« AnteriorContinuar »
Now they thundered over Naaman's in command.
in command. “Where are you going Creek, now over Concord, with the in such hot haste?" nearest pursuer only four hundred yards “Oh, sir," said Betty, reining in Daisy, behind; and now they raced beside the can thee tell me where I can find clear waters of Beaver Brook, and as General Washington?" Betty dashed through its shallow ford, “Yes, little Quakeress," said the officer the thud of horse's hoofs seemed just who had first spoken to her; "I am he. over her shoulder.
What do you wish?" Betty, at first sure of success, now Betty, too exhausted to be surprised, knew that unless in some way she could poured forth her story in a few broken throw her pursuers off her track she sentences, and (hearing as if in a dream was surely lost. Just then she saw the hasty commands for the rescue of ahead of her a fork in the road, the the soldiers in Chichester Meeting-house) lower branch leading to the Brandy- fell forward in her saddle, and, for the wine, the upper to the Birmingham first time in her life, fainted, worn out Meeting-house. Could she but get the by her noble ride. troopers on the upper road while she A few days later, when recovering took the lower, she would be safe; and, from the shock of her long and eventful as if in answer to her wish, there flashed ride, Betty, awaking from a deep sleep, across her mind the remembrance of the found her mother kneeling beside her old cross-road which, long disused, and little bed, while her father talked with with its entrance hidden by drooping General Washington himself beside the boughs, led from a point in the upper road fireplace; and it was the proudest and just out of sight of the fork down across happiest moment of her life when the lower, and through the valley of the Washington, coming forward and taking Brandywine. Could she gain this road her by the hand, said, “You are the unseen she still might reach Washington. bravest little maid in America, and an
Urging Daisy forward, she broke just honor to your country.” in time through the dense growth which Still the peaceful meeting-house and the hid the entrance, and sat trembling, gambrel-roofed home stand unchanged, hidden behind a dense growth of tangled save that their time-beaten timbers and vines, while she heard the troopers crumbling bricks have taken on a more thunder by. Then, riding through the sombre tinge, and under the broad walnutrustling woods, she came at last into tree another little Betty sits and sews. the open, and saw spread out beneath If you ask it, she will take down the her the beautiful valley of the Brandy- great key from its nail, and swinging wine, dotted with the white tents of the back the new doors of the meeting-house, Continental army.
will show you the old worm-eaten ones Starting off at a gallop, she dashed inside, which, pierced through and around a bend in the road into the through with bullet-holes, once served midst of a group of officers riding slowly as a rampart against the enemy.
. And up from the valley.
she will tell you, in the quaint Friend's “Stop, little maiden, before you run language, how her great-great-grandus down,” said one, who seemed to be mother carried, over a hundred years
ago, the news of the danger of her coun- trees, with a few honey-locusts scattered trymen to Washington, on the Brandy- here and there. Immediately at the wine, and at the risk of her own life water's edge was a steep slope of ten or saved theirs.
twelve feet. Back of the house, mile 384
upon mile, stretched the deep dark
forest, inhabited by deer and bears, Some two decades ago thousands were read
wolves and wildcats, squirrels and birds, ing about the highly romantic career of Charles Brandon in When Knighthood Was
without number. in Flower (1898), and other thousands were
In the river the fish were so numerous applauding Julia Marlowe's impersonation that they seemed to entreat the boys to of the beautiful and fascinating Princess catch them, and to take them out of Mary in the dramatic version of that book. their crowded quarters. There were The author was Charles Major (1856–1913), bass and black suckers, sunfish and catan Indiana lawyer turned novelist, who
fish, to say nothing of the sweetest of wrote, also, the equally romantic story of all, the big-mouthed redeye. Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1902).
South of the house stood a log barn, Between these two pieces of delightful
with room in it for three horses and two romance, he wrote a series of sketches of
cows; and enclosing this barn, together pioneer life in Indiana under the title of The Bears of Blue River (1901). It is an
with a piece of ground, five or six acres account of boy life in the early days, full
in extent, was a palisade fence, eight or of dramatic interest, simply written, and ten feet high, made by driving poles entirely worthy of the high place which it into the ground close together. In this has already taken among stories of its enclosure the farmer kept his stock, contype. The first adventure in that book sisting of a few sheep and cattle, and follows by special arrangement with the
here also the chickens, geese, and ducks publishers. (Copyright. The Macmillan
were driven at nightfall to save them Company, New York.)
from "varmints," as all prowling animals
were called by the settlers. THE BIG BEAR
The man who had built this log hut, CHARLES MAJOR
and who lived in it and owned the Away back in the “twenties,” when adjoining land at the time of which I Indiana was a baby state, and great write, bore the name of Balser Brent. forests of tall trees and tangled under- Balser" is probably a corruption of brush darkened what are now her bright | Baltzer, but, however that may be, plains and sunny hills, there stood upon Balser was his name, and Balser was the the east bank of Big Blue River, a mile or hero of the bear stories which I am two north of the point where that stream about to tell you. crosses the Michigan road, a cozy log cabin Mr. Brent and his young wife had of two rooms one front and one back. moved to the Blue River settlement
The house faced the west, and stretch- from North Carolina, when young Balser ing off toward the river for a distance was a little boy five or six years of age. equal to twice the width of an ordinary They had purchased the "eighty" upon street, was a blue-grass lawn, upon which which they lived, from the United States, stood a dozen or more elm and sycamore at a sale of public land held in the town
of Brookville on Whitewater, and had called. The fire usually furnished all the paid for it what was then considered a light they had, for candles and “dips," good round sum—one dollar per acre. being expensive luxuries, were used only They had received a deed for their when company was present. "eighty" from no less a person than The fire, however, gave sufficient light, James Monroe, then President of the and its blaze upon a cold night extended United States. This deed, which is halfway up the chimney, sending a ruddy, , called a patent, was written on sheep-cozy glow to every nook and corner of skin, signed by the President's own hand,
the room. and is still preserved by the descendants The back room was the storehouse of Mr. Brent as one of the title-deeds to and kitchen; and from the beams and the land it conveyed. The house, as I along the walls hung rich hams and have told you, consisted of two large juicy sidemeat, jerked venison, dried rooms, or buildings, separated by a apples, onions, and other provisions for passageway six or eight feet broad which the winter. There was a glorious firewas roofed over, but open at both ends place in this room also, and a crane upon on the north and south. The back room which to hang pots and cooking utensils. was the kitchen, and the front room was The floor of the front room was made parlor, bedroom, sitting room and library of logs split in halves with the flat, hewn all in one.
side up; but the floor of the kitchen At the time when my story opens was of clay, packed hard and smooth. Little Balser, as he was called to dis- The settlers had no stoves, but did tinguish him from his father, was thirteen their cooking in round pots called Dutch or fourteen years of age, and was the ovens. They roasted their meats on a happy possessor of a younger brother, spit or steel bar like the ramrod of a Jim, aged nine, and a little sister one year gun. The spit was kept turning before old, of whom he was very proud indeed. the fire, presenting first one side of the
On the south side of the front room meat and then the other, until it was was a large fireplace. The chimney was thoroughly cooked. Turning the spit built of sticks, thickly covered with clay. was the children's work. The fireplace was almost as large as a South of the palisade enclosing the small room in one of our cramped modern barn was the clearing-a tract of twenty houses, and was broad and deep enough or thirty acres of land, from which Mr. to take in backlogs which were so large Brent had cut and burned the trees. and heavy that they could not be lifted, On this clearing the stumps stood thick but were drawn in at the door and rolled as the hair on an angry dog's back; over the floor to the fireplace.
but the hard-working farmer ploughed The prudent father usually kept two between and around them, and each extra backlogs, one on each side of the fire- year raised upon the fertile soil enough place, ready to be rolled in as the blaze wheat and corn to supply the wants of died down; and on these logs the children his family and his stock, and still had a would sit at night, with a rough slate made little grain left to take to Brookville, from a flat stone, and do their "cipher- sixty miles away, where he had bought ing,” as the study of arithmetic was then his land, there to exchange for such necessities of life as could not be grown Here, Little Balser noticed fresh bear upon the farm or found in the forests. tracks, and his breath began to come
The daily food of the family all came quickly. You may be sure he peered from the farm, the forest, or the creek closely into every dark thicket, and Their sugar was obtained from the sap looked behind all the large trees and of the sugar-trees; their meat was sup- logs, and had his eyes wide open lest plied in the greatest abundance by a perchance "Mr. Bear" should step out few hogs, and by the inexhaustible game and surprise him with an affectionate of which the forests were full. In the hug, and thereby put an end to Little woods were found deer just for the Balser forever.
