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do one thing well while you're at it. Now, listen here.
This is to be serious work, mind, not play. I want you,
David, and John Allyn looks to Bob to go about this
rightly or not begin at all. Set one line of traps and set
'em well. Arrange between you to have 'em seen to dur-
ing the week. Then on Saturdays you both can have all
day at it. Every fortnight you can have a whole after-
noon for the work in mid-week, turn about with Bob.
I'd give every day, to boot, but there's the chores you
must help me with and then there's the schooling in the
morning. War or no war, any boy of mine must get a
bit of that, though a sorry time it is these days to find
place or person who's a chance to teach him!"

Hugh paused, while big John Allyn nodded in confirma-
tion. The sound, hard-working farmers of the neighbor-
hood, those who had originally settled along the reaches
of Darby Creek and in the Old Welsh Barony that ran
from Merion in the east far up past Haverford to Tredyf-
frin in the Valley, these men had paid great heed for gen-
erations to the schooling of their children. When no regu-
lar dominie was to be had, as was too often the case, they
made out the best way they could themselves, assigning
lessons at which their boys and girls could work to profit
in the long winter evenings and as often as they could be
spared from chores during the busier hours of daylight.



48 SANDY FLASH

The Quaker children usually attended week-day school
of a more or less regular nature in the old Friends' Meet-
ing Houses at Haverford, Ithan and elsewhere through
the county.

Books were few, but the Bible was in every homestead,
while often a Pilgrim's Progress or even a Paradise Lost
served the purpose of reader and speller combined. From
such as these, Dave and Bob had learned their letters and
to parse. It must be admitted that in mathematics they
had not gone so far, although they were founded in the
elements of that creditably enough. It had been driven
home to them by practical examples of its use in the daily
life of the farm and in the village markets where their
fathers drove cattle for exchange.

When Dave's father now said that trapping was for
week-ends and then only, both boys knew that he meant
it. There was no questioning of his authority or judg-
ment.

"The thing we all must do this winter, boys, is help our-
selves as best we can. Soon as ever I saw you two were
really earnest about the trapping, I began to turn over in
my mind how, if you went about it right, you might bring
in quite a bit of game to line our larders. That and the
pelts for making some warm and handy things we need
would more than offset the time from work. Neighbor
Allyn agreed, so out we came to Ridley Woodland, know-
ing we'd find you here or up by Pickering Thicket
yonder."

"Easy as rolling off a log," quoth big John Allyn, smil-
ing as he recalled the startled look on the lads' faces, when



THE HEARTH RUG 49

his ambush had been sprung. "Bob, you jumped like a
scared woodchuck back there ! Truly, you did ! "

"They both did," went on Hugh. "We could track you
finely, once you left the road. It was the same as follow-
ing the slot of a deer like I used to do on the hills of
Tredyffrin when I was your age. Many's the time I've
hunted 'em over there, visiting the Walkers or the Wil-
sons in the Valley. Davie, here, comes by his trapping
well, I'll tell you, so you'll have to pick up every trick of
it you can, Bob."

"And remember it's real work, you're doing, son,"
added John Allyn. "We've got to depend a lot more on
our own fields and our own forests than we've been doing
of late. To say nothing of our streams. Tell us now
what sets you've put out to-day. And how you made
'em? With Sandy Flash and poor old Peter, the wonder
is to me you've found a chance to lay a one of 'em."

The boys soon related the story of the rabbit snare that
had been sprung. Then they told of the coon sets they
had made in the ends of the logs, and Dave described the
skunk trap, taking care to give his chum the credit for
first noting the tracks. By the time the boys had finished,
they had reached the lane that ran from the slope of Blue
Hill off toward the hollow of Ridley Valley where Syca-
more Mills nestled among the trees to the west. The
Allyns, father and son, turned off here, bound for their
farm a mile or so away. Dave and Hugh Thomas waved
them farewell and kept on toward the Rose Tree corner,
where they, too, soon turned aside and entered the long
lane that led up to the Thomas homestead. The boys had



50 SANDY FLASH

agreed before parting that they would meet again the
following Monday and see what luck had come to their
traps.

