I guess you most hadn't oughter gone unbeknownst to your mother, sonny." "Barney's sled jest beat Ezra's all holler." "It did, hey? That allers was a good sled," returned the old man, chuckling. Caleb went into the pantry again, and returned rattling a handful of corn. "Want a game of holly-gull?" he asked. "I've got a leetle time to spare now while mother's gone." "Guess so," replied Ephraim.
"I don't want to study any more now, mother," he whined. "Take it," said Deborah. Caleb was paring apples for pies on the other side of the hearth. Ephraim looked across at him desperately. "I want to play holly-gull with father," he said. "Ephraim!" "Can't I play holly-gull with father jest a little while?" "You take this book and study your lesson," said Deborah, between nearly closed lips.
When Caleb held up his old fist, wherein he had securely stowed a certain number of kernels of corn, and demanded, "Holly-gull, hand full, passel how many?" Ephraim's spirit was thrilled with a fine stimulation, of which he had known little in his life.
He was quite sure that his bad feelings were due to that, and suppose his mother should suspect and ask him what he had been doing! He was also terrified by the thought of the holly-gull and her unfulfilled order about the apple-paring. He sat very still; his heart shook his whole body, which had grown thin lately. He looked very small, in spite of his sturdy build.
Ephraim turned his poor blue face slowly; his breath came shortly between his parted lips; he clapped one hand to his side. "Didn't you tell your father to pare them apples, the way I told you to?" she demanded. Ephraim dropped his chin lower. "Answer me!" "No, ma'am." "What have you been a-doin' of?" "Playin'." "Playin' what?" "Holly-gull." Deborah stood quite still for a moment.
He dragged his chair forward to the hearth; he and his father sat opposite each other and played the old childish game of holly-gull. Ephraim was very fond of the game, and would have played it happily hour after hour had not Deborah esteemed it a sinful waste of time.
If he guessed the number of kernels right and confiscated the contents of his father's hand, he felt the gratified ambition of a successful financier; if he lost, his heart sank, only to bound higher with new hope for the next chance. A veritable gambling game was holly-gull, but they gambled for innocent Indian-corn instead of the coin of the realm, and nobody suspected it.