A FRANCONIA STORY
BY JACOB ABBOTT
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New York.
Copyright, 1881, by BENJAMIN VAUGHAN ABBOTT, AUSTIN ABBOTT, LYMAN ABBOTT, and EDWARD ABBOTT.
The development of the moral sentiments in the human heart, in early life,—and every thing in fact which relates to the formation of character,—is determined in a far greater degree by sympathy, and by the influence of example, than by formal precepts and didactic instruction. If a boy hears his father speaking kindly to a robin in the spring,—welcoming its coming and offering it food,—there arises at once in his own mind, a feeling of kindness toward the bird, and toward all the animal creation, which is produced by a sort of sympathetic action, a power somewhat similar to what in physical philosophy is called induction. On the other hand, if the father, instead of feeding the bird, goes eagerly for a gun, in order that he may shoot it, the boy will sympathize in that desire, and growing up under such an influence, there will be gradually formed within him, through the mysterious tendency of the youthful heart to vibrate in unison with hearts that are near, a disposition to kill and destroy all helpless beings that come within his power. There is no need of any formal instruction in either case. Of a thousand children brought up under the former of the above-described influences, nearly every one, when he sees a bird, will wish to go and get crumbs to feed it, while in the latter case, nearly every one will just as certainly look for a stone. Thus the growing up in the right atmosphere, rather than the receiving of the right instruction, is the condition which it is most important to secure, in plans for forming the characters of children.
It is in accordance with this philosophy that these stories, though written mainly with a view to their moral influence on the hearts and dispositions of the readers, contain very little formal exhortation and instruction. They present quiet and peaceful pictures of happy domestic life, portraying generally such conduct, and expressing such sentiments and feelings, as it is desirable to exhibit and express in the presence of children.
The books, however, will be found, perhaps, after all, to be useful mainly in entertaining and amusing the youthful readers who may peruse them, as the writing of them has been the amusement and recreation of the author in the intervals of more serious pursuits.
I.—THE CAVERN, 11
III.—THE PLOWING, 47
V.—PLANS FOR THE SQUIRREL, 85
VII.—THE WORK SHOP, 111
VIII.—A DISCOVERY, 130
IX.—THE ACCIDENT, 148
X.—GOOD ADVICE, 165
XI.—THE JOURNEY HOME, 181
PAGE THE BOYS AT THE MILL—FRONTISPIECE.
GOING OUT THE GATE, 18
THE CAVERN, 27
THE TRAP, 40
THE HORNET'S NEST, 57
OXEN DRINKING, 60
BEECHNUT'S ADVICE, 89
THE APPEAL, 105
FRINK ON THE BEAM, 119
DOROTHY'S FIRE, 140
THE DOCTOR'S VISIT, 163
THE EFFIGY, 168
FRINK IN THE PARLOR, 179
THE DEPARTURE, 190
SCENE OF THE STORY.
Franconia, a place among the mountains at the North. The time is summer.
MRS. HENRY, a lady residing at Franconia.
ALPHONZO, commonly called Phonny, about nine years old.
MALLEVILLE, Phonny's cousin from New York, seven years old.
WALLACE, Malleville's brother, a college student, visiting Franconia at this season.
STUYVESANT, Wallace's brother, about nine years old.
ANTOINE BIANCHINETTE, commonly called Beechnut, a French boy, now about fourteen years old, living at Mrs. Henry's.
One pleasant summer morning Alphonzo was amusing himself by swinging on a gate in front of his mother's house. His cousin Malleville, who was then about eight years old, was sitting upon a stone outside of the gate, by the roadside, in a sort of corner that was formed between the wall and a great tree which was growing there. Malleville was employed in telling her kitten a story.
The kitten was sitting near Malleville, upon a higher stone. Malleville was leaning upon this stone, looking the kitten in the face. The kitten was looking down, but she seemed to be listening very attentively.
"Now, Kitty," said Malleville, "if you will sit still and hark, I will tell you a story,—a story about a mouse. I read it in a book. Once there was a mouse, and he was white, and he lived in a cage. No I forgot,—there were three mice. I'll begin again.
"Once there was a boy, and he had three white mice, and he kept them in a cage."
Here Malleville's story was interrupted by Phonny, who suddenly called out:
"Here comes Beechnut, Malleville."
"I don't care," said Malleville, "I'm telling a story to Kitty, and you must not interrupt me."
Here the kitten jumped down from the stone and ran away.
"Now Phonny!" said Malleville, "see what you have done;—you have made my Kitty go away."
"I didn't make her go away," said Phonny.
"Yes you did," said Malleville, "you interrupted my story, and that made her go away."
Phonny laughed aloud at this assertion, though Malleville continued to look very serious. Phonny then repeated that he did not make the kitten go away, and besides, he said, he thought that it was very childish to pretend to tell a story to a kitten.
Malleville said that she did not think it was childish at all; for her kitten liked to hear stories. Phonny, at this, laughed again, and then Malleville, appearing to be still more displeased, said that she was not any more childish than Phonny himself was.
By this time Beechnut, as Phonny called him, had come up. He was driving a cart. The cart was loaded with wood. The wood consisted of small and dry sticks, which Beechnut had gathered together in the forest.
"Beechnut," said Phonny, "are you going into the woods again for another load?"
"Yes," said Beechnut.
"And may I go with you?" said Phonny.
"Yes," said Beechnut.
"And I?" said Malleville.
"Yes," said Beechnut.
Beechnut drove on into the yard, and at length stopped near a great woodpile. Beechnut began to throw off the wood. Phonny climbed up into the cart too, to help Beechnut unload. Malleville sat down upon a log lying near to see.
While they were at work thus, throwing off the wood, Phonny, instead of taking the smallest sticks that came in his way, tried always to get hold of the largest. He had three motives for doing this, all mingled together. The first was a pleasure in exercising his own strength; the second, a desire to show Malleville that he was no child; and the third, to make a display of his strength to Beechnut.
After a while, when the load had been about half thrown off, Phonny stopped his work, straightened himself up with an air of great self-satisfaction and said,
"Malleville says I am childish; do you think I am, Beechnut?"
"No," said Malleville, "I did not say so." She began to be a little frightened at this appeal to Beechnut.
"Yes," said Phonny, "you certainly did."
"No," said Malleville.
"What did you say?" asked Phonny.
"I said I was not childish myself, any more than you."
"Well, that is the same thing," said Phonny.
Malleville was silent. She thought that it was a different thing, but she did not know very well how to explain the difference.
In the mean time Beechnut went on unloading the wood.
"Do you think I am childish at all, Beechnut," said Phonny.
"Why I don't know," said Beechnut, doubtfully. "I don't know how many childish things it is necessary for a boy to do, in order to be considered as childish in character; but I have known you to do two childish things within half an hour."
Phonny seemed a little surprised and a little confused at this, and after a moment's pause he said:
"I know what one of them is, I guess."
"What?" asked Beechnut.
"Swinging on the gate."
"No," said Beechnut, "I did not mean that. You have done things a great deal more childish than that."
"What?" said Phonny.
"The first was," said Beechnut, "making a dispute with Malleville, by appealing to me to decide whether you were childish."
"Why I ought to know if I am childish," said Phonny, "so that if I am, I may correct the fault."
"I don't think that that was your motive," said Beechnut, "in asking. If you had wished to know my opinion in order to correct yourself of the fault, you would have asked me some time privately. I think that your motive was a wish to get a triumph over Malleville."
"Oh, Beechnut!" said Phonny.
Although Phonny said Oh Beechnut, he still had a secret conviction that what Beechnut had said was true. He was silent a moment, and then he asked what was the other childishness which Beechnut had seen within half an hour.
"In unloading this wood," said Beechnut, "you tried to get hold of the biggest sticks, even when they were partly buried under the little ones, and thus worked to great disadvantage. Men take the smaller ones off first, and so clear the way to get at the larger ones. But boys make a great ado in getting hold of the largest ones they can see, by way of showing the by-standers how strong they are."
"Well," said Phonny, "I will throw off the little ones after this."
So Phonny went to work again, and in throwing off the remainder of the load, he acted in a much more sensible and advantageous manner than he had done before. The cart was soon empty. Beechnut then went into the house and brought out a small chair; this he placed in the middle of the cart, for Malleville. He also placed a board across the cart in front, in such a manner that the ends of the board rested upon the sides of the cart. The board thus formed a seat for Beechnut and Phonny. Beechnut then gave the reins to Phonny, who had taken his seat upon the board, while he, himself, went to help Malleville in.
He led Malleville up to the cart behind, and putting his hands under her arms, he said "Jump!" Malleville jumped—Beechnut at the same time lifting to help her. She did not however quite get up, and so Beechnut let her down to the ground again.
"Once more," said Beechnut.
So Malleville tried again. She went a little higher this time than before, but not quite high enough.
"That makes twice," said Beechnut. "The rule is,
"Try it once, try it twice, And then once more, and that makes thrice."
The third time Malleville seemed to be endowed with some new and supernatural strength in her jumping: for she bounded so high that her feet rose almost to a level with the top of the seat, and then, as she came down gently upon the floor of the cart, Beechnut released his hold upon her, and she walked to her chair and sat down. Beechnut then mounted to his place by the side of Phonny, and the whole party rode away.
After riding along for some distance, Phonny asked Beechnut if he really thought that he was childish.
"Why no," said Beechnut, "not particularly. You are a little boyish sometimes, and I suppose that that is to be expected, since you are really a boy. But you are growing older every year, and I see some marks of manliness in you, now and then. How old are you now?"
"I am nine years and five months," said Phonny. "That is, I am about half-past nine."
