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CHAPTER XXIII

THE LINE-STORM

RARELY in the whole history of our country have there been more unpropitious times for young people to obtain a liberal education and pay their own way at school and college, than during those first few years following the Civil War 1867 to 1872. All values appeared to shrink away. It was very difficult to turn farm products into money, difficult to sell them at any price.

In February, when Master Pierson was with us, we had counted quite confidently on being able to raise money enough by September to begin attending school at the village Academy. At that time, too, the Old Squire appeared to think there would be no obstacle to this, although the outlay for five of us would be considerable, to say nothing of the extra help which would be required on the farm that fall, in place of our work. The old gentleman was making a number of investments, too, in the way of new business ventures.

By August, however, everything in the way of profits began going wrong. Scarcely a dollar could be got in from any source; nor could debts be collected; every one who owed us pleaded poverty.

Yet up to September loth, we had hoped to pull things around and make a start that fall, missing, perhaps, the first two or three weeks of the Academy term.

Quite a valuable load of farm produce was ready for market at Portland: a homely, but precious load on the sale of which depended new text-books, clothes, tuition fees, etc. Gram and the girls had been three weeks or more getting it ready to go.

In any ordinary times, indeed, the old farm was generally good for a load of something or other, which could be gathered up and taken to market. Throughout our student days the place was a veritable mine of potential assets, which we often worked for about all it would give up. Sometimes it was lumber, sometimes fruit, butter, poultry and once or twice, as in this present case, veal calves.

Dear old place, how we ransacked it! And the Old Squire and Gram well, sometimes they winced a little at our rapacity, but usually one would say to the other, "It is to help them get an education, and let's hope it will do some good in after years." So the old farm bore the brunt of it.

This particular load, as I now recall, consisted of three barrels of sliced dried apples, in the preparation of which we had all taken a hand during several very busy evenings; also fifty dozen eggs, carefully packed in five bushels of oats, and three firkins of butter.

There were also fifty cans of preserved green-gage plums. The plum-trees in the south garden had borne a prodigious crop that summer; and under Gram's careful eye, Theodora and Ellen had put up the fruit in glass jars, for which a Portland grocer had promised us twenty-four cents a jar.

If I remember aright, too, there were twenty pairs of knit socks and double mittens, corded up in a sack, also twenty pounds of dried sage and a bag of round coriander seed.

It was to care for these more purely household products that Theodora journeyed with Addison and me on the front seat of the farm wagon.

By far the most bulky and troublesome portion of the load, as also the most valuable part, was eight lusty veal calves, grizzly Durhams, from four to six weeks old, which had to be transported alive in a strong crate, set at the rear of the wagon a choice lot of late calves for which we hoped to realize ten dollars apiece.

On account of this young live stock, to keep them shut up as short a time as possible, we had planned to set off in the afternoon, pass the first night at the Mansion House on Ricker Hill, and making an early start from there, get into Portland by eleven the following forenoon. This, it was thought, would afford us opportunity to market our load and make our purchases during the afternoon.

The night in Portland, as a matter of course, we would spend at the house of Uncle Lucas Bushnell, whose family often visited us.

From Uncle Lucas's, by starting early again and driving late in the afternoon, we could return home in a day. That, in fact, was the usual program on trips from the old farm to Portland, the distance being about sixty miles.

Everything was ready and the calves were well fed for their journey at noon of September 19th.

Sol and Nep were hitched up for a start at three o'clock; but the Old Squire had come out and stood casting his "weather eye "round. It was not cloudy exactly, but here was a whitish haze high up in the sky; two bright sun-dogs had also appeared, one on each side of the sun, in the southwest.

"Better not start to-day," the old gentleman said to us. "There's a storm coming.

"To-morrow will be the 10th of September, you know," he continued, with another glance at the sky. "Sun crosses the line to-morrow. It is about time for the line-storm. I'm afraid if you start off for Portland that you will get caught out in it."

