look toward the house, I saw my wife standing in the doorway, a framed
picture.

"Dinner," she called, in a voice as sweet to me as that of the robin
singing in the cherry-tree over her head.

The children stampeded for the house, Winnie crying: "Hurry up, mamma,
for right after dinner papa will set the great brush-pile on fire, and
we're going to dance round it like Indians. You must come out, too."



CHAPTER XXIII

A BONFIRE AND A FEAST


It amused and interested me to see upon the children's faces such an
eager expectancy as they hurried through our midday meal. Nothing
greater than a bonfire was in prospect, yet few costly pleasures could
have afforded them such excitement. I found myself sharing in their
anticipation to a degree that surprised me, and was led to ask myself
why it is that outdoor pursuits often take so strong a hold upon the
fancy. I recalled traits shown by one of my former employers. He was a
gray-headed man, possessing great wealth and an elegant city home,
while his mind was occupied by a vast and complicated business. When he
learned that I was going to the country, he would often come to me,
and, with kindling eyes and animated tones, talk of his chickens, cows,
fruit-trees and crops. He proved that the best product of his farm was
the zest it brought him into his life--a zest that was failing in his
other occupations and interests. What was true of him I knew to be
equally so of many others to whom wealth brings no greater luxury than
the ability to indulge in expensive farming. A lifetime in the city
does not destroy the primal instinct which leads men to the soil nor
does a handsome dividend from stocks give the unalloyed pleasure
awakened by a basket of fresh eggs or fruit. This love of the earth is
not earthiness, but has been the characteristic of the best and
greatest minds. Washington would turn from the anxieties of a campaign
and the burdens of state to read, with absorbing interest, the reports
of the agent who managed his plantation, and to write out the minutest
details for the overseer's guidance.

In my limited way and sphere I was under the influence of the same
impulses; and, as I looked around the table at those so dear to me, I
felt that I had far more at stake. I had not come back to Nature merely
to amuse myself or to gratify a taste, but to co-work with her in
fulfilling the most sacred duties. With the crops of the coming years
these children must be nourished and fitted for their part in life, and
I felt that all my faculties must be employed to produce the best
results from my open-air toil.

Therefore, why should not I also be interested in the prospective
bonfire? It would transmute the unsightly rubbish of the place into
fertilizing ashes, and clear the ground for the plow. The mellow soil
would produce that which would give brain and muscle--life to those
whose lives were dear.

He who spreads his table with food secured by his own hands direct from
nature should feel a strong incentive to do his best. The coarse,
unvaried diet, common to many farmers' homes, is the result of stolid
minds and plodding ways. A better manhood and womanhood will be
developed when we act upon the truth that varied and healthful
sustenance improves blood and brain, and therefore character.

I was growing abstracted, when my wife remarked, "Robert, will you
deign to come back from a remote region of thought and take some rice
pudding?"

"You may all fare the better for my thoughts," I replied.

The children, however, were bolting their pudding at railroad speed,
and I perceived that the time demanded action. Winnie and Bobsey wished
me to light the fire at once, but I said: "No, not till mamma and
Mousie are ready to come out. You must stay and help them clear away
the things. When all is ready, you two shall start the blaze."

Very soon we were all at the brush-pile, which towered above our heads,
and I said: "Merton, it will burn better if we climb over it and
trample it down a little. It is too loose now. While we do this, Winnie
and Bobsey can gather dry grass and weeds that will take fire quickly.
Now which way is the wind?"

"There isn't any wind, papa," Merton replied.

"Let us see. Put your forefingers in your mouths, all of you, then hold
them up and note which side feels the coolest."

"This side!" cried one and another.

"Yes; and this side is toward the west; therefore, Winnie, put the dry
grass here on the western side of the heap, and what air is stirring
will carry the blaze through the pile."

Little hands that trembled with eagerness soon held lighted matches to
the dry grass; there was a yellow flicker in the sunshine, then a
blaze, a crackle, a devouring rush of flames that mounted higher and
higher until, with the surrounding column of smoke, there was a
conflagration which, at night, would have alarmed the country-side. The
children at first gazed with awe upon the scenes as they backed farther
away from the increasing heat. Our beacon-fire drew Junior, who came
bounding over the fences toward us; and soon he and Merton began to see
how near they could dash in toward the blaze without being scorched. I
soon stopped this.

"Show your courage, Merton, when there is need of it," I said. "Rash
venturing is not bravery, but foolishness, and often costs people dear."

When the pile sank down into glowing embers, I turned to Bobsey, and
added: "I have let you light a fire under my direction. Never think of
doing anything of the kind without my permission, for if you do, you
will certainly sit in a chair, facing the wall, all day long, with
nothing to cheer you but bread and water and a sound whipping. There is
one thing which you children must learn from the start, and that is,
you can't play with fire except under my eyes."

At this direful threat Bobsey looked as grave as his round little face
permitted, and, with the memory of his peril in the creek fresh in
mind, was ready enough with the most solemn promises. A circle of
unburned brush was left around the embers. This I raked in on the hot
coals, and soon all was consumed.

"Now I have a suggestion," cried my wife. "We'll have some roast
potatoes, for here are lots of hot coals and ashes." Away scampered
Winnie to the cellar for the tubers. Our bonfire ended in a feast, and
then the ashes were spread far and wide. When the exciting events were
past, Winnie and Bobsey amused themselves in other ways, Mousie
venturing to stay with them while the sun remained high. Merton and I
meanwhile put the horse to the cart and covered all the ground,
especially the upper and poorer portions, with a good dressing from the
barnyard.

In the evening Junior gave Merton a good hint about angle-worms.
"Follow the plow," he said, "and pick 'em up and put 'em in a tight
box. Then sink the box in a damp place and nearly fill it with fine
earth, and you always have bait ready when you want to go a-fishing.
After a few more warm days the fish will begin to bite first-rate."

Early the next morning Mr. Jones was on hand with his stout team, and,
going twice in every furrow, he sunk his plow to the beam. "When you
loosen the soil deep in this style," he said, "ye needn't be afraid of
dry weather unless it's an amazin' long spell. Why, bless you, Mr.
Durham, there's farmers around here who don't scratch their ground much
deeper than an old hen would, and they're always groanin' over
droughts. If I can get my plow down eighteen inches, and then find time
to stir the surface often in the growin' season, I ain't afraid of a
month of dry weather."

We followed Mr. Jones for a few turns around the garden, I inhaling the
fresh wholesome odors of the soil with pleasure, and Merton and the two
younger children picking up angle-worms.

Our neighbor soon paused and resumed: "I guess I'll give you a hint
that'll add bushels of pertaters to yer crop. After I've plowed the
garden, I'll furrow out deep a lot of rows, three feet apart. Let
Merton take a hoe and scrape up the fine old manure in the barnyard.
Don't use any other kind. Then sprinkle it thickly in the furrows, and
draw your hoe through 'em to mix the fertilizer well with the soil.
Drop your seed then, eight inches apart in the row, and cover with four
inches of dirt. One can't do this very handy by the acre, but I've
known such treatment to double the crop and size of the pertaters in a
garden or small patch."

I took the hint at once, and set Merton at work, saying that Winnie and
Bobsey could gather all the worms he wanted. Then I went for a
half-bushel of early potatoes, and Mr. Jones showed me how to cut them
so as to leave at least two good "eyes" to each piece. Half an hour
later it occurred to me to see how Merton was getting on. I found him
perspiring, and almost panting with fatigue, and my conscience smote
me. "There, my boy," I said, "this is too hard work for you. Come with
me and I'll show you how to cut the potatoes. But first go into the
house, and cool off while you drink a glass of milk."

"Well, papa," he replied, gratefully, "I wouldn't mind a change like
that. I didn't want you to think I was shirking, but, to tell the
truth, I was getting played out."

"Worked out, you mean. It's not my wish that you should ever be either
played or worked out, nor will you if you take play and work in the
right degree. Remember," I added, seriously, "that you are a growing
boy, and it's not my intention to put you at anything beyond your
strength. If, in my inexperience, I do give you too hard work, tell me
at once. There's plenty to do that won't overtax you."

So we exchanged labors, and by the time the garden was plowed and the
furrows were made I had scraped up enough fine material in the barnyard
to give my tubers a great start. I varied my labor with lessons in
plowing, for running in my head was an "old saw" to the effect that "he
who would thrive must both hold the plow and drive."

The fine weather lasted long enough for us to plant our early potatoes
in the most approved fashion, and then came a series of cold, wet days
and frosty nights. Mr. Jones assured us that the vegetable seeds
already in the ground would receive no harm. At such times as were
suitable for work we finished trimming and tying up the hardy
raspberries, cleaning up the barnyard, and carting all the fertilizers
we could find to the land that we meant to cultivate.



CHAPTER XXIV

"NO BLIND DRIFTING"


One long, stormy day I prepared an account-book. On its left-hand pages
I entered the cost of the place and all expenses thus far incurred. The
right-hand pages were for records of income, as yet small indeed. They
consisted only of the proceeds from the sale of the calf, the eggs that
Winnie gathered, and the milk measured each day, all valued at the
market price. I was resolved that there should be no blind drifting
toward the breakers of failure--that at the end of the year we should
know whether we had made progress, stood still, or gone backward. My
system of keeping the accounts was so simple that I easily explained it
to my wife, Merton, and Mousie, for I believed that, if they followed
the effort at country living understandingly, they would be more
willing to practice the self-denial necessary for success. Indeed, I
had Merton write out most of the items, even though the record, as a
result, was not very neat. I stopped his worrying over blots and
errors, by saying, "You are of more account than the account-book, and
will learn by practice to be as accurate as any one."

My wife and Mousie also started another book of household expenses,
that we might always know just where we stood and what our prospects
were.

Weeks would elapse before our place would be food-producing to any
great extent. In the meantime we must draw chiefly on our capital in
order to live. Winifred and I resolved to meet this necessity in no
careless way, feeling that not a penny should be spent which might be
saved. The fact that I had only my family to support was greatly in our
favor. There was no kitchen cabinet, that ate much and wasted more, to
satisfy. Therefore, our revenue of eggs and milk went a long way toward
meeting the problem. We made out a list of cheap, yet wholesome,
articles of food, and found that we could buy oatmeal at four cents per
pound, Indian meal at two and a half cents, rice at eight cents, samp
at four, mackerel at nine, pork at twelve, and ham at fifteen cents.
The last two articles were used sparingly, and more as relishes and for
flavoring than as food. Flour happened to be cheap at the time, the
best costing but seven dollars a barrel; of vegetables, we had secured
abundance at slight cost; and the apples still added the wholesome
element of fruit. A butcher drove his wagon to our door three times a
week and, for cash, would give us, at very reasonable rates, certain
cuts of beef and mutton. These my wife conjured into appetizing dishes
and delicious soups.

Thus it can be seen that we had a varied diet at a surprisingly small
outlay. Such details may appear to some very homely, yet our health and
success depended largely upon thoughtful attention to just such prosaic
matters. The children were growing plump and ruddy at an expense less
than would be incurred by one or two visits from a fashionable
physician in the city.

In the matter of food, I also gave more thought to my wife's time and
strength than to the little people's wishes. While we had variety and
abundance, we did not have many dishes at any one meal.

"We shall not permit mamma to be over the hot range any more than is
necessary," I said. "She and Mousie must give us, from day to day, what
costs little in time as well as money."

Fortunately, plain, wholesome food does not require much time in
preparation. There would be better health in many homes if there was
more economy in labor. For instance, the children at first clamored for
griddle-cakes, but I said, "Isn't it nicer to have mamma sit down
quietly with us at breakfast than to see her running back and forth
from the hot stove?" and even Bobsey, though rather ruefully, voted
against cakes, except on rare occasions.

The wash-tub I forbade utterly, and the services of a stout Irishwoman
were secured for one day in the week. Thus, by a little management, my
wife was not overtaxed. Indeed, she had so much leisure that she and
Mousie began giving Winnie and Bobsey daily lessons, for we had decided
that the children should not go to school until the coming autumn.
Early in April, therefore, our country life was passing into a quiet
routine, not burdensome, at least within doors; and I justly felt that
if all were well in the citadel of home, the chances of the outdoor
campaign were greatly improved.



CHAPTER XXV

OWLS AND ANTWERPS


Each day at dawn, unless it was stormy, Merton patrolled the place with
his gun, looking for hawks and other creatures which at this season he
was permitted to shoot. He had quite as serious and important an air as
if he were sallying forth to protect us from deadlier foes. For a time
he saw nothing to fire at, since he had promised me not to shoot
harmless birds. He always indulged himself, however, in one shot at a
mark, and was becoming sure in his aim at stationary objects. One
evening, however, when we were almost ready to retire, a strange sound
startled us. At first it reminded me of the half-whining bark of a
young dog, but the deep, guttural trill that followed convinced me that
it was a screech-owl, for I remembered having heard these birds when a
boy.

The moment I explained the sound, Merton darted for his gun, and my
wife exclaimed: "O dear! what trouble is coming now? Mother always said
that the hooting of an owl near a house was a bad omen."

I did not share in the superstition, although I disliked the uncanny
sounds, and was under the impression that all owls, like hawks, should
be destroyed. Therefore, I followed Merton out, hoping that he would
get a successful shot at the night prowler.

The moonlight illumined everything with a soft, mild radiance; and the
trees, with their tracery of bough and twig, stood out distinctly.
Before we could discover the creature, it flew with noiseless wing from
a maple near the door to another perch up the lane, and again uttered
its weird notes.

Merton was away like a swift shadow, and, screening himself behind the
fence, stole upon his game. A moment later the report rang out in the
still night. It so happened that Merton had fired just as the bird was
about to fly, and had only broken a wing. The owl fell to the ground,
but led the boy a wild pursuit before he was captured. Merton's hands
were bleeding when he brought the creature in. Unless prevented, it
would strike savagely with its beak, and the motions of its head were
as quick as lightning. It was, indeed, a strange captive, and the
children looked at it in wondering and rather fearful curiosity. My
wife, usually tender-hearted, wished the creature, so ill-omened in her
eyes, to be killed at once, but I granted Merton's request that he
might put it in a box and keep it alive for a while.

"In the morning," I said, "we will read all about it, and can examine
it more carefully."

My wife yielded, and I am not sure but that she thought we might avert
misfortune by showing mercy.

Among my purchases was a recent work on natural history. But our minds
had been engrossed with too many practical questions to give it much
attention. Next morning we consulted it, and found our captive
variously described as the little red, the mottled, or the screech owl.
Then followed an account of its character and habits. We learned that
we had made war upon a useful friend, instead of an ill-boding, harmful
creature. We were taught that this species is a destroyer of mice,
beetles, and vermin, thus rendering the agriculturist great services,
which, however are so little known that the bird is everywhere hunted
down without mercy or justice.

"Surely, this is not true of all owls," I said, and by reading further
we learned that the barred, or hoot owl, and the great horned owl, were
deserving of a surer aim of Merton's gun. They prey not only upon
useful game, but also invade the poultry-yard, the horned species being
especially destructive. Instances were given in which these freebooters
had killed every chicken upon a farm. As they hunt only at night, they
are hard to capture. Their notes and natures are said to be in keeping
with their deeds of darkness; for their cry is wild, harsh, and
unearthly, while in temper they are cowardly, savage, and untamable,
showing no affection even for each other. A female has been known to
kill and eat the male.

"The moral of this owl episode," I concluded, "is that we must learn to
know our neighbors, be they birds, beasts, or human beings, before we
judge them. This book is not only full of knowledge, but of information
that is practical and useful. I move that we read up about the
creatures in our vicinity. What do you say, Merton? wouldn't it be well
to learn what to shoot, as well as how to shoot?"

Protecting his hands with buckskin gloves, the boy applied mutton suet
to our wounded owl's wing. It was eventually healed, and the bird was
given its liberty. It gradually became sprightly and tame, and sociable
in the evening, affording the children and Junior much amusement.

By the 7th of April there was a prospect of warmer and more settled
weather, and Mr. Jones told us to lose no time in uncovering our
Antwerp raspberries. They had been bent down close to the ground the
previous winter and covered with earth. To remove this without breaking
the canes, required careful and skilful work. We soon acquired the
knack, however, of pushing and throwing aside the soil, then lifting
the canes gently through what remained, and shaking them clear.

"Be careful to level the ground evenly," Mr. Jones warned us, "for it
won't do at all to leave hummocks of dirt around the hills;" and we
followed his instructions.

The canes were left until a heavy shower of rain washed them clean;
then Winnie and Bobsey tied them up. We gave steady and careful
attention to the Antwerps, since they would be our main dependence for
income. I also raked in around the hills of one row a liberal dressing
of wood ashes, intending to note its effect.



CHAPTER XXVI

A COUNTRY SUNDAY


Hitherto the Sabbaths had been stormy and the roads bad, and we had
given the days to rest and family sociability. But at last there came a
mild, sunny morning, and we resolved to find a church-home. I had heard
that Dr. Lyman, who preached in the nearest village had the faculty of
keeping young people awake. Therefore we harnessed the old bay-horse to
our market-wagon, donned our "go-ter-meetin's," as Junior called his
Sunday clothes, and started. Whatever might be the result of the
sermon, the drive promised to do us good. The tender young grass by the
roadside, and the swelling buds of trees, gave forth delicious odors; a
spring haze softened the outline of the mountains, and made them almost
as beautiful as if clothed with foliage; robins, song-sparrows, and
other birds were so tuneful that Mousie said she wished they might form
the choir at the church. Indeed, the glad spirit of Spring was abroad,
and it found its way into our hearts. We soon learned that it entered
largely also into Dr. Lyman's sermon. We were not treated as strangers
and intruders, but welcomed and shown to a pew in a way that made us
feel at home. I discovered that I, too, should be kept awake and given
much to think about. We remained until Sunday-school, which followed
the service, was over, and then went home, feeling that life both here
and hereafter was something to be thankful for. After dinner, without
even taking the precaution of locking the door, we all strolled down
the lane and the steeply sloping meadow to our wood lot and the banks
of the Moodna Creek. My wife had never seen this portion of our place
before, and she was delighted with its wild beauty and seclusion. She
shivered and turned a little pale, however, as she saw the stream,
still high and swift, that had carried Bobsey away.

Junior joined us, and led the children to a sunny bank, from which soon
came shouts of joy over the first wildflowers of the season. I placed
my wife on a rock, and we sat quietly for a time, inhaling the fresh
woody odors, and listening to the murmurs of the creek and the song of
the birds. Then I asked: "Isn't this better than a city flat and a
noisy street? Are not these birds pleasanter neighbors than the
Daggetts and the Ricketts?"

Her glad smile was more eloquent than words could have been. Mousie
came running to us, holding in her hand, which trembled from
excitement, a little bunch of liverworts and anemones. Tears of
happiness actually stood in her eyes, and she could only falter, "O
mamma! just look!" and then she hastened away to gather more.

"That child belongs to nature," I said, "and would always be an exile
in the city. How greatly she has improved in health already!"

The air grew damp and chill early, and we soon returned to the house.
Monday was again fair, and found us absorbed in our busy life, each one
having plenty to do. When it was safe to uncover the raspberries,
Merton and I had not lost a moment in the task. At the time of which I
write we put in stakes where they were missing, obtaining not a few of
them from the wood lot. We also made our second planting of potatoes
and other hardy vegetables in the garden. The plants in the kitchen
window were thriving, and during mild, still days we carried them to a
sheltered place without, that they might become inured to the open air.

