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UNDER THE WATER-OAKS




' He swayed as lightly as a bird on a slender twig." Page 28.



UNDER THE WATER-OAKS



BY

MARIAN BREWSTER



ILLUSTRATED BY J. F. GOODRIDGE



BOSTON
ROBERTS BROTHERS

1892



Copyright, 1892,
BY ROBERTS BROTHERS.



?Enibersttg
JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



CONTENTS.



CHAP. PAGE

I. How NAP WAS NIPPED 9

II. THE DEER HUNT 50

III. NEAL'S NEW NANNY 88

IV. A STRANGE CROP 133

V. THE TRAMP 155

VI. BRER'S KIDE 199

VII. GENE OVERCOMES OLD BILLY. . . . 242

VIII. LITTLE LAND-LUBBERS ON GRANDMA'S

BAY 258

IX. JOY'S MISHAPS . 280



2134473



UNDER THE WATEK-OAKS.



CHAPTER I.

HOW NAP WAS NIPPED.

" HUM-MUM-MUM ; luim-mum-mura," buzzed
the bees all day in the top of the water-
oaks.

"Hum-mum-mum," hummed Nap down
below, for he knew what secret the bees
were keeping so mum about.

The little darky was lying on the broad
gallery of the house that nestles under the
water-oaks, kicking up his bare heels and
eating a sweet potato.

Brer and Gene also were eating sweet
potatoes. The three boys always were en-
gaged in this delectable pastime when there



10 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

was nothing more exciting for them to do ;
unless, indeed, the supply of this cold re-
freshment had already been exhausted from
Aunt Nance's kitchen-safe by their vora-
cious appetites. Brer and Gene, however,
had not keeled over in the easy attitude of
their black play-fellow ; they sat with more
dignity on the gallery steps, their broad-
brimmed hats pushed far back on their
heads, and their elbows resting comfortably
on their knees as they munched their sweet
potatoes, and impartially tossed titbits of
brown peeling to the dogs, who had gathered
at the foot of the steps in an expectant but
orderly circle, for each dog was very well
aware that if he wagged his tail too greedily,
or spoke up before his turn, he would be
ruthlessly passed by until the next round.

The two brothers were well-built, hand-
some little fellows, with intelligent well-bred
faces such as one would hardly expect to
see in the backwoods ; but this was readily



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 11

accounted for when one became acquainted
with their refined mother and their inde-
pendent, high-spirited father. A strong
family likeness existed between the boys ;
but Brer was dark, with dusky eyes and
hair, while little Gene was fair, with light
hair and blue or " white " eyes, as Brer
teasingly called them. Gene was such a
" thin-skinned " little fellow that Brer could
not resist the temptation to poke fun at
him occasionally, just to "toughen" him, he
said.

It is true Gene was exceedingly quick to
fly into a passion ; but his wrath died out as
quickly as it came, for Brer knew very well
how to manage him. No one could remain
angry with Brer long ; he was such a clever,
good-natured boy. He was Gene's hero and
model ; the little fellow had been following
in his big brer's footsteps, and trying to be
just like him, ever since he was a baby and
Brer a toddling mischief of two years.



12 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

" What do you reckon the bees are saying,
Nap?" asked Gene.

" Hum-mum-mum," Nap saucily replied,
between his mouthfuls of potatoes.

" Oh, come, now, you Nap, tell us what
they say," demanded Brer, making a vig-
orous pretext of pitching his potato at
Nap.

The little darky instinctively ducked his
woolly head under his arm, but lifted it in-
stantly with a grin, for he knew very well
that Brer had no intention of losing that
potato.

" I 'low de bees am keepin' a secret," he
replied obediently ; and he added, with a sly
glance toward the girls, who were playing
dolls on the end of the gallery, " Lak Neal
and Joy keeps secrets, mum-mum-mum."

The boys set up a shout at this keen hit
at the girls. Joy joined in with a shrill
little laugh, for she always enjoyed the boys'
jokes, even when at her own expense ; but



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 13

Neal, who was always trying to get even
with the boys, pressed back the smile that
twitched her lips and bent low over her doll
to hide the twinkle in her eyes.

" If bees keep secrets like girls do, we 're
bound to find this one out," laughed Brer.
" I know something that I sha'n't tell, mum-
mum-mum." He pursed up his lips and
pressed them hard with his finger, as he
had seen the girls do when they wanted to
keep a secret in.

Neal looked up defiantly.

