Imatges de pàgina
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see any more stir to her than if she should bother me ripping, and I with had her breath held in. I wish I had nobody to take a stitch for me all windone it, Johnny, - I can't get over ter. The boys went off in good spirits, wishing I'd done it, yet. But I was singing till they were out of sight of just too proud, and I turned round and town, and waving their caps at their went out, and shut the door.

wives and babies standing in the winWe were going to meet down at the dow along on the way. I did n't sing. post-office, the whole gang of us, and I I thought the wind blew too hard, – had quite a spell to walk. I was going seems to me that was the reason,

1 in on Bob Stokes's team. I remember I'm sure there must have been a rea- ; how fast I walked with my hands in son, for I had a voice of my own in my pockets, looking along up at the those days, and had led the choir perstars, the sun was putting them out petual for five years. pretty fast, — and trying not to think of We were n't going in very deep ; Nancy. But I did n't think of anything Dove and Beadle's lots lay about thirty else.

miles from the nearest house; and a It was so early, that there was n't straggling, lonely sort of place that was many folks about to see us off; but too, five miles out of the village, with Bob Stokes's wife, — she lived nigh the nobody but a dog and a deaf old wooffice, just across the road, - she was man in it. Sometimes, as I was telling there to say good by, kissing of him, you, we had been in a hundred miles and crying on his shoulder. I don't from any human creature but ourselves. know what difference that should make It took us two days to get there with Bob Stokes, but I snapped him though, with the oxen ; and the teams up well, when he came along, and said were loaded down well, with so many good morning

axes and the pork-barrels ;I don't There were twenty-one of us just, on know anything like pork for hefting that gang, in on contract for Dove and down more than you expect it to, reaBeadle. Dove and Beadle did about the sonable. It was one of your ugly gray heaviest thing on woodland of anybody, days, growing dark at four o'clock, with about that time. Good, steady men snow in the air, when we hauled up in we were, most of us,

none of your the lonely place. The trees were blundering Irish, that would n't know blazed pretty thick, I remember, espea maple from a hickory, with their gin- cially the pines ; Dove and Beadle albottles in their pockets,-but our solid, ways had that done up prompt in OcDown-East Yankee heads, owning their tober. It's pretty work going in blazfarms all along the river, with school- ing while the sun is warm, and the ing enough to know what they were woods like a great bonfire with the about 'lection day. You did n't catch maples. I used to like it, but your any of us voting your new-fangled mother would n't hear of it when she tickets when we had meant to go up could help herself, it kept me away so on Whig, for want of knowing the dif- long. ference, nor visa vussy. To say noth- It's queer, Johnny, how we do reing of Bob Stokes, and Holt, and me, member things that ain't of no acand another fellow,- I forget his name, count; but I remember, as plainly as if - being members in good and reg'lar it were yesterday morning, just how standing, and paying in our five dollars everything looked that night, when the

, to the parson every quarter, charitable. teams came up, one by one, and we

Yes, though I say it that should n't went to work spry to get to rights besay it, we were as fine a looking gang fore the sun went down. as any in the county, starting off that There were three shanties, — they morning in our red uniform, — Nan- don't often have more than two or cy took a sight of pains with my three in one place, - they were empshirt, sewing it up stout, for fear it ty, and the snow had drifted in ; Bob

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Stokes's oxen were fagged out, with did n't expect to, for we ’d laid in more their heads hanging down, and the than usual. horses were whinnying for their supper. We had two pretty rough weeks' work Holt had one of his great brush-fires to begin with, for the worst storms of going, — there was nobody like Holt the season set in, and kept in, and I for making fires, — and the boys were never saw their like, before or since. hurrying round in their red shirts, It seemed as if there 'd never be an shouting at the oxen, and singing a end to them. Storm after storm, blow little, some of them low, under their after blow, freeze after freeze ; half a breath, to keep their spirits up. There day's sunshine, and then at it again ! was snow as far as you could see, We were well tired of it before they, down the cart-path, and all around, and stopped ; it made the boys homesick. away into the woods; and there was However, we kept at work pretty snow in the sky now, setting in for a brisk, — lumbermen are n't the fellows regular nor'easter. The trees stood up to be put out for a snow-storm, cutstraight all around without any leaves, ting and hauling and sawing, out in the and under the bushes it was as black sleet and wind. Bob Stokes froze his as pitch.

left foot that second week, and I was “Five months,” said I to myself, frost-bitten pretty badly myself. Cullen “ five months !"

