MARY GAY'S WORK IN AUTUMN.
BEECHNUTS are very good nuts. They have a rich flavor, very similar to that of the walnut, but the gathering and eating of them are attended with certain great disadvantages, which detract very much from the value of them.
One of the principal of these disadvantages is the cold fingers you must get in gathering them. Beechnuts are never ripe until late in the fall, and the burrs that they grow in do not usually crack open and let the nuts fall to the ground, where you can get them, until the frost comes.
The boys say that it is the frost which cracks the burrs open and lets the nuts fall out. Whether it is really the frost that does this, or whether it is some change in the internal condition of the burr, produced by the advancing ripeness at about the same time that the frost comes, which makes the boys think that the frost is the cause of the opening when it is in fact only the accompaniment of it, I cannot say.
Accompaniments are very often mistaken for causes by people that do not observe carefully.
However this may be, the boys all think that it is the frost that opens the burrs, and that accordingly a frosty morning is a good time to go a-beechnutting. In fact, at the time of the year when the beechnuts are ripe, almost all the clear and pleasant mornings are frosty, so that generally when boys go to gather beechnuts -the ground is either covered with frost, or else it is at least very cold, and this makes it extremely cold work to gather them. For every individual nut must; be picked up from among the grass and moss and wild herbage that grows under the trees, and you cannot have any protection for your fingers, for it is impossible to pick up such little things with gloves or mittens on.
Still children like beechnuts so much that they are always very ready to go into the woods to gather them, even though it is such cold work.
One Saturday morning in October John and his little brother Benny came to his cousin Mary Gay's, to invite her and her sister Luly to go a-beechnutting with them.
Of course they were very ready to go. So taking some small tin pails with them, to bring the beechnuts home in, they all set off together.
They were going to a grove of beech-trees which grew on high and dry ground near Mrs. Gay's wood lot. The way to this piece of ground was either by a lane which led along outside the garden fence, or through the garden. The children went through the garden, in order that Mary and Luly might show John how fast the seeds of their flowers were ripening.
" We are going to begin to gather our seeds pretty soon," said Luly. " I mean to gather some now."
So saying, Luly broke off the head of a poppy which looked as if it might be ripe, and poured the seeds out into her hand.
" I am going to keep these seeds till next summer," said Luly, " and then plant them in my garden, and so I shall get some more beautiful poppies."
" Yes," said John, " it is an excellent plan to save your flower-seeds for next summer. But now we must go on and gather our beechnuts, or else the squirrels will get them all before we come."
" And eat them all up ? " said Luly.
" No" said John; " put them away in their holes. They always lay up a store of beechnuts, and hazel-nuts, and acorns, and corn, in their nests and boles, for them to eat in the winter, when the ground is all covered with snow, so that they cannot find anything to eat in the woods."
Talking in this way the children walked along together through the garden, and then out by a gate into the lane, — Luly keeping her poppy-seeds in her hand all the way, because she had no paper to put them in. At length she began to be tired of carrying them, and she asked Mary what she should do with them.
"I think you had better throw them away," said Mary.
" No," replied Luly; " I am going to keep them to plant in my garden next summer. I mean to put them in my pocket."
"Well," said Mary, "I will hold it open for you."
So Mary held the pocket open, and Luly tried to pour the seeds in. Some of them did actually go in, though I should think that considerably more than half of them slipped through her fingers and fell to the ground.
How much probability there was that those that were saved would ever find their way out of the depths of the pocket again, and be kept until the next spring, and so planted and produce more poppies, the reader can judge.
" Don't you think it is a good plan, John, for us to save our flower-seeds," asked Luly " to plant next year ? "
" Yes," said John, " if you do it systematically ; but if you do it unsystematically, it is all time and labor thrown away." " I don't know what you mean, John" rejoined Luly, "when you talk such hard words."
" Then I will explain it" said John.
" First I will tell you how to do it unsystematically. Once there was a girl who had a flower-garden, and she thought she would save the seeds. So one day when she was in her garden, she saw that the seeds of one of her flowers were ripe, and she rubbed them out into her hand. Then she did not know what to do with them. Finally she laid them down upon a bench, while she went into the house to get a piece of paper to wrap them up in.
