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   Chapter 17 THE SNOW-FORT.

Winter Fun By William Osborn Stoddard Characters: 8763

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

There was a large amount of conversation performed in Benton Valley the day following the party at Squire King's. It began before breakfast. In some sleeping-rooms it began before people were out of bed. It went on all over the village; and the whole affair was discussed at the drug-store, and in the blacksmith-shop, and at the tavern. It is safe to say that every thing that could be said was said; and the unanimous verdict was, that the party had been a success. So had Susie Hudson been, and she was not omitted from a single description of the company. As for Adonijah Bunce, he obtained some liniment of his mother without telling her just where he had been standing when he spilt the coffee. Susie knew where he stepped next; but she was not very lame, and felt kindly towards Adonijah.

Vosh came over pretty early in the forenoon to see Port and Corry upon a matter of some importance.

"Snow-fort!" exclaimed Porter Hudson a little dignifiedly. "Don't you think we're a little too old for that?"

"Not if it's finished up in the way they began it," replied Vosh. "They went at it after school, and I guess they must have finished it this morning. We'll have the biggest game of draw you ever got into, and we can keep it up all day."

"I'm in for it," said Corry; but Port had really never seen any snow citadels, nor had he been in any game of draw. He remembered reading that Benedict Arnold mounted his cannon on a snow-fort, the better to pepper Quebec, but he had a dim and small opinion of such matters. Still it was a promise of fun, and he went right along. The weather had been growing milder for two days, and that Saturday morning the sun had actually risen with yellow in his face. Deacon Farnham had predicted a change in the weather yet to come, and said something very deep about sap in trees, and of how he must watch it. Port could not imagine any method of watching the movements of sap in trees, or any reason for caring how it moved. He was now thinking with increasing interest about snowballs and their uses, for Vosh explained to him the proposed game of "draw" as they went down the hill.

"Three to one is fair odds," he said; "and, if a fellow gets hit, he changes sides. I've seen a fort drawn so full, they had half of 'em to sit down; and the last fellow out had no chance to pick up a snowball, for dodging what they gave him. It's just so if there's only one left in the fort. He can hardly show his head without having one of his ears filled. The snow'll pack first-rate just now. It'll stick together, but it won't make too hard a ball. Wet snow'll pack into a wad that stings, and it'll do damage too, sometimes."

Port remembered something about that from even his small experience in the city. He had paid for a pane of glass once.

The boys of Benton Village had snowballed a great deal that winter. They had grown to be pretty expert marksmen, and their dodging qualities had improved. They had even made snow breastworks two or three times; but their ambition in that direction had recently been stimulated by a picture in one of the illustrated papers. All hands had agreed that the right kind of a fort had never yet been built upon that green, and that it was time to have one. Snow was plentiful, and so were shovels; and, so long as it was play, there were boys enough to do the work, hard as it might be. They made it square, and the walls were nearly two feet thick. They were so high that the shorter boys complained that only their heads came above it.

It made them all the safer in a game of draw, and they could throw nearly as well. The fort was not finished on Friday evening, because so many of the leading boys were to be at Mrs. King's party; but, by the time Vosh and his two neighbors got there Saturday forenoon, they were beginning to draw for sides.

"There's just twenty-four of us, Vosh," said Adonijah Bunce. "That's six for the fort, and eighteen for the field, to begin on. Draw your cut now, and see where you belong."

"There," said Vosh as he pulled a straw from the hand extended to him: "where does it send me?"

"Into the fort. I'm outside.-Now, Corry, you and Port."

They drew, and discovered that they also were outsiders, under Capt. Bunce; while Vosh was to command the fort as long as the sharp practice should let him stay there.

"It begins to look as if it were g

oing to amount to something," said Port to himself, when it was explained to him that none of his crowd could go in beyond a certain line about forty feet from the snowy wall, nor retreat beyond another line twice as distant.

Vosh and his garrison of five privates were inside the fort in a twinkling, and there were piles of snowballs there ready for use. So there were along the lines of the attacking forces; and the shout of "All ready!" had hardly been uttered, before the missiles began to fly.

Porter Hudson was determined to do himself credit, and at once dashed up to the line, throwing as he went.

"Pick him," said Vosh to his men, and the next instant all their heads came in sight at once. Capt. Bunce's force was well enough disciplined, and their volley at those heads was prompt; but six balls came straight for Porter Hudson. He dodged two, and one missed him widely; but another lodged in his neck, another came spat against his waistband, and the sixth took off his hat.

"Called in!" shouted Vosh, and Port belonged to the garrison. So, in a few moments more, did three other of Capt. Bunce's marksmen; but he had played draw before, and was beginning to wake up. He divided his men, scattering them all around the fort, and Port's next experience came to him in that way. A random ball came over the opposite wall, and landed in the middle of his back. He was again in the field, but his place was taken by the young man who was learning to play the flute. Standing still a moment to warm his hands, and whistle, a pellet thrown by Corry Farnham had broken on his nose, and spoiled the music. The fun grew fast and furious, and the fort was steadily gaining, until Vosh Stebbins made a blunder. He saw somebody walking along on the sidewalk beyond the green, but did not notice who they were till Corry remarked,-

"Halloo! Aunt Judith and Susie. Guess they're going to see Mrs. King. Morning call, eh?"

The attention of Capt. Bunce was drawn in the same direction by a youth who said to him,-

"There's that young lady from New York. See her?"

Adonijah turned to do so, and stood still long enough for Vosh Stebbins to make a perfect and undodging mark of him. The ball was a hard one, and it struck precisely upon the liniment, the spot where the coffee had been. Nijah jumped, but he was a drawn man; and so, alas for the fortunes of that fort! was Capt. Stebbins. He too stood still too long; and he was bare-headed now, looking around for his cap, and rubbing his red right ear, where a globe of well-packed snow had landed forcibly.

Susie and her aunt stood still for some minutes, watching the game, without the least idea that they had any thing to do with the exchange of leaders. They were indeed on their way to Mrs. King's; but aunt Judith had other errands, or she would have let that ceremony wait.

Vosh had been studying war all that morning, and he was hardly among the outsiders before he tried a new plan of attack.

"Now, boys," he shouted, "you do as I tell you. Take the corners,-half of us against the corner this way, and half against the opposite corner; and they'll have to kind o' bunch up to throw back, and you're bound to hit somebody. Make a lot of balls, and get good and ready, and we'll empty that fort."

It worked very much in that way. The defenders of the fort were drawn carelessly towards the corners, under a raking fire. The pellets flew over among them thick and fast; and in less than three minutes Coriolanus Farnham stood alone, the entire garrison of the frosty fortress. He stood in a bending posture, against the inner face of a wall, while all around him flew the snowballs that were searching for him. He was a forlorn hope, but he meant to stick it out. He even rose suddenly to return the volleys with a solitary shot. He threw, but so did twenty-three assailants from various directions; and Nijah Bunce had waited, with a knowledge of his where-abouts.

"Called out!" shouted Vosh. "What are you rubbing for, Corry?"

"Got hit all over."

"Game's up," said Nijah. "Now, boys, we'll choose over again."

"Not till I've had a rest," said Corry; and Port remarked,-

"I'll hold on. My arm's too lame to throw another ball."

So was every other arm among them, by the time they had emptied that fort again; but it was voted the best snowballing of the season.

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