ROBBING A PEACH ORCHARD

Written for the New York “Spirit of the Times” by Hazel Greene, Esq.

The days of my youth were passed in a small village, consequently the days of my youth were not my steadiest days. Like most village youngsters I was what is termed a “wild chap,” and having a score or two of associates who were equally as wild, it is but reasonable to suppose that I was a participant in many mischievous adventures.

I recollect, once upon a time, a young man by the name of Stuart came to our village and made application for a school. A school was being taught at the time, but three or four weeks more would terminate its session; so, as the directors seemed to give him encouragement, Mr. Stuart concluded to wait till it was out, and then make a final effort.

The new applicant for the second post of honor in the village--the minister occupying the first--was from the city, consequently we boys did not like his personal appearance. We thought we could see any quantity of birch rods in his disposition ; but even had that been otherwise we could not have liked [1] him. He was from the city--hence he was not one of us.

Having made up our minds to hate the new schoolmaster in prospect, we at once put our heads together with a view to the invention of some kind of a trick to play off on him. Village boys are not apt to be long at a loss in such matters--we were not. In a very little while a plot had been made, and I, being the gentleman’s best friend, was unanimously elected to take the lead in it.

It was in autumn the time of which I write, and down at the end of “the lane,” about one mile from the village, was an excellent peach orchard, the only one for miles around. The trees were as full as they could hang--great mealy fellows, all bursting open, looking as if, in their world of good humor, they had split their sides with laughter. That orchard occupied a prominent place in our plot.

Meeting our intended victim a short time after our plans had been laid, I said, “Mr. Stuart, are you fond of peaches?”

“Very,” said he, wiping the water from the corners of his mouth.

“Then I have a little adventure in view, and I would like to have you participate. Old Jones, down at the end of the lane, has the finest peaches in ten kingdoms, and I’m in for having a few of them to-night on the sly. What say you to going with me? There is no harm whatever in it, for he will not miss them ; besides the old dog is too stingy to give one away on any condition, and I hold that it is no more than right to take little things from such folks.”

Being desirous of keeping on the good side of everybody, in order to make his chances for a school more favorable, Stuart unhesitatingly consented. My chums were soon advised of my success, and all was made ready.

The hour of 10 P.M. found Mr. Stuart and myself moving cautiously down the lane, each with a small sack under his arm. From the time of our departure from the village till that of our arrival at the orchard I entertained my friend with various accounts of how men had been shot in the act of stealing peaches by old Jones, and how others had been nearly pelted to death with stones by a lot of lackies whom he kept hired for the purpose of having his interests well guarded of nights. The old man was not on the watch now, as no depredations had been committed upon his orchard that season.

As we neared the orchard I gathered up an armful of hard clods of dirt, telling my companion that they were stones, and that I was providing myself with them, so I would be ready to act on the defensive, were it necessary.

We reached the orchard and commenced to fill our sacks. Only a little progress had been made, when “bang!” went a gun right in our faces. Away I bounded towards the village, with the schoolmaster right at my heels. A few paces, and a half a dozen brick-bats came whizzing around our ears from a proximate parcel of furze. “I’m killed!” cried I, falling as if struck by one of the missiles. Stuart blundered over me, and lit sprawling in the dust,[2] some ten paces in advance. Gathering himself up as speedily as possible, he started up the lane, puffing and grunting like a locomotive engine. That was all I wanted. In a moment I was close behind, pelting him in the back with my clods ; he, of course, thinking they were bricks thrown from the hands of Jones’s employees. Every ten or fifteen paces an enemy would spring up from behind the fence and fire a volley of clods at him. And thus we had been through the gauntlet the whole length of the lane, a distance which it did not take him long to overcome. I have seen people do what the Hoosiers call “clean running,” but in point of strength it was nothing to this. He put it down as if he he thought death on the pale horse was right at his heels ready to rap him off the moment he was overtaken. The little hotel at which he boarded was surrounded by a picket fence, through which a gate of the same material opened. Not taking time to look for the gate, he ran against the fence and carried in a whole broadside, to the no little astonishment of the landlord in the morning.

The joke leaked out early in the day, and next night the stage got a passenger at our village. It was Mr. Stuart.


Notes:

Source: New York Spirit of the Times 30.7 (24 March 1860): 75. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] "likded" in original. Printer error likely.
[2] "dnst" in original. Printer error likely.

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