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CAMPING AMONG THE NEW ENGLAND HILLSIDE
It was a warm night of midsummer. In a secluded hollow of the Green Mountain ranges of lower Vermont was pitched a small white tent. A half‑moon was shining softly through the light cloud-hazes overhead, and had you been there, you could have made out the near surroundings without much difficulty. Tall woods were all about, but here was a little open where grasses and ferns and low bushes grew in abundance, and on a chance level of the steep, uneven hillside the campers had pitched their tent. In the deep, tree-filled ravine close below was a stream, whence came the sound of its fretting among the rocks, and from a little farther up the solemn pounding of a waterfall. From the other direction came a different sound. It was the gentle clinking of a hammer on an anvil. On the farther side of the narrow strip of woods, which shut it from sight, was a farmhouse, and it was thence came the sound of hammering.
THE HOUSE WITH THE BARN ACROSS THE ROAD
The tent has two occupants. They are both young fellows, who had on the day previous started from their Boston homes for a vacation trip to the woods. In the city they were clerks, — one in a store, the other in a bank. The chance that brought them to this particular spot for their vacation was this: a school friend of theirs, who was blessed (or perhaps otherwise) with more wealth than they, and who was next year to be a senior in Harvard, had informed them a few weeks previous that his folks were going to the Groveland House for the summer. This, he said, was in the centre of one of the prettiest and most delightful regions of all New England, and he urged his friends, Clayton and Holmes, to by all means go along too. He expatiated on the beauties of the place with such an eloquence (whether natural or acquired at Harvard, I know not) that these two gave up the idea of a trip they had been planning down the coast and turned their thoughts inland.
A WARM SUMMER DAY
But when they came to study the hotel circular that Alliston gave them, and noted the cost of board per week, this ardor received a dampener.
“Phew!” said Holmes, “we can’t stand that. I don’t own our bank yet.”
“No, we can’t, that’s a fact,” said Clayton. “I’d want more of a raise in my pay than I expect to get for years before I could afford that sum. The dickens! I thought these country places were cheap always and here’s a little place we’ve never heard of that charges more than half our big hotels here in Boston.”
AT WORK IN HER OWN STRAWBERRY PATCH
“Well, we’ve got to give up that idea, then,” Holmes said. “I suppose, though, we might find a place at some farmhouse that wouldn’t charge too high.”
“The trouble is,” Clayton responded, “that I don’t like to go poking off into a region where we don’t know a soul, and take our chances of finding a comfortable stopping-place at the right price. Then, you see, it’s going to cost like anything getting there — just the fare on the railroad. I don’t know as we ought to have considered the thing at all.”
“I hate to give it up,” said Holmes. “We’ve seen a good deal of the shore, but have had hardly a sight of the country. It would be a great thing, for a change, to take that trip to Vermont. Now, why couldn’t we try camping out? That’s what the youngsters do in all the small boys’ books I’ve ever read. We’re rather older than the boys who were in the habit of doing that sort of thing in the books. But then, you know, that may be a good thing. It may have given us a chance to accumulate wisdom sufficient to avoid those hairbreadth adventures the youngsters were always having. They are good enough to read about, but deliver me from the experience.”
“Harry,” said Clayton, “I believe that’s a good idea.”
The conversation and thinkings necessary to settle the details were many and lengthy, and I forbear repeating them. The long and short of it is that on Monday, August 14, in the earliest gray of the morning, they were on the train that was to carry them to the Vermont paradise they had in mind.
John Clayton, as luck would have it, worked in a dry-goods‑house, and therefore in planning a tent he was enabled to get the cloth for its makeup at a trifle above cost. He and Harry made numerous visits to the public library on spare evenings and consulted a variety of volumes devoted more or less directly to the science of camping out. The amount of information they got on the subject was rather bewildering, but they simplified it down to a few things absolutely necessary to think of beforehand, and concluded to trust to commonsense for solving further problems.
“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” said Harry, who attended Sunday school-regularly.
The cloth used for the tent was cotton drilling. John’s mother sewed the strips together under his direction, and their landlady allowed him to set it up in the little paved square of yard back of the block, and there he and Harry gave it a coat of paint to make it waterproof. The whole thing did not cost three dollars, and, as the boys said, “It’ll last us a good many seasons.” Aside from their tent they purchased a small hatchet, a ball of stout twine, a few nails, a lantern, and some tin pails, cups, and plates, and several knives, forks, and spoons.
A LOAD OF WOOD ON THE WAY UP TO THE VILLAGE
It had been a question just where their camping-place should be. “We can’t very well pitch our tent in the hotel yard,” said Harry. “That high-priced proprietor wouldn’t allow it, I’m sure; and, besides, we shouldn’t want to.”