" I reckon girls can keep secrets as well
as boys," she cried ; " this is the way } 7 ou-all
do." She dropped her doll and strutted
pompously up and down the gallery. " You
swell out just like you would burst if you
did n't tell, and your eyes get so big and
bright, so, that the secret is bound to shine
out."

Joy's gleeful laugh rang out again, and
the boys laughed too.



14 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

" We never looked such idiots as that in
our lives," declared Brer. "If we did, it
was only to fool you girls. When we have
a sure-enough secret, no one would ever think
it."

" I reckon de bees 'low, ef dey keeps right
mum, we-uns neber fin' out whar dey tote
de honey," remarked Nap, recalling their
attention to the bees.

"They're mighty sharp, but they can't fool
us," cried Brer ; " J wish the old sun would
hurry along."

The boys were waiting, with what pa-
tience they could command, for the slow-
moving sun to sink so low in his course that
his fiery darts should not blind their eyes as
they traced the course of the wily bees to
their secret storehouse.

It was early in February, when Northern
boys are muffled up to their ears in defence
against Jack Frost ; but the feet of Brer and
Gene were as bare as the two black ones



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 15

that waved in the air. For one of the most
delightful things about the water-oaks is
that where they grow all the seasons are so
warm that the canopy of leaves above is
always green, and one can run about bare-
footed below, all the year round.

To be sure, there are two or three morn-
ings in January when the air is uncomfort-
ably keen, and a thin white coating of frost
lies on all the roofs of the Owlets' Roost, the
old well-house, the new well-house, the po-
tato-house, the storehouse, the smokehouse,
and on the new big barn away to the right of
the yard, and on the sheds of the old barn
away off to the left, and on the molasses-
house halfway between the two barns. But
the slight frost usually disappears before
sun-up, and one must look sharp to see it.
Once or twice in their short lives, the boys
had found wonderful ice-crystals shooting
across the surface of the water in the bucket
on the back gallery ; and once, only once,



16 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

they had seen a snowfall. The sight was so
strange that they were almost frightened,
and nearly as wild as the chickens that ran
distractedly hither and thither pecking at
the bountiful fall of flakes that vanished so
strangely from the ground.

Just now a thick bed of brown leaves
lay around the roots of the water-oaks ; for
new buds were pushing off the leaves that
had shaded the house for a year, and were
bursting into the tasselled blossoms around
which the bees were swarming.

The sun loitered exasperatingly that after-
noon, it seemed to the boys.

" I believe the old thing is standing there
on purpose to bother us," exclaimed Gene,
the last shred of his patience snapping when
the supply of potatoes gave out.

" It 's bound to go down sometime," said
Brer, encouragingly. " Can you see what
time the clock says, Mamma?"

The sun was considered by the family a



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 17

more reliable time-keeper than the clock ;
only when the former failed to keep up
with their plans, did the boys deign to con-
sult the capricious timepiece in the room,
a place that they did not frequent except on
chilly winter evenings when the north wind
drove them from the gallery to the glowing
fireplace within.

Only a tiny blaze was fluttering there
now, but Mrs. Lee sat in the cosey chim-
ney-corner knitting the white square of
a counterpane. At Brer's question she
glanced up.

" The clock says half -past four," she
replied in her low, sweet voice ; " but I
reckon it has gained since your father
went to town."

" Half- past four ! Come on ! We won't
get round by night if we don't look sharp.
I reckon the sun won't out our eyes now.
Come on ! Come on, you Nap."

It was Brer, by right of his twelve years



18 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

and his superior attainments, who planned
and directed all the work and fun of the
three boys; for Gene was only ten, and Nap
was smaller than Gene, and he never had
any birthdays.

Usually when they started off for the
woods they fell into Indian file, Brer
ahead, Gene following, and Nap contentedly
bringing up the rear ; but this time, in
their search for the bee tree, Brer placed
Nap first, for the boys half suspected that
he was already in the secret, and as able to
take a bee-line to the honey storehouse as
the bees themselves.

If he did not already know the secret, he
knew how to find it out. The bees were
leaving the water-oaks in all directions, but
Nap was not to be deceived. He knew that
they all were of one swarm, and that they
were only making a pretence of separating
until they should be away from the house
and should think that they had escaped no-



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 19

tice, then they would dart straight to one
tree.

The boys had left the yard, and trudged
for some time in silence down the thicket
road, when Nap came to a halt under the
dogwood trees.

" Is you gwine bide yer, Brer, an' watch
out?"

" I reckon," Brer answered, as if that had
been his plan all along.

