"It's jes' ober here little ways, Hungry," trying to laugh. "We'll fine him purty soon. I's terrible tired an'--sleepy, Hungry."
She sat down there on a heap of leaves to rest, and laid her head down upon her arm, and Hungry mewed a little, and curled up in her neck. The next she knew, the sun was shining. She jumped up frightened and puzzled, and then she remembered where she was, and began to think of breakfast. But there were no berries but the poisonous dog-wood, and nothing else to be seen but leaves and grass and bushes. Hungry snapped up a few grasshoppers, and looked longingly at an unattainable squirrel, who was flying from tree-top to tree-top; then they went slowly on.
About noon they came to a bit of a brook. June scooped up the water in her hands, and Hungry lapped it with her pink tongue. But there was no dinner to be found, and no sign of Massa Linkum; the sun was like a great ball of fire above the tree-tops, and the child grew faint and weak.
"I didn't'spect it was so fur," groaned poor June. "But don't yer be 'feard now, Hungry. 'Pears like we'll fine him berry soon."
The sun went down, and the twilight came. No supper, and no sign of Massa Linkum yet. Nothing but the great forest and the swamps and the darkening shadows and the long, hungry night. June lay down once more on the damp ground where the poisonous snakes hid in the bushes, and hugged Hungry with her weak little arms, and tried to speak out bravely: "We'll fine him, Hungry, sure, to-morrer.
He'll jes' open de door an' let us right in, he will; an' he'll hab breakfas' all ready an' waitin'; 'pears like he'll hab a dish ob milk up in de corner for you now,--tink o' dat ar, Hungry!" and then the poor little voice that tried to be so brave broke down into a great sob. "Ef I on'y jes' had one little mouthful now, Hungry!--on'y one!"
So another night passed, and another morning came. A faint noise woke June from her uneasy sleep, when the sun was hardly up.
It was Hungry, purring loudly at her ear. A plump young robin lay quivering between her paws. She was tossing it to and fro with curves and springs of delight. She laid the poor creature down by June's face, looking proudly from June to it, saying as plainly as words could say, "Here's a fine breakfast. I got it on purpose for you. Why don't you eat, for pity's sake? There are plenty more where this came from!"
But June turned away her eyes and moaned; and Hungry, in great perplexity, made away with the robin herself.
Presently June crawled feebly to her feet, and pushed on through the brambles. The kitten, purring in her arms, looked so happy and contented with her breakfast that the child cried out at the sight of it in sudden pain.
"O, I tought we'd git dar 'fore now, an' I tought he'd jes' be so glad to see us!"--and then presently, "He jes' look so kinder smilin' right out ob his eyes, Hungry!"
A bitter wind blew from the east that day, and before noon the rain was falling, dreary and chilly and sharp. It soaked June's feet and ragged dress, and pelted in her face. The wind blew against her, and whirled about her, and tossed her to and fro,--she was such a little thing, and so weak now and faint.
Just as the early twilight fell from the leaden sky, and the shadows began to skulk behind the bushes, and the birds gathered to their nests with sleepy twitter, she tripped over a little stone, fell weakly to the ground, and lay still. She had not the strength to get to her feet again.
But somehow June felt neither troubled nor afraid. She lay there with her face upturned to the pelting rain, watching it patter from leaf to leaf, listening to the chirp of the birds in the nests, listening to the crying of the wind. She liked the sound. She had a dim notion that it was like an old camp-meeting hymn that she had heard Creline sing sometimes. She never understood the words, but the music came back like a dream. She wondered if Massa Linkum ever heard it. She thought he _looked like it_. She should like to lie there all night and listen to it; and then in the morning they would go on and find him,--in the morning; it would come very soon.
The twilight deepened, and the night came on. The rain fell faster, and the sharp wind cried aloud.
"It's bery cold," said June sleepily, and turned her face over to hide it on the kitten's warm, soft fur. "Goo' night, Hungry. We'll git dar to-mor-rer. We's mos' dar, Hungry."
Hungry curled up close to her cold, wet cheek--Hungry did not care how black it was--with a happy answering mew; but June said nothing more.
The rain fell faster, and the sharp wind cried aloud. The kitten woke from a nap, and purred for her to stir and speak; but June said nothing more.
Still the rain fell, and the wind cried; and the long night and the storm and the darkness passed, and the morning came.
Hungry stirred under June's arm, and licked her face, and mewed piteously at her ear. But June's arm lay still, and June said no word.
Somewhere, in a land where there was never slave and never mistress, where there were no more hungry days and frightened nights, little June was laughing softly, and had found some one to love her at last. And so she did not find Massa Linkum after all? Ah!--who would have guessed it? To that place where June had gone, where there are no masters and no slaves, he had gone before her.
And don't I suppose his was the first face she saw, as she passed through the storm and the night to that waiting, beautiful place?
And don't I suppose he smiled as he had smiled before, and led her gently to that other Face, of which poor little June had known nothing in all her life? Of course I do.