Another perusal of the summering-place circular disclosed the fact that it gave a list of the attractions of the region about, with certain comments thereon. Among the rest was noted a waterfall seventy feet high. It was amid surroundings, so the circular said, exceedingly beautiful and romantic (whatever that may be). The boys thought that style of place would suit them to a T, and Harry, who carried the circular about in his pocket, got it out at the bank the next day after this decision was arrived at and underscored this waterfall with red ink.
In the late afternoon of August 14th the two were set down, “bag and baggage,” at the forlorn little station which was the railroad terminus of their journey. To the left was a high sand bluff, half cut away, crowned with a group of tall pines. A little up the tracks was a deep, stony ravine where a little river sent up a low murmur from the depths. This was spanned by a high railroad trestle, and when the train rumbled away across it and disappeared around the curve of a wooded slope, the boys watched the curls of smoke fade into thin air and felt a bit home‑sick. Beyond was a small freight-house, but no other buildings were in sight. It was a little clearing in the midst of the woods. The only path leading away was the road, which made a turn about the near sand bluff, and then was lost to sight. At the rear of the depot was a smart stage coach, into which a group of people were being helped by a slick foot man. This coach was an attachment of the Groveland House. “Were the young gentlemen bound for the hotel?”
“No,” said Clayton, “we’re not going to the hotel. Isn’t there any other coach?”
“Oh, yes, but that leaves here at two o’clock. It has a long route through the different villages, over the hills, delivering the mail and other truck. If they waited for the four-thirty train they’d hardly get around before midnight.”
“We’re much obliged,” said Clayton, and the two went back to the front platform and sat down on their baggage.
“We won’t go up to that hotel if we have to pitch our tent here on the sand back of the depot,” said John.
A WATERFALL IN THE WOODS
They heard the coach rattle briskly away up the road, and the depot-master stamping around inside. He came out presently, and after locking the front door approached them. “Expectin’ some one to meet ye?” he asked. He was a stout figured man, with a smooth, round, good-natured face that won the boys’ confidence at once.
“No,” John said, “we don’t know any one about here. We came on a little camping trip. You see in Boston there are horse-cars running every which way that take you anywhere you want to go, and I spose we’ve got so used to them that we never thought of having any trouble in getting to the place we wanted to go to, though this is out in the country.”
“Oh, ye came from Boston, did ye? I kinder thought ye was city fellers. Guess yell find horse-cars in these parts about as scarce as hen’s teeth — just about. Whare was ye thinkin’ of goin’, anyhow?”
“We were going to Rainbow Falls.”
“Rainbow Falls? Well, now, you’ve got me. I do’no’ as I ever heared of ‘em. Where be they?”
Harry whipped out his circular. “Why, here they are,” he said. “See! right here under this heading, ‘Nature’s Attractions in the Drives about Groveland,’” and he pointed to the line underscored with red ink.
A PANORAMA OF HILLS AND VALLEYS
The station agent set down the two lanterns he had in his hand and drew a spectacle case from his vest pocket. “Sho,” said he, when he got his glasses adjusted, “‘Rainbow Falls,’ so ‘tis. ‘Surroundings exceedingly beautiful and rheumatic’ — er, no, it’s romantic it says, I guess; the letters is blotted a little. Seventy feet high, it says. Well, now, I don’t know what that is, unless it’s the falls over at Jones’ holler. The hotel folks have gone and put a new-fangled name onto it, I guess. There never’s been any ‘rainbow’ about it that I’ve ever heared of.”
“Is it a good place to camp out, should you think?” asked John. “Well, yes; pretty good, if you like it,” was the reply. “Now, if you fellers want to get up there to-night, there’s some houses up the road here a few steps, and I presume ye can hire some one to get ye up there if ye want to.”
A PASTURE GROUP
“How far is it?” Harry asked.
“I should say it was five miles or something like that,” said the man; and he walked off down the track.
“Now,” said John, “we must wake up. I see no signs of houses, but we’ll follow up the road.”
The result was that a short walk brought them to a little group of habitations, and they accosted a farmer boy who was weeding in a garden and made known their wants. He would take them up, he said, if his folks would let him.
“How much would you charge?” asked Harry.
“ Well, I do’no’,” said the boy. “ It’s goin’ to be considerable trouble, and it’s a good five miles the shortest way, and hard travellin’, too, some of the way. I should think ‘twould be worth thirty-five cents, anyhow.”
“We’ll pay you fifty,” said John, “ if you’ll hurry up with your team.”
“I’ll have to ask ma first,” the boy replied.
