Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ If we don 't get 'em, everybody else will, and clothes which our children have outgrown and we might as well have our share,” he replied. what Mrs. Bagley has been able to buy and make,

“Well, then,” I continued, “I have a proposition all three of the young Bagleys present a very reto make to you and Junior. I'd like you both to spectable appearance. I took it upon myself to promise not to shoot robins except on the wing. tell the children that, if they went to school reguThat will teach you to be expert and quick-eyed. larly, we would make them nice Christmas A true sportsman is not one who tries to kill as presents.” much game as possible, but to shoot scientifically, “ And I confirm the bargain heartily,” I cried, skillfully. There is more pleasure in giving your “Merton, look out for yourself or the Bagley boy game a chance, and in bringing it down with a fine will get ahead of you at school.” long shot, than in slaughtering the poor creatures He laughed and started for the village, with like chickens in a coop. Anybody can shoot a Junior, who now appeared, to get their powder robin sitting on a bough a few yards off, but to and shot. bring one down when in rapid flight is the work of The next morning, after loading up a good lot a sportsman. And for my part I had rather live of cartridges before breakfast, the two boys starton pork than on robins or any useful birds." ed, and having all day before them, took their lunch

He readily agreed not to fire at robins except eons, with the intention of exploring Schunnemunk when flying, and to induce Junior to do likewise, mountain. The squirrels, birds, and rabbits near and I was satisfied that not many of my little home were reserved for odd times when they could favorites would suffer.

slip away for a few hours only. “ Very well,” I said, “I'll coax Mr. Jones to Our new barn, now about completed, gave as let Junior off to-morrow, and you can have the en- much pleasure to my wife and myself as the nuts tire day for hunting. This evening you can go down and game afforded the children. I went through it, to the village and get a stock of ammunition." adding here and there some finishing touches and

The boy went to his work happy and contented. little conveniences, a painter meanwhile giving it

Now Bobsey had a little wagon, and having a final coat of dark, cheap wash. Our poultryfinished his morning stint of work, he, with Mousie house was now ready for use and I said to Winnie: and Winnie, started off to the nearest butternut-tree, “To-night we will catch the chickens and put and during the remainder of the day, except during them in it.” the time occupied with lessons, they were busily The old horse had already been established in gathering the nuts. By night they had at least one the stable, and I resolved that the cow also should of the “million” bushels spread out, and drying. come in, at night. In the afternoon, I began

As they brought in their last load about five turning over the fodder-corn, and saw that a very o'clock in the afternoon, I said to them :

few more days would cure it. Toward night, I " Come and see what I have here."

examined the apples, and resolved to adopt old I led the way to the sty, where were grunting Mr. Jamison's plan of picking the largest and three half-grown pigs. Having learned from ripest at once, leaving the smaller and greener fruit Rollins that he was willing to sell some of his to mature until the last of the month. The dark stock, I had bought three pigs and put them into apple-and-root cellar was already half filled with the new sty as soon as it was ready.

potatoes, but the space left for such apples as we The children welcomed the new-comers with should keep was ready. From time to time, when shouts, but I said, “ That wont do; you'll returning from the village, I had brought empty frighten them so that they 'll try to jump out of the barrels, and in some of these, earlier apples, like pen. Run now and pick up a load of apples in fall pippins and greenings, had already been your wagon and throw them to the pigs; they 'll packed and shipped to Mr. Bogart. By his advice understand and like such a welcoming better.” I had resolved to store the later and good keeping

At supper I added: “Children, picking up varieties, and dispose of them gradually to the apples, which was such fun this afternoon, will be best advantage. I resolved that the morrow should part of your regular morning work, for a while. see the beginning of our chief labor in the orchard. In the room over the sty is a bin which must be I had sold a number of barrels of wind-falls, but filled with the fallen apples before any nuts can be they brought a price that barely repaid us. My gathered."

examination of the trees now proved that there Even Bobsey laughed at the idea that this was should be no more delay in taking off the large, work, but I knew that it would soon become so. and fine-looking fruit.

“ I have good news about the Bagley children," With the setting sun, Merton and Junior apsaid my wife. “I was down there to-day, and all peared, scarcely able to drag their weary feet the children begin school next Monday. Between down the lane. Nevertheless their fatigue was caused by efforts entirely after their own hearts, after, but our main task was the gathering of all and they declared that they had had a “splendid the grapes except those hanging against the sides time.” Then they emptied their game-bags. of the house. These, I believed, would be so shelEach of the boys had a partridge, Merton one tered as to escape injury. We had been enjoying rabbit, and Junior two. Merton kept up his this delicious fruit for some time, carrying out our prestige by showing two gray squirrels to Junior's plan, however, of reserving the best for the market. one. Red squirrels abounded, and there were a few The berries on the small clusters were just as sweet robins, brought down on the wing, as the boys and luscious, and the children were content. Sure had proinised.

enough, on the following morning white hoar-frost What interested me most was the rattles of the covered the grass and leaves. deadly snake which Junior had nearly stepped on, “No matter,” cried Winnie, at the breakfast and then had shot.

table, “the chestnut burrs are opening!” “Schunnemunk is full of rattlers,” he said. By frequent stirring the rest of the corn-fodder

“Please don't hunt there any more, then," I was soon dried out again, and stacked. Then we replied.

took up the beets and carrots and stored them also “No, we 'll go into the main Highlands to the in the root cellar. east'erd next time."

