Peter Loon

Peter Loon by Van Reid Read Free Book Online

Book: Peter Loon by Van Reid Read Free Book Online
Authors: Van Reid
the river without command from Parson Leach, and shook the water from his sides before trotting friskily before the woods like a colt.
    Soon they had the litter hitched to him again, and they entered the road that Peter had come out on; but half a mile or so along this track they turned east onto a path he had not seen in the predawn.
    Parson Leach was content to walk; his stride was longer than even Peter’s, who was a tall boy, and consequently the clergyman found his gait interrupted frequently as he and Mars paused to wait for their fellow travelers.
    A breeze tugged at the bright hardwoods in the little valleys and the thickly needled pines and firs along the stonier ridges, and the fallish chatter of stay-in-winter birds filled the branchy acres. The smaller rills ran quietly or not at all after a thirsty summer, and the low places, where marshy conditions often hindered a traveler’s progress, were hardly spongy.
    â€œThis Walton who writes about fish,” said Crispin Moss, not long after they passed near one of these sun-dried beds, “is he a man you know, that you peddle his book?”
    â€œNot at all,” said the preacher. “He lived and loved in England, and died a hundred years ago and more.” Parson Leach needed little encouragement, it seemed, regarding his books, and as they walked he fished a copy of the Compleat Angler from one of Mars’s saddlebags. He produced a pair of spectacles from a pocket in his cloak and he wrapped the ends of these around his ears so that they sat on his prominent nose. Soon he was regaling them with a lively debate upon the relative merits of fishing, hunting, and falconry as defended, in turn, by Piscator, Venator, and Auceps. And he passed the book around when he came to an illustration of one or the other of these fellows at their occupation.
    Peter and the woodsmen were, at first, a little puzzled by the discourse, but soon Cutts and Moss were expressing their opinions alongside the dialogue with various grunts and wordless exclamations. When the hunter in the book said (and this in the preacher’s rich tones) “And now let us go to an honest ale-house, where we may have a cup of barley-wine, and sing Old Rose… ” Manasseh actually laughed.
    â€œThere’s a hunter’s head for you!” he said. “The tavern at the end of the chase! I think I like this Venator better than your fisherman, Parson, though I wouldn’t know a barley-wine and would be satisfied with hot rum or even brown ale.” Then he surprised them by singing several verses of Old Rose in a very passable voice.
    Parson Leach returned the book to its saddlebag when the prospect of a small pond opened up before them; Traveler’s Pond, Manasseh called it. They heard ducks again, and Peter thought, for a time, that the woodsmen would veer from their path and try their luck at more hunting. Parson Leach looked to have thoughts on roast duck, as well. They peered out from a natural blind, over the leaf-littered surface of the water, and Peter caught sight of a muskrat leaving his arrowlike wake across the pond to pierce a crowd of lily-pads.
    They did not linger, however; instead, they crossed south of the pond over Brann Brook and skirted this and a smaller pond, as they followed a deer path east and a little south. At a further extremity of the same brook, they crossed again, and at the top of a short, granity knoll they took a bearing on Haskell Hill about a mile away, then continued through a close wood, more or less in that direction. Mars balked once or twice and there was nothing for it but that Cutts and Moss must widen the trail for him.
    â€œHe’s not a battering ram, after all,” concurred Parson Leach, who lent a hand in beating down the underbrush.
    Peter had never seen or heard of a battering ram, but could easily imagine a large, broad-horned goat. Fortunately, they came to another wood path about halfway to Haskell Hill

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