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- On the Pampas - 2/47 -
advantages and disadvantages of the various countries and colonies to be debated. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy agreed that the Argentine Republic, in its magnificent rivers, its boundless extent of fertile land, in its splendid climate, its cheap labor, and its probable prospects, offered the greatest advantages.
The decision once arrived at, it was determined to announce it to the children, who had up to this time no idea of the great change decided upon. Breakfast was over, and the boys, whose holidays had just begun, were about to leave the table, when their father said: "Wait a moment, boys; there is something we want to talk to you about."
The boys resumed their seats. "Your mamma and I have been wondering what you boys are to become, and we do not see any openings likely to occur here. Now, what should you say to us all emigrating?"
"What, going abroad, papa!" they both exclaimed joyously.
"Yes, boys, settling in the backwoods or in the prairies."
"Oh, that would be jolly," Charley said, "I know, I papa, having fights with Indians, and all that sort of thing. Oh, it would be glorious!"
"Well, Charley," his father said, smiling, "I do not know that we shall have fights with Indians, nor do think it would be very jolly if we did. But we should have to rough it, you know; you boys would have to work hard, to help me in everything, and to look after the cattle and sheep."
"What fun! what fun!" the boys both shouted; "we should like it of all things in the world."
"And what do you think of it, Maud and Ethel?" their mamma asked the two little girls, who were looking very surprised, but rather doubtful as to the pleasure of the fights with Indians which their brothers had spoken so delightedly about. "You will have to be two very useful little women, and will have to help me just as the boys will have to help your papa. Very likely we may not be able to get a servant there, and then we shall have to do everything."
"That will be fine, mamma," said Maud, who was rather over twelve, while her sister was just eleven. "I don't think I could cook, but you should cook, and I could scrub and do all the hard work, and Ethel could wash up, and lay the table, and that sort of thing. That would be fine, mamma."
Ethel, who almost always agreed with her elder sister, did so now, and the four young ones became quite uproarious in their plans for making themselves useful. At last Mr. Hardy called for order.
"Now silence all, and listen to me. This affair is a serious business; and although I hope and believe that we shall all enjoy our life very much, still we must prepare for it, and look upon it in earnest, and not as a sort of game. I have business here which I cannot finish before another eight or nine months. Let us all make the most of our time before we start. In the first place, the language of the people among whom we are going is Spanish, and we must all learn to speak it well before we leave. For the next three months we will work together at grammar and exercises, and then I will try and get some Spanish teacher to live in the house, and speak the language with us until we go. In the next place, it will be well that you should all four learn to ride. I have hired the paddock next to our garden, and have bought a pony, which will be here to-day, for the girls. You boys have already ridden a little, and I shall now have you taught in the riding school. I went yesterday to Mr. Saris, and asked him if he would allow me to make an arrangement with his head gardener for you to go there to learn gardening. He at once agreed; and I have arranged with the gardener that you are both to be there every morning at six o'clock, and are to work until nine. At nine you will come in to breakfast. From breakfast to dinner you will have to yourselves, except upon the days you take riding lessons; and I should wish you to spend this time at your usual studies, except Latin, which will be of no use to you. From two till half-past four you are to learn carpentering. I have made an agreement with Mr. Jones to pay him so much to take you as a sort of apprentices for the next nine months. In the evening we will all work together at Spanish. It will be hard work; but if you want to be of any real use to me, it is absolutely necessary that you should be able to use a spade and to do rough carpentering. As the time draws on, too, I shall ask one of the farmers near to let you go out with his men and get some notion of plowing. Well, what do you say to all that?"
Hubert looked a little downcast at this recital of the preparatory work to be gone through, but Charley said at once, "It sounds rather hard, papa, but, as you say, we shall have to work hard out there, and it is much better to accustom one's self to it at once; besides, of course, we should be of no use at all to you unless we knew something about work."
"And what are we to learn, mamma?" Maud asked.
"Not a very great deal, my dear," Mrs. Hardy said. "Spanish to begin with, then cooking. I shall teach you at any rate, to make simple dishes and puddings, and to boil vegetables properly. I shall myself practice until I am perfect, and then I shall teach you. Besides that, it will be as well for you to learn to attend to poultry; and that is all I know of at present, except that you must both take pains to improve yourselves at sewing. We shall have to make everything for ourselves out there."
