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Title: Plowing On Sunday
Author: North, Sterling
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Plowing On Sunday" ***

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                         PLOWING ON SUNDAY



[Illustration]

                       THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
               NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
                      ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

                     MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                    LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
                             MELBOURNE

                       THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                        OF CANADA, LIMITED
                              TORONTO



                              PLOWING
                             ON SUNDAY

                        _By_ STERLING NORTH



                             NEW YORK
                       THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                               1934



                       _Copyright, 1934, by_
                      THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

All rights reserved--no part of this book may be reproduced in any
form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a
 reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a
      review written for inclusion in magazine or newspaper.

                    _Set up and electrotyped._
                    _Published October, 1934._


              PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
                   NORWOOD PRESS LINOTYPE, INC.
                      NORWOOD, MASS., U.S.A.

                             CONTENTS


  BOOK ONE

  CHAPTER               PAGE

  I                        3

  II                      19

  III                     37

  IV                      54


  BOOK TWO

  V                       73

  VI                      92

  VII                    111


  BOOK THREE

  VIII                   131

  IX                     159

  X                      185

  XI                     202


  BOOK FOUR

  XII                    215

  XIII                   225

  XIV                    239


  BOOK FIVE

  XV                     255



BOOK ONE



CHAPTER I


1

Sarah Brailsford hurried through the April downpour holding her
lantern with its shining reflector high above her and picking her
way among the puddles which gleamed in the lantern light. Now and
then she would stop to listen or would hallo in her sweet, anxious
voice, "Stanley! Oh, Stan!"

The lantern cast gigantic shadows behind each boulder, fence-post
and clump of hazel bushes as she splashed along between the rushing
buggy ruts with an unreasonable panic in her heart. The willow
branches from the trees beside the ditch whipped wetly across her
face and shoulders. She brushed them aside without stopping and
crossed the bridge over the flooded creek.

She lowered her head to fight the mounting wind, and labored up the
hill through muddy torrents until she stood at last beneath the
giant cottonwood with half the world below her. Then as she rested,
panting from her climb, the distant lightning flared and the panic
left her.

There lay the lake she had known since she was a child, the
marshes, the great banks of peat, the far dark mound covered with
oak trees which was Charley's Bluff, the limestone cliff at Lake
House Point rising white and majestic above the black, rain-swept
waters. The fields and woods and rivers of Wisconsin lay all about
her like the walls of home.

She hurried on now, certain that she would find him, knowing that
any moment she might hear the clop, clop of the horse's hooves and
the creaking of the light spring wagon. And she was not surprised
when at the turn of the road she heard his deep, full voice which
even now that she had reached her forty-third year could move her.
The man was roaring a hymn above the storm.

But she was not prepared for the sight which greeted her eyes
when the lightning flashed again. Stud Brailsford was between the
thills where the horse should have been, trotting through the rain,
singing and hatless. The rain was in his graying curls and running
down his face. He looked a giant in the lantern light.

"Stanley! Stanley! what's happened? And who's that in the wagon?
You'll both catch your death."

She rushed to meet them crying out her surprise, and before her
husband could answer had lifted the lantern to look into the
eyes of the drenched girl on the wagon seat, eyes very bright
and expectant, curls the color of straw bursting from under a
wide-brimmed picture hat from which drooped two dilapidated ostrich
plumes. The girl of perhaps eighteen straightened under Sarah's
gaze.

"Lightning struck Old Peg," the man explained, "so I played horse
for Early Ann."

It's after midnight, Sarah thought. He's come from town with a
strange girl, and....

"You must be about tuckered out," she said.

"Me, tuckered?" The big man laughed. "You should have seen me come
up Gravel Store Hill."

"He's a good horse," the girl said. Her laughter was deep and
unexpected. Her voice strangely rich for one so young.

"Get up in the wagon with the girl and put your coat around her."

Worrying about the child instead of me, thought Sarah climbing
over the wheel to the wagon seat. She shared her rain coat with
the shivering girl and warmed her with her own body, while Stanley
Brailsford, with the strength of a stallion, pulled them both along
the road, splashing and singing.

At last the girl ceased to shiver. She tilted her hat and pillowed
her head upon the older woman's shoulder. And there she rested
until Brailsford cried, "Here we are!"

And so it was that Early Ann Sherman came to the Brailsford farm
on Crab Apple Point in the dairy country of southern Wisconsin in
April of the year 1913.


