A vast cluttering and screaming of fowls was the first thing that drew off their attention from their fragrant load.
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Some of the poor poultry that their father had been plucking alive as he Edition: current; Page: [ 53 ] was wont to do six time a year had evidently made their escape from his hands half plucked, and were now making short flights, higher and farther from home, so that it was more probable that they would join their wild acquaintance, the turkeys or the prairie fowl, than return to roost among the logs.
Next appeared,—now entangling its hind legs among the vines, now poking its snout into a ground-squirrel's nest, and now scuttling away from pursuit,—a fine young porker, which had been shut up from its rambles for some time past. The sisters gave chase to their own property; but all in vain: their pursuit only drove the animal farther into the wood, and they hastened home to give notice of the disaster. They could see nothing of Brawn about the house, but could not look farther for him till they had discovered the meaning of the light smoke which issued from the door and the crevices of the log-wall.
Black Brawnee's best gown was burning before the fire,—the splendid cotton gown, with a scarlet ground and a pattern of golden flowers, which, to the astonishment of every body, flowers, she had taken a fancy to buy of a passing trader, and which she had washed and hung up to dry in preparation for the market: it was smouldering away, leaving only a fragment to tell the tale.
Next came a moan from an enclosure behind the cottage, and there lay a favourite young colt with two legs so broken that it was plain the poor animal would never more stand. How it happened could not be learned from the dumb beast, nor from the two or three other beasts that were huddled Edition: current; Page: [ 54 ] together in this place, where they had no business to be.
It seemed as if, in some grand panic, the animals had tumbled over one another, leaving the colt to be the chief sufferer. But where was Brawn himself? He was moaning, too, in a hollow place in the wood, where he had made a false leap, and fallen so as to sprain his ankle, while in pursuit of the runaway porker. I knotted the rope last night, and so might you this morning.
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The loss of the porker comes of losing the lamb. It was too true. For want of a latch, the gate of the enclosure was tied with a rope. The damsels found the tying too troublesome, and merely pulled it after them. Little by little it had swung open. A sharp-set wild cat had stolen in to make choice of a meal, and run out again with the pet lamb.
The master had followed the lamb, and the porker made the best of his opportunity, and followed Edition: current; Page: [ 55 ] the master.
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Then ensued the hue and cry which drove the beasts over the poor colt; and, meantime, the scarlet gown, one sleeve of which had been puffed into the fire by Brawn's hasty exit, was accelerating the smoking of the dried beef which hung from the rafters. A vast unproductive consumption for one morning! The damsels made nothing of carrying their father home, and, after bathing his ankle, laying him down on his back to study the rafters till they should return from the market.
It was a much harder task to go to market; the one without her scarlet and yellow gown, and the other with grief for her lamb lying heavy at her heart. They found their pigs very trying to their tempers this morning. Instead of killing them, and carrying them to market in that quiet state, as usual, the damsels had resolved to make the attempt to drive them; as from the abundance of pork in all its forms in the market just now, a sale was very uncertain.
To drive pigs along a high road is not a very easy task; what then must it be in a wild country, where it is difficult even to follow their vagaries, and nearly impossible to reclaim them?
The Brawnees agreed that to prevent such vagaries offered the only hope of getting to market in time; and one therefore belled the old hog which was to be her special charge, while the other was to promote to the utmost the effect of the bell-music on the younger members of the drove. The task was not made easier by the poor beasts having been very ill-fed. There was little in the coarse, sour Edition: current; Page: [ 56 ] prairie grass to tempt them: but patches of juicy green were but too visible here and there where travellers had encamped, feeding their beasts with hay, and leaving the seeds of the perennial verdure which was to spring up after the next rains.
Nothing could keep the old hog and the headlong train from these patches, whether they lay far or near; insomuch that the sisters were twenty times tempted to leave their swine to their own devices, and sell no pork that day. But the not selling involved the not buying; and this thought generated new efforts of patience and of skill. When they arrived at the scene of exchange, and cast a glance on Mrs.
Dods's display of cotton garments set off with here and there a muslin cap, and paraphernalia of pink and green; or on a pile of butter which they were not neat-handed enough to rival; or into wicker baskets of crockery, or upon the trader's ample store of blankets, knives, horn spoons, and plumes of red and blue feathers, they felt that it would indeed have been cruel to be compelled to quit the market without any of the articles that were offered to their choice.
Nobody, however, inquired for their pigs.
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One neighbour was even saucy enough to laugh at their appearance. Your swine will be more fit for market next week, if you feed them on my fine pumpkins in the meanwhile. You have not bought a field, and grown pumpkins since yesterday, I suppose? I have a slip of a garden, let me tell you; and, though it is but a slip, it is of rare mellow mould, where the vines strike at every joint as they run.
My wife has kept enough for pies for all the travellers that may pass before next spring. One load is bespoken at four dollars; and you will take the other, if you are wise. There are a few gourds with them. I am sure we, at the tavern, could not, so dear as crockery is at this place. Cut off the lop, and.
Take my gourds, I advise you, and set yonder crockery-man at defiance, with his monstrous prices and brittle ware. If we take your load, it shall be the pumpkins without the gourds. We want our dollars for the crockery-man. I think we shall all grunt soon. We are pretty sure to have no Jews come our way. We all have bacon for the morning meal; and a pig for dinner, and salt pork for supper.
Edition: current; Page: [ 58 ] When one whistles to the birds, there comes a squeal instead of a chirp; and as sure as one walks in the dark, one stumbles over a pig. Our children learn to grunt before they set about speaking. No pork for me! We have a glut of pigs. Your wife wants honey for her pumpkin-pies; and I have heard that you set out mead sometimes at your tavern. How much honey will you give me for my load?
The damsel was checked in her answer by her sister, who perceived that many eyes were turned towards their fragrant store, and that no other bee-hunters seemed to be in the market. A dollar a gallon was the price announced by the sisters, after a consultation. Kendall shook his head, and stood aside for awhile. The truth was, he was full as much in want of honey for his purposes as an apothecary, as his wife for her coffee and pies. He was resolved to get some, at whatever price, and waited to put in his word at the first favourable opportunity.
Arthur was no less determined upon a purchase of sweets. His mother began to be in distress about her preserves. Her fruit was all ripe, and craving to be preserved; but the destined sugar had gone to sweeten the waters in the Creek. She entreated her son to bring her some honey.
None could be found in the woods near the farm. Every body was hay-making, or Edition: current; Page: [ 59 ] about to make hay, and could not go out bee-hunting.
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The Brawnees were the only resource. She was again checked by her sister, who knew her disposition to serve Arthur, at the expense of her own interests, and those of every body else.
The one sister shook her head; the other suddenly discovered that it would be a good plan to improve and enlarge their wealth of swine while swine were cheap. She offered her five gallons of honey for one fat pig; which offer caused her sister much consternation, and made Kendall hope that the honey would be his, after all.
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You shall have two of those pigs for your five gallons; and if your sister thinks that not enough, the difference shall be made up in fresh butter. While the bargain was being discussed, one sister controlling the generosity of the other, and her admiration of Arthur's generosity, while Arther was thinking of nothing but fair play, Kendall wandered away discontented, seeing that his chance was over.
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It is what I want above every thing. Really, it is impossible to persuade an eve to look at my caps to-day, though the pattern has never been introduced here before. There is no use in my attempting to deal with ladies who dress in such a strange style as Brawn's daughters.