" A.m Gene gwine watch out back ob de
cane-patch?"

" I reckon," cried Gene, darting off.

" Does you-all reckon Nap bes' go yonda
roun' de pon' ?" asked Nap, anxiously.

" Yes ; git ! " assented Brer, dropping on
the pine-straw and tossing a burr at Nap.

The nimble little darky caught the burr,
sent it flying back with sure aim, and put-
ting a pine-tree between himself and Brer,
sped away to the pond. When he had
scurried around the pine-studded brim of



20 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

the basin, he threw his little body upon a
fallen pine log, and pulling the straw crown
that served for a hat over his face, he ap-
plied a keen eye to one of the many slits in
it, to watch for the home-flying bee.

He did not peep long through the chink
before he discovered the way to the sly bees'
house. There they went, across the disk of
blue sky that covered the pond, one little
speck and another and more, coming from
various directions, but all aiming toward one
point.

Nap whistled the mellow notes of the
meadow-lark ; Brer and Gene instantly
responded, and in a few moments came
bounding over the pine-straw, demanding
excitedly the way to the tree.

"I reckon it am dat-a-way ; I reckon you-
all see de bees in a minute." He showed
them where to watch ; and peering up
through a telescope made with his hands,
Brer soon made out the moving specks.



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 21

" Come on ! " he cried ; and again, with
Nap ahead, they sped through the pines.

It did not take them long to find the tree.
It was the dead white pine near the rippling
branch on the other side of the gully. The
bees were buzzing noisily about the tree-top,
and the boys could see a black swarm around
a hole just above the lowest branch of the
tree.

With his jack-knife Brer cut a large B
his mark, and of course a mark for all three
boys in the bark of the tree, to secure it
against the claim of any one else who might
follow the bees ; then they turned homeward
in high glee over their success.

Between the bee tree and home, however,
lay the gully. There they must loiter awhile,
for the gully is the most fascinating play-
ground in the piney woods, and the boys
never could pass it without stopping for a
frolic.

The gully is a deep crevice in the hill-



22 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

side, probably formed by the washing of a
spring in some remote time. Its rim is
firm, and bristling with the projecting roots
of pines that grow on its edge ; its perpen-
dicular sides are hidden by a tangle of vines
and shrubs. Some gum-trees, rooted in the
bottom of the gully, brush the sides with
their branches in vain effort to reach the
top and peep over ; but only those trees that
have been fortunate enough to secure a
footing high on the sides are able to reach
far enough to peep out into the piney woods,
but they good-naturedly whisper back to
their lowly companions all that they see.

The great charm of the gully is a high
ridge of clean sand, beautifully shaded from
deep reds to delicate flesh-tints. It begins at
an abrupt stump-shaped elevation in the
middle of the gully, higher even than the
sides, and descends in a long line to the
mouth, sloping away on both sides in most
enticing slides. Across from the edge of



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 23

the gully to the sand-stump, lies a large
pine-tree, hurled there by some accommo-
dating wind.

Across this natural bridge ran Brer and
Gene and Nap, balancing themselves with
their hands and clinging with their toes,
then over they went, tumbling and sliding
down the slope of loose, warm sand, to
struggle up again for another plunge. There
was no jollier sport in the piney woods.

When they were warm and breathless
with climbing and tumbling, they took turns
being buried in the sand. Finally Brer and
Gene covered Nap to his little black chin,
so that there was nothing left of him but his
woolly head and funny, wrinkled face. His
eyes rolled comically up at them, and his
white teeth flashed in a continual grin.

" Good-by, Nap."

" Good-by, Brer ; good-by, Gene. Take
keer yo'self."

Nap remained perfectly still until Brer



24 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

and Gene had swung themselves up the gum-
trees and disappeared over the edge of the
gully. Then the sand about him began to
heave and slide like a small earthquake.
Presently a black foot cropped up, then its
fellow, and both began to kick vigorously.
The little quick hands came out and fell to
work like lightning in the sand, until the
whole boy was unearthed, and sprang with
a chuckle to his feet. He gave himself
a shake, jammed his tattered straw crown
over his wool, and, like a flash, was up the
gum-trees.

The boys were galloping on piney-woods
ponies in the sapling thicket at the head of
the gully. In a trice, Nap was as splendidly
mounted as they, on the springing stem of a
bent sapling, clinging to the pine-top with
one hand, beating unmercifully with the
other, prancing wildly up and down at the
top of his horse's speed, with such startling
screams, " Hi ! hi ! hi ! " that Gene lost his



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 25

seat and suddenly dipped to the under-side
of his slender steed, tearing a long rent in
his jean breeches, and scraping his leg most
exasperatingly on the rough bark hide.