All our plans, however, had been laid. The term at the Academy had already begun, and we greatly desired to buy our books, clothing, etc., and get ready.

"Oh, we can rig up warm and take the big umbrella!" Addison exclaimed.

"But your load," the Old Squire reminded us, "your dried apples and your sage?" Then finding that we were bent on going, he brought a tarpaulin from the wagon-house chamber to cover over all, in case of rain. And so, despite sun-dogs and other omens, we set off, reached Ricker's tavern at seven that evening, and passed the night there.

Hiram Ricker, senior, of Poland water fame, and proprietor of the Poland Spring House, had been a boyhood friend of the Old Squire. His family made us welcome; and we were called at five the next morning for an early start but, oh, how it rained!

A driving northeast storm had set in during the night. Dark, raw and cold it looked; and how the gusts of rain poured against the tavern windows! They had a fire in the large fireplace, and Mr. Ricker stood before it, rubbing his hands, when Addison and I came down-stairs.

"This is the line-storm," said he. "I thought it was coming yesterday, when I saw those sun-dogs. You had better stay right here with us to-day. I can give you some milk from my barns for the calves. It's too bad weather for you to be out."

It would have been much better if we had heeded this prudent advice, but thoughts of the Academy urged us to make a start. Theodora, too, was quite as plucky about it as Addison and myself. We covered the load with the tarpaulin, lashed it fast, and then, as soon as the horses were fed and breakfast was eaten, we put on our thick coats, and with the umbrella held low, set off to drive the twenty-five miles to Portland.

But it blew and poured and the calves bleated. The horses seemed unable to make haste, and moped on dejectedly through the mud. Addison drove. We put Theodora in the middle, held the big umbrella as close as we could, and made the best of it.

"It's only a rain-storm!" Theodora exclaimed, hopefully. "Maybe it will slacken by the time we get to Portland. We can get nice and dry at Uncle Lucas's. How Aunt Barbara will stare when she sees us turn up in such a storm!"

"But really, boys, we mustn't take these calves there!" Theodora added, laughing heartily. "It would scandalize the whole street and Aunt Barbara and Cousin Sylvia are quite fashionable, you know. It would mortify them terribly to have their country relations appear at their door with a load of bleating calves!"

But we were by no means at Portland yet. By nine o'clock we had only passed New Gloucester and entered the wooded tract of country beyond. Thus far we had met scarcely a team on the road, but now we passed a man in a booted buggy, driving fast and splashed with mud, whom we guessed to be a physician, summoned in haste.

The road was rather narrow just there. His horse turned in too suddenly in the rear of our long wagon, and his hind wheels clicked sharply against ours. I looked back to learn if damage had been done, and saw that the buggy had pulled up and that the man had his head out at one side of it. He shouted something indistinctly, and motioned with his hand toward our wagon. We imagined, however, that he was angry because we had not turned out farther, and so drove on.

But a moment later we felt an odd kind of jolt at the rear end of the wagon, then another and another and looking hastily back, I saw that the calves were jumping out of the crate behind and running off into the woods, with their tails in the air.

"Hold up, Ad!" I shouted. "Stop, quick! There go all those calves! That crate door's come unhasped!"



THE LINE-STORM

Addison pulled up short. "Here, Doad, hold the horses!" he cried, and flung the reins to her. We then both jumped out in the rain and ran back.

But two more of the calves, five in all, had made their escape before we could reach the rear of the wagon and close the crate door. Three of them had run off on the west side of the road and two on the other through drenching wet bushes, tall weeds and dripping goldenrod.

"O bother!" Addison exclaimed. "Here's a pretty go! In this awful rain, too! But we've got to catch them!"

There was no help for it; we seized each a halter from under the wagon-seat, and bidding Theodora mind the horses, we dashed off through the wet bushes to recapture those fleeing calves.

Addison followed the two that had run off on the right side of the road, and I the others on the other side.