"That is pretty old," said Beechnut, "but then I suppose I must expect you to be a boy some time longer."
"Beechnut," said Phonny, "did you know that my cousin Wallace was coming here pretty soon?"
"Is he?" said Beechnut. "From college?"
"Yes," said Phonny, "it is his vacation. He is coming here to spend his vacation."
"I am glad of that," said Beechnut. "I like to have him here."
"And my cousin Stuyvesant is coming too," said Phonny.
"Stuyvesant is my brother," said Malleville.
"How old is he?" asked Beechnut.
"He is only nine," said Phonny.
"Then he is not so old as you are," said Beechnut.
"Not quite," said Phonny.
"And I suppose of course, he will be more of a boy than you," said Beechnut.
"I don't know," said Phonny.
"We shall see," said Beechnut.
Just then, Phonny heard the sound of wheels behind him. He turned round and saw a wagon coming along the road.
"Here comes a wagon," said he. "I am going to whip up, so that they shall not go by us."
"No," said Beechnut, "turn out to one side of the road, and walk the horse, and let them go by."
"Why?" asked Phonny.
"I'll tell you presently," said Beechnut, "after the wagon has got before us."
Phonny turned out of the road and let the wagon drive by, and then Beechnut told him that the reason why he was not willing to have him whip up and keep ahead was, that he wanted to use the strength of the horse that day, in hauling wood, and not to waste it in galloping along the road, racing with a wagon.
At length the party reached a place where there was a pair of bars by the roadside, and a way leading in, to a sort of pasture. Phonny knew that this was where Beechnut was going, and so he turned in. The road was rough, and Malleville had to hold on very carefully to the side of the cart as they went along. Presently the road went into a wood, and after going on some way in this wood, Beechnut directed Phonny to stop, and they all got out.
"Now, Phonny," said Beechnut, "you can have your choice either to work or play."
"What do you think that I had better do?" said Phonny.
"Play, I rather think," said Beechnut.
"I thought you would say work," said Phonny.
"You had better play, in order to keep Malleville company," said Beechnut.
"Well," said Phonny, "I will."
So while Beechnut went to work to get a new load of wood, Phonny and Malleville went away to play.
There was a precipice of rocks near the place where Beechnut was loading his cart, with a great many large rocks at the foot of it. The top of the precipice was crowned with trees, and there were also a great many bushes and trees growing among the rocks below. It was a very wild and romantic place, and Phonny and Malleville liked to play there very much indeed.
After a time Phonny called out to Beechnut to inquire whether he had any matches in his pocket. He said that he and Malleville were going to build a fire.
"Yes," said Beechnut, "I have. Come here and I will give you some."
So Phonny sent Malleville after the matches, while he collected dry wood for a fire. When Malleville returned, she gave Phonny the matches, and told him that Beechnut said that they must make the fire on the rocks somewhere, or in some other safe place, so that it should not spread into the woods.
"Well," said Phonny, "I will look about and find a good place."
Accordingly, he began to walk along at the foot of the precipice, examining every recess among the rocks, and all the nooks and corners which seemed to promise well, as places of encampment. Malleville could not quite keep up with him on account of the roughnesses and inequalities of the way.
At last Malleville, who had fallen a little behind, heard Phonny calling to her in tones of great delight. She hastened on. In a moment she saw Phonny before her just coming out from among the bushes and calling to her,
"Malleville! Malleville! come here quick!—I have found a cavern."
Malleville went on, and presently she came in view of what Phonny called a cavern. It was a place where two immense fragments of rock leaned over toward each other, so as to form a sort of roof, beneath which was an inclosure which Phonny called a cavern. He might perhaps have more properly called it a grotto. There was a great flat stone at the bottom of the cavern, which made an excellent floor, and there was an open place in the top behind, where Phonny thought that the smoke would go out if he should make a fire.
"There, Malleville," said Phonny, when she came where she could see the cavern, "that is what I call a discovery. We will play that we are savages, and that we live in a cavern."
Phonny rolled two large stones into the cavern, and placed them in the back part of it, where he intended to build his fire. These stones were for andirons. Then he began to bring in logs, and sticks, and branches of trees, such as he found lying upon the ground dead and dry. These he piled up inside of the cavern in a sort of corner, where there was a deep recess or crevice, which was very convenient for holding the wood.
Malleville helped him do all this. When a sufficient supply of wood was gathered, Phonny laid some of it across his stone andirons, and then prepared to light the fire.
He rubbed one of his matches against a dry log, and the match immediately kindled. Phonny looked at the blue flame a moment, and then, as if some sudden thought had struck him, he blew it out again, and said,
"On the whole, I will go and ask Beechnut. We may as well be sure."
So he ran down from the entrance of the cavern, and thence along by the way that they had come, through the thicket, until he came in sight of Beechnut.
"Beechnut," said he, calling out very loud, "we have found a cavern;—may we build a fire in it?"
"Yes," said Beechnut.
Then Phonny went back, and telling Malleville that Beechnut had said yes, he proceeded to kindle his fire.
It happened that there were two large stones, tolerably square in form, each of them, and flat upon the upper side, which were lying in the cavern in such places as to be very convenient for seats. When the fire began to burn, Phonny sat down upon one of these seats, and gave Malleville the other. The fire blazed up very cheerily, and the smoke and sparks, winding their way up the side of the rock, which formed the back of the cavern, escaped out through the opening at the top in a very satisfactory manner.
"There," said Phonny, "this is what I call comfortable. If we only now had something to eat, it is all I should want."
"I'll tell you what," said he again, after a moment's pause, "we will send home by Beechnut, when he goes with his next load, to get us something to eat."
"Well," said Malleville, "so we will."
Beechnut very readily undertook the commission of bringing Phonny and Malleville something to eat. Accordingly, when his cart was loaded he went away, leaving Phonny and Malleville in their cavern. While he was gone the children employed themselves in bringing flat stones, and making a fireplace by building walls on each side of their fire.
In due time Beechnut returned, bringing with him a large round box, which he said that Mrs. Henry had sent to Phonny and Malleville. It was too heavy for Phonny to lift easily, and so Beechnut drove his cart along until it was nearly opposite the cavern. Then he took the box out of the cart and carried it into the cavern, and laid it down upon Malleville's seat.
Phonny opened it, and he found that it contained a variety of stores. There were four potatoes and four apples, each rolled up in a separate paper. There were also two crackers. These crackers were in a tin mug, just big enough to hold them, one on the top of the other. The mug, Phonny said, was for them to drink from, and as there was a spring by the side of the cavern they had plenty of water.
"One cracker is for me," said Phonny, "and the other for you, Malleville. I mean to split my cracker in two, and toast the halves."
At the bottom of the box there was half a pie.
Beechnut stopped to see what the box contained, and then he went away to his work again. As he went away, he told the children that Mrs. Henry said that they need not come home to dinner that day, unless they chose to do so,—but might make their dinner, if they pleased, in the cavern, from what she had sent them in the box.
The children were very much pleased with this plan. They remained in the cavern a long time. They roasted their potatoes in the fire, and their apples in front of it. They toasted their crackers and warmed their pie, by placing them against a stone between the andirons; and they got water, whenever they were thirsty, in the dipper from the spring.
At length, about the middle of the afternoon, when their interest in the cavern was beginning to decline, their thoughts were suddenly turned away from it altogether, by the news which Beechnut announced to them on his return from the house, after his eighth load, that Wallace had arrived.
"And has my brother Stuyvesant come too?" asked Malleville.
"I suppose so," said Beechnut, "there was a boy with him, about as large as Phonny, but I did not hear what his name was."
"Oh, it is he! it is he!" said Malleville, clapping her hands.
Phonny and Malleville mounted upon the top of the load as soon as Beechnut got it ready, and rode home. They ran into the house, while Beechnut went to unload his wood. Just as Beechnut was ready to go out of the yard again with his empty cart, Phonny came out.
"Cousin Wallace has really come," said Phonny.
"Ah!" said Beechnut, "and what does he have to say?"
"Why, he says," replied Phonny, "that he is going to make a man of me."
"Is he?" said Beechnut. "Well, I hope he will take proper time for it. I have no great opinion of the plan of making men out of boys before their time."
So saying, Beechnut drove away, and Phonny went in.
Two or three days after Wallace arrived at Franconia, he and Phonny formed a plan to go and take a ride on horseback. They invited Stuyvesant to go with them, but Stuyvesant said that Beechnut was going to plow that day, and had promised to teach him to drive oxen. He said that he should like better to learn to drive oxen than to take a ride on horseback.
There was another reason which influenced Stuyvesant in making this decision, and that was, that he had observed that there were only two horses in the stable, and although he knew that Beechnut could easily obtain another from some of the neighbors, still he thought that this would make some trouble, and he was always very considerate about making trouble. This was rather remarkable in Stuyvesant, for he was a city boy, and city boys are apt to be very inconsiderate.
So Wallace and Phonny concluded to go by themselves. They mounted their horses and rode together out through the great gate.
"Now," said Phonny, when they were fairly on the way, "we will have a good time. This is just what I like. I would rather have a good ride on horseback than any thing else. I wish that they would let me go alone sometimes."
"Won't they?" asked Wallace.
"No, not very often," said Phonny.
"Do you know what the reason is?" asked Wallace.
"I suppose because they think that I am not old enough," replied Phonny, "but I am."
"I don't think that that is the reason," said Wallace. "Stuyvesant is not quite so old as you are, and yet I shall let him go and ride alone whenever he pleases."
"What is the reason then?" asked Phonny.
"Because you are not man enough I suppose," said Wallace. "You might be more manly, without being any older, and then people would put more trust in you, and you would have a great many more pleasures."
