Pine Needles

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PINE NEEDLES.

Warne's Star Series.

PINE NEEDLES.

BY THE AUTHOR OF ”_THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD_.”

”They that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.”--_Heb._ xi. 14.

Publisher's Mark]

New Edition.

LONDON: FREDERICK WARNE AND CO. BEDFORD STREET, STRAND.

_NOTICE TO THE READER OF ”PINE NEEDLES.”_

This little book might have been entitled ”Christian Heroes,” for itscontents would have justified the name. The stories reported in the”Missionsblatt” of the late Pastor Louis Harms of Hermannsburg, oflovely memory, will surely delight all who love either heroism orChristianity, and are not able to enjoy the narrations in their originalGerman dress. The author has framed them in a light frame of her own,but the stories are left in their integrity and simplicity, withomission of scarcely a dozen words.

_February 1, 1877._

PINE NEEDLES AND OLD YARNS.

CHAPTER I.

The Franklins were coming to Mosswood.

This might have happened, Maggie thought, a good while ago; but,however, the view had not been shared by Mrs. Candlish; and a whole yearhad passed away since the joyful coming home of the family to their oldpossessions. The winter was spent at Mosswood in quiet gladness andgradual strength-gaining; the spring brought a return to all thefavourite out-door amusements and occupations of the family. Summer wasthe proper time for company, and the house had been filled till the endof September. Then Mrs. Candlish declared she was tired and must runaway, or she would be obliged to entertain people till November; and shejoined her husband in a trip to California, which, half for business andhalf for pleasure, Mr. Candlish had resolved upon taking. At thatjuncture the children begged for the Franklins; and their mother waswilling. ”As I cannot be here,” she said, ”it will not be necessary toextend the invitation to Mrs. Franklin. You may have the others, and dowhat you will with them.”

”I should think,” remarked Maggie, ”if Meredith and Flora heard whatmamma said, they wouldn't like it much.”

However, they did not hear it, and if they guessed at the substance ofit I don't know; but Flora had too much curiosity, and Meredith too muchaffection engaged, to be over scrupulous. So they came, and werewelcomed, I was going to say, uproariously. It just fell short of that.For even Esther privately declared to her sister that ”nobody was sonice as Meredith Franklin.”

Now, after seeing them, the next thing was to make them see Mosswood;and many were the consultations Maggie and Esther had already held overplans and means. Nothing could be settled after all till the guestscame. And when they came, the whole first evening was spent in joyoustalk and recollections. But the next morning before breakfast Maggie andMeredith met at the house door. Meredith had been out walking.

”How do you like it?” she asked daringly, clasping his hand, while hereyes looked love and pleasure hard into his face.

”It is the most beautiful place I ever saw in my life!”

”And it is such a nice day,” said Maggie gleefully. ”What shall we doto-day?”

”Let us be out of doors!”

”Oh yes, we'll be out of doors,” said Maggie; ”but where shall we go?”

”Nowhere out of Mosswood--if you ask me. I don't want anything else.”

”Well, Mosswood is pretty good,” said Maggie, ”because, when you are atMosswood you have the hills and the river and all, _besides_ Mosswood,you know--O Meredith! I have thought of something!”

”I dare say,” Meredith answered smiling. ”That is quite in your way.”

”This is something nice. Suppose we go out and have dinner in thewoods?”

”I should say it was a capital plan.”

”We used to do that in old times, before ever we went away. And we havegot a nice little cart, Meredith, to carry our dinner, and whatever wewant; and--Oh, it's nice! it's nice!” exclaimed Maggie, jumping on hertoes for delight. ”I'm _so_ glad you're here! and I'm _so_ glad to gointo the woods again to dinner.”

”We want only one thing,” said Meredith.

”What's that?”

”Mr. Murray.”

”Uncle Eden! I'll write to him.”

”Let us all write to him. Every one put in something. That will bringhim, maybe.”

”Yes, that will bring him!” Maggie echoed; and I do not believe that forthe rest of the morning she took another flat step. On her toes, was theonly way that her spirits could go. The first thing after breakfast wasthe Round Robin to Uncle Eden. Maggie began it, as the youngest.

”DEAR UNCLE EDEN,--Flora and Meredith are here while mamma and papa are gone to California. We are going out in the woods to dinner; and we all want you. Do please come, if you can get away from Bay House. We want you as much as anybody can be wanted.

