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"Who can all sense of others' ills escape
Is but a brute at best in human shape."—TATE.
AFTER breakfast the next morning, as we could not get any team to take us over, we started to walk to Andover, a distance of seventeen miles. We bade the people in the hotel "good-by," and, shouldering our "collateral," started off at a brisk pace. As we began climbing the long hill that leads to the upper village we were forced to slacken our speed that we might breathe easily.
As we climbed upward we cast an occasional glance back to catch the fine views of the lake presented in the morning sunlight; for the sun had at last condescended to shine once more. There was very little snow on the ground, none to impede our progress but the rough and frozen ground offered poor footing, and I made up my mind that we should be pretty well tired ont by the time we reached Andover. As there were no hotels on the way, and we did not intend hurrying, we took a light lunch with us.
When we had reached the top of the hill, and gained a spot which commanded an outlook over the greater part of the lake, we stopped for a moment to admire the beautiful sheet of water below us, now glistening like silver in the sunshine. All the mountains to the northward were covered with snow, and beyond the lake the country had more the appearance of winter than the locality where we were. Having gazed at the beautiful picture before us until we began to feel chilly from standing still we resumed our march.
Just as we passed the road that turned off on the right to Bethel we met one of the Upton guides, who. was out with dog and gun on a partridge-hunt.
"Hallo, Captain!" he said; "where are you bound? You haven't started to walk to Boston, I hope."
"Hardly," I replied, laughing. "We are going to Andover, if our courage holds out."
"Did you have any luck up at Parmachenee Lake, hunting?" he asked my companion, with whom he was also acquainted.
"No," replied Jack; "it snowed all the time. We shot at a caribou coming down river, but missed it."
"That's too bad: Caribou is the best meat there is in the woods. Anybody up there now?"
"Three or four when we left. Which way are you going?"
"Down toward Grafton, and I must be moving along. Good-morning."
We returned his salutation, and continued our course over the hills.
From the road where we were now traveling we had a fine view off to the south of Saddleback and Speckled Mountains, the two attendant peaks of Grafton Notch. Each of them was covered with a white cap, but toward their base the snow was very light.
"I don't believe we shall find any snow at Andover," said Jack. "It often snows around Umbagog when we have none over our way, and it seems to me it is getting thinner the farther we get from the lake."
"I don't care to see any more," I returned; "I have had enough to last me for a while."
When we were most down the hill, and near the bridge that crosses the swift Cambridge, Jack saw a hedgehog crossing the road, and fired both barrels at it, killing it as dead as Julius Cćsar.
"Here's something for your dinner, Captain," he cried, as we came up to the animal.
"Thank you; I don't wish to rob you, Jack. Take the game along with you, and you can have some fresh pork."
"I guess not, Captain. That isn't my kind. But I don't suppose I ought to leave it in the middle of the road."
"Of course not. Pitch it into the river. Let me pull out a few of the quills first; I want some to carry home with me."
I took all I wanted, and then, picking Mr. Porcupine up by one of his forepaws, carried him out on the bridge, and dropped him off the lower side. His body struck the water with a splash, and floated down stream till it lodged against a rock.
"That fellow will make good fish-bait," said Jack, watching the dead animal.
"The trout that tries to make a meal on him will get his mouth pricked," I added.
"I don't see what porcupines are good for," remarked Jack, as we began climbing a hill before us about a mile long.
"Years ago the Indians used to take their quills and color them, and use them for ornamenting some parts of their dress; but I don't know of any use they can be put to nowadays, unless the quills might be sold for toothpicks."
"I wonder if they are good to eat, Captain."
"I am sure I don't know. I never knew of anybody eating them; but if I was starving in the woods, and ran across one, I should certainly find out how he tasted. I could not see any sense in your shooting the animal, as he was of no use to us."
"There was no need of shooting him," replied Jack; "but then, you know, it is natural when a fellow has a gun to shoot at everything he sees."
"That is a fact! Man is naturally a most destructive animal."
When we had climbed about half-way up-hill we saw a horse and wagon ahead of us, coming down. It contained two people, a man and woman, but was so far away that we could not tell whether they were old or young; but the horse, even at the distance from which we first sighted the turn-out, seemed skinny and gaunt, and the wagon wabbled along from side to side, with a motion that suggested weak or broken wheels.
We watched the party as they approached us, wondering who they could be, and, as the vehicle came nearer, saw it was about the worst-looking wagon we had ever run across, while the most proper use I could think of for the horse was to tie him up in a cornfield as a scarecrow.
When they had approached sufficiently near for us to trace their faces we saw that the man was old and wrinkled, with huge bushy whiskers, and hair so long that it reached below his coat-collar. his companion was a young girl about eighteen, and decidedly pretty. A slight resemblance in features made me think them father and daughter, and this proved to be the case.
