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An Arrival at a Delicate Moment. — Mr. Wade Additon, ex Rebel. —
A Shooting-Match. — Programme of the Expedition. — Ding-bat the Chinaman.
I WELL remember their arrival. It was the morning of the 29th of July. We had not looked for them till night, by the afternoon stage; but they got through so as to come up on the morning stage, and were set down, with their baggage, at the “forks” of the road, about half a mile below my grandfather’s farm.
We had just finished breakfast; and family prayers were in progress. (Grandfather always prayed in the good old orthodox fashion, — standing with his hands on the retroverted back of a kitchen-chair.) A Sabbath stillness had settled over the house and yard, and was radiated out into the orchard. Thus was it ever at this hour of the morning; while the words of the dear old gentleman, giving thanks for past mercies and humbly asking blessings upon all, came drowsily to the ears of the tame old robins sitting fearlessly on their nests in the stout crotches of the apple-trees. All was as usual; when from my seat in the corner, happening to cast a look out past the inclined chair-back, I caught a glimpse of the wondering countenance of Wash, peering round the lilac-bush with mouth agape and attentive ears. Prayer in that style is not much in vogue on Columbus Avenue, it is to be feared.
As grandfather had but just begun, and always prayed toward half an hour by the old clock, we all had some time to wait. After peeping a few moments, Wash seemed suddenly to form an opinion as to what was going on inside, and, looking over his shoulder, beckoned. Pretty quick, a darker face, with black hair and great black eyes, looked around the bush; looked and listened, cocking his ear and his eye alternately at the window. Presently it dawned upon him too. He and Wash looked at each other wondrous wise, and grinned; then both beckoned over their shoulders; and a moment later, lo! the familiar visage of Raed came into view from behind the green leaves. It took him less time to “make it out.” They were all smiling, but suddenly sobered; then removed their hats, and, with eyes in the air, stood decently and patiently awaiting the amen.
Meanwhile the prayer was going on leisurely as it was wont. Five — ten — fifteen minutes passed. Wash stole a glance at the dark-faced boy, and put up a hand to his bare and closely-shingled head; then made a false and noiseless at tempt at a sneeze. Taking cold, you see.
The dark-faced boy then got out a spurious issue of croup to match. Raed frowned diligently at both, and put out a warning hand. Wash persisted, however, in more counterfeit sneezing; when (as a judgment on him, no doubt) he was suddenly seized with the pangs of a genuine one; tried hard to squelch it, but was overpowered, and uttered a distressful bray. Instantly all three dropped out of sight. There was a noise as of trousers-knees rubbing on the grass; then swift, skulking footsteps down the lawn.
The prayer went on some five minutes longer, and ended — as it was accustomed to do.
“Kit,” said grandfather, replacing the chair, “I am afraid the calves have got out. I thought I heard them round the house. Better get them in again.”
I went out to look up the calves, and, glancing hastily down the lawn into the road, espied them under the “butternut-tree,” fanning. Their colds were better. With a peep into the sitting-room to see if Nell or Wealthy had seen them, I went down, and, on coming near the tree, gave them “Good-morning!” and “How are ye, old fellow?” as innocently as I could.
“How do you do?” from Wash, warmly, though a little suspiciously.
“How are you, Kit?” from Raed; both regarding me with a guilty keenness.
“Why didn’t you come up to the house?” I exclaimed. “Old folks are expecting you. Ought to have come right up.”
At that they all three looked greatly relieved. “We’ve only just this minute got here,” said Wash. “Got a little sweaty walking up. Thought we would stop in the shade a moment to cool off.”
This being in every way satisfactory, Wash turned to introduce his cousin, who had kept a little to the rear.
“Mr. Wade Additon, — ex-rebel,” said he, adding the latter designation with a laugh and a wink. The dark-faced boy came forward promptly, and gave me a warm hand-grasp. “Yes,” said he, “I was a rebel,” looking me straight in the eye; “and, under the same circumstances, I should be one again.”
Rather a disloyal sentiment, certainly. He was honest too: that was plain. Yet it may be better to be an honest rebel than an insincere patriot. “Honesty is worth two in the bush,” as the late Col. James Fisk, jun., has told us; though I was sorry to hear so from such a source. There was grit and mettle about this young Southerner too, — qualities that come in next after honesty. That boy is especially to be prized whose brains generate a good lot of force, spunk, grit, or any other name you like to call it; a boy who never will spell out by his deeds that contemptible verb, f·u·n·k.
Additon was rather taller than either Wash or Raed, though possibly not so heavy. I had been afraid he would not have the body for the hard walking and climbing we should have to do; but there was that about him which relieved me of all further anxiety on that score.
“And now,” resumed Wash, “allow me to make known to you the fifth member of our expedition, Ding-bat. Here, you strange old Mongol! Where are you, sir?”
The “Chinaman” came running up, — an odd-looking dog indeed. The skin of his face was loose, and went through all sorts of puckers and wrinkles in keeping with his emotions. As Wash had written me, his hide was guiltless of a hair. His tail, even, was bare as a stick: in fact, it looked very much like a small green-hide. His general color was a purplish-clay tint: but the insides of his prick ears were pink; and his eyes were very dark, and had a gentle, affectionate expression. Altogether the most peculiarly got-up dog it has ever been my luck to see. I think of him sorrowfully now. Poor Ding-bat! to come all the way from distant Shanghai to die a violent death among the barbarous wilds of Maine! On the woody shore of one of the most picturesque of the Penobscot lakes his bones rest, — in peace, we hope.
The wagon was sent down after their trunks; and we spent the remainder of the forenoon un packing their out-rig and looking it over.
In the afternoon we went out with the girls for a sail on the “pond,” which borders the farm on the east side, and extends back to the northward for four or five miles. I pass over these preliminaries as rapidly as possible, since my story is less of their visit than of our expedition.
After supper we had a “shooting-match” to test the guns. The rifle they had brought was one of the old Sharpe’s rifles of border-ruffian notoriety. It was very handsomely mounted in silver, and had belonged to one of Wash’s uncles, who had figured somewhat in early Kansas history as a Free-soiler. Wash informed us that it had “picked” one Missourian at five hundred yards: so his uncle had told him. Young Additon looked a little blank at that; his political sympathies evidently extending back to all past questions of this sort.
We set up the target (a six-inch ring) at a hundred and fifty yards; and were pretty sure of it with the rifle, when rested on the fence. We then placed it at two hundred and fifty yards, and took a shot apiece. Raed hit within the ring; I hit on the black line around it; Wash missed it altogether; while Additon bored the plank five inches too low. I thought it a good sign that he did not overshoot; amateur marksmen are so apt to do so.
Just then Nell came out, and, after some coaxing and daring, made a shot (resting the piece on the fence) that actually struck the target almost on the “bull’s eye;” better than Raed had done. Of course, the boys deemed this purely accidental. I did not think it worthwhile to tell them of her exploits shooting hawks with my shot-gun.
After this “fancy shot” by my fair cousin, we concluded to try the shot gun. Bringing the tar get up to a hundred yards, we tried each our skill with twenty-five duck shot to the charge; and all hit it, more or less: Wash embedded four; while Raed only lodged one in it; Additon and myself had two each. Dusk now put an end to the target practice; and we adjourned to the sitting- room to “organize the expedition.” Lamps were lighted, and Raed drew up the following paper: —
“We, the undersigned, hereby agree to make an expedition to Mount Katahdin, in the State of Maine, with the objects and for the purpose below stated: —
“1st, To discover a certain lode or deposit of lead (galena), which, from information now in our possession, we believe to be located somewhere along the north or north-west side of this mountain.
“2d, To obtain a knowledge of the natural history, geology, and mineralogy of the region between this place (the town of E—— , Me.) and Mount Katahdin inclusive.
“Our purpose in the discovery of this lode of lead shall be to raise funds for the purchase and equipment of a yacht to be used as a means of travel. Our object in this is to render our education (now in progress) more complete and practical than can possibly result from a mere study of books during a continued residence in one place.
“With these objects and for this purpose we hereby pledge ourselves to prosecute this expedition with a diligence and perseverance that shall only stop short of impossibility of achievement.
