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And I hollered till noon —
But the sun, hit blazed away,

Till I jest clumb down in a crawfish-hole,

Weary at heart, and sick at soul !

"Dozed away fer an hour,
And I tackled the thing agin ;
And I sung, and sung,
Till I knowed my lung
Was jest about give in ;

And then, thinks I, ef hit don't rain now,
There 're nothin' in singin', anyhow !

"Once in awhile some farmer
Would come a-drivin' past ;

And he'd hear my cry,

And stop and sigh —
Till I jest laid back, at last,

And I hollered rain till I thought my tli'oat

Would bust right open at ever' note !

"But I fetched her ! O / fetched her !—
'Cause a little while ago.
As I kindo' set,
With one eye shet,
And a-singin' soft and low,

A voice drapped down on my fevered brain,
Sayin',— 'Ef you'll jest hush I'll rain !' "



The Hired Hand was Johnnie's oracle. His auguries
were infalHble; from his decisions there was no appeal.
The wisdom of experienced age was his, and he always
stood willing to impart it to the youngest. No question
was too trivial for him to consider, and none too abstruse
for him to answer. He did not tell Johnnie to "never
mind" or wait until he grew older, but was ever willing
to pause in his work to explain things. And his oracular
qualifications were genuine. He had traveled — had even
been as far as the State Fair ; he had read — from Robin-
son Crusoe to Dick the Dead Shot, and, more than all, he
had meditated deeply.

The Hired Hand's name was Eph. Perhaps he had
another name, too, but if so it had become obsolete. Far
and wide he was known simply as Eph.

Eph was generally termed "a cur'ous feller," and this
characterization applied equally well to his peculiar ap-
pearance and his inquiring disposition. In his confirma-
tion nature had evidently sacrificed her love of beauty to
a temporary passion for elongation. Length seemed to
have been the central thought, the theme, as it were, upon
which he had been composed. This effect was height-
ened by generously broad hands and feet and a contrast-
ingly abbreviated chin. The latter feature caused his
countenance to wear in repose a decidedly vacant look,
but it was seldom caught reposing, usually having to bear
a smirk of some sort.



Eph's position in the Winkle household was as peculiar
as his personality. Nominally he was a hired servant,
but, in fact, from his own point of view at least, he was
Mr. Winkle's private secretary and confidential adviser.
He had been on the place "ever sence old Fan was a year-
lin','' which was a long while, indeed; and had come to
regard himself as indispensable. The Winkles treated
him as one of the family, and he reciprocated in truly
familiar ways. He sat at the table with them, helped en-
tertain their guests, and often accompanied them to
church. In regulating matters on the farm Mr. Winkle
proposed, but Eph invariably disposed, in a diplomatic
way, of course; and, although his judgment might he
based on false logic, the result was generally successful
and satisfactory.

With all his good qualities and her attachment to him,
however, Mrs. Winkle was not sure that Eph's moral
status was quite sound, and she was inclined to discour-
age Johnnie's association with him. As a matter of fact
she had overheard Johnnie utter several bad words, of
which Eph was certainly the prime source. But a moth-
er's solicitude was of little avail when compared with
Eph's Delphian wisdom. Johnnie would steal away to
join Eph in the field at every chance, and the information
he acquired at these secret seances was varied and valu-

It was Eph who taught him how to tell the time of day
by the sun ; how to insert a "dutchman" in the place pf a
lost suspender button ; how to make bird-traps ; and how
to "skin the cat." Eph initiated him into the mysteries of
magic and witchcraft, and showed him how to locate a
subterranean vein of water by means of a twig of witch-
hazel. Eph also confided to Johnnie that he himself
could stanch the flow of blood or stop a toothache in-



stantly by force of a certain charm, but he could not tell
how to do this because the secret could be imparted only
from man to woman, or vice versa. Even the shadowy
domain of spirits had not been exempt from Eph's in-
vestigations, and he related many a terrifying experience
with "ha'nts."

Johnnie was first introduced to the ghost world one
summer night, when he and Eph had gone fishing to-

"If ye want to ketch the big uns, always go at night in
the dark o' the moon," said Eph, and his piscatorial
knowledge was absolute.

They had fished in silence for some time, and Johnnie
was nodding, when Eph suddenly whispered :

"Let's go home, sonny, I think I see a ha'nt down

Johnnie had no idea what a "ha'nt" might be, but
Eph's constrained manner betokened something dreadful.

