When Life Was Young
At the Old Farm in Maine
C. A. STEPHENS
PUBLISHED BY THE YOUTH'S COMPANION BOSTON, MASS.
Copyright, 1912 BY C. A. STEPHENS
All rights reserved
Electrotyped and Printed by THE COLONIAL PRESS C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.
WITH CORDIAL BEST
WISHES TO THE MANY
Readers of the Youth's Companion
WHO HAVE SO KINDLY REMEMBERED
US AT THE OLD SQUIRE'S
THE FARM ON THE PENNESSEEWASSEE 1
I. A NOSE IN COMMON 5
II. WHITE SUNDAY 13
III. MONDAY AT THE OLD FARM 28
IV. OUR FIRST JERSEY COW 47
V. SHEEP-WASHING—ADDISON'S NOVEL WATER-WARMER 57
VI. THE VERMIFUGE BOTTLE 72
VII. IMMERSING THE LAMBS 94
VIII. "OLD THREE-LEGS" 106
IX. HOMESICK AGAIN. BLUE, OH, SO BLUE 119
X. MUG-BREAD, PONES AND JOHNNY-REB TOAST 128
XI. THE BIRDS AND BIRD-SONGS AT THE OLD FARM 136
XII. TWO VERY EARLY CALLERS—EACH ON BUSINESS 153
XIII. WE ALL SET OFF TO HAVE OUR PICTURES TAKEN 166
XIV. "THERE IS A MAN IN ENGLAND, NAMED DARWIN" 176
XV. A WET FOURTH OF JULY, WITH A GOOD DEAL OF HUMAN NATURE IN IT 187
XVI. WOOD-CHUCKS IN THE CLOVER—ADDISON'S STRATAGEM 208
XVII. HAYING TIME 218
XVIII. APPLE-HOARDS 227
XIX. DOG DAYS, GRAIN HARVEST, AND A TRULY LUCRETIAN TEMPEST 247
XX. CEDAR BROOMS AND A NOBLE STRING OF TROUT 255
XXI. TOM'S FORT 268
XXII. HIGH TIMES 286
XXIII. THE THRASHERS COME 297
XXIV. GOING TO THE CATTLE SHOW 308
XXV. THE WILD ROSE SWEETING 321
XXVI. THE OLD SQUIRE ALLOWS US FOUR DAYS FOR CAMPING OUT 329
XXVII. AT THE OLD SLAVE'S FARM 340
XXVIII. THE OLD SQUIRE'S PANTHER STORY 384
XXIX. THE OUTLAW DOGS 397
XXX. A HEARTFELT THANKSGIVING AND A MERRY YOUNG MUSE THAT VISITED US UNINVITED 410
When Life Was Young
* * * * *
THE FARM ON THE PENNESSEEWASSEE
Away down East in the Pine Tree State, there is a lake dearer to my heart than all the other waters of this fair earth, for its shores were the scenes of my boyhood, when Life was young and the world a romance still unread.
Dearer to the heart;—for then glowed that roseate young joy and faith in life and its grand possibilities; that hope and confidence that great things can be done and that the doing of them will prove of high avail. For such is ever our natural, normal first view of life; the clear young brain's first vision of this wondrous bright universe of earth and sky; the first picture on the sentient plate of consciousness, and the true one, before error blurs and evil dims it; a joy and a faith in life which as yet, on this still imperfect earth of ours, comes but once, with youth.
The white settlers called it the Great Pond; but long before they came to Maine, the Indians had named it Pennesseewassee, pronounced Penny-see-was-see, the lake-where-the-women-died, from the Abnaki words, penem-pegouas-abem, in memory, perhaps, of some unhistoric tragedy.
From their villages on the upper Saco waters, the Pequawkets were accustomed to cross over to the Androscoggin and often stopped at this lake, midway, to fish in the spring, and again in winter to hunt for moose, then snowbound in their "yards." On snowshoes, or paddling their birch canoes along the pine-shadowed streams, these tawny, pre-Columbian warriors came and camped on the Pennesseewassee; we still pick up their flint arrow-heads along the shore; and it may even be that the short, brown Skraellings were here before them, in neolithic days.
There are two ponds, or lakes, of this name, the Great and the Little Pennesseewassee, the latter lying a mile and a half to the west of the larger expanse and connected with it by a brook.
To the northeast, north and west, the land rises in long, picturesque ridges and mountains of medium altitude; and still beyond and above these, in the west and northwest, loom Mt. Washington, Madison, Kearsarge and other White Mountain peaks.
The larger lake is a fine sheet of water, five miles in length, containing four dark-green islets; and the view from its bosom is one of the most beautiful in this our State-of-Lakes.
Hither, shortly after the "Revolution," came the writer's great-grandfather, poor in purse; for he had served throughout that long, and at times hopeless struggle for liberty. In payment he had received a large roll of "Continental Money," all of which would at that time have sufficed, scarcely, to procure him a tavern dinner. No "bounties," no "pensions," then stimulated the citizen soldiery. With little to aid him save his axe on his shoulder, the unremunerated patriot made a clearing on the slopes, looking southward upon the lake; and here, after some weeks, or months, of toil, he brought his young family, consisting of my great-grandmother and two children. They came up the lake in a skiff, fashioned from a pine log. Landing on a still remembered rock, it is said that the ex-soldier turned about, and taking the roll of Continental scrip from his pocket, threw it far out into the water, exclaiming,—
"So much for soldiering! But here, by the blessing of God, we will have a home yet!"
While going through the forest from the lake up to the clearing, a distance of a mile or more, they lost their way, for night had fallen, and after wandering for an hour, were obliged to sleep in the woods beneath the boughs of a pine; and it was not till the next forenoon that they found the clearing and the little log house in which my great-grandmother began her humble housekeeping.
Other settlers made their way hither; and other farms were cleared. Indians and moose departed and came no more. Then followed half a century of robust, agricultural life, on a virgin soil. The boys grew large and tall; the girls were strong and handsome. It was a hearty and happy era.
But no happy era is enduring; the young men began to take what was quaintly called "the western fever," and leave the home county for greater opportunities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. The young women, too, went away in numbers to work in the cotton factories at Lowell, Lawrence and Biddeford; few of them came back; or if they returned, they were not improved in health, or otherwise.
The third son of the Revolutionary soldier and pioneer remained at the old farm and lived on alone there after his own sons had left home, to enter other and less certain avocations than farming.
Then came war again, the terrible Civil War, when every one of these sons, true to their soldier ancestry, entered the army of the Republic. Of the five not one survived that murderous conflict. And so it happened that we, the grandchildren, war waifs and orphaned, came back in 1865-6, to live at grandfather's old farm on the Pennesseewassee.
We came from four different states of the Union, and two of us had never before even seen the others. It is, therefore, not remarkable that at first there were some small disagreements, due to our different ideas of things.
We were, of course, a great burden upon the old folks, who were compelled to begin life over again, so to speak, on our account. At the age of sixty-five grandfather set himself to till the farm on a larger scale, and to renew his lumbering operations, winters. Grandmother, too, was constrained to increase her dairy, her flocks of geese and other poultry, and to begin anew the labor of spinning and knitting.
It is but fair to say, however, that we all—with one exception, perhaps—had a decent sense of the obligations we incurred, and on most occasions, I believe, we did what we could to aid in the labors of the farm.
Much as we added to the burdens of our grandparents, I can now see that our coming lent fresh zest to their lives; they had something new to live for; they took hold of life again, for another ten years.
Ten years of youth.
It was Life's happy era with us, full of hopes and plans for the future, full, too, of those many jolts which young folks get from inexperience, nor yet free from those mistakes which all of us make, when we first set off on Life's journey. Like some bright panorama it passes on Memory's walls, so many pictures of that hopeful young life of ours at the old farm, as we grew up together, getting an education, or the rudiments of one, at the district school, and later at the village Academy, Kent's Hill Seminary and Bowdoin College.
And later I may try to relate how we came out and what we are still doing in life.
A NOSE IN COMMON
It was on a sunny, windy May afternoon, late in the month, that the old gentleman drove to the railway station, eight miles from the farm, to fetch home the writer of this narrative. Till that day I had never seen either of my grandparents. But I knew that grandfather was to meet me at the station, and immediately on getting out of the car, I saw an erect, rather tall, elderly man with white hair and blue eyes, peering over the crowd, as if on the lookout for a boy. The instinctive stir of kinship made me sure who he was; but from some childish bashfulness I did not like to go directly to him and came around from one side, then touched his arm. He glanced down. "Are you looking for a small fellow like me, sir?" I asked.
"Yes, yes!" he exclaimed and laughed.
He looked at me searchingly, and his face grew sorrowful as he gazed.
"Yes, you are poor Edmund's boy. You've your father's forehead and eyes. Well, well, my son, I am glad to see you, and I hope you will like with us. You are coming to your father's old home, where he used to live when he was a boy. Your grandmother will be glad to see you; and you must not think of such a thing as being homesick. Your cousins are there; and there will be plenty of things to take up your mind."
I hastened to say that I was thankful for the home he was giving me, and that I had come to work and pay my way. (My mother had fully explained the situation to me.)
Grandfather smiled and looked at me again. "Yes, you are quite a boy!" he said. "If you are as good a boy as your father was, your coming may prove a blessing instead of an additional tax on us."
I felt much gratified that he considered me "quite a boy," and said that I knew so many of us must be a great care; but that I meant to do my best and to take my father's place with him, if he ever needed a son. (More of my good mother's ideas, rather than my own, I am afraid.) Unwittingly I had touched a pleasant chord, albeit a sad one. Grandfather grasped me by the hand, and I saw that his worn blue eyes had moistened.
I drew out my baggage check and ran to get my small trunk, which I dragged forward while grandfather backed the wagon up to the platform. We drove off much reassured in each other; and I remember still that the old gentleman's kind words stirred me to an impulsive boyish resolve never to disappoint his confidence; but it was a resolve that I often lost sight of in the years that followed.
Presently our road led along the shore of the Pennesseewassee, past woodland and farms, mile on mile, with the lake often in sight. I was much interested in watching the loons, and also a long raft of peeled hemlock logs which four men were laboriously poling down the lake to the saw-mills.
After a time grandfather began to talk more cheerily; he spoke of farming and of town affairs to me as if I were older; and once or twice he called me Edmund, although that was not my name; but I did not correct the mistake; I thought that I could do that some other time.
