It was such a bitter day that we worked only three hours and came back to the house and played Old Sledge by the fireside.
Rodney Barnes came over that afternoon and said that he would lend us a horse for the hauling.
When we went to bed that night Uncle Peabody whispered:
“Say, ol’ feller, we was in purty bad shape this mornin’. If we hadn’t ‘a’ backed up sudden an’ took a new holt I guess Aunt Deel would ‘a’ caved in complete an’ we’d all been a-bellerin’ like a lot o’ lost cattle.”
We had good sleighing after that and got our bark and salts to market and earned ninety-eight dollars. But while we got our pay in paper “bank money,” we had to pay our debts in wheat, salts or corn, so that our earnings really amounted to only sixty-two and a half dollars, my uncle said. This more than paid our interest. We gave the balance and ten bushels of wheat to Mr. Grimshaw for a spavined horse, after which he agreed to give us at least a year’s extension on the principal.
We felt easy then.
MY THIRD PERIL
“Mr. Purvis” took his pay in salts and stayed with us until my first great adventure cut him off. It came one July day when I was in my sixteenth year. He behaved badly, and I as any normal boy would have done who had had my schooling in the candle-light. We had kept Grimshaw from our door by paying interest and the sum of eighty dollars on the principal. It had been hard work to live comfortably and carry the burden of debt. Again Grimshaw had begun to press us. My uncle wanted to get his paper and learn, if possible, when the Senator was expected in Canton.
So he gave me permission to ride with Purvis to the post-office—a distance of three miles—to get the mail. Purvis rode in our only saddle and I bareback, on a handsome white filly which my uncle had given me soon after she was foaled. I had fed and petted and broken and groomed her and she had grown so fond of me that my whistled call would bring her galloping to my side from the remotest reaches of the pasture. A chunk of sugar or an ear of corn or a pleasant grooming always rewarded her fidelity. She loved to have me wash her legs and braid her mane and rub her coat until it glowed, and she carried herself proudly when I was on her back. I had named her Sally because that was the only name which seemed to express my fondness.
“Mr. Purvis” was not an experienced rider. My filly led him at a swift gallop over the hills and I heard many a muttered complaint behind me, but she liked a free head when we took the road together and I let her have her way.
Coming back we fell in with another rider who had been resting at Seaver’s little tavern through the heat of the day. He was a traveler on his way to Canton and had missed the right trail and wandered far afield. He had a big military saddle with bags and shiny brass trimmings and a pistol in a holster, all of which appealed to my eye and interest. The filly was a little tired and the stranger and I were riding abreast at a walk while Purvis trailed behind us. The sun had set and as we turned the top of a long hill the dusk was lighted with a rich, golden glow on the horizon far below us.