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MONDAY AT THE OLD FARM
"I shall expect you to work with us on the farm, 'Edmund,'" grandfather said to me after breakfast. "But you may have this forenoon, to look about and see the place. Enjoy yourself all you can."
The robins were singing blithely in the orchard. I went thither and I think it was four robins' nests which I found in as many different apple trees, one with three, two with four and one with five blue eggs. Is there anything prettier than the eggs of a robin, in the eyes of a boy?
As I climbed the orchard wall to cross the road, a milk snake was sunning on the loose stones among the raspberry bushes, the first I had ever seen; and I bear witness that the ancestral antipathy to the serpent leaped within me instantly. I beat his head without remorse, ay, pounded his tail, too, which wriggled prodigiously, and chopped his body to pieces with sharp stones.
This sorry victory achieved, I set off across the fields to the west pasture and thence descended to the west brook, where I saw several trout in a deep hole beneath the decayed logs of a former bridge. With a mental resolve to come here fishing, as soon as I could procure a hook and line, I continued onward through a low, swampy tract overgrown with black alder and at length reached the "colt pasture," upon a cleared hill. Here a handsome black colt, along with a sorrel and a white one, was feeding, and at once came racing to meet me, in the hope of a nib of provender, or salt. Continuing my voyage of discovery, I came to a tract of woodland beyond the pasture through which a cart road led to a clearing where there was a small old house, deserted, and also a small barn. This, as I had yet to learn, was the "Aunt Hannah lot," an appendage of the farm, which had come into grandfather's possession from a sister, my great-aunt of that name. Save a field of oats, the land here was allowed to lie in grass and remain otherwise uncultivated. Beyond this small outlying farm, there was a dense body of woodland, which I did not then attempt to penetrate, but made a circuit to the northward through pasture land and young wood for half a mile or more, and by and by crossed the road, looking along which to the northwest, I could see the farmhouses of several of our neighbors.
Still farther around to the north rose a bold, rocky, cleared hill which I concluded was the sheep pasture. In a wet run along the foot of the hill was a stretch of what looked to be low, reddish, brushy grass, which I ascertained later was the "cranberry swale."
Beyond it to the east, a long field curved around the foot of the sheep pasture; and on the far side of this field there was woodland again, descending first to the valley of the east brook where lay the "Little Sea," then ascending a rugged hill.
A boy, like a bee, must needs take his bearings before he can feel quite at home in a new place. I crossed the valley and climbed the wooded hill beyond, a distance of nearly a mile and a half from the farmhouse. Formerly there had been a grand growth of pine here; and there were still a few pine trees. Numbers of the old stumps and stubs were of great size. This rugged ridge bore the name of Pine Hill. From the summit I gained a fine view of the country around, with its farms and forest tracts, and of the Pennesseewassee stretching away to the southward; also of the White Mountains in the northwest; while on the other side of the hill to the east and southeast, lay an extensive bog and another smaller lake, or pond, known as North Pond.
For half an hour or more I sat upon a pine stump and pored over the geography of the district with much boyish interest, noting various hills, farmhouses and other landmarks concerning which I determined to inquire of Addison.
At length, beginning to feel hungry and bethinking myself that it must be getting toward noon, I descended from my perch of observation, and made my way homeward, although it did not seem very much like home to me as yet. The tramp had done me good in the way of satisfying my "bump of location."
Reaching the house in advance of the noon hour, I went out with Theodora to see the eaves swallows again. We counted fifty-seven nests in a row, each resembling very much a dry cocoanut shell, with a swallow's head looking out at a little hole on the upper side. Dora pointed out the nest of one pair which had experienced much ill luck. Three times the nest had fallen. No sooner would they finish it and have an egg or two, than down it would fall on the stones below. But their misfortunes had finally taught the little architects wisdom. They brought hair from the barnyard and mixed it with their mud, after the manner of mortar, and so built a nest which successfully adhered.
All this Theodora told me as we stood watching them, coming and going with cheery, ceaseless twitterings.