It was not until they had come within sight of home
that Johnnie ventured to inquire :

"Say, Eph, what is a ha'nt?"

"Huh ! What is ha'nts ? Why, sonny, you mean to tell
me you don't know what ha'nts is?"

"Not exactly ; sompin' like wildcats, ain't they ?"

"Well, I'll be confounded ! Wildcats ! Not by a long
shot ;" and Eph broke into the soft chuckle which always
preceded his explanations. They reached the orchard
fence, and, seating himself squarely on the topmost rail,
Eph began impressively :

"Ha'nts is the remains of dead folks — more 'specially
them that's been assinated, er, that is, kilt — understan'?
They're kind o' like sperrits, ye know. After so long a
time they take to comin' back to yarth an' ha'ntin' the pre-
cise spot where they wuz murdered. They always come



after dark, an' the diffrunt shapes they take on is sup-
prisin'. I have seed ha'nts that looked Hke sheep, an'
ha'nts that looked like human persons; but lots of 'em
ye cain't see a-tall, bein' invisible, as the sayin' is. Now,
fer all we know, they may be a ha'nt settin' right here be-
twixt us, this minute !"

With this solemn declaration Johnnie shivered and be-
gan edging closer to Eph, until restrained and appalled
by the thought that he might actually sit on the unseen
spirit by such movement.

"But do they hurt people, Eph?" he asked anxiously.

Eph gave vent to another chuckle.

"Not if ye understan' the'r ways," he observed sagely.
"If ye let 'em alone an' don't go foolin' aroun' the'r
ha'ntin'-groun' they'll never harm ye. But don't ye never
trifle with no ha'nt, sonny. I knowed a feller 't thought
'twuz smart to hector 'em an' said he wuzn't feared.
Onct he throwed a rock at one — "

Here Eph paused.

"What h-happened ?" gasped Johnnie.

"In one year from that time," replied Eph gruesomely,
"that there feller's cow wuz hit by lightnin' ; in three year
his boss kicked him an' busted a rib ; an' in seven year he
wuz a corpse !"

The power of this horrible example was too much for

"Don't you reckon it's bedtime?" he suggested trem-

Thenceforth for many months Johnnie led a haunted
life. Ghosts glowered at him from cellar and garret.
Specters slunk at his heels, phantoms flitted through the
barn. Twilight teemed with horrors, and midnight, when
he awoke at that hour, made of his bedroom a veritable



It was vain for his parents to expostulate with him.
Was one not bound to beheve one's own eyes ? And how
about the testimony of the Hired Hand ?
- ■ The story in his reader — told in verse and graphically
illustrated — of the boy named Walter, who, being alone
on a lonesome highway one dark night, beheld a sight
that made his blood run cold, acquired an abnormal in-
terest for Johnnie. Walter, with courage resembling
madness, marched straight up to the alleged ghost and
laughed gleefully to find, "It was a friendly guide-post,
his wand'ring steps to guide."

This was all very well, as it turned out, but what if it
had been a sure-enough ghost, reflected Johnnie. What
if it had reached down with its long, snaky arms and
snatched Walter up — and run off with him in the dark —
and no telling what ? Or it might have swooped straight
up in the air with him, for ghosts could do that. Johnnie
resolved he would not take any chances with friendly
guide-posts which might turn out to be hostile spirits.

Then there was the similar tale of the lame goose, and
the one concerning the pillow in the swing — each in-
tended, no doubt, to allay foolish fears on the part of chil-
dren, but exercising an opposite and harrowing influence
upon Johnnie.




Reward is its own virtue.

The wages of sin is alimony.

Money makes the mayor go.

A penny saved spoils the broth.-

0£ two evils, choose the prettier.

There's no fool like an old maid.

Make love while the moon shines.

Where there's a won't there's a way.

Nonsense makes the heart grow fonder.

A word to the wise is a dangerous thing.

A living gale is better than a dead calm.

A fool and his money corrupt good manners.

A word in the hand is worth two in the ear.

A man is known by the love-letters he keeps.

A guilty conscience is the mother of invention.

Whosoever thy hands find to do, do with thy might.

It's a wise child who knows less than his own father.

