E-text prepared by Al Haines
Life on a Farm
DAY KELLOGG LEE
"When now the cock, the ploughman's horn, Calls forth the lily-wristed morn, Then to thy cornfields thou dost go, Which, though well-soil'd, yet thou dost know That the best compost for the lands Is the wise master's feet and hands." —HERRICK
Auburn: Derby and Miller. 1852.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851, by Day K. Lee, In the Clerk's Office for the Southern District of New York.
MY VENERATED FATHER;
PIONEER OF THE LAKE COUNTRY;
SOWED TRUTH AND GOODNESS IN THE SPRING-TIME,
REAPS PEACE AND HONOR IN THE AUTUMN
OF HIS LIFE;
THIS VOLUME IS WITH LOVE INSCRIBED.
BY THE AUTHOR OF "GOLDEN STEPS," &c.
Works of fiction are to be approved when they subserve the interests of morality and religion. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments—the ancient classics—the most distinguished productions of modern ages—afford striking illustrations of the beautiful and instructive lessons of virtue and piety, which may be conveyed in fabulous narration. The Parables of the Saviour; Milton's Paradise Lost; Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, are samples of salutary and saving truth exhibited in stories of the imagination.
I have made myself familiar with the contents of the following tale, from the manuscript copy. The aim of the author is of the highest description. He endeavors to instil into the minds of his readers a lesson of the utmost practical importance, intimately connected with the experience of every-day life. He would instruct them of the wisdom of being contented with a useful and productive occupation, which is honorable in its character, healthful in its nature, and conducive to the welfare of society, rather than to aspire to callings, not so laborious perhaps, yet more deceptive and uncertain in substantial remuneration, and far less calculated to promote public good.
This object the author successfully accomplishes. No reader can arise from a perusal of his pages, without feeling a higher respect for such pursuits as benefit the world, and a stronger inclination to avoid the more showy and worthless callings into which too many are disposed to crowd. The story is most happily conceived, and is narrated in a style highly finished and attractive. There is nothing insipid or over-wrought, in the frame-work or filling up; but all is natural and lifelike. The witty, the lively, the startling, are finely interwoven with the more grave and instructive. A fertile and vivid imagination has enabled the author to bring characters upon his stage which represent almost every phase in human nature, and to indulge in personal and scenic descriptions, whether in painting a landscape, or delineating some humorous or some noble quality of the heart, of the most charming character. The reader is enamored with the quiet enjoyments of rural life, and disgusted with the schemes of hackneyed sharpers. A high moral tone runs throughout the narrative. Vice is rebuked and punished—virtue is commended and rewarded. The idle, the vicious, the unprincipled schemer and deceiver, are painted to the life, and placed in such a light, as to act as examples of warning to the inexperienced, while the industrious, the wise and good, stand forth in the true nobleness of their nature, to the admiration of all.
To those who would discountenance the puerile and trashy novels, full of debasing and licentious tendencies, with which our country is flooded, I would earnestly recommend this work. It can be placed in the hands of the youthful not only with safety, but with the utmost confidence that it will exert a highly salutary influence upon them.
I understand the present is the first of a series of volumes on the various leading Occupations of Life. The author would discountenance the frivolous and demoralizing light reading of the day, and place in the hand of young men and women, works which shall induce and aid them to work out a great and noble life.
J. M. AUSTIN.
GOING FROM HOME TO BUILD A HOME
HOME IN THE BACKWOODS
A BEAR HUNT
A FEAST AND A STORY
THE NEW HOME AND SETTLEMENT
A LAMB LOST
SEEKING THE LOST LAMB IN VAIN
THE SUGAR PARTY
FABENS PROMOTED TO HONOR
A LAW SUIT
THE COLD SEASONS
A WAR OF EXTERMINATION
THE SECOND MEETING AND ITS FRUITS
THE HARVEST LUNCH
GEORGE LUDLOW AND ALMON FRISBIE
FAIRBANKS, FRISBIE, AND FABENS
A WEEK OF CASTLE BUILDING
A WEEK OF REALITY
ANOTHER WEEK OF REALITY
GOING FROM HOME TO BUILD A HOME.
"Yes, and such a wilderness of game! My word for it, you would like it out there. The fat deer scamper from thicket and opening; foxes and wolves, and bears are plenty; wild turkeys romp and fly in flocks; wild ducks dip and skim like swallows on the lakes; trout and sturgeon, lusty and sweet; Indians good-natured as the yellow sun:—and such hunts as I've had there!—I tell you what, Matthew, they would cure you pretty quick of being homesick; and you would hardly look towards the Hudson again, if you were only once in the lake country."
"I should like to go there, Uncle Walter. It must be a very fine country, and the encouragements for young men must be great. I should like those grand old forests you speak of; and those pleasant lakes, and the hills, and the valleys. Just so strange I am—I should soon have affection for them, and reckon them among my friends. I should bring away their sweet summer fragrance and verdure in my soul. And the deer—how I'd like to see them bounding all about me! and the ducks and wild turkeys enjoying their free life. But to make them game,—I'll leave that to you, Uncle Walter, if I cannot soften your heart. If I could leave father and mother, I would go and see what sort of a life I could accomplish in a land so free and inviting; and what kind of a home I could build. The thought of this sets my blood a-bounding."
"Well, come, make up your mind, and get ready by then I start, and I'll be right glad of your company. I shall start in a fortnight."
"What say you, father and mother? My heart flutters as I ask you! But what say you to Uncle Walter's invitation? Can I not make a shift in the wild woods of Cayuga, and could you not get along without me awhile, in hopes something might be done for the good of us all?"
"It pleases me, Matthew, and it pleases your mother. We talked it all over last night, and concluded, if you would like to venture, we would make up our minds to part with you, and comfort ourselves with the hope of your doing well. Yes, go if you want to, and the Lord go with you, and help you all the time. I know by experience it is a good thing to learn to live away from home, and shift for one's self, and be independent. It makes a clear head, a ready hand, and a nervy heart. My father used to say, an upright mind, with a knack of self-assistance, was better for a president's son, than pockets full of money. I have found it true, and I hope you will remember it.
"It will try our old hearts a little to part with you, Matthew. All the rest are gone to the grave, and somehow we cling closer to you now. We are trembling on the edge of the grave, and waiting for Death to trip us in. We need to have hold of your hand, and lean on your shoulder. But I know it is for your good to go and build your own home and fortune; and if you prosper, as Mr. Mowry thinks you will, may be we shall live long enough to sell our little place here, and go into the woods again, and clear up a farm. It is a hard sort of work; but then it stoutens the knees, and knits the knuckles, and gives a capable soul, and a pleasant, pleasant life."
"That's the thing, Major Fabens. Tell the boy of the fun of clearing land; but don't talk of trying hearts, and old age, and the grave. You'll make a baby of him if you do; and he'll get a foolish dread of leaving, and want to hang around you all your days. Stir him up a little. Tell him you'll be glad to get rid of him; and to pack up his duds and be off, lickety-cut; and it will not be a great while afore he can pop over a deer without whimpering; and a log shanty in Cayuga will seem smarter to him than a city spare-room. Come, Matthew, get ready by then I start, and I'll take you to the handsomest country in all America!"
"Life is a wilderness journey, that all must go, having many struggles and trials; meeting many dangers, enduring many griefs. But if one does right, and keeps acting the noblest and hoping the best, that is the main thing; and it matters not so much where we go, nor where we build our home, and perform our labors of life. Hard indeed shall I find it, to take my soul away from all I love in Cloverdale: hard to leave father and mother, and all my young friends; but it is best I should go. Return in a fortnight, and I will be ready. God help me to be a man, and make my life an honor and a joy. If I could get a home that father and mother would like better than their little one here, would we not be happy?"
Such, my dear reader, was the beginning of a manner of life which it is the design of this volume to unfold. Such a conversation occurred at Major Fabens' many years ago. Major Fabens and his wife were very fine old people, who lived at Cloverdale, on the banks of the Hudson River. Matthew was their only surviving child; the solace and stay of their aged years; and Uncle Walter was a neighbor, who had been out to that beautiful region of western New York, called the Lake Country; taken up a tract of wild land; made a clearing; built a rude home; and returned, saying many a good, frank thing, to induce others to "pull up stakes," and follow him.
On the evening with which our story begins, a long conversation had been enjoyed at Major Fabens'; much had been said of the western country, in description of its climate and soil, its lakes and forests; and young Fabens listened in a spell of delight, more and more convinced that there was the land for his future home. He resolved upon going to the Lake Country. He hastened the preparation for his departure. His clothes were put in readiness; he passed around the neighborhood on all his farewell visits; and the morning of his exit smiled kindly and glad, as if to welcome him on his way.
It was a morning in August. Recent rains had refreshed all the woods and fields; recent thunders had cleared the air and sweetened the morning breeze; the pure sky spread like a curtain of clear blue satin to the sight; and all nature was afloat with those lofty and tender influences which soften the feelings, and induce meditation. A fit season for the scene that ensued at the Major's, when numbers gathered in sadness there, to take leave of their favorite. The sensations of the company can be fancied by those only who have joined in similar scenes, and shared their affecting interests. Kindest words had been exchanged, and a full flow of love was indulged through an hour prolonged, when it came for the father to speak, and give the farewell charge and blessing.
