Eben Holden, a tale of the north country eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 353 pages of information about Eben Holden, a tale of the north country.
auger’s wound.  The woods were merry with our shouts, and, shortly, one could hear the heart-beat of the maples in the sounding bucket.  It was the reveille of spring.  Towering trees shook down the gathered storms of snow and felt for the sunlight.  The arch and shanty were repaired, the great iron kettle was scoured and lifted to its place, and then came the boiling.  It was a great, an inestimable privilege to sit on the robes of faded fur, in the shanty, and hear the fire roaring under the kettle and smell the sweet odour of the boiling sap.  Uncle Eb minded the shanty and the fire and the woods rang with his merry songs.  When I think of that phase of the sugaring, lam face to face with one of the greatest perils of my life.  My foster father had consented to let me spend a night with Uncle Eb in the shanty, and I was to sleep on the robes, where he would be beside me when he was not tending the fire.  It had been a mild, bright day, and David came up with our supper at sunset.  He sat talking with Uncle Eb for an hour or so, and the woods were darkling when he went away.

When he started on the dark trail that led to the clearing, I wondered at his courage — it was so black beyond the firelight.  While we sat alone I plead for a story, but the thoughts of Uncle Eb had gone to roost early in a sort of gloomy meditation.

‘Be still, my boy,’ said he, ‘an’ go t’ sleep.  I ain’t agoin’ t’ tell no yarns an’ git ye all stirred up.  Ye go t’ sleep.  Come mornin’ we’ll go down t’ the brook an’ see if we can’t find a mink or tew ‘n the traps.’

I remember hearing a great crackling of twigs in the dark wood before I slept.  As I lifted my head, Uncle Eb whispered, ‘Hark!’ and we both listened.  A bent and aged figure came stalking into the firelight His long white hair mingled with his beard and covered his coat collar behind.

‘Don’t be scairt,’ said Uncle Eb. ‘’Tain’ no bear.  It’s nuthin’ but a poet.’

I knew him for a man who wandered much and had a rhyme for everyone — a kindly man with a reputation for laziness and without any home.

‘Bilin’, eh?’ said the poet

‘Bilin’,’ said Uncle Eb.

‘I’m bilin’ over ‘n the next bush,’ said the poet, sitting down.

‘How’s everything in Jingleville?’ Uncle Eb enquired.

Then the newcomer answered: 

   ’Well, neighbour dear, in Jingleville
    We live by faith but we eat our fill;
    An’ what w’u’d we do if it wa’n’t fer prayer? 
    Fer we can’t raise a thing but whiskers an’ hair.’

‘Cur’us how you can talk po’try,’ said Uncle Eb.  ’The only thing I’ve got agin you is them whiskers an’ thet hair.  ‘Tain’t Christian.’

’’Tain’t what’s on the head, but what’s in it — thet’s the important thing,’ said the poet.  ’Did I ever tell ye what I wrote about the birds?’

‘Don’ know’s ye ever did,’ said Uncle Eb, stirring his fire.

‘The boy’ll like it, mebbe,’ said he, taking a dirty piece of paper out of his pocket and holding it to the light.

Project Gutenberg
Eben Holden, a tale of the north country from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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