"And I think they've got a kind of reason about such things," Theodora added with a certain tone of candid concession. "Although Gram says it is only instinct. She doesn't like to have any one say that animals or birds reason; she thinks it isn't Scriptural."
Just then Ellen came out with the dinner-horn which, after several dissonant efforts, she succeeded in sounding, to call the Old Squire and the boys from the field. Theodora and I were so greatly amused at the odd sound that we burst out laughing; and Ellen, hearing us, was a good deal mortified. "I don't care!" she exclaimed. "It goes awfully hard; I haven't got breath enough to quite 'fill' it; and my lip isn't hard enough. Ad says it takes practice to get up a lip for horn blowing."
Theodora tried it, and elicited a horrible blare. I did not succeed much better; something seemed to be lacking in my lip, or my lungs. It required a tremendous head of wind to make the old tube vibrate; at last, I got it started a-roaring and made the whole countryside hideous with an outlandish sort of blast. Theodora begged of me to desist.
"We shall have the neighborhood aroused and coming to see what the matter is," she said. I was so much elated with my success, however, that I blew a final roar; and just then Addison, Halstead, grandfather and two hired men came upon the scene, over the wall from the field side.
"What on earth are you trying to do with that horn?" Halstead called out. "Do you think we are deaf? I never heard such a noise!"
"It is only our new cousin getting up his lip," said Ellen, scarcely able to speak for laughing.
Grandfather told me that if they ever organized a brass band thereabout, I should have the big French horn to play, for I seemed to have the makings of a tremendous lip. All these little incidents of my first few days at the farm are enduringly fixed in my memory.
The day proved a warm one; and after dinner I went into the front sitting-room and looked at the old family pictures: grandfather's father and mother in silhouette, General Scott's triumphant entry into the city of Mexico, Jesus disputing with the Doctors, Martin Luther, George Washington and several daguerreotypes of my uncles and aunts, framed and hung on the wall. Next I read the battle parts of a new history of the War, by Abbott.
Erelong grandfather came in for a nap on the lounge; and I found that Addison and Halstead were hitching up old Sol and loading bags of corn into the farm wagon, to go to mill. They told me that the grist mill was three miles distant and invited me to go along with them. We set off immediately, all three of us sitting on the seat, in front of the bags. Halstead wanted to drive; but Addison had taken possession of the reins and kept them, although Halstead secured the whip and occasionally touched up the horse, contrary to Addison's wishes; for it proved a very hilly road. First we descended from the ridge on which the home farm is located, crossed the meadow, then ascended another long ridge whence a good view was afforded of several ponds, and of the White Mountains in the northwest.
Descending from this height of land to the westward for half a mile, we came to the mill, in the valley of another large brook. It was a weathered, saddle-back old structure, situated at the foot of a huge dam, built of rough stones, like a farm wall across the brook, and holding back a considerable pond. A rickety sluice-way led the water down upon the water-wheel beneath the mill floor.
When we arrived there was no one stirring about the mill; but we had no more than driven up and hitched old Sol to a post, when two boys came out from a small red house, a little way along the road, where lived the miller, whose name was Harland.
"There come Jock and George," said Addison. "Maybe the old man isn't at home to-day.
"Where's your father?" he called out, as the boys drew near.
"Gone to the village," replied the larger of the two, who was apparently thirteen or fourteen years of age.
"We want to get a grist ground," Addison said to them.
"What is it?" they both asked.
"Corn," replied Ad.
"If it's only corn, we can grind it," they said. "Take it in so we can toll it. Pa said we could grind corn, or oats and pease; but he won't let us grind wheat, yet, for that has to be bolted."
We carried the bags into the mill; there were three of them, each containing two bushels of corn; and meantime the two young millers brought along a half-bushel measure and a two-quart measure.
"It's two quarts toll to the bushel, ye know," said Jonathan, the elder of the two. "So I must have two two-quart measurefuls out of every bag." He proceeded to untie the bags and toll them, dipping out a heaped measureful.
