THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
“ There is this about it, Peggy,” said father, “ I don’t see where the money is coriilri’ from. If I could catch some of these smugglin' fellows that are running’ brandy into Buffalo Barricks, right under the noses of the officers, there’d be some sense in your talkin’ about goin’ off to. school. But it isn’t my luck, Peggy, to be lucky. It never was ; and since she died, I don’t see why Grand Island isn’t just as good as any other place for me.” Father swung his axe,.on his shoulder as if it was heavier than usual that morning, .and walked slowly away to his work. I tried to say good-bye or something, but I felt just as I would , had I known the island was slipping down the river right to the falls, nothing .On:earth to stop it, and talking wouldn’t help. No, I wasn't filling up to cry. I was thinking I would never cry again for anything. I would give up everything mother taught me to hope and work, for, I rwould just fold my ; hands and sit down and be contented to live on as I was living. I would never expect anything better; every day in the year might be like/every other day. I would fed the pigs and the chickens ; get the breakfast, dinner and supper of pork,, .. potatoes , and bread for only father? and me ;.rtash and iron and patch ; never have anything pretty and nice; pever know, any goring; people, n§jhhkv£ J bdd& arid' riewspapers, and pretty worsteds for fancy work, nor even
shoes in the summer time, until our debts were paid. Just live—that vras all, and I was only sevetecn years old. I stamped my bare foot at the thought of it, and it was well I did, for the hens were on the bteakfast table and making „a pretty mess of things. That was in July. Mother died in the; spring. - But I can’t tell you about mother. If I begin all the rest of my story will go down stream, just as the arrow’s did I used to shoot far out in the Niagara jiver, and then guess.how long they would be in reaching the falls. We lived on the west side of Grand Island, not more than half a mile north of the Falconwood grounds. The club gave a great deal of work to father; about all we had to live on. They were clearing their grounds, you see, and it was wonderful how they
changed swamp lands into Eden. But it didn’t help me to be contented when the handsomely dressed young ladies would come right up to the door of our shanty, like the butterflies —only the butterflies didn’t make me so uncomfortable. One day when I was weeding the onion bed, a party from the club house came up to the well for water, and I never looked out from under my sun bonnet, nor pretended to know they were there. “ I should think she would be afraid it would make her feet big to go barefooted,” one of the girls said, not meaning that I should hear her. They all laughed. I don’t know what made me think of mother just then, but thinking of her saved me from speaking my
mind. Perhaps it was the sweet voice of that pretty girl. I looked after them as they went away. She had blue ribbons at her throat and on her hair, and the prettiest boots on her little feet. A young gentleman carried her parasol. He cut’a bouquet of my cinnamon roses without asking, and she trimmed her hat with them. It was hard weeding in the onions that morning. I could hear them laughing and singing .as they rambled in the woods. The wish that I might not always be shut out from everything got the upper hand of me. Father saw something was wrong after I had moped fot three or four days, and on the morning I am telling you of he asked me what was the matter. I told him what I was wishing for; and that was his answer—he didn’t know where the money was coming from.
There was nothing like a good row on the river when I was down-hearted. I shoved the hens out into the garden, and fed them twice as much as usual. That was like mother ; not a bit like me. Then I made the shanty as neat as I could. I fixed things every mornjust as if mother might come in and look round, and dirt was sin in mother’s eyes. Father never cared nor knew how things looked. It was all the same to him whether the stove was polished or not. He thought tablecloths all nonsense, and it was hard to keep him from using the curtain for a hand-towel. But for all that, if I had ever spread father’s meals on a bare table or a soiled cloth, or let the curtains hang crooked, or swept the. dirt into the grass, or—but there is no use in talking about it. I never could have done anything mother would call poor housekeeping. Keeping things nice and tidy was a little like keeping mother with me.
I was a great overgrown girl, with anything but small hands and feet. That came perhaps of my own hard work and going barefooted. My face was brown with being out of doors and on the river in all sorts pf weather, for rny one pleasure was rowing, and I could manage a boat as well- as anybody. I had a skiff of my own, mother named it “ Dancing Polly,” and she used to sit in the stern and knit or sew —hut I can’t talk about that. Father’s boat was larger than mine. He used to help the revenue officers sometimes. That was in the time of war, and there was a great deal of smuggling going on between the Canada shore and the States, and Navy and Wolf Islands, just below us was a resort of the smugglers. They were so near the falls, you see, that it was no laughing matter going there with a skiff. Grand Island was a good hiding place before the forests were cut down so much, and father bought bur little place thinking he could earn something catching smugglers, giving information to the revenue officer?, etc. But father never succeeded at it. The smugglers caught him once or twice and frightened him most to death. Once they set him adrift on the river without oars, but rescued him upon his saying that he would help them to hide their booty, which he did. Again they threw suspicion on him, reported him as a smuggler, and he had hard work to clear himself. They were too shrewd for a
man like father, and there we were with that lonesome place on our hands. Mother begged him before she died to give up meddling with the outlaws and to-get off the island as soon as he could for,my sake. But father was not born to do so much alone,'and I was tired trying to think how I could get him to make the move. I am not blaming hitn, not a bit, but perhaps you know what it is to be longing to do something in the world, something you know you could do, only for the very one you love best, who just stands in your way without meaning to. Well, that morning I went down to my boat and pushed it off without knowing or caring where I went. I floated a while with the stream, hardly lifting my oars. I remember sitting