" You Nap," he shouted angrily, drop-
ping to the ground to nurse the smart, "I'll
learn you how to scare a fellow so ! I '11
have the ha'nt from the graveyard after
you some dark night ! "

" Law, I did n't go fur to mek yo' hu't
yo'self, Gene ; I 'low yo' hab a betta holt on
yo' ho'se."

Nap had not much fear that Gene would
set the " ha'nt " on him, for he knew that the
boys were as afraid of the ghost as he was ;
but he was sorry to have hurt Gene, and
sprang from his pony to the ground.

" Pooh ! don't be a baby, Gene. Pity if
you can't get a scratch without whining,"
scornfully cried Brer, who was bounding
rapturously on a springing pony in supreme
indifference to Gene's smart.



26 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

" You would n't like it, I reckon," re-
torted Gene, his face still screwed up with
the pain, but rising under his big brer's taunt.
" I just wish Nap would get hurt once so
he 'd know how it feels. But I don't be-
lieve you could scratch him with a hoe ; I
reckon he came out of the alligator-hole,
his hide 's so thick."

" Oh, hush your growling and come on ! "
commanded Brer. Gene made a sudden dart
at Nap's sapling.

" I 'm going to have this one," he snapped
ill-naturedly. " Nap, he always gets the
best."

" All right, Gene, I 's gwine fin' 'noder,"
agreed Nap, cheerfully.

" You 're so spry, you 'd better take the
big sapling yonder," Gene cried sarcasti-
cally, pointing to a tall sapling that hung,
by its loosened roots, far out over the
gully.

" I reckon so," replied Nap, taking him at
his word, and starting toward the tree.



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 27

" Come back, you Nap ! Mamma said we
should n't swing over the gully," ordered
Brer.

Nap paused obediently.

" She never said Nap should n't," insisted
Gene, perversely.

"That's so," Brer agreed. He looked
longingly at the tree. He sorely longed
for the privilege of swinging in that tree ;
and the next-best thing to going out him-
self was to see Nap there.

" Sure it will hold ? " he asked.

Nap ran on to the tree, and critically
examined its roots.

" I reckon," he called back, waiting
eagerly for Brer's permission to go out.

" If you 're sure I don't care what you
do."

" Go it if you dast," challenged Gene.

Nap made a spring, and with knees, feet,
and hands climbed up the slender stem and
crawled out upon its tapering length until he



28 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

was perched in the feathery pine-top, far
out over the deep gully.

He threw up his arms in the sun-
shine and gave a shout of delight. He
swayed as lightly as a bird on a slender
twig ; and inspired by the motion, he pres-
ently began to chirp and gurgle, and finally
he burst forth in a medley of all bird-songs,
and warbled away as clearly and blithely as
a " sure-enough " mocking-bird.

The boys had often heard his mimicry
before ; but never had it seemed so charm-
ing as now, from the slender, swaying
perch.

" That beats old Whir, sure," cried Brer,
bouncing from his pony and running to the
edge of the gully.

Whir was the boys' own particular mock-
ing-bird, who, in summer, nested with his
mate in the scuppernong arbor, pecking
grapes by daylight and singing long and
loud by moonlight. In winter he and his



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 29

mate helped themselves to the red holly
and dogwood berries hung for them by
the boys on the gallery of the Owlets'
Roost, and they selfishly fought off all
other birds that ventured to approach the
water-oaks.

When Nap ended his song, Gene clapped
his hands enthusiastically. He had quite
recovered from his fit of temper, and he was
very proud of their Nap's accomplishments.

But Brer had seen something that made
him very sober. He called,

" Come along back, you Nap, and mind
you move easy."

Nap started promptly to obey ; but at his
first movement the tree bent slowly and
dangerously low. The boys shouted, and
rushed to the roots, that were slowly but
surely upheaving, and bore down with all
their might upon the upturned earth.

" Go easy, I say," Brer shouted steadily,
but his face was as frightened as Gene's.



30 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

Nap moved as cautiously as possible ;
but his light weight was the last straw
that overcame the resistance of the roots;
and in spite of the boys' efforts to keep it
up, the tree went crashing into the gully,
dragging an avalanche of earth down with
it.

Brer darted back with Gene just in time
to save them both from plunging head-first
after. He sat down emphatically with the
force of backward movement, and Gene sat
down beside him. They were on their feet
instantly, however.