Dave was hungry as a bear after his long tramp and
the excitement of the morning, but Mistress Thomas had
taken that into account when she had begun to make
ready the evening meal. By the time chores were ended
and Dave had washed, the iron pots and pans and little
skillets were already smoking on the hearth. Hugh
Thomas moved the great oaken table nearer the fireplace,
lighted a second tallow dip and took his place at the
board. Then he nodded to his wife. The woman left the
hearth where she had been stooping and took her place be-
side her husband, while Dave hastened to his stool. Mr.
Thomas bowed his head and spoke a word or two of rever-
ent grace as was his custom. Never a meal was eaten in
that household without this simple form of offering
thanks.

The supper that followed was a plain one in that nearly
everything on the table had been home-grown. None the
less it was ample and wholesome, even for the hungry man
and boy so ready to fall to upon it. First, came a great
pewter platter heaped high with baked potates. They
had been done to a turn, snuggled deep in the ashes of the
hearth, then dusted clean. Dave and his father had put
many an hour of toil and care to the growing of them, but
now the bin was full, a goodly winter supply assured, pro-
vided it did not fall a prey to some marauding foragers.
With the potatoes were juicy slices of home-cured, hick-
ory-smoked ham, piping hot. Dave's mouth fairly
watered at the smell of it, as the lid was removed from the



THE HEARTH RUG 51

dish. Last of all, Mistress Thomas knelt by the hearth
and pulled from the coals a three-legged iron pan full of
cornmeal cakes. This was a special treat, indeed, honor-
ing the day's tramp.

The griddle-cakes had been made from the ground meal
of Indian maize, the great grain crop that farmers were
already beginning to call corn and grow in quantity. Up
until recently, however, they had rather looked down upon
it in the county, quite content to purchase small supplies
from the Lower Country, as need for it arose. Placing
the corn cakes on the table, Dave's mother took from the
fireside cupboard a bowl of treacle and a plate of fresh
butter, the sweet, unsalted article that her boy loved.
True to the Welsh breed in them, Dave and his father,
as well, would have none of the salted stuff that many
dairymen were in the habit of making so that they could
keep it longer, then sell it in the town on market days.
For the Thomases there was nothing to take the place of
freshly churned, real home-made butter, sweet as any
cream.

The bread, too, that lay in a great golden loaf in front
of Mistress Thomas's place, had been made from wheat
grown on the farm. Dave well recalled the day he and
his father and some kindly neighbors had cradled that
wheat, every rod of the great field. Then tied it by hand
in even bundles with strands of Indian hemp. That had
been Dave's special care. Afterwards, the harvestmen
had gathered these bundles and laid them up in cocks,
taking heed to keep the rows as straight as a line of tents
in army bivouac. Each cock had been cleverly topped
and thatched to turn the rain, a masterpiece of farmcraft



52 SANDY FLASH

in itself. Indeed, the farmers of the neighborhood had
long taken an unusual pride in the handiwork of hus-
bandry. Last of all had come the garnering of the grain,
the piling of the bundles on the sledges to haul them to
the threshing floor. Wheeled wagons and wains were still
uncommon for the rougher forms of field work.

Dave enjoyed this threshing of the wheat more than all
the yearly routine of the soil. Somehow, the boy sensed
the vast tradition of the thing, the vital link between it
and the history of the race. It made him think of passages
his father used to read each evening from the Bible. He
never quite understood what there was that held him so,
but the steady swing and thumping of the flails, the scat-
tering grain, the flying chaff, when winnowing had begun,
all this gripped him strangely, often coming back to his
mind in vivid pictures, as he tramped the forest trails for
game. It seemed a kind of new miracle to the boy each
time he watched the slowly rising waves of gold that
meant the bread they ate. Then, later on, it was always
sport to take a sack or so of it, as they chanced to need
the flour, and ride with them slung behind the saddle of
a horse to the grist mill down in Haverford, where his
father liked the milling best. As he put it, "The stay of
the bread's from the grind of the millstones."

Dave thought of these things in a dreamy sort of way,
as he watched his mother slice the loaf. Then he fell to
again on more potatoes and ham, corn cakes and treacle,
smooth dabs of melting butter a-plenty. A pewter pitcher
of sassafras tea served to fill his mug as often as he
wanted it. After all, about the best part of a long day's
trudge in the woodland was a glowing hearth at home and



THE HEARTH RUG 53

a supper like this when the tramp was over. The boy
heaved a sigh of pure happiness and pushed back his seat,
but dessert was yet to come a further surprise of his
mother's. It was a great apple dumpling literally drip-
ping in cream!