"A good son, a very good son, you have been to us, Matthew," said he; "and we have little fear that you will forsake the principles you take with you, or give us trouble for any unhandsome act of your life. But this world has many temptations; singular and strange events fill up our experience; and a little counsel never comes amiss. I have lived longer than you. I ought to know more of life and its dangers; and be able to tell you many things that will do you good. I have fought my way through difficulties, under which many have fell; and I have seemed to see a light of heaven rising on the darkness, and have followed it, when others like lambs have strayed into troublesome ways.
"Be faithful to the right, and good, and true, my son, and you have nothing to fear. Let no puff of praise, or flush of good fortune lift you up with vanity. Stand erect and keep your balance, if you step on ice or walk on wire. Be a man always. Keep from castle-building. Insist on the honor of your calling; and don't burrow up in the soil like a woodchuck, but range abroad like a deer, and soar on high like an eagle. Good-bye."
The last word was spoken; the farewell moment fled; young Fabens was on his first long journey; and six weary days were numbered with past hours, before the last opening in the forest revealed to his anxious eyes the home of his eager guide—the Waldron Settlement.
HOME IN THE BACKWOODS.
A new home in the backwoods! Living where the dun deer roam, and wild fowl flock! Sleeping a-nights where waters murmur, wolves howl, and panthers scream in your hearing; and whip-poor-wills sing till morning comes, and Nature appears in her gladness and pride! Who would not enjoy a scene like that for a season, forgetting the tame monotony of towns, and imprisonment of cities? Who would not forsake a room amid walls of brick for a green woodland parlor? And leave velvet cushion and costly carpet, for a cushion of moss, and a carpet of flowers in the virgin wilderness? Follow me, then, to the Land of Lakes, and ramble abroad with my hero, while he explores the Waldron Settlement.
A rare and yellow August evening it was, and about fifty years ago, when Matthew Fabens arrived in the Lake Country. As he rose the first morning, and went forth to survey the region of his new home, thoughts of his distant abode awakened feelings of sadness, but other sensations very soon succeeded, and balanced his mind into satisfaction. A wilderness indeed it was that waved around him; and the manners of the settlers partook as much of its wildness, verdure, freedom, and wealth, as if they had sprung like the oaks and chestnuts, from the soil; and he found it a region opening upon him, at every step, some new delight or interest.
That particular section was called the Lake Country, from the occurrence of seven lakes, that shine out from their green borders like mirrors reflecting the face of heaven. That beautiful sisterhood of little inland seas lie along in lines nearly parallel, with ten and a dozen miles of lovely woodland waving between them; and they vary in length from ten to forty miles; and discharge their waters, through the Oswego River, into Lake Ontario. Their names are, Otisco, Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Wawumkee, and Canandaigua, each name of them sounding the rich, wild music of the Indian tongue.
On the banks of the Cayuga Fabens found the settlement, and language cannot describe the charms of its fine scenery. Few were the clearings, and small, which as yet had been made, and tall and grand were the beeches and maples, the oaks and chestnuts, that tossed their arms on high. Fabens gave way to the excitement cast upon his sensitive nature, and allowed himself little rest for a fortnight. Each day was too brief to accomplish all he purposed. He took long rambles in the woods, sensing the sanctity of their venerable shade, enjoying the views they spread to his gaze, and tasting the fragrance of hemlock, birch, and pine, that floated to him in mingled odors. All he had heard was more than true. The trees were noble beyond description. There were narrow openings and plains, in places, where the sumac lifted its blood-red plumes, and bee-balm waved its crimson blossoms; while generally the woods were dense and magnificent.
Through opening and thicket the wild deer bounded like forms of beauty in a dream; squirrels were chattering, robins and thrushes were singing in gladness and pride; and wild fowl were sporting in water and air. he went out to the fallows, and they were covered with Indian corn, or gilded with yellow stubble; with here and there a garden studded with cool and lusty melons, almost bursting with delicious sweets. He descended the low valleys, and there, as on the hills, sprang thickly-clustering bushes of large and melting blackberries, inviting him to taste and enjoy. He followed the courses of the creeks, and found them teeming with trout and pickerel, as playful as the scampering fawns, all mottled with gold and silver, and royal as the peacock's plumes in the running changes of their lustre. He stood on the margin of the lake that lay placidly sleeping in the embrace of hills; and the willow waved on its borders, and wild ducks and herons wantoned on its breast. The waters were so transparent he could count the white pebbles and shells at the depth of thirty feet; and they were pure and sweet as the dew that lay all night on the wild honeysuckles and roses, which graced the upland plains.
There was the hunting-ground of the Indians, and wigwams dotted the shore; while on its waters, floating and ducking like the wild fowl, sported the Indian canoes. He visited the rude homes of the settlers, and was welcomed to each hearth with that rough and liberal hospitality, which leaps from the soul of forest life. Several of them had known his father on the Hudson, and all were soon his heartiest friends. A frolic in the greenwood chase was proposed for every day in two weeks to come; and gatherings and feasts were had without number. All were near neighbors, though dwelling five miles apart; all carried the spirit of the country, with the breath of its free air, and the image of its woods and lakes in their hearts; and one flowing soul of brotherhood was shared, while one ardent feeling of honest kindness, and jocund spirit, bound them in a fellowship fast and warm.
The autumn passed; the winter came, and retired; and spring succeeded, casting abroad her blooms and blessings; and the woodlands echoed with music, and nature smiled like a garden gay. And more sensible of sights and influences of beauty, Fabens enjoyed the genial season with new satisfaction, and determined that there should be his future home. He bargained for a farm of a hundred acres, and commenced its improvement, cutting the first tree with his own hands, and selecting, on an opening he had made, the site for a log house. On the approach of summer, by a neighbor who returned to the Hudson, he sent his parents the following letter:—
"DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER,—
"Mr. Wilson starts to-morrow for Cloverdale, and I take this opportunity to write to you. Of course, you will hear from him all about me; but still it may gratify you to hear from me by letter. I am happy and well as I can be in a new home of promise without you.
"I have seen many happy hours, and some that were gloomy since I came here. Uncle Walter told the truth about this country; it is a land of promise, handsome now in the state of nature. But you know that he who comes here must labor hard, and endure many privations, before he succeeds as he desires. God has blessed the Lake Country with a fine soil and great advantages. Still, as I expected, money does not grow on the bushes here, nor are the softest couches gathered from the ground. Labor, honest, resolute labor alone can secure the objects of good desire. For this I am ready with a strong hand and an ardent heart; and trusting in God to prosper me, I mean to have a home and farm that I can call mine. And while clearing a farm, and bringing field after field to culture and beauty, will I not be clearing my life, and bringing mind and heart to culture, fertility, light and bloom?
"I know you would like it out here, and feel your young years rolling back, and your hearts growing green again on the banks of the Cayuga. The country is very handsome. The deer are so tame they will almost eat out of my hand. Fish and fowl are plenty. Each homely cabin is the shelter of large and hopeful hearts, and the Indians are all kindness to the settlers. O, when you can come and enter my home, will we not take comfort? My love to all.
"Your affectionate son,
A BEAR HUNT.
Fabens was pleased with his neighbors, and warmly reciprocated the interest they took in him. There was old Moses Waldron, the first settler, an out-and-out backwoodsman; smart with an axe, sure with a gun, free with a bowl of metheglin, open in hospitality, and an enemy only to owls, and blackbirds, wolves, thieves, tories and the British. He chased the tories and redcoats in his dreams, and talked to himself while walking alone awake. The owls annoyed him sorely. Not because they killed his pretty chickens, but because there was so little of them beside their feathers, and their eyes were so monstrous white and large, and they had such a ghostly halloo. Whenever he caught an owl's hollow voice in ominous boomings from the woods, he stopped and cursed him, and cried, "Ah hoo, hoo, ah hoo-ah; ah hoo, you pesky torment! if I had you by the neck, I'd wring it for you, I'll warrant you I would, ah-hoo-ah!"
Aunt Polly Waldron was a match for her husband; and while she was an actual woman in chaste and single heart, in motherly loves, in the tenderest sympathies and most unselfish feelings, she was a large, square-shouldered and hard-handed woman; she could split oven-wood, hunt bees, skin deer, and hoe corn; and she loved to tell "how she shot a tory in the Revolution, who came while Moses was away in the wars, and fired their barn, and took her best feather-bed out door and ripped it, and scattered the feathers to the sky: how the tory whooped and keeled as she dropped him, and how three other tories and an Indian legged it like Jehu away."
Uncle Walter Mowry was younger by ten years than Mr. Waldron, and his wife Huldah was five years younger than he, and they were specimens of thrifty and noble, but uncultivated nature, such as we love to find in the backwoods, and such as furnish materials for the richest and finest city life. Uncle Walter was of a medium stature, a well-moulded face, and fair skin, and he was hardy as a bear and athletic as a panther. There was never a farmer who kept cleaner fields, or handsomer stake-and-rider fence than he; or had earlier corn, or a larger woodpile; yet he did love a hunt more dearly than a venison pie; he caught fish from pools where others received not a nibble; and he enjoyed a leisure day, and a feast, and a fine story.
Aunt Huldah was a little swarthy woman, weighing only ninety pounds at forty years of age; but she was free and generous, and all who had her heart and its overflowing love, had all, and there was nothing left of her. She had the whitest linens, the clearest maple sugar, and the smoothest and cleanest white maple floor in all the settlement; and she loved scrubbing and scouring as well as Uncle Walter loved hunting. A stranger would have thought her a real firer of a scold; but she was never in a passion; and Uncle Walter used to say, he found her the best, if anything, when seeming to scold the hardest, and she had that way of expressing her interest in him, and making her work go on more briskly.
