Eben Holden a Tale of the North Country, Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Hope's love of music became a passion after that night. Young Mr Livingstone, 'the city chap' we had met at the church, came over next day. His enthusiasm for her voice gave us all great hope of it. David Brower said he would take her away to the big city when she was older. They soon decided to send her in September to the big school in Hillsborough.

'She's got t' be a lady,' said David Brower, as he drew her into his lap the day we had all discussed the matter. 'She's leamt everything in the 'rithinetic an' geography an' speller. I want her t' learn somethin' more scientific.'

'Now you're talkin',' said Uncle Eb. 'There's lots o' things ye can't learn by cipherin'. Nuthin's too good fer Hope.'

'I'd like t' know what you men expect of her anyway,' said Elizabeth Brower.

'A high stepper,' said Uncle Eb. 'We want a slick coat, a kind uv a toppy head, an a lot O' ginger. So't when we hitch 'er t' the pole bime bye we shan't be 'shamed o' her.'

'Eggzac'ly,' said David Brower, laughing. 'An' then she shall have the best harness in the market.'

Hope did not seem to comprehend all the rustic metaphors that had been applied to her. A look of puzzled amusement came over her face, and then she ran away into the garden, her hair streaming from under her white sun-bonnet.

'Never see sech a beauty! Beats the world,' said Uncle Eb in a whisper, whereat both David and Elizabeth shook their heads.

'Lord o' mercy! Don't let her know it,' Elizabeth answered, in a low tone. 'She's beginning to have-'

Just then Hope came by us leading her pet filly that had been born within the month. Immediately Mrs Brower changed the subject.

'To have what?' David enquired as soon as the girl was out of hearing.

'Suspicions,' said Elizabeth mournflllly. 'Spends a good deal of her time at the looking-glass. I think the other girls tell her and then that young Livingstone has been turning her head.'

'Turning her head!' he exclaimed.

'Turning her head,' she answered. 'He sat here the other day and deliberately told her that he had never seen such a complexion and such lovely hair.'

Elizabeth Brower mocked his accent with a show of contempt that feebly echoed my own emotions.

'That's the way o' city folks, mother,' said David.

'It's a bad way,' she answered. 'I do not thank he ought to come here. Hope's a child yet, and we mustn't let her get notions.'

'I'll tell him not t' come any more,' said David, as he and Uncle Eb rose to go to their work

'I'm 'fraid she ought not to go away to school for a year yet,' said Elizabeth, a troubled look in her face.

'Pshaw, mother! Ye can't keep her under yer wing alwus,' said he. 'Well, David, you know she is very young and uncommonly - ' she hesitated.

'Han'some,' said he, 'we might as well own up if she is our child.'

'If she goes away,' continued Elizabeth, 'some of us ought t' go with her.'

Then Uncle Eb and David went to their work in the fields and I to my own task That very evening they began to talk of renting the farm and going to town with the children.

I had a stent of cording wood that day and finished it before two o'clock Then I got my pole of mountain ash, made hook and line ready, dug some worms and went fishing. I cared not so much for the fishing as for the solitude of the woods. I had a bit of thing to do. In the thick timber there was a place where Tinkle brook began to hurry and break into murmurs on a pebble bar, as if its feet were tickled. A few more steps and it burst into a peal of laughter that lasted half the year as it tumbled over narrow shelves of rock into a foamy pool. Many a day I had sat fishing for hours at the little fall under a birch tree, among the brakes and moss. No ray of sunlight ever got to the dark water below me - the lair of many a big fish that had yielded to the temptation of my bait. Here I lay in the cool shade while a singular sort of heart sickness came over me. A wild partridge was beating his gong in the near woods all the afternoon. The sound of the water seemed to break in the tree-tops and fall back upon me. I had lain there thinking an hour or more when I caught the jar of approaching footsteps. Looking up I saw Jed Feary coming through the bushes, pole in hand.

'Fishin'?' he asked.

'Only thinking,' I answered.

'Couldn't be in better business,' said he as he sat down beside me.

More than once he had been my father confessor and I was glad he had come.

'In love?' he asked. 'No boy ever thinks unless he's in love.'

'In trouble,' said I.

'Same thing,' he answered, lighting his pipe. 'Love is trouble with a bit of sugar in it - the sweetest trouble a man can have. what's the matter?'

'It's a great secret,' I said, 'I have never told it. I am in love.'

'Knew it,' he said, puffing at his pipe and smiling in a kindly way. 'Now let's put in the trouble.'

'She does not love me,' I answered.

'Glad of it,' he remarked. 'I've got a secret t, tell you.'

'What's that?' I enquired.

'Wouldn't tell anybody else for the world, my boy,' he said, 'it's between you an' me.'

'Between you an' me,' I repeated.

'Well,' he said, you're a fool.'

'That's no secret,' I answered much embarrassed.

'Yes it is,' he insisted, 'you're smart enough an' ye can have most anything in this world if ye take the right road. Ye've grown t' be a great big strapping fellow but you're only - sixteen?'

'That's all,' I said mournfully.

'Ye're as big a fool to go falling in love as I'd be. Ye're too young an' I'm too old. I say to you, wait. Ye've got to go t' college.'

'College!' I exclaimed, incredulously.

'Yes! an' thet's another secret,' said he. I tol' David Brower what I thought o' your writing thet essay on bugs in pertickier - an' I tol' 'im what people were sayin' o' your work in school.'

'What d' he say?' I asked.

'Said Hope had tol' him all about it - that she was as proud o' you as she was uv her curls, an' I believe it. "Well," says I, "y' oughter sen' that boy t' college." "Goin' to," says he. "He'll go t' the 'Cademy this fall if he wants to. Then he can go t' college soon's he's ready." Threw up my hat an' shouted I was that glad.'

As he spoke the old man's face kindled with enthusiasm. In me he had one who understood him, who saw truth in his thought, music in his verse, a noble simplicity in his soul. I took his hand in mine and thanked him heartily. Then we rose and came away together.

'Remember,' he said, as we parted at the corner, 'there's a way laid out fer you. In God's time it will lead to every good thing you desire. Don't jump over the fence. Don't try t' pass any milestun 'fore ye've come to it. Don't mope. Keep yer head cool with philosophy, yer feet warm with travel an' don't worry bout yer heart. It won't turn t' stun if ye do keep it awhile. Allwus hev enough of it about ye t' do business with. Goodbye!'