"There, my dear," she said proudly, putting it before
him on the table, "how will that top off a busy day?
Here's yours, Hugh, not one whit smaller, so don't look
jealous. There's my own, the little fellow! 'Tis a shame
to eat so much in war time, I do declare it."

"We farming men and trappers must find our forage,
rain or clear, eh, David?" laughed Hugh Thomas. "Pon
my soul, three dumplings in a row! For all the world
like the arms of William Penn. I've seen 'em many a
time carved on the mile stones along Old Gulph Road!
Fall to, lad, and show your mother what a good Welsh
trencherman you are. Old Thomas ap Thomas, my
grandfather, could eat more than any man in Merioneth-
shire, they do tell of him."

Dave obeyed with no further urging. As he ate, he re-
lated to his mother the events of the day.

After the supper things had been cleared away, the
boy helped the woman with the dishes, then returned to
the fireside. This was the hour he loved best. Stretched
at full length upon the soft hearth rug, he let his tired
body relax, while his mind, always active, turned over, a
point at a time, every in and out of woodcraft that he
knew. He was going to make good at that whatever hap-
pened, just to show his father and John Allyn and his
good friend Bob that their confidence in his skill had not
been misplaced. As he lay there, gazing at the coals



54 SANDY FLASH

through half-shut lids, the boy's imagination wandered
back into the olden days of the county, the past that was
even now becoming a tradition, although Hugh Thomas
himself could recall as a boy having seen a few of the
pioneers. Those were the days when real trappers were
plentiful about these very fields and Dave's interest
quickened as he thought of them.

"Father," the lad spoke suddenly, though in a low
voice, as he watched his mother replace a kettle on the
notched bar of the hob. "Father, I've often wondered
what the old-time Indians used to cook their messes in
before the white people came to trade 'em pots and pans
and things?"

Hugh Thomas edged his high-backed chair nearer the
corner of the ingleside, then lighted a church-warden pipe
of clay. It must have been nearly two feet from bowl to
mouthpiece. For a moment he puffed in silence, eyes half
closed.

"Pipes, now, they made of clay, only not in the very
least like the one I've got here. Indian pipes are mostly
short, son, with a thick tube. I once saw a really fine one
belonging to a sachem, I think it was, but it had been
carved from pot stone and was red. Cooking stuff, you
said? Most all of their kettles were baked from clay
with a bit of sand or a dash of quartz thrown in. They
got a lot of that right from the North Valley Hills in our
own county, I reckon. A few used pot stone, as they
called it. Remember once when I was a lad about the
size of you now, I wandered far up Crum to the Cath-
cart Rocks in Willistown. The great Nawbeek Meadow
lies just beyond the ravine there, and that's where the In-



dians used to camp in the olden time. Most every year
you'd find 'em there in those days. I watched their
women folks busy at the cooking. They had clay pots, but
not glazed at all, inside or out. Two little holes were let
in the top edge of 'em so's they could run a stick through
to hang 'em up. They'd build a wee fire under it, put the
hunks of venison or whatnot in and boil it.

"That great pasture there you ought to see some day,
David. You and Bob Allyn would like it. It must have
been a camping place for redskins ages by. Even now a
body can find all manner of flint knives there. And as
many stone arrow heads and hatchets as you'd want.
They're grooved and scraped away where they tied the
handles on 'em with strings of gut and sinew. No doubt
you've seen plenty? Aye, lad, it's a great thing, a kind of
holy thing, to me, looking back at the strange peoples who
lived their lives right here in our own hills before ever a
white man came! What ways they had of living, too!"

Hugh Thomas took the pipe from his lips and gazed a
moment at the logs upon the firedogs. He was seeing
again the camp of the Delawares as it had stretched be-
fore him many years ago where willowed Crum loops so
smoothly through the Nawbeek pastures. He was living
once more his own boyhood, working back into the past
and making it real to his son as only a Celt can. A log
cracked midway and fell from the andirons with a snap-
ping of sparks. The man straightened suddenly in his
chair.

"Look, David, at the Quakers flocking to their meet-
ing! It must be Old Merion, there's so many!" He
nodded at the sparks, then went on, "I'll warrant you're



56 SANDY FLASH

not clever woodsman enough even now to tell me how
the Lenapes made their war canoes in the days when they
had no metal? They could do it, all right. None
better!"