"There will be six of you now," he said, "six cousins, all in one family; and all not far from the same age." Then he asked me my age. "Twelve, almost thirteen," I replied. "Why, I thought you were fourteen," he said. "Well, now Addison is fifteen, or sixteen, and Theodora is near fourteen. Addison is a good boy and a boy of character, studious and scholarly. I do not know what his learning may lead to; sometimes I am afraid that he is imbibing infidelic doctrines; but he is a boy of good principles whom I would trust in anything. He is your Uncle William's son, you know, and came to our house two years ago, after his father's death at Shiloh. Theodora came at about the same time; she is your Aunt Adelaide's daughter. Poor Adelaide had to send her home to me after your Uncle Robert's death at Chancellorsville. Theodora is a noble-hearted child, womanly and considerate in all her ways; and she is as good a scholar as Addison.
"Then there's Halstead." Grandfather paused; and looking up in his face, I saw that a less cheery expression had come there. "Sometimes I do not know what to do with Halstead," grandfather remarked, at last. "He is a strange boy and has a very unsteady disposition. He came to us after your Uncle Henry's death. Your Uncle Henry and Uncle Charles both lost their lives in the Gettysburg fight. O this has been a terrible war! But what we have gained may be worth the sacrifice; I hope so! I hope so!" exclaimed the old gentleman, fervently.
"How old is Halstead?" I asked, after a silence of some minutes.
"He is fifteen; and your little cousins, Ellen and Wealthy, are twelve and nine," replied the old gentleman, resuming his account of my cousins to me. "They are your Uncle Charles' little girls, good dutiful children as one would ever need to have."
It was a long drive. At length the road, bending round the north end of the lake, led for half a mile or more up an easy hill. Here, on either hand, fields, inclosed with wide stone walls, were now beginning to show green a little through the dry grass of last year. Other fields, ploughed and planted, faintly disclosed long rows of corn, just breaking ground, presided over by tutelar scarecrows which drummed on pans and turned glittering bits of tin as the breeze played over them.
"We have lately finished planting," grandfather explained to me. "The crows are very bold this spring. Halstead and Addison have been displaying their ingenuity out there, to frighten them off."
At some distance below the farm buildings, we entered between rows of apple trees, on both sides of the walled road, trees so large and leafy, that they quite shut out the fields. These were now in blossom.
"To-morrow will be White Sunday," grandfather remarked, as old Sol (the farm horse) toiled up the long hill. "Nature's own bright Whitsuntide, never brighter, despite war and mourning."
The great trees stood like huge bouquets; their peculiar, heavy odor loaded the air, which resounded to the deep, musical hum of thousands of bees. The near report of a gun rang out, followed by a great uproar of crows.
"The boys are scaring them out of the wheat-field," said grandfather.
I was looking for the house, when old Sol turned in before a high gate-frame of squared timber, overhung by the apple trees (we sometimes walked across on the top timber from one tree into the other), and I jumped down to open the gate. "Pull out the pin," grandfather said. I did so, and the gate swung of its own accord, disclosing a grassy lane, marked with wheel-ruts. The farm buildings stood at the head of the lane; a two-story house, large on the ground, lately painted straw color. Three great Balm o' Gilead trees towered over it. A long wood-shed led from the house to a new stable, with a gilt vane and cupola, which showed off somewhat to the disadvantage of the two larger barns beyond it; for the latter were barns of the old times, high-posted with roofs of low pitch, and weathered from long conflicts with storms. Around them, like stunted children, clustered sheds, sties and a top-heavy corn-crib, stilted on four long, smooth legs.
Two boys, one carrying a gun, were coming in from the field; and I saw girls' faces at the front windows.
We drove in at the open door of the stable; and while we were alighting from the wagon, grandmother came out to welcome me and see, I suppose, what manner of lad I was. The two boys, larger than myself and bearing little resemblance to each other, approached to unharness the horse; they regarded me casually, without much apparent interest; and a sense of being an utter stranger there fell on me. I hardly ventured to glance at grandmother, who took me by both hands and looked earnestly in my face. I feared that she would kiss me before the others and durst not look at her. "Yes," I heard her say, in a low voice, "it is Edmund's own boy." She led the way into the house, through the long wood-shed and ell. Supper was waiting; and after a hasty wash at a long sink in the wood-shed, I followed grandfather through the kitchen to the room beyond it, where the large round table was spread. The family all came in and sat down. I still felt very strange to the place; but a glance into grandmother's kind face reassured me a little.
Grandmother, as I remember her, was then fair and plump, with hair partially gray, and a tinge of recent sadness upon a face naturally genial. With a quiet sigh, she seated me next to her—a sigh for the last of her boys.
"They are all here now, father," she said, "the last one has come. It's a strange thing to see them coming as they have and know why they have come."
My cousins were regarding me with a kind of curious sympathy. I picked out Halstead at a glance: a boy with a rather low forehead, dark complexion and a round head, which his short clipped hair caused to appear still more spherical. A hare-lip, never appropriately treated, gave his mouth a singular, grieved droop; but, as if in contradiction to this, his eyes were black and restless. The contrast with the steady gray eyes, and high forehead of the boy sitting next to him, was as great as could well be imagined.
As a boy, I naturally looked at the boys first; but while doing so, I knew that a girl in a black dress, was regarding me in a kind, cousinly way, a girl with a large, fair face, calm gray-blue eyes and a profusion of light golden hair. Grandfather's remark, that Theodora was "a noble-hearted child," came back to me with my first glance at her.
Two smaller girls, who frequently left their chairs, to wait on the table, were sitting at grandmother's left hand; girls with brown eyes, brown hair, and rosy faces, one larger than the other; these were Ellen and Wealthy.
"They don't look much alike," said grandmother, looking at us all, over her glasses. "One never would mistrust they were cousins."
The old gentleman contemplated us kindly. "Only their noses," said he. "Their noses are somewhat alike."
Grandmother looked again, through her glasses this time.
"So they are!" cried she. "They've all got your nose, Joseph;" and the old lady laughed; and we all laughed a little oddly and looked at grandfather and laughed again. I think we felt a little better acquainted after that; we had, at least, a nose in common. But even our laughter that evening was distrait, or seemed to me so, as if shadowed by something sad.
As evening drew on, we all, save Halstead, gathered in the front sitting-room without lights; for the windows were open; and there was a hazy moon. Theodora sat at one window, looking off upon the lake; while Ellen slowly and rather imperfectly played tunes on a melodeon, lively tunes, I believe, but the old instrument seemed to me to be weeping and wailing to us under a mask of pretended music. Beyond doubt I was a little homesick and tired from my journey; and after a time grandmother lighted a candle to show me the way up-stairs to bed. I remember feeling disappointed when she told me that I was to sleep with Halstead. The latter had come in and followed us up-stairs. He seemed surprised at finding me in his room.
"Thought you was going to roost with Ad," said he. "Heard the old gent say so. Guess Ad has been whining to the grandmarm not to have you. He is a regular old Betty. 'Fraid you'll upset some of his precious gimcracks."
"What are they?" I asked.
"Don't know much about them. I don't go near him, and he keeps his door fastened. Lets Doad and Nell in once in awhile. No admittance to me.
"Hold on a bit!" he exclaimed, suddenly. "Don't sit down on the side o' the bed just yet. There's (feeling under the bed-clothes) something soft in there. Here 'tis (drawing out half a large apple pie). Have a piece?"
Not liking to commit myself to pie under such dubious circumstances, I said that I guessed not. Halstead began eating it without further ceremony.
"I always want a luncheon before I go to bed," he explained, between mouthfuls. "The old folks think it's hurtful to eat and go right to sleep. I don't; and I generally manage to get a bite stowed away during the day."
I inquired how he managed it.
"Oh, watch my chance at the cupboard. 'Bout three o'clock in the afternoon is a pretty good time. Women-folks all in the sitting-room then."
While Halstead was finishing the pie, I got into bed, taking the farther side. There was a shockingly hard lump under my back and after trying in vain to adapt myself to it, I asked Halstead if he knew what it was.
"Oh! I forgot that," said he; and coming round, he made another investigation in the straw bed and took out an old pistol, a very large, long one.
"It is loaded!" I exclaimed, for I caught sight of the bright brass cap.
"Course 'tis," said he. "What's the good of a pistol, if you don't load it? I had a pair. They're hoss pistols. But the old gent don't 'prove of pistols. He nabbed the other one. I have to keep this one hid."
"I should think they would find it when they make the bed," said I.
"Oh, the grandmarm don't stir the straw very often. She's kind o' fat. It tires her, I expect. After she's stirred it once, I know I'm safe to put things in there for quite a spell."
After secreting the pistol in the leg of an old boot, Halstead came to bed, and was asleep in a few moments. Falling asleep almost as soon as he touched the bed was one of his peculiarities. I, too, was soon asleep.
'Tis Nature's own bright Whitsuntide, The bloom of apple-trees. The orchards stand like huge bouquets And o'er them hum the bees.
My dreams that first night at the old farm were many and disturbing; and I waked in the morning with a resentful recollection that I had received not a few hard knocks; but as everything was quiet, I dismissed the impression; for I had yet to learn that my new bed-fellow was a spasmodic kicker in his sleep of great range and power.
Erelong grandmother knocked at our chamber door and called us. Halstead hastily opened his eyes and rose, as suddenly as he had fallen asleep, without even a preliminary yawn.
"Sunday, isn't it?" said he, as he dressed. "But we don't have to go to church to-day. It's the Elder's turn to preach at Stoneham; he only comes here half the time."
After breakfast and after family prayers, Addison, Halstead and I went out to the garden and there was some effort at a conversation about blue-birds, a pair of which were building in a box on a pole which had been set up in the garden wall. But we did not yet feel much acquainted; Addison soon went back toward the house; Halstead sauntered off among the apple trees in the orchard, and gradually approached the wall near the road; then with a swift glance about him, he sprang over and crouched out of sight behind it.
It occurred to me that he was doing this to initiate a frolic; and after waiting for a few moments, I drew near the place and peeped over. But he was not hidden there. Immediately I espied him down the road, evidently stealing away.