How those little torments ran! I suppose they were homesick. They coursed away like deer. We were soaked to our skins before we had followed them three minutes through the wet weeds and bushes.

Fortunately they kept bleating as they ran, at least, those which I was chasing did so, and knowing that they must be recaptured at any cost, I ran on, and finally came up with my three at a fence, bordering the woodland on that side.

They could run no farther in that direction; and here, after not a little coaxing and calling, I threw my halter about the neck of one of them, and then started to drag him back to the wagon.

Any one who has ever attempted to lead a vigorous calf which resists at every step can easily surmise what a task this proved through half a mile of bushy woodland, with the rain coming down in sheets.

At last I reached the road and the wagon, where Theodora sat waiting patiently. Addison had not returned, and a new difficulty now beset me. I could not tend the crate door and put the calf back into it alone, he was so heavy and strong.

Like the helpful cousin she always proved, Theodora got down in the mud and rain, and insisted on adding her own strength to mine. We tied the recalcitrant little brute's legs, and then, between us, hoisted him into the crate and made the door fast.

I then set off again, found the two others still bleating at the fence, and after another tussle, secured them, one at one end of the halter, the other at the other. But the troubles I had getting the two back to the wagon at once were ten times worse than those of the first trip. The little rascals seemed possessed to run in opposite directions; and as often as we came to a tree, one was sure to run to one side of it, the other to the other.

The only redeeming feature was that the violent exertion kept me warm in my wet clothes. I must have been two hours getting those calves back to the road.

Theodora, indeed, had grown uneasy for my safety, but she was even more concerned about Addison; for nothing had been seen or heard from him since he first set off in the woods on the east side of the road.

"I am really afraid he is lost," Theodora said to me, as she again got down to help put the last two calves in the crate.

I thought it more likely, however, that on this side the calves had come to no fences which restrained their vagrant flight, and had run off to a great distance.

It seemed useless to follow after him. I got into the wagon again under the umbrella, and we waited for a long time, the horses standing there disconsolately in the driving rain; for it was now pouring harder than ever, if that were possible. Not a soul was stirring on the highway.

I should think we sat there for fully two hours, till long past noon, certainly, but no Addison appeared.

Theodora then said that we must try to find him; but after my experience in the wet underbrush, I was by no means desirous of entering the dripping woods again. Snug as we sat under the umbrella, I was now shivering with cold; wet clothes on a raw, stormy day are very depressing to one's courage.

The prospect of reaching Portland that day had now grown dim, indeed; and the six hungry calves in the crate were making the woodland reecho to their loud complaints of man's injustice.

"Oh, why doesn't Addison come?" Theodora sighed, occasionally. "Something surely has happened to him."

"No," I argued. "He has had to chase those calves for miles, and is having no end of trouble, catching them and leading them back. He wouldn't come back without them, you know, if it took him all day. Ad is that kind of a fellow."

We sat there for at least an hour longer, watching and listening for some sign or sound of his return. Theodora then began very quietly to get down from the wagon.

"You are wet and cold," she said. "Hold the horses. I am going to see if I can find him."

Of course no boy born in America would sit still and see a girl start off under such circumstances as those. I jumped down and set off as fast as I could through the woodland in the direction in which I had seen Addison disappear. Immediately I came to swampy ground and a brook, but crossed the latter and ran on for about a mile. I soon became drenched again, but grew warm from the exercise.

At last I came to partially open land, and hastening on for some distance farther among witch-hazel clumps and young pines, sighted an old weathered barn, and near it a low, even more dilapidated house, the windows and doors of which had been removed evidently a deserted farm.

On coming into plainer view of it, however, I noticed that smoke was rising from the squat old chimney.

Here, at last, was some one of whom I could inquire, I thought; perhaps Addison himself might be there; and I hastened forward, moving round through the thick pines toward the front side of the barn.

I had approached within a few rods, when very distinctly I heard a coarse imprecation, followed by a loud laugh and the words:

"Mut has cut his fingers!"