"What a thundering old plug that horse is!" whispered Jack, as we swung to the right, off the road, to be out of the way.
Just as I was about to answer, the horse and the forward wheels became detached from the rest of the wagon, the front end of which dropped down. The hill was so steep in the spot where the accident happened that the hind wheels made a few revolutions, sufficient to land the wagon in the gutter on the left side of the road, while the old man and the girl were pitched out head-first.
As the old fellow went out he turned over, and landed flat on his back, while the girl came down upon him, her head striking his stomach, and then she rolled off all in a heap. It was one of the funniest sights I ever saw, and I could scarcely help laughing, in spite of the possibility of their being badly injured.
The whole affair was over in a couple of seconds, — much quicker than I could tell it, — and Jack and I, dropping our things, rushed to the help of the unfortunates. The horse had gone a few steps and stopped, evidently too tired or lazy to continue farther without urging.
Recalling to mind that well-worn aphorism, "Age before beauty," I knelt down by the old man, although I acknowledge that I should have preferred to tender my services to the young lady, and took a look at him, for as yet he had not moved. I felt of his pulse, and found it to beat fairly strong, and just then he opened his eyes, and made an effort to start up, and with my assistance he gained his feet; but he appeared a little dazed, as if he did not know what he was up to. He seemed able to stand, and I turned to Jack's assistance, who had just called to me, saying the girl had fainted.
"Chafe and rub her hands then," I replied, and, having a drinking-cup in my pocket, I filled it with water from a sparkling stream beside the road, and began to sprinkle her face.
Noticing the lower part of her clothing was somewhat disarranged, exposing to our view rather more of a symmetrical pair of lower limbs than her modesty would have allowed had she been in possession of her senses, I told Jack to pull down her dress, which he did just before she came out of her faint, undoubtedly sparing her some blushes.
As she opened her eyes a look of alarm and surprise flitted across her face, until she noticed the old man standing near, and then it changed to wonderment.
"What is the matter ?"she asked, trying to rise.
"You have met with an accident," I explained, as Jack and I helped her to stand up.
The old man now found voice for the first time.
"Blast my pictur, if this aint a purty piece o' business!" and he gazed from the wagon to the old horse as if it was too much for him to fathom.
"Do you feel all right, sir, now?" I inquired, turning to him.
"I dunno. I feel kinder shook up in my j'ints;" and then he thought of his daughter, and, looking at her, said, "Are ye hurt any, Bessie?"
"I guess not, father; but how shall we get home? I suppose the wagon is broke."
"I will investigate," I remarked, for as yet none of us knew the cause of the accident. It had not been the horse, for he was traveling at a snail's pace when the wagon went down.
I went to the body of the wagon and examined the forward part of it, and found that the bolt that secured it to the forward wheels had broken short off, it having been nearly worn out. I was surprised that it had held for any distance at all, in the condition that it was in when they started.
"How far have you traveled this morning?" I asked the old man.
"I came from Blue's, down in the Sarplus; six or seven miles from Andover."
"I don't see how that bolt ever held to draw the wagon up that long hill. It was worn down to a quarter of an inch."
"We walked up all the hills," said Miss Bessie, in explanation.
"Did you? I am surprised that it held even to draw up the empty wagon."
"How am I goin' to fix the durned thing?" inquired the old man. "I live in Colebrook, and wanter git hum to-day."
"The only. thing I see for you to do is to go back to the first house, and try and get a piece of iron of some kind, that will answer for a bolt for a short time, and when you get to Upton Village you can get a new bolt made in a few moments, as the road passes a blacksmith's shop there."
"Nobuddy lives in the fust house," replied the old man.
"Try the first inhabited house, then," I replied, laughing. "Any old bolt, or piece of iron rod, that is not too large for the hole, will answer your purpose, if you are careful, until you reach the blacksmith's, and then he can repair the damage properly."
"Which way ye travelin'?" queried the old man, looking from Jack to me.
"We are going to Andover."
"Couldn't ye help me fix this thing? I dunno as I can do it alone."
"I suppose we might;" and I looked at Jack for his opinion.
"Yes, we'll help you," said Jack. "But we need a hammer, and something for a bolt."
"I'll go over and see what I can find at some of the houses beyond, and you can stay here and prevent the horse from running away; "and I winked at Jack.
The old man, who took my remark in earnest, said the horse would not run away, and that he could take care of him.
"All right, I'll leave Jack to help you, then," and I left them.
It was nearly a mile to the second house, the first one, as the old man had said, being empty. I found the farmer who lived on the place ont to the barn, and explained to him the nature of my errand.
