These were the children whom I was to transport from the city, where they were born, to the quiet life at Four Oaks. After carefully taking their measures, I felt little hesitation about making the change. They, of course, had known of the plan, and had often been to the farm; but they were still to find out what it really meant to live there. A saddle horse and dogs galore would square me with Jane, beyond question; but what about Jack? Time must decide that. His plan of life was not yet formed, and we could afford to wait. We did not have much time in which to weigh these matters, for the Christmas holidays were near, and the youngsters would soon be home. We planned to be settled in the new house when they arrived.
In arranging to move my establishment I was in a quandary as to what it was best to do for a coachman. Lars had been with me fifteen years. He came a green Swedish lad, developed into a first-class coachman, married a nice girl—and for twelve years he and his wife lived happily in the rooms above my stable. Two boys were born to them, and these lads were now ten and twelve years of age. Shortly after I bought the farm Lars was so unfortunate as to lose his good wife, and he and the boys were left forlorn. A relative came and gave them such care as she could, but the mother and wife was missed beyond remedy. In his depression Lars took to drink, and things began to go wrong in the stable. He was not often drunk, but he was much of the time under the influence of alcohol, and consequently not reliable. I had done my best for the poor fellow, and he took my lectures and chidings in the way they were intended, and, indeed, he tried hard to break loose from the one bad habit, but with no good results. His evil friends had such strong hold on him that they could and would lead him astray whenever there was opportunity. Polly and I had many talks about this matter. She was growing timid under his driving, and yet she was attached to him for long and faithful service.
“Let’s chance it,” she said. “If we get him away from these people who lead him astray, he may brace up and become a man again.”
“But what about the boys, Polly?” said I.
“We ought to be able to find something for the boys to do on the farm, and they can go to school at Exeter. Can’t they drive the butter-cart out each morning and home after school? They’re smart chaps, you know, and used to doing things.”