Never put off till to-morrow what you can wear to-

He who loves and runs away, may live to love another




I believe that I have found, if not original sin, at least
vegetable total depravity in my garden ; and it was there
before I went into it. It is the bunch-, or joint-, or snake-
grass, — whatever it is called. As I do not know the
names of all the weeds and plants, I have to do as Adam
did in his garden, — name things as I find them. This
grass has a slender, beautiful stalk: and when you cut it
down, or pull up a long root of it, you fancy it is got rid
of ; but in a day or two it will come up in the same spot in
half a dozen vigorous blades. Cutting down and pulling
up is what it thrives on. Extermination rather helps it.
If you follow a slender white root, it will be found to run
under the ground until it meets another slender white
root ; and you will soon unearth a network of them, with
a knot somewhere, sending out dozens of sharp-pointed,
healthy shoots, every joint prepared to be an independent
life and plant. The only way to deal with it is to take
one part hoe and two parts fingers, and carefully dig it
out, not leaving a joint anywhere. It will take a little
time, say all summer, to dig out thoroughly a small
patch ; but if you once dig it out, and keep it out, you will
have no further trouble.

I have said it was total depravity. Here it is. If you
attempt to pull up and root out sin in you, which shows
on the surface, — if it does not show, you do not care for
it, — you may have noticed how it runs into an interior net-
work of sins, and an ever-sprouting branch of these roots
somewhere; and that you can not pull out one without



making a general internal disturbance, and rooting up
your whole being, I suppose it is less trouble to quietly
cut them off at the top — say once a week, on Sunday,
when you put on your religious clothes and face, — so that
no one will see them, and not try to eradicate the network

Remark. — This moral vegetable figure is at the service
of any clergyman who will have the manliness to come
forward and help me at a day's hoeing on my potatoes.
None but the orthodox need apply.

I, however, believe in the intellectual, if not the moral,
qualities of vegetables, and especially weeds. There was
a worthless vine that (or who) started up about midway
between a grape-trellis and a row of bean-poles, some
three feet from each, but a little nearer the trellis. When
it came out of the ground, it looked around to see what it
should do. The trellis was already occupied. The bean-
pole was empty. There was evidently a little the best
chance of light, air, and sole proprietorship on the pole.
And the vine started for the pole, and began to climb it
with determination. Here was as distinct an act of choice,
of reason, as a boy exercises when he goes into a forest,
and, looking about, decides which tree he will climb. And,
besides, how did the vine know enough to travel in ex-
actly the right direction, three feet, to find what it
wanted ? This is intellect. The weeds, on the other hand,
have hateful moral qualities. To cut down a weed is,
therefore, to do a moral action. I feel as if I were de-
stroying a sin. My hoe becomes an instrument of retribu-
tive justice. I am an apostle of nature. This view of
the matter lends a dignity to the art of hoeing which
nothing else does, and lifts it into the region of ethics.
Hoeing becomes, not a pastime, but a duty. And you get
to regard it so, as the days and the weeds lengthen.



Observation. — Nevertheless, what a man needs in gar-
dening is a cast-iron bacl<, with a hinge in it. The hoe
is an ingenious instrument, calculated to call out a great
deal of strength at a great disadvantage.

The striped bug has come, the saddest of the year. He
is a moral double-ender, iron-clad at that. He is unpleas-
ant in two ways. He burrows in the ground so that you
can not find him, and he flies away so that you can not
catch him. He is rather handsome, as bugs go, but ut-
terly dastardly, in that he gnaws the stem of the plant
close to the ground, and ruins it without any apparent
advantage to himself. I find him on the hills of cucum-
bers (perhaps it will be a cholera-year, and we shall not
want any), the squashes (small loss), and the melons
(which never ripen). The best way to deal with the
striped bug is to sit down by the hills, and patiently watch
for him. If you are spry, you can annoy him. This,
however, takes time. It takes all day and part of the
night. For he flieth in the darkness, and wasteth at noon-
day. If you get up before the dew is off the plants, — it
goes off very early, — you can sprinkle soot on the plant
(soot is my panacea: if I can get the disease of a plant
reduced to the necessity of soot, I am all right) ; and soot
is unpleasant to the bug. But the best thing to do is set
a toad to catch the bugs. The toad at once establishes
the most intimate relations with the bug. It is a pleasure
to see such unity among the lower animals. The diffi-
culty is to make the toad stay and watch the hill. If you
know your toad, it is all right. If you do not, you must
build a tight fence round the plants, which the toad can
not jump over. This, however, introduces a new element.
I find that I have a zoological garden. It is an unexpected
result of my little enterprise, which never aspired to the
completeness of the Paris "J^^^^i" ^^^ Plantes."




But Buddie got no farther. The sound of music came
to her ears, and she stopped to Hsten. The music was
faint and sweet, with the sighful quaHty of an ^olian
harp. Now it seemed near, now far.

