Puslapio vaizdai

very well part with a controlling interest; alone in the world; there was no one left but it comforted Billy a good deal. It did to love him. me good, too. I acquired virtue, I won the Jim must have chuckled at this. He gratitude of Billy, and I kept a controlling was wise, though young. His father and interest in Jim-three birds with one stone. mother, he knew, were quite well and

hearty; they would be robbing corn-fields, As for Jim, the road ahead looked rocky. thank you, for many a long year yet. As There was Uncle Caleb. He was a prac- for having no one to love you and all that, tical, decisive man, with an impatient why, had he not Aunt Malvina? To be promptitude dangerous to evil-doers. You an orphan where she was matron was simcould n't get far on soft-sawder with ply clover, deep clover, up to your chin. Uncle Caleb. The weeds of the garden Was she not just my lady-in-waiting, her fled before his hoe. In his mind the crow chief business to fetch and carry for him? and the blackbird were at one with the The process was simple for a bright bird potato-bug and the seventeen-year locust, like Jim. Before we knew him he had disconspirators against honest thrift, robbers covered that if you expect to get anything and thieves all. Black pestilence upon in this world, you must yell for it; you them! I smuggled Jim home after night- must "put up a holler.” And the louder fall, and hid him in a box under the you yell, the quicker you will be attended wagon-shed till morning. Then, waiting to. He found out, of course, after he came until Uncle Caleb had gotten safely away to us, that the first person to answer, to the other side of the farm, I brought whenever he turned in an alarm, was Aunt Jim forth and introduced him to Aunt Malvina. You would have thought she Malvina.

was running to a fire. It was equal to Now, in the plain and energetic home- Aladdin's lamp. You rubbed the lamp, spun of Uncle Caleb's life there had been that is, you yelled, -and forthwith, beone romance. That had been his court- hold! the jinnee appeared — Aunt Malvina. ship of Aunt Malvina. He had never Then all you had to do was to turn in gotten over it. At that gentle shrine, after your order. Jim's usual order was milk all the years, he still bowed down. To toast. An orphan? Why, it was high him what Aunt Malvina did was still fortune, clear dividends, ninety-seven per good. Of the romance I knew little at cent. semiannual, payable quarterly in adthat time, but the result I knew well. It

vance. had more than once been my shield and "Seek wisdom and pursue it,” says the buckler. Hence my stratagem.

good Book. Jim obeyed joyously. How Well, it worked, but it was touch and good was life, the mere living, in this best go. What, a crow!-offspring of devas- of all possible worlds! How benign was tation and thievery at large upon his farm! Providence! How beautiful was wisdom, What in the name of all black mischief and how smoothly turnpiked were the could we be thinking of? Did we mean ways of her! How delightful it was to it? Well, well!

bowl along over them on airy tires, no But of course he consented to stand one pebble as big as a wren's egg to jar you, side. It was a heathenish proposition; but Aunt Malvina having carefully removed so be it ; Aunt Valvina wanted it so. To them all! What a trump the good woman convert the heathen was no doubt a good was, truly! All her ways were pleasantthing, even as she said; but if he was goin' ness, and all her paths were paths of peace to convert 'em, according to his notion, a -- peace and milk toast. The rogue praised broad-ax was the thing, swift and sure. her upon sackbut and psaltery. Mischief went to the marrow-bone with If by any chance Aunt Malvina did that breed. However, she wanted it; deny you anything, it was in the plain way therefore, so be it. He would stand to of wisdom to get yourself injured. That one side.

brought her round infallibly. You could Aunt Malvina commiserated Jim. She cash in a sore toe on Aunt Malvina like a regarded him as an unfortunate, a found- bank check. Course of exchange, one sore ling, an orphan, a captive, deserted by his toe = six slabs of milk toast or therefather and mother; or perhaps they had abouts; slight fluctuations according to the been slain by some farmer's gun. He was market.

