Imagens das páginas

“ Very well,” I agreed. “You can give us a bit, because when you start again, it's in the right raspberries and milk to-night, and so you will be direction.” getting supper at the same time. Until the hay is After we had piled on as much of a load as the ready to come in, I shall continue hoeing in the rude, extemporized rack on my market wagon could garden, the weeds grow so rapidly. To-morrow hold, I added: will be a regular fruit day all around, for there “ You need n't go to the barn with me, for I are two more cherry-trees that need picking." can pitch the hay into the mow. Rake up another

Our short nooning over, we all went to our load, if you feel able.” several tasks. The children were made to feel “Oh, I'm all right, now," he protested. that now was the chance to win our bread for By the time I had unloaded the grass, I found months to come, and that there must be no shirk- that my wife and Mousie were among the rasping. Mousie promised to clear away the things berries, and that the number of full, fragrant, little while my wife, protected by a large sun-shade, baskets was increasing rapidly. walked slowly down to the Bagley cottage. Hav- “Winifred, is n't this work, with your walk to ing seen that Merton and his little squad were fill- the Bagley cottage, too much for you?” ing the baskets with strawberries properly, I went “Oh, no," she replied, lightly. “An afternoon to the garden and slaughtered the weeds where in idleness in a stifling city flat would have been they threatened to do the most harm.

more exhausting. It 's growing cool now. What At last I became so hot and wearied that I wretched, shistless people those Bagleys are! But thought I'd visit a distant part of the upland I have hopes for them. I'm glad Bobsey 's having meadow, and see how Bagley was progressing a nap." He was raking manfully, and had accomplished a “You shall tell me about your visit to-night. fair amount of work, but it was evident that he We are making good progress. Bagley is doing was almost exhausted. He was not accustomed to his best. Winnie," I called, “come here." hard work, and had rendered himself still more She brought her basket, nearly filled, and I saw unfit for it by dissipation.

that her eyes were heavy with weariness also. “See here, Bagley,” I said, “you are doing “You've done well to-day, my child. Now go well, but you will have to break yourself into har- and look after your chickens, big and little. Then ness gradually, I don't wish to be hard upon you. your day's work is done, and you can do what you Lie down under this tree for half an hour and by please ; "and I started for the meadow again, that time I shall be out with the wagon."

By six o'clock, we had in the barn three loads of “Mr. Durham, you have the feelin's of a man hay, and Merton had packed four crates of berries for a feller," said Bagley, gratefully. “I'll make ready for market. Bobsey was now running about, up the time arter it gets cooler."

as lively as a cricket, and Winnie, with a child's Returning to the raspberry patch, I found Bob- elasticity, was nearly as sportive. Bagley, after sey almost asleep, the berries often falling from making up his half hour, came up the lane with his nerveless hands. Merton, meanwhile, with a rake, instead of his ugly dog as on the evening something of the spirit of a martinet, was spurring before. A few moments later, he helped me lift him to his task. I remembered that the little the crates into the market wagon; and then, after fellow had been busy since breakfast, and decided a little awkward hesitation, began : that he also, of my forces, should have a rest. “I say, Mr. Durham, can't ye give a feller a He started up when he saw me coming through job yerself? I declar' to you, I want to brace up; the bushes, and tried to pick with vigor again. but I know how it 'll be down at Rollins's. He 'll As I took him up in my arms, he began appre. be savage as a meat-ax to me, and his men will be hensively :

a-gibin'. Give me a job yerself, and I 'll save “Papa, I will pick faster, but I'm so tired.” enough out o' my wages to pay for his chickens,

I re-assured him with a kiss which left a decided or you kin' keep ’nuff back to pay for 'em." raspberry flavor on my lips, carried him into the I thought a moment, and then said promptly: barn and, tossing him on a heap of hay, said: “I'll agree to this if Rollins will. I'll see him

“Sleep there, my little man, till you are rested.” to-night." He was soon snoring blissfully, and when I “Did yer wife go to see my wife ?" reached the meadow with the wagon, Bagley was “Yes, and she says she has hopes for you all. ready to help with the loading.

You ’ve earned your bread to-day as honestly as I "Well, well!” he exclaimed, “ a little breathin'- have, and you ’ve more than paid for what my wife spell does do a feller good on a hot day.”

gave you this morning. Here's a quarter to make “No doubt about it," I said. “So long as you the day square, and here 's a couple of baskets of are on the right road, it does no harm to sit down raspberries left over. Take them to the children.” “Well, yer bring me right to the mark," he said, character, and suggested many of the conditions emphasizing his words with a slap on his thigh. of our problem of country living. “I've got an uphill row to hoe, and it's good ter Bagley appeared bright and early the following have some human critters around that 'll help a morning with his two elder children, and I was feller a bit."

now confronted with the task of managing them I laughed as I clapped him on the shoulder, and and making them useful. Upon one thing I was said: “You 're going to win the fight, Bagley. certainly resolved – there should be no Quixotic I'll see Rollins at once, for I find I shall need sentiment in our relations, and no companionship another man awhile.”

between his children and mine. Therefore, I took “Give me the job, then," he said, eagerly, him and his girl and boy aside, and said: “and give me what you think I'm wuth," and he “I'm going to be simple and outspoken with jogged off home with that leaven of all good in you. Some of my neighbors think I'm a fool his heart the hope of better things.

because I give you work when I can get others. I Raspberries and milk, with bread and butter shall prove that I am not a fool, for the reason that and a cup of tea, made a supper that we all I shall not permit any nonsense, and you can show relished, and then Merton and I started for the that I am not a fool by doing your work well and boat-landing. I let the boy drive and deliver quietly. Bagley, I want you to understand that the crates to the freight agent, for I wished him to your children do not come here to play with mine. relieve me in this task occasionally. On our way No matter whom I employed, I should keep my to the landing I saw Rollins, who readily agreed children by themselves. Now, do you understand to Bagley's wish, on condition that I guaranteed this?”. payment for the chickens. Stopping at the man's They nodded affirmatively. cottage farther on, I told him this, and he, in his “Are you all willing to take simple, straightemphatic way, declared :

forward directions, and do your best ? I'm not “ I vow ter you, Mr. Durham, ye sha'n't lose a asking what is unreasonable, for I shall not be feather's worth o' the chickens."

more strict with you than with my own children." Returning home, poor Merton was so tired “No use o' beatin' around the bush, Mr. Durand drowsy that he nearly fell off the seat. Be- ham," said Bagley, good-naturedly; “we ’ve come fore long I took the reins from his hands, and he here to 'arn our livin', and to do as you say." was asleep with his head on my shoulder. Wini- “I can get along with you, Bagley, but your fred was dozing in her chair, but brightened up as children will find it hard to follow my rules, because we came in. A little judicious praise and a bowl they are children, and are not used to restraint. of bread and milk strengthened the boy wonder- Yet they must do it, or there 'll be trouble at once. fully. He saw the need of especial effort at this They must work quietly and steadily while they time, and also saw that he was not being driven do work, and when I am through with them, they unfeelingly.

must go straight home. They must n't lounge about As I sat alone with iny wife, resting a few the place. If they will do this, Mrs. Durham and minutes before retiring, I said :

I will be good friends to them, and by fall we will “Well, Winifred, it must be plain to you by this fix them up so that they can go to school." time that the summer campaign will be a hard The little arabs looked askance at me and made one. How are we going to stand it?”

me think of two wild animals that had been caught, " I'll tell you next fall," she replied, with a and were intelligent enough to understand that laugh. “No problems to-night, thank you.” they must be tamed. They were submissive, but

“I'm gathering a queer lot of helpers in my made no false pretenses of enjoying the prospect. effort to live in the country," I continued. “I shall keep a gad handy," said their father, “There's old Mr. Ferguson, who is too aged to with a significant nod at them. hold his own in other harvest-fields. Bagley and “Well, youngsters,” I concluded, laughing, his tribe - "

6 perhaps you 'll need it occasionally. I hope not, “And a city wife and a lot of city children,” she however. I shall keep no gad, but I shall have added.

an eye on you when you least expect it; and if you “And a city green-horn of a man at the head go through the picking-season well, I shall have a of you all," I concluded.

nice present for you both. Now, you are to receive “Well,” she replied, rising with an odd little so much a basket, if the baskets are properly filled, blending of laugh and yawn, “I'm not afraid but and therefore it will depend on yourselves how that we shall all earn our salt.”

much you earn. You shall be paid every day. So Thus came to an end the long, eventful day, now for a good start toward becoming a man and which prepared the way for many others of similar a woman.”