He went to the house, and the two outside heard a low-toned conversation, and a woman looked out at them from behind some half-closed blinds. Then out came Jimmy with a rush and said he could go. He took pains to get his hoe from the garden, which he cleaned by rubbing off the dirt with his bare foot before hanging it up.
“Have ye got much luggage?” he asked. “‘Cause if ye have we c’n take the rack wagon. The express wagon’s better, though, if ye haven’t got much. That old rack’s pretty heavy.”
The lighter vehicle, which proved to be a small market wagon, was plenty large enough, and into that was hitched the stout farm-horse, and the three boys clambered up to the seat.
“Git up!” cried Jimmy, cracking his whip, and away they rattled down to the depot.
“Now,” said Jimmy, “they’s two ways of gettin’ where you want to go, and when you get there they’s two places where you can go to. The road over Haley’s Hill is the nearest, but it’s so darn steep I’d about as soon drive up the side of a meeting-house steeple.”
“Then you’d rather go the other road, I suppose.”
“Well, I do’no’; that’s considerable more roundabout.”
“You can do as you please,” said John. “We’ll risk it, if you will.”
“I guess I’ll go over Haley’s Hill, then. But I reckon you fellers’ll get shook up some. ‘Tain’t much more’n a wood-road, and they’s washouts on the downhill parts and bog-holes where its level that they’ve dumped brush and stuff into. You’ll have to walk up the steep parts. Don’t you want something to eat?” he then asked. “I brought along a pocketful of gingerbread, ‘cause I knew I shouldn’t get home till after dark. Here,” and he pulled out a handful of broken fragments, “better have some.”
“Thank you,” said John; “but we had a rather late lunch on the cars, and I don’t think we’ll eat again till we get the tent pitched. What was it you said about there being two places up there we could go to?”
The boy took a mouthful of gingerbread, and when he got the process of mastication well under way he responded, “Well, there’s Jules’, and there’s Whitcomb’s. Jules’ is on one side of the brook and Whitcomb’s is on the other. Jules is the Frenchman, ye know.”
“Which place is best?”
“I do’no’ ‘bout that. Whitcomb’s is the nearest.”
“We’ll try the nearest place, I think.”
“I guess we’d better tumble out now,” said the boy. “We’re gettin’ on to Haley’s Hill, and old Bill’s gettin’ kinder tuckered. Hold on! don’t jump out now. I’ll stop on the next thank-you-marm.”
He pulled in his steed just as the wheels went over a slight ridge that ran across the road, and the three alighted. They were in the dusk of a tall wood of beech and birches that was almost gloomy, so thick were the trees and so shut out the light. The road increased in roughness and in steepness, and finally the boy at the horse’s head called out, “I say, I guess you fellers better push behind there. Bill can’t hardly move the thing, and he kinder acts as if he was goin’ to lay down.”
A PASTURE GATE
The campers made haste to give their support, and the caravan went jolting and panting up the slope till the leader let fall the bridle-rein and announced: “There, we’re over the worst of it. Now, if I can find a good soft stone to set on we’ll rest a minute, and then we’ll fire ahead again, and I’ll get ye to Whitcomb’s in less’n no time.”
Jimmy found a bowlder to his mind and began to draw on his stores of gingerbread again. The horse nibbled the bushes at the roadside. The campers took each a wagon wheel and leaned on that and waited.
“I guess we might get in now,” said the boy, rising and brushing the crumbs off his overalls. “It’s pretty rough ahead, but they ain’t much that’s steep.”
There were stones and bog-holes to jolt over, but after a little they came on to a more travelled way, and presently Jimmy drew in his horse and said, “This is Whitcomb’s house right here. That’s his dog at the gate barkin’ at us.”
John went to the front door and rapped. He got no response, and concluded from the grasses and weeds that grew about and before it that front-door visiting was a rare thing at that house. A narrow, flagged walk ran past the corner to the rear. He followed it, and in an open doorway of the L found Mr. Whitcomb reading a paper.
A ROAD BY THE STREAM
“A friend and myself would like to camp over in your pasture for a few days, if you don’t object,” said John.
“All right, go ahead,” said the farmer. “If you behave yourselves, and put up the bars after ye so’t the cows won’t git out I ain’t no objections.”
“Thank you,” said John. “ We’ll try to do that. Have you milk to sell? We’d like to buy a couple of quarts or so a day.”
The man turned his head toward the kitchen. “Ann,” he said, “how is that — can ye spare any?”
A tall, thin-faced woman came to the door. She carried a baby in her arms. “I don’t think we have any milk to spare,” she replied. “We raise calves, because I ain’t well enough to tend to the milk and make butter, and they drink about all we have. And I have two children, and the oldest ain’t much more’n a baby, and they have to have some. We’d like to accommodate you, but I don’t see how we can.”