2

Stud Brailsford was a breeder famed throughout southern Wisconsin.
He had a Poland China boar, a Jersey bull, and a Percheron stallion
which were the talk of the countryside. He had cornfed sows which
looked like minor blimps wallowing in his pig yards and scratching
their ample backs against mail-order scratching posts which turned
like screws twisting sinuous curls of soothing grease upward
to salve the noble porcine flanks; soft-eyed Jersey cows whose
pedigrees compared favorably with that of any reigning monarch;
Shetland ponies, Shropshire sheep, and a small herd of goats.

On the little pond which lay like a blue mirror in a hollow between
the hills a quarter of a mile north of the house he had tame geese,
three varieties of tame ducks, as well as wild mallards, pintails,
redheads, and canvasbacks brought home wounded from the fall duck
hunting, clipped and kept to propagate more of their species. Wild
Canadian geese he also had whose honking overhead in the short
flights they essayed about the farm had all the fierce challenge of
their kind, all the longing for distant marshes, and the fire of
spring.

For spring was upon the land--

Spring had come rushing up the Mississippi valley out of the
warm Gulf states, out of the bayous and river bottoms bringing
the fragrance of wet earth and leaf mold, the sweet smell of sap
running in the maples, the acrid smells of dung and marshland.
At Rock Island, Illinois, spring, and the wild fowl, had turned
off the main stream to follow the Rock River valley up through
Rockford, Beloit, Janesville, until at last with a final onslaught
they had taken Lake Koshkonong and the farms and oak woods along
its shores.

Overnight wildflowers bloomed on the hills, buttercups, anemones,
dog violets, real violets, and the gaudy dandelions which children
held beneath each other's chins to discover with great certainty
who did and who did not like butter. Pickerel began to run up the
creeks and back into the marshy bays of the lake; the little
streams were flooded, and furry buds no larger than the ears of
mice began to show on the black, gnarled branches of the oak trees.

And spring to Stanley Brailsford meant plowing.

"Hi up there, Bess!" he shouted. "Get a move on, Jinny."

He guided the plow with one hand for a moment, using the other
to slap the reins sharply across the sweating flanks of the team
of mares. He turned them with an expert grace at the end of the
furrow, went down along the fencerow and around the outer edge of
the field.

A dozen white chickens, two or three bold robins, and Shep, the
mischievous young farm dog followed the furrow in an absurd parade.
The birds were greedy for the pink angle-worms, fat, purple
night-crawlers, and succulent grubs. The dog delighted in making
the chickens leap six feet into the air with playful passes at
their proud white tails.

"Get along you lazy hunks of horseflesh," Stud told the team.
"Pretty near time we had this twenty planted. What you horses going
to eat next winter, sawdust?"

He stopped for a moment to wipe his forehead with his red bandana
pulled from the voluminous depths of his overalls pocket, gazed
back over the neatly pleated acres of moist, black soil to the
meadow beyond, and to the sandy beach of the big lake beyond that.
A pickerel splashed in the shallow water.

"Holy Moses, that must've weighed twenty pounds," Stud told the dog.

Even the fish were frisky today. Shep was frisky and so was Stud.
Ulysses S. Grant was acting like a wild boar, Napoleon more like
a Texas longhorn than a Jersey, while Admiral Dewey, the Shetland
pony stallion was the worst of the lot.

The Admiral had a habit of biting bigger horses' legs, then leaping
about, prancing and whinnying. Stud knew it was a bad policy to let
a stallion run loose in the pasture but he couldn't find it in his
heart to shut the little rascal in the barn. The Admiral and Mrs.
Dewey were the happiest married couple he had ever seen. They had
been running together for five years now. Five pony colts had made
Mrs. Dewey look a bit matronly, but the little Stallion was still a
holy terror.

"Sarah's a bit like Mrs. Dewey," thought the man. "Quiet, and good
and sort of sweet. But me, I'm like the Admiral."

The dinner bell cut across his thoughts with its distant hollow
clangor, now full and near as the breeze brought it directly to his
ears, now remote and thin as the wind veered. The horses pricked
up their ears and stamped impatiently, Stud, whistling loudly
and merrily, unsnapped the tugs and clucked. Released from their
dragging burden the team trotted over the soft earth at such a pace
that Stud Brailsford had to break into a run; and the three of
them, the two beasts and the man, came into the barnyard in a whirl
of leaping, screeching chickens, hissing ganders, and the hearty
hallo of Early Ann.