Phonny was rather surprised to hear his cousin Wallace speak thus. He had thought that he was manly—very manly; but it was evident that his cousin considered him boyish.
"I do not know," continued Wallace, "but that you are as manly as other boys of your years."
"Except Stuyvesant," said Phonny.
"Yes, except Stuyvesant," said Wallace, "I think that he is rather remarkable. I do not think that you are very boyish,—but you are growing up quite fast and you are getting to be pretty large. It is time for you to begin to evince some degree of the carefulness, and considerateness, and sense of responsibility, that belong to men.
"There are two kinds of boyishness," continued Wallace. "One kind is very harmless."
"What kind is that?" asked Phonny.
"Why if a boy continues," said Wallace, "when he is quite old, to take pleasure in amusements which generally please only young children, that is boyishness of a harmless kind. For example, suppose we should see a boy, eighteen years old, playing marbles a great deal, we should say that he was boyish. So if you were to have a rattle or any other such little toy for a plaything, and should spend a great deal of time in playing with it, we should say that it was very boyish or childish. Still that kind of boyishness does little harm, and we should not probably do any thing about it, but should leave you to outgrow it in your own time."
"What kind of boyishness do you mean then, that is not harmless?" asked Phonny.
"I mean that kind of want of consideration, by which boys when young, are always getting themselves and others into difficulty and trouble, for the sake of some present and momentary pleasure. They see the pleasure and they grasp at it. They do not see the consequences, and so they neglect them. The result is, they get into difficulty and do mischief. Other people lose confidence in them, and so they have to be restricted and watched, and subjected to limits and bounds, when if they were a little more considerate and manly, they might enjoy a much greater liberty, and many more pleasures."
"I don't think that I do so," said Phonny.
"No," rejoined Wallace, "I don't think that you do; that is I don't think that you do so more than other boys of your age. But to show you exactly what I mean, I will give you some cases. Perhaps they are true and perhaps they are imaginary. It makes no difference which they are.
"Once there was a boy," continued Wallace, "who came down early one winter morning, and after warming himself a moment by the sitting-room fire, he went out in the kitchen. It happened to be ironing day, and the girl was engaged in ironing at a great table by the kitchen fire. We will call the girl's name Dorothy.
"The boy seeing Dorothy at this work, wished to iron something, himself. So Dorothy gave him a flat-iron and also something to iron."
"What was it that she gave him to iron?" said Phonny.
"A towel," said Wallace.
"Well," said Phonny, "go on."
"The boy took the flat-iron and went to work," continued Wallace. "Presently, however, he thought he would go out into the shed and see if the snow had blown in, during the night. He found that it had, and so he stopped to play with the drift a few minutes. At last he came back into the kitchen, and he found, when he came in, that Dorothy had finished ironing his towel and had put it away. He began to complain of her for doing this, and then, in order to punish her, as he said, he took two of her flat-irons and ran off with them, and put them into the snow drift."
"Yes," said Phonny, "that was me. But then I only did it for fun."
"Was the fun for yourself or for Dorothy?" asked Wallace.
"Why, for me," said Phonny.
"And it made only trouble for Dorothy," said Wallace.
"Yes," said Phonny, "I suppose it did."
"That is the kind of boyishness I mean," said Wallace, "getting fun for yourself at other people's expense; and so making them dislike you, and feel sorry when they see you coming, and glad when you go away."
Phonny was silent. He saw the folly of such a course of proceeding, and had nothing to say.
"There is another case," said Wallace. "Once I knew a boy, and his name was—I'll call him Johnny."
"What was his other name?" asked Phonny.
"No matter for that, now," said Wallace. "He went out into the barn, and he wanted something to do, and so the boy who lived there, gave him a certain corner to take charge of, and keep in order."
"What was that boy's name?" asked Phonny.
"Why, I will call him Hazelnut," said Wallace.
"Ah!" exclaimed Phonny, "now I know you are going to tell some story about me and Beechnut." Here Phonny threw back his head and laughed aloud. He repeated the words Johnny and Hazelnut, and then laughed again, until he made the woods ring with his merriment.
Wallace smiled, and went on with his story.
"Hazelnut gave him the charge of a corner of the barn where some harnesses were kept, and Johnny's duty was to keep them in order there. One day Hazelnut came home and found that Johnny had taken out the long reins from the harness, and had fastened them to the branches of two trees in the back yard, to make a swing, and then he had loaded the swing with so many children, as to break it down."
"Yes," said Phonny, "that was me too; but I did not think that the reins would break."
"I know it," said Wallace. "You did not think. That is the nature of the kind of boyishness that I am speaking of. The boy does not think. Men, generally, before they do any new or unusual thing, stop to consider what the results and consequences of it are going to be; but boys go on headlong, and find out what the consequences are when they come."
While Wallace and Phonny had been conversing thus, they had been riding through a wood which extended along a mountain glen. Just at this time they came to a place where a cart path branched off from the main road, toward the right. Phonny proposed to go into this path to see where it would lead. Wallace had no objection to this plan, and so they turned their horses and went in.
The cart path led them by a winding way through the woods for a short distance, along a little dell, and then it descended into a ravine, at the bottom of which there was a foaming torrent tumbling over a very rocky bed. The path by this time became quite a road, though it was a very wild and stony road. It kept near the bank of the brook, continually ascending, until at last it turned suddenly away from the brook, and went up diagonally upon the side of a hill. There were openings in the woods on the lower side of the road, through which Wallace got occasional glimpses of the distant valleys. Wallace was very much interested in these prospects, but Phonny's attention was wholly occupied as he went along, in looking over all the logs, and rocks, and hollow trees, in search of squirrels.
At last, at a certain turn of the road, the riders came suddenly upon a pair of bars which appeared before them,—directly across the road.
"Well," said Wallace, "here we are, what shall we do now?"
"It is nothing but a pair of bars," said Phonny. "I can jump off and take them down."
"No," said Wallace, "I think we may as well turn about here, and go back. We have come far enough on this road."
Just then Phonny pointed off under the trees of the forest, upon one side, and said in a very eager voice,
"What is it?" said Wallace.
"A trap," said Phonny. "It is a squirrel trap! and it is sprung! There's a squirrel in it, I've no doubt. Let me get off and see."
"Well," said Wallace, "give me the bridle of your horse."
So Phonny threw the bridle over his horse's head and gave it to Wallace. He then dismounted—sliding down the side of the horse safely to the ground.
As soon as he found himself safely down, he threw his riding-stick upon the grass, and ran off toward the trap.
The trap was placed upon a small stone by the side of a larger one. It was in a very snug and sheltered place, almost out of view. In fact it probably would not have been observed by any ordinary passer-by.
Phonny ran up to the trap, and took hold of it. He lifted it up very cautiously. He shook it as well as he could, and then listened. He thought that he could hear or feel some slight motion within. He became very much excited.
He put the trap down upon the high rock, and began opening up the lid a little, very gently.
The trap was of the kind called by the boys a box-trap. It is in the form of a box, and the back part runs up high, to a point. The lid of the box has a string fastened to it, which string is carried up, over the high point, and thence down, and is fastened to an apparatus connected with the spindle.
The spindle is a slender rod of wood which passes through the end of the box into the interior. About half of the spindle is within the box and half without. There is a small notch in the outer part of the spindle, and another in the end of the box, a short distance above the spindle. There is a small bar of wood, with both ends sharpened, and made of such a length as just to reach from the notch in the end of the box, to the notch in the spindle. This bar is the apparatus to which the end of the string is fastened, as before described.
When the trap is to be set, the bar is fitted to the notches in such a manner as to catch in them, and then the weight of the lid, being sustained by the string, the lid is held up so that the squirrel can go in. The front of the box is attached to the lid, and rises with it, so that when the lid is raised a little the squirrel can creep directly in. The bait, which is generally a part of an ear of corn, is fastened to the end of the spindle, which is within the trap. The squirrel sees the bait, and creeps in to get it. He begins to nibble upon the corn. The ear is tied so firmly to the spindle that he can not get it away. In gnawing upon it to get off the corn, he finally disengages the end of the spindle from the bar, by working the lower end of the bar out of its notch; this lets the string up, and of course the lid comes down, and the squirrel is shut in, a captive.
When the lid first comes down, it makes so loud a noise as to terrify the poor captive very much. He runs this way and that, around the interior of the box, wondering what has happened, and why he can not get out as he came in. He has no more appetite for the corn, but is in great distress at his sudden and unaccountable captivity.
After trying in vain on all sides to escape, by forcing his way, and finding that the box is too strong for him in every part, he finally concludes to gnaw out. He accordingly selects the part of the box where there is the widest crack, and where consequently the brightest light shines through. He selects this place, partly because he supposes that the box is thinnest there, and partly because he likes to work in the light.[A]
[Footnote A: To prevent the squirrels that are caught from gnawing out, the boys sometimes line the inside of their traps with tin.]
There was a squirrel in the trap which Phonny had found. It was a large and handsome gray squirrel. He had been taken that morning. About an hour after the trap sprung upon him, he had begun to gnaw out, and he had got about half through the boards in the corner when Phonny found him. When Phonny shook the trap the squirrel clung to the bottom of it by his claws, so that Phonny did not shake him about much.
When Phonny had put the trap upon the great stone, he thought that he would lift up the lid a little way, and peep in. This is a very dangerous operation, for a squirrel will squeeze out through a very small aperture, and many a boy has lost a squirrel by the very means that he was taking to decide whether he had got one.
Phonny was aware of this danger, and so he was very careful. He raised the lid but very little, and looked under with the utmost caution. He saw two little round and very brilliant eyes peeping out at him.
