But at last—at last—spring did come at Poganuc! This marvel and mystery of the new creation did finally take place there every year, in spite of every appearance to the contrary. Long after the blue-bird that had sung the first promise had gone back into his own celestial ether, the promise that he sang was fulfilled.

Like those sweet, foreseeing spirits, that on high, bare tree-tops of human thought pour forth songs of hope in advance of their age and time, our blue-bird was gifted with the sure spirit of prophecy; and, though the winds were angry and loud, though snows lay piled and deep for long weeks after, though ice and frost and hail armed themselves in embattled forces, yet the sun behind them all kept shining and shining, every day longer and longer, every day drawing nearer and nearer, till the snows passed away like a bad dream, and the brooks woke up and began to laugh and gurgle, and the ice went out of the ponds. Then the pussy-willows threw out their soft catkins, and the ferns came up with their woolly hoods on, like prudent old house mothers, looking to see if it was yet time to unroll their tender greens, and the white blossoms of the shad-blow and the tremulous tags of the birches and alders shook themselves gaily out in the woods. Then under brown rustling leaf-banks came the white waxy shells of the trailing arbutus with its pink buds, fair as a winter's dawn on snow; then the blue and white hepaticas opened their eyes, and cold, sweet white violets starred the moist edges of water courses, and great blue violets opened large eyes in the shadows, and the white and crimson trilliums unfurled under the flickering lace-work shadows of the yet leafless woods; the red columbine waved its bells from the rocks, and great tufts of golden cowslips fringed the borders of the brooks. Then came in flocks the delicate wind-flower family: anemones, starry white, and the crow foot, with its pink outer shell, and the spotted adder's tongue, with its waving yellow bells of blossom. Then, too, the honest, great green leaves of the old skunk cabbage, most refreshing to the eye in its hardy, succulent greenness, though an abomination to the nose of the ill-informed who should be tempted to gather them. In a few weeks the woods, late so frozen—hopelessly-buried in snow drifts—were full of a thousand beauties and delicacies of life and motion, and flowers bloomed on every hand. "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth."

And, not least, the opening season had set free the imprisoned children; and Dolly and the boys, with Spring at their heels, had followed the courses of the brooks and the rippling brown shallows of Poganuc River for many a blissful hour, and the parsonage had every where been decorated with tumblers and tea-cups holding floral offerings of things beautiful at the time they were gathered, but becoming rather a matter of trial to the eye of exact housekeeping. Yet both Mrs. Cushing and Nabby had a soft heart for Dolly's flowers, sharing themselves the general sense of joy for the yearly deliverance of which they were the signs and seals. And so the work of renewing the face of the earth went on from step to step. The forest hills around Poganuc first grew misty with a gentle haze of pink and lilac, which in time changed to green and then to greener shades, till at last the full-clothed hills stood forth in the joy of re-creation, and, as of old, "all the trees of the field clapped their hands."

Poganuc in its summer dress was a beautiful place. Its main street had a row of dignified white houses, with deep door-yards and large side-gardens, where the great scarlet peony flamed forth, where were generous tufts of white lilies, with tall spires of saintly blossoms, and yellow lilies with their faint sweet perfume, and all the good old orthodox flowers of stately family and valid pretensions. In all the door-yards and along the grassy streets on either side were overshadowing, long-branching trees, forming a roof of verdure, a green upper world from whose recesses birds dropped down their songs in languages unknown to us mortals. Who shall interpret what is meant by the sweet jargon of robin and oriole and bobolink, with their endless reiterations? Something wiser, perhaps, than we dream of in our lower life here.

Not a bit, however, did Hiel Jones trouble his head on this subject as he came in on his high stage seat in lordly style on the evening of the third of July. Far other cares were in Hiel's head, for to-morrow was the glorious Fourth—the only really secular fête known to the Yankee mind—and a great celebration thereof had been resolved on by the magnates of Poganuc, and Hiel was captain of the "Poganuc Rangers"—a flourishing militia company which was to be the ornament of the forthcoming celebration.

It had been agreed for that time to drop all political distinctions. Federalists and Democrats, Town Hill folk and outside folk, were all of one mind and spirit to make this a celebration worthy of Poganuc Center and the great cause of American Independence. A veritable cannon had been hauled up upon the village green and fired once or twice to relieve the bursting impatience of the boys and men who had helped put it there. The flag with its stars and stripes was already waving from the top of the Court-house, and a platform was being put up in the Meeting-house, and people were running this way and that, and standing in house-doors, and talking with each other over fences, in a way that showed that something was impending.

Hiel sprang from his box, and, after attending to his horses, speedily appeared on the green to see to things—for how could the celebration to-morrow be properly presented without Hiel's counsels?