"What can it be ?" said Buddie.

"Wait here and I'll find out," said Snowfeathers. He
darted away and returned before you could count fifty.

"A traveling musician," he reported. "Come along.
It's only a little way."

Back he flew, with Buddie scrambling after. A few
yards brought her to a little open place, and here was the
queerest sight she had yet seen in this queer wood.

On a bank of reindeer moss, at the foot of a great white
birch, a mouse-colored donkey sat playing a lute. Over
his head, hanging from a bit of bark, was the sign :


After the many strange things that Buddie had come
upon in Queerwood, nothing could surprise her very
much. Besides, as she never before had seen a donkey,
or a lute, or the combination of donkey and lute, it did
not strike her as especially remarkable that the musician
should be holding his instrument upside down, and
sweeping the strings with one of his long ears, which



he was able to wave without moving his head a jot. And
this it was that gave to the music its soft and furry-purry

The Donkey greeted Buddie with a careless nod, and
remarked, as if anticipating a comment he had heard
many times :

"Oh, yes ; I play everything hy ear."

"Please keep on playing," said Buddie, taking a seat
on another clump of reindeer moss.

"I intended to," said the Donkey; and the random
chords changed to a crooning melody which wonderfully
pleased Buddie, whose opportunities to hear music were
sadly few. As for the White Blackbird, he tucked his
little head under his wing and went fast asleep.

"Well, what do you think of it?" asked the Donkey,
putting down the lute.

"Very nice, sir," answered Buddie, enthusiastically;
though she added to herself: The idea of saying sir to
an animal! "Would you please tell me your name?" she

The Donkey pawed open a saddle-bag, drew forth with
his teeth a card, and presented it to Buddie, who spelled
out the following :





While Buddie was reading this the Donkey again
picked up his instrument and thrummed the strings.

"Did you ever see a donkey play a lute?" said he.
"That's an old saw," he added.

"I never saw a donkey before," said Buddie.



"You haven't traveled much," said the other. "The
world is full of them."

"This is the farthest I've ever been from home," con-
fessed Buddie, feeling very insignificant indeed.

"And how far may that be ?"

Buddie couldn't tell exactly.

"But it can't be a great way," she said. "I live in the
log house by the lake."

"Pooh !" said the Donkey. "That's no distance at all."
Buddie shrank another inch or two. "I'm a great traveler
myself. All donkeys travel that can. If a donkey trav-
els, you know, he may come home a horse ; and to become
a horse is, of course, the ambition of every donkey!"

"Is it?" was all Buddie could think of to remark. What
could she say that would interest a globe-trotter ?

"Perhaps you have an old saw you'd like reset," sug-
gested the Donkey, still thrumming the lute-strings.

Buddie thought a moment.

"There's an old saw hanging up in our woodshed," she
began, but got no farther.

"Hee-haw ! hee-haw !" laughed the Donkey. "Thistles
and cactus, but that's rich !" And he hee-hawed until the
tears ran down his nose. Poor Buddie, who knew she was
being laughed at but didn't know why, began to feel very
much like crying and wished she might run away.

"Excuse these tears," the Donkey said at last, recover-
ing his family gravity. "Didn't you ever hear the say-
ing, A burnt child dreads the fire?"

Buddie nodded, and plucked up her spirits.

"Well, that's an old saw. And you must have heard
that other very old saw, No use crying over spilt milk."

Another nod from Buddie.

"Here's my setting of that," said the Donkey; and
after a few Introductory chords, he sang :



" 'Oh, why do you crj^ my pretty little maid.
With a Boo-hoo-hoo and a Heigho?'

'I've spilled my milk, kind sir,' she said,
And the Cat said, 'Me-oh ! my-oh 1'

'No use to cry, my pretty little maid.
With a Boo-hoo-hoo and a Heigho.'

'But what shall I do, kind sir?' she said.
And the Cat said, 'Me-oh ! my-oh !'

'Why, dry your eyes, my pretty little maid,
With a Boo-hoo-hoo and a Heigho.'

'Oh, thank you, thank you, sir,' she said.
And the Cat said, 'Me-oh ! my-oh 1' "

"How do you like my voice ?" asked the Donkey, in a
tone that said very plainly : "If you don't like it you're
no judge of singing."

