MoboReader> Literature > Winter Fun

   Chapter 19 THE FLOOD AND THE END.

Winter Fun By William Osborn Stoddard Characters: 24464

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was well for all who were fond of sleighing, to make the best use of their time. A great many people had had enough, and were even eager to see the snow depart. There was a great deal of it to go, and the weather took an unexpected part in the matter. The sun came out with a power that had in it something peculiar, and made all human beings feel drowsy, heavy, listless, and disposed to take boneset-tea. The older they were, the more black and bitter was the boneset they called for; and aunt Judith manufactured some uncommonly good root-beer to go with it. So far as the young people were concerned, the root-beer went much more rapidly than the boneset.

Then arrived two whole days of warm and heavy rain; and, when the sun came out again, he had an altered landscape to look down upon. All the hillsides were streaming with torrents of water, and every hollow was a pond. The roads were channels of temporary rivulets, and the river in the valley had swollen until its fetters were breaking. The ice in the mill-pond cracked and lifted until the water broke out over the dam. That relieved the pressure for a few hours, until the huge cakes of ice got in a hurry, and began to climb upon each others' shoulders. They rapidly built up a dam of their own, right on top of the old one, and the water sent back up stream for more ice. As fast as the new supplies came down, they were heaped up, right and left and centre; and no engineer could have done the work better, so far as increasing the size of the mill-pond was concerned. It grew tremendously, and the sun toiled at the snow-banks on the hillsides, all along the banks of that river away up into the mountains, to send down more snow-water for the big spread in Benton Valley.

"Sarah," said Deacon Farnham at about the middle of the second forenoon, "if this thing keeps on, it'll drown out the village."

"Has the water got there yet?" she asked. "Is it rising?"

"Rising! Guess it is. I'll hitch up the team after dinner, and we'll go and take a look at it."

When Pen and Corry came home at noon, they reported that school was dismissed for the day; and Pen explained it,-

"She said the Flood was coming again, but I don't believe it is."

"Not Noah's Flood," said her father; "but enough might come to carry away the school-house. I can't say what they're going to do about it."

The story Vosh told at home brought Mrs. Stebbins over after dinner, and there was a full sleigh-load driven down to see the sights.

Susie and Port were to have one more experience of winter life in the country, and it was one they would not have missed for any thing. The mill-pond was away below the village, and there was another up towards Cobbleville that was said to be nearly as badly off. As the water had risen, it had set back and back, until now the low-lying lands were a great lake with houses and barns sticking up from it. Deacon Farnham drove on down towards the village, and all the tongues in the sleigh grew more and more silent. Aunt Judith had already told all there was to tell about the great flood when she was a girl, and when they had to live without flour or meal. The story sounded much more real now, for the first man they met said to them,-

"If the ice goes on packing up there at the dam, the mill and all will break away before midnight."

"Are they trying to do any thing to loosen the pack?" asked Vosh.

"They can't get at it to pick at it, and it's wuth any man's life to try. The water's in the main street now."

"What if the upper dam should give way?" asked the deacon.

"Well, if the ice there and the dam should give way all at once, and come down in a heap, there wouldn't be much left of Benton."

They drove on down the road to the right, towards what had been the lower level of the coasting-hill, where the sleds darted out upon the pond. They could see the whole thing now, and the long ridge of ice with the flood surging and rising against it, and filling up every lower place with fresh material. The water was still pouring over the pack at the upper dam, the deacon said, or no more ice and snow would be coming down.

"Mr. Farnham!" suddenly exclaimed Vosh Stebbins, "I wish I had money enough to pay for a keg of blasting-powder."

"What for, Vosh?"

"Don't you see? You can get to the second floor of the mill, right across those logs. If a keg of powder could be shoved out on the pack, and left there with a slow-match burning, I could get back before it went off."

"I'll pay for the powder," said the deacon as he turned his team towards the village, and Mrs. Stebbins gasped,-

"O Vosh! Lavawjer!"

She sat still, and looked a little white for a moment, and then the color came to her face, and there was a sort of flash in her eyes as she said slowly and steadily,-

"Just you try it on. Your father would have done it any day. Levi Stebbins was a soldier, and he never flinched any thing in all his life."