Winnie already had three hens sitting on their nests full of eggs, and
she was counting the days until the three weeks of incubation should
expire, and the little chicks break their shells. One of the hens
proved a fickle biddy, and left her nest, much to the child's anger and
disgust. But the others were faithful, and one morning Winnie came
bounding in, saying she had heard the first "peep." I told her to be
patient and leave the brood until the following day, since I had read
that the chicks were stronger for not being taken from the nest too
soon. She had treated the mother hens so kindly that they were tame,
and permitted her to throw out the empty shells, and exult over each
new-comer into a brief existence.

Our radishes had come up nicely; but no sooner had the first green
leaves expanded than myriads of little flea-like beetles devoured them.
A timely article in my horticultural paper explained that if little
chickens were allowed to run in the garden they would soon destroy
these and other insects. Therefore I improvised a coop by laying down a
barrel near the radishes and driving stakes in front of it to confine
the hen, which otherwise, with the best intentions, would have
scratched up all my sprouting seeds. Hither we brought her the
following day, with her downy brood of twelve, and they soon began to
make themselves useful. Winnie fed them with Indian-meal and mashed
potatoes and watched over them with more than their mother's
solicitude, while Merton renewed his vigilance against hawks and other
enemies.

With this new attraction, and wildflowers in the woods, the tying up of
raspberries became weary prose to Winnie and Bobsey; but I kept them at
it during most of the forenoon of every pleasant day and if they
performed their task carelessly, I made them do it over. I knew that
the time was coming when many kinds of work would cease to be play to
us all, and that we might as well face the fact first as last. After
the morning duties were over, and the afternoon lessons learned, there
was plenty of time for play, and the two little people enjoyed it all
the more.

Merton, also, had two afternoons in the week and he and Junior began to
bring home strings of sweet little sunfish and winfish. Boys often
become disgusted with country life because it is made hard and
monotonous for them.



CHAPTER XXVII

STRAWBERRY VISIONS AND "PERTATERS"


I had decided that I would not set out any more raspberries until I had
learned the comparative value of those already on the place. After I
had seen my varieties in bearing and marketed the crop, I should be
better able to make a wise selection, "Why not plant only the best and
most profitable?" I reasoned. At Mr. Jones's suggestion I had put up
notices at public resorts, and inserted a brief advertisement in a
local paper, stating that I had plants for sale. As a result, I sold,
at a low price, it is true, the greater part of the young plants that
had been trenched in, and the ready money they brought was very
acceptable.

From the first, my mind had often turned toward strawberries as one of
our chief crops. They promised well for several reasons, the main one
being that they would afford a light and useful form of labor for all
the children. Even Bobsey could pick the fruit almost as well as any of
us, for he had no long back to ache in getting down to it. The crop,
also, could be gathered and sold before the raspberry season began, and
this was an important fact. We should also have another and earlier
source of income. I had read a great deal about the cultivation of the
strawberry, and I had visited a Maizeville neighbor who grew them on a
large scale, and had obtained his views. To make my knowledge more
complete I wrote to my Washington-Market friend, Mr. Bogart, and his
prompt letter in reply was encouraging.

"Don't go into too many kinds," he advised, "and don't set too much
ground. A few crates of fine berries will pay you better than bushels
of small, soft, worthless trash. Steer clear of high-priced novelties
and fancy sorts, and begin with only those known to pay well in your
region. Try Wilson's (they're good to sell if not to eat) and Duchess
for early, and Sharpless and Champion for late. Set the last two kinds
out side by side, for the Champions won't bear alone. A customer of
mine runs on these four sorts. He gives them high culture, and gets big
crops and big berries, which pay big. When you want crates, I can
furnish them, and take my pay out of the sales of your fruit. Don't
spend much money for plants. Buy a few of each kind, and set 'em in
moist ground and let 'em run. By winter you'll have enough plants to
cover your farm."

I found that I could buy these standard varieties in the vicinity; and
having made the lower part of the garden very rich, I procured, one
cloudy day, two hundred plants of each kind and set them in rows, six
feet apart, so that by a little watchfulness I could keep them
separate. I obtained my whole stock for five dollars; therefore,
counting our time and everything, the cost of entering on strawberry
culture was slight. A rainy night followed, and every plant started
vigorously.

In spite of occasional frosts and cold rains, the days grew longer and
warmer. The cherry, peach, plum, and pear buds were almost ready to
burst into bloom, but Mr. Jones shook his head over the orchard.

"This ain't apple year," he said. "Well, no matter. If you can make it
go this season, you will be sure of better luck next year."

He had come over to aid me in choosing a two-acre plot of ground for
corn and potatoes. This we marked out from the upper and eastern slope
of a large meadow. The grass was running out and growing weedy.

"It's time it was turned over," my neighbor remarked; "and by fall
it'll be in good condition for fruit."

I proposed to extend my fruit area gradually, with good reason, fearing
that much hired help would leave small profits.

That very afternoon Mr. Jones, with his sharp steel plow, began to turn
over clean, deep, even furrows; for we had selected the plot in view of
the fact that it was not stony, as was the case with other portions of
our little farm.

When at last the ground was plowed, he said: "I wouldn't harrow the
part meant for corn till you are ready to plant it, say about the tenth
of next month. We'd better get the pertater ground ready and the rows
furrowed out right off. Early plantin' is the best. How much will ye
give to 'em?"

"Half the plot," I said.

"Why, Mr. Durham, that's a big plantin' for pertaters."

"Well, I've a plan, and would like your opinion. If I put Early Rose
potatoes right in, when can I harvest them?"

"Say the last of July or early August, accordin' to the season."

"If we keep the ground clean and well worked the sod will then be
decayed, won't it?"

"Yes, nigh enough. Ye want to grow turnips or fodder corn, I s'pose?"

"No, I want to set out strawberries. I've read more about this fruit
than any other, and, if the books are right, I can set strong plants on
enriched ground early in August and get a good crop next June. Won't
this pay better than planting next spring and waiting over two years
from this time for a crop?"

"Of course it will, if you're right. I ain't up on strawberries."

"Well," I continued, "it looks reasonable. I shall have my young plants
growing right here in my own garden. Merton and I can take them up in
the cool of the evening and in wet weather, and they won't know they've
been moved. I propose to get these early potatoes out of the ground as
soon as possible, even if I have to sell part of them before they are
fully ripe; then have the ground plowed deep and marked out for
strawberries, put all the fertilizers I can scrape together in the rows
and set the plants as fast as possible. I've read again and again that
many growers regard this method as one of the best."

"Well, you're comin' on for a beginner. I'm kind o' shy of book-plans,
though. But try it. I'll come over, as I used to when old man Jamison
was here, and sit on the fence and make remarks."

Planting an acre of potatoes was no light task for us, even after the
ground was plowed and harrowed, and the furrows for the rows were
marked out. I also had to make a half-day's journey to the city of
Newtown to buy more seed, since the children's appetites had greatly
reduced the stock in the root-cellar. For a few days we worked like
beavers. Even Winnie helped Merton to drop the seed; and in the evening
we had regular potato-cutting "bees," Junior coming over to aid us, and
my wife and Mousie helping also. Songs and stories enlivened these
evening hours of labor. Indeed, my wife and Mousie performed, during
the day, a large part of this task, and they soon learned to cut the
tubers skilfully. I have since known this work to be done so carelessly
that some pieces were cut without a single eye upon them. Of course, in
such cases there is nothing to grow.

One Saturday night, the last of April, we exulted over the fact that
our acre was planted and the seed well covered.

Many of the trees about the house, meantime, had clothed themselves
with fragrant promises of fruit. All, especially Mousie, had been
observant of the beautiful changes, and, busy as we had been, she,
Winnie and Bobsey had been given time to keep our table well supplied
with wildflowers. Now that they had come in abundance, they seemed as
essential as our daily food. To a limited extent I permitted blooming
sprays to be taken from the fruit-trees, thinking, with Mousie, that
"cherry blossoms are almost as nice as cherries." Thus Nature graced
our frugal board, and suggested that, as she accompanied her useful
work with beauty and fragrance, so we also could lift our toilsome
lives above the coarse and sordid phase too common in country homes.



CHAPTER XXVIII

CORN, COLOR, AND MUSIC


In early May the grass was growing lush and strong, and Brindle was
driven down the lane to the meadow, full of thickets, which bordered on
the creek. Here she could supply herself with food and water until the
late autumn.

With the first days of the month we planted, on a part of the garden
slope, where the soil was dry and warm, very early, dwarf sweet corn, a
second early variety, Burr's Mammoth, and Stowell's Evergreen.

"These several kinds," I said, "will give us a succession of boiling
ears for weeks together. When this planting is up a few inches high, we
will make another, for, by so doing, my garden book says we may have
this delicious vegetable till frost comes."

After reading and some inquiry during the winter I had decided to buy
only McLean's Gem peas for seed. This low-growing kind required no
brush and, therefore, far less labor. By putting in a row every ten
days till the last of June, we should enjoy green peas of the sweet,
wrinkled sort till tired, if that were possible. We also planted early
dwarf wax-beans, covering the seed, as directed, only two inches deep.
It was my ambition to raise a large crop of Lima beans, having read
that few vegetables yield more food to a small area than they. So,
armed with an axe and a hatchet, Merton and I went into some young
growth on the edge of our wood lot and cut thirty poles, lopping off
the branches so as to leave little crotches on which the vines could
rest for support. Having sharpened these poles we set them firmly in
the garden, four feet apart each way, then dug in some very fine and
decayed manure around each pole, and left the soil for a day or two to
grow warm and light. My book said that, if the earth was cold, wet, or
heavy the beans would decay instead of coming up. The 10th of the month
being fine and promising, I pressed the eye or germ side of the beans
into the soil and covered them only one inch deep. In the evening we
set out our cabbage and cauliflower plants where they should be allowed
to mature. The tomato plants, being more tender than their companions
started in the kitchen window, were set about four inches apart in a
sheltered place. We could thus cover them at night and protect them a
little from the midday sun for a week or two longer.

Nor were Mousie's flowering plants forgotten. She had watched over them
from the seed with tireless care, and now we made a bed and helped the
happy child to put her little nurslings in the open ground where they
were to bloom. The apple-trees made the air fragrant, and some of the
delicate pink of their blossoms was in Mousie's cheeks.

"Truly," I thought, as I looked into her sparkling eyes, "if we can but
barely live in the country, I am glad we came."

The next morning Merton and I began our great undertaking--the planting
of the other acre of ground, next to the potatoes, with field corn. Mr.
Jones had harrowed it comparatively smooth, I had a light plow with
which to mark out the furrows four feet apart each way. At the
intersection of these furrows the seed was to be dropped. I found I
could not drive our old bay straight across the field to save my life,
and neighbor Jones laughed till his sides ached at the curves and
crooks I first left behind me.

"Here, Merton," I cried, nothing daunted, "we must work together again.
Get a pole and stand it on the farther side of the plot four feet in
from the edge of the sod. That's right. Now come here; take old Bay by
the head, and, with your eyes fixed on the pole, lead him steadily
toward it."

A furrow was now made of which Mr. Jones himself need not have been
ashamed; and he laughed as he said, at parting "You'll do. I see you've
got enough Yankee in you to try more ways than one."

We kept at work manfully, although the day was warm, and by noon the
plot was furrowed one way. After dinner we took an hour's partial rest
in shelling our corn and then resumed our work, and in the same manner
began furrowing at right angles with the first rows. The hills were
thus about four feet apart each way. Merton dropped the corn after we
had run half a dozen furrows.

"Drop five kernels," I said; for Mr. Jones had told us that four stalks
were enough and that three would do, but had added: "I plant five
kernels, for some don't come up, and the crows and other vermints take
others. If all of 'em grow, it's easier to pull up one stalk at the
first hoeing than to plant over again."

We found that putting in the corn was a lighter task than planting the
potatoes even though we did our own furrowing; and by the middle of May
we were complacent over the fact that we had succeeded with our general
spring work far better than we had hoped, remembering that we were
novices who had to take so much counsel from books and from our kind,
practical neighbor.

The foliage of the trees was now out in all its delicately shaded
greenery, and midday often gave us a foretaste of summer heat. The
slight blaze kindled in the old fireplace, after supper, was more for
the sake of good cheer than for needed warmth, and at last it was
dispensed with. Thrushes and other birds of richer and fuller song had
come, and morning and evening we left the door open that we might enjoy
the varied melody.

Our first plantings of potatoes and early vegetables were now up and
looked promising. So a new phase of labor--that of cultivation--began.
New broods of chickens were coming off, and Winnie had many families to
look after. Nevertheless, although there was much to attend to, the
season was bringing a short breathing-spell, and I resolved to take
advantage of it. So I said one Friday evening: "If to-morrow is fair,
we'll take a vacation. What do you say to a day's fishing and sailing
on the river?"

A jubilant shout greeted this proposal, and when it had subsided,
Mousie asked, "Can't Junior go with us?"

"Certainly," I replied; "I'll go over right after supper, and make sure
that his father consents."

Mr. Jones said, "Yes," and Merton and Junior were soon busy with their
preparations, which were continued until the long twilight deepened
into dusk.



CHAPTER XXIX

WE GO A-FISHING


The following day, happily, proved all that we could desire. The
children were up with the dawn, and Junior was not long in joining us.
By eight o'clock we had finished breakfast and the morning work, our
lunch-basket was packed, and the market-wagon stood at the door. Mr.
Jones had good-naturedly promised to take a look at the premises
occasionally to see that all was right. I had put but one seat in the
wagon for my wife and myself, since the young people decided that a
straw-ride to the river would be "more fun than a parlor-car."

My wife entered into the spirit of this little outing with a zest which
gave me deep content. Her face indicated no regretful thoughts turning
toward the Egypt of the city; her mother love was so strong that she
was happy with the children. The robins, of which there seemed no end
about the house, gave us a tuneful and hilarious send-off; the grown
people and children whom we met smiled and cheered, following us with
envious eyes. Each of the children held a pole aloft, and Merton said
that "the wagon looked as if our Lima-bean patch was off on a visit."

In the village we increased our stock of lines and hooks, and bought a
few corks for floats. We soon reached the mouth of the Moodna Creek,
where stood a weather-beaten boat-house, with a stable adjoining, in
which old Bay could enjoy himself in his quiet, prosaic way. A
good-sized boat was hired, and, as the tide was in, we at first decided
to go up the creek as far as possible and float down with the ebb.
This, to the children, was like a voyage of discovery, and there was a
general airing of geography, each little bay, point, and gulf receiving
some noted name. At last we reached a deep, shaded pool, which was
eventually dubbed "Bobsey's Luck;" for he nearly fell into it in his
eagerness to take off a minnow that had managed to fasten itself to his
hook.

Merton and Junior, being more experienced anglers, went ashore to make
some casts on the ripples and rapids of the stream above, and secured
several fine "winfish." The rest of us were content to take it easy in
the shade and hook an occasional cat and sun fish. At last the younger
children wanted variety, so I permitted them to land on the wooded
bank, kindle a little fire, and roast some clams that we had bought at
the boat-house. The smoke and the tempting odors lured Merton and
Junior, who soon proved that boys' appetites can always be depended
upon.

Time passed rapidly, and I at last noticed that the tide had fallen to
such a degree as to fill me with alarm.

"Come, youngsters," I cried, "we must go back at once, or we shall have
to stay here till almost night."

They scrambled on board, and we started down-stream, but soon came to
shallow water, as was proved by the swift current and the ripples. A
moment later we were hard aground. In vain we pushed with the oars; the
boat would not budge. Then Junior sat down and coolly began to take off
shoes and stockings. In a flash Merton followed his example. There was
no help for it, and we had no time to lose. Over they splashed,
lightening the boat, and taking the "painter," or tie-rope, at the bow,
they pulled manfully. Slowly at first, but with increasing progress,
the keel grated over the stones, and at last we were again afloat. A
round of applause greeted the boys as they sprung back into the boat,
and away we went, cautiously avoiding shoals and sand-bars, until we
reached Plum Point, where we expected to spend the remainder of the
day. Here, for a time, we had excellent sport, and pulled up sunfish
and white perch of a very fair size. Bobsey caught so large a specimen
of the former variety that he had provided himself with a supper equal
even to his capacity.

The day ended in unalloyed pleasure, and never had the old farm-house
looked so like home as when it greeted us again in the evening glow of
the late spring sun. Merton and Junior divided the finny spoils to
their satisfaction, while Winnie and I visited the chicken-coops and
found that there had been no mishaps during our absence. I told my boy
that I would milk the cow while he cleaned the fish for supper, and
when at last we sat down we formed a tired, hilarious, and hungry
group. Surely, if fish were created to be eaten, our enjoyment of their
browned sweetness must have rounded out their existence completely.

"O papa!" exclaimed Merton, at the breakfast table, on Monday morning;
"we haven't planted any musk and water melons!"

"That is true," I replied. "I find that I overlooked melons in making
out my list of seeds. Indeed, I passed them over, I imagine, as a
luxury that we could dispense with the first year."

"I'll take care of 'em if you will only let us have some," persisted
the boy; and the other children joined in his request.

"But the garden is all filled up," I said, thoughtfully; "and I fear it
is too late to plant now."

Looks of disappointment led me to think further and I got one of my
seed catalogues.

"Here are some early kinds named and perhaps they would mature; but
where shall we put them?"

"Seems to me we had better have a little less corn, if room can be made
for melons," was Merton's suggestion.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," I continued. "We've had such good
fortune in accomplishing our early work, and you have helped so nicely,
that you shall try your hand at melons. Drive your mother and Mousie
down to the village this morning, and get some seeds of the nutmeg
musk-melon and Phinney's early watermelon. I'll take two rows in the
early corn on the warm garden slope, pull up every third hill, and
make, in their places, nice, warm, rich beds for the seed which we will
plant as soon as you come back. I don't believe the corn will shade the
melon vines too much; and as soon as we have taken off the green ears
we will cut away the stalks. Thus we shall get two crops from the same
ground."

This plan was carried out, and the melon seed came up in a very
promising way.



CHAPTER XXX

WEEDS AND WORKING FOR DEAR LIFE


The beautiful transition period of spring passing into summer would
have filled us with delight had we not found a hostile army advancing
on us--annual weeds. When we planted the garden, the soil was brown and
clean. The early vegetables came up in well-defined green rows, the
weeds appearing with them, too few and scattered to cause anxiety. Now
all was changed. Weeds seemed created by magic in a night. The garden
was becoming evenly green throughout; and the vegetables, in some
cases, could scarcely be distinguished from the ranker growth of
crowding, unknown plants among and around them. I also saw that our
corn and potato field would soon become, if left alone, as verdant as
the meadow beyond. I began to fear that we could not cope with these
myriads of foes, little now, but growing while we slept, and stealing a
march on us in one part of the place while we destroyed them in another.

With something like dismay I called Mr. Jones's attention to these
silent forces, invading, not only the garden and fields, but the
raspberries and, indeed, all the ground now devoted to fruit.

He laughed and said: "The Philistines are on you, sure enough. I'm busy
whackin' them over myself, but I guess I'll have to come and give you a
lift, for you must get these weeds well under before hayin' and
raspberry-pickin'-time comes. It's warm to-day, and the ground's
middlin' dry. I'll show you what can be done in short metre. By the
way, I'll give you a little wrinkle worth knowin'. I've observed that
you didn't bring the children to the country to be like weeds--just ter
grow and run ter seed, ye know. It's 'stonishin' how soon weeds,
whether they're people or pusley, get seedy. Well, now, call the
children and come with me to the garden."

We were all soon there, including my wife, who shared my solicitude.