3

On the broad kitchen stoop Brailsford scraped the black dirt from
his shoes, then, whistling, went in to wash. Sarah hurried to prime
the cistern pump which wheezed and creaked as it gushed forth a
clear stream of clean-smelling rain water. He scrubbed face and
hands with a coarse yellow soap, dried himself vigorously on the
crash roller-towel, ran the family comb through his curls, and
hesitated for a second to look at himself in the uneven glass of
the old walnut-framed mirror.

What he saw evidently pleased him: clear blue eyes which could
laugh or be very angry, wrinkles at the outer corners more from
smiling than from squinting into the sun, a two-days' growth
of heavy black stubble over cheeks both ruddy and tan, a good,
straight English nose which went oddly but well with the slightly
spoiled, pouting mouth; good teeth, a high forehead which bulged
at the temples, but was in no way out of proportion to the leonine
head with its mass of graying curls. He pulled at his jowls
tentatively. No use shaving until Sunday morning.

"Thought you rang the dinner bell, Sarah," he said smilingly as
the hot, somewhat harassed woman shuttled back and forth from the
roaring cook stove to the kitchen table. "Guess we'll have time for
a tune."

He crossed the wide, low-ceilinged room to the graphophone on
the big desk under the north window, pushed aside mail-order
catalogues, the ten-pound family Bible and back numbers of farm
magazines, gave the little crank a dozen turns, and from a homemade
box studded with big wooden pegs drew a heavy cylinder record.

"Edison record," the huge tin horn painted like a tiger lily
bragged in a cracked barytone. "For I Picked a Lemon in the Garden
of Love Where They Say Only Peaches Grow...."

"You play that just to tease me," the woman said. She spoke softly
and indulgently as a mother might speak to a mischievous child.

Early Ann came in with an armload of smoothly split oak and hickory
which she dumped into the wood box. Her strong round arms looked
very capable for the task and there was something delightful
about the disarray of her blond curls and the little beads of
perspiration on her forehead. Her movements were effortless and
unstudied.

Stanley found himself perplexed. Where had he seen the girl before,
years ago? There was a momentary flash of moonlight and willow
trees, but the vision evaded him. He gave up the puzzling problem
as Gus, the hired man, came in from the barns.

"It's hawg cholera this time all right," announced the
excruciatingly ugly man. "I don't doubt every one of them Poland
Chinas'll be dead by next Sunday."

"That ain't hog cholera, and you know it," said Stud.

"Well, if it ain't it ought to be," said Gus, slouching into his
chair at the table. "I'm plumb sick of them hawgs."

"They're good hogs," Stud said. "What's the matter with 'em?"

"Matter!" said Gus. "There's plenty the matter. You treat 'em
better than you treat your hired help, that's what's the matter.
I'll probably be sittin' up all night with that sow holding a hoof
and takin' her temperature."

"It's better company than you usually keep nights," said Stud.

"There you go again," Gus complained, "always accusing me of being
out nights. You know as well as I do that I ain't courted a girl in
twenty years."

"And with all the girls from Brailsford Junction to the Fort raring
around like mares in heat every time they get sight of you."

"Hush, Stanley," said Sarah, "don't forget Early Ann."

"She'll just have to get used to us, Sarah," Stanley said. "She'll
have to get used to the way we talk around here."

"Ain't we going to eat sometime today?" Gus asked. "I thought I
heard the dinner bell."

"There, the duck's just done," said Sarah. She slipped it deftly
onto the willow-ware platter.

"Duck on a Saturday?" asked Stud with mild surprise. He viewed
the sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, the great bowl of gravy,
baked apples, bread-and-butter pickles, the pile of hot homemade
bread in thick slices, the apple and gooseberry pies and large
graniteware pot of coffee with something like lust.

"Duck on a week-day?"

"You know Peter came home today. He.... Oh, Stanley, he's quit
school! He said he couldn't stand it another day."

"And so we kill the fatted calf," said Stanley quietly. "Well, why
doesn't he come to dinner? What's keeping him?"

"He's upstairs changing into his overalls. You might as well begin."

She stopped half way between the stove and table as Stud began the
blessing. She cast her eyes down as the words ran on.... "God is
great and God is good, and we thank Him for this food...." She saw
the wide pine boards of the kitchen, worn white and smooth from
years of scrubbing. Then she shut her eyes and said a little prayer
of her own for Peter and for Stanley Brailsford.


