Driven Back to Eden by Edward Payson Roe
Chapter XIX. John Jones, Jun
My agonized shout as I saw Bobsey swept away by the swollen current of the Moodna Creek was no more prompt than his own shrill scream. It so happened, or else a kind Providence so ordered it, that Junior was further down the stream, tapping a maple that had been overlooked the previous day. He sprang to his feet, whirled around in the direction of the little boy's cry, with the quickness of thought rushed to the bank and plunged in with a headlong leap like a Newfoundland dog. I paused, spellbound, to watch him, knowing that I was much too far away to be of aid, and that all now depended on the hardy country lad. He disappeared for a second beneath the tide, and then his swift strokes proved that he was a good swimmer. In a moment or two he caught up with Bobsey, for the current was too swift to permit the child to sink. Then, with a wisdom resulting from experience, he let the torrent carry him in a long slant toward the shore, for it would have been hopeless to try to stem the tide. Running as I never ran before, I followed, reached the bank where there was an eddy in the stream, sprang in up to my waist, seized them both as they approached and dragged them to solid ground. Merton and Winnie meanwhile stood near with white, scared faces.
Bobsey was conscious, although he had swallowed some water, and I was soon able to restore him, so that he could stand on his feet and cry: "I--I--I w-won't d-do so any--any more."
Instead of punishing him, which he evidently expected, I clasped him to my heart with a nervous force that almost made him cry out with pain.
Junior, meanwhile, had coolly seated himself on a rock, emptied the water out of his shoes, and was tying them on again, at the same time striving with all his might to maintain a stolid composure under Winnie's grateful embraces and Merton's interrupting hand- shakings. But when, having become assured of Bobsey's safety, I rushed forward and embraced Junior in a transport of gratitude, his lip began to quiver and two great tears mingled with the water that was dripping from his hair. Suddenly he broke away, took to his heels, and ran toward his home, as if he had been caught in some mischief and the constable were after him. I believe that he would rather have had at once all the strappings his father had ever given him than to have cried in our presence.
I carried Bobsey home, and his mother, with many questionings and exclamations of thanksgiving, undressed the little fellow, wrapped him in flannel, and put him to bed, where he was soon sleeping as quietly as if nothing had happened.
Mrs. Jones came over, and we made her rubicund face beam and grow more round, if possible, as we all praised her boy. I returned with her, for I felt that I wished to thank Junior again and again. But he saw me coming, and slipped out at the back door. Indeed, the brave, bashful boy was shy of us for several days. When at last my wife got hold of him, and spoke to him in a manner natural to mothers, he pooh-poohed the whole affair.
"I've swum in that crick so often that it was nothin' to me. I only had to keep cool, and that was easy enough in snow water, and the swift current would keep us both up. I wish you wouldn't say anything more about it. It kinder makes me feel--I don't know how-- all over, you know."
But Junior soon learned that we had adopted him into our inmost hearts, although he compelled us to show our good-will after his own off-hand fashion.
Sunday was ushered in with another storm, and we spent a long, quiet, restful day, our hearts full of thankfulness that the great sorrow, which might have darkened the beginning of our country life, had been so happily averted.
On Sunday night the wind veered around to the north, and on Monday morning the sky had a clear metallic hue and the ground was frozen hard. Bobsey had not taken cold, and was his former self, except that he was somewhat chastened in spirit and his bump of caution was larger. I was resolved that the day should witness a good beginning of our spring work, and told Winnie and Bobsey that they could help me. Junior, although he yet avoided the house, was ready enough to help Merton with the sap. Therefore soon after breakfast we all were busy.
Around old country places, especially where there has been some degree of neglect, much litter gathers. This was true of our new home and its surroundings. All through the garden were dry, unsightly weeds, about the house was shrubbery that had become tangled masses of unpruned growth, in the orchard the ground was strewn with fallen branches, and I could see dead limbs on many of the trees.
Therefore I said to my two little helpers: "Here in this open space in the garden we will begin our brush-pile, and we will bring to it all the refuse that we wish to burn. You see that we can make an immense heap, for the place is so far away from any buildings that, when the wind goes down, we can set the pile on fire in safety, and the ashes will do the garden good."
During the whole forenoon I pruned the shrubbery, and raked up the rubbish which the children carried by armfuls to our prospective bonfire. They soon wished to see the blaze, but I told them that the wind was too high, and that I did not propose to apply the match until we had a heap half as big as the house; that it might be several days before we should be ready, for I intended to have a tremendous fire.
Thus with the lesson of restraint was given the hope of something wonderful. For a long time they were pleased with the novelty of the work, and then they wanted to do something else, but I said: "No, no; you are gardeners now, and I'm head gardener. You must both help me till dinner-time. After that you can do something else, or play if you choose; but each day, even Bobsey must do some steady work to earn his dinner. We didn't come to the country on a picnic, I can tell you. All must do their best to help make a living;" and so without scruple I kept my little squad busy, for the work was light, although it had become monotonous.
Mousie sometimes aided her mother, and again watched us from the window with great interest. I rigged upon the barrow a rack, in which I wheeled the rubbish gathered at a distance; and by the time my wife's mellow voice called, "Come to dinner"--how sweet her voice and summons were after long hours in the keen March wind!--we had a pile much higher than my head, and the place began to wear a tidy aspect.
Such appetites, such red cheeks and rosy noses as the outdoor workers brought to that plain meal! Mousie was much pleased with the promise that the bonfire should not be lighted until some still, mild day when she could go out and stand with me beside it.
Merton admitted that gathering the sap did not keep him busy more than half the time; so after dinner I gave him a hatchet, and told him to go on with the trimming out of the fallen branches in our wood lot--a task that I had begun--and to carry all wood heavy enough for our fireplace to a spot where it could be put into a wagon.
"Your next work, Merton, will be to collect all your refuse trimmings, and the brush lying about, into a few great heaps; and by and by we'll burn these, too, and gather up the ashes carefully, for I've read and heard all my life that there is nothing better for fruit then wood-ashes. Some day, I hope, we can begin to put money in the bank; for I intend to give all a chance to earn money for themselves, after they have done their share toward our general effort to live and thrive. The next best thing to putting money in the bank is the gathering and saving of everything that will make the ground richer. In fact, all the papers and books that I've read this winter agree that as the farmer's land grows rich he grows rich."