"Here, here," said Addison, "you must strict those measures with a square; you're getting a good pint too much on every one."
"All right," they assented, and producing a piece of straight-edged board, stricted them.
"Have to watch these millers a little," Addison remarked. "And I guess, Jock, you had better not toll all the bags till you see whether there's water enough to grind all of it."
"O, there's water enough," said they. "There's a whole damful."
They then poured the first bagful into the hopper over the millstones, and went to hoist the gate. It was a very primitive, worn piece of mechanism, and hoisting it proved a difficult task. Addison and Halstead went to help them. At length they heaved the gate up; the water-wheel began to turn and the other gear to revolve, making a tremendous noise. I climbed down beneath the mill, at the lower end, to see the water-wheel operate. The wheel and big mill post turned ponderously around, wabbling somewhat and creaking ominously. By the time I went back into the mill, above, the first bagful of corn was nearly ground into yellow meal, which came out of the stones into the meal-box quite hot from the molinary process. Addison was dipping the meal out and putting it up in the empty bag.
"Is it fine enough?" Jock called out. "I can drop the stone a little, if ye say so. We will grind it just as ye want it."
Presently something went through the millstones that made an odd noise; and the young miller, George, accused Halstead of throwing a pebble into the hopper. They had a dispute about it, and George complained that such a trick might spoil the millstones.
Another bagful was poured into the hopper and ground out; and then Addison and I brought along the third bagful.
"Hold on there," said Jock. "I haven't tolled that bag."
We thought that he had tolled it.
"No," said both Jock and George. "You said not to toll that last bag till we saw whether there was water enough to grind it."
"But you declared that there was water enough, and tolled it!" cried Halstead.
Addison and I could not say positively whether they had tolled it or not; and they appeared to think that it had not been tolled. The point was argued for some moments; finally it was agreed to compromise on it and let them have one measure of toll out of it. So there was two quarts of loss or gain, whichever party was in error.
When the last bagful was nearly ground and the hopper empty, all save a pint or so, Jock and George ran to shut the gate and stop the mill.
"Hold on!" cried Addison. "That isn't fair. There's two quarts in the stones yet; we shall lose all that on top of toll."
"But we must shut down before the corn is all through the stones!" cried Jock, "or they'll get to running fast and grind themselves. 'Twon't do to let them get to running fast, with no corn in."
"Well, don't be in such haste about it," urged Addison. "Wait a bit till our grist is nearer out."
They waited a few moments, but were very uneasy about the stones, and soon after the last kernels of corn had disappeared from the hopper, they pulled the ash pin to let the gate fall. It was then discovered that from some cause the gate would not drop. The boys thumped and rattled it. But the water still poured down on the wheel. By this time the meal had run nearly all out of the millstones and they revolved more rapidly. The young millers were now a good deal alarmed, and, running out, climbed up the dam and looked into the flume, to see what was the matter with their gate.
"It's an old shingle-bolt!" shouted Jock, "that's floated down the pond! It's got sucked in under the gate and holds it up! Fetch the pike-pole, George!"
George ran to get the pike-pole; and for some moments they tried to push, or pull, the block out. But it was wedged fast and the in-draught of the water held it firmly in the aperture beneath the gate. It was impossible to reach it with anything save the pike-pole, for the water in the flume over it was four or five feet deep.
Meantime the old mill was running amuck inside. The water-wheel was turning swiftly and the millstone was whirling like a buzz saw. After every few seconds we could hear it graze down against the nether stone with an ugly sound; and then there would fly up a powerful odor of ozone.
Jock and George, finding that they could not shut the gate, came rushing into the mill again in still greater excitement.
"The stones'll be spoilt!" Jock exclaimed. "We must get them to grinding something."
He ran to the little bin of about a bushel of corn where the old miller kept his toll and where they had put the toll from our bags. This was hurriedly flung into the hopper and came through into the meal-box at a great rate. It checked the speed in a measure, however, and we took breath a little.