"Yes, Wallace," said he. "Yes, yes, here he is. I see his eyes."
Wallace sat very composedly upon his horse, holding Phonny's bridle, while Phonny was uttering these exclamations, without appearing to share the enthusiasm which Phonny felt, at all.
"He is here, Wallace," said Phonny. "He is, truly."
"I do not doubt it," said Wallace, "but what are we to do about it?"
"Why—why—what would you do?" asked Phonny.
"I suppose that the best thing that we could do," said Wallace, "is to ride along."
"And leave the squirrel?" said Phonny, in a tone of surprise.
"Yes," said Wallace. "I don't see any thing else that we can do."
"Why, he will gnaw out," said Phonny. "He will gnaw out in half an hour. He has gnawed half through the board already. Espy ought to have tinned his trap." So saying, Phonny stooped down and peeped into the trap again, through the crack under the lid.
"Who is Espy?" asked Wallace.
"Espy Ransom," said Phonny. "He lives down by the mill. He is always setting traps for squirrels. I suppose that this road goes down to the mill, and that he came up here and set his trap. But it won't do to leave the squirrel here," continued Phonny, looking at Wallace in a very earnest manner. "It never will do in the world."
"What shall we do, then?" asked Wallace.
"Couldn't we carry him down to Espy?" said Phonny.
"I don't think that we have any right to carry him away. It is not our squirrel, and it may be that it is not Espy's."
Phonny seemed perplexed. After a moment's pause he added, "Couldn't we go down and tell Espy that there is a squirrel in his trap?"
"Yes," said Wallace, "that we can do."
Phonny stooped down and peeped into the trap again.
"The rogue," said he. "The moment that I am gone, he will go to gnawing again, I suppose, and so get out and run away. What a little fool he is."
"Do you think he is a fool for trying to gnaw out of that trap?" asked Wallace.
"Why no,"—said Phonny, "but I wish he wouldn't do it. We will go down quick and tell Espy."
So Phonny came back to the place where Wallace had remained in the road, holding the horses. Phonny let down the bars, and Wallace went through with the horses. Phonny immediately put the bars up again, took the bridle of his own horse from Wallace's hands, threw it up over the horse's head, and then by the help of a large log which lay by the side of the road, he mounted. He did all this in a hurried manner, and ended with saying:
"Now, Cousin Wallace, let's push on. I don't think it's more than half a mile to the mill."
While Wallace and Phonny were taking their ride, as described in the last chapter, Stuyvesant and Beechnut were plowing.
Beechnut told Stuyvesant that he was ready to yoke up, as he called it, as soon as the horses had gone.
"Well," said Stuyvesant, "I will come. I have got to go up to my room a minute first."
So Stuyvesant went up to his room, feeling in his pockets as he ascended the stairs, to find the keys of his trunk. When he reached his room, he kneeled down before his trunk and unlocked it.
He raised the lid and began to take out the things. He took them out very carefully, and laid them in order upon a table which was near the trunk. There were clothes of various kinds, some books, and several parcels, put up neatly in paper. Stuyvesant stopped at one of these parcels, which seemed to be of an irregular shape, and began to feel of what it contained through the paper.
"What is this?" said he to himself. "I wonder what it can be. Oh, I remember now, it is my watch-compass."
What Stuyvesant called his watch-compass, was a small pocket-compass made in the form of a watch. It was in a very pretty brass case, about as large as a lady's watch, and it had a little handle at the side, to fasten a watch-ribbon to. Stuyvesant's uncle had given him this compass a great many years before. Stuyvesant had kept it very carefully in his drawer at home, intending when he should go into the country to take it with him, supposing that it would be useful to him in the woods. His sister had given him a black ribbon to fasten to the handle. The ribbon was long enough to go round Stuyvesant's neck, while the compass was in his waistcoat pocket.
Stuyvesant untied the string, which was around the paper that contained his compass, and took it off. He then wound up this string into a neat sort of coil, somewhat in the manner in which fishing-lines are put up when for sale in shops. He put this coil of twine, together with the paper, upon the table. He looked at the compass a moment to see which was north in his chamber, and then putting the compass itself in his pocket, he passed the ribbon round his neck, and afterward went on taking the things out of his trunk.
When he came pretty near to the bottom of his trunk, he said to himself,
"Ah! here it is."
At the same moment he took out a garment, which seemed to be a sort of frock. It was made of brown linen. He laid it aside upon a chair, and then began to put the things back into his trunk again. He laid them all in very carefully, each in its own place. When all were in, he shut down the lid of the trunk, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. Then he took the frock from the chair, and opening it, put it on.
It was made somewhat like a cartman's frock. Stuyvesant had had it made by the seamstress at his mother's house, in New York, before he came away. He was a very neat and tidy boy about his dress, and always felt uncomfortable if his clothes were soiled or torn. He concluded, therefore, that if he had a good, strong, serviceable frock to put on over his other clothes, it would be very convenient for him at Franconia.
As soon as his frock was on, he hastened down stairs and went out to the barn in search of Beechnut. He found him yoking up the cattle.
"Why, Stuyvesant," said Beechnut, when he saw him, "that is a capital frock that you have got. How much did it cost?"
"I don't know," said Stuyvesant; "Mary made it for me."
"Who is Mary?" asked Beechnut.
"She is the seamstress," said Stuyvesant. "She lives at our house in New York."
"Do you have a seamstress there all the time?" said Beechnut.
"Yes," said Stuyvesant.
"And her name is Mary," said Beechnut.
"Yes," said Stuyvesant.
"Well, I wish she would take it into her head to make me such a frock as that," said Beechnut.
During this conversation, Beechnut had been busily employed in yoking up the oxen. Stuyvesant looked on, watching the operations carefully, in order to see how the work of yoking up was done. He wished to see whether the process was such that he could learn to yoke up oxen himself; or whether any thing that was required was beyond his strength.
"Can boys yoke up cattle?" said Stuyvesant at length.
"It takes a pretty stout boy," said Beechnut.
"Could a boy as stout as I am do it?" asked Stuyvesant.
"It would be rather hard work for you," said Beechnut, "the yoke is pretty heavy."
The yoke was indeed quite heavy, and it was necessary to lift it—one end at a time—over the necks of the oxen. Stuyvesant observed that the oxen were fastened to the yoke, by means of bows shaped like the letter U. These bows were passed up under the necks of the oxen. The ends of them came up through the yokes and were fastened there by little pegs, which Beechnut called keys. There was a ring in the middle of the yoke on the under side to fasten the chain to, by which the cattle were to draw.
When the oxen were yoked, Beechnut drove them to the corner of the yard, where there was a drag with a plow upon it. Beechnut put an axe also upon the drag.
"What do you want an axe for," asked Stuyvesant, "in going to plow?"
"We always take an axe," said Beechnut, "when we go away to work. We are pretty sure to want it for something or other."
Beechnut then gave Stuyvesant a goad stick, and told him that he might drive. Stuyvesant had observed very attentively what Beechnut had done in driving, and the gestures which he had made, and the calls which he had used, in speaking to the oxen, and though he had never attempted to drive such a team before, he succeeded quite well. His success, however, was partly owing to the sagacity of the oxen, who knew very well where they were to go and what they were to do.
At length, after passing through one or two pairs of bars, they came to the field.
"Which is the easiest," said Stuyvesant, "to drive the team or hold the plow?"
"That depends," said Beechnut, "upon whether your capacity consists most in your strength or your skill."
"Why so?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Because," said Beechnut, "it requires more skill to drive, than to hold the plow, and more strength to hold the plow, than to drive. I think, therefore, that you had better drive, for as between you and I, it is I that have the most strength, and you that have the most skill."
"Why you ought to have the most skill," said Beechnut—"coming from such a great city."
Beechnut took the plow off from the drag, and laid the drag on one side. He then attached the cattle to the plow. They were standing, when they did this, in the middle of one side of the field.
"Now," said Beechnut, "we are going first straight through the middle of the field. Do you see that elm-tree, the other side of the fence?"
"I see a large tree," said Stuyvesant.
"It is an elm," said Beechnut.
"There is a great bird upon the top of it," said Stuyvesant.
"Yes," said Beechnut, "it is a crow. Now you must keep the oxen headed directly for that tree. Go as straight as you can, and I shall try to keep the plow straight behind you. The thing is to make a straight furrow."
When all was ready, Stuyvesant gave the word to his oxen to move on, and they began to draw. Stuyvesant went on, keeping his eye alternately upon the oxen and upon the tree. He had some curiosity to look round and see how Beechnut was getting along with the furrow, but he recollected that his business was to drive, and so he gave his whole attention to his driving, in order that he might go as straight as possible across the field.
The crow flew away when he had got half across the field. He had a strong desire to know where she was going to fly to, but he did not look round to follow her in her flight. He went steadily on attending to his driving.
When he was about two thirds across the field, he saw a stump at a short distance before him, with a small hornet's nest upon one side of it. His course would lead him, he saw, very near this nest. His first impulse was to stop the oxen and tell Beechnut about the hornet's nest. He did in fact hesitate a moment, but he was instantly reassured by hearing Beechnut call out to him from behind, saying,
"Never mind the hornet's nest, Stuyvesant. Drive the oxen right on. I don't think the hornets will sting them."
Stuyvesant perceived by this, that Beechnut thought only of the oxen, when he saw a hornet's nest, and he concluded to follow his example in this respect. So he drove steadily on.
When they got to the end of the field the oxen stopped. Beechnut and Stuyvesant then looked round to see the furrow. It was very respectably straight.
"You have done very well," said he, "and you will find it easier now, for one of the oxen will walk in the furrow, and that will guide him."