“It’s all right,” John replied; “we will find some other place for our milk supply.”
He returned to the team and they drove through a wide, rocky mowing lot till they came to a stone wall which was without a break, and entirely blocked the way. A pasture lay beyond.
“The falls,” said Jimmy, “are right over in them woods t’other side of this pasture. If ‘twasn’t for this pesky stone wall I’d drive right over there with ye. We’d ‘a’ done better to ‘a’ gone to Jules’. His place is only a little ways straight over here, but it’s a mile and more by the road.”
“Well, we’ve travelled far enough for one day,” said Harry. “Let’s get our tent over into the pasture and pitch it there.”
“Agreed,” said John. “The sky has been cloudy all the afternoon, and it looks more like rain than ever now. I shan’t feel easy till we get a roof over our heads.”
They tumbled their bundles over the fence and made their driver happy with a half-dollar, with which he drove whistling away. He, however, informed them that “he guessed likely he’d get up to see ‘em in a few days, if they didn’t get sick of camping before that and clear out.”
AT THE PASTURE GATE
The campers dragged their bundles over to a low beech-tree a few rods distant, and beneath its spreading branches proceeded to erect their tent. Poles and pegs they cut in a thicket near by. Their chief trouble was the lack of a spade to make holes for the end poles in the hard earth. But they made the hatchet do the work, though the fine edge they had taken pains to put on it before leaving Boston disappeared in the process.
After the tent was tip they got their things into it and spread their bedding. The next thing was to hunt up a spring to serve as a water-supply.
“You get out a lunch,” said John, “and I’ll fill this tin pail with water.”
THE SHEEP PASTURE
That was easier said than done. He stumbled about in the dusk over the rough pasture-land with its tangle of ferns and hardhack bushes, and the best he could do was to get a couple of pints of fairly clean water from a rocky mud-hole. Afterward he scooped the hollow deeper with his hands, hoping it would soon fill with clear water.
At the tent Harry had the lunch spread and had lit their lantern.
“Do you know what time it is?” he asked. “It’s half-past eight. If we’d had any farther to go we’d have been in a fix. Is that all the water you could get? I’m dry as a desert.
“I’ll get more after supper,” said John. “I’ve tumbled half over the pasture and I can’t find anything but bog-holes.”
A QUIET POND
After eating, both went out, Harry with the lantern, John with two pails. The clouds overhead had thinned and the stars twinkled through in places. The lantern with its two attendant figures went zigzagging over the lonely pasture waste to the water-hole. It had not yet cleared, but they skimmed off enough with a pail-cover to slake their thirst. They did not say much as they wended their way back to the tent, but both had the feeling that camping out was proving a rather severe experience of pioneering.
“I’m dead tired,” said Harry, as he flung himself down on the bedding inside. “Let’s turn in for the night.”
A few minutes later Farmer Whitcomb, glancing across the field, saw the soft glow of the lantern through the canvas walls of the tent disappear, and remarked, “Well, they get to bed early for city folks, but I’ve always thought myself nine o’clock was about the right time.” He cleared his throat, looked up to the sky to get a hint of to-morrow’s weather prospects, and went in and locked the door. Soon his light, too, was out.
The last sound the campers heard was the wind fluttering through the beech leaves in the tree above. It was a great change from the city noises and surroundings with which they were familiar.
On the following morning the campers were out at sun-up. Harry went over to their particular mud-hole and succeeded in scooping up a pail ful of water, but he had not gone five steps before his foot slipped on a dewy hummock and the pail went flying. He returned to the original source of water-supply, but there was no chance of getting more just then, and the result was he wended his way across the fields and filled his pail at the Whitcomb well-sweep.
“It’s no use,” he said on his return, “we’ve got to get nearer water. If matters go on as they’ve begun we’ll waste half our vacation over this one thing.”
“Well, we’ll look around after breakfast,” said John. “I’ve been trying to make a fire, but everything’s so soaked with dew you can’t make anything burn. I wonder if they always have such dews up here. It’s just as if we’d had a heavy rain. We’ll have to get in our firewood the night beforehand.”
SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW
“It’s a cold bite again this morning, is it?” said Harry. “I tell you, we’ve got to study up this matter. We must reform some way. Why, we’re getting right down to barbarism. By the way, how d’you sleep last night?”
“First-rate,” John replied; “don’t remember a thing, only I feel a little sore in spots this morning.”
