“There,” I said, “I agree with you completely.”
His face lighted up, and he continued eagerly:
“And I tell ’em: You just go ahead and try for heaven; don’t pay any attention to all this talk about everlasting punishment.”
“Good advice!” I said.
It had begun to grow dark. The brown cow was quiet at last. We could hear small faint sounds from the calf. I started slowly through the bracken. Mr. Purdy hung at my elbow, stumbling sideways as he walked, but continuing to talk eagerly. So we came to the place where the calf lay. I spoke in a low voice:
“So boss, so boss.”
I would have laid my hand on her neck but she started back with a wild toss of her horns. It was a beautiful calf! I looked at it with a peculiar feeling of exultation, pride, ownership. It was red-brown, with a round curly pate and one white leg. As it lay curled there among the ferns, it was really beautiful to look at. When we approached, it did not so much as stir. I lifted it to its legs, upon which the cow uttered a strange half-wild cry and ran a few steps off, her head thrown in the air. The calf fell back as though it had no legs.
“She is telling it not to stand up,” said Mr. Purdy.
I had been afraid at first that something was the matter!
“Some are like that,” he said. “Some call their calves to run. Others won’t let you come near ’em at all; and I’ve even known of a case where a cow gored its calf to death rather than let anyone touch it.”
I looked at Mr. Purdy not without a feeling of admiration. This was a thing he knew: a language not taught in the universities. How well it became him to know it; how simply he expressed it! I thought to myself: There are not many men in this world, after all, that it will not pay us to go to school to—for something or other.
I should never have been able, indeed, to get the cow and calf home, last night at least, if it had not been for my chance friend. He knew exactly what to do and how to do it. He wore a stout coat of denim, rather long in the skirts. This he slipped off, while I looked on in some astonishment, and spread it out on the ground. He placed my staff under one side of it and found another stick nearly the same size for the other side. These he wound into the coat until he had made a sort of stretcher. Upon this we placed the unresisting calf. What a fine one it was! Then, he in front and I behind, we carried the stretcher and its burden out of the wood. The cow followed, sometimes threatening, sometimes bellowing, sometimes starting off wildly, head and tail in the air, only to rush back and, venturing up with trembling muscles, touch her tongue to the calf, uttering low maternal sounds.
“Keep steady,” said Mr. Purdy, “and everything’ll be all right.”
When we came to the brook we stopped to rest. I think my companion would have liked to start his argument again, but he was too short of breath.