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- Eben Holden - 30/52 -


'No, sweetheart, I will not,' I answered. Then we gave each other such a kiss as may be known once and only once in a lifetime.

'What would you do for the love of a girl like that?' she whispered.

I thought a moment, sounding depths of undiscovered woe to see if there were anything I should hesitate to suffer and there was nothing.

'I'd lay me doun an' dee,' I said.

And I well remember how, when I lay dying, as I believed, in rain and darkness on the bloody field of Bull Run, I thought of that moment and of those words.

'I cannot say such beautiful things as you,' she answered, when I asked her to describe her ideal. 'He must be good and he must be tall and handsome and strong and brave.'

Then she sang a tender love ballad. I have often shared the pleasure of thousands under the spell of her voice, but I have never heard her sing as to that small audience on Faraway turnpike.

As we came near Rickard's Hall we could hear the fiddles and the calling off.

The windows on the long sides of the big house were open. Long shafts of light shot out upon the gloom. It had always reminded me of a picture of Noah's ark that hung in my bedroom and now it seemed to be floating, with resting oars of gold, in a deluge of darkness. We were greeted with a noisy welcome, at the door. Many of the boys and girls came, from all sides of the big hall, and shook hands with us. Enos Brown, whose long forelocks had been oiled for the occasion and combed down so they touched his right eyebrow, was panting in a jig that jarred the house. His trouser legs were caught on the tops of his fine boots. He nodded to me as I came in, snapped his fingers and doubled his energy. It was an exhibition both of power and endurance. He was damp and apologetic when, at length, he stopped with a mighty bang of his foot and sat down beside me. He said he was badly out of practice when I offered congratulations. The first fiddler was a small man, with a short leg, and a character that was minus one dimension. It had length and breadth but no thickness. He sat with his fellow player on a little platform at one end of the room. He was an odd man who wandered all over the township with his fiddle. He played by ear, and I have seen babies smile and old men dance when his bow was swaying. I remember that when I heard it for the first time, I determined that I should be a fiddler if I ever grew to be a man. But David told me that fiddlers were a worthless lot, and that no wise man should ever fool with a fiddle. One is lucky, I have since leamed, if any dream of yesterday shall stand the better light of today or the more searching rays of tomorrow.

'Choose yer partners fer Money Musk!' the caller shouted.

Hope and I got into line, the music started, the circles began to sway. Darwin Powers, an old but frisky man, stood up beside the fiddlers, whistling, with sobriety and vigour, as they played. It was a pleasure to see some of the older men of the neighbourhood join the dizzy riot by skipping playfully in the corners. They tried to rally their unwilling wives, and generally a number of them were dancing before the night was over. The life and colour of the scene, the fresh, young faces of the girls some of them models of rustic beauty - the playful antics of the young men, the merrymaking of their fathers, the laughter, the airs of gallantry, the glances of affection - there is a magic in the thought of it all that makes me young again.

There were teams before and behind us when we came home, late at night, so sleepy that the stars went reeling as we looked at them.

'This night is the end of many things,' I remarked.

'And the beginning of better ones, I hope,' was her answer.

'Yes, but they are so far away,' I said, 'you leave home to study and I am to be four years in college-possibly I can finish in three.'

'Perfectly terrible!' she said, and then she added the favourite phrase and tone of her mother: 'We must be patient.'

'I am very sorry of one thing,' I said. 'What's that?'

'I promised not to ask you for one more kiss.'

'Well then,' said she, 'you - you - needn't ask me.' And in a moment I helped her out at the door.

Chapter 25

David Brower had prospered, as I have said before, and now he was chiefly concerned in the welfare of his children. So, that he might give us the advantages of the town, he decided either to lease or sell his farm- by far the handsomest property in the township. I was there when a buyer came, in the last days of that summer. We took him over the smooth acres from Lone Pine to Woody Ledge, from the top of Bowman's Hill to Tinkie Brook in the far valley. He went with us through every tidy room of the house. He looked over the stock and the stables.

'Wall! what's it wuth?' he said, at last, as we stood looking down the fair green acres sloping to the sugar bush.

David picked up a stick, opened his knife, and began to whittle thoughtfully, a familiar squint of reflection in his face. I suppose he thought of all it had cost him - the toil of many years, the strength of his young manhood, the youth and beauty of his wife, a hundred things that were far better than money.

'Fifteen thousan' dollars,' he said slowly - 'not a cent less.' The man parleyed a little over the price.

'Don' care t' take any less t'day,' said David calmly. 'No harm done.'

'How much down?'

David named the sum.

'An' possession?'

'Next week'

'Everything as it stan's?'

'Everything as it stan's 'cept the beds an' bedding.'

'Here's some money on account,' he said. 'We'll close t'morrer?'

'Close t'morrer,' said David, a little sadness in his tone, as he took the money.

It was growing dusk as the man went away. The crickets sang with a loud, accusing, clamour. Slowly we turned and went into the dark house, David whistling under his breath. Elizabeth was resting in her chair. She was humming an old hymn as she rocked.

'Sold the farm, mother,' said David.

She stopped singing but made no answer. In the dusk, as we sat down, I saw her face leaning upon her hand. Over the hills and out of the fields around us came many voices - the low chant in the stubble, the baying of a hound in the far timber, the cry of the tree toad - a tiny drift of odd things (like that one sees at sea) on the deep eternal silence of the heavens. There was no sound in the room save the low creaking of the rocker in which Elizabeth sat. After all the going, and corning, and doing, and saying of many years here was a little spell of silence and beyond lay the untried things of the future. For me it was a time of reckoning.

'Been hard at work here all these years, mother,' said David. 'Oughter be glad t' git away.'

'Yes,' said she sadly, 'it's been hard work. Years ago I thought I never could stan' it. But now I've got kind o' used t' it.'

'Time ye got used t' pleasure 'n comfort,' he said. 'Come kind o' hard, at fast, but ye mus' try t' stan' it. If we're goin' t' hev sech flin in Heaven as Deacon Hospur tells on we oughter begin t' practice er we'll be 'shamed uv ourselves.'

The worst was over. Elizabeth began to laugh.

At length a strain of song came out of the distance.

'Maxwelton's braes are bonnie where early falls the dew.'

'It's Hope and Uncle Eb,' said David while I went for the lantern. 'Wonder what's kep' 'em s' late.'

When the lamps were lit the old house seemed suddenly to have got a sense of what had been done. The familiar creak of the stairway as I went to bed had an appeal and a protest. The rude chromo of the voluptuous lady, with red lips and the name of Spring, that had always hung in my chamber had a mournful, accusing look. The stain upon her cheek that had come one day from a little leak in the roof looked now like the path of a tear drop. And when the wind came up in the night and I heard the creaking of Lone Pine it spoke of the doom of that house and itsown that was not far distant.

We rented a new home in town, that week, and were soon settled in it. Hope went away to resume her studies the same day I began work in college.

Chapter 26

Not much in my life at college is essential to this history - save the training. The students came mostly from other and remote parts of the north country - some even from other states. Coming largely from towns and cities they were shorn of those simple and rugged traits, that distinguished the men o' Faraway, and made them worthy of what poor fame this book may afford. In the main they were like other students the world over, I take it' and mostly, as they have shown, capable of wiling their own fame. It all seemed very high and mighty and grand to me especially the names of the courses. I had my baptism of Sophomoric scorn and many a heated argument over my title to life, liberty and the pursuit of learning. It became necessary to establish it by force of arms, which I did decisively and with as little delay as possible. I took much interest


Eben Holden - 30/52

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