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Traps and Guns and Other Things


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F F all the salient features that have been momentarily at a loss,

make up the patchwork of wondering what we had forgotten. what we call the past, I re- It would have been the half-conscious member none more clearly movement of our arms in flinging the

than those cold winter morn- caps. It was our mental symbol of ings when regularly I would tumble being at home.

I out of bed long before daylight to go to Outside the door I would break into my rabbit-traps. In shivering haste I a trot, and speedily come to the Long would break the ice in the water- Road or Dewick's Hill, up which I pitcher, pour a gill or two of water into would hasten, with the hardened snow the bowl,—it never appeared to be so of those unsurpassed coasting-places cold when used in small quantity, crunching and creaking under my

– brush my shying fingers over its frosty boots. At the top of either hill I surface, pass the dampened tips lightly would come at once to "the Neck," across such parts of my face as were and under its trees find deeper snow more accessible, finish my dressing, and and the windless hush of thick woods. hurry down-stairs. It seemed an ab- Even when a gale roared in the boughs

a surd waste of time, since a more elabo- far overhead, I would walk in comrate toilet would be required before paratively hushed spaces, hedged in breakfast and school; but some such by the boles of close-set trees and the rites were conscientiously necessary high undergrowth of laurel, its leaves to a proper going forth to face the still undisturbed and vividly green, world after sleep. It was supposed- and often capped with white masses of the supposition was not mine to lift

In daylight one saw everyone above the plane of the barbarian. where the crossing trails of birds and

In the warm living-room I would small four-footed creatures, the tracks wind my "comforter” about my neck of the birds now and then joined by the and retrieve my cap from the small trail of dragging tails into the semtable in the corner, where I had flung blance of endless sprays of slender it clear across the room as I entered vines denuded of their foliage. the door the night before. The fling- On a narrow wood road I reached a ing of the cap was automatic, and I can carefully concealed mark, and, jumpstill see in memory my three younger ing through the screening laurel, brothers, at a later period, come into passed straight into the woods, where the room and fling their caps to the by a series of blazes I had marked the same table with the same subconscious lines of my traps. With snow on the repetition of long-accustomed habit. ground, in the dark mornings, the If we had been met on our entrance course was naturally plainer, for my and the caps taken from us, we would acks guided me then. The snow


betrayed, too, whether they had been the beauty of the morning or for the visited by others.

struggle against cold and snow that I never approached a trap without a had left me with the feeling of not quickened beating of the heart. Would being conquered in spirit. it be sprung? When it was, not up- I suppose that in nine tenths of the right, but bowed with the weight of houses of the village a boy thus coming the gray rabbit that hung stiff in the home to breakfast would have been noose, I had the thrill that comes only met at his door by the same odorsin the great moments of life. The the odors of buckwheat cakes and still, gray form was not a dead thing. sausage or ham. There might be eggs It was the proof of my victory over with the ham, but there would be no wild nature, and linked me with the other difference. The last thing at romantic past, with Natty Bumppo night, from November until the end of and other loved heroes of my boyhood. March, the batter-pot, with its mixWhat child knows Natty Bumppo to- ture of buckwheat flour and "canaille" day? For that matter, what modern flour,

flour, "set" with yeast, would be child goes out before dawn to rabbit- placed near the kitchen fire to rise traps?

overnight. We did not believe in beIt was a toilsome tramp at times, ginning the day undernourished. The when the snow lay heavy on the under fruit and breakfast foods, or the toast brush and beat down the laurel into and marmalade, of modern days almost insurmountable barriers, yet would have been disdained as food fit even then less discomforting than on only for those about to die. Strong the mornings of rain or dripping fog, coffee was an accompaniment, though when every disturbed bough or twig the young were not always permitted sent down a shower of cold drops. to use it. One year I had nearly a hundred traps, Early in the autumn, before the seaand long before I had visited them all son for rabbits, we had made long parI would view the black network of tridge-hedges, or runs, athwart the boughs to the east against a near back- thickly wooded hollows, and had set ground of yellow or crimson, and when snares for quails along the edges of the I turned homeward at last, and came pastures, using for snares the horseto the edge of the wood, I saw the tops hair we had begged from such of our of the hills on the west side of the har- relatives as possessed horses or from bor already touched with the sun, and good-natured farmers. We frequently the eastern windows of their few set our snares in the nearer fields of houses far-flashing centers of white Level-land and Vanderbeck, though fire. Down on our side of the valley, for most of us who were “downstreetas I came to my gate, everything still ers” the Neck was always the favorite lay in shadow, and nothing would be hunting-ground. stirring but the blue spires of smoke It was a tract of twelve hundred going up from many breakfast fires. acres of land, mostly wooded, and But whatever the weather might be, I stretched along the east side of the was always glad for the moment-glad harbor to the sound, along the sound for the impulse that had sent me forth east to Mount Sinai Harbor, and on a certain sort of adventure, glad for thence inland to the lower road" into