But a sore toe is no joke. Would it not The poor bird wanted milk toast, a simple be possible to get round this difficulty? An matter, and she denied him; she had driven easy problem, solved by substituting a bo- him to fraud; was assisting him to perdigus sore for the real one-easy as lying. tion, by her hard-heartedness. Alas! alas! It worked, too.

Not that she was de- Thus Jim got his milk toast, and wound ceived by it. To have a young crow hob- up the game, as was due, by another glad ble up to you, desperately wounded, yelling performance, fortissimo, upon sackbut and loudly for milk toast; and having got it, to psaltery. see him walk off sound and whole, miracu- He might well rejoice. Everything was lously cured, is not convincing. Jim was coming his way.

Wisdom was an easy young at the game, after all. But what mark. Aunt Malvina was a conquered could you expect of him? Perfection in kingdom; he had her bamboozled to a finroguery at his tender years?

ish. Billy and I clearly thought him the Yet Jim won out even at this transpar- Only Bird. Our band of boy companions ent game. He would limp up, as I have stood at attention, hat in hand, whenever said, severely injured, scarcely able to he went by. The best of all possible navigate, propellers wrecked, masts by the worlds was spinning like a top, smooth as board, a mere log upon the water; for the air, with Jim as king-pin and main axle. love of Heaven, help! Aunt Malvina, As for Uncle Caleb, it was clear that he who would be sitting in the kitchen, per- did n't count. He stood to one side. He haps, paring potatoes for dinner, would did n't have much to do with Jim, and gaze at him reproachfully over her spec- evidently was a little awed by him. Yes, tacles. Was he not ashamed of himself to that must be it. How else should it be, be so deceitful? Fie upon him! Such a indeed? He plainly deferred to Aunt bare-faced fraud! The truth was not in Malvina, and Aunt Malvina deferred to him. She would not give him a crumb, Jim. The inference was easy.

Uncle not a crumb; let him turn from evil, and Caleb was one of those fellows who go refrain his lips from speaking guile. with the stream, a floater, a hired man, a

Then Jim would lift up his voice in slave's slave. A babe could grasp that logic. protest, loudly, vociferously. It shameful to accuse an honest crow so

THE WATER-TANK shameful; and he scarcely able to get about, his whole leg out of joint; he had THINGS were at this stage when Uncle four toes on that foot, each toe sorer than Caleb endeavored to impress upon Jim all the other three combined; he was in a that he was not the social equal of a Black fearful state; and to his agony of body she Minorca, a mere barn-yard fowl. Think was now adding agony of mind, for she of the ridiculousness of it! Yet Uncle accused him of deceit, of lying-him, Jim! Caleb actually held that absurd notion. Well, it was hard; but he would not ac- Uncle Caleb, you understand, deferred cuse her: he would creep away and hide to barn-yard fowl. They laid eggs; rooswhere his sore toes and his broken heart ters

excellent alarm-clocks; you might heal, far from the callous and unbe- did n't have to wind them, and they went lieving world.

off infallibly very early; they were proper So, his yells subsiding into a doleful farmers, loving the soil. Yes, indeed, whimper and lamentation, Jim would hob- there was much virtue in barn-yard fowl.

In Uncle Caleb's barn-yard hierarchy That would finish Aunt Malvina. His the Black Minorcas roosted high. In eggs clamors of protestation she might have per annum they beat the world. Uncle withstood, but not his final wail. That Caleb, moreover, believed in pure-bred live last pitiful limp and whimper were too stock. That was his weakness. It was a much. He was a fraud, alas! and his sore farmer's duty to improve the breed. You toe was as thin as air; but his heart plainly could improve even on a Black Minorca. was broken. Whence otherwise could From these barn-yard dicta Jim natusuch sounds of lamentation proceed? And rally differed. Born in the top of God's was not the heart as tender an organ as the woods, next door to heaven, what had he toe? Would it not respond as readily to to do with barn-yard creatures ? Improved the healing medicament of a toast poultice? breeds, forsooth! A Black Minorca was



ble away.