"You see," resumed Mr. Jones, "that these weakly little rows of
carrots, beets, and onions would soon be choked by these weeds, not an
inch high yet. The same is true of the corn and peas and other sags.
The pertaters are strong enough to take care of themselves for a time,
but not long. I see you and Merton have been tryin' to weed and hoe
them out at the same time. Well, you can't keep up with the work in
that way. Take now this bed of beets; the weeds are gettin' even all
over it, and they're thicker, if anywhere, right in the row, so that it
takes a good eye to see the beets. But here they are, and here they run
across the bed. Now look at me. One good showin' is worth all the
tellin' and readin' from now to Christmas. You see, I begin with my two
hands, and pull out all the weeds on each side of the little row, and I
pull 'em away from the young beets so as not to disturb them, but to
leave 'em standin' straight and saucy. Careless hands will half pull
out the vegetables at the same time with the weeds. I had to strap
Junior once before he learned that fact, and it was amazin' how I
helped his eyesight and trained his fingers through his back. Well,
now, you see, I've cleared out this row of beets half across the bed
and the ground for an inch or two on each side of it. I drop the weeds
right down in the spaces between the rows, for the sun will dry 'em up
before dinner-time. Now I'll take another row."

By this time Merton and I were following his example, and in a few
moments a part of three more rows had been treated in the same way.

"Now," continued Mr. Jones, "the weeds are all out of the rows that
we've done, and for a little space on each side of 'em. The beets have
a chance to grow unchoked, and to get ahead. These other little green
varmints in the ground, between the rows, are too small to do any harm
yet. Practically the beets are cleaned out, and will have all the
ground they need to themselves for three or four days; but these weeds
between the rows would soon swamp everything. Now, give me a hoe, and
I'll fix THEM."

He drew the useful tool carefully and evenly through the spaces between
the rows, and our enemies were lying on their sides ready to wither
away in the morning sun.

"You see after the rows are weeded out how quickly you can hoe the
spaces between 'em," my neighbor concluded. "Now the children can do
this weedin'. Your and Merton's time's too valyble. When weeds are
pulled from right in and around vegetables, the rest can stand without
harm for a while, till you can get around with the hoe and cultivator.
This weedin' out business is 'specially important in rainy weather, for
it only hurts ground to hoe or work it in wet, showery days, and the
weeds don't mind it a bit. Warm, sunny spells, when the soil's a little
dry, is the time to kill weeds. But you must be careful in weedin'
then, or you'll so disturb the young, tender sass that it'll dry up,
too. See, I'll pull some weeds carelessly. Now obsarve that the beets
are half jerked up also. Of course that won't answer. I'll come over
this afternoon with my cultivator, and we'll tackle the corn and
pertaters, and make such a swath among these green Philistines that
you'll sleep better to-night. But ye're goin' to come out right, mind,
I tell ye so; and I've seen mor'n one city squash come to the country
with the idee that they were goin' to beat us punkins all holler."

And he left us laughing and hopeful.

"Come, Winnie and Bobsey, begin here on each side of me. I'll show you
this morning and then I trust you can be left to do the weeding
carefully by yourselves to-morrow. Pressing as the work is, you shall
have your afternoons until the berries are ripe."

"Can't I help, too?" asked Mousie.

I looked into her eager, wistful face, but said, firmly: "Not now,
dear. The sun is too hot. Toward night, perhaps, I'll let you do a
little. By helping mamma in the house you are doing your part."

We made good progress, and the two younger children speedily learned
the knack of working carefully, so as not to disturb the little
vegetables. I soon found that weeding was back-aching work for me, and
therefore "spelled" myself by hoeing out the spaces between the rows.
By the time the music of the dinner-bell sounded, hosts of our enemies
were slain.

Mr. Jones, true to his promise, was on hand at one o'clock with his
cultivator, and began with the corn, which was now a few inches high.
Merton and I followed with hoes, uncovering the tender shoots on which
earth had been thrown, and dressing out the soil into clean flat hills.
As our neighbor had said, it was astonishing how much work the
horse-cultivator performed in a short time. I saw that it would be wise
for us, another year, to plant in a way that would permit the use of
horse-power. Even in the garden this method should be followed as far
as possible.

Mr. Jones was not a man of half-way measures. He remained helping us,
till he had gone through the corn, once each way, twice between the
long rows of potatoes, then twice through all the raspberry rows,
giving us two full days of his time altogether.

I handed him a dollar in addition to his charge, saying that I had
never paid out money with greater satisfaction.

"Well," he said, with a short, dry laugh, "I'll take it this time, for
my work is sufferin' at home, but I didn't want you to get discouraged.
Now, keep the hoes flyin', and you're ahead once more. Junior's at it
early and late, I can tell ye."

"So I supposed, for we've missed him."

"Good reason. When I'm through with him he's ready enough to crawl into
his little bed."

So were we for a few days, in our winning fight with the weeds. One hot
afternoon, about three o'clock, I saw that Merton was growing pale, and
beginning to lag, and I said, decidedly: "Do you see that tree there?
Go and lie down under it till I call you."

"I guess I can stand it till night," he began, his pride a little
touched.

"Obey orders! I am captain."

In five minutes he was fast asleep. I threw my coat over him, and sat
down, proposing to have a half-hour's rest myself. My wife came out
with a pitcher of cool butter-milk and nodded her head approvingly at
us.

"Well, my thoughtful Eve," I said, "I find that our modern Eden will
cost a great many back-aches."

"If you will only be prudent like this, you may save me a heart-ache.
Robert, you are ambitious, and unused to this kind of work. Please
don't ever be so foolish as to forget the comparative value of
vegetables and yourselves. Honestly now" (with one of her saucy looks),
"I'd rather do with a few bushels less, than do without you and
Merton;" and she sat down and kept me idle for an hour.

Then Merton got up, saying that he felt as "fresh as if he had had a
night's rest," and we accomplished more in the cool of the day than if
we had kept doggedly at work.

I found that Winnie and Bobsey required rather different treatment. For
a while they got on very well, but one morning I set them at a bed of
parsnips about which I was particular. In the middle of the forenoon I
went to the garden to see how they were getting on. Shouts of laughter
made me fear that all was not well, and I soon discovered that they
were throwing lumps of earth at each other. So absorbed were they in
their untimely and mischievous fun that I was not noticed until I found
Bobsey sitting plump on the vegetables, and the rows behind both the
children very shabbily cleaned, not a few of the little plants having
been pulled up with the weeds.

Without a word I marched them into the house, then said: "Under arrest
till night. Winnie, you go to your room. I shall strap Bobsey in his
chair, and put him in the parlor by himself."

The exchange of the hot garden for the cool rooms seemed rather an
agreeable punishment at first, although Winnie felt the disgrace
somewhat. When, at dinner, nothing but a cup of water and a piece of
dry bread was taken to them, Bobsey began to howl, and Winnie to look
as if the affair was growing serious. Late in the afternoon, when she
found that she was not to gather the eggs or feed her beloved chickens,
she, too, broke down and sobbed that she "wouldn't do so any more."
Bobsey also pleaded so piteously for release, and promised such
saint-like behavior, that I said: "Well, I will remit the rest of your
punishment and put you on trial. You had no excuse for your mischief
this morning, for I allow you to play the greater part of every
afternoon, while Merton must stand by me the whole of the week."

My touch of discipline brought up the morale of my little squad
effectually for a time. The next afternoon even the memory of trouble
was banished by the finding of the first wild strawberries. Exultation
and universal interest prevailed as clusters of green and red berries
were handed around to be smelled and examined. "Truly," my wife
remarked, "even roses can scarcely equal the fragrance of the wild
strawberry."

From that day forward, for weeks, it seemed as if we entered on a diet
of strawberries and roses. The old-fashioned bushes of the latter, near
the house, had been well trimmed, and gave large, fine buds in
consequence, while Mousie, Winnie, and Bobsey gleaned every wild berry
that could be found, beginning with the sunny upland slopes and
following the aromatic fruit down to the cool, moist borders of the
creek.

"Another year," I said, "I think you will be tired even of
strawberries, for we shall have to pick early and late."



CHAPTER XXXI

NATURE SMILES AND HELPS


The Saturday evening which brought us almost to the middle of June was
welcomed indeed. The days preceding had been filled with hard, yet
successful labor, and the weeds had been slaughtered by the million.
The greater part of our crops had come up well and were growing nicely.
In hoeing the corn, we had planted over the few missing hills, and now,
like soldiers who had won the first great success of the campaign, we
were in a mood to enjoy a rest to the utmost.

This rest seemed all the more delightful when we awoke on the following
morning, to the soft patter of rain. The preceding days had been
unusually dry and warm, so that the grass and tender vegetables were
beginning to suffer. I was worrying about the raspberries also, which
were passing out of blossom. The cultivator had been through them, and
Merton and I, only the evening before, had finished hoeing out the
sprouting weeds and surplus suckers. I had observed, with dread, that
just as the fruit was forming, the earth, especially around the hills,
was getting dry.

Now, looking out, I saw that the needful watering was not coming from a
passing shower. The clouds were leaden from horizon to horizon; the
rain fell with a gentle steadiness of a quiet summer storm, and had
evidently been falling some hours already. The air was so fragrant that
I threw wide open the door and windows. It was a true June incense,
such as no art could distil, and when, at last, we all sat down to
breakfast, of which crisp radishes taken a few moments before from our
own garden formed a part, we felt that nature was carrying on our work
of the past week in a way that filled our hearts with gratitude. The
air was so warm that we did not fear the dampness. The door and windows
were left open that we might enjoy the delicious odors and listen to
the musical patter of the rain, which fell so softly that the birds
were quite as tuneful as on other days.

The children joined me in the porch, and my wife came out laughing, and
put her hand on my shoulder as she said, "You are not through with July
and August yet."

Mousie held her hands out in the warm rain, saying: "I feel as if it
would make me grow, too. Look at the green cherries up there, bobbing
as the drops hit them."

"Rain isn't good for chickens," Winnie remarked, doubtfully.

"It won't hurt them," I replied, "for I have fed them so well that they
needn't go out in the wet for food."

The clouds gave us a more and more copious downfall as the day
advanced, and I sat on the porch, resting and observing with conscious
gratitude how beautifully nature was furthering all our labor, and
fulfilling our hopes. This rain would greatly increase the hay-crops
for the old horse and the cow; it would carry my vegetables rapidly
toward maturity; and, best of all, would soak the raspberry ground so
thoroughly that the fruit would be almost safe. What was true of our
little plot was equally so of neighbor Jones's farm, and thousands of
others. My wife sat with me much of the day, and I truly think that our
thoughts were acceptable worship. By four in the afternoon the western
horizon lightened, the clouds soon broke away, and the sun shone out
briefly in undiminished splendor, turning the countless raindrops on
foliage and grass into gems, literally, of the purest water. The
bird-songs seemed almost ecstatic, and the voices of the children,
permitted at last to go out of doors, vied with them in gladness.

"Let July and August--yes, and bleak January--bring what they may," I
said to my wife, "nevertheless, this is Eden."

In spite of the muddy walks, we picked our way around the garden,
exclaiming in pleased wonder at the growth made by our vegetable
nurslings in a few brief hours, while, across the field, the corn and
potato rows showed green, strong outlines.

I found that Brindle in the pasture hadn't minded the rain, but only
appeared the sleeker for it. When at last I came in to supper, I gave
my wife a handful of berries, at which she and the children exclaimed.
I had permitted a dozen plants of each variety of my garden
strawberries to bear, that I might get some idea of the fruit. The
blossoms on the other plants had been picked off as soon as they
appeared, so that all the strength might go toward forming new plants.
I found that a few of the berries of the two early kinds were ripe,
also that the robins had been sampling them. In size, at least, they
seemed wonderful compared with the wild fruit from the field, and I
said:

"There will be lively times for us when we must get a dozen bushels a
day, like these, off to Mr. Bogart."

The children, then, thought it would be the greatest fun in the world.
By the time supper was over, Mr. Jones and Junior appeared, and my
neighbor said in hearty good-will:

"You got your cultivatin' done in the nick of time, Mr. Durham. This
rain is a good hundred dollars in your pocket and mine, too."

I soon perceived that our enemies, the weeds, had millions in reserve,
and on Monday--the day after the rain--with all the children helping,
even Mousie part of the time, we went at the garden again. To Mousie,
scarcely an invalid any longer, was given the pleasure of picking the
first green peas and shelling them for dinner. We had long been
enjoying the succulent lettuce and the radishes, and now I said to
Winnie: "To-morrow you can begin thinning out the beets, leaving the
plants three inches apart. What you pull up can be cooked as spinach,
or 'greens,' as country people say. Our garden will soon enable us to
live like princes."

As the ground dried after the rain, a light crust formed on the
surface, and in the wetter portions it was even inclined to bake or
crack. I was surprised at the almost magical effect of breaking up the
crust and making the soil loose and mellow by cultivation. The letting
in of air and light caused the plants to grow with wonderful vigor.

On Wednesday morning Merton came running in, exclaiming, "O papa!
there's a green worm eating all the leaves off the currant and
gooseberry bushes."

I followed him hastily, and found that considerable mischief had
already been done, and I went to one of my fruit books in a hurry to
find out how to cope with this new enemy.

As a result, I said: "Merton, mamma wishes to go to the village. You
drive her and Mousie down, and at the drug-store get two pounds of
white hellebore, also a pound of Paris green, for I find that the
potato bugs are getting too thick to be managed by hand. Remember that
these are poisons, the Paris green a deadly one. Have them carefully
wrapped up, and keep them from everything else. When you return I'll
take charge of them. Also, get a new large watering-can."

That afternoon I mixed a heaping tablespoonful of the hellebore through
the contents of the watering-can, on which I had painted the word
"Poison." With this infusion I sprinkled thoroughly every bush on which
I could find a worm, and the next morning we had the pleasure of
finding most of these enemies dead. But some escaped or new ones were
hatched, and we found that we could save our currants only by constant
vigilance. Every evening, until the fruit was nearly ripe, we went over
the bushes, and gave the vile little pests a dose wherever we found
them. Our other can I also labelled "Poison," with dashes under it to
show that it was to be used for Paris green alone. A teaspoonful of
this deadly agent was enough, according to my book, for the amount of
water held by the ordinary wooden pail. I kept this poison out of
Bobsey's reach, and, indeed, where no one but myself could get at it,
and, by its aid, destroyed the potato beetles and their larvae also.
Whatever may be true in other parts of the world, in our region,
certainly, success can be secured only by prompt, intelligent effort.



CHAPTER XXXII

CHERRIES, BERRIES, AND BERRY-THIEVES


An evening or two after this we were taught that not even in our
retired nook had we escaped the dangers of city life. Winnie and
Bobsey, in their rambles after strawberries, had met two other
children, and, early in the acquaintance, fortunately brought them to
the house. The moment I saw the strange girl, I recognized a rural type
of Melissa Daggett, while the urchin of Bobsey's age did not scruple to
use vile language in my hearing. I doubt whether the poor little savage
had any better vernacular. I told them kindly but firmly that they must
not come on the place again without my permission.

After supper I went over and asked Mr. Jones about these children, and
he replied, significantly, looking around first to make sure that no
one heard him:

"Mr. Durham, steer clear of those people. You know there are certain
varmints on a farm to which we give a wide berth and kill 'em when we
can. Of course we can't kill off this family, although a good
contribution could be taken up any day to move 'em a hundred miles
away. Still about everybody gives 'em a wide berth, and is civil to
their faces. They'll rob you more or less, and you might as well make
up your mind to it, and let 'em alone."

"Suppose I don't let them alone?"

"Well--remember, now, this is wholly between ourselves--there's been
barns burned around here. Everybody's satisfied who sot 'em afire, but
nothin' can be proved. Your cow or horse, too, might suddenly die.
There's no tellin' what accidents would happen if you got their
ill-will."

"I can't take the course you suggest toward this family," I said, after
a little thought. "It seems to me wrong on both sides. On one hand,
they are treated as outlaws, and that would go far to make them such;
on the other, they are permitted to levy a sort of blackmail and commit
crime with impunity. Of course I must keep my children away from them;
but, if the chance offers, I shall show the family kindness, and if
they molest me I shall try to give them the law to the utmost."

"Well," concluded Mr. Jones, with a shrug, "I've warned you, if they
git down on yer, yer'll find 'em snakes in the grass."

Returning home, I said nothing to Winnie and Bobsey against their
recent companions, but told them that if they went with them again, or
made the acquaintance of other strangers without permission, they would
be put on bread and water for an entire day--that all such action was
positively forbidden.

It was evident, however, that the Melissa Daggett element was present
in the country, and in an aggravated form. That it was not next door,
or, rather, in the next room, was the redeeming feature. Residents in
the country are usually separated by wide spaces from evil association.

It must not be thought that my wife and children had no society except
that afforded by Mr. Jones's family. They were gradually making
pleasant and useful acquaintances, especially among those whom we met
at church; but as these people have no material part in this simple
history, they are not mentioned.

The most important activities of the season were now drawing very near.
The cherries were swelling fast; the currants were growing red, and
were already pronounced "nice for pies;" and one morning Merton came
rushing in with a red raspberry from the Highland Hardy variety. I was
glad the time was at hand when I should begin to receive something
besides advice from Mr. Bogart; for, careful as we had been, the drain
on my capital had been long and steady, and were eager for the turn of
the tide.

I had bought a number of old Mr. Jamison's crates, had painted out his
name and replaced it with mine. I now wrote to Mr. Bogart for packages
best adapted to the shipping of cherries, currants, and raspberries.
For the first he sent me baskets that held about a peck. These baskets
were so cheap that they could be sold with the fruit. For currants,
crates containing twenty-four quart baskets were forwarded. These, he
wrote, would also do for black-caps this season, and for strawberries
next year. For the red raspberries he sent me quite different crates,
filled with little baskets holding only half a pint of fruit. Limited
supplies of these packages were sent, for he said that a telegram would
bring more the same day.

The corn and potatoes were becoming weedy again. This time I made use
of a light plow, Merton leading old Bay as at first. Then, with our
hoes, we gave the rows a final dressing out. By the time we had
finished, some of our grass was fit to cut, the raspberries needed a
careful picking over, and the cherries on one tree were ready for
market. The children and robins had already feasted, but I was hungry
for a check from New York.

I had long since decided not to attempt to carry on haying alone at
this critical season, but had hired a man, too aged to hold his own
among the harvesters on the neighboring farms. Mr. Jones had said of
him: "He's a careful, trusty old fellow, who can do a good day's work
yet if you don't hurry him. Most of your grass is in the meadow, some
parts fit to cut before the others. Let the old man begin and mow what
he can, every day. Then you won't have to cure and get in a great lot
of hay all at once, and perhaps, too, when your raspberries most need
pickin'."

So, during the last days of June, old Mr. Jacox, who came at moderate
wages, put in his scythe on the uplands. I spread the grass and raked
it up when dry, and, with the aid of Merton and a rude, extemporized
rack on the market-wagon, got the hay gradually into the barn. This
labor took only part of the day; the rest of the time was employed in
the garden and in picking fruit.

On the last day of June we gathered a crate of early raspberries and
eight baskets of cherries. In the cool of the afternoon, these were
placed in the wagon, and with my wife and the three younger children, I
drove to the Maizeville Landing with our first shipment to Mr. Bogart.

"We are 'p'oducers,' at last, as Bobsey said," I cried, joyously. "And
I trust that this small beginning will end in such big loads as will
leave us no room for wife and children, but will eventually give them a
carriage to ride in."

Merton remained on guard to watch our precious ripening fruit.

After our departure he began a vigilant patrol of the place, feeling
much like a sentinel left on guard. About sun-down, he told me, as he
was passing through the raspberry field, he thought he caught a glimpse
of an old straw hat dodging down behind the bushes. He bounded toward
the spot, a moment later confronting three children with tin pails. The
two younger proved to be Winnie's objectionable acquaintances that I
had told to keep off the place. The eldest was a boy, not far from
Merton's age, and had justly won the name of being the worst boy in the
region. All were the children of the dangerous neighbor against whom
Mr. Jones had warned me.