motionless out there on the river, and looking back to our cabin—you could hardly sep it for the trees —and wondering why, when the world was so big, I must live just there and die there, and never wear blue ribbons nor have dnnamon roses stuck in my hat All at once I was aware of the sound of the falls. I had never heard it so plain, save in the bush after mother died. I Was afraid to look oyer my shoulder just for one minute. But there was really no danger, after all for a good oarsman like me, although such silly floating had best be ended at once. I was close to Navy Island, the resort of the smugglers. After a little hard rowing, I had fastened my boat apd had climbed up the bank into the thick wood. It was a little harbor, a, very bower of trees and vines. The birds were singing as if Peggy Herrick was the happiest girl in the world and they, must tell it to kll creation. I sat down oh a shelving rock and threw father’s old straw, l>at over my bare feet. Would I always have to go barefooted ? The birds
sang as if going barefooted was notHiriglo fret about; that was their fashion—old as the hills. What a hot, sleepy day it must be over in Buffalo, ' I thought What would the poor people in boots give to lie barefooted under the trees of Navy Island that morning ? The kingdom was all my own. I could dream a bit and then explore the place. What if I should find a well filled with bags of gold dollars ? I shall never forget how like a picture Grand Island looked as it lay there in the sunshine - , a sweet, dreamy picture. Oh! why wasn’t it the lovliest place in the world? Why did I long to escape from it, to live in the great noisy world, to be something more than Peggy Herrick was that day? I looked at the island and thought of what mother used to say : “ One must get out of this life and look at it as somebody’s else to sec the blessings it holds.” Well, if Grand Island was like my life, if my life—but I must have been half asleep, or perhaps I should have thought out something worth telling before I was startled at hearing voices, men’s voices, on the other side of the thicket behind me, and a sound like breaking the hard baked earth with pickaxes. “ I tell you, Hank," said a wheezy voice, “if we don’t get this haul into barracks before the week’s out we may as well sink it in the river.” Then followed something about “ the point,” and “Jerry,” and “dear old grandmother,” with much cursing and laughter. There were three men at least, and I soon heard enough to learn that they had keen on the island since the middle of the night before. Thoroughly frightened and hardly able
to move for a minute, I knew 1 must escape from the place as soon as possible. They were laughing at something about a coffin when I slipped noiselessly down the bank and into ray boat. I kept in the hiding of the trees until I could safely put out from shore. I had a hard struggle with the stiff current, but mastered it and got heme in time to have father’s dinner ready when he came in. He had finished his dinner and was filling his pipe, when I asked,
** What was it you said about brandy smuggling ?” “ There’s too many on ’em for Cap’n Bedill for onc’t Peggy. Them barracks is just afloat with Canada brandy. How the soldiers gets it nobody can tell.” “ Who lives in that little house out on the point ?” “ The “ point ” was a desolate, sandy bluff on the lake shore, not far from the river; a bleak spot, the last place in the world, one would think, for building a house, but then we can’t all choose where we will live you know. “ Oh, that’s Jerry Clark’s. He runs a hack at the falls. Makes lots of of money, they say. Supposin’ I run a hack, Peggy. Supposin now —” “ Does he live there on the point ? How can he and do business at the falls ? v “ Oh, Jerry lives at the falls. You wouldn’t mind stayin’ here, would you, Peggy, if I could do handsome driving a hack somwhere else ?”
“ But who lives on the point, father ? Is there anybody in that lonesome house ?” Father thought I didn’t take much interest in his affairs, and said something of the kind. “Jerry Clark’s grandmother lives on that point. She is a bit crazy, he says, and thinks she can’t sleep anywhere else. Her husband went down in the —the—that 42 steamboat—or was it 43 ? But of course you don’t know, Peggy.” “ Who takes care of his grandmothe?” “ Jerry is drefful kind to her ; says she can’t live much longer at the most There is a big, bouncin’ girl over there —bigger than what you are, Peggy; she was rowin’ out here on the river the other day. Cap’n Bedill happened down just then, and she hailed him and asked where she could get a good doctor for the old woman. She was took worse, she said. Then she asked the Cap’n if he knew of a good boy to help ’em over there. They are wonderfully put to it for a boy. The Cap’n sent her to Brown’s, but she didn't get one, for I see her goin’ back without any.” There ! I have forgotten to tell you about Pont. This story without Pont in it would have to be told by somebody beside Peggy Herrick. I suppose that you who write cords of stories, and think nothing at all of telling longer ones than this of mine, never forget to put tilings in where they belong, and you would have told about Pont in the beginning, and not have had to pick up dropped stitches. Pont was my dog, a big brown water spaniel* He could talk with his eyes, dear old Pont, and after mother died, not right Sway, but after a while, he loved ipe just as he had loved her. He never would take to father for some reason; never followed him. Water dog that he was, he was very shy of Niagara river. That used to make me wish we could live somewhere else.
That night, when father sat smoking his pipe under the cherry tree, I picked up heart to say : “ Father, I am thinking about going away to look for work.” “ Don’t go to Buffalo, Peggy. There’s no end of drinkin’ soldiers over there, and they make poor husbands, the best on ’em.” .1 never got angry at father. He meant well enough, but he didn’t see things as mother did. “ No, I won’t go to Buffalo. I will be back in a week. If I earn anything my week’s work will bring something handsome. ” Father puffed away, hardly hearing me. He was very tired, and the day had been hot. “ I will leave everything in good order, and you can spare me for a few days and hardly miss me, if you can get your dinners at the. club house,” He said he could, and knocking the ashes from his pipe, went in and to bed. (To be continued .)
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 268, 14 February 1881
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 268, 14 February 1881
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