"You had better keep the mill grinding till the pond runs out," Addison advised.
"I would," replied Jock, "but that's all the grain there is here."
It was evident that the mill must be kept grinding at something or other, or it would grind itself. It would not answer to put in pebbles. Ad suggested chips from the wood yard; and George set off on a run to fetch a basketful of chips to grind; but while he was gone, Jock bethought himself of a pile of corncobs in one corner of the mill; and we hastily gathered up a half-bushel measureful. They were old dry cobs and very hard.
"Not too fast with them!" Jock cautioned. "Only a few at a time!"
By throwing in a handful at a time, we reduced the speed of the stones gradually, and then suddenly piling in a peck or more slowed it down till it fairly came to a standstill, glutted with cobs. The water-wheel had stopped, although the water was still pouring down upon it; and in that condition we left it, with the miller boys peeping about the flume and the millstones and exclaiming to each other, "What'll Pa say when he gets back!"
That was my first experience in active milling business, and it made a profound impression on my mind.
But we were not yet home with our grist, by a great deal! Halstead had resented it because he had not been able to drive the horse on the outward trip. While Addison and I were throwing in the last bag, he jumped into the wagon and secured the reins. Not to have trouble, Addison said nothing against his driving; and we two walked up the long hill from the mill, behind the wagon. Reaching the summit, we got in and Halstead started to drive down the hill on the other side. As I was a stranger, he wished me to think that he was a fine driver and told me of some of his exploits managing horses. "There's no use," said he, "in letting a horse lag along down hill the way the old mossbacks do around here. They are scared to death if a horse does more than walk. Ad won't let a horse trot a single step on a hill, but mopes and mopes along. I've seen horses driven in places where they know something, and I know how a horse ought to go."
In earnest of this opinion, he touched old Sol up, and we went down the first hill at such a pace, that I was glad to hold to the seat.
"You had better be careful," said Addison. "Drive with more sense, if you are going to drive at all — which you are not fit to do," he added.
Out of bravado, I suppose, Halstead again applied the whip and we trundled along down the next hill at a still more rapid rate.
"Now Halse, if you are going to drive like this, just haul up and let me walk," Addison remonstrated, more seriously. But Halstead would not stop, and, touching the horse again, set off down the last hill before reaching the meadow, at an equally smart pace.
It is likely, however, that we might have got down without accident; but the road, like most country roads, was rather narrow and as we drew near the foot of the hill, we suddenly espied a horse and wagon emerging from amongst the alder clumps through which the road across the meadow wound its way, and saw, too, that a woman was driving.
"Give us half the road!" Halstead shouted. But the woman seemed confused, as not knowing on which side of the road to turn out; she hesitated and stopped in the middle of the road.
Perceiving that we were in danger of a collision, Addison snatched the reins and turned our horse clean out into the alders; and the off hind wheel coming violently in contact with an old log, the transient bolt of the wagon broke. The forward wheels parted from the wagon body, and we were all pitched out into the brush, in a heap together. The bags of meal came on top of us.
Halstead had his nose scratched; I sprained one of my thumbs; and we were all three shaken up smartly. Addison, however, regained his feet in time to capture old Sol who was making off with the forward wheels.
The woman sat in her wagon and looked quite dazed by the spectacle of boys and bags tumbling over each other.
"Dear hearts," said she, "are you all killed?"
"Why didn't you turn out!" exclaimed Halstead.
"I know I ought to," said the woman, humbly, "but you came down the hill so fast, I thought your horse had run away. I was so scared I didn't know what to do."
"You were not at all to blame, madam," said Ad. "It was we who were at fault. We were driving too fast."
We contrived at length to patch up the wagon by tying the "rocker" of the wagon body to the forward axle with the rope halter, and reloading our meal bags, drove slowly home without further incident. Addison, having captured the reins, retained possession of them, much to my mental relief. Halstead laid the blame alternately to the woman and to Addison's effort to grab the reins. "Now I suppose you will go home and tell the old gent that I did it!" he added bitterly. "If you had let the reins alone, I should have got along all right."