“It is further agreed that G. W. Burleigh (Wash) shall act as zoologist to the expedition; J. W. Raedway shall act as geologist; W. H. Additon shall act as topographical engineer; (the narrator) shall act as mineralogist.
“The position of botanist to the expedition is necessarily vacant. But, not to neglect that important branch of natural science, it is agreed that each of the other gentlemen shall devote so much of his attention to this topic as can be consistently spared from his other duties.
“The expenses of the expedition shall be borne equally by the members.”
“I don’t know that this is exactly ship-shape,” said Raed, applying the blotter, “but it covers the ground, I think.”
He then read it aloud. It did sound rather lofty, not to say stiltified. Still, it “covered the ground” exactly, and was a very fair exposition of our general plan and way of thinking at that time. It must not be premised, however, that we accomplished all we marked out in the above paper.
“We shall rather need a leader, — some one to go ahead,” remarked Wash when Raed had finished reading; “and I move that Mr. Raedway be elected captain to the expedition. Is that your minds, gentlemen? If so, please manifest it in the usual way.”
It was our minds decidedly. Raed at first declined, after the manner of freshly-nominated candidates generally. Really, I do not think he coveted the position. But, finding we would hear nothing to his refusal, he thanked us, and promised to do the best he could for the expedition. We all shook him by the hand, and agreed to stand by him. This having been duly recorded on the paper, we all signed our names. The expedition was now declared to be organized.
The question of provisions (food) was next dis cussed. We expected to kill some game, — enough to supply us with meat by the way; also to catch fish. Whether to take flour and the appurtenances for bread-making was a question we had some difficulty in settling. After considerable debate, grandmother was called in to give her opinion. She advised us to take “Indian meal” (corn-meal) by all means. “For,” quoth the old lady, “a ‘hasty-pudding’ is just the easiest and quickest thing to make in the world. Anybody can make a hasty-pudding. All you’ve got to do is to boil your water, put in a little salt, and stir in your meal. It’s good too, and wholesome. I’ll give you some maple-sugar, in cakes, to eat on it.”
It was unanimously decided to take “Indian meal” in place of flour.
“Eggs are another good thing too,” grand mother went on. “Nice to go with your meat (here the old lady fell to laughing) and your fish. Nice to boil too. But, dear me! what foolish boys you are to go ‘way off into the woods so! Remember, you mustn’t boil your eggs more’n five minutes.”
“But how can we carry eggs?” Raed ventured to ask. “Will they not be apt to get broken?”
“Oh! you can pack ‘em right in with your meal, just as if you were going to market. I’ll let you have a couple of my light cedar buckets (with bails to ‘em); and pack the eggs right in with the meal; then tie a cloth over the top. Can put the sugar-cakes down into the meal too. But I don’t believe you’ll be gone more’n one night. You can take cooked victuals enough to Iast a day or two, — as long as it will keep.”
This seemed so much to the purpose, that we concluded to intrust the whole matter to grandmother.
Grandfather thought our best way would be to go up the pond in the boat to the “head” of it, and thence through the “thoroughfare” (channel) into the pond above. We would thus be able to make the first twelve or thirteen miles by water. “But I am afraid your tramp will be attended with more hardship than profit,” the old gentle man could not help adding. Of course we were ready to risk that.
It was now getting late; but, before going to bed, I remember that we had some music. The boys sang; and Nell played on the “parlor-organ” (a new thing then) several pieces, — some of those beautiful ballads of the war. Then Wash sang alone, “Tenting To-night on the old Camp-Ground.” We then asked young Additon for a song. He at once responded with “The Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the Single Star,” and after wards gave us “Dixie;” both full of melody and spirit. It seemed queer to have such an out-and-out rebel among us, — we who for the past seven years had so abhorred the word. Could it be possible that this pleasant, warm-hearted young fellow was a rebel? Nell asked him to take her place at the instrument: and I recollect that he made us all shed tears, and wept himself, with “Dear Memories of Departed Days;” for we knew that he was thinking of his deserted home in the sunny South, and of the pleasant days before the war, — the then terrible war that had so recently filled the whole land with anguish.