The boy at first regarded Merton with a sullen, defiant look, while his
brother and sister coolly continued to steal the fruit.

"Clear out," cried Merton. "We'll have you put in jail if you come here
again."

"You shut up and clear out yerself," said the boy, threateningly, "or
I'll break yer head. Yer pap's away, and we ain't afraid of you. What's
more, we're goin' ter have some cherries before--"

Now Merton had a quick temper, and at this moment sprang at the fellow
who was adding insult to injury, so quickly that he got in a blow that
blackened one of the thief's eyes.

Then they clinched, and, although his antagonist was the heavier,
Merton thinks he could have whipped him had not the two younger
marauders attacked him, tooth and nail, like cats. Finding himself
getting the worst of it, he instinctively sent out a cry for his stanch
friend Junior.

Fortunately, this ally was coming along the road toward our house, and
he gave an answering halloo.

The vagrants, apparently, had a wholesome fear of John Jones, junior,
for, on hearing his voice, they beat a hurried retreat; but knowing
that no one was at the house, and in the spirit of revengeful mischief,
they took their flight in that direction. Seeing Mousie's flower-bed,
they ran and jumped upon that, breaking down half the plants, then
dashed off through the coops, releasing the hens, and scattering the
broods of chickens. Merton and Junior, who for a few moments had lost
sight of the invaders in the thick raspberry bushes, were now in hot
pursuit, and would have caught them again, had they not seen a man
coming up the lane, accompanied by a big dog. Junior laid a hand on
headlong Merton, whose blood was now at boiling heat, and said, "Stop."



CHAPTER XXXIII

GIVEN HIS CHOICE


Junior had good reason for bringing Merton to a sudden halt in his
impetuous and hostile advance. The man coming up the lane, with a
savage dog, was the father of the ill-nurtured children. He had felt a
little uneasy as to the results of their raid upon our fruit, and had
walked across the fields to give them the encouragement of his
presence, or to cover their retreat, which he now did effectually.

It took Junior but a moment to explain to my boy that they were no
match "for the two brutes," as he expressed himself, adding, "The man
is worse than the dog."

Merton, however, was almost reckless from anger and a sense of
unprovoked wrong, and he darted into the house for his gun.

"See here, Merton," said Junior, firmly, "shoot the dog if they set him
on us, but never fire at a human being. You'd better give me the gun; I
am cooler than you are."

They had no occasion to use the weapon, however. The man shook his fist
at them, while his children indulged in taunts and coarse derision. The
dog, sharing their spirit and not their discretion, started for the
boys, but was recalled, and our undesirable neighbors departed
leisurely.

All this was related to me after nightfall, when I returned with my
wife and younger children from the Maizeville Landing. I confess that I
fully shared Merton's anger, although I listened quietly.

"You grow white, Robert, when you are angry," said my wife. "I suppose
that's the most dangerous kind of heat--white-heat. Don't take the
matter so to heart. We can't risk getting the ill-will of these ugly
people. You know what Mr. Jones said about them."

"This question shall be settled in twenty-four hours!" I replied. "That
man and his family are the pest of the neighborhood, and everyone lives
in a sort of abject dread of them. Now, the neighbors must say 'yes' or
'no' to the question whether we shall have decency, law, and order, or
not. Merton, unharness the horse. Junior, come with me; I'm going to
see your father."

I found Mr. Jones sleepy and about to retire, but his blue eyes were
soon wide open, with an angry fire in them.

"You take the matter very quietly, Mr. Durham;" he said; "more quietly
than I could."

"I shall not fume about the affair a moment. I prefer to act. The only
question for you and the other neighbors to decide is, Will you act
with me? I am going to this man Bagley's house to-morrow, to give him
his choice. It's either decency and law-abiding on his part, now, or
prosecution before the law on mine. You say that you are sure that he
has burned barns, and made himself generally the terror of the region.
Now, I won't live in a neighborhood infested by people little better
than wild Indians. My feelings as a man will not permit me to submit to
insult and injury. What's more, it's time the people about here abated
this nuisance."

"You are right, Robert Durham!" said Mr. Jones, springing up and giving
me his hand. "I've felt mean, and so have others, that we've allowed
ourselves to be run over by this rapscallion. If you go to-morrow, I'll
go with you, and so will Rollins. His hen-roost was robbed t'other
night, and he tracked the thieves straight toward Bagley's house. He
says his patience has given out. It only needs a leader to rouse the
neighborhood, but it ain't very creditable to us that we let a
new-comer like you face the thing first."

"Very well," I said, "it's for you and your neighbors to show now how
much grit and manhood you have. I shall start for Bagley's house at
nine to-morrow. Of course I shall be glad to have company, and if he
sees that the people will not stand any more of his rascality, he'll be
more apt to behave himself or else clear out."

"He'll have to do one or the other," said Mr. Jones, grimly. "I'll go
right down to Rolling's. Come, Junior, we may want you."

At eight o'clock the next morning, a dozen men, including the
constable, were in our yard. My wife whispered, "Do be prudent,
Robert." She was much reassured, however, by the largeness of our force.

We soon reached the dilapidated hovel, and were so fortunate as to find
Bagley and all his family at home. Although it was the busiest season,
he was idle. As I led my forces straight toward the door, it was
evident that he was surprised and disconcerted, in spite of his attempt
to maintain a sullen and defiant aspect. I saw his evil eye resting on
one and another of our group, as if he was storing up grudges to be
well paid on future dark nights. His eldest son stood with the dog at
the corner of the house, and as I approached, the cur, set on by the
boy, came toward me with a stealthy step. I carried a heavy cane, and
just as the brute was about to take me by the leg, I struck him a blow
on the head that sent him howling away.

The man for a moment acted almost as if he had been struck himself. His
bloated visage became inflamed, and he sprang toward me.

"Stop!" I thundered. My neighbors closed around me, and he
instinctively drew back.

"Bagley," I cried, "look me in the eye." And he fixed upon me a gaze
full of impotent anger. "Now," I resumed, "I wish you and your family
to understand that you've come to the end of your rope. You must become
decent, law-abiding people, like the rest of us, or we shall put you
where you can't harm us. I, for one, am going to give you a last
chance. Your children were stealing my fruit last night, and acting
shamefully afterward. You also trespassed, and you threatened these two
boys; you are idle in the busiest time, and think you can live by
plunder. Now, you and yours must turn the sharpest corner you ever saw.
Your two eldest children can come and pick berries for me at the usual
wages, if they obey my orders and behave themselves. One of the
neighbors here says he'll give you work, if you try to do it well. If
you accept these terms, I'll let the past go. If you don't, I'll have
the constable arrest your boy at once, and I'll see that he gets the
heaviest sentence the law allows, while if you or your children make
any further trouble, I'll meet you promptly in every way the law
permits. But, little as you deserve it, I am going to give you and your
family one chance to reform, before proceeding against you. Only
understand one thing, I am not afraid of you. I've had my say."

"I haven't had mine," said Rollins, stepping forward excitedly. "You,
or your scapegrace boy there, robbed my hen-roost the other night, and
you've robbed it before. There isn't a man in this region but believes
that it was you who burned the barns and hay-stacks. We won't stand
this nonsense another hour. You've got to come to my hay-fields and
work out the price of those chickens, and after that I'll give you fair
wages. But if there's any more trouble, we'll clean you out as we would
a family of weasels."

"Yes, neighbor Bagley," added Mr. Jones, in his dry, caustic way,
"think soberly. I hope you are sober. I'm not one of the threatening
barkin' sort, but I've reached the p'int where I'll bite. The law will
protect us, an' the hull neighborhood has resolved, with Mr. Durham
here, that you and your children shall make no more trouble than he and
his children. See?"

"Look-a-here," began the man, blusteringly, "you needn't come
threatenin' in this blood-and-thunder style. The law'll protect me as
well as--"

Ominous murmurs were arising from all my neighbors, and Mr. Jones now
came out strong.

"Neighbors," he said, "keep cool. The time to act hasn't come yet. See
here, Bagley, it's hayin' and harvest. Our time's vallyble, whether
yours is or not. You kin have just three minutes to decide whether
you'll take your oath to stop your maraudin' and that of your
children;" and he pulled out his watch.

"Let me add my word," said a little man, stepping forward. "I own this
house, and the rent is long overdue. Follow neighbor Jones's advice or
we'll see that the sheriff puts your traps out in the middle of the
road."

"Oh, of course," began Bagley. "What kin one feller do against a crowd?"

"Sw'ar, as I told you," said Mr. Jones, sharply and emphatically. "What
do you mean by hangin' fire so? Do you s'pose this is child's play and
make-believe? Don't ye know that when quiet, peaceable neighbors git
riled up to our pitch, they mean what they say? Sw'ar, as I said, and
be mighty sudden about it."

"Don't be a fool," added his wife, who stood trembling behind him.
"Can't you see?"

"Very well, I sw'ar it," said the man, in some trepidation.

"Now, Bagley," said Mr. Jones, putting back his watch, "we want to
convert you thoroughly this mornin'. The first bit of mischief that
takes place in this borough will bring the weight of the law on you;"
and, wheeling on his heel, he left the yard, followed by the others.



CHAPTER XXXIV

GIVEN A CHANCE


"Come in, Mr. Bagley," I said, "and bring the children. I want to talk
with you all. Merton, you go home with Junior."

"But, papa--" he objected.

"Do as I bid you," I said, firmly, and I entered the squalid abode.

The man and the children followed me wonderingly. I sat down and looked
the man steadily in the eye for a moment.

"Let us settle one thing first," I began. "Do you think I am afraid of
you?"

"S'pose not, with sich backin' as yer got," was the somewhat nervous
reply.

"I told Mr. Jones after I came home last night that I should fight this
thing alone if no one stood by me. But you see that your neighbors have
reached the limit of forbearance. Now, Mr. Bagley, I didn't remain to
threaten you. There has been enough of that, and from very resolute,
angry men, too. I wish to give you and yours a chance. You've come to a
place where two roads branch; you must take one or the other. You can't
help yourself. You and your children won't be allowed to steal or prowl
about any more. That's settled. If you go away and begin the same
wretched life elsewhere, you'll soon reach the same result; you and
your son will be lodged in jail and put at hard labor. Would you not
better make up your mind to work for yourself and family, like an
honest man? Look at these children. How are you bringing them up?--Take
the road to the right. Do your level best, and I'll help you. I'll let
bygones be bygones, and aid you in becoming a respectable citizen."

"Oh, Hank, do be a man, now that Mr. Durham gives you a chance," sobbed
his wife; "you know we've been living badly."

"That's it, Bagley. These are the questions you must decide. If you'll
try to be a man, I'll give you my hand to stand by you. My religion,
such as it is, requires that I shall not let a man go wrong if I can
help it. If you'll take the road to the right and do your level best,
there's my hand."

The man showed his emotion by a slight tremor only, and after a
moment's thoughtful hesitation he took my hand and said, in a hoarse,
choking voice: "You've got a claim on me now which all the rest
couldn't git, even if they put a rope around my neck. I s'pose I have
lived like a brute, but I've been treated like one, too."

"If you'll do as I say, I'll guarantee that within six months you'll be
receiving all the kindness that a self-respecting man wants," I
answered.

Then, turning to his wife, I asked, "What have you in the house to eat?"

"Next to nothin'," she said, drying her eyes with her apron, and then
throwing open their bare cupboard.

"Put on your coat, Bagley, and come with me," I said.

He and his wife began to be profuse with thanks.

"No, no!" I said, firmly. "I'm not going to give you a penny's worth of
anything while you are able to earn a living. You shall have food at
once; but I shall expect you to pay for it in work. I am going to treat
you like a man and a woman, and not like beggars."

A few minutes later, some of the neighbors were much surprised to see
Bagley and myself going up the road together.

My wife, Merton, and tender-hearted Mousie were at the head of the lane
watching for me. Reassured, as we approached, they returned wonderingly
to the house, and met us at the door.

"This is Mrs. Durham," I said. "My dear, please give Mr. Bagley ten
pounds of flour and a piece of pork. After you're had your dinner, Mr.
Bagley, I shall expect you, as we've agreed. And if you'll chain up
that dog of yours, or, better still, knock it on the head with an axe,
Mrs. Durham will go down and see your wife about fixing up your
children."

Winifred gave me a pleased, intelligent look, and said, "Come in, Mr.
Bagley;" while Merton and I hastened away to catch up with neglected
work.

"Your husband's been good to me," said the man, abruptly.

"That's because he believes you are going to be good to yourself and
your family," was her smiling reply.

"Will you come and see my wife?" he asked.

"Certainly, if I don't have to face your dog," replied Winifred.

"I'll kill the critter soon's I go home," muttered Bagley.

"It hardly pays to keep a big, useless dog," was my wife's practical
comment.

In going to the cellar for the meat, she left him alone for a moment or
two with Mousie; and he, under his new impulses, said: "Little gal, ef
my children hurt your flowers agin, let me know, and I'll thrash 'em!"

The child stole to his side and gave him her hand, as she replied, "Try
being kind to them."

Bagley went home with some new ideas under his tattered old hat. At
half-past twelve he was on hand, ready for work.

"That dog that tried to bite ye is dead and buried," he said, "and I
hope I buried some of my dog natur' with 'im."

"You've shown your good sense. But I haven't time to talk now. The old
man has mown a good deal of grass. I want you to shake it out, and, as
soon as he says it's dry enough, to rake it up. Toward night I'll be
out with the wagon, and we'll stow all that's fit into the barn.
To-morrow I want your two eldest children to come and pick berries."

"I'm in fer it, Mr. Durham. You've given me your hand, and I'll show
yer how that goes furder with me than all the blood-and-thunder talk in
Maizeville," said Bagley, with some feeling.

"Then you'll show that you can be a man like the rest of us," I said,
as I hastened to our early dinner.

My wife beamed and nodded at me. "I'm not going to say anything to set
you up too much," she said. "You are great on problems, and you are
solving one even better than I hoped."

"It isn't solved yet," I replied. "We have only started Bagley and his
people on the right road. It will require much patience and good
management to keep them there. I rather think you'll have the hardest
part of the problem yet on your hands. I have little time for problems
now, however, except that of making the most of this season of rapid
growth and harvest. I declare I'm almost bewildered when I see how much
there is to be done on every side. Children, we must all act like
soldiers in the middle of a fight. Every stroke must tell. Now, we'll
hold a council of war, so as to make the most of the afternoon's work.
Merton, how are the raspberries?"

"There are more ripe, papa, than I thought there would be."

"Then, Winnie, you and Bobsey must leave the weeding in the garden and
help Merton pick berries this afternoon."

"As soon as it gets cooler," said my wife, "Mousie and I are going to
pick, also."

"Very well," I agreed. "You can give us raspberries and milk to-night,
and so you will be getting supper at the same time. Until the hay is
ready to come in, I shall keep on hoeing in the garden, the weeds grow
so rapidly. Tomorrow will be a regular fruit day all around, for there
are two more cherry-trees that need picking."

Our short nooning over, we all went to our several tasks. The children
were made to feel that now was the chance to win our bread for months
to come, and that there must be no shirking. Mousie promised to clear
away the things while my wife, protected by a large sun-shade, walked
slowly down to the Bagley cottage. Having seen that Merton and his
little squad were filling the baskets with raspberries properly, I went
to the garden and slaughtered the weeds where they threatened to do the
most harm.

At last I became so hot and wearied that I thought I would visit a
distant part of the upland meadow, and see how Bagley was progressing.
He was raking manfully, and had accomplished a fair amount of work, but
it was evident that he was almost exhausted. He was not accustomed to
hard work, and had rendered himself still more unfit for it by
dissipation.

"See here, Bagley," I said, "you are doing well, but you will have to
break yourself into harness gradually. I don't wish to be hard upon
you. Lie down under this tree for half an hour, and by that time I
shall be out with the wagon."

"Mr. Durham, you have the feelin's of a man for a feller," said Bagley,
gratefully. "I'll make up the time arter it gets cooler."

Returning to the raspberry patch, I found Bobsey almost asleep, the
berries often falling from his nerveless hands. Merton, meanwhile, with
something of the spirit of a martinet, was spurring him to his task. I
remembered that the little fellow had been busy since breakfast, and
decided that he also, of my forces, should have a rest. He started up
when he saw me coming through the bushes, and tried to pick with vigor
again. As I took him up in my arms, he began, apprehensively, "Papa, I
will pick faster, but I'm so tired!"

I reassured him with a kiss which left a decided raspberry flavor on my
lips, carried him into the barn, and, tossing him on a heap of hay,
said, "Sleep there, my little man, till you are rested."

He was soon snoring blissfully, and when I reached the meadow with the
wagon, Bagley was ready to help with the loading.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed, "a little breathin'-spell does do a feller
good on a hot day."

"No doubt about it," I said. "So long as you are on the right road, it
does no harm to sit down a bit, because when you start again it's in
the right direction."

After we had piled on as much of a load as the rude, extemporized rack
on my market wagon could hold, I added, "You needn't go to the barn
with me, for I can pitch the hay into the mow. Rake up another load, if
you feel able."

"Oh, I'm all right now," he protested.

By the time I had unloaded the hay, I found that my wife and Mousie
were among the raspberries, and that the number of full, fragrant
little baskets was increasing rapidly.

"Winifred, isn't this work, with your walk to the Bagley cottage, too
much for you?"

"Oh, no," she replied, lightly. "An afternoon in idleness in a stifling
city flat would have been more exhausting. It's growing cool now. What
wretched, shiftless people those Bagleys are! But I have hopes of them.
I'm glad Bobsey's having a nap."

"You shall tell me about your visit to-night. We are making good
progress. Bagley is doing his best. Winnie," I called, "come here."

She brought her basket, nearly filled, and I saw that her eyes were
heavy with weariness also.

"You've done well to-day, my child. Now go and look after your
chickens, big and little. Then your day's work is done, and you can do
what you please;" and I started for the meadow again.

By six o'clock, we had in the barn three loads of hay, and Merton had
packed four crates of berries ready for market. Bobsey was now running
about, as lively as a cricket, and Winnie, with a child's elasticity,
was nearly as sportive. Bagley, after making up his half-hour, came up
the lane with a rake, instead of his ugly dog as on the evening before.
A few moments later, he helped me lift the crates into the market
wagon; and then, after a little awkward hesitation, began:

"I say, Mr. Durham, can't ye give a feller a job yerself? I declar' to
you, I want to brace up; but I know how it'll be down at Rollins's.
He'll be savage as a meat-axe to me, and his men will be a-gibin'. Give
me a job yerself, and I'll save enough out o' my wages to pay for his
chickens, or you kin keep 'nuff back to pay for 'em."

I thought a moment, and then said, promptly: "I'll agree to this if
Rollins will. I'll see him to-night."

"Did yer wife go to see my wife?"

"Yes, and she says she has hopes of you all. You've earned your bread
to-day as honestly as I have, and you've more than paid for what my
wife gave you this morning. Here's a quarter to make the day square,
and here's a couple of baskets of raspberries left over. Take them to
the children." "Well, yer bring me right to the mark," he said,
emphasizing his words with a slap on his thigh. "I've got an uphill row
to hoe, and it's good ter have some human critters around that'll help
a feller a bit."

I laughed as I clapped him on the shoulder, and said: "You're going to
win the fight, Bagley. I'll see Rollins at once, for I find I shall
need another man awhile."

"Give me the job then," he said, eagerly, "and give me what you think
I'm wuth;" and he jogged off home with that leaven of all good in his
heart--the hope of better things.



