Read THE REVOLVING YEAR of Back Home , free online book, by Eugene Wood, on ReadCentral.com.

“‘It snows!’ cries the schoolboy, ‘Hurrah!’
And his shout is heard through parlor and hall.”

MCGUFFEY’s third Reader.

(Well, maybe it was the Second Reader. And if it was the Fourth, what difference does it make? And, furthermore, who ’s doing this thing, you or me?)

Had it not been that never in my life have I ever heard anybody say either “It snows!” or “Hurrah!” it is improbable that I should have remembered the first line of a poem describing the effect produced upon different kinds of people by the sight of the first snowstorm of winter. Had it not been for the plucky (not to say heroic) effort to rhyme “hall” with “hurrah” I should not have remembered the second, and still another line of it, depicting the emotions of a poor widow with a large family and a small woodpile, is burned into my memory only by reason of the shocking language it contains, the more shocking in that it was deliberately put forth to be read by innocent-minded children. Poor Carrie Rinehart! When she stood up to read that, she got as red as a beet, and I believed her when she told me afterward that she thought she would sink right through that floor. Of course, some had to snicker, but the most of us, I am thankful to say, were a credit to our bringing up, and never let on we heard it. All the same it was a terrible thing to have to speak right out loud before everybody. If any of the boys (let alone the girls), had said that because he felt like saying it, he would have been sent in to the principal, and that night his daddy would have given him another licking.

Even now I cannot bring myself to write the line without toning it down.

“‘It snows!’ cries the widow. ‘Oh G d!’”

At the beginning of winter, I will not deny, that the schoolboy might have shouted: “It’s snowin’! Hooee! when he saw the first snow flakes sifting down, and realized that the Old Woman was picking her geese. A change is always exciting, and winter brings many joyous sports and pastimes, skating, and snowballing, and sliding down hill, and er er I said skating didnt I? and er Oh, yes, sleigh-riding, and er Well, I guess that’s about all.

Skating, now, that’s fine. I know a boy who, when the red ball goes up in the street-cars, sneaks under his coat a pair of wooden-soled skates, with runners that curl up over the toes like the stems of capital letters in the Spencerian copy-book. He is ashamed of the old-fashioned things, which went out of date long and long before my day, but he says that they are better than the hockeys. Well, you take a pair of such skates and strap them on tightly until you can’t tell by the feel which is feet and which is wooden soles, and you glide out upon the ice above the dam for, say about four hours, with the wind from the northwest and the temperature about nine below, and I tell you it is something grand. And if you run over a stick that is frozen in the ice, or somebody bumps into you, or your feet slide out from under you, and you strike on your ear and part of your face on the ice, and go about ten feet ah, it’s great! Simply great. And it’s nice too, to skate into an air-hole into water about up to your neck, and have the whole mob around you whooping and “hollering” and slapping their legs with glee, because they know it isn’t deep enough to drown you, and you look so comical trying to claw out. And when you do get out, it takes such along time to get your skates of, and you feel so kind of chilly like, and when you get home your clothes are frozen stiff on you Oh, who would willingly miss such sport?