After submitting me to a cross-examination he remarked that he didn't know whether he had anything suitable or not, but he would look.
He led me from the barn to a small shed, and there he found a box of old iron. We picked this over, and I found a brace that had once done duty on a cart-body, which I told him would answer, and asked him if he would donate it to the cause of suffering humanity.
He stared at me as if he did not exactly comprehend, but finally said: "Yas, you can hey that, mister. What d'ye say the old feller's name was?"
"I didn't say," I replied. "His name may be Smith, Brown, Jones, or Thompson; but as I don't know I can't tell you. Now can you lend me a hammer?"
"Sartainly. The hammer's in the house."
He went in and brought it out, and I thanked him for the iron, and told him I would leave the hammer as I came along, and hurried away before he could question me further.
I returned as quickly as possible, as I did not like the delay we were being subjected to.
When I reached the scene of the accident Jack took the hammer, and after some difficulty succeeded in getting out the upper part of the bolt from the wagon-body. Then, laying our axe on a large flat boulder near at hand, we made it serve as an anvil, and by means of the hammer succeeded in "putting a head" on the old rod I had brought from the farm. Then we hammered the other end down a little, and, trying it on the wagon, found it would work very well.
The old man now backed the horse and forward wheels up to the other part of the vehicle, and we made a connection. With the reins in his hand he walked the horse into the middle of the road, and then told his daughter to "jump in,"—a rather difficult feat to execute literally.
Jack helped the young lady into the wagon, and the old man, addressing me, said, "What's the damage?"
"What do you mean?" I inquired.
"Why, what do ye tax me fur your trouble, and fixin' the wagon?"
"Oh!" I exclaimed, comprehending him now, and smiling, I assured him that we had not entered into the speculation from a monetary point of view, but simply to help him out of his scrape.
Jack, with an eye on Miss Bessie, reëchoed my sentiments.
"Wall," remarked the old man, "you're durned accommodatin' young fellers, an' if ye ever cum to Colebrook cum an' see me. I live 'bout a mile this side of the village."
We both accepted the invitation. Passing the reins to his daughter, the old man fished under the seat and drew out a half-gallon stone jug, and, giving it a shake, said:
"I suppose you fellers take a leetle sumthin' once in a while, and we'll take a drink all round before we leave."
I caught a pained expression flitting across Miss Bessie's face, and saw that she looked troubled, and like a streak of lightning the idea passed through my brain that she did not want her father to drink. As for me I had never drank intoxicating liquors, and did not propose to begin then. I determined to play a trick on the old fellow, that I felt would have the sympathy of the young lady in the wagon. Taking the jug, I remarked, "I suppose this is the real stuff; here's to our better acquaintance."
I turned the jug up to my month; but, just before the liquor reached my lips, my foot slipped on a little piece of ice in the road, and down went the jug, striking against a rock, and was completely demolished.
I cast a swift glance at Miss Bessie, and saw a relieved smile light up her features, and then I exclaimed:
"Great Scott! But that was too bad. How could I be so careless! My foot slipped on that ice, and, confound it! I'm dry as a fish. I guess I shall have to try brook water now; "and I looked as solemn as the circumstances warranted.
"Wall, don't feel so bad about it; I don't see how you could help it. I was a leetle dry myself, and I can't git anything now till I git to Russell's, and the stuff he keeps is enough to pizen a man."
"Don't lay this up against me," I urged, as the old man climbed into the wagon, and took the reins.
"Sartinly not. I don't see how ye could help it. But I must be gittin' along. Good-by to ye."
We shook hands with the old man, as a reasonable excuse for shaking hands with his daughter, and, bidding them farewell, we picked up our things, including the borrowed hammer.
As the old fellow drove off he took one last sniff of the fumes that arose from the demoralized jug, and cast a mournful look at its fragments.
We watched them a few moments, and saw that the wagon was running all right, and then began our upward climb. When we reached a turn of the road, nearly at the top of the hill, which would take us out of their sight, we halted a moment and looked after them.
There was nearly half a mile of space between us, but I saw a white speck fluttering in the air, which I judged to be the young lady's handkerchief, and Jack and I waved our hats in token of recognition. The next moment the white speck had vanished, and Jack and I turned the curve of the road, and that was the last we saw of our chance acquaintances.
We stopped at the house where I had borrowed the hammer, and returned that useful implement. The farmer invited ns to stop and have some dinner, saying that it would be ready in half an hour; but as we had already lost nearly two hours, through our unexpected adventure, we declined with thanks, and continued our way.
"That was rather a mean trick of yours, Captain," remarked Jack, with a laugh, —"smashing the old fellow's jug of opedildoc."
"He is better off without it," I returned.