There were Thomas Teezle and his wife, who were valued acquisitions to the settlement. Thomas was stocky and muscular, frank, fearless and free-hearted; and he kept a keen and ringing broad axe, and could hew a beam or a sleeper as straight as a bee-line.
There were Jacob Flaxman and his wife Phoebe, and they were cousins; and both had yellow hair and freckled faces; both weighed in one notch; both sang in one song; both craved a fine farm and happy home, and were prospered in their craving.
There was Abram Colwell, who gloried in never having cyphered beyond the rule of three, or read any book but his almanac through; but who was upright as an oak; shrewd as a black fox; hearty as a beaver, and jocund as a jay.
And there was Bela Wilson, a farmer, a chairmaker, a shoemaker, carpenter and blacksmith, all in one, as Uncle Walter declared; and while he was close and exacting in a bargain, and stinted in his gifts, he had many streaks of kindness, and added usefulness, honor, interest and life to the settlement.
And among these people Fabens found pleasure and good fortune. The summer that followed the date of his letter, was warm and fruitful, and he went forth clearing and planting with a forward heart; and when September came, he looked back on his labors with pride, and felt a sense of comfort and content, for the beginning he had made of a home. By dint of extreme diligence he made a larger clearing in the spring than he had hoped, and succeeded in planting it all to corn; and now in the autumn, he had a wide field, bearing the promise of a bountiful harvest.
But he had not expected increase without tax, nor joy without annoyance. His corn-hills supported a liberal yield of well-filled, glistening ears; but foreign feeders that had not planted, nor hoed, came in for a share of his abundance.
The bears invaded his cornfield, trampled down the stalks, devoured much, and carried away more than he felt like sparing. He consulted his neighbors, and found that others were annoyed in the same way, and all they could do, was to guard their fields as well as they could, and hunt down and slay some of the ravening forest prowlers.
"We told you, Fabens, you'd have to come to that at last," said Colwell. "Wild beasts are thick as spatter around here; and you must down with some of 'em. It's no use to talk baby; you must kill the critters, or they'll eat you out of house and home."
"But they have a right to live, and I haven't a heart to kill 'em," said Fabens.
"It does look kindy cruel to drag down a handsome buck and cut his glossy throat; and see a harmless fawn spout blood, and strangle and die; and I used to shut my eyes when I bit a pigeon's neck, and took little quails' heads off; but now I can do't without winkin'; and as for them infarnal bears, I'd ruther kill 'em than to eat. And you'll have to kill 'em, if you want any corn."
"But I hate to see them hunted, and wounded, and killed, they suffer so much."
"Suffer?—Suffer to be killed!—Bears suffer to be killed? By hokey, they don't indeed! Not they, they're used to it as eels are to bein' skinned. And haint you heern of the bear-hunt we're goin' to have to-night?"
"No, I have not."
"Wal, make ready with your birch candle and your axe; and come over and get my old queen's-arm musket, and go with us. I tell you what, it's no small fun to hunt bears. We'll have a smart time, and finish off at Waldrons's with a supper of bear's meat washed down with metheglin. Come, none of your chicken feelins in this country. You must kill and quarter the wolves and bears."
"I suppose I must. They are carrying away all my corn. In whose field do you meet?"
"In yourn, Fabens, if you'll jine us. Come, we'll give your little patch a sweepin."
"Well, I'll be with you. They cannot suffer much if shot through the head or heart; and I may as well begin a hunter's life killing bears and wolves; but the deer I'll never trouble."
Arrangements were made for the bear hunt, and a bear hunt they had; and all declared they were glad Fabens was along, for it gave him something not to be found on the Hudson. Torches were prepared, guns and axes were ready, dogs and men assembled at an early hour, and Fabens, Colwell, and Wilson were sent on a scout into the field to listen for the ravagers, and give the signal of attack. The full, bright moon beamed down from the sky, and every movement had to be stealthy and low to avoid alarm; and as Fabens crept into the field, and hid himself in the hollow of a stump, and listened, his very heart frightened him, for it beat so loudly, he waited in fear that it would alarm the bears, or betray him into their clutches. Beat, beat, went his heart; tang, tang, went the insects; hoot, hoot, went the owls; and on, and on rode the moon. Again his flint was examined; again his tinder-box felt for, and his torch fixed for lighting when it might be needed in the woods; and his eager ear opened wider and wider to catch a rustling noise.
At last the corn rustled, and footfalls sounded faintly in his ear, and Colwell crept up and whispered, "The bears are in! don't you hear 'em? They're movin' this way. There! hear 'em rattle the corn!—There, there again, hear 'em snuffle and chank!"
"I hear something," said Fabens.
"That's 'um! Old Bruin has come with his wife and children. We'll give 'em a belly full. Stay here, Fabens, and I'll sly away, and start up the company. Hear that! and that!—they're snorters! Slink down into the stump; and if our comin' scares 'em, jump out and keep track a little. Don't be scart. We'll be along in a jiffy, and nab the varmints."
Colwell crept away, and exchanged a word with Wilson, and then stole off to rally the company. But Fabens began to shudder in his sentry-box. He had grown to be quite a backwoodsman; he had taken the strength and courage of the wild forest life; he was usually calm and self-possessed; but here was a new venture entirely, and while beat, beat, went his heart in rising alarm, the loud and louder rattle of the corn informed him of the closer coming of the animals. Now he hears them tear off an ear! Now they craunch it, and crowd snuffling along through the corn-hills! Now they cough, and his wildest fears are up; and now they breathe in hearing, and move as if for the place of his concealment, strip down a stalk, and rend off an ear, as he thinks, where Colwell just lay!
What shall he do? If he stirs, they may grasp him. If he remains, they will surely scent him out, and take him. O, terrible moment! Where in the world are the company, that they do not run to his relief? His hair stands on end, lifting his hat so high, the bears must see him now!—Shall he rise and shoot? He would be likely to miss, he is so awkward with a gun. Why did he consent to lie there? Why don't they come, as they said they would?—There! there! a step nearer, and the grate of their teeth sets him shivering! Now, now he must die!—Must he not? or what other sound is that more distant? Footsteps—a whisper, and—they come, they come! and away jump the bears, and away with dogs, axes, guns, and torches after them go the men of the hunt!
"Now, Fabens, up and away; the fun's afoot, the fun's afoot!" cried Colwell.
"Yes; but such fun!" faltered Fabens.
"Come on, come on! Mr. Bruin and his cubs shall have a good visit at their home!" cried Wilson.
"Nothing could be more in the nick of time!" cried Uncle Walter.
"We git 'em now!" said the Indians.
"Seek 'em, Bose! seek 'em, Spanker! seek 'em Nig! seek 'em, Watch!" shouted Flaxman; and with flaring lights, and clatter, and howl, and laugh, and halloo, away they pursued the bounding game. Now they take the woods. Now the bears rush down the hill, cross the stream, run in the gully, and race away; and dogs and men follow close and closer on their track. Now they worry up a difficult bank, and scuttle and wheeze away, away. But the dogs gain upon them; the torches alarm them; the ground is not safe, and they climb the trees, as the hunters all wish, and seek concealment in the shadow of closely covering leaves.
"Up a tree, be you, Mr. Bruin, eh?" cried Colwell.
"What can you do now?" asked Fabens.
"Down with the tree!" shouted Flaxman.
"No, let me see if I can't fetch the fellow with my old gun," cried Uncle Walter. "I reckon I can reach him. I've picked bears out of taller trees than that."
"What's there?" shouted Flaxman. "There's two on 'em treed. See the dogs tear away at the foot of yon maple! Let's slash down the trees, and give the dogs a little more fun. Old Spank's ready to jump out of his skin, he's so fairse. And see Nig on his hind legs, and Watch jump up and nip the bark from the tree. Down with them, and give the dogs a little more fun."
"No, no; I'll see first if I can't tickle 'em with quicker fun," said Uncle Walter; and all agreed that he should give a try. So the torches were held away, that they might not blind him; and clear eyes searched to spy them by a few broken beams of the moon.
"You'll have to cut the trees, or give 'em up," shouted Flaxman.
"It's dark as Egypt up in them thick leaves," said Colwell. "Skin your keenest eye, Uncle Walt, and then I guess you won't spy your game."
"Hold, boys! hold on, hold on!" cried Uncle Walter. "I spy one! Here, Colwell! you see that big limb, don't you? run a sharp look up that, and tell us what that black bunch is, eh?"
"'S a bear, 's a bear, give him gowdy!" cried Colwell; and Uncle Walter laid his best eye on his old queen's-arm, and fired. Rustle, rustle, went the leaves; a limb snapped; a growl exploded; a rattling wheeze ran shuddering on the still air; a shower of bark, scratched front the tree, clattered down on the leaves; and then a groan—then thrash—bound came a bear against the earth; and a torch at his nose gave Uncle Walter to cry, "Dead—he's dead's a nit! Now, Miss Moon, hang your lantern in t'other tree, and I'll bring down Bruin's wife to sleep by his side, I will."
"No, you've had fun enough for one night, Uncle Walt, and now let Fabens try," said Colwell.
