“But suppose your house fall upon you,” Trove suggested.
“I speak not o’ common perils,” said the tinker. “But enough—let’s up with the sail. Heave ho! an’ away for the Blessed Isles. Which shall it be?”
He turned to a rude shelf, whereon were books,—near a score,—some worn to rags.
“What if it be yon fair Isle o’ Milton?” he inquired, lifting an old volume.
“Let’s to the Isle o’ Milton,” Trove answered.
“Well, go to one o’ the clocks there, an’ set it back,” said the tinker.
“How much?” Trove inquired with a puzzled look.
“Well, a matter o’ two hundred years,” said Darrel, who was now turning the leaves. “List ye, boy, we’re up to the shore an’ hard by the city gates. How sweet the air o’ this enchanted isle!
“’And west winds with musky
Down the cedarn alleys fling
Nard and cassia’s balmy smells.’”
He quoted thoughtfully, turning the leaves. Then he read the shorter poems,—a score of them,—his voice sounding the noble music of the lines. It was revelation for those raw youths and led them high. They forgot the passing of the hours and till near midnight were as those gone to a strange country. And they long remembered that night with Darrel of the Blessed Isles.
Dust of Diamonds in the Hour-glass
The axe of Theron Allen had opened the doors of the wilderness. One by one the great trees fell thundering and were devoured by fire. Now sheep and cattle were grazing on the bare hills. Around the house he left a thicket of fir trees that howled ever as the wind blew, as if “because the mighty were spoiled.” Neighbours had come near; every summer great rugs of grain, vari-hued, lay over hill and dale.
Allen bad prospered, and begun to speculate in cattle. Every year late in April he went to Canada for a drove and sent them south—a great caravan that filled the road for half a mile or more, tramping wearily under a cloud of dust. He sold a few here and there, as the drove went on—a far journey, often, to the sale of the last lot.
The drove came along one morning about the middle of May, 1847. Trove met them at the four corners on Caraway Pike. Then about sixteen years of age, he made his first long journey into the world with Allen’s drove. He had his time that summer and fifty cents for driving. It was an odd business, and for the boy full of new things.
A man went ahead in a buckboard wagon that bore provisions. One worked in the middle and two behind. Trove was at the heels of the first section. It was easy work after the cattle got used to the road and a bit leg weary. They stopped them for water at the creeks and rivers; slowed them down to browse or graze awhile at noontime; and when the sun was low, if they were yet in a land of fences, he of the horse and wagon hurried on to get pasturage for the night.