Under the Lilacs
A Boy's Bargain
It was some days before the children were tired of talking over Ben's birthday party; for it
was a great event in their small world; but, gradually, newer pleasures came to occupy
their minds, and they began to plan the nutting frolics which always followed the early
frosts. While waiting for Jack to open the chestnut burrs, they varied the monotony of
school life by a lively scrimmage long known as "the wood-pile fight."
The girls liked to play in the half-empty shed, and the boys, merely for the fun of teasing,
declared that they should not, so blocked up the doorway as fast as the girls cleared it.
Seeing that the squabble was a merry one, and the exercise better for all than lounging in
the sun or reading in school during recess, Teacher did not interfere, and the barrier rose
and fell almost as regularly as the tide.
It would be difficult to say which side worked the harder; for the boys went before school
began to build up the barricade, and the girls stayed after lessons were over to pull down
the last one made in afternoon recess. They had their play-time first; and, while the boys
waited inside, they heard the shouts of the girls, the banging of the wood, and the final
crash, as the well-packed pile went down. Then, as the lassies came in, rosy, breathless,
and triumphant, the lads rushed out to man the breach, and labor gallantly till all was as
tight as hard blows could make it.
So the battle raged, and bruised knuckles, splinters in fingers, torn clothes, and rubbed
shoes, were the only wounds received, while a great deal of fun was had out of the
maltreated logs, and a lasting peace secured between two of the boys.
When the party was safely over, Sam began to fall into his old way of tormenting Ben by
calling names, as it cost no exertion to invent trying speeches, and slyly utter them when
most likely to annoy. Ben bore it as well as he could; but fortune favored him at last, as it
usually does the patient, and he was able to make his own terms with his tormentor.
When the girls demolished the wood-pile, they performed a jubilee chorus on combs, and
tin kettles, played like tambourines; the boys celebrated their victories with shrill
whistles, and a drum accompaniment with fists on the shed walls. Billy brought his drum,
and this was such an addition that Sam hunted up an old one of his little brother's, in
order that he might join the drum corps. He had no sticks, however, and, casting about in
his mind for a good substitute for the genuine thing, bethought him of bulrushes.
"Those will do first-rate, and there are lots in the ma'sh, if I can only get 'em," he said to
himself, and turned off from the road on his way home to get a supply.
Now, this marsh was a treacherous spot, and the tragic story was told of a cow who got in
there and sank till nothing was visible but a pair of horns above the mud, which
suffocated the unwary beast. For this reason it was called "Cowslip Marsh," the wags