The gun was re-loaded, and soon the moonlight through the leaves betrayed the other bear; and after a little hesitation, Fabens took aim and fired. But his hand shook, and his shot was lost in the air; and Uncle Walter fired, and snap—crash—bound—came the other bear. The dogs rushed upon her, and flew back in full shriek. Then Fabens showed courage, and made up to her, before knowing the danger, and the wounded bear uttered a horrible growl, and gave him chase!
Terror was up in a moment, and leaped from heart to heart. Away bounded Fabens, and closely on his heels bounded the grim and open-mouthed bear. Over a rock he leaped, round a tree he ran, and the bear bounded after. Then came dogs and men, and were repulsed with shrieks and ejaculations. Then they renewed the attack; and as old Spanker caught her by the leg, and she turned upon the dog in fury, Colwell put a ball through her head, and the fearful chase was over.
"A narrow squeak for you, Fabens," said Wilson, "a very narrow squeak."
"Too narrow, I declare," said Uncle Walter. "I cannot stand that, I must set down. I thought Matthew was a gonner, and the fright takes the tuck out o' my old knees."
"I never was so scart afore," said Flaxman; and, "You'll not call me fool, if I sit down too," said Fabens, with white lips. "I am not used to this as you are. It is too rough, too rough for a new settler;" and down he threw himself by Uncle Walter; while the others, declaring two were enough for that night, gathered up the guns and axes, and, when the bears were dressed and hung up on trees, the company left the woods, declaring they would have a grand feast, and pay Fabens for his fright, if he would meet them at Mr. Waldron's the next evening.
Recovering a little from his fainting terror, Fabens joined their conversation, as they returned to their homes; and long before his eyes found the first wink of sleep, his mind wandered in perilous adventures, and in pleasant and unpleasant thoughts of the wild forest life. He would attend the supper at Mr. Waldron's; he would try to contribute his share of talk and enjoyment; but on another bear-hunt he resolved never to go.
 A barbarous way of killing pigeons caught in a net.
A FEAST AND A STORY.
Morning returned; the day rolled away; and the appointed evening found the hunting party at Mr. Waldron's, and the sweet metheglin went round in flowing bowls; and all were jovial and ready with talk, and wit, and glee. The table was spread with luxuries. The savory viands smoked from multiplied motherly platters; and there were Indian bread, potato and turnip sauce, cranberry and wild plum sauce, a stack of wild honey in the snow-white comb, and cakes and pumpkin pies.
The bear's meat was discussed with fairness and spirit, and pronounced right fat and fine; and the supper, washed down before and after with metheglin of Aunt Polly's happiest mix, was taken with good relish.
"You get nothing better'n this on the Hudson, I reckon," said Uncle Walter to Fabens. "Give me a new country after all for elbow-room, a sharp appetite and a good pick o' game. I guess the Major wouldn't loathe such a bite as this."
"Aunt Polly for a supper of bear's meat, I say," added Colwell.
"Aunt Polly for the fixins too," added Wilson.
"Such fixins don't come afore every gang o' hungry hunters," added Flaxman. "Is't sage, or savory sprinkled on this meat? This plum sauce don't cly my appetite a bit; nor these fried scutlets; and I love to gnash my shovel-teeth on a clean comb o' honey; and honey, they say, is healin'."
"If you eat any more honey, Flaxman," said Wilson, "Uncle Mose 'll have to take you up. He'll make more'n he would to take up a bee-hive. But did ever anybody else get up a lusciouser pumpkin-pie? Aunt Polly always makes 'em deep enough to swim in; and she don't spare the maple sugar at all, nor the ginger, nor the shortnin' in the crust. And she crimps the edges so curious."
"How do you like a batin' like this, Fabens?" asked Colwell. "What makes you so mum? aint home-sick, be you?"
"I like it well, I assure you. I didn't think bear's meat was so fine," answered Fabens. "I am not homesick; I was just thinking how she chased me, and how narrowly I escaped."
"It was much as ever," said Teezle, "much as ever that the critter didn't mutton you. She skipped like a painter, and whet up her teeth for a whalin' bite. But don't think on it now. Here, who'll tell a good story, and cheer up Fabens a little? Uncle Walt, tell one of your painter stories. That 'll wean him of his fright."
"O, yes, tell a painter story," said Colwell.
"Yes, that's the thing," added Wilson.
"Fabens's run was only a jolly game o' gool, compared with your pull and squeeze with a painter," added Mr. Waldron.
"The one on the tree, that watched me half a day, cat-fashion? or the one that dogged me through the Owasco woods? or the one that chased me home to the chips?" asked Uncle Walter.
"Any one will answer to wean Fabens of his fright," said Teezle.
"Well, I'll tell the first that comes up in my mind," said Uncle Walter, "and may be another one still will come. Another bowl of metheglin, and then for the story." He took the metheglin and began. "It was the second year after we come here, and a day in November: the day after I finished husking. Huldah reckoned a wild turkey wouldn't go with a bad relish, and so I shouldered the old gun in the morning, and letting Bose follow slyly along behind, I put away out into the woods. I killed three or four pigeons, and a squirrel, and snipe; but on and on, and round, I ranged, afore I could get a single crack at a turkey. But a flock flew up at last, and one proud old Tom taking a tall maple in sight, and swinging his red gorget as if to dare a shot, I fired, and plump he come to the ground, while the rest flew away.
"Well, after all, this aint bad doings, thought I, and shouldered my game on my gun, and set my sails for home. I got a little puzzled about the pint o' compass; still I thought I was right, and putting ahead pretty good shin; when all at once Bose howled out, and the leaves rattled, and the ground rumbled, and up a shagbark walnut leapt a yellow painter like a cat, making the bark all fly again, and dashing her way to the tiptop limb o' the tree. Thinks I, my fellow, you wouldn't be very small game, and your yellow jacket wouldn't be bad for a winter wescot; so I took a close, quick aim and fired. Down tumbled the painter, with a hole through her liver 'n lights, and no time to breathe her last. It was a she painter, and I stripped off her hide in a hurry, slung it on my shoulder, and budged on again, as I reckoned, towards home.
"It was getting well on to night, and as it grew darkish in the woods, and the pint o' compass still pestered me, and I didn't know but my old head had got backside to, I confess I begun to feel a little skittish, and throwed away all my game but the turkey and painter skin, to lighten my load, and took a spryer step through the staddles. It wasn't the best o' walking, for logs were thick, and the grape-vines tript me some; and I had to nod and squirl for the staddles and limbs. I went, I should reckon, about three miles from where I shot and skinned the painter, and the last half-mile was clearer of logs and underwood; and let in a flash of sunshine now and then, and I thought I was coming to an opening.
"All at once I heard a halloo, and hauled up, and listened. I heard it again more distinct, and it sounded sharper 'n a halloo, and yet I reckoned somebody was calling. I bellowed back an answer, and an answer flew back like a woman calling. It was closer by than at first, and it trembled, and swelled in the screeching echo. I reckoned surely I warn't fur from home, and it was Huldah after me, calling. Away I shouted again; and back flew an answer full scream, and now it was a good 'eal nearer. It couldn't be Huldah. It sounded a little like her voice, but it screamed sharper than she ever did in a call or a scold. Louder, and sharper, and nearer come another singe-er of a scream, and I knew in a trice what it was. It was a painter; and the mate of the one I had killed!
"I thought of my gun, but I hadn't re-loaded. I felt for aminition, and there was only one single charge left! Scream—yell, come the sound oftener and nearer, and there I was, as you may say, a-most destitute of all means of battle. I turned cold all over, and my hair stood up like a hedgehog's. But not a second was to be lost; for the scream shook the staddles, and rung and rolled. So I loaded my gun with the last little charge, and legged it like Jehu, as Aunt Polly says, for several rods; then throwed down my game and jumped as fur as I could any way spring out sideways from my track; and a few jumps took me about six rods from my painter skin and turkey; and there I waited on my last legs, with my gun cocked, and butcher-knife slung, and Bose at my feet for a battle.
"The sun was just sliding down west o' my aim; so I had the advantage of all the light there was, and a big sugar-maple for a cover and rest. It was all done in a jiffy, while yell-ety-yell, scream-ety-scream come the sound, and the wild old woods rung again, and shuddered and shook with the echo! A thousand thoughts darted through my head as if lightning had chased 'em. I thought of poor Huldah; how she would feel, and what she would do, and what would become of her, away off here in the wilderness, if I was killed. I thought of her, and wanted to see her, and bid her good-bye at least; and would a give money for that little comfort.
"But scream-ety-scream come the sound, and my flesh crawled all over as if in a nightmare, and I sweat like rain. Now the scream was continual, and I heard every bound the fury made! Now it stopped. It was back only half a mile, where I throwed down my squirrel and birds! Two minutes more would bring him afore me;—yes, one,—for on he bounded and yelled more dreadful than ever; and Bose cuddled closer to my feet, and brustled up his hair all over; showed me his sharp teeth were in, and give a look that said, 'Keep your gun ready, and I'll nab him as quick as you fire.'