- he was the boss - he was well out “

" What in time 's the matter with of sorts, I tell you, before the sun came you, Hollis ? ” says Bob Stokes, with a out, and cross enough to bite a tengreat slap on my arm ; "you 're giving penny nail in two. that 'ere ox molasses on his hay ! ” But when the sun is out, it is n't so

Sure enough I was, and he said I act- bad a kind of life, after all. At work all ed like a dazed creatur, and very likely day, with a good hot dinner in the midI did. But I could n't have told Bob the dle; then back to the shanties at dark,

You see, I knew Nancy was to as rousing a fire and tiptop swagan just drawing up her little rocking-chair as anybody could ask for.

the one with the green cushion cook that season, and Holt could n't close by the fire, sitting there with the be beaten on his swagan. children to wait for the tea to boil. Now you don't mean to say you don't And I knew — I could n't help know

know what swagan is?

Well, well ! ing, if I'd tried hard for it - how she To think of it! All I have to say is, was crying away softly in the dark, you don't know what is good then. so that none of them could see her, to Beans and pork and bread and molasthink of the words we'd said, and I ses, — that 's swagan, -all stirred up gone in without ever making of them in a great kettle, and boiled together; up. I was sorry for them then. O and I don't know anything -- not even Johnny, I was sorry, and she was thir- your mother's fritters - I'd give more ty miles away. I'd got to be sorry five for a taste of now. We just about months, thirty miles away, and could n't lived on that; there 's nothing you can let her know.

cut and haul all day on like swagan. The boys said I was poor company

Besides that, we used to have doughthat first week, and I should n't won- nuts, you don't know what doughnuts der if I was. I could n't seem to get are here in Massachusetts ; as big as over it any way, to think I could.n't let a dinner-plate, those doughnuts were, her know.

and — well, a little hard, perhaps. They If I could have sent her a scrap of a used to have it about in Bangor that letter, or a message, or something, I we used them for clock pendulums, should have felt better. But there but I don't know about that. was n't any chance of that this long I used to think a great deal about time, unless we got out of pork or fod- Nancy nights, when we were sitting der, and had to send down, - which we up by the fire, - we had our fire right

reason.

Holt was

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in the middle of the hut, you know, “ Too late! Just promised Jim Jawith a hole in the roof to let the smoke cobs,” said he, speaking up quick; it out. When supper was eaten, the boys was just business to him, you know. all sat up around it, and told stories, I turned off, and I did n't say a word. and sang, and cracked their jokes; then I would n't have believed it, I never they had their backgammon and cards; would have believed it, that I could we got sleepy early, along about nine have felt so cut up about such a little or ten o'clock, and turned in under the thing. Cullen looked round at me roof with our blankets. The roof sharp. sloped down, you know, to the ground; "Hilloa, Hollis !” said he. “What's so we lay with our heads in under the to pay ?little eaves, and our feet to the fire, – Nothing, thank you, sir,” says I, ten or twelve of us to a shanty, all and walked off, whistling. round in a row. They built the huts I had a little talk with Jim alone. up like a baby's cob-house, with the He said he would take good care of logs fitted in together. I used to think something I 'd give him, and carry it a great deal about your mother, as I straight. So when night came I went was saying ; sometimes I would lie and borrowed Mr. Cullen's pencil, and awake when the rest were off as sound Holt tore me off a bit of clean brown as a top, and think about her. Maybe paper he found in the flour-barrel, and it was foolish, and I'm sure I would n't I went off among the trees with it alone. have told anybody of it; but I could n't I built a little fire for myself out of a get rid of the notion that something huckleberry-bush, and sat down there might happen to her or to me before on the snow to write. I could n't do five months were out, and I with those it in the shanty, with the noise and words unforgiven.

singing. The little brown paper would Then, perhaps, when I went to sleep, n't hold much; but these were the I would dream about her, walking back words I wrote, – I remember every one and forth, up and down, in her night of them, - it is curious now I should, gown and little red shawl, with the and that

than twenty years great heavy baby in her arms.

ago: So it went along till come the last “ Dear Nancy,” – that was it, of January, when one day I saw the “Dear Nancy, I can't get over it, and boys all standing round in a heap, and I take them all back. And if anything talking

happens coming down on the logs — " “What's the matter?"

says
I.