" She tore a piece off from the corner of a newspaper which she found in the house, and then came out to the bench. She found that half of the seeds bad been blown away by the wind. She put the rest in the paper, and put the paper in her pocket. A few days after this, when she was clearing out her pocket, she came to this paper. She forgot that there were seeds in it, but supposed that it was only some old scrap that had somehow or other found, its way into her pocket, and so she threw it away."
" Oh, what a silly girl ! " said Luly.
"A day or two after this she remembered that there were seeds in that paper, and that she had thrown them away. 'Dear me!' says she, ' I have thrown away all my garden-seeds! '
" So she determined to gather some more seeds, and take better care of them. She went into the house, to get some pieces of paper, and then went into the garden. She rubbed out the seeds that she found were ripe, and put them in the papers— each kind in a separate paper. She folded them up and carried them into the house, and put them on a shelf in the china-closet. They lay there some time, and then her mother put them in a drawer where various things were kept, and there they remained all winter. Caroline had forgotten all about them."
" Was her name Caroline ? " asked Luly.
" Yes," replied John. " Did not I tell you that before " "
" No," replied Luly.
" When the next spring came her mother told her that there were some flower-seeds of hers in a drawer in the china-closet, and asked her if she wanted them. So Caroline went to get them, but she found that half of them had been spilled out of the papers ; and as for those that remained she did not know what kinds they were, for she had not marked the papers; and so she threw them all away."
Mary and Luly laughed.
" And now," said Luly, " tell us how to do it systematically."
" The first thing is," said John, " to go into the garden and see how many different kinds of seeds you are going to have, and make a list of them. Then go to work regularly, and make a number of little paper bags to hold the seeds. The bags ought to be made of some light-colored wrapping-paper, that you can write upon."
" How do we make the bags ? " asked Mary.
" They are made a good deal like envelopes for letters," said John. " You take a long strip of paper, as wide as you are going to have your bags, and about twice as long. You then lay the strip down upon the table before you, and fold it double, so as to make a kind of square with two leaves. Then you cut away with the scissors about a half an inch from the edge of one of the leaves all around, except at the place where it is folded. In this way the edges of the leaf which is not cut can be folded down over the other, and gummed down. Yon fold over the two side edges when you make the bags, but you leave the top as a sort of flap, to be folded down and gummed after the seeds are put in."
" I don't understand it very well," said Luly.
" When we get home," said John, " I will make you a pattern out of pasteboard, and then you can cut them out very easily."
" I wish you would," said Mary.
" After the set of bags are made," said John, " and the side edges where they are gummed over are dry, then you turn them over and write upon the back of each one the name of the kind of flower-seed that you are going to put in it. You must have as many bags, of course, as there are names upon your list, and write one name on each bag."
" What, before we put the seeds in ? " said Mary.
"Yes," replied John. "You can write the names on the backs a great deal more conveniently before you. put the seeds in, than afterward. But then you must be careful afterward to put the seeds in right, according to the names.
" If you wish to have any seeds to give away to your friends, then you must make another set of bags for them. Sometimes when they have seeds enough in their gar- dens, people make a number of sets of bags. And if they have a great many more seeds of one kind than they have of others, especially if it is a very pretty flower, they write that name on the backs of a good many bags, and fill them all, so as to have a great many of that kind to give away."
'' Yes," said Mary, " that is an excellent plan. I mean to make a good many bags for Morning-Glory seeds."
" When you have got your bags all made," continued John, " you must then have a large table in some sunny place, to spread your seeds upon and let them dry."
" Yes," said Mary. " The elephant table in the playroom will be just the thing."
The elephant table was so called on account of the bigness of its legs. It was originally a carpenter's bench, and had been transformed into a table.
" Yes," rejoined John, " you could not have anything better than that. You must cut out a great many pieces of paper, to put the different flower-seeds upon, while they are drying. Newspapers will do to make these pieces. You can fold one or two newspapers into quarters, and then cut through the folds with a paper-knife, and so you will got sheets of the right size. You must place these on the table, in order, in regular rows, with the margin of white paper for each on the upper side. And you must write on these margins, in pencil, the names of all the flower-seeds in your list.
