Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

.

To them life was a simple art

Of duties to be done,
A game where each man took his part,

A race where all must run;
A battle whose great scheme and scope

They little cared to know,
Content, as men-at-arms, to cope
Each with his fronting foe.

MILNES.

ON
N so great and uncommon an occasion as Mr. Ringgan's

giving a dinner-party the disused front parlour was opened and set in order ; the women-folks, as he called them, wanting the whole back part of the house for their operations. So when the visiters arrived, in good time, they were ushered into a large square bare-looking room--a strong contrast even to their dining-room at the Poolwhich gave them nothing of the welcome of the pleasant farm-house kitchen, and where nothing of the comfort of the kitchen found its way but a very strong smell of roast pig. There was the cheerless air of a place where nobody lives, or thinks of living. The very chairs looked as if they had made up their minds to be forsaken for a term of months; it was impossible to imagine that a cheerful supper

had ever been laid upon the stiff cold-looking table that stood with its leaves down so primly against the wall. All that a blazing fire could do to make amends for deficiencies, it did; but the wintry wind that swept round the house shook the paper window-shades in a remorseless way; and the utmost efforts of said fire could not prevent it from coming in and giving disagreeable impertinent whispers at the ears of everybody.

Mr. Ringgan's welcome however, was and would have been the same thing anywhere--genial, frank, and dignified; neither he nor it could be changed by circumstances. Mr. Carleton admired anew, as he came forward, the fine presence and noble look of his old host; a look that it was plain had never needed to seek the ground; a brow that in large or small things had never been crossed by a shadow of shame. And to a discerning eye the face was not a surer index of a lofty than of a peaceful and pure mind; too peace-loving and pure perhaps for the best good of his affairs in the conflict with a selfish and unscrupulous world. At least now, in the time of his old age and infirmity ; in former days his straightforward wisdom backed by an indomitable courage and strength had made Mr. Ringgan no safe subject for either braving or overreaching.

Fleda's keen-sighted affection was heartily gratified by the manner in which her grandfather was greeted by at least one of his guests, and that the one about whose opinion she cared the most. Mr. Carleton seemed as little sensible of the cold room as Mr. Ringgan himself. Fleda felt sure that her grandfather was appreciated; and she would have sat delightedly listening to what the one and the other were presently saying, if she had not taken notice that her cousin looked astray. He was eyeing the fire with a profound air and she fancied he thought it poor amusement. Fleda in secret really cared about that, with an instant sacrifice of her own pleasure she quietly changed her position for one from which she could more readily bring to bear upon Mr. Rossitur's distraction the very light artillery of her conversation ; and attacked him on the subject of the game he had brought home. Her motive and her manner both must have been lost upon the young gentleman. He forthwith set about amusing himself in a way his little entertainer had not counted upon, namely, with giving a chase to her wits; partly to pass away the time, and partly to gratify his curiosity, as he said, “to see what Fleda was made of.” By a curious system of involved, startling, or absurd questions, he endeavoured to puzzle or confound or entrap her. Fleda however steadily presented a grave front to the enemy, and would every now and then surprise him with an unexpected turn or clever doubling, and sometimes when he thought he had her in a corner, jump over the fence and laugh at him from the other side. Mr. Rossitur's re

Little as

spect for his little adversary gradually increased, and finding that she had rather the best of the game he at last gave it up, just as Mr. Ringgan was asking Mr. Carleton if he was a judge of stock ? Mr. Carleton saying with a smile “No, but he hoped Mr. Ringgan would give him his first. lesson,"—the old gentleman immediately arose with that alacrity of manner he always wore when he had a visiter that pleased him, and taking his hat and cane led the way out; choosing, with a man's true carelessness of housewifery etiquette, the kitchen route, of all others. Not even admonished by the sight of the bright Dutch oven before the fire that he was introducing his visiters somewhat too early to the pig, he led the whole party through, Cynthia scuttling away in haste across the kitchen with something that must not be seen, while aunt Miriam looked out at the company through the crack of the pantry door, at which Fleđa ventured a sly glance of intelligence.