The oath, the tones, caused me to pull up short, then go forward more cautiously, keeping out of sight among the little pines. On the front side the great door of the barn was open, and just inside stood four swarthy, rough-looking fellows, engaged in skinning the carcass of a calf, which hung, suspended by the hind legs, to the cross-beam over the door.

From the first instant I felt sure that this was one of our calves; moreover, as they pulled the skin away, I saw that it was a grizzly Durham, just like ours.

But what did it all mean? Why were they butchering our calf, and where was Addison?

My first impulse was to go forward and ask about it. But a second glance at the men made me hesitate; they were evil-looking fellows, resembling Gipsies or tramps. A sensation of fear stole over me. Where could Addison possibly be?

I stood there for some minutes, watching the men cut up the carcass of the calf. Presently I heard a calf bleat; and the sound appeared to come from the direction of the old house, as if the animal were shut up inside it. Clearly our other calf was not far away.

A moment later a woman appeared in the doorway of the house, and cried, "Ahoo-yeh! Moona-la!" or words which sounded like that, to the men at the barn; and one of them responded gruffly, "Na-la-yeh!" This woman was quite as dark of skin and as unkempt as the men. A very muddy wagon with three seats and a much-soiled flapping canvas top stood in the yard before the house.

I went hastily round through the pines to a point where I could get a better view of the house door. From the voices I judged that there were several women inside.

The necessity of learning something more definite as to what had become of Addison forced itself upon me, and still keeping out of sight in the bushes, I went round to the east side of the house, crossing a little-used road, and then approached in the rear of it. I wanted to see if Addison were really there and if that was our other calf indoors.

I could not get near without showing myself, however; but while watching and listening, I saw one of the men go to the house with a quarter of the calf. The three others proceeded to the wagon, carrying the calf-skin and the rest of the veal; then all four went indoors.

I hung round for some minutes, at a loss what to do. I could hear a frying-pan sizzling, and loud conversation, and I strained my ears to catch the sound of Addison's voice.

I was much frightened, but something must be done, I thought, and at last, mustering all my courage, I marched up to the doorway and knocked.

I had to knock twice, they were making so much noise inside. The voices then ceased suddenly, and a woman looked out from an inner room, but drew back. Two of the men appeared in her place.

"Good afternoon!" I said. "Have you seen two veal calves and a young man searching for them?" They may not have understood me. They did not reply, but exchanged a word together, then came slowly through the room toward me in a stealthy and catlike manner.

Before they had taken three steps, I turned and ran.

With a shout they rushed forth and gave chase, but I cut round the barn, gained the young pines beyond, then tacked to the right and scudded away, keeping out of their sight. I heard them coming after me, but ran on tiptoe myself, and kept tacking from them. In the course of a few moments I threw them off my track altogether, then sped back through the woods to our wagon.

Poor Theodora still sat there, holding the reins the image of patience and anxiety. Seeing me burst forth, breathless, from the woods, she rose up suddenly under the umbrella.

"What is it? Oh, what is it?" she cried. "Haven't you found Ad?"

I sprang up beside her, seized the reins, and started the horses. "We must drive on to the nearest houses and get help," I said. "There are some very bad people over yonder! They have killed one of our calves and got the other shut up!"

"But Addison, where is he?" Theodora exclaimed, now nearly in tears.

"I don't know where he is," I replied. "I haven't seen him." I did not like to tell her all I had seen, but put the horses at a fast trot through the mud and the pouring rain.

Meanwhile Addison was having a curious experience.

When the calves escaped from the crate, he had followed fast after the two that ran off into the woods on the east side of the road. The homesick little creatures went bounding away like deer, and trying hard to keep them in sight, Addison had run after them, halter in hand. Like myself, he was soon drenched by the wet bushes and rain.