" Then, as fast as your flower-seeds get ripe," continued John, " you must gather them in a large plate, and rub out the seeds and blow away the chaff, and put the seeds upon the papers, — each kind according to the name marked upon the margin of the paper. You leave them there to dry."
" How long ? " asked Mary.
" Oh, two or three weeks," said John.
" Seeds ought to be thoroughly dry before they are put away.
" When they have stayed long enough in the papers," said John, " you put them in the bags. But you must take great care to put them in right, according to the names written on them. When they are all in, then you gum down the little flap that comes over the top, and the work is done."
" That is an excellent way, Luly," said Mary. " That is the way we will do with our seeds."
" You can afterward, if you choose," said John, " take out one bag of each kind, to make a complete set, and tie them up by themselves and put them away. You might make two sets, if you please, one for you and one for Luly."
"Yes," said Luly. "Let us do that, Mary."
" We will" said Mary.
Thus it was agreed between Mary and Luly, that in gathering their seeds they would proceed in the systematic manner that John had described, and that they would make two fall sets, one for Mary and one for Luly, and that they would also put up as many as they could besides, to give to their friends.
THE children had a very pleasant time, in walking along and talking together by the way, as they went toward the wood; but when they reached their place of destination, and began to gather the beechnuts, they found it very cold and uncomfortable work. There had been a frost the night before, and the grass was not yet dry, so that their fingers became wet as well as cold. Luly complained too that she could not find the beechnuts. She was too little, she said.
" But you are not so little as the squirrels," said Benny, " and they find plenty of them."
" If I was as little as they are," said Luly, " with their eyes close down to the ground, I could find them too; but I am not little enough to find them like the squirrels, and not big enough to find them like you."
Benny's fingers were cold too, but he persevered. He even gave some of the nuts that he gathered to Luly, he put in her pail, by which act of gentlemanly politeness and attention on his part Luly was very much pleased.
John and Mary too succeeded in getting their pails about half full, but by that time the whole party began to be tired of the work,-especially as their fingers were so cold. There is no help for the cold in beechnutting, for you must do the work with your bare fingers. There is no such thing as picking up such little things from among the grass and fallen leaves with gloves or mittens on.
So it was excluded, by common consent, to be satisfied with pails half full, and to go home. They could now put on their gloves and mittens, to keep their hands warm, and the exercise of walking made them warm generally. They soon came out of the woods, and then began the long ascent which led up toward the old sugar- house.
This old sugar-house, as those of my readers who have perused the preceding volumes of this series already know, was a small hut, open to the south, which had formerly been used for boiling sap to make maple-sugar. But the work had afterward been transferred to another place, and the boilers taken out and removed from the hut, leaving the chimney still standing, - only that the lower part was broken away where the boiler-fines had gone into the brick-work.
The children, when they came to the old sugar-house, went in and sat down. There were two seats within,- one along each side of the hut. The chimney was on the back side, and the front side, which was toward the south, was entirely open. Thus the sun shone into the interior during almost all the day, - its beams falling chiefly in the morning upon the seat on one side, and in the afternoon upon that on the other.
The children sat down all together upon the seat. which had the most sun upon it though the whole interior of the hut was quite warm and comfortable, inasmuch as besides the warming influence of the beams of the sun, it was entirely sheltered from the wind.
When they were comfortably settled in their seats, they took off the covers of the tin pails.
" We have not got a great many beechnuts, after all," said Mary.
" No," replied John. " The best thing we can do with them, is to make some candy and stir them in."
" Are they good to put in candy ? " asked Mary.
" Yes, excellent," said John. " They are almost as good as almonds. We get out the meat of the nuts, and chop it up, and then stir it into the candy while it is hot."
" That's the very thing we will do," said Mary. " We would boil our candy out here in this sugar-house, if we only had a fireplace. There is a chimney already, if you could only bring out the iron fireplace, and set it up here."
What Mary called the iron fireplace was an old Franklin stove which had become cracked in one of its sides, arid had been set away in a back room, at the house where Mary lived. The children had long been intending to move this stove out to the old sugar-house, and set it up there, but had not yet done it, partly for want of bricks and mortar, or rather of mortar, for John knew where he could get plenty of bricks, and partly because the stove was such a heavy thing to move out to the spot.
