WINTER DRAWS NEAR
am sorry the summer is most over," said John one day,
"for we shall not bring the flock to the pasture much
"Yes, but the snow will come and that is better than
herding," and Anton cut a caper at the thought.
The summer was over indeed. Frosty nights soon began to
whiten the ground. The grain that had yellowed the
slopes about the Toy Valley now hung in sheaves like a
golden curtain across the
 fronts and sides of the houses where it had been put on
the lattices to dry.
As the boys drove their flock each day to the distant
pastures, they saw the men gathering in the harvest and
the short-petticoated women helping in field and
There were bright green turnip patches here and there,
and every morning John and Anton filled their pockets
with juicy turnips so white and crisp and spicy! The
goats liked them too, and there was much shouting and
stone-flinging whenever they had to pass by a turnip
Presently there came a sound like clog-dancing from
some of the barns, and when the boys passed close to
one of these barns, they saw the sunbeams before the
open door full of golden mist, and they smelled a
sweet, suffocating odor which they knew to be the dust
 grain being threshed inside. Sometimes they stopped a
moment to peep in at the wide doors of some barn close
to their path and watch the threshers; men and women in
a line, rising and bowing, rising and bowing as the
flails whirled over their heads and then fell with a
thud upon the grain spread upon the floor. An old woman
spread the sheaves in rows with the heads of grain all
pointing one way, and the threshers walked slowly up
and down, up and down, swinging their flails in unison.
When the grain was well beaten out, the old woman raked
away the straw, while a boy swept the plump kernels
into a pile in one corner.
"It makes me sneeze," said Anton, suiting the action to
the word, as they went on, and the sound of the
threshing struck up again behind them.
"I like to smell it," replied John,
 "and I like the sound. I like it when you hear it on
all sides in the early morning. It is like people
dancing at weddings," and he began to dance,
clappity-clap, clappity-clap, in his wooden shoes on
the stony path.
"I like better the sound of the sheep and goats
pattering along the path," declared Anton, "but best of
all is to hear a herd of cows going up a rocky trail. I
followed Big Peter's herd to the Big Alp with him
once," and then he added confidently, "yes, it will
soon be winter now. The cows have already come down
from the high Alps and soon we shall no longer need to
take the goats to pasture."
He was right, for in a few day the first snow fell,
and, though it was not enough to cover the ground, yet
no one could now venture out into the mountains
 for fear a sudden storm would swoop down from the icy
summits and bury flocks and herders and freeze them to
death. No one must again venture into the high pastures
or over the dangerous passes until spring came, and with
her soft hands uncovered the snow-blanketed earth,
waked up the starry Alpine flowers, and cast a mantle
of summer verdure over the rugged northland.
The snow beds that had glistened all summer in the high
laps of the mountains, widened and lengthened and
climbed up toward the peaks, until they covered all the
summits excepting the great upright cliffs too steep
for snow to cling to.
But though the boys might no longer lead the flocks to
the distant pastures, they found plenty to do, for
there were the red preissel berries to gather for the
 Now in the Toy Valley and the mountains round about,
there is no fruit but the preissel berries, for it is
too high and the winters are too long and cold even for
apples. There were once two apple trees growing there,
and once in a while they bore a few apples; but nobody
ever knew whether these apples would have ripened or
not, for they never got the chance. How could apples
ripen when there were only a dozen or so of them and
several times that many boys in a hurry to know how
they tasted? So they were always eaten green, though
they never did anybody any harm.
But the preissel berries! You should have seen them in
the fall of the year growing like a thick green carpet
speckled with red berries all through the forest. The
children went out and gathered them by the bushel for
 mothers to cook and put away for the winter; for, as
though to make up for the lack of other fruits, the
preissel are the most delicious red berries that ever
spangled a mountain forest. They look and taste a
little like cranberries, though not so sour and much
spicier. They tasted pretty good raw, and out in the
woods, John and Anton often ate whole handfuls of them,
though, like sensible boys, they liked them better when
cooked with plenty of sugar.
Besides gathering plenty of preissel berries for their
respective families, they had another task to perform
that did not take very long and that was very pleasant
indeed. One morning you might have seen John starting
out with his basket on his back, whistling the
liveliest tune he knew. He was going to gather moss and
berries in the Pixies'
 Forest for his mother to place in the deep window
He had not gone far when he saw Anton with his basket,
bent on the same errand. He slipped behind a rock and
gave a loud squeaking sound at which Anton turned
around. John squeaked again, and Anton, picking up a
stone, ran softly towards the spot where John was
hidden. When he had come quite close, John jumped out
and both boys laughed uproariously, for Anton had
thought it was a wood-rat squeaking under the rock, and
they both considered it a capital joke.
The Pixies' Wood is a strange place where all one can
see is great rounded boulders piled one on the other
and overgrown with moss and trees. It is full of dark
caverns that lie between the boulders and, though now
broad daylight, it is
 yet dark and dismal in there. Only a little snow had
yet fallen here and the bright mosses and red berries
were easy to find. The boys hunted for the prettiest,
but were careful to keep rather close together, for,
though they pretended not to be afraid of the pixies,
still neither of them would have quite liked to meet
one. "They pinch and maul you," said John, looking
fearfully around the edge of a black cavern, "and if
they catch you here alone, they roll you over and over
on the sharp rocks."
"They'll not maul me," said Anton, proudly, "I'll—" but
John never knew what terrible thing Anton would do to
the pixies, for a fearful scream sent both boys
tumbling over the rocks as fast as they could go, until
they were quite out of the Pixies' Wood.
"It was that old hawk," said John,
 indignantly, pointing to the large bird sailing above
"The pixies sent him," replied Anton. "They sent him to
find us. Do you know, nobody has ever gone clear across
the Pixies' Wood. It is big, but nobody knows how big,
for they won't let you in, only a little way."
"I think the moss is just as good out here, anyhow,"
and John threw himself down on a bed of it in the
sunshine, then started up as a lively squirrel ran
across a near rock and scampered chattering up a tree.
In a moment both boys were after the squirrel who
leaped lightly from branch to branch among the fir
trees and was soon out of sight.
"This is where he comes to eat," and Anton pointed to a
great pile of cone scales under a tree. "He sits up on
that limb and gnaws the scales off of the
 cones and eats out the little nuts," and seizing a cone
that lay on the ground, Anton proceeded to bite it to
pieces squirrel-wise and eat the tiny sweet nuts that
lay at the bottom of each scale.
"It would take a year to get enough," said John,
imitating him. Then he threw down his cone and said
very soberly, "Do you know, Anton, what I am going to
"No. What?" asked Anton, curiously.
"I am going to pray every night to the good God to let
me be a wood-carver. I am going to pray every night for
two years, and then I am going to take a tool and
"Where are you going to get the tool?"
"Haven't I told you?" and John looked reproachfully at
his friend. "I am going to pray every night for two
 years, and then you will see that the dear God will
send me the tool."
"I don't need to pray to go to the Big Alp, for father
is willing. You better come up there with me, John,"
said Anton, in a troubled voice. "It costs nothing and
the boys do not have to work hard, only watch the cows
to see that they do not stray into dangerous places."
"No, Anton, I must carve the beautiful zirbel wood into
"But to pray two years for a tool—why, John, you will
go to sleep and forget sometimes, and that will make a
"No, Anton, I shall not forget."
The boys finished filling their baskets with the pretty
green vines and mosses and bright berries, and when
John got home, his mother took them from the
 basket and arranged them very prettily in the space on
the broad window seat between the double windows. Then
Father Hofer fastened the inside sashes, and the little
house on the lonely mountain side was warm and ready
for the long winter.
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