Uncle Peabody made no answer, but sat looking forward thoughtfully and tapping the dashboard with his whipstock, and we rode on in a silence broken only by the creak of the evener and the sound of the horses’ hoofs in the sand.
In the middle of the great cedar swamp near Little River Aunt Deel got out the lunch basket and I sat down on the buggy bottom between their legs and leaning against the dash. So disposed we ate our luncheon of fried cakes and bread and butter and maple sugar and cheese. The road was a straight alley through the evergreen forest, and its grateful shadow covered us. When we had come out into the hot sunlight by the Hale farm both my aunt and uncle complained of headache. What an efficient cure for good health were the doughnuts and cheese and sugar, especially if they were mixed with the idleness of a Sunday. I had a headache also and soon fell asleep.
The sun was low when they awoke me in our dooryard.
“Hope it’ll be some time ’fore ye feel the need of another sermon,” said Uncle Peabody as Aunt Deel got out of the buggy. “I ain’t felt so wicked in years.”
I was so sick that Aunt Deel put me to bed and said that she would feed the pigs and the chickens. Sick as he was, Uncle Peabody had to milk the cows. How relentless were the cows!
I soon discovered that the Dunkelbergs had fallen from their high estate in our home and that Silas Wright, Jr., had taken their place in the conversation of Aunt Deel.
OUR LITTLE STRANGE COMPANION
In the pathless forest we had a little companion that always knew its way. No matter how strange and remote the place might be or how black the night its tiny finger always pointed in the same direction. By the light of the torch at midnight, in blinding darkness, I have seen it sway and settle toward its beloved goal. It seemed to be thinking of some far country which it desired to recommend to us.
It seemed to say: “Look! I know not which way is yours, but this—this is my way and all the little cross roads lead off it.”
What a wonderful wisdom it had! I remember it excited a feeling of awe in me as if it were a spirit and not a tool.
The reader will have observed that my uncle spoke of the compass as if it directed plant and animal in achieving their purposes. From the beginning in the land of my birth it had been a thing as familiar as the dial and as necessary. The farms along our road were only stumpy recesses in the wilderness, with irregular curving outlines of thick timber—beech and birch and maple and balsam and spruce and pine and tamarack—forever whispering of the unconquered lands that rolled in great billowy ridges to the far horizon.
We were surrounded by the gloom and mystery of the forest. If one left the road or trail for even a short walk he needed a compass to guide him. That little brass box with its needle, swaying and seeming to quiver with excitement as it felt its way to the north side of the circle and pointed unerringly at last toward its favorite star, filled me with wonder.