4

Something was troubling young Peter Brailsford, something he
couldn't quite get at or understand. He wasn't at all certain why
he had run away from school in Brailsford Junction, or why he
had come home instead of hooking a freight for Chicago as he had
originally planned.

He hated school, and the farm, and most of all himself. He hated
all the girls in the world. He was shy in the presence of his
father, and sometimes felt a flare of impatience, almost dislike
for the older man. He had left the dinner table quietly, slipped
on a sweater patched at the elbows, glad to be away from the hired
man's teasing, from his mother's over-solicitous love.

He strode across the lawn, leaped the fence, and started up the
lane to look for the ponies, wondering in his mind who this new
girl could be, thinking of the hot, angry scene in the Principal's
office when he had announced that he was quitting, remembering how
he had thrown his books into the creek, and jumped on his new red
motorcycle, wild to be feeling the wind in his hair.

But even the thought of that happy, rebellious ride on his fine
fast motorcycle with its shining nickel headlight and bright red
mudguards was not enough to keep his mind from running hot with
the vague injustices of the world. He kicked viciously at the tall
dandelions and convenient lumps of dirt. Yet he could not have told
precisely what it was that angered him, nor why the great peaceful
spring had not caught him up as it had the rest of the world to
warm his blood.

He'd show them! He'd show everybody! All the stuck-up town kids
with their smart ways, all the girls, Stanley, his mother, Gus,
everybody!

There was a great deal wrong with the world young Peter thought.
Much that could be better. He had never noticed before he went away
to high school how his father and the hired man bullied his mother
with their laughing banter, nor how cluttered the parlor was with
its stuffed birds.

Momentarily he hated every inch of it: the stink of the barnyards,
the cruelties of birth and death forever taking place about the
farm; Gus the lecherous hired hand whispering to him of secret
pleasures,--Gus forever proclaiming his hatred for women yet
tearing out the underwear-clad wenches in the mail-order catalogues
to hide in his bureau drawer.

Then with the inconsistency of youth in springtime Peter forgot his
troubles upon seeing Lake Koshkonong spread out before him, flecked
with whitecaps in the sun. He forgot his hatred for school, his
contempt for farming. He cut himself a thorn stick and swished it
through the deepening grass, whistled "Alexander's Ragtime Band,"
and with an awkward attempt at the tango whirled and bent and
thumped his feet holding his visionary partner with a grace which
he imagined would have shamed Vernon Castle.

He clapped for an encore, bowed deeply to the girl, then feeling
in his pockets found fish-hooks, sinkers, and dead night crawlers.
"I'll go fishing catfish," he thought with excitement. "I'll get me
some dead minnies, some rotten liver, and some clams."

Swinging along the lane, throwing stones at sparrows and
adventurous woodchucks, he came at last to the back pasture covered
with hazel bushes, sumac and thorn-apple trees. He made his way
along the cowpaths calling the ponies, looking behind the clumping
elderberry bushes until at last he came upon them.

The little Admiral ran up whinnying to nuzzle for the sugar lumps
Peter usually carried, and there beyond stood the patient mare
guarding her new-born colt, the wickedest-looking little fellow who
ever tried to scamper on unsteady legs.

He had been licked as clean as down and his small black hooves were
as bright as jewels in the wet grass. The mare regarded him with
troubled eyes and every now and again ran her wide nostrils over
his flanks tenderly. So this was why the mare hadn't come down to
the barnyard that morning! Peter slipped his arms under the warm
pony colt to carry him home. The mare patiently followed.



CHAPTER II


1

Stud Brailsford stopped his team of sorrel mares beside the old
mill and blacksmith shop, led Jinny in through the wide doorway
and tied her to a wrought-iron ring worn with sixty-five years of
friction. He lit the charcoal in the forge, pumped the ancient
foot-bellows, and buried a shining shoe in the bright coals.

"This ain't going to hurt you a bit," he told the nervous mare.
"Your ma, and your ma's ma, and a long ways back of that got nice
new shoes in this same smithy."

He whistled happily as he rolled up his sleeves, showing huge brown
arms with bulging biceps, tied on a leather apron, and lifting
the heavy hammer gave the anvil a couple of preparatory whangs,
bell-like strokes which rang out across the valley of the stream
all the way to Cottonwood Hill and back again.