beneath contempt-a dirt-scratcher,

THE RIP-SAW time-server, running at every call of “Chick! Chick!" or breaking its neck As for Uncle Caleb, the case clearly through the slats of a fence, with an open needed further study. Confound the old gate two feet away; a piece of market Rusticus! There was an iron bar down produce; a base, mechanical egg-layer; a his backbone in the matter of Black Minloud-mouthed cackler about nothing, re- orcas. Once get an idea in his head, deemed unto salvation if at all by its color water-tanks, for instance,-and only, and that third rate; no true crow seemed to be no getting it out of him. Yet color. He, Jim, not the equal of a Black he was twine in Aunt Malvina's fingers. Minorca ? Merciful heaven! what next? And Aunt Malvina was pudding, Heaven

It is easily understood, therefore, that bless her! How could it be? Plainly, when Uncle Caleb was feeding his half- here was a case for further investigation. grown Black Minorcas, scions of a new Now, when one begins to probe into the strain, the eggs five dollars per setting. Jim depths of any problem with curious and was on hand, lording it among them wher- indefatigable beak, behooves one to look ever the feed fell thickest. It was quite to out for the beak. Jim's investigation ended his mind, that feed, but pearls to those instructively one day in the carpenter shop swinish Black Minorcas. How they gob- in the manner and form that follow. bled it! He chased them away indig- Uncle Caleb was building a new haynantly.

rack, and Jim became deeply interested. But Uncle Caleb did n't see it that way The shop was a new world to him, full of at all. He was n't buying patent chick strange and pleasing things.

The sun feed at three dollars per hundred to fatten shone, the skies were blue overhead, and crow vermin on. Look at the beggar lord Uncle Caleb seemed at last to be getting it! The black vagabond !

some sense into him. Uncle Caleb had, in Jim was projected from the feeding- fact, softened somewhat toward Jim. Jim ground at a high speed and angle, and was a smart one; there was no denying with utter carelessness as to where his tra- that. And if he wanted anything, it took jectory would land him. He fell, in fact, ten men to head him off-ten men and a plump in the water-tank, where he made water-tank; all he needed was starting in panic among the drinking cattle, and the right direction. And he certainly was whence I rescued him with considerable a droll one! Reg'lar drum-major leadin' difficulty. It took him an hour and a half the band; head o' the procession for him. to get his feathers dried out.

Jim, for his part, was in clover. The Here was a new problem, very puzzling, shop and its odd furniturethe tool-rack and even more astonishing than puzzling. and the bench, the bits and braces, saws What could old Rusticus be thinking of? and planes, and all the queer traps and

Jim pondered it for some time, then re- contrivances which Uncle Caleb seemed to peated the experiment. The result was take so childish a delight in playing with precisely what it was before. The water- all day long-Jim was endlessly curious tank had been an accident the first time; it about. He would strut up and down the was a prearranged campaign the second bench by the hour, as trig and superior as It was Uncle Caleb's idea that you could a new building inspector. How queer and look the entire farm over and not find a absurd it all was, indeed! But how curibetter landing-place for Jim than right in ous and interesting! Those queer insects, that water-tank.

grasshoppering with such speed from the Jim took a good deal of convincing, but edge of the chisel, what manner of new he was finally convinced. That is, he con- creature might they be? And those long, formed outwardly; but like Galileo, he queer, flat curly things that came crawling still believed that the earth revolves about so swiftly up through the crack in that the sun.

Outwardly, however, he con- odd, square stick, the plane, what were formed to the Black-Minorcan orthodoxy. they? Worms? And what a queer bird,

It was curious, though, to find the way queerest of all the outfit, Uncle Caleb himof wisdom, hitherto so beautifully turn- self was! Such a long, odd, featherless, piked and so smooth, ending thus abruptly stove-pipe-legged, stump-winged old biin the middle of a water-tank.

ped, pushing his ridiculous stick up and down a pine board, scaring out endless putation was as clean as a whistle) is not worms, which he never ate! Indeed, they a heavy price to pay for wisdom, if you were utterly unfit to eat, for Jim of course really get it. And Jim did. “You'll tried them. Such a silly sheep! Well, he shinny on your own side after this, I was a poor, simple, deformed creature, reckon," Uncle Caleb had said grimly. with his useless stump-wings, quite unable And ever after, where Uncle Caleb was to fly. He must amuse himselt somehow. concerned, Jim shinnied. It was really

So Jim and Uncle Caleb tolerated each cheap,-a quarter of an inch of beak,- if other, and smiled at each other's odd ways, you stop to think of it. till they clashed one day in the matter of That was Jim's notion of it. Beak? a rip-saw.

Pshaw! What was a hair's-breadth of “Seek wisdom and pursue it." Jim, beak compared with wisdom? He sought endlessly curious, taking note of the rip- wisdom. Well, he had got it; he always saw spurting sawdust from the kerf under got what he went after, did n't he? Was the vigorous impulsion of Uncle Caleb's he to sit now and whine at the price? right stump-wing, felt the inevitable im- Scarcely. No, sir, walk up and pay your pulse to investigate. What a strange, fas- shot like a man. That was his way. cinating, filmy glimmer lay along the fly- Lamentation was womanish. ing teeth! And that curious, whitish, Thus with a lofty eye did he rebuke dustlike stuff which few from it, what the sorrowing of Aunt Malvina. He had might that be? Ant-eggs? He pecked at what was worth ten beaks. He knew it; then shook it in disgust from his beak. Uncle Caleb now for what he was-value

He pecked again, this time within a less for crow purposes, a mere brick in the grub's length of that fascinating filmy road, whereof it need only be noted that it glimmer. Uncle Caleb poked him away. was not the best thing in the world to take He did n't want the bird to get hurt. He a kick at in passing if you had tender toes. was an amusing rascal; besides, there were But one thing still puzzled him: why Aunt Malvina and I. It would hurt our had the Lord placed such bricks in the feelings like the mischief.

road for crows to break their experimental Jim came back, a trifle annoyed. Would shins against? It occurred to him that old Rusticus kindly keep his hands off? this was the same old question, really, The investigation might go somewhat be- which he had asked after his water-tank yond the mental processes of the farm- experience. Certainly the Lord did put yard, but he, Jim, was interested. If not one up against some hard ones, bricks and ant-eggs, what?

questions both. He pecked again, this time still closer

THE TUG OF WAR to the fascinating, filmy glimmer, and shook the stuff once more from his beak. It was Kartoffel who finally helped him Dry feed, that, much like breakfast-flakes, to the solution. Kartoffel was the cat. and not in it with a good worm; but There are cats and cats. Some of them what? He pecked again.

seem to be just monotonous repetitions, Uncle Caleb impatiently poked him the Lord's études and five-finger exercises, away the second time. Did n't the fool alike as ciphers; but now and again Heturns crow know anything?

to and creates a significant figure, a cat. Jim came back quite ruffled. Hang the Kartoffel was one of these. I like to old Rusticus! Did he mean to tell him think of her yet, although it is long since where to get off? Once more, if not ant- these things happened. She was a gray,

undersized, but beautifully built, a faUncle Caleb gave it up.

“All right,”

mous mouser, and clear grit from the he said; "keep at it, if you want to get tip of her battle-scarred nose to the end your teeth trimmed; keep at it; I sha’n’t of her tail. She feared neither cat, dog, hender ye. They 're your teeth.”