"Joshaway," said aunt Judith with a bit of a tremor in her voice, "I want to pay for that powder myself. He can buy two kegs if he needs 'em."

The water was nearly a foot deep in front of Rosenstein's store when the sleigh came splashing along. The whole village was boiling with excitement, in spite of the fact that the flood was all of ice-water.

"Powder? Going to blow up dot ice?" said Mr. Rosenstein doubtfully; but he hurried to bring out a keg of it, and a long line of fuze.

"Now, Vosh. No time to lose. You mustn't run any needless risk, but I believe you can do it. I'll go as far as into the mill with you."

"Joshua," said Mrs. Farnham, "will he need help? His weight's a good deal lighter than yours."

"We'll see about it when we get there. That pack has got to be broken: so has the one at the upper dam."

They were once more on the hill-road, and nearing the point of danger. Great piles of saw-logs, ready for the saw-mill, had accumulated on the slope between the mill and what was now the shore; and already quite a number of adventurers had crossed upon them to the building itself, and back again. Not a soul had cared to remain more than a minute, and none had ventured beyond.

"Go, Joshua," said Mrs. Farnham. "He'll need advice, if he doesn't need any thing else."

Corry took the reins, and his father and Vosh stepped out. There were thirty or forty men and boys standing around and watching the flood, and all were eager to know what was coming; but the answers given them had a short, gruff sound, as if uttered by somebody too much in earnest to talk.

"Right along, Vosh," said the deacon. "The logs are firm enough."

So they were, and it was easy to climb through an open window into the second story of the mill. Through all the lower floor the water was rushing and gurgling, and the building shook all over as if it were chilly.

An opposite window was reached, and there before them was the ice-pack. Only at one point, beyond the centre, was there any water going over it; and it seemed only too strong and solid.

"As far out as you can, Vosh," said the deacon. "Put it into a hole of some kind, if you can."

Without a word of comment or reply, the brave boy crept through the window, and let himself down upon the ice, and the keg was handed him.

"Use the whole length of the fuze," said the deacon. "You'll have time enough."

"Mr. Farnham," said Vosh, "you go back right away, now."

"I don't know but what it's my duty. Do yours quick, Vosh."

He was every way disposed to obey that suggestion. The roar of the waters, the strange sensation of the presence of great peril, and even the idea that so many people were looking at him, made the situation one from which he was in a hurry to get away. Nearly in the middle of the pack he came to a deep crevice between the heaps of glimmering ice, and into it he lowered his little barrel of explosive meal. He had made it all ready, fixing the end of the fuze in its proper place, and now he led the line back over comparatively dry ice.

"Nothing to put it out," he muttered; "and they said it was water-proof, anyhow."

A stream of people, on foot and in sleighs, had followed that undertaking from the moment when the news of it began to buzz around the village, and a full hundred had now gathered on the slope opposite the mill. They saw Vosh Stebbins scratch a match on his coat-sleeve, and stoop down; and then they saw him turn, and walk swiftly away towards the mill.

"It's all right, deacon!" he shouted. "She's a-burning!"

"Come on, Vosh. Hurry up. I just couldn't go ashore till you got back."

Vosh replied with a ringing laugh that had a world of excitement in it. He followed the deacon back through the mill, and across the perilous bridge of floating logs; and there on the shore stood Susie Hudson, and her aunts, and his mother, but Penelope was the only one who said any thing.

"Vosh," she asked, "did you lose all your powder and your string?"

"Guess I have," replied he; and then it was Adonijah Bunce who remarked,-

"Didn't quite do it, did ye?"

"Hold on a minute," said Mr. Farnham. "It was a long fuze."

It seemed as if everybody held their breaths till it must hurt them; but, just when they could not do it any longer, a great sheet of smoke and flame shot up from the middle of the ice-pack. It was followed by a dull, heavy report, and by flying fragments of ice.

Had it accomplished any thing?-that was the question in all minds; but it was only a moment before there was another crash, and another. The barrier had been blown away to such a thinness that the pressure from above was sufficient to break it through. The flood rushed forward into the widening channel with a surge and a plunge, and away went the river again, roaring down its half-deserted bed below. More of the cakes of ice to the right and left, now no longer wedged and self-supporting, were swiftly torn away, and the gap so opened could not be closed again.