I could n't finish that anyhow, so I “ Pork 's given out,” says Bob, with a just wrote “ Aaron ” down in the corwhistle. “ Beadle got that last lot from ner, and folded the brown paper up. Jenkins there, his son-in-law, and it 's It did n't look any more like “ Aaron " sp'ilt. I could have told him that be- than it did like “ Abimelech,” though; forehand. Never knew Jenkins to do for I did n't see a single letter I wrote, the fair thing by anybody yet."

not one. Who's going down ? ” said I, stop- After that I went to bed, and wished ping short. I felt the blood run all over I was Jim Jacobs. my face, like a woman's.

Next morning somebody woke me “ Cullen has n't made up his mind up with a push, and there was the yet,” says Bob, walking off.

boss. Now you see there was n't a man on “Why, Mr. Cullen !” says I, with a the ground who would n't jump at the jump. chance to go; it broke up the winter “ Hurry up, man, and eat your breakfor them, and sometimes they could fast,” said he ; “ Jacobs is down sick run in home for half an hour, driving with his cold.” by; so there was n't much of a hope for Oh!” said I. me.

But I went straight to Mr. Cullen. “ You and the pork must be back

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had to say:

we

oxen

here day after to-morrow,

so be

the snow was purple, deep in as far as spry,” said he.

you could see under the trees. SomeI rather think I was, Johnny.

thing made me think of Ben Gurnell, It was just eight o'clock when I as I drove on, looking along down the started; it took some time to get road to keep it straight. You never breakfast, and feed the nags, and get heard about it? Poor Ben! Poor orders. I stood there, slapping the Ben! It was in '37, that was; he had snow with my whip, crazy to be off, been out hunting up blazed trees, they hearing the last of what Mr. Cullen said, and wandered away somehow into

the Gray Goth, and went over, - it They gave me the two horses, was two hundred feet; they did n't had n't but two, are tougher find him not till spring, – just a little for going in, as a general thing, — and heap of bones; his wife had them the lightest team on the ground; it was taken home and buried, and by and considerably lighter than Bob Stokes's. by they had to take her away to a If it had n't been for the snow, I might hospital in Portland, she talked so have put the thing through in two days, horribly, and thought she saw bones but the snow was up to the creatures' round everywhere. knees in the shady places all along; off There is no place like the woods for from the road, in among the gullies, bringing a storm down on you quick ; you could stick a four-foot measure the trees are so thick you don't mind down anywhere. So they did n't look the first few flakes, till, first you for me back before Wednesday night. know, there's a whirl of 'em, and the

“I must have that pork Wednesday wind is up. night sure,” says Cullen.

I was minding less about it than Well, sir,” says I, “you shall have usual, for I was thinking of Nannie, it Wednesday noon, Providence per- that's what I used to call her, Johnny, ( mitting; and you shall have it Wednes- when she was a girl

, but it seems a day night anyway."

long time ago, that does. I was “ You will have a storm to do it in, thinking how surprised she'd be, and I'm afraid,” said he, looking at the pleased. I knew she would be pleased. clouds, just as I was whipping up. I did n't think so poorly of her as to * You 're all right on the road, I sup- suppose she was n't just as sorry now

as I was for what had happened. I “All right,” said I ; and I'm sure I knew well enough how she would jump ought to have been, for the times I'd and throw down her sewing with a been over it.