Buddie did not at once reply. A professional critic
would have said, and enjoyed saying, that the voice was
of the hit-or-miss variety; that it was pitched too high
(all donkeys make that mistake) ; that it was harsh, rasp-
ing and unsympathetic, and that altogether the perform-
ance was "not convincing."

Now, Little One, although Buddie was not a profes-
sional critic, and neither knew how to wound nor en-
joyed wounding, even she found the Donkey's voice
harsh ; but she did not wish to hurt his feelings — for don-
keys have feelings, in spite of a popular opinion to the
contrary. And, after all, it was pretty good singing for a
donkey. Critics should not, as they sometimes do, apply
to donkeys the standards by which nightingales are
judged. So Buddie was able to say, truthfully and
kindly :

"I think you do very well; very well, indeed."

It was a small tribute, but the Donkey was so blinded
by conceit that he accepted it as the greatest compliment.

"I ongJit to sing well," he said. "I've studied methods



enough. The more methods you try, you know, the more
of a donkey you are."

*'0h, yes," murmured Buddie, not understanding in the

"Yes," went on the Donkey; "I've taken the Donkesi
Method, the Sobrayha Method, the Thistlefixu Meth-

"I'm afraid I don't quite know what you mean by
'methods,' " ventured Buddie.

The Donkey regarded her with a pitying smile.

"A method," he explained, "is a way of singing 'Ah !'
For example, in the Thistlefixu Method, which I am at
present using, I fill my mouth full of thistles, stand on
one leg, take in a breath three yards long, and sing 'Ah !'
The only trouble with this method is that the thistles
tickle your throat and make you cough, and you have to
spray the vocal cords twice a day, which is considerable
trouble, especially when traveling, as / always am."

"I should think it would be," said Buddie. "Won't you
sing something else?"

"I'm a little hoarse," apologized the singer.

"That's what you want to be, isn't it?" said Buddie,
misunderstanding him.

"Hee-haw !" laughed the Donkey. "Is that a joke ? I
mean my throat is hoarse."

"And the rest of you is donkey!" cried Buddie, who
could see a point as quickly as any one of her age.

"There's something to that," said the other, thought-
fully. "Now, if the hoarseness should spread — "

"And you became horse all over — "

"Why, then—"

"Why, then—"

"Think of another old saw," said the Donkey, picking
tip his lute.



"No; I don't believe I can remember any more old
saws," said Buddie^ after racking her small brain for a
minute or two.

"Pooh!" said the Donkey. "They're as common as,
Pass the butter, or, Some more tea, please. Ever hear,
Fair words butter no parsnips?"

Buddie shook her head,

"The wolf does something every day that keeps him
from church on Sunday — ?"

Again Buddy shook her head.

"It is hard to shave an tgg — ?"

Still another shake.

"A miss is as good as a mile? You can not drive a
windmill with a pair of bellows ? Help the lame dog over
the stile? A hand-saw is a good thing, but not to shave
with? Nothing venture, nothing have? Well, you haven't
heard much, for a fact," said the Donkey, contemptu-
ously, as Buddie shook her head after each proverb. "I'll
try a few more; there's no end to them. Ever hear. When
the sky falls we shall all catch larks? Too many cooks
spoil the broth ?"

"I've heard that" said Buddie, eagerly.

"It's a wonder," returned the Donkey. "Well, I have
a very nice setting of that." And he sang;

"Some said, 'Stir it fast,'

Some 3aid, 'Slow';
Some said, 'Skim it off,'

Some said, 'No';
Some said, 'Pepper,'

Some said, 'Salt'; —
All gave good advice,

All found fault.

Poor little Tommy Trottctt I
Couldn't e»t it when he got it."

"I like that," said Buddie. "Oh, and I've just thought



of another old ax — I mean saw, if it ?^ one — Don't count
your chickens before they are hatched. Do you sing

"One of my best," rephed the Donkey. And again he

"'Thirteen eggs,' said Sammy Patch,
'Are thirteen chickens when they hatch.*
The hen gave a cluck, but said no more ;
For the hen had heard such things before.

The eggs fall out from tilted pail
And leave behind a yellow trail ;
But Sammy, — counting, as he goes,
Upon his fingers, — never knows.

Oh, Sammy Patch, your 'rithmetic
Won't hatch a solitary chick."

"I like that the best," said Buddie, who knew what it
was to tip over a pail of eggs, and felt as sorry for Sammy
Patch as if he really existed.

"It's one of my best," said the Donkey. "I don't call it
my very best. Personally I prefer, Look before you leap.
You've heard that old saw, I dare say."

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 24)