And sleigh-riding! Me for sleigh-riding! You take a nice, sharp day in winter, when the sky is as blue as can be because all the moisture is frozen out of the air, a day when the snow under the sleigh runners whines and creaks, as if thousands of tiny wineglasses were being crushed by them, and the bells go jing-jing, jing-jing on the frosty air which just about takes the hide off your face; when you hold your mittens up to your ears and then have to take them down to slap yourself across the chest to get the blood agoing in your fingers; when you kick your feet together and dumbly wonder why it is your toes don’t click like marbles; when the cold creeps up under your knitted pulse-warmers, and in at every possible little leak until it has soaked into your very bones; when you snuggle down under the lap-robe where it is warm as toast (day before yesterday’s toast) and try to pull your shoulders up over your head; when a little drop hangs on the end of your nose, which has ceased to feel like a living, human nose, and now resembles something whittled to a point; when you hold your breath as long as you can, and your jaw waggles as if you were playing chin-chopper with it Ah, that’s the sport of kings! And after you have got as cold as you possibly can get, and simply cannot stand it a minute longer, you ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride. Once in a while you turn out for another sleigh, and nearly upset in the process, and you can see that in all points its occupants are exactly as you are, just as happy and contented. There aren’t any dogs to run out and bark at you. Old Maje and Tige, and even little Bounce and Guess are snoozing behind the kitchen stove. All there is is just jing-jing, jing-jing, jing-jing, not a bird-cry or a sound of living creature. jing-jing, jing-jing..... Well, yes, kind o’ monotonous, but still.... You pass a house, and a woman comes out to scrape off a plate to the chickens standing on one foot in a corner where the sun can get at them, and the wind cannot. She scrapes slowly, and looks at you as much as to say: “I wonder who’s sick. Must be somebody going for the doctor, day like this.” And then she shudders: “B-b-b-oo-oo-oo!” and runs back into the house and slams the door hard. You snuffle and look at the chimney that has thick white smoke coming out of it, and consider that very likely a nice, warm fire is making all that smoke, and you snuffle again, and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ride and ’ride. And about an hour and a half after you have given up all hopes, and are getting resigned to your fate, you turn off the big road and up the lane to the house where you are going on your pleasure-trip, and you hop out as nimble as a sack of potatoes, and hobble into the house, and don’t say how-de-do or anything, but just make right for the stove. The people all squall out: “Why, ain’t you ’most froze?” and if you answer, “Yes sum,” it’s as much as ever. Generally you can’t do anything but just stand and snuffle and look as if you hadn’t a friend on earth. And about the time you get so that some spots are pretty warm, and other spots aren’t as cold as they were, why then you wrap up, and go home again with the same experience, only more so. Fine! fine!

It’s nice, too, when there’s a whole crowd out together in a wagon-bed with straw in it. There’s something so cozy in straw! And the tin horns you blow in each other’s ear, and the songs you sing: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way,” and “Waw-unneeta! Waw-unneeta, ay-usk thy sowl if we shud part,” and “Nearer, my God, to Thee,” and “Johnny Shmoker,” and that variation of “John Brown’s Body,” where every time you sing over the verse you leave off one more word, and somebody always forgets, and you laugh fit to kill yourself, and just have a grand time. And maybe you take a whole lot of canned cove oysters with you, and when you get out to Makemson’s, or wherever it is you’re going, Mrs. Makemson puts the kettle on and makes a stew, cooking the oysters till they are thoroughly done. And she makes coffee, the kind you can’t tell from tea by the looks, and have to try twice before you can tell by the taste. Ah! winter brings many joyous sports and pastimes. And you get back home along about half-past two, and the fire’s out, and the folks are in bed, and you have to be at the store to open up at seven Laws! I wish it was so I could go sleigh-riding once more in the long winter evenings, when the pitcher in the spare bedroom bursts, and makes a noise like a cannon.

And sliding down hill, I like that.

What? Coasting? Never heard of it. If it’s anything like sliding down hill, it’s all right. For a joke you can take a barrel-stave and hold on to that and slide down. It goes like a scared rabbit, but that isn’t so much the point as that it slews around and spills you into a drift. Sleds are lower and narrower than they used to be, and they also lack the artistic adornment of a pink, or a blue, or a black horse, painted with the same stencil but in different colors, and named “Dexter,” or “Rarus,” or “Goldsmith Maid.” These are good names, but nobody ever called his sled by a name. Boggs’s hill, back of the lady’s house that taught the infant-class in Sunday-school, was a good hill. It had a creek at the bottom, and a fine, long ride, eight or ten feet, on the ice. But Dangler’s hill was the boss. It was the one we all made up our minds we would ride down some day when the snow was just right. We’d go over there’ and look up to the brow of the hill and say: “Gee! But wouldn’t a fellow come down like sixty, though?”

“Betchy!”

We’d look up again, and somebody would say: “Aw, come on. Less go over to Boggs’s hill.”

“Thought you was goin’ down Dangler’s.”

“Yes, I know, but all the other fellows is over to Boggs’s.”

“A-ah, ye’re afraid.”

“Ain’t either.”

“Y’ are teether.”

“I dare you.”

“Oh, well now

“I double dare you.”

“All right. I will if you will. You go first.”

Nah, you go first. The fellow that’s dared has got to go first. Ain’t that so, Chuck? Ain’t that so, Monkey?”

“I’ll go down if you will, on’y you gotta go first.”

“Er er Who all ’s over at Boggs’s hill?”

“Oh, the whole crowd of ’em, Turkey-egg McLaughlin, and Ducky Harshberger, and Oh, I don’ know who all.”

“Tell you what less do. Less wait till it gets all covered with ice, and all slick and smooth. Then less come over and go down.”

“Say, won’t she go like sixty then! Jeemses Rivers! Come on, I’ll beat you to the corner.”

That was the closest we ever came to going down Dangler’s hill. Railroad hill wasn’t so bad, over there by the soap-factory, because they didn’t run trains all the time, and you stood a good chance of missing being run over by the engine, but Dangler’s Well, now, I want to tell you Dangler’s was an awful steep hill, and a long one, and when you think that it was so steep nobody ever pretended to drive up it even in the summer-time, and you slide down the hill and think that, once you got to going.

Fun’s fun, I know, but nobody wants to go home with half his scalp hanging over one eye, and dripping all over the back porch. Because, you know, a fellow’s mother gets crosser about blood on wood-work than anything else. Scrubbing doesn’t do the least bit of good; it has to be planed off, or else painted.

Let me see, now. Have I missed anything? I’ll count ’em off on my fingers. There’s skating, and sleigh-riding, and sliding down hill, and Oh, yes. Snowballing and making snow-men. Nobody makes a snow-man but once, and nobody makes a snow-house after it has caved in on him once and like to killed him. And as for snowballing Look here. Do you know what’s the nicest thing about winter? Get your feet on a hot stove, and have the lamp over your left shoulder, and a pan of apples, and something exciting to read, like “Frank Among the Indians.” Eh, how about it? In other words, the best thing about winter is when you can forget that it is winter.

The excitement that prompts “It snows!” and “Hurrah!” mighty soon peters out, and along about the latter part of February, when you go to the window and see that it is snowing again again? Consarn the luck! you and the poor widow with the large family and the small woodpile are absolutely at one.

You do get so sick and tired of winter. School lets out at four o’clock, and it’s almost dark then. There’s no time for play, for there’s all that wood and kindling to get in, and Pap’s awful cranky when he hops out of bed these frosty mornings to light the fire, and finds you’ve been skimpy with the kindling. And the pump freezes up, and you’ve got to shovel snow off the walks and out in the back-yard so Tilly can hang up the clothes when she comes to do the washing. And your mother is just as particular about your neck being clean as she is in summer when the water doesn’t make you feel so shivery. And there’s the bottle of goose-grease always handy, and the red flannel to pin around your throat, and your feet in the bucket of hot water before you go to bed Aw, put ’em right in. Yes, I know it’s hot. That’s what going to make you well. In with ’em. Aw, child, it isn’t going to scald you. Go on now. The water’ll be stone-cold in a minute. “Oh, I don’t like winter for a cent. Kitchoo! There, I’ve gone and caught fresh cold.

“I wish it would hurry up and come spring.

“When the days begin to lengthen,
The cold begins to strengthen.”

Now, you know that doesn’t stand to reason. Every day the sun inches a little higher in the heavens. His rays strike us more directly and for a longer time each day. But it’s the cantankerous fact, and it simply has to stand to reason. That’s the answer, and the sum has to be figured out somehow in accordance with it. Like one time, when I was about sixteen years old, and in the possession of positive and definite information about the way the earth went around the sun and all, I was arguing with one of these old codgers that think they know it all, one of these men that think it is so smart to tell you: “Sonny, when you get older, you’ll know more ’n you do now I hope.” Well, he was trying to tell me that the day lengthened at one end before it did at the other. I did my best to dispel the foolish notion from his mind, and explained to him how it simply could not be, but no, sir! he stood me down. Finally, since pure reasoning was wasted on him, I took the almanac off the nail it hung by, and I bedog my riggin’s if the old skidama link wasn’t right after all. Sundown keeps coming a minute later every day, while, for quite a while there, sun-up sticks at the same old time, 7:30 A.M. Did you ever hear of anything so foolish?

“Very early, while it is yet dark,” the alarm clock of old Dame Nature begins to buzz. It may snow and blow, and winter may seem to have settled in in earnest, but deep down in the earth, the root-tips, where lie the brains of vegetables, are gaping and stretching, and ho-humming, and wishing they could snooze a little longer. When it thaws in the afternoon and freezes up at sunset as tight as bricks, they tell me that out in the sugar-camp there are great doings. I don’t know about it myself, but I have heard tell of boring a hole in the maple-tree, and sticking in a spout, and setting a bucket to catch the drip, and collecting the sap, and boiling down, and sugaring off. I have heard tell of taffy-pullings, and how Joe Hendricks stuck a whole gob of maple-wax in Sally Miller’s hair, and how she got even with him by rubbing his face with soot. It is only hearsay with me, but I’ll tell you what I have done: I have eaten real maple sugar, and nearly pulled out every tooth I had in my head with maple-wax, and I have even gone so far as to have maple syrup on pancakes. It’s good, too. The maple syrup came on the table in a sort of a glass flagon with a metal lid to it, and it was considered the height of bad manners to lick off the last drop of syrup that hung on the nose of the flagon. And yet it must not be allowed to drip on the table-cloth. It is a pity we can’t get any more maple syrup nowadays, but I don’t feel so bad about the loss of it, as I do to think what awful liars people can be, declaring on the label that ’deed and double, ’pon their word and honor, it is pure, genuine, unadulterated maple syrup, when they know just as well as they know anything that it is only store-sugar boiled up with maple chips.

Along about the same time, the boys come home with a ring of mud around their mouths, and exhaling spicy breaths like those which blow o’er Ceylon’s isle in the hymn-book. They bear a bundle of roots, whose thick, pink hide mother whittles off with the butcher-knife and sets to steep. Put away the store tea and coffee. To-night as we drink the reddish aromatic brew we return, not only to our own young days, but to the young days of the nation when our folks moved to the West in a covered wagon; when grandpap, only a little boy then, about as big as Charley there, got down the rifle and killed the bear that had climbed into the hog-pen; when they found old Cherry out in the timber with her calf between her legs, and two wolves lying where she had horned them to death we return to-night to the high, heroic days of old, when our forefathers conquered the wilderness and our foremothers reared the families that peopled it. This cup of sassafras to-night in their loving memory! Earth, rest easy on their moldering bones!

Some there be that still take stock in the groundhog. I don’t believe he knows anything about it. And I believe that any animal that had the sense that he is reputed to have would not have remained a mere ground-hog all these years. At least not in this country. Anyhow, it’s a long ways ahead, six weeks is, especially at the time when you do wish so fervently that it would come spring. We keep on shoveling coal in the furnace, and carrying out ashes, and longing and crying: “Oh, for pity’s sakes! When is this going to stop?” And then, one morning, we awaken with a start Wha what? Sh! Keep still, can’t you? There is a more canorous and horn-like quality to the crowing of Gildersleeve’s rooster, and his hens chant cheerily as they kick the litter about. But it wasn’t these cheerful sounds that wakened us with a start. There! Hear that? Hear it? Two or three long-drawn, reedy notes, and an awkward boggle at a trill, but oh, how sweet! How sweet! It is the song-sparrow, blessed bird! It won’t be long now; it won’t be long.

The snow fort in the back-yard still sulks there black and dirty. “I’ll go when I get good and ready, and not before,” it seems to say. Other places the thinner snow has departed and left behind it mud that seizes upon your overshoe with an “Oh, what’s your rush?” In the middle of the road it lies as smooth as pancake-batter. A load of building stone stalls, and people gather on the sidewalk to tell the teamster quietly and unostentatiously that he ought to have had more sense than to pile it on like that with the roads the way they are. Every time the cruel whip comes down and the horses dance under it, the women peering out of the front windows wince, and cluck “Tchk! Ain’t it terrible? He ought to be arrested.” This way and that the team turns and tugs, but all in vain. Somebody puts on his rubber boots and wades out to help, fearing not the muddy spokes. Yo hee! Yo hee! No use. He talks it over with the teamster. You can hear him say: “Well, suit yourself. If you want to stay here all night.”

