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beginning to streak, with long, faint, dotted lines, the selfdisclosing plough-fields. The cattle were lazily ruminating in the barn-yard, occasionally lowing and casting a wistful glance at the bare hills around, but without offering to move towards them, as if they thought that the prospects there were hardly sufficient to induce them yet to leave their winter quarters. The earth-loving sheep, however, had broken from their fold, and, having reached the borders of the hills by some partially trod path, were busily nibbling at the roots of the shriveled herbage, unheedful of the bleating cries of their feebler companions, that they had left stuck in the treacherous snow-drifts, encountered in their migrations from one bare patch to another.
The owner of the farming establishment, in reference to which we have been speaking, was in the door-yard, engaged in splitting and piling up his yearly stock of fire-wood. He was a man of about forty, not of a very intellectual countenance, indeed, but of a stout, hardy, and well-made frame, which showed to advantage in the handsome and appropriate long, striped, woollen frock, in which he was plying himself with the moderate and easy motions which are, perhaps, peculiar to men of great physical power. A rugged and resolute-looking boy, of perhaps a dozen years of age, having thrown himself upon one knee before a small pile of prepared wood, lying near the kitchen door for immediate use, and having heaped the clefts into one arm till they reached to his chin, as if in whim to see how much he could carry in, was now engaged in trying, with a capricious, bravado-like air, to balance an additional stick on his head, by way of increasing his already enormous load.
In another part of the yard, and as near his master as he could remain undisturbed, lay the well-fed house-dog, reclining upon his belly, with his muzzle, which was pointed in a direction most favorable for a look-out, resting on a clean,
broad chip, with ears attent, and eyes keenly following the slow, creeping motions of a small carriage, that was now seen in the distance winding along the road from the south, of whose approach he, from time to time, as he considered himself in duty bound, gave notice by a low growl, which, as the vehicle at length emerged from some partially screening bushes into plain and near view, was raised to a lazy wow ! The carriage in question proved to be a light, open wagon, drawn by one horse, and containing a middle-aged man, of a fine, gentlemanly appearance, and by his side a small female figure, closely muffled in hood and cloak. Carefully guiding his horse, and turning him from one side to the other of the still icy road, to avoid the most sidling and dangerous-looking places, the traveller at length came abreast of the house ; when the animal lost his footing, and after two or three violent but fruitless flounders to regain it, by which the carriage was nearly overset, finally landed flat on his side, and lay as if dead.
“My stars!” exclaimed the farmer, pausing with uplifted axe to see the mishap, “ if that was ’nt a narrow escape from capsizing, it ’s no matter ! ”
A second thought now seeming to occur to him, he suddenly dropped his axe, darted forward to the spot, and, seizing the prostrate horse by the bits, held him down.
“ Clear the wagon,” he said, hastily motioning with his head to the traveller," the horse will be as likely to overturn you in rising as he was in falling. Jump down, and lift out the girl, and I will then let him up.”
This advice was instantly complied with ; when the horse, being spurred to an effort, soon safely regained his feet.
“ Your beast has lost a shoe, sir," said the farmer, approaching the panting animal, and lifting a suspected foot; “yes, here is the foot, as bare as your hand. But you must have another put on before you drive him another rod in
that wagon over these sidling ice-patches, unless you want your neck broke.”
“I have no very particular wishes for that, certainly," said the gentleman with a smile ; “ but where can I find a smith within any reasonable distance ? "
“ There's one, and a good one too, about a mile from here, on another road; but I think the horse can be taken across my pasture to the shop much nearer.”
“ Should I be likely to meet with any difficulty about finding the way?
“ Why, yes, you might; and I'll tell you what, sir you had better let me clap my boy on to the creature's back, after unharnessing, and he will take him over and get him shod, while you take your little girl into the house, and remain here. Ben !” continued the speaker, shouting for the boy who had gone in with the wood, with which we have noticed him as loading himself, “ Ben! Ben Amsden ! show your profile out here in the yard, if you will."
The boy promptly made his appearance.
“ That boy ?” asked the stranger, doubtingly. “My horse has considerable spirit can he manage him safely ? ”
“ He will think so, I guess,” replied the farmer, laughingly. “ What say you, Benjamin ? We want you to ride this horse over to neighbor Dighton's to get a shoe put on; and the gentleman appears to have some doubts whether you can manage him, seeing he has some spirit - what do
think about it, sir ? ”
“Why, I guess I'll agree to find neck as long as the gentleman will find horse," said the boy smartly.
“ Well, then, lead him with the wagon into the yard; strip him of the harness ; take our bridle, and ride across the pasture to the shop; tell Mr. Dighton to put on a new shoe, and charge it to me, as we have deal; though you may ask the price, that the gentleman may hand it to me if he wants
to. Come, Mister, now you and your little girl go with me into the house."
“I will assist the boy to unharness first.” « 0, no, it will be nothing but fun for him. Come, come
It is strange," continued the man, after pausing a moment to see the wagon got safely around into the yard, “it is strange what a natural difference there is in boys. Now this chap, as little knurl of a thing as he appears, will mount and manage any thing in the shape of horse-flesh, even to the breaking of colts ; while my other boy, now tending the sugar place over in the woods yonder, though nearly four years older than this, don't appear to have the least notion about a horse, or any thing else, scarcely, in the way of active life, so long as he can get a book to read and think about.”
Mr. Amsden - for such, as the reader may have already inferred, was the farmer's name now ushered the travellers into the house, and introduced them, as such, to his wife, a dark-eyed and finely-featured dame, who received them with simple kindness, and at once proceeded to assist the little girl in unrobing herself of the thick outward garments in which she was encased to guard against the damps and chills of the
The girl, who proved to be the gentleman's daughter, was apparently just entering her teens, neatly rounded, and rather slender in form, and in feature and countenance the softened and beautified image of her very fine-looking, though now somewhat pale and emaciated father. The personal appearance of both father and daughter, indeed, was of a character to awaken at once the attention and interest of the beholder; while the countenances of each exhibited so finely blended an expression of benevolence and intelligence, as to carry along with it the assurance of qualities within, which should secure the interest and make good the prepossessions that outward comeliness had created. The gentleman, as just
intimated, had slightly the appearance of an invalid. Indeed, he
soon stated, in the way of accounting for being on a journey at such an unfavorable time, that, being about to take å sea-voyage for the benefit of his health, he had broken up housekeeping at his late residence, in a village some fifty miles south of the place to which he had now arrived; and it had therefore become necessary to take his daughter, who, with himself, now composed all his family, to reside, in his absence, with a relative, to whose residence another day's ride would easily carry them.
A few moments, with the gentleman's easy and social turn, was sufficient to place him on a footing of familiarity with the family. And having effected this, and seen his daughter beginning to appear cheerful and at ease, through the delicate and motherly attentions shown her by the amiable hostess, he proposed to Mr. Amsden a walk to the barn for an inspection of his stock, and such other things as should afford samples of his management and skill as a farmer.
Certainly,” said Amsden, evidently gratified at the interest which one, who did not appear to be of his calling, seemed to take in his farming affairs, “ certainly, sir, we will go. And you, wife," he continued, turning to the dame, who was already giving signs of culinary preparation, "you can look round a little while we are gone, and see what can be done in the way of a dinner. These folks, as well as ourselves, would like one soon, probably.”
“ By being allowed to pay for it, we should,” replied the gentleman.
“ Time enough to talk about that when you get it,” rejoined Amsden good-humoredly, as the two left the house on their way to the barn.
On arriving at the yard, its various and thrifty-looking tenants were successively pointed out to the observing stranger by the farmer, who proudly descanted on the virtues of his