So he walked on cautiously, and, if turkeys, pheasants, and quails, so the truth must be told, somewhat numerous that a few hours' hunting tremblingly, until he reached the drift. would supply the table for days. The Balser was but a little fellow, yet the fish in the river, as I told you, fairly stern necessities of a settler's life had longed to be caught.
compelled his father to teach him the use One day Mrs. Brent took down the of a gun; and although Balser had never dinner horn and blew upon it two strong killed a bear, he had shot several deer, blasts. This was a signal that Little and upon one occasion had killed a wildBalser, who was helping his father down cat, “almost as big as a cow," he said. in the clearing, should come to the I have no doubt the wildcat seemed house. Balser was glad enough to drop “almost as big as a cow"to Balser when his hoe and to run home. When he he killed it, for it must have frightened reached the house his mother said: him greatly, as wildcats were some
“Balser, go up to the drift and catch times dangerous animals for children to a mess of fish for dinner. Your father encounter. Although Balser had never is tired of deer meat three times a day, met a bear face to face and alone, yet he and I know he would like a nice dish of felt, and many a time had said, that there fried redeyes at noon.”
was n't a bear in the world big enough “All right, mother," said Balser. And to frighten him, if he but had his gun. he immediately took down his fishing-pole He had often imagined and minutely and line, and got the spade to dig bait. detailed to his parents and little brother When he had collected a small gourdful just what he would do if he should meet of angle-worms, his mother called to him: a bear. He would wait calmly and
"You had better take a gun. You quietly until his bearship should come may meet a bear; your father loaded within a few yards of him, and then the gun this morning, and you must be he would slowly lift his gun. Bang! careful in handling it."
and Mr. Bear would be dead with a Balser took the gun, which was
bullet in his heart. heavy rifle considerably longer than him- But when he saw the fresh bear tracks, self, and started up the river toward the and began to realize that he would drift, about a quarter of a mile away. probably have an opportunity to put
There had been rain during the night his theories about bear killing into and the ground near the drift was soft. practice, he began to wonder if, after
all, he would become frightened and The bear had a peculiar, determined miss his aim. Then he thought of how expression about him that seemed to say: the bear, in that case, would be calm "That boy can't get away; he's out and deliberate, and would put his on the log where the water is deep, and theories into practice by walking very if he jumps into the river I can easily politely up to him, and making a very jump in after him and catch him before satisfactory dinner of a certain boy whom he can swim a dozen strokes. He'll he could name.
But as he walked on have to come off the log in a short time, and no bear appeared, his courage grew and then I'll proceed to devour him." stronger as the prospect of meeting the About the same train of thought had enemy grew less, and he again began also been rapidly passing through Balser's saying to himself that no bear could mind. His gun was on the bank where frighten him, because he had his gun he had left it, and in order to reach it and he could and would kill it.
he would have to pass the bear. He So Balser reached the drift; and hav- dared not jump into the water, for any ing looked carefully about him, leaned attempt to escape on his part would his gun against a tree, unwound his bring the bear upon him instantly. He fishing-line from the pole, and walked was very much frightened, but, after all, out to the end of a log which extended was a cool-headed little fellow for his into the river some twenty or thirty feet. age; so he concluded that he would not
Here he threw in his line, and soon was press matters, as the bear did not seem so busily engaged drawing out sunfish inclined to do so, but so long as the bear and redeyes, and now and then a bass, remained watching him on the bank which was hungry enough to bite at a would stay upon the log where he was, worm, that all thought of the bear went and allow the enemy to eye him to his out of his mind.
heart's content. After he had caught enough fish for There they stood, the boy and the a sumptuous dinner he bethought him bear, each eyeing the other as though of going home, and as he turned toward they were the best of friends, and would the shore, imagine, if you can, his con- like to eat each other, which, in fact, sternation when he saw upon the bank, was literally true. quietly watching him, a huge black bear. Time sped very slowly for one of them,
If the wildcat had seemed as large as you may be sure; and it seemed to a cow to Balser, of what size do you Balser that he had been standing almost suppose that bear appeared? A cow! an age in the middle of Blue River on An elephant, surely, was small compared that wretched shaking log, when he heard with the huge black fellow standing upon his mother's dinner horn, reminding him the bank.
that it was time to go home. It is true Balser had never seen an Balser quite agreed with his mother elephant, but his father had, and so and gladly would he have gone, I need had his friend Tom Fox, who lived not tell you; but there stood the bear, down the river; and they all agreed that patient, determined, and fierce; and an elephant was "purt nigh as big as Little Balser soon was convinced in his all outdoors."
mind that his time had come to die.