It was a fine though a windy and cold afternoon; the lights and shadows were driving across the broad upland and meadows, “ This is a fine arable country," remarked My, Carleton,

Capital, sir, --capital, for many miles round, if we were not so far from a market. I was one of the first that broke ground in this township,-one of the very first settlers--I've seen the rough and the smooth of it, and I never had but one inind about it from the first. All this as far as you can see cleared myself; most of it with my own hand.”

“That recollection must attach you strongly to the place, I should think, sir.”

“ Hum—perhaps I cared too much for it," he replied, “ for it is taken away from me.

Well it don't matter now."

6% It is not yours???

“ No sir !-it was mine, a great many years; but I was obliged to part with it, two years ago, to a scoundrel of a fellow McGowan up here--he got an advantage over me. I can't take care of myself any more as I used to do, and I don't find that other people deal by me just as I could wish"

He was silent for a moment and then went cl},

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

“Yes sir! when I first set myself down here, or a little further that way my first house was,-a pretty rough house too,—there wa’n’t two settlers beside within something like ten miles round.—I've seen the whole of it cleared, from the cutting of the first forest trees till this day.”

“You have seen the nation itself spring up within that time,” remarked his guest.

“ Not exactly—that question of our nationality was settled a little before I came here. I was born rather too late to see the whole of that play-I saw the best of it though

-boys were men in those days. My father was in the thick of it from beginning to end."

“In the army, was he ?"

“Ho yes, sir! he and every child he had that wasn't a girl—there wasn't a man of the name that wa’n’t on the right side. I was in the army myself when I was fifteen. I was nothing but a fifer—but I tell you sir ! there wasn't a general officer in the country that played his part with a prouder heart than I did mine!"

“And was that the general spirit of the ranks ???

“Not altogether," replied the old gentleman, passing his hand several times abstractedly over his white hair, a favourite gesture with him,—“not exactly that—there was a good deal of mixture of different materials, especially in this state; and where the feeling wasn't pretty strong it was no wonder if it got tired out; but the real stuff, the true Yankee blood, was pretty firm! Ay, and some of the rest! There was a good deal to try men in those days. Sir, I have seen many a time when I had nothing to dine upon but my fife, and it was more than that could do to keep me from feeling very empty!"

“But was this a common case? did this happen often ?" said Mr. Carleton.

“* Pretty often-pretty often, sometimes," answered the old gentleman. Things were very much out of order, you see, and in some parts of the country it was almost impossible to get the supplies the men needed. Nothing would have kept them together,---nothing under heaven but the love and confidence they had in one name. Their love of right and independence wouldn't have been strong enough, and besides a good many of them got disheartened.

66

A hungry stomach is a pretty stout arguer against abstract questions. I have seen my father crying like a child for the wants and sufferings he was obliged to see and couldn't relieve."

“And then you used to relieve yourselves, grandpa," said Fleda.

“ How was that, Fairy ?"

Fleda looked at her grandfather, who gave a little preparatory laugh and passed his hand over his head again.

Why yes," said he, we used to think the tories, King George's men you know, were fair game; and when we happened to be in the neighbourhood of some of them that we knew were giving all the help they could to the enemy, we used to let them cook our dinners for us once in a while." “ How did you manage that, sir ?"

Why, they used to have little bake-ovens to cook their meats and so on, standing some way out from the house,did you never see one of them ?-raised on four little heaps of stone; the bottom of the oven is one large flat stone, and the arch built over it;—they look like a great beehive. Well--we used to watch till we saw the good woman of the house get her oven cleverly heated, and put in her batch of bread, or her meat pie, or her pumpkin and apple pies !-whichever it was there didn't any of 'em come much amiss--and when we guessed they were pretty nigh done, three or four of us would creep in and whip off the whole--oven and all !--to a safe place. I tell you, said he with a knowing nod of his head at the laughing Fleda, “ those were first-rate pies !"

“And then did you put the oven back again afterwards, grandpa ?"

“ I guess not often, dear!" replied the old gentleman.

“ What do you think of such lawless proceedings, Miss Fleda ?” said Mr. Carleton, laughing at or with her.

so I like it," said Fleda. “You liked those pies all the better, didn't you, grandpa, because you had got them from the tories ???

“That we did! If we hadn't got them maybe King George's men would, in some shape. But we weren't always so lucky as to get hold of an oven full. I remem

« ZurückWeiter »