THE STORY OF A FOREST FIRE
By Raymond S. Spears
For more than six weeks no rain had fallen along the southwest side of the Adirondacks. The ground was parched. In every direction from Seabury Settlement fires had been burning through the forest, but as yet the valley of the West Canada had escaped.
But one night a careless man threw a burning match into a brush-heap. When morning came the west wind, blowing up the valley, was ash-laden and warm with the fire that was coming eastward toward the settlement in a line a mile wide.
Soon after daybreak Lem Lawson met the fire on his way to Noblesborough, and warned the settlement of its danger. One man hastened to Noblesborough for the fire-warden, two went up the West Canada to the lumber-camps. The rest of the male population, including boys, hastened down the main road to an old log trail.
It was hoped the fire might be stopped at the open the road afforded.
With hoes and shovels the men dug a trench through the loam to the sand, scattering the dirt over the leaves toward the fire. When the first flames came along, they redoubled their efforts amid the flying sparks and suffocating smoke, but without avail. The sparks and great pieces of flaming birch curls carried the flames over the road into the woods beyond the men, fairly surrounding them with fire.
The men could only go before it, pausing now and then to throw dirt on a spark. Those who lived in the settlement glanced from side to side, wondering if the fire would cross the brook, where they now determined to make another and the last possible stand.
The settlement was built along the brink of a steep side-hill. The bed of the stream was only a few feet wide,--chiefly sand-bar and dry boulders at this time,--and beyond it, toward the fire, was a flat, or bottom, sixty rods wide, averaging not two feet above the bed of the brook.
Should the fire cross the brook, it would climb the hill and burn the buildings. Then it would sweep across the narrow fields of grass, or go round the ends of the settlement clearing, into the "big woods."
One of the fire-fighters was Will Borson, son of the man who had thrown the match, and as he fought with his hoe along the road he heard the men on each side of him cursing his father by name for his carelessness. More than once these men turned on Will, and told him he ought to put that fire out, since his father was to blame for it.
Will did his best. Sparks burned holes in his shirt; a flare of sheet fire from a brush-heap singed his eyelashes and the hair over his forehead. When old Ike Frazier cried out, "It's no use here any more, boys!" Will was the last one to duck his head and run for the road up the creek to the settlement.
Half a dozen men were detailed to go to the houses and help the women carry the furniture and other household goods out in the fields to the watering-troughs; the rest hastened to the brook and scattered along it, and threw water on the brush at the edge, hoping the flames would be deadened when they came.
Among them worked Will Borson, thinking with all his might and looking up and down the creek as if the dry gray boulders, with the scant thread of water oozing down among them, would give him some inspiration. The width of the stream was only a few feet on an average, and twenty feet at the widest pools, over which the flame and sparks would quickly jump.
The fire reached the flat at the foot of the ridge and came toward the brook in jumps. The men worked faster than ever with their ten-quart pails. Old Ike Frazier glanced up the stream, and saw Will leaning on his hoe-handle, doing nothing.
"Hi there!" yelled the man. "Get to work!"
"You tell the men they want to be looking out!" Will called back.
"Something'll happen pretty quick!" With that he dropped his hoe and went climbing up the side-hill toward his home at the top.
Mrs. Borson was just piling the last of her bedding on the wagon when she saw Will coming toward her. He unhitched the horse from the wagon, and had the harness scattered on the ground before his mother could control herself enough to cry:
"Those things'll be burned here! What are you taking the horse for--we--we--"
Then she sank to the ground and cried, while Will's younger brothers and sisters joined in.
Will did not stop to say anything, but leaped to the back of the horse, and away he went up the road, to the amazement of those who were taking their goods from the houses. But he was soon in the woods above the settlement and out of sight of every one.
He was headed for the dam. He had thought to open the little sluice at the bottom of it, which would add to the volume of the water in the stream--raise it a foot, perhaps.
He reached the dam, and prying at the gate, opened the way. A stream of water two feet square shot from the bottom of the dam and went sloshing down among the rocks.
"That water'll help a lot," he thought. Then he heard the roar of the fire down the brook, and saw a huge dull, brick-colored flash as a big hemlock went up in flame. The amount of water gushing from the gate of the dam seemed suddenly small and useless. It would not fill the brook-bed. In a little shanty a hundred yards away were the quarrying tools used in getting out the stone for the Cardin house. To this Will ran with all his speed.
With an old ax that was behind the shanty he broke down the door.
Inside he picked up a full twelve-pound box of dynamite, and bored a hole the size of his finger into one side. Then with a fuse and cap in one hand and the box under his arm, he hurried back to the dam.
He climbed down the ladder to the bottom of the dam, and fixing the fuse to the cap, ran it into the hole he had bored till it was well among the sawdust and sticks of dynamite. He cut the fuse to two minutes' length, and carried the box back among the big key logs that held the dam. He was soon ready. He jammed the box under water among beams where it would stick. A match started the fuse going, and then Will climbed the ladder and ran for safety.