"I just knew he'd do it," said Mrs. Stebbins proudly, as the round of cheers died away after the explosion and crash. "His father would ha' done it."

There were plenty to congratulate Vosh; but he and the rest got into the sleigh again, and drove back towards the village. Even before they reached it, the waters were manifestly receding a little, and, when they again stopped in front of Mr. Rosenstein's store, it was pretty well understood that the first peril was over.

"Now for the pack at the upper dam!" shouted the deacon. "It's safe to make a hole in it, now our pack is broken.-I want to pay for that powder, Mr. Rosenstein. I was in such a hurry, I forgot it."

"Dot's joost vot I did," replied the merchant. "You bays for no powder for dot boy. He safe de village. I deals not in pork."

There was a cheer for Mr. Rosenstein; and a dozen men set off towards the upper dam with more powder, and a new idea.

"We have done enough for one day," said Deacon Farnham after he had seen that squad set out. "We can afford to go home.-Mrs. Stebbins, you and Vosh can take dinner with us, and Susie and Port can read their letters."

All were entirely willing, and the team headed for home as if they were conscious of having done something for the public good. The village post-office was kept in Mr. Rosenstein's store, and that was one reason why the letters had been received in such an hour of excitement. They were not read until after the arrival at the farmhouse, for every one in that sleigh was looking back into the valley to see whether or not the flood was visibly subsiding. Even after they reached the house, Vosh said he felt as if he were about to hear the explosion at the upper dam. He did not hear it; but the ice there was blown open, nevertheless, and the river had a fair chance to carry all its surplus down stream, and melt it up instead of making dams of it.

Porter Hudson was the first to tear open an envelope.

"Susie!" he shouted almost instantly, "mother's got home."

Her fingers were busy with her own letter for a moment, and then she turned to Mrs. Farnham.

"Aunt Sarah!"

"O Susie! I know what you mean. They want you at home."

"Yes," said aunt Judith, "I suppose we'v

e got to say good-by to 'em pretty soon."

"And there's no winter at all in the city," said Port. "No snow to be seen, and some of the buds are beginning to show."

The letters had a powerful effect upon all the gathering around that dinner-table; and Pen thought she had settled the difficulty, or nearly so, when she broke a long silence with,-

"They might just as well all come up here and live. There's room for 'em all, and it's ever so much better than the city is."

There was no immediate haste called for, but winter was over. Word came from the village in the morning, that the flood was going down fast, and the mill was entirely safe, and that everybody was talking about the feat performed by Vosh Stebbins. It looked as if Mr. Farnham's part of it was a little neglected, and Pen remarked with some jealousy,-

"Father got the powder, and all Vosh did was to touch it off."

Everybody seemed to feel blue that evening, for some reason; and the thaw carried away almost all the snow there was left, with hardly a remark being made about it. The fire in the sitting-room burned low, and no fresh logs were heaped upon it. Susie sat in front of it, and remembered a summer day when she had seen nothing there but polished andirons, and branches of fennel.

"Port," said Corry almost mournfully, "I do hope you've had a good time. We all want you to come again."

"Good time! Tell you what, Corry, I won't come up here unless you'll come and visit us in the city. I've been thinking over lots of things I could show you and Pen. I've had the biggest kind of a time."

"You must come up some time in summer," said aunt Judith. "The country is beautiful then. Better fishing, hunting-all sorts of fun."

"I guess there isn't any thing better than winter fun," said Susie thoughtfully. "I do like the country at any time of the year."

Vosh Stebbins and his mother also sat in front of their sitting-room fireplace, and were uncommonly still and sober.

"Mother," said he at last, "I've had the greatest winter I ever did have. There's been any amount of fun in it, but seems to me there's been a good deal more."

"Yes," said his mother, "they've been right good company, and I'm real sorry to hev 'em go; but it's time they went, and her mother's health's come back to her. She's one of the best of women, I haven't the least doubt in the world. I never seen a girl I took to more'n I hev to Susie Hudson, and I hope she and Port'll come up here again; and I've been a-findin' out how much it'll cost to hev you go to college, and you've got to jest study up and go."

"Mother!" That was all he could say; for his mind had been playing chess with that problem since he did not know exactly when, and he had not dared to speak of it.