little scream, and run and put her arms Bess and Beauty - they were the about my neck and cry, and could n't horses, and of all the ugly nags that help herself. ever I saw Beauty was the ugliest - So I did n't mind about the snow, started off on a round trot, slewing for planning it all out, till all at once along down the hill ; they knew they I looked up, and something slashed were going home just as well as I did. into my eyes and stung me, – it was I looked back, as we turned the cor- sleet. ner, to see the boys standing round in “Oho!” said I to myself, with a their red shirts, with the snow behind whistle, – it was a very long whistle, them, and the fire, and the shanties. I Johnny; I knew well enough then it felt a mite lonely when I could n't see was no play-work I had before me till them any more ; the snow was so dead the sun went down, nor till morning still, and there were thirty miles of it either. to cross before I could see human face That was about noon, - it could n't again.

have been half an hour since I'd eatThe clouds had an ugly look, en my dinner ; I eat it driving, for I few flakes had fallen already,-- and could n't bear to waste time.

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I did stop

The road was n’t broken there an against the sleigh-poles. I would have inch, and the trees were thin; there'd given a good deal if I need n't have been a clearing there years ago, and thought of that just then. But I did, wide, white level places wound off and I kept walking on. among the trees; one looked as much Pretty soon Bess stopped short. like a road as another, for the matter Beauty was pulling on, — Beauty alof that. I pulled my visor down over ways did pull on, — but she stopped my eyes to keep the sleet out, -- after too. I could n't stop so easily, so I they're stung too much they're good walked along like a machine, up on a for nothing to see with, and I must see, line with the creaturs' ears. if I meant to keep that road.

then, or you never would have heard It began to be cold. You don't know this story, Johnny. what it is to be cold, you don't, Johnny, Two paces, - and those two hunin the warm gentleman's life you 've dred feet shot down like a plummet. lived. I was used to Maine forests, A great cloud of snow-fakes pufled and I was used to January, but that up over the edge. There were rocks was what I call cold.

at my right hand, and rocks at my The wind blew from the ocean, left. There was the sky overhead. I straight as an arrow. The sleet blew was in the Gray Goth ! every way, — into your eyes, down I sat down, as weak as a baby. If I your neck, in like a knife into your did n't think of Ben Gurnell then, I cheeks. I could feel the snow crunch- never thought of him. It roused me ing in under the runners, crisp, turned up a bit, perhaps, for I had the sense to ice in a minute. I reached out to left to know that I could n't afford to give Bess a cut on the neck, and the sit down just yet, and I remembered sleeve of my coat was stiff as paste- a shanty that I must have passed withboard before I bent my elbow up again. out seeing; it was just at the opening

If you looked up at the sky, your of the place where the rocks narrowed, 1 eyes were shut with a snap as if some- built, as they build their light-houses, body'd shot them. If you looked in to warn folks to one side. There was under the trees, you could see the a log or something put up after Guricicles a minute, and the purple shad- nell went over, but it was of no acows. If you looked straight ahead, count, coming on it suddenly. There you could n't see a thing.

was no going any farther that night, By and by I thought I had dropped that was clear; so I put about into the reins; I looked at my hands, and the hut, and got my fire going, and there I was holding them tight.

I Bess and Beauty and I, we slept toknew then that it was time to get out gether. and walk.

It was an outlandish name to give it, I did n't try much after that to look seems to me, anyway. I don't know ahead ; it was of no use, for the sleet what a Goth is, Johnny; maybe you was fine, like needles, twenty of 'em in do. There was a great figger up on your eye at a wink; then it was grow- the rock, about eight feet high ; some ing dark. Bess and Beauty knew the folks thought it looked like a man. I road as well as I did, so I had to trust never thought so before, but that night to them. I thought I must be coming it did kind of stare in through the door near the clearing where I'd counted as natural as life. on putting up overnight, in case I When I woke up in the morning I could n't reach the deaf old woman's. thought I was on fire. I stirred and

There was a man just out of Bangor turned over, and I was ice. My tongue the winter before, walking just so be- was swollen up so I could n't swallow side his team, and he kept on walking without strangling. I crawled up to some folks said, after the breath was my feet, and every bone in me was gone, and they found him frozen up stiff as a shingle.

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