Addison did not reply to this accusation, except to say that he was thankful our necks were not broken. As we drove into the carriage house, Gramp came out and seeing the rope in so odd a position, asked what was the matter.
"The transient bolt broke, coming down the Sylvester hill," Addison replied. "It was badly worn, I see. If you think it best, sir, I will take it to the blacksmith's shop after work, to-morrow."
"Very well," Gramp assented; and that was all there was said about the accident.
It had been a long day, but my new experiences were far from being over. A boy can live a great deal during one long May day. After supper I went out to assist the boys with the farm chores, and took my first lesson, milking a cow and feeding the calves. The latter were kept tied in the long, now empty hay-bay of the east barn. I had already been there to see them; there were ten of them, tied with ropes and neck-straps along the sides of the bay to keep them apart.
Weaned, or unweaned, they were fed but twice a day, and from six o'clock in the morning to six at night is a very long time for a young and rapidly growing calf to wait between meals. As early as four o'clock in the afternoon those calves would begin to bawl for their supper; by half past five one could hardly make himself heard in the barn, unless there chanced to fall a moment's silence, while the hungry little fellows were all catching breath to bleat again. Then they would all peal forth together on ten different keys.
How those old bare walls and high beams would resound! Blar-r-rt! Blaw-ar-ar-ah-ahrt! Blah-ah-aht! Bul-ar-ah-ahrt! There were eager little altos, soaring sopranos, high and importunate tenors that rose to the roof and drowned the twitter of the happy barn-swallows.
Addison, Halstead, Theodora and Ellen, who had come to the farm before me, knew all the calves by sight and had named them. There was Little Star, Phil Sheridan, Black Betty, Hooker, Nut, Little Dagon, Andy Johnson and Babe. I do not recollect the others, but have particular reason to remember Little Dagon.
At the time I made the acquaintance of this broad-headed Hereford calf he was five weeks old, and the soft buds of his horns were beginning to show in the curly hair of his forehead. His color was dark red, except for a milk-white face, two white feet, a white tassel on his tail, and a little belt of white under his body. Grandfather had unexpectedly sold this calf's mother, a fine, large, line-backed cow, to a friend at the village on that very morning.
The old gentleman kindly showed me how to milk and how to hold the pail, then gave me a milking-stool and sat me down to milk "Lily-Whiteface." She was not a hard milker, but it did seem to me that after I had extracted about three quarts of milk, my hands were getting paralyzed. Halstead, who sat milking a few yards away, had, meanwhile, been adding to my troubles by squirting streams of milk at my left ear, till Gramp caught him in the act and bade him desist.
The old gentleman presently finished with his two cows, and went away with his buckets of milk toward the house. Then, with soothing guile which I had not yet learned to detect, Halstead offered to finish milking my cow for me. I was glad to accept the offer. My untrained fingers were aching so painfully that I could now hardly draw a drop of milk. My knees, too, were tremulous from my efforts to clasp the pail between them.
"It made mine ache at first," said Halstead with comforting sympathy as he sat down on my stool and took my pail between his knees. I stood gratefully by, and after a few moments he looked up and said, "While I finish milking your cow, you run over to the west barn and get Little Dagon. He is dreadfully hungry. His mother was sold this morning, and we have got to teach him to drink his milk to-night."
"He had better not try to lead that calf!" Addison called out from his stool, at a distance.
"Why not?" Halse exclaimed. "Oh, he can lead him all right. All he has to do is to untie the calf's rope from the staple in the barn post. He will come right along, himself."
It seemed very simple as Halstead put it, and I started off at once. Addison said no more; he gave me an odd look as I hastened past him, but I hardly noticed it at the time.
Little Dagon was making the rafters re-echo as I entered the bay. When he saw me, he jumped to the end of his rope and fairly went into the air. He had sucked the bow-knot of the rope till it was as slippery as if soaped, and when I strove to untie it, he grabbed my hands in his mouth. At length I untied him and then with a clatter on the loose boards, we went out of the hay-bay, pranced across the barn floor and out at the great doors.
