Eben Holden, a Tale of the North Country
by Irving Bacheller
Early in the last century the hardy wood-choppers began to come
west, out of Vermont. They founded their homes in the Adirondack
wildernesses and cleared their rough acres with the axe and the
charcoal pit. After years of toil in a rigorous climate they left
their sons little besides a stumpy farm and a coon-skin overcoat. Far
from the centres of life their amusements, their humours, their
religion, their folk lore, their views of things had in them the
flavour of the timber lands, the simplicity of childhood. Every son
was nurtured in the love of honour and of industry, and the hope of
sometime being president. It is to be feared this latter thing and the
love of right living, for its own sake, were more in their thoughts
than the immortal crown that had been the inspiration of their
fathers. Leaving the farm for the more promising life of the big city
they were as men born anew, and their second infancy was like that of
Hercules. They had the strength of manhood, the tireless energy of
children and some hope of the highest things. The pageant of the big
town—its novelty, its promise, its art, its activity—quickened
their highest powers, put them to their best effort. And in all great
enterprises they became the pathfinders, like their fathers in the
This book has grown out of such enforced leisure as one may find
in a busy life. Chapters begun in the publicity of a Pullman car have
been finished in the cheerless solitude of a hotel chamber. Some have
had their beginning in a sleepless night and their end in a day of
bronchitis. A certain pious farmer in the north country when, like
Agricola, he was about to die, requested the doubtful glory of this
epitaph: 'He was a poor sinner, but he done his best' Save for the
fact that I am an excellent sinner, in a literary sense, the words may
stand for all the apology I have to make.
The characters were mostly men and women I have known and who left
with me a love of my kind that even a wide experience with knavery and
misfortune has never dissipated. For my knowledge of Mr Greeley I am
chiefly indebted to David P. Rhoades, his publisher, to Philip
Fitzpatrick, his pressman, to the files of the Tribune and to many
New York City, 7 April 1900
Of all the people that ever went west that expedition was the most
A small boy in a big basket on the back of a jolly old man, who
carried a cane in one hand, a rifle in the other; a black dog serving
as scout, skirmisher and rear guard—that was the size of it. They
were the survivors of a ruined home in the north of Vermont, and were
travelling far into the valley of the St Lawrence, but with no
Midsummer had passed them in their journey; their clothes were
covered with dust; their faces browning in the hot sun. It was a very
small boy that sat inside the basket and clung to the rim, his tow
head shaking as the old man walked. He saw wonderful things, day after
day, looking down at the green fields or peering into the gloomy
reaches of the wood; and he talked about them.
'Uncle Eb—is that where the swifts are?' he would ask often; and
the old man would answer, 'No; they ain't real sassy this time o'
year. They lay 'round in the deep dingles every day.'
Then the small voice would sing idly or prattle with an imaginary
being that had a habit of peeking over the edge of the basket or
would shout a greeting to some bird or butterfly and ask finally:
'Tired, Uncle Eb?'
Sometimes the old gentleman would say 'not very', and keep on,
looking thoughtfully at the ground. Then, again, he would stop and
mop his bald head with a big red handkerchief and say, a little
tremor of irritation in his voice: 'Tired! who wouldn't be tired with
a big elephant like you on his back all day? I'd be 'shamed o' myself
t' set there an' let an old man carry me from Dan to Beersheba. Git
out now an' shake yer legs.'
I was the small boy and I remember it was always a great relief to
get out of the basket, and having run ahead, to lie in the grass
among the wild flowers, and jump up at him as he came along.
Uncle Eb had been working for my father five years before I was
born. He was not a strong man and had never been able to carry the
wide swath of the other help in the fields, but we all loved him for
his kindness and his knack of story-telling. He was a bachelor who
came over the mountain from Pleasant Valley, a little bundle of
clothes on his shoulder, and bringing a name that enriched the
nomenclature of our neighbourhood. It was Eben Holden.
He had a cheerful temper and an imagination that was a very
wilderness of oddities. Bears and panthers growled and were very
terrible in that strange country. He had invented an animal more
treacherous than any in the woods, and he called it a swift.
'Sumthin' like a panther', he described the look of it a fearsome
creature that lay in the edge of the woods at sundown and made a
noise like a woman crying, to lure the unwary. It would light one's
eye with fear to hear Uncle Eb lift his voice in the cry of the swift.
Many a time in the twilight when the bay of a hound or some far cry
came faintly through the wooded hills, I have seen him lift his hand
and bid us hark. And when we had listened a moment, our eyes wide with
wonder, he would turn and say in a low, half-whispered tone: ' 'S a
swift' I suppose we needed more the fear of God, but the young
children of the pioneer needed also the fear of the woods or they
would have strayed to their death in them.
A big bass viol, taller than himself, had long been the solace of
his Sundays. After he had shaved—a ceremony so solemn that it
seemed a rite of his religion—that sacred viol was uncovered. He
carried it sometimes to the back piazza and sometimes to the barn,
where the horses shook and trembled at the roaring thunder of the
strings. When he began playing we children had to get well out of the
way, and keep our distance. I remember now the look of him, then—his
thin face, his soft black eyes, his long nose, the suit of broadcloth,
the stock and standing collar and, above all, the solemnity in his
manner when that big devil of a thing was leaning on his breast
As to his playing I have never heard a more fearful sound in any
time of peace or one less creditable to a Christian. Weekdays he was
addicted to the milder sin of the flute and, after chores, if there
were no one to talk with him, he would sit long and pour his soul into
that magic bar of boxwood.
Uncle Eb had another great accomplishment. He was what they call
in the north country 'a natural cooner'. After nightfall, when the
corn was ripening, he spoke in a whisper and had his ear cocked for
coons. But he loved all kinds of good fun.
So this man had a boy in his heart and a boy in his basket that
evening we left the old house. My father and mother and older brother
had been drowned in the lake, where they had gone for a day of
pleasure. I had then a small understanding of my loss, hat I have
learned since that the farm was not worth the mortgage and that
everything had to be sold. Uncle Eb and I—a little lad, a very
little lad of six—were all that was left of what had been in that
home. Some were for sending me to the county house; but they decided,
finally, to turn me over to a dissolute uncle, with some allowance for
my keep. Therein Uncle Eb was to be reckoned with. He had set his
heart on keeping me, but he was a farm-hand without any home or
visible property and not, therefore, in the mind of the authorities, a
proper guardian. He had me with him in the old house, and the very
night he heard they were coming after me in the morning, we started on
our journey. I remember he was a long time tying packages of bread and
butter and tea and boiled eggs to the rim of the basket, so that they
hung on the outside. Then he put a woollen shawl and an oilcloth
blanket on the bottom, pulled the straps over his shoulders and
buckled them, standing before the looking-glass, and, hang put on my
cap and coat, stood me on the table, and stooped so that I could climb
into the basket—a pack basket, that he had used in hunting, the top
a little smaller than the bottom. Once in, I could stand comfortably
or sit facing sideways, my back and knees wedged from port to
starboard. With me in my place he blew out the lantern and groped his
way to the road, his cane in one hand, his rifle in the other. Fred,
our old dog—a black shepherd, with tawny points—came after us.
Uncle Eb scolded him and tried to send him back, but I pleaded for the
poor creature and that settled it, he was one of our party.
'Dunno how we'll feed him,' said Uncle Eb. 'Our own mouths are big
enough t' take all we can carry, but I hain' no heart t' leave 'im all
I was old for my age, they tell me, and had a serious look and a
wise way of talking, for a boy so young; but I had no notion of what
lay before or behind us.
'Now, boy, take a good look at the old house,' I remember he
whispered to me at the gate that night ''Tain't likely ye'll ever see
it ag'in. Keep quiet now,' he added, letting down the bars at the foot
of the lane. 'We're goin' west an' we mustn't let the grass grow
under us. Got t'be purty spry I can'tell ye.'
It was quite dark and he felt his way carefully down the cow-paths
into the broad pasture. With every step I kept a sharp lookout for
swifts, and the moon shone after a while, making my work easier.
I had to hold my head down, presently, when the tall brush began
to whip the basket and I heard the big boots of Uncle Eb ripping the
briars. Then we came into the blackness of the thick timber and I
could hear him feeling his way over the dead leaves with his cane. I
got down, shortly, and walked beside him, holding on to the rifle with
one hand. We stumbled, often, and were long in the trail before we
could see the moonlight through the tree columns. In the clearing I
climbed to my seat again and by and by we came to the road where my
companion sat down resting his load on a boulder.
'Pretty hot, Uncle Eb, pretty hot,' he said to himself, fanning his
brow with that old felt hat he wore everywhere. 'We've come three
mile er more without a stop an' I guess we'd better rest a jiffy.'
My legs ached too, and I was getting very sleepy. I remember the
jolt of the basket as he rose, and hearing him say, 'Well, Uncle Eb,
I guess we'd better be goin'.'
The elbow that held my head, lying on the rim of the basket, was
already numb; but the prickling could no longer rouse me, and
half-dead with weariness, I fell asleep. Uncle Eb has told me since,
that I tumbled out of the basket once, and that he had a time of it
getting me in again, but I remember nothing more of that day's
When I woke in the morning, I could hear the crackling of fire, and
felt very warm and cosy wrapped in the big shawl. I got a cheery
greeting from Uncle Eb, who was feeding the fire with a big heap of
sticks that he had piled together. Old Fred was licking my hands with
his rough tongue, and I suppose that is what waked me. Tea was
steeping in the little pot that hung over the fire, and our breakfast
of boiled eggs and bread and butter lay on a paper beside it. I
remember well the scene of our little camp that morning. We had come
to a strange country, and there was no road in sight. A wooded hill
lay back of us, and, just before, ran a noisy little brook, winding
between smooth banks, through a long pasture into a dense wood. Behind
a wall on the opposite shore a great field of rustling corn filled a
broad valley and stood higher than a man's head.
While I went to wash my face in the clear water Uncle Eb was
husking some ears of corn that he took out of his pocket, and had
them roasting over the fire in a moment. We ate heartily, giving Fred
two big slices of bread and butter, packing up with enough remaining
for another day. Breakfast over we doused the fire and Uncle Eb put on
his basket He made after a squirrel, presently, with old Fred, and
brought him down out of a tree by hurling stones at him and then the
faithful follower of our camp got a bit of meat for his breakfast. We
climbed the wall, as he ate, and buried ourselves in the deep corn.
The fragrant, silky tassels brushed my face and the corn hissed at our
intrusion, crossing its green sabers in our path. Far in the field my
companion heaped a little of the soft earth for a pillow, spread the
oil cloth between rows and, as we lay down, drew the big shawl over
us. Uncle Eb was tired after the toil of that night and went asleep
almost as soon as he was down. Before I dropped off Fred came and
licked my face and stepped over me, his tail wagging for leave, and
curled upon the shawl at my feet. I could see no sky in that gloomy
green aisle of corn. This going to bed in the morning seemed a foolish
business to me that day and I lay a long time looking up at the
rustling canopy overhead. I remember listening to the waves that came
whispering out of the further field, nearer and nearer, until they
swept over us with a roaring swash of leaves, like that of water
flooding among rocks, as I have heard it often. A twinge of homesick
ness came to me and the snoring of Uncle Eb gave me no comfort. I
remember covering my head and crying softly as I thought of those who
had gone away and whom I was to meet in a far country, called Heaven,
whither we were going. I forgot my sorrow, finally, in sleep. When I
awoke it had grown dusk under the corn. I felt for Uncle Eb and he was
gone. Then I called to him.
'Hush, boy! lie low,' he whispered, bending over me, a sharp look
in his eye.' 'Fraid they're after us.'
He sat kneeling beside me, holding Fred by the collar and
listening. I could hear voices, the rustle of the corn and the tramp
of feet near by. It was thundering in the distance—that heavy,
shaking thunder that seems to take hold of the earth, and there were
sounds in the corn like the drawing of sabers and the rush of many
feet. The noisy thunder clouds came nearer and the voices that had
made us tremble were no longer heard. Uncle Eb began to fasten the oil
blanket to the stalks of corn for a shelter. The rain came roaring
over us. The sound of it was like that of a host of cavalry coming at
a gallop. We lay bracing the stalks, the blanket tied above us and
were quite dry for a time. The rain rattled in the sounding sheaves
and then came flooding down the steep gutters. Above us beam and
rafter creaked, swaying, and showing glimpses of the dark sky. The
rain passed—we could hear the last battalion leaving the field—and
then the tumult ended as suddenly as it began. The corn trembled a few
moments and hushed to a faint whisper. Then we could hear only the
drip of raindrops leaking through the green roof. It was dark under
We heard no more of the voices. Uncle Eb had brought an armful of
wood, and some water in the teapot, while I was sleeping. As soon as
the rain had passed he stood listening awhile and shortly opened his
knife and made a little clearing in the corn by cutting a few hills.
'We've got to do it,' he said, 'er we can't take any comfort, an'
the man tol' me I could have all the corn I wanted.'
'Did you see him, Uncle Eb?' I remember asking.
'Yes,' he answered, whittling in the dark. 'I saw him when I went
out for the water an' it was he tol' me they were after us.'
He took a look at the sky after a while, and, remarking that he
guessed they couldn't see his smoke now, began to kindle the fire. As
it burned up he stuck two crotches and hung his teapot on a stick'
that lay in them, so it took the heat of the flame, as I had seen him
do in the morning. Our grotto, in the corn, was shortly as cheerful as
any room in a palace, and our fire sent its light into the long aisles
that opened opposite, and nobody could see the warm glow of it but
'We'll hev our supper,' said Uncle Eb, as he opened a paper and
spread out the eggs and bread and butter and crackers. 'We'll jest
hev our supper an' by 'n by when everyone's abed we'll make tracks in
the dirt, I can'tell ye.'
Our supper over, Uncle Eb let me look at his tobacco-box—a shiny
thing of German silver that always seemed to snap out a quick
farewell to me before it dove into his pocket. He was very cheerful
and communicative, and joked a good deal as we lay there waiting in
the firelight. I got some further acquaintance with the swift,
learning among other things that it had no appetite for the pure in
'Why not?' I enquired.
'Well,' said Uncle Eb, 'it's like this: the meaner the boy, the
sweeter the meat.'
He sang an old song as he sat by the fire, with a whistled
interlude between lines, and the swing of it, even now, carries me
back to that far day in the fields. I lay with my head in his lap
while he was singing.
Years after, when I could have carried him on my back' he wrote
down for me the words of the old song. Here they are, about as he
sang them, although there are evidences of repair, in certain lines,
to supply the loss of phrases that had dropped out of his memory:
I was goin' to Salem one bright summer day, I met a young maiden a
goin' my way; O, my fallow, faddeling fallow, faddel away.
An' many a time I had seen her before, But I never dare tell 'er
the love thet I bore. O, my fallow, etc.
'Oh, where are you goin' my purty fair maid?' 'O, sir, I am goin'
t' Salem,' she said. O, my fallow, etc.
'O, why are ye goin' so far in a day? Fer warm is the weather and
long is the way.' O, my fallow, etc.
'O, sir I've forgorten, I hev, I declare, But it's nothin' to eat
an' its nothin' to wear.' O, my fallow, etc.
'Oho! then I hev it, ye purty young miss! I'll bet it is only
three words an' a kiss.' O, my fallow, etc.
'Young woman, young woman, O how will it dew If I go see yer lover
'n bring 'em t' you?' O, my fallow, etc.
''S a very long journey,' says she, 'I am told, An' before ye got
back, they would surely be cold.' O, my fallow, etc.
'I hev 'em right with me, I vum an' I vow, An' if you don't object
I'll deliver 'em now.' O, my fallow, etc.
She laid her fair head all on to my breast, An' ye wouldn't know
more if I tol' ye the rest O, my fallow, etc.
I went asleep after awhile in spite of all, right in the middle of
a story. The droning voice of Uncle Eb and the feel of his hand upon
my forehead called me back, blinking, once or twice, but not for
long. The fire was gone down to a few embers when Uncle Eb woke me
and the grotto was lit only by a sprinkle of moonlight from above.
'Mos' twelve o'clock,' he whispered. 'Better be off.'
The basket was on his back and he was all ready. I followed him
through the long aisle of corn, clinging to the tall of his coat. The
golden lantern of the moon hung near the zenith and when we came out
in the open we could see into the far fields. I climbed into my basket
at the wall and as Uncle Eb carried me over the brook, stopping on a
flat rock midway to take a drink, I could see the sky in the water,
and it seemed as if a misstep would have tumbled me into the moon.
'Hear the crickets holler,' said Uncle Eb, as he followed the bank
up into the open pasture.
'What makes 'em holler?' I asked.
'O, they're jes' filin' their saws an' thinktin'. Mebbe tellin' o'
what's happened 'em. Been a hard day fer them little folks. Terrible
flood in their country. Everyone on em hed t' git up a steeple quick
'she could er be drownded. They hev their troubles an' they talk 'bout
'What do they file their saws for?' I enquired.
'Well, ye know,' said he, 'where they live the timber's thick an'
they hev hard work clearin' t' mek a home.'
I was getting too sleepy for further talk. He made his way from
field to field, stopping sometimes to look off at the distant
mountains then at the sky or to whack the dry stalks of mullen with
his cane. I remember he let down some bars after a long walk and
stepped into a smooth roadway. He stood resting a little while, his
basket on the top bar, and then the moon that I had been watching
went down behind the broad rim of his hat and I fell into utter
forgetfulness. My eyes opened on a lovely scene at daylight Uncle Eb
had laid me on a mossy knoll in a bit of timber and through an opening
right in front of us I could see a broad level of shining water, and
the great green mountain on the further shore seemed to be up to its
belly in the sea.
'Hello there!' said Uncle Eb; 'here we are at Lake Champlain.'
I could hear the fire crackling and smell the odour of steeping
'Ye flopped 'round like a fish in thet basket,' said Uncle Eb.
''Guess ye must a been drearnin' O' bears. Jumped so ye scairt me.
Didn't know but I had a wil' cat on my shoulders.'
Uncle Eb had taken a fish-line out of his pocket and was tying it
to a rude pole that he had cut and trinmed with his jack-knife.
'I've found some crawfish here,' he said, 'an' I'm goin' t' try fer
a bite on the p'int O' rocks there.'
'Goin' t' git some fish, Uncle Eb?' I enquired.
'Wouldn't say't I was, er wouldn't say't I wasn't,' he answered.
'Jes goin' t' try.'
Uncle Eb was always careful not to commit himself on a doubtful
point. He had fixed his hook and sinker in a moment and then we went
out on a rocky point nearby and threw off into the deep water.
Suddenly Uncle Eb gave a jerk that brought a groan out of him and then
let his hook go down again, his hands trembling, his face severe.
'By mighty! Uncle Eb,' he murtered to himself, 'I thought we hed
him thet time.'
He jerked again presently, and then I could see a tug on the line
that made me jump. A big fish came thrashing into the air in a
minute. He tried to swing it ashore, but the pole bent and the fish
got a fresh hold of the water and took the end of the pole under.
Uncle Eb gave it a lift then that brought it ashore and a good bit of
water with it. I remember how the fish slapped me with its wet tail
and sprinkled my face shaking itself between my boots. It was a big
bass and in a little while we had three of them. Uncle Eb dressed them
and laid them over the fire on a gridiron of green birch, salting them
as they cooked. I remember they went with a fine relish and the last
of our eggs and bread and butter went with them.
Our breakfast over, Uncle Eb made me promise to stay with Fred and
the basket while he went away to find a man who could row us across.
In about an hour I heard a boat coming and the dog and I went out on
the point of rocks where we saw Uncle Eb and another man, heading for
us, half over the cove. The bow bumped the rocks beneath us in a
minute. Then the stranger dropped his oars and stood staring at me and
'Say, mister,' said he presently, 'can't go no further. There's a
reward offered fer you an' thet boy.'
Uncle Eb called him aside and was talking to him a long time.
I never knew what was said, but they came at last and took us into
the boat and the stranger was very friendly.
When we had come near the landing on the 'York State' side, I
remember he gave us our bearmgs.
'Keep t' the woods,' he said, 'till you're out o' harm's way. Don't
go near the stage road fer a while. Ye'll find a store a little way up
the mountain. Git yer provisions there an' about eighty rod farther
ye'll strike the trail. It'll take ye over the mountain north an' t'
Paradise Road. Then take the white church on yer right shoulder an' go
I would not have remembered it so well but for the fact that Uncle
Eb wrote it all down in his account book and that has helped me over
many a slippery place in my memory of those events. At the store we
got some crackers and cheese, tea and coffee, dried beef and herring,
a bit of honey and a loaf of bread that was sliced and buttered before
it was done up. We were off in the woods by nine o'clock, according to
Uncle Eb's diary, and I remember the trail led us into thick brush
where I had to get out and walk a long way. It was smooth under foot,
however, and at noon we came to a slash in the timber, full of briars
that were all aglow with big blackberries. We filled our hats with
them and Uncle Eb found a spring, beside which we built a fire and had
a memorable meal that made me glad of my hunger.
Then we spread the oilcloth and lay down for another sleep. We
could see the glow of the setting sun through the tree-tops when we
woke, and began our packing.
'We'll hev t' hurry,' said Uncle Eb, 'er we'll never git out o' the
woods t'night 'S 'bout six mile er more t' Paradise Road, es I mek it.
Come, yer slower 'n a toad in a tar barrel.'
We hurried off on the trail and I remember Fred looked very
crestfallen withtwo big packages tied to his collar. He delayed a bit
by trying to shake them off, but Uncle Eb gave him a sharp word or
two and then he walked along very thoughtfully. Uncle Eb was a little
out of patience that evening, and I thought he bore down too harshly
in his rebuke of the old dog.
'You shif'less cuss,' he said to him, 'ye'd jes' dew nothin' but
chase squirrels an' let me break my back t' carry yer dinner.'
It was glooming fast in the thick timber, and Uncle Eb almost ran
with me while the way was plain. The last ringing note of the wood
thrush had died away and in a little while it was so dark I could
distinguish nothing but the looming mass of tree tranks.
He stopped suddenly and strained his eyes in the dark. Then he
whistled a sharp, sliding note, and the sound of it gave me some hint
of his trouble.
'Git down, Willie,' said he, 'an' tek my hand. I'm 'fraid we're
lost here 'n the big woods.'
We groped about for a minute, trying to find the trail.
'No use,' he said presently, 'we'll hev t' stop right here. Oughter
known berter 'n t' come through s' near sundown. Guess it was more 'n
anybody could do.'
He built a fire and began to lay out a supper for us then, while
Fred sat down by me to be relieved of his bundles. Our supper was
rather dry, for we had no water, but it was only two hours since we
left the spring, so we were not suffering yet Uncle Eb took out of
the fire a burning brand of pine and went away into the gloomy woods,
holding it above his head, while Fred and I sat by the fire.
''S lucky we didn't go no further,' he said, as he came in after a
few —minutes. 'There's a big prec'pice over yender. Dunno how deep 't
is. Guess we'd a found out purty soon.'
He cut some boughs of hemlock, growing near us, and spread them in
a little hollow. That done, we covered them with the oilcloth, and sat
down comfortably by the fire. Uncle Eb had a serious look and was not
inclined to talk or story telling. Before turning in he asked me to
kneel and say my prayer as I had done every evening at the feet of my
mother. I remember, clearly, kneeling before my old companion and
hearing the echo of my small voice there in the dark and lonely woods.
I remember too, and even more clearly, how he bent his head and
covered his eyes in that brief moment. I had a great dread of
darkness and imagined much evil of the forest, but somehow I had no
fear if he were near me. When we had fixed the fire and lain down for
the night on the fragrant hemlock and covered ourselves with the
shawl, Uncle Eb lay on one side of me and old Fred on the other, so I
felt secure indeed. The night had many voices there in the deep wood.
Away in the distance I could hear a strange, wild cry, and I asked
what it was and Uncle Eb whispered back,' 's a loon.' Down the side of
the mountain a shrill bark rang in the timber and that was a fox,
according to my patient oracle. Anon we heard the crash and thunder of
a falling tree and a murmur that followed in the wake of the last
'Big tree fallin'!' said Uncle Eb, as he lay gaping. 'It has t'
break a way t' the ground an' it must hurt. Did ye notice how the
woods tremble? If we was up above them we could see the hole thet tree
hed made. Jes' like an open grave till the others hev filed it with
My ears had gone deaf with drowsiness when a quick stir in the
body of Uncle Eb brought me back to my senses. He was up on his elbow
listening and the firelight had sunk to a glimmer. Fred lay shivering
and growling beside me. I could hear no other sound.
'Be still,' said Uncle Eb, as he boxed the dog's ears. Then he rose
and began to stir the fire and lay on more wood. As the flame leaped
and threw its light into the tree-tops a shrill cry, like the scream
of a frightened woman, only louder and more terrible to hear brought
me to my feet, crying. I knew the source of it was near us and ran to
Uncle Eb in a fearful panic.
'Hush, boy,' said he as it died away and went echoing in the far
forest. 'I'll take care o' you. Don't be scairt. He's more 'fraid uv
us than we are o' him. He's makin' off now.'
We heard then a great crackling of dead brush on the mountain
above us. It grew fainter as we listened. In a little while the woods
'It's the ol' man o' the woods,' said Uncle Eb. 'E's out takin' a
'Will he hurt folks?' I enquired.
'Tow!' he answered, 'jest as harmless as a kitten.'
Naturally there were a good many things I wanted to know about
'the ol' man o' the woods,' but Uncle Eb would take no part in any
So I had to lie down beside him again and think out the problem as
best I could. My mind was never more acutely conscious and it
gathered many strange impressions, wandering in the kingdom of Fear,
as I looked up at the tree-tops. Uncle Eb had built a furious fire and
the warmth of it made me sleepy at last. Both he and old Fred had been
snoring a long time when I ceased to hear them. Uncle Eb woke me at
daylight, in the morning, and said we must be off to find the trail.
He left me by the fire a little while and went looking on all sides
and came back no wiser. We were both thirsty and started off on rough
footing, without stopping to eat. We climbed and crawled for hours, it
seemed to me, and everywhere the fallen tree trunks were heaped in our
way. Uncle Eb sat down on one of them awhile to rest.
'Like the bones o' the dead,' said he, as he took a chew of tobacco
and picked at the rotten skeleton of a fallen tree. We were both
pretty well out of breath and of hope also, if I remember rightly,
when we rested again under the low hanging boughs of a basswood for a
bite of luncheon. Uncle Eb opened the little box of honey and spread
some of it on our bread and butter. In a moment I noticed that half a
dozen bees had lit in the open box.
'Lord Harry! here's honey bees,' said he, as he covered the box so
as to keep them in, and tumbled everything else into the basket.
'Make haste now, Willie, and follow me with all yer might,' he added.
In a minute he let out one of the bees, and started running in the
direction it flew. It went but a few feet and then rose into the
'He's goin' t' git up into the open air,' said Uncle Eb. 'But I've
got his bearins' an' I guess he knows the way all right.'
We took the direction indicated for a few minutes and then Uncle
Eb let out another prisoner. The bee flew off a little way and then
rose in a slanting course to the tree-tops. He showed us, however,
that we were looking the right way.
'Them little fellers hev got a good compass,' said Uncle Eb, as we
followed the line of the bees. 'It p'ints home ev'ry time, an' never
makes a mistake.'
We went further this time before releasing another. He showed us
that we had borne out of our course a little and as we turned to
follow there were half a dozen bees flying around the box, as if
begging for admission.
'Here they are back agin,' said Uncle Eb, 'an' they've told a lot
o' their cronies 'bout the man an' the boy with honey.'
At length one of them flew over our heads and back in the
direction we had come from.
'Ah, ha,' said Uncle Eb, 'it's a bee tree an' we've passed it, but
I'm goin' t' keep lettin' 'em in an' out. Never heard uv a swarm o'
bees goin' fur away an' so we mus' be near the clearin'.'
In a little while we let one go that took a road of its own. The
others had gone back over our heads; this one bore off to the right
in front of us, and we followed. I was riding in the basket and was
first to see the light of the open through the tree-tops. But I didn't
know what it meant until I heard the hearty 'hurrah' of Uncle Eb.
We had come to smooth footing in a grove of maples and the clean
trunks of the trees stood up as straight as a granite column.
Presently we came out upon wide fields of corn and clover, and as we
looked back upon the grove it had a rounded front and I think of it
now as the vestibule of the great forest
'It's a reg'lar big tomb,' said Uncle Eb, looking back over his
shoulder into the gloomy cavern of the woods.
We could see a log house in the clearing, and we made for it as
fast as our legs would carry us. We had amighty thirst and when we
came to a little brook in the meadow we laid down and drank and drank
until we were fairly grunting with fullness. Then we filled our teapot
and went on. Men were reaping with their cradles in a field of grain
and, as we neared the log house, a woman came out in the dooryard and,
lifting a shell to her lips, blew a blast that rushed over the
clearing and rang in the woods beyond it A loud halloo came back from
A small dog rushed out at Fred, barking, and, I suppose, with some
lack of respect, for the old dog laid hold of him in a violent temper
and sent him away yelping. We must have presented an evil aspect, for
our clothes were torn and we were both limping with fatigue. The woman
had a kindly face and, after looking at us a moment, came and stooped
before me and held my small face in her hands turning it so she could
look into my eyes.
'You poor little critter,' said she, 'where you goin'?'
Uncle Eb told her something about my father and mother being dead
and our going west Then she hugged and kissed me and made me very
miserable, I remember, wetting my face with her tears, that were quite
beyond my comprehension.
'Jethro,' said she, as the men came into the yard, 'I want ye t'
look at this boy. Did ye ever see such a cunnin' little critter? Jes'
look at them bright eyes!' and then she held me to her breast and
nearly smothered me and began to hum a bit of an old song.
'Yer full o' mother love,' said her husband, as he sat down on the
grass a moment 'Lost her only baby, an' the good Lord has sent no
other. I swan, he has got putty eyes. Jes' as blue as a May flower.
Ain't ye hungry? Come right in, both o' ye, an' set down t' the table
They made room for us and we sat down between the bare elbows of
the hired men. I remember my eyes came only to the top of the table.
So the good woman brought the family Bible and sitting on that firm
foundation I ate my dinner of salt pork and potatoes and milk gravy a
diet as grateful as it was familiar to my taste.
'Orphan, eh?' said the man of the house, looking down at me.
'Orphan,' Uncle Eb answered, nodding his head.
'Best in the world,' said Uncle Eb.
Want t' bind 'im out?' the man asked.
'Couldn't spare 'im,' said Uncle Eb, decisively.
'Where ye goin'?'
Uncle Eb hesitated, groping for an answer, I suppose, that would
do no violence to our mutual understanding.
'Goin' t' heaven,' I ventured to say presently—an answer that
gave rise to conflicting emotions at the table.
'That's right,' said Uncle Eb, turning to me and patting my head.
'We're on the road t' heaven, I hope, an' ye'll see it someday, sartin
sure, if ye keep in the straight road and be a good boy.'
After dinner the good woman took off my clothes and put me in bed
while she mended them. I went asleep then and did not awake for a long
time. When I got up at last she brought a big basin of water and
washed me with such motherly tenderness in voice and manner that I
have never forgotten it. Uncle Eb lay sleeping on the lounge and when
she had finished dressing me, Fred and I went out to play in the
garden. It was supper time in a little while and then, again, the
woman winded the shell and the men came up from the field. We sat down
to eat with them, as we had done at noon, and Uncle Eb consented to
spend the night after some urging. He helped them with the milking,
and as I stood beside him shot a jet of the warm white flood into my
mouth, that tickled it so I ran away laughing. The milking done, I sat
on Uncle Eb's knee in the door-yard with all the rest of that
household, hearing many tales of the wilderness, and of robbery and
murder on Paradise Road. I got the impression that it was a country of
unexampled wickedness and ferocity in men and animals. One man told
about the ghost of Burnt Bridge; how the bridge had burnt one
afternoon and how a certain traveller in the dark of the night driving
down the hill above it, fell to his death at the brink of the culvert.
'An' every night since then,' said the man, very positively, ye can
hear him drivin' down thet bill—jes' as plain as ye can hear me
talkin'—the rattle o' the wheels an' all. It stops sudden an' then ye
can hear 'im hit the rocks way down there at the bottom O' the gulley
an' groan an' groan. An' folks say it's a curse on the town for
leavin' thet hole open.'
'What's a ghost, Uncle Eb?' I whispered.
'Somethin' like a swift,' he answered, 'but not so powerful. We
heard a panther las' night,' he added, turning to our host. 'Hollered
like sin when he see the fire.'
'Scairt!' said the man o' the house gaping. 'That's what ailed him.
I've lived twenty year on Paradise Road an' it was all woods when I
put up the cabin. Seen deer on the doorstep an' bears in the garden,
an' panthers in the fields. But I tell ye there's no critter so
terrible as a man. All the animals know 'im—how he roars, an' spits
fire an' smoke an' lead so it goes through a body er bites off a leg,
mebbe. Guess they'd made friends with me but them I didn't kill went
away smarting with holes in 'em. An' I guess they told all their
people 'bout me—the terrible critter that walked on its hind legs
an' lied a white face an' drew up an' spit 'is teeth into their vitals
'cross a ten-acre lot. An' putty soon they concluded they didn't want
t' hev no truck with me. They thought thin clearin' was the valley o'
death an' they got very careful. But the deer they kep' peekin' in at
me. Sumthin' funny 'bout a deer—they're so cu'rus. Seem's though
they loved the look o' me an' the taste o' the tame grass. Mebbe God
meant em t' serve in the yoke some way an' be the friend o' man.
They're the outcasts o' the forest—the prey o' the other animals an'
men like 'em only when they're dead. An' they're the purtiest critter
alive an' the spryest an' the mos' graceful.'
'Men are the mos' terrible of all critters, an' the meanest,' said
Uncle Eb. 'They're the only critters that kill fer fun.'
'Bedtime,' said our host, rising presently. 'Got t' be up early 'n
We climbed a ladder to the top floor of the cabin with the hired
men, of whom there were two. The good lady of the house had made a
bed for us on the floor and I remember Fred came up the ladder too,
and lay down beside us. Uncle Eb was up with the men in the morning
and at breakfast time my hostess came and woke me with kisses and
helped me to dress. When we were about going she brought a little
wagon out of the cellar that had been a playing of her dead boy, and
said I could have it. This wonderful wagon was just the thing for the
journey we were making. When I held the little tongue in my hand I was
half-way to heaven already. It had four stout wheels and a beautiful
red box. Her brother had sent it all the way from New York and it had
stood so long in the cellar it was now much in need of repair. Uncle
Eb took it to the tool shop in the stable and put it in shipshape
order and made a little pair of thills to go in place of the tongue.
Then he made a big flat collar and a back-pad out of the leather in
old boot-legs, and rigged a pair of tugs out of two pieces of rope.
Old Fred was quite cast down when he stood in harness between the
He had waited patiently to have his collar fitted; he had grinned
and panted and wagged his tail with no suspicion of the serious and
humiliating career he was entering upon. Now he stood with a sober
face and his aspect was full of meditation.
'You fightin' hound!' said Uncle Eb, 'I hope this'll improve yer
Fred tried to sit down when Uncle Eb tied a leading rope to his
collar. When he heard the wheels rattle and felt the pull of the
wagon he looked back at it and growled a little and started to run.
Uncle Eb shouted 'whoa', and held him back, and then the dog got down
on his belly and trembled until we patted his head and gave him a kind
word. He seemed to understand presently and came along with a steady
stride. Our hostess met us at the gate and the look of her face when
she bade us goodbye and tucked some cookies into my pocket, has always
lingered in my memory and put in me a mighty respect for all women.
The sound of her voice, the tears, the waving of her handkerchief, as
we went away, are among the things that have made me what I am.
We stowed our packages in the wagon box and I walked a few miles
and then got into the empty basket. Fred tipped his load over once or
twice, but got a steady gait in the way of industry after a while and
a more cheerful look. We had our dinner by the roadside on the bank of
a brook, an hour or so after midday, and came to a little village
about sundown. As we were nearing it there was some excitement among
the dogs and one of them tackled Fred. He went into battle very
promptly, the wagon jumping and rattling until it turned bottom up.
Re-enforced by Uncle Eb's cane he soon saw the heels of his aggressor
and stood growling savagely. He was like the goal in a puzzle maze all
wound and tangled in his harness and it took some time to get his face
before him and his feet free.
At a small grocery where groups of men, just out of the fields,
were sitting, their arms bare to the elbows, we bought more bread and
butter. In paying for it Uncle Eb took a package out of his trouser
pocket to get his change. It was tied in a red handkerchief and I
remember it looked to be about the size of his fist. He was putting it
back when it fell from his hand, heavily, and I could hear the chink
of coin as it struck. One of the men, who sat near, picked it up and
gave it back to him. As I remember well, his kindness had an evil
flavour, for he winked at his companions, who nudged each other as
they smiled knowingly. Uncle Eb was a bit cross, when I climbed into
the basket, and walked along in silence so rapidly it worried the dog
to keep pace. The leading rope was tied to the stock of the rifle and
Fred's walking gait was too slow for the comfort of his neck.
'You shifless cuss! I'll put a kink in your neck fer you if ye
don't walk up,' said Uncle Eb, as he looked back at the dog, in a
temper wholly unworthy of him.
We had crossed a deep valley and were climbing a long hill in the
'Willie,' said Uncle Eb, 'your eyes are better'n mine—look back
and see if anyone's comin'.'
'Can't see anyone,' I answered.
'Look 'way back in the road as fur as ye can see.
I did so, but I could see no one. He slackened his pace a little
after that and before we had passed the hill it was getting dark. The
road ran into woods and a river cut through them a little way from the
'Supper time, Uncle Eb,' I suggested, as we came to the bridge.
'Supper time, Uncle Eb,' he answered, turning down to the shore.
I got out of the basket then and followed him in the brush. Fred
found it hard travelling here and shortly we took off his harness and
left the wagon, transferring its load to the basket, while we pushed
on to find a camping place. Back in the thick timber a long way from
the road, we built a fire and had our supper. It was a dry nook in the
pines—'tight as a house,' Uncle Eb said—and carpeted with the
fragrant needles. When we lay on our backs in the firelight I remember
the weary, droning voice of Uncle Eb had an impressive accompaniment
of whispers. While he told stories 1 had a glowing cinder on the end
of a stick and was weaving fiery skeins in the gloom.
He had been telling me of a panther he had met in the woods, one
day, and how the creature ran away at the sight of him.
'Why's a panther 'fraid o' folks?' I enquired.
'Wall, ye see, they used t' be friendly, years 'n years ago—folks
'n panthers—but they want eggszac'ly cal'lated t' git along t'gether
some way. An' ol' she panther gin 'em one uv her cubs, a great while
ago, jes t' make frien's. The cub he grew big 'n used t' play 'n be
very gentle. They wuz a boy he tuk to, an' both on 'em got very
friendly. The boy 'n the panther went off one day 'n the woods—
guess 'twas more 'n a hundred year ago—an' was lost. Walked all
over'n fin'ly got t' gom' round 'n round 'n a big circle 'til they was
both on 'em tired out. Come night they lay down es hungry es tew
bears. The boy he was kind o' 'fraid 'o the dark, so he got up clus t'
the panther 'n lay 'tween his paws. The boy he thought the panther
smelt funny an' the panther he didn't jes' like the smell o' the boy.
An' the boy he hed the legache 'n kicked the panther 'n the belly, so
't he kin' o' gagged 'n spit an' they want neither on 'em reel
comf'able. The sof paws o' the panther was jes' like pincushions.
He'd great hooks in 'em sharper 'n the p'int uv a needle. An' when he
was goin' t' sleep he'd run 'em out jes' like an ol' cat—kind o'
playflil—'n purr 'n pull. All t' once the boy felt sumthin' like a
lot o' needles prickin' his back. Made him jump 'n holler like Sam
Hill. The panther he spit sassy 'n riz up 'n smelt o' the ground.
Didn't neither on 'em know what was the matter. Bime bye they lay down
ag'in. 'Twant only a little while 'fore the boy felt somethin'
prickin' uv him. He hollered 'n kicked ag'in. The panther he growled
'n spit 'n dumb a tree 'n sot on a limb 'n peeked over at thet queer
little critter. Couldn't neither on 'em understan' it. The boy c'u'd
see the eyes o' the panther 'n the dark. Shone like tew live coals
eggszac'ly. The panther 'd never sot 'n a tree when he was hungry, 'n
see a boy below him. Sumthin' tol' him t' jump. Tail went swish in the
leaves like thet. His whiskers quivered, his tongue come out. C'u'd
think o' nuthin' but his big empty belly. The boy was scairt. He up
with his gun quick es a flash. Aimed at his eyes 'n let 'er flicker.
Blew a lot o' smoke 'n bird shot 'n paper waddin' right up in t' his
face. The panther he lost his whiskers 'n one eye 'n got his hide
fill' o' shot 'n fell off the tree like a ripe apple 'n run fer his
life. Thought he'd never see nuthin' c'u'd growl 'n spits ' powerful
es thet boy. Never c'u'd bear the sight uv a man after thet. Allwus
made him gag 'n spit t' think o' the man critter. Went off tew his own
folks 'n tol' o' the boy 'at spit fire 'n smoke 'n growled so't almos'
tore his ears off An' now, whenever they hear a gun go off they allwus
thank it's the man critter growlin'. An' they gag 'n spit 'n look es
if it made 'em sick t' the stomach. An' the man folks they didn't hev
no good 'pimon o' the panthers after thet. Haint never been frien's
any more. Fact is a man, he can be any kind uv a beast, but a panther
he can't be nuthin' but jest a panther.'
Then, too, as we lay there in the firelight, Uncle Eb told the
remarkable story of the gingerbread hear. He told it slowly, as if
his invention were severely taxed.
'Once they wuz a boy got lost. Was goin' cross lots t' play with
'nother boy 'n lied t' go through a strip o' woods. Went off the trail
t' chase a butterfly 'n got lost. Hed his kite 'n' cross-gun 'n' he
wandered all over 'til he was tired 'n hungry. Then he lay down t'
cry on a bed o' moss. Putty quick they was a big black bear come
'"What's the matter?" said the bear.
'"Hungry," says the boy.
'"Tell ye what I'll dew," says the bear. "If ye'll scratch my back
fer me I'll let ye cut a piece o' my tail off t' eat."
'Bear's tail, ye know, hes a lot o' meat on it—heam tell it was
gran' good fare. So the boy he scratched the bear's back an' the bear
he grinned an' made his paw go patitty-pat on the ground—it did feel
so splendid. Then the boy tuk his jack-knife 'n begun t' cut off the
bear's tail. The bear he flew mad 'n growled 'n growled so the boy he
stopped 'n didn't dast cut no more.
'"Hurts awful," says the bear. "Couldn't never stan' it. Tell ye
what I'll dew. Ye scratched my back an' now I'll scratch your'n."
'Gee whiz!' said I.
'Yessir, that's what the bear said,' Uncle Eb went on. 'The boy he
up 'n run like a nailer. The bear he laughed hearty 'n scratched the
ground like Sam Hill, 'n flung the dirt higher'n his head.
'"Look here," says he, as the boy stopped, "I jes' swallered a
piece o mutton. Run yer hand int' my throat an I'll let ye hev it."
'The bear he opened his mouth an' showed his big teeth.'
'Whew!' I whistled.
'Thet's eggszac'ly what he done,' said Uncle Eb. 'He showed 'em
plain. The boy was scairter'n a weasel. The bear he jumped up 'an
down on his hind legs 'n laughed 'n' hollered 'n' shook himself
'"Only jes' foolin," says he, when he see the boy was goin' t' run
ag'in. "What ye 'fraid uv?"
'"Can't bear t' stay here," says the boy, 'less ye'll keep yer
'An the bear he shet his mouth 'n pinted to the big pocket 'n his
fur coat 'n winked 'n motioned t' the boy.
'The bear he reely did hev a pocket on the side uv his big fur
coat. The boy slid his hand in up t' the elbow. Wha' d'ye s'pose he
'Durmo,' said I.
'Sumthin' t' eat,' he continued. 'Boy liked it best uv all things.'
I guessed everything I could think of, from cookies to beefsteak,
and gave up.
'Gingerbread,' said he, soberly, at lengrh.
'Thought ye said bears couldn't talk" I objected.
'Wall, the boy 'd fell asleep an' he'd only dreamed o' the bear,'
said Uncle Eb. 'Ye see, bears can'talk when boys are dreamin' uv 'em.
Come daylight, the boy got up 'n ketched a crow. Broke his wing with
the cross-gun. Then he tied the kite swing on t' the crow's leg, an'
the crow flopped along 'n the boy followed him 'n bime bye they come
out a cornfield, where the crow'd been used t' comin' fer his dinner.'
'What 'come o' the boy?' said I.
'Went home,' said he, gaping, as he lay on his back and looked up
at the tree-tops. 'An' he allwus said a bear was good comp'ny if he'd
only keep his mouth shet—jes' like some folks I've hearn uv.'
'An' what 'come o' the crow?'
'Went t' the ol' crow doctor 'n got his wing fixed,' he said,
drowsily. And in a moment I heard him snoring.
We had been asleep a long time when the barking of Fred woke us. I
could just see Uncle Eb in the dim light of the fire, kneeling beside
me, the rifle in his hand.
'I'll fill ye full o' lead if ye come any nearer,' he shouted.
We listened awhile then but heard no sound in the thicket,
although Fred was growling ominously, his hair on end. As for myself
I never had a more fearful hour than that we suffered before the light
of morning came.
I made no outcry, but clung to my old companion, trembling. He did
not stir for a few minutes, and then we crept cautiously into the
small hemlocks on one side of the opening.
'Keep still,' he whispered, 'don't move er speak.'
Presently we heard a move in the brush and then quick as a flash
Uncle Eb lifted his rifle and fired in the direction of it Before the
loud echo had gone off in the woods we heard something break through
the brush at a run.
''S a man,' said Uncle Eb, as he listened. 'He ain't a losin' no
We sat listening as the sound grew fainter, and when it ceased
entirely Uncle Eb said he must have got to the road. After a little
the light of the morning began sifting down through the tree-tops and
was greeted with innumerable songs.
'He done noble,' said Uncle Eb, patting the old dog as he rose to
poke the fire. 'Putty good chap I call 'im! He can hev half o' my
dinner any time he wants it.'
'Who do you suppose it was?' I enquired.
'Robbers, I guess,' he answered, 'an' they'll be layin' fer us when
we go out, mebbe; but, if they are, Fred'll frnd 'em an' I've got Ol'
Trusty here 'n' I guess thet'll take care uv us.'
His rifle was always flattered with that name of Ol' Trusty when it
had done him a good turn.
Soon as the light had come clear he went out in the near woods
with dog and rifle and beat around in the brush. He returned shortly
and said he had seen where they came and went.
'I'd a killed em deader 'n a door nail,' said he, laying down the
old rifle, 'if they'd a come any nearer.'
Then we brought water from the river and had our breakfast. Fred
went on ahead of us, when we started for the road, scurrying through
the brush on both sides of the trail, as if he knew what was expected
of him. He flushed a number of partridges and Uncle Eb killed one of
them on our way to the road. We resumed our journey without any
further adventure. It was so smooth and level under foot that Uncle Eb
let me get in the wagon after Fred was hitched to it The old dog went
along soberly and without much effort, save when we came to hills or
sandy places, when I always got out and ran on behind. Uncle Eb showed
me how to brake the wheels with a long stick going downhill. I
remember how it hit the dog's heels at the first down grade, and how
he ran to keep out of the way of it We were going like mad in half a
minute, Uncle Eb coming after us calling to the dog. Fred only looked
over his shoulder, with a wild eye, at the rattling wagon and ran the
harder. He leaped aside at the bottom and then we went all in a heap.
Fortunately no harm was done.
'I declare!' said Uncle Eb as he came up to us, puffing like a
spent horse, and picked me up unhurt and began to untangle the harness
of old Fred, 'I guess he must a thought the devil was after him.'
The dog growled a little for a moment and bit at the harness, but
coaxing reassured him and he went along all right again on the level.
At a small settlement the children came out and ran along beside my
wagon, laughing and asking me questions. Some of them tried to pet the
dog, but old Fred kept to his labour at the heels of Uncle Eb and
looked neither to right nor left. We stopped under a tree by the side
of a narrow brook for our dinner, and one incident of that meal I
think of always when I think of Uncle Eb. It shows the manner of man
he was and with what understanding and sympathy he regarded every
living thing. In rinsing his teapot he accidentally poured a bit of
water on a big bumble-bee. The poor creature struggled to lift hill,
and then another downpour caught him and still another until his wings
fell drenched. Then his breast began heaving violently, his legs
stiffened behind him and he sank, head downward, in the grass. Uncle
Eb saw the death throes of the bee and knelt down and lifted the dead
body by one of its wings.
'Jes' look at his velvet coat,' he said, 'an' his wings all wet n'
They'll never carry him another journey. It's too bad a man has t'
kill every step he takes.'
The bee's tail was moving faintly and Uncle Eb laid him out in the
warm sunlight and fanned him awhile with his hat, trying to bring
back the breath of life.
'Guilty!' he said, presently, coming back with a sober face.
'Thet's a dead bee. No tellin' how many was dependent on him er what
plans he bed. Must a gi'n him a lot o' pleasure t' fly round in the
sunlight, workin' every fair day. 'S all over now.'
He had a gloomy face for an hour after that and many a time, in
the days that followed, I heard him speak of the murdered bee.
We lay resting awhile after dinner and watching a big city of ants.
Uncle Eb told me how they tilled the soil of the mound every year and
sowed their own kind of grain—a small white seed like rice— and
reaped their harvest in the late surnmer, storing the crop in their
dry cellars under ground. He told me also the story of the ant lion—
a big beetle that lives in the jungles of the grain and the grass—of
which I remember only an outline, more or less imperfect.
Here it is in my own rewording of his tale: On a bright day one of
the little black folks went off on a long road in a great field of
barley. He was going to another city of his own people to bring
helpers for the harvest. He came shortly to a sandy place where the
barley was thin and the hot sunlight lay near to the ground. In a
little valley close by the road of the ants he saw a deep pit, in the
sand, with steep sides sloping to a point in the middle and as big
around as a biscuit. Now the ants are a curious people and go looking
for things that are new and wonderful as they walk abroad, so they
have much to tell worth hearing after a journey. The little traveller
was young and had no fear, so he left the road and went down to the
pit and peeped over the side of it.
