It was now past the middle of March. A copious rain was succeeded by a
sharp frost, making excellent going on the river, and Richardson
resolved to improve it; the only drawback being that the river was one
glare of ice, and his oxen had lost many of their shoes. He had saved
part of the shoes, borrowed some more of John Bradford, and could have
put them on himself, as Moody Matthews had a shoeing-hammer, but there
were no nails in the neighborhood.

Richardson, however, knew that by taking time and by careful driving, he
could get the cattle to the village, and determined to carry the shoes
with him, and hire Drew to sharpen and nail them on. He put on the sled
half a cord of hemlock bark, his own grist, the butter, cloth, and yarn,
together with some corn and grain for his neighbors.

About eight o’clock in the evening his wife went to bed; but William
made up a warm fire in the stone fireplace, fed the cattle, and lay
down before it. At twelve o’clock he went out, fed the cattle again, and
called his wife, who got his breakfast, and he set out. He carried in a
basket doughnuts, baked beans, cold boiled pork, Indian bread, and
butter, and a jug of coffee, also hay for the oxen. His plan was to stop
for the night at Hanson’s, who put up teams, paying fifty cents a night
for barn-room for the cattle and a bed for himself, Hanson’s wife
warming his beans, and making tea or coffee for him, as the coffee he
carried was to drink on the road. This expense was paid by the neighbors
whose errands he did.

At his arrival, he found John Drew, who before had always received him
very cordially, in a most surly humor. He was making axes. Tom Breslaw,
an apprentice, nearly out of his time, was striking, and blowing the
bellows. Barely nodding, in response to the greeting of Richardson, he
took an axe, into which he had stuck the steel, from the fire, flung it
savagely on the anvil, crying to Tom, “Strike!” and after the heat put
it in the fire again, taking not the least notice of Richardson, but
giving all his attention to his iron. Finding he was not noticed, and at
a loss to know what this strange conduct of the smith meant, he at
length said, “Mr. Drew, can you put a few shoes on my oxen?”

“No, I can’t. I’ve got this axe and another one to make for a man that’s
waitin’ for ’em.”

“Perhaps you could do it in the morning. I shall be obliged to stay all
night to get my grist ground. It would be a great accommodation to me if
you could. I had hard work to get the cattle here, and if I am obliged
to drive them home as they are, I shall lame them.”

“Can’t do it, I tell you, and that’s the long and short of it.”

“Perhaps you could make some nails, lend me a shoeing-hammer, and I
would try and nail them on myself. If you don’t, I am sure I don’t know
what I shall do. I had hard work to get the cattle here with no load of
any amount. I must haul more back, and I don’t know how I can get home.”

“And I don’t care how you get home, Bill Richardson; nor whether you get
home at all. Here I’ve slaved myself for years, going up to your place
through the woods on snow-shoes once or twice every winter, and hauling
my tools and shoes on a hand-sled, leaving work here in the shop just to
accommodate you folks up there, and took my pay in white beans and all
sorts of trash, when I left cash jobs at home and lost ’em; and here you
come smelling round, and palavering, as though butter wouldn’t melt in
your mouth; watch and sneak round, and steal the trade, and then go
back, cut off my custom, and take the bread right out of my mouth. Now
I’ve got you where the hair is short. You may shoe your own cattle,
you’re such a great smith. I won’t make you a shoe, nail, lend you a
tool, or obleege you in any way, name, or natur’. Strike, Tom
Breslaw–what are you gaping at?”

Waiting patiently till the din of blows had subsided, and the iron was
returned to the fire, Richardson replied,–

“As for stealing your trade, Mr. Drew, and coming here for the purpose,
it is certainly a mistake of yours. I never thought of trying to work a
piece of iron till the last time I was here, when the thought came into
my mind. You surely can’t think it strange, when you know what great
labor and expense it is for myself and neighbors to come here, that we
should try to do somewhat for ourselves. You would do the same were you
in our place. If you complain so bitterly of coming to our place twice a
year, what do you think it must be for us to come to you all the time?
You must remember, also, that at those times you charged a corresponding
price, that was cheerfully paid. I can’t well see how you could lose any
work by going, as there is no other smith anywhere round, and you must
have found the work waiting when you came back. I have never been
reputed a thief among my neighbors, or made a practice of stealing. I
did wish to obtain some information of you, before I went home, about
working and tempering steel, but expected to pay for it. As for taking
bread out of your mouth, you have all the work you can do right here,
without doing a stroke of work for us.”