The calves raced on, and presently reached the partly open land beyond the woods. Here Addison lost trace of them among the young pines, and searched about for some time. The calves, however, had gone on and come to the old barn and deserted house, previously mentioned, where, as it chanced, this vagrant party of Gipsies or tramps had found shelter from the storm.

At last, hearing one of the calves bleat at a distance, Addison again hastened on, and soon came in sight of the old buildings. What he saw there gave him much pleasure. Four men and two or three women and a boy were out in the rain, surrounding and capturing the calves, one of which the men led into the barn, while the women coaxed and dragged the other into the house.

It struck Addison that they were rather queer-looking people; but that they should have turned out in the rain to secure stray calves seemed a kind act for which he felt inclined to thank them heartily. Before he could go forward, however, the men went from the barn to the house, and the whole party was inside, talking excitedly, when he reached the open doorway and knocked.

One of the men appeared, and when Addison bade him good morning, replied, "Gooda morn!" but in a rather surly tone.

"I am much obliged to you for catching my calves!" Addison said. "They got away from me over on the main road. I will put a halter on them and take them off. Shall I come in and get the one that's in the house here?"

The man hesitated, but drew back, as if assenting. Addison, therefore, entered and followed the man through the front room to a back room, where the others of the party, men and women, were gathered about the calf. Addison also noticed that they had opened the door leading down a flight of stairs to the cellar of the house, and it occurred to him that when he knocked they had been on the point of putting the calf down into the cellar.

The whole swarthy party stood regarding him keenly, in silence; nor did any of them respond when Addison nodded and bade them good morning. In fact, he did not at all like their looks or their behavior, but he stepped forward to the calf and began tying the halter about its neck.

Then, quick as a flash, one of the women, standing behind him, threw a wet shawl over his head and held it there with both arms round his neck.

Addison jumped forward and struggled hard to throw the shawl and the woman off; but she held him tight. The others laid hold of him. He was hustled backward, pushed hard, and the next instant he pitched headlong down the cellar stairs and fell into a puddle of water below.

There he tore the shawl off his head, but at the same instant heard the cellar door slam, and found himself in utter darkness. It was one of those old farmhouses the cellars of which were banked up every autumn with earth or turf. Not a ray of light penetrated the place, and there appeared to be six inches or more of stagnant water on the cellar bottom. He found the stairs, and rushing up, attempted to force open the door. His captors, however, were now making the door fast, and greeted his efforts to break out with derisive shouts and much laughter.

At last he gave up and sat down on the cellar stairs. What to do he did not know. In fact, there was nothing he could do, save sit there and bear it and there he was sitting all the while that I was capturing my three calves, and afterward, while I was reconnoitering the old house.

Meanwhile the vagrants slaughtered and dressed one of the calves. They probably intended to slaughter the other, so as to take the veal with them when they left the place. What they meant to do with Addison, ultimately, can only be conjectured. They probably intended to keep him a prisoner till they had secured the calves and gone on. In the cellar of a deserted house like that he might have remained undiscovered for a day or two, and perhaps perished there, for the road which led past those old buildings was now scarcely more than a cart-track through the partly overgrown land, and at this time rarely used. The vagrants might have gone a day's journey on their devious way before any one had found him, or before he could have broken out of the cellar.

Very likely these strollers were hungry, and the sight of a fat veal calf was a great temptation to them; certainly they had begun cooking portions of it within five minutes of the time it was slaughtered.

My appearance on the scene, looking for Addison and the calves, disconcerted them, however, and upset their scheme. From the way they chased me, I suppose that they meant to catch me and chuck me into the cellar with Addison.

Night was at hand, and if they had succeeded, poor Theodora, sitting over there in the rain, holding the horses, would have been in serious plight. And so, indeed, would Ad and I have been, in that dark, foul old cellar!

But I had escaped, and now drove on as fast as I could. I felt sure that something had gone wrong with Addison.

Dread lest he had been murdered fell on me; but of this I said nothing to Theodora, for she was already much alarmed and very anxious. I kept the horses at a canter, and after about a mile we came to a large farmhouse, known as the Fowler place.