Chapter XXXV

"WE SHALL ALL EARN OUR SALT"


Raspberries and milk, with bread and butter and a cup of tea, made a
supper that we all relished, and then Merton and I started for the
boat-landing. I let the boy drive and deliver the crates to the freight
agent, for I wished him to relieve me of this task occasionally. On our
way to the landing I saw Rollins, who readily agreed to Bagley's wish,
on condition that I guaranteed payment for the chickens. Stopping at
the man's cottage further on, I told him this, and he, in his emphatic
way, declared: "I vow ter you, Mr. Durham, ye shan't lose a feather's
worth o' the chickens."

Returning home, poor Merton was so tired and drowsy that he nearly fell
off the seat. Before long I took the reins from his hands, and he was
asleep with his head on my shoulder. Winifred was dozing in her chair,
but brightened up as we came in. A little judicious praise and a bowl
of bread and milk strengthened the boy wonderfully. He saw the need of
especial effort at this time, and also saw that he was not being driven
unfeelingly.

As I sat alone with my wife, resting a few minutes before retiring, I
said: "Well, Winifred, it must be plain to you by this time that the
summer campaign will be a hard one. How are we going to stand it?"

"I'll tell you next fall," she replied, with a laugh. "No problems
to-night, thank you."

"I'm gathering a queer lot of helpers in my effort to live in the
country," I continued. "There's old Mr. Jacox, who is too aged to hold
his own in other harvest-fields. Bagley and his tribe--"

"And a city wife and a lot of city children," she added.

"And a city greenhorn of a man at the head of you all," I concluded.

"Well," she replied, rising with an odd little blending of laugh and
yawn, "I'm not afraid but that we shall all earn our salt."

Thus came to an end the long, eventful day, which prepared the way for
many others of similar character, and suggested many of the conditions
of our problem of country living.

Bagley appeared bright and early the following morning with his two
elder children, and I was now confronted with the task of managing them
and making them useful. Upon one thing I was certainly resolved--there
should be no quixotic sentiment in our relations, and no companionship
between his children and mine.

Therefore, I took him and his girl and boy aside, and said: "I'm going
to be simple and outspoken with you. Some of my neighbors think I'm a
fool because I give you work when I can get others. I shall prove that
I am not a fool, for the reason that I shall not permit any nonsense,
and you can show that I am not a fool by doing your work well and
quietly. Bagley, I want you to understand that your children do not
come here to play with mine. No matter whom I employed, I should keep
my children by themselves. Now, do you understand this?"

They nodded affirmatively.

"Are you all willing to take simple, straightforward directions, and do
your best? I'm not asking what is unreasonable, for I shall not be more
strict with you than with my own children."

"No use o' beatin' around the bush, Mr. Durham," said Bagley,
good-naturedly; "we've come here to 'arn our livin', and to do as you
say."

"I can get along with you, Bagley, but your children will find it hard
to follow my rules, because they are children, and are not used to
restraint. Yet they must do it, or there'll be trouble at once. They
must work quietly and steadily while they do work, and when I am
through with them, they must go straight home. They mustn't lounge
about the place. If they will obey, Mrs. Durham and I will be good
friends to them, and by fall we will fix them up so that they can go to
school."

The little arabs looked askance at me and made me think of two wild
animals that had been caught, and were intelligent enough to understand
that they must be tamed. They were submissive, but made no false
pretences of enjoying the prospect.

"I shall keep a gad handy," said their father, with a significant nod
at them.

"Well, youngsters," I concluded, laughing, "perhaps you'll need it
occasionally. I hope not, however. I shall keep no gad, but I shall
have an eye on you when you least expect it; and if you go through the
picking-season well, I shall have a nice present for you both. Now, you
are to receive so much a basket, if the baskets are properly filled,
and therefore it will depend on yourselves how much you earn. You shall
be paid every day. So now for a good start toward becoming a man and a
woman."

I led them to one side of the raspberry patch and put them under
Merton's charge saying, "You must pick exactly as he directs."

Winnie and Bobsey were to pick in another part of the field, Mousie
aiding until the sun grew too warm for the delicate child. Bagley was
to divide his time between hoeing in the garden and spreading the grass
after the scythe of old Mr. Jacox. From my ladder against a
cherry-tree, I was able to keep a general outlook over my motley
forces, and we all made good progress till dinner, which, like the help
we employed, we now had at twelve o'clock. Bagley and his children sat
down to their lunch under the shade of an apple-tree at some distance,
yet in plain view through our open door. Their repast must have been
meagre, judging from the time in which it was despatched, and my wife
said, "Can't I send them something?"

"Certainly; what have you to send?"

"Well, I've made a cherry pudding; I don't suppose there is much more
than enough for us, though."

"Children," I cried, "let's take a vote. Shall we share our cherry
pudding with the Bagleys?"

"Yes," came the unanimous reply, although Bobsey's voice was rather
faint.

Merton carried the delicacy to the group under the tree, and it was
gratefully and speedily devoured.

"That is the way to the hearts of those children," said my wife, at the
same time slyly slipping her portion of the pudding upon Bobsey's plate.

I appeared very blind, but asked her to get me something from the
kitchen. While she was gone, I exchanged my plate of pudding, untouched
as yet, for hers, and gave the children a wink. We all had a great
laugh over mamma's well-assumed surprise and perplexity. How a little
fun will freshen up children, especially when, from necessity, their
tasks are long and heavy!

We were startled from the table by a low mutter of thunder. Hastening
out, I saw an ominous cloud in the west. My first thought was that all
should go to the raspberries and pick till the rain drove us in; but
Bagley now proved a useful friend, for he shambled up and said: "If I
was you, I'd have those cherries picked fust. You'll find that a
thunder-shower'll rot 'em in one night. The wet won't hurt the berries
much."

His words reminded me of what I had seen when a boy--a tree full of
split, half-decayed cherries--and I told him to go to picking at once.
I also sent his eldest boy and Merton into the trees. Old Jacox was
told to get the grass he had cut into as good shape as possible before
the shower. My wife and Mousie left the table standing, and, hastening
to the raspberry field, helped Winnie and Bobsey and the other Bagley
child to pick the ripest berries. We all worked like beavers till the
vivid flashes and great drops drove us to shelter.

Fortunately, the shower came up slowly, and we nearly stripped the
cherry-trees, carrying the fruit into the house, there to be arranged
for market in the neat peck-baskets with coarse bagging covers which
Mr. Bogart had sent me. The little baskets of raspberries almost
covered the barn floor by the time the rain began, but they were safe.
At first, the children were almost terrified by the vivid lightning,
but this phase of the storm soon passed, and the clouds seemed to
settle down for a steady rain.

"'Tisn't goin' to let up," said Bagley, after a while. "We might as
well jog home now as any time."

"But you'll get wet," I objected.

"It won't be the fust time," answered Bagley. "The children don't mind
it any more'n ducks."

"Well, let's settle, then," I said. "You need some money to buy food at
once."

"I reckon I do," was the earnest reply.

"There's a dollar for your day's work, and here is what your children
have earned. Are you satisfied?" I asked.

"I be, and I thank you, sir. I'll go down to the store this evenin',"
he added.

"And buy food only," I said, with a meaning look.

"Flour and pork only, sir. I've given you my hand on't;" and away they
all jogged through the thick-falling drops.

We packed our fruit for market, and looked vainly for clearing skies in
the west.

"There's no help for it," I said. "The sooner I start for the landing
the better, so that I can return before it becomes very dark."

My wife exclaimed against this, but I added: "Think a moment, my dear.
By good management we have here, safe and in good order, thirty
dollars' worth of fruit, at least. Shall I lose it because I am afraid
of a summer shower? Facing the weather is a part of my business; and
I'd face a storm any day in the year if I could make thirty dollars."

Merton wished to go also, but I said, "No; there must be no risks of
illness that can possibly be avoided."

I did not find it a dreary expedition, after all, for I solaced myself
with thoughts like these, "Thirty dollars, under my wife's good
management, will go far toward providing warm winter clothing, or
paying the interest, or something else."

Then the rain was just what was needed to increase and prolong the
yield of the raspberry bushes, on which there were still myriads of
immature berries and even blossoms. Abundant moisture would perfect
these into plump fruit; and upon this crop rested our main hope.



CHAPTER XXXVI

A THUNDERBOLT


From the experiences just related, it can be seen how largely the
stress and strain of the year centred in the month of July. Nearly all
our garden crops needed attention; the grass of the meadow had to be
cured into hay, the currants and cherries to be picked, and fall crops,
like winter cabbages, turnips, and celery, to be put in the ground. Of
the latter vegetable, I set out only a few short rows, regarding it as
a delicious luxury to which not very much time could be given.

Mr. Jones and Junior, indeed all our neighbors, were working early and
late, like ourselves. Barns were being filled, conical hay-stacks were
rising in distant meadows, and every one was busy in gathering nature's
bounty.

We were not able to make much of the Fourth of July. Bobsey and Winnie
had some firecrackers, and, in the evening, Merton and Junior set off a
few rockets, and we all said, "Ah!" appreciatively, as they sped their
brief fiery course; but the greater part of the day had to be spent in
gathering the ripening black-caps and raspberries. By some management,
however, I arranged that Merton and Junior should have a fine swim in
the creek, by Brittle Rock, while Mousie, Winnie, and Bobsey waded in
sandy shallows, further down the stream. They all were promised
holidays after the fruit season was over, and they submitted to the
necessity of almost constant work with fairly good grace.

The results of our labor were cheering. Our table was supplied with
delicious vegetables, which, in the main, it was Mousie's task to
gather and prepare. The children were as brown as little Indians, and
we daily thanked God for health. Checks from Mr. Bogart came regularly,
the fruit bringing a fair price under his good management. The outlook
for the future grew brighter with the beginning of each week; for on
Monday he made his returns and sent me the proceeds of the fruit
shipped previously. I was able to pay all outstanding accounts for what
had been bought to stock the place, and I also induced Mr. Jones to
receive the interest in advance on the mortgage he held. Then we began
to hoard for winter.

The Bagleys did as well as we could expect, I suppose. The children did
need the "gad" occasionally and the father indulged in a few idle,
surly, drinking days; but, convinced that the man was honestly trying,
I found that a little tact and kindness always brought him around to
renewed endeavor. To expect immediate reform and unvaried well-doing
would be asking too much of such human nature as theirs.

As July drew to a close, my wife and I felt that we were succeeding
better than we had had reason to expect. In the height of the season we
had to employ more children in gathering the raspberries, and I saw
that I could increase the yield in coming years, as I learned the
secrets of cultivation. I also decided to increase the area of this
fruit by a fall-planting of some varieties that ripened earlier and
later, thus extending the season and giving me a chance to ship to
market for weeks instead of days. My strawberry plants were sending out
a fine lot of new runners, and our hopes for the future were turning
largely toward the cultivation of this delicious fruit.

Old Jacox had plodded faithfully over the meadow with his scythe, and
the barn was now so well filled that I felt our bay horse and brindle
cow were provided for during the months when fields are bare or snowy.

Late one afternoon, he was helping me gather up almost the last load
down by the creek, when the heavy roll of thunder warned us to hasten.
As we came up to the high ground near the house, we were both impressed
by the ominous blackness of a cloud rising in the west. I felt that the
only thing to do was to act like the captain of a vessel before a
storm, and make everything "snug and tight." The load of hay was run in
upon the barn floor, and the old horse led with the harness on him to
the stall below. Bagley and the children, with old Jacox, were started
off so as to be at home before the shower, doors and windows were
fastened, and all was made as secure as possible.

Then we gathered in our sitting-room, where Mousie and my wife had
prepared supper; but we all were too oppressed with awe of the coming
tempest to sit down quietly, as usual. There was a death-like stillness
in the sultry air, broken only at intervals by the heavy rumble of
thunder. The strange, dim twilight soon passed into the murkiest gloom,
and we had to light the lamp far earlier than our usual hour. I had
never seen the children so affected before. Winnie and Bobsey even
began to cry with fear, while Mousie was pale and trembling. Of course,
we laughed at them and tried to cheer them; but even my wife was
nervously apprehensive, and I admit that I felt a disquietude hard to
combat.

Slowly and remorselessly the cloud approached, until it began to pass
over us. The thunder and lightning were simply terrific. Supper
remained untasted on the table, and I said: "Patience and courage! A
few moments more and the worst will be over!"

But my words were scarcely heard, so violent was the gust that burst
upon us. For a few moments it seemed as if everything would go down
before it, but the old house only shook and rocked a little.

"Hurrah!" I cried. "The bulk of the gust has gone by, and now we are
all right!"

At that instant a blinding gleam and an instantaneous crash left us
stunned and bewildered. But as I recovered my senses, I saw flames
bursting from the roof of our barn.



CHAPTER XXXVII

RALLYING FROM THE BLOW


Our house was far enough from the barn to prevent the shock of the
thunderbolt from disabling us beyond a moment or two. Merton had fallen
off his chair, but was on his feet almost instantly; the other children
were soon sobbing and clinging to my wife and myself.

In tones that I sought to render firm and quiet, I said: "No more of
this foolish fear. We are in God's hands, and He will take care of us.
Winifred, you must rally and soothe the children, while Merton and I go
out and save what we can. All danger to the house is now over, for the
worst of the storm has passed."

In a moment my wife, although very pale, was reassuring the younger
children, and Merton and I rushed forth.

"Lead the horse out of the barn basement, Merton," I cried, "and tie
him securely behind the house. If he won't go readily, throw a blanket
over his eyes."

I spoke these words as we ran through the torrents of rain precipitated
by the tremendous concussion which the lightning had produced.

I opened the barn doors and saw that the hay was on fire. There was not
a second to lose, and excitement doubled my strength. The load of hay
on the wagon had not yet caught. Although nearly stifled with
sulphurous smoke, I seized the shafts and backed the wagon with its
burden out into the rain. Then, seizing a fork, I pushed and tossed off
the load so that I could draw our useful market vehicle to a safe
distance. There were a number of crates and baskets in the barn, also
some tools, etc. These I had to let go. Hastening to the basement, I
found that Merton had succeeded in getting the horse away. There was
still time to smash the window of the poultry-room and toss the
chickens out of doors. Our cow, fortunately, was in the meadow.

By this time Mr. Jones and Junior were on the ground, and they were
soon followed by Rollins, Bagley, and others. There was nothing to do
now, however, but to stand aloof and witness the swift destruction.
After the first great gust had passed, there was fortunately but little
wind, and the heavy downpour prevented the flames from spreading. In
this we stood, scarcely heeding it in the excitement of the hour. After
a few moments I hastened to assure my trembling wife and crying
children that the rain made the house perfectly safe, and that they
were in no danger at all. Then I called to the neighbors to come and
stand under the porch-roof.

From this point we could see the great pyramid of fire and smoke
ascending into the black sky. The rain-drops glittered like fiery hail
in the intense light and the still vivid flashes from the clouds.

"This is hard luck, neighbor Durham," said Mr. Jones, with a long
breath.

"My wife and children are safe," I replied, quietly.

Then we heard the horse neighing and tugging at his halter. Bagley had
the good sense and will to jerk off his coat, tie it around the
animal's eyes, and lead him to a distance from the fatal fascination of
the flames.

In a very brief space of time the whole structure, with my summer crop
of hay, gathered with so much labor, sunk down into glowing, hissing
embers. I was glad to have the ordeal over, and to be relieved from
fear that the wind would rise again. Now I was assured of the extent of
our loss, as well as of its certainty.

"Well, well," said the warm-hearted and impulsive Rollins, "when you
are ready to build again, your neighbors will give you a lift. By
converting Bagley into a decent fellow, you've made all our barns
safer, and we owe you a good turn. He was worse than lightning."

I expressed my thanks, adding, "This isn't as bad as you think; I'm
insured."

"Well, now, that's sensible," said Mr. Jones. "I'll sleep better for
that fact, and so will you, Robert Durham. You'll make a go of it here
yet."

"I'm not in the least discouraged," I answered; "far worse things might
have happened. I've noticed in my paper that a good many barns have
been struck this summer, so my experience is not unusual. The only
thing to do is to meet such things patiently and make the best of them.
As long as the family is safe and well, outside matters can be
remedied. Thank you, Bagley," I continued, addressing him, as he now
led forward the horse. "You had your wits about you. Old Bay will have
to stand under the shed to-night."

"Well, Mr. Durham, the harness is still on him, all 'cept the
head-stall; and he's quiet now."

"Yes," I replied, "in our haste we didn't throw off the harness before
the shower, and it has turned out very well."

"Tell ye what it is, neighbors," said practical Mr. Jones; "'tisn't too
late for Mr. Durham to sow a big lot of fodder corn, and that's about
as good as hay. We'll turn to and help him get some in."

This was agreed to heartily, and one after another they wrung my hand
and departed, Bagley jogging in a companionable way down the road with
Rollins, whose chickens he had stolen, but had already paid for.

I looked after them and thought: "Thank Heaven I have not lost my barn
as some thought I might at one time! As Rollins suggested, I'd rather
take my chances with the lightning than with a vicious neighbor. Bagley
acted the part of a good friend to-night."

Then, seeing that we could do nothing more, Merton and I entered the
house.

I clapped the boy on the shoulder as I said: "You acted like a man in
the emergency, and I'm proud of you. The bringing out a young fellow
strong is almost worth the cost of a barn."

My wife came and put her arm around my neck and said:

"You bear up bravely, Robert, but I fear you are discouraged at heart.
To think of such a loss, just as we were getting started!" and there
were tears in her eyes.

"Yes," I replied, "it will be a heavy loss for us, and a great
inconvenience, but it might have been so much worse! All sit down and
I'll tell you something. You see my training in business led me to
think of the importance of insurance, and to know the best companies.
As soon as the property became yours, Winifred, I insured the buildings
for nearly all they were worth. The hay and the things in the barn at
the time will prove a total loss; but it is a loss that we can stand
and make good largely before winter. I tell you honestly that we have
no reason to be discouraged. We shall soon have a better barn than the
one lost; for, by good planning, a better one can be built for the
money that I shall receive. So we will thank God that we are all safe
ourselves, and go quietly to sleep."

With the passing of the storm, the children had become quiet, and soon
we lost in slumber all thought of danger and loss.

In the morning the absence of the barn made a great gap in our familiar
outlook, and brought many and serious thoughts; but with the light came
renewed hopefulness. All the scene was flooded with glorious sunlight,
and only the blackened ruins made the frightful storm of the previous
evening seem possible. Nearly all the chickens came at Winnie's call,
looking draggled and forlorn indeed, but practically unharmed, and
ready to resume their wonted cheerfulness after an hour in the
sunshine. We fitted up for them the old coop in the orchard, and a part
of the ancient and dilapidated barn which was to have been used for
corn-stalks only. The drenching rain had saved this and the adjoining
shed from destruction, and now in our great emergency they proved
useful indeed.

The trees around the site of the barn were blackened, and their foliage
was burned to a crisp. Within the stone foundations the smoke from the
still smouldering debris rose sluggishly.

I turned away from it all, saying: "Let us worry no more over that
spilled milk. Fortunately the greater part of our crates and baskets
were under the shed. Take the children, Merton, and pick over the
raspberry patches carefully once more, while I go to work in the
garden. That has been helped rather than injured by the storm, and, if
we will take care of it, will give us plenty of food for winter. Work
there will revive my spirits."

The ground was too wet for the use of the hoe, but there was plenty of
weeding to be done, while I answered the questions of neighbors who
came to offer their sympathy. I also looked around to see what could be
sold, feeling the need of securing every dollar possible. I found much
that was hopeful and promising. The Lima-bean vines had covered the
poles, and toward their base the pods were filling out. The ears on our
early corn were fit to pull; the beets and onions had attained a good
size; the early peas had given place to turnips, winter cabbages, and
celery; there were plenty of green melons on the vines, and more
cucumbers than we could use. The remaining pods on the first planting
of bush-beans were too mature for use, and I resolved to let them stand
till sufficiently dry to be gathered and spread in the attic. All that
we had planted had done, or was doing, fairly well, for the season had
been moist enough to ensure a good growth. We had been using new
potatoes since the first of the month, and now the vines were so yellow
that all in the garden could be dug at once and sold. They would bring
in some ready money, and I learned from my garden book that
strap-leaved turnips, sown on the cleared spaces, would have time to
mature.

