|Home -> The Press in the Forest -> The Long Ago -> Chapter 10|
|It is early, and Saturday morning - very, very early.
Listen! . . . An unmistakable drip, drip, drip . . . and the room is dark.
A bound out of bed - a quick step to the window - an anxious peering through the wet panes . . . . and the confirmation is complete.
It is raining - and on Saturday, the familiar leaden skies and steady drip that spell permanency and send the robin to the shelter of some thick bush, and leave only an occasional undaunted swallow cleaving the air on swift wing.
In all the world there is no sadness like that which in boyhood sends you back to bed on Saturday morning with the mournful drip, drip, drip of a steady rain doling in your ears.
Out in the woodshed there is a can of the largest, fattest angle-worms ever dug from a rich garden-plot - all so happily, so feverishly, so exultantly captured last night when Anticipation strengthened the little muscles that wielded the heavy spade. All safe in their black soil they wait, coiled round and round each other into a solid worm-ball in the bottom of the can.
A mile down the river the dam is calling - the tumbled waters are swirling and eddying and foaming over the deep places where the black-bass wait - and old Shoemaker Schmidt, patriarch of the river, is there this very minute, unwinding his pole, for well he knows that if one cares to brave the weather he will catch the largest and finest and most bass when the rain is falling on the river.
But small boys who have anxious mothers do not go fishing on rainy days - so there is no need of haste, and one might as well go back to bed and sleep unconcernedly just as late as possible. If only a fellow could get up between showers, or before the rain actually starts, so that he could truthfully say: "But, mother, really and truly, it wasn't raining when we started!" it would be all right, and the escape was warrantable, justified and safe; but with the rain actually falling, there was nothing to do but go to sleep again and turn the worms back into the garden if the rain didn't let up by noon.
It is one of the miracles of life that Boyhood can turn grief into joy and become almost instantly reconciled to the inevitable like a true philosopher, and change a sorrow into a blessing. The companion miracle is that Manhood with its years of wisdom forgets how to do this.
And so, when the rainy day becomes hopelessly rainy, and Shoemaker Schmidt is left alone at the dam, the rain that sounded so dismal at dawn proves to be a benefactor after all. There will be no woodsplitting today, no outdoor chores - for if it's too wet to go fishing, as mother insists, of course it's too wet to carry wood, or weed gardens or pick cucumbers for pickles. The logic is so obvious and conclusive that even mother does not press the point when you remind her of it - and you are free for a whole day in the attic.
Instantly the blessing is manifest - the sadness of that day-break drip, drip, drip is healed - the whole character of the day is changed, and the rain-melody becomes not a funeral-march but a dance.
The attic is the place of all places you would most love to be on this particular calendar day!
How stupid to spoil a perfectly good Saturday by sitting on a hard beam, with wet spray blowing in your face all the time, and getting all tired out holding a heavy fish-pole, when here is the attic waiting for you with its mysterious dark corners, its scurrying mice that suddenly develop into lions for your bow-and-arrow hunting, and its maneuvers on the broad field of its floor with yourself as the drum-corps and your companions as the army equipped with wooden swords and paper helmets!
The day has been rich in adventure, and exploration, and the doing of great deeds.
And it has been all too short, for the attic is growing dim, and mother is again calling us - telling us to send our little playmates home and come and get our bread and milk.
A last arrow is shot into the farthest comer where some undiscovered jungle beast may be prowling.
A last roll is given to the drum, and the army disbands.
A sudden fear seizes upon us as we realize that night has come and we are in the attic, alone.
And with no need of further urging we scamper unceremoniously down the stairs, slam the attic door, hurry into the kitchen where Maggie has our table waiting . . . .
Eight o'clock - and we're all tucked away among the feathers again!
Aren't we glad we didn't go down to the river - it would have been a cold, dismal day - and perhaps they weren't biting today, anyway - and we should have gotten very wet.
It is still raining, raining hard - pattering unceasingly on the roof . . . And the tin eave-troughs are singing their gentle lullaby of running water trickling from the shingles . . . a lullaby so soothing that we do not hear mother softly open the door . . . and come to our crib and place the little bare arms under the covers and leave a kiss on the yellow curls and a benediction in the room.