I led them to one side of the raspberry patch he had cut into as good shape as possible before the and put them under Merton's charge, saying: shower. My wife and Mousie left the table stand“ You must pick exactly as he directs.”

ing, and, hastening to the raspberry field, helped Winnie and Bobsey were to pick in another part Winnie and Bobsey and the other Bagley child to of the field, Mousie aiding until the sun grew pick the ripest berries. We all worked like beavtoo warm for the delicate child. Bagley was to ers till the vivid flashes and great drops drove us divide his time between hoeing in the garden and to shelter. spreading the grass after the scythe of old Mr. Fer Fortunately, the shower came up slowly, and we guson. From my ladder against a cherry-tree, I nearly stripped the cherry-trees, carrying the fruit was able to keep a general outlook over my motley into the house, there to be arranged for market in forces, and we all made good progress till dinner, the neat peck-baskets with coarse bagging covers which, like the help we employed, we now had at which Mr. Bogart had sent me. The little baskets twelve o'clock. Bagley and his children sat down of raspberries almost covered the barn floor by the to their lunch under the shade of an apple-tree at time the rain began, but they were safe. At first, some distance, yet in plain view through our open the children were almost terrified by the vivid door. Their repast must have been meager, judg- thunder and lightning, but this phase of the storm ing from the time in which it was dispatched, and soon passed, and the clouds seemed to settle down my wife said:

for a steady rain. “Can't I send them something?"

"'T is n't goin' to let up," said Bagley, after a “ Certainly; what have you to send ?”

while. “We might as well jog home now as any “Well, I've made a cherry pudding; I don't time.” suppose there is much more than enough for us, “But you 'll get wet,” I objected. though."

“It wont be the fust time," answered Bagley. “ Children,” I cried, “let 's take a vote. Shall we “The children don't mind it any more 'n ducks." share our cherry pudding with the Bagleys ?” “Well, let's settle, then,” I said. “You need

“ Yes,” came the unanimous reply, although some money to buy food at once." Bobsey's voice was rather faint.

“I reckon I do," was the carnest reply. Merton carried the delicacy to the group under " There 's a dollar for your day's work, and the tree, and it was gratefully and speedily de- here is what your children have earned. Are you voured.

satisfied?” I asked. “That is the way to the hearts of those chil- “I be, and I thank you, sir. I'll go down to dren,” said my wife, at the same time slyly slip- the store this ev'nin',” he added. ping her portion of the pudding upon Bobsey's “And buy food only,” I said, with a meaning plate.

look. I appeared very blind, but asked her to get me “Flour and pork only, sir. I've given you my something from the kitchen. While she was gone, hand on 't ; ” and away they all jogged through I exchanged my plate of pudding, untouched as the thick-falling drops. yet, for hers, and gave the children a wink. We W e packed our fruit for market, and looked all had a great laugh over Mamma's well-assumed vainly for clearing skies in the west. surprise and perplexity. How a little fun will “ There 's no help for it," I said. “The sooner freshen up children, especially when, from neces- I start for the landing the better, so that I can sity, their tasks are long and heavy!

return before it becomes very dark.' We were startled from the table by a low mut- My wife exclaimed against this, but I added : ter of thunder. Hastening out, I saw an ominous “Think a moment, my dear. By good mancloud in the west. My first thought was that all agement we have here, safe and in good order, thirty should go to the raspberries and pick till the rain dollars' worth of fruit, at least. Shall I lose it bedrove us in ; but Bagley now proved a useful friend, cause I am afraid of a summer shower ? Facing for he shambled up and said :

the weather is a part of my business; and I'd face “If I were you, I'd have those cherries picked a storm any day in the year if I could make thirty . fust. You 'll find that a thunder-shower 'll rot dollars." 'em in one night. The wet wont hurt the berries Merton wished to go also, but I said : much.”

“No. There must be no risks of illness that His words reminded me of what I had seen can possibly be avoided.” when a boy,-- a tree full of split, half-decayed I did not find it a dreary expedition, after all, for cherries,- and I told him to go to picking at I solaced myself with thoughts like these : once. I also sent his eldest boy and Merton into “Thirty dollars, under my wife's good managethe trees. Old Ferguson was told to get the grass inent, will go far toward providing warm winter

[ocr errors]

else. "

clothing, or paying the interest, or something was honestly trying, I found that a little tact and

kindness always brought him around to renewed Then the rain was just what was needed to endeavor. To expect immediate reform and unincrease and prolong the yield of the raspberry varied well-doing was asking too much of such bushes, on which there were still myriads of imma- human nature as theirs. ture berries and even blossoms. Abundant moist- As July drew to a close, my wife and I felt that ure would perfect these into plump fruit; and upon we were succeeding better than we had had reason this crop rested our main hope.