“That’s it,” said Harry; “same way with me. Feel’s if I’d had a good licking. Now, see here.” He rolled down the bedclothes and exposed the ground. “See those humps? There’s a stone sticking up. Here’s another. There’s a stub where some little tree has been cut off, and there several sticks and natural hummocks of the earth thrown in besides. Why, the worst savage, unless he was drunk, would be ashamed to use such a bed.”
“Well,” said John, “let us be thankful that we’ve come through the thrilling experiences that we have so far met with alive; to-day we’ll hustle around and find a new camping-ground, and in the future we’ll live in a style properly becoming to our dignity as members of Bostonian civilization, etc. But, come now, you’ve been regarding that bed of torture long enough. Trials past are only so many myths and shadows. At any rate, that’s what Solomon or some other wise fellow has said. What you want to do is to fortify yourself for trials to come. Supposing we go over and see this Jules after breakfast.”
“I found out how to get there from our landlord when I went over for water,” said Harry. “There’s a side road that leads down to a little grist-mill just above here, and at the mill there’s a foot-bridge across the stream.”
“Good!” said John; and after breakfast our campers went down to the mill, which, with the placid pond above, was completely closed in by the green masses of the forest. It was a gray little building, with mossy shingles, and broken windows and doors. There were boards missing here and there from its sides, and it was so old and rude it seemed a wonder it did not slide down the precipice it half overhung. It had not been used for some time — that was plain. Below it was a steep, irregular fall of rocks over which thin streams of water were tumbling. Across the ravine, at the summit of the cliff, was a low dam; but it leaked badly, and the water did not reach its top by some inches. Midway in the stream, at the dam, was a rocky island where grew a few stunted pines. A foot bridge crossed to it from a lower door of the mill. Thus it was necessary to climb to the top of the island cliff, where another bridge swung high up over the narrow ravine to the farther shore.
The boys poked about the mill and the pond for some time and then crossed the bridges. But they were no sooner across than John exclaimed, “ How that thing did sway and crack ! I’d walk ten miles before I’d cross that rotten plank again.”
“So would I,” said Harry. “It fairly made my hair stand on end. A fellow wouldn’t be good for much after he’d tumbled down into a ravine as deep and rocky as that, I guess. The waterfall must be close by here. I can hear it. But let’s hunt up Jules first. His last name is La Fay, so Whitcomb said.”
A faintly marked path led away through the woods, and the two followed it. Some distance beyond it opened into a highway. They saw no signs of habitations, but they followed the road until they met an ox cart.
“Can you tell us where Mr. La Fay lives?” asked John of the young man who was guiding the slow team.
“Yes,” said he, “you take a narrer little road that turns off into the woods down here a piece. You don’t live round in these parts, do ye?”
“No,” replied John.
“I don’t belong around here either, and I’m mighty glad of it.”
“Why, what’s the matter?” John asked.
“It’s so clam lonesome. That’s what’s the matter. Nothin’ but woods, with now and teen a farm kinder lost in it. Nothin’ goin’ on. Everything draggin’ along slow as this old ox-team. I’ve hired out to Deacon Hawes for the season, but I shan’t stay more’n my time out. You’re campin’ up round here, ain’t ye? Allen’s boy brought ye up last night, so I heard. Mebbe I’ll drop in and see ye this evenin’. We’ve got some sweet-corn just ripenin’ down at the place that might taste good to ye.”
THE VILLAGE ON THE HILL
The campers told him they would be glad to see him, and said that they expected to be near La Fay’s, at the falls. They took the road he had indicated. It led through a dense young forest. The trees inter wove their branches overhead so closely that the sunshine with difficulty penetrated the foliage to fleck the damp depths below with its patches of light. A short walk brought them out of the woods into a good-sized clearing sloping down into a wooded valley. Down the hill was a long, squarish house, one end entirely unfinished, and brown with age and decay. The rest had at some remote period been painted white. In front was a row of maples, beneath which a calf was tied. Opposite the house was a weatherworn barn, and behind it a small shed with a chimney at one end. The big barn-doors were open, and Mr. La Fay was just rolling out his hay-wagon. He was apparently about thirty-five years of age — a handsome, powerfully built man, square headed and strong jawed. He wore a mustache, had dark, curly hair, and a pair of clear, gray eyes, which looked straight at one and that held sparks which could easily flash into fire. The boys stated their errand, and La Fay told them to choose any place they pleased for their tent and go ahead. He could furnish them milk, and a horse occasionally if they wanted to drive.
“You are close by the falls if you go over there beyond that piece of woods,” he said; “and front our hill here you can see half the world.”
He took them out on the ridge beyond the barn. It was indeed a beautiful piece of country — mowing-lots and orchards and pastures close about, a broken valley far below, where a little stream here and there glinted in the sunshine, and, bounding the horizon, many great, forest-clad hills. Here and there were far-away glimpses of hilltop villages, of which La Fay gave them the names and the number of miles they were distant. The boys were delighted.