And then the women exult: “Goody! Goody! Serves him right. Now he has to take off some of the stone. Lazy man’s load!”

The mother of children flies to the back-door when school lets out. “Don’t you come in here with all that mud!” she squalls excitedly. “Look at you! A peck o’ dirt on each foot. Right in my nice clean kitchen that I just scrubbed. Go ’long now and clean your shoes. Go ’long, I tell you. Slave and slave for you and that’s all the thanks I get. You’d keep the place looking like a hogpen, if I wasn’t at you all the time. I never saw such young ones since the day I was made. Never. Whoopin’ and hollerin’ and trackin’ in and out. It’s enough to drive a body crazy.”

(Don’t you care. It’s just her talk. If it isn’t one thing it’s another, cleaning your shoes, or combing your hair, or brushing your clothes, or using your handkerchief, or shutting the door softly, or holding your spoon with your fingers and not in your fist, or keeping your finger out of your glass when you drink something the whole blessed time. Forever and eternally picking at a fellow about something. And saying the same thing over and over so many times. That’s the worst of it!)

Pap and mother read over the seed catalogues, all about “warm, light soils,” and “hardy annuals,” and “sow in drills four inches apart.” It kind of hurries things along when you do that. In the south window of the kitchen is a box full of black dirt in which will you look out what you’re doing? Little more and you’d have upset it. There are tomato seeds in that, I’ll have you know. Oh, yes, government seeds. Somebody sends ’em, I don’t know who. Congressman, I guess, whoever he is. I don’t pretend to keep track of ’em. And say. When was this watered last? There it is. Unless I stand over you every minute My land! If there’s anything done about this house I’ve got to do it.

Between the days when it can’t make up its mind whether to snow or to rain, and tries to do both at once, comes a day when it is warm enough (almost) to go without an overcoat. The Sunday following you can hardly hear what the preacher has to say for the whooping and barking. The choir members have cough drops in their cheeks when they stand up to sing, and everybody stops in at the drug store with: “Say, Doc, what’s good for a cold?”

Eggs have come down. Yesterday they were nine for a quarter; to-day they’re ten. Gildersleeve wants a dollar for a setting of eggs, but he’ll let you have the same number of eggs for thirty cents if you’ll wait till he can run a needle into each one. So afraid you’ll raise chickens of your own.

Excited groups gather about rude circles scratched in the mud, and there is talk of “pureys,” and “reals,” and “aggies,” and “commies,” and “fen dubs!” There is a rich click about the bulging pockets of the boys, and every so often in school time something drops on the floor and rolls noisily across the room. When Miss Daniels asks: “Who did that?” the boys all look so astonished. Who did what, pray tell? And when she picks up a marble and inquires: “Whose is this?” nobody can possibly imagine whose it might be, least of all the boy whose most highly-prized shooter it is. At this season of the year, too, there is much serious talk as to the exceeding sinfulness of “playing for keeps.” The little boys, in whose thumbs lingers the weakness of the arboreal ape, their ancestor, and who “poke” their marbles, drink in eagerly the doctrine that when you win a marble you ought to give it back, but the hard-eyed fellows, who can plunk it every time, sit there and let it go in one ear and out the other, there being a hole drilled through expressly for the purpose. What? Give up the rewards of skill? Ah, g’wan!

The girls, even to those who have begun to turn their hair up under, are turning the rope and dismally chanting: “All in together, pigs in the meadow, nineteen twenty, leave the rope empty,” or whatever the rune is.

It won’t be long now. It won’t be long.

“For lo; the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines, with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise my love, my fair one and come away.”

The song of Solomon.

Out in the woods the leaves that rustled so bravely when we shuffled our feet through them last fall are sodden and matted. It is warm in the woods, for the sun strikes down through the bare branches, and the cold wind is fended off. The fleshy lances of the spring beauty have stabbed upward through the mulch, and a tiny cup, delicately veined with pink, hangs its head bashfully. Anémones on brown wire stems aspire without a leaf, and in moist patches are May pinks, the trailing arbutus of the grown-ups. As we carry home a bunch, the heads all lopping every way like the heads of strangled babies, we can almost hear behind us in the echoing forests a long, heart-broken moan, as of Rachel mourning for her children, and will not be comforted because they are not. The wild flowers don’t look so pretty in the tin cups of water as they did back in the woods. There is something cheap and common about them. Throw ’em out. The poor plants that planned through all the ages how to attract the first smart insects of the season, and trick them into setting the seeds for next years’ flowers did not reckon that these very means whereby they hoped to rear a family would prove their undoing at the hands of those who plume themselves a little on their refinement, they “are so fond of flowers.”

