‘My friend,’ said she presently, ’are you a Christian?
‘’Fore I answer I’ll hex if tell ye a story,’ said Uncle Eb. ’I recollec’ a man by the name o’ Ranney over ’n Vermont — he was a pious man. Got into an argyment an’ a feller slapped him in the face. Ranney turned t’other side an’ then t’other an’ the feller kep’ a slappin’ hot ‘n heavy. It was jes’ like strappin’ a razor fer half a minnit. Then Ranney sailed in — gin him the wust lickin’ he ever hed.
’"I declare,” says another man, after ’twas all over, “I thought you was a Christian.”
“Am up to a cert in p’int,” says he. “Can’t go tew fur not ’n these parts — men are tew powerful. ’Twon’t do ’less ye wan’if die sudden. When he begun poundin’ uv me I see I wan’t eggzac’ly prepared.”
’’Fraid ’s a good deal thet way with most uv us. We’re Christians up to a cert’in p’int. Fer one thing, I think if a man’ll stan’ still an’ see himself knocked into the nex’ world he’s a leetle tew good fer this.’
The good lady began to preach and argue. For an hour Uncle Eb sat listening unable to get in a word. When, at last, she left him he came to us a look of relief in his face.
‘I b’lieve,’ said he, ’if Balaam’s ass hed been rode by a woman he never ‘d hev spoke.’
‘Why not?’ I enquired.
‘Never’d hev hed a chance,’ Uncle Eb added.
We were two weeks at home with mother and father and Uncle Eb. It was a delightful season of rest in which Hope and I went over the sloping roads of Faraway and walked in the fields and saw the harvesting. She had appointed Christmas Day for our wedding and I was not to go again to the war, for now my first duty was to my own people. If God prospered me they were all to come to live with us in town and, though slow to promise, I could see it gave them comfort to know we were to be for them ever a staff and refuge.
And the evening before we came back to town Jed Feary was with us and Uncle Eb played his flute and sang the songs that had been the delight of our childhood.
The old poet read these lines written in memory of old times in Faraway and of Hope’s girlhood.
‘The red was in the clover an’
the blue was in the sky:
There was music in the meadow, there was dancing in the rye;
An’ I heard a voice a calling to the flocks o’ Faraway
An’ its echo in the wooded hills — Go’day! Go’day! Go’day!
O fair was she — my lady love —
an’ lithe as the willow tree,
An’ aye my heart remembers well her parting words t’ me.
An’ I was sad as a beggar-man but she was blithe an’ gay
An’ I think o’ her as I call the flocks Go’day! Go’day! Go’day!
Her cheeks they stole the dover’s
red, her lips the odoured air,
An’ the glow o’ the morning sunlight she took away in her hair;
Her voice had the meadow music, her form an’ her laughing eye
Have taken the blue o’ the heavens an’ the grace o’ the bending rye.