We had frost now almost every night, and the Merton had also brought down a chicken hawk, trees were gorgeous in their various hues, while and the game, spread out on the kitchen table, others were already losing their foliage. suggested much interesting wild life, about which I The days were filled with delight for the chilsaid we should read during the coming winter, add- dren. The younger ones were up with the sun to ing, “Well, boys, you have more than earned your gather the nuts that had fallen during the night, salt in your sport to-day, for each of you have Merton accompanying them with his gun, and supplied two game dinners.”

bringing in squirrels daily, and now and then a Merton was allowed to sleep late the next morn- robin, shot on the wing. His chief exploit, howing, and was then set to work in the orchard, while ever, was the bagging of half a dozen quails that I divided my time between aiding in picking the unwarily chose the lower part of our meadow as a apples and turning over the fodder-corn.

resort. Then he and Junior took several long “You can climb like a squirrel, Merton," said I, outings in the Highlands with fair success, for the “and I must depend on you chiefly for gathering boys had become decidedly expert. the apples. Handle them like eggs, so as not to “If we only had a dog," cried Merton, “we bruise them and then they will keep better. After could do wonders." we have been over the trees once and have stacked “ Save your money next summer and buy one," the fodder-corn, you shall have a good time with I replied; “I'll give you a chance, Merton." your gun.”

By the middle of October, the weather became For the next few days we worked hard, and dry and warm, and the mountains were almost nearly finished the first picking of the apples and hidden by the Indian summer haze. getting into shocks the greater part of the corn. Now for the corn-husking,” I said, “and the Then came a storm of wind and rain, and the best planting of the ground in raspberries, and then apples on one tree, not picked over, were soon lying we shall be through with our chief labors for the on the ground bruised and unfit for winter keeping year.”

“You see, Merton," I said, " that we must Merton helped me at the husking, but I allowed manage to get over the trees earlier next year. him to keep his gun near, and he obtained an Live and learn."

occasional shot, which enlivened his toil. Two The wind came out of the north the day after great bins over the sty and poultry-house received the storm, and Mr. Jones shouted, as he passed the yellow ears, the longest and fairest being down the road, “We'll have frost to-night." stored in one, and in the other the “nubbins.'

Then, indeed, we bestirred ourselves. Mousie's Part of the stalks were tied up and put in the old flowers were carried in; the lima-bean poles, still “corn-stalk barn,” as we called it, and the remainhanging full of green pods more or less filled out, der stacked near. Our cow certainly was prowere pulled up and stacked together under a tree; vided for. and some tomato vines, with their green and par- Having removed the corn, Mr. Jones plowed tially ripe fruit, were taken up by the roots and the field deeply, and then Merton and I set out hung under the shed.

the varieties of raspberries which promised best “We may thus keep a supply of this wholesome in our locality, making the hills four feet apart in vegetable some weeks longer,” I said.

the row, and the rows five feet from each other. I Everything that we could protect was looked followed the instructions of my fruit-book closely, and cut back the canes of the plants to six inches, ior were given one more day's outing in the mountsunk the roots so deeply as to leave about four ains with their guns. On the following Monday they inches of soil above them, putting two or three trudged off to the nearest public school, feeling plants in the hill. Then, over and about the hills, that they had been treated liberally and that brainon the surface of the ground, we put two shovelfuls work must now begin in earnest. Indeed, for of compost, finally covering the plants beneath a months from that time, school and lessons took slight mound of earth. This would protect them precedence of everything else, and the proper from the severe frost of winter.

growth of our boys and girls was the prominent These labors and the final picking of the apples thought. brought us to the last week of the month. Of November weather was occasionally so blusterthe smaller fruit, kept clean and sound for the pur- ing and stormy that I turned school-master now pose, we reserved enough to make two barrels of and then, to relieve my wife. During the month,

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

cider, of which one should go into vinegar and the however, there were bright genial days and others other be kept sweet, to be drunk at our nut-crack- softened by a smoky haze, which gave me opportuings around the winter fire. Bobsey's dream of nity to gather and store a large crop of turnips, to “ millions of bushels ” of butter and other nuts had trench in my celery on a dry knoll, and to bury, not been realized; yet, enough had been dried and with their heads downward, all the cabbages for stored away to satisfy even his eyes. Not far which I could not find a good market. The children away an old cider-mill was running steadily, and still gave me some assistance, but, lessons over, we soon had the barrels of russet nectar in our cel- they were usually permitted to amuse themselves lar. Then came Saturday, and Merton and Jun- in their own way. Winnie, however, did not lose her interest in the poultry, and Merton regularly people whose scheme of life was to get and take, aided in the care of the stock and in looking after but not to return. the evening supply of fire-wood.