" Nap 's bound to light on his feet," gasped
Gene.

Brer turned without a word, and bound-
ing over the log to the sand-ridge, slid down
into the midst of the fallen branches, Gene
following closely.

" You Nap ! " called Brer, in a voice
that was trembling, spite of his efforts to
control it.



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 31

" Yer I is," answered the soft voice,
faint and muffled.

They spied him sitting, a little heap, in a
nest of pine-needles. His face was hidden
in his arm, and red stains covered his calico
waist.

" Where are you hurt ? " asked Brer, scat-
tering the debris and kneeling by his side.

" Dunno," responded the feeble voice.

" Get some water quick ! " ordered Brer.

Gene flew down the gully to the spring
that flowed at its mouth, and having folded
a magnolia leaf in the shape of a cup, filled
it with the sparkling water. That was so
little ! He jerked off his waist and dipped
it into the spring. With this dripping from
one hand and the magnolia cup in the other,
he hurried back to the boys.

" It 's his nose ! It 's all swelled up like
a mushroom," explained Brer, in great dis-
tress. " Here, take a sip, Nap, and let me
wipe you off."



32 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

Nap lowered his arm from his face and
drank eagerly. He showed his white teeth
in a momentary smile, that gave such a
distressing twist to his swollen, bloody feat-
ures, and his eyes, almost closed with the
swelling, were filled with an expression of
such appealing dumb suffering, that Gene
burst into tears.

" Doan go fo' to cry, Gene," remonstrated
Nap, trying not to wince under Brer's awk-
ward touches.

" Hush ! " cried Brer, imperatively ; and
Gene hushed as best he could.

Brer wiped Nap's face with Gene's wet
jacket and took off his own to stanch the
blood.

" Now, come on," he said, gently helping
Nap to stand. " We '11 tote you home."

" I reckon I 's gwine walk," objected Nap,
starting bravely forward. He was so dizzy
and blind, however, that he began to totter
at once ; so Brer and Gene hastily fashioned



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 33

a seat with their crossed hands, and forced
him to sit down upon it.

To mount the sliding sand and cross the
log with their burden was out of the ques-
tion. They turned to the mouth of the
gully, made their way around the head
of the spring, and climbed the long slope
of the hill that ran to the water-oaks.
Nap was a little body, but he became a
mighty weight before they were halfway
home.

Nevertheless they staggered onward, re-
fusing to set him down, or to rest until they
mounted the steps of the house gallery
and resigned him to their mother's care.

Mrs. Lee tenderly dressed the wounds,
and laid Nap away on his pallet in the
corner of the Owlets' Roost.

" I have told you not to swing over the
gully," she said to the boys.

" You never told N " Gene began, but
he had the shame not to finish this defence.

3



34 UNDER THE WATER-OAKS.

Gene had been crying bitterly over poor
Nap's mishap, with the feeling that the
accident was all his own fault, since he
had suggested the big sapling.

Brer could have wept too, if he had n't
" got past crying ; " for he knew that he was
greatly to blame, since he might and should
have prevented the catastrophe.

Nap himself had not shed a tear. He had
endured like a stoic the pain when his wounds
were dressed. He had even tried to cheer
the boys and comfort Neal and Joy, who
looked upon his bruised face with tear-filled
eyes.

" I reckon how it '11 be all right in the
mo'nin'," he faltered, with that painful
grimace that he intended for a smile.

But it was not all right in the morning ;
it never was quite right again. Even after
a long time, when his features emerged from
the puffed flesh and his eyes opened to their
natural size, Nap did not recover his former



HOW NAP WAS NIPPED. 35

looks ; for in his fall, he had not lighted
upon his feet, as Gene had trusted, but he
had gone down head-first, striking his nose
so violently as to break it.

His nose, to begin with, had been flat and
wide, and altogether a sufficiently insignifi-
cant feature. By the fall the upper part
was mashed flatter than ever ; but the end
was quaintly pinched and turned up, as if
it had been pinched with the fire-tongs.
The upward nip gave the drollest expres-
sion of pertness to his otherwise docile and
cheery face.

Except for the pain, of which he never
complained, and which soon passed away,
the consequences of the fall were of no im-
portance to Nap. As he was supremely
unconcerned about his looks, the turn of his
nose did not affect his temper; and he re-
mained the same happy, rollicking little
darky as ever, only instead of Nap, the
boys called him Nip.



36 UNDEK THE WATER-OAKS.

As Nap was not his baptismal name,


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