Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

it was impossible to distinguish the sound of groaning timbers, for the ears were filled with the rush of the elements. It was like the roar and surging of a mighty

ocean.

one side

We were glad that we were not the first inhabitants, for we should have thought that the earth had slipped her orbit and was rushing through space, or that the Last Judgment was about to be ushered in. Being in the house, we could see out a few yards on

the side from which the storm did not come. On the other three sides, the snow beat and came in (though the house is close and tight), and went halfway across the schoolroom. It hung in a beautiful fringe, several inches long, from the drying-rope stretched across the room, and festooned the maps on the walls, and finally blocked up the windows till they were as impenetrable as snow-banks.

It was a comfort to us to believe, as we then did, that this greatest of all the blizzards had set in as early in other camps as in ours, and that no human being was exposed to its fury. No sun had risen over our heads on that day, and we had rung no school-bell; we could not know that bells were ringing from many a prairie schoolhouse, and that the fair promise of the day was luring men, women, and children to their doom. We were gazing, awestruck but calm, from our window, and saying that we wished for a photographer to picture forth the arctic interior of a government schoolhouse in a Dakota blizzard, and for an artist, great in portraying Nature's moods, to immortalize on canvas the tempest-tossed prairie without.

On the afternoon preceding this destructive day, no

snow fell, but the force of the wind was so great that it lifted up from the boundless prairie the accumulated drifts of weeks, and carried them along in great waves, so that the whole earth seemed in motion and rising heavenward. The outline of these vast billows and the intervening troughs, as seen against the horizon, was the most impressive sight that had ever met our eyes.

On the morning of the 13th, the mercury registered twenty-five degrees below zero, and the wind was blowing cruelly. The drifts between us and the village were so deep that we thought it unsafe to ring for the children. But they came over the half mile, through drifts waistdeep to large children, and the two faithful policemen, Stiff Arm and Cut Foot, came to see how we had got through the blizzard. (Cut Foot's name was a sore trouble to us when first we came to these Indians. When I called him or spoke to him, Cut Throat seemed invariably to slip off my tongue. Lilia objected seriously, but it was not till after some very plain words and several private rehearsals, that I finally got the right name fixed in my head.)

The schoolroom was not to be thought of on that bitter day, and we brought the children and the policemen into our bedroom to thaw out. We ran the mercury up to one hundred and ten degrees within two feet of the stove; at a distance of eight feet, it was ninety-five degrees lower. Not one of the children uttered a sound of complaint; but the big tears rolled silently down the swollen cheeks of one of the little girls when the genial warmth of the room began to make her comfortable.

Presently the third policeman, One Feather, rode up from the Agency, fifteen miles distant. His nose was

[ocr errors]

badly frosted, and his usually thin face was swollen past recognition. As he had assured us, on our first coming, that he wished to be a “sister” to us, we put him in the warmest corner.

Our fifteen-mile-off neighbor, the young teacher at the next camp, stepped in one evening to ask if we could give him a bed for the night. He had been trying all day to get to his camp, and had consumed four hours in traveling one mile and a half. His plucky little Indian pony dragged the wagon through the heavy drifts by main force, the wheels not turning, and the horse waddling where he could not walk. The faithful creature was quite exhausted. A sheet of ice inclosed his nose, and an icicle more than a foot long hung from it. This gentle animal, during the blizzard of the twelfth, not only broke his halter, but pawed down a thick stabledoor, with hinges a foot long. His master went out into the storm to see how he was faring. He spent two hours looking for him, though he was only a few yards away. When found, he was a mass of ice, his eyes nearly closed by it, and a giant icicle hanging from his nose. Mr. Warner's own eyelashes froze every time he winked, and he had to hold his hand to his face and send the hot breath up to them before he could open them again. We hear that this is common enough in Dakota, but Lilia and I don't stay out long enough to wink.

MY REAL ESTATE

THE CONTRIBUTORS' CLUB

Most of us cherish a more or less concealed desire to own some one special object just beyond our financial reach. Perhaps you have always wanted a steam yacht; your neighbor confessed to me the other night that from boyhood he had longed to possess a locomotive. “What a king among pets that would be!” he exclaimed; then laughed, shamefacedly, to assure me that he was joking. But I had seen the gleam in his eyes, and knew he meant it. I have a friend whose modest salary barely suffices for the support of the family; and I happen to know that his dearest ambition for years has been to own a Kelmscott Chaucer. If the prices for the output of that celebrated press continue to fall, as they have fallen in recent auctions, his wish may yet be gratified. With this preamble, let me confess that my pet desire has long been to possess a piece of real estate; and that I am now actually a real-estate owner — in an odd kind

of way.

This is how it happened. At the foot of a certain slope of rough pasture-land, in one of the southern counties of Maine, is a brook where I often fished when a boy. So familiar to me are its banks, that on sleepless nights I have more than once fished the stream, in memory, for a mile or more, recalling every rapid, pool, and mimic cascade, and pausing now and then to

take a trout from the spots where in the old days I was surest of success. My father was my chosen companion for these little fishing excursions; and when at last we had wound up our lines, and shouldered or thrown away our rods (cut from some alders at the brookside), we made our way wearily but happily back, up the rising ground, through tangled thickets of pine and juniper and sweet-fern, fragrant in the hot forenoon sunshine, toward the old farmhouse, a mile away.

Half-way to the house, the path brought us to a huge pine, some six feet in diameter, standing by itself on a grassy hillock of the pasture. Here, in the grateful shade of the far-spreading green boughs, with their soft music above us, we always threw ourselves down on the grass and rested before resuming our journey homeward. It is many years since that dear and gentle comrade passed from my sight; but at long intervals I find time to fish the little trout-stream, to inhale the fragrance of the sweet-fern, and to pause under the old pine and listen to its songs of eternity.

Not long ago I heard that the owner of the pasture had decided to sell that tree to a lumber firm. My resolve was quickly taken. Would he accept – I named a small sum — and leave the tree standing, as my sole property? Well, he “reckoned he would. 'T was more 'n the lumber company offered.” The money was paid down and the deed was solemnly drawn up, signed, sealed, and passed. The pine tree was, and is, my own, and constitutes my sole “real” possession. Just what my legal rights are in the premises, I am sure I do not know. Not an inch of the surrounding land is mine only the tree, above and below ground: the great,

« ElőzőTovább »