" I know where I can get some mortar now," said John, -"at a place where they are making a cellar, - but now is not the time for bringing the stove out. lean only do that when there is snow on the ground, so that I can haul it on my big sled. It is too heavy for me to bring on a wheelbarrow.
" But then," added John despondingly, " when the snow comes, so that I can use my sled, then I don't know how I can get any mortar."
" Could not you put the bricks up now," asked Mary, " and get it all ready, and then bring the stove out afterward ? "
" Yes," said John, starting up suddenly, as if much pleased with this idea; "that's what I will do. I will get the mortar now, and build the bricks back in their places and set a short piece of pipe in, all ready. Then when the snow comes, all I shall have to do will be to bring the stove here, and set it in its place, and slip the collar right into the pipe."
" The collar ? " repeated Mary.
" Yes," replied John, - " the round part behind the stove that the pipe is meant to fit to."
After some farther consultation on the subject, the plan was formed for doing that work and making the candy, all together, that afternoon. The duties to be performed were divided, and to each one was assigned a share. John was to go home and get his wheelbarrow, and proceed with it to the place where they were building the cellar-wall, and procure the mortar and the bricks and the trowel, and wheel them to the place. Benny was to peel the beechnuts and get out the meat, and then Luly was to ask Sophronia to chop them up with the chopping-knife. Mary was to ask her mother for some molasses, and to put it in a tin pail and bring it out to the sugar-house. All this was to be done immediately after dinner.
The plan was carried into effect accordingly. John came with the mortar, bringing it in an old pail upon his wheelbarrow. After taking this pailful of mortar, with the trowel sticking into it, to the sugar- house, he went back to the house to get some bricks. After putting as many bricks as be thought he should want upon his wheelbarrow, he placed a small kettle upon the top of the load, and then wheeled the whole to the sugar-house.
In the mean time Benny had collected a number of sticks, and had built a small fire ill front of the sugar-house and far enough away from it to prevent the smoke from being blown in. John poured the molasses into the kettle, and then suspended the kettle over the fire at a proper distance above it, by means of three stakes driven into the ground around the fire, and united at the top. He also put bricks around the fire, so as to make a little wall, as it were, extending nearly up to the kettle, to assist in confining the heat.
When these arrangements were all made John went to his work of repairing the masonry of the chimney, and setting in a short piece of pipe which he had brought with him for the purpose. While he was doing this the other children watched the molasses, each one stirring it by turns, and the rest going into the thickets around to pick up more sticks for fuel. Occasionally, of course, they would come into the hut to look at John and see how he was getting along with his work.
Besides the molasses the children had brought out in one of the tin pails the beechnuts, all nicely cut up, ready to be put into the candy. They also brought several large plates, and some butter to butter them with, when they were ready to pour the candy into them,-in order to prevent, the candy from sticking to them.
At length John's mason-work was finished, though he was obliged to take one of the bricks away from the fire in order to complete it. There wore however four left at the fire, just the right number, John said, to put one under each of the four legs of the stove when it should be set in its place.
" And now," said John, " I wish the stove was here. I would set it right up."
" And you can't bring it until the winter comes ? " said Luly.
" Not until the snow comes," said John.
" That is the same thing," said Luly.
" Not exactly," replied John, " for sometimes the snow comes several weeks before the winter begins."
" If I were they," said Luly, " whenever the first snow came I would have that for the beginning of the winter. Ithink that is the beginning of the winter."
" It is the beginning of the sliding and snow-balling winter," replied John, " but not the winter of the almanac. That always begins at the same time in the year, whether any snow comes before it or not. You see it is more convenient for people in their business to have winter always begin at the same time. It will be a good many weeks before winter will begin, but we may have a snow-storm long before that time."
" How soon from now ? " asked Luly.
" Why, it is now the last of October," said John, " and we may have a little snowstorm early in November. The least little bit of a snow flurry will do,-just to cover the grass a little."
" Then I wish it would come quick," said Mary.