White Sunday, indeed! The orchard was a sunlit wilderness of pink and white blossoms. Every breath of the breeze shook off showers of them. The ground grew white beneath the trees. The garden was bordered with hedges of currant bushes; and within them stood a regiment of bare bean-poles in line. On the upper side was a bee-house, also a long row of grape trellises, covered with dry vines, showing here and there a large, pale green bud.
Presently Theodora came out.
"Alone, cousin?" she asked. "Where are the other boys?"
I told her that Addison had gone into the house.
I replied that he was in the orchard a few minutes ago.
"He's gone now," said she, glancing through the trees. "Let's go find Addison."
No long search was necessary. She led the way directly up-stairs to his room and tapped at the door. There was a moment's skurry inside and a voice said, "Who's there?"
"Doad,"—with a smile to me.
The key turned and Addison looked out.
"I have brought our new cousin," she said. "Can we come in?"
"Yes," said he, hesitantly, with a backward glance into the room. "Come in. Halse isn't there, is he?"
"No, Halse has gone, again," said Theodora.
They looked at each other significantly. Addison then opened the door and bustled about, clearing out chairs for us. The room seemed filled with things. On one side there was a great cupboard, stuffed, in a helter-skelter way, with books, papers and magazines. Farther along stood a bureau upon the top of which were set several bottles. A hat-tree in the corner had, perched upon it, a stuffed crow, a hawk and a blue jay with bright glass eyes. A rough shelf had been put up along one end, on which lay many glistening stones of all sorts and sizes; and on the bed was a large book, open to some cuts of birds.
"Naughty boy!" exclaimed Theodora, pointing to several loose feathers on the bed and on the floor. "What did you promise me?"
"No, I will not hush it up!" cried Theodora. "You deserve to be exposed! A youth who breaks his promises! You shall show us what you've been doing. I know where you have hidden it!" Before he could hinder her, she threw back the pillow and lo! more feathers and a small white and black bird! "Ah-ha, sir!" she exclaimed. "Didn't you say that you would not 'mount' another bird, Sunday?"
"Yes, I did, I own I did," said Addison. "But I only got this bobolink last night. He would spoil, if I let him go till Monday. Besides, I shall have to work then. And (holding him up) he's such a little beauty that I couldn't bear to lose him."
This last appeal disarmed Theodora. "We will pass it over this time," she said; "but (lowering her voice) you must not 'stuff' birds, Sunday. Yet now that you've broken the Commandment in your heart, by beginning, perhaps you might as well finish it. So we will both go off and let you get through with your wickedness as soon as you can."
"Addison is a real good cousin," Theodora said to me, apologetically, as we returned to the orchard. "He is one of the nicest boys I ever saw. He almost never gets angry, and always speaks in a gentlemanly way to grandfather and grandmother; and he is real good to us girls, whenever we have anything hard to do, or want to make flower boxes, or spade up our flower beds. He knows the different kinds of rocks and trees and flowers, and the birds, too, and all about their nests and where they go winters. Uncle William, you know, was a teacher, the preceptor of an Academy; he understood botany and mineralogy and taught Ad when he was a little boy. Addison means to get a college education, if he can make his way to do it.
"I should like to get a good education, too," Theodora added after awhile. "Have you any plans of your own?"
I replied that I had no plans as yet; but that I, too, would like to attend school.
"We all go to the district school here," said Theodora, "and we can learn a good deal, if we study well. But I should like to go to a more advanced school when I get a little older, so that I could be a teacher myself, perhaps; though I would rather be something else than a teacher," she added.
"What is that?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't quite like to tell you that just yet," she said.
"I am going to show you the good apple trees," she continued, and led the way through the orchard. "These three great ones, here below the garden wall, are Orange Speck trees; they are real nice apples for winter; and there is the Gilliflower tree. Over here is the Early Sweet Bough; and that big one is the August Sweeting; and out there are the three August Pippins. All those away down there toward the road are Baldwins and Greenings. Those two by the lane wall are None Such trees. Out there by the corn-field wall are four Sweet Harvey trees and next below them, two Georgianas. I learned all their names last year. But this one here by the currant bushes is a Sops-in-wine. Oh, they are so good! and they get ripe early, too, and so do the August Pippins and the Harveys and the August Sweetings; they are all nice. Those small trees just below the barnyard fence are pears, Bartlett pears, luscious ones! and those vines on the trellises are the Isabella and Concord grapes; some years grapes don't get ripe up here in Maine; but they did last year, pretty ripe, in October. Grandfather carried some of them to the County Fair and lots of the apples; he had over forty different kinds of fruit on exhibition. We girls went with him and placed the apples and pears and the grapes on plates, in the Fair building. You will go with us this year, I suppose.
"All this ground here is planted to beets and carrots and turnips. You mustn't step on it," my pleasant-voiced cousin admonished me. "And we will not go up very close to that little shed there. That is the bee-house. See all those hives! The bees will sometimes sting any one they don't know. Ad isn't afraid of them; I am not much afraid; they have never stung me. They sting Halstead like sport, if he goes up in front of the hives. Grandfather puts on a veil and some gloves and takes them off the apple tree limbs, when they swarm. Ellen is afraid of them, too; but Wealthy will go up and sit right down in her little chair, close by that biggest, old, dark-colored hive. There's an enormous swarm in that hive; and they send out two or three young swarms every year; that is one of them in the white, tall hive there at the end of the shed.
"Last year robber bees came out of the woods and attacked that hive with the red cap-piece on it. Ad watched them all through one day and threw hot water on the robbers. You'll see lots of excitement here when a swarm comes out and grandfather has to hive them. They got fifty cents a pound for the honey one year; but it isn't so high now. In the winter the hives stand right out in the cold and snowdrifts. In February, last winter, the drift in front of the shed was higher than the shed itself. Grandfather stops up the holes into the hives, that's all; and in March, before the snow is gone, the bees sometimes come out and get the honey-sap on the birch and maple logs, when the men-folks are working up the big woodpile in front of the wood-shed."
Ellen and Wealthy saw us talking by the bee-house, and approached the garden gate. "Come down here, girls, and get acquainted with our new cousin," Theodora called to them.
"Don't say much to them at first," she continued to me in a lower tone. "They are bashful."
Being in much the same case, I looked another way while the two girls joined us, Theodora having for the moment directed my attention to a tremendously large queen bumble-bee which came booming along the ground and began burrowing in a little heap of dry grass.
"Halstead says those big bumble-bees are the kings," Wealthy ventured to remark.
"Well, that is not right," said Ellen. "For Ad says they are the queens."
Theodora looked at me and laughed. "You see Ad's word is law," she said. "But now I want to show you Gram's geese."
We climbed the garden wall and went around a large shed which joined the "west barn" and then down into a little hollow behind it, where a rill from a spring had been dammed to form a goose-pond, fifty or sixty feet across. Near by the pond, in the edge of a potato field, we found the geese, seven of them and a gander, which latter extended an aquatic, pink beak and hissed his displeasure at our approach. "Go back, Job!" Theodora said to him; Wealthy stepped to the rear of the others, being still a little afraid of "Job." He was a grievous biter, Theodora informed me, and had bitten her several times, till she had given him a switching for it.
"Two old geese are sitting on eggs in a goose-house, under the shed, near the barn," Ellen said. "That's what makes Job so valiant. It's most time for them to hatch the goslings; Gram has given us strict orders not to go nigh them."
My new cousins, having undertaken to show me the sights of the farm, conducted me next to the large old barns, now empty of hay, disclosing yawning hay bays, weathered brown beams and grain scaffolds.
On this Sabbath morning, the cobwebbed roofs were vocal with the twitterings of many tireless, happy swallows, whose mud nests were placed against the dusty ribs and rafters. Three comma-shaped swallow-holes in the gable gave them access to the inside, where for two generations of men they had found a safe breeding-place. Less safe and less fortunate were the eaves swallows, a row of whose mud nests was placed along one side of the barn, beneath the eaves without; for wind, sun and rain often caused their nests to fall; crows, too, at times stole up and plundered them; and weasels playing along the margin of the roof, had been known to throttle the fledglings.
"He must go and see the 'Little Sea,'" said Ellen.
"Yes, cousin," Theodora said, "you have no doubt heard of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea; but up here at Gramp's we have a new sea that no geographer has yet put down on the map. It isn't every day that anybody can discover a new sea, you know."
Ellen and Wealthy led the way across the fields toward the east side of the farm; we crossed the road and descended through a wide field of grass land, and came to a broad stone wall, extending for near half a mile betwixt the fields and the pastures. Here grew a long, irregular row of wild red cherry trees and black cherry trees, now just past the season of bloom.
"The cherries off some of these trees are fine to eat," Theodora remarked as we stood on the wall and looked about. "This one here is Gramp's tree," she said. "Those off this tree are nearly half as large as the 'tame' cherries; and this one by the rock is my tree; and those out by the pine stump are Ellen's and Wealthy's. Halstead claims a whole row of those higher up; he talks large if any of us rob his trees; but the birds get the most of them. Ad thinks they are not really fit to eat and says there is danger in swallowing the stones. We have enough of the large, tame cherries, too, all through July and until the first of August. Those trees that you saw along the barnyard fence of the north barn are the tame cherry trees. The black cherries do not get ripe till later; October is the month for them. They are nice when real glossy black and ripe, after the first frosts. The trees are just loaded down with them, sometimes; and right there, by that double tree, is where Uncle Henry and Uncle Edmund (your father) saw a bear in the tree, or in a tree that stood there then; it may not be the same one, but it was a cherry tree. The bear was up in the tree, getting cherries. He would reach out and pull in the branches with his paws, and then draw the little twigs, all covered with cherries, through his big mouth and scrape off a lot at once. That was what he was doing there, and he had broken the top of the tree half off. The boys heard the green limbs creaking and cracking, and the tree shaking under the bear's weight. So they stole up and stood on the wall to look; and pretty soon they saw his black hair amongst the leaves; but the bear was so busy eating cherries that he did not notice them. They had no gun, so they each picked up a good big stone and both threw at once; and one of them hit the bear, thump, on his back! It took him by surprise, I expect, and his mouth being so full of leaves and cherries, he sucked some of them down the wrong way, maybe; for they said the old fellow gave an awful cough!—and then started to slide down the tree. At that they both turned and ran, like sport, for the house; for they imagined the old bear meant to pay them back for that stone that had hit him."
"Did the bear chase them?" I cried.
"I rather think not," replied Theodora. "I didn't hear that he did."