No one has ever explained satisfactorily what that instinct is which guides young animals unerringly back home, or in the direction of their kin. Hungry Little Dagon, tied up in the barn, could hardly have noted with eyes or ears the direction in which his mother had been driven away; but as soon as we were out at the barn doors, instead of rushing to the other barn, where he had hitherto found his mother night and morning, the rampant little beast headed straight past the house and down the lane to take the road for the village.
A man could have held him without difficulty. I was in my thirteenth year, and may have weighed seventy-five pounds, but did not have weight enough. In the exuberance of his young muscle, Little Dagon erected his tail and made a bolt in the direction which instinct bade him take.
My one chance of holding him would have been to noose the rope about his nose and seize him close by the neck, at the start; but this I did not understand, and, in fact, had no time to study the problem. I clung to the end of the rope, and away we went. I was not leading the calf. Little Dagon was leading me. First I took one long step, and then such strides as I had never made before.
Halstead and Addison had jumped up from their milking-stools and come to the barnyard bars. "Hold him! Hold him!" they shouted. "Don't let him get away!"
Grandfather, too, had now come to the kitchen door. "Hold him! Hold that calf!" he called out, and I clung to the knot in the end of the rope, with determination.
In a moment Little Dagon was towing me down the long lane to the road. The gate stood open, and out we went into the highway, on the jump. There, however, the calf pulled up short, to smell the road. I tried to catch the strap round his neck and turn him back, but he seized my arm in his mouth to suck it; and being unused to calves, I was afraid he would bite me. When I attempted to lead him about, that eager impulse to find his mother again possessed him, and away he ran down the long orchard hill.
I do not now see how I contrived to hold on to the rope, but I remember thinking that if I let go Addison and Halstead would laugh at me, and that Gramp would blame me.
We raced down that long hill, my feet seeming hardly to touch the ground, and struck a level, sandy stretch at the foot of it. The sand felt queer to the calf's feet, and he stopped to smell it. By this time I was badly out of breath, but I turned his head homeward and began towing him back. He sulked, but took a few steps with me. Then he gave a sudden wild prance into the air, headed round and started again. I could not hold him, and on we went, a long run this time, until we came to the bridge over the meadow brook. There the planks proved a new wonderment to the calf, and he pulled up to smell them.
WHEN I LED LITTLE DAGON.
Just then there appeared in the road ahead Theodora and "Aunt Olive Witham," a working woman, who came every spring and fall to help grandmother clean house and to do the year's spinning. Theodora had been to the Corners that evening, to summon her.
"Oh, help me stop him!" I panted. "For pity's sake, catch hold of this rope! He is running away with me! I can't hold him!"
Theodora edged across the bridge to bear a hand; but "Aunt Olive" knew calves, or thought she did.
"Boss-boss-boss!" she crooned to the calf, and extending her hand, walked straight to his head to get him by the ears. This may have been the proper thing to do, but it did not work well that time. Little Dagon suddenly looked up from his snuffing of the planks, and for some reason his young eyes distrusted "Aunt Olive."
He bounded aside and began again to run. I was clinging fast to the rope, and Aunt Olive and I collided. Aunt Olive, in truth, recoiled nearly off the end of the bridge; I was jerked onward. Little Dagon had learned that he could pull me, and I might as well have tried to hold a locomotive. Theodora ran a few steps after us, trying loyally to succor me. Aunt Olive stood endeavoring to recover her breath; ordinarily she was energy personified, but for the instant stood gasping.
Beyond the meadow there was a hill, and going up that hill I came very near mastering the calf; but after a hard tussle he gained the top in spite of me and ran on, over descending ground, where the road passed through woodland. We were now fully a mile and a half from home. Thus far I had held on, but strength and breath were about gone. I was panting hard, and actually crying from mortification.
