It was remarked among them that they did not hear his rifle in the forests, and nobody had presents of wild turkeys and venison, as they sometimes had, and he was in his own silent way shaping out his own destiny.
He received a letter from Henry in reply to his own, full of kindness, with such hints as the elder could give as to his course of study. His observing mother saw at once a marked change in his manner and words. Thoughtful and forbearing, his arrogance disappeared, and his impetuous, dashing way evidently toned down, while he was more tender towards her, and seemed to fall naturally into the place of an elder brother—careful and gentle to the young boys.
A ramble in the woods, and what came of it.
Already the summer had deepened and ripened into autumn. The sky had a darker tint, and the breeze had a plaintive note in its voice; and here and there the footprints of change were in the tree-tops.
On one of those serene, deep afternoons, Barton, who had been importuned by the boys to go into the woods in pursuit of a flock of turkeys, that George had over and over declared “could be found just out south, and which were just as thick and fat as anything,” yielded, and, taking his rifle, started out, accompanied by them, in high glee. George’s declaration about the turkeys was, without much difficulty, verified, and Bart, who was a practised hunter, and knew all the habits of the shy and difficult bird, managed in a short time to secure two. He felt an old longing for a good, long, lonely ramble, and directed the boys, who were in ecstacies at his skill and the result, to carry the game back to their mother, while he went out to the Slashing, adding that if he did not come back until into the night, they might know he had gone to the pond, to meet the Doctor and a fishing-party; and with a good-natured admonition from George, to look out for that wolverine that haunted the Slashing, they separated.
The “Slashing” was a large tract of fallen timber, all of which had been cut down years before, and left to decay as it fell. Near this, and to the east, an old roadway had been cut, leading south, which was often used by the neighbors to go from the Ridgeley neighborhood to settlements skirting the eastern border of “the woods” before mentioned. Still further east, and surrounded by forest, on a small stream, was Coe’s carding machine and fulling mill, to which a by-way led from the State road, at a point near Parker’s. The Coes, a shiftless, harmless set, lived much secluded, and were often the objects of charity, and as such somewhat under the patronage of Mrs. Markham and Julia; and some of her young friends were occasionally attracted there for a ramble among the rocks and springs, from which Coe’s creek, a little stream, arose. From the old road a path led to the fields of Judge Markham, about a fourth of a mile distant, which was the shortest route from his house to Coe’s.