Zeph Higgins had the spirit of a general. He, too, had his vision of an approaching town-meeting, and that evening, sitting in his family circle, gave out his dictum on the subject:

"Wal—they'll hev a town-meetin' afore long, and hev up that air old school'us' bizness," he said, as he sat facing the blaze of the grand kitchen fire.

Mrs. Higgins sat by in her little splint-bottomed rocking-chair, peacefully clicking her knitting-needles. Abner sat at her right hand, poring over a volume of "Rollin's Ancient History." Abel and Jeduthun were playing fox-and-goose with grains of corn in the corner, and Tim was whittling a goose-poke.

All looked up at the announcement of this much-bruited subject.

"They never seem to come to anything on that subject," said Mrs. Higgins. "I wish the school-house was better situated; a great many are kept from the prayer meetings there that would come if it wasn't for that windy, slippery hill. The last time I went, it was all I could do to get up," she said; "and I thought I caught a cold."

"There's not the least doubt on't," said Zeph, "and the children are allers catchin' colds. Everybody knows where that air school'us' ought to be. Confounded fools they be, the hull lot on 'em; and, for my part, I'm tired o' this 'ere quarrelin' and jawin', and I ain't a-goin' to stan' it no longer. It's a shame and it's a sin to keep up these 'ere quarrels among neighbors, and I'm a-goin' to put a stop to it."

It may be imagined that this exordium caused a sensation in the family circle.

Mrs. Higgins opened her meek blue eyes upon her husband with a surprised expression; the two boys sat with their game suspended and their mouths open, and the goose-poke and "Rollin's History" were alike abandoned in the pause of astonishment.

"Tomorrow's Saturday," said Zeph; "and Saturday afternoon there won't be no school, and I'll jest take the boys, both yoke of oxen and the sleds, and go up and move that air school'us' down to the place where't orter be. I'll wedge it up and settle it good and firm, and that'll be the end on't. Tain't no sort o' use to talk. I'm jest a-goin' to do it."

Zeph looked as if he meant it, and his family had ceased to think anything impossible that he took in hand to do. If he had announced his intention of blowing up the neighboring crag of Bluff Head, and building a castle out of the fragments, they would have expected to see it done.

So Zeph took the family Bible, and, in a high-pitched and determined voice, read the account of Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza, repeated his evening prayer, ordered all hands to bed, raked up the fire, had all snug and quiet, and stepped into bed just as the last stroke of the nine o'clock bell was resounding.

At four o'clock the next afternoon, as Hiel Jones was coming in on his high seat on the Poganuc stage, whistling cheerily, a sudden new sensation struck him. Passing over North Poganuc hill, he bethought him of the schoolhouse question, and lifted up his eyes, and lo! no schoolhouse was there. For a moment Hiel felt giddy. What was the matter with his head? He rubbed his eyes, and looked on all the other familiar objects; there was the old pine tree, there the great rock, but the schoolhouse was gone. The place where it had stood was disturbed by tramping of many feet, and a broad, smooth trail led down the hill.

"Wal, somebody hez gone and ben and done it," said Hiel, as he whipped up his horses to carry the news.

Farther on, in a convenient spot at the junction of three roads, under the shelter of a hill, stood the schoolhouse—serene as if it had grown there; while Zeph Higgins and his son Abner were just coming forward on the road toward Hiel, Zeph triumphantly whipping his oxen and shouting the word of command in an elevated voice.

Hiel drew to one side, and gave a long whistle. "Je-ru-salem," he exclaimed, "ef you hain't ben and done it!"

Zeph lifted his head with an air of as much satisfaction as his hard features could assume, and, nodding his head in the direction of the schoolhouse, said:

"Yis—there 'tis!"

Hiel laid his head back, and burst into a loud, prolonged laugh, in which he was joined by Abner and the boys.

"Don't see nothin' to laugh at," said Zeph, with grim satisfaction. "Fact is, I can't hev these 'ere quarrels—and I won't hev 'em. That air's the place for that school'us', and it's got to stand there, and that's the eend on't. Come, boys, hurry home; mother's beans will be a-gettin cold. Gee—g'lang!" and the black whip cracked over the back of the ox-team.

Hiel was a made man. He had in possession an astounding piece of intelligence, that nobody knew but himself, and he meant to make the most of it.

He hurried first to Deacon Peasley's store, where quite a number were sitting round the stove with their Saturday night purchases. In burst Hiel:

"Wal, that air North Poganuc school'us' is moved, and settled down under the hills by the cross-road."

The circle looked for a moment perfectly astounded and stupefied.

"You don't say so!"

"Dew tell!"

"Don't believe ye."

"Wal, ye kin all go and see. I came by, jest half an hour ago, and see it with my own eyes, and Zeph Higgins and his boys a-drivin' off with their sleds and oxen. I tell ye that air thing is jest done. I'm a-goin' to tell Dr. Cushing's folks."

Poganuc People had something to talk about now, in good earnest.

Hiel stopped his stage at the parson's door, and Dr. Cushing, expecting some bundle from Boston, came out to the gate.

"Doctor, thought I'd jest stop and tell ye that the North Poganuc school'us' hez ben moved to the cross-roads, down under the hill—thought ye'd like to hear it."

The Doctor's exclamation and uplifted hands brought to the door Mrs. Cushing and Dolly and the two boys, with Nabby. Hiel was in his glory, and recounted all the circumstances with great prolixity, the Doctor and Mrs. Cushing and all his audience laughing at his vigorous narrative.

"Yis," said Hiel, "he said he wa'n't a-goin' to hev no more quarrelin' about it; everybody knew the school'us' ought to be there, and there 'twas. It was all wedged up tight and stiddy, and the stove in it, and the pipe stickin' out o' the winder, all nateral as could be, and he jest goin' off home, as ef nothin' hed happened."

"Well, if that ain't jest like father!" exclaimed Nabby, with an air of pride. "If he wants a thing done he will do it."

"Certainly this time he has done a good thing," said the Doctor; "and for my part I'm obliged to him. I suppose the spirit of the Lord came on him, as it did on Samson."

And for weeks and months thereafter, there was abundance of talking and every variety of opinion expressed as to the propriety of Zeph's coup d'état, but nobody, man, woman, or child, ever proposed to move the schoolhouse back again.

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