作者：Bacheller, Irving, 1859-1950
格式: AZW3, DOCX, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, TXT
Darrel of the Blessed Isles试读：
DARREL OF THE BLESSED ISLES
Yonder up in the hills are men and women, white-haired, who love to tell of that time when the woods came to the door-step and God's cattle fed on the growing corn. Where, long ago, they sowed their youth and strength, they see their sons reaping, but now, bent with age, they have ceased to gather save in the far fields of memory. Every day they go down the long, well-trodden path and come back with hearts full. They are as children plucking the meadows of June. Sit with them awhile, and they will gather for you the unfading flowers of joy and love—good sir! the world is full of them. And should they mention Trove or a certain clock tinker that travelled from door to door in the olden time, send your horse to the stable and God-speed them!—it is a long tale, and you may listen far into the night.
"See the big pines there in the dale yonder?" some one will ask. "Well, Theron Allen lived there, an' across the pond, that's where the moss trail came out and where you see the cow-path—that's near the track of the little red sleigh."
Then—the tale and its odd procession coming out of the far past.
The Story of the Little Red Sleigh
It was in 1835, about mid-winter, when Brier Dale was a narrow clearing, and the horizon well up in the sky and to anywhere a day's journey.
Down by the shore of the pond, there, Allen built his house. To-day, under thickets of tansy, one may see the rotting logs, and there are hollyhocks and catnip in the old garden. He was from Middlebury, they say, and came west—he and his wife—in '29. From the top of the hill above Allen's, of a clear day, one could look far across the tree-tops, over distant settlements that were as blue patches in the green canopy of the forest, over hill and dale to the smoky chasm of the St. Lawrence thirty miles north. The Allens had not a child; they settled with no thought of school or neighbour. They brought a cow with them and a big collie whose back had been scarred by a lynx. He was good company and a brave hunter, this dog; and one day—it was February, four years after their coming, and the snow lay deep—he left the dale and not even a track behind him. Far and wide they went searching, but saw no sign of him. Near a month later, one night, past twelve o'clock, they heard his bark in the distance. Allen rose and lit a candle and opened the door. They could hear him plainer, and now, mingled with his barking, a faint tinkle of bells.
It had begun to thaw, and a cold rain was drumming on roof and window.
"He's crossing the pond," said Allen, as he listened. "He's dragging some heavy thing over the ice."
Soon he leaped in at the door, the little red sleigh bouncing after him. The dog was in shafts and harness. Over the sleigh was a tiny cover of sail-cloth shaped like that of a prairie schooner. Bouncing over the door-step had waked its traveller, and there was a loud voice of complaint in the little cavern of sail-cloth. Peering in, they saw only the long fur of a gray wolf. Beneath it a very small boy lay struggling with straps that held him down. Allen loosed them and took him out of the sleigh, a ragged but handsome youngster with red cheeks and blue eyes and light, curly hair. He was near four years of age then, but big and strong as any boy of five. He stood rubbing his eyes a minute, and the dog came over and licked his face, showing fondness acquired they knew not where. Mrs. Allen took the boy in her lap and petted him, but he was afraid—like a wild fawn that has just been captured—and broke away and took refuge under the bed. A long time she sat by her bedside with the candle, showing him trinkets and trying to coax him out. He ceased to cry when she held before him a big, shiny locket of silver, and soon his little hand came out to grasp it. Presently she began to reach his confidence with sugar. There was a moment of silence, then strange words came out of his hiding-place. "Anah jouhan" was all they could make of them, and they remembered always that odd combination of sounds. They gave him food, which he ate with eager haste. Then a moment of silence and an imperative call for more in some strange tongue. When at last he came out of his hiding-place, he fled from the woman. This time he sought refuge between the knees of Allen, where soon his fear gave way to curiosity, and he began to feel her face and gown. By and by he fell asleep.
They searched the sleigh and shook out the robe and blanket, finding only a pair of warm bricks.
A Frenchman worked for the Allens that winter, and the name, Trove, was of his invention.
And so came Sidney Trove, his mind in strange fetters, travelling out of the land of mystery, in a winter night, to Brier Dale.