After all, my strawberry beds gave me the most hope. There were
hundreds of young plants already rooted, and still more lying loosely
on the ground; so I spent the greater part of the morning in weeding
these out and pressing the young plants on the ends of the runners into
the moist soil, having learned that with such treatment they form roots
and become established in a very few days.

After dinner Mr. Jones appeared with his team and heavy plow, and we
selected an acre of upland meadow where the sod was light and thin.

"This will give a fair growth of young corn-leaves," he said, "by the
middle of September. By that time you'll have a new barn up, I s'pose;
and after you have cut and dried the corn, you can put a little of it
into the mows in place of the hay. The greater part will keep better if
stacked out-doors. A horse will thrive on such fodder almost as well as
a cow, 'specially if ye cut it up and mix a little bran-meal with it.
We'll sow the corn in drills a foot apart, and you can spread a little
manure over the top of the ground after the seed is in. This ground is
a trifle thin; a top-dressin' will help it 'mazin'ly."

Merton succeeded in getting several crates of raspberries, but said
that two or three more pickings would finish them. Since the time we
had begun to go daily to the landing, we had sent the surplus of our
vegetables to a village store, with the understanding that we would
trade out the proceeds. We thus had accumulated a little balance in our
favor, which we could draw against in groceries, etc.

On the evening of this day I took the crates to the landing, and found
a purchaser for my garden potatoes, at a dollar a bushel. I also made
arrangements at a summer boarding-house, whose proprietor agreed to
take the largest of our spring chickens, our sweet corn, tomatoes, and
some other vegetables, as we had them to spare. Now that our income
from raspberries was about to cease, it was essential to make the most
of everything else on the place that would bring money, even if we had
to deny ourselves. It would not do for us to say, "We can use this or
that ourselves." The question to be decided was, whether, if such a
thing were sold, the proceeds would not go further toward our support
than the things themselves. If this should be true of sweet corn,
Lima-beans, and even the melons on which the children had set their
hearts, we must be chary of consuming them ourselves. This I explained
in such a way that all except Bobsey saw the wisdom of it, or, rather,
the necessity. As yet, Bobsey's tendencies were those of a consumer,
and not of a producer or saver.

Rollins and one or two others came the next day, and with Bagley's help
the corn was soon in the ground.

Then I set Bagley to work with the cart spreading upon the soil the
barn-yard compost that had accumulated since spring. There was not
enough to cover all the ground, but that I could not help. The large
pile of compost that I had made near the poultry-house door could not
be spared for this purpose, since it was destined for my August
planting of strawberries.

Perhaps I may as well explain about these compost heaps now as at any
other time. I had watched their rapid growth with great satisfaction.
Some may dislike such homely details, but since the success of the farm
and garden depend on them I shall not pass them over, leaving the
fastidious reader to do this for himself.

It will be remembered that I had sought to prepare myself for country
life by much reading and study during the previous winter. I had early
been impressed with the importance of obtaining and saving everything
that would enrich the soil, and had been shown that increasing the
manure-pile was the surest way to add to one's bank account. Therefore
all rakings of leaves had been saved. At odd times Merton and I had
gone down to the creek with the cart and dug a quantity of rich black
earth from near its bank. One pile of this material had been placed
near the stable door, and another at the entrance to the poultry-room
in the basement of our vanished barn. The cleanings of the horse-stable
had been spread over a layer of this black soil. When the layer of such
cleanings was about a foot thick, spread evenly, another layer of earth
covered all from sun and rain. Thus I had secured a pile of compost
which nearly top-dressed an acre for fodder corn.

In the poultry-room we managed in this fashion. A foot of raked-up
leaves and rich earth was placed under the perches of the fowls. Every
two or three weeks this layer was shovelled out and mixed thoroughly,
and was replaced by a new layer. As a result I had, by the 1st of
August, a large heap of fertilizer almost as good as guano, and much
safer to use, for I had read that unless the latter was carefully
managed it would burn vegetation like fire. I believe that this
compost-heap by the poultry-room window would give my young strawberry
plantation a fine start, and, as has been shown, we were making great
calculations on the future fruit.

I also resolved that the burning of the barn should add to our success
in this direction. All the books said that there was nothing better for
strawberries than wood ashes, and of these there was a great heap
within the foundations of the destroyed building. At one time I
proposed to shovel out these ashes and mix them with the compost, but
fortunately I first consulted my book on fertilizers, and read there
that this would not do at all--that they should be used separately.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

AUGUST WORK AND PLAY


I was now eager to begin the setting of the strawberry plants in the
field where we had put potatoes, but the recent heavy shower had kept
the latter still green and growing. During the first week in August,
however, I found that the tubers had attained a good size, and I began
to dig long rows on the upper side of the patch, selling in the village
three or four barrels of potatoes a week for immediate use. By this
course I soon had space enough cleared for ten rows of strawberries;
and on the 6th of August Mr. Jones came and plowed the land deeply,
going twice in a furrow. Then I harrowed the ground, and, with a
corn-plow, marked out the space with shallow furrows three feet apart.
Through five of these furrows Merton sprinkled a good dressing of the
poultry compost, and in the remaining five drills we scattered wood
ashes. Thus we should learn the comparative value of these fertilizers.
Then I made a rude tray with two handles, so that it could be carried
between Merton and myself. When the sun declined, we went to the
strawberry bed, and having selected the Duchess variety to set out
first, soaked with water a certain portion of the ground that was thick
with plants. Half an hour later, we could dig up these plants with a
ball of earth attached to their roots. These were carried carefully on
the tray to the field, and set out in the furrows. We levelled the
ground first, so that the crown of the plant should be even with the
surrounding surface. We set the plants a foot apart in the rows, and by
dusk had three rows out. Early the next morning we gave these plants a
good soaking in their new starting place, and, although the weather was
now dry and warm, not a leaf withered, and all began to grow as if they
had not been moved. It seemed slow work, but I believed it would pay in
the end, especially as Merton, Winnie, and I performed nearly all the
labor.

We had now dispensed with Bagley's services, a good word from me having
secured him work elsewhere. I found that I could not make arrangements
for rebuilding the barn before the last of August, and we now began to
take a little much-needed rest. Our noonings were two or three hours
long. Merton and Junior had time for a good swim every day, while the
younger children were never weary of wading in the shallows. I
insisted, however, that they should not remain long in the water on any
one occasion, and now and then we each took a grain or two of quinine
to fortify our systems against any malarial influences that might be
lurking around at this season.

The children were also permitted to make expeditions to mountain-sides
for huckleberries and blackberries. As a result, we often had these
wholesome fruits on the table, while my wife canned the surplus for
winter use. A harvest apple tree also began to be one of the most
popular resorts, and delicious pies made the dinner-hour more welcome
than ever. The greater part of the apples were sold, however, and this
was true also of the Lima-beans, sweet corn, and melons. We all voted
that the smaller ears and melons tasted just as good as if we had
picked out the best of everything, and my account-book showed that our
income was still running well ahead of our expenses.

Bobsey and Winnie had to receive another touch of discipline and learn
another lesson from experience. I had marked with my eye a very large,
perfect musk-melon, and had decided that it should be kept for seed.
They, too, had marked it; and one morning, when they thought themselves
unobserved, they carried it off to the seclusion of the raspberry
bushes, proposing a selfish feast by themselves.

Merton caught a glimpse of the little marauders, and followed them.
They cut the melon in two, and found it green and tasteless as a
pumpkin. He made me laugh as he described their dismay and disgust,
then their fears and forebodings. The latter were soon realized; for
seeing me in the distance, he beckoned. As I approached, the children
stole out of the bushes, looking very guilty.

Merton explained, and I said: "Very well, you shall have your melon for
dinner, and little else. I intend you shall enjoy this melon fully. So
sit down under that tree and each of you hold half the melon till I
release you. You have already learned that you can feast your eyes
only."

There they were kept, hour after hour, each holding half of the green
melon. The dinner-bell rang, and they knew that we had ripe melons and
green corn; while nothing was given them but bread and water. Bobsey
howled, and Winnie sobbed, but my wife and I agreed that such
tendencies toward dishonesty and selfishness merited a lasting lesson.
At supper the two culprits were as hungry as little wolves; and when I
explained that the big melon had been kept for seed, and that if it had
been left to ripen they should have had their share, they felt that
they had cheated themselves completely.

"Don't you see, children," I concluded, "that acting on the square is
not only right, but that it is always best for us in the end?"

Then I asked, "Merton, what have the Bagley children been doing since
they stopped picking raspberries for us?"

"I'm told they've been gathering blackberries and huckleberries in the
mountains, and selling them."

"That's promising. Now I want you to pick out a good-sized water-melon
and half a dozen musk-melons, and I'll leave them at Bagley's cottage
to-morrow night as I go down to the village. In old times they would
have stolen our crop; now they shall share in it."

When I carried the present on the following evening, the children
indulged in uncouth cries and gambols over the gift, and Bagley himself
was touched.

"I'll own up ter yer," he said, "that yer melon patch was sore temptin'
to the young uns, but I tole 'em that I'd thrash 'em if they teched
one. Now yer see, youngsters, ye've got a man of feelin' ter deal with,
and yer've got some melons arter all, and got 'em squar', too."

"I hear good accounts of you and your children," I said, "and I'm glad
of it. Save the seeds of these melons and plant a lot for yourself. See
here, Bagley, we'll plow your garden for you this fall, and you can put
a better fence around it. If you'll do this, I'll share my garden seeds
with you next spring, and you can raise enough on that patch of ground
to half feed your family."

"I'll take yer up," cried the man, "and there's my hand on it ag'in."

"God bless you and Mrs. Durham!" added his wife "We're now beginning to
live like human critters."

I resumed my journey to the village, feeling that never before had
melons been better invested.

The Moodna Creek had now become very low, and not more than half its
stony bed was covered with water. At many points, light, active feet
could find their way across and not be wet. Junior now had a project on
hand, of which he and Merton had often spoken lately. A holiday was
given to the boys and they went to work to construct an eel weir and
trap. With trousers well rolled up, they selected a point on one side
of the creek where the water was deepest, and here they left an open
passage-way for the current. On each side of this they began to roll
large stones, and on these placed smaller ones, raising two long
obstructions to the natural flow. These continuous obstructions ran
obliquely up-stream, directing the main current to the open passage,
which was only about two feet wide, with a post on either side,
narrowing it still more. In this they placed the trap, a long box made
of lath, sufficiently open to let the water run through it, and having
a peculiar opening at the upper end where the current began to rush
down the narrow passage-way. The box rested closely on the gravelly
bottom, and was fastened to the posts. Short, close-fitting slats from
the bottom and top of the box, at its upper end, sloped inward, till
they made a narrow opening. All its other parts were eel-tight. The
eels coming down with the current which had been directed toward the
entrance of the box, as has been explained, passed into it, and there
they would remain. They never had the wit to find the narrow aperture
by which they had entered. This turned out to be useful sport, for
every morning the boys lifted their trap and took out a goodly number
of eels; and when the squirmers were nicely dressed and browned, they
proved delicious morsels.



CHAPTER XXXIX

A TRIP TO THE SEASHORE


In the comparative leisure which the children enjoyed during August,
they felt amply repaid for the toil of the previous months. We also
managed to secure two great gala-days. The first was spent in a trip to
the seashore; and this was a momentous event, marred by only one slight
drawback. The "Mary Powell," a swift steamer, touched every morning at
the Maizeville Landing. I learned that, from its wharf, in New York,
another steamer started for Coney Island, and came back in time for us
to return on the "Powell" at 3.30 P.M. Thus we could secure a
delightful sail down the river and bay, and also have several hours on
the beach. My wife and I talked over this little outing, and found that
if we took our lunch with us, it would be inexpensive. I saw Mr. Jones,
and induced him and his wife, with Junior, to join us. Then the
children were told of our plan, and their hurrahs made the old house
ring. Now that we were in for it, we proposed no half-way measures.
Four plump spring chickens were killed and roasted, and to these were
added so many ham sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, that I declared that
we were provisioned for a week. My wife nodded at Bobsey, and said,
"Wait and see!"

Whom do you think we employed to mount guard during our absence? No
other than Bagley. Mr. Jones said that it was like asking a wolf to
guard the flock, for his prejudices yielded slowly; but I felt sure
that this proof of trust would do the man more good than a dozen
sermons.

Indeed, he did seem wonderfully pleased with his task, and said, "Ye'll
find I've 'arned my dollar when ye git back."

The children scarcely slept in their glad anticipation, and were up
with the sun. Mr. and Mrs. Jones drove down in their light wagon, while
Junior joined our children in another straw-ride, packed in between the
lunch-baskets. We had ample time after reaching the landing to put our
horses and vehicles in a safe place, and then we watched for the
"Powell." Soon we saw her approaching Newtown, four miles above, then
speeding toward the wharf, and rounding into it, with the ease and
grace of a swan. We scrambled aboard, smiled at by all. I suppose we
did not form, with our lunch-baskets, a very stylish group, but that
was the least of our troubles. I am satisfied that none of the elegant
people we brushed against were half so happy as we were.

We stowed away our baskets and then gave ourselves up to the enjoyment
of the lovely Highland scenery, and to watching the various kinds of
craft that we were constantly passing. Winnie and Bobsey had been
placed under bonds for good behavior, and were given to understand that
they must exercise the grace of keeping moderately still. The sail down
the river and bay was a long, grateful rest to us older people, and I
saw with pleasure that my wife was enjoying every moment, and that the
fresh salt breeze was fanning color into her cheeks. Plump Mrs. Jones
dozed and smiled, and wondered at the objects we passed, for she had
never been much of a traveller; while her husband's shrewd eyes took in
everything, and he often made us laugh by his quaint remarks. Junior
and Merton were as alert as hawks. They early made the acquaintance of
deck-hands who good-naturedly answered their numerous questions. I took
the younger children on occasional exploring expeditions, but never
allowed them to go beyond my reach, for I soon learned that Bobsey's
promises sat lightly on his conscience.

At last we reached the great Iron Pier at Coney Island, which we all
traversed with wondering eyes.

We established ourselves in a large pavilion, fitted up for just such
picnic parties as ours. Beneath us stretched the sandy beach. We
elderly people were glad enough to sit down and rest, but the children
forgot even the lunch-baskets, so eager were they to run upon the sand
in search of shells.

All went well until an unusually high wave came rolling in. The
children scrambled out of its way, with the exception of Bobsey, who
was caught and tumbled over, and lay kicking in the white foam. In a
moment I sprang down the steps, picked him up, and bore him to his
mother.

He was wet through; and now what was to be done?

After inquiry and consultation, I found that I could procure for him a
little bathing-dress which would answer during the heat of the day, and
an old colored woman promised to have his clothing dry in an hour. So
the one cloud on our pleasure proved to have a very bright lining, for
Bobsey, since he was no longer afraid of the water, could roll in the
sand and the gentle surf to his heart's content.

Having devoured a few sandwiches to keep up our courage, we all
procured bathing-dresses, even Mrs. Jones having been laughingly
compelled by her husband to follow the general example. When we all
gathered in the passage-way leading to the water, we were convulsed
with laughter at our ridiculous appearance; but there were so many
others in like plight that we were scarcely noticed. Mrs. Jones's dress
was a trifle small, and her husband's immensely large. He remarked that
if we could now take a stroll through Maizeville, there wouldn't be a
crow left in town.

Mrs. Jones could not be induced to go beyond a point where the water
was a foot or two deep, and the waves rolled her around like an amiable
porpoise. Merton and Junior were soon swimming fearlessly, the latter
wondering, meanwhile, at the buoyant quality of the salt water. My
wife, Mousie, and Winnie allowed me to take them beyond the breakers,
and soon grew confident. In fifteen minutes I sounded recall, and we
all emerged, lank Mr. Jones now making, in very truth, an ideal
scarecrow. Bobsey's dry garments were brought, and half an hour later
we were all clothed, and, as Mr. Jones remarked, "For a wonder, in our
right minds."

The onslaught then made on the lunch-baskets was never surpassed, even
at that place of hungry excursionists. In due time we reached home,
tired, sleepy, yet content with the fact that we had filled one day
with enjoyment and added to our stock of health.

The next morning proved that Bagley had kept his word. Everything was
in order, and the amount of work accomplished in the garden showed that
he had been on his mettle. Hungry as we had been, we had not emptied
our lunch-baskets, and my wife made up a nice little present from what
remained, to which was added a package of candy, and all was carried to
the Bagley cottage.

Juvenile experiences had not exactly taught the Bagley children that
"the way of the transgressor is hard,"--they had not gone far enough
for that,--and it certainly was our duty to add such flowers as we
could to the paths of virtue.

The month of August was now well advanced. We had been steadily digging
the potatoes in the field and selling them in their unripened
condition, until half the acre had been cleared. The vines in the lower
half of the patch were now growing very yellow, and I decided to leave
them, until the tubers should thoroughly ripen, for winter use. By the
20th of the month we had all the space that had been cleared, that is,
half an acre, filled with Duchess and Wilson strawberries; and the
plants first set were green and vigorous, with renewed running
tendencies. But the runners were promptly cut off, so that the plants
might grow strong enough to give a good crop of fruit in the following
June.

I now began to tighten the reins on the children, and we all devoted
more hours to work.

During the month we gathered a few bushels of plums on the place. My
wife preserved some, and the rest were sold at the boarding-houses and
village stores, for Mr. Bogart had written that when I could find a
home market for small quantities of produce, it would pay me better
than to send them to the city. I kept myself informed as to city
prices, and found that he had given me good and disinterested advice.
Therefore, we managed to dispose of our small crop of early pears and
peaches as we had done with the plums. Every day convinced me of the
wisdom of buying a place already stocked with fruit; for, although the
first cost was greater, we had immediately secured an income which
promised to leave a margin of profit after meeting all expenses.

During the last week of August the potatoes were fully ripe, and
Merton, Winnie, Bobsey, and I worked manfully, sorting the large from
the small, as they were gathered. The crop turned out very well,
especially on the lower side of the field, where the ground had been
rather richer and moister than in the upper portion.

I did not permit Merton to dig continuously, as it was hard work for
him; but he seemed to enjoy throwing out the great, smooth,
white-coated fellows, and they made a pretty sight as they lay in thick
rows behind us, drying, for a brief time, in the sun. They were picked
up, put into barrels, drawn to the dry, cool shed, and well covered
from the light. Mr. Jones had told me that as soon as potatoes had
dried off after digging, they ought to be kept in the dark, since too
much light makes them tough and bitter. Now that they were ripe, it was
important that they should be dug promptly, for I had read that a warm
rain is apt to start the new potatoes to growing, and this spoils them
for table use.

So I said: "We will stick to this task until it is finished, and then
we shall have another outing. I am almost ready to begin rebuilding the
barn; but before I do so, I wish to visit Houghton Farm, and shall take
you all with me. I may obtain some ideas which will be useful, even in
my small outlay of money."



CHAPTER XL

A VISIT TO HOUGHTON FARM


Houghton Farm, distant a few miles, is a magnificent estate of about
one thousand acres, and the outbuildings upon it are princely in
comparison with anything I could erect. They had been constructed,
however, on practical and scientific principles, and I hoped that a
visit might suggest to me some useful points. Sound principles might be
applied, in a modest way, to even such a structure as would come within
my means. At any rate, a visit to such a farm would be full of interest
and pleasure. So we dug away at the potatoes, and worked like ants in
gathering them, until we had nearly a hundred bushels stored. As they
were only fifty cents a bushel, I resolved to keep them until the
following winter and spring, when I might need money more than at
present, and also get better prices.