One week later the Farnham and Stebbins farmhouses felt smaller and lonelier, and Penelope teased for a pen and ink, remarking,-

"If I write to Susie right away, it may get there almost as soon as she does, and she won't have to wait for it to come."

The rest of the family and their neighbors had their hands full of spring work, and had no time to think much of their recent visitors; but their visitors were thinking of them. A lady and gentleman in a city home were listening to prolonged and full accounts of their children's winter in the country, and every now and then the gentleman exclaimed,-

"Vosh Stebbins again!" At the end of it all, he said to his wife,-

"My dear, did you know that youngsters of that kind were scarce? I must keep an eye on him. Susie says he's to have an education. Got a good beginning for one now, I should say. If he should go straight, there's no telling what he might do. He can graduate from college into my office, if he wishes to. I knew his father, and his mother's as good as gold."

"Hurrah!" shouted Port. "Then Vosh can kill his bears in the city. How'd you like that, Susie? I'd like it."

Susie only turned to her mother, and asked,-

"What do you think, mother?"

"I? Oh, we will have plenty of time to think it over. We can go up there and visit, and we can have them down here."

Nevertheless Vosh did go to college, and he did pass from it to Mr. Hudson's law-office; and it is true, to this day, that nobody can tell what he will do, he is doing so much and so well.

* * *

SCRIBNER'S BOOKS FOR THE YOUNG.

Scribner's List of Juvenile Books.

* * *

The great legend of the Nibelungen told to boys and girls.

THE STORY OF SIEGFRIED.

BY JAMES BALDWIN

With a series of superb illustrations by Howard Pyle.

Mr. Baldwin has at last given "The Story of Siegfried" in the way in which it most appeals to the boy-reader,-simply and strongly told, with all its fire and action, yet without losing any of that strange charm of the myth, and that heroic pathos, which every previous attempt at a version, even for adult readers, has failed to catch.

THE STORY OF ROLAND.

BY JAMES BALDWIN

With a series of illustrations by R. B. Birch.

This volume is intended as a companion to "The Story of Siegfried." As Siegfried was an adaptation of Northern myths and romances to the wants and the understanding of young readers, so is this story a similar adaptation of the middle-age romances relating to Charlemagne and his paladins. As Siegfried was the greatest of the heroes of the North, so, too, was Roland the most famous among the knights of the Middle Ages.

"We congratulate the boys of the land upon the appearance of this book. We commend it to parents who are selecting literature for their children, assured, as we are, that it will convince them that books may be found which will engage the attention, and stimulate the imagination, of the young, without dissipating the mind, or blunting the moral sensibilities."-Philadelphia Messenger.

* * *

THE AMERICAN BOY'S HANDY BOOK;

Or, WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO DO IT.

BY DANIEL C. BEARD.

THE FIRST REALLY PRACTICAL BOY'S BOOK.

With three hundred illustrations by the author. One volume

Mr. Beard's book is the first to tell the active, inventive, and practical American boy the things he really wants to know, the thousand things he wants to do, and the ten thousand ways in which he can do them, with the helps and ingenious contrivances which every boy can either procure or make.

The author divides the book among the sports of the four seasons; and he has made an almost exhaustive collection of the cleverest modern devices, besides himself inventing an immense number of capital and practical ideas.

* * *

THE BOY'S Library of Legend and Chivalry.

EDITED BY SIDNEY LANIER, And richly illustrated by Fredericks, Bensell, and Kappes.

KNIGHTLY LEGENDS OF WALES

THE BOY'S PERCY

"Amid all the strange and fanciful scenery of these stories, character and the ideals of character remain at the simplest and the purest. The romantic history transpires in the healthy atmosphere of the open air, on the green earth beneath the open sky.... The figures of Right, Truth, Justice, Honor, Purity, Courage, Reverence for Law, are always in the background; and the grand passion inspired by the book is for strength to do well and nobly in the world."-The Independent.

THE BOY'S MABINOGION.

Being the earliest Welsh tales of King Arthur in the famous Red Book of Hergest. Edited for boys, with an Introduction by Sidney Lanier. With twelve full-page illustrations by Alfred Fredericks.

THE BOY'S KING ARTHUR.

Being Sir Thomas Mallory's History of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Edited for boys, with an Introduction by Sidney Lanier. With twelve full-page illustrations by Alfred Kappes.