Old Winter hates to give up that he is beaten. It’s a funny thing, but when you hear a person sing, “Good-a-by, Summer, good-a-by, good-a-by,” you always feel kind of sad and sorry. It’s going, the time of year when you can stay out of doors most of the time, when you can go in swimming, and the Sunday-school picnic, and the circus, and play base-ball and camp out, and there’s no school, and everything nice, and watermelons, and all like that. Good-by, good-by, and you begin to sniff a little. The departure of summer is dignified and even splendid, but the earth looks so sordid and draggle-trailed when winter goes, that onions could not bring a tear. Old winter likes to tease. Aha! You thought I was gone, did you? “Not yet, my child, not yet!” And he sends us huckleberry-colored clouds from the northwest, from which snow-flakes big as copper cents solemnly waggle down, as if they really expected the schoolboy to shout: “It snows! Hurrah!” and makes his shout heard through parlor and hall. But they only leave a few dark freckles on the garden beds. Alas, yes! There is no light without its shadow, no joy without its sorrow tagging after. It isn’t all marbles and play in the gladsome springtide. Bub has not only to spade up the garden there is some sense in that but he has to dig up the flower beds, and help his mother set out her footy, trifling plants.

The robins have come back, our robins that nest each spring in the old seek-no-further. To the boy grunting over the spading-fork presents himself Cock Robin. “How about it? Hey? All right? Hey?” he seems to ask, cocking his head, and flipping out the curt inquiries with tail-jerks. Glad of any excuse to stop work, the boy stands statue-still, while Mr. Robin drags from the upturned clods the long, elastic fish-worms, and then with a brief “Chip!” flashes out of sight. Be right still now. Don’t move. Here he comes again, and his wife with him. They fly down, he all eager and alert to wait upon her, she whining and scolding. She doesn’t think it’s much of a place for worms. And there’s that boy yonder. He’s up to some devilment or other, she just knows. She oughtn’t to have come away and left those eggs. They’ll get cold now, she just knows they will. Anything might happen to them when she ’s away, and then he ’ll be to blame, for he coaxed her. He knows she told him she didn’t want to come. But he would have it. For half a cent she’d go back right now. And, Heavens above! Is he going to be all ’day picking up a few little worms?

She cannot finish her sentences for her gulps, for he is tamping down in her insides the reluctant angleworms that do not want to die, two or three writhing in his bill at once, until he looks like Jove’s eagle with its mouth full of thunderbolts. And all the time he is chip-chipping and flirting his tail, and saying: “How’s that? All right? Hey? Here’s another. How’s that? All right? Hey? Open now. Like that? Here’s one. Oh, a beaut! Here’s two fat ones? Great? Hey? Here y’ go. Touch the spot? Hey? More? Sure Mike. Lots of ’em. Wide now. Boss. Hey? Wait a second yes, honey. In a second.... I got him. Here’s the kind you like. Oh, yes, do. Do take one more. Oh, you better.”

“D’ ye think I’m made o’ rubber?” she snaps at him. “I know I’ll have indigestion, and you’ll be to bla Mercy land! Them eggs!” and she gathers up her skirts and flits. He escorts her gallantly, but returns to pick a few for himself, and to cock his head knowingly at the boy, as much as to say: “Man of family, by Ned. Or or soon will be. Oh, yes, any minute now, any minute.”

And if I remember rightly, he even winks at the boy with a wink whose full significance the boy does not learn till many years after when it dawns upon him that it meant: “You got to make allowances for ’em. Especially at such a time. All upset, you know, and worried. Oh, yes. You got to; you got to make allowances for ’em.”

