And shallow-minded legislatures will enact preposterous social laws for the regulation of the morals of boys, and imagine they have placed another paving-stone in the road to the millennium, while the Mrs. Rolfstons are having a riotous time of it.
Farewell to the fence.
When the first frosts of autumn come the black ash swales are dry, and there is more life in them than in midsummer. Hickory trees grow in the swales, and the squirrels are very busy with the ripened nuts. The ruffed grouse, with broods well grown, find covert in the tops of fallen trees, or strut along decaying logs. There are certain berries which grow in the swales, and these have ripened and are sought by many birds. The leaves are turning slowly to soft colors. There is none of the blaze and glory of the ridges where the hard maples and beeches are, but there is a general brownness and dryness and vigor of scene. It is good. The fence was nearly done, and the money for its building was almost owned. The rails stretched away in a long line through the narrow lane hewed through the wood, the tree-tops meeting overhead, and a new highway was built for the squirrels, who made famous use of the fence in their many journeys. The woodpeckers patronized it much, and tested every rail for food, but only in a merely incidental way, for each woodpecker knew that every rail was green and tough, and sound and tenantless as yet. There was a general chirp and twitter and pleasant call, for all the young life of the year was out of nest and hole and hollow, and now entering upon life in earnest. It was a season for buoyant work.
The great maul, firm and heavy still, showed an indentation round its middle, where tens of thousands of impacts against the iron wedges had worn their way, and even the heads of the wedges themselves were rounded outward and downward with an iron fringe where particles of the metal had been forced from place. The huge hook at the end of the log chain was twisted all awry, though no less firm its grip. The fence, the implements and all about showed mighty work, something of mind, but more of muscle.
Most perfect of all tonics is physical, out-door labor, particularly in the forest, and it is as well for mind as body. It eliminates what may be morbid, and is healthful for a conscience. Why it is that, under most natural conditions which may exist, the conscience is not so nervously acute, is something for the theologians to decide,—they will decide anything,—but the fact remains. The out-door conscience is strong, but seldom retrospective.