THE BOY'S FROISSART.

Being Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of Adventure, Battle, and Custom in England, France, Spain, etc. Edited for boys, with an Introduction by Sidney Lanier. With twelve full-page illustrations by Alfred Kappes.

THE BOY'S PERCY.

With fifty text and full-page illustrations by E. B. Bensell.

Mr. Lanier's books, which made him the companion and friend of half the boys of the country, and showed his remarkable talent for guiding them into the best parts of this ideal world, fitly close by giving the best of the ballads in their purest and strongest form, from Bishop Percy's famous collection. With "The Boy's Froissart," "The Boy's King Arthur," "The Mabinogion," and "The Boy's Percy," Mr. Lanier's readers have the full circle of heroes.

* * *

FRANK R. STOCKTON'S POPULAR STORIES.

THE STORY OF VITEAU.

With sixteen full-page illustrations by R. B. Birch.

In "The Story of Viteau," Mr. Stockton has opened a new vein, and one that he has shown all his well-known skill and ability in working. While describing the life and surroundings of Raymond, Louis, and Agnes at Viteau at the Castle of De Barran, or in the woods among the Cotereaux, he gives a picture of France in the age of chivalry, and tells, at the same time, a romantic and absorbing story of adventure and knightly daring. Mr. Birch's spirited illustrations add much to the attraction of the book.

A JOLLY FELLOWSHIP.

Illustrated.

"'A Jolly Fellowship,' by Mr. Frank Stockton, is a worthy successor to his 'Rudder Grange.' Although written for lads, it is full of delicious nonsense that will be enjoyed by men and women.... The less serious parts are described with a mock gravity that is the perfection of harmless burlesque, while all the nonsense has a vein of good sense running through it, so that really useful information is conveyed to the young and untravelled reader's mind."-Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

THE FLOATING PRINCE, AND OTHER FAIRY TALES.

With illustrations by Bensell and others.

"Stockton has the knack, perhaps genius would be a better word, of writing in the easiest of colloquial English, without descending to the plane of the vulgar or common-place. The very perfection of his work hinders the reader from perceiving at once how good of its kind it is.... With the added charm of a most delicate humor,-a real humor, mellow, tender, and informed by a singularly quaint and racy fancy,-his stories become irresistibly attractive."-Philadelphia Times.

* * *

WILLIAM O. STODDARD'S CAPITAL STORIES FOR BOYS.

DAB KINZER.

A STORY OF A GROWING BOY.

"The book is enlivened with a racy and genuine humor. It is, moreover, notably healthy in its tone, and in every way is just the thing for boys."-Philadelphia North American.

"It is full of fun, liveliness, and entertainment. Dab Kinzer will be voted a good fellow, whether at home, at school, or out fishing."-Portland Press.

THE QUARTET.

A SEQUEL TO "DAB KINZER."

"The boys who read 'Dab Kinzer' will be delighted with 'The Quartet.' It is the story of Dab's school and college life, and certainly equals the former story in interest. In a literary point of view, it ranks among the best of its kind. There are few writers of boys' books who present boy-life in the strong, sympathetic, manly way that Mr. Stoddard does. His good boys are genuine, fun-loving, careless, but royal-hearted. In the words of one of their admirers, 'They're a fine lot, take 'em all round.'"-Boston Post.

SALTILLO BOYS.

Mr. Stoddard's stories for boys grow better and better every year. Good as were "Dab Kinzer" and the "Quartet," Saltillo Boys surpasses them in its narrative of bright, manly, and yet thoroughly boy-like life in an inland town, whose actual name and locality may be shrewdly guessed by those familiar with its characteristics. The incidents are thoroughly boyish, and yet quite free from frivolity. The drift of the book is wholly on the side of frank, intelligent, and self-reliant manliness; and it is impossible for any boy to read it without absorbing a love for nobility of character, and forming higher aspirations.

AMONG THE LAKES.

Mr. Stoddard's bright, sympathetic story, "Among the Lakes," is a fitting companion to his other books. It has the same flavor of happy, boyish country life, brimful of humor, and abounding with incident and the various adventures of healthy, well-conditioned boys turned loose in the country, with all the resources of woods and water, and their own unspoiled natures.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares