In the frosty out-of-doors the wind blows gustily from time to time. Otherwise the room is quite still, save for the ticking of the clock, which points to half-past seven. For a moment after the curtain’s rise the stage is deserted. Then come two brisk knocks at the door, and it is opened from without by Polly Prentice, who first thrusts in her head, looks about, and then crosses the threshold, speaking back over her shoulder to Amy Roby and Tom Bush. Polly wears a scarlet cloak, and her cheeks are as red as apples. All carry lanterns.
POLLY. There’s no one home. Wherever can Nancy be? She said if she wasn’t here we were to wait for her. Come in, Amy, and you, too, Tom Bush, and be careful to close the door. (All enter.) The fire is nearly spent. B-rrrrrr! It’s a cold night for this time of year. My fingers are tingling. That’s right, Tom, put on some spice bushes for a blaze. I’ll put my lantern over here by yours, Amy. What time is it?
AMY. Half-past seven. I wish that Nancy would hurry. The corn-husking begins at eight, and we are to call for Jason Brown and Lucy before we start.
TOM (warming his hands). Yes, and come back here to have Abe go with us. He’s been out in the woods all day, swinging that ax of his. I could hear him down by the spring.
There’s his supper set out for him—corn-dodgers and molasses.
Polly, it isn’t nice to look at things in other people’s houses!
POLLY (saucily). You looked at the clock only a minute ago, and I’m sure Abe’s supper is as easily seen as the clock is! Easier, too, if you happen to be glancing that way. I wish that Nancy would hurry!
(as they seat themselves about fire).
And I wish that Abe would hurry. He must be trying for luck.
TOM. Yes, you know they say that rails split by moonlight bring folks good fortune. Not that Abe needs good fortune—he’s lucky at everything he puts his hand to. He can shoulder an ax and swing it better than any one I ever saw, and as for his books—there’s no one who can beat him.
He’s always at them—even after a hard day’s work.
There’s nothing he won’t read if he can get his hands on it, and at
spelling he’s head of his class every time.
You’d think he was a hero, Tom, the way you talk.
TOM (eyes a-light). Well, sometimes he does seem like a hero to me, he’s so strong and clever and kind. At school people are always coming to him with their disputes, and out of school, too. Even the Indians respect his knowledge. And with it all he can see a joke as soon as anybody, and isn’t a bit puffed up. And then I like him, because even though he’s quiet and it takes a long time for him to get angry, when he does get angry it’s on the right side. I think some day he’ll be a great lawyer. Come, Amy, what do you think he’ll be?