"We had better stop here overnight if the people will keep us," Theodora said, as I turned in. It was already as late as five o'clock in the afternoon.

Seeing strangers in the yard, Mr. Fowler and his wife and two boys came out on the piazza, and when we told how far we had come and where we were going, they very kindly invited us to remain with them.

"Come right in," Mrs. Fowler said to Theodora. "You couldn't get to Portland to-night. Come right in out of this dreadful storm!"

The boys ran to open the great doors of the barn, and I drove in with our load. The farmer followed, to help in putting up the horses.

Once inside, I hastily related what had happened to us, told of Addison's disappearance and described the place where our calf had been slaughtered.

Mr. Fowler appeared somewhat incredulous at first. He regarded me closely. I fancy he thought I was romancing. Then he looked at the calves in the crate, asked my name and some other questions.

"The place where you say you lost your calves is the old Yates farm," he remarked. "But nobody has lived there for eight or ten years."

I urged him to go there with me at once.

"This is a bad storm to start out in," he replied. Just then, however, Theodora came out to the barn, accompanied by Mrs. Fowler, to whom she also had related our adventure. Mrs. Fowler urged her husband to go with us and look into the affair.

"James," said she, aside to him, "something bad has happened up there."

One of the boys now put in his word to say that he had seen a covered wagon with two "calico" horses of unusual appearance on that crossroad early in the morning.

Mr. Fowler still hesitated, as one but half-convinced, and I think it was the well-nigh tearful anxiety in Theodora's honest eyes that induced him to go. I wished him to take a gun, but he laughed.

"I guess we shall not need to shoot anybody," he said. "This is considered a pretty peaceful place."

The two boys went with us. They put on thick overcoats and took umbrellas. Theodora also insisted on going, and then, against Mr. Fowler's advice, Mrs. Fowler herself donned her wraps and came out after us.

The boys led the way across the fields and pastures. We made haste, for it was now nearly night, and after walking a mile and a half or two miles, we came in sight of the Yates farm. No smoke was now rising from the chimney and no wagon stood in front of the house.

Everything looked very quiet. We went first to the barn, and there saw evidences of the calf having been killed. Somewhat cautiously, Mr. Fowler and I then approached the old house and went in; but apparently it was quite deserted, although embers still smoldered in the fireplace.

"Well, somebody has certainly been here to-day," Mr. Fowler said. "I guess they have really made way with your calves. No mistake about that."

He had no sooner spoken than a strangely muffled voice from somewhere close at hand cried, "Hello! Hello! Open the cellar door! Open the cellar door!"

Mr. Fowler was so startled that he turned suddenly, as if to beat a retreat. But I had recognized Addison's voice. Hastening to the back room, I saw the props set against a door, and guessed instantly what had happened. Addison, moreover, continued shouting lustily, "Open the cellar door!" for he had heard us come in. "Open the cellar door! Let me out! Let me out!"

Theodora, Mrs. Fowler and the boys came rushing into the house as I was pulling away the props. I had no more than knocked the last one aside when the door flew open and Addison struggled out, very muddy, indeed, and in a sorry condition.

"Oh, but I'm glad you've come at last!" were his first words. "I thought nobody ever would come. Those rascals have been gone more than two hours! Something scared them off. They harnessed up and left in a hurry. I heard them rushing round. But they killed that other calf and put it in their wagon. Then they drove off up the road back of the house."

Addison was so much exhausted that he had to sit down to recover himself. Theodora stood wiping her eyes, but they were tears of joy and relief, and as for the Fowlers, they were simply astonished.

"I have lived here for over forty years," the farmer exclaimed, "but I never knew of anything like this before! We must notify the sheriff and have those scamps arrested and punished if they can be found."

It was getting dark, but Addison lighted a splinter at the fireplace, and showed us where he had passed the day on the cellar stairs, and he picked up the old shawl and shook it out.

