Such were the sentiments that Damie expressed one Sunday in Mossbrook Wood, when Barefoot came out to the charcoal-burner’s to bring her brother yeast, and meal, and tobacco. She wanted to show him how—in addition to the general charcoal-burner’s fare, which consists of bread baked with yeast—he might make the dumplings he prepared for himself taste better. But Damie would not listen to her; he said he preferred to have them just as they were—he rather liked to swallow bad food when he might have had better; and altogether, he derived a kind of satisfaction from self-neglect, until he should some day be decked out as a soldier.
Barefoot fought against this continual looking forward to a future time, and this loss of time in the present. She was always wanting to put some life into Damie, who rather enjoyed being indolent and pitying himself. Indeed, he seemed to find a sort of satisfaction in his downward course, for it gave him an opportunity to pity himself to his heart’s content, and did not require him to make any physical exertion. With great difficulty Barefoot managed to prevail so far that he at least bought an ax of his own out of his earnings; and it was his father’s ax, which Coaly Mathew had bought at the auction in the old days.
Barefoot often came back out of the Wood in profound despair, but this state of mind never lasted long. Her inward confidence in herself, and the natural cheerfulness that was in her, involuntarily burst forth from her lips in song; and anybody who did not know her, would never have thought that Barefoot either had a care then, or ever had had one in all her life.
The satisfaction arising from the feeling that she was sturdily and untiringly doing her duty, and acting as a Samaritan to Black Marianne and Damie, impressed an indelible cheerfulness on her countenance; in the whole house there was no one who could laugh so heartily as Barefoot. Old Farmer Rodel declared that her laughter sounded like the song of a quail, and because she was always serviceable and respectful to him, he gave her to understand that he would remember her in his will. Barefoot did not pay much attention to this or build much upon it; she looked only for the wages to which she had a true and honest claim; and what she did, she did from an inward feeling of benevolence, without expectation of reward.
“SACK AND AX”
Scheckennarre’s house was duly rebuilt, and in handsomer style than before; and the winter came, and with it the drawing for recruits. Never had there been greater lamentation over a “lucky number” than arose when Damie drew one and was declared exempt. He was in complete despair, and Barefoot almost shared his grief; for she looked upon this soldiering as a capital method of setting Damie up, and of breaking him of his slovenly habits. Still she said to him:
“Take this as a sign that you are to depend upon yourself now, and to be a man; for you still behave like a little child that can’t shift for itself and has to be fed.”