“Well, all the knowledge you’ll worm out of me you may put in your eye,
for you won’t get any.”

“I don’t expect, or even desire to, after what has passed between us;
but, as I have given you full opportunity to free your mind, and express
your opinion of me, any more talk of that kind before my face or behind
my back will be at your own risk. I suppose you understand me.”

Drew hung his head, and made no reply; for, though a patient and
good-natured man, William Richardson was by no means a safe person to

It was now the dinner hour, and as Richardson left the shop he was
followed by Breslaw, who said,–

“Mr. Richardson, where are you going?”

“First, Tom, to your father’s, with this bark. He is tanning a couple of
hides for me, and told me he would take part of his pay in bark. I was
going to buy some iron and steel at the store; but I shall have to give
that up; for, as Drew won’t shoe my cattle, I shan’t be able to haul one
pound more than my grist.”

“He’s a mean wretch, and I don’t see how you kept your hands off him.
But he’s been drinking; that’s part of it. Give me your shoes. I’ll run
into Aunt Sarah’s, and get my dinner; it won’t take me so long as to go
home; and before Drew gets back I’ll fit the shoes and make the nails,
and this evening we will put them on. Most of the shoes have been on the
cattle before. I’ll fit the others by them, and if there’s any of them
too far gone to sharpen, I’ll make new ones.”

“But where will you get iron? Shan’t I run to the store and get some?”

“I keep a little of my own, and do small jobs out of shop time. Any
little scraps will do for that.”

Richardson hauled his bark to the tan-yard, and Breslaw’s father invited
him to stop to dinner. As he was passing Drew’s shop on his return, Tom
came out.

“I’ve made the shoes and nails, Mr. Richardson; and I’ll tell you what
I’ve been thinking of. I suppose money is none too plenty with you.”

“You may well say that, Tom; for I’m paying for my land, and every cent

“Well, now, you can, while you are waiting for your grist, go round the
village, and pick up old iron, and perhaps some steel, that won’t cost
you one quarter what it would to buy new at the store, and be just as
good, and better, for your use, as it will be smaller, and save
hammering. Only look out that it is not too rusty. Perhaps you remember
Bosworth, the stone-mason.”

“Very well. He made the stones in the grist-mill, and built the piers of
the great bridge.”

“He died this last winter, and his widow has his drills and other tools,
and wants to sell ’em. The drills are all steel, and the best of steel,
too; and I’ve no doubt you could buy ’em for half what the same amount
of steel would cost you at the store, and perhaps for even less.”

In accordance with this advice, Richardson went to the place, and bought
four hand-drills, a foot or more in length, used for splitting stone,
and two dozen steel wedges. The latter, he thought, would, at some
future time, serve to make toe-calks for horse-shoes. The purchase that
delighted him most of all, however, was a churn-drill. This was four
feet in length; but only four inches of each end was steel, being much
worn, the remainder iron, shaped like the stalk of a seed onion, with a
bulb of iron in the middle, three inches in diameter. He also bought a
light stone-hammer. This was likewise a great acquisition, as it would
serve the purpose of a sledge. Clem could now strike with it for a short
time, and would, in a few months, be able to handle it easily; for he
was large of his age, and muscular. He could likewise get one of his
neighbors to strike, upon an emergency. Pursuing his search, he found
several old axes, beetle-rings, three mill-files, the handle of a
kitchen shovel, one leg of a pair of kitchen tongs, and an old crane
(the latter was a large piece of iron), and some old ox-shoes. At the
mill he obtained some of the mill-stone picks that had become too short
for use.

Just as he had finished his supper that night, Tom made his appearance
at Hanson’s with the shoes, nails, and his tools. A rope was procured,
and the oxen were cast on the barn floor. Richardson held a candle,
stuck into a potato, while Hanson assisted Tom. The latter put on the
new shoes, clinched up all the old ones that were loose, and, with a
smith’s large file, sharpened the dull calks.

He not only refused to take any pay for his work, avowing that Jack Drew
was hog enough for one small place, but, sitting down before the fire
with Richardson, gave him a great deal of valuable information
respecting working iron.

In the morning Richardson rose early, and prepared to start. After
paying his expenses at Hanson’s, he was able to buy considerable iron at
the store, and still had a little money left. The wind was north-west, a
bright sun, the ice smooth and hard, and the cattle, sharpshod, were
able to travel. Thoroughly rested, and eager to get home, they seemed to
regard the load no more than though it had been feathers. Snorting with
eagerness, proud of their new shoes, and perhaps elated with the idea
of having been to the village, they could at first scarcely be kept from
breaking into a run.

Was not Will Richardson a happy man that bright, sunny morning! The keen
air braced his limbs, and his heart throbbed with joy. Things had turned
out so much better than he anticipated. He feasted his eyes upon the
iron and steel–the great bar, the nail rods–he had bought at the
store, or rather the thin bar he had purchased to be split into nail
rods; for at that day iron did not come from the forges in shapes to
suit the smiths, but in large bars, and there was a vast deal of work to
be done with the sledge and hammer.

Never did a boy gloat over a ripe plum as did Will Richardson over the
great bunch of iron in the middle of that churn-drill. He couldn’t keep
his eyes off of it, and had already decided in his own mind what use he
would make of it.

Thanks to the noble spirit of Tom Breslaw, the cattle travelled so fast
that he arrived home long before his wife expected him. The children had
come half starved–as children always do in the country–from school,
and were screaming, “Do, mother, give me something to eat.”

“I’ll give you a luncheon, because you’ll want to eat with your father
when he comes, and you’ll want to tie up the cattle, and get the
night’s wood in, and a turn of water, so you can have time to see him.”

This being assented to by Young America, the mother, taking half of a
loaf of rye-and-Indian bread, began to spread butter on the loaf, and
then cut off and distribute huge slices to the hungry expectants. She
had cut off the last slice when the sound of Richardson’s voice,
shouting to the oxen, came through the half-open door.

“Father–father’s come!” screamed the children; and, followed by their
mother, they ran to the river. Down the slope they rushed, pell-mell,
and, just as the cattle put their fore feet on the edge of the bank, and
taking advantage of a momentary pause occasioned by the steepness of the
grade, piled on to the sled, the two girls holding on to their father’s
legs, who, standing on the hinder end of the sled, and holding by one
hand to a stake, with the other waved his hat to his wife, shouting, “O,
Sue, the best of luck! ‘Lashings’ of iron and steel; and I’ve brought
back the fulled cloth, and the stuff for your and the children’s
clothes, and money–only think of it, wife, brought money home with me!
You can have your tongs, and your andirons, and I can have all the tools
I want? and won’t we go ahead?”

His wife was too full to speak; but happiness beamed from every feature,
as standing half-leg deep in the snow, she drank in the words of her
husband, who, taking her in his arms, seated her upon a bag of meal,
and, while the cattle went on, narrated the incidents of his journey,
the surliness of Drew, and how nobly it was offset by the generous
conduct of Breslaw.

“Ain’t it glorious, wife? I tell you what it is, Sue, it’s better to be
born lucky than rich.”

To which we might add, that it is better to be born with brains and
energy than rich; for the riches may be lost; but the former are an
enduring possession, and when under the control of virtuous principles,
a source of unfailing happiness and self-respect.

William Richardson was by no means a talkative man. On the contrary he
was by nature reserved and thoughtful. But now his tongue ran like a
mill-clapper, and ceased not till the cattle stopped of their own accord
before the door.

In the meanwhile his wife remained, listening to the excited narration
of her husband, in a sort of silent rapture; but when, after the oxen
stopped, he began to show her the iron, and expatiate, saying, “Only see
this churn-drill, wife; both ends steel; and what a great bunch of iron
in the middle–Swedish iron, too; and three picks, and drills, and
wedges–all steel; and that crane–see what a great junk of iron _that_
is!–didn’t cost me much of anything, either; and that big bar, to make
axes; and the thin iron for horse and ox shoes, and nail-rods;”–I say,
as he thus ran on, showing and explaining the value of one piece of iron
after another, tears of joy ran down the cheeks of the faithful wife,
and after that she found her tongue.

Now you needn’t laugh, boys, and say, “What a fuss over a little old
iron!” It was worth a great deal more to that family than though it had
been so much gold; and you needn’t say, “O, what a whopper!” Just see if
it don’t come out so before we have done with the Richardsons. That
amount of gold might, and probably would, have ruined them; but on every
grain of that rusty metal were written encouragement, inspiration,
opportunity; and God Almighty had given to William Richardson the
ability to read for himself and his neighbors what was written on those
iron leaves.

“Father,” cried Clem, seizing the stone-hammer, “what is this awful
great hammer for?”

“For you, my son, to help me draw these great bars of iron with–at any
rate, by and by, if you can’t handle it now.”

“I can swing it now, father, just like anything. See here”–swinging it
over his head, and bringing it down with considerable force on the iron.