"Are there bears around here now?" I inquired.
"Not many; they don't come around the buildings now as they did when our fathers were boys."
"Old 'Three-Legs' comes into the sheep-pasture after the sheep," said Ellen.
"Yes, and Halstead says he saw him when he was looking for the cows, one night this spring," said Wealthy.
"Is 'Three-Legs' a bear?" I asked, greatly interested.
"Yes, a very bold, cunning old bear that lost his right foot in a trap years ago," Ellen explained. "Halstead says he saw him about a month ago."
"Halstead sees lots of bears," said Theodora, laughing. "I suppose there are a few about, yet," she added. "They come down out of the Great Woods once in awhile. But Gramp says there is no danger in our going out in the pastures and the woods around the farm, except perhaps a little while in the spring, when they first come out of their winter dens and are very gaunt and hungry."
"Gram doesn't like to have us go off into the woods," said Wealthy.
"I have been all over the pasture and through all these woods here, and those on the west side of the farm; and once, last November, I went up to Mud Pond in the Great Woods, with Ad, after beaver-lily root, and I never saw any bears," said Theodora.
"Nor I either," said Ellen. "But Gram never likes to have us go off far."
"Where is the 'Great Woods'?" I asked.
"Oh, away off to the north and the west of the farms," replied Theodora. "Most anything may come out of the Great Woods! It's a realm of mystery. It extends off to the White Mountains and to the Lakes and toward Canada. There are deer and moose in it, and 'lucivees.'"
"What are they?" I asked.
"It's a kind of big woods cat," Ellen said. "Some hunters brought out three which they had shot, last winter; they were as large as dogs and had pretty little black tufts on their ears, and such great, round, silvery eyes and such paws, too, with toe-nails an inch long!"
"Addison thinks that there are valuable minerals up in the Great Woods," Theodora remarked; "silver and amethysts and tourmalines. The day he and I and Kate Edwards went after the beaver-lily root, we climbed part way up a high mountain and on the side of it Ad found rock crystals. Oh, such beautiful ones! as large as a pear. He says he is going to explore all those mountains, by and by."
"Are there mountains in the Great Woods?" I inquired.
"Yes, and ponds and brooks full of trout and I don't know what else. I would like to explore it myself. Addison said that some time, when the work is well along, we can get up a party and go up there, to explore and fish and camp out a week. Wouldn't that be fun?"
"But it isn't often that the work is well along," remarked Ellen. "There is always lots to do here."
"Well, now we must go down to the 'Little Sea,'" said Theodora; and we descended through the pasture, a large tract of grazing land, partly bushy, overgrown in many places by high, rank brakes, and at length came to a brook, running over a sandy bed. Here at a bend was an artificial pond, formed by a dam, built of stones laid up in a broad wall across the course of the brook. In one place the wall was six or seven feet in height; and through a little sluice-way of planks, the water ran in a slender stream over the dam and fell into a pool below it. The pond was perhaps a hundred feet in length by forty or fifty in width; a part of the bottom was sandy and in one place it was over a boy's head in depth.
"This is the famous Little Sea," said Theodora. "Isn't it an extensive sheet of water?"
"Who built the dam?" I inquired.
"Oh, your father and mine and all the rest of our uncles, grandfather's first boys, when they were young."
"What did they build it for?" I asked.
"To wash the sheep. They hold the sheep under the stream of water where it falls over the sluice-way below the dam here," replied Ellen.
"And to learn to swim in," said Wealthy. "They used to swim here when they were boys; and Ad and Halstead come down here now, Saturday evenings, for a bath. Doad and Nell and I are going to have us some bathing suits and come down here, too, so that if ever we go to the seashore, we may know how to swim."
The older girls laughed indulgently at Wealthy for thus ingenuously informing me of their projects.
"Well, you needn't laugh," said Wealthy, coloring. "He's our cousin, isn't he?"
This made me feel so awkward that, to change the subject, I began skipping stones, and was very glad to have Ellen ask me whether I knew how to make "whistles." I did not. "I do," said she. "If you will lend me your pocket-knife, I will show you how."
"But it is Sunday, Nell," said Theodora, smiling.
"So 'tis!" exclaimed Ellen. "I forgot."
"I guess it need be no harm to make just one, now you've spoken of it," said Theodora. So the knife being opened, I was instructed how to cut a stick of green osier, or maple, shape the end, cut and loosen the bark; and having slipped the bark off, how further to make the requisite notches, so that the hollow cylinder of bark being replaced, there would be a whistle of keen, shrill note.
This bit of sylvan handicraft having been explained to me, in detail, Theodora announced that it was time to return to the house. "Gram does not approve of our taking too long strolls on Sunday," said she. "But so long as we do right, I can see no harm in it. Besides, our new cousin had never seen the farm before and to-morrow he will have to go to work, I suppose."
"But there's lots more to show him," said Ellen. "He hasn't seen the house-leek rocks, nor the old cider mill, nor the artichoke flat, nor the sap-house, nor the colts."
"Nor the other trout brook where Ad caught the mink, nor the wood-chuck wall, nor the bog where the big mud-turtle lives, nor the blackberry hill, nor 'the fort.' Why, he hasn't seen hardly anything, yet," Wealthy added.
"O well, he will have time to see it all, for he is going to live here, you know," said Theodora. "But now we really ought to go home, for we must help Gram get up the dinner, and it is past noon already, I think."
We took our way leisurely up through the fields where the wild strawberries were in bloom, great patches of them, half an acre in extent, white with the lowly blossoms. The girls carefully marked certain places, so as to know where to come early in July, when the grass was grown tall.
"Gramp does not quite like to have us come into the tall grass, after strawberries," Theodora remarked, "because we trample the grass down and make it difficult to mow; but Gram always sends us out and sometimes goes herself."
"And when she goes, I tell you the grass has to catch it!" exclaimed Wealthy. "She just creeps along and crushes down a whole acre of it at one time!"
"Yes, Gramp scolded a little about it one day," said Ellen. "He came in at noon and said to grandma, 'Ruth Ann, I should think that the Millerites had been creeping through my east field.' He said that to tease her, because Gram doesn't approve of the Millerites at all.
"'Joseph,' said Gram, pretty short for her, 'I'm afraid your memory's failing you.'
"'What's my memory got to do with it?' said Gramp.
"'Didn't I put it in the bargain when I married you, that I should be allowed to go strawberrying in the hay fields just when I wanted to?' Gram said.
"At that, Gramp began to laugh and said, that if his memory was failing, there certainly was nothing the matter with grandma's memory; and he never said another word about the grass; so I guess he did make some such promise when they were married."
The girls went into the house; and feeling pretty warm from our walk, I lay down beneath one of the large old Balm o' Gileads. Addison came out of the sitting-room and asked where we had been. "I was going to ask you to go down to the 'Little Sea,'" he added, "for a swim before dinner. But if you have been down there and back, you would be too warm to go into the water; so I'll lend you a book to read."
He brought me from his room Cudjo's Cave, saying that the Old Squire and Gram might not consider it wholly proper reading for Sunday, but that it was his most interesting book, in the way of a story.
"Do you call grandfather the 'Old Squire'?" I asked.
"Yes, that is what the folks around here mostly call him," replied Addison. "So I do. It doesn't sound quite so childish as to be always saying grandfather, or grandpa.
"Of course," Addison continued, "we expect girls, or little boys, to say 'grandfather,' or 'gramp'; but we boys when we are out among other boys, have to say the 'Old Squire,' or the 'old man,' or else they would be laughing at us for milksops. It doesn't do for a boy to seem too childish, you know.
"But I never like the sound of 'the old man,'" Addison went on coaching me confidentially. "Sounds disrespectful and sort of rowdy. I don't like 'old gent,' either. But I sometimes speak of grandfather as the old gentleman and of grandmother, generally, as 'Gram.' So do the girls. She likes that, too; for some reason she doesn't like to be called grandmother very well. I guess it makes her feel too old. For fun I called her 'Ruth' one day. That is her given name, you know. She looked at me and laughed. 'Addison,' she exclaimed, 'you are getting to be quite a young man!'
"But I guess if the truth were known," Addison continued sapiently, "that no oldish people like to be called grandpa and grandma very well, till they get to be as much as eighty years old. Then they seem to enjoy it."
Grandmother provided but two meals on Sunday: breakfast at about eight in the morning, and dinner at three in the afternoon. Consequently we were sitting down to dinner, with very good appetites, judging the others by my own, when one seat was seen to be vacant.
"Where's Halstead?" the Old Squire asked.
There was an expectant hush; and again I saw Theodora and Addison glance across to each other. As no one seemed to know, nothing further was said. We were half through dinner, when the absent one came quickly into the kitchen, looking very red and much heated. With a stealthy glance through the open door into the dining-room, he hastily bathed his face in cold water, then came in and took his place. His hair was wet, his collar limp, and altogether he looked like a boy fresh from a hot run.
"Where have you been, Halstead?" the Old Squire inquired.
"Up in the sheep pasture, sir," said Halstead promptly. "I can't make but forty-seven lambs, the way I count. There is one gone."
"A very sudden liking for shepherd life," remarked Addison in an undertone to Theodora.
"What made you run and heat yourself so?" Gram asked him.
"I was afraid I should be late to dinner," answered Halstead with a bold look, intended for a frank one.
Grandfather looked at him earnestly; but nothing more was said. We all felt uneasy. Dinner ended rather drearily.
In the evening Theodora read to us several chapters from Dred, Mrs. Stowe's novel. Anti-slavery books were then well nigh sacred at the old farm. Almost any other work of fiction would hardly have been considered fit reading for Sunday.
MONDAY AT THE OLD FARM
"I shall expect you to work with us on the farm, 'Edmund,'" grandfather said to me after breakfast. "But you may have this forenoon, to look about and see the place. Enjoy yourself all you can."
The robins were singing blithely in the orchard. I went thither and I think it was four robins' nests which I found in as many different apple trees, one with three, two with four and one with five blue eggs. Is there anything prettier than the eggs of a robin, in the eyes of a boy?
As I climbed the orchard wall to cross the road, a milk snake was sunning on the loose stones among the raspberry bushes, the first I had ever seen; and I bear witness that the ancestral antipathy to the serpent leaped within me instantly. I beat his head without remorse, ay, pounded his tail, too, which wriggled prodigiously, and chopped his body to pieces with sharp stones.