"Them last yells fairly crazed me from top to toe, with courage; and now he jumped in full sight—over logs and through bushes, with head down, snuffing close on my track! Leap-ety-leap, he bounced to the skin and turkey; and O, such fiery eyes as then glared and blazed! and such yells as he give! Then up started the hair on his ridgy back, and thrash, thrash, to and fro, like a mad cat's, throbbed his tail! and he snuffed for my track again. I raised my old gun, and partly getting the scent, he turned his head upwards, and his eyes flashed fire in my face! But afore he could spring on me, I plumped a charge into his face and eyes, and dropped him, as Aunt Polly did the tory. Then Bose made a lunge on the critter; but he warn't dead yet, and in they grappled for life or death! Then dog's hair and painter's hair flew like flax in the brake, I tell you. And then there was growling and craunching, I reckon. I see Bose was going to be worsted, and I closed in to give him a lift. My sleeves were scratched off in a jiffy, and the skin striddled from my arms. And such flashes of fire from them blazing eyes, and such a growl as I got for my pains! I jumped back behind a tree; the painter jumped after me, and just missed my legs, tearing away my old leather breeches from the knees, where I patched 'em with a stocking the day afore. Then Bose sprung on the painter, and I closed in again; and just as the beast made for a bigger bite of me, as luck would have it, I stuck my old butcher-knife through his heart, and he fell down dead on my feet.
"When that was done, and I was safe, I felt pale, you may depend! I set down, and poor Bose laid his bloody head in my lap, and licked my hands, and whined for joy; and I was so thankful to the old fellow, I kissed him, I did, and cried like a baby.
"But it was getting dark, and more painters might come, or a pack of howling wolves be on me; so taking only my turkey and gun, I drawed a bee line homeward. I went about a mile, and heard wolves howl a good ways off; but now I knew I was pretty near home, and my fears left me; while soon my log shanty hove in sight, and Huldah met me on the edge of the clearing, and said, 'I begun to be concerned about you. What! only one turkey? Well, that is better'n none. The chores are all done, and supper is waiting.'"
"That was a narrow escape, indeed," said Fabens.
"That makes your bear-chase a clever game o' tag," said Wilson.
"That's a good ending for a hunting-feast," said Mr. Waldron; and the company drew back from the table, and thanking Aunt Polly for her fine supper, they all went away to their homes.
A delightful ride of a single day, and most of the distance on the rail-way, will carry us now through a grand succession of waving harvests and verdant woods, of swarming hamlets and splendid towns, from the Cayuga to the Hudson, and set us down in Cloverdale, whose lovely homes nestle like a brood of milk-white doves in the covert of the Rensselaer hills. And then performing a journey of thought a little more rapid and long, we return to the time of our story, recalling the year and season, and admit another character to our scene.
We find it a pleasant afternoon for a walk. The blue Indian summer opens blandly around, and imbibing beauty and gladness through every sense and pore, we walk a good while, and then turn our steps to the mansion of the Masons; enjoy a free talk and a cozy cup of tea, and get a glance at Julia Wilmer.
The Masons have a lower and narrower mansion than they mean to have in a very few years; and their family grows, and crowds it too much; but it has a neat appearance, and the elms and maples in front, and the apples and peaches on the sides and rear, give it pleasant shades and delicious comforts. And the moral and mental scenery within, has many lights, and verdures and fruits.
The Masons are very good people. They are honest and industrious; they often relieve distress; and they have a few fine volumes on the dresser that most of them know by heart. The principal fault that any one finds with the Masons is, that they are too exacting in a bargain, too grasping for money and lands, and expect and demand, too much of their servants.
Julia Wilmer loves them, for they took her when an orphan, gave her a comfortable home, and reared her to womanhood with virtue, intelligence and hope.
And we see that Julia carries a crimson face, and smiling look; although she stoops considerably, and her long arms and loping gait, make her appear to many, ungainly; she is ruddy as a rareripe peach, and smiles from her forehead and eyes, and face and mouth.
But a feeling of sadness agitates our heart as we glance at Julia's history. Orphanage presents, in the brightest relief, one of the saddest sights that our weeping eyes behold; and hers was especially sad. Her father, mother and two sisters were all carried off to the grave in the space of one week, which she was spending abroad with a poor relative; and she was left without the comfort of a parting word or kiss, and cast upon the world at a tender and almost helpless age, with no provision for her welfare. Her poor sobbing heart came well nigh breaking, and though her pitiful condition, and her sweet and attracting manners, ensured her much sympathy, and many friends; yet none could think to offer her a home, and take the place of her family, but the Masons, of whom we speak. They took her home at last, and gave her shelter from the storms. They engaged to rear her to womanhood, and shield her from harm and need. They were always kind to her, and she never received a harsh word or look from them. They cultured her fine sense, and gave her a knowledge of books and things. They trained her against deceptions. They gave her entire person, the reason, the will, affections and form, as finished an education, as one often found at that day among intelligent farmers.
And yet they did not do right by Julia. She was large of her age, and all the more tender for being large; and they tasked her too severely, and exacted too much of her. She performed boy's work too often; she was dropping potatoes or pulling weeds, or spreading hay in the field, when she ought to have been sewing or doing house-work; she milked too many cows; she carried too many pails of sap in the sugar bush; she gleaned too much wheat; she sewed on hard sewing too long at a time; she spun too much wool and flax, and turned too many cheeses. The consequence was, that while she retained much of a superabundant cheerfulness, she was stoop-shouldered, and looked narrow over the chest; her form was less elastic, and her hands were hard and homely.
But if Matthew Fabens had searched the wide world over, he would not have found a better bride than she. He had known her from a child, and could well appreciate her intelligence and worth. He chose her in a love, whose affiance was sanctioned in heaven; and after three years' absence in the Lake Country, he and Julia met again at his father's house.
The joy of that home, at that meeting, you may well imagine, was hearty and high. The young people feared it was too much to enjoy long. The old people wept and smiled, and pressed and fondled their son in childish delight, and asked if it could be he, or did they not dream? and how he had been, and if he still set his heart on his western home. They rejoiced till midnight, and hurried each other with questions, and wearied each other with talk.
"It looks pleasant as ever in Cloverdale," said Matthew. "Home is home, after all. The old hills looked so good, I wanted to kiss 'em, when they hove in sight. Nothing appears altered; the old church looks good as ever; and the old elm-tree seemed to know me, and welcome me back with its waving limbs; and the house here—every room is just as I left it; and the water from the well tastes as cold and sweet; and I cannot see but you all look about as you did, when I went away. I knew father would hold his age; but I expected mother would look a little older. Julia, if she's altered at all, her hair is more of a chestnut, her cheeks are rounder, and a little more ruddy, and she is straighter than she was. But none of you can tell how I feel to see you all once more, and sit down under this old roof again. Home is home, after all!"
"You'll hate to go back again, won't you, Matthew?" asked Major Fabens.
"I shall grieve to leave you and mother again, but I am not quite ready to have you go on with me this time. I want to do more to my farm; I want to build an addition to my log-house for you, and prepare a little more to make you comfortable. Yes, I shall always feel sad to leave Cloverdale, though I like the Waldron Settlement quite as well."
"Think you can get a living, and build up a manhood there then, do you?"
"A good living, I am sure I can get; I hope I may build up a manhood. I like the country well; it is a rich soil, and very easy to cultivate. My cornfield is as mellow as a bed of ashes this year; I had a fine field of red-chaff wheat, with full heads, a plump berry, and straw as bright as a dollar; and I wish I could have brought down some of my big pumpkins and melons."
"I think I shall like it pretty well, if I live to get there; I love a new country; it gives you more space to breathe in. The air is sweeter, the woods are grander, the grass is greener, crops are more perfect, neighbors are freer-hearted, and a man prospers faster there. You have good neighbors, and I hear that you have some good times in the settlement. Think you will like a home in the wild, wild woods, Julia?"
"I think I shall. Cousin John lives where it is quite new, and I am delighted to go there. I know I shall like it on the Cayuga. I will be in my joy, setting my table for a hunting party, or a harvest feast."
"I know you will all like it, and when we all get there, if Heaven smiles, my joy will be complete."
They retired, and attempted to sleep; the morning came, and Matthew rose and completed the circuit of his calls and visits. A week flew away, and his visiting was done, and Julia Wilmer was Julia Fabens, and with the blessings of fond parents, they departed for their far forest home.
The journey was long and difficult for Julia to undertake. They could not then journey as now, on the rapid railway, winding green valleys, ascending great hills, and gliding through cities and towns, with as gentle a whirl, and as jocund a clack as if spinning skeins of silk. They mounted the tardy wagon, and rattled and jounced along behind a loitering team. But Julia had fortitude and spirit, to meet fatigues and discouragements bravely. Her early experience now furnished the fruits that could most refresh her heart; the fruits of courage, hope, and self-assistance. She expected the journey of life would not always be smooth, and she hoped it would not have more to buffet her joy, or jostle, or weary, than the road to the Waldron Settlement.
They came to the land of lakes. Emerging from a dense forest, on the last morning of the journey, they welcomed the light of an opening, and the sweet Skaneateles glowed upon their eyes. They were moving along its foot, and it glimmered and waved like a lake of quicksilver, in reply to the smiles of a splendid sky.
"Is this your Cayuga? How lovely!—What! are we in the settlement so soon?" asked Julia, with joy flashing from her eyes, and hope rekindling on her cheeks.
"No, we are near the settlement," said Matthew. "This is the Skaneateles. Have courage, my dear. I have brought you over a long, rough way. You are weary, I know, but have courage now. We shall reach home to-night."
They refreshed themselves with luncheon from their basket, and cool, sweet water from the lake, and rode on a few hours longer, and another lake saluted them with a bright smile of welcome.
