Page images
PDF
EPUB

the deep mountain gorges; the naturalist stopping frequently to give closer notice to something. He stood still here to examine a piece of rock.

"Will you let me give you one little direction," said he producing his little hammer," two little direction, or I should call them big direction, which may be of some goot to you?"

"I wish you would, sir."

"In de first place den, don't never go half way through nozing. If some thing you want to know is in de middle of dat rock," said he striking it, "knock de rock all to pieces but what you will have it. I mean, when you begin, finish, and do it

goot."

"That is what I think, Mr. Herder."

"In de second place," continued Mr. Herder, illustrating part of his former speech by hammering off some pieces of rock from the mass," don't never think that no kind of knowledge is of no use to you. Dere is nozing dat it is not goot to know. You may say, it is no use to you to know dat colour of de outside of dis rock, and dis colour of de inside; you are wrong; you ought to learn to know it if you can; and you will find de use before you die, wizout you be a very misfortunate man. Dere is nozing little in dis world; all is truth, or it will help you find out truth; and you cannot know too much."

"I believe that, sir; and I will remember it."

"And when you have learned English and Latin and Greek, you will learn German?" said the naturalist, putting the fragments of rock in his pocket.

Winthrop laughed at his expression.

"Promise me dat you will. You will find it of use to you

too."

"But all useful things are not possible," said Winthrop.

"I wish it was possible for you to bring down that bird," said the naturalist, gazing up towards a pair of huge wings above them;-"It would be very useful to me." The creature was sailing through the distant ether in majestic style, moving its wings so little that they seemed an emblem of powerful repose.

"That is a white-headed eagle," said Winthrop.

"I know him!" said the naturalist, still gazing. "I wish I had him; but dat is a thing in which is no goot; as he is too far off for me to reach him. Better for him! And it will be better

for us to go home, for the day is not very long."

Neither was Mr. Herder's stay in the mountains after that.

At parting he assured Winthrop "he should be very glad to do him all the goot he could do, if he would only let him know how." This was just after the fall of the leaf. The winter was a mild one, and so fruitful in business belonging to the farm that Winthrop's own private concerns had little chance. Latin was pushed a little, and Greek entered upon; neither of them could be forwarded much, with all the stress that hope or despair could make. Snowstorm, and thaw, and frost, and sun, came after and after each other, and as surely and constantly the various calls upon Winthrop's time; and every change seemed to put itself between him and his books. Mr. Landholm was kept late in Vantassel, by a long session, and the early spring business came all upon his son's hands.

Letters were rather infrequent things in those days, waiting, as they usually did, for private carriage. It was near the end of March that the rare event of two letters in one day happened to the quiet little household.

Winthrop got one at the post-office, with the Vantassel mark; and coming home found his mother sitting before the fire with another in her hand, the matter of which she was apparently studying.

"A letter, mamma?"

"Yes-from Will."

"How did it come?"

"It came by Mr. Underhill."

"What's the matter? what does he say?"

"Not much-you can see for yourself."

"And here's one from papa."

Mrs. Landholm took it, and Winthrop took Rufus's.

"LITTLE RIVER, March 18, 1809.

"What does papa mean to do? Something must be done, for I cannot stay here for ever; neither in truth do I wish it. If I am ever to make anything, it is time now. I am twenty-one, and in mind and body prepared, I think, for any line of enterprise to which fortune may call me. Or if nothing can be done with me,—if what has been spent must be thrown away-it is needless to throw away any more; it would be better for me to come home and settle down to the lot for which I seemed to be born. Nothing can be gained by waiting longer, but much lost.

"I am not desponding, but seriously this transition life I am leading at present is not very enlivening. I am neither one thing nor the other; I am in a chrysalis state, which is notoriously a

dull one; and I have the further aggravation, which I suppose never occurs to the nymph bona fide, of a miserable uncertainty whether my folded-up wings are those of a purple butterfly or of a poor drudge of a beetle. Besides, it is conceivable that the chrysalis may get weary of his case, and mine is not a silken one. I have been here long enough. My aunt Landholm is very kind; but I think she would like an increase of her household accommodations, and also that she would prefer working it by the rule of subtraction rather than by the more usual and obvious way of addition. She is a good soul, but really I believe her larder contains nothing but pork, and her pantry nothing but

-pumpkins! She has actually contrived, by some abominable mystery of the kitchen, to keep some of them over through a period of frost and oblivion, and to-day they made their appearance in due form on the table again; my horror at which appearance has I believe given me an indigestion, to which you may attribute whatever of gloominess there may be contained in this letter. I certainly felt very heavy when I sat down; but the sight of all your faces through fancy's sweet medium has greatly refreshed me.