A MILL IN THE VALLEY
“Now, the way for you fellows to manage,” said Mr. La Fay, “is either to take my horse and wagon for your traps, or, if you haven’t got too many, to lug them across the stream down here. You’ll find an old road and a ford that you can wade across a little below the falls, if you’re not afraid of getting your feet wet.”
“We’ll try that way,” said John.
A little yellow dog which had been smelling around now began barking over something he had found a few steps down the hill. “What’s he got now, I wonder,” said La Fay, going toward him.
On the grass lay the remnants of a big turkey, about which the dog was sniffing excitedly.
“That’s my gobbler,” said La Fay. “A fox must have got hold of him last night. See, back there where all those feathers are scattered about is where the fox jumped onto him. That’s where he’d squatted for the night. Well, I’ll have that fox one of these days. That little dog can’t be beat for tracking. He’s the best dog to start up partridges or hunt rabbits or anything of that sort you ever see.”
The boys asked if they might borrow a spade, and while at the barn getting it a little girl came running out to them from the house. She was perhaps eight or nine years old, a stout, vigorous little person, resembling her father closely in features.
“That’s the young one,” said La Fay. “Have you got the dishes washed, Birdie?”
“Yes,” she replied, and then stood looking curiously at the strangers.
“She does a good share of my housework for me,” La Fay went on. “I do the washing and the butter-making myself, and I get a woman to help once in a while in baking and mending. I can make as nice butter as any woman in this county. Look at my hands. They’re hard, but they’re smooth and clean. A farmer’s hands needn’t be rough and rusty if he’ll only use soap and water enough, and be particular about it, I work as hard on my farm as any man about here, and I’m often up half the night blacksmithing, but I don’t believe there’s a man in the town can show such hands as those.”
He looked toward the girl once more and continued, “The young one’s mother ran away from her hone two months ago. I never want to set eyes on her again. We didn’t get along over-well together, sometimes. She had a temper, and I had a temper. I tell you, I smoke, and I drink, and I swear like the Old Nick; but I don’t steal, and I don’t lie, and I don’t get drunk. Mary was like me, only there were times when shed take too much drink. Then she’d flare up if I went to reasoning with her. The week before she left, she caught up a big meat knife she’d been using and flung it at me so savage that if I hadn’t dodged quicker’n lightning ‘twould have clipped my head, sure. It stuck in the wall and the point broke off. Well, I must get to haying now; but come round to the house any time. If Birdie or myself ain’t there, you’ll find the key to the back door behind the blind of the window that’s right next to it. Go right in whenever you please. I know you fellows are honest. I know an honest man when I see him. I’d trust you with my pocket-book or anything. I don’t care what church you go to, or if you don’t go at all. I can tell what a man’s made of by his looks. There’s some folks that I wouldn’t want to be on the same side of the fence with. I tell you, money and policy count for a great deal in this world. I despise ‘em.”
A LOG HOUSE
He turned to the little girl and said, “Run in and get your hat Birdie, we must get in two or three loads before dinner, if we can.”
The campers with their spade went through the strip of woods La Fay had indicated, and found a pretty bit of pasture beyond. The falls were in plain hearing in the ravine below, and they found a little level just suited for the tent, and not far away a fine spring of clear, cold water. Lastly, they noticed that one corner of the lot was a briery tangle of blackberry vines that hung heavy with ripe berries. This they thought an undoubted paradise — every delight at their tent door. First they ate their fill of berries, and then went down into the hollow. The bed of the stream was strewn with great bowlders. Around towered the full-leaved trees. A little above was the fall, making its long tumble down a narrow cleft of the rocky wall.
A FARM-YARD GROUP
The boys made a crossing by jumping from rock to rock in the bed of the stream. Below, they found the ford and the old road, and went up the path and across the pasture to their tent. It was something of a task getting their traps over to the new camping-place, but by noon the white canvas was again in place and they had dinner. By aid of the spade they gave the end poles of the tent a firm setting, and they dug a trench on the uphill side of the camp to protect them from overflow in case of rain.
I will not attempt to more than catalogue their doings for the next few days. That afternoon they took a long tramp to the village to lay in fresh food supplies. They returned at dusk, and found the young man whom they had met with the ox-team that morn ing, at the tent door with a bag of sweet-corn. He assisted them in mak ing a fire, and they had a grand feast for supper. The next day, which was Wednesday, they took a long drive over the hills to points of interest that La Pay told them about. Thursday was reserved for a trouting expedition. Friday they drove over to the Groveland House to sec their college friend, Alliston.