It was a fine sight to see And of course Jim kept at it. It 's an her sally forth when a strange dog came old story: he did n't know the gun was into the yard, legs stiff, back humped, eyes loaded. Poor Jim!

blazing, fur bristling at fixed bayonets, Still, a quarter of an inch of beak (it was tail Aying defiance at the masthead, to exnot so bad, after all, you see, and the am- pel the intruder out of her coasts. She

eggs, what?






generally did it. Occasionally she found under her very nose. The transaction the enemy too strong for her, in which

grew into a custom. He "cleaned up” a case she would effect a retreat up a tree. handsome little profit on it every day. But this was not because she was afraid. If, after what I have said about KarKartoffel was no fool. She knew when toffel's character, you think that such a she was overwhelmingly outnumbered, business must have been a perfect treading and, like any good general, understood per-' among spring-guns and hair-triggers, it fectly the necessity in such cases of pro- simply shows that you have not stopped tecting her flanks.

long enough to consider. You have forJim would never have subscribed to any gotten about those Black Minorcas. such description as this at all. Kartoffel, Kartoffel, you see, had been brought up in his view, belonged in the Black Minorca in the strictest tenets of the faith. She class. All cats did, and she was a "mere had always believed in Black Minorcas, unit of cat population” with the rest. in her way, especially the little, downy They were all low earth creatures; he was

Then Uncle Caleb took her in of the air. They were slaves and the chil- hand, and taught her that such love as hers dren of slaves; ag ago they had bent the

was not the fulfilling of the law. neck to man, and served him since. He To whet her teeth against Jim, therewas free. He came and went as he fore, would have been sacrilege. She pleased; Billy and I were his satellites; might gnash them, but not whet them; for Aunt Malvina was his bond-servant and the hosts of the Lord were encamped the preparer of his milk toast. As for round about him: he was a Black Minorca. Uncle Caleb, that brick in the road, he And not only were the hosts of the Lord did n't count. You just walked round encamped about him, the terrors of Uncle him, you flew over him. And this man Caleb, but the hosts of the very Prince of was Kartoffel's master, forsooth! She was the Power of the Air. He could Ay. Other a clod's clod.

Black Minorcas could use their wings, of As for Kartoffel's courage, stuff and course, but only feebly, with flap and flutnonsense! Never believe it; it was all ter; Jim had witchcraft in it. bluff. Stand pat, and any old dog could Jim, on his part, bore no malice. It was put her up a tree. Had n't he seen it all in the way of business, laissez-faire, a time and again? Courage? Rot!

Rot! A free competition; and if he had a long puppy could tree her, a poodle puppy. head and a sharp eye and a dexterous beak,

Billy and I knew better than that. We and Kartoffel had n’t, why, it was unforhad seen Kartoffel tried out. But why tell tunate. But what would you? Were the Jim? It would spoil the play. Besides, sacred laws of political economy to budge he would n't believe it. You could n't tell for her? Jim anything. We were admirers of Jim, And were there not always mice? Yea, but there were specks on him, we saw, just mice to sevenfold superfluity. Let her as there are spots on the sun. All we asked attend to them; let her do the work for was to be by when Jim seriously tried to which the Lord had plainly appointed her. call Kartoffel's bluff.

To encourage her in pan victual were plain Thus the game began. We appeared to impiety, a flying in the face of Providence, think, although we did not directly say destructive to her natural initiative and so, that it was Jim's business to lift his hat self-reliance, and leading, in the broadest to Kartoffel as he went by. He would view of it, straight to paternal governprove to us that we were wrong.

ment, state aid, and pauperism. Nay, Kartoffel used to dine out of a tin dish heaven defend us, to very socialism itself! beside the milk-house. Jim, noting the So Jim grew fat and sleek, and the fact, made it in his way to happen round store-house under the board-walk overat meal-time, steal what he could, and flowed with plenty, while Kartoffel nursed poke it down a certain crack in the board- the slow fire of wrath within her. walk where he stored things against fam- Billy and I were disappointed. We had ine. He would sidle up to the dish, get looked for feathers to fly. What on earth his eye on a choice morsel, and while Kar- could be the matter with Kartoffel that toffel stopped eating to growl, he would her fire was so slow?

her fire was so slow? We looked round shoot out a deft beak and snatch it from for a bellows.

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