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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

They took our Bartlett pears and plums


The

little walled pen that inclosed the two pear-trees had a history of its own. The town had built it as a "pound" for stray animals in 1822, shortly after the neighborhood was settled. The walls were six or seven feet high, and on one side was a gateway. The inclosure was only twenty feet wide by thirty feet long. It had not been used long as a pound, for a pound that was larger and more centrally situated became necessary soon after it was built. When those two little pear-trees came from Connecticut the old Squire set them out inside this walled pen; he thought they would be protected by the high pound wall. A curious circumstance about those pear-trees was that they did not begin bearing when they were nine or ten years old, as pear-trees usually do. Year after year passed, until they had stood there twenty-seven years, with never blossom or fruit appearing on them.

The old Squire tried various methods of making the trees bear. At the suggestion of neighbors he drove rusty nails into the trunks, and buried bags of pear seeds at the foot of them, and he fertilized the inclosure richly. But all to no purpose. Finally grandmother advised the old Squire to spread the leached ashes from her leach tub--after she had made soap and hulled corn in the spring--on the ground inside the pen. The old Squire did so, and the next spring both trees blossomed. They bore bountifully that summer and every season afterward, until they died.

justify;">We had a young neighbor, Alfred Batchelder, who was fond of foraging by night for plums, grapes, and pears in the orchards of his neighbors. His own family did not raise fruit; they thought it too much trouble to cultivate the trees. But Alfred openly boasted of having the best fruit that the neighborhood afforded. One of Alfred's cronies in these nocturnal raids was a boy, named Harvey Yeatton, who lived at the village, six or seven miles away; almost every year he came to visit Alfred for a week or more in September.

It was a good-natured community. To early apples, indeed, the rogues were welcome; but garden pears, plums, and grapes were more highly prized, for in Maine it requires some little care to raise them. At the farm of our nearest neighbors, the Edwardses, there were five greengage trees that bore delicious plums. For three summers in succession Alfred and Harvey stole nearly every plum on those trees--at least, there was little doubt that it was they who took them.

They also took the old Squire's pears in the walled pen. Twice Addison and I tracked them home the next morning in the dewy grass, across the fields. Time and again, too, they took our Bartlett pears and plums. Addison wanted the old Squire to send the sheriff after them and put a stop to their raids, but he only laughed. "Oh, I suppose those boys love pears and plums," he said, forbearingly. But we of the younger generation were indignant.

One day, when the old Squire and I were driving to the village, we met Alfred; the old gentleman stopped, and said to him:

"My son, hadn't you better leave me just a few of those pears in the old pound this year?"

"I never touched a pear there!" Alfred shouted. "You can't prove I did, and you'd better not accuse me."


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