"Look here, now, boys," he said to the group assembled around the cannon, "don't be a burnin' out yer powder. Keep it for to-morrow. Let her be now; ye don't want to keep bangin' and bangin' afore the time. To-morrow mornin' we'll let 'er rip bright and early, and wake all the folks. Clear out, now, and go home to yer suppers, and don't be a blowin' yerselves up with powder so that ye can't see the show to-morrow."

Hiel then proceeded into the Meeting-house and criticised proceedings there.

"Look here, Jake, you jest stretch that air carpet a leetle forrard; ye see, ye want the most out in front where't shows; back there, why, the chairs and table 'll kiver it; it ain't so much matter. Wonder now ef them air boards is firm? Wouldn't do, lettin' on 'em all down into the pews in the midst on't. Look here, Seth Chickering, ye need another prop under there; ye hain't calkerlated for the heft o' them fellers—governors and colonels and ministers weighs putty heavy, and there ain't no glory in a gineral smash-up, and we're a goin' in for glory to-morrow; we're goin' to sarve it out clear, and no mistake."

Hiel was a general favorite; his word of criticism was duly accepted, and things were pretty comfortably adjusted to his mind when he went home to eat his supper and try on his regimentals.

The dry, hard, colorless life of a Yankee boy in those days found some relief in the periods called "training-days," when the militia assembled in uniform and marched and drilled to the sound of fife and drum. Hiel had expended quite a round sum upon his uniform and was not insensible to the transformation which it wrought in his personal appearance.

The widow Jones kept his gold-laced cocked-hat, his bright gold epaulets, his whole soldier suit in fact, enveloped in many papers and napkins, and locked away in one of her most sacred recesses; but it was with pride that she gave him up the key, and when he came out before her, all in full array, her soul was inly uplifted. Her son was a hero in her eyes.

"It's all right, Mother, I believe," said Hiel, surveying himself first over one shoulder and then the other, and consulting the looking-glass fringed with gilt knobs that hung in the widow's "keeping-room."

"Yes, indeed, Hiel, it's all right. I've kep' camphor gum with it to keep out the moths, and wrapped it up to save the gold, and I don't see that it's a grain altered since it came home new. It's just as new as ever 'twas."

Hiel may be pardoned for smiling somewhat complacently on the image in the glass—which certainly was that of a very comely youth—and when he reflected that Nabby would to-morrow see him at the head of his company his heart swelled with a secret exultation. It is not alone the privilege of the fair sex to know when things are becoming to them, and Hiel knew when he looked well, as surely as if any one had told him. He gave himself a patronizing wink and whistled a strain of "Yankee Doodle" as he turned away from the glass, perhaps justly confiding in the immemorial power which military trappings have always exercised over the female heart.

It was with reluctance that he laid aside the fascinating costume, and set himself to brightening up here and there a spot upon his sword-hilt or blade that called for an extra touch.

"We must have breakfast early to-morrow, Mother; the boys will be here by sunrise."

"Never you fear," said the widow. "I've got everything ready, and we'll be all through by that time; but it's as well to get to bed now."

And so in a few minutes more the candles were out and only the sound of the frogs and the whippoorwills broke the stillness of the cottage. Long before the nine o'clock bell rung Hiel and his mother were happy in the land of dreams.

In the parsonage, too, there had been an effort of discipline to produce the needed stillness and early hours called for by to-morrow's exactions.

The boys, who had assisted at the dragging in of the cannon and heard its first reverberation, were in a most inflammatory state of patriotism, longing wildly for gunpowder. In those days no fire-crackers or other vents of the kind had been provided for the relief of boys under pressure of excitement, and so they were forced to become explosive material themselves, and the walls of the parsonage rang with the sound. Dolly also was flying wildly around, asking Nabby questions about to-morrow and running away before she got her answer, to listen to some new outburst from the boys.

Nabby, however, had her own very decisive ways of putting things, and settled matters at last by putting her to bed, saying as she did so, "Now, Dolly Cushing, you just shut up. You are crazier than a bobolink, and if you don't be still and go to sleep I won't touch to take you with me to see the trainers to-morrow. Your ma said you might go with me if you'd be good; so you just shut up and go to sleep;" and Dolly shut her eyes hard and tried to obey.

We shall not say that there were not some corresponding movements before the glass on the part of Nabby before retiring. It certainly came into her head to try on her bonnet, which had been thriftily re-trimmed and re-arranged for summer use since the time of that sleigh-ride with Hiel. Moreover, she chose out her gown and sorted a knot of ribbons to go with it. "I suppose," she said to herself, "all the girls will be making fools of themselves about Hiel Jones to-morrow, but I ain't a going to." Nevertheless, she thought there was no harm in looking as well as she could.

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