So Stuyvesant brought the team around and then went back, one of the oxen in returning walking in the furrow which had been made before. In this manner they went back to the place from which they had first started.
"There," said Beechnut, "now we have got our work well laid out. But before we plow any more, we must destroy that hornet's nest, or else when we come to plow by that stump, the hornets will sting the oxen. I'll go and get some straw. You may stay here and watch the oxen while I am gone."
In a short time Beechnut came back, bringing his arms full of hay. He walked directly toward that part of the field where the hornet's nest was, calling Stuyvesant to follow him. Stuyvesant did so. When he got near to the stump, he put the hay down upon the ground. He then advanced cautiously to the stump with a part of the hay in his arms This hay he put down at the foot of the stump, directly under the hornet's nest, extending a portion of it outward so as to form a sort of train. He then went back and took up the remaining portion of the hay and held it in his hands.
"Now, Stuyvesant," said Beechnut, "light a match and set fire to the train."
Beechnut had previously given Stuyvesant a small paper containing a number of matches.
"How shall I light it?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Rub it upon a stone," said Beechnut. "Find one that has been lying in the sun," continued Beechnut, "and then the match will catch quicker, because the stone will be warm and dry."
So Stuyvesant lighted a match by rubbing it upon a smooth stone which was lying upon the ground near by. He then cautiously approached the end of the train and set it on fire.
Beechnut then came up immediately with the hay that he had in his hands, and placed it over and around the hornet's nest, so as to envelop it entirely. He and Stuyvesant then retreated together to a safe distance, and there stood to watch the result.
A very dense white smoke immediately began to come up through the hay. Presently the flame burst out, and in a few minutes the whole mass of the hay was in a bright blaze. Stuyvesant looked very earnestly to see if he could see any hornets, but he could not. At last, however, when the fire was burnt nearly down, he saw two. They were flying about the stump, apparently in great perplexity and distress. Stuyvesant pitied them, but as he did not see what he could do to help them, he told them that he thought they had better go and find some more hornets and build another nest somewhere. Then he and Beechnut went back to the plow.
Stuyvesant had quite a desire to try and hold the plow, after he had been driving the team about an hour, but he thought it was best not to ask. In fact he knew himself that it was best for him to learn one thing at a time. So he went on with his driving.
When it was about a quarter before twelve, Beechnut said that it was time to go in. So he unhooked the chain from the yoke, and leaving the plow, the drag, the axe and the chain in the field, he let the oxen go. They immediately ran off into a copse of trees and bushes, which bordered the road on one side.
"Why, Beechnut!" said Stuyvesant, "the oxen are running away."
"No," said Beechnut, "they are only going down to drink. There is a brook down there where they go to drink when they are at work in this field."
Oxen appear to possess mental qualifications of a certain kind in a very high degree. They are especially remarkable for their sagacity in finding good places to drink in the fields and pastures where they feed or are employed at work, and for their good memory in recollecting where they are. An ox may be kept away from a particular field or pasture quite a long time, and yet know exactly where to go to find water to drink when he is admitted to it again.
Stuyvesant looked at the oxen as they went down the path, and then proposed to follow them.
"Let us go and see," said he.
So he and Beechnut walked along after the oxen. They found a narrow, but very pretty road, or rather path, overhung with trees and bushes, which led down to the water. The road terminated at a broad and shallow place in the stream, where the sand was yellow and the water very clear. The oxen went out into the water, and then put their heads down to drink. Presently they stopped, first one and then the other, and stood a moment considering whether they wanted any more. Finding that they did not, they turned round in the water, and then came slowly out to the land. They walked up the bank, and finally emerging from the wood at the place where they had entered it, they went toward home.
When they reached the house the cattle went straight through the yard, toward the barn. Beechnut and Stuyvesant followed them. Beechnut was going to get them some hay. Stuyvesant went in with Beechnut and stood below on the barn floor, while Beechnut went up the ladder to pitch the hay down.
During all the time that Beechnut and Stuyvesant had been coming up from the field, conversation had been going on between them, about various subjects connected with farming. Stuyvesant asked Beechnut if Phonny could drive oxen pretty well.
"Pretty well," said Beechnut.
"Does he like to drive?" asked Stuyvesant.
"He likes to begin to drive," said Beechnut.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Why, when there is any driving to be done," replied Beechnut, "he thinks that he shall like it, and he wants to take a goad stick and begin. But he very soon gets tired of it, and goes away. You seem to have more perseverance. In fact, you seem to have a great deal of perseverance, which I think is very strange, considering that you are a city boy."
"City boys," continued Beechnut, "I have always heard said, are good for nothing at all."
"But you said, a little while ago," replied Stuyvesant, "that city boys had a great deal of skill."
"Yes," said Beechnut, "they are bright enough, but they have generally no steadiness or perseverance. They go from one thing to another, following the whim of the moment. The reason of that is, that living in cities, they are brought up without having any thing to do."
"They can go of errands," said Stuyvesant.
"Yes," said Beechnut, "they can go of errands, but there are not many errands to be done, so they are brought up in idleness. Country boys, on the other hand, generally have a great deal to do. They have to go for the cows, and catch the horses, and drive oxen, and a thousand other things, and so they are brought up in industry."
"Is Phonny brought up in industry?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Hardly," said Beechnut. "In fact he is scarcely old enough yet to do much work."
"He is as old as I am," said Stuyvesant.
"True," said Beechnut, "but he does not seem to have as much discretion. Do you see that long shed out there, projecting from the barn?"
This was said just at the time when Beechnut and Stuyvesant were passing through the gate which led into the yard, and the barns and sheds were just coming into view.
"The one with that square hole by the side of the door?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Yes," said Beechnut, "that was Phonny's hen house. He bought some hens, and was going to be a great poulterer. He was going to have I don't know how many eggs and chickens,—but finally he got tired of his brood, and neglected them, and at last wanted to sell them to me. I bought them day before yesterday."
"How many hens are there?" asked Stuyvesant.
"About a dozen," said Beechnut. "I gave him a dollar and a half for the whole stock. I looked into his hen-house when I bought him out, and found it all in sad condition. I have not had time to put it in order yet."
"I will put it in order," said Stuyvesant.
"Will you?" said Beechnut.
"Yes," said Stuyvesant, "and I should like to buy the hens of you, if I were only going to stay here long enough."
"I don't think it is worth while for you to buy them," said Beechnut, "but I should like to have you take charge of them. I would pay you by giving you a share of the eggs."
"What could I do with the eggs?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Why you could sell them, or give them away, just as you pleased. You might give them to Mrs. Henry, or sell them to her, or sell them to me. If you will take the whole care of them while you are here, I will give you one third of the eggs, after all expenses are paid."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Stuyvesant.
"Why, if we have to buy any grain, for instance, to give the hens, we must sell eggs enough first to pay for the grain, and after that, you shall have one third of the eggs that are left."
Stuyvesant was much pleased with this proposal, and was just about to say that he accepted it, when his attention was suddenly turned away from the subject, by hearing a loud call from Phonny, who just then came running round a corner, with a box-trap under his arm, shouting out,
"Stuyvesant! Stuyvesant! Look here! I've got a gray squirrel;—a beautiful, large gray squirrel."
It is necessary in this chapter to return to Phonny and Wallace, in order to explain how Phonny succeeded in getting his squirrel.
He was quite in haste, as he went on after leaving the squirrel, in order to get down to the mill where Espy lived, before the squirrel should have gnawed out. The road, he was quite confident, led to the mill.
"I should like to buy the squirrel, if Espy will sell him," said Phonny.
"Do you think that your mother would be willing?" asked Wallace.
"Why yes," said Phonny, "certainly. What objection could she have?"
"None, only the trouble that it would occasion her," replied Wallace.
"Oh, it would not make her any trouble," said Phonny. "I should take care of it myself."
"It would not make her much trouble, I know," said Wallace, "if you were only considerate and careful. As it is I think it may make her a great deal."
"No," said Phonny, "I don't think that it will make her any trouble at all."
"Where shall you keep your squirrel?" asked Wallace.
"In a cage, in the back room," said Phonny, promptly.
"Have you got a cage?" asked Wallace.
"No," said Phonny, "but I can make one."
"I think that in making a cage," replied Wallace, "you would have to give other people a great deal of trouble. You would be inquiring all about the house, for tools, and boards, and wire,—that is unless you keep your tools and materials for such kind of work, in better order than boys usually do."
Phonny was silent. His thoughts reverted to a certain room in one of the out-buildings, which he called his shop, and used for that purpose, and which was, as he well knew, at this time in a state of great confusion.
"Then," continued Wallace, "you will leave the doors open, going and coming, to see your squirrel, and to feed him."
"No," said Phonny, "I am very sure that I shall not leave the doors open."
"And then," continued Wallace, "after a time you will get a little tired of your squirrel, and will forget to feed him, and so your mother or somebody in the house, must have the care of reminding you of it."
"Oh, no," said Phonny, "I should not forget to feed him, I am sure."
"Did not you forget to feed your hens?" asked Wallace.
"Why—yes," said Phonny, hesitatingly, "but that is a different thing."
"Then, besides," said Wallace, "you will have to go and beg some money of your mother to buy the squirrel with. For I suppose you have not saved any of your own, from your allowance. It is very seldom that boys of your age have self-control enough to lay up any money."
As Wallace said these words Phonny, who had been riding along, with the bridle and his little riding stick both in his right hand, now shifted them into his left, and then putting his right hand into his left vest pocket, he drew out a little wallet. He then extended his hand with the wallet in it to Wallace saying,
"Look in there."
Wallace took the wallet, opened it as he rode along, and found that there was a quarter of a dollar in one of the pockets.