”MAGGIE.”

Then Esther wrote--

”DEAR UNCLE EDEN,--It is quite true. We do all want you very much. Fenton is coming, and I am afraid nobody will keep him in order, if you are not here.

”ESTHER.”

Then Flora--

”I think we would all be very glad to see Mr. Murray. I am sure one sincerely glad would be

”FLORA FRANKLIN.”

Last, Meredith--

”DEAR MR. MURRAY,--You know how true is all the foregoing. And yet, though I cannot suppose I should be gladder to see you than everybody else, it does seem to me that I _want_ to see you more than any of the rest can--because I have so many questions to ask, and feel that I need so much advice. I hope you may find that you can comply with our joint earnest desire.

”MEREDITH FRANKLIN.”

After all were done, Maggie begged for the paper, to add a word thatnobody else must see. This was what she said--

”DEAR UNCLE EDEN,--I want to say a _private_ word to you. I feel somehow as if it was not just exactly respectful to Meredith and Flora that they should be here with nobody but just us. Don't you think so? But if you could come, it would be all right. We are going in the woods to dinner to-day--Oh, I wish you were here!

”MAGGIE.”

This joint epistle finished and sealed, and some other despatches forLeeds got ready, it was time to see about making preparations for thewoods. Where should they go? Question the first.

”To the old Fort.”

”To the Happy Valley.”

”No, to the Lookout rock.”

”Not to-day, Esther. Let's keep that for Uncle Eden.Suppose--suppose”----

”The Plateau.”

”It seems to be an _embarras de richesses_,” said Meredith laughing,”and I do not wonder. Let me help you. Suppose we go up on this heightjust east of us; isn't the view pretty from there?”

”The South Pitch! Oh, it's _lovely_ up there!” cried Maggie. ”You lookdown on the house, and you look down the river, and it's shady and nice.It's just lovely! That is best for to-day. Then, other days, we'll takethe other places. Now, we must get ready.”

”What?” said Flora.

”Oh, you must get your work, or books if you like; whatever you like;and Meredith must find a book, too, I suppose; we always take books andwork, and then we talk; but once when we took nothing, then we didn't doanything. Esther and I must prepare the waggon; cart, I mean.”

”What is to go in the cart? Cannot we help you?” said Meredith. ”And,where is the cart, in the first place?”

”Oh, it's up in the wood-house loft; we haven't had it out this yearyet, you know. Ditto, maybe you'll tell Fairbairn to get it down, willyou?”

”Who is Mr. Fairbairn?”

”Oh, the gardener. He's out there somewhere. Esther and I must go toBetsey for things.”

”I suppose I shall know Fairbairn when I see him,” said Meredithsmiling, as he put on his hat.

In a quarter of an hour the cart stood at the door, and Esther andMaggie and Flora were busily packing ”things” in baskets. Meredith cameto put his hand to the work.

”It is so hard to remember everything,” said Esther. ”We always forgetsomething or other, and then somebody has to go back for it. Now, hereis all the china, I think. Oh, stop! have we put the teapot in?”

”Who wants tea?” said Meredith.

”In the woods? Oh, we always have tea in the woods, and sometimescoffee.”

”Make a fire to boil the kettle?”

”Why, _of course_!”

”How should I know it was of course? Well, tea is very good in thewoods, I have no doubt. Don't forget the tea.”

”But I should have forgotten the sugar, if you hadn't spoken.”

”And the salt! don't forget the salt; we always do.”

”We don't want salt to-day; we have nothing to eat it with.”

”Yes, we have.”

”No, we haven't; there is cold ham, and bread, and butter, andapple-sauce.”

”Take the salt,” said Meredith, ”and give me a few eggs, and I'll makeyou a friar's omelet.”

”A friar's omelet! What is that?”

”You'll see. Only I shall want a dish to mix it in, you know.”

Delightful! The dish was fetched from the kitchen, and the omelet pan.Ham and apple-sauce Betty had packed for the party already; rolls andbutter, spoons and knives and forks, a pitcher of cream, napkins--I donot know what all--went into the other baskets, and were finally stowedin the cart. A light porter's cart, it was; roomy enough; and yet itgrew pretty full. The tea-kettle must find a place; then books andknitting and paper. Then thick shawls to spread upon the rocks, to makesofter seats for the more ease-loving. Fairbairn carried a tin pail withwater. All these arrangements took up time; so the morning was well onits way and the dew long off the grass, when at last the procession setforth. Meredith drew the cart, which he was informed he must docarefully, or the cream would slop over, and, possibly, other damage bedone.