The Crystal City and the Traveller
The wind, veering, came bitter cold; the rain hardened to hail; the clouds, changed to brittle nets of frost, and shaken to shreds by the rough wind, fell hissing in a scatter of snow. Next morning when Allen opened his door the wind was gone, the sky clear. Brier Pond, lately covered with clear ice, lay under a blanket of snow. He hurried across the pond, his dog following. Near the far shore was a bare spot on the ice cut by one of the sleigh-runners. Up in the woods, opposite, was the Moss Trail. Sunlight fell on the hills above him. He halted, looking up at the tree-tops. Twig, branch, and trunk glowed with the fire of diamonds through a lacy necking of hoar frost. Every tree had put on a jacket of ice and become as a fountain of prismatic hues. Here and there a dead pine rose like a spire of crystal; domes of deep-coloured glass and towers of jasper were as the landmarks of a city. Allen climbed the shore, walking slowly. He could see no track of sleigh or dog or any living thing. A frosted, icy tangle of branches arched the trail—a gateway of this great, crystal city of the woods. He entered, listening as he walked. Branches of hazel and dogwood were like jets of water breaking into clear, halted drops and foamy spray above him. He went on, looking up at this long sky-window of the woods. In the deep silence he could hear his heart beating.
"Sport," .said he to the dog, "show me the way;" but the dog only wagged his tail.
Allen returned to the house.
"Wife," said he, "look at the woods yonder. They are like the city of holy promise. 'Behold I will lay thy stones with fair colours and thy foundations with sapphires, and I will make thy windows of agate.'"
"Did you find the track of the little sleigh?" said she.
"No," he answered, "nor will any man, for all paths are hidden."
"Theron—may we keep the boy?" she inquired.
"I think it is the will of God," said Allen.
The boy grew and throve in mind and body. For a time he prattled in a language none who saw him were able to comprehend. But he learned English quickly and soon forgot the jargon of his babyhood. The shadows of mystery that fell over his coming lengthened far into his life and were deepened by others that fell across them. Before he could have told the story, all memory of whom he left or whence he came had been swept away. It was a house of riddles where Allen dwelt—a rude thing of logs and ladders and a low roof and two rooms. Yet one ladder led high to glories no pen may describe. The Allens, with this rude shelter, found delight in dreams of an eternal home whose splendour and luxury would have made them miserable here below. What a riddle was this! And then, as to the boy Sid, there was the riddle of his coming, and again that of his character, which latter was, indeed, not easy to solve. There were few books and no learning in that home. For three winters Trove tramped a trail to the schoolhouse two miles away, and had no further schooling until he was a big, blond boy of fifteen, with red cheeks, and eyes large, blue, and discerning, and hands hardened to the axe helve. He had then discovered the beauty of the woods and begun to study the wild folk that live in holes and thickets. He had a fine face. You would have called him handsome, but not they among whom he lived. With them handsome was as handsome did, and the face of a man, if it were cleanly, was never a proper cause of blame or compliment. But there was that in his soul, which even now had waked the mother's wonder and set forth a riddle none were able to solve.
The Clock Tinker
The harvesting was over in Brier Dale. It was near dinner-time, and Allen, Trove, and the two hired men were trying feats in the dooryard. Trove, then a boy of fifteen, had outdone them all at the jumping. A stranger came along, riding a big mare with a young filly at her side. He was a tall, spare man, past middle age, with a red, smooth-shaven face and long, gray hair that fell to his rolling collar. He turned in at the gate. A little beyond it his mare halted for a mouthful of grass. The stranger unslung a strap that held a satchel to his side and hung it on the pommel.
"Go and ask what we can do for him," Allen whispered to the boy.
Trove went down the drive, looking up at him curiously.
"What can I do for you?" he inquired.
"Give me thy youth," said the stranger, quickly, his gray eyes twinkling under silvered brows.
The boy, now smiling, made no answer.
"No?" said the man, as he came on slowly. "Well, then, were thy wit as good as thy legs it would be o' some use to me."
The words were spoken with dignity in a deep, kindly tone. They were also faintly salted with Irish brogue.
He approached the men, all eyes fixed upon him with a look of inquiry.
"Have ye ever seen a drunken sailor on a mast?" he inquired of> Allen,>
"Well, sor," said the stranger, dismounting slowly, "I am not that.> Let me consider—have ye ever seen a cocoanut on a plum tree?">
"I believe not," said Allen, laughing.
"Well, sor, that is more like me. 'Tis long since I rode a horse, an' am out o' place in the saddle."
He stood erect with dignity, a smile deepening the many lines in his face.
"Can I do anything for you?" Allen asked.
"Ay—cure me o' poverty—have ye any clocks to mend?"
"Clocks! Are you a tinker?" said Allen.
"I am, sor, an' at thy service. Could beauty, me lord, have better commerce than with honesty?"
They all surveyed him with curiosity and amusement as he tied the mare.
All had begun to laugh. His words came rapidly on a quick undercurrent of good nature. A clock sounded the stroke of midday.
"What, ho! The clock," said he, looking at his watch. "Thy time hath a lagging foot, Marry, were I that slow, sor, I'd never get to Heaven."
"Mother," said Allen, going to the doorstep, "here is a tinker, and he says the clock is slow."