ON A MOUNTAIN CRAG
“Well, fellows,” he said, “how do you like it?”
“Splendid!” said the campers; “we’re having a grand, good time. How do you get along here?”
“It’s rather dull times, I think myself,” said Alliston. “We talk, and talk, and play tennis, and have a grand performance every day or two over a drive or a clam‑bake. But half the time I think we’re making believe we’re having a good time rather than really having it. I have an idea, some way, that you fellows are getting the best of it.”
ONE OF THE GREEN MOUNTAIN PEAKS
Nearly every evening the campers had callers, and in their tramps and rides they made many interesting acquaintances. After lights were out they usually heard the sound of the hammer and the wheezing of the bellows up at La Fay’s little shop beyond the woods.
AMONG THE BIG HILLS
Saturday morning came. The campers were still in bed, but they were awake. It had been a very hot night.
“Poke your head out, will you, Harry, and see what the weather’s going to be,” said John.
Harry loosed a tent flap and looked out. “The sun’s shining,” he said, “but the west is full of clouds and looks like a shower.”
“Well, let’s not hurry about getting up. If we take the noon train for Boston we shan’t get home much before midnight, and we may as well take it easy now.”
They continued napping. Half an hour later a gloom as of approaching night settled down over the landscape, and there was a threatening grumble of thunder in the skies. The waterfall in the hollow took on a strange wailing note, rising and falling with the wind, and the rustling of the leaves of the near woods seemed full of premonitions. The air began to cool and little puffs of wind began to blow, and the boys turned out and poked around getting breakfast. Then came some great scattering drops of rain, followed by a mighty crash of thunder and a dazzling flash of lightning that seemed to open the flood-gates of heaven, and the rain came down in sheets. The air took on a sharp chill, and the boys got on their overcoats. The wind increased in force and shook the tent menacingly with its mad gusts. The flashing of the lightning and the heavy roll of the thunder were almost continuous, and through it all sounded the hollow mourning of the waterfall.
“I tell you,” said Harry, as he sat crouched on a roll of bedding, “I haven’t much confidence in our mansion for such occasions as this.”
He had hardly spoken when something gave way, and down came the tent, smothering him in wet canvas. It was some moments before the two could disentangle them selves. They made un successful attempts to repair the wreck, but finally had to be content to prop up the ridge-pole so that it would shed the rain from their belongings, while they secured an umbrella and scud through the storm to the house, which they reached half drenched.
A DESERTED HUT IN THE WOODS
“The young one” was sitting by the kitchen window. Her eyes were dilated and she looked frightened. She had her hands folded idly in her lap. That was unusual, for she was ordinarily very busy.
“You don’t like these thunder-storms, do you?” said Harry. Oh, she didn’t mind them, she answered.
“Where’s your father?” Harry asked.
“He went off down to the village before I got up. I guess he was going to get some flour.”
“Then you’ve been all alone in this storm,” Harry said.
She did not reply.
A fire was burning in the stove, and the campers hung their wet over coats behind it, and themselves drew chairs to the stove and sat with their feet on the hearth. On the table was a pile of unwashed dishes. From the large room next to the kitchen came the sound of dripping water. There was a great pool on the floor in one place, and two or three pans were set about to catch the streams trickling through the ceiling.
“This side of the roof always leaks when it rains hard,” said Birdie. “Papa’s going to fix it when he has time. I never seen it rain like it does to-day.”
The shower was very heavy, but it did not last long. The clouds rolled away, and the sun shone down on the drenched earth from a perfect dome of clear, blue sky. Birds sang, and insects hummed and chirruped in the grasses, and the breezes shook little showers of twinkling water-drops from the trees. The air was full of cool freshness and sunshine. It seemed to give new life and cheer to every living creature. The campers were quite gleeful as they ran over to their tent after the storm was well past.
“We’ll just hoist the ridge-pole into place,” said John, “and let things dry off, and then we’ll pack up.”
The goods inside had escaped serious wetting, but they thought best to hang two of the blankets on some neighboring saplings.
“What a racket the water makes down in the gorge,” said Harry. “Let’s go down and have a look at it.”
Everything was wet and slippery, and they took off shoes and stockings and left them at the tent.
“I declare!” exclaimed John, as they approached the stream, “this is a big flood. There’s hardly one of those big bowlders but that the water covers clear to the top. How muddy it is! and see the rubbish! A man couldn’t live a minute if he was to jump in there. How it does boil and tear along!”
“Come on, let’s go up to the dam,” shouted Harry, endeavoring to make himself heard above the roaring waters.
