BERT had come to
Maplebank just in time for the haying season. The long slopes of upland
and the level stretches of intervale waved before the breeze their
russet and green wealth, awaiting the summons of the scythe and reaper.
A number of extra hands had been hired to help in gathering the crop,
which this year was unusually abundant, and a few days after Bert’s
coming the attack was begun.
The mowing machine had not yet reached Maplebank. The papers were
talking about it a good deal, but Squire Stewart was not the man to
quickly adopt new inventions, and nobody else in the neighbourhood could
afford to do so. Consequently, the West River Valley still continued to
witness the good, old-fashioned way of mowing with the scythe; and Bert,
accompanying Uncle Alec to the field, was filled with admiration for the
stalwart “Rorys” and “Donalds” and “Sandys” as they strode along through
the thick grass, cutting a wide swath before them. There was something
in the work that appealed to the boy’s bump of destructiveness, and
filled him with eagerness to join in it.
“Oh, Uncle Alec, mayn’t I mow?” he asked.
“Certainly, Bert, if you know how; but if you don’t, I wouldn’t advise
you to try it,” was the smiling reply.
Not at all discouraged, Bert waited patiently until one of the mowers
stopped to sharpen his scythe, and then stepping to him, asked, in his
most engaging way:
“Please, sir, won’t you let me mow a little?”
The man looked down at him in surprise.
“You couldn’t hold a scythe, sonny,” he said, with a grin of amusement.
“Oh, yes, I could. Please let me try; won’t you?” pleaded Bert.
The man yielded, and placing his scythe in Bert’s hands, told him to go
With much difficulty Bert succeeded in grasping the two short handles
which projected from the long curved shaft, and, summoning all his
strength, he tried to move the scythe in the way the mowers were doing.
But at the first attempt the sharp point stuck in the turf, and
instantly the long handle flew up, turned over, and hit him a hard
crack, square between the eyes, that felled him to the ground.
The stars were dancing before his eyes, and the next moment the tears
would have been there too, had he not, as he picked himself up, caught
sight of the men laughing heartily over his mishap.
“They shan’t see me cry,” said he to himself; and, putting forth a
heroic effort, he swallowed his tears, though the gulping them down was
positively painful, and, standing up straight, looked bravely about him.
Uncle Alec saw it all and understood just how Bert felt.
“Well done, my little hero,” said he, clapping him on the back. “You
have the right stuff in you.”
“That he has, sir,” said Big Sandy, with an admiring look. “He would
make a right good laddie for the farm.”
Bert’s heart was filled with joy at these praises, and he determined
that nobody on the farm should ever see him cry, unless he really
couldn’t at all help it.
The scythe handle gave him quite an ugly bruise, which caused many a
question when he went back to the house; and Aunt Sarah, who was as
nervous as she was loving and sympathetic, made much ado over it, and
insisted on a bandage, which made Bert look like a little soldier who
had been in action. Mrs. Lloyd took the matter much more quietly. She
knew her son had to get his share of bumps and bruises, and that each
one would bring wisdom with it; so she contented herself with a kiss of
sympathy, and the hope that he would have better fortune next time.
The succeeding days were full of surprises and enjoyments to Bert.
His mother gave him full liberty to go and come as he pleased, so long
as he did not roam beyond the borders of the homestead, except when with
Uncle Alec. The hay mows, the carriage loft, the sheep pens, the cattle
stalls, were all explored; and ever so many cosy little nooks
discovered, that seemed just made for “hide and seek” or “I spy.” Squire
Stewart had three barns on his homestead; one very large double barn,
and two smaller ones. Each of these had its own attractions; but the big
barn, that stood to your left, half way between the red gate and the
house, was the best of all. It contained great hay mows, in which vast
quantities of hay could be stored; a row of stalls where the horses
stood when not out at pasture; queer dark pens, into which the sheep
were gathered at winter time; and then, down underneath, great ranges of
uprights, between which the patient cattle were fastened, and fed with
hay, in the months when the snow lay deep upon their accustomed
pastures. There was an air of shadowy mystery about this huge, rambling
structure, with its lichen-patched roof, that fascinated Bert, and that
even the saucy chirpings of the sparrows, which boldly built their nests
in its dusty corners, could not dispel.
Bert often wished that his city playmates could come and share with him
the enjoyments of “grandfather’s.” He was not without companions,
however. Cameron, the big blacksmith at the cross-roads, had three
freckle-faced boys that were very glad to play with the little gentleman
at Squire Stewart’s, when they could get away from the numerous duties
they were required to do at home; and other playmates soon turned up.
Bert was at first not very much inclined to be sociable with them. Not
only did they seem to have no shoes and stockings, but their entire
clothing was usually limited to a battered straw hat, an unbleached
cotton shirt, and a pair of rough homespun trousers; and the city boy
was inclined to look upon the country lads with some contempt, until his
Aunt Martha cured him effectually one day by a remark made in a quiet
Bert had been making some unflattering comments upon the barefooted
youngsters, when Aunt Martha interrupted him:
“You had better not make fun of those boys, Bert,” said she, with a
curious smile. “They may look as though they were poor, but remember
that their fathers have all of them their own carriage and horses, and
your father has not.”
Bert saw the point at once, and never again ventured to ridicule boys
who were the sons of “real carriage folk.” Not only so, but he began at
once to feel a respect for them, which wrought such a change in his
bearing toward them, that they, who were not at all favourably impressed
at first, changed their minds and decided that he was a “right smart
little fellow.” It was while playing “hide and seek” in the big barn
with half-a-dozen of these youngsters, that Bert had a narrow escape
from serious injury, if not, indeed, from death. The great, gaping mows
were being filled with hay, which was pitched in any way, and not, of
course, packed firmly. Consequently, it was in some places like snow
upon the Alpine slopes— ready to fall in an avalanche, at the slightest
In endeavouring to reach a far corner of the barn, where he felt sure no
one could possibly find him, Bert tried to cross a hill of hay, that had
piled up in one division of the mow. His hasty movements were just what
was needed to bring the whole mass toppling down in confusion to the
bottom of the mow. Unfortunately for him, he was involved in the
overthrow, and without a moment’s warning was buried beneath a huge mass
of hay. As he went sliding helplessly down he uttered a cry of terror,
which startled little Rory Chisholm, who sprang out from his
hiding-place just in time to see poor Bert disappear.
“Hi! Hi! boys—come here; Bert Lloyd’s under the hay.”
The boys quickly gathered, and with eager hands set to work, to rescue
their imperiled playmate. But, vigorously though they toiled, it was
slow progress they made; and in the meantime the little fellow, pressed
upon by many hundredweight of hay, was fast losing breath and
consciousness. He could hear them very indistinctly, but could not make
a sound himself.
By a fortunate accident, one of the men happened along, just as the boys
were near giving up the task as too great for them.
“Donald! Donald! Quick! Bert Lloyd’s under the hay. Dig him out, or
he’ll die,” cried Rory, at the top of his voice.
Seizing a pitchfork, Donald attacked the hay like a giant, getting more
and more careful as he drew near the bottom of the mow, until at last,
with a shout of “I’ve got him,” he stooped down and dragged the
senseless form of Bert from the very bottom of the pile. Taking him in
his arms, he ran with him to the house, and gave Aunt Sarah a great
fright by suddenly plumping him into her lap, as she sat on the verandah
reading, saying, breathlessly:
“Here, miss, bring him to, and he’ll be none the worse for it.”
Aunt Sarah screamed for hartshorn, spirits of wine, and the dear knows
what, but Mrs. Lloyd, bringing a glass of water, dashed it freely over
her boy’s pale face, and in a minute or two he opened his eyes again. As
Donald said, he was none the worse for his experience, for no bones were
broken, nor muscles strained; yet all felt thankful that he had escaped
It was not long after this that Bert had another adventure, which also
came near costing him his life. He was not only very fond of water, but
as fearless about it as a Newfoundland puppy. The blue sea, calm as a
mirror or flecked with “white caps,” formed part of his earliest
recollections. He would play at its margin all day long, building forts
out of sand for the advancing billows of the tide to storm and
overwhelm. He was never happier than when gliding over it in his
father’s skiff. It was the last thing in nature he looked upon before
lying down at night, and the first thing to which he turned on awaking
in the morning. Thus he got so used to the great salt sea, that when he
came to Maplebank and looked at the quiet stream, which glided along so
noiselessly at the bottom of the slope before the house, he thought it a
mere plaything, and could hardly be made to understand that, innocent as
the river appeared, there was water enough in it to drown him ten times
One day some of the village folk came out to spend the day at Maplebank,
and the weather being decidedly warm, Uncle Alec proposed that the men
of the party should go with him for a bathe. They gladly assented, and
Bert having begged to accompany them was given leave to do so. Uncle
Alec took them to a lovely spot for a bath—a tempting nook in which one
might almost have expected to surprise a water nymph or two, if you drew
near quietly enough. On one side, the bank rose high and steep,
affording perfect seclusion ; a narrow beach of gravel made a fine place
for undressing. The river rolled gently along with plenty of depth, and
beyond it was another beach, and then the swelling intervals.
Amid much laughter and excitement the men undressed, Uncle Alec allowing
Bert to do the same, as he had promised to carry him across the river on
his back. So soon as they were ready the bathers dived in ; and, with
much splashing and noise, swam races to the opposite bank, leaving Bert
alone upon the shore. Skylarking with one another there they quite
forgot their little companion until Uncle Alec looking across, gave a
start, and cried out:
“Hallo! What’s become of the boy?”
Not a sign of Bert was to be seen. His little pile of clothes, with hat
placed carefully on top, was plain enough but no Bert. Full of anxiety,
Uncle Alec sprang into the water, and with great sweeping strokes made
for the other side. The water fairly foamed about his broad, white
shoulders as he tore through it. He steered straight for the spot where
he had seen Bert last. Three-fourths of the distance had been covered,
when suddenly he stopped, and reaching down into the water, pulled
up—What do you think? Why, Bert, of course, whose big brown eyes had
startled him as they looked up at him through the clear, cool water. But
how did Bert get there? Well, easily enough. He had got tired waiting
for his uncle to come back for him. He wanted to be over there where the
men were all having such fun. He could not swim across, so he just
coolly accepted the only alternative, and started to walk across! When
Uncle Alec found him there was a clear foot of water over his head. A
step or two more and he would certainly have lost his footing, been
carried away by the current, and drowned perhaps before Uncle Alec could
have found him.
The men all voted him a young hero when they were told of his attempt,
and Uncle Alec vowed he’d teach him to swim the next time he paid a
visit to Maplebank.
Aunt Sarah was greatly excited when she heard of her darling Bert’s
second escape, and had Mrs. Lloyd taken her advice the poor boy would
have been tied to somebody’s apron strings for the rest of the summer.
But Mrs. Lloyd thought it better to do no more than caution Bert, and
trust to the Providence that protects children to keep him from harm. He
would have to learn to take care of himself sooner or later, and the
sooner the better.