Judith Moore; or, Fashioning a Pipe
FASHIONING A PIPE.
"He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep, cool bed of the river.
* * * * * *
"Hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard, bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf, indeed,
To prove it fresh from the river.
He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor, dry, empty thing
In holes as he sat by the river.
'This is the way,' laughed the great god Pan,
... 'The only way since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.'
... Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain,
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river."
—MRS. BARRETT BROWNING.
FASHIONING A PIPE.
JOANNA E. WOOD.
Author of "The Untempered Wind," etc.
THE ONTARIO PUBLISHING CO., Limited
Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada, in the year one
thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight, by THE ONTARIO PUBLISHING
Co., Limited, at the Department of Agriculture, Ottawa.
"Behold a sower went forth to sow."
Andrew Cutler, with his graceful andmelancholy red Irish setter at his heels, walkedswiftly across his fields to the "clearing" onemorning late in spring.
He was clad in the traditional blue jeans ofthe countryman, and wore neither coat nor vest;a leathern belt was drawn about his middle.His shirt, open a bit at the throat, and guiltlessof collar and tie, displayed a neck such as wesee modelled in old bronzes, and of much thesame colour; for Andrew Cutler was tanned tothe point of being swart. His head had asomewhat backward pose, expressive of anindependence almost over-accentuated.
His hair was cropped short, and was of asun-burnt brown, like his long moustache. His eyeswere blue-grey, that softened to hazel orhardened to the hue of steel. His nose was aquiline,with the little flattened plateau on the bridgethat we call "Spanish." His chin was strong—thechin of a man who "manlike, would havehis way."
Mother Nature must laugh in her sleeve atthe descriptive names we tack to her models.This man so completely satisfied the appellation"aristocratic," that, with the stubbornness of amuch-humoured word, it persists in suggestingitself as the best vehicle to describe this youngfarmer, and indeed the combination would beentirely to the advantage of the adjective, whichis often seen in poor company. A veritablerustic Antinous he was, with broad chest, slim,lithe loins, and muscles strong as steel. Slungathwart his shoulder was a sack of coarse browncanvas that bulged with a heavy load; but hestrode on, his balance undisturbed, and presentlyhe stood upon the verge of the clearing. Thiswas simply a part of the woodland that Andrewwas taking under cultivation. A somewhatunpromising piece it looked, with its stubbornstumps standing irregularly amid the brokenfurrows—(for it had been ploughed, in suchfashion as ploughing may be done when one hasto twist around stumps, over stones, and tearthrough long strong roots).
Andrew remembered the ploughing, as hewalked across to begin his sowing, like the goodfarmer that he was, at the end-rigg. Here wasthe stump that had resisted gunpowder, leverageand fire, and that now was being tortured bysaltpetre, charged in a deep augur hole. Well, ithad been a right brave old tree, but thesaltpetre would win to the stout oaken heart yet.It was perhaps a step in the right direction, thisclearing of the woodland, but all progress seemscruel at first. Here—as he passed over whatseemed a particularly smooth bit—the greatstone lay hidden that had broken his ploughshareoff with a crash, and sent him flying frombetween the plough-stilts. He would rememberthat stone for some time! So doubtless wouldgood old Bess, whose patient brown shouldershad borne the brunt of the shock.
Ploughing a field is like ploughing the sea—oneneeds must have a chart of each to steer safely.That more formidable sea, "whose waves areyears," has no chart. Next winter would seethe uprooting of all these stumps, and the fellingof more trees beyond. Next spring the ploughwould pass straight from end to end, and theseed-drill would sow the space which now hewas about to sow in the old classic fashion—asthey sowed, in intervals of stormy peace, thegrain after the wooden ploughs on the Swisshillsides; as Ulysses sowed the salt upon theseashore; as the sowers sowed the seed in thefar-off East, as has been handed down to us in amatchless allegory.
He began his task, hand and foot moving inrhythm, and cadenced by the sharp swish, swishof the grain as it left his hand, spreadingfan-wise over the soil. It takes a strong wrist anda peculiar "knack" to sow grain well by hand;he had both.
The dog followed him for a couple of ridges,but, besides the ploughed ground beingdistasteful to him (for he was a dainty dog andfastidious), the buckwheat hit him in the eyes, andhis master paid no heed to him, a combinationof circumstances not be borne; hence, he shortlybetook himself to the woodland, where he raiseda beautiful little wild rabbit and coursed after it,until with a final kick of its furry heels it landedsafe beneath a great pile of black walnut logs,built up criss-cross fashion to mellow for themarket. Rufus (named from "William the Red,surnamed Rufus") returned to his master, notdejectedly, but with a melancholy contempt forrabbits that would not "run it out," but tookshelter in a sneaking way where they could notbe come at.
By this time Andrew was well on with hiswork. The sack beneath his arm was growinglimp, he himself was warm. He paused as abird flew up from a turned sod at his feet, anda little search showed the simple nest of agrey-bird—open to the sun and rain, built guilelessly,without defence of strategy or strength.