"Nevertheless answer me speedily, for I am in earnest, although I am in jest.

"I intend to see you at all events soon.

"Love the little ones and to dear ma and ра from

[ocr errors]

"What does father say, mother?" was all Winthrop's commentary on this epistle. She gave him the other letter, and he yielded his brother's again to her stretched-out hand.

"MY DEAR ORPHAH,

"VANTASSEL, March 22, 1809.

"I am really coming home! I never knew any months so long, it seems to me, as these three. The business will be finished I believe next week, and the Session will rise, and the first use I shall make of my recovered freedom will be—can you doubt it? to hasten home to my family. My dear family-they are closer to me all the time than you think, and for some weeks past it seems to me they have had half of every thought. But I will be with you now, Providence willing, by the middle of the week, I hope, or as soon after as I can.

"The last fortnight has been spent in talking-we have had a very stormy discussion of that point I spoke to you of in my last.

[ocr errors]

The opposition of parties has run very high. It is gaining fearful ground in the country. I tremble for what may be the issue.

"I am quite well again. Mr. Haye has been very attentive and kind, and the Chancellor has shewn himself very friendly.

"I expect Will will be at home as soon as I am myself. I wrote to him that he had better do so. I cannot afford to keep him any longer there, and there seems nothing better for him to do at present but to come home. I hope for better days. "Love to all till I see you, my dear wife and children, "W. LANDHOLM.

"My son Winthrop, this word is for you. I am coming home soon I hope to relieve you of so much care. Meanwhile a word. I want Sam to go into the north hill-field with the plough, as soon as he can; I think the frost must be out of the ground with you. I intend to put wheat there and in the big border meadow. The bend meadow is in no hurry; it will take corn, I guess. You had better feed out the turnips to the old black cow and the two heifers."

The letters were read at last, and folded up, by the respective hands that held them.

"Well, Will's coming home," the mother said, with half a sigh.

Winthrop did not answer; he made over to her hand the letter he held in his own.

"The north hill-field is pretty much all ploughed already," he remarked.

"You're a good farmer, Governor," said his mother. 'But I am afraid that praise doesn't please you."

"Yes it does, mamma," he answered smiling a little.

"But it don't satisfy you?"

"No more than it does you, mamma. It helps my hope of being a good something else some day."

"I don't care much what you are, Governor, if it is only something good," she said.

He met her grave, wistful eyes, but this time he did not smile; and a stranger might have thought he was exceedingly unimpressible. Both were silent a bit.

"Well, it will be good to see them," Mrs. Landholm said, again with that half sighing breath; "and now we must make haste and get all ready to welcome them home."

[blocks in formation]

WHAT a coming home that was. Who could have guessed that any ungrateful cause had had anything to do with it. What kisses, what smiles, what family rejoicings at the table, what endless talks round the fire. What delight in the returned Member of Assembly; what admiration of the future Collegian. For nobody had given that up: wishes were bidden to wait awhile, that was all; and as the waiting had procured them this dear home-gathering, who could quarrel with it. Nay, there was no eye shaded, there was no voice untuned for the glad music of

that time.

"Well is worth going away, to come back again, ain't it?" said Mr. Landholm, when they were gathered round the fire that first evening.

"No," said his wife.

"Well, I didn't think so last winter," said the father of the family, drawing his broad hand over his eyes.

"I can tell you, I have thought so this great while," said Rufus. "It's-it's seven or eight months now since I have

been home."

"Papa," said little Winifred, squeezing in and climbing up on her father's knees,-" we have wanted you every night."

"You did!" said her father, bending his face conveniently down to her golden curls ;" and what did you do by day?” "O we wanted you; but then you know we were so busy in the day-time."

[ocr errors]

Busy!" said her father," I guess you were busy!"
She made herself busy then, for putting both arms round his

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »