Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 1.djvu/56

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




me. It took me days, however, to compose a letter that satisfied me. When it was done and sent off by mail, I felt the sense of relief that always comes with the final fulfilment of a long-delayed duty. Robert wrote likewise and at length, as I learned only after the lapse of many years; and my uncle and aunt sent letters to my father and mother after I had been a few weeks with them.

My uncle followed the practice of all successful Western farmers in doing every sort of work on his place himself. He had only one regular hand employed to help him, so that if he had not done so from choice, necessity would have compelled him to take a leading part in the farm routine. Though it was winter, there was enough to occupy him more or less, daily. There was also but one female servant in the house, so that much domestic labor devolved upon my aunt and the two eldest daughters in taking care of the large household. Naturally it became irksome to me to be idle while all the grown members of the family were continually busy. Moreover, without any thing to do, time came to hang heavily on my hands; so I soon offered my services for any in-door or out-door work, and this offer evidently gave pleasure all round. I helped feed the horses, cattle, and swine. I chopped, sawed, and hauled wood. After snow-falls, I cleared paths all over the place. I assisted in shelling corn, threshing wheat, and even in the annual killing of fat hogs. I performed also a variety of kitchen, dining-room, and yard offices for the ladies. I enjoyed the work, and it was obvious that my willingness to do it strengthened the warm feeling of the whole family toward me. I also had a chance to participate several times in so-called log-raisings, a peculiar custom, brought down from the pioneer days, of mutual assistance among neighbors in setting up dwellings, barns, and stables of logs.

What with these occupations in the daytime, and reading, games, and music in the evening — my aunt and the eldest daughter were very musical — time passed very