Fragrance in Literature-Eben Holden by Irving Bacheller

Addison Irving Bacheller (September 26, 1859 – February 24, 1950) was an American journalist and writer who founded the first modern newspaper syndicate in the United States.
Those who wish to discover more about Addison Irving Bacheller can do so at:
Works by Irving Bacheller

Eben Holden, by Irving Bacheller

Gerald Brower, who was a baby when I came to live at Faraway, and was now eleven, had caught a cold in seed time, and he had never quite recovered. His coughing had begun to keep him awake, and one night it brought alarm to the whole household. Elizabeth Brower was up early in the morning and called Uncle Eb, who went away for the doctor as soon as light came. We ate our breakfast in silence. Father and mother and Grandma Bisnette spoke only in low tones and somehow the anxiety in their faces went to my heart. Uncle Eb returned about eight o'clock and said the doctor was coming. Old Doctor Bigsby was a very great man in that country. Other physicians called him far and wide for consultation. I had always regarded him with a kind of awe intensified by the aroma of his drugs and the gleam of his lancet. Once I had been his patient and then I had trembled at his approach. When he took my little wrist in his big hand, I remember with what reluctance I stuck out my quivering tongue, black, as I feared with evidences of prevarication.

At sunset we halted at Tuley Pond, looking along its reedy margin, under purple tamaracks, for deer. There was a great silence, here in the deep of the woods, and Tip Taylor's axe, while he peeled the bark for our camp, seemed to fill the wilderness with echoes. It was after dark when the shanty was covered and we lay on its fragrant mow of balsam and hemlock. The great logs that we had rolled in front of our shanty were set afire and shortly supper was cooking.

While I went to wash my face in the clear water Uncle Eb was husking some ears of corn that he took out of his pocket, and had them roasting over the fire in a moment. We ate heartily, giving Fred two big slices of bread and butter, packing up with enough remaining for another day. Breakfast over we doused the fire and Uncle Eb put on his basket He made after a squirrel, presently, with old Fred, and brought him down out of a tree by hurling stones at him and then the faithful follower of our camp got a bit of meat for his breakfast. We climbed the wall, as he ate, and buried ourselves in the deep corn. The fragrant, silky tassels brushed my face and the corn hissed at our intrusion, crossing its green sabers in our path.

I remember too, and even more clearly, how he bent his head and covered his eyes in that brief moment. I had a great dread of darkness and imagined much evil of the forest, but somehow I had no fear if he were near me. When we had fixed the fire and lain down for the night on the fragrant hemlock and covered ourselves with the shawl, Uncle Eb lay on one side of me and old Fred on the other, so I felt secure indeed. The night had many voices there in the deep wood. Away in the distance I could hear a strange, wild cry, and I asked what it was and Uncle Eb whispered back, ''s a loon.' Down the side of the mountain a shrill bark rang in the timber and that was a fox, according to my patient oracle. Anon we heard the crash and thunder of a falling tree and a murmur that followed in the wake of the last echo.

I got out of the basket then and followed him in the brush. Fred found it hard travelling here and shortly we took off his harness and left the wagon, transferring its load to the basket, while we pushed on to find a camping place. Back in the thick timber a long way from the road, we built a fire and had our supper. It was a dry nook in the pines—'tight as a house,' Uncle Eb said—and carpeted with the fragrant needles. When we lay on our backs in the firelight I remember the weary, droning voice of Uncle Eb had an impressive accompaniment of whispers. While he told stories I had a glowing cinder on the end of a stick and was weaving fiery skeins in the gloom.

A month or more after we came to Faraway, I remember we went 'cross lots in a big box wagon to the orchard on the hill and gathered apples that fell in a shower when Uncle Eb went up to shake them down. Then cane the raw days of late October, when the crows went flying southward before the wind—a noisy pirate fleet that filled the sky at times—and when we all put on our mittens and went down the winding cow-paths to the grove of butternuts in the pasture. The great roof of the wilderness had turned red and faded into yellow. Soon its rafters began to show through, and then, in a day or two, they were all bare but for some patches of evergreen. Great, golden drifts of foliage lay higher than a man's head in the timber land about the clearing. We had our best fun then, playing 'I spy' in the groves.
In that fragrant deep of leaves one might lie undiscovered a long time. He could hear roaring like that of water at every move of the finder, wallowing nearer and nearer possibly, in his search. Old Fred came generally rooting his way to us in the deep drift with unerring accuracy.

Of all that long season of snow, I remember most pleasantly the days that were sweetened with the sugar-making. When the sun was lifting his course in the clearing sky, and March had got the temper of the lamb, and the frozen pulses of the forest had begun to stir, the great kettle was mounted in the yard and all gave a hand to the washing of spouts and buckets. Then came tapping time, in which I helped carry the buckets and tasted the sweet flow that followed the auger's wound. The woods were merry with our shouts, and, shortly, one could hear the heart-beat of the maples in the sounding bucket. It was the reveille of spring. Towering trees shook down the gathered storms of snow and felt for the sunlight. The arch and shanty were repaired, the great iron kettle was scoured and lifted to its place, and then came the boiling. It was a great, an inestimable privilege to sit on the robes of faded fur, in the shanty, and hear the fire roaring under the kettle and smell the sweet odour of the boiling sap. Uncle Eb minded the shanty and the fire and the woods rang with his merry songs. When I think of that phase of the sugaring, lam face to face with one of the greatest perils of my life. My foster father had consented to let me spend a night with Uncle Eb in the shanty, and I was to sleep on the robes, where he would be beside me when he was not tending the fire. It had been a mild, bright day, and David came up with our supper at sunset. He sat talking with Uncle Eb for an hour or so, and the woods were darkling when he went away.

I remember how hopefully we started that morning with Elizabeth Brower and Hope waving their handkerchiefs on the porch and David near them whittling. They had told us what to do and what not to do over and over again. I sat with Gerald on blankets that were spread over a thick mat of hay. The morning air was sweet with the odour of new hay and the music of the bobolink. Uncle Eb and Tip Taylor sang merrily as we rode over the hills.

'Well, six years after I had gone away, one evening in midsummer, we came into the harbour of Quebec. I had been long in the southern seas. When I went ashore, on a day's leave, and wandered off in the fields and got the smell of the north, I went out of my head—went crazy for a look at the hills o' Faraway and my own people. Nothing could stop me then. I drew my pay, packed my things in a bag and off I went. Left the 'Burg afoot the day after; got to Faraway in the evening. It was beautiful—the scent o' the new hay that stood in cocks and rows on the hill—the noise o' the crickets—the smell o' the grain—the old house, just as I remembered them; just as I had dreamed of them a thousand times. And—when I went by the gate Bony—my old dog—came out and barked at—me and I spoke to him and he knew me and came and licked my hands, rubbing upon my leg. I sat down with him there by the stone wall and—the kiss of that old dog—the first token of love I had known for years' called back the dead and all that had been his. I put my arms about his—neck and was near crying out with joy.

We went back to our work again shortly, the sweetness and the bitterness of life fresh in our remembrance. When we came back, 'hook an' line', for another vacation, the fields were aglow with colour, and the roads where Dr Bigsby had felt the sting of death that winter day were now over drifted with meadow-music and the smell of clover. I had creditably taken examination for college, where I was to begin my course in the fall, with a scholarship. Hope had made remarkable progress in music and was soon going to Ogdensburg for instruction.