He clambered along over the rocks among the trees on the steep bank, but he had no sooner got within seeing distance than he stopped short and called excitedly to John close behind him, “It’s gone! It’s gone! The whole thing’s washed away, — dam, and bridge, and mill, — all gone to smash. And see! the gorge at the fall’s all choked up with big timbers. See the water spout and splash about ‘em.”
It was a grand sight — the mighty tumble of waters from the precipice above, foaming down into the gorge, then broken in the narrow, almost perpendicular, chasm into a thousand flying sprays, whence the mists arose as from a monster, steaming cauldron. And there the boys saw a rainbow which they had looked for in vain before. They stayed nearly an hour, fascinated by the turmoil of the flood.
“I suppose we’ve got to think about packing up,” remarked John at last, with a sigh.
“It’s a pity we can’t stay around here another week,” said Harry.
They climbed slowly up the wooded bank to the tent, pulled it to pieces, rolled all their belongings into snug bundles, put on shoes and stockings and went over to the house. As they approached they heard sounds of angry dispute. They turned the corner at the barn and stopped. La Fay was standing in the kitchen doorway. In the path before him stood a woman. She had on a pretty bonnet trimmed with gay ribbons. Over her arm hung a light shawl. Her face was thin, and there were blue lines beneath her burning black eyes. She stood sharply erect.
“Move on!” thundered La Fay, “and never show yourself here again.”
“It’s Mrs. La Fay,” whispered Harry. “She’s come back.”
“Jules! Jules!” said the woman; and then her tones, either of excuse or pleading, dropped so low the boys did not catch the words. “We’d better go back,” suggested John.
“I say I want to hear no more,” Jules continued fiercely. “The quicker you get off the premises, the better.”
The woman looked at him in silence a moment, then turned short around and walked with quick steps away. La Fay stood frowning, with clenched fists, in the doorway. In the farther corner of the kitchen “the young one” was crouched in a chair, crying. The boys had turned away, but the drama had come to a sudden termination and they approached again.
La Fay saw them. “She’s been back,” he said; “but I’ve sent her packing again. She came early this morning while I was away. She was here through the storm.”
It was a painful subject, and John hastened to say that they had packed up ready to go to the train.
“My horse is out there by the barn hitched into my lumber-wagon,” said La Fay, “but I’ll change him into the carryall. I’ll be ready inside of ten minutes.”
A PATH IN THE WINTER WOODS
“All right, then,” John responded; “we’ve got a little more to do to our bundles, and we’ll be over there with them.”
At the edge of the woods they looked up the road leading away from the clearing, and just beyond sight of the house they saw the woman again. Her arms were about her head, and she was leaning face forward against a big chestnut-tree. Once she clasped her hands and gave a sudden look upward. Then she resumed the former position.
The boys went down to their camp and did their final packing. The sunshine was becoming warmer. The wind was blowing more briskly, and it kept the grasses swaying and the leaves of the trees in a perpetual glitter of motion. In the aisles. of the wood a thrush was chanting its beautiful song. From the hollow sounded the never-ceasing roar of the fall.
La Fay appeared, bundles were packed into the carriage, and they were off. They had just entered the road leading to the highway, when Harry spied a shawl lying at the foot of a tall chestnut. “What’s that?” he asked.
La Fay drew in his horse and Harry jumped out and picked it up. He handed it to La Fay.
“Why,” said the man, “that’s Mary’s. She must have dropped it.”
WINDY WINTER — ON THE WAY HOME FROM SCHOOL
He laid it across his knee and said nothing for a long time. Indeed, they were more than half-way to the depot before he spoke more. Then he fell to stroking the shawl gently with his right hand and said, “Mary ain’t done right. I know it; I know it. Poor girl! she’s had a rough time since she’s been away. I don’t know but I ought to have been easier with her. And I like her still. I don’t get over that, someway. I can’t help it. If the past was blotted out, I’d do anything for her.” He spoke all this slowly and meditatively.
Suddenly he straightened up. “Boys,” he exclaimed, “I’ll blot out the past so far as I can. I’ll start new, if Mary will. I haven’t been any too good myself. I know where she’ll go to-day. I’ll hunt her up on the way back.”
With this resolution made he became quite jovial and talked very cheerfully all the distance to the depot. “Boys,” said he, as he shook hands at parting, “I’m glad you’ve been up here. You’re good fellows. I like to talk with you. Birdie, I know, will miss you a good deal, now you’re gone. She told me only yesterday, ‘I wish Mr. Clayton and Mr. Holmes would stay up here a long time, so I could learn to talk nice, the way they do.’ If you ever get around this way again be sure to come and see Jules the Frenchman.”
The train rumbled into the station at that moment, and the campers hastily bade a last adieu and were off.