Uncouth enough was their aspect; but fashion did not yet reign in Nepash, and if they were warm, who cared for elegance? Not Hannah's rosy, hearty, happy brood.

There was about to be a battle, and there was no time to write more than assurances of health and good hopes for the future. Only once since had news reached them from that quarter. A disabled man from the Nepash company was brought home dying with consumption.

A bedroom was built on the east side of the house, and a rough stairway into the loft more room perhaps than was needed; but John was called in Nepash "a dre'dful forecastin' man," and he took warning from the twins. And timely warning it proved, for as the years slipped by, one after another, they left their arrows in his quiver till ten children bloomed about the hearth.

Now and then a post rider stopped at the Nepash tavern and brought a few letters or a little news; but this was at long intervals, and women who watched and waited at home without constant mail service and telegraphic flashes, aware that news of disaster, of wounds, of illness, could only reach them too late to serve or save, and that to reach the ill or the dying involved a larger and more disastrous journey than the survey of half the world demands now these women endured pangs beyond our comprehension, and endured them with a courage and patience that might have furnished forth an army of heroes, that did go far to make heroes of that improvised, ill-conditioned, eager multitude who conquered the trained bands of their oppressors and set their sons "free and equal," to use their own dubious phraseology, before the face of humanity at large.

John had built a sawmill on the brook a little way from the house, and already owned a flourishing trade, for the settlement about the lake from which Nepasset Brook sprung was quite large, and till John Perkins went there the lumber had been all drawn fifteen miles off, to Litchfield, and his mill was only three miles from Nepash village.

And in this spirit, sustained, no doubt, by the occasional chickens, they lived the winter out, till blessed, beneficent spring came again, and brought news, great news, with it. Not from the army, though. There had been a post rider in Nepash during the January thaw, and he brought short letters only.

There was a sudden leaving of the plow in the furrow. The planting was set aside for the children to finish, the old musket rubbed up, and with set lips and resolute eyes the three men walked away one May morning to join the Nepash company. Hannah kept up her smiling courage through it all. If her heart gave way, nobody knew it but God and John.

The parson's lady at Litchfield came to Nepash one Sunday, with her husband, and seeing Sylvy in the square corner pew with the rest, was mightily struck by her lovely face, and offered to take her home with her the next week, for the better advantages of schooling.

Joe, you go over to the mill fust thing in the morning and ask Sylvester to lend me his old mare a spell to-morrer, to ride over to Nepash, to the store." "Why don't ye send Doll?" asked Joe, with a wicked glance at the girl that set her blushing again. "Hold your tongue, Joseph, 'n' mind me. It's bedtime now, but I'll wake ye up airly," energetically remarked Hannah.

The rest were old enough to "do chores" for their board, and there were many families where help was needed, both in Nepash and Litchfield, since every available man had gone to the war by this time. But while they talked a great scuffling and squawking in the woodhouse attracted the boys upstairs. Joe seized the tongs and Diana the broomstick.