Day by day the air grows balmier and softer on the cheek. Out in the garden, ranks of yellow-green pikes stand stiffly at “Present. Hump!” and rosettes of the same color crumple through the warm soil, unconsciously preparing for a soul tragedy. For an evening will come when a covered dish will be upon the supper-table, and when the cover is taken off, a subtle fragrance will betray, if the sense of sight do not, that the chopped-up lettuces and onions are in a marsh of cider vinegar, demanding to be eaten. And your big sister will squall out in comic distress: “Oh, ma! You are too mean for anything! Why did you have ’em tonight? I told you Mr. Dellabaugh was going to call, and you know how I love spring onions! Well, I don’t care. I’m just going to, anyhow.”

Things come with such a rush now, it is hard to tell what happens in its proper order. The apple-trees blossom out like pop-corn over the hot coals. The Japan quince repeats its farfamed imitation of the Burning Bush of Moses; the flowering currants are strung with knobs of vivid yellow fringe; the dead grass from the front yard, the sticks and stalks and old tomato vines, the bits of rag and the old bones that Guess has gnawed upon are burning in the alley, and the tormented smoke is darting this way and that, trying to get out from under the wind that seeks to flatten it to the ground. All this is spring, and and yet it isn’t. The word is not yet spoken that sets us free to live the outdoor life; we are yet prisoners and captives of the house.

But, one day in school, the heat that yesterday was nice and cozy becomes too dry and baking for endurance. The young ones come in from recess red, not with the brilliant glow of winter, but a sort of scalded red. They juke their heads forward to escape their collars’ moist embrace; they reach their hands back of them to pull their clinging winter underwear away. They fan themselves with joggerfies, and puff out: “Phew!” and look pleadingly at the shut windows. One boy, bolder than his fellows, moans with a suffering lament: “Miss Daniels, cain’t we have the windows open? It’s awful hot!” Frightful dangers lurk in draughts. Fresh air will kill folks. So, not until the afternoon is the prayer answered. Then the outer world, so long excluded, enters once more the school-room life. The mellifluous crowing of distant roosters, the rhythmic creaking of a thirsty pump, the rumble of a loaded wagon, the clinking of hammers at the blacksmith shop, the whistle of N away below town, all blend together in the soft spring air into one lulling harmony.

Winter’s alert activity is gone. Who cares for grades and standings now? The girls, that always are so smart, gape lazily, and stare at vacancy wishing.... They don’t know what they wish, but if He had a lot of money, why, then they could help the poor, and all like that, and have a new dress every day.

James Sackett his real name is Jim Bag, but teacher calls him James Sackett has his face set toward: “A farmer sold 16 2-3 bu. wheat for 66 7-8 c. per bu.; 19 2-9 bu. oats for,” etc., etc., but his soul is far away in Cummins’s woods, where there is a robbers’ cave that he, and Chuck Higgins, and Bunt Rogers, and Turkey-egg McLaughlin are going to dig Saturday afternoons when the chores are done. They are going to Here Miss Daniels should slip up behind him and snap his ear, but she, too, is far away in spirit. Her beau is coming after supper to take her buggy-riding. She wonders.... She wonders.... Will she have to teach again next fall? She wonders....

Wait. Wait but a moment. A subtle change is coming.

The rim of the revolving year has a brighter and a darker half, a joyous and a somber half, Autumnal splendors cannot cheer the melancholy that we feel when summer goes from us, but when summer comes again the heart leaps up in glee to meet it. Wait but a moment now. Wait.

The distant woodland swims in an amethystine haze. A long and fluting note, honey-sweet as it were blown upon a bottle, comes to us from far. It is the turtle-dove. The blood beats in our ears. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

So gentle it can scarce be felt, a waft of air blows over us, the first sweet breath of summer. A veil of faint and subtle perfume drifts around us. The vines with the tender grape give a good smell. And evermore as its enchantment is cast about us we are as once we were when first we came beneath its spell; we are by the smokehouse at the old home place; we stand in shoes whose copper toes wink and glitter in the sunlight, a gingham apron sways in the soft breeze, and on the green, upspringing turf dances the shadow of a tasseled cap. Life was all before us then. Please God, it is not all behind us now. Please God, our best and wisest days are yet to come the days when we shall do the work that is worthy of us. Dear one, mother of my children here and Yonder and Yonder the best and wisest days are yet to come. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.