to expect. In the height of the season we had to From the experiences just related, it can be employ more children in gathering the raspberries, seen how largely the stress and strain of the year and I saw that I could increase the yield in coming centered in the month of July. Nearly all our years, as I learned the secrets of cultivation. I garden crops needed attention ; the grass of the also decided to increase the area in this fruit by a meadow had to be cured into hay, the currants fall-planting of some varieties that ripened earlier and cherries to be picked, and fall crops, like winter and later, thus extending the season and giving cabbages, turnips, and celery, to be put in the me a chance to ship to market for weeks instead ground. Of the latter vegetable, I set out only a of days. My strawberry plants were sending out few short rows, regarding it as a delicious luxury to a fine lot of new runners, and our hopes for the which not very much time could be given.

future were turning largely toward the cultivation Mr. Jones and Junior, indeed all our neighbors, of this delicious fruit. were working early and late, like ourselves. Barns Old Ferguson had plodded faithfully over the were being filled, conical hay-stacks were rising meadow with his scythe, and the barn was now so in distant meadows, and every one was busy in well filled that I felt our bay horse and brindle gathering nature's bounty.

cow were provided for during the months when We were not able to make much of the Fourth fields are bare or snowy. of July. Bobsey and Winnie had some fire-crackers, Late one afternoon, he was helping me gather and, in the evening, Merton and Junior set off a up almost the last load down by the creek, when few rockets, and we all said, “Ah!” appreciatively, the heavy roll of thunder warned us to hasten. as they sped their brief fiery course; but the greater As we came up to the high ground near the house, part of the day had to be spent in gathering the we were both impressed by the ominous blackness ripening black-caps and raspberries. By some of a cloud rising in the west. I felt that the only management, however, I arranged that Merton thing to do was to act like the captain of a vessel and Junior should have a fine swim in the creek, by before a storm, and make everything “ snug and Brittle Rock, while Mousie, Winnie, and Bobsey tight." The load of hay was run in upon the barn waded in sandy shallows, farther down the stream. floor, and the old horse led with the harness on him They all were promised holidays after the fruit to the stall below. Bagley and the children, with season was over, and they submitted to the neces- old Ferguson, were started off so as to be at home sity of almost constant work with fairly good before the shower, doors and windows were fastened, grace.

and all was made as secure as possible. The results of our labor were cheering. Our T hen we gathered in our sitting-room, where table was supplied with delicious vegetables, which, Mousie and my wife had prepared supper ; but we in the main, it was Mousie's task to gather and pre- all were too oppressed with awe of the coming tempare. The children were as brown as little Indians, pest to sit down quietly, as usual. There was a and we daily thanked God for health. Checks death-like stillness in the sultry air, broken only at from Mr. Bogart came regularly, the fruit bringing intervals by the heavy rumble of thunder. The a fair price under his good management. The strange, dim twilight soon passed into the murkioutlook for the future grew brighter with the est gloom, and we had to light the lamp far earlier beginning of each week; for on Monday he made than customary. I never saw the children so afhis returns and sent me the proceeds of the fruit fected before. Winnie and Bobsey even began to shipped previously. I was able to pay all out- cry with fear, while Mousie was pale and tremstanding accounts for what had been bought to bling. Of course, we laughed at, and tried to stock the place, and I also induced Mr. Jones cheer them ; but even my wife was nervously apto receive the interest in advance on the mortgage prehensive, and I admit that I felt a disquietude he held. Then we began to hoard for winter. hard to combat.

The Bagleys did as well as we could expect, I Slowly and remorselessly the cloud approached, suppose. The children did need the “ gad” occa- until it began to pass over us. The thunder and sionally, and the father indulged in a few idle, lightning were simply terrific. Supper remained surly, drinking days; but, convinced that the man untasted on the table, and I said:

“ Patience and courage ! A few moments more “Hurrah !" I cried. “The bulk of the gust and the worst will be over!”

has gone by, and now we are all right!” But my words were scarcely heard, so violent wasA t that instant a blinding gleam and instantanethe gust that burst upon us. For a few moments ous crash left us stunned and bewildered. But as it seemed as if everything would go down before I recovered my senses, I saw flames bursting from it, but the old house only shook and rocked a little. the roof of our barn.

[merged small][graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »