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By Grandsire's Well

by Albina Brockway Letts

"Westward Ho!" was the cry throughout the land,
And movers' wagons, as the seashore sands,
On each road were seen all the weary day;
And their canvas tops like the white-capped spray,
Westward rolled with a strong sweep, far and wide,
But never went back with the evening tide.
And while Grandsire sat 'neath the deep, green shade
Not far from the well, and the scene surveyed,
His little grandson rolled on the grass,
And watched the tired teams creeping past.
"Human nature's a study," Grandsire said,
As he softly nodded his hoary head;
"It's curious enough, how that straws will show,
As you've often heard, how the wind doth blow.
And I learn a good deal more than you'd think,
About the folks that come to the well for a drink."

One wagon had halted; the team was lean;
You could count their ribs and the spaces between;
Three dogs followed close, some guns were in view,
And fishing tackle in plenty, too.
Some frowsy children "withstanding a drouth,"
A frowsier mother, with pipe in her mouth,
And a long, lank man sauntered up to the well,
And nodded as his eye on Grandsire fell.
He paused and balanced the pail on the curb
While he answered Grandsire's greeting word:
"Yes, we're goin' out west, where things will grow
With half the work they do here, you know.
And if game is plenty we'uns 'low we'll find
A better place an' more to our mind.
Did I hate to leave? Wal—no, I can't say
That I fretted much 'bout comin' away,
For the land was foul or worn out, far an' near,
An' the weeds tuk our melons every year,
An' the neighbors never wuz much to my mind—
When we fust went thar they 'peared sorter kind,
But they didn't care much fur us arter while
When they foun' we wuz pore'n couldn't put on style.
Pore folks back thar don't have no show,
An' they never come near 'less someone wuz low.
Their stock broke into my 'taters an' corn—
Mine never teched their'n sure's you're born.
(To be sure, their fences wuz better'n mine,
An' they built most of th' division line);
They wouldn't go coonin' and didn't care shucks
Fur fishin', or huntin' fur rabbits an' ducks;
But we hope we'll find neighbors as good as the best
When we onct git settled out thar in the west."

"Nay, nay!" said Grandsire, "believe me, you'll see
That folks are alike wherever they be;
Selfish folks are plenty, and now, you mind,
Your neighbors will always be of that kind."

"Wal, that's 'bout my luck, but I'll be goin' along:
Shuah, all o' them dogs to me b'long,
Aax a fust-rate rifle an' a shot-gun too,
An' a fiddle to chirk us up when we're blue—
Yes, my bosses air powerful weak, an' one's lame—
Hope they tell us the truth 'bout western game;
When we git out into the huntin' groun'
We'll let 'em rest while we look aroun',
An' if the folks air lively an' full of fun,
I'll have good times yet, 'fore my day is done."

Grandsire pondered, and leaned on his stick
Till another team drew up for a drink.
The clean, bright children and a cow tied behind,
Proved them movers of quite a dififerent kind.
A strong, honest-faced man came up the walk
With a cheery "Good morning," and paused for a talk,
While the stout team drank and cooled in the shade,
And the children stretched their limbs and played;
While a clean, rosy woman her needles plied,
As she watched the children by the wagon's side.

Said Grandsire: "And why do you go out west?
Do you think that country so much the best?"
"Well, they say the land is cheap and rich,
With no grubbin' of stumps or diggin' o' ditch;
That there's a good chance for a poor man there,
And I'm willin' to work like a man for my share;
For we want to give the children a better show
Than we've ever had in the world, you know."

"Did you hate to leave the old home, my man?"
As Grandsire spoke, o'er the face of tan
A tremor fell; and a deep flush shone,
And his lip half quivered, then a sigh, half groan,
Came forth, as he nodded: "Indeed I did.
For I'd lived there all my life," he said;
"Yes, there were lots of things we hated to leave.
And some for which we will always grieve;
The bearing orchard, the brook by the road,
The smell of the meadow newly mowed,
The buryin' ground where father was laid
Close by where the baby's grave was made;
The poor old dog that we couldn't bring,
And e'en the old dipper down by the spring;
Most of all, the neighbors, young and old,
The best in the world, just as good as gold.
pJefore we left them last Thursday night,
7"hey held prayer-meetin' at early candle-light;
And when they sang, 'Blest Be the Tie,'
Scarcely an eye in the house was dry;
And when they closed with 'My Christian friends,
In bonds of love,' until it ends
In, 'We must take the parting hand,'
My poor weak knees would hardly stand,
And I dropped down, and bending o'er,
My tears went splashin' on the floor.
They came in the morning we started away,
And when Deacon Bicknell knelt down to pray,
The Lord to preserve us in that strange land,
And hold us in the hollow of His hand,
We thought we'd rather live there on a stone,
Than go out to Paradise all alone.
They brought us fried chicken to eat on the road.
And beech-nuts and chestnuts to add to the load,
And doughnuts and pickles and cranberry sass,
And a great big sack of sassafras,
And cookies that were spiced with caraway seed,
And everything that movers could need;
And things we couldn't use, or save,
That we buried at night in the turnip cave.
No wonder, you see, I hated to leave,
For we never again will such neighbors have."

"Oh, yes! You'll have neighbors as good as can be,
And perhaps the old friends may sometime see,
You'll just such good Christians be sure to find.
Best of all, you didn't leave the Lord behind!"

No one could the gladsome truth withstand,
And as Grandsire held out his trembling hand,
The poor man took it in both his own,
While a strong thrill of courage came into his tone.
"Bless your heart! That's true. Why, you do me good;
Tm afraid it's wicked, this sorrowful mood,
But I felt like a tree pulled out of the ground
With the roots all danglin' and limp around,
So I drank after the horses every day,
For they say you can cure home-sick, that way;
But I reckon I never have, 'til now,
Quit lookin' back with my hand on the plow.
Good-bye! I'll be glad at the end of the route,
To find them good neighbors you're talkin' about;
We'll have a prayer-meeting and Sunday-school, too,
And no doubt find work for the Lord to do."

The little boy crept to his Grandsire's knee,
With eyes just as big as eyes could be;
"Oh, Gran'ther! I listened as still as the mice,
But you didn't say the same thing twice!"
And an awesome look in the sweet face grew.
For he couldn't see how both sayings were true:
And truth's foundations were sorely assailed,
If Gran'ther's word one tittle had failed.
Grandsire held his hand, looked into his eyes
With clear, true gaze which no fraud could disguise,
And said: "It was all true, as I surely do know;
The first man was selfish and shiftless and low,
And the Good Book says, 'If a man would have friends
He must show himself friendly;' the Lord never sends
Good neighbors, or blessings, unless we can bear
Of kindness and labor an honest share.
The man who idles with dogs and guns,
Will be poor while grass grows and water runs;
But the other man was the salt of the earth;'
He'll have a sweet home and a clean, bright hearth,
And friends will flock to its warmth and cheer,
And love him still more, as year by year
He toils, and willingly takes a share
In the world's great burdens of labor and care;
He will share men's troubles and lighten their load,
By his Christian kindness along the road,
And though he will never be rich or grand,
He'll wield a man's power on every hand;
And he'll pity the sinner and teach God's word
And walk all his days in the ways of the Lord."

A light sweet as dreams of love in youth,
In the child's face grew as he saw the truth;
And glad and clear rang the voice of the lad:
"I'll have just such neighbors as that good man had!"

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