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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


and ever and anon the engine bell tinkled behind, more slow and
sure; and rear-most of all, as it was afterward whispered, came they
who set the fire and gave the alarm. Thus we kept on like true
idealists, rejecting the evidence of our senses, until at a turn in the
road we heard the crackling and actually felt the heat of the fire from
over the wall, and realized, alas! that we were there. The very
nearness of the fire but cooled our ardor. At first we thought to throw
a frog-pond on to it; but concluded to let it burn, it was so far gone
and so worthless. So we stood round our engine, jostled one another,
expressed our sentiments through speaking-trumpets, or in lower
tone referred to the great conflagrations which the world has
witnessed, including Bascomís shop, and, between ourselves, we
thought that, were we there in season with our "tub," and a full frog-
pond by, we could turn that threatened last and universal one into
another flood. We finally retreated without doing any mischief-
returned to sleep and "Gondibert." But as for "Gondibert," I would
except that passage in the preface about wit being the soulís powder-
"but most of mankind are strangers to wit, as Indians are to powder."

It chanced that I walked that way across the fields the following
night, about the same hour, and hearing a low moaning at this spot, I
drew near in the dark, and discovered the only survivor of the family
that I know, the heir of both its virtues and its vices, who alone was
interested in this burning, lying on his stomach and looking over the
cellar wall at the still smouldering cinders beneath, muttering to
himself, as is his wont. He had been working far off in the river
meadows

all day, and had improved the first moments that he could call his
own to visit the home of his fathers and his youth. He gazed into the
cellar from all sides and points of view by turns, always lying down
to it, as if there was some treasure, which he remembered, concealed
between the stones, where there was absolutely nothing but a heap of
bricks and ashes. The house being gone, he looked at what there was
left. He was soothed by the sympathy which my mere presence,
implied, and showed me, as well as the darkness permitted, where
the well was covered up; which, thank Heaven, could never be
burned; and he groped long about the wall to find the well-sweep
which his father had cut and mounted, feeling for the iron hook or
staple by which a burden had been fastened to the heavy end-all that
he could now cling to-to convince me that it was no common "rider."
I felt it, and still remark it almost daily in my walks, for by it hangs
the history of a family.

Once more, on the left, where are seen the well and lilac bushes by
the wall, in the now open field, lived Nutting and Le Grosse. But to
return toward Lincoln.

Farther in the woods than any of these, where the road approaches
nearest to the pond, Wyman the potter squatted, and furnished his
townsmen with earthenware, and left descendants to succeed him.
Neither were they rich in worldly goods, holding the land by
sufferance while they lived; and there often the sheriff came in vain
to collect the taxes, and "attached a chip," for formís sake, as I have
read in his accounts, there being nothing else that he could lay his
hands on. One day in midsummer, when I was hoeing, a man who
was carrying a load of pottery

to market stopped his horse against my field and inquired concerning
Wyman the younger. He had long ago bought a potterís wheel of
him, and wished to know what had become of him. I had read of the
potterís clay and wheel in Scripture, but it had never occurred to me
that the pots we use were not such as had come down unbroken from
those days, or grown on trees like gourds somewhere, and I was
pleased to hear that so fictile an art was ever practiced in my
neighborhood.
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



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