"That's what the Gipsy woman put over my head," said he, with a grimace. It was a much-soiled old garment, but the fabric was very fine camel's hair, or cashmere. In its day it had been an expensive shawl stolen, probably, by these vagrants.

Still it rained, and night came on as we made our way back across the bushy pastures to the Fowler place. The farmer, however, at once hitched up and drove to Gray Corners to notify the sheriff there of what had occurred. But I may say here that the miscreants were never brought to justice.

The next morning it was still raining, hard as ever, and we gladly accepted the kind invitation of the Fowlers to continue our sojourn with them. In fact, we all three had taken cold and were somewhat the worse for our adventure. Milk, too, by the bucketful had to be procured for those hungry calves.

The following day was Sunday, and as the storm had not yet abated, we remained there till the weather cleared on Monday. Indeed, we became quite well acquainted with these friends in need an acquaintance which continued very cordially for years afterward.

Starting out early on Monday, we reached Portland at eleven o'clock, and passed the night at Uncle Lucas's, much as we had planned.

Our apparel, however, was the worse for the drenchings we had suffered, and we did not fail to notice that Aunt Barbara was not proud of our appearance. She was a very good woman, and we liked her; but she considered Uncle Lucas's dry-goods store in Portland immeasurably higher in the social scale than the Old Squire's farm up in Oxford County. Three years later, however, Uncle Lucas was very glad to accept a loan of four thousand dollars, without interest, from the Old Squire to tide his business over the hard times of those years; but I do not think this fact had the least effect on Aunt Barbara's social pride. To the end of her days she continued to look serenely down on us from her fancied social eminence. It must have afforded her a great deal of enjoyment, and I am sure it never injured us.

To this day, I believe Addison still retains in his possession the old camel's-hair shawl, as a souvenir of the line-storm, and of the vagrant "lady" who held him so tightly round the neck before consigning him to the depths of the cellar at the old Yates place.

But our load! We were all the following day trying to dispose of it. Twice Addison gave up in despair, declaring that we would do better to take it home than accept the low prices offered for it. Uncle Lucas was able to aid us but little. Times were so hard that nobody seemed willing to part with money. At what appeared a terrible sacrifice we finally closed out nearly everything, but the socks, mittens, sage and coriander. I think it was but four cents per pound, live weight, that we could get offered for these fine, fat veal calves; and we had lost two of them!

We reached home Wednesday night, after an absence of nearly a week, not a little discouraged. The total receipts of the trip were so beggarly that Gram scolded in righteous indignation. The Old Squire, too, looked so crestfallen that next day, while gathering the last of the early apples, we young folks debated the situation seriously.

"Don't you think, Ad, that perhaps we had better put off going to the Academy this fall?" Theodora said at last.

"Well," replied Addison, judicially, "it does look a little as if it might be as well.

"Mind you," he added, "I am not giving up my plans, or anything like that. But all creation seems to be against us this fall!"

"Oh, dear," Ellen lamented, "isn't it discouraging?

"Ho!" Halse exclaimed. "Who cares? I knew all the time we should never make it go."

For some reason this remark greatly irritated Addison. "Did you really know all that?" he exclaimed. "Your wisdom, Halse, will never hurt you.

"If I live I shall put this through and get an education," he added, with great determination.

"Let me know when you do it," retorted Halse.

But Theodora and Ellen shook hands on a pledge with Addison to go on as soon as the way looked a little clearer, and I joined them in it.

"I am sure our affairs will brighten by next spring," Theodora said hopefully.

"And we are going to have Master Pierson back this winter, anyhow," Ellen exclaimed. "That's worth a good deal."

"Yes, old Joel is a whole team, and a horse to let, besides," cried Addison. "How he will drive us this winter!"

"And we still have fifteen dollars left for a private school!" Theodora added.

So, despite hard times, "line-storms" and financial stringency, we took courage and put faith in the future.


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