The Sandman: His Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Swimming Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

In that farm-house lived Uncle Solomon and Uncle John, and little John and little Charles and their mother, Aunt Deborah, and little Sam and his mother, Aunt Phyllis.

One day in summer it was very hot. Little Charles was about nine years old, and little John was about seven, and little Charles said to little John: "John, let's go in swimming."

And little John said: "All right."

So they went very quietly away from the kitchen door, where they were playing, and went toward the barn, as though they were going to look for eggs. But they sneaked around the barn and down close to the house on the other side, where Aunt Deborah wouldn't see them, and over the fence into the road. And they went along the road until they came to the field that they used to go through to get water from the river. Then they turned into that field and went down to the river, and along the bank of the river until they came to a great big tree that grew close by the edge of the river, at the end of a stone wall.

When they came to that big tree, they stopped and took off all their clothes and went into the water. And they stayed in the water a long time and swam around and chased each other, and they ran along in the water where it wasn't very deep, and splashed and had a fine time. And when they had been in long enough and were all cool, they went back to the place where they had left their clothes, and they took their shirts and got themselves dry with their shirts as well as they could. Then they spread their shirts out in the sunshine to dry, and they ran about on the bank. And when their shirts were dry, they put their clothes on. Then they went back along the road and over the fence and around the barn, the way they had come, and began to play near the shed as though they hadn't been away at all.


Pretty soon Aunt Deborah came to the kitchen door and she called to little Charles. "Charles, I want you to get me some eggs."

And when Charles turned around to go, Aunt Deborah looked at him very hard, and she called: "Charles, come here to me." But Charles didn't want to come very near, so he came only a little way.

And Aunt Deborah said: "Charles, I want you to come right here to me."

So Charles came slowly beside his mother, and she took off his hat and looked at his hair. His hair was a little wet, for he couldn't get it quite dry with his shirt.

And Aunt Deborah said: "Charles, you've been in swimming."

And Charles dug up the dirt with his bare feet and said, "Yes'm." For little Charles and little John never said things that were not true, although they sometimes did things they ought not to do.

Then Aunt Deborah said: "Charles, if you do that again I'll tell your father."

And Charles said, "Yes'm." Then he ran away quickly to find the eggs.

Then Aunt Deborah said: "John, come here to me."

So little John came beside his mother, and she took off his hat and saw that his hair was wet.

And she said: "John, you've been swimming, too." And little John looked at his mother and grinned and said, "Yes'm."

And Aunt Deborah said, "You mustn't do that, John. You're too little. Don't do it again, and I'll ask Uncle Solomon to take you and Charles in his boat." So little John ran off after little Charles.

The next morning Uncle Solomon called to all the little boys: "Who wants to go out in the boat with me?"

And little Charles and little John and little Sam all said at the same time, "I do."

So Uncle Solomon said, "Come on, boys."

Then he walked along the track and into the road and along the road, and the little boys ran ahead; for they knew where he was going. And by and by they came to the pond. It was a great big pond, and Uncle Solomon's boat was on the bank under some trees. Uncle Solomon had built that boat himself, for he had been a sailor, and knew all about boats. So he pushed the boat off into the water, and the little boys all got in and sat still. For Uncle Solomon wouldn't let them jump around in the boat because that might tip it over.

So Uncle Solomon rowed the little boys over to a nice place where it was shady, and where the water was not very deep; and he rowed cross-handed, because he thought that was easier. When they had got to the place, the little boys all took off their clothes, and Uncle Solomon took up each boy and threw him over into the water. They were not afraid, because he had taught them how to swim, and he was right there, to see that nothing happened to harm them. And they swam around and had a fine time.

And when Uncle Solomon thought they had been in the water long enough, he made them swim near the boat, and he reached over and pulled them into the boat, one at a time. Then they dried themselves with a towel he had brought, and they put on their clothes, and Uncle Solomon rowed the boat back to the place where he kept it. Then the little boys got out and he pulled the boat up on the shore, and they all went back along the road to the farm-house. And they went in at the wide gate and up to the kitchen door. And there was Aunt Deborah, with four pieces of gingerbread. One piece she gave to little Charles and one to little John and one to little Sam, and the biggest piece of all she gave to Uncle Solomon.

And they all ate their gingerbread, and thought it was very good indeed.

And that's all.