" I don't know," said John, speaking slowly, as if he was thinking, - " I don't know but that the frost might make the grass slippery enough for me to draw the sled over it, if I were to come very early some frosty morning."
" I wish you would," said Luly. " I would get up and help you. "Would the frost do as well as the snow ? "
" Yes," said John. " Frost and snow are pretty much the same thing in reality, and they both make the grass very slippery."
John was right in this. If you look very closely upon a blade of grass, or upon a piece of wood that has been lying out in the open air in a frosty night, you will see that the millions of little spangles that form the frost, are only so many minute crystals of ice.
So if you catch some of the flakes of snow which fall in a snow-storm, and examine them in the same way, you will find that they are composed of little crystals too. If you have a magnifying glass, and know how to use it, you can see them very distinctly.
The snow, in a word, consists of masses of little crystals formed in the air, and the frost of very similar crystals formed upon the ground.
" I verily believe," said John, after reflecting a little longer upon the subject, " that I could haul the stove out here upon my sled some frosty morning, without waiting for the snow. The grass gets very slippery when there is frost upon it, and I can come upon the grass along the side of the road all the way.
" The only trouble will be," added John, " how to get the stove out of the back-room to the door, and to put it on the sled.
"I'll tell you what we will do," he said, after another pause ; " I will bring my sled the day before, and load the stove upon it, in the back-room, and so drag it out when the time comes. I will lay ways for it,- frosty ways."
"How?" asked Luly.
" You will see," said John. " I have it" all arranged in my mind. I will bring my sled over this afternoon, and the first frosty morning next week I will come and haul the stove over."
While the children had been talking in this manner, they had been standing by the fire most of the time, watching the candy, and now and then trying it by taking out a little and pouring it into one of their buttered plates to let it cool. They now soon found that it had boiled enough, and so they put in the beechnuts, and after stirring the whole a little while, to mix them perfectly together, they poured the candy all out into the plates, where, when it was cool, it formed flat and thin cakes which could very easily be broken up into pieces of a convenient size to be eaten.
After eating several of the pieces of candy, and finding it excellent, they put the tin pail which had contained the mortar, together with all the other things except three of the plates of candy, into the wheelbarrow, and then set out for home. John wheeled the wheelbarrow, and the other children carried the plates.
When they reached the house they gave one of the plates of candy to Mary's mother and one to Sophronia. The rest they divided among themselves.
MOVING THE STOVE.
JOHN brought his sled over to Mary's house the next Monday afternoon. It was too late to bring it the day that they made the candy. Mary had a sled herself, but it was not a suitable one for hauling so large and heavy a thing as a stove upon. So John brought one of his own,- a pretty large one which he kept on purpose for such uses.
He brought the sled into the back-room, to the place where the stove stood.
" Now," said he, " I must go and find something for us to use for crowbars to move the stove out with, and then to pry it over upon the sled."
So he went out and found two bars of wood, one fur himself and one for Benny.
" I wish there was one for me," said Mary.
" And me too," said Luly.
" No," said John; " two are enough. Mary, you must help Benny with his, and Luly may help me."
Of course Luly would only be in the way in attempting to help John manoeuvre his bar, but he knew that it would gratify her to think that she -was helping, and so he would let her do a little. John put one end of his bar under the stove at one side, and directed Benny to do the same with his bar, and then lifted and carried, as the stove-workers say, - by which means he moved his side of the stove out a little way Luly took hold with him and helped him. Benny and Mary did the same on the other side, and in this way the stove was moved out from the wall, and turned round, so that the sled could be placed close to it, and at the back of it.
" There ! " said John, in a tone of satisfaction when the sled was placed, '' that is all right. Now all that we have got to do is to tip the old fellow over, and lay him down upon his back upon the sled. That will be the hardest part of the whole affair."
John determined to proceed very care- fully with this operation. He first found some old carpets and pieces of matting which he put down upon the sled, making a little heap of them there.
" Why don't you spread them down smooth ? " asked Mary.
" Because I want first to make a kind of cushion of them," said John, " to break the fall of the stove if it should happen to slip away from our hold and go down too heavily. After we get the stove down, then we will smooth the things under it, so as to make it lie steady."
"Hoh!" said Benny, "how are you going to spread the things out when the stove is on them?"
" Oh, we will pry up one end at a time," said John, " and smooth the cloths and mats out. We can do that easily enough if we can only get the stove tipped over.
" First," said he, " we will pry it up a little way, and put a block under"
They had just got the block under when Jotham Jones, Mrs. Gay's hired man, happened to come through the back-room on his way to the barn, and he stopped to see what the children were about. He stood a moment observing John as he was putting the block under the side of the stove opposite to the sled,-that is, the part which formed the hearth,-while Mary and Luly held it up with the bars, and then said, -
" What are you trying to do with this stove, John ? "
" I am trying to load it upon my sled," said John.
" Stand out of the way," said Jotham. And so saying, he put one hand upon the upper back edge of the stove and the other under the edge of the hearth, and lifting it up bodily from the floor, he held it in his hands, saying at the same time, -
" Spread your cloths down smooth."
John hastily spread one of the pieces of carpet down, and then Jotham laid the stove down upon it, as gently as if it had been a baby.
" There," said he, " it is on that sled; but I don't believe you have got sense enough to bind it on so that it will stay on while you haul it."
So saying, Jotham walked away.
" Where can I get a rope, or a cord of some kind," said John, after a moment's pause, "to tie it on?"
" I know where there is some string," 'said Luly.
" String won't do," said John ; " we want a rope."
" I know where there is a rope," said Mary.
So Mary led the way up into the play- room, and there she showed John a coil of rope hanging upon a peg in a corner. It was part of an old clothes-line.
John took the cord down from the peg, and sent Luly into the house with it to ask her mother if she was willing that they should use it to bind their load with. " I am sure she will be willing," said Luly. "I wish to be sure too," said John, "'and I shall be if you ask her and she says yes - and not without."
Luly went in, but soon returned with the rope, and with full permission from her mother to use it for the purpose intended.
So John went to work to lash the stove to the sled, taking care to do it in the most secure manner possible, by winding the rope round and round, not only from front to back, but also from side to side, so as to prevent the possibility of its slipping in either direction.
" He shall see," said John, "that I have sense enough to bind my load so that it shall stay on."
After John had at last secured the load as he thought sufficiently, he took one of the bars, and Mary and Benny taking the other, they pried the sled, stove and all, back against the side of the room again, where it would be more out of the way of people coming along.
" Because," said John, "it may be a week or more before we have a frosty night."
When this was done, John said he must next prepare his " ways," as he called them. Luly asked him what the ways were for.
" They are for the runners of the sled to go upon along the floor," said John. " I am going to have some boards for runners, and I must leave them out of doors where the sky can shine on them in the night, and frost them over."
" You can't get boards long enough," said Luly. "It is a great way from here to the door."
" You will see how I shall manage," said John.
So John went out to the shed, and from a pile of boards of various widths and lengths, which had been piled up there to be sawed and split up for kindling-wood, he selected four pieces, - each four or five feet long, - and carried them out and laid them down upon the grass, where, as he expressed it, the sky at night might " shine " on them.
The word shine was not, it must be confessed, exactly the one to use for the purpose, but John was led to use it from the fact that his uncle Edward had told him that the dew upon the ground in summer, and the frost in the fall .and winter, were produced by the influence of the cold sky which chilled the ground and the roofs of the houses, and everything else exposed to it, just as the sun warmed all surfaces thus exposed to his shining in the daytime.
And just as the foliage of a tree or the covering of a tent keeps the ground under them from becoming warm at noon by intercepting the beams of the sun, so the same things at night would keep the dew or the frost from forming under them, by protecting them from the chilling influence of the sky.
The influence of clouds is the same too in both cases. Just as the clouds keep the earth from becoming very warm in the daytime by shutting out the sun, so they keep it from growing very cold at night by shutting out the sky.
John spread his four boards about upon the ground, where they would be fully exposed to the sky, and left them there.
" They are not long enough, I am sure," said Luly. " You never can get from the place where the stove is to the door, with only those four little boards."
" You will see," said John.
Everything being thus arranged, John and Benny bade their cousins good-bye, and went home.