This sorry victory achieved, I set off across the fields to the west pasture and thence descended to the west brook, where I saw several trout in a deep hole beneath the decayed logs of a former bridge. With a mental resolve to come here fishing, as soon as I could procure a hook and line, I continued onward through a low, swampy tract overgrown with black alder and at length reached the "colt pasture," upon a cleared hill. Here a handsome black colt, along with a sorrel and a white one, was feeding, and at once came racing to meet me, in the hope of a nib of provender, or salt. Continuing my voyage of discovery, I came to a tract of woodland beyond the pasture through which a cart road led to a clearing where there was a small old house, deserted, and also a small barn. This, as I had yet to learn, was the "Aunt Hannah lot," an appendage of the farm, which had come into grandfather's possession from a sister, my great-aunt of that name. Save a field of oats, the land here was allowed to lie in grass and remain otherwise uncultivated. Beyond this small outlying farm, there was a dense body of woodland, which I did not then attempt to penetrate, but made a circuit to the northward through pasture land and young wood for half a mile or more, and by and by crossed the road, looking along which to the northwest, I could see the farmhouses of several of our neighbors.
Still farther around to the north rose a bold, rocky, cleared hill which I concluded was the sheep pasture. In a wet run along the foot of the hill was a stretch of what looked to be low, reddish, brushy grass, which I ascertained later was the "cranberry swale."
Beyond it to the east, a long field curved around the foot of the sheep pasture; and on the far side of this field there was woodland again, descending first to the valley of the east brook where lay the "Little Sea," then ascending a rugged hill.
A boy, like a bee, must needs take his bearings before he can feel quite at home in a new place. I crossed the valley and climbed the wooded hill beyond, a distance of nearly a mile and a half from the farmhouse. Formerly there had been a grand growth of pine here; and there were still a few pine trees. Numbers of the old stumps and stubs were of great size. This rugged ridge bore the name of Pine Hill. From the summit I gained a fine view of the country around, with its farms and forest tracts, and of the Pennesseewassee stretching away to the southward; also of the White Mountains in the northwest; while on the other side of the hill to the east and southeast, lay an extensive bog and another smaller lake, or pond, known as North Pond.
For half an hour or more I sat upon a pine stump and pored over the geography of the district with much boyish interest, noting various hills, farmhouses and other landmarks concerning which I determined to inquire of Addison.
At length, beginning to feel hungry and bethinking myself that it must be getting toward noon, I descended from my perch of observation, and made my way homeward, although it did not seem very much like home to me as yet. The tramp had done me good in the way of satisfying my "bump of location."
Reaching the house in advance of the noon hour, I went out with Theodora to see the eaves swallows again. We counted fifty-seven nests in a row, each resembling very much a dry cocoanut shell, with a swallow's head looking out at a little hole on the upper side. Dora pointed out the nest of one pair which had experienced much ill luck. Three times the nest had fallen. No sooner would they finish it and have an egg or two, than down it would fall on the stones below. But their misfortunes had finally taught the little architects wisdom. They brought hair from the barnyard and mixed it with their mud, after the manner of mortar, and so built a nest which successfully adhered.
All this Theodora told me as we stood watching them, coming and going with cheery, ceaseless twitterings.
"And I think they've got a kind of reason about such things," Theodora added with a certain tone of candid concession. "Although Gram says it is only instinct. She doesn't like to have any one say that animals or birds reason; she thinks it isn't Scriptural."
Just then Ellen came out with the dinner-horn which, after several dissonant efforts, she succeeded in sounding, to call the Old Squire and the boys from the field. Theodora and I were so greatly amused at the odd sound that we burst out laughing; and Ellen, hearing us, was a good deal mortified. "I don't care!" she exclaimed. "It goes awfully hard; I haven't got breath enough to quite 'fill' it; and my lip isn't hard enough. Ad says it takes practice to get up a lip for horn blowing."
Theodora tried it, and elicited a horrible blare. I did not succeed much better; something seemed to be lacking in my lip, or my lungs. It required a tremendous head of wind to make the old tube vibrate; at last, I got it started a-roaring and made the whole countryside hideous with an outlandish sort of blast. Theodora begged of me to desist.
"We shall have the neighborhood aroused and coming to see what the matter is," she said. I was so much elated with my success, however, that I blew a final roar; and just then Addison, Halstead, grandfather and two hired men came upon the scene, over the wall from the field side.
"What on earth are you trying to do with that horn?" Halstead called out. "Do you think we are deaf? I never heard such a noise!"
"It is only our new cousin getting up his lip," said Ellen, scarcely able to speak for laughing.
Grandfather told me that if they ever organized a brass band thereabout, I should have the big French horn to play, for I seemed to have the makings of a tremendous lip. All these little incidents of my first few days at the farm are enduringly fixed in my memory.
The day proved a warm one; and after dinner I went into the front sitting-room and looked at the old family pictures: grandfather's father and mother in silhouette, General Scott's triumphant entry into the city of Mexico, Jesus disputing with the Doctors, Martin Luther, George Washington and several daguerreotypes of my uncles and aunts, framed and hung on the wall. Next I read the battle parts of a new history of the War, by Abbott.
Erelong grandfather came in for a nap on the lounge; and I found that Addison and Halstead were hitching up old Sol and loading bags of corn into the farm wagon, to go to mill. They told me that the grist mill was three miles distant and invited me to go along with them. We set off immediately, all three of us sitting on the seat, in front of the bags. Halstead wanted to drive; but Addison had taken possession of the reins and kept them, although Halstead secured the whip and occasionally touched up the horse, contrary to Addison's wishes; for it proved a very hilly road. First we descended from the ridge on which the home farm is located, crossed the meadow, then ascended another long ridge whence a good view was afforded of several ponds, and of the White Mountains in the northwest.
Descending from this height of land to the westward for half a mile, we came to the mill, in the valley of another large brook. It was a weathered, saddle-back old structure, situated at the foot of a huge dam, built of rough stones, like a farm wall across the brook, and holding back a considerable pond. A rickety sluice-way led the water down upon the water-wheel beneath the mill floor.
When we arrived there was no one stirring about the mill; but we had no more than driven up and hitched old Sol to a post, when two boys came out from a small red house, a little way along the road, where lived the miller, whose name was Harland.
"There come Jock and George," said Addison. "Maybe the old man isn't at home to-day.
"Where's your father?" he called out, as the boys drew near.
"Gone to the village," replied the larger of the two, who was apparently thirteen or fourteen years of age.
"We want to get a grist ground," Addison said to them.
"What is it?" they both asked.
"Corn," replied Ad.
"If it's only corn, we can grind it," they said. "Take it in so we can toll it. Pa said we could grind corn, or oats and pease; but he won't let us grind wheat, yet, for that has to be bolted."
We carried the bags into the mill; there were three of them, each containing two bushels of corn; and meantime the two young millers brought along a half-bushel measure and a two-quart measure.
"It's two quarts toll to the bushel, ye know," said Jonathan, the elder of the two. "So I must have two two-quart measurefuls out of every bag." He proceeded to untie the bags and toll them, dipping out a heaped measureful.
"Here, here," said Addison, "you must strict those measures with a square; you're getting a good pint too much on every one."
"All right," they assented, and producing a piece of straight-edged board, stricted them.
"Have to watch these millers a little," Addison remarked. "And I guess, Jock, you had better not toll all the bags till you see whether there's water enough to grind all of it."
"O, there's water enough," said they. "There's a whole damful."
They then poured the first bagful into the hopper over the millstones, and went to hoist the gate. It was a very primitive, worn piece of mechanism, and hoisting it proved a difficult task. Addison and Halstead went to help them. At length they heaved the gate up; the water-wheel began to turn and the other gear to revolve, making a tremendous noise. I climbed down beneath the mill, at the lower end, to see the water-wheel operate. The wheel and big mill post turned ponderously around, wabbling somewhat and creaking ominously. By the time I went back into the mill, above, the first bagful of corn was nearly ground into yellow meal, which came out of the stones into the meal-box quite hot from the molinary process. Addison was dipping the meal out and putting it up in the empty bag.
"Is it fine enough?" Jock called out. "I can drop the stone a little, if ye say so. We will grind it just as ye want it."
Presently something went through the millstones that made an odd noise; and the young miller, George, accused Halstead of throwing a pebble into the hopper. They had a dispute about it, and George complained that such a trick might spoil the millstones.
Another bagful was poured into the hopper and ground out; and then Addison and I brought along the third bagful.
"Hold on there," said Jock. "I haven't tolled that bag."
We thought that he had tolled it.
"No," said both Jock and George. "You said not to toll that last bag till we saw whether there was water enough to grind it."
"But you declared that there was water enough, and tolled it!" cried Halstead.
Addison and I could not say positively whether they had tolled it or not; and they appeared to think that it had not been tolled. The point was argued for some moments; finally it was agreed to compromise on it and let them have one measure of toll out of it. So there was two quarts of loss or gain, whichever party was in error.
When the last bagful was nearly ground and the hopper empty, all save a pint or so, Jock and George ran to shut the gate and stop the mill.
"Hold on!" cried Addison. "That isn't fair. There's two quarts in the stones yet; we shall lose all that on top of toll."
"But we must shut down before the corn is all through the stones!" cried Jock, "or they'll get to running fast and grind themselves. 'Twon't do to let them get to running fast, with no corn in."
"Well, don't be in such haste about it," urged Addison. "Wait a bit till our grist is nearer out."
They waited a few moments, but were very uneasy about the stones, and soon after the last kernels of corn had disappeared from the hopper, they pulled the ash pin to let the gate fall. It was then discovered that from some cause the gate would not drop. The boys thumped and rattled it. But the water still poured down on the wheel. By this time the meal had run nearly all out of the millstones and they revolved more rapidly. The young millers were now a good deal alarmed, and, running out, climbed up the dam and looked into the flume, to see what was the matter with their gate.
"It's an old shingle-bolt!" shouted Jock, "that's floated down the pond! It's got sucked in under the gate and holds it up! Fetch the pike-pole, George!"
George ran to get the pike-pole; and for some moments they tried to push, or pull, the block out. But it was wedged fast and the in-draught of the water held it firmly in the aperture beneath the gate. It was impossible to reach it with anything save the pike-pole, for the water in the flume over it was four or five feet deep.