Now, however, I saw a horse drawing a light wagon coming along the road. A well-dressed elderly man was driving. I called out to him to aid me. If I had known who he was, I might have been less unceremonious. "Oh, help me stop him!" I cried. "Do help me stop him! I can't hold him!"
The stranger reined his horse half round across the road, and Little Dagon ran full against the horse's fore legs and stopped to sniff again. The elderly gentleman got out quickly.
"Did the calf run away with you, my son?" he asked, smiling at my heated and tearful appearance.
"Yes, sir," I replied, panting.
"Well, well, you have had a hot run, haven't you?" and he gave me several sympathetic pats on the shoulder. "How far have you come, all so fast?"
"I came from Grandpa S.'s," I replied, as steadily as I could, for I was sadly out of breath.
"Your grandfather is Joseph S.?" queried the elderly man.
"Yes, sir," I replied. "I have just come there to live."
"Ah, yes," commented my new acquaintance. "I know your grandpa very well. I am on my way to call on him. Now let's see. How shall we manage? Do you think that you could sit in the back part of my wagon and lead the calf, if I were to drive slowly?"
"I'm afraid he would pull me out!" I exclaimed.
"Not if we both hold the rope, I think," remarked the elderly man, still smiling broadly. "I will reach back with one hand and help you hold him."
After much pulling, hauling and manœuvring, Little Dagon was brought to the back of the wagon. I then sat in the rear, with my feet hanging out, and took the line; and my new friend gave hand to the rope over the back of the seat. The horse started to walk, and Little Dagon was drawn after; but the perverse little creature settled back in his strap till his tongue hung out. The stranger laughed.
"It seems that we cannot lead a calf unless the calf pleases," he said. "Can you think of any better way, my son?"
I thought hard, for I was ashamed to put my new acquaintance to so much trouble and have nothing to suggest. At last, I said, with some diffidence, that we might tie the calf's legs with the rope and put him in the rear of the wagon, while I walked behind.
"That appears to be a practical suggestion," the stranger remarked. "Do you think you can tie his legs?"
I answered that I believed I could if I had the calf on the ground. "Well, sir," said he, with a whimsical glance at me, "I think I can capsize the calf and hold him down, if you will agree to tie his legs within a reasonable time."
I said I would try; and while I held the rope the stranger alighted, seized the calf suddenly by the legs, and threw it down on its side. Little Dagon struggled pluckily, but my new ally held fast and called on me to do my part. After some hard picking at the knot, I untied the rope from the neck-strap, then tied the calf's legs into a bunch and crisscrossed the rope.
"Pretty well done, my son, pretty well done," was the encouraging comment of my new friend. "Now I will take him by the head while you seize him by the tail, and we will hoist him into the wagon."
Before we could do so, however, we heard a sudden rattle of wheels close at hand, and glancing around, I saw Gramp and Addison with old Sol in the express wagon. They had harnessed and given chase; Theodora and Aunt Olive, whom they met, had adjured them to drive fast if they hoped ever to overtake me. Grandfather, on seeing who was helping me, exclaimed, "Why, Senator, how do you do, sir! My calf appears to be making you a great deal of trouble."
In fact, my friend in need was none other than Hon. Lot M. Morrill, who had been Governor of Maine for three terms in succession, and was now United States Senator. Grandfather and he had been acquaintances for forty years or more; and I have inferred since that the object of Mr. Morrill's visit on this occasion was in part political. At this particular time the Senator was "looking after his political fences" — although this phrase had not yet come into vogue.
Grandfather and Mr. Morrill immediately drove home together, leaving Addison and me to put the calf in the express wagon and follow more slowly.
Senator Morrill at this time gave me the impression of being a man oppressed by not a little anxiety, and inclined to be dissatisfied with his career. As distinctly as if it were yesterday, I recall what he said to me the next morning as he was about to drive away. "My son," said he impressively, "don't you be a politician. Be a farmer like your grandfather. He has had a happier life than I have had."
As it chanced, I was soon to have further experience with headstrong young cattle.