"It seems to be out of order." said his wife, coming to the step.
"Seems, madam, nay, it is," said the stranger. "Did ye mind the stroke of it?"
"No," said she.
"Marry, 'twas like the call of a dying man."
Allen thought a moment as he whittled.
"Had I such a stroke on me I'd—I'd think I was parralyzed," the stranger added.
"You'd better fix it then," said Allen.
"Thou art wise, good man," said the stranger. "Mind the two hands on the clock an' keep them to their pace or they'll beckon thee to poverty."
The clock was brought to the door-step and all gathered about him as he went to work.
"Ye know a power o' scripter," said one of the hired men.
"Scripter," said the tinker, laughing. "I do, sor, an' much of it according to the good Saint William. Have ye never read Shakespeare?"
None who sat before him knew anything of the immortal bard.
"He writ a book 'bout Dan'l Boone an' the Injuns," a hired man ventured.
"'Angels an' ministers o' grace defend us!'" the tinker exclaimed,
"I'll give ye a riddle," said the tinker, turning to him.
"How is it the clock can keep a sober face?"
"It has no ears," Trove answered.
"Right," said the old tinker, smiling. "Thou art a knowing youth. Read Shakespeare, boy—a little of him three times a day for the mind's sake. I've travelled far in lonely places and needed no other company."
"Ever in India?" Trove inquired. He had been reading of that far land.
"I was, sor," the stranger continued, rubbing a wheel. "I was five years in India, sor, an' part o' the time fighting as hard as ever a man could fight."
"Fighting!" said Trove, much interested.
"I was, sor," he asserted, oiling a pinion of the old clock.
"On which side?"
"Inside an' outside."
"I did, sor; three kinds o' them,—fever, fleas, an' the divvle."
"Give us some more Shakespeare," said the boy, smiling.
The tinker rubbed his spectacles thoughtfully, and, as he resumed his work, a sounding flood of tragic utterance came out of him—the great soliloquies of Hamlet and Macbeth and Richard III and Lear and Antony, all said with spirit and appreciation. The job finished, they bade him put up for dinner.
"A fine colt!" said Allen, as they were on their way to the stable.
"It is, sor," said the tinker, "a most excellent breed o' horses."
"The grandsire from the desert of Arabia, where Allah created the horse out o' the south wind. See the slender flanks of the Barbary? See her eye?"
He seemed to talk in that odd strain for the mere joy of it, and there was in his voice the God-given vanity of bird or poet.
He had caught the filly by her little plume and stood patting her forehead.
"A wonderful thing, sor, is the horse's eye," he continued. "A glance! an' they know if ye be kind or cruel. Sweet Phyllis! Her eyelids are as bows; her lashes like the beard o' the corn. Have ye ever heard the three prayers o' the horse?"
"No," said Allen.
"Well, three times a day, sor, he prays, so they say, in the desert. In the morning he thinks a prayer like this, 'O Allah! make me beloved o' me master.' At noon, 'Do well by me master that he may do well by me.' At even, 'O Allah! grant, at last, I may bear me master into Paradise.'
"An' the Arab, sor, he looks for a hard ride an' many jumps in the last journey, an' is kind to him all the days of his life, sor, so he may be able to make it."
For a moment he led her up and down at a quick trot, her dainty feet touching the earth lightly as a fawn's.
"Thou'rt made for the hot leagues o' the great sand sea," said he, patting her head. "Ah! thy neck shall be as the bowsprit; thy dust as the flying spray."
"In one thing you are like Isaiah," said Allen, as he whittled.> "The Lord God hath given thee the tongue of the learned.">
"An' if he grant me the power to speak a word in season to him that is weary, I shall be content," said the tinker.
Dinner over, they came out of doors. The stranger stood filling his pipe. Something in his talk and manner had gone deep into the soul of the boy, who now whispered a moment with his father.
"Would you sell the filly?" said Allen. "My boy would like to own her."
"What, ho, the boy! the beautiful boy! An' would ye love her, boy?" the tinker asked.
"Yes, sir," the boy answered quickly,
"An' put a ribbon in her forelock, an' a coat o' silk on her back, an', mind ye, a man o' kindness in the saddle?"
"Then take thy horse, an' Allah grant thou be successful on her as many times as there be hairs in her skin."
"And the price?" said Allen.
"Name it, an' I'll call thee just."
The business over, the tinker called to Trove, who had led the filly to her stall,—
"You, there, strike the tents. Bring me the mare. This very day she may bear me to forgiveness."
Trove brought the mare.
"Remember," said the old man, turning as he rode away, "in the day o' the last judgment God 'll mind the look o' thy horse."