Meantime the old mill was running amuck inside. The water-wheel was turning swiftly and the millstone was whirling like a buzz saw. After every few seconds we could hear it graze down against the nether stone with an ugly sound; and then there would fly up a powerful odor of ozone.
Jock and George, finding that they could not shut the gate, came rushing into the mill again in still greater excitement.
"The stones'll be spoilt!" Jock exclaimed. "We must get them to grinding something."
He ran to the little bin of about a bushel of corn where the old miller kept his toll and where they had put the toll from our bags. This was hurriedly flung into the hopper and came through into the meal-box at a great rate. It checked the speed in a measure, however, and we took breath a little.
"You had better keep the mill grinding till the pond runs out," Addison advised.
"I would," replied Jock, "but that's all the grain there is here."
It was evident that the mill must be kept grinding at something or other, or it would grind itself. It would not answer to put in pebbles. Ad suggested chips from the wood yard; and George set off on a run to fetch a basketful of chips to grind; but while he was gone, Jock bethought himself of a pile of corncobs in one corner of the mill; and we hastily gathered up a half-bushel measureful. They were old dry cobs and very hard.
"Not too fast with them!" Jock cautioned. "Only a few at a time!"
By throwing in a handful at a time, we reduced the speed of the stones gradually, and then suddenly piling in a peck or more slowed it down till it fairly came to a standstill, glutted with cobs. The water-wheel had stopped, although the water was still pouring down upon it; and in that condition we left it, with the miller boys peeping about the flume and the millstones and exclaiming to each other, "What'll Pa say when he gets back!"
That was my first experience in active milling business, and it made a profound impression on my mind.
But we were not yet home with our grist, by a great deal! Halstead had resented it because he had not been able to drive the horse on the outward trip. While Addison and I were throwing in the last bag, he jumped into the wagon and secured the reins. Not to have trouble, Addison said nothing against his driving; and we two walked up the long hill from the mill, behind the wagon. Reaching the summit, we got in and Halstead started to drive down the hill on the other side. As I was a stranger, he wished me to think that he was a fine driver and told me of some of his exploits managing horses. "There's no use," said he, "in letting a horse lag along down hill the way the old mossbacks do around here. They are scared to death if a horse does more than walk. Ad won't let a horse trot a single step on a hill, but mopes and mopes along. I've seen horses driven in places where they know something, and I know how a horse ought to go."
In earnest of this opinion, he touched old Sol up, and we went down the first hill at such a pace, that I was glad to hold to the seat.
"You had better be careful," said Addison. "Drive with more sense, if you are going to drive at all—which you are not fit to do," he added.
Out of bravado, I suppose, Halstead again applied the whip and we trundled along down the next hill at a still more rapid rate.
"Now Halse, if you are going to drive like this, just haul up and let me walk," Addison remonstrated, more seriously. But Halstead would not stop, and, touching the horse again, set off down the last hill before reaching the meadow, at an equally smart pace.
It is likely, however, that we might have got down without accident; but the road, like most country roads, was rather narrow and as we drew near the foot of the hill, we suddenly espied a horse and wagon emerging from amongst the alder clumps through which the road across the meadow wound its way, and saw, too, that a woman was driving.
"Give us half the road!" Halstead shouted. But the woman seemed confused, as not knowing on which side of the road to turn out; she hesitated and stopped in the middle of the road.
Perceiving that we were in danger of a collision, Addison snatched the reins and turned our horse clean out into the alders; and the off hind wheel coming violently in contact with an old log, the transient bolt of the wagon broke. The forward wheels parted from the wagon body, and we were all pitched out into the brush, in a heap together. The bags of meal came on top of us.
Halstead had his nose scratched; I sprained one of my thumbs; and we were all three shaken up smartly. Addison, however, regained his feet in time to capture old Sol who was making off with the forward wheels.
The woman sat in her wagon and looked quite dazed by the spectacle of boys and bags tumbling over each other.
"Dear hearts," said she, "are you all killed?"
"Why didn't you turn out!" exclaimed Halstead.
"I know I ought to," said the woman, humbly, "but you came down the hill so fast, I thought your horse had run away. I was so scared I didn't know what to do."
"You were not at all to blame, madam," said Ad. "It was we who were at fault. We were driving too fast."
We contrived at length to patch up the wagon by tying the "rocker" of the wagon body to the forward axle with the rope halter, and reloading our meal bags, drove slowly home without further incident. Addison, having captured the reins, retained possession of them, much to my mental relief. Halstead laid the blame alternately to the woman and to Addison's effort to grab the reins. "Now I suppose you will go home and tell the old gent that I did it!" he added bitterly. "If you had let the reins alone, I should have got along all right."
Addison did not reply to this accusation, except to say that he was thankful our necks were not broken. As we drove into the carriage house, Gramp came out and seeing the rope in so odd a position, asked what was the matter.
"The transient bolt broke, coming down the Sylvester hill," Addison replied. "It was badly worn, I see. If you think it best, sir, I will take it to the blacksmith's shop after work, to-morrow."
"Very well," Gramp assented; and that was all there was said about the accident.
It had been a long day, but my new experiences were far from being over. A boy can live a great deal during one long May day. After supper I went out to assist the boys with the farm chores, and took my first lesson, milking a cow and feeding the calves. The latter were kept tied in the long, now empty hay-bay of the east barn. I had already been there to see them; there were ten of them, tied with ropes and neck-straps along the sides of the bay to keep them apart.
Weaned, or unweaned, they were fed but twice a day, and from six o'clock in the morning to six at night is a very long time for a young and rapidly growing calf to wait between meals. As early as four o'clock in the afternoon those calves would begin to bawl for their supper; by half past five one could hardly make himself heard in the barn, unless there chanced to fall a moment's silence, while the hungry little fellows were all catching breath to bleat again. Then they would all peal forth together on ten different keys.
How those old bare walls and high beams would resound! Blar-r-rt! Blaw-ar-ar-ah-ahrt! Blah-ah-aht! Bul-ar-ah-ahrt! There were eager little altos, soaring sopranos, high and importunate tenors that rose to the roof and drowned the twitter of the happy barn-swallows.
Addison, Halstead, Theodora and Ellen, who had come to the farm before me, knew all the calves by sight and had named them. There was Little Star, Phil Sheridan, Black Betty, Hooker, Nut, Little Dagon, Andy Johnson and Babe. I do not recollect the others, but have particular reason to remember Little Dagon.
At the time I made the acquaintance of this broad-headed Hereford calf he was five weeks old, and the soft buds of his horns were beginning to show in the curly hair of his forehead. His color was dark red, except for a milk-white face, two white feet, a white tassel on his tail, and a little belt of white under his body. Grandfather had unexpectedly sold this calf's mother, a fine, large, line-backed cow, to a friend at the village on that very morning.
The old gentleman kindly showed me how to milk and how to hold the pail, then gave me a milking-stool and sat me down to milk "Lily-Whiteface." She was not a hard milker, but it did seem to me that after I had extracted about three quarts of milk, my hands were getting paralyzed. Halstead, who sat milking a few yards away, had, meanwhile, been adding to my troubles by squirting streams of milk at my left ear, till Gramp caught him in the act and bade him desist.
The old gentleman presently finished with his two cows, and went away with his buckets of milk toward the house. Then, with soothing guile which I had not yet learned to detect, Halstead offered to finish milking my cow for me. I was glad to accept the offer. My untrained fingers were aching so painfully that I could now hardly draw a drop of milk. My knees, too, were tremulous from my efforts to clasp the pail between them.
"It made mine ache at first," said Halstead with comforting sympathy as he sat down on my stool and took my pail between his knees. I stood gratefully by, and after a few moments he looked up and said, "While I finish milking your cow, you run over to the west barn and get Little Dagon. He is dreadfully hungry. His mother was sold this morning, and we have got to teach him to drink his milk to-night."
"He had better not try to lead that calf!" Addison called out from his stool, at a distance.
"Why not?" Halse exclaimed. "Oh, he can lead him all right. All he has to do is to untie the calf's rope from the staple in the barn post. He will come right along, himself."
It seemed very simple as Halstead put it, and I started off at once. Addison said no more; he gave me an odd look as I hastened past him, but I hardly noticed it at the time.
Little Dagon was making the rafters re-echo as I entered the bay. When he saw me, he jumped to the end of his rope and fairly went into the air. He had sucked the bow-knot of the rope till it was as slippery as if soaped, and when I strove to untie it, he grabbed my hands in his mouth. At length I untied him and then with a clatter on the loose boards, we went out of the hay-bay, pranced across the barn floor and out at the great doors.
No one has ever explained satisfactorily what that instinct is which guides young animals unerringly back home, or in the direction of their kin. Hungry Little Dagon, tied up in the barn, could hardly have noted with eyes or ears the direction in which his mother had been driven away; but as soon as we were out at the barn doors, instead of rushing to the other barn, where he had hitherto found his mother night and morning, the rampant little beast headed straight past the house and down the lane to take the road for the village.
A man could have held him without difficulty. I was in my thirteenth year, and may have weighed seventy-five pounds, but did not have weight enough. In the exuberance of his young muscle, Little Dagon erected his tail and made a bolt in the direction which instinct bade him take.
My one chance of holding him would have been to noose the rope about his nose and seize him close by the neck, at the start; but this I did not understand, and, in fact, had no time to study the problem. I clung to the end of the rope, and away we went. I was not leading the calf. Little Dagon was leading me. First I took one long step, and then such strides as I had never made before.
Halstead and Addison had jumped up from their milking-stools and come to the barnyard bars. "Hold him! Hold him!" they shouted. "Don't let him get away!"
Grandfather, too, had now come to the kitchen door. "Hold him! Hold that calf!" he called out, and I clung to the knot in the end of the rope, with determination.
In a moment Little Dagon was towing me down the long lane to the road. The gate stood open, and out we went into the highway, on the jump. There, however, the calf pulled up short, to smell the road. I tried to catch the strap round his neck and turn him back, but he seized my arm in his mouth to suck it; and being unused to calves, I was afraid he would bite me. When I attempted to lead him about, that eager impulse to find his mother again possessed him, and away he ran down the long orchard hill.
I do not now see how I contrived to hold on to the rope, but I remember thinking that if I let go Addison and Halstead would laugh at me, and that Gramp would blame me.