"Then, this is your Cayuga?"
"No, this is the Owasco; but we have not far to go. Cheer up, Julia, cheer up, now, and prepare your dainty eyes for a peep at the loveliest Eden."
They rode awhile longer, and another lake burst in beauty on their gaze. "I know that is it, and here we come to the settlement. I declare it is a lovely spot, worth coming to see! What waters, and woods, and fields! I shall love this place, I know I shall. Ho! there comes Uncle Walter to meet us now!"
And Uncle Walter was followed by Aunt Huldah, and Matthew and Julia were heartily shaken, questioned and kissed, and led into the house, and served to hospitalities, that would flatter and refresh the proudest mortal's heart.
THE NEW HOME AND SETTLEMENT.
Matthew and Julia rose in the morning and went into their new home. It was a great change for Julia, and nothing but contrasts reminded her of her home at Mr. Mason's. But somehow it suited her heart the moment she entered its doorway, and she took charge of its interests with pride and joy; and hours, and days, and weeks, and months, and years passed by with a much more rapid flight than before she was a bride.
And following the steps of Time through a few more rounds of his race, and omitting to note the common events that rise up on the way, we will now pause at a new stage of action, and attempt to recall the scenes. The house remains yet before us, the same as when Julia first saw it, except that a small addition has been built and furnished; a partition takes off a bedroom from one end, and another window has been cut and set in the chamber. It is a handsome log house as one would find in all the Waldron Settlement. It is long and wide. The logs are hewn on the inside; it has a white maple floor below, and a white basswood floor above; it has a large open fireplace, and a stick chimney, through which, as through a telescope, the stars may be counted at night; and, whitewashed above and around, it presents a neat and pleasant appearance.
The house stands on an eminence which overlooks nearly every field on the farm, and admits you to sights as distant as the blue mountain fringes lifted away beyond Ithaca in the south. There are maples, ashes, and elms in the door-yard; there is a beautiful garden on the east, and a cool and delightful spring of water on the west. There is a log barn, thatched with straw, on the right; and barracks for wheat and hay, and cribs for corn, on the left. There is already a fine meadow of timothy, with white-ash shade trees, waving on the north; a pasture beyond the garden on the east, and a wheat-field on the south. Then a cornfield greets you west, and your eyes enjoy the scene.
Around this lovely spot, the distance of a field on either side of the house, the woods still wave their crowns of majesty, and hide the Owasco, and most of the Cayuga from view.
As master of this little rural domain, you behold Matthew Fabens, now grown to ample manhood; and he would make a fine bust for Powers to cut in marble. He stands six feet one without his shoes; he is straight as the white-ash shade tree that honors the north meadow; and his body, and arms, and legs, are round, and hard, and clean. He has a fine turned head, deficient most in caution; high in benevolence, veneration, and conscientiousness; and full in the regions that show he can construct his own implements and comforts; arrange his farm with order and taste; estimate values at a glance, and cast up accounts without a slate and pencil. He has a fine turned Roman nose of the cleanest and fairest skin; he has a well-shaped ear, rounded, and separate at the bottom from the head; he has brown hair, and dark gray eyes; he has a noble face and brilliant countenance; he has teeth standing straight, and square and separate, and though they never were brushed, they glisten with the cleanest and smoothest ivory polish; he has a good-sized mouth, not too compressed, like a skin-flint's, nor too open or lax like a fool's. He has a chin, throat, and chest, showing energy of soul and body combined; and if twenty years older, he would do fine honors to a president's chair.
Yonder, in the garden, arranging beds for winter vegetables, and tending a few simple flowers, you behold Julia Fabens, and she has quite outgrown the bend in her good form, which hard work brought on at Mason's, and looks more mature, and hardy; and she is diligent as a parent robin, and rosy and glad as the sweet summer morn.
Wiping the sweat from their frank foreheads and faces, there in the cool, fresh current of air, sit Major Fabens and his venerable wife, come on to this new country to draw freer breath, taste fairer fruit, see greener thrift, and make a good son happy; and they are just returned from a ramble by the lake.
Out near the well curb, toward the green maple on the right, plays our loved little Clinton, the plump and laughing idol of the place; tossing his ball out of sight into that cluster of golden mullens, and then scampering full tilt after the broods of young chickens and turkeys that peep about the door. Clinton is a promising boy, and the worst of it is, he begins to find it out. But everybody likes him. He has most of his father's look, with his mother's force and caution added, he laughs all over his cunning little face; his yellow locks crinkle all over his head; and his hands are so soft, and his neck so fat and clean, you love to catch him to your heart, and hug him, and chuckle beneath his chin, and carry away his sweetest strawberry kisses.
And stretched on the grass-plat before the door, sleeps the good dog Jowler; shaggy and rough as a wolf; yet faithful and kind; resting from a range in the woods, and dreaming of squirrels and coons.
Look around you a little, and tell us where is a handsomer spot! True, it has not the ornament and regularity of an old estate. Handsome buildings, and the smoothest meadow-lands are nowhere to be seen. The stir and strife of a village are not here, nor the signs of ancient opulence, except what Nature boasts; nor the voice of cultivated music. But walk about, and view the scene.
The woods are arrayed in all their pomp and splendor; the fields have the warmest and richest light to kindle their royal verdures; along the trails, and in every little tract of sunshine, the flowers of the forest hold forth their sweet and modest blooms; and while birds of every wing and song, continue their full concert from twilight to twilight, you may hear, if you listen, the chime of the cheering cowbell, made mellow by the distance, wakening the music of contentment in the heart, tolling the steps of the tripping hours, and sounding the notes of rural bliss.
We set out in company to visit the settlers, and the birds salute us on our way, and the air comes cool and fragrant to our lips. We pause and survey the sugar camp, and a herd of fleet deer caper by, leading a troop of frolicking fawns, and seeming to send back the word, "see our darlings." Casting your eyes aloft to the top of that tall maple, you discover a bee tree, and behold numberless diligent little beings going and coming on the business of a miniature state. Then you hear the chip-squirrels chirrup, and the red squirrels mock; then the hen-hawks chatter and shriek in the air, and the crows caw and clamor; the thrushes and swamp robins bandy their boasts in challenges of music; the blue jay gossips, and the cuckoo cries.
"Whose cabin is this?" do you inquire? Tilly Troffater's. A swaggering, boisterous little body too, is he, and his legs are short and bandy, as you have seen a creeper cockerel's: he has one eye black and one eye blue, and both are glazed and dull as the knobs on earthen tea-pot covers. His ears are round, and stick forward like a weasel's; his form is square and supple, and he stands more than perpendicular. Ready and sharp is he for a joke, cold and unfeeling in manner, and troublesome as the varlet blackbirds that sit on a tree and gabble and moot, while other birds give you music.
There sits his wife, milking the late-found cow. She has a ludicrous look. An old rag of linsey-woolsey hugs her spindle form; her teeth are shovels, and cleave down her nether lip; her eyes catch every point of the compass across each other's glance; her forehead is low, her hair, a smoky white, and her voice, now flat, now treble, and now sharp. But a kinder, or more guileless heart never warmed a human breast, than that which lies in Dinah Troffater's; and whoever were in fault regarding her strange looks, they cannot criminate her as accessary. She milks the cow, and yonder come leaping like vagrant foxes, her half-wild children, with a few dry sticks for the cabin fire.
Going on two miles farther, we come to Mr. Waldron's, and find him nestled quietly under a hill in his double log-house, with a view of the lake on the west, and with comforts all around him. We find Aunt Polly too, and she lays down her distaff, welcomes us in, tells us a story of the backwoods, and gives us a taste of her new metheglin.
Then we come to Uncle Walter Mowry's, and hear he is off on a hunt in the woods, while Aunt Huldah excuses the soap and sand on her hands, and welcomes us in with joy.
Then we give Teezle a visit; then we see Wilson, and enter the shop on the stream, where he makes chairs, shoes, and carpenter-work on a rainy day; and he reminds us of the bear hunt. Then we see Flaxman, and hear him and Phoebe sing the same old nasal song, and observe their thrift and comfort. Then we visit Colwell, and the wives and children of all greet us with kindness, and a frank good-will in all their words and looks. Upon every heart among them, excepting the heart of Troffater, fraternity, courage and hope, luxuriate in harvests as rank and rich, as the woods and fields around; and through their clear eyes, we can see the honest thoughts of their free and guileless souls, as we see the shells and pebbles through the waters of the lake.
We find it a goodly settlement, and you can picture in your mind the happiness Fabens enjoys, as he brings each new acre to the harrow, and reaps the rewards of his manly toils. You remain a whole month in his hospitable home.
You miss many comforts and luxuries, found in country and town, at the present day. You remark the absence of all outward polish and ornament, which get names for refinement in established society. There are no capacious parlors, or splendid lamps to attract you; no sofas but moss-cushioned logs in the woods; no ottomans unless a green bank of wood-grass will serve you, and neither harp nor piano but the distaff and wheel. All is simple; all is arranged for convenience and comfort, as new homes in the backwoods ever are found; and to you it may seem odd enough to live so.
You may fancy how simple a lad from this region would appear as he might pass your city streets, with his long arms and loping gait; reading signs and staring at all the city wonders. You may fancy the backwoods maiden would look verdant and soft in her rustic frock and clumsy calf-skin shoes, leaning well to her way as she walked, and seeming to devour all city sights and sounds. But think you, they have not drank great spirit and beautiful sense from the breasts of Nature? Is it nothing that the backwoods boy lies down in clover meadows, and rambles in maple woods, and hears the bobolink and swamp robin sing; starts at the sound of Logan's cuckoo, and imitates her lay?