Then, one bright day toward the end of August, we all started, after an
early dinner, for the farm, Junior going with us as usual. We had been
told that the large-minded and liberal owner of this model farm
welcomed visitors, and so we had no doubts as to our reception. Nor
were we disappointed when, having skirted broad, rich fields for some
distance, we turned to the right down a long, wide lane, bordered by
beautiful shrubbery, and leading to the great buildings, which were
numbered conspicuously. We were courteously met by Major Alvord, the
agent in charge of the entire estate. I explained the object of my
visit, and he kindly gave us a few moments, showing us through the
different barns and stables. Our eyes grew large with wonder as we saw
the complete appliances for carrying on an immense stock-farm. The
summer crops had been gathered, and we exclaimed at the hundreds of
tons of hay, fodder, and straw stored in the mows.

"We use a ton of hay daily, after the pasture season is over," remarked
our guide.

When we came to look at the sleek Jersey cows and calves, with their
fawn-like faces, our admiration knew no bounds. We examined the stalls
in which could stand thirty-four cows. Over each was the name of the
occupant, all blood animals of the purest breed, with a pedigree which
might put to shame many newly rich people displaying coats-of-arms. The
children went into ecstasies over the pretty, innocent faces of the
Jersey calves, and Mousie said they were "nice enough to kiss." Then we
were shown the great, thick-necked, black-headed Jersey bull, and could
scarcely believe our ears when told that he, his mother, and six
brothers represented values amounting to about a hundred thousand
dollars.

We next visited a great Norman mare, as big as two ordinary horses, and
the large, clumsy colt at her side; then admired beautiful stallions
with fiery eyes and arching necks; also the superb carriage-horses, and
the sleek, strong work animals. Their stalls were finely finished in
Georgia pine. Soon afterward, Bobsey went wild over the fat little
Essex pigs, black as coals, but making the whitest and sweetest of pork.

"Possess your soul in patience, Bobsey," I said. "With our barn, I am
going to make a sty, and then we will have some pigs."

I had had no good place for them thus far, and felt that we had
attempted enough for beginners. Moreover, I could not endure to keep
pigs in the muddy pens in ordinary use, feeling that we could never eat
the pork produced under such conditions.

The milk-house and dairy were examined, and we thought of the oceans of
milk that had passed through them.

A visit to "Crusoe Island" entertained the children more than anything
else. A mountain stream had been dammed so as to make an island. On the
surrounding waters were fleets of water-fowl, ducks and geese of
various breeds, and, chief in interest, a flock of Canada wild-geese,
domesticated. Here we could look closely at these great wild migrants
that, spring and fall, pass and repass high up in the sky, in flocks,
flying in the form of a harrow or the two sides of a triangle,
meanwhile sending out cries that, in the distance, sound strange and
weird.

Leaving my wife and children admiring these birds and their rustic
houses on the island, I went with Major Alvord to his offices, and saw
the fine scientific appliances for carrying on agricultural experiments
designed to extend the range of accurate and practical knowledge. Not
only was the great farm planted and reaped, blood stock grown and
improved by careful breeding, but, accompanying all this labor, was
maintained a careful system of experiments tending to develop and
establish that supreme science--the successful culture of the soil.
Major Alvord evidently deserved his reputation for doing the work
thoroughly and intelligently, and I was glad to think that there were
men in the land, like the proprietor of Houghton Farm, who are willing
to spend thousands annually in enriching the rural classes by bringing
within their reach the knowledge that is power.

After a visit to the sheep and poultry departments, each occupying a
large farm by itself, we felt that we had seen much to think and talk
over.

It was hard to get Winnie away from the poultry-houses and yards, where
each celebrated breed was kept scrupulously by itself. There were a
thousand hens, besides innumerable young chickens. We were also shown
incubators, which, in spring, hatch little chickens by hundreds.

"Think of fifteen hundred eggs at a sitting, Winnie!" I cried; "that's
quite a contrast to the number that you put under one of your biddies
at home."

"I don't care," replied the child; "we've raised over a hundred
chickens since we began."

"Yes, indeed," I said. "That for you--for you have seen to it all
chiefly--is a greater success than anything here."

I was thoughtful as we drove home, and at last my wife held out a penny.

"No," I said, laughing; "my thoughts shall not cost you even that. What
I have seen to-day has made clearer what I have believed before. There
are two distinct ways of securing success in outdoor work. One is ours,
and the other is after the plan of Houghton Farm. Ours is the only one
possible for us--that of working a small place and performing the
labor, as far as possible, ourselves. If I had played 'boss,' as Bagley
sometimes calls me, and hired the labor which we have done ourselves,
the children meanwhile idle, we should soon come to a disastrous end in
our country experiment. The fact that we have all worked hard, and
wisely, too, in the main, and have employed extra help only when there
was more than we could do, will explain our account-book; that is, the
balance in our favor. I believe that one of the chief causes of failure
on the part of people in our circumstances is, that they employ help to
do what they should have done themselves, and that it doesn't and can't
pay small farmers and fruit-growers to attempt much beyond what they
can take care of, most of the year, with their own hands. Then there's
the other method--that of large capital carrying things on as we have
seen to-day. The farm then becomes like a great factory or mercantile
house. There must be at the head of everything a large organizing brain
capable of introducing and enforcing thorough system, and of skilfully
directing labor and investment, so as to secure the most from the least
outlay. A farm such as we have just seen would be like a bottomless pit
for money in bungling, careless hands."

"I'm content with our own little place and modest ways," said my wife.
"I never wish our affairs to grow so large that we can't talk them over
every night, if so inclined."

"Well," I replied, "I feel as you do. I never should have made a great
merchant in town, and I am content to be a small farmer in the country,
sailing close to shore in snug canvas, with no danger of sudden wreck
keeping me awake nights. The insurance money will be available in a few
days, and we shall begin building at once."

The next day Merton and I cleared away the rest of the debris in and
around the foundations of the barn, and before night the first load of
lumber arrived from the carpenter who had taken the contract.

This forerunner of bustling workmen, and all the mystery of fashioning
crude material into something looking like the plan over which we had
all pored so often, was more interesting to the children than the
construction of Solomon's temple.

"To-morrow the stone-masons come," I said at supper, "and by October we
are promised a new barn."



CHAPTER XLI

HOARDING FOR WINTER


As was stated early in this simple history the original barn was built
on a hillside, the rear facing the southeast; and since the foundations
were still in a fair condition, and the site was convenient, I
determined to build on the same spot, somewhat modifying the old plan.
I had read of the importance of keeping manure under cover, and now
arranged that by a trap door the cleanings of the horse and cow stable
should be thrown into the basement, which, by a solid brick partition,
should be so divided as to leave ample room for a dark cellar in which
to store roots and apples. Through this trap door in the stable rich
earth and muck from the banks of the creek could be thrown down also,
covering the manure, and all could be worked over and mixed on rainy
days. By this method I could make the most of my fertilizers, which may
be regarded as the driving-wheel of the farm.

I had decided that the poultry-house and pigsty should form an
extension to the barn, and that both should be built in the side of the
bank also. They would thus have an exposure to the south, and at the
same time, being formed in part by an excavation, would be cool in
summer. The floor of the sty should have a slight downward slope, and
be cemented. Therefore it could be kept perfectly clean. This residence
of Bobsey's future pets should be at the extreme end of the extension,
and above it should be a room in which I could store picked-up apples,
corn, and other food adapted to their needs, also a conduit by which
swill could be poured into the trough below without the necessity of
entering the pen. I proposed to keep only two or three pigs at a time,
buying them when young from neighboring farmers, and fattening them for
our own use according to my own ideas.

The poultry-house, between the barn and sty, was to be built so that
its side, facing the south, should be chiefly of glass. It was so
constructed as to secure the greatest amount of light and warmth. Eggs
in winter form the most profitable item in poultry keeping, and these
depend on warmth, food, shelter, and cleanliness, with the essential
condition that the hens are young. All the pullets of Winnie's early
broods therefore had been kept, and only the young cockerels eaten or
sold. We had the prospect of wintering about fifty laying hens; and the
small potatoes we had saved would form a large portion of their food.
Indeed, for some weeks back, such small tubers, boiled and mashed with
meal, had formed the main feed of our growing chickens.

I learned that Bagley was out of work, and employed him to excavate the
bank for these new buildings. We saved the surface earth carefully for
compost purposes, and then struck some clean, nice gravel, which was
carted away to a convenient place for our roads and walks. On a
hillside near the creek were large stones and rocks in great quantity,
and some of these were broken up for the foundations. Along the edge of
the creek we also found some excellent sand, and therefore were saved
not a little expense in starting our improvements.

It did not take the masons long to point up and strengthen the old
foundations, and early in September everything was under full headway,
the sound of hammer, saw, and plane resounding all day long. It was
Winnie's and Bobsey's task to gather up the shavings and refuse bits of
lumber, and carry them to the woodhouse.

"The ease and quickness with which we can build fires next winter," I
said, "is a pleasant thing to think of."

Meanwhile the garden was not neglected. The early flight of
summer-boarders had greatly reduced the demand for vegetables, and now
we began to hoard them for our own use. The Lima-beans were allowed to
dry on the vines; the matured pods of the bush-beans were spread in the
attic; thither also the ripened onions were brought and placed in
shallow boxes. As far as possible we had saved our own seed, and I had
had a box made and covered with tin, so as to be mouse-proof, and in
this we placed the different varieties, carefully labelled. Although it
was not "apple year," a number of our trees were in bearing. The best
of the windfalls were picked up, and, with the tomatoes and such other
vegetables as were in demand, sent to the village twice a week. As fast
as crops matured, the ground was cleared, and the refuse, such as
contained no injurious seeds, was saved as a winter covering for the
strawberry plants.

Our main labor, however, after digging the rest of the potatoes, was
the setting of the remaining half-acre in the later varieties of the
strawberry. Although the early part of September was very dry and warm,
we managed to set out, in the manner I have described, two or three
rows nearly every afternoon. The nights had now grown so long and cool
that one thorough watering seemed to establish the plants. This was due
chiefly to the fact that nearly every plant had a ball of earth
attached to the roots, and had never been allowed to wilt at all in the
transition. About the middle of the month there came a fine rain, and
we filled the remainder of the ground in one day, all the children
aiding me in the task. The plants first set out were now strong and
flourishing. Each had a bunch of foliage six inches in diameter.

Thus, with helping on the new barn and other work, September saw a
renewal of our early-summer activity.

"The winds in the trees are whispering of winter," I said to the
children, "and all thrifty creatures--ants, bees, and squirrels--are
laying up their stores. So must we."

I had watched our maturing corn with great satisfaction. For a long
time Merton had been able to walk through it without his straw hat
being seen above the nodding tassels. One day, about the 20th of the
month, Mr. Jones came over with some bundles of long rye straw in his
wagon, and said, "Yer can't guess what these are fer."

"Some useful purpose, or you wouldn't have brought them," I replied.

"We'll see. Come with me to the corn patch."

As we started he took a bundle under his arm, and I saw that he had in
his hand a tool called a corn-knife. Going through the rows he
occasionally stripped down the husks from an ear.

Finally he said: "Yes, it's ready. Don't yer see that the kernels are
plump and glazed? Junior and I are going to tackle our corn ter-morrow,
and says I to myself, 'If ourn is ready to cut, so is neighbor
Durham's,' The sooner it's cut after it's ready, the better. The stalks
are worth more for fodder, and you run no risk from an early frost,
which would spile it all. You and Merton pitch in as yer allers do, and
this is the way ter do it."

With his left hand gathering the stalks of a hill together above the
ears, he cut them all olf with one blow of the corn-knife within six
inches of the ground, and then leaned them against the stalks of an
uncut hill. This he continued to do until he had made what he called a
"stout," or a bunch of stalks as large as he could conveniently reach
around, the uncut hill of stalks forming a support in the centre. Then
he took a wisp of the rye-straw, divided it evenly, and putting the
ends together, twisted it speedily into a sort of rope. With this he
bound the stout tightly above the ears by a simple method which one
showing made plain to me.

"Well, you are a good neighbor!" I exclaimed.

"Pshaw! What does this amount to? If a man can't do a good turn when it
costs as little as this, he's a mighty mean feller. You forget that
I've sold you a lot of rye-straw, and so have the best of yer after
all."

"I don't forget anything, Mr. Jones. As you say, I believe we shall
'make a go' of it here, but we always remember how much we owe to you
and Junior. You've taken my money in a way that saved my self-respect,
and made me feel that I could go to you as often as I wished; but you
have never taken advantage of me, and you have kept smart people from
doing it. Do you know, Mr. Jones, that in every country village there
are keen, weasel-like people who encourage new-comers by bleeding their
pocket-books at every chance? In securing you as a neighbor our battle
was half won, for no one needs a good practical friend more than a city
man beginning life in the country."

"Jerusalem! how you talk! I'm goin' right home and tell my wife to call
me Saint Jones. Then I'll get a tin halo and wear it, for my straw hat
is about played out;" and away he went, chuckling over his odd
conceits, but pleased, as all men are, when their goodwill is
appreciated. If there is one kind of meanness that disgusts average
human-nature more than another it is a selfish, unthankful reception of
kindness, a swinish return for pearls.

After an early supper I drove to the village with what I had to sell,
and returned with two corn-hooks. At dusk of the following day, Bagley
and I had the corn cut and tied up, my helper remarking more than once,
"Tell you what it is, Mr. Durham, there hain't a better eared-out patch
o' corn in Maizeville."

On the following day I helped Bagley sharpen one of the hooks, and we
began to cut the fodder-corn which now stood, green and succulent,
averaging two feet in height throughout the field.



CHAPTER XLII

AUTUMN WORK AND SPORT


The barn was now up, and the carpenters were roofing it in, while two
days more of work would complete the sty and poultry-house. Every
stroke of the hammer told rapidly now, and we all exulted over our new
and better appliances for carrying out our plan of country life. Since
the work was being done by contract, I contented myself with seeing
that it was done thoroughly. Meanwhile Merton was busy with the cart,
drawing rich earth from the banks of the creek. I determined that the
making of great piles of compost should form no small part of my fall
and winter labor. The proper use of fertilizers during the present
season had given such a marked increase to our crops that it became
clear that our best prospect of growing rich was in making the land
rich.

During the last week of September the nights were so cool as to suggest
frost, and I said to Mousie: "I think we had better take up your
geraniums and other window plants, and put them in pots or boxes. We
can then stand them under a tree which would shelter them from a slight
frost. Should there be serious danger it would take us only a few
minutes to bring them into the house. You have taken such good care of
them all summer that I do not intend that you shall lose them now. Take
your flower book and read what kind of soil they grow best in during
the winter, and then Merton can help you get it."

The child was all solicitude about her pets, and after dinner she and
Merton, the latter trundling a wheelbarrow, went down to the creek and
obtained a lot of fine sand and some leaf-mould from under the trees in
the woods. These ingredients we carefully mixed with rich soil from the
flower-bed and put the compound in the pots and boxes around the roots
of as many plants as there was room for on the table by the sunny
kitchen window. Having watered them thoroughly, we stood them under a
tree, there to remain until a certain sharpness in the air should warn
us to carry them to their winter quarters.

The Lima-beans, as fast as the pods grew dry, or even yellow, were
picked and spread in the attic. They could be shelled at our leisure on
stormy winter days.

Early in September my wife had begun to give Mousie, Winnie, and Bobsey
their lessons again. Since we were at some distance from a schoolhouse
we decided to continue this arrangement for the winter with the three
younger children. I felt that Merton should go to school as soon as
possible, but he pleaded hard for a reprieve until the last of October,
saying that he did not wish to begin before Junior. As we still had a
great deal to do, and as the boy had set his heart on some fall
shooting, I yielded, he promising to study all the harder when he began.

I added, however: "The evenings have grown so long that you can write
for half an hour after supper, and then we will review your arithmetic
together. It will do me good as well as you."

During the ensuing weeks we carried out this plan partially, but after
a busy day in the open air we were apt to nod over our tasks. We were
both taught the soundness of the principle that brain work should
precede physical exercise.

The 1st day of October was bright, clear, and mild, and we welcomed the
true beginning of fall in our latitude most gladly. This month competes
with May in its fitness for ideal country life. The children voted it
superior to all other months, feeling that a vista of unalloyed
delights was opening before them. Already the butternuts were falling
from several large trees on the place, and the burrs on the chestnuts
were plump with their well-shielded treasures. Winnie and Bobsey began
to gather these burrs from the lower limbs of an immense tree, eighteen
feet in circumference, and to stamp out the half-brown nuts within.

"One or two frosts will ripen them and open the burrs," I said, and
then the children began to long for the frost which I dreaded.

While I still kept the younger children busy for a few hours every
clear morning in the garden, and especially at clipping the runners
from the strawberry plants in the field, they were given ample time to
gather their winter hoards of nuts. This pursuit afforded them endless
items for talk, Bobsey modestly assuring us that he alone would gather
about a million bushels of butternuts, and almost as many chestnuts and
walnuts. "What will the squirrels do then?" I asked.

"They must do as I do," he cried; "pick up and carry off as fast as
they can. They'll have a better chance than me, too, for they can work
all day long. The little scamps are already taking the nuts off the
trees--I've seen 'em, and I wish Merton would shoot 'em all."

"Well, Merton," said I, laughing, "I suppose that squirrels are proper
game for you; but I hope that you and Junior won't shoot robins. They
are too useful a bird to kill, and I feel grateful for all the music
they've given us during the past summer. I know the law permits you to
shoot them now, but you and Junior should be more civilized than such a
law."

"If we don't get 'em, everybody else will, and we might as well have
our share," he replied.

I knew that there was no use in drawing the reins too tight, and so I
said: "I have a proposition to make to you and Junior. I'd like you
both to promise not to shoot robins except on the wing. That will teach
you to be expert and quick-eyed. A true sportsman is not one who tries
to kill as much game as possible, but to kill scientifically,
skilfully. There is more pleasure in giving your game a chance, and in
bringing it down with a fine long shot, than in slaughtering the poor
creatures like chickens in a coop. Anybody can shoot a robin, sitting
on a bough a few yards off, but to bring one down when in rapid flight
is the work of a sportsman. Never allow yourself to be known as a mere
'pot-hunter.' For my part, I had rather live on pork than on robins or
any useful birds."

He readily agreed not to fire at robins except when flying, and to
induce Junior to do likewise. I was satisfied that not many of my
little favorites would suffer.

"Very well," I said, "I'll coax Mr. Jones to let Junior off to-morrow,
and you can have the entire day to get your hands in. This evening you
can go down to the village and buy a stock of ammunition."

The boy went to his work happy and contented.

"Papa, where can we dry our butternuts?" Winnie asked.

"I'll fix a place on the roof of the shed right away," I said. "Its
slope is very gradual, and if I nail some slats on the lower side you
can spread the millions of bushels that you and Bobsey will gather."

Now Bobsey had a little wagon, and, having finished his morning stint
of work, he, with Mousie and Winnie, started off to the nearest
butternut-tree; and during the remainder of the day, with the exception
of the time devoted to lessons, loads came often to the shed, against
which I had left a ladder. By night they had at least one of the
million bushels spread and drying.

As they brought in their last load about five o'clock in the afternoon
I said to them, "Come and see what I've got."

I led the way to the sty, and there were grunting three half-grown
pigs. Now that the pen was ready I had waited no longer, and, having
learned from Rollins that he was willing to sell some of his stock, had
bought three sufficiently large to make good pork by the 1st of
December.

The children welcomed the new-comers with shouts; but I said: "That
won't do. You'll frighten them so that they'll try to jump out of the
pen. Run now and pick up a load of apples in your wagon and throw them
to the pigs. They'll understand and like such a welcoming better;" and
so it proved.

At supper I said: "Children, picking up apples, which was such fun this
evening, will hereafter be part of your morning work, for a while. In
the room over the sty is a bin which must be filled with the fallen
apples before any nuts can be gathered."

Even Bobsey laughed at the idea that this was work; but I knew that it
would soon become so. Then Mousie exclaimed, "Papa, do you know that
the red squirrels are helping us to gather nuts?"

"If so, certainly without meaning it. How?"

"Well, as we were coming near one of the trees we saw a squirrel among
the branches, and we hid behind a bush to watch him. We soon found that
he was tumbling down the nuts, for he would go to the end of a limb and
bite cluster after cluster. The thought that we would get the nuts so
tickled Bobsey that he began to laugh aloud, and then the squirrel ran
barking away."

"You needn't crow so loud, Bobsey," I said. "The squirrel will fill
many a hole in hollow trees before winter, in spite of you."

"I'll settle his business before he steals many more of our nuts,"
spoke up Merton.

"You know the squirrel wasn't stealing, my boy. The nuts grew for him
as truly as for you youngsters. At the same time I suppose he will form
part of a pot-pie before long."

"I hate to think that such pretty little creatures should be killed,"
said Mousie.

"I feel much the same," I admitted; "and yet Merton will say we cannot
indulge in too much sentiment. You know that we read that red squirrels
are mischievous in the main. They tumble little birds out of their
nests, carry off corn, and I have seen them gnawing apples for the sake
of the seeds. It wouldn't do for them to become too plentiful.
Moreover, game should have its proper place as food, and as a means of
recreation. We raise chickens and kill them. Under wise laws, well
enforced, nature would fill the woods, fields, and mountains with
partridges, quail, rabbits, and other wholesome food. Remember what an
old and thickly settled land England is, yet the country is alive with
game. There it is protected on great estates, but here the people must
agree to protect it for themselves."

"Junior says," Merton explained, "that the partridges and rabbits in
the mountains are killed off by foxes and wild-cats and wood-choppers
who catch them in traps and snares."

"I fancy the wood-choppers do the most harm. If I had my way, there
would be a big bounty for the destruction of foxes, and a heavy fine
for all trappers of game. The country would be tenfold more interesting
if it were full of wild, harmless, useful creatures. I hope the time
will come when our streams will be again thoroughly stocked with fish,
and our wild lands with game. If hawks, foxes, trappers, and other
nuisances could be abolished, there would be space on yonder mountains
for partridges to flourish by the million. I hope, as the country grows
older, that the people will intelligently co-work with nature in
preserving and increasing all useful wild life. Every stream, lake, and
pond could be crowded with fish, and every grove and forest afford a
shelter and feeding-ground for game. There should be a wise
guardianship of wild life, such as we maintain over our poultry-yards,
and skill exercised in increasing it. Then nature would supplement our
labors, and furnish a large amount of delicious food at little cost."

"Well, papa, I fear I shall be gray before your fine ideas are carried
out. From what Junior says, I guess that Bagley and his children, and
others like them, will get more game this winter than we will, and
without firing a shot. They are almost as wild as the game itself, and
know just where to set their snares for it. I can't afford to wait
until it's all killed off, or till that good time comes of which you
speak, either. I hope to shoot enough for a pot-pie at least to-morrow,
and to have very good sport while about it."

"I have good news about the Bagley children," said my wife. "I was down
there to-day, and all the children begin school next Monday. Between
clothes which our children have outgrown, and what Mrs. Bagley has been
able to buy and make, all three of the young Bagleys make a very
respectable appearance. I took it upon myself to tell the children that
if they went to school regularly we would make them nice Christmas
presents."

"And I confirm the bargain heartily," I cried. "Merton, look out for
yourself, or the Bagley boy will get ahead of you at school."

He laughed and, with Junior, started for the village, to get their
powder and shot.

The next morning after preparing a good lot of cartridges before
breakfast, the two boys started, and, having all day before them, took
their lunches with the intention of exploring Schunemunk Mountain. The
squirrels, birds, and rabbits near home were reserved for odd times
when the lads could slip away for a few hours only.

Our new barn, now about completed, gave my wife and me as much pleasure
as the nuts and game afforded the children. I went through it, adding
here and there some finishing touches and little conveniences, a
painter meanwhile giving it a final coat of dark, cheap wash.

Our poultry-house was now ready for use, and I said to Winnie,
"To-night we will catch the chickens and put them in it."

The old horse had already been established in the stable, and I
resolved that the cow should come in from this time. In the afternoon I
began turning over the fodder corn, and saw that a very tew more days
would cure it. Although I decided not to begin the main husking until
after the middle of the month, I gathered enough ears to start the pigs
on the fattening process. Toward night I examined the apples, and
determined to adopt old Mr. Jarmson's plan of picking the largest and
ripest at once, leaving the smaller and greener fruit to mature until
the last of the month. The dark cellar was already half filled with
potatoes, but the space left for such apples as we should pick was
ready. From time to time when returning from the village I had brought
up empty barrels; and in some of these, earlier kinds, like tall
pippins and greenings, had been packed and shipped to Mr. Bogart. By
his advice I had resolved to store the later varieties and those which
would keep well, disposing of them gradually to the best advantage. I
made up my mind that the morrow should see the beginning of our chief
labor in the orchard. I had sold a number of barrels of windfalls, but
they brought a price that barely repaid us. My examination of the trees
now convinced me that there should be no more delay in taking off the
large and fine-looking fruit.

With the setting sun Merton and Junior arrived, scarcely able to drag
their weary feet down the lane. Nevertheless their fatigue was caused
by efforts entirely after their own hearts, and they declared that they
had had a "splendid time." Then they emptied their game-bags. Each of
the boys had a partridge, Merton one rabbit, and Junior two. Merton
kept up his prestige by showing two gray squirrels to Junior's one. Bed
squirrels abounded, and a few robins, brought down on the wing as the
boys had promised.

I was most interested in the rattles of the deadly snake which Junior
had nearly stepped on and then shot.

"Schunemunk is full of rattlers," Junior said.

"Please don't hunt there any more then," I replied.

"No, we'll go into the main Highlands to the east'ard next time."

Merton had also brought down a chicken hawk; and the game, spread out
on the kitchen table, suggested much interesting wild life, about which
I said we should read during the coming winter, adding: "Well, boys,
you have more than earned your salt in your sport to-day, for each of
you has supplied two game dinners. We shall live like aldermen now, I
suppose."

"Yes," cried Merton, "whether you call me 'pot-hunter' or not, I mean
my gun to pay its way."

"I've no objections to that," was my laughing answer, "as long as you
shoot like a sportsman, and not like a butcher. Your guns, boys, will
pay best, however, in making you strong, and in giving you some
well-deserved fun after your busy summer. I feel that you have both
earned the right to a good deal of play this month, and that you will
study all the harder for it by and by."

"I hope you'll talk father into that doctrine," said Junior, as he sat
down to supper with us.

The boys were drowsy as soon as they had satisfied their keen
appetites, and Mousie laughed at them, saying that she had been reading
how the boa-constrictor gorged himself and then went to sleep, and that
they reminded her of the snake.

"I guess I'll go home after that," said Junior.

"Now you know I was only poking a little fun," said Mousie, ruefully,
as she ran into the kitchen and gathered up his game for him, looking
into his face so archly and coaxingly that he burst out: "You beat all
the game in the country. I'll shoot a blue jay, and give you its wings
for your hat, see if I don't;" and with this compliment and promise he
left the child happy.

Merton was allowed to sleep late the next morning, and was then set to
work in the orchard, I dividing my time between aiding in picking the
apples and turning over the fodder corn.

"You can climb like a squirrel, Merton, and I must depend on you
chiefly for gathering the apples. Handle them like eggs, so as not to
bruise them, and then they will keep better. After we have gone over
the trees once and have stacked the fodder corn you shall have a good
time with your gun."

For the next few days we worked hard, and nearly finished the first
picking of the apples, also getting into shocks the greater part of the
corn. Then came a storm of wind and rain, and the best of the apples on
one tree, which, we had neglected, were soon lying on the ground,
bruised and unfit for winter keeping.

"You see, Merton," I said, "that we must manage to attend to the trees
earlier next year. Live and learn."

The wind came out of the north the day after the storm, and Mr. Jones
shouted, as he passed down the road, "Hard frost to-night!"

Then indeed we bustled around. Mousie's flowers were carried in, the
Lima-bean poles, still hanging full of green pods more or less filled
out, were pulled up and stacked together under a tree, some
tomato-vines, with their green and partially ripe fruit, were taken up
by the roots and hung under the shed, while over some other vines a
covering was thrown toward night.

"We may thus keep a supply of this wholesome vegetable some weeks
longer," I said.

Everything that we could protect was looked after; but our main task
was the gathering of all the grapes except those hanging against the
sides of the house. These I believed would be so sheltered as to escape
injury. We had been enjoying this delicious fruit for some time,
carrying out our plan, however, of reserving the best for the market.
The berries on the small clusters were just as sweet and luscious, and
the children were content.

Sure enough, on the following morning white hoar-frost covered the
grass and leaves.

"No matter," cried Winnie, at the breakfast-table; "the chestnut burrs
are opening."

By frequent stirring the rest of the corn-fodder was soon dried again,
and was stacked like the rest. Then we took up the beets and carrots,
and stored them also in the root cellar.

We had frost now nearly every night, and many trees were gorgeous in
their various hues, while others, like the butternuts, were already
losing their foliage.

The days were filled with delight for the children. The younger ones
were up with the sun to gather the nuts that had fallen during the
night, Merton accompanying them with his gun, bringing in squirrels
daily, and now and then a robin shot while flying. His chief exploit
however was the bagging of half a dozen quails that unwarily chose the
lower part of our meadow as a resort. Then he and Junior took several
long outings in the Highlands, with fair success; for the boys had
become decidedly expert.

"If we only had a dog," said Merton, "we could do wonders."

"Both of you save your money next summer, and buy one," I replied;
"I'll give you a chance, Merton."

By the middle of the month the weather became dry and warm, and the
mountains were almost hidden in an Indian summer haze.

"Now for the corn-husking," I said, "and the planting of the ground in
raspberries, and then we shall be through with our chief labors for the
year."

Merton helped me at the husking, but I allowed him to keep his gun
near, and he obtained an occasional shot which enlivened his toil. Two
great bins over the sty and poultry-house received the yellow ears, the
longest and fairest being stored in one, and in the other the
"nubbin's," speedily to be transformed into pork. Part of the stalks
were tied up and put in the old "corn-stalk barn," as we called it, and
the remainder were stacked near. Our cow certainly was provided for.

Brindle now gave too little milk for our purpose, whereas a farmer with
plenty of fodder could keep her over the winter to advantage. I traded
her off to a neighboring farmer for a new milch cow, and paid twenty
dollars to boot. We were all great milk-topers, while the cream nearly
supplied us with butter.

Having removed the corn, Mr. Jones plowed the field deeply, and then
Merton and I set out the varieties of raspberries which promised best
in our locality, making the hills four feet apart in the row, and the
rows five feet from one another. I followed the instructions of my
fruit book closely, and cut back the canes of the plants to six inches,
and sunk the roots so deep as to leave about four inches of soil above
them, putting two or three plants in the hill. Then over and about the
hills we put on the surface of the ground two shovelfuls of compost,
finally covering the plants beneath a slight mound of earth. This would
protect them from the severe frost of winter.

These labors and the final picking of the apples brought us to the last
week of the month. Of the smaller fruit, kept clean and sound for the
purpose, we reserved enough to make two barrels of cider, of which one
should go into vinegar, and the other be kept sweet, for our
nut-crackings around the winter fire. Bobsey's dream of "millions of
bushels" of nuts had not been realized, yet enough had been dried and
stored away to satisfy even his eyes. Not far away an old cider-mill
was running steadily, and we soon had the barrels of russet nectar in
our cellar. Then came Saturday, and Merton and Junior were given one
more day's outing in the mountains with their guns. On the following
Monday they trudged off to the nearest public school, feeling that they
had been treated liberally, and that brain-work must now begin in
earnest. Indeed from this time forth, for months to come, school and
lessons took precedence of everything else, and the proper growing of
boys and girls was the uppermost thought.



CHAPTER XLIII

THANKSGIVING DAY


November weather was occasionally so blustering and stormy that I
turned schoolmaster in part, to relieve my wife. During the month,
however, were bright, genial days, and others softened by a smoky haze,
which gave me opportunity to gather and store a large crop of turnips,
to trench in my celery on a dry knoll, and to bury, with their heads
downward, all the cabbages for which I could not find a good market.
The children still gave me some assistance, but, lessons over, they
were usually permitted to amuse themselves in their own way. Winnie,
however, did not lose her interest in the poultry, and Merton regularly
aided in the care of the stock and in looking after the evening supply
of fire-wood. I also spent a part of my time in the wood lot, but the
main labor there was reserved for December. The chief task of the month
was the laying down and covering of the tender raspberries; and in this
labor Bagley again gave me his aid.

Thanksgiving Day was celebrated with due observance. In the morning we
all heard Dr. Lyman preach, and came home with the feeling that we and
the country at large were prosperous. Mr. and Mrs. Jones, with Junior,
dined with us in great state, and we had our first four-course dinner
since arriving in Maizeville, and at the fashionable hour of six in the
evening. I had protested against my wife's purpose of staying at home
in the morning, saying we would "browse around during the day and get
up appetites, while in the afternoon we could all turn cooks and help
her." Merton was excepted, and, after devouring a hasty cold lunch, he
and Junior were off with their guns. As for Bobsey, he appeared to
browse steadily after church, but seemed in no wise to have exhausted
his capacity when at last he attacked his soup, turkey drum-stick, and
the climax of a pudding. Our feast was a very informal affair, seasoned
with mirth and sauced with hunger. The viands, however, under my wife's
skill, would compare with any eaten in the great city, which we never
once had regretted leaving. Winifred looked after the transfers from
the kitchen at critical moments, while Mousie and Winnie were our
waitresses. A royal blaze crackled in the open fireplace, and seemed to
share in the sparkle of our rustic wit and unforced mirth, which kept
plump Mrs. Jones in a perpetual quiver, like a form of jelly.

Her husband came out strong in his comical resume of the past year's
experience, concluding: "Well, we owe you and Mrs. Durham a vote of
thanks for reforming the Bagley tribe. That appears to me an orthodox
case of convarsion. First we gave him the terrors of the law. Tell yer
what it is, we was a-smokin' in wrath around him that mornin', like
Mount Sinai, and you had the sense to bring, in the nick of time, the
gospel of givin' a feller a chance. It's the best gospel there is, I
reckon."

"Well," I replied, becoming thoughtful for a moment with boyish
memories, "my good old mother taught me that it was God's plan to give
us a chance, and help us make the most of it."

"I remembered the Bagleys to-day," Mrs. Jones remarked, nodding to my
wife. "We felt they ought to be encouraged."

"So did we," my wife replied, sotto voce.

We afterward learned that the Bagleys had been provisioned for nearly a
month by the good-will of neighbors, who, a short time since, had been
ready to take up arms against them.

By eight o'clock everything was cleared away, Mrs. Jones assisting my
wife, and showing that she would be hurt if not permitted to do so.
Then we all gathered around the glowing hearth, Junior's
rat-a-tat-snap! proving that our final course of nuts and cider would
be provided in the usual way.

How homely it all was! how free from any attempt at display of style!
yet equally free from any trace of vulgarity or ill-natured gossip.
Mousie had added grace to the banquet with her blooming plants and
dried grasses; and, although the dishes had been set on the table by my
wife's and children's hands, they were daintily ornamented and
inviting. All had been within our means and accomplished by ourselves;
and the following morning brought no regretful thoughts. Our helpful
friends went home, feeling that they had not bestowed their kindness on
unthankful people whose scheme of life was to get and take, but not to
return.



CHAPTER XLIV

WE CAN MAKE A LIVING IN EDEN


Well, our first year was drawing to a close. The 1st of December was
celebrated by an event no less momentous than the killing of our pigs,
to Winnie's and Bobsey's intense excitement. In this affair my wife and
I were almost helpless, but Mr. Jones and Bagley were on hand, and
proved themselves veterans, while Mrs. Jones stood by my wife until the
dressed animals were transformed into souse, head-cheese, sausage, and
well-salted pork. The children feasted and exulted through all the
processes, especially enjoying some sweet spareribs.

I next gave all my attention, when the weather permitted, to the proper
winter covering of all the strawberries, and to the cutting and carting
home of old and dying trees from the wood lot.

The increasing cold brought new and welcome pleasures to the children.
There was ice on the neighboring ponds, and skates were bought as
premature Christmas presents. The same was true of sleds after the
first fall of snow. This white covering of the earth enabled Merton and
Junior to track some rabbits in the vicinity, which thus far had eluded
their search.

By the middle of the month we realized that winter had begun in all its
rather stern reality; but we were sheltered and provided for. We had so
far imitated the ants that we had abundant stores until the earth
should again yield its bounty.

Christmas brought us more than its wonted joy, and a better fulfilment
of the hopes and anticipations which we had cherished on the same day
of the previous year. We were far from regretting our flight to the
country, although it had involved us in hard toil and many anxieties.
My wife was greatly pleased by my many hours of rest at the fireside in
her companionship, caused by days too cold and wintry for outdoor work;
but our deepest and most abiding content was expressed one evening as
we sat alone after the children were asleep.

"You have solved the problem, Robert, that was worrying you. There is
space here for the children to grow, and the Daggetts and the Ricketts
and all their kind are not so near as to make them grow wrong, almost
in spite of us. A year ago we felt that we were virtually being driven
to the country. I now feel as if we had been led by a kindly and divine
hand." I had given much attention to my account-book of late, and had
said, "On New Year's morning I will tell you all the result of our
first year's effort."

At breakfast, after our greetings and good wishes for the New Year, all
looked expectantly at me as I opened our financial record. Carefully
and clearly as possible, so that even Winnie might understand in part,
I went over the different items, and the expense and proceeds of the
different crops, so far as I was able to separate them. Bobsey's
attention soon wandered, for he had an abiding faith that breakfast,
dinner, and supper would follow the sun, and that was enough for him.
But the other children were pleased with my confidence, and tried to
understand me.

"To sum up everything," I said, finally, "we have done, by working all
together, what I alone should probably have accomplished in the
city--we have made our living. I have also taken an inventory or an
account of stock on hand and paid for; that is, I have here a list on
which are named the horse, wagon, harness, cow, crates and baskets,
tools, poultry, and pigs. These things are paid for, and we are so much
ahead. Now, children, which is better, a living in the city, I earning
it for you all? or a living in the country toward which even Bobsey can
do his share?"

"A living in the country," was the prompt chorus. "There is something
here for a fellow to do without being nagged by a policeman," Merton
added.

"Well, children, mamma and I agree with you. What's more, there wasn't
much chance for me to get ahead in the city, or earn a large salary.
Here, by pulling all together, there is almost a certainty of our
earning more than a bare living, and of laying up something for a rainy
day. The chief item of profit from our farm, however, is not down in my
account-book, but we see it in your sturdier forms and in Mousie's red
cheeks. More than all, we believe that you are better and healthier at
heart than you were a year ago.

"Now for the New Year. Let us make the best and most of it, and ask God
to help us."

And so my simple history ends in glad content and hope.

THE END





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