We raced down that long hill, my feet seeming hardly to touch the ground, and struck a level, sandy stretch at the foot of it. The sand felt queer to the calf's feet, and he stopped to smell it. By this time I was badly out of breath, but I turned his head homeward and began towing him back. He sulked, but took a few steps with me. Then he gave a sudden wild prance into the air, headed round and started again. I could not hold him, and on we went, a long run this time, until we came to the bridge over the meadow brook. There the planks proved a new wonderment to the calf, and he pulled up to smell them.
Just then there appeared in the road ahead Theodora and "Aunt Olive Witham," a working woman, who came every spring and fall to help grandmother clean house and to do the year's spinning. Theodora had been to the Corners that evening, to summon her.
"Oh, help me stop him!" I panted. "For pity's sake, catch hold of this rope! He is running away with me! I can't hold him!"
Theodora edged across the bridge to bear a hand; but "Aunt Olive" knew calves, or thought she did.
"Boss-boss-boss!" she crooned to the calf, and extending her hand, walked straight to his head to get him by the ears. This may have been the proper thing to do, but it did not work well that time. Little Dagon suddenly looked up from his snuffing of the planks, and for some reason his young eyes distrusted "Aunt Olive."
He bounded aside and began again to run. I was clinging fast to the rope, and Aunt Olive and I collided. Aunt Olive, in truth, recoiled nearly off the end of the bridge; I was jerked onward. Little Dagon had learned that he could pull me, and I might as well have tried to hold a locomotive. Theodora ran a few steps after us, trying loyally to succor me. Aunt Olive stood endeavoring to recover her breath; ordinarily she was energy personified, but for the instant stood gasping.
Beyond the meadow there was a hill, and going up that hill I came very near mastering the calf; but after a hard tussle he gained the top in spite of me and ran on, over descending ground, where the road passed through woodland. We were now fully a mile and a half from home. Thus far I had held on, but strength and breath were about gone. I was panting hard, and actually crying from mortification.
Now, however, I saw a horse drawing a light wagon coming along the road. A well-dressed elderly man was driving. I called out to him to aid me. If I had known who he was, I might have been less unceremonious. "Oh, help me stop him!" I cried. "Do help me stop him! I can't hold him!"
The stranger reined his horse half round across the road, and Little Dagon ran full against the horse's fore legs and stopped to sniff again. The elderly gentleman got out quickly.
"Did the calf run away with you, my son?" he asked, smiling at my heated and tearful appearance.
"Yes, sir," I replied, panting.
"Well, well, you have had a hot run, haven't you?" and he gave me several sympathetic pats on the shoulder. "How far have you come, all so fast?"
"I came from Grandpa S.'s," I replied, as steadily as I could, for I was sadly out of breath.
"Your grandfather is Joseph S.?" queried the elderly man.
"Yes, sir," I replied. "I have just come there to live."
"Ah, yes," commented my new acquaintance. "I know your grandpa very well. I am on my way to call on him. Now let's see. How shall we manage? Do you think that you could sit in the back part of my wagon and lead the calf, if I were to drive slowly?"
"I'm afraid he would pull me out!" I exclaimed.
"Not if we both hold the rope, I think," remarked the elderly man, still smiling broadly. "I will reach back with one hand and help you hold him."
After much pulling, hauling and manoeuvring, Little Dagon was brought to the back of the wagon. I then sat in the rear, with my feet hanging out, and took the line; and my new friend gave hand to the rope over the back of the seat. The horse started to walk, and Little Dagon was drawn after; but the perverse little creature settled back in his strap till his tongue hung out. The stranger laughed.
"It seems that we cannot lead a calf unless the calf pleases," he said. "Can you think of any better way, my son?"
I thought hard, for I was ashamed to put my new acquaintance to so much trouble and have nothing to suggest. At last, I said, with some diffidence, that we might tie the calf's legs with the rope and put him in the rear of the wagon, while I walked behind.
"That appears to be a practical suggestion," the stranger remarked. "Do you think you can tie his legs?"
I answered that I believed I could if I had the calf on the ground. "Well, sir," said he, with a whimsical glance at me, "I think I can capsize the calf and hold him down, if you will agree to tie his legs within a reasonable time."
I said I would try; and while I held the rope the stranger alighted, seized the calf suddenly by the legs, and threw it down on its side. Little Dagon struggled pluckily, but my new ally held fast and called on me to do my part. After some hard picking at the knot, I untied the rope from the neck-strap, then tied the calf's legs into a bunch and crisscrossed the rope.
"Pretty well done, my son, pretty well done," was the encouraging comment of my new friend. "Now I will take him by the head while you seize him by the tail, and we will hoist him into the wagon."
Before we could do so, however, we heard a sudden rattle of wheels close at hand, and glancing around, I saw Gramp and Addison with old Sol in the express wagon. They had harnessed and given chase; Theodora and Aunt Olive, whom they met, had adjured them to drive fast if they hoped ever to overtake me. Grandfather, on seeing who was helping me, exclaimed, "Why, Senator, how do you do, sir! My calf appears to be making you a great deal of trouble."
In fact, my friend in need was none other than Hon. Lot M. Morrill, who had been Governor of Maine for three terms in succession, and was now United States Senator. Grandfather and he had been acquaintances for forty years or more; and I have inferred since that the object of Mr. Morrill's visit on this occasion was in part political. At this particular time the Senator was "looking after his political fences"—although this phrase had not yet come into vogue.
Grandfather and Mr. Morrill immediately drove home together, leaving Addison and me to put the calf in the express wagon and follow more slowly.
Senator Morrill at this time gave me the impression of being a man oppressed by not a little anxiety, and inclined to be dissatisfied with his career. As distinctly as if it were yesterday, I recall what he said to me the next morning as he was about to drive away. "My son," said he impressively, "don't you be a politician. Be a farmer like your grandfather. He has had a happier life than I have had."
As it chanced, I was soon to have further experience with headstrong young cattle.
OUR FIRST JERSEY COW
Theodora had brought home the mail from the post-office out at the Corners; and I remember that at the breakfast table next morning, the Old Squire, who was reading the news from the weekly papers, looked up and said in a tone of solemnity, that General Winfield Scott was dead; that he had died at West Point, May 29.
The announcement signified little to us young people, whose knowledge of generals and military events was confined mainly to the closing years of the Civil War, but meant much to those of the older generation, who remembered with still glowing enthusiasm the victor of Lundy's Lane in 1814 and the conqueror of Mexico in 1846.
"He was a good man and a patriot as well as an able general," the Old Squire remarked. "And, old as he had become in 1861, President Lincoln would have done better to trust more than he did to General Scott's judgment." At that time the Old Squire and nearly every one else in Maine feared that President Johnson was a treacherous and exceedingly dangerous man, whereas the verdict of history seems to be that he was merely a very egotistical and headstrong one. There was already much talk of impeaching him and removing him from office, although the Old Squire had doubts as to the wisdom of so radical a course.
He and Addison were debating the matter quite earnestly, when there came a knock at the door, which I answered, and saw standing there a strong, sturdy, well-favored boy of about my own age, one I was to know intimately all the rest of my life; for this, as I now learned, was Thomas Edwards, from the farmhouse of our nearest neighbors across the fields. He had come to fetch word to the Old Squire that another farmer, named Gurney—a relative of the Edwards—who lived at a distance of three or four miles, had concluded to sell us one of his new Jersey heifers.
That morning, too, I recollect that just as we were finishing breakfast, grandmother looked around on our enlarged family circle, over her spectacles, and said to the Old Squire, "Joseph, we really must have their pictures taken,"—referring to us young folks.
"I want them all taken now, so that we may have them to keep, and know how they looked when they first came home here," the old lady continued. "I don't want it put off and not have any pictures of them, if anything should happen, as we did poor Ansel's and Coville's. (Two of my uncles who fell during the Civil War.)
"We must go down to the village some afternoon and have them taken," grandmother continued quite positively.
"Well, we will see about it," the Old Squire said over his paper.
"It must be done and done soon," Gram insisted.
"Yes, yes, Ruth, I suppose so," he assented.
"There must be no 'suppose so' about it," said Gram, very decidedly. "It is one of the things that mustn't be put off and off like your trip to Father Rasle's Monument."
We newcomers had yet to learn that for twenty years the Old Squire had been talking, every season, of making two wagon excursions, of several days' duration each, one to Lovewell's Pond, the scene of the historic fight of Captain Lovewell and his rangers with the Pequawket Indians in 1640, and the other to Norridgewock, where the devoted French missionary, Father Sebastian Rasle, lost his life in 1724.
Owing to the constant press of farm labors, opportunity for setting off had never yet fairly occurred. But the Old Squire always fully intended to go; he was genuinely interested in the early history of our State and, indeed, remarkably well posted as to it. Francis Parkman, the historian, had once come to the farm for a day or two, on purpose to inquire as to certain points connected with the massacre at Norridgewock.
Nothing more was said that morning about our pictures, however, for both the Old Squire and Addison were engrossed in the late disturbing news concerning President Johnson.
"And father says," continued Thomas, "that I may go over to uncle Gurney's with Addison and help him get the heifer home."
These, be it said, were the first Jersey cattle ever seen in that vicinity. Gurney had bought four of them from a stock farm somewheres in Massachusetts, and their arrival marked an era in Maine dairying. Farmers were very curious about them. Opinions differed widely as to their value.
The Jersey cow is now, to quote a certain witty Congressman, one of our national institutions. Asked to name the five most characteristic American "institutions," this waggish legislator replied, "The Constitution, Free Public Schools, Railroads, Newspapers and the Jersey cow!"
There is a spice of homely truth underlying the jest. For certainly the greatest delicacies of our tables are the cream, the butter and the milk that now come to us from our clean, well-managed dairies; and it is hardly too much to say that we owe the best of these products to the Jersey cow.
By careful breeding and feeding the Jersey has gained wonderfully in size, temper and good appearance, until few handsomer animals can now be found in the farmer's pasture or barn. But many of us can remember the first Jerseys, and what a reproach their wizened bodies and piebald hides were in any herd. It was admitted that their milk was yellow and wonderfully rich in butter fat; but they were so homely, so spindle-legged, so brindled along the withers, so pale-yellow down the sides, so foolishly white in the flanks, down the fore legs and about the jowls, yet so black-kneed and wildly touched about the eyes, that no one could admire them.
"That a cow!" cried an honest old Vermont farmer, the first time he ever saw one. "Why that looks like a cross between a deer and a 'Black Scotch'!"
As to the real origin of Jersey cattle, nothing very definite is known. They are said to have been brought to the Isle of Jersey from Normandy.
There is a theory, supported by tradition and legend, that thirty centuries ago, when the Druids first came into western Europe, they brought with them the Hindu sacred cattle, derived from the zebu, or Brahman ox, in order that their sacrificial rites might be supplied with the "cream-white heifers" which the altars of that strange, wild religion demanded.
It is thought that in after centuries the Druid sacred cattle were cross-bred with the urus or wild German buffalo, described by Caesar, or else with native breeds of domestic cattle, owned by the Gauls; and that the Jersey of to-day is the far-descended progeny of this singular union of zebu and urus. In color the sacred cattle ranged from white, through mouse, fawn and brown to black.
But Addison could not go that day; so with a smile at thoughts of my recent experience leading Little Dagon, the Old Squire said that I might go; and immediately Thomas and I set off on foot with a rope nose-halter, a few nubbins of corn in our pockets as "coaxers," and many injunctions to be gentle. Grandfather supposed that two boys of our age would be able to get a small heifer home without difficulty, one leading, the other following after with a switch.
When we reached the farm, we found the odd-looking little white and brindled heifer tied up at a stanchion in the barn; and Gurney appeared to have doubts about our ability to take her home.
"She's a Jersey, boys," said he. "They're ticklish creatures. Awful skittish at everything they see, particularly women-folks. So you must look out sharp."
Thomas thought we could lead or hold a heifer as small as this one, even if she was frightened. With the assistance of the farmer and his son, we adjusted the halter, gave the heifer nubbins of corn, coaxed her out upon the highway, and set off.
It soon became evident, however, that she was very timid. At every unusual object along the road her head was raised high, and it was only by much coaxing that we made any progress. Moreover, her fears appeared to increase with every onward step. Presently we met a dog, and for five minutes the heifer careered wildly on both sides of the road. The dog behaved very well, however, and made a wide detour to pass us.
A horse and buggy and a loaded wagon each made trouble for us. The driver of the team said, "You've got one of those wild Jerseys there; I'd sooner try to lead a deer!"
Thomas and I had found already that, small as she was, both of us could hardly hold her; she had a manner of bounding high with such suddenness that we had no chance to brace our feet. By this time she was inspecting everything by the roadside and far ahead, and an hour was spent in going half a mile.
Suddenly her head went up higher than ever. She had discerned what we had not yet seen, two girls coming on foot a quarter of a mile away. Not another inch could we make her budge, either by pulling or switching. Her eyes were fixed on those girls, and it was plain there would be trouble when they came nearer. Thomas bethought himself to blind her, however, and, taking off his jacket, wrapped it about her head and horns, while I took the precaution to pass the end of the halter around a post of the wayside fence.
Thus prepared, we stood waiting the approach of the girls, and if they had gone by quietly, our precautions would have sufficed; but they were greatly amused by the spectacle of our hooded heifer, and one of them laughed outright. At the sound of her voice our Jersey went into the air, broke the halter rope, and leaping blindly against the rail fence beside which we were holding her, knocked down a length of it and ran off across the field on the other side, with Thomas's jacket and the head-stall of the halter still on her head. We gave chase, but the heifer shook off the jacket and ran for a cedar swamp seven or eight hundred yards distant.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon in that swamp, engaged in efforts to approach near enough to the animal to seize and secure her. By this time all her wilder instincts appeared to have revived. She fled from one end of the swamp to the other, seeking the densest thickets of cedar and alder, where she would lie up, still as a mouse, till we found her; then she would make a break and run to another quarter of the swamp.
Hungry and tired out, I now earnestly desired to go home; but my resolute new acquaintance declared that they would all laugh at us if we returned without the heifer.
At length, we went back to Gurney's farm, just at dusk, spent the night there and in the morning proceeded to the cedar swamp again and resumed the hunt, the farmer and his son Oscar accompanying us out of compassion for our ill success.
An hour's search convinced us that the heifer had left the cedar thickets; and she was at last discovered in a pasture half a mile away, in company with six other young cattle to which she had joined herself during the night in spite of three intervening fences.
On approaching them, however, it became apparent that the fugitive Jersey had in some manner infused her own wild fears into these new acquaintances. They all set off on the run with tails in the air; and after coursing round the pasture several times, they jumped the fence and made for a distant wood-lot, our Jersey leading the rout.
By this time I was wholly disheartened. But Thomas still said, "Come on. We've got to get her;" and I followed wearily after the others. Proceeding to the farmhouse of the owner of the young cattle, whose name was Robbins, we informed him what had occurred, and in company with his son, Luke, spent the forenoon searching for the runaways. Mr. Gurney returned home, but Oscar went with us. The cattle had made off to an extensive tract of forest, and after following their tracks hither and thither for some time longer, hunger impelled us to retrace our steps. Luke Robbins told us that the six young Durham cattle in their pasture had previously been docile, and that they had never before broken out. The Jersey heifer seemed to have demoralized them.
Quite discouraged and tired out, we now started for home, and were glad enough to meet the Old Squire and Addison driving over to look us up. Thomas's father, too, had come in quest of him. Night was at hand; we all went home; and that was the last of the Jersey for months. I may as well go on here, however, and relate the rest of the story.
Farmer Robbins and his son continued the search next day, but could not find their stock; and beyond making inquiries, we did nothing further for four or five months, until "housing time," in November. Then, shortly after the first snow came, Luke Robbins drove over to tell us that the fugitive cattle were reported to be in the woods, six miles to the northwestward of their farm. He thought that we might like to join in an effort to recover them and get them home before winter set in. Two deer-hunters had seen them, but they were very wild and ran away at speed. A party was now made up to attempt their capture, consisting of the Old Squire and Addison, with two of our hired men and Thomas's father. Farmer Gurney and his son also joined in the hunt, as also Luke Robbins and his father. Thomas and myself were allowed to accompany them, by virtue of our previous experience. Halters, axes and food were also taken along.
No success attended the search during the first day, and we passed the night at a newly cleared farm, five miles from home. But cattle-tracks were discovered in dense fir woods near a large brook during the following morning; and after following them for two hours we came upon the whole herd, snugly sheltered in the ox hovel of a deserted lumber-camp.
It was a low log structure, roofed with turf, and it had not been occupied for three years. Bushes and briers had sprung up about it; but the door was open, and the cattle were inside, lying down. We could see our Jersey's head as she lay near the door, facing out, as if doing sentinel duty. But she had not seen us, and was chewing her cud as peacefully as if in a barn at home.
The situation was carefully studied from the bushes, at a distance; and then Asa Doane, one of the hired men, crept quietly up from the rear and, crawling round the corner of the hovel, suddenly clapped the old door to and held it fast, before the cattle had time to jump up and rush out. The little herd was now penned up inside; but they made a great commotion, and we were at a loss how to proceed. After much talk Doane said that he would take a halter, slip in and secure the Jersey heifer, if the others would tend the door.
But he had no sooner entered than the heifer attacked him. He seized her by the horns, and they tumbled about in a lively manner for some moments. Immediately the other cattle began bawling, and evinced so unmistakable a disposition to gore Doane that he shouted for us to help him get out. This was not easily accomplished. At last he reached the door, and we hauled him forth and clapped it to again. But he had lost his hat, and his coat was torn in several places. He was also limping, for in the struggle the cattle had trodden on his feet.
"I wouldn't go in there again for fifty dollars!" he exclaimed. "They are wild cattle."
As none of the rest of the party had any wish to go in, and night was at hand, we made the door fast with props and went home.
This last trip ended my own part in the adventure. Our winter school began the next day, and the Old Squire deemed school of more importance to me than cattle-hunting.
But the plan finally adopted was to proceed to the place with two yokes of large, steady oxen, connected by a long draft-chain. A number of neighbors assisted; and seven or eight "tie-chains," such as are used to tie up cattle in the barn, were also taken along. After a series of violent struggles the wild young cattle were secured, one by one, and tied to the long draft-chain, on each side of it. Then with a yoke of heavy oxen in advance and another in the rear of the procession, to steady it, the rebellious creatures were constrained to walk home. For the first mile or so they bounded and struggled, and some of them even threw themselves down. But it was of no use; the procession moved steadily on; and by the time they reached home all were pretty well tamed.
We kept this wild-headed little Jersey at the farm for seven or eight years afterwards, and several of her calves made good cows; but to the end of her life she was always a skittish little creature, apt to take fright at any moment. A dog coming along the barn floor in front of her manger was always the signal for a struggle at her stanchion. But the object of her worst fears was the sight of a woman! She would leap in the air, wrench and tear, and even bawl aloud and cast herself flat on the floor. Neither Gram nor any of the girls ever went in front of "Little Jersey," if it could be avoided. This fear of women has always seemed to me rather singular, for I am told that in the Isle of Jersey, the women usually care for the cows.
But this digression has taken me a long way in advance of my narrative.
SHEEP-WASHING—ADDISON'S NOVEL WATER-WARMER
"To-morrow we must wash the sheep," the Old Squire remarked at the breakfast table next day. "We will try your water-warming apparatus, Addison," he continued. "Do you think that you can get the pipes together again?"
"I am sure of it, sir," Addison replied. "But I shall have to go borrow the blacksmith's wrench and pipe-tongs."
"Ad thinks that patent warmer of his is something great," Halstead remarked ironically.
"I think it is nice to warm the water, and not put the poor sheep into stone-cold water when they are heated from running, in their heavy, hot fleeces," said Theodora.
"It seemed to prevent them from taking cold last year," observed the Old Squire. "Sheep often take cold when washed and sheared," he continued.
"If you girls go with us, you shall help fetch wood and tend fire," said Halstead. "It is a hard job to keep the fire up under the pipe."
"O we will help," cried Ellen. "It's fun, I think, to fetch dry stuff and make a big blaze."
"How are you off for soap, Ruth?" the Old Squire asked. "We shall want two bucketfuls of soft soap for the first washings."
"Well, sir, I don't know about that," replied Gram, not well pleased. "My soap barrel is getting low; and I have not been able to have Olive Witham come to make soap yet, nor clean house. I think that a bucketful will be all I can spare you."