"I suppose we shan't do any more regular lessons, mamma?"
"Indeed you will, Maud. You do not imagine that your education is finished, do you? and you cannot wish to grow almost as ignorant as the poor Indians of the country. You will give up the piano, and learn Spanish instead of French, but that will be all the difference; and I shall expect you both to make as much progress as possible, because, although I shall take you both out there, and shall teach you whenever I find time, your lessons must of necessity be short and irregular. And now you can all go out into the garden and talk the matter over."
"But you have not told us yet where we are going to, papa," Charley said.
"We are going to farm upon the bunks of one of the great South American rivers--probably the Parana, in the Argentine Republic."
Mr. and Mrs. Hardy watched their children from the window. They went out in a group to the summer-house in the corner of the garden, all talking excitedly. Then Maud ran back again to the house, and in a minute or two returned with the schoolroom atlas, and opening it upon the table, they all clustered over it in eager consultation.
Mrs. Hardy turned to her husband with a smile. "You will have to get up the subject, Frank, so as to be able to answer the innumerable questions you will be asked."
"I shall always refer them to you."
There was quite a talk in B--- when it was known that Mr. Hardy was going to emigrate with his wife and family. He, and his father before him, had been so long established in the town that there were few people who did not know him, more or less.
Emigration in the year 1851 was far less common than it is now, and the interest was proportionately greater. Charley and Hubert became quite popular characters among their late schoolfellows, who, whenever they met them, would always stop to have a talk about the distant country to which they were going. The boys, however, had now but little time for talking; for upon the week after their father had first told them of his intention, they had set-to regularly at the work he had laid down for them. They rose every morning at five, had a slice of bread and a cup of milk, and were off to the gardener's, where they worked hard until half-past eight. Mr. Hardy had requested that they should be specially instructed in the raising of vegetables, and in the planting and pruning of fruit-trees. The culture of flowers could be of no utility. The digging made the boys' backs ache at first, and blistered their hands, but they stuck to it manfully, and soon became accustomed to the work, returning to breakfast with glowing cheeks and tremendous appetites.
In the afternoon they might be seen in the carpenter's shop with their coats and waistcoats off, working away with saw or plane.
Although both made good progress in both pursuits, yet their tastes differed; Charley preferring the carpentering, while Hubert was the gardener's most promising pupil. The former was therefore christened the head carpenter by his sisters, while the latter was promoted to the post of chief gardener.
Four or five months of this work made a visible difference in the boys' appearance. They both widened out across the shoulders, their arms became strong and muscular, and they looked altogether more healthy and robust. Nor did their appearance belie them; for once when spending a holiday in the cricket-field with their former schoolfellows, wrestling matches being proposed after the game was over, they found that they were able to overcome with ease boys whom they had formerly considered their superiors in strength.
In the meantime Mr. Hardy had succeeded in obtaining the services of a young Spanish lady, who had come to England to learn the language, as governess; and of an evening the whole family worked at Spanish, and made such progress that they were soon able to establish the rule that no other language should be spoken at mealtimes. The girls here soon surpassed their brothers, as they had the advantage of morning lessons in the language, besides which young children can always pick up a language sooner than their elders; and they had many a hearty laugh at the ridiculous mistakes Charley and Hubert made in their efforts to get through a long sentence. In six months, however, all could speak with tolerable fluency.
Maud and Ethel were as amused and as diligent at learning household work as their brothers were in their departments, and might have been seen every afternoon in the kitchen, in their little white pinafores, engaged in learning the mysteries of cooking.
One day, after they had been so engaged for about four months, Mrs. Hardy said at breakfast: "I am going to try an experiment. I have given the cook leave to go out for the day. Mr. and Mrs. Partridge are coming to dinner, and I intend handing over the kitchen to the girls, and letting them make their first essay. We are going to have soup, a leg of mutton with potatoes and spinach, a dish of fried cutlets, and a cabinet pudding. I shall tell Sarah to lift
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