'What in the world is the meaning of this queer place?' he asked
himself as he ran around the rim. In a moment he had stepped over and
the soft sand began to cave and slide beneath him. Ouick as a flash
the big lion-beetle rose up in the centre of the pit and began to
reach for him. Then his legs flew in the caving sand and the young ant
struck his blades in it to hold the little he could gain. Upward he
struggled, leaping and floundering in the dust. He had got near the
rim and had stopped, clinging to get his breath, when the lion began
flinging the sand at him with his long feelers. It rose in a cloud and
fell on the back of the ant and pulled at him as it swept down. He
could feel the mighty cleavers of the lion striking near his hind legs
and pulling the sand from under them. He must go down m a moment and
he knew what that meant. He had heard the old men of the tribe tell
often—how they hold one helpless and slash him into a dozen pieces.
He was letting go, in despair, when he felt a hand on his neck.
Looking up he saw one of his own people reaching over the rim, and in
a jiffy they had shut their fangs together. He moved little by little
as the other tagged at him, and in a moment was out of the trap and
could feel the honest earth under him. When they had got home and told
their adventure, some were for going to slay the beetle.
'There is never a pit in the path o' duty,' said the wise old chief
of the little black folks. 'See that you keep in the straight road.'
'If our brother had not left the straight road,' said one who stood
near, 'he that was in danger would have gone down into the pit.'
'It matters much,' he answered, 'whether it was kindness or
curiosity that led him out of the road. But he that follows a fool
hath much need of wisdom, for if he save the fool do ye not see that
he hath encouraged folly?'
Of course I had then no proper understanding of the chiefs
counsel, nor do I pretend even to remember it from that first
telling, but the tale was told frequently in the course of my long
acquaintance with Uncle Eb.
The diary of my good old friend lies before me as I write, the
leaves turned yellow and the entries dim. I remember how stern he
grew of an evening when he took out this sacred little record of our
wanderings and began to write in it with his stub of a pencil. He
wrote slowly and read and reread each entry with great care as I held
the torch for him. 'Be still, boy—be still,' he would say when some
pressing interrogatory passed my lips, and then he would bend to his
work while the point of his pencil bored further into my patience.
Beginning here I shall quote a few entries from the diary as they
cover, with sufficient detail, an uneventful period of our journey.
AUGUST 20 Killed a partridge today. Biled it in the teapot for
dinner. Went good. 14 mild.
AUGUST 21 Seen a deer this morning. Fred fit ag'in. Come near
spilin' the wagon. Hed to stop and fix the ex. 10 mild.
AUGUST 22 Clumb a tree this morning after wild grapes. Come near
falling. Gin me a little crickin the back. Willie hes got a stun
bruze. 12 mild.
AUGUST 23 Went in swinmun. Ketched a few fish before breaklus'.
Got provisions an' two case knives an' one fork, also one tin
pie-plate. Used same to fry fish for dinner. 14 mild.
AUGUST 24 Got some spirits for Willie to rub on my back. Boots
wearing out. Terrible hot. Lay in the shade in the heat of the day.
Gypsies come an' camped by us tonight. 10 mild.
I remember well the coming of those gypsies. We were fishing in
sight of the road and our fire was crackling on the smooth cropped
shore. The big wagons of the gypsies—there were four of them as red
and beautiful as those of a circus caravan—halted about sundown
while the men came over a moment to scan'the field. Presently they
went back and turned their wagons into the siding and began to
unhitch. Then a lot of barefooted children, and women under gay
shawls, overran the field gathering wood and making ready for night.
Meanwhile swarthy drivers took the horses to water and tethered them
with long ropes so they could crop the grass of the roadside.
One tall, bony man, with a face almost as black as that of an
Indian, brought a big iron pot and set it up near the water. A big
stew of beef bone, leeks and potatoes began to cook shortly, and I
remember it had such a goodly smell I was minded to ask them for a
taste of it. A little city of strange people had surrounded us of a
sudden. Uncle Eb thought of going on, but the night was coming fast
and there would be no moon and we were footsore and hungry. Women and
children came over to our fire, after supper, and made more of me than
I liked. I remember taking refuge between the knees of Uncle Eb, and
Fred sat close in front of us growling fiercely when they came too
near. They stood about, looking down at us and whispered together, and
one young miss of the tribe came up and tried to kiss me in spite of
Fred's warnings: She had flashing black eyes and hair as dark as the
night, that fell in a curling mass upon her shoulders; but, somehow, I
had a mighty fear of her and fought with desperation to keep my face
from the touch of her red lips. Uncle Eb laughed and held Fred by the
collar, and I began to cry out in terror, presently, when, to my great
relief, she let go and ran away to her own people. They all went away
to their wagons, save one young man, who was tall with light hair and
a fair skin, and who looked like none of the other gypsies.
'Take care of yourself,' he whispered, as soon as the rest had
gone. 'These are bad people. You'd better be off'
The young man left us and Uncle Eb began to pack up at once. They
were going to bed in their wagons when we came away. I stood in the
basket and Fred drew the wagon that had in it only a few bundles. A
mile or more finther on we came to a lonely, deserted cabin close to
the road. It had began to thunder in the distance and the wind was
'Guess nobody lives here,' said Uncle Eb as he turned in at the
sagging gate and began to cross the little patch of weeds and
hollyhocks behind it 'Door's half down, but I guess it'll de beeter'n
no house. Goin' t' rain sartin.'
I was nodding a little about then, I remember; but I was wide
awake when he took me out of the basket The old house stood on a high
hill, and we could see the stars of heaven through the ruined door and
one of the back windows. Uncle Eb lifted the leaning door a little and
shoved it aside. We heard then a quick stir in the old house—a loud
and ghostly rattle it seems now as I think of it— like that made by
linen shaking on the line. Uncle Eb took a step backward as if it had
'Guess it's nuthin' to be 'fraid of;' he said, feeling in the pet
of his coat He had struck a match in a moment. By its flickering light
I could see only a bit of rubbish on the floor.
'Full o' white owls,' said he, stepping inside, where the rustling
was now continuous. 'They'll do us no harm.'
I could see them now flying about under the low ceiling. Uncle Eb
gathered an gathered an armful of grass and clover, in the near
field, and spread it in a corner well away from the ruined door and
windows. Covered with our blanket it made a fairly comfortable bed.
Soon as we had lain down, the rain began to rattle on the shaky roof
and flashes of lightning lit every comer of the old room.
I have had, ever, a curious love of storms, and, from the time when
memory began its record in my brain, it has delighted me to hear at
night the roar of thunder and see the swift play of the lightning. I
lay between Uncle Eb and the old dog, who both went asleep shortly.
Less wearied I presume than either of them, for I had done none of the
carrying, and had slept along time that day in the shade of a tree, I
was awake an hour or more after they were snoring. Every flash lit the
old room like the full glare of the noonday sun. I remember it showed
me an old cradle, piled full of rubbish, a rusty scythe hung in the
rotting sash of a window, a few lengths of stove-pipe and a plough in
one comer, and three staring white owls that sat on a beam above the
doorway. The rain roared on the old roof shortly, and came dripping
down through the bare boards above us. A big drop struck in my face
and I moved a little. Then I saw what made me hold my breath a moment
and cover my head with the shawl. A flash of lightning revealed a
tall, ragged man looking in at the doorway. I lay close to Uncle Eb
imagining much evil of that vision but made no outcry.
Snugged in between my two companions I felt reasonably secure and
soon fell asleep. The sun, streaming in at the open door, roused me in
the morning. At the beginning of each day of our journey I woke to
find Uncle Eb cooking at the fire. He was lying beside me, this
morning, his eyes open.
'Fraid I'm hard sick,' he said as I kissed him.
'What's the matter?' I enquired.
He struggled to a sitting posture, groaning soit went to my heart.
'Rheumatiz,' he answered presently.
He got to his feet, little by little, and every move he made gave
him great pain. With one hand on his cane and the other on my
shoulder he made his way slowly to the broken gate. Even now I can
see clearly the fair prospect of that high place—a valley reaching
to distant hills and a river winding through it, glimmering in the
sunlight; a long wooded ledge breaking into naked, grassy slopes on
one side of the valley and on the other a deep forest rolling to the
far horizon; between them big patches of yellow grain and white
buckwheat and green pasture land and greener meadows and the straight
road, with white houses on either side of it, glorious in a double
fringe of golden rod and purple aster and yellow John's-wort and the
deep blue of the Jacob's ladder.
'Looks a good deal like the promised land,' said Uncle Eb. 'Hain't
got much further t' go.'
He sat on the rotting threshold while I pulled some of the weeds in
front of the doorstep and brought kindlings out of the house and
built a fire. While we were eating I told Uncle Eb of the man that I
had seen in the night.
'Guess you was dreamin',' he said, and, while I stood firm for the
reality of that I had seen, it held our thought only for a brief
moment. My companion was unable to walk that day so we lay by, in the
shelter of the old house, eating as little of our scanty store as we
could do with. I went to a spring near by for water and picked a good
mess of blackberries that I hid away until supper time, so as to
surprise Uncle Eb. A longer day than that we spent in the old house,
after our coming, I have never known. I made the room a bit tidier and
gathered more grass for bedding. Uncle Eb felt better as the day grew
warm. I had a busy time of it that morning bathing his back in the
spirits and rubbing until my small arms ached. I have heard him tell
often how vigorously I worked that day and how I would say: 'I'll take
care o' you, Uncle Eb—won't I, Uncle Eb?' as my little hands flew
with redoubled energy on his bare skin. That finished we lay down
sleeping until the sun was low, when I made ready the supper that took
the last of everything we had to eat. Uncle Eb was more like himself
that evening and, sitting up in the corner, as the darkness came, told
me the story of Squirreltown and Frog Ferry, which came to be so great
a standby in those days that, even now, I can recall much of the
language in which he told it
'Once,' he said, 'there was a boy thet hed two grey squirrels in a
cage. They kep' thinkin' o' the time they used t' scamper in the
tree-tops an' make nests an' eat all the nuts they wanted an' play I
spy in the thick leaves. An they grew poor an' looked kind o' ragged
an' sickly an' downhearted. When he brought 'em outdoors they used t'
look up in the trees an' run in the wire wheel as if they thought they
could get there sometime if they kep' goin'. As the boy grew older he
see it was cruel to keep 'em shet in a cage, but he'd hed em a long
time an' couldn't bear t' give 'em up.
'One day he was out in the woods a little back o' the clearin'. All
t' once he heard a swift holler. 'Twas nearby an' echoed so he
couldn't tell which way it come from. He run fer home but the critter
ketched 'im before he got out o' the woods an' took 'im into a cave,
an' give 'im t' the little swifis t' play with. The boy cried
terrible. The swifts they laughed an' nudged each other.
'"O ain't he cute!" says one. "He's a beauty!" says another.
"Cur'us how he can git along without any fur," says the mother swift,
as she run er nose over 'is bare foot. He thought of 'is folks waitin'
fer him an' he begged em t' let 'im go. Then they come an' smelt 'im
'"Yer sech a cunin' critter," says the mother swift, "we couldn't
'"Want to see my mother," says the boy sobbing.
'"Couldn't afford t' let ye go—yer so cute" says the swift.
"Bring the poor critter a bone an' a bit o' snake meat"
'The boy couldn't eat. They fixed a bed fer him, but 'twant clean.
The feel uv it made his back ache an' the smell uv it made him sick
to his stomach.
'"When the swifts hed comp'ny they 'd bring 'em overt' look at him
there 'n his dark comer. "'S a boy," said the mother swift pokin' him
with a long stick "Wouldn't ye like t' see 'im run?" Then she punched
him until he got up an' run 'round the cave fer his life. Happened one
day et a very benevolent swift come int' the cave.
'"'S a pity t' keep the boy here," said he; "he looks bad."
'"But he makes fun fer the children," said the swift.
"Fun that makes misery is only fit fer a fool," said the visitor.
'They let him go thet day. Soon as he got hum he thought o' the
squirrels an' was tickled t' find 'em alive. He tak 'em off to an
island, in the middle of a big lake, thet very day, an' set the cage
on the shore n' opened it He thought he would come back sometime an'
see how they was ginin' along. The cage was made of light wire an' hed
a tin bottom fastened to a big piece o' plank. At fust they was 'fraid
t' leave it an' peeked out o' the door an' scratched their heads's if
they thought it a resky business. After awhile one stepped out careful
an' then the other followed. They tried t' climb a tree, but their
nails was wore off an' they kep' fallin' back. Then they went off 'n
the brush t' find some nuts. There was only pines an' poppies an'
white birch an' a few berry bushes on the island. They went t' the
water's edge on every side, but there was nuthin there a squirrel ud
give a flirt uv his tail fer. 'Twas near dark when they come back t'
the cage hungry as tew bears. They found a few crumbs o' bread in the
cup an' divided 'em even. Then they went t' bed 'n their ol' nest.
'It hed been rainin' a week in the mount'ins. Thet night the lake
rose a foot er more an' 'fore mornin' the cage begun t' rock a teenty
bit as the water lifted the plank. They slep' all the better fer thet
an' they dreamed they was up in a tree at the end uv a big bough. The
cage begun t' sway sideways and then it let go o' the shore an' spun
'round once er twice an' sailed out 'n the deep water. There was a
light breeze blowin' offshore an' purty soon it was pitchin' like a
ship in the sea. But the two squirrels was very tired an' never woke
up 'til sunrise. They got a terrible scare when they see the water
'round 'em an' felt the motion o' the ship. Both on 'em ran into the
wire wheel an' that bore down the stern o' the ship so the under
wires touched the water. They made it spin like a buzz saw an' got
their clothes all wet. The ship went faster when they worked the
wheel, an' bime bye they got tired an' come out on the main deck. The
water washed over it a little so they clim up the roof thet was a kin'
uv a hurricane deck. It made the ship sway an' rock fearful but they
hung on 'midships, an' clung t' the handle that stuck up like a top
mast. Their big tails was spreadover their shoulders, an' the wind
rose an' the ship went faster 'n faster. They could see the main shore
where the big woods come down t' the water 'n' all the while it kep' a
comin' nearer 'n' nearer. But they was so hungry didn't seem possible
they could live to git there.
'Ye know squirrels are a savin' people. In the day o' plenty they
think o' the day o' poverty an' lay by fer it. All at once one uv 'em
thought uv a few kernels o' corn, he hed pushed through a little
crack in the tin floor one day a long time ago. It happened there was
quite a hole under the crack an' each uv 'em bad stored some kernels
unbeknown t' the other. So they hed a good supper 'n' some left fer a
bite 'n the mornin'. 'Fore daylight the ship made her pott 'n' lay to,
'side liv a log in a little cove. The bullfrogs jumped on her main
deck an' begun t' holler soon as she hove to: "all ashore! all ashore!
all ashore!" The two squirrels woke up but lay quiet 'til the sun
rose. Then they come out on the log 'et looked like a long dock an'
run ashore 'n' foun' some o' their own folks in the bush. An' when
they bed tol' their story the ol' father o' the tribe got up 'n a tree
an' hollered himself hoarse preachin' 'bout how 't paid t' be savin'.
'"An' we should learn t' save our wisdom es well es our nuts," said
a sassy brother; "fer each needs his own wisdom fer his own affairs."
'An the little ship went back 'n' forth 'cross the cove as the win'
blew. The squirrels hed many a fine ride in her an' the frogs were
the ferrymen. An' all 'long thet shore 'twas known es Frog Ferry
'mong the squirrel folks.'
It was very dark when he finished the tale an' as we lay gaping a
few minutes after my last query about those funny people of the lake
margin I could hear nothing but the chirping of the crickets. I was
feeling a bit sleepy when I heard the boards creak above our heads.
Uncle Eli raised himself and lay braced upon his elbow listening. In a
few moments we heard a sound as of someone coming softly down the
ladder at the other end of the room. It was so dark I could see
'Who's there?' Uncle Eb demanded.
'Don't p'int thet gun at me,' somebody whispered. 'This is my home
and I warn ye t' leave it er I'll do ye harm.'
Here I shall quote you again from the diary of Uncle Eb. 'It was so
dark I couldn't see a han' before me. "Don't p'int yer gun at me," the
man whispered. Thought 'twas fimny he could see me when I couldn't
see him. Said 'twas his home an' we'd better leave. Tol him I was sick
(rumatiz) an' couldn't stir. Said he was sorry an' come over near us.
Tol' him I was an' ol' man goin' west with a small boy. Stopped in the
rain. Got sick. Out o' purvisions. 'Bout ready t' die. Did'n know what
t' do. Started t' stike a match an' the man said don't make no light
cos I don't want to hev ye see my face. Never let nobody see my face.
Said he never went out 'less 'twas a dark night until folks was abed.
Said we looked like good folks. Scairt me a little cos we couldn't see
a thing. Also he said don't be 'fraid of me. Do what I can fer ye.'
I remember the man crossed the creaking floor and sat down near us
after he had parleyed with Uncle Eb awhile in whispers. Young as I was
I keep a vivid impression of that night and, aided by the diary of
Uncle Eb, I have made a record of what was said that is, in the main,
'Do you know where you are?' he enquired presently, whispering as
he had done before.
'I've no idee,' said Uncle Eb.
'Well, down the hill is Paradise Valley in the township o'
Faraway,' he continued. 'It's the end o' Paradise Road an' a purty
country. Been settled a long time an' the farms are big an' prosperous
—kind uv a land o' plenty. That big house at the foot o' the hill is
Dave Brower's. He's the richest man in the valley.'
'How do you happen t' be livin' here?—if ye don't min' tellin'
me,' Uncle Eb asked.
'Crazy,' said he; ''fraid uv everybody an' everybody's 'fraid o'
me. Lived a good long time in this way. Winters I go into the big
woods. Got a camp in a big cave an' when I'm there I see a little
daylight. Here 'n the clearin' I'm only up in the night-time. Thet's
how I've come to see so well in the dark. It's give me cat's eyes.'
'Don't ye git lonesome?' Uncle Eb asked.
'Awful—sometimes,' he answered with a sad sigh, 'an' it seems
good t' talk with somebody besides myself. I get enough to eat
generally. There are deer in the woods an' cows in the fields, ye
know, an' potatoes an' corn an' berries an' apples, an' all thet kind
o' thing. Then I've got my traps in the woods where I ketch
partridges, an' squirrels an' coons an' all the meat I need. I've got
a place in the thick timber t' do my cookin'—all I want t' do—in
the middle of the night Sometimes I come here an' spend a day in the
garret if I'm caught in a storm or if I happen to stay a little too
late in the valley. Once in a great while I meet a man somewhere in
the open but he always gits away quick as he can. Guess they think I'm
a ghost—dunno what I think o' them.'
Our host went on talking as if he were glad to tell the secrets of
his heart to some creature of his own kind. I have often wondered at
his frankness; but there was a fatherly tenderness, I remember in the
voice of Uncle Eb, and I judge it tempted his confidence. Probably the
love of companionship can never be so dead in a man but that the voice
of kindness may call it back to life again.
'I'll bring you a bite t' eat before morning,' he said, presently,
as he rose to go. 'leet me feel o' your han', mister.'
Uncle Eb gave him his hand and thanked him.
'Feels good. First I've hed hold of in a long time,' he whispered.
'What's the day o' the month?'
'I must remember. Where did you come from?'
Uncle Eb told him, briefly, the story of our going west
'Guess you'd never do me no harm—would ye?' the man asked. 'Not
a bit,' Uncle Eb answered.
Then he bade us goodbye, crossed the creaking floor and went away
in the darkness.
'Sing'lar character!' Uncle Eb muttered.
I was getting drowsy and that was the last I heard. In the morning
we found a small pail of milk sitting near us, a roasted partridge,
two fried fish and some boiled potatoes. It was more than enough to
carry us through the day with a fair allowance for Fred. Uncle Eb was
a bit better but very lame at that and kept to his bed the greater
part of the day. The time went slow with me I remember. Uncle Eb was
not cheerful and told me but one story and that had no life in it. At
dusk he let me go out in the road to play awhile with Fred and the
wagon, but came to the door and called us in shortly. I went to bed in
a rather unhappy flame of mind. The dog roused me by barking in the
middle of the right and I heard again the familiar whisper of the
'Sh-h-h! be still, dog,' he whispered; but I was up to my ears in
sleep and went under shortly, so I have no knowledge of what passed
that night. Uncle Eb tells in his diary that he had a talk with him
lasting more than an hour, but goes no further and never seemed
willing to talk much about that interview or others that followed it.
I only know the man had brought more milk and fish and fowl for
us. We stayed another day in the old house, that went like the last,
and the night man came again to see Uncle Eb. The next morning my
companion was able to walk more freely, but Fred and I had to stop and
wait for him very often going down the big hill. I was mighty glad
when we were leaving the musty old house for good and had the dog
hitched with all our traps in the wagon. It was a bright morning and
the sunlight glimmered on the dew in the broad valley. The men were
just coming from breakfast when we turned in at David Brower's. A
barefooted little girl a bit older than I, with red cheeks and blue
eyes and long curly hair, that shone like gold in the sunlight, came
running out to meet us and led me up to the doorstep, highly amused at
the sight of Fred and the wagon. I regarded her with curiosity and
suspicion at first, while Uncle Eb was talking with the men. I shall
never forget that moment when David Brower came and lifted me by the
shoulders, high above his head, and shook me as if to test my mettle.
He led me into the house then where his wife was working.
'What do you think of this small bit of a boy?' he asked.
She had already knelt on the floor and put her arms about my neck
and kissed me.
'Am' no home,' said he. 'Come all the way from Vermont with an ol'
man. They're worn out both uv 'em. Guess we'd better take 'em in
'O yes, mother—please, mother,' put in the little girl who was
holding my hand. 'He can sleep with me, mother. Please let him stay.'
She knelt beside me and put her arms around my little shoulders
and drew me to her breast and spoke to me very tenderly.
'Please let him stay,' the girl pleaded again.
'David,' said the woman, 'I couldn't turn the little thing away.
Won't ye hand me those cookies.'
And so our life began in Paradise Valley. Ten minutes later I was
playing my first game of 'I spy' with little Hope Brower, among the
fragrant stooks of wheat in the field back of the garden.
The lone pine stood in Brower's pasture, just clear of the woods.
When the sun rose, one could see its taper shadow stretching away to
the foot of Woody Ledge, and at sunset it lay like a fallen mast
athwart the cow-paths, its long top arm a flying pennant on the side
of Bowman's Hill. In summer this bar of shadow moved like a clock-hand
on the green dial of the pasture, and the help could tell the time by
the slant of it. Lone Pine had a mighty girth at the bottom, and its
bare body tapered into the sky as straight as an arrow. Uncle Eb used
to say that its one long, naked branch that swung and creaked near the
top of it, like a sign of hospitality on the highway of the birds, was
two hundred feet above ground. There were a few stubs here and there
upon its shaft—the roost of crows and owls and hen-hawks. It must
have passed for a low resort in the feathered kingdom because it was
only the robbers of the sky that halted on Lone Pine.
This towering shaft of dead timber commemorated the ancient forest
through which the northern Yankees cut their trails in the beginning
of the century. They were a tall, big fisted, brawny lot of men who
came across the Adirondacks from Vermont, and began to break the green
canopy that for ages had covered the valley of the St Lawrence.
Generally they drove a cow with them, and such game as they could kill
on the journey supplemented their diet of 'pudding and milk'. Some
settled where the wagon broke or where they had buried a member of the
family, and there they cleared the forests that once covered the
smooth acres of today. Gradually the rough surface of the trail grew
smoother until it became Paradise Road—the well-worn thoroughfare of
the stagecoach with its 'inns and outs', as the drivers used to say—
the inns where the 'men folks' sat in the firelight of the blating
logs after supper and told tales of adventure until bedtime, while the
women sat with their knitting in the parlour, and the young men
wrestled in the stableyard. The men of middle age had stooped and
massive shoulders, and deep-furrowed brows: Tell one of them he was
growing old and he might answer you by holding his whip in front of
him and leaping over it between his hands.
There was a little clearing around that big pine tree when David
Brower settled in the valley. Its shadows shifting in the light of sun
and moon, like the arm of a compass, swept the spreading acres of his
farm, and he built his house some forty rods from the foot of it on
higher ground. David was the oldest of thirteen children. His father
had died the year before he came to St Lawrence county, leaving him
nothing but heavy responsibilities. Fortunately, his great strength
and his kindly nature were equal to the burden. Mother and children
were landed safely in their new home on Bowman's Hill the day that
David was eighteen. I have heard the old folks of that country tell
what a splendid figure of a man he was those days—six feet one in
his stockings and broad at the shoulder. His eyes were grey and set
under heavy brows. I have never forgotten the big man that laid hold
of me and the broad clean-shaven serious face, that looked into mine
the day I came to Paradise Valley. As I write I can see plainly his
dimpled chin, his large nose, his firm mouth that was the key to his
character. 'Open or shet,' I have heard the old folks say, 'it showed
he was no fool.'
After two years David took a wife and settled in Paradise Valley.
He prospered in a small way considered handsome thereabouts. In a few
years he had cleared the rich acres of his farm to the sugar bush that
was the north vestibule of the big forest; he had seen the clearing
widen until he could discern the bare summits of the distant hills,
and, far as he could see, were the neat white houses of the settlers.
Children had come, three of them—the eldest a son who had left home
and died in a far country long before we came to Paradise Valley—the
youngest a baby.
I could not have enjoyed my new home more if I had been born in
it. I had much need of a mother's tenderness, no doubt, for I
remember with what a sense of peace and comfort I lay on the lap of
Elizabeth Brower, that first evening, and heard her singing as she
rocked. The little daughter stood at her knees, looking down at me and
patting my bare toes or reaching over to feel my face.
'God sent him to us—didn't he, mother?' said she.
'Maybe,' Mrs Brower answered, 'we'll be good to him, anyway.'
Then that old query came into my mind. I asked them if it was
heaven where we were.
'No,' they answered.
''Tain't anywhere near here, is it?' I went on.
Then she told me about the gate of death, and began sowing in me
the seed of God's truth—as I know now the seed of many harvests. I
slept with Uncle Eb in the garret, that night, and for long after we
came to the Brower's. He continued to get better, and was shortly
able to give his hand to the work of the farm.
There was room for all of us in that ample wilderness of his
imagination, and the cry of the swift woke its echoes every evening
for a time. Bears and panthers prowled in the deep thickets, but the
swifts took a firmer grip on us, being bolder and more terrible. Uncle
Eb became a great favourite in the family, and David Brower came to
know soon that he was 'a good man to work' and could be trusted 'to
look after things'. We had not been there long when I heard Elizabeth
speak of Nehemiah—her lost son—and his name was often on the lips
of others. He was a boy of sixteen when he went away, and I learned no
more of him until long afterwards.
A month or more after we came to Faraway, I remember we went
'cross lots in a big box wagon to the orchard on the hill and
gathered apples that fell in a shower when Uncle Eb went up to shake
them down. Then cane the raw days of late October, when the crows went
flying southward before the wind—a noisy pirate fleet that filled
the sky at times—and when we all put on our mittens and went down
the winding cow-paths to the grove of butternuts in the pasture. The
great roof of the wilderness had turned red and faded into yellow.
Soon its rafters began to show through, and then, in a day or two,
they were all bare but for some patches of evergreen. Great, golden
drifts of foliage lay higher than a man's head in the timber land
about the clearing. We had our best fun then, playing 'I spy' in the
In that fragrant deep of leaves one might lie undiscovered a long
time. He could hear roaring like that of water at every move of the
finder, wallowing nearer and nearer possibly, in his search. Old Fred
came generally rooting his way to us in the deep drift with unerring
And shortly winter came out of the north and, of a night, after
rapping at the windows and howling in the chimney and roaring in the
big woods, took possession of the earth. That was a time when hard
cider flowed freely and recollection found a ready tongue among the
older folk, and the young enjoyed many diversions, including measles
and whooping cough.
I had a lot of fun that first winter, but none that I can remember
more gratefully than our trip in the sledgehouse—a tight little
house fitted and fastened to a big sledge. Uncle Eb had to go to mill
at Hillsborough, some twelve miles away, and Hope and I, after much
coaxing and many family counsels, got leave to go with him. The sky
was cloudless, and the frosty air was all aglow in the sunlight that
morning we started. There was a little sheet iron stove in one comer
of the sledgehouse, walled in with zinc and anchored with wires; a
layer of hay covered the floor and over that we spread our furs and
blankets. The house had an open front, and Uncle Eb sat on the
doorstep, as it were, to drive, while we sat behind him on the
'I love you very much,' said Hope, embracing me, after we were
seated. Her affection embarrassed me, I remember. It seemed unmanly
to be petted like a doll.
'I hate to be kissed,' I said, pulling away from her, at which
Uncle Eb laughed heartily.
The day came when I would have given half my life for the words I
held so cheaply then.
'You'd better be good t' me,' she answered, 'for when mother dies
I'm goin' t' take care o' you. Uncle Eb and Gran'ma Bisnette an' you
an' everybody I love is goin' t' come an' live with me in a big, big
house. An' I'm goin' t' put you t' bed nights an' hear ye say yer
prayers an everything.'
'Who'll do the spankin?' Uncle Eb asked.
'My husban',' she answered, with a sigh at the thought of all the
trouble that lay before her.
'An' I'll make him rub your back, too, Uncle Eb,' she added.
'Wall, I rather guess he'll object to that,' said he.
'Then you can give 'ins five cents, an' I guess he'll be glad t' do
it,' she answered promptly.
'Poor man! He won't know whether he's runnin' a poorhouse er a
hospital, will he?' said Uncle Eb. 'Look here, children,' he added,
taking out his old leather wallet, as he held the reins between his
knees. 'Here's tew shillin' apiece for ye, an' I want ye t' spend it
jest eggsackly as ye please.' The last words were spoken slowly and
We took the two silver pieces that he handed to us and looked them
all over and compared them.
'I know what I'll do,' said she, suddenly. 'I'm goin' t' buy my
mother a new dress, or mebbe a beautiful ring,' she added
For my own part I did not know what I should buy. I wanted a real
gun most of all and my inclination oscillated between that and a red
rocking horse. My mind was very busy while I sat in silence. Presently
I rose and went to Uncle Eb and whispered in his ear.
'Do you think I could get a real rifle with two shilin'?' I
'No,' he answered in a low tone that seemed to respect my
confidence. 'Bime by, when you're older, I'll buy ye a rifle—a real
rip snorter, too, with a shiny barrel 'n a silver lock. When ye get
down t, the village ye'll see lots o' things y'd rather hev, prob'ly.
If I was you, children,' he added, in a louder tone, 'I wouldn't buy a
thing but nuts 'n' raisins.'
'Nuts 'n' raisins!' Hope exclaimed, scornfully.
'Nuts 'n' raisins,' he repeated. 'They're cheap 'n' satisfyin'. If
ye eat enough uv 'em you'll never want anything else in this world.'
I failed to see the irony in Uncle Eb's remark and the suggestion
seemed to have a good deal of merit, the more I thought it over.
''T any rate,' said Uncle Eb, 'I'd git somethin' fer my own
'Well,' said Hope, 'You tell us a lot o' things we could buy.'
'Less see!' said Uncle Eb, looking very serious. 'There's bootjacks
an' there's warmin' pans 'n' mustard plasters 'n' liver pads 'n' all
them kind o' things.'
We both shook our heads very doubtfully.
'Then,' he added, 'there are jimmyjacks 'n' silver no nuthin's.'
There were many other suggestions but none of them were decisive.
The snow lay deep on either side of the way and there was a
glimmer on every white hillside where Jack Frost had sown his
diamonds. Here and there a fox track crossed the smooth level of the
valley and dwindled on the distant hills like a seam in a great white
robe. It grew warmer as the sun rose, and we were a jolly company
behind the merry jingle of the sleigh bells. We had had a long spell
of quiet weather and the road lay in two furrows worn as smooth as ice
at the bottom.
'Consarn it!' said Uncle Eb looking up at the sky, after we had
been on the road an hour or so. 'There's a sun dog. Wouldn't wonder if
we got a snowstorm' fore night.
I was running behind the sledge and standing on the brake hooks
going downhill. He made me get in when he saw the sun dog, and let
our horse—a rat-tailed bay known as Old Doctor—go at a merry pace.
We were awed to silence when we came in sight of Hillsborough,
with spires looming far into the sky, as it seemed to me then, and
buildings that bullied me with their big bulk, so that I had no heart
for the spending of the two shillings Uncle Eb had given me. Such
sublimity of proportion I have never seen since; and yet it was all
very small indeed. The stores had a smell about them that was like
chloroform in its effect upon me; for, once in them, I fell into a
kind of trance and had scarce sense enough to know my own mind. The
smart clerks, who generally came and asked, 'Well, young man, what can
I do for you?' I regarded with fear and suspicion. I clung the tighter
to my coin always, and said nothing, although I saw many a trinket
whose glitter went to my soul with a mighty fascination. We both stood
staring silently at the show cases, our tongues helpless with awe and
wonder. Finally, after a whispered conference, Hope asked for a
'silver no nothing', and provoked so much laughter that we both fled
to the sidewalk. Uncle Eb had to do our buying for us in the end.
'Wall, what'll ye hev?' he said to me at length.
I tried to think-it was no easy thing to do after all I had seen.
'Guess I'll take a jacknife,' I whispered.
'Give this boy a knife,' he demanded. 'Wants t' be good 'n sharp.
Might hev t' skin a swift with it sometime.'
'What ye want?' he asked, then turning to Hope.
'A doll,' she whispered.
'White or black?' said he.
'White,' said she, 'with dark eyes and hair.'
'Want a reel, splendid, firs'-class doll,' he said to the clerk.
'Thet one'll do, there, with the sky-blue dress 'n the pink apron.'
We were worn out with excitement when we left for home under
lowering skies. We children lay side by side under the robes, the
doll between us, and were soon asleep. It was growing dark when Uncle
Eb woke us, and the snow was driving in at the doorway. The air was
full of snow, I remember, and Old Doctor was wading to his knees in a
drift. We were up in the hills and the wind whistled in our little
chimney. Uncle Eb had a serious look in his face. The snow grew deeper
and Old Doctor went slower every moment.
'Six mild from home,' Uncle Eb muttered, as he held up to rest a
moment. 'Six mild from home. 'Fraid we're in fer a night uv it.'
We got to the top of Fadden's Hill about dark, and the snow lay so
deep in the cut we all got out for fear the house would tip over. Old
Doctor floundered along a bit further until he went down in the drift
and lay between the shafts half buried. We had a shovel that always
hung beside a small hatchet in the sledgehouse—for one might need
much beside the grace of God of a winter's day in that country—and
with it Uncle Eb began to uncover the horse. We children stood in the
sledgehouse door watching him and holding the lantern. Old Doctor was
on his feet in a few minutes.
''Tain' no use tryin',' said Uncle Eb, as he began to unhitch.
'Can't go no further t'night'
Then he dug away the snow beside the sledgehouse, and hitched Old
Doctor to the horseshoe that was nailed to the rear end of it. That
done, he clambered up the side of the cut and took some rails off the
fence and shoved them over on the roof of the house, so that one end
rested there and the other on the high bank beside us. Then he cut a
lot of hemlock boughs with the hatchet, and thatched the roof he had
made over Old Doctor, binding them with the reins. Bringing more
rails, he leaned them to the others on the windward side and nailed a
big blanket over them, piecing it out with hemlock thatching, so it
made a fairly comfortable shelter. We were under the wind in this deep
cut on Fadden's Hill, and the snow piled in upon us rapidly. We had a
warm blanket for Old Doctor and two big buffalo robes for our own use.
We gave him a good feed of hay and oats, and then Uncle Eb cut up a
fence rail with our hatchet and built a roaring fire in the stove. We
had got a bit chilly wading in the snow, and the fire gave us a mighty
sense of comfort.
'I thought somethin' might happen,' said Uncle Eb, as he hung his
lantern to the ridge pole and took a big paper parcel out of his
great coat pocket. 'I thought mebbe somethin' might happen, an' so I
brought along a bite o' luncheon.'
He gave us dried herring and bread and butter and cheese.
''S a little dry,' he remarked, while we were eating, 'but it's
drier where there's none.'
We had a pail of snow on top of the little stove and plenty of good
drinking water for ourselves and the Old Doctor in a few minutes.
After supper Uncle Eb went up the side of the cut and brought back
a lot of hemlock boughs and spread them under Old Doctor for bedding.
Then we all sat around the stove on the warm robes and listened to
the wind howling above our little roof and the stories of Uncle Eb.
The hissing of the snow as it beat upon the sledgehouse grew fainter
by and by, and Uncle Eb said he guessed we were pretty well covered
up. We fell asleep soon. I remember he stopped in the middle of a wolf
story, and, seeing that our eyes were shut, pulled us back from the
fire a little and covered us with one of the robes. It had been a
mighty struggle between Sleep and Romance, and Sleep had won. I roused
myself and begged him to go on with the story, but he only said,
'Hush, boy; it's bedtime,' and turned up the lantern and went out of
doors. I woke once or twice in the night and saw him putting wood on
the fire. He had put out the light. The gleam of the fire shone on his
face when he opened the stove door.
'Gittin' a leetle cool here, Uncle Eb,' he was saying to himself.
We were up at daylight, and even then it was snowing and blowing
fiercely. There were two feet of snow on the sledgehouse roof, and we
were nearly buried in the bank. Uncle Eb had to do a lot of shoveling
to get out of doors and into the stable. Old Doctor was quite out of
the wind in a cave of snow and nickering for his breakfast. There was
plenty for him, but we were on short rations. Uncle Eb put on the snow
shoes, after we had eaten what there was left, and, cautioning us to
keep in, set out for Fadden's across lots. He came back inside of an
hour with a good supply of provisions in a basket on his shoulder. The
wind had gone down and the air was milder. Big flakes of snow came
fluttering slowly downward out of a dark sky. After dinner we went up
on top of the sledgehouse and saw a big scraper coming in the valley
below. Six teams of oxen were drawing it, and we could see the flying
furrows on either side of the scraper as it ploughed in the deep
drifts. Uncle Eb put on the snow shoes again, and, with Hope on his
back and me clinging to his hand, he went down to meet them and to
tell of our plight. The front team had wallowed to their ears, and the
men were digging them out with shovels when we got to the scraper. A
score of men and boys clung to the sides of that big, hollow wedge,
and put their weight on it as the oxen pulled. We got on with the
others, I remember, and I was swept off as soon as the scraper started
by a roaring avalanche of snow that came down upon our heads and
buried me completely. I was up again and had a fresh hold in a jiffy,
and clung to my place until I was nearly smothered by the flying snow.
It was great fun for me, and they were all shouting and hallooing as
if it were a fine holiday. They made slow progress, however, and we
left them shortly on their promise to try to reach us before night. If
they failed to get through, one of them said he would drive over to
Paradise Valley, if possible, and tell the Browers we were all right
On our return, Uncle Eb began shoveling a tunnel in the cut. When
we got through to the open late in the afternoon we saw the scraper
party going back with their teams.
'Guess they've gi'n up fer t'day,' said he. 'Snow's powerful deep
down there below the bridge. Mebbe we can get 'round to where the
road's clear by goin' 'cross lots. I've a good mind t' try it.'
Then he went over in the field and picked a winding way down the
hill toward the river, while we children stood watching him. He came
back soon and took down a bit of the fence and harnessed Old Doctor
and hitched him to the sledgehouse. The tunnel was just wide enough to
let us through with a tight pinch here and there. The footing was
rather soft' and the horse had hard pulling. We went in the field,
struggling on afoot—we little people—while Uncle Eb led the horse.
He had to stop frequently to tunnel through a snowdrift, and at dusk
we had only got half-way to the bridge from our cave in the cat. Of a
sudden Old Doctor went up to his neck in a wall of deep snow that
seemed to cut us off completely. He struggled a moment, falling on his
side and wrenching the shafts from the runners. Uncle Eb went to work
vigorously with his shovel and had soon cut a narrow box stall in the
deep snow around Old Doctor. Just beyond the hill dipped sharply and
down the slope we could see the stubble sticking through the shallow
snow. 'We'll hev t' stop right where we are until mornin',' he said.
'It's mos' dark now.
Our little house stood tilting forward about half-way down the
hill, its runners buried in the snow. A few hundred yards below was a
cliff where the shore fell to the river some thirty feet It had
stopped snowing, and the air had grown warmer, but the sky was dark
We put nearly all the hay in the sledgehouse under Old Doctor and gave
him the last of the oats and a warm cover of blankets. Then Uncle Eb
went away to the fence for more wood, while we spread the supper. He
was very tired, I remember, and we all turned in for the night a short
time after we had eaten. The little stove was roaring like a furnace
when we spread our blankets on the sloping floor and lay down, our
feet to the front, and drew the warm robes over us. Uncle Eb, who had
had no sleep the night before, began to snore heavily before we
children had stopped whispering. He was still snoring, and Hope sound
asleep, when I woke in the night and heard the rain falling on our
little roof and felt the warm breath of the south wind. The water
dripping from the eaves and falling far and near upon the yielding
snow had many voices. I was half-asleep when I heard a new noise under
the sledge. Something struck the front corner of the sledgehouse—a
heavy, muffled blow—and brushed the noisy boards. Then I heard the
timbers creak and felt the runners leaping over the soft snow. I
remember it was like a dream of falling. I raised myself and stared
about me. We were slipping down the steep floor. The lantern, burning
dimly under the roof, swung and rattled. Uncle Eb was up on his elbow
staring wildly. I could feel the jar and rush of the runners and the
rain that seemed to roar as it dashed into my face. Then, suddenly,
the sledgehouse gave a great leap into the air and the grating of the
runners ceased. The lantern went hard against the roof; there was a
mighty roar in my ears; then we heard a noise like thunder and felt
the shock of a blow that set my back aching, and cracked the roof
above our heads. It was all still for a second; then we children began
to cry, and Uncle Eb staggered to his feet and lit the lantern that
had gone out and that had no globe, I remember, as he held it down to
'Hush! Are you hurt?' he said, as he knelt before us. 'Git up now,
see if ye can stand.'
We got to our feet, neither of us much the worse for what had
happened—My knuckles were cut a bit by a splinter, and Hope had been
hit on the shins by the lantern globe as it fell.
'By the Lord Harry!' said Uncle Eb, when he saw we were not hurt.
'Wonder what hit us.'
We followed him outside while he was speaking.
'We've slid downhill,' he said. 'Went over the cliff Went kerplunk
in the deep snow, er there'd have been nuthin' left uv us. Snow's
meltin' jest as if it was July.'
Uncle Eb helped us into our heavy coats, and then with a blanket
over his arm led us into the wet snow. We came out upon clear ice in
a moment and picked our way along the lowering shore. At length Uncle
Eb clambered up, pulling us up after him, one by one. Then he whistled
to Old Doctor, who whinnied a quick reply. He left us standing
together, the blanket over our heads, and went away in the dark
whistling as he had done before. We could hear Old Doctor answer as he
came near, and presently Uncle Eb returned leading the horse by the
halter. Then he put us both on Old Doctor's back, threw the blanket
over our heads, and started slowly for the road. We clung to each
other as the horse staggered in the soft snow, and kept our places
with some aid from Uncle Eb. We crossed the fence presently, and then
for a way it was hard going. We found fair footing after we had passed
the big scraper, and, coming to a house a mile or so down the road
called them out of bed. It was growing light and they made us
comfortable around a big stove, and gave us breakfast. The good man of
the house took us home in a big sleigh after the chores were done. We
met David Brower coming after us, and if we'd been gone a year we
couldn't have received a warmer welcome.
Of all that long season of snow, I remember most pleasantly the
days that were sweetened with the sugar-making. When the sun was
lifting his course in the clearing sky, and March had got the temper
of the lamb, and the frozen pulses of the forest had begun to stir,
the great kettle was mounted in the yard and all gave a hand to the
washing of spouts and buckets. Then came tapping time, in which I
helped carry the buckets and tasted the sweet flow that followed the
auger's wound. The woods were merry with our shouts, and, shortly, one
could hear the heart-beat of the maples in the sounding bucket. It was
the reveille of spring. Towering trees shook down the gathered storms
of snow and felt for the sunlight. The arch and shanty were repaired,
the great iron kettle was scoured and lifted to its place, and then
came the boiling. It was a great, an inestimable privilege to sit on
the robes of faded fur, in the shanty, and hear the fire roaring under
the kettle and smell the sweet odour of the boiling sap. Uncle Eb
minded the shanty and the fire and the woods rang with his merry
songs. When I think of that phase of the sugaring, lam face to face
with one of the greatest perils of my life. My foster father had
consented to let me spend a night with Uncle Eb in the shanty, and I
was to sleep on the robes, where he would be beside me when he was not
tending the fire. It had been a mild, bright day, and David came up
with our supper at sunset. He sat talking with Uncle Eb for an hour or
so, and the woods were darkling when he went away.
When he started on the dark trail that led to the clearing, I
wondered at his courage—it was so black beyond the firelight. While
we sat alone I plead for a story, but the thoughts of Uncle Eb had
gone to roost early in a sort of gloomy meditation.
'Be still, my boy,' said he, 'an' go t' sleep. I ain't agoin' t'
tell no yams an, git ye all stirred up. Ye go t' sleep. Come mornin'
we'll go down t' the brook an' see if we can't find a mink or tew 'n
I remember hearing a great crackling of twigs in the dark wood
before I slept. As I lifted my head, Uncle Eb whispered, 'Hark!' and
we both listened. A bent and aged figure came stalking into the
firelight His long white hair mingled with his beard and covered his
coat collar behind.
'Don't be scairt,' said Uncle Eb. ''Tain' no bear. It's nuthin' but
I knew him for a man who wandered much and had a rhyme for
everyone—a kindly man with a reputation for laziness and without
'Bilin', eh?' said the poet
'Bilin',' said Uncle Eb.
'I'm bilin' over 'n the next bush,' said the poet, sitting down.
'How's everything in Jingleville?' Uncle Eb enquired.
Then the newcomer answered:
'Well, neighbour dear, in Jingleville We live by faith but we eat
our fill; An' what w'u'd we do if it wa'n't fer prayer? Fer we can't
raise a thing but whiskers an' hair.'
'Cur'us how you can'talk po'try,' said Uncle Eb. 'The only thing
I've got agin you is them whiskers an' thet hair. 'Tain't Christian.'
''Tain't what's on the head, but what's in it—thet's the
important thing,' said the poet. 'Did I ever tell ye what I wrote
about the birds?'
'Don' know's ye ever did,' said Uncle Eb, stirring his fire.
'The boy'll like it, mebbe,' said he, taking a dirty piece of paper
out of his pocket and holding it to the light.
The poem interested me, young as I was, not less than the strange
figure of the old poet who lived unknown in the backwoods, and who
died, I dare say, with many a finer song in his heart. I remember how
he stood in the firelight and chanted the words in a sing-song tone.
He gave us that rude copy of the poem, and here it is:
THE ROBIN'S WEDDING
Young robin red breast hed a beautiful nest an' he says to his love
says he: It's ready now on a rocking bough In the top of a maple
tree. I've lined it with down an' the velvet brown on the waist of a
They were married next day, in the land o' the hay, the lady bird
an' he. The bobolink came an' the wife o' the same An' the lark an'
the fiddle de dee. An' the crow came down in a minister gown—there
was nothing that he didn't see.
He fluttered his wing as they ast him to sing an' he tried fer t'
clear out his throat; He hemmed an' he hawed an' be hawked an' he
cawed But he couldn't deliver a note. The swallow was there an' he
ushered each pair with his linsey an' claw hammer coat.
The bobolink tried fer t' flirt with the bride in a way thet was
sassy an' bold. An' the notes that he took as he shivered an' shook
Hed a sound like the jingle of gold. He sat on a briar an' laughed at
the choir an' said thet the music was old.
The sexton he came—Mr Spider by name—a citizen hairy and grey.
His rope in a steeple, he called the good people That live in the
land o' the hay. The ants an' the squgs an' the crickets an' bugs—
came out in a mighty array.
Some came down from Barleytown an' the neighbouring city o' Rye.
An' the little black people they climbed every steeple An' sat
looking up at the sky. They came fer t' see what a wedding might be
an' they furnished the cake an, the pie.
I remember he turned to me when he had finished and took one of my
small hands and held it in his hard palm and looked at it and then
into my face.
'Ah, boy!' he said, 'your way shall lead you far from here, and you
shall get learning and wealth and win —victories.'
'What nonsense are you talking, Jed Ferry?' said Uncle Eb.
'O, you all think I'm a fool an' a humbug, 'cos I look it. Why,
Eben Holden, if you was what ye looked, ye'd be in the presidential
chair. Folks here 'n the valley think o' nuthin' but hard work—most
uv 'em, an' I tell ye now this boy ain't a goin' t' be wuth putty on a
farm. Look a' them slender hands.
'There was a man come to me the other day an' wanted t' hev a poem
'bout his wife that hed jes' died. I ast him t' tell me all 'bout her.
'"Wall," said he, after he had scratched his head an' thought a
minute, "she was a dretful good woman t' work."
'"Anything else?" I asked.
'He thought agin fer a minute.
'"Broke her leg once," he said, "an' was laid up fer more'n a
"Must o' suffered," said I.
'"Not then," he answered. "Ruther enjoyed it layin' abed an'
readin' an' bein' rubbed, but 'twas hard on the children."
'"S'pose ye loved her," I said.
'Then the tears come into his eyes an' he couldn't speak fer a
minute. Putty soon he whispered "Yes" kind o' confidential. 'Course
he loved her, but these Yankees are ashamed o' their feelin's. They
hev tender thoughts, but they hide 'em as careful as the wild goose
hides her eggs. I wrote a poem t' please him, an' goin' home I made up
one fer myself, an 'it run 'bout like this:
O give me more than a life, I beg, That finds real joy in a broken
leg. Whose only thought is t' work an' save An' whose only rest is in
the grave. Saving an' scrimping from day to day While its best it has
squandered an' flung away Fer a life like that of which I tell Would
rob me quite o' the dread o' hell.
'Toil an' slave an' scrimp an' save—thet's 'bout all we think uv
'n this country. 'Tain't right, Holden.'
'No, 'tain't right,' said Uncle Eb.
'I know I'm a poor, mis'rable critter. Kind o' out o' tune with
everybody I know. Alwus quarrelled with my own folks, an' now I ain't
got any home. Someday I'm goin' t' die in the poorhouse er on the
ground under these woods. But I tell ye'—here he spoke in a voice
that grew loud with feeling—'mebbe I've been lazy, as they say, but
I've got more out o' my life than any o' these fools. And someday
God'll honour me far above them. When my wife an' I parted I wrote
some lines that say well my meaning. It was only a log house we had,
but this will show what I got out of it.' Then he spoke the lines, his
voice trembling with emotion.
'O humble home! Thou hadst a secret door Thro' which I looked,
betimes, with wondering eye On treasures that no palace ever wore But
In hallowed scenes what feet have trod thy stage! The babe, the
maiden, leaving home to wed The young man going forth by duty led And
Thou hadst a magic window broad and high The light and glory of
the morning shone Thro' it, however dark the day had grown, Or bleak
'I know Dave Brower's folks hev got brains an' decency, but when
thet boy is old enough t' take care uv himself, let him git out o'
this country. I tell ye he'll never make a farmer, an' if he marries
an, settles down here he'll git t' be a poet, mebbe, er some such
shif'less cuss, an' die in the poorhouse. Guess I better git back t'
my bilin' now. Good-night,' he added, rising and buttoning his old
coat as he walked away.
'Sing'lar man!' Uncle Eli exclaimed, thoughtfully, 'but anyone thet
picks him up fer a fool'll find him a counterfeit.'
Young as I was, the rugged, elemental power of the old poet had
somehow got to my heart and stirred my imagination. It all came not
fully to my understanding until later. Little by little it grew upon
me, and what an effect it had upon my thought and life ever after I
should not dare to estimate. And soon I sought out the 'poet of the
hills,' as they called him, and got to know and even to respect him in
spite of his unlovely aspect.
Uncle Eb skimmed the boiling sap, put more wood on the fire and
came and pulled off his boots and lay down beside me under the robe.
And, hearing the boil of the sap and the crackle of the burning logs
in the arch, I soon went asleep.
I remember feeling Uncle Eb's hand upon my cheek, and how I rose
and stared about me in the fading shadows of a dream as he shook me
'Wake up, my boy,' said he. 'Come, we mus' put fer home.'
The fire was out. The old man held a lantern as he stood before
me, the blaze flickering. There was a fearsome darkness all around.
'Come, Willy, make haste,' he whispered, as I rubbed my eyes. 'Put
on yer boots, an' here's yer little coat 'n' muffler.'
There was a mighty roar in the forest and icy puffs of snow came
whistling in upon as. We stored the robes and pails and buckets and
covered the big kettle.
The lofty tree-tops reeled and creaked above us, and a deep,
sonorous moan was sweeping through the woods, as if the fingers of
the wind had touched a mighty harp string in the timber. We could hear
the crash and thunder of falling trees.
'Make haste! Make haste! It's resky here,' said Uncle Eb, and he
held my hand and ran. We started through the brush and steered as
straight as we could for the clearing. The little box of light he
carried was soon sheathed in snow, and I remember how he stopped,
half out of breath, often, and brushed it with his mittens to let out
the light. We had made the scattering growth of little timber at the
edge of the woods when the globe of the lantern snapped and fell. A
moment later we stood in utter darkness. I knew, for the first time,
then that we were in a bad fix.
'I guess God'll take care of us, Willy,' said Uncle Eb. 'If he
don't, we'll never get there in this world never!'
It was a black and icy wall of night and storm on every side of us.
I never saw a time when the light of God's heaven was so utterly
extinguished; the cold never went to my bone as on that bitter night.
My hands and feet were numb with aching, as the roar of the trees grew
fainter in the open. I remember how I lagged, and how the old man
urged me on, and how we toiled in the wind and darkness, straining our
eyes for some familiar thing. Of a sudden we stumbled upon a wall that
we had passed an hour or so before.
'Oh!' he groaned, and made that funny, deprecating cluck with his
tongue, that I have heard so much from Yankee lips.
'God o' mercy!' said he, 'we've gone 'round in a half-circle. Now
we'll take the wall an' mebbe it'll bring us home.'
I thought I couldn't keep my feet any longer, for an irresistible
drowsiness had come over me. The voice of Uncle Eb seemed far away,
and when I sank in the snow and shut my eyes to sleep he shook me as a
terrier shakes a rat.
'Wake up, my boy,' said he, 'ye musn't sleep.'
Then he boxed my ears until I cried, and picked me up and ran with
me along the side of the wall. I was but dimly conscious when he
dropped me under a tree whose bare twigs lashed the air and stung my
cheeks. I heard him tearing the branches savagely and muttering,
'Thanks to God, it's the blue beech.' I shall never forget how he
turned and held to my hand and put the whip on me as I lay in the
snow, and how the sting of it started my blood. Up I sprang in a jiffy
and howled and danced. The stout rod bent and circled on me like a
hoop of fire. Then I turned and tried to run while he clung to my coat
tails, and every step I felt the stinging grab of the beech. There is
a little seam across my cheek today that marks a footfall of one of
those whips. In a moment I was as wide awake as Uncle Eb and needed no
The wall led us to the pasture lane, and there it was easy enough
to make our way to the barnyard and up to the door of the house,
which had a candle in every window, I remember. David was up and
dressed to come after us, and I recall how he took Uncle Eb in his
arms, when he fell fainting on the doorstep, and carried him to the
lounge. I saw the blood on my face as I passed the mirror, and
Elizabeth Brower came running and gave me one glance and rushed out
of doors with the dipper. It was full of snow when she ran in and tore
the wrappings off my neck and began to rub my ears and cheeks with the
cold snow, calling loudly for Grandma Bisnette. She came in a moment
and helped at the stripping of our feet and legs. I remember that she
slit my trousers with the shears as I lay on the floor, while the
others rubbed my feet with the snow. Our hands and ears were badly
frosted, but in an hour the whiteness had gone out of them and the
returning blood burnt like a fire.
'How queer he stares!' I heard them say when Uncle Eb first came
to, and in a moment a roar of laughter broke from him.
'I'll never fergit,' said he presently, 'if I live a thousan'
years, the lickin' I gin thet boy; but it hurt me worse'n it hurt
Then he told the story of the blue beech.
The next day was that 'cold Friday' long remembered by those who
felt its deadly chill—a day when water thrown in the magic air came
down in clinking crystals, and sheaths of frost lay thick upon the
windows. But that and the one before it were among the few days in
that early period that lie, like a rock, under my character.
Grandma Bisnette came from Canada to work for the Browers. She was
a big, cheerful woman, with a dialect, an amiable disposition and a
swarthy, wrinkled face. She had a loose front tooth that occupied all
the leisure of her tongue. When she sat at her knitting this big tooth
clicked incessantly. On every stitch her tongue went in and out across
it' and I, standing often by her knees, regarded the process with
The reader may gather much from these frank and informing words of
Grandma Bisnette. 'When I los' my man, Mon Dieu! I have two son. An'
when I come across I bring him with me. Abe he rough; but den he no
Abe was the butcher of the neighbourhood—that red-handed,
stony-hearted, necessary man whom the Yankee farmer in that north
country hires to do the cruel things that have to be done. He wore
ragged, dirty clothes and had a voice like a steam whistle. His rough,
black hair fell low and mingled with his scanty beard. His hands were
stained too often with the blood of some creature we loved. I always
crept under the bed in Mrs Brower's room when Abe came—he was such a
terror to me with his bloody work and noisy oaths. Such men were the
curse of the cleanly homes in that country. There was much to shock
the ears and eyes of children in the life of the farm. It was a
fashion among the help to decorate their speech with profanity for the
mere sound of it' and the foul mouthings of low-minded men spread like
a pestilence in the fields.
Abe came always with an old bay horse and a rickety buckboard. His
one foot on the dash, as he rode, gave the picture a dare-devil
finish. The lash of his bull-whip sang around him, and his great
voice sent its blasts of noise ahead. When we heard a fearful yell
and rumble in the distance, we knew Abe was coming.
'Abe he come,' said Grandma Bisnette. 'Mon Dieu! he make de leetle
It was like the coming of a locomotive with roar of wheel and
whistle. In my childhood, as soon as I saw the cloud of dust, I put
for the bed and from its friendly cover would peek out' often, but
never venture far until the man of blood had gone.
To us children he was a marvel of wickedness. There were those who
told how he had stood in the storm one night and dared the Almighty to
send the lightning upon him.
The dog Fred had grown so old and infirm that one day they sent
for Abe to come and put an end to his misery. Every man on the farm
loved the old dog and not one of them would raise a hand to kill him.
Hope and I heard what Abe was coming to do, and when the men had gone
to the fields, that summer morning, we lifted Fred into the little
wagon m which he had once drawn me and starting back of the barn stole
away with him through the deep grass of the meadow until we came out
upon the highroad far below. We had planned to take him to school and
make him a nest in the woodshed where he could share our luncheon and
be out of the way of peril. After a good deal of difficulty and heavy
pulling we got to the road at last. The old dog, now blind and
helpless, sat contentedly in the wagon while its wheels creaked and
groaned beneath him. We had gone but a short way in the road when we
heard the red bridge roar under rushing wheels and the familiar yell
'We'd better run,' said Hope, ' 'er we'll git swore at.'
I looked about me in a panic for some place to hide the party, but
Abe was coming fast and there was only time to pick up clubs and
stand our ground.
'Here!' the man shouted as he pulled up along side of us, 'where ye
goin' with that dog?'
'Go 'way,' I answered, between anger and tears, lifting my club in
a threatening manner.
He laughed then—a loud guffaw that rang in the near woods.
'What'll ye give me,' he asked leaning forward, his elbows on his
knees, 'What'll ye give me if I don't kill him?'
I thought a moment. Then I put my hand in my pocket and presently
took out my jack-knife—that treasure Uncle Eb had bought for me—
and looked at it fondly.
Then I offered it to him.
Again he laughed loudly.
'Anything else?' he demanded while Hope sat hugging the old dog
that was licking her hands.
'Got forty cents that I saved for the fair,' said I promptly.
Abe backed his horse and turned in the road.
'Wall boy,' he said, 'Tell 'em I've gone home.'
Then his great voice shouted, 'g'lang' the lash of his whip sang in
the air and off he went.
We were first to arrive at the schoolhouse, that morning, and when
the other children came we had Fred on a comfortable bed of grass in
a corner of the woodshed. What with all the worry of that day I said
my lessons poorly and went home with a load on my heart. Tomorrow
would be Saturday; how were we to get food and water to the dog? They
asked at home if we had seen old Fred and we both declared we had not
—the first lie that ever laid its burden on my conscience. We both
saved all our bread and butter and doughnuts next day, but we had so
many chores to do it was impossible to go to the schoolhouse with
them. So we agreed to steal away that night when all were asleep and
take the food from its hiding place.
In the excitement of the day neither of us had eaten much. They
thought we were ill and sent us to bed early. When Hope came into my
room above stairs late in the evening we were both desperately hungry.
We looked at our store of doughnuts and bread and butter under my bed.
We counted it over.
'Won't you try one o' the doughnuts,' I whispered hoping that she
would say yes so that I could try one also; for they did smell mighty
''Twouldn't be right" said she regretfully. 'There ain't any more
'n he'll want now.
''Twouldn't be right" I repeated with a sigh as I looked longingly
at one of the big doughnuts. 'Couldn't bear t' do it—could you?'
'Don't seem as if I could,' she whispered, thoughtfully, her chin
upon her hand.
Then she rose and went to the window.
'O my! how dark it is!' she whispered, looking out into the night.
'Purty dark!' I said, 'but you needn't be 'fraid. I'll take care o'
you. If we should meet a bear I'll growl right back at him—that's
what Uncle Eb tol' me t' do. I'm awful stout—most a man now! Can't
nuthin' scare me.'
We could hear them talking below stairs and we went back to bed,
intending to go forth later when the house was still. But'
unfortunately for our adventure I fell asleep.
It was morning when I opened my eyes again. We children looked
accusingly at each other while eating breakfast. Then we had to be
washed and dressed in our best clothes to go to meeting. When the
wagon was at the door and we were ready to start I had doughnuts and
bread and butter in every pocket of my coat and trousers. I got in
quickly and pulled the blanket over me so as to conceal the fullness
of my pockets. We arrived so late I had no chance to go to the dog
before we went into meeting. I was wearing boots that were too small
for me, and when I entered with the others and sat down upon one of
those straight backed seats of plain, unpainted pine my feet felt as
if I had been caught in a bear trap. There was always such a silence
in the room after the elder had sat down and adjusted his spectacles
that I could hear the ticking of the watch he carried in the pocket of
his broadcloth waistcoat. For my own part I know I looked with too
much longing for the good of my soul on the great gold chain that
spanned the broad convexity of his stomach. Presently I observed that
a couple of young women were looking at me and whispering. Then
suddenly I became aware that there were sundry protuberances on my
person caused by bread and butter and doughnuts, and I felt very
miserable indeed. Now and then as the elder spoke the loud, accusing
neigh of some horse, tethered to the fence in the schoolyard, mingled
with his thunder. After the good elder had been preaching an hour his
big, fat body seemed to swim in my tears. When he had finished the
choir sang. Their singing was a thing that appealed to the eye as well
as the ear. Uncle Eb used to say it was a great comfort to see Elkenah
Samson sing bass. His great mouth opened widely in this form of praise
and his eyes had a wild stare in them when he aimed at the low notes.
Ransom Walker, a man of great dignity, with a bristling moustache,
who had once been a schoolmaster, led the choir and carried the tenor
part. It was no small privilege after the elder had announced the
hymn, to see him rise and tap the desk with his tuning fork and hold
it to his ear solemnly. Then he would seem to press his chin full hard
upon his throat while he warbled a scale. Immediately, soprano, alto,
bass and tenor launched forth upon the sea of song. The parts were
like the treacherous and conflicting currents of a tide that tossed
them roughly and sometimes overturned their craft. And Ransom Walker
showed always a proper sense of danger and responsibility. Generally
they got to port safely on these brief excursions, though exhausted.
He had a way of beating time with his head while singing and I have no
doubt it was a great help to him.
The elder came over to me after meeting, having taken my tears for
a sign of conviction.
'May the Lord bless and comfort you, my boy!' said he.
I got away shortly and made for the door. Uncle Eb stopped me.
'My stars, Willie!' said he putting his hand on my upper coat
pocket' 'what ye got in there?'
'Doughnuts,' I answered.
'An' what's this?' he asked touching one of my side pockets.
'Doughnuts,' I repeated.
'An' this,' touching another.
'That's doughnuts too,' I said.
'An' this,' he continued going down to my trousers pocket.
'Bread an' butter,' I answered, shamefacedly, and on the verge of
'Jerusalem!' he exclaimed, 'must a 'spected a purty long sermon.
'Brought 'em fer ol' Fred,' I replied.
'Ol' Fred!' he whispered, 'where's he?'
I told my secret then and we both went out with Hope to where we
had left him. He lay with his head between his paws on the bed of
grass just as I had seen him lie many a time when his legs were weary
with travel on Paradise Road, and when his days were yet full of
pleasure. We called to him and Uncle Eb knelt and touched his head.
Then he lifted the dog's nose, looked a moment into the sightless eyes
and let it fall again.
'Fred's gone,' said he in a low tone as he turned away. 'Got there
ahead uv us, Willy.'
Hope and I sat down by the old dog and wept bitterly.
Uncle Eb was a born lover of fun. But he had a solemn way of
fishing that was no credit to a cheerful man. It was the same when he
played the bass viol, but that was also a kind of fishing at which he
tried his luck in a roaring torrent of sound. Both forms of
dissipation gave him a serious look and manner, that came near
severity. They brought on his face only the light of hope and
anticipation or the shadow of disappointment.
We had finished our stent early the day of which lam writing. When
we had dug our worms and were on our way to the brook with pole and
line a squint of elation had hold of Uncle Eb's face. Long wrinkles
deepened as he looked into the sky for a sign of the weather, and then
relaxed a bit as he turned his eyes upon the smooth sward. It was no
time for idle talk. We tiptoed over the leafy carpet of the woods.
Soon as I spoke he lifted his hand with a warning 'Sh—h!' The murmur
of the stream was in our ears. Kneeling on a mossy knoll we baited the
hooks; then Uncle Eb beckoned to me.
I came to him on tiptoe.
'See thet there foam 'long side o' the big log?' he whispered,
pointing with his finger.
'Cre-e-ep up jest as ca-a-areful as ye can,' he went on whispering.
'Drop in a leetle above an' let 'er float down.'
Then he went on, below me, lifting his feet in slow and stealthy
He halted by a bit of driftwood and cautiously threw in, his arm
extended, his figure alert. The squint on his face took a firmer grip.
Suddenly his pole gave a leap, the water splashed, his line sang in
the air and a fish went up like a rocket. As we were looking into the
treetops it thumped the shore beside him, quivered a moment and
flopped down the bank He scrambled after it and went to his knees in
the brook coming up empty-handed. The water was slopping out of his
'Whew!' said he, panting with excitement, as I came over to him.
'Reg'lar ol' he one,' he added, looking down at his boots. 'Got away
from me—consarn him! Hed a leetle too much power in the arm.,
He emptied his boots, baited up and went back to his fishing. As I
looked up at him he stood leaning over the stream jiggling his hook.
In a moment I saw a tug at the line. The end of his pole went under
water like a flash. It bent double as Uncle Eb gave it a lift. The
fish began to dive and rush. The line cut the water in a broad
semicircle and then went far and near with long, quick slashes. The
pole nodded and writhed like a thing of life. Then Uncle Eb had a look
on him that is one of the treasures of my memory. In a moment the fish
went away with such a violent rush, to save him, he had to throw his
pole into the water.
'Heavens an' airth!' he shouted, 'the ol' settler!'
The pole turned quickly and went lengthwise into the rapids. He
ran down the bank and I after him. The pole was speeding through the
swift water. We scrambled over logs and through bushes, but the pole
went faster than we. Presently it stopped and swung around. Uncle Eb
went splashing into the brook. Almost within reach of the pole he
dashed his foot upon a stone, falling headlong in the current. I was
close upon his heels and gave him a hand. He rose hatless, dripping
from head to foot and pressed on. He lifted his pole. The line clung
to a snag and then gave way; the tackle was missing. He looked at it
silently, tilting his head. We walked slowly to the shore. Neither
spoke for a moment.
'Must have been a big fish,' I remarked.
'Powerful!' said he, chewing vigorously on his quid of tobacco as
he shook his head and looked down at his wet clothing. 'In a desp'rit
fix, ain't I?'
'Too bad!' I exclaimed.
'Seldom ever hed sech a disapp'intrnent" he said. 'Ruther counted
on ketchin' thet fish—he was s' well hooked.'
He looked longingly at the water a moment 'If I don't go hum,' said
he, 'an' keep my mouth shet I'll say sumthin' I'll be sorry fer.'
He was never quite the same after that. He told often of his
struggle with this unseen, mysterious fish and I imagined he was a
bit more given to reflection. He had had hold of the 'ol' settler of
Deep Hole'—a fish of great influence and renown there in Faraway.
Most of the local fishermen had felt him tug at the line one time or
another. No man had ever seen him for the water was black in Deep
Hole. No fish had ever exerted a greater influence on the thought' the
imagination, the manners or the moral character of his contemporaries.
Tip Taylor always took off his hat and sighed when he spoke of the
'ol' settler'. Ransom Walker said he had once seen his top fin and
thought it longer than a razor. Ransom took to idleness and chewing
tobacco immediately after his encounter with the big fish, and both
vices stuck to him as long as he lived. Everyone had his theory of the
'ol' settler'. Most agreed he was a very heavy trout. Tip Taylor used
to say that in his opinion ''twas nuthin' more'n a plain, overgrown,
common sucker,' but Tip came from the Sucker Brook country where
suckers lived in colder water and were more entitled to respect.
Mose Tupper had never had his hook in the 'ol' settler' and would
believe none of the many stories of adventure at Deep Hole that had
thrilled the township.
'Thet fish hes made s' many liars 'round here ye dimno who t'
b'lieve,' he had said at the corners one day, after Uncle Eb had told
his story of the big fish. 'Somebody 't knows how t' fish hed oughter
go 'n ketch him fer the good o' the town—thet's what I think.'
Now Mr Tupper was an excellent man but his incredulity was always
too bluntly put. It had even led to some ill feeling.
He came in at our place one evening with a big hook and line from
'down east'—the kind of tackle used in salt water.
'What ye goin' t' dew with it?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'Ketch thet fish ye talk 5' much about—goin' t' put him out o'
''Tain't fair,' said Uncle Eb, 'its reedic'lous. Like leading a pup
with a log chain.'
'Don't care,' said Mose, 'I'm goin' t' go fishin t'morrer. If there
reely is any sech fish—which I don't believe there is—I'm goin' t'
rassle with him an' mebbe tek him out o' the river. Thet fish is
sp'llin' the moral character o' this town. He oughter be rode on a
rail—thet fish hed.'
How he would punish a trout in that manner Mr Tupper failed to
explain, but his metaphor was always a worse fit than his trousers
and that was bad enough.
It was just before haying and, there being little to do, we had
also planned to try our luck in the morning. When, at sunrise, we were
walking down the cow-path to the woods I saw Uncle Eb had a coil of
bed cord on his shoulder.
'What's that for?' I asked.
'Wall,' said he, 'goin' t' hev fun anyway. If we can't ketch one
thing we'll try another.'
We had great luck that morning and when our basket was near full
we came to Deep Hole and made ready for a swim in the water above it.
Uncle Eb had looped an end of the bed cord and tied a few pebbles on
it with bits of string.
'Now,' said he presently, 'I want t' sink this loop t' the bottom
an' pass the end o' the cord under the driftwood so 't we can fetch it
'crost under water.'
There was a big stump, just opposite, with roots running down the
bank into the stream. I shoved the line under the drift with a pole
and then hauled it across where Uncle Eb drew it up the bank under
the stump roots.
'In 'bout half an hour I cal'late Mose Tupper'll be 'long,' he
whispered. 'Wisht ye'd put on yer clo's an' lay here back o' the
stump an' hold on t' the cord. When ye feel a bite give a yank er two
an' haul in like Sam Hill—fifteen feet er more quicker'n scat.
Snatch his pole right away from him. Then lay still.'
Uncle Eb left me, shortly, going up stream. It was near an hour
before I heard them coming. Uncle Eb was talking in a low tone as
they came down the other bank.
'Drop right in there,' he was saying, 'an' let her drag down,
through the deep water, deliberate like. Git clus t' the bottom.'
Peering through a screen of bushes I could see an eager look on the
unlovely face of Moses. He stood leaning toward the water and
jiggling his hook along the bottom. Suddenly I saw Mose jerk and felt
the cord move. I gave it a double twitch and began to pull. He held
hard for a jiffy and then stumbled and let go yelling like mad. The
pole hit the water with a splash and went out of sight like a diving
frog. I brought it well under the foam and driftwood. Deep Hole
resumed its calm, unruffled aspect. Mose went running toward Uncle Eb.
''S a whale!' he shouted. 'Ripped the pole away quicker'n
'Where is it?' Uncle Eb asked.
'Tuk it away fm me,' said Moses. 'Grabbed it jes' like thet" he
added with a violent jerk of his hand.
'What d' he dew with it?' Uncle Eb enquired.
Mose looked thoughtfully at the water and scratched his head, his
features all a tremble.
'Dunno,' said he. 'Swallered it mebbe.'
'Mean t' say ye lost hook, line, sinker 'n pole?'
'Hook, line, sinker 'n pole,' he answered mournfully. 'Come nigh
haulin' me in tew.'
''Tain't possible,' said Uncle Eb.
Mose expectorated, his hands upon his hips, looking down at the
'Wouldn't eggzac'ly say 'twas possible,' he drawled, 'but 'twas a
'Yer mistaken,' said Uncle Eb.
'No I hain't" was the answer, 'I tell ye I see it.'
'Then if ye see it the nex' thing ye orter see 's a doctor. There's
sumthin' wrong with you sumwheres.'
'Only one thing the matter o' me,' said Mose with a little twinge
of remorse. 'I'm jest a natural born perfec' dum fool. Never c'u'd
b'lieve there was any sech fish.'
'Nobody ever said there was any sech fish,' said Uncle Eb. 'He's
done more t' you 'n he ever done t' me. Never served me no sech trick
as thet. If I was you I'd never ask nobody t' b'lieve it 'S a leetle
Mose went slowly and picked up his hat. Then he returned to the
bank and looked regretfully at the water.
'Never see the beat o' thet,' he went on. 'Never see sech power 'n
a fish. Knocks the spots off any fish I ever hearn of.'
'Ye riled him with that big tackle o' yourn,' said Uncle Eb. 'He
wouldn't stan' it.'
'Feel jest as if I'd hed holt uv a wil' cat" said Mose. 'Tuk the
hull thing—pole an' all—quicker 'n lightnin'. Nice a bit o'
hickory as a man ever see. Gol' durned if I ever heem o' the like o'
He sat down a moment on the bank.
'Got t' rest a minute,' he remarked. 'Feel kind o' wopsy after thet
They soon went away. And when Mose told the story of 'the
swallered pole' he got the same sort of reputation he had given to
others. Only it was real and large and lasting.
'Wha' d' ye think uv it?' he asked, when he had finished.
'Wall,' said Ransom Walker, 'wouldn't want t' say right out plain
t' yer face.'
''Twouldn't he p'lite,' said Uncle Eb soberly.
'Sound a leetle ha'sh,' Tip Taylor added.
'Thet fish has jerked the fear o' God out o' ye—thet's the way it
looks t' me,' said Carlyle Barber.
'Yer up 'n the air, Mose,' said another. 'Need a sinker on ye.'
They bullied him—they talked him down, demurring mildly, but firmly.
'Tell ye what I'll do,' said Mose sheepishly, 'I'll b'lieve you
fellers if you'll b'lieve me.'
'What, swop even? Not much!' said one, with emphasis.' 'Twouldn't
be fair. Ye've ast us t' b'lieve a genuwine out 'n out impossibility.'
Mose lifted his hat and scratched his head thoughtfully. There was
a look of embarrassment in his face.
'Might a ben dreamin',' said he slowly. 'I swear it's gittin' so
here 'n this town a feller can't hardly b'lieve himself.'
'Fur '5 my experience goes,' said Ransom Walker, 'he'd be a fool 'f
''Minds me o' the time I went fishin' with Ab Thomas,' said Uncle
Eb. 'He ketched an ol' socker the fast thing. I went off by myself 'n
got a good sized fish, but 'twant s' big 's hisn. So I tuk 'n opened
his mouth n poured in a lot o' fine shot. When I come back Ab he
looked at my fish 'n begun t' brag. When we weighed 'em mine was a
'"What!" says he. "'Tain't possible thet leetle cuss uv a trout 's
heavier 'n mine."
''Tis sarrin," I said.
''Dummed deceivin' business," said he as he hefted 'em both.
"Gittin' so ye can't hardly b'lieve the stillyards."'
The fifth summer was passing since we came down Paradise Road —
the dog, Uncle Eb and I. Times innumerable I had heard my good old
friend tell the story of our coming west until its every incident was
familiar to me as the alphabet. Else I fear my youthful memory would
have served me poorly for a chronicle of my childhood so exact and so
extended as this I have written. Uncle Eb's hair was white now and the
voices of the swift and the panther had grown mild and tremulous and
unsatisfactory and even absurd. Time had tamed the monsters of that
imaginary wilderness and I had begun to lose my respect for them. But
one fear had remained with me as I grew older—the fear of the night
man. Every boy and girl in the valley trembled at the mention of him.
Many a time I had held awake in the late evening to hear the men talk
of him before they went asleep—Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor. I remember a
night when Tip said, in a low awesome tone, that he was a ghost. The
word carried into my soul the first thought of its great and fearful
'Years and years ago,' said he, 'there was a boy by the name of
Nehemiah Brower. An' he killed another boy, once, by accident an' run
away an' was drownded.'
'Drownded!' said Uncle Eb. 'How?'
'In the ocean,' the first answered gaping. 'Went away off 'round
the world an' they got a letter that said he was drownded on his way
to Van Dieman's Land.'
'To Van Dieman's Land!'
'Yes, an some say the night man is the ghost o' the one he killed.'
I remember waking that night and hearing excited whispers at the
window near my bed. It was very dark in the room and at first I could
not tell who was there.
'Don't you see him?' Tip whispered.
'Where?' I heard Uncle Be ask
'Under the pine trees—see him move.'
At that I was up at the window myself and could plainly see the
dark figure of a man standing under the little pine below us.
'The night man, I guess,' said Uncle Be, 'but he won't do no harm.
Let him alone; he's going' away now.'
We saw him disappear behind the trees and then we got back into
our beds again. I covered my head with the bedclothes and said a
small prayer for the poor night man.
And in this atmosphere of mystery and adventure, among the plain
folk of Faraway, whose care of me when I was in great need, and whose
love of me always, I count among the priceless treasures of God's
providence, my childhood passed. And the day came near when I was to
begin to play my poor part in the world.
It was a time of new things—that winter when I saw the end of my
fifteenth year. Then I began to enjoy the finer humours of life in
Faraway—to see with understanding; and by God's grace—to feel.
The land of play and fear and fable was now far behind me and I
had begun to feel the infinite in the ancient forest' in the
everlasting hills, in the deep of heaven, in all the ways of men.
Hope Brower was now near woman grown. She had a beauty of face and
form that was the talk of the countryside. I have travelled far and
seen many a fair face hut never one more to my eye. I have heard men
say she was like a girl out of a story-book those days.
Late years something had come between us. Long ago we had fallen
out of each other's confidence, and ever since she had seemed to shun
me. It was the trip in the sledgehouse that' years after, came up
between us and broke our childish intimacy. Uncle Be had told, before
company, how she had kissed me that day and bespoke me for a husband,
and while the others laughed loudly she had gone out of the room
crying. She would have little to say to me then. I began to play with
boys and she with girls. And it made me miserable to hear the boys a
bit older than I gossip of her beauty and accuse each other of the
sweet disgrace of love.
But I must hasten to those events in Faraway that shaped our
destinies. And first comes that memorable night when I had the
privilege of escorting Hope to the school lyceum where the argument
of Jed Feary—poet of the hills—fired my soul with an ambition that
has remained with me always.
Uncle Be suggested that I ask Hope to go with me.
'Prance right up to her,' he said, 'an' say you'd be glad of the
pleasure of her company.
It seemed to me a very dubious thing to do. I looked thoughtful
and turned red in the face.
'Young man,' he continued, 'the boy thet's 'fraid o' women'll never
'How's that?' I enquired.
'Be scairt t' death,' he answered,' 'fore they've hed time t' start
Ye want t' step right up t' the rack jes' if ye'd bought an' paid fer
yerself an' was proud o' yer bargain.'
I took his advice and when I found Hope alone in the parlour I
came and asked her, very awkwardly as I now remember, to go with me.
She looked at me, blushing, and said she would ask her mother.
And she did, and we walked to the schoolhouse together that
evening, her hand holding my arm, timidly, the most serious pair that
ever struggled with the problem of deportment on such an occasion. I
was oppressed with a heavy sense of responsibility in every word I
Ann Jane Foster, known as 'Scooter Jane', for her rapid walk and
stiff carriage, met us at the corners on her way to the schoolhouse.
'Big turn out I guess,' said she. 'Jed Feary 'n' Squire Town is
comin' over from Jingleville an' all the big guns'll be there. I love
t' hear Jed Feary speak, he's so techin'.'
Ann Jane was always looking around for some event likely to touch
her feelings. She went to every funeral in Faraway and, when sorrow
was scarce in her own vicinity, journeyed far in quest of it
'Wouldn't wonder 'f the fur flew when they git t' going',' she
remarked, and then hurried on, her head erect, her body motionless,
her legs flying. Such energy as she gave to the pursuit of mourning I
have never seen equalled in any other form of dissipation.
The schoolhouse was nearly full of people when we came in. The big
boys were wrestling in the yard; men were lounging on the rude seats,
inside, idly discussing crops and cattle and lapsing into silence,
frequently, that bore the signs both of expectancy and reflection.
Young men and young women sat together on one side of the house
whispering and giggling. Alone among them was the big and eccentric
granddaughter of Mrs Bisnette, who was always slapping some youngster
for impertinence. Jed Feary and Squire Town sat together behind a pile
of books, both looking very serious. The long hair and beard of the
old poet were now white and his form bent with age. He came over and
spoke to us and took a curl of Hope's hair in his stiffened fingers
and held it to the lamplight.
'What silky gold!' he whispered.' 'S a skein o' fate, my dear
Suddenly the schoolteacher rapped on the desk and bade us come to
order and Ransom Walker was called to the chair.
'Thet there is talent in Faraway township,' he said, having
reluctantly come to the platform, 'and talent of the very highest
order, no one can deny who has ever attended a lyceum at the Howard
schoolhouse. I see evidences of talent in every face before me. And I
wish to ask what are the two great talents of the Yankee —talents
that made our forefathers famous the world over? I pause for an
He had once been a schoolmaster and that accounted for his
'What are the two great talents of the Yankee?' he repeated, his
hands clasped before him.
'Doughnuts an' pie,' said Uncle Be who sat in a far corner.
'No sir,' Mr Walker answered, 'there's some hev a talent fer sawin'
wood, but we don't count that. It's war an' speakin', they are the two
great talents of the Yankee. But his greatest talent is the gift o'
gab. Give him a chance t' talk it over with his enemy an' he'll lick
'im without a fight. An' when his enemy is another Yankee—why, they
both git licked, jest as it was in the case of the man thet sold me
lightnin' rods. He was sorry he done it before I got through with
him. If we did not encourage this talent in our sons they would be
talked to death by our daughters. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me
pleasure t' say that the best speakers in Faraway township have come
here t' discuss the important question:
'Resolved, that intemperance has caused more misery than war?
'I call upon Moses Tupper to open for the affirmative.'
Moses, as I have remarked, had a most unlovely face with a thin
and bristling growth of whiskers. In giving him features Nature had
been generous to a fault. He had a large red nose, and a mouth vastly
too big for any proper use. It was a mouth fashioned for odd sayings.
He was well to do and boasted often that he was a self-made man. Uncle
Be used to say that if Mose Tupper had had the 'makin' uv himself he'd
oughter done it more careful.'
I remember not much of the speech he made, but the picture of him,
as he rose on tiptoe and swung his arms like a man fighting bees, and
his drawling tones are as familiar as the things of yesterday.
'Gentlemen an' ladies,' said he presently, 'let me show you a
pictur'. It is the drunkard's child. It is hungry an' there ain't no
food in its home. The child is poorer'n a straw-fed hoss. 'Tain't hed
a thing t' eat since day before yistiddy. Pictur' itto yourselves as
it comes cryin' to its mother an' says:
'"Ma! Gi' me a piece o' bread an' butter."
'She covers her face with her apron an' says she, "There am none
left, my child."
'An' bime bye the child comes agin' an' holds up its poor little
han's an' says: "Ma! please gi' me a piece O' cake."
'An' she goes an' looks out O' the winder, er mebbe pokes the fire,
an' says: "There am' none left, my child."
'An' bime bye it comes agin' an' it says: "Please gi' me a little
piece O' pie."
'An' she mebbe flops into a chair an' says, sobbin', "There ain'
none left, my child."
'No pie! Now, Mr Chairman!' exclaimed the orator, as he lifted
both hands high above his head, 'If this ain't misery, in God's name,
what is it?
'Years ago, when I was a young man, Mr President, I went to a
dance one night at the village of Migleyville. I got a toothache, an'
the Devil tempted me with whiskey, an' I tuk one glass an' then
another an' purty soon I began t' thank I was a mighty hefty sort of
a character, I did, an' I stud on a comer an' stumped everybody t'
fight with me, an' bime bye an accomanodatin' kind of a chap come
along, an' that's all I remember O' what happened. when I come to, my
coat tails had been tore off, I'd lost one leg O' my trousers, a bran
new silver watch, tew dollars in money, an a pair O' spectacles. When
I stud up an' tried t' realise what hed happened I felt jes' like a
blind rooster with only one leg an' no tail feathers.'
A roar of laughter followed these frank remarks of Mr Tupper and
broke into a storm of merriment when Uncle Eb rose and said:
'Mr President, I hope you see that the misfortunes of our friend
was due t' war, an' not to intemperance.'
Mr Tupper was unhorsed. For some minutes he stood helpless or
shaking with the emotion that possessed all. Then he finished lamely
and sat down.
The narrowness of the man that saw so much where there was so
little in his own experience and in the trivial events of his own
township was what I now recognise as most valuable to the purpose of
this history. It was a narrowness that covered a multitude of people
in St Lawrence county in those days.
Jed Feary was greeted with applause and then by respectfiil silence
when he rose to speak. The fame of his verse and his learning had
gone far beyond the narrow boundaries of the township in which he
lived. It was the biggest thing in the county. Many a poor sinner who
had gone out of Faraway to his long home got his first praise in the
obituary poem by Jed Feary. These tributes were generally published in
the county paper and paid for by the relatives of the deceased at the
rate of a dollar a day for the time spent on them, or by a few days of
board and lodging glory and consolation that was, alas! too cheap, as
one might see by a glance at his forlorn figure. I shall never forget
the courtly manner, so strangely in contrast with the rude deportment
of other men in that place, with which he addressed the chairman and
the people. The drawling dialect of the vicinity that flavoured his
conversation fell from him like a mantle as he spoke and the light in
his soul shone upon that little company a great light, as I now
remember, that filled me with burning thoughts of the world and its
mighty theatre of action. The way of my life lay clear before me, as I
listened, and its days of toil and the sweet success my God has given
me, although I take it humbly and hold it infinitely above my merit. I
was to get learning and seek some way of expressing what was in me.
It would ill become me to try to repeat the words of this venerable
seer, but he showed that intemperance was an individual sin, while
war was a national evil. That one meant often the ruin of a race; the
other the ruin of a family; that one was as the ocean, the other as a
single drop in its waters. And he told us of the full of empires and
the millions that had suffered the oppression of the conqueror and
perished by the sword since Agamemnon.
After the debate a young lady read a literary paper full of clumsy
wit, rude chronicles of the countryside, essays on 'Spring', and like
topics—the work of the best talent of Faraway. Then came the
decision, after which the meeting adjourned.
At the door some other boys tried 'to cut me out'. I came through
the noisy crowd, however, with Hope on my arm and my heart flill of a
'Did you like it?' she asked.
'Very much,' I answered.
'What did you enjoy most?'
'Your company,' I said, with a fine air of gallantry.
'Honestly. I want to take you to Rickard's sometime?'
That was indeed a long cherished hope.
'Maybe I won't let you,' she said.
'You'd better ask me sometime and see.'
'I shall. I wouldn't ask any other girl.'
'Well,' she added, with a sigh, 'if a boy likes one girl I don't
think he ought to have anything to do with other girls. I hate a
I happened to hear a footfall in the snow behind us, and looking
back saw Ann Jane Foster going slow in easy hearing. She knew all, as
we soon found out.
'I dew jes love t' see young folks enjoy themselves,' said she,
Coming in at our gate I saw a man going over the wall back of the
big stables. The house was dark
'Did you see the night man?' Elizabeth Brower whispered as I lit
the lamp. 'Went through the garden just now. I've been watching him
here at the window.'
The love of labour was counted a great virtue there in Faraway. As
for myself I could never put my heart in a hoe handle or in any like
tool of toil. They made a blister upon my spirit as well as upon my
hands. I tried to find in the sweat of my brow that exalted pleasure
of which Mr Greeley had visions in his comfortable retreat on
Printing House Square. But unfortunately I had not his point of view.
Hanging in my library, where I may see it as I write, is the old
sickle of Uncle Eb. The hard hickory of its handle is worn thin by
the grip of his hand. It becomes a melancholy symbol when I remember
how also the hickory had worn him thin and bent him low, and how
infinitely better than all the harvesting of the sickle was the
strength of that man, diminishing as it wore the wood. I cannot help
smiling when I look at the sickle and thank of the soft hands and
tender amplitude of Mr Greeley.
The great editor had been a playmate of David Brower when they
were boys, and his paper was read with much reverence in our home.
'How quick ye can plough a ten-acre lot with a pen,' Uncle Eb used
to say when we had gone up to bed after father had been reading aloud
from his Tribune.
Such was the power of the press in that country one had but to say
of any doubtful thing, 'Seen it in print,' to stop all argument. If
there were any further doubt he had only to say that he had read it
either in the Tribune or the Bible, and couldn't remember which. Then
it was a mere question of veracity in the speaker. Books and other
reading were carefully put away for an improbable time of leisure.
'I might break my leg sometime,' said David Brower, 'then they'll
come handy.' But the Tribune was read carefully every week.
I have seen David Brower stop and look at me while I have been
digging potatoes, with a sober grin such as came to him always after
he had swapped 'hosses' and got the worst of it. Then he would show me
again, with a little impatience in his manner, how to hold the handle
and straddle the row. He would watch me for a moment, turn to Uncle
Eb, laugh hopelessly and say: 'Thet boy'll hev to be a minister. He
But for Elizabeth Brower it might have gone hard with me those
days. My mind was always on my books or my last talk with Jed Feary,
and she shared my confidence and fed my hopes and shielded me as much
as possible from the heavy work. Hope had a better head for
mathematics than I, and had always helped me with my sums, but I had a
better memory and an aptitude in other things that kept me at the head
of most of my classes. Best of all at school I enjoyed the
'compositions'—I had many thoughts, such as they were, and some
facility of expression, I doubt not, for a child. Many chronicles of
the countryside came off my pen—sketches of odd events and
characters there in Faraway. These were read to the assembled
household. Elizabeth Brower would sit looking gravely down at me, as I
stood by her knees reading, in those days of my early boyhood. Uncle
Eb listened with his head turned curiously, as if his ear were cocked
for coons. Sometimes he and David Brower would slap their knees and
laugh heartily, whereat my foster mother would give them a quick
glance and shake her head. For she was always fearful of the day when
she should see in her children the birth of vanity, and sought to put
it off as far as might be. Sometimes she would cover her mouth to hide
a smile, and, when I had finished, look warningly at the rest, and say
it was good, for a little boy. Her praise never went further, and
indeed all those people hated flattery as they did the devil and
frowned upon conceit She said that when the love of flattery got hold
of one he would lie to gain it
I can see this slender, blue-eyed woman as I write. She is walking
up and down beside her spinning-wheel. I can hear the dreary
buz-z-z-z of the spindle as she feeds it with the fleecy ropes. That
loud crescendo echoes in the still house of memory. I can hear her
singing as she steps forward and slows the wheel and swings the
cradle with her foot:
'On the other side of Jordan, In the sweet fields of Eden, Where
the tree of Life is blooming, There is rest for you.
She lays her hand to the spokes again and the roar of the spindle
drowns her voice.
All day, from the breakfast hour to supper time, I have heard the
dismal sound of the spirmng as she walked the floor, content to sing
of rest but never taking it.
Her home was almost a miracle of neatness. She could work with no
peace of mind until the house had been swept and dusted. A fly speck
on the window was enough to cloud her day. She went to town with David
now and then—not oftener than once a quarter— and came back ill and
exhausted. If she sat in a store waiting for David, while he went to
mill or smithy, her imagination gave her no rest. That dirt abhorring
mind of hers would begin to clean the windows, and when that was
finished it would sweep the floor and dust the counters. In due course
it would lower the big chandelier and take out all the lamps and wash
the chimneys with soap and water and rub them till they shone. Then,
if David had not come, it would put in the rest of its time on the
woodwork. With all her cleaning I am sure the good woman kept her soul
spotless. Elizabeth Brower believed in goodness and the love of God,
and knew no fear. Uncle Eb used to say that wherever Elizabeth Brower
went hereafter it would have to be clean and comfortable.
Elder Whitmarsh came often to dinner of a Sunday, when he and Mrs
Brower talked volubly about the Scriptures, he taking a sterner view
of God than she would allow. He was an Englishman by birth, who had
settled in Faraway because there he had found relief for a serious
affliction of asthma.
He came over one noon in the early summer, that followed the event
of our last chapter, to tell us of a strawberry party that evening at
the White Church.
'I've had a wonderful experience,' said he as he took a seat on the
piazza, while Mrs Brower came and sat near him. 'I've discovered a
great genius—a wandering fiddler, and I shall try to bring him to
play for us.'
'A fiddler! why, Elder!' said she, 'you astonish me!'
'Nothing but sacred music,' he said, lifting his hand. 'I heard him
play all the grand things today—"Rock of Ages", "Nearer My God, to
Thee", "The Marseillaise" and "Home, Sweet Home". Lifted me off my
feet! I've heard the great masters in New York and London, but no
greater player than this man.'
'Where is he and where did he come from?'
'He's at my house now,' said the good man. 'I found him this
morning. He stood under a tree by the road side, above Nortlrup's. As
I came near I heard the strains of "The Marseillaise". For more than
an hour I sat there listening. It was wonderful, Mrs Brower,
wonderful! The poor fellow is eccentric. He never spoke to me. His
clothes were dusty and worn. But his music went to my heart like a
voice from Heaven. when he had finished I took him home with me, gave
him food and a new coat, and left him sleeping. I want you to come
over, and be sure to bring Hope. She must sing for us.'
'Mr Brower will be tired out, but perhaps the young people may
go,' she said, looking at Hope and me.
My heart gave a leap as I saw in Hope's eyes a reflection of my
own joy. In a moment she came and gave her mother a sounding kiss and
asked her what she should wear.
'I must look my best, mother,' she said.
'My child,' said the elder, 'it's what you do and not what you wear
'They're both important, Elder,' said my foster mother. You should
teach your people the duty of comeliness. They honour their Maker
when they look their best.'
The spirit of liberalism was abroad in the sons of the Puritans. In
Elizabeth Brower the andent austerity of her race had been freely
diluted with humour and cheerfulness and human sympathy. It used to
be said of Deacon Hospur, a good but lazy man, that he was given both
to prayer and profanity. Uncle Eb, who had once heard the deacon
swear, when the latter had been bruised by a kicking cow, said that,
so far as he knew, the deacon never swore except when 'twas necessary.
Indeed, most of those men had, I doubt not, too little of that fear of
God in them that characterised their fathers. And yet, as shall
appear, there were in Faraway some relics of a stern faith.
Hope came out in fine feather, and although I have seen many grand
ladles, gowned for the eyes of kings, I have never seen a lovelier
figure than when, that evening, she came tripping down to the buggy.
It was three miles to the white Church, and riding over in the
twilight I laid the plan of my life before her. She sat a moment in
silence after I had finished.
'I am going away, too,' she remarked, with a sigh.
'Going away!' I said with some surprise, for in all my plans I had
secretly counted on returning in grand style to take her back with
'Going away,' said she decisively.
'It isn't nice for girls to go away from home,' I said.
'It isn't nice for boys, either,' said she.
We had come to the church, its open doors and windows all aglow
with light. I helped her out at the steps, and hitched my horse under
the long shed. We entered together and made our way through the
chattering crowd to the little cloakroom in one corner. Elder
Whitmarsh arrived in a moment and the fiddler, a short, stout,
stupid-looking man, his fiddle in a black box under his arm, followed
him to the platform that had been cleared of its pulpit The stranger
stood staring vacantly at the crowd until the elder motioned him to a
chair, when he obeyed with the hesitating, blind obedience of a dog.
Then the elder made a brief prayer, and after a few remarks flavoured
with puns, sacred and immemorial as the pulpit itself, started a brief
programme of entertainment. A broad smile marked the beginning of his
lighter mood. His manner seemed to say: 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, if
you will give good heed, you shall see I can be witty on occasion.'
Then a young man came to the platform and recited, after which
Hope went forward and sang 'The Land o' the Leal' with such spirit
that I can feel my blood go faster even now as I thank of it, and of
that girlish figure crowned with a glory of fair curls that fell low
upon her waist and mingled with the wild pink roses at her bosom. The
fiddler sat quietly as if he heard nothing until she began to sing,
when he turned to look at her. The elder announced, after the ballad,
that he had brought with him a wonderful musician who would favour
them with some sacred music. He used the word 'sacred' because he had
observed, I suppose, that certain of the 'hardshells' were looking
askance at the fiddle. There was an awkward moment in which the
fiddler made no move or sign of intelligence. The elder stepped near
him and whispered. Getting no response, he returned to the front of
the platform and said: 'We shall first resign ourselves to social
intercourse and the good things the ladies have provided.'
Mountains of frosted cake reared their snowy summits on a long
table, and the strawberries, heaped in saucers around them, were like
red foothills. I remember that while they were serving us Hope and I
were introduced to one Robert Livingstone—a young New Yorker,
stoppmg at the inn near by, on his way to the big woods. He was a
handsome fellow, with such a fine air of gallantry and so trig in
fashionable clothes that he made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
'I have never heard anything more delightful than that ballad,' he
said to Hope. 'You must have your voice trained—you really must. It
will make a great name for you.'
I wondered then why his words hurt me to the soul. The castle of
my dreams had fallen as he spoke. A new light came into her face— I
did not know then what it meant.
'Will you let me call upon you before I leave—may I?' He turned
to me while she stood silent. 'I wish to see your father,' he added.
'Certanly,' she answered, blushing, 'you may come—if you care to
The musician had begun to thrum the strings of his violin. We
turned to look at him. He still sat in his chair, his ear bent to the
echoing chamber of the violin. Soon he laid his bow to the strings
and a great chord hushed every whisper and died into a sweet, low
melody, in which his thought seemed to be feeling its way through
sombre paths of sound. The music brightened, the bow went faster, and
suddenly 'The Girl I Left Behind Me' came rushing off the strings. A
look of amazement gathered on the elder's face and deepened into
horror. It went from one to another as if it had been a dish of
ipecac. Ann Jane Foster went directly for her things, and with a most
unchristian look hurried out into the night. Half a dozen others
followed her, while the unholy music went on, its merry echoes rioting
in that sacred room, hallowed with memories of the hour of conviction,
of the day of mourning, of the coming of the bride in her beauty.
Deacon Hospur rose and began to drawl a sort of apology, when the
player stopped suddenly and shot an oath at him. The deacon staggered
under the shock of it. His whiskers seemed to lift a bit like the hair
of a cat under provocation. Then he tried to speak, but only stuttered
helplessly a moment as if his tongue were oscillating between silence
and profanity, and was finally pulled down by his wife, who had laid
hold of his coat tails. If it had been any other man than Deacon
Hospur it would have gone badly with the musician then and there, but
we boys saw his discomfiture with positive gratitude. In a moment all
rose, the dishes were gathered up, and many hurried away with
indignant glances at the poor elder, who was busy taking counsel with
some of the brethren.
I have never seen a more pathetic figure than that of poor Nick
Goodall as he sat there thrumming the strings of which he was a
Heaven-born master. I saw him often after that night—a poor,
halfwitted creature, who wandered from inn to inn there in the north
country, trading music for hospitality. A thoroughly intelligible
sentence never passed his lips, but he had a great gift of eloquence
in music. Nobody knew whence he had come or any particular of his
birth or training or family. But for his sullen temper, that broke
into wild, unmeaning profanity at times, Nick Goodall would have made
fame and fortune.
He stared at the thinning crowd as if he had begun dimly to
comprehend the havoc he had wrought. Then he put on his hat, came
down off the platform, and shuffled out of the open door, his violin
in one hand, its box in the other. There were not more than a dozen of
us who followed him into the little churchyard. The moon was rising,
and the shadows of lilac and rose bush, of slab and monument lay long
across the green mounds. Standing there between the graves of the dead
he began to play. I shall never forget that solemn calling of the
'Come ye disconsolate where'er ye languish.'
It was a new voice, a revelation, a light where darkness had been,
to Hope and to me. We stood listening far into the night, forgetful
of everything, even the swift flight of the hours.
Loud, impassioned chords rose into the moonlit sky and sank to a
faint whisper of melody, when we could hear the gossip of the birds
in the belfry and under the eaves; trembling tones of supplication,
wailing notes of longing and regret swept through the silent avenues
of the churchyard, thrilling us with their eloquence. For the first
time we heard the music of Handel, of Mendelssohn, of Paganini, and
felt its power, then knowing neither name nor theme. Hour by hour he
played on for the mere joy of it. When we shook hands with the elder
and tiptoed to the buggy he was still playing. We drove slowly and
listened a long way down the road. I could hear the strains of that
ballad, then new to me, but now familiar, growing fainter in the
O ye'll tak' the high road an' I'll tak' the low road An' I'll be
in Scotland afore ye; But me an' me true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.
what connection it may have had with the history of poor Nick
Goodall*1 I have often wondered.
As the last note died into silence I turned to Hope, and she was
'Why are you crying?' I asked, in as miserable a moment as I have
'It's the music,' she said.
*1 Poor Nick Coodall died in the almshouse of Jefferson County
some thirty years ago. A better account of this incident was widely
printed at that time.
We both sat in silence, then, hearing only the creak of the buggy
as it sped over the sandy road. Well ahead of us I saw a man who
suddenly turned aside, vaulting over the fence and running into the
'The night man!' I exclaimed, pulling up a moment to observe him.
Then a buggy came in sight, and presently we heard a loud 'hello'
from David Brower, who, worried by our long stay, had come out in
quest of us.
Hope's love of music became a passion after that night. Young Mr
Livingstone, 'the city chap' we had met at the church, came over next
day. His enthusiasm for her voice gave us all great hope of it. David
Brower said he would take her away to the big city when she was older.
They soon decided to send her in September to the big school in
'She's got t' be a lady,' said David Brower, as he drew her into
his lap the day we had all discussed the matter. 'She's leamt
everything in the 'rithinetic an' geography an' speller. I want her t'
learn somethin' more scientific.'
'Now you're talkin',' said Uncle Eb. 'There's lots o' things ye
can't learn by cipherin'. Nuthin's too good fer Hope.'
'I'd like t' know what you men expect of her anyway,' said
'A high stepper,' said Uncle Eb. 'We want a slick coat, a kind uv a
toppy head, an a lot O' ginger. So't when we hitch 'er t' the pole
bime bye we shan't be 'shamed o' her.'
'Eggzac'ly,' said David Brower, laughing. 'An' then she shall have
the best harness in the market.'
Hope did not seem to comprehend all the rustic metaphors that had
been applied to her. A look of puzzled amusement came over her face,
and then she ran away into the garden, her hair streaming from under
her white sun-bonnet.
'Never see sech a beauty! Beats the world,' said Uncle Eb in a
whisper, whereat both David and Elizabeth shook their heads.
'Lord o' mercy! Don't let her know it,' Elizabeth answered, in a
low tone. 'She's beginning to have-'
Just then Hope came by us leading her pet filly that had been born
within the month. Immediately Mrs Brower changed the subject.
'To have what?' David enquired as soon as the girl was out of
'Suspicions,' said Elizabeth mournflllly. 'Spends a good deal of
her time at the looking-glass. I think the other girls tell her and
then that young Livingstone has been turning her head.'
'Turning her head!' he exclaimed.
'Turning her head,' she answered. 'He sat here the other day and
deliberately told her that he had never seen such a complexion and
such lovely hair.'
Elizabeth Brower mocked his accent with a show of contempt that
feebly echoed my own emotions.
'That's the way o' city folks, mother,' said David.
'It's a bad way,' she answered. 'I do not thank he ought to come
here. Hope's a child yet, and we mustn't let her get notions.'
'I'll tell him not t' come any more,' said David, as he and Uncle
Eb rose to go to their work
'I'm 'fraid she ought not to go away to school for a year yet,'
said Elizabeth, a troubled look in her face.
'Pshaw, mother! Ye can't keep her under yer wing alwus,' said he.
'Well, David, you know she is very young and uncommonly—' she
'Han'some,' said he, 'we might as well own up if she is our child.'
'If she goes away,' continued Elizabeth, 'some of us ought t' go
Then Uncle Eb and David went to their work in the fields and I to
my own task That very evening they began to talk of renting the farm
and going to town with the children.
I had a stent of cording wood that day and finished it before two
o'clock Then I got my pole of mountain ash, made hook and line ready,
dug some worms and went fishing. I cared not so much for the fishing
as for the solitude of the woods. I had a bit of thing to do. In the
thick timber there was a place where Tinkle brook began to hurry and
break into murmurs on a pebble bar, as if its feet were tickled. A few
more steps and it burst into a peal of laughter that lasted half the
year as it tumbled over narrow shelves of rock into a foamy pool. Many
a day I had sat fishing for hours at the little fall under a birch
tree, among the brakes and moss. No ray of sunlight ever got to the
dark water below me—the lair of many a big fish that had yielded to
the temptation of my bait. Here I lay in the cool shade while a
singular sort of heart sickness came over me. A wild partridge was
beating his gong in the near woods all the afternoon. The sound of the
water seemed to break in the tree-tops and fall back upon me. I had
lain there thinking an hour or more when I caught the jar of
approaching footsteps. Looking up I saw Jed Feary coming through the
bushes, pole in hand.
'Fishin'?' he asked.
'Only thinking,' I answered.
'Couldn't be in better business,' said he as he sat down beside me.
More than once he had been my father confessor and I was glad he
'In love?' he asked. 'No boy ever thinks unless he's in love.'
'In trouble,' said I.
'Same thing,' he answered, lighting his pipe. 'Love is trouble with
a bit of sugar in it—the sweetest trouble a man can have. what's the
'It's a great secret,' I said, 'I have never told it. I am in
'Knew it,' he said, puffing at his pipe and smiling in a kindly
way. 'Now let's put in the trouble.'
'She does not love me,' I answered.
'Glad of it,' he remarked. 'I've got a secret t, tell you.'
'What's that?' I enquired.
'Wouldn't tell anybody else for the world, my boy,' he said, 'it's
between you an' me.'
'Between you an' me,' I repeated.
'Well,' he said, you're a fool.'
'That's no secret,' I answered much embarrassed.
'Yes it is,' he insisted, 'you're smart enough an' ye can have most
anything in this world if ye take the right road. Ye've grown t' be a
great big strapping fellow but you're only—sixteen?'
'That's all,' I said mournfully.
'Ye're as big a fool to go falling in love as I'd be. Ye're too
young an' I'm too old. I say to you, wait. Ye've got to go t'
'College!' I exclaimed, incredulously.
'Yes! an' thet's another secret,' said he. I tol' David Brower what
I thought o' your writing thet essay on bugs in pertickier—an' I
tol' 'im what people were sayin' o' your work in school.'
'What d' he say?' I asked.
'Said Hope had tol' him all about it—that she was as proud o' you
as she was uv her curls, an' I believe it. "Well," says I, "y' oughter
sen' that boy t' college." "Goin' to," says he. "He'll go t' the
'Cademy this fall if he wants to. Then he can go t' college soon's
he's ready." Threw up my hat an' shouted I was that glad.'
As he spoke the old man's face kindled with enthusiasm. In me he
had one who understood him, who saw truth in his thought, music in
his verse, a noble simplicity in his soul. I took his hand in mine and
thanked him heartily. Then we rose and came away together.
'Remember,' he said, as we parted at the corner, 'there's a way
laid out fer you. In God's time it will lead to every good thing you
desire. Don't jump over the fence. Don't try t' pass any milestun
'fore ye've come to it. Don't mope. Keep yer head cool with
philosophy, yer feet warm with travel an' don't worry bout yer heart.
It won't turn t' stun if ye do keep it awhile. Allwus hev enough of it
about ye t' do business with. Goodbye!'
Gerald Brower, who was a baby when I came to live at Faraway, and
was now eleven, had caught a cold in seed time, and he had never quite
recovered. His coughing had begun to keep him awake, and one night it
brought alarm to the whole household. Elizabeth Brower was up early in
the morning and called Uncle Eb, who went away for the doctor as soon
as light came. We ate our breakfast in silence. Father and mother and
Grandma Bisnette spoke only in low tones and somehow the anxiety in
their faces went to my heart. Uncle Eb returned about eight o'clock
and said the doctor was coming. Old Doctor Bigsby was a very great man
in that country. Other physicians called him far and wide for
consultation. I had always regarded him with a kind of awe
intensified by the aroma of his drugs and the gleam of his lancet.
Once I had been his patient and then I had trembled at his approach.
when he took my little wrist in his big hand, I remember with what
reluctance I stuck out my quivering tongue, black, as I feared with
evidences of prevarication.
He was a picture for a painter man as he came that morning erect
in his gig. who could forget the hoary majesty of his head—his
'stovepipe' tilted back, his white locks flying about his ears? He
had a long nose, a smooth-shaven face and a left eye that was a
trifle turned. His thoughts were generally one day behind the
calendar. Today he seemed to be digesting the affairs of yesterday.
He was, therefore, absentminded, to a degree that made no end of
gossip. If he came out one day with shoe-strings flying, in his
remorse the next he would forget his collar; if one told him a good
joke today, he might not seem to hear it, but tomorrow he would take
it up in its turn and shake with laughter.
I remember how, that morning after noting the symptoms of his
patient, he sat a little in silent reflection. He knew that colour in
the cheek, that look in the eye—he had seen so much of it. His legs
were crossed and one elbow thrown carelessly over the back of his
chair. We all sat looking at him anxiously. In a moment he began
chewing hard on his quid of tobacco. Uncle Eb pushed the cuspidor a
bit nearer. The doctor expectorated freely and resumed his attitude of
reflection. The clock ticked loudly, the patient sighed, our anxiety
increased. Uncle Eb spoke to father, in a low tone, whereupon the
doctor turned suddenly, with a little grunt of enquiry, and seeing he
was not addressed, sank again into thoughtful repose. I had begun to
fear the worst when suddenly the hand of the doctor swept the bald
peak of benevolence at the top of his head. Then a smile began to
spread over his face. It was as if some feather of thought had begun
to tickle him. In a moment his head was nodding with laughter that
brought a great sense of relief to all of us. In a slow, deliberate
tone he began to speak:
'I was over t' Rat Tupper's t'other day,' said he, 'Rat was sitting
with me in the door yard. Purty soon a young chap came in, with a
scythe, and asked if he might use the grindstun. He was a new hired
man from somewhere near. He didn't know Rat, an' Rat didn't know him.
So Rat o' course had t' crack one o' his jokes.
'"May I use yer grindstun?" said the young feller.
'"Dunno," said Rat, "I'm only the hired man here. Go an' ask Mis'
'The ol' lady had overheard him an' so she says t' the young
feller, "Yes—ye can use the grindstun. The hired man out there'll
turn it fer ye."
'Rat see he was trapped, an' so he went out under the plum tree,
where the stun was, an' begun t' turn. The scythe was dull an' the
young feller bore on harder'n wuz reely decent fer a long time. Rat
begun t' git very sober lookin'.
'"Ain't ye 'bout done," said he.
'"Putty nigh," said the young feller bearin' down a leetle harder
all the time.
'Rat made the stun go faster. putty soon he asked agin, "Ain't ye
'"putty nigh!" says the other feeling o' the edge.
'"I'm done," said Rat, an' he let go o' the handle. "I dunno 'bout
the scythe but I'm a good deal sharper'n I wuz."
'"You're the hired man here ain't ye?" said the young feller.
'"No, I ain't," said Rat. "'D rather own up t' bein' a liar than
turn that stun another minnit."
As soon as he was fairly started with this droll narrative the
strain of the situation was relieved. We were all laughing as much at
his deliberate way of narration as at the story itself.
Suddenly he turned to Elizabeth Brower and said, very soberly,
'Will you bring me some water in a glass?'
Then he opened his chest of medicine, made some powders and told
us how to give them.
'In a few days I would take him into the big woods for a while,' he
said. 'See how it agrees with him.'
Then he gathered up his things and mother went with him to the
Humour was one of the specifics of Doctor Bigsby. He was always a
poor man. He had a way of lumping his bills, at about so much, in
settlement and probably never kept books. A side of pork paid for many
a long journey. He came to his death riding over the hills one bitter
day not long after the time of which I write, to reach a patient.
The haying over, we made ready for our trip into the woods. Uncle
Eb and Tip Taylor, who knew the forest, and myself, were to go with
Gerald to Blueberry Lake. We loaded our wagon with provisions one
evening and made ready to be off at the break of day.
I remember how hopefully we started that morning with Elizabeth
Brower and Hope waving their handkerchiefs on the porch and David
near them whittling. They had told us what to do and what not to do
over and over again. I sat with Gerald on blankets that were spread
over a thick mat of hay. The morning air was sweet with the odour of
new hay and the music of the bobolink. Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor sang
merrily as we rode over the hills.
When we entered the shade of the big forest Uncle Eb got out his
rifle and loaded it. He sat a long time whispering and looking
eagerly for game to right and left. He was still a boy. One could see
evidences of age only in his white hair and beard and wrinkled brow.
He retained the little tufts in front of his ears, and lately had
grown a silver crescent of thin and silky hair that circled his throat
under a bare clhn. Young as I was I had no keener relish for a
holiday than he. At noon we halted beside a brook and unhitched our
horses. Then we caught some fish, built a fire and cooked them, and
brewed our tea. At sunset we halted at Tuley Pond, looking along its
reedy margin, under purple tamaracks, for deer. There was a great
silence, here in the deep of the woods, and Tip Taylor's axe, while he
peeled the bark for our camp, seemed to fill the wilderness with
echoes. It was after dark when the shanty was covered and we lay on
its fragrant mow of balsam and hemlock. The great logs that we had
rolled in front of our shanty were set afire and shortly supper was
Gerald had stood the journey well. Uncle Eb and he stayed in while
Tip and I got our jack ready and went off in quest of a dugout He said
Bill Ellsworth had one hid in a thicket on the south side of Tuley. We
found it after an hour's tramp near by. It needed a little repairing
but we soon made it water worthy, and then took our seats, he in the
stern, with the paddle, and I in the bow with the gun. Slowly and
silently we clove a way through the star-sown shadows. It was like the
hushed and mystic movement of a dream. We seemed to be above the deep
of heaven, the stars below us. The shadow of the forest in the still
water looked like the wall of some mighty castle with towers and
battlements and myriads of windows lighted for a fete. Once the groan
of a nighthawk fell out of the upper air with a sound like that of a
stone striking in water. I thought little of the deer Tip was after.
His only aim in life was the one he got with a gun barrel. I had
forgotten all but the beauty of the scene. Suddenly Tip roused me by
laying his hand to the gunwale and gently shaking the dugout. In the
dark distance, ahead of us, I could hear the faint tinkle of dripping
water. Then I knew a deer was feeding not far away and that the water
was falling from his muzzle. When I opened my jack we were close upon
him. His eyes gleamed. I shot high above the deer that went splashing
ashore before I had pulled my trigger. After the roar of the gun had
got away, in the distant timber, Tip mentioned a place abhorred of
all men, turned and paddled for the landing.
'Could 'a killed 'im with a club,' said he snickering. 'Guess he
must a looked putty tall didn't he?'
'Why?' I asked.
'Cos ye aimed into the sky,' said hc. 'Mebbe ye thought he was a
'My hand trembled a little,' said I.
''Minds me of Bill Barber,' he said in a half-whisper, as he worked
his paddle, chuckling with amusement.
'How's that?' I asked.
'Nothin' safe but the thing he shoots at,' said he. 'Terrible bad
shot. Kills a cow every time he goes huntin'.'
Uncle Eb was stirring the fire when we came whispering into camp,
and Gerald lay asleep under the blankets.
'Willie couldn't hit the broadside of a bam,' said Tip. 'He don't
take to it nat'ral.'
'Killin' an' book learnin' don't often go together,' said Uncle Eb.
I turned in by the side of Gerald and Uncle Eb went off with Tip
for another trip in the dugout. The night was chilly but the fire
flooded our shanty with its warm glow. what with the light, and the
boughs under us, and the strangeness of the black forest we got
little sleep. I heard the gun roar late in the night, and when I woke
again Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor were standing over the fire in the
chilly grey of the morning. A dead deer hung on the limb of a tree
near by. They began dressing it while Gerald and I went to the spring
for water, peeled potatoes, and got the pots boiling. After a hearty
breakfast we packed up, and were soon on the road again, reaching
Blueberry Lake before noon. There we hired a boat of the lonely keeper
of the reservoir, found an abandoned camp with an excellent bark
shanty and made ourselves at home.
That evening in camp was one to be remembered. An Thomas, the
guide who tended the reservoir, came over and sat beside our fire
until bedtime. He had spent years in the wilderness going out for
nothing less important than an annual spree at circus time. He eyed
us over, each in turn, as if he thought us all very rare and
'Many bears here?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'More plenty 'n human bein's,' he answered, puffing lazily at his
pipe with a dead calm in his voice and manner that I have never seen
equalled except in a tropic sea.
'See 'em often?' I asked.
He emptied his pipe, striking it on his palin until the bowl rang,
without answering. Then he blew into the stem with great violence.
'Three or four 'n a summer, mebbe,' he said at length.
'Ever git sassy?' Uncle Eb asked.
He whipped a coal out of the ashes then and lifted it in his
fingers to the bowl of his pipe.
'Never real sassy,' he said between vigourous puffs. 'One stole a
ham off my pyazz las' summer; Al Fifield brought 't in fer me one day
-smelt good too! I kep' savin' uv it thinlan' I'd enjoy it all the
more when I did hev it. One day I went off cuttin' timber an' stayed
'til mos' night. Comin' home I got t' thinkin' o' thet ham, an' made
up my mind I'd hev some fer supper. The more I thought uv it the
faster I hurried an' when I got hum I was hungrier'n I'd been fer a
year. when I see the ol' bear's tracks an' the empty peg where the
ham had hung I went t' work an, got mad. Then I started after thet
bear. Tracked 'im over yender, up Cat Mountin'.'
Here Ab paused. He had a way of stopping always at the most
interesting point to puff at his pipe. It looked as if he were getting
up steam for another sentence and these delays had the effect of
'continued in our next'.
'Kill 'im?' Uncle Eb asked.
'Licked him,' he said.
'Huh!' we remarked incredulously.
'Licked 'im,' he repeated chucking. 'Went into his cave with a
sledge stake an' whaled 'im—whaled 'im 'til he run fer his life.'
Whether it was true or not I have never been sure, even to this
day, but Ab's manner was at once modest and convincing.
'Should 'a thought he'd 'a rassled with ye,' Uncle Eb remarked.
'Didn't give 'im time,' said Ab, as he took out his knife and began
slowly to sharpen a stick.
'Don't never wan' t' rassle with no bear,' he added, 'but hams is
too scurce here 'n the woods t' hev 'em tuk away 'fore ye know the
taste uv 'em. I ain't never been hard on bears. Don't seldom ever set
no traps an' I ain't shot a bear fer mor'n 'n ten year. But they've
got t' be decent. If any bear steals my vittles he's goin' t' git
Ab's tongue had limbered up at last. His pipe was going well and
he seemed to have struck an easy grade. There was a tone of injury
and aggrievement in his talk of the bear's ingratitude. He snailed
over his whittling as we laughed heartily at the droll effect of it
'D'ye ever hear o' the wild man 'at roams 'round'n these woods?' he
'Never did,' said Uncle Eb.
'I've seen 'im more times 'n ye could shake a stick at,' said Ab
crossing his legs comfortably and spitting into the fire. 'Kind o'
thank he's the same man folks tells uv down 'n Paradise Valley there
—'at goes 'round 'n the clearin' after bedtime.'
'The night man!' I exclaimed.
'Guess thet's what they call 'im,' said Ab. 'Curus man! Sometimes
I've hed a good squint at 'im off 'n the woods. He's wilder 'n a deer
an' I've seen 'im jump over logs, half as high as this shanty, jest as
easy as ye 'd hop a twig. Tried t' foller 'im once er twice but tain'
no use. He's quicker 'n a wil' cat.'
'What kind of a lookin' manis he?' Tip Taylor asked.
'Great, big, broad-shouldered feller,' said Ab. 'Six feet tall if
he's an inch. Hed a kind of a deerskin jacket on when I seen 'im an'
breeches an' moccasins made o' some kind o' hide. I recollec' one day
I was over on the ridge two mile er more from the Stillwater goin'
south. I seen 'im gittin' a drink at the spring there 'n the burnt
timber. An' if I ain't mistaken there was a real live panther playin'
'round 'im. If 't wa'n't a panther 'twas pesky nigh it I can'tell ye.
The critter see me fast an' drew up 'is back. Then the man got up
quickerin' a flash. Soon 'she see me—Jeemimey! didn't they move.
Never see no human critter run as he did! A big tree hed fell 'cross
a lot o' bush right 'n his path. I'll be gol dummed if 'twan't higher
'n my head! But he cleared it—jest as easy as a grasshopper'd go
over a straw. I'd like t' know wher he comes from, gol dummed if I
wouldn't. He's the consamdest queerest animal 'n these woods.'
Ab emphasised this lucid view of the night man by an animated
movement of his fist that held the big hunting knife with which he
whittled. Then he emptied his pipe and began cutting more tobacco.
'Some says 'e 's a ghost,' said Tip Taylor, splitting his sentence
with a yawn, as he lay on a buffalo robe in the shanty.
'Shucks an' shoestrings!' said An, 'he looks too nat'ral. Don't
believe no ghost ever wore whiskers an' long hair like his'n. Thet
don't hol' t' reason.'
This remark was followed by dead silence. Tip seemed to lack both
courage and information with which to prolong the argument.
Gerald had long been asleep and we were all worn out with uphill
travelling and the lack of rest. Uncle Eb went out to look after the
horses that were tethered near us. Ab rose, looked up through the
tree-tops, ventured a guess about the weather, and strode off into
We were five days in camp, hunting, fishing, fighting files and
picking blueberries. Gerald's cough had not improved at all—it was,
if anything, a bit worse than it had been and the worry of that had
clouded our holiday. We were not in high spirits when, finally we
decided to break camp the next afternoon.
The morning of our fourth day at Blueberry Uncle Eb and I crossed
the lake, at daylight, to fish awhile in Soda Brook and gather
orchids then abundant and beautiful in that part of the woods. We
headed for camp at noon and were well away from shore when a wild
yell rang in the dead timber that choked the wide inlet behind us. I
was rowing and stopped the oars while we both looked back at the naked
trees, belly deep in the water.
But for the dry limbs, here and there, they would have looked like
masts of sunken ships. In a moment another wild whoop came rushing
over the water. Thinking it might be somebody in trouble we worked
about and pulled for the mouth of the inlet. Suddenly I saw a boat
coming in the dead timber. There were three men in it, two of whom
were paddling. They yelled like mad men as they caught sight of us,
and one of them waved a bottle in the air.
'They're Indians,' said Uncle Eb. 'Drunk as lords. Guess we'd
better git out o' the way.'
I put about and with a hearty pull made for the other side of the
lake, three miles away. The Indians came after us, their yells
echoing in the far forest. Suddenly one of them lifted his rifle, as
if taking aim at us, and, bang it went the ball ricocheting across our
'Crazy drunk,' said Uncle Eb, 'an' they're in fer trouble. Pull
with all yer might'
I did that same putting my arms so stiffly to their task I feared
the oars would break
In a moment another ball came splintering the gunwales right
between us, but fortunately, wcll above the water line. Being half a
mile from shore I saw we were in great peril. Uncle Eb reached for
his rifle, his hand trembling.
'Sink 'em,' I shouted, 'an' do it quick or they'll sink us.'
My old companion took careful aim and his ball hit them right on
the starboard bow below the water line. A splash told where it had
landed. They stopped yelling. The man in the bow clapped his hat
against the side of the boat.
'Guess we've gin 'em a little business t' ten' to,' said Uncle Eb
as he made haste to load his rifle.
The Indian at the bow was lifting his rifle again. He seemed to
reel as he took aim. He was very slow about it. I kept pulling as I
watched him. I saw that their boat was slowly sInking. I had a
strange fear that he would hit me in the stomach. I dodged when I saw
the flash of his rifle. His ball struck the water, ten feet away from
us, and threw a spray into my face.
Uncle Eb had lifted his rifle to shoot again. Suddenly the Indian,
who had shot at us, went overboard. In a second they were all in the
water, their boat bottom up.
'Now take yer time,' said Uncle Eb coolly, a frown upon his face.
'They'll drown,' said I.
'Don't care if they do, consam 'em,' he answered. 'They're some o'
them St Regis devils, an' when they git whisky in 'em they'd jes'
soon kill ye as look at ye. They am' no better 'n rats.'
We kept on our way and by and by a wind came up that gave us both
some comfort, for we knew it would soon blow them ashore. Ab Thomas
had come to our camp and sat with Tip and Gerald when we got there. We
told of our adventure and then Ab gave us a bad turn, and a proper
appreciation of our luck, by telling us that they were a gang of
cut-throats—the worst in the wilderness.
'They'd a robbed ye sure,' he said. 'It's the same gang 'at killed
a man on Cat Mountain las' summer, an' I'll bet a dollar on it.'
Tip had everything ready for our journey home. Each day Gerald had
grown paler and thinner. As we wrapped him in a shawl and tenderly
helped him into the wagon I read his doom in his face. We saw so much
of that kind of thing in our stern climate we knew what it meant. Our
fun was over. We sat in silence, speeding down the long hills in the
fading light of the afternoon. Those few solemn hours in which I heard
oniy the wagon's rumble and the sweet calls of the
whip-poor-will-waves of music on a sea of silence-started me in a way
of thought which has led me high and low these many years and still
invites me. The day was near its end when we got to the first big
clearing. From the top of a high hill we could see above the far
forest, the red rim of the setting sun, big with winding from the
skein of day, that was now flying off the tree-tops in the west.
We stopped to feed the horses and to take a bite of jerked venison,
wrapped ourselves warmer, for it was now dunk and chilly, and went on
again. The road went mostly downhill, going out of the woods, and we
could make good time. It was near midnight when we drove in at our
gate. There was a light in the sitting-room and Uncle Eb and I went in
with Gerald at once. Elizabeth Brower knelt at the feet of her son,
unbuttoned his coat and took off his muffler. Then she put her arms
about his neck while neither spoke nor uttered any sound. Both mother
and son felt and understood and were silent. The ancient law of God,
that rends asunder and makes havoc of our plans, bore heavy on them in
that moment, I have no doubt, but neither murmured. Uncle Eb began to
pump vigorously at the cistern while David fussed with the fire. We
were all quaking inwardly but neither betrayed a sign of it. It is a
way the Puritan has of suffering. His emotions are like the deep
undercurrents of the sea.
If I were writing a novel merely I should try to fill it with
merriment and good cheer. I should thrust no sorrow upon the reader
save that he might feel for having wasted his time. We have small need
of manufactured sorrow when, truly, there is so much of the real thing
on every side of us. But this book is nothing more nor less than a
history, and by the same token it cannot be all as I would have wished
it. In October following the events of the last chapter, Gerald died
of consumption, having borne a lingering illness with great fortitude.
I, who had come there a homeless orphan in a basket, and who, with the
God-given eloquence of childhood had brought them to take me to their
hearts and the old man that was with me as well, was now the only son
left to Elizabeth and David Brower. There were those who called it
folly at the time they took us in, I have heard, but he who shall read
this history to the end shall see how that kind of folly may profit
one or even many here in this hard world.
It was a gloomy summer for all of us. The industry and patience
with which Hope bore her trial, night and day, is the sweetest
recollection of my youth. It brought to her young face a tender
soberness of womanhood—a subtle change of expression that made her
all the more dear to me. Every day, rain or shine, the old doctor had
come to visit his patient, sometimes sitting an hour and gazing
thoughtfully in his face, occasionally asking a question, or telling a
quaint anecdote. And then came the end.
The sky was cold and grey in the late autumn and the leaves were
drifted deep in the edge of the woodlands when Hope and I went away
to school together at HilIsborough. Uncle Eb drove us to our boarding
place in town. when we bade him goodbye and saw him driving away,
alone in the wagon, we hardly dared look at each other for the tears
in our eyes.
David Brower had taken board for us at the house of one Solomon
Rollin—universally known as 'Cooky' Rollin; that was one of the
first things I learned at the Academy. It seemed that many years ago
he had taken his girl to a dance and offered her, in lieu of supper,
cookies that he had thoughtfully brought with him. Thus cheaply he had
come to life-long distinction.
'You know Rollin's Ancient History, don't you?' the young man
asked who sat with me at school that first day.
'Have it at home,' I answered, 'It's in five volumes.'
'I mean the history of Sol Rollin, the man you are boarding with,'
said he smiling at me and then he told the story of the cookies.
The principal of the HilIsborough Academy was a big, brawny
bachelor of Scotch descent, with a stem face and cold, grey, glaring
eyes. when he stood towering above us on his platform in the main room
of the building where I sat, there was an alertness in his figure, and
a look of responsibility in his face, that reminded me of the pictures
of Napoleon at Waterloo. He always carried a stout ruler that had
blistered a shank of every mischievous boy in school. As he stood by
the line, that came marching into prayers every morning he would
frequently pull out a boy, administer a loud whack or two, shake him
violently and force him into a seat. The day I began my studies at the
Academy I saw him put two dents in the wall with the heels of a young
man who had failed in his algebra. To a bashful and sensitive youth,
just out of a country home, the sight of such violence was appalling.
My first talk with him, however, renewed my courage. He had heard I
was a good scholar and talked with me in a friendly way about my
plans. Both Hope and I were under him in algebra and Latin. I well
remember my first error in his class. I had misconstrued a Latin
sentence. He looked at me, a smile and a sneer crowding each other for
possession of his face. In a loud, jeering tone he cried: 'Mirabile
I looked at him in doubt of his meaning.
'Mirabile dictu!' he shouted, his tongue trilling the r.
I corrected my error.
'Perfect!' he cried again. 'Puer pulchre! Next!'
He never went further than that with me in the way of correction.
My size and my skill as a wrestler, that shortly ensured for me the
respect of the boys, helped me to win the esteem of the master. I
leamed my lessons and kept out of mischief. But others of equal
proficiency were not so fortunate. He was apt to be hard on a light
man who could be handled without over-exertion.
Uncle Eb came in to see me one day and sat awhile with me in my
seat. While he was there the master took a boy by the collar and
almost literally wiped the blackboard with him. There was a great
clatter of heels for a moment. Uncle Eb went away shortly and was at
Sol Rollin's when I came to dinner.
'Powerful man ain't he?' said Uncle Eb.
'Rather,' I said.
'Turned that boy into a reg'lar horse fiddle,' he remarked. 'Must
'ave unsot his reason.'
'Unnecessary!' I said.
'Reminded me o' the time 'at Tip Taylor got his tooth pulled,' said
he. 'Shook 'im up so 'at he thought he'd had his neck put out o'
Sol Rollin was one of my studies that winter. He was a carpenter
by trade and his oddities were new and delightful. He whistled as he
worked, he whistled as he read, he whistled right merrily as he walked
up and down the streets—a short, slight figure with a round boyish
face and a fringe of iron-grey hair under his chin. The little man had
one big passion—that for getting and saving. The ancient thrift of
his race had pinched him small and narrow as a foot is stunted by a
tight shoe. His mind was a bit out of register as we say in the
printing business. His vocabulary was rich and vivid and stimulating.
'Somebody broke into the arsenic today,' he announced, one
evening, at the supper table.
'The arsenic,' said somebody, 'what arsenic?'
'Why the place where they keep the powder,' he answered.
'Oh! the arsenal.'
'Yes, the arsenal,' he said, cackling with laughter at his error.
Then he grew serious.
'Stole all the ambition out of it,' he added.
'You mean ammunition, don't you, Solomon?' his wife enquired.
'Certainly,' said he, 'wasn't that what I said.'
When he had said a thing that met his own approval Sol Rollin
would cackle most cheerfully and then crack a knuckle by twisting a
finger. His laugh was mostly out of register also. It had a sad lack
of relevancy. He laughed on principle rather than provocation. Some
sort of secret comedy of which the world knew nothing, was passing in
his mind; it seemed to have its exits and its entrances, its villain,
its clown and its miser who got all the applause.
While working his joy was unconfined. Many a time I have sat and
watched him in his little shop, its window dim with cobwebs.
Sometimes he would stop whistling and cackle heartily as he worked
his plane or drew his pencil to the square. I have even seen him drop
his tools and give his undivided attention to laughter. He did not
like to be interrupted—he loved his own company the best while he
was 'doin' business'. I went one day when he was singing the two lines
and their quaint chorus which was all he ever sang in my hearing;
which gave him great relief, I have no doubt, when lip weary with
Sez I 'Dan'l Skinner, I thank yer mighty mean To send me up the
river, With a sev'n dollar team' Lul-ly,ul—ly,diddie ul—ly,
diddleul—lydee, Oh, lul-ly, ul—ly, diddle ul—ly, diddle ul—ly
'Mr Rollin!' I said.
Yes siree,' said he, pausing in the midst of his chorus to look up
'Where can I get a piece of yellow pine?'
'See 'n a minute,' he said. Then he continued his sawing and his
song, ' "Says I Dan SItinner, I thank yer mighty mean"—what d' ye
want it fer?' he asked stopping abruptly.
'Going to make a ruler,' I answered.
'"T' sen' me up the river with a seven dollar team,',' he went on,
picking out a piece of smooth planed lumber, and handing it to me.
'How much is it worth?' I enquired.
He whistled a moment as he surveyed it carefully.
''Bout one cent,' he answered seriously.
I handed him the money and sat down awhile to watch him as he went
on with his work. It was the cheapest amusement I have yet enjoyed.
Indeed Sol Rollin became a dissipation, a subtle and seductive habit
that grew upon me and on one pretext or another I went every Saturday
to the shop if I had not gone home.
'What ye goin' t' be?'
He stopped his saw, and looked at me, waiting for my answer.
At last the tirne had come when I must declare myself and I did.
'A journalist,' I replied.
'What's that?' he enquired curiously.
'An editor,' I said.
'A printer man?'
'A printer man.'
'Huh!' said he. 'Mebbe I'll give ye a job. Sairey tol' me I'd orter
t' 'ave some cards printed. I'll want good plain print: Solomon
Rollin, Cappenter 'n J'iner, lilillsborough, NY—soun's putty good
'Beautiful,' I answered.
'I'll git a big lot on 'em,' he said. 'I'll want one for Sister
Susan 'at's out in Minnesoty—no, I guess I'll send 'er tew, so she
can give one away—an' one fer my brother, Eliphalet, an' one apiece
fer my three cousins over 'n Vermont, an' one fer my Aunt Mirandy.
Le's see-tew an' one is three an' three is six an' one is seven. Then
I'll git a few struck off fer the folks here—guess they'll thank I'm
gittin' up 'n the world.'
He shook and snickered with anticipation of the glory of it. Pure
vanity inspired him in the matter and it had in it no vulgar
consideration of business policy. He whistled a lively tune as he
bent to his work again.
'Yer sister says ye're a splendid scholar!' said he. 'Hear'n 'er
braggin' 'bout ye t'other night; she thinks a good deal o' her
brother, I can tell ye. Guess I know what she's gain' t' give ye
'What's that?' I asked, with a curiosity more youthll than
'Don't ye never let on,' said he.
'Never,' said I.
'Hear'n 'em tell,' he said,' 'twas a gol' lockup, with 'er pictur'
'Oh, a locket!' I exclaimed.
'That's it,' he replied, 'an' pure gol', too.'
I turned to go.
'Hope she'll grow up a savin' woman,' he remarked. ''Fraid she
won't never be very good t' worlt'
'Why not?' I enquired.
'Han's are too little an' white,' he answered.
'She won't have to,' I said.
He cackled uproariously for a moment, then grew serious.
'Her father's rich,' he said, 'the richest man o' Faraway, an I
guess she won't never hev anything t' dew but set'n sing an' play the
'She can do as she likes,' I said.
He stood a moment looking down as if meditating on the delights he
'Gol!' he exclaimed suddenly.
My subject had begun to study me, and I came away to escape
I ought to say that I have had and shall have to chronicle herein
much that would seem to indicate a mighty conceit of myself.
Unfortunately the little word 'I' throws a big shadow in this history.
It looms up all too frequendy in every page for the sign of a modest
man. But, indeed, I cannot help it, for he was the only observer of
all there is to tell. Now there is much, for example, in the very
marrow of my history—things that never would have happened, things
that never would have been said, but for my fame as a scholar. My
learning was of small account, for, it must be remembered, I am
writing of a time when any degree of scholarship was counted
remarkable among the simple folk of Faraway.
Hope took singing lessons and sang in church every Sunday. David
or Uncle Eb came down for us often of a Saturday and brought us back
before service m the morning. One may find in that town today many who
will love to tell him of the voice and beauty and sweetness of Hope
Brower those days, and of what they expected regarding her and me. We
went out a good deal evenings to concerts, lectures at the churches or
the college, or to visit some of the many people who invited us to
We had a recess of two weeks at the winter holidays and David
Brower came after us the day the term ended. O, the great happiness
of that day before Christmas when we came flying home in the sleigh
behind a new team of greys and felt the intoxication of the frosty
air, and drove in at dusk after the lamps were lit and we could see
mother and Uncle Eb and Grandma Bisnette looking out of the window,
and a steaming dinner on the table! I declare! it is long since then,
but I cannot ever think of that time without wiping my glasses and
taking a moment off Tip Taylor took the horses and we all came in
where the kettle was singing on the stove and loving hands helped us
out of our wraps. The supper was a merry feast, the like of which one
may ftnd only by returning to his boyhood. Mack! that is a long
journey for some of us.
Supper over and the dishes out of the way we gathered about the
stove with cider and butternuts.
'Well,' said Hope, 'I've got some news to tell you—this boy is
the best scholar of his age in this county.'
'Thet so?' said David.
Uncle Eb stopped his hmnmer that was lifted to crack a butternut
and pulled his chair close to Hope's. Elizabeth looked at her
daughter and then at me, a smile and a protest in her face.
'True as you live,' said Hope. 'The master told me so. He's first
in everything, and in the Town Hall the other night he spelt
'What! In HilIsborough?' Uncle Eb asked incredulously.
'Yes, in Hillsborough,' said Hope, 'and there were doctors and
lawyers and college students and I don't know who all in the match.'
'Most reemarkable!' said David Brower.
'Treemenjious!' exclaimed Uncle Eb.
'I heard about it over at the mllls t'day,' said Tip Taylor.
'Merd Dieu!' exclaimed Grandma Bisnette, crossing herself.
Elizabeth Brower was unable to stem this tide of enthusiasm. I had
tried to stop it, but, instantly, it had gone beyond my control. If I
could be hurt by praise the mischief had been done.
'It's very nice, indeed,' said she soberly. 'I do hope it won't
make him conceited. He should remember that people do not always mean
what they say.'
'He's too sensible for that, mother,' said David.
'Shucks!' said Uncle Eb, 'he ain' no fool if he is a good speller—
not by a dum sight!'
'Tip,' said David, 'you'll find a box in the sleigh 'at come by
express. I wish ye'd go'n git it.'
We all stood looking while Tip brought it in and pried off the top
boards with a hatchet.
'Careful, now!' Uncle Eb cautioned him. 'Might spile sumthin'.'
The top off, Uncle Eb removed a layer of pasteboard. Then he
pulled out a lot of coloured tissue paper, and under that was a
package, wrapped and tied. Something was written on it. He held it up
and tried to read the writing.
'Can't see without my spectacles,' he said, handing it to me.
'For Hope,' I read, as I passed it to her.
'Hooray!' said Uncle Eb, as he lifted another, and the last
package, from the box.
'For Mrs Brower,' were the words I read upon that one.
The strings were cut, the wrappers torn away, and two big rolls of
shiny silk loosened their coils on the table. Hope uttered a cry of
delight. A murmur of surprise and admiration passed from one to
another. Elizabeth lifted a rustling fold and held it to the lamplight
We passed our hands over the smooth sheen of the silk.
'Wall, I swan!' said Uncle Eb. 'Jes' like a kitten's ear!'
'Eggzac'ly!' said David Brower.
Elizabeth lifted the silk and let it flow to her feet Then for a
little she looked down, draping it to her skirt and moving her foot to
make the silk rustle. For the moment she was young again.
'David,' she said, still looking at the glory of glossy black that
covered her plain dress.
'Well, mother,' he answered.
'Was you fool enough t' go'n buy this stuff fer me?'
'No, mother—it come from New York City,' he said.
'From New York City?' was the exclamation of all.
Elizabeth Brower looked thoughtfullyy at her husband.
'Clear from New York City?' she repeated.
'From New York City,' said he.
'Wall, of all things!' said Uncle Eb, looking over his spectacles
from one to another.
'It's from the Livingstone boy,' said Mrs Brower. 'I've heard he's
the son of a rich man.'
''Fraid he took a great fancy t' Hope,' said David.
'Father,' said the girl, you've no right to say that. I'm sure he
never cared a straw for me.'
'I don't think we ought to keep it,' said Mrs Brower, looking up
'Shucks and shavin's!' said Uncle Eb. 'Ye don't know but what I had
it sent myself.'
Hope went over and put her arms around his neck.
'Did you, Uncle Eb?' she asked. 'Now you tell me the truth, Unde
'Wouldn't say 't I did,' he answered, 'but I don' want 'a see ye go
sendin' uv it back. Ye dunno who sent it.'
'What'll I do with it?' Mrs Brower asked, laughing in a way that
showed a sense of absurdity. 'I'd a been tickled with it thirty years
ago, but now-folks 'ud think I was crazy.'
'Never heard such fol de rol,' said Uncle Eb. 'If ye move t' the
village it'll come handy t' go t' meetin'in.'
That seemed to be unanswerable and conclusive, at least for the
time being, and the silk was laid away. We sat talking until late
bedtime, Hope and I, telling of our studies and of the many people we
had met in HilIsborough.
We hung up our stockings just as we had always done Christmas Eve,
and were up betimes in the morning to find them filled with many
simple but delightful things, and one which I treasure to this day—
the locket and its picrure of which I had been surreptitiously
At two o'clock we had a fine dinner of roast turkey and chicken
pie, with plenty of good cider, and the mince pie, of blessed memory,
such as only a daughter of New England may dare try to make.
Uncle Eb went upstairs after dinner and presently we heard him
descending with a slow and heavy foot I opened the stair door and
there he stood with the old bass viol that had long lain neglected in
a dusty corner of the attic. Many a night I had heard it groan as the
strings loosened, in the years it had lain on its hack, helpless and
forgotten. It was like a dreamer, snoring in his sleep, and murmuring
of that he saw in his dreams. Uncle Eb had dusted and strung it and
glued its weaker joints. He sat down with it' the severe look of old
upon his face, and set the strings roaring as he tuned them. Then he
brought the sacred treasure to me and leaned it against my shoulder.
'There that's a Crissmus present fer ye, Willie,' said he. 'It may
help ye t' pass away the time once in a while.'
I thanked him warmly.
''S a reel firs'-class instrument,' he said. 'Been a rip snorter 'n
its day.' He took from his bosom then the old heart pin of silver that
he had always worn of a Sunday.
'Goin' t' give ye thet, too,' he said. 'Dunno's ye'll ever care to
wear it, but I want ye should hev sumthin' ye can carry'n yer pocket
t' remember me by.'
I did not dare trust myself to speak, and I sat helplessly turning
that relic of a better day in my fingers.
'It's genuwine silver,' said he proudly.
I took his old hand in mine and raised it reverently to my lips.
'Hear'n 'em tell 'bout goin' t' the village, an' I says t' myself,
"Uncle Eb," says I, "we'll hev t' be goin'. 'Tain' no place fer you in
'Holden,' said David Brower, 'don't ye never talk like that ag'in.
Yer just the same as married t' this family, an' ye can't ever git
away from us.'
And he never did until his help was needed in other and fairer
fields, I am sure, than those of Faraway—God knows where.
Tip Taylor was, in the main, a serious-minded man. A cross eye
enhanced the natural solemnity of his countenance. He was little
given to talk or laughter unless he were on a hunt, and then he only
whispered his joy. He had seen a good bit of the world through the
peek sight of his rifle, and there was something always in the feel
of a gun that lifted him to higher moods. And yet one could reach a
tender spot in him without the aid of a gun. That winter vacation I
set myself to study things for declamation—specimens of the
eloquence of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay and James Otis and Patrick
Henry. I practiced them in the barn, often, in sight and hearing of
the assembled herd and some of those fiery passages were rather too
loud and threatening for the peace and comfort of my audience. The
oxen seemed always to be expecting the sting of the bull whip; they
stared at me timidly, tilting their ears every moment, as if to empty
them of a heavy load; while the horses snorted with apprehension. This
haranguing of the herd had been going on a week or more when Uncle Eb
and I, returning from a distant part of the farm, heard a great uproar
m the stable. Looking in at a window we saw Tip Taylor, his back
toward us, extemporising a speech. He was pressing his argument with
gestures and the tone of thunder. We listened a moment, while a
worried look came over the face of Uncle Eb. Tip's words were
meaningless save for the secret aspiration they served to advertise.
My old companion thought Tip had gone crary, and immediately swung
the door and stepped in. The orator fell suddenly from his lofry
altitude and became a very sober looking hired man.
'What's the matter?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'Practicin',' said Tip soberly, as he turned slowly, his face damp
and red with exertion.
'Fer what?' Uncle Eb enquired.
'Fer the 'sylum, I guess,' he answered, with a faint smile.
'Ye don' need no more practice,' Uncle Eb answered. 'Looks t' me
as though ye was purty well prepared.'
To me there was a touch of pathos in this show of the deeper
things m Tip's nature that had been kindled to eruption by my
spouting. He would not come in to dinner that day, probably from an
unfounded fear that we would make fun of his flight—a thing we
should have been far from doing once we understood him.
It was a bitter day of one of the coldest winters we had ever
known. A shrieking wind came over the hills, driving a scud of snow
before it The stock in the stables, we all came in, soon after dinner,
and sat comfortably by the fire with cider, checkers and old sledge.
The dismal roar of the trees and the wind-wail in the chinney served
only to increase our pleasure. It was growing dusk when mother,
peering through the sheath of frost on a window pane, uttered an
exclamation of surprise.
'Why! who is this at the door?' said she. 'Why! It's a man in a
cutter.' Father was near the door and he swung it open quickly. There
stood a horse and cutter, a man sitting in it, heavily muffled. The
horse was shivering and the man sat motionless.
'Hello!' said David Brower in a loud voice.
He got no answer and ran bareheaded to the sleigh.
'Come, quick, Holden,' he called, 'it's Doctor Bigsby.'
We all ran out then, while David lifted the still figure in his
'In here, quick!' said Elizabeth, opening the door to the parlour.
'Musn't take 'im near the stove.'
We carried him into the cold room and laid him down, and David and
I tore his wraps open while the others ran quickly after snow.
I rubbed it vigorously upon his iace and ears, the others meantime
applying it to his feet and arms, that had been quickly stripped. The
doctor stared at us curiously and tried to speak.
'Get ap, Dobbin!' he called presently, and ducked as if urging his
horse. 'Get ap, Dobbin! Man'll die 'fore ever we git there.'
We all worked upon him with might and main. The white went slowly
out of his face. We lifted him to a sitting posture. Mother and Hope
and Uncle Eb were rubbing his hands and feet.
'Where am I?' he enquired, his face now badly swollen.
'At David Brower's,' said I.
'Huh?' he asked, with that kindiy and familiar grunt of
'At David Brower's,' I repeated.
'Well, I'll have t' hurry,' said he, trying feebly to rise. 'Man's
dyin' over—' he hesitated thoughtfully, 'on the Plains,' he added,
looking around at us.
Grandma Bisnette brought a lamp and held itso the light frll on his
face. He looked from one to another. He drew one of his hands away
and stared at it.
'Somebody froze?' he asked.
'Yes,' said I.
'Hm! Too bad. How'd it happen?' he asked. 'I don't know.'
'How's the pulse?' he enquired, feeling for my.wrist.
I let him hold it in his hand.
'Will you bring me some water in a glass?' he enquired, turning to
Mrs Brower, just as I had seen him do many a time in Gerald's
illness. Before she came with the water his head fell forward upon
his breast, while he muttered feebly. I thought then he was dead, but
presently he roused himself with a mighty effort.
'David Brower!' he called loudly, and trying hard to rise, 'bring
the horse! bring the horse! Mus' be goin', I tell ye. Man's dyin' over
—on the Plains.'
He went limp as a rag then. I could feel his heart leap and
'There's a man dyin' here,' said David Brower, in a low tone. 'Ye
needn't rub no more.
'He's dead,' Elizabeth whispered, holding his hand tenderly, and
looking into his half-closed eyes. Then for a moment she covered her
own with her handkerchief, while David, in a low, calm tone, that
showed the depth of his feeling, told us what to do.
Uncle Eb and I watched that night, while Tip Taylor drove away to
town. The body lay in the parlour and we sat by the stove in the room
adjoining. In a half-whisper we talked of the sad event of the day.
'Never oughter gone out a day like this,' said Uncle Eb. 'Don' take
much t' freeze an ol' man.'
'Got to thinking of what happened yesterday and forgot the cold,' I
'Bad day t' be absent-minded,' whispered Uncle Eb, as he rose and
tiptoed to the window and peered through the frosty panes. 'May o'
got faint er sumthin'. Ol' hoss brought 'im right here—been here s'
often with 'in'.'
He took the lantern and went out a moment. The door creaked upon
its frosty hinges when he opened it.
'Thirty below zero,' he whispered as he came in. 'Win's gone down
a leetle bit, mebbe.'
Uncanny noises broke in upon the stliness of the old house. Its
timbers, racked in the mighty grip of the cold, creaked and settled.
Sometimes there came a sbarp, breaking sound, like the crack of
'If any man oughter go t' Heaven, he had,' said Uncle Eb, as he
drew on his boots.
'Think he's in Heaven?' I asked.
'Hain't a doubt uv it,' said he, as he chewed a moment, preparing
'What kind of a place do you think it is?' I asked.
'Fer one thing,' he said, deliberately, 'nobody'll die there, 'less
he'd ought to; don't believe there's goin' t' be any need o' swearin'
er quarrellin'. To my way o' thinkin' it'll be a good deal like Dave
Brower's flirm—nice, smooth land and no stun on it, an, hills an'
valleys an' white clover aplenty, an' wheat an' corn higher'n a man's
head. No bull thistles, no hard winters, no narrer contracted fools;
no long faces, an' plenty o' work. Folks sayin' "How d'y do" 'stid o'
"goodbye", all the while—comin' 'stid o' gain'. There's goin' t' be
some kind o' ftln there. I ain' no idee what 'tis. Folks like it an' I
kind o' believe 'at when God's gin a thing t', everybody he thinks
purty middlin' well uv it.'
'Anyhow, it seems a hard thing to die,' I remarked.
'Seems so,' he said thoughtfully. 'Jes' like ever'thing else—them
'at knows much about it don' have a great deal t' say. Looks t' me
like this: I cal'ate a man hes on the everidge ten things his heart is
sot on—what is the word I want—?'
'Treasures?' I suggested.
'Thet's it,' said he. 'Ev'ry one hes about ten treasures. Some hev
more—some less. Say one's his strength, one's his plan, the rest is
them he loves, an' the more he loves the better 'tis fer him. Wall,
they begin t' go one by one. Some die, some turn agin' him. Fin's it
hard t' keep his allowance. When he's only nine he's lost eggzac'ly
one-tenth uv his dread o' dyin'. Bime bye he counts up—
one-two-three-four-five-an' thet's all ther is left. He figgers it up
carefial. His strength is gone, his plan's a fillure, mebbe, an' this
one's dead an' thet one's dead, an' t'other one better be. Then 's
'bout half-ways with him. If he lives till the ten treasures is all
gone, God gives him one more—thet's death. An' he can swop thet off
an' git back all he's lost. Then he begins t' think it's a purty dum
good thing, after all. Purty good thing, after all,' he repeated,
gaping as he spoke.
He began nodding shortly, and soon he went asleep in his chair.
We went back to our work again shortly, the sweetness and the
bitterness of life fresh in our remembrance. When we came back, 'hook
an' line', for another vacation, the fields were aglow with colour,
and the roads where Dr Bigsby had felt the sting of death that winter
day were now over drifted with meadow-music and the smell of clover. I
had creditably taken examination for college, where I was to begin my
course in the fall, with a scholarship. Hope had made remarkable
progress in music and was soon going to Ogdensburg for instruction.
A year had gone, nearly, since Jed Feary had cautioned me about
falling in love. I had kept enough of my heart about me 'to do
business with', but I had continued to feel an uncomfortable absence
in the region of it. Young men at HilIsborough—many of whom, I felt
sure, had a smarter look than I—had bid stubbornly for her favour. I
wondered, often, it did not turn her head—this tribute of rustic
admiration. But she seemed to be all unconscious of its cause and went
about her work with small conceit of herself. Many a time they had
tried to take her from my arm at the church door—a good-natured
phase of youthful rivalry there in those days —but she had always
said, laughingly, 'No, thank you,' and clung all the closer to me. Now
Jed Feary had no knowledge of the worry it gave me, or of the penl it
suggested. I knew that, if I felt free to tell him all, he would give
me other counsel. I was now seventeen and she a bit older, and had I
not heard of many young men and women who had been engaged—aye, even
married—at that age? Well, as it happened, a day before she left us,
to go to her work in Ogdensburg, where she was to live with her uncle,
I made an end of delay. I considered carefully what a man ought to say
in the circumstances, and I thought I had near an accurate notion. We
were in the garden—together—the playground of our childhood.
'Hope, I have a secret to tell you,' I said.
'A secret,' she exclaimed eagerly. 'I love secrets.'
'A great secret,' I repeated, as I felt my face burning.
'Why—it must be something awful!'
'Not very,' I stammered. Having missed my cue from the beginning,
I was now utterly confused.
'William!' she exclaimed, 'what is the matter of you.'
'I—I am in love,' said I, very awkwardiy.
'Is that all?' she answered, a trace of humour in her tone. 'I
thought it was bad news.'
I stooped to pick a rose and handed itto her.
'Well,' she remarked soberly, but smiling a little, as she lifted
the rose to her lips, 'is it anyone I know.'
I felt it was going badly with me, but caught a sudden inspiration.
'You have never seen her,' I said.
If she had suspected the truth I had turned the tables on her, and
now she was guessing. A quick change came into her face, and, for a
moment, it gave me confidence.
'Is she pretty?' she asked very seriously as she dropped the flower
and looked down crushing it beneath her foot.
'She is very beautifial—it is you I love, Hope.'
A flood of colour came into her cheeks then, as she stood a moment
looking down at the flower in silence.
'I shall keep your secret,' she said tenderly, and hesitating as
she spoke, 'and when you are through college—and you are older—and
I am older—and you love me as you do now—I hope—I shall love
you, too—as—I do now.'
Her lips were trembling as she gave me that sweet assurance—
dearer to me—far dearer than all else I remember of that golden
time—and tears were coursing down her cheeks. For myself I was in a
worse plight of emotion. I dare say she remembered also the look of my
face in that moment.
'Do not speak of it again,' she said, as we walked away together on
the shorn sod of the orchard meadow, now sown with apple blossoms,
'until we are older, and, if you never speak again, I shall know you—
you do not love me any longer.'
The dinner horn sounded. We turned and walked slowly back
'Do I look all right?' she asked, turing her face to me and smiling
'All right,' I said. 'Nobody would know that anyone loved you—
except for your beauty and that one tear track on your cheek.'
She wiped it away as she laughed.
'Mother knows anyway,' she said, 'and she has given me good
advice. Wait!' she added, stopping and turning to me. 'Your eyes are
I felt for my handkerchief.
'Take mine,' she said.
Elder Whitmarsh was at the house and they were all suring downto
dinner as we came in.
'Hello!' said Uncle Eb. 'Here's a good-lookin' couple. We've got a
chicken pie an' a Baptis' minister fer dinner an' both good. Take yer
pew nex' t' the minister,' he added as he held the chair for me.
Then we all bowed our heads and I felt a hearty amen for the
'O Lord, may all our doing and saying and eating and driniiing of
this day be done, as in Thy sight, for our eternal happiness—and
for Thy glory. Amen.'
We have our secrets, but, guard them as we may, it is not long
before others have them also. We do much taling without words. I once
knew a man who did his drinking secretly and his reeling in public,
and thought he was fooling everybody. That shows how much easier it is
for one to fool himself than to fool another. What is in a man's heart
is on his face, and is shortly written all over him. Therein is a
Of all people I ever knew Elizabeth Brower had the surest eye for
looking into one's soul, and I, myself, have some gift of
penetration. I knew shortly that Mrs Brower—wise and prudent woman
that she was—had suspected my love for Hope and her love for me, and
had told her what she ought to say if I spoke of it
The maturity of judgement in Hope's answer must have been the
result of much thought and counsel, it seemed to me.
'If you do not speak again I shall know you do not love me any
longer,' she had said. They were brave words that stood for something
very deep in the character of those people—a self-repression that
was sublime, often, in their women. As I said them to myself, those
lonely summer days in Faraway, I saw in their sweet significance no
hint of the bitterness they were to bring. But God knows I have had my
share of pleasure and no more bitterness than I deserved.
It was a lonely summer for me. I had letters from Hope—ten of
them—which I still keep and read, often with something of the old
pleasure—girlish letters that told of her work and friends, and gave
me some sweet counsel and much assurance between the lines.
I travelled in new roads that vacation time. Politics and religion,
as well as love, began to interest me. Slavery was looming into the
proportion of a great issue, and the stories of cruelty and outrage
on the plantations of the South stirred my young blood and made it
ready for the letting of battle, in God's time. The speeches in the
Senate were read aloud in our sitting-room after supper—the day the
Tnbune came—and all lent a tongue to their discussion. Jed Feary was
with us one evening, I remember, when our talk turned into long ways,
the end of which I have never found to this day. Elizabeth had been
reading of a slave, who, according to the paper, had been whipped to
'If God knows 'at such things are bein' done, why don't he stop
'em?' David asked.
'Can't very well,' said Jed Feary.
'Can, if he's omnipotent,' said David.
'That's a bad word—a dangerous one,' said the old poet, dropping
his dialect as he spoke. 'It makes God responsible for evil as well
as good. The word carries us beyond our depth. It's too big for our
boots. I'd ruther think He can do what's doable an' know what's
knowable. In the beginning he gave laws to the world an' these laws
are unchangeable, or they are not wise an' perfect. If God were to
change them He would thereby acknowledge their imperfection. By this
law men and races suffer as they struggle upward. But if the law is
unchangeable, can it be changed for a better cause even than the
relief of a whipped slave? In good time. the law shall punish and
relieve. The groans of them that suffer shall hasten it, but there
shall be no change in the law. There can be no change in the law.'
'Leetle hard t' tell jest how powerfiil God is,' said Uncle Eb.
'Good deal like tryin' t' weigh Lake Champlain with a quart pail and a
pair o' steelyards.'
'If God's laws are unchangeable, what is the use of praying?' I
'He can give us the strength to bear, the will to obey him an'
light to guide us,' said the poet. 'I've written out a few lines t'
read t' Bill here 'fore he goes off t' college. They have suanthin' t'
say on this subject. The poem hints at things he'd ought 'o learn
purty soon—if he don't know 'em now.'
The old poet felt in his pockets as he spoke, and withdrew a folded
sheet of straw-coloured wrapping paper and opened it. I was 'Bill'
—plain 'Bill'—to everybody in that country, where, as you increased
your love of a man, you diminished his name. I had been called
Willie, William and Billy, and finally, when I threw the strong man
of the township in a wrestling match they gave me this fail token of
confidence. I bent over the shoulder of Jed Feary for a view of the
manuscript, closely written witha lead pencil, and marked with many
'Le's hear it,' said David Brower.
Then I moved the lamp to his elbow and he began reading:
'A talk with William Brower on the occasion of his going away to
colkge and writ oat in rhyme for him by his friend Jedediah Feary to
be a token of respect.
The man that loses faith in God, ye'll find out every time, Has
found a faith in his own self that's mighty nigh sublime. He knows as
much as all the saints an' calls religion flighty, An' in his narrow
world assumes the place o' God Almighty.
But don't expect too much o' God, it wouldn't be quite fair If fer
everything ye wanted ye could only swap a prayer; I'd pray fer yours
an' you fer mine an' Deacon Henry Hospur He wouldn't hev a thing t' do
but lay a-bed an' prosper.
If all things come so easy, Bill, they'd hev but little worth, An'
someone with a gift O' prayer 'ud mebbe own the earth. It's the toil
ye give t' git a thing—the sweat an' blood an, trouble We reckon by
—an' every tear'll make its value double.
There's a money O' the soul, my boy, ye'll find in after years,
Its pennies are the sweat drops an' its dollars are the tears; An'
love is the redeemin' gold that measures what they're worth, An' ye'll
git as much in Heaven as ye've given out on earth.
Fer the record o' yer doin'—I believe the soul is planned With
an automatic register t, tell jest how ye stand, An' it won't take any
cipherin' t' show that fearful day, If ye've multiplied yer talents
well, er thrown 'em all away.
When yer feet are on the summit, an' the wide horizon clears, An'
ye look back on yer pathway windin' thro' the vale o' tears; When ye
see how much ye've trespassed an' how fur ye've gone astray, Ye'll
know the way o' Providence ain't apt t' be your way.
God knows as much as can be known, but I don't think it's true He
knows of all the dangers in the path o' me an' you. If I shet my eyes
an' hurl a stone that kills the King o' Siam, The chances are that
God'll be as much surprised as I am.
If ye pray with faith believin', why, ye'll certnly receive, But
that God does what's impossible is more than I'll believe. If it
grieves Him when a sparrow falls, it's sure as anything, He'd hev
turned the arrow if He could, that broke the sparrow's wing.
Ye can read old Nature's history thet's writ in rocks an' stones,
Ye can see her throbbin' vitals an' her mighty rack o' hones. But the
soul o' her—the livin' God, a little child may know No lens er rule
o' cipherin' can ever hope t' show.
There's a part o' Cod's creation very handy t' yer view, Al' the
truth o' life is in it an' remember, Bill, it's you. An' after all yer
science ye must look up in yer mind, An' leam its own astronomy the
star o' peace t' find.
There's good old Aunt Samanthy Jane thet all her journey long Has
led her heart to labour with a reveille of song. Her folks hev robbed
an' left her but her faith in goodness grows, She hasn't any larnin',
but I tell ye Bill, she knows!
She's hed her share o' troubles; I remember well the day We took
her t' the poorhouse—she was singin' all the way; Ye needn't be
afraid t' come where stormy Jordan flows, If all the larnin' ye can
git has taught ye halfshe knows.'
I give this crude example of rustic philosophy, not because it has
my endorsement—God knows I have ever felt it far beyond me— but
because it is useful to those who may care to know the man who wrote
it. I give it the poor fame of these pages with keen regret that my
friend is now long passed the praise or blame of this world.
The horse played a part of no small importance in that country. He
was the coin of the realin, a medium of exchange, a standard of
value, an exponent of moral character. The man that travelled without
a horse was on his way to the poorhouse. Uncle Eb or David Brower
could tell a good horse by the sound of his footsteps, and they
brought into St Lawrence County the haughty Morgans from Vermont.
There was more pride in their high heads than in any of the good
people. A Northern Yankee who was not carried away with a fine horse
had excellent self-control. Politics and the steed were the only
things that ever woke him to enthusiasm, and there a man was known as
he traded. Uncle Eb used to say that one ought always to underestimate
his horse 'a leetle fer the sake of a reputation'.
We needed another horse to help with the haying, and Bob Dean, a
tricky trader, who had heard of it, drove in after supper one
evening, and offered a rangy brown animal at a low figure. We looked
him over, tried him up and down the road, and then David, with some
shrewd suspicion, as I divined later, said I could do as I pleased. I
bought the horse and led him proudly to the stable. Next morning an
Irishman, the extra man for the haying, came in with a worried look to
'That new horse has a chittern' kind of a coff,' he said.
'A cough?' said I.
''Tain't jist a coff, nayther,' he said, 'but a kind of toom!'
With the last word he obligingly imitated the sound of the cough.
It threw me into perspiration.
'Sounds bad,' said Uncle Eb, as he looked at me and snickered.
''Fraid Bill ain't much of a jockey,' said David, smaling.
'Got a grand appetite—that hoss has,' said Tip Taylor.
After breakfast Uncle Eb and I hitched him to the light buggy and
touched him up for a short journey down the road. In five minutes he
had begun to heave and whistle. I felt sure one could have heard him
half a mile away. Uncle Eb stopped him and began to laugh.
'A whistler,' said he, 'sure's yer born. He ain't wuth a bag o'
beans. But don't ye never let on. When ye git licked ye musn't never
fin' fault. If anybody asks ye 'bout him tell 'em he's all ye
We stood waiting a moment for the horse to recover himself. A team
was nearing us.
'There's Bob Dean,' Uncle Eb whispered. 'The durn scalawag! Don't
ye say a word now.
'Good-mornin'!' said Dean, smiling as he pulled up beside us.
'Nice pleasant mornin'!' said Uncle Eb, as he cast a glance into
'What ye standin' here for?' Dean asked.
Uncle Eb expectorated thoughtfullyy.
'Jest a 1ookin' at the scenery,' said he. 'Purty country, right
here! AIwus liked it.'
'Nice lookin' hoss ye got there,' said Dean.
'Grand hoss!' said Uncle Eb, surveymg him proudly. 'Most
'Good stepper, too,' said Dean soberly.
'Splendid!' said Uncle Eb. 'Can go a mile without ketchin' his
'Thet so?' said Dean.
'Good deal like Lucy Purvis,' Unde Eb added. 'She can say the hull
mul'plication table an' only breathe once. Ye can learn sumthin' from
a hoss like thet. He's good as a deestric' school—thet hoss is.'
Yes, sir, thet hoss is all right,' said Dean, as he drove away.
'Righter'n I expected,' Uncle Eb shouted, and then he covered his
mouth, shaking with suppressed laughter.
'Skunk!' he said, as we turned the animal and started to walk him
home. 'Don't min' bein' beat, but I don't like t' hev a man rub it in
on me. I'll git even with him mebbe.'
And he did. It came about in this way. We turned our new purchase
into the pasture, and Uncle Eb and I drove away to Potsdam for a
better nag. We examined all the horses in that part of the country. At
last we chanced upon one that looked like the whistler, save that he
had a white stocking on one hind foot
'Same age, too,' said Uncle Eb, as he looked into his mouth.
'Can pass anything on the road,' said his owner.
'Can he?' said Uncle Eb, who had no taste for slow going. 'Hitch
him up an' le's see what he can do.'
He carried us faster than we had ever ridden before at a trot, and
coming up behind another team the man pulled out, let the reins loose
on his back, and whistled. If anyone had hit him with a log chain the
horse could not have moved quicker. He took us by the other team like
a flash, on the dead run and three in the buggy.
'He'll do all right,' said Uncle Eb, and paid for the horse.
It was long after dark when we started home, leading him behind,
and near midnight when we arrived.
In the morning I found Uncle Eb in the stable showing him to the
other help. To my surprise the white stocking had disappeared.
'Didn't jes' like that white stockin',' he said, as I came in.
'Wondered how he'd look without it.'
They all agreed this horse and the whistler were as much alike as
two peas m appearance. Breakfast over Uncle Eb asked the Irishman to
hitch him up.
'Come Bill,' said he, 'le's take a ride. Dean'll be comm' 'long bym
bye on his way t' town with that trotter o' his'n. 'Druther like to
I had only a faint idea of his purpose. He let the horse step along
at top speed going up the road and when we turned about he was
breathing heavily. We jogged him back down the road a mile or so, and
when I saw the blazed face of Dean's mare, in the distance, we pulled
up and shortly stopped him. Dean came along in a moment.
'Nice mornin'!' said he.
'Grand!' said Uncle Eb.
'Lookin' at the lan'scape ag'in?'
'Yes; I've jes' begun t' see what a putty country this is,' said
'How's the boss?'
'Splendid! Gives ye time t' think an' see what yer passin'. Like t'
set 'n think once in a while. We don't do enough thinkin' here in this
part o' the country.'
'Yd orter buy this mare an leam how t' ride fast,' said Dean.
'Thet one,' said Uncle Eb, sqIii:fltig at the mare, 'why she can't
go fast 'nough.'
'She can't, hey?' said Dean, bridling with injured pride. 'I don't
think there's anything in this town can head her.'
'Thunder!' said Uncle Eb, 'I can go by her with this ol' plug easy
'twxt here an' our gate. Ye didn't know what ye was sellin'.'
'If ye pass her once I'll give her to ye,' said he.
'Mean it?' said Uncle Eb.
'Sartin,' said he, a little redder in the face.
'An' if I don't I'll give ye the whistler,' said Uncle Eb as he
The mare went away, under the whip, before we had fairly started.
She was going a fifty shot but in a moment we were lapping upon her
hind wheel. Dean threw a startled glance over his shoulder. Then he
shouted to the mare. She quickened her pace a little but we kept our
position. Uncle Eb was leaning over the dasher his white locks flying.
He had something up his sleeve, as they say, and was not yet ready to
use it. Then Dean began to shear over to cut us off—a nasty trick of
the low horseman. I saw Uncle Eb giance at the ditch ahead. I knew
what was coining and took a firm hold of the seat. The ditch was a bit
rough, but Uncle Eb had no lack of courage. He turned the horse's
head, let up on the reins and whistled. I have never felt such a
thrill as then. Our horse leaped into the deep grass running like a
'Hi there! hi there!' Uncle Eb shouted, bouncing in his seat, as we
went over stones and hummocks going like the wind.
'Go, ye brown devil!' he yelled, his hat flying off as he shook the
The mare lost her stride; we flashed by and came up into the road.
Looking back I saw her jumping up and down a long way behind us and
Dean whipping her. Uncle Eb, his hands over the dasher, had pulled
down to a trot Ahead of us we could see our folks—men and women—at
the gate looking down the road at us waving hats and handkerchieis.
They had heard the noise of the battle. Uncle Eb let up on the reins
and looked back snorting with amusement. In a moment we pulled up at
our gate. Dean came along slowly.
'Thet's a putty good mare,' said Uncle Eb.
'Yer welcome to her,' said Dean sullenly.
'Wouldn't hev her,' said Uncle Eb.
'Why not?' said the trader a look of relief coming over his face.
'Can't go fast enough for my use,' Uncle Eb answered. 'Ye can jest
hitch her in here awhile an' the first day ye come over with a
hundred dollars ye can hev her 'n the whistler, both on 'em. Thet
whistler's a grand hoss! Can hold his breath longer'n any hoss I ever
The sum named was that we had paid him for the highiy accomplished
animal. Dean had the manhood to pay up then and there and said he
would send for the other horse, which he never did.
'Guess he won't bother us any more when we stop t' look at the
scenery,' said Uncle Eb, laughing as Dean drove away. 'Kind o' resky
business buyin' hosses,' he added. 'Got t' jedge the owner as well as
the hoss. If there's anything the matter with his conscience it'll
come out in the hoss somewhere every time. Never knew a mean man t'
own a good hoss. Remember, boy, 's a lame soul thet drives a limpin'
'No use talkin'; Bill ain' no jedge uv a hoss' said David Brower.
'He'll hev t' hev an education er he'll git t' the poorhouse someday
'Wall he's a good jedge o' gals anyway,' said Uncle Eb.
As for myself I was now hopelessly confirmed in my dislike of
farming and I never traded horses again.
Late in August Uncle Eb and I took our Black Hawk stallion to the
fair in HilIsborough and showed him for a prize. He was fit for the
eye of a king when we had finished grooming him, that morning, and
led him out, rearing in play, his eyes flashing from under his broad
plume, so that all might have a last look at him. His arched neck and
slim barrel glowed like satin as the sunlight fell upon him. His black
mane flew, he shook the ground with his hoofs playing at the halter's
end. He hated a harness and once in it lost half his conceit. But he
was vainest of all things in Faraway when we drove off with him that
All roads led to HilIsborough fair time. Up and down the long hills
we went on a stiff jog passing lumber wagons with generations enough
in them to make a respectable genealogy, the old people in chairs;
light wagons that carried young men and their sweethearts,
baclswoodsmen coming out in ancient vehicles upon reeling, creaking
wheels to get food for a year's reflection—all thickening the haze
of the late summer with the dust of the roads. And Hillsborough itself
was black with people. The shouts of excited men, the neighing of
horses, the bellowing of cattle, the wailing of infants, the howling
of vendors, the pressing crowd, had begun to sow the seed of misery in
the minds of those accustomed only to the peaceflil quietude of the
farm. The staring eye, the palpitating heart, the aching head, were
successive stages in the doom of many. The fair had its floral hall
carpeted with sawdust and redolent of cedar, its dairy house, its
mechanics' hall sacred to fiuming implements, its long sheds ftill of
sheep and cattle, its dining-hall, its temporary booths of rough
lumber, its half-mile track and grandstand. Here voices of beast and
vendor mingied in a chorus of cupidity and distress. In Floral Hall
Sol Rollin was on exhibition. He gave me a cold nod, his lips set for
a tune as yet inaudible. He was surveying sundry examples of rustic
art that hung on the circular railing of the gallery and tryingto
preserve a calm breast. He was looking at Susan Baker's painted cow
that hung near us.
'Very descriptive,' he said when I pressed him for his notion of
it. 'Rod Baker's sister Susan made thet cow. Gits tew dollars an'
fifty cents every fair time—wish I was dewin 's well.'
'That's one of the most profitable cows in this country,' I said.
'Looks a good deal like a new breed.'
'Yes,' he answered soberly, then he set his lips, threw a sweeping
glance into the gallery, and passed on.
Susan Baker's cow was one of the permanent features of the county
fair, and was indeed a curiosity not less remarkable than the sacred
ox of Mr Bamum.
Here also I met a group of the pretty girls who had been my
schoolmates. They surrounded me, chattering like magpies.
'There's going to be a dance at our house tonight,' said one of
them, 'and you must come.'
'I cannot, I must go home,' I said.
'Of course!' said a red-cheeked saucy miss. 'The stuck-up thing! He
wouldn't go anywhere unless he could have his sister with him.'
Then they went away laughing.
I found Ab Thomas at the rifle range. He was whittling as he
considered a challenge from Tip Taylor to shoot a match. He turned
and 'hefted' the rifle, silently, and then he squinted over the barrel
two or three times.
'Dunno but what I'll try ye once,' he said presently, 'jes t' see.'
Once started they grew red in their faces and shot themselves
weary in a reckless contest of skiIl and endurance. A great hulking
fellow, half drunk and a bit quarrelsome, came up, presently, and
endeavoured to help Ab hold his rifle. The latter brushed him away
and said nothing for a moment. But every time he tried to take aim
the man jostled him.
An looked up slowly and calmly, his eyebrows tilted for his aim,
and said, 'Go off I tell ye.' Then he set himself and took aim again.
'Le'me hold it,' said the man, reaching for the barrel. 'Shoot
better if I do the ainin'.' A laugh greeted this remark. Ab looked up
again. There was a quick start in his great slouching figure.
'Take yer hand off o' thet,' he said a little louder than before.
The man, aching for more applause, grew more impertinent Ab
quietly handed the rifle to its owner. Then something happened
suddenly. It was so quickly over I am not quite sure of the order of
business, but anyhow he seized the intruder by the shoulders flinging
him down so heavily it knocked the dust out of the grass.
'A fight!' somebody shouted and men and boys came runing from all
sides. We were locked in a pushing crowd before I could turn. The
intruder lay stunned a moment. Then he rose, bare headed, his back
covered with dust, pushed his way out and ran.
Ab turned quietly to the range.
'Hedn't orter t' come an' try t' dew my aimin',' he said mildly, by
way of protest, 'I won't hev it.'
Then he enquired about the score and calmly took aim again. The
stallion show came on that afternoon.
'They can't never beat thet hoss,' Uncle Eb had said to me.
''Fraid they will,' I answered. 'They're better hitched for one
'But they hain't got the ginger in 'em,' said he, 'er the git up 'n
git. If we can show what's in him the Hawk'll beat 'em easy.'
If we won I was to get the prize but I had small hope of winning.
When I saw one after another prance out, in sparkling silver harness
adorned with rosettes of ribbon—light stepping, beautiful creatures
all of them—I could see nothing but defeat for us. Indeed I could
see we had been too confident. I dreaded the moment when Uncle Eb
should drive down with Black Hawk in a plain leather harness, drawing
a plainer buggy. I had planned to spend the prize money taking Hope to
the harvest ball at Rickard's, and I had worked hard to put the Hawk
in good fettle. I began to feel the bitterness of failure.
'Black Hawk! Where is Black Hawk?' said one of the judges loudly.
'Owned by David Brower o' Faraway,' said another looking at his
Where indeed was Uncle Eb? I got up on the fence and looked all
about me anxiously. Then I heard a great cheering up the track.
Somebody was coming down, at a rapid pace, riding a splendid moving
animal, a knee rising to the nose at each powerful stride. His head
and flying mane obscured the rider but I could see the end of a rope
swinging in his hand. There was something familiar in the easy high
stride of the horse. The cheers came on ahead of him like foam before
a breaker. Upon my eyes! it was Black Hawk, with nothing but a plain
rope halter on his head, and Uncle Eb riding him.
'G'lang there!' he shouted, swinging the halter stale to the
shining flank. 'G'lang there!' and he went by, like a flash, the tail
of Black Hawk straight out behind him, its end feathering in the wind.
It was a splendid thing to see—that white-haired man, sitting erect
on the flying animal, with only a rope halter in his hand. Every man
about me was yelling. I swung my hat, shouting myself hoarse. When
Uncle Eb came back the Hawk was walking quietly in a crowd of men and
boys eager to feel his silken sides. I crowded through and held the
horse's nose while Uncle Eb got down.
'Thought I wouldn't put no luther on him,' said Uncle Eb, 'God's
gin' 'im a good 'nuff harness.'
The judges came and looked him over.
'Guess he'll win the prize all right,' said one of them.
And he did. When we came home that evening every horse on the road
thought himself a trotter and went speeding to try his pace with
everything that came up beside him. And many a man of Faraway, that we
passed, sent up a shout of praise for the Black Hawk.
But I was thinking of Hope and the dance at Rickard's. I had plenty
of money now and my next letter urged her to come home at once.
Hope returned for a few days late in August. Invitations were just
issued for the harvest dance at Rickard's.
'You mus' take 'er,' said Uncle Eb, the day she came. 'She's a
purty dancer as a man ever see. Prance right up an' tell 'er she mus'
go. Don' want 'O let anyone git ahead O' ye.'
'Of course I will go,' she said in answer to my invitation, 'I
shouldn't think you were a beau worth having if you did not ask me.'
The yellow moon was peering over Woody Ledge when we went away
that evening. I knew it was our last pleasure seeking in Faraway, and
the crickets in the stubble filled the silence with a kind of
She looked so fine in her big hat and new gown with its many
dainty accessories of lace and ribbon, adjusted with so much patting
and pulling, that as she sat beside me, I hardly dared touch her for
fear of spoiling something. When she shivered a little and said it was
growing cool I put my arm about her, and, as I drew her closer to my
side, she turned her hat, obligingly, and said it was a great
I tried to kiss her then, but she put her hand over my mouth and
said, sweetly, that I would spoil everything if I did that
'I must not let you kiss me, William,' she said, 'not—not for all
in the world. I'm sure you wouldn't have me do what I think is wrong
There was but one answer to such an appeal, and I made myself as
happy as possible feeling her head upon my shoulder and her soft hair
touching my cheek. As I think of it now the trust she put in me was
something sublime and holy.
'Then I shall talk about—about our love,' I said, 'I must do
'Promised I wouldn't let you,' she said. Then she added after a
moment of silence, 'I'll tell you what you may do—tell me what is
your ideal in a woman—the one you would love best of all. I don't
think that would be wicked—do you?'
'I think God would forgive that,' I said. 'She must be tall and
slim, with dainty feet and hands, and a pair of big eyes, blue as a
violet, shaded with long dark lashes. And her hair must be wavy and
light with a little tinge of gold in it. And her cheek must have the
pink of the rose and dimples that show in laughter. And her voice—
that must have music in it and the ring of kindness and good-natare.
And her lips—let them show the crimson of her blood and be ready to
give and receive a kiss when I meet her.'
She sighed and nestled closer to me.
'If I let you kiss me just once,' she whispered, 'you will not ask
me again—will you?'
'No, sweetheart, I will not,' I answered. Then we gave each other
such a kiss as may be known once and only once in a lifetime.
'What would you do for the love of a girl like that?' she
I thought a moment, sounding depths of undiscovered woe to see if
there were anything I should hesitate to suffer and there was
'I'd lay me doun an' dee,' I said.
And I well remember how, when I lay dying, as I believed, in rain
and darkness on the bloody field of Bull Run, I thought of that
moment and of those words.
'I cannot say such beautiful things as you,' she answered, when I
asked her to describe her ideal. 'He must be good and he must be tall
and handsome and strong and brave.'
Then she sang a tender love ballad. I have often shared the
pleasure of thousands under the spell of her voice, but I have never
heard her sing as to that small audience on Faraway turnpike.
As we came near Rickard's Hall we could hear the fiddles and the
The windows on the long sides of the big house were open. Long
shafts of light shot out upon the gloom. It had always reminded me of
a picture of Noah's ark that hung in my bedroom and now it seemed to
be floating, with resting oars of gold, in a deluge of darkness. We
were greeted with a noisy welcome, at the door. Many of the boys and
girls came, from all sides of the big hall, and shook hands with us.
Enos Brown, whose long forelocks had been oiled for the occasion and
combed down so they touched his right eyebrow, was panting in a jig
that jarred the house. His trouser legs were caught on the tops of his
fine boots. He nodded to me as I came in, snapped his fingers and
doubled his energy. It was an exhibition both of power and endurance.
He was damp and apologetic when, at length, he stopped with a mighty
bang of his foot and sat down beside me. He said he was badly out of
practice when I offered congratulations. The first fiddler was a small
man, with a short leg, and a character that was minus one dimension.
It had length and breadth but no thickness. He sat with his fellow
player on a little platform at one end of the room. He was an odd man
who wandered all over the township with his fiddle. He played by ear,
and I have seen babies smile and old men dance when his bow was
swaying. I remember that when I heard it for the first time, I
determined that I should be a fiddler if I ever grew to be a man. But
David told me that fiddlers were a worthless lot, and that no wise man
should ever fool with a fiddle. One is lucky, I have since leamed, if
any dream of yesterday shall stand the better light of today or the
more searching rays of tomorrow.
'Choose yer partners fer Money Musk!' the caller shouted.
Hope and I got into line, the music started, the circles began to
sway. Darwin Powers, an old but frisky man, stood up beside the
fiddlers, whistling, with sobriety and vigour, as they played. It was
a pleasure to see some of the older men of the neighbourhood join the
dizzy riot by skipping playfully in the corners. They tried to rally
their unwilling wives, and generally a number of them were dancing
before the night was over. The life and colour of the scene, the
fresh, young faces of the girls some of them models of rustic beauty—
the playful antics of the young men, the merrymaking of their fathers,
the laughter, the airs of gallantry, the glances of affection—there
is a magic in the thought of it all that makes me young again.
There were teams before and behind us when we came home, late at
night, so sleepy that the stars went reeling as we looked at them.
'This night is the end of many things,' I remarked.
'And the beginning of better ones, I hope,' was her answer.
'Yes, but they are so far away,' I said, 'you leave home to study
and I am to be four years in college-possibly I can finish in three.'
'Perfectly terrible!' she said, and then she added the favourite
phrase and tone of her mother: 'We must be patient.'
'I am very sorry of one thing,' I said. 'What's that?'
'I promised not to ask you for one more kiss.'
'Well then,' said she, 'you—you—needn't ask me.' And in a
moment I helped her out at the door.
David Brower had prospered, as I have said before, and now he was
chiefly concerned in the welfare of his children. So, that he might
give us the advantages of the town, he decided either to lease or sell
his farm—by far the handsomest property in the township. I was there
when a buyer came, in the last days of that summer. We took him over
the smooth acres from Lone Pine to Woody Ledge, from the top of
Bowman's Hill to Tinkie Brook in the far valley. He went with us
through every tidy room of the house. He looked over the stock and the
'Wall! what's it wuth?' he said, at last, as we stood looking down
the fair green acres sloping to the sugar bush.
David picked up a stick, opened his knife, and began to whittle
thoughtfully, a familiar squint of reflection in his face. I suppose
he thought of all it had cost him—the toil of many years, the
strength of his young manhood, the youth and beauty of his wife, a
hundred things that were far better than money.
'Fifteen thousan' dollars,' he said slowly—'not a cent less.' The
man parleyed a little over the price.
'Don' care t' take any less t'day,' said David calmly. 'No harm
'How much down?'
David named the sum.
'Everything as it stan's?'
'Everything as it stan's 'cept the beds an' bedding.'
'Here's some money on account,' he said. 'We'll close t'morrer?'
'Close t'morrer,' said David, a little sadness in his tone, as he
took the money.
It was growing dusk as the man went away. The crickets sang with a
loud, accusing, clamour. Slowly we turned and went into the dark
house, David whistling under his breath. Elizabeth was resting in her
chair. She was humming an old hymn as she rocked.
'Sold the farm, mother,' said David.
She stopped singing but made no answer. In the dusk, as we sat
down, I saw her face leaning upon her hand. Over the hills and out of
the fields around us came many voices—the low chant in the stubble,
the baying of a hound in the far timber, the cry of the tree toad—a
tiny drift of odd things (like that one sees at sea) on the deep
eternal silence of the heavens. There was no sound in the room save
the low creaking of the rocker in which Elizabeth sat. After all the
going, and corning, and doing, and saying of many years here was a
little spell of silence and beyond lay the untried things of the
future. For me it was a time of reckoning.
'Been hard at work here all these years, mother,' said David.
'Oughter be glad t' git away.'
'Yes,' said she sadly, 'it's been hard work. Years ago I thought I
never could stan' it. But now I've got kind o' used t' it.'
'Time ye got used t' pleasure 'n comfort,' he said. 'Come kind o'
hard, at fast, but ye mus' try t' stan' it. If we're goin' t' hev sech
flin in Heaven as Deacon Hospur tells on we oughter begin t' practice
er we'll be 'shamed uv ourselves.'
The worst was over. Elizabeth began to laugh.
At length a strain of song came out of the distance.
'Maxwelton's braes are bonnie where early falls the dew.'
'It's Hope and Uncle Eb,' said David while I went for the lantern.
'Wonder what's kep' 'em s' late.'
When the lamps were lit the old house seemed suddenly to have got
a sense of what had been done. The familiar creak of the stairway as I
went to bed had an appeal and a protest. The rude chromo of the
voluptuous lady, with red lips and the name of Spring, that had always
hung in my chamber had a mournful, accusing look. The stain upon her
cheek that had come one day from a little leak in the roof looked now
like the path of a tear drop. And when the wind came up in the night
and I heard the creaking of Lone Pine it spoke of the doom of that
house and itsown that was not far distant.
We rented a new home in town, that week, and were soon settled in
it. Hope went away to resume her studies the same day I began work in
Not much in my life at college is essential to this history—save
the training. The students came mostly from other and remote parts of
the north country—some even from other states. Coming largely from
towns and cities they were shorn of those simple and rugged traits,
that distinguished the men o' Faraway, and made them worthy of what
poor fame this book may afford. In the main they were like other
students the world over, I take it' and mostly, as they have shown,
capable of wiling their own fame. It all seemed very high and mighty
and grand to me especially the names of the courses. I had my baptism
of Sophomoric scorn and many a heated argument over my title to life,
liberty and the pursuit of learning. It became necessary to establish
it by force of arms, which I did decisively and with as little delay
as possible. I took much interest in athletic sports and was soon a
good ball player, a boxer of some skill, and the best wrestler in
college. Things were going on comfortably when an upper classman met
me and suggested that on a corning holiday, the Freshmen ought to wear
stove-pipe hats. Those hats were the seed of great trouble.
'Stove-pipe hats!' I said thoughtfully.
'They're a good protection,' he assured me.
It seemed a very reasonable, not to say a necessary precaution. A
man has to be young and innocent sometime or what would become of the
Devil. I did not see that the stove-pipe hat was the red rag of
insurrection and, when I did see it' I was up to my neck in the
You see the Sophs are apt to be very nasty that day,' he continued.
I acknowledged they were quite capable of it.
'And they don't care where they hit,' he went on.
I felt of my head that was still sore, from a forceful argument of
the preceding day, and admitted there was good ground for the
When I met my classmen, that afternoon, I was an advocate of the
'stove-pipe' as a means of protection. There were a number of husky
fellows, in my class, who saw its resisting power and seconded my
suggestion. We decided to leave it to the ladies of the class and they
greeted our plan with applause. So, that morning, we arrayed ourselves
mhigh hats, heavy canes and fine linen, marching together up College
Hill. We had hardly entered the gate before we saw the Sophs forming
in a thick rank outside the door prepared, as we took it, to resist
our entrance. They out-numbered us and were, in the main, heavier but
we had a foot or more of good stiff material between each head and
harm. Of just what befell us, when we got to the enemy, I have never
felt sure. Of the total inefficiency of the stove-pipe hat as an
article of armour, I have never had the slightest doubt since then.
There was a great flash and rattle of canes. Then the air was full of
us. In the heat of it all prudence went to the winds. We hit out right
and left, on both sides, smashing hats and bruising heads and hands.
The canes went down in a jiffy and then we closed with each other hip
and thigh. Collars were ripped off, coats were torn, shirts were gory
from the blood of noses, and in this condition the most of us were
rolling and tumbling on the ground. I had flung a man, heavily, and
broke away and was tackling another when I heard a hush in the tumult
and then the voice of the president. He stood on the high steps, his
grey head bare, his right hand lifted. It must have looked like
carnage from where he stood.
'Young gentlemen!' he called. 'Cease, I command you. If we cannot
get along without this thing we will shut up shop.'
Well, that was the end of it and came near being the end of our
careers in college. We looked at each other, torn and panting and
bloody, and at the girls, who stood by, pale with alarm. Then we
picked up the shapeless hats and went away for repairs. I had heard
that the path of learning was long and beset with peril but I hoped,
not without reason, the worst was over. As I went off the campus the
top of my hat was hanging over my left ear, my collar and cravat were
turned awry, my trousers gaped over one knee. I was talking with a
fellow sufferer and patching the skin on my knuckles, when suddenly I
met Uncle Eb.
'By the Lord Harry!' he said, looking me over from top to toe,
'teacher up there mus' be purty ha'sh.'
'It wa'n't the teacher,' I said.
'Must have fit then.'
'Fit hard,' I answered, laughing.
'Try t' walk on ye?'
'Tried t' walk on me. Took several steps too,' I said stooping to
brush my trousers.
'Hm! guess he found it ruther bad walkin' didn't he?' my old friend
enquired. 'Leetle bit rough in spots?'
'Little bit rough, Uncle Eb—that's certain.'
'Better not go hum,' he said, a great relief in his face. 'Look 's
if ye'd been chopped down an' sawed—an' split—an' throwed in a
pile. I'll go an' bring over some things fer ye.'
I went with my friend, who had suffered less darnage, and Uncle Eb
brought me what I needed to look more respectable than I felt
The president, great and good man that he was, forgave us, finally,
after many interviews and such wholesome reproof as made us all
ashamed of our folly.
In my second year, at college, Hope went away to continue her
studies in New York She was to live in the family of John Fuller, a
friend of David, who had left Faraway years before and made his
fortune there in the big city. Her going filled my days with a
lingering and pervasive sadness. 1 saw in it sometimes the shadow of
a heavier loss than I dared to contemplate. She had come home once a
week from Ogdensburg and I had always had a letter between times. She
was ambitious and, I fancy, they let her go, so that there should be
no danger of any turning aside from the plan of my life, or of hers;
for they knew our hearts as well as we knew them and possibly better.
We had the parlour to ourselves the evening before she went away,
and I read her a little love tale I had written especially for that
occasion. It gave us some chance to discuss the absorbing and
forbidden topic of our lives.
'He's too much afraid of her,' she said, 'he ought to put his arm
about her waist in that love scene.'
'Like that,' I said, suiting the action to the word.
'About like that,' she answered, laughing, 'and then he ought to
say something very, very, nice to her before he proposes—something
about his having loved her for so long—you know.'
'And how about her?' I asked, my arm still about her waist.
'If she really loves him,' Hope answered, 'she would put her arms
about his neck and lay her head upon his shoulder, so; and then he
might say what is in the story.' She was smiling now as she looked up
'And kiss her?'
'And kiss her,' she whispered; and, let me add, that part of the
scene was in nowise neglected.
'And when he says: "will you wait for me and keep me always in
your heart?" what should be her answer,' I continued.
'Always!' she said.
'Hope, this is our own story,' I whispered. 'Does it need any
'It's too short—that's all,' she answered, as our lips met again.
Just then Uncle Eb opened the door, suddenly.
'Tut tut!' he said tuning quickly about
'Come in, Uncle Eb,' said Hope, 'come right in, we want to see you.
In a moment she had caught him by the arm.
'Don' want 'o break up the meetin',' said he laughing.
'We don't care if you do know,' said Hope, 'we're not ashamed of
'Hain't got no cause t' be,' he said. 'Go it while ye're young 'n
full 'o vinegar! That's what I say every time. It's the best fun there
is. I thought I'd like t' hev ye both come up t' my room, fer a
minute, 'fore yer mother 'n father come back,' he said in a low tone
that was almost a whisper.
Then he shut one eye, suggestively, and beckoned with his head, as
we followed him up the stairway to the little room in which he slept.
He knelt by the bed and pulled out the old skin-covered trunk that
David Brower had given him soon after we came. He felt a moment for
the keyhole, his hand trembling, and then I helped him open the trunk.
From under that sacred suit of broadcloth, worn only on the grandest
occasions, he fetched a bundle about the size of a man's head. It was
tied in a big red handkerchief. We were both sitting on the floor
'Heft it,' he whispered.
I did so and found it heavier than I expected.
'What is it?' I asked.
'Spondoolix,' he whispered.
Then he untied the bundle—a close packed hoard of bankbills with
some pieces of gold and silver at the bottom.
'Hain't never hed no use fer it,' he said as he drew out a layer of
greenbacks and spread them with trembling fingers. Then he began
counting them slowly and carefully.
'There!' he whispered, when at length he had counted a hundred
dollars. 'There Hope! take thet an' put it away in yer wallet. Might
come handy when ye're 'way fr'm hum.'
She kissed him tenderly.
'Put it 'n yer wallet an' say nothin'—not a word t' nobody,' he
Then he counted over a like amount for me.
'Say nothin',' he said, looking up at me over his spectacles.
'Ye'll hev t' spile a suit o' clothes purty often if them fellers keep
a fightin' uv ye all the time.'
Father and mother were coming in below stairs and, hearing them,
we helped Uncle Eb tie up his bundle and stow it away. Then we went
down to meet them.
Next morning we bade Hope goodbye at the cars and returned to our
home with a sense of loss that, for long, lay heavy upon us all.
Uncle Eb and David were away buying cattle, half the week, but
Elizabeth Brower was always at home to look after my comfort. She was
up betimes in the morning and singing at her work long before I was
out of bed. when the breakfast was near ready she came to my door with
a call so fall of cheerfulness and good-nature it was the best thing
in the day. And often, at night, I have known her to come into my room
when I was lying awake with some hard problem, to see that I was
properly covered or that my window was not open too far. As we sat
alone together, of an evening, I have seen her listen for hours while
I was committing the Odes of Horace with a curiosity that finally gave
way to resignation. Sometimes she would look over my shoulder at the
printed page and try to discern some meaning in it when Uncle Eb was
with us he would often sit a long time his head turned attentively as
the lines came rattling off my tongue.
'Cur'us talk!' he said, one evening, as I paused a moment, while he
crossed the room for a drink of water. 'Don' seem t' make no kind O'
sense. I can make out a word here 'n there but fer good, sound, common
sense I call it a purtythin crop.'
Hope wrote me every week for a time. A church choir had offered
her a place soon after she went to the big city. She came home
intending to surprise us all, the first summer but unfortunately, I
had gone away in the woods with a party of surveyors and missed her.
We were a month in the wilderness and came out a little west of Albany
where I took a boat for New York to see Hope. I came down the North
River between the great smoky cities, on either side of it, one damp
and chilly morning. The noise, the crowds, the immensity of the town
appalled me. At John Fuller's I found that Hope had gone home and
while they tried to detain me longer I came back on the night boat of
the same day. Hope and I passed each other in that journey and I did
not see her until the summer preceding my third and last year in
college—the faculty having allowed me to take two years in one. Her
letters had come less frequently and when she came I saw a grand young
lady of fine manners, her beauty shaping to an ampler mould, her form
straightening to the dignity of womanhood.
At the depot our hands were cold and trembling with excitement—
neither of us, I fancy, knowing quite how far to go in our greeting.
Our correspondence had been true to the promise made her mother —
there had not been a word of love in it—only now and then a
suggestion of our tender feeling. We hesitated only for the briefest
moment. Then I put my arm about her neck and kissed her.
'I am so glad to see you,' she said.
Well, she was charming and beautiful, but different, and probably
not more different than was I. She was no longer the laughing,
simple-mannered child of Faraway, whose heart was as one's hand
before him in the daylight. She had now a bit of the woman's reserve
—her prudence, her skill in hiding the things of the heart. I loved
her more than ever, but somehow I felt it hopeless—that she had
grown out of my life. She was much in request among the people of
Hillsborough, and we went about a good deal and had many callers. But
we had little time to ourselves. She seemed to avoid that, and had
much to say of the grand young men who came to call on her in the
great city. Anyhow it all hurt me to the soul and even robbed me of my
sleep. A better lover than I would have made an end of dallying and
got at the truth, come what might. But I was of the Puritans, and not
of the Cavaliers, and my way was that which God had marked for me,
albeit I must own no man had ever a keener eye for a lovely woman or
more heart to please her. A mighty pride had come to me and I had
rather have thrown my heart to vultures than see it an unwelcome
offering. And I was quite out of courage with Hope; she, I dare say,
was as much out of patience with me.
She returned in the late summer and I went back to my work at
college in a hopeless fashion that gave way under the whip of a
I made myself as contented as possible. I knew all the pretty girls
and went about with some of them to the entertainments of the college
season. At last came the long looked for day of my graduation—the
end of my student life.
The streets of the town were thronged, every student having the
college colours in his coat lapel. The little company of graduates
trembled with fright as the people crowded in to the church,
whispering and faring themselves, in eager anticipation. As the
former looked from the two side pews where they sat, many familiar
faces greeted them—the faces of fathers and mothers aglow with the
inner light of pride and pleasure; the faces of many they loved come
to claim a share in the glory of that day. I found my own, I remember,
but none of them gave me such help as that of Uncle Eb. However I
might fare, none would feel the pride or disgrace of it more keenly
than he. I shall never forget how he turned his head to catch every
word when I ascended the platform. As I warmed to my argument I could
see him nudging the arm of David, who sat beside him, as if to say,
'There's the boy that came over the hills with me in a pack basket.'
when I stopped a moment, groping for the next word, he leaned forward,
embracing his knee, firmly, as if intending to draw off a boot. It was
all the assistance he could give me. when the exercises were over I
found Uncle Eb by the front door of the church, waiting for me.
'Willie, ye done noble!' said he.
'Did my very best, Uncle Eb,' I replied.
'Liked it grand—I did, sartin.' 'Glad you liked it, Uncle Eb.'
'Showed great larnin'. who was the man 'at give out the pictur's?'
He meant the president who had conferred the degrees. I spoke the
'Deceivin' lookin' man, ain't he? Seen him often, but never took no
pertick'lar notice of him before.'
'How deceiving?' I enquired.
'Talked so kind of plain,' he replied. 'I could understan' him as
easy as though he'd been swappin' hosses. But when you got up, Bill'.
why, you jes' riz right up in the air an, there couldn't no dum fool
tell what you was talkin' 'bout.'
Whereat I concluded that Uncle Eb's humour was as deep as it was
kindly, but I have never been quite sure whether the remark was a
compliment or a bit of satire.
The folks of Faraway have been carefully if rudely pictured, but
the look of my own person, since I grew to the stature of manhood, I
have left wholly to the imagination of the reader. I will wager he
knew long since what manner of man I was and has measured me to the
fraction of an inch, and knows even the colour of my hair and eyes
from having been so long in my company. If not—well, I shall have to
write him a letter.
when Uncle Eb and I took the train for New York that summer day in
1860, some fifteen years after we came down Paradise Road with the dog
and wagon and pack basket, my head, which, in that far day, came only
to the latitude of his trouser pocket, had now mounted six inches
above his own. That is all I can say here on that branch of my
subject. I was leaving to seek my fortune in the big city; Uncle Eb
was off for a holiday and to see Hope and bring her home for a short
visit. I remember with what sadness I looked back that morning at
mother and father as they stood by the gate slowly waving their
handkerchiefs. Our home at last was emptied of its young, and even as
they looked the shadow of old age must have fallen suddenly before
them. I knew how they would go back into that lonely room and how,
while the clock went on with its ticking, Elizabeth would sit down and
cover her face a moment, while David would make haste to take up his
We sat in silence a long time after the train was off, a mighty
sadness holding our tongues. Uncle Eb, who had never ridden a long
journey on the cars before, had put on his grand suit of broadcloth.
The day was hot and dusty, and before we had gone far he was sadiy
soiled. But a suit never gave him any worry, once it was on. He sat
calmly, holding his knee in his hands and looking out of the open
window, a squint in his eyes that stood for some high degree of
interest in the scenery.
'What do you think of this country?' I enquired.
'Looks purty fair,' said he, as he brushed his face with his
handkerchief and coughed to clear his throat of the dust, 'but 'tain't
quite so pleasant to the taste as some other parts o' the country. I
ruther liked the flavour of Saint Lawrence all through, but Jefferson
is a leetle gritty.'
He put down the window as he spoke.
'A leetle tobaccer'll improve it some,' he added, as his hand went
down for the old silver box. 'The way these cars dew rip along!
Consamed if it ain't like flyin'! Kind o' makes me feel like a bird.'
The railroad was then not the familiar thing it is now in the north
country. The bull in the fields had not yet come to an understanding
of its rights, and was frequently tempted into argument with a
locomotive. Bill Fountain, who came out of a back township, one day
had even tied his faithful hound to the rear platform.
Our train came to a long stop for wood and water near midday, and
then we opened the lunch basket that mother had given us.
'Neighbour,' said a solemn-faced man, who sat in front of us, 'do
you think the cars are ag'in the Bible? D'you think a Christian orter
ride on 'em?'
'Sartin,' said Uncle Eb. 'Less the constable's after him—then I
think he orter be on a balky hoss.'
'Wife'n I hes talked it over a good deal,' said the man. 'Some says
it's ag'in the Bible. The minister 'at preaches over 'n our
neighbourhood says if God hed wanted men t' fly he'd g'in 'em wings.'
'S'pose if he'd ever wanted 'm t' skate he'd hed 'em born with
skates on?' said Uncle Eb.
'Danno,' said the man. 'It behooves us all to be careful. The Bible
says "Go not after new things."'
'My friend,' said Uncle Eb, between bites of a doughnut, 'I don'
care what I ride in so long as 'tain't a hearse. I want sumthin' at's
comfortable an' purty middlin' spry. It'll do us good up here t' git
jerked a few hunderd miles an' back ev'ry leetle while. Keep our
j'ints limber. We'll live longer fer it, an' thet'll please God sure—
cuz I don't think he's hankerin' fer our society—not a bit. Don'
make no difference t' hirn whuther we ride 'n a spring wagon er on
the cars so long's we're right side up 'n movin'. We need more steam;
we're too dum slow. Kind o' think a leetle more steam in our religion
wouldn't hurt us a bit. It's purty fur behind.'
We got to Albany in the evening, just in time for the night boat.
Uncle Eb was a sight in his dusty broadcloth, when we got off the
cars, and I know my appearance could not have been prepossessing.
Once we were aboard the boat and had dusted our clothes and bathed our
hands and faces we were in better spirits.
'Consarn it!' said Uncle Eb, as we left the washroom, 'le's have a
dum good supper. I'll stan' treat'
'Comes a leetle bit high,' he said, as he paid the bill, 'but I
don' care if it does. 'Fore we left I says t' myself, "Uncle Eb," says
I, "you go right in fer a good time an' don' ye count the pennies.
Everybody's a right t' be reckless once in seventy-five year."'
We went to our stateroom a little after nine. I remember the berths
had not been made up, and removing our boots and coats we lay down
upon the bare mattresses. Even then I had a lurking fear that we might
be violating some rule of steamboat etiquette. when I went to New York
before I had dozed all night in the big cabin.
A dim light came through the shuttered door that opened upon the
dinning-saloon where the rattle of dishes for a time put away the
possibility of sleep.
'I'll be awful glad t' see Hope,' said Uncle Eb, as he lay gaping.
'Guess I'll be happier to see her than she will to see me,' I said.
'What put that in yer head?' Unde Eb enquired.
''Fraid we've got pretty far apart,' said I.
'Shame on ye, Bill,' said the old gentleman. 'If thet's so ye ain't
done right Hedn't orter let a girl like thet git away from ye—th'
ain't another like her in this world.'
'I know it' I said' 'but I can't help it Somebody's cut me out
''Tain't so,' said he emphatically. 'Ye want t' prance right up t'
'I'm not afraid of any woman,' I said, with a great air of bravery,
'but if she don't care for me I ought not to throw myself at her.'
'Jerusalem!' said Uncle Eb, rising up suddenly, 'what hev I gone
He jumped out of his berth quickly and in the dim light I could see
him reaching for several big sheets of paper adhering to the back of
his shirt and trousers. I went quickly to his assistance and began
stripping off the broadsheets which, covered with some strongly
adhesive substance, had laid a firm hold upon him. I rang the bell
and ordered a light.
'Consam it all! what be they—plasters?' said Uncle Eb, quite out
'Pieces of brown paper, covered with—West India molasses, I
should think,' said I.
'West Injy molasses!' he exclaimed. 'By mighty! That makes me
hotter'n a pancake. what's it on the bed fer?'
'To catch flies,' I answered.
'An' ketched me,' said Uncle Eb, as he flung the sheet he was
examimng into a corner. 'My extry good suit' too!'
He took off his trousers, then, holding them up to the light.
'They're sp'ilt,' said he mournfully. 'Hed 'em fer more'n ten year,
'That's long enough,' I suggested.
'Got kind o' 'tached to 'em,' he said, looking down at them and
rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Then we had a good laugh.
'You can put on the other suit,' I suggested, 'and when we get to
the city we'll have these fixed.'
'Leetle sorry, though,' said he, 'cuz that other suit don' look
reel grand. This here one has been purty—purty scrumptious in its
day— if I do say it.'
'You look good enough in anything that's respectable,' I said.
'Kind o' wanted to look a leetle extry good, as ye might say,' said
Uncle Eb, groping in his big carpet-bag. 'Hope, she's terrible proud,
an' if they should hev a leetle fiddlin' an' dancin' some night we'd
want t' be as stylish as any on em. B'lieve I'll go'n git me a spang,
bran' new suit, anyway, 'fore we go up t' Fuller's.'
As we neared the city we both began feeling a bit doubtful as to
whether we were quite ready for the ordeal.
'I ought to,' I said. 'Those I'm wearing aren't quite stylish
enough, I'm afraid.'
'They're han'some,' said Uncle Eb, looking up over his spectacles,
'but mebbe they ain't just as splendid as they'd orter be. How much
money did David give ye?'
'One hundred and fifty dollars,' I said, thinking it a very grand
''Tain't enough,' said Uncle Eb, bolting up at me again. 'Leastways
not if ye're goin' t' hev a new suit. I want ye t' be spick an' span.'
He picked up his trousers then, and took out his fat leather
'Lock the door,' he whispered.
'Pop goes the weasel!' he exclaimed, good-naturedly, and then he
began counting the bills.
'I'm not going to take any more of your money, Uncle Eb,' I said.
'Tut, tut!' said he, 'don't ye try t' interfere. what d' ye think
they'll charge in the city fer a reel, splendid suit?'
He stopped and looked up at me.
'Probably as much as fifty dollars,' I answered.
'Whew-w-w!' he whistled. 'Patty steep! It is sartin.'
'Let me go as I am" said I. 'Time enough to have a new suit when
I've earned it.'
'Wall,' he said, as he continued counting, 'I guess you've earnt it
already. Ye've studied hard an' tuk first honours an' yer goin' where
folks are purty middlin' proud'n haughty. I want ye t' be a reg'lar
high stepper, with a nice, slick coat. There,' he whispered, as he
handed me the money, 'take thet! An' don't ye never tell 'at I g'in it
I could not speak for a little while, as I took the money, for
thinking of the many, many things this grand old man had done for me.
'Do ye think these boots'll do?' he asked, as he held up to the
light the pair he had taken off in the evening.
'They look all right,' I said.
'Ain't got no decent squeak to 'em now, an' they seem t' look kind
o' clumsy. How're your'n?' he asked.
I got them out from under the berth and we inspected them
carefully deciding in the end they would pass muster.
The steward had made up our berths, when he came, and lit our room
for us. Our feverish discussion of attire had carried us far past
midnight, when we decided to go to bed.
'S'pose we musm't talk t' no strangers there 'n New York,' said
Uncle Eb, as he lay down. 'I've read 'n the Triburne how they'll
purtend t' be friends an' then grab yer money an' run like Sam Hill.
If I meet any o' them fellers they're goin' t' find me purty middlin'
We were up and on deck at daylight, viewing the Palisades. The
lonely feeling of an alien hushed us into silence as we came to the
noisy and thickening river craft at the upper end of the city.
Countless window panes were shining in the morning sunlight. This
thought was in my mind that somewhere in the innumerable host on
either side was the one dearer to me than any other. We enquired our
way at the dock and walked to French's Hotel, on Printing House
Square. After breakfast we went and ordered all the grand new things
we had planned to get. They would not be ready for two days, and after
talking it over we decided to go and make a short call. Hope, who had
been up and looking for us a long time, gave us a greeting so hearty
we began to get the first feeling of comfort since landing. She was
put out about our having had breakfast, I remember, and said we must
have our things brought there at once.
'I shall have to stay at the hotel awhile,' I said, thinking of the
'Why,' said Mrs Fuller, 'this girl has been busy a week fixing your
rooms and planning for you. We could not hear of your going
elsewhere. It would be downright ingratitude to her.'
A glow of red came into the cheeks of Hope that made me ashamed of
my remark. I thought she looked lovelier in her pretty blue morning
gown, covering a broad expanse of crinoline, than ever before.
'And you've both got to come and hear me sing tonight at the
church,' said she. 'I wouldn't have agreed to sing if I had not
thought you were to be here.'
We made ourselves at home, as we were most happy to do, and that
afternoon I went down town to present to Mr Greeley the letter that
David Brower had given me.
I came down Broadway that afternoon aboard a big white omnibus,
that drifted slowly in a tide of many vehicles. Those days there were
a goodly show of trees on either side of that thoroughfare— elms,
with here and there a willow, a sumach or a mountain ash. The walks
were thronged with handsome people—dandies with high hats and
flaunting necknes and swinging canes—beautiful women, each covering
a broad circumference of the pavement, with a cone of crinoline that
swayed over dainty feet. From Grace Church down it was much of the
same thing we see now, with a more ragged sky line. Many of the great
buildings, of white and red sandstone, had then appeared, but the
street was largely in the possession of small shops—oyster houses,
bookstores and the like. Not until I neared the sacred temple of the
Tribune did I feel a proper sense of my own littleness. There was the
fountain of all that wisdom which had been read aloud and heard with
reverence in our household since a time I could but dimly remember.
There sat the prophet who had given us so much—his genial views of
life and government, his hopes, his fears, his mighty wrath at the
prospering of cruelty and injustice.
'I would like to see Mr Horace Greeley,' I said, rather timidly, at
'Walk right up those stairs and turn to the left,' said a clerk, as
he opened a gate for me.
Ascending, I met a big man coming down, hurriedly, and with heavy
steps. We stood dodging each other a moment with that unfortunate
co-ordination of purpose men sometimes encounter when passing each
other. Suddeniy the big man stopped in the middle of the stairway and
held both of his hands above his head.
'In God's name! young man,' said he, 'take your choice.'
He spoke in a high, squeaky voice that cut me with the sharpness
of its irritation. I went on past him and entered an open door near
the top of the stairway.
'Is Mr Horace Greeley in?' I enquired of a young man who sat
'Back soon,' said he, without looking up. 'Take a chair.'
In a little while I heard the same heavy feet ascending the
stairway two steps at a time. Then the man I had met came hurriedly
into the room.
'This is Mr Greeley,' said the yo'mg man who was reading.
The great editor turned and looked at me through gold-rimmed
spectacles. I gave him my letter out of a trembling hand. He removed
it from the envelope and held it close to his big, kindly,
smooth-shaven face. There was a fringe of silky, silver hair,
streaked with yellow, about the lower part of his head from temple to
temple. It also encircled his throat from under his collar. His cheeks
were fall and fair as a lady's, with rosy spots in them and a few
freckles about his nose. He laughed as he finished reading the letter.
'Are you Dave Brower's boy?' he asked in a drawling falsetto,
looking at me out of grey eyes and smiling with good humour.
'By adoption,' I answered.'
'He was an almighty good rassler,' he said, deliberately, as he
looked again at the letter.'
'What do you want to do?' he asked abruptly.'
'Want to work on the Tribune,' I answered.'
'Good Lord! he said. 'I can't hire everybody.'
I tried to think of some argument, but what with looking at the
great man before me, and answering his questions and maintaining a
decent show of dignity, I had enough to do.
'Do you read the Tribune? he asked.'
'Read it ever since I can remember.'
'What do you think of the administration?
'Lot of dough faces! I answered, smiling, as I saw he recognised
his own phrase. He sat a moment tapping the desk with his penholder.'
'There's so many liars here in New York,' he said, 'there ought to
be room for an honest man. How are the crops?'
'Fair, I answered. 'Big crop of boys every year.'
'And now you re trying to find a market, he remarked.'
'Want to have you try them,' I answered.
'Well,' said he, very seriously, turning to his desk that came up
to his chin as he sat beside it, 'go and write me an article about
'Would you advise-,' I started to say, when he interrupted me.
'The man that gives advice is a bigger fool than the man that takes
it,' he fleered impatiently. 'Go and do your best!'
Before he had given me this injunction he had dipped his pen and
begun to write hurriedly. If I had known him longer I should have
known that, while he had been talking to me, that tireless mind of
his had summoned him to its service. I went out, in high spirits, and
sat down a moment on one of the benches in the little park near by, to
think it all over. He was going to measure my judgement, my skill as a
writer—my resources. 'Rats,' I said to myself thoughtfully. 1 had
read much about them. They infested the ships, they overran the
wharves, they traversed the sewers. An inspiration came to me. I
started for the waterfront, asking my way every block or two. Near the
East River I met a policeman—a big, husky, good-hearted Irishman.
'Can you tell me,' I said, 'who can give me information about
'Rats?' he repeated. 'What d' ye wan't' know about thim?'
'Everything,'I said. 'They ve just given me a job on the New York
Tribune,'I added proudly.
He smiled good-naturedly. He had looked through me at a glance.
'Just say "Tribune",' he said. 'Ye don't have t say "New York
Tribune" here. Come along wi me.'
He took me to a dozen or more of the dock masters.
'Give 'im a lift, my hearty,'he said to the first of them. 'He's a
I have never forgotten the kindness of that Irishman, whom I came
to know well in good time. Remembering that day and others I always
greeted him with a hearty 'God bless the Irish!' every time I passed
him, and he would answer, 'Amen, an' save yer riverince.'
He did not leave me until I was on my way home loaded with fact
and fable and good dialect with a savour of the sea in it.
Hope and Uncle Eb were sitting together in his room when I
'Guess I've got a job,'I said, trying to be very cool about it..
'A job! said Hope eagerly, as she rose. 'Where?
'With Mr Horace Greeley,'I answered, my voice betraying my
'Jerusalem! said Uncle Eb. 'Is it possible? '
'That's grand! said Hope. 'Tell us about it.'
Then I told them of my interview with the great editor and of what
I had done since.
'Ye done wonderful!' said Uncle Eb and Hope showed quite as much
pleasure in her own sweet way.
I was for going to my room and beginning to write at once, but
Hope said it was time to be getting ready for dinner.
When we came down at half-past six we were presented to our host
and the guests of the evening—handsome men and women in full dress—
and young Mr Livingstone was among them. I felt rather cheap in my
frock coat, although I had thought it grand enough for anybody on the
day of my graduation. Dinner announced, the gentlemen rose and offered
escort to the ladies, and Hope and Mrs Fuller relieved our
embarrassment by conducting us to our seats—women are so deft in
those little difficulties. The dinner was not more formal than that of
every evening in the Fuller home—for its master was a rich man of
some refinement of taste—and not at all comparable to the splendid
hospitality one may see every day at the table of a modem
millionaire. But it did seem very wonderful to us, then, with its
fine-mannered servants, its flowers, its abundant silver. Hope had
written much to her mother of the details of deportment at John
Fuller's table, and Elizabeth had delicately imparted to us the
things we ought to know. We behaved well, I have since been told,
although we got credit for poorer appetites than we possessed. Unde
Eb took no chances and refused everything that had a look of mystery
and a suggestion of peril, dropping a droll remark, betimes, that sent
a ripple of amusement around the table.
John Trumbull sat opposite me, and even then I felt a curious
interest in him—a big, full bearded man, quite six feet tall, his
skin and eyes dark, his hair iron-grey, his voice deep like David s. I
could not get over the impression that I had seen him before—a
feeling I have had often, facing men I could never possibly have met.
No word came out of his firm mouth unless he were addressed, and then
all in hearing listened to the little he had to say: it was never more
than some very simple remark. In his face and form and voice there was
abundant heraldry of rugged power and ox-like vitality. I have seen a
bronze head of Daniel Webster which, with a full blonde beard and an
ample covering of grey hair would have given one a fairly perfect idea
of the look of John Trumbull. Imagine it on a tall, and powerful body
and let it speak with a voice that has in it the deep and musical
vibration one may hear in the looing of an ox and you shall see, as
perfectly as my feeble words can hdp you to do, this remarkable man
who, must, hereafter, play before you his part—compared to which
mine is as the prattle of a child—in this drama of God's truth.
'You have not heard,'said Mrs Fuller addressing me, 'how Mr
Trumbull saved Hope's life.'
'Saved Hope's life!'I exclaimed.
'Saved her life,'she repeated, 'there isn t a doubt of it. We never
sent word of it for fear it would give you all needless worry. It was
a day of last winter—fell crossing Broadway, a dangerous place' he
pulled her aside just in time—the horse's feet were raised above her
—she would have been crushed in a moment He lifted her in his arms
and carried her to the sidewalk not a bit the worse for it.
'Seems as if it were fate,'said Hope. 'I had seen him so often and
wondered who he was. I recall a night when I had to come home alone
from rehearsal. I was horribly afraid. I remember passing him under a
street lamp. If he had spoken to me, then, I should have dropped with
fear and he would have had to carry me home that time.
'It's an odd thing a girl like you should ever have to walk home
alone,'said Mr Fuller. 'Doesn't speak well for our friend Livingstone
or Burnham there or Dobbs.
'Mrs Fuller doesn't give us half a chance,'said Livingstone, 'she
guards her day and night. It's like the monks and the Holy Grail.
'Hope is independent of the young men,'said Mrs Fuller as we rose
from the table. 'If I cannot go with her myself, in the carriase, I
always send a maid or a manservant to walk home with her. But Mr
Fuller and I were out of town that night and the young men missed
their great opportunity.
'Had a differ nt way o'sparkin'years ago,'said Unde Eb. 'Didn t
never hey if please anybody but the girl then. If ye liked a girl ye
went an'sot up with her an'gin her a smack an'tol'her right out plain
an'square what ye wanted. An'thet settled it one way er t other.
An'her mother she step'in the next room with the door half-open
an'never paid no 'tention. Recollec'one col'night when I was
sparkin'the mother hollered out o'bed, "Lucy, hey ye got anythin
'round ye?" an'she hollered back, "Yis, mother," an'she hed too but
'twan't nothin'but my arm.'
They laughed merrily, over the quaint reminiscence of my old
friend and the quainter way he had of telling it. The rude dialect of
the backwoodsman might have seemed oddly out of place, there, but for
the quiet, unassuming manner and the fine old face of Uncle Eb in
which the dullest eye might see the soul of a gentleman.
'What became of Lucy?'Mr Fuller enquired, laughingly. 'You never
'Lucy died,'he answered soberly; 'thet was long, long ago.'
Then he went away with John Trumbull to the smoking-room where I
found them, talking earnestly in a corner, when it was time to go to
the church with Hope.
Hope and Uncle Eb and I went away in a coach with Mrs Fuller.
There was a great crowd in the church that covered, with sweeping
arches, an interior more vast than any I had ever entered. Hope was
gowned in white silk, a crescent of diamonds in her hair—a birthday
gift from Mrs Fuller; her neck and a part of her full breast unadorned
by anything save the gifts of God—their snowy whiteness, their
First Henry Cooper came on with his violin—a great master as I
now remember him. Then Hope ascended to the platform, her dainty kid
slippers showing under her gown, and the odious Livingstone escorting
her. I was never so madly in love or so insanely jealous. I must
confess it for I am trying to tell the whole truth of myself'I was a
fool. And it is the greater folly that one says ever 'I was,'and never
'I am'in that plea. I could even see it myself then and there, but I
was so great a fool I smiled and spoke fairly to the young man
although I could have wrung his neck with rage. There was a little
stir and a passing whisper in the crowd as she stood waiting for the
prelude. Then she sang the ballad of Auld Robin Grey—not better than
I had heard her sing it before, but so charmingly there were murmurs
of delight going far and wide in the audience when she had finished.
Then she sang the fine melody of 'Angels ever Bright and Fair , and
again the old ballad she and I had heard first from the violin of poor
By yon bonnie bank an'by yon bonnie bonnie brae The sun shines
bright on Loch Lomond Where me an'me true love were ever won't if gae
On the bonnie, bonnie bank o'Loch Lomond.
Great baskets of roses were handed to her as she came down from
the platform and my confusion was multiplied by their number for I
had not thought to bring any myself.
I turned to Uncle Eb who, now and then, had furtively wiped his
eyes. 'My stars!'he whispered, 'ain't itreemarkable grand! Never
heard ner seen nothin'like thet in all my born days. An't'think it's
my little Hope.
He could go no further. His handkerchief was in his hand while he
took refuge in silence.
Going home the flowers were heaped upon our laps and I, with Hope
beside me, felt some restoration of comfort.
'Did you see Trumbull?'Mrs Fuller asked. 'He sat back of us and
did seem to enjoy it so much—your singing. He was almost cheerful.
'Tell me about Mr Trumbull,'I said. 'He is interesting.
'Speculator,'said Mrs Fuller. 'A strange man, successful, silent,
unmarried and, I think, in love. Has beautiful rooms they say on
Gramercy Park. Lives alone with an old servant. We got to know him
through the accident. Mr Fuller and he have done business together—a
great deal of it since then. Operates in the stock market.
A supper was waiting for us at home and we sat a long time at the
table. I was burning for a talk with Hope but how was I to manage it?
We rose with the others and went and sat down together in a corner of
the great parlour. We talked of that night at the White Church in
Faraway when we heard Nick Goodall play and she had felt the beginning
of a new life.
'I've heard how well you did last year,'she said, 'and how nice you
were to the girls. A friend wrote me all about it. How attentive you
were to that little Miss Brown!
'But decently polite,'I answered. 'One has to have somebody or—or
be a monk.
'One has to have somebody!'she said, quickly, as she picked at thc
flower on her bosom and looked down at it soberly. 'That is true one
has to have somebody and, you know, I haven t had any lack of company
myself. By the way, I have news to tell you.
She spoke slowly and in a low voice with a touch of sadness in it.
I felt the colour mounting to my face.
'News!'I repeated. 'What news, I-lope?
'I am going away to England,'she said, 'with Mrs Fuller if—if
mother will let me. I wish you would write and ask her to let me go.
I was unhorsed. What to say I knew not, what it meant I could
vaguely imagine. There was a moment of awkward silence.
'Of course I will ask her if you wish to go,'I said. 'When do you
'They haven t fixed the day yet.
She sat looking down at her fan, a beautiful, filmy thing between
braces of ivory. Her knees were crossed, one dainty foot showing
under ruffles of lace. I looked at her a moment dumb with admiration.
'What a big man you have grown to be Will,'she said presently. 'I
am almost afraid of you now.
She was still looking down at the fan and that little foot was
moving nervously. Now was my time. I began framing an avowal. I felt
a wild impulse to throw my strong arms about her and draw her close to
me and feel the pink velvet of her fair face upon mine. ff1 had only
done it! But what with the strangeness and grandeur of that big room,
the voices of the others who were sitting in the library, near by, the
mystery of the spreading crinoline that was pressing upon my knees, I
had not half the courage of a lover.
'My friend writes me that you are in love,'she said, opening her
fan and moving it slowly, as she looked up at me.
'She is right I must confess it,'I said, 'I am madly, hopelessly in
love. It is time you knew it Hope and I want your counsel.
She rose quickly and turned her face away.
'Do not tell me—do not speak of it again—I forbid you,'she
Then she stood silent. I rose to take her hand and ask her to tell
me why, a pretty rankling in my heart, Soft footsteps and the swish of
a gown were approaching. Before I could speak Mrs Fuller had come
through the doorway.
'Come Hope,'she said, 'I cannot let you sit up late—you are worn
out, my dear.
Then Hope bade us both good-night and went away to her room. If I
had known as much about women then, as now, I should have had it out,
with short delay, to some understanding between us. But in that
subject one loves and learns. And one thing I have learned is this,
that jealousy throws its illusions on every word and look and act. I
went to my room and sat down for a bit of reckoning. Hope had ceased
to love me, I felt sure, and how was I to win her back?
After all my castle building what was I come to?
I heard my door open presently, and then I lifted my head. Uncle
Eb stood near me in his stocking feet and shirt-sleeves.
'In trouble,'he whispered.
'In trouble,'I said.
'It's about Hope.
'Don't be hasty. Hope ll never go back on you,'he whispered. 'She
doesn't love me,'I said impulsively. 'She doesn't care the snap of
her finger for me.
'Don't believe it,'he answered calmly. 'Not a single word of it.
Thet woman—she's tryin't'keep her away from ye—but 'twon't make
no differ nce. Not a bit.
'I must try to win her back—someway—somehow,'I whispered.
'Gi n ye the mitten?'he asked.
'That's about it,'I answered, going possibly too far in the depth
of my feeling.
'Whew w!'he softly whistled. 'Wall, it takes two mittens t'make a
pair—ye ll hey t'ask her ag in.
'Yes I cannot give her up,'I said decisively, 'I must try to win
her back. It isn t fair. I have no claim upon her. But I must do it.
'Consarn it! women like t'be chased,'he said. 'It's their natur .
What do they fix up so fer—di mon's an'silks an'satins—if 'tain't
t'set men a chasm'uv 'em? You d otter enjoy it. Stick to her—
jes'like a puppy to a root. Thet's my advice. 'Hope has got too far
ahead of me,'I said. 'She can many a rich man if she wishes to, and I
don't see why she shouldn t. What am I, anyhow, but a poor devil just
out of college and everything to win? It makes me miserable to think
here in this great house how small I am.
'There's things goin' if happen,'Uncle Eb whispered. 'I can't tell
ye what er when but they re goin' if happen an' they re goin' if
We sat thinking a while then. I knew what he meant—that I was to
conquer the world, somehow, and the idea seemed to me so absurd I
could hardly help laughing as melancholy as I felt.
'Now you go if bed,'he said, rising and gently touching my head
with his hand. 'There's things goin't'happen, boy—take my word fer
I got in bed late at night but there was no sleep for me. In the
still hours I lay quietly, planning my future, for now I must make
myself worth having and as soon as possible.
Some will say my determination was worthy of a better lover but,
bless you! I have my own way of doing things and it has not been
always so unsuccessful.
Hope was not at breakfast with us.
'The child is worn out,'said Mrs Fuller. 'I shall keep her in bed a
day or two.
'Couldn't I see her a moment?'I enquired.
'Dear! no!'said she. 'The poor thing is in bed with a headache.'If
Hope had been ill at home I should have felt free to go and sit by
her as I had done more than once. It seemed a little severe to be
shut away from her now but Mrs Fuller's manner had fore-answered any
appeal and I held my peace. Having no children of her own she had
assumed a sort of proprietorship over Hope that was evident—that
probably was why the girl had ceased to love me and to write to me as
of old. A troop of mysteries came clear to me that morning. Through
many gifts and favours she had got my sweetheart in a sort of bondage
and would make a marriage of her own choosing if possible.
'Is there anything you would like particularly for your breakfast?
Mrs Fuller enquired.
'Hain't no way pertic lar,'said Uncle Eb. 'I gen rally eat
buckwheat pancakes an'maple sugar with a good strong cup o'tea.
Mrs Fuller left the room a moment.
'Dunno but I ll go out if the barn a minnit 'n take a look at the
hosses,'he said when she came back.
'The stable is a mile away,'she replied smiling.
'Gran'good team ye druv us out with las'night,'he said. 'Hed a
chance t'look 'em over a leetle there at the door. The off hoss is
puffed some for ard but if ye r husband ll put on a cold bandage ev
ry night it ll make them legs smoother n a hound's tooth.
She thanked him and invited us to look in at the conservatory.
'Where's yer husband?'Uncle Eb enquired.
'He's not up yet,'said she, 'I fear he did not sleep well.
'Now Mis Fuller,'said Uncle Eb, as we sat waiting, 'if there s
anything I can do t'help jes'le'me know what 'tis.
She said there was nothing. Presently Uncle Eb sneezed so
powerfully that it rattled the crystals on the chandelier and rang in
the brass medallions.
The first and second butlers came running in with a frightened
look. There was also a startled movement from somebody above stairs.
'I do sneeze powerful, sometimes,'said Uncle Eb from under his red
bandanna.''S enough if scare anybody.
They brought in our breakfast then—a great array of tempting
dishes. 'Jest hey four pancakes 'n a biled egg,'said Uncle Eb as he
sipped his tea. 'Grand tea!'he added, 'strong enough if float a silver
'Mrs Fuller,'I said rising, when we had finished, 'I thank you for
your hospitality, but as I shall have to work nights, probably, I
must find lodgings near the office.
'You must come and see us again,'she answered cordially. 'On
Saturday I shall take Hope away for a bit of rest to Saratoga
probably—and from there I shall take her to Hillsborough myself for
a day or two.
'Thought she was goin'home with me,'said Uncle Eb.
'O dear no!'said Mrs Fuller, 'she cannot go now. The girl is ill
and it's such a long journey.
The postman came then with a letter for Uncle Eb.
It was from David Brower. He would have to be gone a week or so
buying cattle and thought Uncle Eb had better come home as soon as
'They re lonesome,'he said, thoughtfully, after going over the
letter again. "Tain't no wonder—they re gittin'old.
Uncle Eb was older than either of them but he had not thought of
'Le's see; 's about eight o clock,'said he, presently. 'I've got
t'go an ten'to some business o'my own. I ll be back here sometime if
day Mis Fuller an'I ll hey if see thet girl. Ye musm t never try if
keep me 'way from her. She's sot on my knee too many year fer that'
altogether too many.
We arranged to meet there at four. Then a servant brought us our
hats. I heard Hope calling as we passed the stairway:
'Won't you come up a minute, Uncle Eb? I want to see you very
Then Uncle Eb hurried upstairs and I came away.
I read the advertisements of board and lodging—a perplexing task
for one so ignorant of the town. After many calls I found a place to
my liking on Monkey Hill, near Printing House Square. Monkey Hill was
the east end of William Street, and not in the least fashionable.
There were some neat and cleanly looking houses on it of wood, and
brick, and brown stone inhabited by small tradesmen; a few shops, a
big stable and the chalet sitting on a broad, flat roof that covered a
portion of the stableyard. The yard itself was the summit of Monkey
Hill. It lay between two brick buildings and up the hill, from the
walk, one looked into the gloomy cavern of the stable and under the
low roof, on one side7 there were dump carts and old coaches in
varying stages of infirmity. There was an old iron shop, that stood
flush with the sidewalk, flanking the stableyard. A lantern and a
mammoth key were suspended above the door and hanging upon the side of
the shop was a wooden stair ascending to the chalet The latter had a
sheathing of weather-worn clapboards. It stood on the rear end of the
brick building, communicating with the front rooms above the shop. A
little stair of five steps ascended from the landing to its red door
that overlooked an ample yard of roofing, adorned with potted plants.
The main room of the chalet where we ate our meals and sat and talked,
of an evening, had the look of a ship's cabin. There were stationary
seats along the wall covered with leathern cushions. There were port
and starboard lanterns and a big one of polished brass that overhung
the table. A ship's clock that had a noisy and cheerful tick, was set
in the wall. A narrow passage led to the room in front and the latter
had slanting sides. A big window of little panes, in its further end,
let in the light of William Street Here I found a home for
myself'humble but quaint and cleanly. A thrifty German who, having
long followed the sea, had married and thrown out his anchor for good
and all, now dwelt in the chalet with his wife and two boarders—both
newspaper men. The old shopkeeper in front, once a sailor himself, had
put the place in shipshape and leased itto them.
Mine host bore the name of Opper and was widely known as 'All
Right'Opper, from his habit of cheery approval. Everything and
everybody were 'all right'to him so far as I could observe. If he
were blessed or damned he said 'all right . To be sure he took
exceptions, on occasions, but even then the affair ended with his
inevitable verdict of 'all right . Every suggestion I made as to terms
of payment and arrangement of furniture was promptly stamped with
this seal of approval.
I was comfortably settled and hard at work on my article by noon.
At four I went to meet Uncle Eb. Hope was still sick in bed and we
came away in a frame of mind that could hardly have been more
miserable. I tried to induce him to stay a night with me in my new
'I mus n t,'he said cheerfully.''Fore long I m comin'down ag in
but I can't fool 'round no longer now. I ll jes'go n git my new
clothes and put fer the steamboat. Want ye t'go n see Hope tomorrow.
She's comm up with Mis Fuller next week. I m goin't find out what's
the matter uv her then. Somethin's wrong somewhere. Dunno what 'tis.
She's all upsot.
Poor girl! it had been almost as heavy a trial to her as to me'
cutting me off as she had done. Remembrances of my tender devotion to
her, in all the years between then and childhood, must have made her
sore with pity. I had already determined what I should do, and after
Uncle Eb had gone that evening I wrote her a long letter and asked her
if I might not still have some hope of her loving me. I begged her to
let me know when I might come and talk with her alone. With what
eloquence I could bring to bear I told her how my love had grown and
laid hold of my life.
I finished my article that night and, in the morning, took it to Mr
Greeley. He was at his desk writing and at the same time giving
orders in a querulous tone to some workman who sat beside him. He did
not look up as he spoke. He wrote rapidly, his nose down so close to
the straggling, wet lines that I felt a fear of its touching them. I
stood by, waiting my opportunity. A full-bearded man in his
shirt-sleeves came hurriedly out of another room.
'Mr Greeley,'he said, halting at the elbow of the great editor.
'Yes, what is it?'the editor demanded nervously, his hand wobbling
over the white page, as rapidly as before, his eyes upon his work.
'Another man garrotted this morning on South Street.
'Better write a paragraph,'he said, his voice snapping with
impatience as he brushed the full page aside and began sowing his
thoughts on another. 'Warn our readers. Tell 'em to wear brass
collars with spikes in 'em till we get a new mayor.
The man went away laughing.
Mr Greeley threw down his pen, gathered his copy and handed itto
the workman who sat beside him.
'Proof ready at five!'he shouted as the man was going out of the
'Hello! Brower,'he said bending to his work again. 'Thought you d
blown out the gas somewhere.
'Waiting until you reject this article,'I said.
He sent a boy for Mr Ottarson, the city editor. Meanwhile he had
begun to drive his pen across the broadsheets with tremendous energy.
Somehow it reminded me of a man ploughing black furrows behind a
fast walking team in a snow flurry. His mind was 'straddle the
furrow'when Mr Ottarson came in. There was a moment of silence in
which the latter stood scanning a page of the Herald he had brought
'Ottarson!'said Mr Greeley, never slacking the pace of his busy
hand, as he held my manuscript in the other, 'read this. Tell me what
you think of it. If good, give him a show.
'The staff is full, Mr Greeley,'said the man of the city desk. His
words cut me with disappointment.
The editor of the Tribune halted his hand an instant, read the last
lines, scratching a word and underscoring another.
'Don't care!'he shrilled, as he went on writing. 'Used to slide
downhill with his father. If he's got brains we ll pay him eight
The city editor beckoned to me and I followed him into another
'If you will leave your address,'he said, 'I will let you hear from
me when we have read the article.
With the hasty confidence of youth I began to discount my future
that very day'ordering a full dress suit, of the best tailor, hat and
shoes to match and a complement of neck wear that would have done
credit to Beau Brummel. It gave me a start when I saw the bill would
empty my pocket of more than half its cash. But I had a stiff pace to
fullow, and every reason to look my best.
I took a walk in the long twilight of that evening. As it began to
grow dark I passed the Fuller house and looked up at its windows.
Standing under a tree on the opposite side of the avenue I saw a man
come out of the door and walk away hurriedly with long strides. I met
him at the next corner.
I recognised then the voice and figure ofJohn Trumbull. 'Been to
Fuller s,'said he.
'How is Hope?'I asked.
'Better,'said he. 'Walk with me?
'With pleasure,'said I, and then he quickened his pace.
We walked awhile in silence, going so fast! had hardly time to
speak, and the darkness deepened into night. We hurried along through
streets and alleys that were but dimly lighted, coming out at length
on a wide avenue passing through open fields in the upper part of the
city. Lights in cabin windows glowed on the hills around us. I made
some remark about them but he did not hear me. He slackened pace in a
moment and began whispering to himself' I could not hear what he said.
I thought of bidding him good-night and returning but where were we
and how could I find my way? We heard a horse coming presently at a
gallop. At the first loud whack of the hoofs he turned suddenly and
laying hold of my arm began to run. I followed him into the darkness
of the open field. It gave me a spell of rare excitement for I thought
at once of highwaymen—having read so much of them in the Tribune. He
stopped suddenly and stooped low his hands touching the grass and
neither spoke until the horse had gone well beyond us. Then he rose,
stealthily, and looked about him in silence, even turning his face to
the dark sky where only a few stars were visible.
Well!'said he with a sort of grunt. 'Beats the devil! I thought it
was A wonderful thing was happening in the sky. A great double moon
seemed to be flying over the city hooded in purple haze. A little
spray of silver light broke out of it, as we looked, and shot
backward and then floated after the two shining disks that were
falling eastward in a long curve. They seemed to be so near I thought
they were coming down upon the city. It occurred to me they must have
some connection with the odd experience I had gone through. In a
moment they had passed out of sight. We were not aware that we had
witnessed a spectacle the like of which had not been seen in
centuries, if ever, since God made the heavens' the great meteor of
'Let's go back,'said Trumbull. 'We came too far. I forgot myself.'
'Dangerous here?'I enquired.
'Not at all,'said he, 'but a long way out of town—tired?
'Rather,'I said, grateful for his evident desire to quiet my alarm.
'Come!'said he as we came back to the pavement, his hand upon my
shoulder. 'Talk to me. Tell me—what are you going to do?
We walked slowly down the deserted avenue, I, meanwhile, talking
of my pians.
'You love. Hope,'he said presently. 'You will marry her?
'If she will have me,'said I.
'You must wait,'he said, 'time enough!
He quickened his pace again as we came in sight of the scattering
shops and houses of the upper city and no other word was spoken. On
the corners we saw men looking into the sky and talking of the fallen
moon. It was late bedtime when we turned into Gramercy Park.
'Come in,'said he as he opened an iron gate.
I followed him up a marble stairway and a doddering old English
butler opened the door for us. We entered a fine hall, its floor of
beautiful parquetry muffled with silken rugs. High and spacious rooms
were all aglow with light.
He conducted me to a large smoking-room, its floor and walls
covered with trophies of the hunt—antlers and the skins of
carnivora. Here he threw off his coat and bade me be at home as he
lay down upon a wicker divan covered with the tawny skin of some wild
animal. He stroked the fur fondly with his hand.
'Hello Jock!'he said, a greeting that mystified me.
'Tried to eat me,'he added, turning to me.
Then he bared his great hairy arm and showed me a lot of ugly
scars, I besought him to tell the story.
'Killed him,'he answered. 'With a gun?
'No—with my hands,'and that was all he would say of it.
He lay facing a black curtain that covered a corner. Now and then I
heard a singular sound in the room—like some faint, far, night cry
such as I have heard often in the deep woods. It was so weird I felt
some wonder of it. Presently I could tell it came from behind the
curtain where, also, I heard an odd rustle like that of wings.
I sat in a reverie, looking at the silent man before me, and in the
midst of it he pulled a cord that hung near him and a bell rang.
'Luncheon!'he said to the old butler who entered immediately.
Then he rose and showed me odd things, carved out of wood, by his
own hand as he told me, and with a delicate art. He looked at one tiny
thing and laid it aside quickly.
'Can't bear to look at it now,'he said.
It was a little figure bound hand and foot and hanging from the
'Burn it!'he said, turning to the old servant and putting it in his
hands. Luncheon had been set between us, the while, and as we were
eating it the butler opened a big couch and threw snowy sheets of
linen over it and silken covers that rustled as they fell.
'You will sleep there,'said my host as his servant laid the
pillows, 'and well I hope.
I thought I had better go to my own lodgings.
'Too late—too late,'said he, and I, leg-weary and half-asleep,
accepted his proffer of hospitality. Then, having eaten, he left me
and I got into bed after turning the lights out Something woke me in
the dark of the night. There was a rustling sound in the room. I
raised my head a bit and listened. It was the black curtain that hung
in the corner. I imagined somebody striking it violently. I saw a
white figure standing near me in the darkness. It moved away as I
looked at it. A cold wind was blowing upon my face. I lay a long time
listening and by and by I could hear the deep voice of Trumbull as if
he were groaning and muttering in his sleep. When it began to come
light I saw the breeze from an open window was stirring the curtain of
silk in the corner. I got out of bed and, peering behind the curtain,
saw only a great white owl, caged and staring out of wide eyes that
gleamed fiery in the dim light. I went to bed again, sleeping until my
host woke me in the late morning.
After breakfasting I went to the chalet. The postman had been
there but he had brought no letter from Hope. I waited about home,
expecting to hear from her, all that day, only to see it end in bitter
That very night, Ilooked in at the little shop beneath us and met
Riggs. It was no small blessing, just as I was entering upon dark and
unknown ways of life, to meet this hoary headed man with all his
lanterns. He would sell you anchors and fathoms of chain and rope
enough to hang you to the moon but his 'lights'were the great
attraction of Riggs s. He had every kind of lantern that had ever
swung on land or sea. After dark, when light was streaming out of its
open door and broad window Riggs's looked like the side of an old
lantern itself. It was a door, low and wide, for a time when men had
big round bellies and nothing to do but fill them and heads not too
far above their business. It was a window gone blind with dust and
cobwebs so it resembled the dim eye of age. If the door were closed
its big brass knocker and massive iron latch invited the passer. An
old ship's anchor and a coil of chain lay beside it. Blocks and heavy
bolts, steering wheels, old brass compasses, coils of rope and rusty
chain lay on the floor and benches, inside the shop. There were rows
of lanterns, hanging on the bare beams. And there was Riggs. He sat by
a dusty desk and gave orders in a sleepy, drawling tone to the lad who
served him. An old Dutch lantern, its light softened with green glass,
sent a silver bean across the gloomy upper air of the shop that
evening. Riggs held an old un lantern with little streams of light
bursting through its perforated walls. He was blind, one would know it
at a glance. Blindness is so easy to be seen. Riggs was showing it to
'Turn down the lights,'he said and the boy got his step-ladder and
Then he held it aloft in the dusk and the little lantern was like a
castle tower with many windows lighted, and, when he set it down,
there was a golden sprinkle on the floor as if something had plashed
into a magic pool of light there in the darkness.
Riggs lifted the lantern, presently, and stood swinging it in his
hand. Then its rays were sown upon the darkness falling silently into
every nook and corner of the gloomy shop and breaking into flowing
dapples on the wall.
'See how quick it is!'said he as the rays flashed with the speed of
lightning. 'That is the only traveller from Heaven that travels fast
enough to ever get to earth.
Then came the words that had a mighty fitness for his tongue.
'Hail, holy light! Offspring of Heaven first born.
His voice rose and fell, riding the mighty rhythm of inspired song.
As he stood swinging the lantern, then, he reminded me of a chanting
priest behind the censer. In a moment he sat down, and, holding the
lantern between his knees, opened its door and felt the candle. Then
as the light streamed out upon his hands, he rubbed them a time,
silently, as if washing them in the bright flood.
'One dollar for this little box of daylight,'he said.
'Blind?'said the stranger as he paid him the money.
'No,'said Riggs, 'only dreaming as you are.
I wondered what he meant by the words 'dreaming as you are .
'Went to bed on my way home to marry,'he continued, stroking his
long white beard, 'and saw the lights go out an'went asleep and it
hasn t come morning yet—that's what I believe. I went into a dream.
Think I m here in a shop talking but I m really in my bunk on the good
ship Arid coming home. Dreamed everything since then—everything a
man could think of. Dreamed I came home and found Annie dead, dreamed
of blindness, of old age, of poverty, of eating and drinking and
sleeping and of many people who pass like dim shadows and speak to me
—you are one of them. And sometimes I forget I am dreaming and am
miserable, and then I remember and am happy. I know when the morning
comes I shall wake and laugh at all these phantoms. And I shall pack
my things and go up on deck, for we shall be in the harbour probably—
ay! maybe Annie and mother will be waving their hands on the dock!
The old face had a merry smile as he spoke of the morning and all
it had for him.
'Seems as if it had lasted a thousand years,'he continued, yawning
and rubbing his eyes. 'But I've dreamed the like before, and, my God!
how glad I felt when I woke in the morning.
It gave me an odd feeling—this remarkable theory of the old man.
I thought then it would be better for most of us if we could think all
our miserya dream and have his faithin the morning-thatitwould bring
back the things we have lost. I had come to buy a lock for my door,
but I forgot my errand and sat down by Riggs while the stranger went
away with his lantern.
'You see no reality in anything but happiness,'I said.
'It's all a means to that end,'he answered. 'It is good for me,
this dream. I shall be all the happier when I do wake, and I shall
love Annie all the better, I suppose.
'I wish I could take my ifi luck as a dream and have faith only in
good things,'I said.
'All that is good shall abide,'said he, stroking his white beard,
'and all evil shall vanish as the substance of a dream. In the end the
only realities are God and love and Heaven. To die is just like
waking up in the morning.
'But I know I m awake,'I said.
'You think you are—that's a part of your dream. Sometimes I think
I m awake—it all seems so real to me. But I have thought it out,
and I am the only man I meet that knows he is dreaming. When you do
wake, in the morning, you may remember how you thought you came to a
certain shop and made some words with a man as to whether you were
both dreaming, and you will laugh and tell your friends about it. Hold
on! I can feel the ship lurching. I believe I am going to wake.
He sat a moment leaning back in his chair with closed eyes, and a
silence fell upon us in the which I could hear only the faint ticking
of a tall clock that lifted its face out of the gloom beyond me.
'You there?'he whispered presently.
'I am here,'I said.
'Odd!'he muttered. 'I know how it will be—I know how it has been
before. Generally come to some high place and a great fear seizes me.
I slip, I fall—fall—fall, and then I wake.
After a little silence I heard him snoring heavily. He was still
leaning back in his chair. I walked on tiptoe to the door where the
boy stood looking out.
'Dunno,'said he, smiling.
I went to my room above and wrote my first tale, which was nothing
more or less than some brief account of what I had heard and seen down
at the little shop that evening. I mailed it next day to the
Knickerbocker, with stamps for return if unavailable.
New York was a crowded city, even then, but I never felt so lonely
anywhere outside a camp in the big woods, The last day of the first
week caine, but no letter from Hope. To make an end of suspense I
went that Saturday morning to the home of the Fullers. The equation
of my value had dwindled sadly that week. Now a small fraction would
have stood for it—nay, even the square of it.
Hope and Mrs Fuller had gone to Saratoga, the butler told me. I
came away with some sense of injury. I must try to be done with Hope
'there was no help for it. I must go to work at something and cease to
worry and lie awake of nights. But I had nothing to do but read and
walk and wait. No word had come to me from the Tribune' evidently it
was not languishing for my aid. That day my tale was returned to me
'with thanks with nothing but thanks printed in black type on a slip
of paper—cold, formal, prompt, ready-made thanks. And I, myself, was
in about the same fix— rejected with thanks—politely, firmly,
thankfully rejected. For a moment I felt like a man falling. I began
to see there was no very clamourous demand for me in 'the great
emporium , as Mr Greeley called it. I began to see, or thought I did,
why liope had shied at my offer and was now shunning me. I went to the
Tribune office. Mr Greeley had gone to Washington; Mr Ottarson was too
busy to see me. I concluded that I would be willing to take a place on
one of the lesser journals. I spent the day going from one office to
another, but was rejected everywhere with thanks. I came home and sat
down to take account of stock. First, I counted my money, of which
there were about fifty dollars left. As to my talents, there were none
left. Like the pies at the Hillsborough tavern, if a man came late to
dinner—they were all out. I had some fine clothes, but no more use
for them than a goose for a peacock's feathers. I decided to take
anything honourable as an occupation, even though it were not in one
of the learned professions. I began to answer advertisements and apply
at business offices for something to give me a living, but with no
success. I began to feel the selfishness of men. God pity the warm and
tender heart of youth when it begins to harden and grow chill, as mine
did then; to put away its cheery confidence forever; to make a new
estimate of itself and others. Look out for that time, O ye good
people! that have sons and daughters.
I must say for myself that I had a mighty cOurage and no small
capital of cheerfulness. I went to try my luck with the newspapers of
Philadelphia, and there one of them kept me in suspense a week to no
purpose. When I came back reduced in cash and courage Hope had sailed.
There was a letter from Uncle Eb telling me when and by what
steamer they were to leave. 'She will reach there a Friday,'he wrote,
'and would like to see you that evening at Fuller s.
I had waited in Philadelphia, hoping I might have some word, to
give her a better thought of me, and, that night, after such a climax
of ill luck, well—I had need of prayer for a wayward tongue. I sent
home a good account of my prospects. I could not bring myself to
report failure or send for more money. I would sooner have gone to
work in a scullery.
Meanwhile my friends at the chalet were enough to keep me in good
cheer. Therc were William McClingan, a Scotchman of a great gift of
dignity and a nickname inseparably connected with his fame. He wrote
leaders for a big weekly and was known as Waxy MeClingan, to honour a
pale ear of wax that took the place of a member lost nobody could tell
how. He drank deeply at times, but never to the loss of his dignity or
self possession. In his cups the natural dignity of the man grew and
expanded. One could tell the extent of his indulgence by the degree of
his dignity. Then his mood became at once didactic and devotional.
Indeed, I learned in good time of the rumour that he had lost his ear
in an argument about the Scriptures over at Edinburgh.
I remember he came an evening, soon after my arrival at the
chalet, when dinner was late. His dignity was at the full. He sat
awhile in grim silence, while a sense of injury grew in his bosom.
'Mrs Opper,'said he, in a grandiose manner and voice that nicely
trilled the r s, 'in the fourth chapter and ninth verse of
Lamentations you will find these words—here he raised his voice a
bit and began to tap the palm of his left hand with the index finger
of his right, continuing: "They that be slain with the sword are
better than they that be slain with hunger. for these pine away
stricken through want of the fruits of the field." Upon my honour as
a gentleman, Mrs Opper, I was never so hungry in all my life.
The other boarder was a rather frail man with an easy cough and a
confidential manner, lie wrote the 'Obituaries of Distinguished
Persons'for one of the daily papers. Somebody had told him once, his
head resembled that of Washington. He had never forgotten it, as I
have reason to remember. His mind lived ever among the dead. His
tongue was pickled in maxims; his heart sunk in the brine of
recollection; his humour not less unconscous and familiar than that of
an epitaph; his name was Lemuel Franidin Force. To the public of his
native city he had introduced Webster one fourth ofJuly—a perennial
topic of his lighter moments.
I fell an easy victim to the obituary editor that first evening in
the chalet. We had risen from the table and he came and held me a
moment by the coat lapel. He released my collar, when he felt sure of
me, and began tapping my chest with his forefinger to drive home his
point I stood for quite an hour out of sheer politeness. By that time
he had me forced to the wall—a God's mercy, for there I got some
sense of relief in the legs. His gestures, in imitation of the great
Webster, put my head in some peril. Meanwhile he continued drumming
upon my chest. I looked longingly at the empty chairs. I tried to cut
him off with applause that should be condusive and satisfying, but
with no success. It had only a stimulating effect. I felt somehow like
a cheap hired man badly overworked. I had lost all connection. I
looked, and smiled, and nodded, and exclaimed, and heard nothing. I
began to plan a method of escape. McClingan—the great and good Waxy
McClingan—came out of his room presently and saw myplight.
'What is this?'he asked, interrupting, 'a serial stawry?
Getting no answer he called my name, and when Force had paused he
'In the sixth chapter and fifth verse of Proverbs,'said he, 'it is
"Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter and as a bird
from the hand of the fowler." Deliver thyself, Brower.
I did so, ducking under Force's arm and hastening to my chamber.
'Ye have a brawling, busy tongue, man,'I heard McClingan saying.
'By the Lord! ye should know a dull tongue is sharper than a
'You are a meddlesome fellow,'said Force.
'If I were you,'said McClingan, 'I would go and get for myself the
long ear of an ass and empty my memory into it every day. Try it,
man. Give it your confidence exclusively. Believe me, my dear Force,
you would win golden opinions.
'It would be better than addressing an ear of wax,'said Force,
hurriedly withdrawing to his own room.
This answer made McClingan angry.
'Better an ear of wax than a brain of putty,'he called after him.
'Blessed is he that hath no ears when a fool's tongue is busy,'and
then strode up and down the floor, muttering ominously.
I came out of my room shortly, and then he motioned me aside.
'Pull your own trigger first, man,'he said to me in a low tone.
'When ye see he's going to shoot pull your own trigger first. Go
right up if him and tap him on the chest quiddy and say, "My dear
Force, I have a glawrious stawry to tell you," and keep tapping him—
his own trick, you know, and he can't complain. Now he has a weak
chest, and when he begins to cough—man, you are saved.
Our host, Opper, entered presently, and in removing the tabledoth
inadvertently came between us. McClingan resented it promptly.
'Mr Opper,'said he, leering at the poor German, 'as a matter of
personal obligement, will you cease to interrupt us?
'All right! all right! gentlemens,'he replied, and then,
fearingthat he had not quite squared himself, turned back, at the
kitchen door, and added, 'Oxcuse me.
McClingan looked at him with that leering superior smile of his,
and gave him just the slightest possible nod of his head.
McClingan came into my room with me awhile then. He had been
everywhere, it seemed to me, and knew everybody worth knowing. I was
much interested in his anecdotes of the great men of the time. Unlike
the obituary editor his ear was quite as ready as his tongue, though I
said little save now and then to answer a question that showed a
kindly interest in me.
I went with him to his room at last. where he besought me to join
him in drinking 'confusion to the enemies of peace and order . On my
refusing, he drank the toast alone and shortly proposed 'death to
slavery . This was followed in quick succession by 'death to the arch
traitor, Buchanan ; 'peace to the soul of John Brown ; 'success to
Honest Abe'and then came a hearty 'here's to the protuberant abdomen
of the Mayor .
I left him at midnight standing in the middle of his room and
singing 'The Land o'the Leal'in a low tone savoured with vast
I was soon near out of money and at my wit's end, but my will was
unconquered. In this plight I ran upon Fogarty, the policeman who had
been the good angel of my one hopeftil day in journalism. His manner
invited my confidence.
'What luck?'said he.
'Bad luck'I answered. 'Only ten dollars in my pocket and nothing
He swung his stick thoughtfully.
'If I was you,'said he, 'I d take anything honest. Upon me wurred,
I d ruther pound rocks than lay idle.
'So would I.
'Wud ye?'said he with animation, as he took my measure from head
'I ll do anything that's honest.
'Ah ha!'said he, rubbing his sandy chin whiskers. 'Don't seem like
ye d been used if hard wurruk.
'But I can do it,'I said.
He looked at me sternly and beckoned with his head.
'Come along,'said he.
He took me to a gang of Irishmen working in the street near by.
'Boss McCormick!'he shouted.
A hearty voice answered, 'Aye, aye, Counsellor,'and McCormick came
out of the crowd, using his shovel for a staff.
'A happy day if ye!'said Fogarty.
'Same if youse an'manny o'thim,'said McCormick.
'Ye ll gi'me one if ye do me a favour,'said Fogarty.
'An'what?'said the other.
'A job for this lad. Wull ye do it?
'I wall,'said McCormick, and he did.
I went to work early the next morning, with nothing on but my
underclothing and trousers, save a pair of gloves, that excited the
ridicule of my fellows. With this livery and the righteous
determination of earning two dollars a day, I began the inelegant
task of 'pounding rocks no merry occupation, I assure you, for a hot
summer's day on Manhattan Island.
We were paving Park Place and we had to break stone and lay them
and shovel dirt and dig with a pick and crowbar.
My face and neck were burned crimson when we quit work at five,
and I went home with a feeling of having been run over by the cars. I
had a strong sense of soul and body, the latter dominated by a mighty
appetite. McClingan viewed me at first with suspicion in which there
was a faint flavour of envy. He invited me at once to his room, and
was amazed at seeing it was no lark. I told him franldy what! was
doing and why and where.
'I would not mind the loaning of a few dollars,'he said, 'as a
matter o'personal obligement I would be most happy to do it—most
happy, Brower, indeed I would.
I thanked him cordially, but declined the favour, for at home they
had always taught me the danger of borrowing, and I was bound to have
it out with ill luck on my own resources.
'Greeley is back,'said he, 'and I shall see him tomorrow. I will
put him in mind o'you.
I went away sore in the morning, but with no drooping spirit. In
the middle of the afternoon I straightened up a moment to ease my
back and look about me.
There at the edge of the gang stood the great Horace Greeley and
Waxy McClingan. The latter beckoned me as he caught my eye. Iwent
aside to greet them. Mr Greeley gave me his hand.
'Do you mean to tell me that you d rather work than beg or
'That's about it,'I answered.
'And ain't ashamed of it?
'Ashamed! Why?'said I, not quite sure of his meaning. It had never
occurred to me that one had any cause to be ashamed of working.
He turned to McClingan and laughed.
'I guess you ll do for the Tribune,'he said. 'Come and see me at
And then they went away.
ff1 had been a knight of the garter I could not have been treated
with more distinguished courtesy by those hard-handed men the rest of
the day. I bade them goodbye at night and got my order for four
dollars. One Pat Devlin, a great-hearted Irishman, who had shared my
confidence and some of my doughnuts on the curb at luncheon time, I
remember best of all.
'Ye ll niver fergit the toime we wurruked together under Boss
And to this day, whenever I meet the good man, now bent and grey,
he says always, 'Good-day if ye, Mr Brower. D'ye mind the toime we
pounded the rock under Boss McCormick?
Mr Greeley gave me a place at once on the local staff and invited
me to dine with him at his home that evening. Meanwhile he sent me to
the headquarters of the Republican Central Campaign Committee, on
Broadway, opposite the New York Hotel. Lincoln had been nominated in
May, and the great political fight of i86o was shaking the city with
I turned in my copy at the city desk in good season, and, although
the great editor had not yet left his room, I took a car at once to
keep my appointment. A servant showed me to a seat in the big back
parlour of Mr Greeley's home, where I spent a lonely hour before I
heard his heavy footsteps in the hail. He immediately rushed upstairs,
two steps at a time, and, in a moment, I heard his high voice greeting
the babies. He came down shortly with one of them clinging to his
'Thunder!'said he, 'I had forgotten all about you. Let's go right
in to dinner.
He sat at the head of the table and I next to him. I remember how,
wearied by the day's burden, he sat, lounging heavily, in careless
attitudes. He stirred his dinner into a hash of eggs, potatoes, squash
and parsnips, and ate it leisurely with a spoon, his head braced
often with his left forearm, its elbow resting on the table. It was a
sort of letting go, after the immense activity of the day, and a
casual observer would have thought he affected the uncouth, which was
not true of him.
He asked me to tell him all about my father and his farm. At length
I saw an absent look in his eye, and stopped talking, because I
thought he had ceased to listen.
'Very well! very well!'said he.
I looked up at him, not knowing what he meant.
'Go on! Tell me all about it," 'he added.
'I like the country best,'said he, when I had finished, 'because
there I see more truth in things. Here the lie has many forms—
unique, varied, ingenious. The rouge and powder on the lady's cheek—
they are lies, both of them; the baronial and ducal crests are lies
and the fools who use them are liars; the people who soak themselves
in rum have nothing but lies in their heads; the multitude who live by
their wits and the lack of them in others—they are all liars; the
many who imagine a vain thing and pretend to be what they are
not'liars everyone of them. It is bound to be so in the great cities,
and it is a mark of decay. The skirts of Elegabalus, the wigs and
rouge pots of Madame Pompadour, the crucifix of Machiavelli and the
innocent smile of Fernando Wood stand for something horribly and
vastly false in the people about them. For truth you ve got to get
back into the woods. You can find men there a good deal as God made
them' genuine, strong and simple. When those men cease to come here
you ll see grass growing in Broadway.
I made no answer and the great commoner stirred his coffee a
moment in silence.
'Vanity is the curse of cities,'he continued, 'and Flattery is its
handmaiden. Vanity, flattery and Deceit are the three disgraces. I
like a man to be what he is—out and out. If he's ashamed of himself
it won't be long before his friends ll be ashamed of him. There's the
trouble with this town. Many a fellow is pretending to be what he isn
t. A man cannot be strong unless he is genuine.
One of his children—a little girl—came and stood close to him
as he spoke. He put his big arm around her and that gentle, permanent
smile of his broadened as he kissed her and patted her red cheek.
'Anything new in the South?'Mrs Greeley enquired.
'Worse and worse every day,'he said. 'Serious trouble comingl The
Charleston dinner yesterday was a feast of treason and a flow of
criminal rhetoric. The Union was the chief dish. Everybody slashed it
with his knife and jabbed it with his fork. It was slaughtered,
roasted, made into mincemeat and devoured. One orator spoke of
"rolling back the tide of fanaticism that finds its root in the
conscience of the people." Their metaphors are as bad as their morals.
He laughed heartily at this example of fervid eloquence, and then
we rose from the table. He had to go to the office that evening, and
I came away soon after dinner. I had nothing to do and went home
reflecting upon all the great man had said.
I began shortly to see the truth of what he had told me—men
licking the hand of riches with the tongue of flattery men so
stricken with the itch of vanity that they grovelled for the touch of
praise; men even who would do perjury for applause. I do not say that
most of the men I saw were of that ilk, but enough to show the
tendency of life in a great town.
1 was filled with wonder at first by meeting so many who had been
everywhere and seen everything, who had mastered all sciences and all
philosophies and endured many perils on land and sea. I had met liars
before—it was no Eden there in the north country— and some of them
had attained a good degree of efficiency, but they lacked the candour
and finish of the metropolitan school. I confess they were all too
much for me at first. They borrowed my cash, they shared my
confidence, they taxed my credulity, and I saw the truth at last.
'Tom's breaking down,'said a co4abourer on the staff one day. 'How
is that?'I enquired.
'Served me a mean irick.
'Deceived me,'said he sorrowfully.
'Lied, I suppose?
'No. He told the truth, as God's my witness.
Tom had been absolutely reliable up to that time.
Those were great days in mid autumn. The Republic was in grave
peril of dissolution. Liberty that had hymned her birth in the last
century now hymned her destiny in the voices of bard and orator.
Crowds of men gathered in public squares, at bulletin boards, on
street corners arguing, gesticulating, exclaiming and cursing.
Cheering multitudes went up and down the city by night, with bands
and torches, and there was such a howl of oratory and applause on the
lower half of Manhattan Island that it gave the reporter no rest.
William H. Seward, Charles Sumner, John A. Dix, Henry Ward Beecher and
Charles O Connor were the giants of the stump. There was more violence
and religious fervour in the political feeling of that time than had
been mingled since '76. A sense of outrage was in the hearts of men.
'Honest Abe'Lincoln stood, as they took it, for their homes and their
country, for human liberty and even for their God.
I remember coming into the counting-room late one evening. Loud
voices had halted me as I passed the door. Mr Greeley stood back of
the counter; a rather tall, wiry grey-headed man before it. Each was
shaking a right fist under the other's nose. They were shouting loudly
as they argued. The stranger was for war; Mr Greeley for waiting. The
publisher of the Tribune stood beside the latter, smoking a pipe; a
small man leaned over the counter at the stranger's elbow, putting in
a word here and there; half a dozen people stood by, listening. Mr
Greeley turned to his publisher in a moment.
'Rhoades,'said he, 'I wish ye d put these men out. They holler 'n
yell, so I can't hear myself think.
Then there was a general laugh.
I learned to my surprise, when they had gone, that the tall man was
William H. Seward, the other John A. DiL
Then one of those fevered days came the Prince of Wales—a
Godsend, to allay passion with curiosity.
It was my duty to handle some of 'the latest news by magnetic
telegraph , and help to get the plans and progress of the campaign at
headquarters. The Printer, as they called Mr Greeley, was at his desk
when I came in at noon, never leaving the office but for dinner, until
past midnight, those days. And he made the Tribune a mighty power in
the state. His faith in its efficacy was sublime, and every line went
under his eye before it went to his readers. I remember a night when
he called me to his office about twelve o clock. He was up to his
knees in the rubbish of the day-newspapers that he had read and thrown
upon the floor; his desk was littered with proofs.
'Go an'see the Prince o'Wales,'he said. (That interesting young
man had arrived on the Harriet Lane that morning and ridden up
Broadway between cheering hosts.) 'I've got a sketch of him here
an'it's all twaddle. Tell us something new about him. If he's got a
hole in his sock we ought to know it.
Mr Dana came in to see him while I was there.
'Look here, Dana,'said the Printer, in a rasping humour. 'By the
gods of war! here's two colunms about that perfonnance at the Academy
and only two sticks of the speech of Seward at St Paul. I ll have to
get someone if go an'burn that theatre an'send the bill to me.
In the morning Mayor Wood introduced me to the Duke of Newcastle,
who in turn presented me to the Prince of Wales—then a slim,
blue-yed youngster of nineteen, as gentle mannered as any I have ever
met. It was my unpleasant duty to keep as near as possible to the
royal party in all the festivities of that week.
The ball, in the Prince's honour, at the Academy of Music, was one
of the great social events of the century. No fair of vanity in the
western hemisphere ever quite equalled it. The fashions of the French
Court had taken the city, as had the Prince, by unconditional
surrender. Not in the palace of Versailles could one have seen a more
generous exposure of the charms of fair women. None were admitted
without a low-cut bodice, and many came that had not the proper
accessories. But it was the most brilliant company New York had ever
Too many tickets had been distributed and soon 'there was an elbow
on every rib and a heel on every toe , as Mr Greeley put it. Every
miss and her mamma tiptoed for a view of the Prince and his party, who
came in at ten, taking their seats on a dais at one side of the
crowded floor. The Prince sat with his hands folded before him, like
one in a reverie. Beside him were the Duke of Newcastle, a big, stern
man, with an aggressive red beard; the blithe and sparkling Earl of St
Germans, then Steward of the Royal Household; the curly Major
Teasdale; the gay Bruce, a major-general, who behaved himself always
like a lady. Suddenly the floor sank beneath the crowd of people, who
retired in some disorder. Such a compression of crinoline was never
seen as at that moment, when periphery pressed upon periphery, and
held many a man captive in the cold embrace of steel and whalebone.
The royal party retired to its rooms again and carpenters came in with
saws and hammers. The floor repaired, an area was roped off for
dancing—as much as could be spared. The Prince opened the dance
with Mrs Governor Morgan, after which other ladies were honoured with
I saw Mrs Fuller in one of the boxes and made haste to speak with
her. She had just landed, having left Hope to study a time in the
Conservatory of Leipzig.
'Mrs Livingstone is with her,'said she, 'and they will return
'Mrs Fuller, did she send any word to me?'I enquired anxiously.
'Did she give you no message?
'None,'she said coldly, 'except one to her mother and father, which
I have sent in a letter to them.
I left her heavy hearted, went to the reporter's table and wrote my
story, very badly I must admit, for I was cut deep with sadness. Then
I came away and walked for hours, not caring whither. A great
homesickness had come over me. I felt as if a talk with Uncle Eb or
Brower would have given me the comfort I needed. I walked rapidly
through dark, deserted streets. A steeple clock was striking two, when
I heard someone coming hurriedly on the walk behind me. I looked over
my shoulder, but could not make him out in the darkness, and yet there
was something familiar in the step. As he came near I felt his hand
upon my shoulder.
'Better go home, Brower,'he said, as I recognised the voice of
Trumbull. 'You ve been out a long time. Passed you before tonight.
'Why didn't you speak?
'You were preoccupied.
'Not keeping good hours yourself,'I said.
'Rather late,'he answered, 'but I am a walker, and I love the
night. It is so still in this part of the town.
We were passing the Five Points.
'When do you sleep,'I enquired.
'Never sleep at night,'he said, 'unless uncommonly tired. Out every
night more or less. Sleep two hours in the morning and two in the
afternoon—that's all I require. Seen the hands o'that clock yonder
on every hour of the night.
He pointed to a lighted dial in a near tower.
Stopping presently he looked down at a little waif asleep in a
doorway, a bundle of evening papers under his arm. He lifted him
'Here, boy,'he said, dropping corns in the pocket of the ragged
little coat, 'I ll take those papers—you go home now.
We walked to the river, passing few save members of 'the force ,
who always gave Trumbull a cheery 'hello, Cap!'We passed wharves
where the great sea horses lay stalled, with harnesses hung high above
them, their noses nodding over our heads; we stood awhile looking up
at the looming masts, the lights of the river craft.
'Guess I've done some good,'said he turning into Peck Slip. 'Saved
two young women. Took 'em off the streets. Fine women now both of
them—respectable, prosperous, and one is beautiful. Man who s got a
mother, or a sister, can't help feeling sorry for such people.
We came up Frankfort to William Street where we shook hands and
parted and I turned up Monkey Hill. I had made unexpected progress
with Trumbull that night. He had never talked to me so freely before
and somehow he had let me come nearer to hun than I had ever hoped to
be. His company had lifted me out of the slough a little and my mind
was on a better footing as I neared the chalet.
Riggs's shop was lighted—an unusual thing at so late an hour.
Peering through the window I saw Riggs sleeping at his desk An old
tin lantern sat near, its candle burning low, with a flaring flame,
that threw a spray of light upon him as it rose and fell. Far back in
the shop another light was burning dimly. I lifted the big iron latch
and pushed the door open. Riggs did not move. I closed the door softly
and went back into the gloom. The boy was also sound asleep in his
chair. The lantern light flared and fell again as water leaps in a
stopping fountain. As it dashed upon the face of Riggs I saw his eyes
half-open. I went close to his chair. As I did so the light went out
and smoke rose above the lantern with a rank odour.
'Riggs!'I called but he sat motionless and made no answer.
The moonlight came through the dusty window lighting his face and
beard. I put my hand upon his brow and withdrew it quicidy. I was in
the presence of death. I opened the door and called the sleeping boy.
He rose out of his chair and came toward me rubbing his eyes.
'Your master is dead,'I whispered, 'go and call an officer.
Riggs's dream was over—he had waked at last. He was in port and
I doubt not Annie and his mother were hailing him on the shore, for I
knew now they had both died far back in that long dream of the old
My story of Riggs was now complete. It soon found a publisher
because it was true.
'All good things are true in literature,'said the editor after he
had read it. 'Be a servant of Truth always and you will be
As soon as Lincoln was elected the attitude of the South showed
clearly that 'the irrepressible conffict , of Mr Seward's naming, had
only just begun. The Herald gave columns every day to the news of
'the coming Revolution , as it was pleased to call it. There was loud
talk of war at and after the great Pine Street meeting of December 15.
South Carolina seceded, five days later, and then we knew what was
coming, albeit, we saw only the dim shadow of that mighty struggle
that was to shake the earth for nearly five years. The Printer grew
highly irritable those days and spoke of Buchanan and Davis and Toombs
in language so violent it could never have been confined in type. But
while a bitter foe none was more generous than he and, when the war
was over, his money went to bail the very man he had most roundly
I remember that one day, when he was sunk deep in composition, a
negro came and began with grand airs to make a request as delegate
from his campaign club. The Printer sat still, his eyes close to the
paper, his pen flying at high speed. The coloured orator went on
lifting his voice in a set petition. Mr Greeley bent to his work as
the man waxed eloquent. A nervous movement now and then betrayed the
Printer's irritation. He looked up, shortly, his face kindling with
'Help! For God's sake!'he shrilled impatiently, his hands flying in
the air. The Printer seemed to be gasping for breath.
'Go and stick your head out of the window and get through,'he
shouted hotly to the man.
He turned to his writing—a thing dearer to him than a new bone to
a hungry dog.
'Then you may come and tell me what you want,'he added in a milder
Those were days when men said what they meant and their meaning
had more fight in it than was really polite or necessary. Fight was in
the air and before I knew it there was a wild, devastating spirit in
my own bosom, insomuch that I made haste to join a local regiment. It
grew apace but not until I saw the first troops on their way to the
war was I fully determined to go and give battle with my regiment.
The town was afire with patriotism. Sumter had fallen; Lincoln had
issued his first call. The sound of the fife and drum rang in the
streets. Men gave up work to talk and listen or go into the sterner
business of war. Then one night in April, a regiment came out of New
England, on its way to the front. It lodged at the Astor House to
leave at nine in the morning. Long before that hour the building was
flanked and fronted with tens of thousands, crowding Broadway for
three blocks, stuffing the wide mouth of Park Row and braced into
Vesey and Barday Streets. My editor assigned me to this interesting
event. I stood in the crowd, that morning, and saw what was really the
beginning of the war in New York. There was no babble of voices, no
impatient call, no sound of idle jeering such as one is apt to hear in
a waiting crowd. It stood silent, each man busy with the rising
current of his own emotions, solemnified by the faces all around him.
The soldiers ified out upon the pavement, the police having kept a way
clear for them, Still there was silence in the crowd save that near me
I could hear a man sobbing. A trumpeter lifted his bugle and sounded a
bar of the reveille. The clear notes clove the silent air, flooding
every street about us with their silver sound. Suddenly the band began
playing. The tune was Yankee Doodle. A wild, dismal, tremulous cry
came out of a throat near me. It grew arid spread to a mighty roar and
then such a shout went up to Heaven, as I had never heard, and as I
know full well I shall never hear again. It was like the riving of
thunderbolts above the roar of floods—elemental, prophetic,
threatening, ungovernable. It did seem to me that the holy wrath of
God Almighty was in that cry of the people. It was a signal. It
declared that they were ready to give all that a man may give for
that he loves—his life and things far dearer to him than his life.
After that, they and their sons begged for a chance to throw
themselves into the hideous ruin of war.
I walked slowly back to the office and wrote my article. When. the
Printer came in at twelve I went to his room before he had had time
to begin work
'Mr Greeley,'I said, 'here is my resignation. I am going to the
His habitual smile gave way to a sober look as he turned to me, his
big white coat on his arm. He pursed his lips and blew thoughtfully.
Then he threw his coat in a chair and wiped his eyes with his
'Well! God bless you, my boy,'he said. 'I wish I could go, too.
I worked some weeks before my regiment was sent forward. I planned
to be at home for a day, but they needed me on the staff, and I
dreaded the pain of a parting, the gravity of which my return would
serve only to accentuate. So I wrote them a cheerful letter, and kept
at work. It was my duty to interview some of the great men of that day
as to the course of the government. I remember Commodore Vanderbilt
came down to see me in shirt-sleeves and slippers that afternoon, with
a handkerchief tied about his neck in place of a collar—a blunt man,
of simple manners and a big heart, one who spoke his mind in good,
plain talk, and, I suppose, he got along with as little profanity as
possible, considering his many cares. He called me 'boy'and spoke of a
certain public man as a 'big sucker . I soon learned that to him a
'sucker'was the lowest and meanest thing in the world. He sent me away
with nothing but a great admiration of him. As a rule, the giants of
that day were plain men of the people, with no frills upon them, and
with a way of hitting from the shoulder. They said what they meant and
meant it hard. I have heard Lincoln talk when his words had the whiz
of a bullet and his arm the jerk of a piston.
John Trumbull invited McClingan, of whom I had told him much, and
myself to dine with him an evening that week. I went in my new dress
suit—that mark of sinful extravagance for which Fate had brought me
down to the pounding of rocks under Boss McCormick. Trumbull's rooms
were a feast for the eye—aglow with red roses. He introduced me to
Margaret Hull and her mother, who were there to dine with us. She was
a slight woman of thirty then, with a face of no striking beauty, but
of singular sweetness. Her dark eyes had a mild and tender light in
them; her voice a plaintive, gentle tone, the like of which one may
hear rarely if ever. For years she had been a night worker in the
missions of the lower city, and many an unfortunate had been turned
from the way of evil by her good offices. I sat beside her at the
table, and she told me of her work and how often she had met Trumbull
in his night walks.
'Found me a hopeless heathen,'he remarked.
'To save him I had to consent to marry him,'she said, laughing.
'"Who hath found love is already in Heaven,"'said McClingan. 'I
have not found it and I am in'' he hesitated, as if searching for a
'A boarding house on William Street,'he added.
The remarkable thing about Margaret Hull was her simple faith. It
looked to no glittering generality for its reward, such as the soul s
'highest good much talked of in the philosophy of that time. She
believed that, for every soul she saved, one jewel would be added to
her crown in Heaven. And yet she wore no jewel upon her person. Her
black costume was beautifully fitted to her fine form, but was almost
severely plain. It occurred to me that she did not quite understand
her own heart, and, for that matter, who does? But she had somewhat in
her soul that passeth all understanding—I shall not try to say what,
with so little knowledge of those high things, save that I know it was
of God. To what patience and unwearying effort she had schooled
herself I was soon to know.
'Can you not find anyone to love you?'she said, turning to
McClingan. 'You know the Bible says it is not good for man to live
'It does, Madame,'said he, 'but I have a mighty fear in me,
remembering the twenty-fourth verse of the twenty-fifth chapter of
Proverbs: "It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetops than
with a brawling woman in a wide house." We cannot all be so fortunate
as our friend Trumbull. But I have felt the great passion.
He smiled at her faintly as he spoke in a quiet manner, his r s
coming off his tongue with a stately roll. His environment and the
company had given him a fair degree of stimulation. There was a fine
dignity in his deep voice, and his body bristled with it, from his
stiff and heavy shock of blonde hair parted carefully on the left
side, to his high-heeled boots. The few light hairs that stood in
lonely abandonment on his upper lip, the rest of his lean visage
always well shorn, had no small part in the grand effect of
'A love story!'said Miss Hull. 'I do wish I had your confidence. I
like a real, true love story.
'A simple stawry it is,'said McClingan, 'and Jam proud of my part
in it. I shall be glad to tell the stawry if you are to hear it.
We assured him of our interest.
'Well,'said he, 'there was one Tom Douglass at Edinburgh who was
my friend and dassmate. We were together a good bit of the time, and
when we had come to the end of our course we both went to engage in
journalism at Glasgow. We had a mighty conceit of ourselves—you know
how it is, Brower, with a green lad—but we were a mind to be modest,
with all our learning, so we made an agreement: I would blaw his horn
and he would blaw mine. We were not to lack appreciation. He was on
one paper and I on another, and every time he wrote an article I went
up and down the office praising him for a man o'mighty skill, and he
did the same for me. If anyone spoke of him in my hearing I said every
word of flattery at my command. "What Tom Douglass?" I would say, "the
man o'the Herald that's written those wonderful articles from the law
court? A genius, sir! an absolute genius!" Well, we were rapidly
gaining reputation. One of those days I found myself in love with as
comely a lass as ever a man courted. Her mother had a proper curiosity
as to my character. I referred them to Tom Douglass of the Herald—he
was the only man there who had known me well. The girl and her mother
both went to him.
"Your friend was just here," said the young lady, when I called
again. "He is a very handsome man."
'"And a noble man!" I said.
"And didn t I hear you say that he was a very skilful man, too?"
'"A genius!" I answered, "an absolute genius!"
McClingan stopped and laughed heartily as he took a sip of water.
'What happened then?'said Miss I-lull.
'She took him on my recommendation,'he answered. 'She said that,
while he had the handsomer face, I had the more eloquent tongue. And
they both won for him. And, upon me honour as a gentleman, it was the
luckiest thing that ever happened to me, for she became a brawler and
a scold. My mother says there is "no the like o'her in Scotland".
I shall never forget how fondly Margaret Hull patted the brown
cheek of Trumbull with her delicate white band, as we rose.
'We all have our love stawries,'said McClingan.
'Mine is better than yours,'she answered, 'but it shall never be
'Except one little part if it,'said Trumbull, as he put his hands
upon her shoulders, and looked down into her face. 'It is the only
thing that has made my life worth living.
Then she made us to know many odd things about her work for the
children of misfortune—inviting us to come and see it for
ourselves. We were to go the next evening.
I finished my work at nine that night and then we walked through
noisome streets and alleys—New York was then far from being so
clean a city as now—to the big mission house. As we came in at the
door we saw a group of women kneeling before the altar at the far end
of the room, and heard the voice of Margaret Hull praying' a voice so
sweet and tender that we bowed our heads at once, and listened while
it quickened the life in us. She plead for the poor creatures about
her, to whom Christ gave always the most abundant pity, seeing they
were more sinned against than sinning. There was not a word of cant in
her petition. It was full of a simple, unconscious eloquence, a higher
feeling than I dare try to define. And when it was over she had
won'their love and confidence so that they clung to her hands and
kissed them and wet them with their tears. She came and spoke to us
presently, in the same sweet manner that had charmed us the night
before' there was no change in it We offered to walk home with her,
but she said Trumbull was coming at twelve.
'So that is "The Little Mother" of whom I have heard so often,'said
McClingan, as we came away.
'What do you think of her?'I enquired.
'Wonderful woman!'he said. 'I never heard such a voice. It gives
me visions. Every other is as the crackling of thorns under a pot
I came back to the office and went into Mr Greeley's room to bid
him goodbye. He stood by the gas jet, in a fine new suit of clothes,
reading a paper, while a boy was blacking one of his boots. I sat
down, awaiting a more favourable moment. A very young man had come
into the room and stood timidly holding his hat.
'I wish to see Mr Greeley,'he said.
'There he is,'I answered, 'go and speak to him.
'Mr Greeley,'said he, 'I have called to see if you can'take me on
The Printer continued reading as if he were the only man in the
The young man looked at him and then at me—with an expression
that moved me to a fellow feeling. He was a country boy, more green
and timid even than I had been.
'He did not hear you—try again,'I said.
'Mr Greeley,'said he, louder than before, 'I have called to see if
you can'take me on the Tribune.
The editor's eyes glanced off at the boy and returned to their
'No, boy, I can't,'he drawled, shifting his eyes to another
article. And the boy, who was called to the service of the paper in
time, but not until after his pen had made him famous, went away with
a look of bitter disappointment.
In his attire Mr Greeley wore always the best material, that soon
took on a friendless and dejected look. The famous white overcoat had
been bought for five dollars of a man who had come by chance to the
office of the New Yorker, years before, and who considered its
purchase a great favour. That was a time when the price of a coat was
a thing of no little importance to the Printer. Tonight there was
about him a great glow, such as comes of fine tailoring and new linen.
He was so preoccupied with his paper that I went out into the big
room and sat down, awaiting a better time.
'The Printer's going to Washington to talk with the president,'said
Just then Mr Greeley went running hurriedly up the spiral stair on
his way to the typeroom. Three or four compositors had gone up ahead
of him. He had risen out of sight when we heard a tremendous uproar
above stairs. I ran up, two steps at a time, while the high voice of
Mr Greeley came pouring down upon me like a flood. It had a wild,
fleering tone. He stood near the landing, swinging his arms and
swearing like a boy just learning how. In the middle of the once
immaculate shirt bosom was a big, yellow splash. Something had fallen
on him and spattered as it struck We stood well out of range, looking
at it, undeniably the stain of nicotine. In a voice that was no
encouragement to confession he dared 'the drooling idiot'to declare
himself. In a moment he opened his waistcoat and surveyed the damage.
'Look at that!'he went on, complainingly. 'Ugh! The reeking,
filthy, slobbering idiot! I d rather be slain with the jaw bone of an
'You ll have to get another shirt,'said the pressman, who stood
near. 'You can't go to Washington with such a breast pin.
'I'd breast pin him if I knew who he was,'said the editor.'
A number of us followed him downstairs and a young man went up the
Bowery for a new shirt. When it came the Printer took off the soiled
gannent, flinging it into a corner, and I helped him to put himself in
proper fettle again. This finished, he ran away, hurriedly, with his
carpet-bag, and I missed the opportunity I wanted for a brief talk
My regiment left New York by night in a flare of torch and rocket.
The streets were lined with crowds now hardened to the sound of fife
and drum and the pomp of military preparation. I had a very high and
mighty feeling in me that wore away in the discomfort of travel. For
hours after the train started we sang and told stories, and ate
peanuts and pulled and hauled at each other in a cloud of tobacco
smoke. The train was sidetracked here and there, and dragged along at
a slow pace.
Young men with no appreciation, as it seemed to me, of the sad
business we were off upon, went roistering up and down the aisles,
drinking out of bottles and chasing around the train as it halted.
These revellers grew quiet as the night wore on. The boys began to
dose their eyes and lie back for rest. Some lay in the aisle. their
heads upon their knapsacks. The air grew chilly and soon I could hear
them snoring all about me and the chatter of frogs in the near
marshes. I closed my eyes and vainly courted sleep. A great sadness
had lain hold of me. I had already given up my life for my country—I
was only going away now to get as dear a price for it as possible in
the hood of its enemies. When and where would it be taken? I wondered.
The fear had mostly gone out of me in days and nights of solemn
thinking. The feeling I had, with its flavour of religion, is what has
made the volunteer the mighty soldier he has ever been, I take it,
since Naseby and Marston Moor. The soul is the great Captain, and with
a just quarrel it will warm its sword in the enemy, however he may be
trained to thrust and parry. In my sacrifice there was but one
reservation—I hoped I should not be horribly cut with a sword or a
bayonet. I had written a long letter to Hope, who was yet at Leipzig.
I wondered if she would care what became of me. I got a sense of
comfort thinking I would show her that I was no coward, with all my
littleness. I had not been able to write to Uncle Eb or to my father
or mother in any serious tone of my feeling in this enterprise. I had
treated it as a kind of holiday from which I should return shortly to
All about me seemed to be sleeping—some of them were talking in
their dreams. As it grew light, one after another rose and stretched
himself, rousing his seat companion. The train halted, a man shot a
musket voice in at the car door. It was loaded with the many syllables
of 'Annapolis Junction . We were pouring out of the train shortly, to
bivouac for breakfastin the depot yard. So I began the life of a
soldier, and how it ended with me many have read in better books than
this, but my story of it is here and only here.
We went into camp there on the lonely flats of east Maryland for a
day or two, as we supposed, but really for quite two weeks. In the
long delay that followed, my way traversed the dead levels of
routine. When Southern sympathy had ceased to wreak its wrath upon
the railroads about Baltimore we pushed on to Washington. There I got
letters from Uncle Eb and Elizabeth Brower. The former I have now in
my box of treasures—a torn and faded remnant of that dark period.
DEAR SIR'pen in hand to hat you know that we are all wel. also
that we was sorry you could not come horn. They took on terribul.
Hope she wrote a letter. Said she had not herd from you. also that
somebody wrote to her you was goin to be married. You had oughter
write her a letter, Bill. Looks to me so you hain't used her right.
Shes a comm horn in July. Sowed corn to day in the gardin. David is
off byin catul. I hope God will take care uv you, boy, so goodbye from
I wrote immediately to Unde Eb and told him of the letters I had
sent to Hope, and of my effort to see her.
Late in May, after Virginia had seceded, some thirty thousand of
us were sent over to the south side of the Potomac, where for weeks
we tore the flowery fields, lining the shore with long entrenchments.
Meantime I wrote three letters to Mr Greeley, and had the
satisfaction of seeing them in the Tribune. I took much interest in
the camp drill, and before we crossed the river I had been raised to
the rank of first lieutenant. Every day we were looking for the big
army of Beauregard, camping below Centreville, some thirty miles
Almost every night a nervous picket set the camp in uproar by
challenging a phantom of his imagination. We were all impatient as
hounds in leash. Since they would not come up and give us battle we
wanted to be off and have it out with them. And the people were tired
of delay. The cry of 'ste'boy!'was ringing all over the north. They
wanted to cut us loose and be through with dallying.
Well, one night the order came; we were to go south in the morning
—thirty thousand of us, and put an end to the war. We did not get
away until afternoon—it was the 6th of July. When we were off, horse
and foot, so that I could see miles of the blue column before and
behind me, I felt sorry for the mistaken South. On the evening of the
i8th our camp-fires on either side of the pike at Centreville glowed
like the lights of a city. We knew the enemy was near, and began to
feel a tightening of the nerves. I wrote a letter to the folks at home
for post mortem delivery, and put it into my trousers'pocket. A friend
in my company called me aside after mess.
'Feel of that,'he said, laying his hand on a full breast.
'Feathers!'he whispered significantly. 'Balls can't go through 'em,
ye know. Better n a steel breastplate! Want some?
'Don't know but I do,'said I.
We went into his tent, where he had a little sack full, and put a
good wad of them between my two shirts.
'I hate the idee o'bein'hit 'n the heart,'he said. 'That's too
I nodded my assent.
'Shouldn't like t'have a ball in my lungs, either,'he added. '
'Tain't necessary fer a man t'die if he can only breathe. If a man
gits his leg shot off an'don't lose his head an'keeps drawin'his
breath right along smooth an even, I don't see why he can't live.
Taps sounded. We went asleep with our boots on, but nothing
Three days and nights we waited. Some called it a farce, some
swore, some talked of going home. I went about quietly, my bosom
under its pad of feathers. The third day an order came from
headquarters. We were to break camp at one-thirty in the morning and
go down the pike after Beauregard. In the dead of the night the drums
sounded. I rose, half-asleep, and heard the long roll far and near. I
shivered in the cold night air as I made ready, the boys about me
buckled on knapsacks, shouldered their rifles, and fell into line.
Muffled in darkness there was an odd silence in the great caravan
forming rapidly and waiting for the word to move. At each command to
move forward I could hear only the rub of leather, the click, click of
rifle rings, the stir of the stubble, the snorting of horses. When we
had marched an hour or so I could hear the faint rumble of wagons far
in the rear. As I came high on a hill top, in the bending column, the
moonlight fell upon a league of bayonets shining above a cloud of dust
in the valley—a splendid picture, fading into darkness and mystery.
At dawn we passed a bridge and halted some three minutes for a bite.
After a little march we left the turnpike, with Hunter's column
bearing westward on a crossroad that led us into thick woods. As the
sunlight sank in the high tree-tops the first great battle of the war
began. Away to the left of us a cannon shook the earth, hurling its
boom into the still air. The sound rushed over us, rattling in the
timber like a fall of rocks. Something went quivering in me. It seemed
as if my vitals had gone into a big lump of jelly that trembled every
step I took. We quickened our pace; we fretted, we complained. The
weariness went out of our legs; some wanted to run. Before and behind
us men were shouting hotly, 'Run, boys! run!'The cannon roar was now
continuous. We could feel the quake of it. When we came over a low
ridge, in the open, we could see the smoke of battle in the valley.
Flashes of fire and hoods of smoke leaped out of the far thickets,
left of us, as cannon roared. Going at double quick we began loosening
blankets and haversacks, tossing them into heaps along the line of
march, without halting. In half an hour we stood waiting in
battalions, the left flank of the enemy in front. We were to charge at
a run. Half-way across the valley we were to break into companies and,
advancing, spread into platoons and squads, and at last into line of
skirmishers, lying down for cover between rushes.
'Forward!'was the order, and we were off, cheering as we ran. O, it
was a grand sight! our colours flying, our whole front moving, like a
blue wave on a green, immeasurable sea. And it had a voice like that
of many waters. Out of the woods ahead of us came a lightning flash. A
ring of smoke reeled upward. Then came a deafening crash of thunders—
one upon another, and the scream of shells overhead. Something stabbed
into our column right beside me. Many went headlong, crying out as
they fell. Suddenly the colours seemed to halt and sway like a
tree-top in the wind. Then down they went!—squad and colours—and
we spread to pass them. At the order we halted and laid down and fired
volley after volley at the grey coats in the edge of the thicket A
bullet struck in the grass ahead of me, throwing a bit of dirt into my
eyes. Another brushed my hat off and I heard a wailing death yell
behind me. The colonel rode up waving a sword.
'Get up an' charge!'he shouted.
On we went, cheering loudly, firing as we ran, Bullets went by me
hissing in my ears, and I kept trying to dodge them. We dropped again
flat on our faces.
A squadron of black-horse cavalry came rushing out of the woods at
us, the riders yelling as they waved their swords. Fortunately we had
not time to rise. A man near me tried to get up.
'Stay down!'I shouted.
In a moment I learned something new about horses. They went over
us like a flash. I do not think a man was trampled. Our own cavalry
kept them busy as soon as they had passed.
Of the many who had started there was only a ragged remnant near
me. We fired a dozen volleys lying there. The man at my elbow rolled
upon me, writhing like a worm in the fire.
'We shall all be killed!'a man shouted. 'Where is the colonel?
'Better retreat,'said a third.
'Charge!'I shouted as loudly as ever I could, jumping to my feet
and waving my sabre as I rushed forward. 'Charge!
It was the one thing needed—they followed me. In a moment we had
hurled ourselves upon the grey line thrusting with sword and bayonet.
They broke before us—some running, some fighting desperately.
A man threw a long knife at inc out of a sling. Instinctively I
caught the weapon as if it had been a ball hot off the bat. In doing
so I dropped my sabre and was cut across the fingers. He came at me
fiercely, clubbing his gun—a raw-boned, swarthy giant, broad as a
barn door. I caught the barrel as it came down. He tried to wrench it
away, but I held firmly. Then he began to push up to me. I let him
come, and in a moment we were grappling hip and thigh. He was a
powerful man, but that was my kind of warfare. It gave me comfort when
I felt the grip of his hands. I let him tug a jiffy, and then caught
him with the old hiplock, and he went under me so hard I could hear
the crack of his bones. Our support came then. We made him prisoner,
with some two hundred other men. Reserves came also and took away the
captured guns. My comrades gathered about me, cheering, but I had no
suspicion of what they meant. I thought it a tribute to my wrestling.
Men lay thick there back of the guns—some dead, some caffing faintly
for help. The red puddles about them were covered with ffies; ants
were crawling over their faces. I felt a kind of sickness and turned
What was left of my regiment formed in fours to join the advancing
column. Horses were galloping riderless, rein and stirrup flying, some
horribly wounded. One hobbled near me, a front leg gone at the knee.
Shells were flying overhead; cannonballs were ricocheting over the
level valley, throwing turf in the air, tossing the dead and wounded
that lay thick and helpless.
Some were crumpled like a rag, as if the pain of death had
withered them in their clothes; some swollen to the girth of horses;
some bent backward, with anns outreaching like one trying an odd
trick, some lay as if listening eagerly, an ear close to the ground;
some like a sleeper, their heads upon their arms; one shrieked
loudly, gesturing with bloody hands, 'Lord God Almighty, have mercy
I had come suddenly to a new world, where the lives of men were
cheaper than blind puppies. I was a new sort of creature, and
reckless of what came, careless of all I saw and heard.
A staff officer stepped up to me as we joined the main body.
'You ve been shot, young man,'he said, pointing to my left hand.
Before he could turn I felt a rush of air and saw him fly into
pieces, some of which hit me as I fell backward. I did not know what
had happened; I know not now more than that I have written. I remember
feeling something under me, like a stick of wood, bearing hard upon my
ribs. I tried to roll off it, but somehow, it was tied to me and kept
hurting. I put my hand over my hip and felt it there behind me—my
own arm! The hand was like that of a dead man—cold and senseless. I
pulled it from under me and it lay helpless; it could not lift itself.
I knew now that I, too, had become one of the bloody horrors of the
I struggled to my feet, weak and trembling, and sick with nausea. I
must have been lying there a long time. The firing was now at a
distance: the sun had gone half down the sky. They were picking up
the wounded in the near field. A man stood looking at me. 'Good
God!'he shouted, and then ran away like one afraid. There was a great
mass of our men back of me some twenty rods. I staggered toward them,
my knees quivering.
'I can never get there,'I heard myself whisper.
I thought of my little flask of whiskey, and, pulling the cork with
my teeth, drank the half of it. That steadied me and I made better
headway. I could hear the soldiers talking as I neared them.
'Look a there!'I heard many saying. 'See 'em come! My God! Look at
'em on the hill there!
The words went quicidy from mouth to mouth. In a moment I could
hear the murmur of thousands. I turned to see what they were looking
at. Across the valley there was a long ridge, and back of it the main
position of the Southern army. A grey host was pouring over it—
thousand upon thousand—in close order, debouching into the valley.
A big force of our men lay between us and them. As I looked I
could see a mighty stir in it. Every man of them seemed to be jumping
up in the air. From afar came the sound of bugles calling 'retreat ,
the shouting of men, the rumbling of wagons. It grew louder. An
officer rode by me hatless, and halted, shading his eyes. Then he rode
'Hell has broke loose!'he shouted, as he passed me.
The blue-coated host was rushing towards us like a flood'
artillery, cavalry, infantry, wagon train. There was a mighty uproar
in the men behind me—a quick stir of feet. Terror spread over them
like the travelling of fire. It shook their tongues. The crowd began
caving at the edge and jamming at the centre. Then it spread like a
swarm of bees shaken off a bush.
'Run! Run for your lives!'was a cry that rose to heaven.
'Halt, you cowards!'an officer shouted.
It was now past three o clock.
The raw army had been on its feet since midnight. For hours it had
been fighting hunger, a pain in the legs, a quivering sickness at the
stomach, a stubborn foe. It had turned the flank of Beauregard;
victory was in sight. But lo! a new enemy was coming to the fray,
innumerable, unwearied, eager for battle. The long slope bristled
with his bayonets. Our army looked and cursed and began letting go.
The men near me were pausing on the brink of awful rout In a moment
they were off, pell-mell, like a flock of sheep. The earth shook under
them. Officers rode around them, cursing, gesticulating, threatening,
but nothing could stop them. Half a dozen trees had stood in the
centre of the roaring mass. Now a few men clung to them—a remnant of
the monster that had torn away. But the greater host was now coming.
The thunder of its many feet was near me; a cloud of dust hung over
it. A squadron of cavalry came rushing by and broke into the fleeing
mass. Heavy horses, cut free from artillery, came galloping after
them, straps flying over foamy flanks. Two riders clung to the back of
each, lashing with whip and rein. The nick of wagons came after them,
wheels rattling, horses running, voices shrilling in a wild hoot of
terror. It makes me tremble even now, as I think of it, though it is
muffled under the cover of nearly forty years! I saw they would go
over me. Reeling as if drunk, I ran to save myself. Zigzagging over
the field I came upon a grey-bearded soldier lying in the grass and
fell headlong. I struggled madly, but could not rise to my feet. I
lay, my face upon the ground, weeping like a woman. Save I be lost in
hell, I shall never know again the bitter pang of that moment. I
thought of my country. I saw its splendid capital in ruins; its
people surrendered to God's enemies.
The rout of wagons had gone by I could now hear the heavy tramp of
thousands passing me, the shrill voices of terror. I worked to a
sitting posture somehow—the effort nearly smothered me. A mass of
cavalry was bearing down upon me. They were coming so thick I saw they
would trample me into jelly. In a flash I thought of what Uncle Eb had
told me once. I took my hat and covered my face quiddy, and then
uncovered it as they came near. They sheared away as I felt the foam
of their nostrils. I had split them as a rock may split the torrent.
The last of them went over me—their tails whipping my face. I shall
not soon forget the look of their bellies or the smell of their wet
flanks. They had no sooner passed than I fell back and rolled half
over like a log. I could feel a warm flow of blood trickling down my
left arm. A shell, shot at the retreating army, passed high above me,
whining as it flew. Then my mind went free of its trouble. The rain
brought me to as it came pelting down upon the side of my face. I
wondered what it might be, for I knew not where I had come. I lifted
my head and looked to see a new dawn—possibly the city of God
itself. It was dark—so dark I felt as if I had no eyes. Away in the
distance I could hear the beating of a drum. It rang in a great
silence—I have never known the like of it. I could hear the fall and
trickle of the rain, but it seemed only to deepen the silence. I felt
the wet grass under my face and hands. Then I knew it was night and
the battlefield where I had fallen. I was alive and might see another
day—thank God! I felt something move under my feet I heard a whisper
at my shoulder.
'Thought you were dead long ago,'it said.
'No, no,'I answered, 'I m alive—I know I m alive—this is the
''Fraid I ain't goin't'live,'he said. 'Got a terrible wound. Wish
it was morning.
'Dark long?'I asked.
'For hours,'he answered. 'Dunno how many.
He began to groan and utter short prayers.
'O, my soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the
morning,'I heard him cry in a loud, despairing voice.
Then there was a bit of silence, in which I could hear him
whispering of his home and people.
Presently he began to sing:
'Guide me, O thou great Jehovah! Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but thou art mighty'
Ills voice broke and trembled and sank into silence.
I had business of my own to look after—perhaps I had no time to
lose—and I went about it calmly. I had no strength to move and
began to feel the nearing of my time. The rain was falling faster. It
chilled me to the marrow as I felt it trickling over my back. I
called to the man who lay beside me—again and again I called to him
—but got no answer. Then I knew that he was dead and I alone. Long
after that in the far distance I heard a voice calling. It rang like a
trumpet in the still air. It grew plainer as I listened. My own name!
William Brower? It was certainly calling to me, and I answered with a
feeble cry. In a moment I could hear the tramp of someone coming. He
was sitting beside me presently, whoever it might be. I could not see
him for the dark. His tongue went clucking as if he pitied me.
'Who are you?'I remember asking, but got no answer.
At first I was glad, then I began to feel a mighty horror of him.
In a moment he had picked me up and was making off. The jolt of
his step seemed to be breaking my arms at the shoulder. As I groaned
he ran. I could see nothing in the darkness, but he went ahead, never
stopping, save for a moment, now and then, to rest I wondered where he
was taking me and what it all meant. I called again, 'Who are you?
but he seemed not to hear me. 'My God!'I whispered to myself,
'this is no man—this is Death severing the soul from the body. The
voice was that of the good God.'Then I heard a man hailing near by.
'Help, Help!'I shouted faintly.
'Where are you?'caine the answer, now further away. 'Can't see
you.'My mysterious bearer was now running. My heels were dragging
upon the ground; my hands were brushing the grass tops. I groaned with
'Halt! Who comes there?'a picket called. Then I could hear voices.
'Did you hear that noise?'said one. 'Somebody passed me. So dark
can't see my hand before me.
'Darker than hell!'said another voice.
It must be a giant, I thought, who can pick me up and carry me as
if I were no bigger than a house cat. That was what I was thinking
when I swooned.
From then till I came to myself in the little church at Centreville
I remember nothing. Groaning men lay all about me; others stood
between them with lanterns. A woman was bending over me. I felt the
gentle touch of her hand upon my face and heard her speak to me so
tenderly I cannot think of it, even now, without thanking God for good
women. I clung to her hand, clung with the energy of one drowning,
while I suffered the merciful torture of the probe, the knife and the
needle. And when it was all over and the lantern lights grew pale in
the dawn I fell asleep.
But enough of blood and horror. War is no holiday, my merry
people, who know not the mighty blessing of peace. Counting the cost,
let us have war, if necessary, but peace, peace if possible.
But now I have better things to write of'things that have some
relish of good in them. I was very weak and low from loss of blood
for days, and, suddenly, the tide turned. I had won recognition for
distinguished gallantry they told me—that day they took me to
Washington. I lay three weeks there in the hospital. As soon as they
heard of my misfortune at home Uncle Eb wrote he was coming to see me.
I stopped him by a telegram, assuring him that I was nearly well and
would be home shortly.
My term of enlistment had expired when they let me out a fine day
in mid August. I was going home for a visit as sound as any man but,
in the horse talk of Faraway, I had a little 'blemish'on the left
shoulder. Uncle Eb was to meet me at the jersey City depot. Before
going I, with others who had been complimented for bravery, went to
see the president. There were some twenty of us summoned to meet him
that day. It was warm and the great Lincoln sat in his shirt-sleeves
at a desk in the middle of his big office. He wore a pair of brown
carpet slippers, the rolling collar and black stock now made so
familiar in print. His hair was tumbled. He was writing hurriedly when
we came in. He laid his pen away and turned to us without speaking.
There was a careworn look upon his solemn face.
'Mr President,'said the general, who had come with us, 'here are
some of the brave men of our army, whom you wished to see.
He came and shook hands with each and thanked us in the name of
the republic, for the example of courage and patriotism we and many
others had given to the army. He had a lean, tall, ungraceful figure
and he spoke his mind without any frill or flourish. He said only a
few words of good plain talk and was done with us.
'Which is Brower?'he enquired presently.
I came forward more scared than ever I had been before.
'My son,'he said, taking my hand in his, 'why didn t you run?'
'Didn't dare,'I answered. 'I knew it was more dangerous to run
away than to go forward.'
'Reminds me of a story,'said he smiling. 'Years ago there was a
bully in Sangamon County, Illinois, that had the reputation of
running faster and fighting harder than any man there. Everybody
thought he was a terrible fighter. He d always get a man on the run;
then he d ketch up and give him a licking. One day he tadded a lame
man. The lame man licked him in a minute.
'"Why didn't ye run?" somebody asked the victor.
'"Didn't dast," said he. "Run once when he tackled me an I've been
lame ever since."
"How did ye manage to lick him?" said the other.
'"Wall," said he, "I hed to, an'I done it easy."
'That's the way it goes,'said the immortal president, 'ye do it
easy if ye have to.
He reminded me in and out of Horace Greeley, although they looked
no more alike than a hawk and a handsaw. But they had a like habit of
forgetting themselves and of saying neither more nor less than they
meant. They both had the strength of an ox and as little vanity. Mr
Greeley used to say that no man could amount to anything who worried
much about the fit of his trousers; neither of them ever encountered
Early next morning I took a train for home. I was in soldier
clothes I had with me no others—and all in my car came to talk with
me about the now famous battle of Bull Run.
The big platform atjersey City was crowded with many people as we
got off the train. There were other returning soldiers—some with
crutches, some with empty sleeves.
A band at the further end of the platform was playing and those
near me were singing the familiar music,
'John Brown's body lies a mouldering in the grave.
Somebody shouted my name. Then there rose a cry of three cheers
for Brower. It's some of the boys of the Tribune, I thought—I could
see a number of them in the crowd. One brought me a basket of flowers.
I thought they were trying to have fun with me.
'Thank you!'said I, 'but what is the joke?'
'No joke,'he said. 'It's to honour a hero.'
'Oh, you wish me to give it to somebody.'
I was warming with embarrassment
'We wish you to keep it,'he answered.
In accounts of the battle I had seen some notice of my leading a
charge but my fame had gone farther—much farther indeed—than I
knew. I stood a moment laughing—an odd sort of laugh it was that
had in it the salt of tears—and waving my hand to the many who were
now calling my name.
In the uproar of cheers and waving of handkerchiefs I could not
find Uncle Eb for a moment. When I saw him in the breaking crowd he
was cheering lustily and waving his hat above his head. His enthusiasm
increased when I stood before him. As 1 was greeting him I heard a
lively rustle of skirts. Two dainty, gloved hands laid hold of mine; a
sweet voice spoke my name. There, beside me, stood the tall, erect
figure of Hope. Our eyes met and, before there was any thinking of
propriety, I had her in my arms and was kissing her and she was
It thrilled me to see the splendour of her beauty that day; her
eyes wet with feeling as they looked up at me; to feel again the
trembling touch of her lips. In a moment I turned to Uncle Eb.
'Boy,'he said, 'I thought you'' and then he stopped and began
brushing his coat sleeve.
'Come on now,'he added as he took my grip away from me. 'We re
goin't'hey a gran'good time. I ll take ye all to a splendid tavern
somewheres. An'I ain't goin'if count the cost nuther.
He was determined to carry my grip for me. Hope had a friend with
her who was going north in the morning on our boat. We crossed the
ferry and took a Broadway omnibus, while query followed query.
'Makes me feel like a flapjack t'ride 'n them things,'said Unde Eb
as we got out.
He hired a parlour and two bedrooms for us all at the St Nicholas.
'Purty middlin'steep!'he said to me as we left the office. 'It is,
sartin! but I don't care—not a bit. When folks has if hey a good
time they ve got t'hey it.
We were soon seated in our little parlour. There was a great glow
of health and beauty in Hope's face. It was a bit fuller but had
nobler outlines and a colouring as delicate as ever. She wore a plain
grey gown admirably fitted to her plump figure. There was a new and
splendid 'dignity in her carriage, her big blue eyes, her nose with
its little upward slant. She was now the well groomed young woman of
society in the full glory of her youth.
Uncle Eb who sat between us pinched her cheek playfully. A little
spot of white showed a moment where his fingers had been. Then the
pink flooded over it.
'Never see a girl git such a smack as you did,'he said laughing.
'Well,'said she, snling, 'I guess I gave as good as I got.
'Served him right,'he said. 'You kissed back good 'n hard. Gran
sport!'he added turning to me.
'Best I ever had,'was my humble acknowledgement.
'Seldom ever see a girl kissed so powerful,'he said as he took Hope
hand in his. 'Now if the Bible said when a body kissed ye on one
cheek ye mus'turn if other I wouldn t find no fault. But ther's a
heap o differ nce 'tween a whack an'a smack.
When we had come back from dinner Uncle Lb drew off his boots and
sat comfortably in his stocking feet while Hope told of her travels
and I of my soldiering. She had been at the Conservatory, nearly the
whole period of her absence, and hastened home when she learned of the
battle and of my wound. She had landed two days before.
Hope's friend and Unde Lb went away to their rooms in good season.
Then I came and sat beside Hope on the sofa.
'Let's have a good talk,'I said.
There was an awkward bit of silence.
'Well,'said she, her fan upon her lips, 'tell me more about the
'Tired of war,'I answered; 'love is a better subject.
She rose and walked up and down the room, a troubled look in her
face. I thought I had never seen a woman who could carry her head so
'I don't thinkyou are very familiar with it,'said she presently.
'I ought to be,'I answered, 'having loved you all these years.
'But you told me that—that you loved another girl,'she said, her
elbow leaning on the mantel, her eyes looking down soberly.
'When? Where?'I asked.
'In Mrs Fuller's parlour.'
'Hope,'I said, 'you misunderstood me; I meant you.
She came toward me, then, looking up into my eyes. I started to
embrace her but she caught my hands and held them apart and came
close to me.
'Did you say that you meant me?'she asked in a whisper.
'Why did you not tell me that night?
'Because you would not listen to me and we were interrupted.
'Well if I loved a girl,'she said, 'I d make her listen.'
'I would have done that but Mrs Fuller saved you.'
'You might have written,'she suggested in a tone of injury.
'And the letter never came—just as I feared.'
She looked very sober and thoughtful then.
'You know our understanding that day in the garden,'she added. 'If
you did not ask me again I was to know you—you did not love me any
longer. That was long, long ago.
'I never loved any girl but you,'I said. 'I love you now, Hope, and
that is enough—I love you so there is nothing else for me. You are
dearer than my life. It was the thought of you that made me brave in
battle. I wish I could be as brave here. But I demand your surrender—
I shall give you no quarter now.
'I wish I knew,'she said, 'whether—whether you really love me or
'Don't you believe me, Hope?
'Yes, I believe you,'she said, 'but—but you might not know your
'It longs for you,'I said, 'it keeps me thinking of you always.
Once it was so easy to be happy; since you have been away it has
seemed as if there were no longer any light in the world or any
pleasure. It has made me a slave. I did not know that love was such a
'Love is no Cupid—he is a giant,'she said, her voice trembling
with emotion as mine had trembled. 'I tried to forget and he crushed
me under his feet as if to punish me.
She was near to crying now, but she shut her lips firmly and kept
back the tears. God grant me I may never forget the look in her eyes
that moment. She came closer to me. Our lips touched; my arms held her
'I have waited long for this,'I said—'the happiest moment of my
lifI thought! had lost you.
'What a foolish man,'she whispered. 'I have loved you for years
and years and you—you could not see it. I believe now''
She hesitated a moment, her eyes so close to my cheek I could feel
the beat of their long lashes.
'That God made you for me,'she added.
'Love is God's helper,'I said. 'He made us for each other.
'I thank Him for it—I do love you so,'she whispered.
The rest is the old, old story. They that have not lived it are to
When we sat down at length she told me what I had long suspected,
that Mrs Fuller wished her to marry young Livingstone.
'But for Unde Eb,'she added, 'I think I should have done so—for I
had given up all hope of you.
'Good old Uncle Eb!'I said. 'Let's go and tell him.
He was sound asleep when we entered his room but woke as I lit the
'What's the matter?'he whispered, lifting his head.
'Congratulate us,'I said. 'We re engaged.
'Hey ye conquered her?'he enquired smiling.
'Love has conquered us both,'I said.
'Wall, I swan! is thet so?'he answered. 'Guess I won't fool away
any more time here n bed. If you childem ll go in t'other room I ll
slip into my trousers an'then ye ll hear me talk some conversation.
'Beats the world!'he continued, coming in presently, buttoning his
suspenders. 'I thought mos'likely ye d hitch up t gether sometime.
'Tain't often ye can find a pair s'well matched. The same style an
gaited jest about alike. When ye goin't'git married?
'She hasn t named the day,'I said.
'Sooner the better,'said JJncle Eb as he drew on his coat and sat
down. 'Used if be so t'when a young couple hed set up n held each
other's han's a few nights they was ready fer the minister. Wish t ye
could lix it fer 'bout Crissmus time, by jingo! They's other things
goin'if happen then.'s pose yer s'happy now ye can stan'a little bad
news. I've got if tell ye—David's been losin'money. Hain t never
wrote ye 'bout it—not a word—'cause I didn t know how 'twas
'How did he lose it?'I enquired.
'Wall ye know that Ow Barker—runs a hardware store in
Migleyville—he sold him a patent right. Figgered an'argued night
an'day fer more n three weeks. It was a new fangled wash biler. David
he thought he see a chance if put out agents an'make a great deal
o'money. It did look jest as easy as slidin'downhill but when we come
slide—wall, we found out we was at the bottom o the hill 'stid o'the
top an'it wan t reel good slidin . He paid five thousan'dollars fer
the right o'ten counties. Then bym bye Barker he wanted him t'go
security fer fifteen hunderd bilers thet he was hevin'made. I
to!'David he hedn t better go in no deeper but Barker, he promised big
things an'seemed if be sech a nice man 'at fln ly David he up 'n done
it. Wall he's hed 'em t'pay fer an'the fact is it costs s'much if sell
'em it eats up all the profits.
'Looks like a swindle,'I said indignantly.
'No,'said Uncle El, "tain't no swindle. Barker thought he hed a
gran'good thing. He got fooled an'the fool complaint is very ketchin
. Got it myself years ago an'I've been doctorin'fer it ever sence.
The story of David's undoing hurt us sorely. He had gone the way
of most men who left the farm late in life with unsatisfied ambition.
'They shall never want for anything, so long as I have my health,'I
'I have four hundred dollars in the bank,'said Hope, 'and shall
give them every cent of it.
'Tam'nuthin'if worry over,'said Uncle Eb. 'If I don'never lose
more n a little money I shan t feel terrible bad. We re all young yit.
Got more n a million dollars wuth o'good health right here 'n this
room. So well, I m 'shamed uv it! Man's more decent if he's a leetle
bit sickly. An'thet there girl Bill's agreed t'marry ye! Why! 'Druther
hey her 'n this hull cityo'New York.
'So had I,'was my answer.
'Wall, you am'no luckier 'n she is—not a bit,'he added. 'A good
man's better 'n a gol'mine ev ry time.
'Who knows,'said Hope. 'He may be president someday.
'Ther's one thing I hate,'Uncle El continued. 'That's the idee o
hevin'the woodshed an'barn an'garret full o'them infernal wash
bilers. Ye can't take no decent care uv a hoss there 'n the stable'
they re so piled up. One uv 'em tumbled down top o'me t other day.
'Druther 'twould a been a panther. Made me s'mad I took a club
an'knocked that biler into a cocked hat. 'Tain't right! I m sick o'the
sight uv 'em.
'They ll make a good bonfire someday,'said Hope.
'Don't believe they d burn,'he answered sorrowfully, 'they re tin.
'Couldn't we bury 'em?'I suggested.
'Be a purty costly funeral,'he answered thoughtfully. 'Ye d hey if
dig a hole deeper n Tupper's dingle.
'Couldn't you give them away?'I enquired.
'Wall,'said he, helping himself to a chew of tobacco, 'we ve tried
thet. Gin 'em t'everybody we know but there ain't folks enough'
there's such a slew o'them bilers. We could give one if ev ry man,
woman an'child in Faraway an'hex enough left t'fill an acre lot. Dan
Perry druv in t other day with a double buggy. We gin him one fer his
own fam ly. It was heavy t'carry an'he didn t seem t like the looks uv
it someway. Then I asked him if he wouldn t like one fer his girl.
"She ain't married," says he. "She will be some time," says I, "take
it along," so he put in another. "You ve got a sister over on the
turnpike hain't ye?" says I. "Yes," says he. "Wall," I says, "don'want
a hex her feel slighted." "She won't know 'bout my hevin''em," says
he, lookin''s if he d hed enough. "Yis she will," I says, 'she ll hear
uv it an'mebbe make a fuss." Then we piled in another. "Look here," I
says after that, "there s yer brother Bill up there 'bove you. Take
one along fer him." "No," says he, "I don'tell ev ry body, but Bill
an'I ain't on good terms. We ain't spoke fer more n a year."
'Knew he was lyin ,'Uncle Eb added with a laugh, 'I d seen him
talkin'with Bill a day er two before.
'Whew!'he whistled as he looked at his big silver watch. 'I declare
it's mos'one o clock They's jes'one other piece o'business if come
before this meetin . Double or single, want ye if both promise me
t'be. hum Crissmus.
'Now childern,'said he.''S time if go if bed. B lieve ye d stan
there swappin'kisses 'till ye was knee sprung if I didn t tell yet
Hope came and put her arms about his neck, fondly, and kissed him
'Did Bill prance right up like a man?'he asked, his hand upon her
'Did very well,'said she, smiling, 'for a man with a wooden leg.
Unde Eb sank into a chair, laughing heartily, and pounding his
knee. It seemed he had told her that I was coming home with a wooden
leg! 'That is the reason I held your arm,'she said. 'I was expecting
to hear it squeak every moment as we left the depot. But when I saw
that you walked so naturally I knew Uncle Eb had been trying to fool
'Purty good sort uv a lover, ain't he?'said he after we were done
'He wouldn t take no for an answer,'she answered.
'He was aiwuss a gritty cuss,'said Uncle Eb, wiping his eyes with a
big red handkerchief as he rose to go. 'Ye d oughter be mighty happy
an'ye will, too—their am'no doubt uv it—not a bit. Trouble with
most young folks is they wan'if fly tew high, these days. If they d
only fly clus enough t'the ground so the could aiwuss touch one foot,
they d be all right. Glad ye ain't thet kind.
We were off early on the boat—as fine a summer morning as ever
dawned. What with the grandeur of the scenery and the sublimity of
our happiness it was a delightful journey we had that day. I felt the
peace and beauty of the fields, the majesty of the mirrored cliffs and
mountains, but the fair face of her I loved was enough for me. Most of
the day Uncle Eb sat near us and I remember a woman evangelist came
and took a seat beside him, awhile, talking volubly of the scene.
'My friend,'said she presently, 'are you a Christian?
''Fore I answer I ll hex if tell ye a story,'said Uncle Eb. 'I
recollec a man by the name o'Ranney over n Vermont—he was a pious
man. Got into an argyment an'a feller slapped him in the face. Ranney
turned t other side an'then t other an'the feller kep'a slappin'hot 'n
heavy. It was jes'like strappin'a razor fer haifa minnit. Then Ranney
sailed in—gin him the wust lickin'he ever hed.
'"I declare," says another man, after 'twas all over, "I thought
you was a Christian."
"Am up to a cert in p int," says he. "Can't go tew fur not 'n these
parts—men are tew powerful. 'Twon't do 'less ye wan'if die sudden.
When he begun poundin'uv me I see I wan t eggzac ly prepared."
''Fraid 's a good deal thet way with most uv us. We re Christians
up to a cert in p int. Fer one thing, I think if a rnan ll stan'still
an'see himself knocked into the nex'world he's a leetle tew good fer
The good lady began to preach and argue. For an hour Uncle Eb sat
listening unable to get in a word. When, at last, she left him he came
to us a look of relief in his face.
'I b'lieve,'said he, 'if Balaam's ass hed been rode by a woman he
never 'd hey spoke.
'Why not?'I enquired.
'Never'd hey hed a chance,'Unde Eb added.
We were two weeks at home with mother and father and Uncle Eb. It
was a delightful season of rest in which Hope and I went over the
sloping roads of Faraway and walked in the fields and saw the
harvesting. She had appointed Christmas Day for our wedding and I was
not to go again to the war, for now my first duty was to my own
people. If God prospered me they were all to come to live with us in
town and, though slow to promise, I could see it gave them comfort to
know we were to be for them ever a staff and refuge.
And the evening before we came back to townJed Feary was with us
and Uncle Eb played his flute and sang the songs that had been the
delight of our childhood.
The old poet read these lines written in memory of old times in
Faraway and of Hope's girlhood.
'The red was in the clover an'the blue was in the sky: There was
music in the meadow, there was dancing in the rye; An'I heard a voice
a calling to the flocks o'Faraway An'its echo in the wooded hills—
Co'day! Go'day! Go'day!
O fair was she—my lady love—an'lithe as the willow tree,
An'aye my heart remembers well her parting words t'me. An'I was sad
as a beggar-man but she was blithe an'gay An'I think o'her as I call
the flocks Go'day! Go'day! Go'day!
Her cheeks they stole the dover's red, her lips the odoured air,
An'the glow o'the morning sunlight she took away in her hair; Her
voice had the meadow music, her form an'her laughing eye Have taken
the blue o'the heavens an'the grace o'the bending rye.
My love has robbed the summer day—the field, the sky, the dell,
She has taken their treasures with her, she has taken my heart as
well; An'if ever, in the further fields, her feet should go astray
May she hear the good God calling her Co'day! Go'day! Go'day!
I got a warm welcome on Monkey Hill. John Trumbull came to dine
with us at the chalet the evening of my arrival. McGlingan had become
editor-in-chief of a new daily newspaper. Since the war began Mr Force
had found ample and remunerative occupation writing the 'Obituaries of
Distinguished Persons . He sat between Trumbull and McGlingan at table
and told again of the time he had introduced the late Daniel Webster
to the people of his native town.
Reciting a passage of the immortal Senator he tipped his beer into
the lap of McClingan. He ceased talking and sought pardon.
'It is nothing, Force—nothing,'said the Scotchman, with great
dignity, as he wiped his coat and trousers. 'You will pardon me if I
say that I had rather be drenched in beer than soaked in
'That's all right,'said Mr Opper, handing him a new napkin. 'Yes,
in the midst of such affliction I should call it excellent fun,
McClingan added. 'If you ever die, Force, I will preach the sermon
'On what text?'the obituary editor enquired.
'"There remaineth therefore, a rest for the people of God,"'quoth
McClingan solemnly. 'Hebrews, fourth chapter and ninth verse.
'If I continue to live with you I shall need it,'said Force.
'And if I endure to the end,'said McClingan, 'I shall have
excellent Christian discipline; I shall feel like opening my mouth and
making a loud noise.
McGlingan changed his garments and then came into my room and sat
with us awhile after dinner.
'One needs ear lappers and a rubber coat at that table,'said he.
'And a chest protector,'I suggested, remembering the finger of
'I shall be leaving here soon, Brower,'said McGlingan as he lit a
'Where shall you go?'I asked.
'To my own house.
'Going to hire a housekeeper?
'Going to marry one,'said he.
'That's funny,'I said. We re all to be married—every man of us.
'By Jove!'said McClingan, 'this is a time for congratulation. God
save us and grant for us all the best woman in the world.
For every man he knew and loved Mr Greeley had a kindness that
filled him to the fingertips. When I returned he smote me on the
breast—an unfailing mark of his favour—and doubled my salary.
'If he ever smites you on the breast,'McClingan had once said to
'turn the other side, for, man, your fortune is made.
And there was some truth in the warning.
He was writing when I came in. A woman sat beside him talking. An
immense ham lay on the marble top of the steam radiator; a basket of
eggs sat on the floor near Mr Greeley's desk All sorts of merchandise
were sent to the Tribune those days, for notice, and sold at auction,
to members of the staff, by Mr Dana.
'Yes, yes, Madame, go on, I hear you,'said the great editor, as his
pen flew across the white page.
She asked him then for a loan of money. He continued writing but,
presently, his left hand dove into his trousers pocket coming up full
'Take what you want,'said he, holding it toward her, 'and please go
for I am very busy.'Whereupon she helped herself liberally and went
Seeing me, Mr Greeley came and shook my hand warmly and praised me
fer a good soldier.
'Going down town,'he said in a moment, drawing on his big white
overcoat, 'walk along with me—won't you?
We crossed the park, he leading me with long strides. As we walked
he told how he had been suffering from brain fever. Passing St Paul's
churchyard he brushed the iron pickets with his hand as if to try the
feel of them. Many turned to stare at him curiously. He asked me,
soon, if I would care to do a certain thing for the Tribune, stopping,
to look in at a shop window, as I answered him. I waited while he did
his errand at a Broadway shop; then we came back to the office. The
publisher was in Mr Greeley's room.
'Where's my ham, Dave?'said the editor as he looked at the slab of
marble where the ham had lain.
'Don't know for sure,'said the publisher, 'it's probably up at the
house of the—editor by this time.
'What did you go 'n give it to him for?'drawled Mr Greeley in a
tone of irreparable injury. 'I wanted that ham for myself.
'I didn t give it to him,'said the publisher. 'He came and helped
himself. Said he supposed it was sent in for notice.
'The infernal thief!'Mr Greeley piped with a violent gesture. 'I ll
swear! if I didn t keep my shirt buttoned tight they d have that, too.
The ham was a serious obstacle in the way of my business and it
went over until evening. But that and like incidents made me to know
the man as I have never seen him pictured—a boy grown old and grey,
pushing the power of manhood with the ardours of youth.
I resumed work on the Tribune that week. My first assignment was a
mass meeting in a big temporary structure—then called a wigwam—
over in Brooklyn. My political life began that day and all by an odd
chance. The wigwam was crowded to the doors. The audience bad been
waiting half an hour for the speaker. The chairman had been doing his
best to kill time but had run out of ammunition. He had sat down to
wait, an awkward silence had begun. The crowd was stamping and
whistling and clapping with impatience. As I walked down the centre
aisle, to the reporter s table, they seemed to mistake me for the
speaker. Instantly a great uproar began. It grew louder every step I
took. I began to wonder and then to fear the truth. As I neared the
stage the chairman came forward beckoning to me. I went to the ffight
of steps leading up to that higher level of distinguished citizens and
halted, not knowing just what to do. He came and leaned over and
whispered down at me. I remember he was red in the face and damp with
'What is your name?'he enquired.
'Brower,'said I in a whisper.
A look of relief came into his face and I am sure a look of anxiety
came into mine. He had taken the centre of the stage before I could
'Lathes and gentlemen,'said he, 'I am glad to inform you that
General Brower has at last arrived.
I remembered then there was a General Brower in the army who was
also a power in politics.
In the storm of applause that followed this announcement, I
beckoned him to the edge of the platform again. I was nearer a
condition of mental panic than I have ever known since that day.
'I am not General Brower,'I whispered.
'What!'said he in amazement.
'I am not General Brower,'I said.
'Great heavens!'he whispered, covering his mouth with his band and
looking very thoughtful. 'You ll have to make a speech, anyway—
there's no escape.
I could see no way out of it and, after a moment's hesitation,
ascended the platform took off my overcoat and made a speech.
Fortunately the issue was one with which I had been long familiar.
I told them how I had been trapped. The story put the audience in
good humour and they helped me along with very generous applause. And
so began my career in politics which has brought me more honour than I
deserved although I know it has not been wholly without value to my
country. It enabled me to repay in part the kindness of my former
chief at a time when he was sadly in need of friends. I remember
meeting him in Washington a day of that exciting campaign of 72. I was
then in Congress.
'I thank you for what you have done, Brower,'said he, 'but I tell
you I am licked. I shall not carry a single state. I am going to be
He had read his fate and better than he knew. In politics he was a
The north country lay buried in the snow that Christmastime. Here
and there the steam plough had thrown its furrows, on either side of
the railroad, high above the window line. The fences were muffled in
long ridges of snow, their stakes showing like pins in a cushion of
white velvet. Some of the small trees on the edge of the big timber
stood overdrifted to their boughs. I have never seen such a glory of
the morning as when the sun came up, that day we were nearing home,
and lit the splendour of the hills, there in the land I love. The
frosty nap of the snow glowed far and near with pulsing glints of pale
We came into Hillsborough at noon the day before Christmas. Father
and Uncle Eb met us at the depot and mother stood waving her
handkerchief at the door as we drove up. And when we were done with
our greetings and were standing, damp eyed, to warm ourselves at the
fire, Uncle Eb brought his palms together with a loud whack and said:
'Look here, Liz beth Brower! I want if hey ye tell me if ye ever
see a likelier pair o'colts.
She laughed as she looked at us. In a moment she ran her hand down
the side of Hope's gown. Then she lifted a fold of the cloth and felt
of it thoughtfully.
'How much was that a yard?'she asked a dreamy look in her eyes.
'Wy! w'y!'she continued as Hope told her the sum. 'Terrible steep!
but it does fit splendid! Oughter wear well too! Wish ye d put that
on if ye go t'church nex'Sunday.
'O mother!'said Hope, laughing, 'I ll wear my blue silk.
'Come boys 'n girls,'said Elizabeth suddenly, 'dinner's all ready
in the other room.
'Beats the world!'said Uncle Eb, as we sat down at the table. 'Ye
do look gran'if me—ree-markable gran , both uv ye. Tek a premium at
any fair—ye would sartin.
'Has he won yer affections?'said David laughing as he looked over
'He has,'said she solemnly.
'Affections are a sing lar kind o'prop ty,'said Uncle Eb. 'Hain't
good fer nuthin''iii ye ve gin em away. Then, like as not, they git
'Good deal that way with money too,'said Elizabeth Brower.
'I recollec'when Hope was a leetle bit uv a girl'said Uncle Eb,
'she used if say 'et when she got married she was goin'if hev her
husban'rub my back fer me when it was lame.
'I haven t forgotten it,'said Hope, 'and if you will all come you
will make us happier.
'Good many mouths if feed!'Uncle Ebb remarked.
'I could take in sewing and help some,'said Elizabeth Brower, as
she sipped her tea.
There was a little quiver in David's under lip as he looked over at
her. 'You ain't able t'do hard work any more, mother,'said he. 'She
won't never hey to nuther,'said Uncle Eb. 'Don't never pay if go
bookin'fer trouble—it stew easy if find. There ain'no sech thing 's
trouble 'n this world 'less ye look for it. Happiness won't hey nuthin
if dew with a man thet likes trouble. Minnit a man stops lookin'fer
trouble happiness 'II look fer him. Things came puny nigh's ye like
'em here 'n this world—hot er cold er only middlin . Ye can either
laugh er cry er fight er fish er go if meetin . If ye don't like erry
one you can fin fault. I m on the lookout fer happiness—suits me
best, someway, an don't hurt my feelin's a bit.
'Ev'ry day's a kind uv a circus day with you, Holden,'said David
Brower. 'Alwuss hevin'a good time. Ye can hey more fun with yerseif
'n any man I ever see.'
'If I hey as much hereafter es I've hed here, I ain't a goin'if
fin'no fault,'said Uncle Eb. ''S a reel, splendid world. God's fixed
it up so ev ry body can hey a good time if they ll only hey it. Once I
heard uv a poor man 'at hed a bushel o'corn give tew him. He looked up
kind o'sad an'ast if they wouldn t please shell it. Then they tuk it
away. God's gin us happiness in the ear, but He ain't a goin't'shell
it fer us. You n 'Lizabeth oughter be very happy. Look a'them tew
There came a rap at the door then. David put on his cap and went
out with Uncle Eb.
'It's somebody for more money,'Elizabeth whispered, her eyes
filling. 'I know 'tis, or he would have asked him in. We re goin't
lose our home.
Her lips quivered; she covered her eyes a moment.
'David ain't well,'she continued. 'Worries night 'n day over money
matters. Don't say much, but I can see it's alwuss on his mind. Woke
up in the middle o'the night awhile ago. Found him sittm by the stove.
"Mother," he said, "we can't never go back to farmin . I've ploughed
furrows enough if go 'round the world. Couldn't never go through it ag
in." "Well," said I, "if you think best we could start over see how we
git along. I m willin'if try it." "No, we re too old," he says.
"Thet's out o'the question. I've been thinkin'what'll we do there with
Bill 'n Hope if we go t'live with 'em? Don't suppose they ll hey any
hosses if take care uv er any wood if chop. What we'll hey if do is
more n I can make out. We can't do nuthin; we've never learnt how."
'We ve thought that all over,'I said. 'We may have a place in the
country with a big garden.
'Well,'said she, 'I m very well if I am over sixty. I can cook an
wash an'mend an'iron just as well as I ever could.
Uncle Eb came to the door then.
'Bill,'he said, 'I want you 'n Hope if come out here 'n look at
this young colt o'mine. He's playful 's a kitten.
We put on our wraps and went to the stable. Uncle Eb was there
'If ye brought any Cnssmus presents,'he whispered, 'slip 'em into
my han s. I m goin'if run the cirkis t'morrow an'if we don't hev fun
a plenty I'll miss my guess.
'I ll lay them out in my room,'said Hope.
'Be sure 'n put the names on 'em,'Uncle Eb whispered, as Hope went
'What have ye done with the "bilers"?'I enquired.
'Sold 'em,'said he, laughing. 'Barker never kep'his promise. Heard
they d gone over t'the 'Burg an'was tryin't'sell more territory. I
says if Dave, "You let me manage 'em an'I ll put 'em out o business
here 'n this part o'the country." So I writ out an advertisement fer
the paper. Read about this way: "Fer sale. Twelve hunderd patented
suction Wash B ilers. Anyone at can't stan'prosperity an'is learnin'if
swear ll find 'em a great help. If he don't he's a bigger fool 'n I
am. Nuthin'in 'em but tin—that's wuth somethin . Warranted t'hold
'Wall ye know how that editor talks? 'Twant a day 'fore the head
man o'the b iler business come 'n bought 'em. An'the advertisement
was never put in. Guess he wan t hankerin'if hey his business sp ilt.
Uncle Eb was not at the supper table that evening.
'Where's Holden?'said Elizabeth Brower.
'Dunno,'said David. 'Goin'after Santa Claus he tol'me.
'Never see the beat o'that man!'was the remark of Elizabeth, as
she poured the tea. 'Jes'like a boy ev ry Crissmus time. Been so
excited fer a week couldn't hardly contain himself.
'Ketched him out 'n the barn if other day laffin'like a fool,'said
David. 'Thought he was crazy.
We sat by the fire after the supper dishes were put away, talking
of all the Christmas Days we could remember. Hope and I thought our
last in Faraway best of all and no wonder, for we had got then the
first promise of the great gift that now made us happy. Elizabeth,
sitting in her easy-chair, told of Christmas in the olden time when
her father had gone to the war with the British.
David sat near me, his face in the firelight—the broad brow
wrinkled into furrows and framed in locks of iron-grey. He was
looking thoughtfully at the fire. Uncle Eb came soon, stamping and
shaking the snow out of his great fur coat.
'Col'night,'he said, warming his hands.
Then he carried his coat and cap away, returning shortly, with a
little box in his hand.
'Jes'thought I d buy this fer fun,'said he, holding it down to the
firelight. 'Dummed if I ever see the like uv it. Whoa!'he shouted, as
the cover flew open, releasing a jumping-jack. 'Quicker n a
grasshopper! D ye ever see sech a sassy little critter?
Then he handed it to Elizabeth.
'Wish ye Merry Christmas, Dave Brower!'said he.
'Ain't as merry as I might be,'said David.
'Know what's the matter with ye,'said Unde Eb. 'Searchin'after
trouble—thet's what ye re doin . Findin'lots uv it right there 'n
the fire. Trouble 's goiti't'git mighty scurce 'round here this very
selfsame night. Ain't goin't'be nobody lookin'fer it—thet's why.
Fer years ye ve been takin'care o'somebody et 'II take care 'o you,
long's ye live—sartin sure. Folks they said ye was fools when ye
took 'em in. Man said I was a fool once. Aiwuss hed a purty fair idee
o'myself sence then. When some folks call ye a fool 's a ruther good
sign ye ain't Ye ve waited a long time fer yer pay—ain t much longer
if wait now.
There was a little quaver in his voice, We all looked at him in
silence. Uncle Eb drew out his wallet with trembling hands, his fine
old face lit with a deep emotion. David looked up at him as iihe
wondered what joke was coming, until he saw his excitement.
'Here's twenty thousan'dollars,'said Unde Eb, 'a reel, genuwine
bank check!'jist as good as gold. Here 'tis! A Crissmus present fer
you 'n Elizabeth. An'may God bless ye both!
David looked up incredulously. Then he took the bit of paper. A
big tear rolled down his cheek.
'Why, Holden! Whatdoes this mean?'he asked.
''At the Lord pays Flis debts,'said Uncle Eb. 'Read it.
Hope had lighted the lamp.
David rose and put on his spectacles. One eyebrow had lifted above
the level of the other. He held the check to the lamplight. Elizabeth
stood at his elbow.
'Why, mother!'said he. 'Is this from our boy? From Nehemiah? Why,
Nehemiah is dead!'he added, looking over his spectacles at Uncle Eb.
'Nehemiah is not dead,'said the latter.
'Nehemiah not dead!'he repeated, looking down at the draft. They
turned it in the light, reading over and over again the happy tidings
pinned to one corner of it. Then they looked into each other's eyes.
Elizabeth put her arms about David's neck and laid her head upon
his shoulder and not one of us dare trust himself to speak for a
little. Uncle Eb broke the silence.
'Got another present,'he said. 'S a good deal better 'n gold er
silver tall, bearded man came in.
'Mr Trumbull!'Hope exclaimed, rising.
'David an' Elizabeth Brower,'said Uncle Eb, 'the dead hes come if
life. I give ye back yer son—Nehemiah.
Then he swung his cap high above his head, shouting in a loud
'Merry Crissmus! Merry Crissmus!
The scene that followed I shall not try to picture. It was so full
of happiness that every day of our lives since then has been blessed
with it and with a peace that has lightened every sorrow; of it, I
can'truly say that it passeth all understanding.
'Look here, folks!'said Uncle Eb, after awhile, as he got his
flute, 'my feelin's hey been teched hard. If I don't hey some
jollification I'll bust. Bill Brower, limber up yer leather a leetle
Nehemiah, whom I had known as John Trumbull, sat a long time
between his father and mother, holding a hand of each, and talking in
a low tone, while Hope and I were in the kitchen with Uncle Eb. Now
that father and son were side by side we saw how like they were and
wondered we bad never guessed the truth.
'Do you remember?'said Nehemiah, when we returned. 'Do you
remember when you were a little boy, coming one night to the old log
house on Bowman's Hill with Uncle Eb?
'I remember it very well,'I answered.
'That was the first time I ever saw you,'he said.
'Why'you are not the night man?'
'I was the night man,'he answered.
I stared at him with something of the old, familiar thrill that had
always come at the mention of him years agone.
'He's grown a leetle since then,'said Uncle Eb.
'I thought so the night I carried him off the field at Bull
'Was that you?'I asked eagerly.
'It was,'he answered. 'I came over from Washington that afternoon.
Your colonel told me you had been wounded.
'Wondered who you were, but I could not get you to answer. I have
to thank you for my life.
Hope put her arms about his neck and kissed him.
'Tell us,'said she, 'how you came to be the night man. '
He folded his arms and looked down and began his story.
'Years ago I had a great misfortune. I was a mere boy at the time.
By accident I killed another boy in play. It was an old gun we were
playing with and nobody knew it was loaded. I had often quarrelled
with the other boy—that is why they thought I had done it on
purpose. There was a dance that night. I had got up in the evening,
crawled out of the window and stolen away. We were in Rickard's
stable. I remember how the people ran out with lanterns. They would
have hung me—some of them—or given me the blue beech, if a boy
friend had not hurried me away. It was a terrible hour. I was stunned;
I could say nothing. They drove me to the 'Burg, the boy's father
chasing us. I got over into Canada, walked to Montreal and there went
to sea. It was foolish, I know, but I was only a boy of fifteen. I
took another name; I began a new life. Nehemiah Brower was like one
dead. In 'Frisco I saw Ben Gilman. He had been a school mate in
Faraway. He put his hand on my shoulder and called me the old name. It
was hard to deny it—the hardest thing I ever did. I was homesick; I
wanted to ask him about my mother and father and my sister, who was a
baby when I left. I would have given my life to talk with him. But I
shook my head.
'"No," I said, "my name is not Brower. You are mistaken."
'Then I walked away and Nemy Brower stayed in his grave.
'Well, two years later we were cruising from Sidney to Van
Dieman's Land. One night there came a big storm. A shipmate was
washed away in the dark. We never saw him again. They found a letter
in his box that said his real name was Nehemiah Brower, son of David
Brower, of Faraway, NY, USA. I put it there, of course, and the
captain wrote a letter to my father about the death of his son. My old
self was near done for and the man Trumbull had a new lease of life.
You see in my madness I had convicted and executed myself.
He paused a moment. His mother put her hand upon his shoulder with
a word of gentle sympathy. Then he went on.
'Well, six years after I had gone away, one evening in midsummer,
we came into the harbour of Quebec. I had been long in the southern
seas. When I went ashore, on a day's leave, and wandered off in the
fields and got the smell of the north, I went out of my head—went
crazy for a look at the hills o'Faraway and my own people. Nothing
could stop me then. I drew my pay, packed my things in a bag and off I
went. Left the 'Burg afoot the day after; got to Faraway in the
evening. It was beautiful—the scent o'the new hay that stood in
cocks and wnrows on the hill—the noise o'the crickets—'the smell
o'the grain—the old house, just as I remembered them; just as I had
dreamed of them a thousand times. And—when I went by the gate Bony—
my old dog—came out and barked at—me and I spoke to him and he
knew me and came and licked my hands, rubbing upon my leg. I sat down
with him there by the stone wall and—the kiss of that old dog—the
first token of love I had known for years' called back the dead and
all that had been his. I put my arms about his—neck and was near
crying out with joy.
'Then I stole up to the house and looked in at a window. There sat
father, at a table, reading his paper; and a little girl was on her
knees by mother saying her prayers. He stopped a moment, covering
his eyes with his handkerchief.
'That was Hope,'I whispered.
'That was Hope,'he went on. 'All the king's oxen could not have
dragged me out of Faraway then. Late at night I went off into the
woods. The old dog followed to stay with me until he died. If it had
not been for him I should have been hopeless. I had with me enough to
eat for a time. We found a cave in a big ledge over back of Bull Pond.
Its mouth was covered with briars. It had a big room and a stream of
cold water trickling through a crevice. I made it my home and a fine
place it was—cool in summer and warm in winter. I caught a cub
panther that fall and a baby coon. They grew up with me there and were
the only friends I had after Bony, except Uncle Eb.
'Uncle Eb!'I exclaimed.
'You know how I met him,'he continued. 'Well, he won my
confidence. I told him my history. I came into the clearing almost
every night. Met him often. He tried to persuade me to come back to
my people, but I could not do it. I was insane; I feared something—
I did not know what. Sometimes I doubted even my own identity. Many a
summer night I sat talking for hours, with Uncle Eb, at the foot of
Lone Pine. O, he was like a father to me! God knows what I should
have done without him. Well, I stuck to my life, or rather to my
death, O—there in the woods—getting fish out of the brooks and
game out of the forest, and milk out of the cows in the pasture.
Sometimes I went through the woods to the store at Tifton for flour
and pork. One night Uncle Eb told me if I would go out among men to
try my hand at some sort of business he would start me with a
thousand dollars. Well, I did—it. I had also a hundred dollars of my
own. I came through the woods afoot. Bought fashionable clothing at
Utica, and came to the big city' you know the rest. Among men my fear
has left me, so I wonder at it. I am a debtor to love—the love of
Uncle Eb and that of a noble woman I shall soon marry. It has made me
whole and brought me back to my own people.
'And everybody knew he was innocent the day after he left,'said
'Three cheers for Uncle Eb!'I demanded.
And we gave them.
'1 declare!'said he. 'In all my born days never see sech fun. It's
tree-menjious! I tell ye. Them 'et takes care uv others ll be took
care uv—'less they do it o'purpose.
And when the rest of us had gone to bed Uncle Eb sat awhile by the
fire with David. Late at night he came upstairs with his candle. He
came over to my bed on tiptoe to see if I were awake, holding the
candle above my head. I was worn out and did not open my eyes. He sat
'Tell ye one thing, Dave Brower,'he whispered to himself as he
drew off his boots, 'when some folks calls ye a fool 's a purty good
sign ye ain't.
Since that day I have seen much coming and going.
We are now the old folks—Margaret and Nehemiah and Hope and I.
Those others, with their rugged strength, their simple ways, their
undying youth, are of the past. The young folks—they are a new kind
of people. It gives us comfort to think they will never have to sing
in choirs or 'pound the rock'for board money; but I know it is the
worse luck for them. They are a fine lot of young men and women—
comely and well-mannered—but they will not be the pathfinders of the
future. What with balls and dinners and clubs and theatres, they find
too great a solace in the rear rank.
Nearly twenty years after that memorable Christmas, coming from
Buffalo to New York one summer morning, my thoughts went astray in
the north country. The familiar faces, the old scenes came trooping by
and that very day I saw the sun set in Hillsborough as I had often
those late years.
Mother was living in the old home, alone, with a daughter of
Grandma Bisnette. It was her wish to live and die under that roof.
She cooked me a fine supper, with her own hands, and a great anxiety
to please me.
'Come Willie!'said she, as if I were a small boy again, 'you fill
the woodbox an'I ll git supper ready. Lucindy, you clear out,'she said
to the hired girl, good-naturedly. 'You dunno how t'cook for him.
I filled the woodbox and brought a pail of water and while she was
frying the ham and eggs read to her part of a speech I had made in
Congress. Before thousands I had never felt more elation. At last I
was sure of winning her applause. The little bent figure stood,
thoughtfully, turning the ham and eggs. She put the spider aside, to
stand near me, her hands upon her hips. There was a mighty pride in
her face when I had finished.
I rose and she went and looked out of the window.
'Grand!'she murmured, wiping her eyes with the corner of her
'Glad you like it,'I said, with great satisfaction.
'O, the speech!'she answered, her elbow resting on the windowr
sash, her hand supporting her head. 'I liked it very well—but—but
I was thinking of the sunset. How beautiful it is.
I was weary after my day of travel and went early to bed there in
my old room. I left her finishing a pair of socks she had been
knitting for me. Lying in bed, I could hear the creak of her chair
and the low sung, familiar words:
'On the other side of Jordan, In the sweet fields of Eden, Where
the tree of life is blooming, There is rest for you.
Late at rnght she came into my room with a candle. I heard her
come softly to the bed where she stood a moment leaning over me. Then
she drew the quilt about my shoulder with a gentle hand.
'Poor little orphan!'said she, in a whisper that trembled. She was
thinking of my childhood— of her own happier days.
Then she went away and I heard, in the silence, a ripple of
Next morning I took flowers and strewed them on the graves of
David and Uncle Eb; there, Hope and I go often to sit for half a
summer day above those perished forms, and think of the old time and
of those last words of my venerable friend now graven on his
I AIN'T AFRAID.
'SHAMED O'NUTHIN'I EVER DONE.
ALWUSS KEP'MY TUGS TIGHT,
NEVER SWORE 'LESS 'TWAS NECESSARY,
NEVER KETCHED A FISH BIGGER 'N 'TWAS
ER LIED 'N A HOSS TRADE
ER SHED A TEAR I DIDN'T HEV TO.
NEVER CHEATED ANYBODY BUT EBEN HOLDEN.
GOIN'OFF SOMEWHERES, BILL
DUNNO THE WAY NUTHER
DUNNO 'F IT'S EAST ER WEST ER NORTH ER SOUTH,
ER ROAD ER TRAIL;
BUT I AIN'T AFRAID.