"Yes, I can tell you," laughed David, glad to prove his
father mistaken. "They burned out big trees till they
were hollow. Just like we made our own horse-trough
two years ago!"

"Right enough, so we did. I'd forgotten that. You
scored that time! But I mean how did they manage to
get the trees down? We chopped ours, but they had no
steel axes. I watched 'em at it once. The young braves
made a fire of hot coals close about the roots, then others
took long poles, saplings, with wet swabs of blanket on
the ends. They kept dabbing the upper part of the trunk
with the wet stuff so it couldn't catch fire. They brought
down the biggest tree they needed that way, where a
white man would like have set the woods ablaze."

Hugh sucked at his pipe a few moments, while Dave
snuggled more comfortably on the rug. The fire had
sunk to a warm glow of coals and the farmer responded
still more to its call. There were few things he loved
better than to sit thus for a while with his boy during the
long winter evenings, telling him of the older day when
men's very lives and that of their loved ones depended on
woodcraft and their skill with trap and gun. Hugh
Thomas was a plain man, but he sensed unconsciously
that any love for the open, any contact with the clean
breath of out of doors that he might give to his son would
prove in the end as wholesome a part of his education as
all else put together. In this view, he was at one with



THE HEARTH RUG 57

his neighbor, John Allyn. Slowly now he bent over and
scooped up a ruddy coal in his palm, just enough ashes
about it to prevent a burn. Carefully he brought it to
the bowl of the church-warden and relighted the tobacco,
then sat back contentedly drawing at the long stem.

"Davey, you'll never know what a place this was for
game, this county of ours between the Schuylkill and the
Brandywine and on beyond, far to the pines of Noting-
ham and Oxford. It was not so long ago, at that. 'Tis
a fact. Why, once I saw myself a flock of wild pigeons
roosting in Martin's Hollow. They broke the branches
from the trees, believe it or no, but they did. They came
to the woods in the cool of the evening with such a racket
and a jangling a man could scarcely hear his own voice!
In the morning, I went there again with a gun and saw
the great boughs that had cracked under their weight.
Saw it with my very eyes! Of course, we've still some of
them left and the wild turkeys, too. Besides, the small
game a-plenty. But the deer are hard to kill these days,
I know right well. And bear! I doubt you could see
many 'cept in the Welsh Mountain. Up in the Nant-
meals, maybe, there might still be one or two. Remem-
ber, lad, you'll have to use some skill to trap the worth-
while pelts these days."

Then Hugh Thomas went on to speak of the rough
life of the past. How bitter a time the first farmers had
when the countryside was partly tilling land and partly
forest primeval for the most part neither one nor the
other. How that no one in the county bothered then to
seed to timothy or clover and how little they used to
think of lime and manure for the soil. And how they



5 8 SANDY FLASH

always grew the same crops year after year wheat, rye,
oats and barley, often over and over in the same field
with no rotation. Indeed, the man shook his head as he
spoke of it, wondering that any yields at all were har-
vested in the days when his grandfather drove his ox-
team plow so patiently up and down between the field
stumps.

"But how did they ever come to find out the things
they can't get along without nowadays?" Dave queried,
keen in the details of the farm that meant his father's
livelihood. "That's what I can't make out."

"I hoped you'd ask me that," smiled back the other.
"How did you come to use traps like those you showed me
yesterday, the ones that had the side lugs on 'em? Your
first ones were not like that at all."

"I know they weren't. I had to change 'em. The
plain ones didn't work so well after a bit and I lost a lot
of muskrats and one mink, even, got loose from 'em. I
knew something was wrong so I kept on trying out dif-
ferent fixes and I asked all the folks I knew what they
used. That man over in Aston "

"That's your answer as to why we haul lime from the
Valley kilns to-day and why we seed clover with the
wheat, when we didn't use to do a bit of it. The land
got weaker and weaker till we had to try a few things and
ask other folks what they'd tried. It's the same in every-
thing, I reckon, son. You've just got to keep on trying
'em out and trying again and only using what's best.
There's mother stirring. That means bed."

The quiet evening had slipped by so speedily that



THE HEARTH RUG 59

neither man nor boy had given thought to the hour, but
Mistress Thomas had kept tab on the tallow candle set
in its brass stand by the ingle-nook. She always put a
light there after supper, then sat by the glow of the
hearth busy at a household task till the dip had burned
low. When it did, the time had come for bed. To-night
she had been interested intensely in her boy's story of
the affair at the Pratt House Tavern and his description
of the sets he and his chum had made, as well as in the
rambling talk of her husband, but she knew that he and
David must be worn by their busy day. Accordingly, she
arose and put the wooden frame they used for candle dip-
ping on its peg in the corner. She had been making
ready for the work to begin bright and early Monday
morning. The wick strings had been tied to their places
and clipped to proper length, while the man and boy were
talking. She began, thrifty housewife that she was, to
bank the fire, but Dave scrambled up from the rug and
took the little iron shovel from her. Soon he had the
hearth stone clean and safe for the night, the hot coals
blanketed in ashes against the need at breakfast.

Hugh Thomas knocked the tobacco fragments from his
pipe and laid it carefully on the mantel. Then he un-
hooked a great brass bed-warmer from its nail in the
ingle and filled it with steaming water, refilling the heavy
iron kettle on the hob with cold water from another pail.
In the days when there were no stoves to heat a room,-
no way at all, in fact, save open fires, and when the
kitchen was the only place where a fire was usually
burning, country folk contrived to keep themselves as



60 SANDY FLASH

snug as they could wish by such means as this. Dave
had no brass warmer, but he lifted from the hearth an
earthenware jug full of water that had been warming
there all evening. He corked it tightly, then slipped it
into the woolen cover his mother had made for it. Put
at the foot of his bed, he knew that no night could be
too cold for him in his little room upstairs. A final
glance at the fire and the windows, a testing of the bar
across the door, and the Thomas family were ready for
rest.

It was from evenings such as this that Dave drew
much of his passion for the country about him. The
lad remembered always the things his father spoke
of while the logs burned to embers on the hearth.
He had a way of weaving them into living pictures and
applying them to the scenes described. Often as he
wandered far from home in the Rose Tree neighborhood,
his eyes alert for signs of track or trail, he would people
the woodland with figures that were real to him. Very
real. Blessed with a vivid imagination, he far outrivaled
Bob Allyn in getting down to the throbbing heart of
the countryside and living as a part of it. This same
power of the mind made him a better woodsman, also,
than the older boy, for Dave had an uncanny way of
thinking himself into the brain of the animal he was
after. In short, he was alive all the time. He was
awake to the mysterious beauty that gripped him, as
he looked out on the roll and swell of the farmland and
forest encircling his home. His mind answered uncon-
sciously to the thrill of it, nourished, as it was, by his
fit, strong body.



THE HEARTH RUG 61

Dave Thomas was still a boy, but he had worked
out a good many problems of his own under the clean
urge of outdoor work and play.

This same joy in everyday life was due in large meas-
ure to his father's way of making even the most com-
monplace things glow with interest for him. The boy
had learned early the priceless secret of keenness, no
matter what the thing be that engaged his attention. He
liked to play, as he needs must work hard.

To-night, he took his candle with a sleepy laugh and
followed his parents to the floor above. Tired he surely
was, from the miles he had tramped that day, but happily
tired, his mind in a mellow warmth of content. The
rescue of Peter Burgandine, the adventure of Newtown
Square, the escape of Sandy Flash, all these had slipped
from him. Drowsily Dave sank to slumber, his last
thought for the traps by Ridley water.



CHAPTER IV
THE RIDLEY OTTER

SUNDAY passed quietly enough for both Dave and
his friend Allyn over at Sycamore Mills. Only nec-
essary chores were seen to on the farms. The Thomases
spent the afternoon at neighbors' in Nether Providence,
while Bob and his parents put in most of the day driving
by sledge to church at Old St. David's.

It was a long pull for the team all the way to the
Radnor line, as the sledge was far more heavy than the
swiftly moving sleighs and cutters of to-day, but the
horses were stout beasts with a dash of good old Shire
blood to lend them courage.

Past the ridge of the Providence Road, they glided
onward, the chime of bells tinkling merrily in the keen
air as the boy tried to point out where the trap line had
been set. The bulk of Blue Hill was in the way, how-
ever. Down the slope they went at creditable speed,
across the Crum by Bartrams Bridge, then up to Snake-
house Wood, a great dark pile of forest that seemed to
hang above them on the slopes. Swinging to the left,
they settled to a steady pull across the Newtown Hill


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