There is something amiss with the man orwoman whose heart is not touched by a bird'snest—the daintiest possible epitome of love, andhome, and honest work, and self-sacrificingpatience. Andrew had thrashed many a boy forrobbing birds' nests, and had discharged a manin the stress of haying because he knocked downthe clay nests of the swallows from beneath thegranary eaves with a long pole. Now he bentabove this nest with curious-tender eyes,touching the spotted eggs lightly whilst the bird,whose breast had left them warm, flitted toand fro upon the furrows. He remained but amoment (the bird's anxiety was cruel) then, fixingthe spot in his memory that he might avoid itin the harrowing, he was about to go on hisway, when his ears were assailed by a successionof the sweetest sounds he had ever heard—noteafter note of purest melody, flung forth unsyllabled,full-throated to the air, inarticulate buteloquent. Again and again it came, liquid, rich,and with that pathos which perfection alwaystouches.
At first he could not fix the direction fromwhence it came. It was as if the heavens abovehad opened and showered down music upon hisheart as he had flung forth the seed upon theearth: and indeed there were two sowings thatmorning and from each harvests were garnered—firstthe bloom and then the fruit thereof.But as he listened longer he knew it issuedfrom the wood before him. At the first notesome impulse made him snatch off his old felthat, and he stood there, bareheaded in thesunshine, as one might stand to whom had come thepang of inspiration.
The singer was voicing no composition, onlyuttering isolated notes, or short crescendos,terminating in notes of exquisite beauty, but leavinga sense of incompleteness that was so intenseus to be almost a physical pain to him—onlyforgotten when the next utterance robbed him ofretrospect and filled him with hope. Any onewho has heard a perfect singer practising,knows the sensation. In such fashion the unseensirens sang, and men willingly risked death totouch the lips that had been parted by suchmelodious breath.
Andrew still stood, and at last silence fell—asilence he hardly comprehended at first, sofilled was it with the dream of sound thathad passed, so instinct with expectation: butit forced itself upon him, and then suddenlyround him there sounded all the commonplacenoises of life—the croaking of a tree toad, thebuzzing of a chance fly, the far-off shouting ofmen, and the sounds of birds—all that hadbeen deadened to his ear by the magic of thatvoice.
A voice—then whence?
In two strides he was over the ploughedground and in the woods. He searchedthrough and through it in vain. He lookedfrom its borders at his own far-off farm-houseamong its trees, at the gables of the villageof Ovid clustering together, at the tin on theBaptist Church spire glistening in the midst, atthe long low Morris homestead that nestled in alittle hollow beyond his wood: but all was asusual, nothing new, nothing strange. No angel'sglistening wing was to be seen anywhere.
Andrew's grain was spent, but the clearingwas not yet all sown. So he went home leavinghis task unfinished. From one thing to anotherwas the rule of his busy life. He gave a cheeryword or two to his aunt, Miss Myers, who kepthouse for him, and then he was off to town witha waggon load of implements to be mended intime for the summer work.
That night a group of typical Ovidians weregathered in the kitchen of old Sam Symmons'house.
Sam Symmons lived in a frame house, just atthe foot of the incline which led into the villagefrom the north. Like many of the houses ofOvid, his was distinctly typical of its owner. Anew house was such a rare thing in Ovid, thatthe old ones had time to assimilate the charactersof their possessors, and to assume an individualitydenied to the factors of a more rapidlygrowing place.
Old Sam's house was a tumble-down, rakish,brave-looking old house, with shutters erstwhilepainted green. They had once given the wholehouse quite an air, but their painful lapses in theway of broken slats, and uneven or lost hinges,now superimposed upon it a look of indecision.One of the weather-boards at the south cornerwas loose and, freed from the nails' restraint,bent outward, as though beckoning the gazer in.It was a hospitable old house, but wary, too, theornate tin tops of the rain troughs round theroof giving it a knowing look.
The native clematis grew better over theweather-beaten gable than anywhere else inOvid, and the Provence roses, without any carewhatever, bloomed better.
It was as if the house and its environs weremaking a gallant but losing light againstencroaching time and adverse circumstances.So it was with old Sam.
He was an old man. Long before, whenCanada's farmers were more than prosperous,when foreign wars kept the price of food grainshigh, when the soil was virgin and unexhausted,when the military spirit still animated thecountry, when regulars were in barracks at thenearest town, when every able man was aneager volunteer, when to drink heavily and sweardeeply upon all occasions marked the man ofease, when the ladies danced in buckled shoesand chťne taffetas, and were worshipped withchivalrous courtesy and high-flown sobriquets—inthose days old Sam Symmons had beenknown as "Gallant Sam Symmons," and hadbeen welcomed by many high in the land.
He had ever been first in a fight, the lastupright at the table, a gay dancer and a courtlyflirt. But now he was glad to get an audience oftolerant villagers to listen to his old tales.