Well, our first year was drawing to a close. The Thanksgiving Day was celebrated with due first of December was celebrated by an event no observance. In the morning we all heard Dr. less momentous than the killing of our pigs, to Lyman preach, and came home with the feeling Winnie's and Bobsey's intense excitement. In that neither we, nor the country at large, were this affair my wife and I were almost helpless; going to the bad. Mr. and Mrs. Jones, with but Mr. Jones and Bagley were on hand, and Junior, dined with us in great state, and we had our proved themselves veterans. first four-course dinner since arriving in Maizeville, I next gave all my attention, when the weather and at the fashionable hour of six in the evening. permitted, to the proper winter covering of all the Our feast was a very informal affair, seasoned strawberries, and to the cutting and carting home with mirth and spiced with hunger. My wife look- of dead and dying trees from the wood-lot. ed after the transfers from the kitchen at critical The increasing cold brought new and welcome moments, while Winnie and Mousie were our wait- pleasures to the children. There was ice on the resses. A royal blaze crackledin the open fire-place, neighboring ponds, and skates were bought as preand seemed to share in the sparkle of our rustic wit mature Christmas presents. New sleds, also, were and unforced mirth, which kept plump Mrs. Jones forthcoming, and the first fall of snow enabled in a perpetual quiver of delight. Her husband Merton and Junior to track some rabbits that, came out strong in his comical summary of the until then, had eluded their search. past year's experience, concluding:

By the middle of December we realized that “Well, we owe you and Mrs. Durham a vote of winter had begun in all its rather stern reality, but thanks for reforming the Bagley tribe. That ap- we were sheltered and provided for. We had so pears to me an orthodox case of convarsion. far imitated the ants, that we had abundant stores First we gave them the terrors of the law. I tell until the flinty earth should again yield its bounty. you we were smoking in wrath around him that

Christmas brought us more than its wonted joy, mornin', like Mount Sinai, and you had the sense and a fulfillment of the hopes and anticipations to bring, in the nick of time, the gospel of givin' which we had cherished on the same day of the prea feller a chance.'

We were far from regretting our • Well," I replied, becoming thoughtful for a Aight to the country, although it had involved moment with boyish memories, “my good old hard toil and many anxieties. My wife was greatly mother taught me that it was God's plan to give pleased by my many hours of rest at the fireside us a chance, and help us make the most of it." in her companionship, caused by days too cold and

I remembered the Bagleys to-day,” Mrs. Jones wintry for outdoor work; but our deepest and remarked, nodding to my wife. “We felt that most abiding content was expressed one evening, they might be encouraged.”

as we sat alone after the children were asleep. “ So did we," my wife replied.

“You have solved the problem, Robert, that It was afterward learned that, out of good-will, was troubling you. There is space here for the the neighbors had provisioned the Bagleys for children to grow, and the Daggetts and the Ricknearly a month.

etts and their kind are not so near as to make By eight o'clock everything was cleared away, them grow wrong almost in spite of us. and then we all gathered around the glowing hearth, ago we felt that we were virtually being driven to Junior's rat-a-tat-snap! proving that our final course the country. I now feel as if we had been led by of nuts and cider would be provided at the usual a kindly and Divine hand.” time.

I said to the whole family, at breakfast, next How homely it all was, how free from any day: “On New Year's morning, I will tell you attempt at display or style, yet equally free from all the result of our first year's effort, according any trace of coarseness, vulgarity, or ill-natured to my account book.” gossip! Mousie had added grace to the table with So, on that day, after our greetings and good her blooming plants and dried grasses, and wishes for the New Year, they all looked expectalthough the dishes had been set on the table by antly at me as I opened our financial record. my wife's and the children's hands, they were As carefully and clearly as possible, so that even daintily ornamented and inviting. All had been Winnie might understand, in part, I went over the within our means and within ourselves, and the different items and the expense and proceeds of following morning brought no regretful thoughts. the different crops, so far as I was able to separate Our helpful friends went home, feeling that they them. Bobsey's attention soon wandered, - he had not bestowed their kindness on unthankful had an abiding faith that breakfast, dinner and

vious year.

A year

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

supper would follow the sun, and that was enough “ To sum everything up,” I said, finally, “we for him; but the other children were pleased with have done, by working all together, what I alone my confidence in them, and tried to understand. would probably have accomplished in the city

« PreviousContinue »