town, which it followed to the edge of scrub-oak, the strong stems of which the village itself, ending not far from kept its foliage long after its deep, my father's house. The owners were glowing red had changed to a rich two elderly maiden sisters who never brown. In these snug retreats we disfigured the woods and fields with stored winter apples and turnips, and warnings against trespass and gun- hung up ears of corn to dry, and ning, and asked only that we leave un- bunches of sweet-fern. The dried disturbed the squirrels that frequented sweet-fern we smoked, though not so the grove of great chestnut-trees cover- much for pleasure as for the realism of ing the steep slopes that half-encircled those moments when we “smoked the their house. We religiously respected pipe of peace.” The corn we roasted, this request, and in return were per- but the turnips we ate raw, considering mitted to wander everywhere at will. them both delightful food and bounThere we gathered the trailing-arbutus ties of Nature, a euphemism that deliin early spring and the pink-and-white cately veiled the fact that the "bounbloom of the laurel in late June, set our ties" had been pulled in the farmers' snares and rabbit-traps, and carried broad fields. our first guns. There, too, in autumn As the oldest, E- and I arrogated we gathered hazelnuts and walnuts. to ourselves the dignity of being Mo

hicans, leaving to H- and his com$ 2

panions the lot of representing the Before our gunning days had come, despised Hurons. For weeks we spoke of course, that optimistic age when we so consistently the lofty language of had believed in the bow and arrow, and Cooper's heroes that more than once hour after hour tramped the fields with we inadvertently startled the uniniarrows set to bowstrings, and our tiated and covered ourselves with coneager eyes roving from side to side in fusion. I remember that "Hist!” search of a flying mark. We made our "yonder varlet,” "not so," and "stay bows of hickory or cedar, though we thy coward hand” were constantly on never came to any certainty of convic- our lips in our talk with one another, tion as to which was the better wood though it hardly comported with comfor the purpose. Happily, their inef- mon usage to say to one's mother, as fectiveness as procurers of game at E- once did when his objected to that age counted for less than the part some action, "Thou speakest ill." they played as adjuncts of the realism Mindful of the customs of our protoof the make-believe world through types, in our battles we waited in "amwhich we moved with vast enthusiasm. bushes," and crept for hours through

My inseparable companions at that the thick underbrush in the fond belief period were the two sons of the princi- that Chingachgook himself could not pal of the school, and in the woods have moved more silently. We had near their home we recreated to the barred out bows and arrows as manibest of our ability the atmosphere of festly too dangerous for weapons, and "The Last of the Mohicans," which we went armed with what we called at the moment impressed us deeply. “darts,” long chestnut wands that we We built rival huts, walling them over carved elaborately and hurled at one with the interlaced boughs of the another in attack. We had agreed to aim only at the torso of an enemy, mentarily to stanch the flow of blood, and that he, being struck, was to count but without ceasing his threats of dire himself "dead.” Once, rising from vengeance, while from the safe distance ambush to attack the Hurons as they of the tactical retreat I had made after came up a wooded path, my dart went my successful onset, I watched him wide, and struck H— close to his with growing uncertainty. I was temple. He uttered a most un-Hurona

angry no longer, while he, it was evilike howl and clapped his hands to his dent, was furious, and this, coupled head, and warfare ceased at once as we with his greater size and age, made me saw the blood run down between his doubtful; and when at last I saw him fingers.

making ready to come up with horse, Now, every boy has a vast awe for a foot, and artillery, I diplomatically blow on the temple, and in the expec- changed the character of the contest · tation of seeing him collapse at any and went into action. In other words, moment, it was a very frightened com- I fled. pany that led the wounded Huron All that beautiful autumn afternoon down to his mother. As she dressed

As she dressed he doggedly chased me over the whole the wound, and we, in the nervous re- town, through dooryards and over action of our fears at the sight of her back fences and up hill and down. composed face, stood about her, gar- With my growing confidence in my rulous in explanations, I weakly tried ability to escape, it became at last a to excuse myself by contending that game in a way that it was possible even H— had no right to dodge, and all to enjoy. Of course I might have gone would have been well if he had not. home to a safe asylum at once, but my She diplomatically agreed, but added appearance at so unusual an hour that as dodging seemed instinctive would have caused surprised questionwhenever a blow threatened, perhaps ing, and to explain that I had blooded a better way of fighting might be the nose of so nice a boy as my purfound. We enthusiastically agreed in suer would probably have resulted in that moment of vast relief.

incarceration at home, and freedom, Yet blood flowed again in the play though in flight, was preferable to that before our fascination for it ended. on a holiday. On Monday, in the One Saturday afternoon a much older neutral territory of school, we could boy joined us, and expressed his gra- safely meet, protected by that admircious willingness to take part. Now, able philosophy of boyhood, which I had always claimed, and been al- believes that each day is sufficient unto lowed, the right to personate the silent, itself. but lofty-minded, Uncas; but on the new boy's declaration that he would

$ 3 assume that character, the others, flat- We did not wholly abandon “The tered by the interest of an older boy, Leather Stocking Tales” and the woodreadily agreed. I did not. Angry craft of the red men, but "Ivanhoe"

I words followed, and then the sudden and Robin Hood for a time converted flashing up of hostilities, in which by our primeval forest into "the greensome lucky chance I made my rival's wood," and as Locksley, or Robin Hood, nose bleed badly. He paused mo- we shot at peeled willow wands with


cloth-yard shafts, and as a reluctant over the heads of the horses, we had Sheriff of Nottingham harried H-mounted our steeds from the fence, over the whole country-side. As the and with two long poles for lances, had

younger brother of E-, he was the taken our places on opposite slopes of lawful, if sometimes obstreperous, sub- the field, with the bottom of the bowl stitute for unpopular characters. We between us, where we were to meet in always used a “cloth-yard shaft,” mimic battle. But as E

-raised thinking the novel term a realistic his hand as a signal to advance, and, touch, though long puzzled by the clapping my heels against the ribs of curious insistence of writers to make my charger, I felt myself in motion, a yard of cloth the attribute of an misgivings seized me. A vast gulf arrow, like the tail to a kite. With the appeared to yawn before the low-held

a literal-mindedness of youth, we could head of my horse as, stumbling, he see no other explanation.

jogged down the steep slope, and my But it was the genius of E that lance wavered uncertainly in a hand made “Ivanhoe” really live, at least that seemed to know instinctively that for a thrillingly dramatic hour. Locks- it could be better employed by graspley's skill had speedily grown tame, ing the mane. My horse, in passing, especially as we had never succeeded snatched at a tall weed, and the conin making it our own, and one day, vulsive movement caused by the acidly wandering in search of something tion tore the bridle from my hand. to do, we had come to the familiar It fell out of my reach, of course, and pastures of Level-land, on the top of as I looked anxiously up for my foe, I the hill east of the village. The first saw with vast relief that his steed, befield, for the time in pasture, was like calmed, was cropping the grass on the

, a great saucer, or amphitheater, on opposite side of the slope, with Ethe slopes of which two of the farmer's desperately tugging at the bridle. horses were browsing. The "upper From the depths of his hereditary barn” stood at the northeast corner of knowledge as a descendant of horsethe field, and was used only for hay, men in his loved Wyoming Valley, the farmer's main barn being down in E-gravely declared that the horses the village and not far from his house, 'needed training, to which I as gravely which stood next to my father's. agreed, and for a time we walked them Whatever happened in the bowl was up and down the slope. Because reasonably safe from observation. neither would take to himself the

To E-'s fruitful mind there came shame of confessing that his ardor had the thought that a kindly Providence cooled, we again paused at the top for had here provided the lists for the a fresh trial. tournament in “Ivanhoe,” which we

But the horses had grown nervous, had read over and over again; and and as we neared the foot of the slopes there were the farmer's horses. A they broke into a lumbering gallop. spoken hint of his thought was alone Mindful of my misfortune with the sufficient, and a moment later we were dart, we had already agreed to aim our racing home for bridles and lances. lances low at each other's legs and to

Perhaps an hour later, with our im- grasp them lightly; but now as we provised bridles of small rope noosed seemed to rush together in a vast cata


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