"Is that your money?" said Wallace.
"Yes," said Phonny.
"Then you are not near as much of a boy as I thought you were. To be able to save money, so as to have a stock on hand for any unexpected emergency, is one of the greatest proofs of manliness. I had no idea that you were so much of a man."
Phonny laughed. At first Wallace supposed that this laugh only expressed the pleasure which Phonny felt at having deserved these praises, but as he gave back the wallet into Phonny's hands, he perceived a very mysterious expression upon his countenance.
"That's the money," said Phonny, "that my mother just gave me for my next fortnight's allowance."
"Then you have had no opportunity to spend it at all?"
"No," said Phonny.
Phonny thought that he was sinking himself in his cousin's estimation by this avowal, but he was in fact raising himself very much by evincing so much honesty.
"He is not willing to receive commendation that he knows he does not deserve," thought Wallace to himself. "That is a good sign. That is a great deal better trait of character than to be able to lay up money."
Wallace thought this to himself as he rode along. He did not, however, express the thought, but went on a minute or two in silence. At length he said,
"So, then, you have got money enough to buy the squirrel?"
"Yes," said Phonny, "if a quarter is enough."
"It is enough," said Wallace, "I have no doubt. So that one difficulty is disposed of. As to the second difficulty," he continued, "that is, troubling the family about making the cage, we can dispose of that very easily, too, for I can help you about that myself. What shall we do about the third, leaving the doors open and making a noise when you go back and forth to feed him?"
"Oh, I will promise not to do that," said Phonny.
"Promise!" repeated Wallace, in a tone of incredulity.
"Yes," said Phonny, "I'll promise, positively."
"Is it safe to rely on boys' promises about here?" said Wallace. "They would not be considered very good security in Wall Street, in New York."
"I don't know," said Phonny; "I always keep my promises."
"Are you willing to agree, that if you make any noise or disturbance in the family with your squirrel, that he is to be forfeited?"
"Forfeited!" said Phonny, "how do you mean?"
"Why, given up to me, to dispose of as I please," said Wallace.
"And what should you do with him?" asked Phonny.
"I don't know," said Wallace. "I should dispose of him in some way, so that he should not be the means of any more trouble. Perhaps I should give him away; perhaps I should open the cage and let him run."
"Then I think you ought to pay me what I gave for him," said Phonny.
"No," said Wallace, "because I don't take him for any advantage to myself, but only to prevent your allowing him to make trouble. If you make noise and disturbance with him, it is your fault, and you lose the squirrel as the penalty for it. If you do your duty and make no trouble with him, then he would not be forfeited."
"Well," said Phonny, "I agree to that. But perhaps you will say that I make a disturbance with him when I don't."
"We will have an umpire, then," said Wallace.
"What is an umpire?" asked Phonny.
"Somebody to decide when there is a dispute," replied Wallace. "Who shall be the umpire?"
"Beechnut," said Phonny.
"Agreed," said Wallace.
"And now there is one point more," he continued, "and that is, perhaps you will neglect to feed him, and then we shall be uncomfortable, for fear that the squirrel is suffering."
"No," said Phonny, shaking his head; "I shall certainly feed him every day, and sometimes twice a day."
"Are you willing to agree to forfeit him, if you fail to feed him?"
"Why—I don't know," said Phonny. "But I certainly shall feed him, I know I shall."
"Then there will be no harm in agreeing to forfeit him if you fail," rejoined Wallace; "for if you certainly do feed him, then your agreement to forfeit him will be a dead letter."
"But I might accidentally omit to feed him some one day," said Phonny. "I might be sick, or I might be gone away, and I might ask Stuyvesant to feed him, and he forget it, and then I should lose my squirrel entirely."
"No," said Wallace, "you are not to forfeit him except for neglect. It must be a real and inexcusable neglect on your part, Beechnut being judge."
"Well," said Phonny, "I agree to it."
"And I will give you three warnings," said Wallace, "both for making trouble and disturbance with your squirrel, and for neglecting to feed him. After the third warning, he is forfeited, and I am to do what I please with him."
"Well," said Phonny, "I agree to it."
A short time after this conversation, the road in which Wallace and Phonny were riding emerged from the wood, and there was opened before them the prospect of a wide and beautiful valley. A short distance before them down the valley, there was a stream with a mill. By the side of the mill, under some large spreading elms, was a red house, which Phonny said was the one where Espy lived.
They rode on rapidly, intending to go to the house and inquire for Espy. Just before reaching the place, however, Phonny's attention was arrested by his seeing some boys fishing on the bank of the stream, just below the mill. It was at a place where the road lay along the bank of the stream, at a little distance from it. The stream was very broad at this place, and the water quite deep and clear. The ground was smooth and green between the road and the water, and there were large trees on the bank overshadowing the shore, so that it was a very pleasant place.[B]
[Footnote B: See Frontispiece.]
There were two boys standing upon the bank in one place fishing. Two other boys were near the water at a little distance, trying to make a dog jump in, by throwing in sticks and stones.
Just as Wallace and Phonny came along, one of the boys who was fishing, called out in a loud and authoritative tone to one of those who were trying to make the dog jump in, saying,
"Hey-e-e, there! Oliver, don't throw sticks into the water; you scare away all the fish."
"Ned!" said Phonny, calling out to the boy who was fishing.
The boy looked round, without, however, moving his fishing-pole.
"Is Espy down there anywhere?" said Phonny.
Here the boy turned his head again toward the water, without directly answering Phonny, though he called out at the same time in an audible voice,
In answer apparently to his call, a boy came suddenly out of a little thicket which was near the water, just below where Ned was fishing, and asked Ned what he wanted.
"There's a fellow out here in the road," said Ned, "calling for you."
Hearing this, the boy came out of the thicket entirely, and scrambled up the bank. He stood at the top of the bank, looking toward Wallace and Phonny, but did not advance. His hand was extended toward a branch of the tree which he had taken hold of to help him in climbing up the bank. He continued to keep hold of this tree, showing by his attitude that he did not mean to come any farther.
He was in fact a little awed at the sight of Wallace, who was a stranger to him. He did not know whether he was wanted for any good purpose, or was going to be called to account for some of his misdeeds.
"Come here a minute," said Phonny.
Espy did not move.
"Is that your trap up in the woods?" asked Phonny.
"Yes," said Espy.
"There is a squirrel in it," rejoined Phonny, "and I want to buy him."
Hearing this, the boys who had been playing with the dog began to move up toward Wallace and Phonny. Espy himself taking his hand down from the tree, came forward a few steps. Wallace and Phonny too advanced a little with their horses toward the stream, and thus the whole party came nearer together.
"There is a squirrel in your trap," repeated Phonny, "if he has not gnawed out;—and I want to buy him. What will you sell him for?"
"What kind of a squirrel is it?" asked Espy.
"I don't know," said Phonny. "I couldn't see any thing but his eyes."
"If it's a gray squirrel," said Espy, "he is worth a quarter. If it's a red squirrel you may have him for four pence—
"Or for nothing at all," continued Espy, after a moment's pause, "just as you please."
"What will you sell him for just as he is," asked Wallace, "and we take the risk of his being red or gray?"
"Don't you know which it is?" asked Espy.
"No," said Wallace, "I do not. I did not go near the cage, and Phonny did not open it. He says he could only see his eyes."
"And his nose," said Phonny, "I saw his nose,—but I don't know at all, what kind of a squirrel it is."
"You may have him for eighteen cents," said Espy.
"But perhaps he has gnawed out," said Phonny. "He was gnawing out as fast as he could when we saw him."
"Why, if he has gnawed out," said Espy, "you will not have anything to pay, of course; because then you won't get him.
"Or," continued Espy, "you may have him for ten cents, and you take the risk of his gnawing out. You give me ten cents now, and you may have him if he is there, red or gray. If he is not there, I keep the ten cents, and you get nothing."
"Well," said Phonny. "Would you, Wallace?"
"I don't know," said Wallace. "You must decide. There is considerable risk. I can't judge."
"I have not got any ten cents," said Phonny—"only a quarter of a dollar."
"Oh, I can pay," said Wallace, "and then you can pay me some other time."
"Well," said Phonny, "I believe I will take him."
"You must lend me the trap," said Phonny, again addressing Espy,—"to carry the squirrel home in, and I will bring it back here some day."
"Well," said Espy.
So Wallace took a ten cent piece from his pocket, and gave it to Espy, and then he and Phonny rode away.
"Now," said Phonny, "we must go ahead."
They rode on rapidly for some time. At length, on ascending a hill, they were obliged to slacken their pace a little.
"If it should prove to be a gray squirrel," said Phonny, "what a capital bargain I shall have made. A squirrel worth a quarter of a dollar, for ten cents."
"I don't see why a gray squirrel is so much more valuable than a red one," said Wallace. "Is gray considered prettier than red?"
"Oh, it is not his color," said Phonny, "it is the shape and size. The gray squirrels are a great deal larger, and then, they have a beautiful bushy tail, that lays all the time over their back, and curls up at the end, like a plume. The red squirrels are very small."
"Besides," continued Phonny, "they are not red exactly. They are a kind of reddish brown, so that they are not very pretty, even in color. I am afraid that my squirrel will be a red one."
"I am afraid so, too," said Wallace.
"The red squirrels are altogether the most common," said Phonny.
"There are the bars," said Wallace, "now we shall soon see."
They had arrived in fact, at the bars. Phonny jumped off his horse and gave Wallace the bridle, and then went to take down the bars. As soon as he had got them down, he left Wallace to go through with the horses, at his leisure, and he himself ran off toward the rock where he had left the trap, to see what sort of a squirrel he had.
Wallace went through the bars in a deliberate manner, as it was in fact necessary to do in conducting two horses, and then dismounted, intending to put the bars up. He had just got off his horse when he saw Phonny coming from the direction of the place where the trap had been left, with a countenance expressive of great surprise and concern.
"Wallace," exclaimed Phonny, "the squirrel has gone, trap and all."
"Has it?" said Wallace.
"Yes," said Phonny; "I left it on that rock, and it is gone."
So saying Phonny ran to the place and put his foot upon the rock, looking up to Wallace, and added,
"There is the very identical spot where I put it, and now it is gone."
Wallace seemed at a loss what to think.
"Somebody must have taken him away," said he.
"Hark!" said Phonny.
Wallace and Phonny listened. They heard the voices of some boys in the woods.
"There they are now," said Phonny.
"Mount the horse," said Wallace, "and we will go and see."
Phonny mounted his horse as expeditiously as possible, and he and Wallace rode off through the woods in the direction of the voices. They followed a path which led down a sort of glen, and after riding a short distance they saw the boys before them, standing in a little open space among the trees. The boys had stopped to see who was coming.
There were three boys, one large and two small. The large boy had the trap under his arm.
"Halloa!" said Phonny, calling out aloud to the boys, "stop carrying off that trap."
The boys did not answer.
"I have bought that squirrel," said Phonny, "you must give him to me."
"No," said the great boy; "it belongs to Espy, and I am going to keep it for him."
"Hush," said Wallace, in a low tone to Phonny; "I will speak to him."
Then calling out aloud again, he said, "We have just been down to Espy's and have bought the squirrel, and have now come to take him home."
The boy did not move from the place where he stood, and he showed very plainly by his countenance and his manner, that he did not mean to give the squirrel up. Presently they heard him mutter to the small boys,
"I don't believe they have bought him, and they shan't have him."
"Let us go down and take the squirrel away from them," said Phonny, in a low tone to Wallace; "I don't believe they will give him up, unless we do."
"We can not do that," said Wallace. "We might take the trap away, perhaps, but they would first open the trap and let the squirrel go."
"What shall we do, then?" asked Phonny.
Wallace did not answer this question, directly, but called out again to the boy who held the trap, saying,
"We found the squirrel here in the woods, and then went down to tell Espy, and we bought the squirrel of him. But we can't carry him home very well on horseback, at least till we get out of the woods, because the road is so steep and rough. Now if you will carry him down the road for us, till we get out of the woods, I will give you six cents."
"Well," said the boy, "I will."
He immediately began to come toward Wallace and Phonny, so as to go back with them into the road which they were to take. Wallace and Phonny led the way, and he followed. As soon as he came within convenient distance for talking, Phonny asked him what sort of a squirrel it was.
"A gray squirrel," said he. "The prettiest gray squirrel that ever I saw."
Phonny was very much elated at hearing this intelligence, and wanted to get off his horse at once, and take a peep at the squirrel; but Wallace advised him to do no such thing. In due time the whole party got out of the woods. Wallace gave the boy his six cents, and the boy handed the trap up to Phonny. Phonny held it upon the pommel of the saddle, directly before him. He found that the squirrel had gnawed through the board so as to get his nose out, but he could not gnaw any more, now that the box was all the time in motion. So he gave it up in despair, and remained crouched down in a corner of the trap during the remainder of the ride, wondering all the time what the people outside were doing with him.
"You managed that boy finely," said Phonny. "He is one of the worst boys in town."
"It is generally best," said Wallace, "in dealing with people, to contrive some way to make it for their interest to do what you want, rather than to quarrel with them about it."
For the rest of the way, Phonny rode on without meeting with any difficulty, and arrived at home, with his squirrel all safe, just at the time when Beechnut and Stuyvesant were talking about the poultry.
PLANS FOR THE SQUIRREL.
As soon as Phonny had told Stuyvesant about his squirrel and had lifted up the lid of the trap a little, so as to allow him to peep in and see, he said that he was going in to show the squirrel to the people in the house, and especially to Malleville. He accordingly hurried away with the box under his arm. Stuyvesant went back toward the barn.
Phonny hastened along to the house. From the yard he went into a shed through a great door. He walked along the platform in the shed, and at the end of the platform he went up three steps, to a door leading into the back kitchen. He passed through this back kitchen into the front kitchen, hurrying forward as he went, and leaving all the doors open.
Dorothy was at work at a table ironing.
"Dorothy," said Phonny, "I've got a squirrel—a beautiful squirrel. If I had time I would stop and show him to you."
"I wish you had time to shut the doors," said Dorothy.
"In a minute," said Phonny, "I am coming back in a minute, and then I will."
So saying Phonny went into a sort of hall or entry which passed through the house, and which had doors in it leading to the principal rooms. There was a staircase here. Phonny supposed that Malleville was up in his mother's chamber. So he stood at the foot of the stairs and began to call her with a loud voice.
"Malleville!" said he, "Malleville! Where are you? Come and see my squirrel."
Presently a door opened above, and Phonny heard some one stepping out.
"Malleville," said Phonny, "is that you?"
"No," said a voice above, "it is Wallace. I have come to give you your first warning."
"Why, I only wanted to show my squirrel to Malleville," said Phonny.
"You are making a great disturbance," said Wallace, "and besides, though I don't know any thing about it, I presume that you came in a noisy manner through the kitchen and left all the doors open there."
"Well," said Phonny, "I will be still."
So Phonny turned round and went away on tiptoe. When he got into the kitchen, he first shut the doors, and then carried the trap to Dorothy, and let her peep through the hole which the squirrel had gnawed and see the squirrel inside.
"Do you see him?" asked Phonny.
"I see the tip of his tail," said Dorothy, "curling over. The whole squirrel is there somewhere, I've no doubt."
Phonny then went out again to find Stuyvesant. He was careful to walk softly and to shut all the doors after him.
He found Stuyvesant and Beechnut in the barn. Beechnut was raking up the loose hay which had been pitched down upon the barn floor, and Stuyvesant was standing beside him.
"Beechnut," said Phonny, "just look at my squirrel. You can peep through this little hole where he was trying to gnaw out."
Phonny held the trap up and Beechnut peeped through the hole.
"Yes," said he, "I see the top of his head His name is Frink."
"Frink?" repeated Phonny, "how do you know?"
"I think that must be his name," said Beechnut. "If you don't believe it, try and see if you can make him answer to any other name. If you can I'll give it up."
"Nonsense, Beechnut," said Phonny. "That is only some of your fun. But Frink will be a very good name for him, nevertheless. Only I was going to call him Bunny."
"I don't think his name is Bunny," said Beechnut. "I knew Bunny. He was a squirrel that belonged to Rodolphus. He got away and ran off into the woods, but I don't think that this is the same one."
"I'll call him Frink," said Phonny. "But what would you do with him if you were in my place?"
"Me?" said Beechnut.
"Yes," said Phonny.
"Well, I think," said Beechnut, stopping his work a moment, and leaning on his rake, and drawing a long breath, as if what he was about to say was the result of very anxious deliberation, "I think that on the whole, if that squirrel were mine, I should put two large baskets up in the barn-chamber, and send him into the woods this fall to get beechnuts, and hazelnuts, and fill the baskets. One basket for beechnuts and one for hazelnuts, and I would give him a month to fill them."
"Nonsense, Beechnut," said Phonny, "you are only making fun. If I were to let him go off into the woods, he never would come back again."
"Why, do you suppose," said Beechnut, "that he would rather be running about in the woods than to live in that trap?"
"Yes," said Phonny.
"Then," said Beechnut, "you must make him a beautiful cage, and have it so convenient and comfortable for him, that he shall like it better than he does the woods. That would not be difficult, one would suppose, because he has nothing but holes in the ground and old hollow logs in the woods."
"I know that," said Phonny; "but then I don't think he would like any house that I could make him, so well as he does the old logs."
"Then I don't know what you will do," said Beechnut, "to make him contented."
So saying Beechnut went away, leaving Phonny and Stuyvesant together. They talked a few minutes about the squirrel, and then began to walk along toward the house.
As they walked along, they heard the bell ring for dinner.
"There," said Phonny, "there is the dinner-bell, what shall we do now? Where shall I put my squirrel while we are in at dinner?"
"Haven't you got some sort of cage to put him in?" said Stuyvesant.
"No," said Phonny, "I was going to make one after dinner in my shop. I have got a shop, did you know it?"
"Yes," said Stuyvesant, "Beechnut told me."
"Only my tools are rather dull," added Phonny. "But I think I can make a cage with them."
"You might put the trap in the shop, on the bench," said Stuyvesant, "till after dinner, and then make your cage."
"Well," said Phonny, "so I will."
So the two boys went into the shop. The room was indeed in great confusion. The floor was covered with chips and shavings. The tools were lying in disorder on the bench. There was a saw-horse in the middle of the room, tumbled over upon one side, because one of the legs was out. The handle was out of the hatchet, and one of the claws of the hammer was broken.
While Stuyvesant was surveying this scene of disorder, Phonny advanced to the bench, and pushing away the tools from one corner of it, he put the trap down.
"There!" said he, "he will be safe there till after dinner."
"Only," said Stuyvesant, "he may finish gnawing out."
"I will stop him up," said Phonny.
So saying he took the foreplane, which is a tool formed of a steel cutter, set in a pretty long and heavy block of wood, and placed it directly before the hole in the trap. "There!" said he, "now if he does gnaw the hole big enough, he can't get out, for he can't push the plane away."
"Perhaps he will be hungry," said Stuyvesant.
"No," said Phonny, "for there was half an ear of corn tied to the spindle for bait, and he has not eaten but a very little of it yet, I can see by peeping in."
"Then, perhaps, he will be thirsty," said Stuyvesant.
"I will give him something to drink," said Phonny.
"Yes," said Beechnut.
The boys turned and saw Beechnut standing at the door of the shop, looking at them. He continued,
"His name is Frink, And so I think, I'd give him a little water to drink."
So saying, Beechnut went away. Phonny took up an old tin cover which lay upon a shelf behind the bench, and which had once belonged to a tin box. The box was lost, but Phonny had kept the cover to put nails in. He now poured the nails out upon the bench, and went out to the pump to fill the cover with water.
In a minute or two he came back, walking carefully, so as not to spill the water. He raised the lid of the trap a little, very cautiously, and then pushed the cover in underneath it, in such a manner that about half of it was inside the trap.
"There! That's what I call complete. Now he can have a drink when he pleases, and we will go in to dinner."
* * * * *
At the dinner table, Phonny and Stuyvesant sat upon one side of the table, and Malleville sat on the other side, opposite to them. Mrs. Henry sat at the head, and Wallace opposite to her, at the foot of the table. The dinner consisted that day, of roast chickens, and after it, an apple pudding.
Wallace carved the chickens, and when all had been helped, Phonny began to talk about the squirrel.
"I suppose you consider it as boyishness in me, Cousin Wallace, to like to have a squirrel," said he.
"It is a very harmless kind of boyishness, at any rate," replied Wallace.
"Then you have no objection to it," said Phonny.
"None at all," said Wallace. "In one sense it is boyishness, for it is boys, and not men, that take pleasure in possessing useless animals."
"Useless!" said Phonny, "do you call a gray squirrel useless?"
"He is not useful in the sense in which the animals of a farm-yard are useful," said Wallace. "He gives pleasure perhaps, but cows, sheep, and hens, are a source of profit. Boys don't care much about profit; but like any kind of animals, if they are pretty, or cunning in their motions and actions."
"I like gray squirrels," said Phonny, "very much indeed, if it is boyishness."
"It is a very harmless kind of boyishness at all events," replied Wallace. "It is not like some other kinds of boyishness, such as I told you about the other day."
"Well, Cousin Wallace," said Phonny, "what would you do, if you were in my case, for a cage?"
"I would take some kind of box, without any top to it," replied Wallace, "and lay it down upon its side, and then make a front to it of wires."
"Yes," said Phonny, "that will be an excellent plan. But how can I make the front of wires?"
"I will come and show you," said Wallace, "when you get the box all ready. You must look about and find a box, and carry it into the shop. Is your shop in order?"
"No," said Phonny, "not exactly; but I can put it in order in a few minutes."
"Very well," said Wallace. "Put your shop all in order, and get the box, and then come and call me."
"Well," said Phonny, "I will."
After dinner, Stuyvesant told Phonny that he should be glad to help him about his cage, were it not that he was engaged to go with Beechnut that afternoon, to plow. Phonny was very sorry to hear this. In fact he had a great mind to go himself, and help plow, and so put off making his cage until the next day. It is very probable that he would have decided upon this plan, but while he was hesitating about it, Beechnut came to tell Stuyvesant that he should not be able to finish the plowing that day, for he was obliged to go away. Then Stuyvesant said that he would help Phonny. So they went together into the shop.
They found the squirrel safe. Phonny examined the water very attentively, to see whether Frink had been drinking any of it. He was very confident that the water had diminished quite sensibly. Stuyvesant could not tell whether it had diminished or not.
"And now," said Phonny, "the first thing is to put the shop in order."
So saying, he took the plane away from before the trap, and looked at the hole to see whether Frink had gnawed it any bigger. He had not. Phonny then carried the trap to the back side of the shop and put it upon a great chopping-block which stood there. He did this for the purpose of having the bench clear, so as to put the tools in order upon it.
"I am glad that you are going to put this shop in order," said Stuyvesant,—"that is, if you will let me use it afterward."
"Yes," said Phonny, "I will let you use it. But what should you want to make in it?"
"Why, Beechnut has given me charge of the hen-house," said Stuyvesant, "and I am to have one third of the eggs."
Here Phonny stopped suddenly in his work and looked up to Stuyvesant as if surprised.
"What, my hen-house!" said he.
"The one that you used to have," said Stuyvesant. "He said that you sold it to him."
"So I did," said Phonny, thoughtfully. As he said this, he laid down his saw, which he had just taken to hang upon a nail where it belonged, and ran off out of the shop.
He was in pursuit of Beechnut. He found him harnessing a horse into a wagon.
"Beechnut," said he, "have you given Stuyvesant the charge of my hen-house?"
"I have offered it to him," said Beechnut, "but he has not told me yet whether he accepted the offer or not."
"You are going to let him have half the eggs if he takes care of the house and the hens?" inquired Phonny.
"One third of them," said Beechnut.
"I did not know that you would do that," said Phonny. "If I had known that you would be willing to let it out in that way, I should have wanted it myself."
"I am not certain that it would be safe to let it to you," said Beechnut.
"Why not?" asked Phonny.
"I am not sure that you would be persevering and faithful in taking care of the hens."
"Why should not I as well as Stuyvesant?" asked Phonny. "Stuyvesant is not so old as I am."
"He may have more steadiness and perseverance, for all that," said Beechnut.
"I think you might let me have it as well as him," said Phonny.
"Very well," said Beechnut, "either of you. It shall go to the one who has the first claim."
"You say he did not accept your offer of it to him?"
"No," said Beechnut, "I believe he did not."
"Then I agree to accept it now," said Phonny, "and that gives me the first claim."
Beechnut did not answer to this proposal, but went on harnessing the horse. When the horse was all ready, he gathered up the reins and stood a moment, just before getting into the wagon, in a thoughtful attitude.
"Well now, Phonny," said he, "here is a great law question to be settled, whether you or Stuyvesant has the best right to the contract. Go and ask Stuyvesant to come to the shop-door."
So Beechnut got into the wagon and drove out of the shed, and along the yard, until he came to the shop-door, and there he stopped. Phonny and Stuyvesant were standing in front of the door.
"Stuyvesant," said Beechnut, "here is a perplexing case. Phonny wants to have the care of the hen-house on the same terms I offered it to you. You did not tell me whether you would take it or not."
"No," said Stuyvesant, "I was going to tell you that I would take it, but if Phonny wants it, I am willing to give it up to him."
"And you, Phonny," said Beechnut, "are willing, I suppose, if Stuyvesant wants it, to give it up to him?"
"Why—yes," said Phonny. In saying this, however, Phonny seemed to speak quite reluctantly and doubtfully.
"That's right," said Beechnut. "Each of you is willing to give up to the other. But now before we can tell on which side the giving up is to be, we must first decide on which side the right is. So that you see we have got the quarrel into a very pretty shape now. The question is, which of you can have the pleasure and privilege of giving up to the other, instead of which shall be compelled to give up against his will. So you see it is now a very pleasant sort of a quarrel."
"No," said Phonny, "it is not any such thing. A quarrel is not pleasant, ever."
"Oh, yes," said Beechnut, "one of the greatest pleasures of life is to quarrel. We can not possibly get along, without quarrels. The only thing that we can do is to get them in as good shape as possible."
"Have you got a pencil and paper in your shop?" continued Beechnut.
"Yes," said Phonny.
"Bring them out to me."
Phonny brought out a pencil and a small piece of paper, and held them up to Beechnut in the wagon.
"Now boys," said Beechnut, "are you willing to submit this case to Mr. Wallace, for his decision?"
"Yes," said Phonny.
"I am too," said Stuyvesant.
"Then I'll write a statement of it," said Beechnut.
Beechnut accordingly placed the paper upon the seat of the wagon beside him, and began to write. In a few minutes he held up the paper and read as follows:
"A. has a certain contract which he is willing to offer to either B. or C. whichever has the prior right to it. He first offered it to B. but before B. accepted the offer C. made application for it. C. immediately accepted the offer, before A. decided upon B.'s application. Now the question is whose claim is best, in respect simply of priority,—the one to whom it was first offered, or the one who first signified his willingness to accept of it."
"There," said Beechnut, "there is a simple statement of the case."
"I don't understand it very well," said Phonny.
"Don't you?" said Beechnut; "then I'll read it again."
So Beechnut began again.
"A. has a certain contract——"
Here Beechnut paused and looked up at the boys.
"A. means Beechnut," said Stuyvesant.
"Then why don't you say Beechnut?" said Phonny.
"And the contract," continued Stuyvesant, "is the agreement about the hens."
"Which he is willing to offer," continued Beechnut, "to either B. or C."
"That is, either to you or me," said Stuyvesant.
"Yes," said Phonny, "I understand so far. But what is that about priority."
"Priority," said Beechnut, "means precedence in respect to time."
"That is harder to understand than priority," said Phonny.
"The question is," continued Beechnut, "which must be considered as first in order of time, the one who had the offer first, or the one who accepted first."
"The one who accepted first," said Phonny.
"You are not to decide the question," said Beechnut. "I was only explaining to you what the question is. You must carry the paper to Mr. Wallace and get his opinion."
"But Beechnut," said Phonny, "why don't you tell him all about it, just as it was, instead of making up such a story about A. B. and C. and priority."
"Why, when we refer a case to an umpire for decision," said Beechnut, "it is always best, when we can, to state the principle of the question in general terms, so that he can decide it in the abstract, without knowing who the real parties are, and how they are to be affected by his decision. Here's Mr. Wallace now, who would not like very well to decide in favor of his brother and against you, even if he thought that his brother was in the right. But by not letting him know any thing but the general principle he can decide just as he thinks, without fear that you would think him partial."