It was not a long way they had to go this morning. Bordering upon thelawn and shrubbery, to the east, rose a little rocky height, which, infact, prevented the dwellers at Mosswood from ever seeing the sun rise.But the hill was so pretty, they forgave it. Towards the house itpresented a smooth wall of grey granite; on the top it also showedgranite in quantity, there, however, alternating with moss and thingrass, and overshadowed by cedars, oaks, and pines, with now and then ayoung hemlock. The soil was thin; the growth of trees in consequence notlofty; nevertheless, very graceful. No cultivation, hardly any dressing,had been attempted; the purple asters sprung up at the edge of therocks, and huckleberry bushes stood where they found footing; here andthere a bramble, here and there a bunch of ferns. Now the oak leaveswere turned yellow and brown; the huckleberry bushes in duller hues ofthe same; moss was dry and crisp, and ferns odorous in the warm air.

To reach the top of the height a circuit must be made. There was no pathleading straight from the house. Through the grounds at the back of thehouse the way wound along between beds of acheranthus and cinerariawhich made warm strips of bordering, with scarlet pelargoniums lightingup the beds beyond in a blaze of brilliance. Turning then into acarriage road, the party followed it to the north of the height whichMaggie had called the South Pitch, and struck off then southwards intoa little, mossy, rocky, hardly-traced path under the trees.

”This is easy enough,” said Meredith, guiding his cart somewhatcarefully, however, to avoid severe jolts which would have endangeredthe cream. ”I do not see where the pitch is yet.”

”Ah, but you will when you get to the south end,” said Maggie. ”Lookout, Ditto, here's a rock in your way. And these huckleberry bushes arevery thick.”

Following on over rocks and bushes, they soon came to the place Maggiemeant, and Meredith rested his cart and stood still to look. From thesouthern brow of the little hill, the ground fell steeply away; sosteeply that the eye had unhindered range over the river which laybelow, and the hills bordering it, and the point of Gee's Point whichthere pushes the river to the eastward. Not a tree-branch even was inthe way; river and hills lay in the October light, still, glowing, fair,as only October can be.

”Do you like it, Meredith?” asked Maggie wistfully. _Her_ opinion ofMosswood had been long a fixed one.

”I have never seen such a place!”

”Uncle Eden had his tent up here one summer, and he cut away all thebranches and trees that were in the way of the view; for he wanted tolie in his tent at night and be able to look out and see the river andthe hills in the moonlight.”

”And did he have this wall built too?” asked Meredith, seeing that theplatform where he stood was held up on the side towards the river by aregularly laid, though unmortared, wall.

”Oh,” said Esther laughing, ”that wall was laid a hundred years ago,Meredith. Soldiers laid it; our soldiers; all Mosswood was fortified;this is a breastwork.”

”Whom do you mean by 'our soldiers'?”

”Why, the Americans,” said Esther. ”When they were fighting that war, ahundred years ago. You'll find bits of breastwork all over Mosswood.”

”Well, that is delightful,” said Meredith. ”We are historical. Now,what are we to do first? I move, we make our camp just here. We cannothave a better place.”

So there a rock under a tree, here a bit of mossy bank, was takenpossession of; places were carpeted with shawls, and luxurious loungerswere at rest upon them. Fairbairn set down the pail of water anddeparted; Flora got her worsted embroidery out of the cart, and Esther astrip of afghan which she was ambitiously making. Maggie nestled up toMeredith's side on the moss and laid her little hand in his, and for alittle while they were all quiet; these last two enjoying October. ButMeredith did not long sit still; he must go exploring, up and down andall round the South Pitch. Maggie followed him, as ready to go as he,and talking all the while. It was nothing but rocks and moss and treesand brambles and ferns; with the delicious river glittering below therocks, and the glow of the hills coming to them through the trees, andgolden hickory leaves falling at their feet, and now and then a chestnutburr or a hickory schale to be hammered open. Warm and tired at lastthey came back to their place. And then the girls declared it was timefor dinner.