They only had to wait two days for the frost. One evening when John went to bed, he observed that the night was very cold and the sky was clear. So he had no doubt that he should find the ground covered with frost in the morning. He arose quite early, and found it was as he expected. The ground and the roofs were all white. He awoke Benny, and they both dressed themselves as quick as they could, and then went to their cousin's.
They found Mary and Luly both ready and expecting them, and they all proceeded at once to the back-room. John went out into the yard and brought in his four boards, which were all white with the millions of icy crystals that had formed upon them during the night, out of the moisture floating in the air just above them.
He brought the boards in, one at a time. He put one on each side of the sled, close to the runner, and then while he pried up the runners, one at a time, Benny put the boards under.
John then laid down the other two boards in front of the runners, one before each, and in a line with them, like the rails of a railroad before the locomotive, - only these boards were so short that they ex- tended only a very little way.
" I told you your boards would not be half long enough to reach to the door," said Luly.
John said nothing, but taking hold of the rope he drew the sled forward from the first pair of boards to the second, and when the first pair were free he took them up, one by one, and brought them round and placed them before the sled, and then drew it along upon them.
"Oh," said Luly, "that is the way you are going to do it. I knew the boards would not be long enough to reach to the door in one length, and I told you so."
" Yes," said John, " and you were right in your calculation."
The boards were very cold, but as John had his mittens on he had no difficulty in handling them, and very soon he got the tiled to the door. Here, of course, there were steps to go down, in order to get to the yard.
"Now what are you going to do ? " asked Luly.
John said there was no need of the frosted boards to go down the steps, for the descent was so steep that the sled would go of itself.
" Indeed," said he, " what I am afraid of is that it will go down too fast, unless I contrive some way to hold back."
The stove, as it happened, was laid upon the sled in such a manner that the legs projected behind, and the pair that were uppermost were in about the right position to serve as handles. So John went behind and took hold of these, while the others pulled by the rope before. In this manner the load was let down the steps easily and gently to the ground.
The children found that the runners to the sled would slip very easily over the frosty grass. The other three could draw it without any difficulty without John. So John sent them forward with the load, while he put back the boards which he had used for ways, upon the pile from which he had taken them. Then taking the two bars in his hand, he went on and overtook the others, and they all went together along the lane.
Of course they did not go in the beaten path, but along the side of it, upon the grass, for the runners went much more smoothly upon the grass than upon the ground. They soon arrived at the hut, and there, by means of the two bars for levers, they easily pried the stove off from the sled, after first untying and unwinding the rope which bound it, and then worked it along to its place.
Here it had to be blocked up by means of bricks placed under the legs, so as to bring the collar behind to the right level for being inserted into the short piece of stove-pipe which had been built into the wall, and this being accomplished, the work was done.
It was time then for them all to go home to breakfast, but they came back that very day and built a fire in their stove, to see bow the arrangement would work. They found that it worked admirably well. The fire burned nicely, and the smoke of it was carried out through the pipe into the flue of the chimney, and so up into the outer air, and thus the atmosphere within was left clear and pleasant to breathe.
That same day, too, the children enlarged the hearth to their stove, by wheeling in a large quantity of coarse sand which they dug out of a bank, and spreading this sand around and under the stove, so as to fill up the space there level with the iron hearth, and then embedding some large flat stones in the sand,-one in front, and one on each of the two sides.
They also spread some straw down over the rest of the floor of the hut, which aided very much in giving the interior a warm and comfortable appearance.
" Only," said John, " when we go away we must be careful to put the fire out, or at least rake it up well; for if this straw should get on fire, it would make a conflagration."
The children used this hut a great deal in the course of the autumn, especially on cold and windy days, when it was not comfortable playing out of doors. They made beechnut candy several times, and at one time they brought out some bread, and potatoes and apples, and butter and sugar, and played farmer. While Mary and Luly, who played that they were the farmer's wife and daughter, remained in the house and stewed the apples to make apple-sauce, and roasted the potatoes and toasted the bread, John and Benny went into the thickets in the neighborhood and gathered wood, which they hauled to the hut on their sleds over the frosty grass, and piled it up in a long pile near the front opening.
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