Chapter XLIV. We Can Make a Living in Eden

Well, our first year was drawing to a close. The 1st of December was celebrated by an event no less momentous than the killing of our pigs, to Winnie's and Bobsey's intense excitement. In this affair my wife and I were almost helpless, but Mr. Jones and Bagley were on hand, and proved themselves veterans, while Mrs. Jones stood by my wife until the dressed animals were transformed into souse, head- cheese, sausage, and well-salted pork. The children feasted and exulted through all the processes, especially enjoying some sweet spareribs.

I next gave all my attention, when the weather permitted, to the proper winter covering of all the strawberries, and to the cutting and carting home of old and dying trees from the wood lot.

The increasing cold brought new and welcome pleasures to the children. There was ice on the neighboring ponds, and skates were bought as premature Christmas presents. The same was true of sleds after the first fall of snow. This white covering of the earth enabled Merton and Junior to track some rabbits in the vicinity, which thus far had eluded their search.

By the middle of the month we realized that winter had begun in all its rather stern reality; but we were sheltered and provided for. We had so far imitated the ants that we had abundant stores until the earth should again yield its bounty.

Christmas brought us more than its wonted joy, and a better fulfilment of the hopes and anticipations which we had cherished on the same day of the previous year. We were far from regretting our flight to the country, although it had involved us in hard toil and many anxieties. My wife was greatly pleased by my many hours of rest at the fireside in her companionship, caused by days too cold and wintry for outdoor work; but our deepest and most abiding content was expressed one evening as we sat alone after the children were asleep.

"You have solved the problem, Robert, that was worrying you. There is space here for the children to grow, and the Daggetts and the Ricketts and all their kind are not so near as to make them grow wrong, almost in spite of us. A year ago we felt that we were virtually being driven to the country. I now feel as if we had been led by a kindly and divine hand." I had given much attention to my account-book of late, and had said, "On New Year's morning I will tell you all the result of our first year's effort."

At breakfast, after our greetings and good wishes for the New Year, all looked expectantly at me as I opened our financial record. Carefully and clearly as possible, so that even Winnie might understand in part, I went over the different items, and the expense and proceeds of the different crops, so far as I was able to separate them. Bobsey's attention soon wandered, for he had an abiding faith that breakfast, dinner, and supper would follow the sun, and that was enough for him. But the other children were pleased with my confidence, and tried to understand me.

"To sum up everything," I said, finally, "we have done, by working all together, what I alone should probably have accomplished in the city--we have made our living. I have also taken an inventory or an account of stock on hand and paid for; that is, I have here a list on which are named the horse, wagon, harness, cow, crates and baskets, tools, poultry, and pigs. These things are paid for, and we are so much ahead. Now, children, which is better, a living in the city, I earning it for you all? or a living in the country toward which even Bobsey can do his share?"

"A living in the country," was the prompt chorus. "There is something here for a fellow to do without being nagged by a policeman," Merton added.

"Well, children, mamma and I agree with you. What's more, there wasn't much chance for me to get ahead in the city, or earn a large salary. Here, by pulling all together, there is almost a certainty of our earning more than a bare living, and of laying up something for a rainy day. The chief item of profit from our farm, however, is not down in my account-book, but we see it in your sturdier forms and in Mousie's red cheeks. More than all, we believe that you are better and healthier at heart than you were a year ago.

"Now for the New Year. Let us make the best and most of it, and ask God to help us."

And so my simple history ends in glad content and hope.