The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Meeting-House 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 little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

That farm-house was a long way from the village, where the houses were a great deal closer together, and in the village were the school-house and the new meeting-house, where little John and little Charles and Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Solomon and Uncle John all went on Sunday. And not very far from the new meeting-house was the old meeting-house. They didn't use the old meeting-house any more, and the people had let the little boys use it. So all the little boys that lived near used to go to the old meeting-house sometimes, and play in it. And they played that they printed a newspaper and that the pews were people's houses, and they had to leave a newspaper at each house. So some of the boys pretended that they were the boys that carried the papers, and they stopped at each pew and left a pretend paper. And they all thought that kind of play was great fun.

After a while, the people found that they wanted to put something else where the old meeting-house was. The old meeting-house was nearly a hundred years old, and it wasn't good enough to use, so they said they would pull it down. And when all the little boys heard about it, they were sorry that they couldn't play there any more, but they thought it would be great fun to see a building pulled down.

So, one morning, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John and little Charles and little John and little Sam all started out after breakfast. Uncle John and little Charles and little John walked down the little track and out the wide gate into the road, and they didn't wait for the others, because the others were all going in the wagon, and Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis were going with them. And Uncle John and the two little boys walked along the road for a long way until at last they began to come near the village. And they met a lot of other men and boys who were going to the same place, and they all walked along together.

When they got to the old meeting-house, there were many men working away, with axes and crowbars and hammers, tearing off the boards from the sides. And Uncle John and the other men who had just come took their axes and helped. And there were so many men working that they got the boards off very quickly; but they wouldn't let all the boys come near, for fear that they would get hurt. There were a great many boys, all that lived anywhere near, and they had to stand far off and watch. And more people kept coming, some walking and some in wagons, and when the boards were almost all off, the wagon from the farm-house came, with Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis and Aunt Deborah and little Sam.

At last all the boards were off the sides, and there were all the beams and logs standing up straight and bare, with the roof on top. Then the men got long ropes to fasten to the top of the beams, so that the men could take hold of those ropes and pull and make the whole thing come tumbling down. And Uncle Solomon told them how to do that part, because he had been a sailor and knew all about ropes. So they went up the ladders and tied the ropes to the tops of the beams, and then the men came down from the ladders and dragged the other ends of the ropes as far away as they would reach. The ropes were long, so that none of the people that pulled on them should be too near when the meeting-house fell down. And there were a good many ropes.

When they had taken down all the ladders and the men were taking hold of the ropes, to pull, little John couldn't stand it any longer, and he called out to Uncle John and asked him if he and Charles couldn't pull, too. And the other men heard, and they all cried out, "Yes, let the boys take hold."

So all the little boys were glad, and they were so excited that they yelled as loud as they could, and that was pretty loud. Then they ran and stood by some of the ropes, as many as twenty boys by one rope. So the boys took hold of some of the ropes and the men took hold of the others. And they waited until everybody was ready, so that they could all pull at once.

When everybody was ready, Uncle Solomon cried out, "Are you ready?" And they cried, "All ready." And then he called out, very loud, "Heave away!" That meant to pull. So they all pulled at once, for just a little bit, and then they stopped. And Uncle Solomon was watching the meeting-house, and he called, "Heave!" again. When he called "Heave!" all the men and boys pulled as hard as they could, and then they stopped. And Uncle Solomon kept calling out at the right time. And the little boys were very much excited, and so were the men, and they all watched the meeting-house.

Pretty soon they could see that it was swinging back and forth. Every time it swung Uncle Solomon called out, and they all pulled. And the meeting-house swung farther and farther, and they could hear the wood cracking, and at last it swung so far that it didn't swing back again, and there was a great roaring and cracking noise, and down came the meeting-house, and it struck the ground with a great enormous SMASH.


[Illustration]

When the great SMASH came, all the men and all the boys yelled as loud as they could. And a great enormous cloud of dust went up into the air and there was so much dust that it made it dark and everybody was covered with dust. Then the wind blew the dust away, and all the people looked and saw the beams and logs in a great heap on the ground, and there were a great many bats flying about, trying to find a place to hide in. These bats used to sleep all day, up in the garret of the meeting-house, right under the roof, and in the night they came out and flew about. So, when they found the meeting-house was falling down, they flew out in a great hurry. And pretty soon they had all flown away to other places.


[Illustration]

Saw the beams and logs in a great heap on the ground.

After the dust had all blown away, the people began to talk to each other about the way the meeting-house had fallen down, and then some of them started to go home again. They couldn't stay there and watch, because they had to do the work at home and get dinner ready. Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis had to go home, but Uncle John was going to stay for a while, to help the other men clear up the great heap of logs and beams. And little Charles and little John wanted to stay and watch the men, so Uncle John said they might stay for a while. Then Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis and Aunt Deborah and little Sam all started back in the wagon, and little Charles and little John stayed, with a lot of other boys, and they watched the men working.

After a while, Uncle John had to stop working and start home again, to get his dinner and to do the work on the farm. So the two little boys went with him, and they walked along the road for a long way until they came to the farm-house. Then they turned in at the wide gate and walked up the little track to the kitchen door and went in. And it took them a long time to wash off all the dust that got on them from the meeting-house, but they didn't care, because they thought they would never have a chance to see anything like that again as long as they lived.

And that's all.