He rode on a few steps and halted, turning in the saddle.
"Thou, too, Phyllis," he called. "God 'll mind the look o' thy master; see that ye bring him safe."
The little filly began to rear and call, the mother to answer. For days she called and trembled, with wet eyes, listening for the voice that still answered, though out of hearing, far over the hills. And Trove, too, was lonely, and there was a kind of longing in his heart for the music in that voice of the stranger.
The Uphill Road
For Trove it was a day of sowing. The strange old tinker had filled his heart with a new joy and a new desire. Next morning he got a ride to Hillsborough—fourteen miles—and came back, reading, as he walked, a small, green book, its thin pages covered thick with execrably fine printing, its title "The Works of Shakespeare." He read the book industriously and with keen pleasure. Allen complained, shortly, that Shakespeare and the filly had interfered with the potatoes and the corn.
The filly ceased to take food and sickened for a time after the dam left her. Trove lay in the stall nights and gave her milk sweetened to her liking. She grew strong and playful, and forgot her sorrow, and began to follow him like a dog on his errands up and down the farm. Trove went to school in the autumn—"Select school," it was called. A two-mile journey it was, by trail, but a full three by the wagon road. He learned only a poor lesson the first day, for, on coming in sight of the schoolhouse, he heard a rush of feet behind him and saw his filly charging down the trail. He had to go back with her and lose the day, a thought dreadful to him, for now hope was high, and school days few and precious. At first he was angry. Then he sat among the ferns, covering his face and sobbing with sore resentment. The little filly stood over him and rubbed her silky muzzle on his neck, and kicked up her heels in play as he pushed her back. Next morning he put her behind a fence, but she went over it with the ease of a wild deer and came bounding after him. When, at last, she was shut in the box-stall he could hear her calling, half a mile away, and it made his heart sore. Soon after, a moose treed him on the trail and held him there for quite half a day. Later he had to help thrash and was laid up with the measles. Then came rain and flooded flats that turned him off the trail. Years after he used to say that work and weather, and sickness and distance, and even the beasts of the field and wood, resisted him in the way of learning.
He went to school at Hillsborough that winter. His time, which Allen gave him in the summer, had yielded some forty-five dollars. He hired a room at thirty-five cents a week. Mary Allen bought him a small stove and sent to him, in the sleigh, dishes, a kettle, chair, bed, pillow, and quilt, and a supply of candles.
She surveyed him proudly, as he was going away that morning in> December,>
"Folks may call ye han'some," she said. "They'd like to make fool of ye, but you go on 'bout yer business an' act as if ye didn't hear."
He had a figure awkward, as yet, but fast shaping to comeliness. Long, light hair covered the tops of his ears and fell to his collar. His ruddy cheeks were a bit paler that morning; the curve in his lips a little drawn; his blue eyes had begun to fill and the dimple in his chin to quiver, slightly, as he kissed her who had been as a mother to him. But he went away laughing.
Many have seen the record in his diary of those lank and busy days.> The Saturday of his first week at school he wrote as follows:—>
"Father brought me a small load of wood and a sack of potatoes yesterday, so, after this, I shall be able to live cheaper. My expenses this week have been as follows:—
Rent 35 cents> Corn meal 14 "> Milk 20 "> Bread 8 "> Beef bone 5 "> Honey 5 "> Four potatoes, about 1 "> —> 88 cents.>
"Two boys who have a room on the same floor got through the week for 75 cents apiece, but they are both undersized and don't eat as hearty. This week I was tempted by the sight of honey and was fool enough to buy a little which I didn't need. I have some meal left and hope next week to get through for 80 cents. I wish I could have a decent necktie, but conscience doth make cowards of us all. I have committed half the first act of 'Julius Caesar.'"
And yet, with pudding and milk and beef bone and four potatoes and> "Julius Caesar" the boy was cheerful.>
"Don't like meat any more—it's mostly poor stuff anyway," he said to his father, who had come to see him.
"Sorry—I brought down a piece o' venison," said Allen.
"Well, there's two kinds o' meat," said the boy; "what ye can have, that's good, an' what ye can't have, that ain't worth havin'."
He got a job in the mill for every Saturday at 75 cents a day, and soon thereafter was able to have a necktie and a pair of fine boots, and a barber, now and then, to control the length of his hair.
Trove burnt the candles freely and was able but never brilliant in his work that year, owing, as all who knew him agreed, to great modesty and small confidence. He was a kindly, big-hearted fellow, and had wit and a knowledge of animals and of woodcraft that made him excellent company. That schoolboy diary has been of great service to all with a wish to understand him. On a faded leaf in the old book one may read as follows:—
"I have received letters in the handwriting of girls, unsigned. They