At noon we had passed the last of the houses on East B Hill, and would not see another for the next three miles, this distance being all through thick woods.
On the last upward hill that we had to climb before reaching the Surplus, we stopped a few moments by a little wayside brook, and partook of our luncheon, which we washed down with the sparkling spring-water.
Near the top of this hill we came upon three partridges in the middle of the road, and Jack shot two of them. The cover in the vicinity was very favorable for this fine bird, and if we could have stopped an hour or two we would probably have made a good bag.
I was glad when we had passed the height of land, and began the descent of the long hill that brought us in sight of the Surplus settlement, for we both began to feel tired. As Jack had remarked, the road was nothing but down-hill, and up-hill, and long hills at that. And the miles were like the hills.
An old fellow once told me that the way they measured the miles in that part of the country was to start a fox-hound out at some given point, run him until he dropped dead, and then call it a mile. I give this story for what it is worth, and will not swear to its accuracy.
"Hurrah!" cried Jack, as we swung around the last bend in the hill; "I can see the houses."
When we had reached Dunn's Notch, about seven miles from the village, we met some Andover men, who told us that they had heard the day before that our boat was sunk. A lumberman who had come out from the lakes had brought the news.
Startled and alarmed we asked for particulars, but they could furnish us but a meagre account, adding, however, that the steamer was entirely ruined, and would not be worth the raising.
I did not take much stock in any such report as that, for I knew the boat was thoroughly and substantially built, and would stand a great deal of pounding before being utterly ruined, and telling Jack that we had better get to Andover in the quickest possible time we started at a gait that would have given even a professional pedestrian some trouble to have kept up with us.
"Stories of that kind always grow as they travel," remarked Jack. "I don't believe more than half of it."
"Nor I either. But the sooner we get to the Upper Dam the better, for, no matter what shape the boat is in, she has laid just that way ever since the storm, and we must get her out of the water, if possible, before we have bad weather again."
"I think we shall have two or three good days now," said my companion, glancing upward; "the sky looks hard."
"Present indications are favorable, I acknowledge; but the weather in this country at this time of year is mighty onsartin,' as the darky said."
Talking became difficult while we were walking so fast, and we strode on, each amusing himself by his own thoughts, and mine anything but pleasant.
We reached Andover about four o'clock, and found the report verified to a certain extent. We inquired of the landlord of the hotel where we would be likely to find the help we needed, and then went around the village and engaged a crew of men to start with us for the Upper Dam the next morning.
Some people seem to take a malicious pleasure in throwing a man's misfortune in his face, and making it out much worse than it really is. Several of the people whom we met laughed at the idea of our ever getting the steamer afloat again, and told me I had better go home, as it would only be lost time to go to the lake. They were sure that we could do nothing, and seemed bound to make me believe it, if that were possible.
I assured these "wise men of the east" that I should not return to Boston until after I had visited the lakes, and had no idea but what I could get the steamer afloat again, and repair her in such a manner that she would be as good as she was before.
When I thought of what I had seen done to damaged and wrecked vessels at home I almost laughed at the view these fellows took of the accident. I knew, of course, that there were no such facilities for doing the work as there would have been in Boston harbor, but I intended to make brains supply all other deficiencies.
I slept but very little that night, lying awake most of the time, and thinking and planning how to raise the boat and haul her out; but I did not mind the loss of sleep, for excitement took its place, and with the appearance of the first streaks of dawn Thursday morning I arose and went downstairs, and Jack soon followed me.
When I entered the office I found one of the "characters" of the village whom I had not seen the day before. He accosted me with:
"Good-morning, Cap'n. You've had hard luck with your boat."
"Yes, but I am going up this morning and take her out of the lake."
"Think ye can git her out?"
"I know I can."
"Wall, some of the people 'round here said she was entirely sp'ilt; but I knew better, an' told 'em so."
"There are a great many wise people in this town," I rejoined.
"Yes, wise in their own conceit," remarked the old man, laughing, and then added, "Jack go'in' up with ye?"
"I should like ter go with ye, too, if I wan't so old; but you'll get her out if I du stay ter hum; "and the old man chuckled again.
"Of course we shall."
"Who's goin ter boss the job?"
"I am. But I shall be willing to take advice."
"Shall ye, shall ye? Then yell git plenty of it. Every man ye hire'll be loaded with it."
"So much the better, if it's the right kind," I answered.
"Don't ye hay' too many bosses," shaking his head from side to side as he spoke, and holding up the forefinger of his right hand by way of emphasis. "Too many bosses spiles things."
The old man was becoming tiresome, and I was on the point of taking French leave of him, when the breakfast-bell rang, which gave me an excuse for getting out of the room, and I gladly availed myself of it.