And is it less that the backwoods maiden spins flax and wool; makes the fields and woods her flower garden; washes the freckles from her face in Aurora's rosiest dew; romps like a wild doe in the valleys; brings apples from the orchard, and berries from the hills; and like Lavinia, gleans Palemon's fields?
But your heart imbibes the lovely simplicity; your voice falls into tune with voices around you; and more and more do you love that rural little home, and all its verdant views.
Happier and purer are you made by the wise words of Major Fabens and his wife. Kindly and more free-hearted you grow in the sphere of Julia Fabens, whose innocent, womanly nature breathes in unison with all that is joyful and pure; whose presence is the life and smile of the place. If you have in your soul one sympathy that takes to children, you must also love that rosy miniature Fabens, the idolized Clinton, as he vies in his sports with the birds and squirrels; gives chase to butterflies and bees; and races around the house drawing smiles on his antics; darting from sight now and then like a spirit, and making house, and fields and woods resound with his merry warble and glee.
A month goes away so pleasantly, you conclude to spend the summer with them; and a bright and blissful summer it is as your young heart has ever enjoyed. You cannot stand idle, despising labor. You catch the impulse of the place and people, and none are more ready than you for tasks that test courage and strength, and make the warm sweat flood the glowing face. You are up and away in the morning before the whippoorwill closes her song; and are breathing the fragrant air, and enjoying the brisk exercise that gives the best sauce for breakfast.
You would hunt the stray cow, but you fear being lost, or devoured by wild beasts. You are out on the fallow as they prepare to burn it; and you carry fire to a dozen brush heaps, while Fabens and his father fire the rest; and behold, the flames meet together in a curtain, and run and roar like the waves of a burning sea.
You count the ages of the trees by the rings on the stumps, and say, here is a walnut that flourished with Washington; there is a maple of Milton's age; and this old oak was a brave young tree when Columbus was born. This ring records a dry season, and that a wet season; this a warm one, and that a cold. What made this elm so stocky and firm and high, and gave it such mighty roots and massive limbs? It grew quite alone on the hill, took the storm with the sunshine, and battled the blast while others slept in peace. What made this poplar so weakly? It grew in the thicket, and was sheltered from sun and storm. You see in the trees fine types of human life.
You lead rosy Clinton on many a glad ramble. Your strength increases, and you assist in the labors of the field. You plant corn and weed it; and in that act you sow the seeds of energy and hope in your soul, and weed it of vices and weakly shoots. You cut down fireweeds and thistles; and still dress your soul withal, more and more. You set deadfalls for corn-pulling squirrels; and entrap with the squirrels your follies and fears. You watch with a watering mouth the growing melons and blackening berries; and find sweeter than all, the melons of health, arid berries of rural bliss.
Through wood and through opening you wander free; are now on the lake in a birchen canoe, and again on the shore in an Indian wigwam. Your time runs out at last, and you return to society with a lagging heart, preferring the hale and cheery comforts of backwoods life, hard and homely as are its labors, to a life where the multitude gather, and Pride and Luxury rule, and Self seeks all honors, and Fashion stands a god. Your memory remains pictorial with the waters, fields and woods of the Waldron Settlement; your dreams are illuminated with its lights and verdures; and its pleasant times and seasons roll their rounds in music through your mind.
Another year passes over our little wood-bordered world, and summer again smiles on the settlement. The achievements of labor are exhibited in the progress of each new plantation, in the thrift, comfort, and hope of each pleasant estate. A few more families have joined the neighborhood; a few more clearings are given to the area of civilization; a few more homes and joys. A new pledge of love is added to the Fabens family, and a troop of blissful and tender interests succeed.
The hanging woods flourish in full foliage. Cowslips and pond-lilies star the green marshes. Wild strawberries, large, fragrant, and sweet, redden all the knolls, crimson the horses' fetlocks, and cluster in the corners of the fences. Herd's grass and clover struggle into bloom along the trails and wagon roads in the forest; and the native grasses grow scattering and small. Young orchards have shed their snowy blossoms. Corn is past its first hoeing; wheat approaches the ear; flax holds up to the light and dew the bowls of its clear blue blooms. Silver suckers and ruby mullets still linger in the inlets and valley-streams. The horns of the deer are in the velvet. Fallows look clean and mellow, as if ready now for the seed. Signs of promise wave; symbols of blessing bloom on all that gladdens the eye; and Fabens thanks God both morning and night for the bounties of his love.
A morning of June tinges the reddening east with its first delicate blushes, while the cold pale moon still rides on her lonely way. Whippoorwills leave the neighboring boughs and retire to the heart of the woodlands; and robins and bluebirds, and thrushes and sparrows, in a grand hallelujah chorus, salute the sun on his flaming way. The howl of the wolf ceases; the voice of the water-fowl swells softly and sadly from the lake; and the cowbell's chime, and house-dog's bark, make harmony in the general song of Nature. Foxes are home from their felon excursions; squirrels are astir; deer are on the upland, feeding. Mother Fabens abandons her pillow, and is out from the door, enjoying her usual draught of sweet morning air. The home of her son looks good to her as any that the round world can show; and her heart warms with joy as she gazes on all the signs of thrift around.
But what object is that which attracts her attention, just bursting from the distant thicket? The meadow is between them, enclosed on three sides. It moves toward her. It enters the meadow from the woods. It is lithe as a fox; and the sun, just peering above the tree-tops, reveals more and more of its beauty. A felon fox it cannot be, out at this bold hour in quest of poultry; nor a panther, nor a wolf. O! We see now; it is a fairy fawn, looking innocent as a baby; and its round sides are dappled as the trout and pickerel in the lake. What a sight of the lovely!
She hastens into the house and calls to Matthew, now rising, and he is out in a twinkling, back side of the meadow. The gentle creature observes him, and still is not afraid. He approaches nearer, and the fawn makes slowly for a corner, then, fearing captivity, it tries to escape between the rails. "Attempt that again, my beauty," says Fabens, "and I'll have you in my arms." Again goes its head between the rails, and Fabens clasps it, struggling and panting like a captive bird, to his breast, and bears it in triumph to Julia in the house.
"Beautiful creature!" "lovely lamb of the greenwood!" are the exclamations that go round, as the family stand and view it.
"It has strayed from its dam," says one; and, "How it must feel at this moment!" "How soft and sleek its speckled coat!" adds another. "And how mild are its little eyes, and gentle as a sperit's," exclaims Mother Fabens.
"Will they kill it?" do you inquire. Kill it? No! How could they lay a knife on that delicate throat? Its tender looks would soften a heart of stone, and insure its safety. But what will they do with the panting prisoner? Not let it go! Little Clinton would put in his decided "No, no!" if they motioned to do such a thing. See how he dances and jabbers around it; touching its cool dewy nose with his little fat palms, clasping its velvet neck, soothing it, kissing it, and driving old Jowler out of the house, lest he may have a savage heart, which he proudly disdains, and offer to bite the beauty. A darling prize is that trembling fawn, as ever graced a dwelling. "And we must keep it," say they all. Some warm milk is offered it; but it turns its head from the basin. It is placed in a roofless corn-crib, on a bed of hay, with food before it; and Fabens works briskly for half a day, building a house for it. The time now is of leas value, as no crop is suffering, and he had designed a leisure day of this. About one o'clock the house is completed, and the lovely captive is removed to its new home, as gently as you would lay a meek babe in its bed.
They sat down to dinner, and the fawn was the subject of all conversation. "It shall be Clinton's pet and playmate," said Julia; "and it shall have a bell on its neck, and eat bread and berries shortly out of his hand. I wish little Fanny was big enough to notice the pretty thing, and put her hand on it."
"Dear thing!" said Mother Fabens, "it would seem like my pet lamb, in Cloverdale, and I should love it, myself, as I would a child, I'll warrant. But there, it does seem too hard to keep its nimble feet from the wild woods, whore it was made to caper?"
"So I think," added the Major. "I go for giving all their liberty. I would not keep a saucy squirrel shut up in a cage; it would be better to kill it."
After a hasty dinner had been taken, they all went out again to see the pretty captive, and found it lolling in the hot sun, and looking sad and forlorn. A fresh dish of milk was placed before it, and crumbs of sweet Indian bread were offered, but it laid down its poor head on the ground, and refused all food and comfort. Fabens was melted to a tear of pity by the sight.
"The poor thing is too sad to eat, I suppose," said he, "and longs for a frolic in the forest."
"I would say, down with the bars, and let it away, if it was not Clinton's," replied Julia. "It looks really hard to see it shut up here, when its very life is liberty. But how can we spare it now?"
"See how meek and wishful it looks up to Clinton, when he pats and strokes its neck," said Major Fabens. "I'd like to have the pretty fellow around well enough; but it is not right to keep it from the woods. There, it seems to sink into the ground as if all hope was gone from its heart."
"The flies buzz about its milk, and bite its tender sides, and still it don't mind 'em at all. It is too hard to keep it, so there!" added Matthew.
"But, wouldn't it be better for it to keep it with us, than let it go into the dangerous woods to be killed?" asked Julia.
"We div it more to eat," said Clinton, "and I'll tum and seep with it, and cuddle up to its back, and Dowler shan't touch it."
"Do what you think best," said Julia; "but I should like to keep it for Clinton!"
"But how should we like to be in its place?" asked Matthew, "away from our family, confined from our native sports, shut up from the free air and hills, though they would feed us well and fuss over us? I want to let down the bars now, and see how quickly it will scamper from its prison."
"I feel for it as much as you can," answered Julia. "I feel for its poor mother; and what would I do if Clinton had strayed like the fawn, and we knew not where he was? But do keep it one day longer. Its gentle looks may make Clinton more tender. I'll pull fresh clover, and make its bed softer, and it shall be shaded more coolly from the sun."
"Let it away," said Major Fabens. "It looks so sad, may be it'll die before morning if you keep it penned up here;" and down went the bars, and into the house they hastened, and turned, and looked to see it leap to the woods. But it was not away in such a hurry. It rose, and walked gently into the house after them, so tame had it become already, and remained a few moments, looking thanks for their kindness; Clinton patted its soft shoulders, and kissed it tenderly, and then it walked gently away, and vanished in the woods; leaving the beholders more tender and kind for the visit, more in love with liberty, and more admiring the beautiful creatures of God.
A LAMB LOST.
The autumn time had come, and fields, and woods, and waters were lit with its yellow beams. The blooms of spring, the splendors of summer had departed, or were sobered for the dust. Still a beauty was on the world. A pure, ethereal mildness breathed as from heaven, and the sun was so kindly and glad as he rode on in glory, he gave a sweet glance to every suppliant, whether plant or flower, or tree or man; and you could have looked into his warm face and felt regaled by his gracious smile. And the holy sky seemed now to stoop down and poise its breast on the bending hills, and again in majesty retire to a loftier archway of the fair blue Infinite, and glimmer and glow like a sea of glass. Eloquent type of the face of that Father whose glory lights the heavens, whose spirit breathes, and whose love abounds in every world.
The year had not been all sunlight or joy. Clouds had gathered and dissolved, and disappointments now and then occurred to our manly farmer, and called for more faith and courage. In the summer, the rains were so frequent, and superfluous, his crops were damaged, and the slopes on his fallows were cut into gullies, and swept of their soil. Premature frosts had nipped his corn slightly, and his buckwheat was not worth harvesting. A tolerable crop of wheat and other grains; and a harvest of loves, and lights, and strengths, however, were yielded him, to supply all his natural and spiritual needs, and the Lord was praised for his gracious care.
Fabens was now advanced to years of more grave reflection, and every object in Nature and Life addressed his mind with more suggestive and serious words. His religious impressions were deepened; and his religious sentiments, active and susceptible. He had studied a few fine books, and transferred their wisdom to his heart; he had studied Nature and Scripture; and he walked in light and peaceful ways. He relied on God as the Infinite Friend; and never a cloud was brought over the earth, whether of storm or grief, but he called to mind the promise of the Father, "the bow shall be seen in the cloud."
A few frugal comforts were added to his stores, and though he labored early and late at tasks that demanded strong arms and rusty raiment, where a gentleman in straps and ruffles would have met mortifications without number, still he was happy; and like the man of faith described in the Scripture, he abounded in blessings.
His parents remained to bless him. His wife responded to all his sympathies, and rendered his home a perennial joy. Clinton had been told of his fourth bright birthday, and the gladness of life budded on his heart, and bloomed on his face. Fanny unfolded the graces of childhood as you have seen water-lilies unfold leaf after leaf. Fabens tore himself away from his lambs at seven in the morning, and taking his luncheon in a basket, he proceeded to a distant clearing to work till night. At ten o'clock Clinton was presented a new coat and trowsers, which his mother had just finished, and he bounded about as proudly as a young deer with his first pair of antlers. Nothing would do but he must trip away to the clearing and show them to his father. It would be something of a venture to permit him; but he had been there several times with his father, and knew the way, and he was allowed to go. A kiss to sweet mother, and a kiss to Fanny were given, and one left for grandmother when she returned with her basket of green corn for dinner, and away he glided, and Julia looked after and smiled on his glee, little suspecting what might spring up and harm him on the path. Hour after hour expired, and Julia's mind ran after the boy; and she asked her mother again and again if anything would be likely to befall him. A slight fear occasionally rose, to be suppressed on a second thought; and evening advanced while yet their hearts were cheerly and at rest.
A fair and jocund day departed, and suddenly a dark cloud mantled the heavens, and the moonless night was falling dismal and drear. Fabens was expected by sunset, and at the usual hour, Julia tripped to the wood-path with a light heart to meet him, and take his swinging hand in her own, as she was accustomed to do, and talk all the way to the house. Hastening on half a mile or more, she spied her husband rising over a distant eminence, but he came alone! Her fears were all roused in a moment; she hurried, out of breath, to meet him, and approaching him, called in a broken voice—"Where is Clinton? where have you left him?"
"Clinton?" replied Fabens in surprise; "I have not seen him since morning."
"Not seen him?" ejaculated Julia; "O dear, he started to go to you this forenoon. I'm afraid he's lost, or the wild beasts have caught him!"
"Started to come to me this forenoon?"
"Yes, I finished his new clothes, and he was so pleased, he wanted to go and show them to you. 'Twas all done without thinking a moment of any danger."
"Mercy, Julia! what shall we do? He is gone; here it is coming dark as pitch,—what shall we do?"
"What can we do? O Lord, help us!—help us!—Dear me, I can never forgive myself if he's lost or hurt!—Why did I let him go?"
"Hurry home, Julia, and tell father and mother, and I'll run over to Troffater's; he may be there; Tilly is always teasing children and coaxing 'em; he may have seen Clinton and coaxed him home with him. He was chopping by the road when I went along this morning, he may have coaxed him home: but O, if he is not there!"
Fabens started on a run for Troffater's, and met two neighbors who had just come from his house; they had seen no Clinton; and assured him Clinton could not be there. They all hastened to Fabens', and met Julia and the parents; but no Clinton could be heard from. Darkness extinguished the last gleam of heaven, and they shuddered and wept in agonies of grief for the lost boy.
"How can we let the night pass without our lamb?" cried Mother Fabens.
"Dear, dear boy!—why did I let him go, when I cannot bear to have him out of my sight? Why did I let him go?" sobbed Julia frantically.
"Will not God be gracious? O will he not be gracious?" cried Fabens.
"There! I thought that little fawn was a forerunner of something!" exclaimed Mother Fabens. "That little fawn that came here last June. It has haunted my mind ever since. O I fear it did not come here without a warning?"
"But we let it go again," cried Julia; "and will not my pretty, pretty fawn be given back to his mother again? O! O!"
"An Indian shot a fawn the same day we let that go, and in the same direction he went. I always thought it was that handsome fellow," said Major Fabens.
"Mercy! it cannot be the fawn was a forerunner! O it cannot be that I shall not get my Clinton again!" cried Matthew, looking as if ready to reel to the ground. "O friends, do rouse the neighbors! if he's only lost, I'm afraid the wolves or panthers will catch him. You know how the wolves have howled of late; and I heard a panther scream last night, I thought. Do rouse the neighbors to advise and help!"
The friends seized torches and were away to the first dwelling. The news flew around as fast as distance would permit; and by nine o'clock the whole neighborhood were together with throbbing hearts and anxious looks.
"I fetched my horn and cow-bell," said Mr. Waldron; "I made a noise on the way. Horns will scare off painters, and wolves don't like tootin' or clatter a mite."
"And I brought mine," added Uncle Walter.
"And I mine," added Teezle.
"We'll blow horns and ring bells," said Teezle; "and you, Colwell and Troffater, go and call out the Indians. They're dreadful good to scare off animals and look for lost children."
"Do, for Heaven's sake,—do what you can, if it is dark!" ejaculated Julia fainting with grief.
"O, I know you'll not leave a thing undone!" added Matthew, beseechingly. "God give us strength to bear our trouble! It is hard—it is hard to bear trouble like this!"
Colwell and Troffater started for the lake to call up the Indians from their wigwams on the shore. But they were hardly out of sight before an ominous change passed lowering over the scene. A low moaning wind swept through the woods and fields, and round the house; and the leaves rustled, and the well-sweep swayed and creaked in the blast. Then a drearier dusk succeeded; a fierce and freezing gust from the lake shot by; and a long and rending roll of thunder announced the rising of a violent storm. A fleet of ghastly vapors sailed over the zenith; and feathery clouds floated after, opening and shutting with the thunder and silence, and showing and hiding the stars as they flew. Then a long rift of lightning leaped forth and trailed its blazing banners of white, red, and purple in loops and festoons round the sky; and the thunder redoubled its might, and closed in, and labored and roared, as if wrestling down the world. Flame after flame, and peal on peal, succeeded, and the storm halted over the lake and ran along its course, as if bridled for a time, and struggled, and rolled, and roared; then a wild thunder rent the rein, and it ran and rested over the settlement, and spent its fury, and spun its fire. The wind blew a hurricane; the rain dashed in cataracts; and every electric bolt seemed to shiver the cisterns of heaven, and empty rivers of rain. Then the lightning was uninterrupted, and you could have read a book, or counted the trees, or viewed the lake by its constant blaze; while now and anon a wilder volley exploded, and a more furious flash flew its zigzag flight from the zenith to the ground.