"Blamed if I don't like shoeing a horse," he told the sorrel.
"Nothing like it to set a fellow up in the morning."

Stud had a weakness for his blacksmith shop and the adjoining mill
which had once ground all the grist and cut all the lumber for the
entire countryside. The old stone building was in ruins now, the
mill-wheel fallen, and the dam washed away, moss and vines covered
the rotting roof; but Stud would not tear it down.

He liked to come down here on a wet day and tinker around in the
pile of wheels and machine parts which littered the floor. At a
bench in one corner he kept his paraphernalia for stuffing birds,
in another his saws and planes and chisels, his brace and bits
and other woodworking equipment. He liked to make things, and fix
things, and whang away at his anvil.

"Have to fix that bellows with a new cowskin," he announced to no
one in particular. "Must have been made before the Civil War by my
Granddaddy--and what a great old fellow he was!" Stud fished the
glowing crescent of iron out of the coals and set to work with his
hammer.

"Tailor made shoes for a pretty lady," he told the anxious mare.
"Can't go barefoot like a blamed little foal."

So he had heard his father talk to sleek and shining mares in this
same blacksmith shop, and so his father's father had doubtless
talked to _his_ horses on this very spot. Stud had a sneaking
fondness for horses and ancestors. Particularly the big men who had
come swinging into Wisconsin in the eighteen-forties to open up
this country as if by miracle.

He had heard his father tell of the stormy voyage from England in a
sailing ship, the long journey up the canal and through the Great
Lakes, the landing at Milwaukee where the candle-lit taverns were
over-run with settlers, frontier merchants, gamblers, whores, and
itinerant ministers of the gospel who shared the unpartitioned
floors, and waded democratically through the deep mud in the tavern
yard where scores of oxen were tethered beside their clumsy carts.

Stud himself remembered the last of these "toad-crushers" with
wheels cut from cross-sections of huge oak trees. Loaded with lead
and pulled by as many as eight yoke of oxen, these carts drew the
metal mined in Galena and Exeter across the wilds of intervening
Wisconsin to the lake port of Milwaukee. The drivers were a wild
and frisky crew, Stud had been told. It shocked and titillated his
righteous old Daddy (who had watched the ox teams from this very
window) knowing how the drivers whored and played at cards in
Milwaukee and the thriving town of Galena.

Great fellows and great times, thought Stud Brailsford, dipping the
hissing shoe into the tub of green water beside the anvil. Men who
could carry a three-hundred pound barrel of salt up a steep loft
stairs, Big Jock Macreedy who had set the nine-hundred pound oak
cornerpost on the lower eighty. His grandfather's brother (for whom
Brailsford Junction was named) who had single-handed lifted the
millstone in this very mill into its place.

"Hold up there, Jinny," he admonished, lifting her tasseled leg and
catching the hoof between his leather knees. "This ain't going to
hurt you a bit, Jinny. Nice new shoes for a pretty lady."

There had been a log house on the farm where the brick one stood
now, and Stud had often heard his father tell how the deer came
to eat the cabbages, and how one night a cougar had looked in at
the window.... Rain came in through the cracks in the hand-split
hickory shingles, it whipped into the faces of the eight children
sleeping in the loft on the corn-husk mattresses ... rain and snow
in the winter, mosquitoes in the summer. Cracks between the logs
which no amount of mudding would completely fill.

Stud could just remember the log house; it had been torn down the
year he was five. There were wide stone fireplaces at either end of
the big downstairs room, tallow candles made in a mold brought over
from England on the sailing ship, a flintlock rifle with which his
father could hit a squirrel at one hundred yards. There had been
sweet-smelling roots and herbs hanging from the beams, seed corn,
hams, and traps for catching bobcats and foxes that came to steal
the chickens.

And kids all over the place. Three girls and five boys.... Stud
wished he could have a family of husky youngsters like that. He
didn't blame Sarah for the fact that all of her babies had died
except Peter. But he did wish that Peter could have been a real
farmer. He wished that he would quit mooning around and find a girl
and use his fists more often. He wondered if the boy would actually
run away to Chicago to work in an automobile or trailer factory. It
made him bitter to think that farming wasn't good enough for his
son.

Stud drove home the tapered horse-shoe nails with a viciousness
which made the mare dance like a tumble-weed.

"Whoa, there, you ornery piece of horseflesh. Act like a lady or
I'll larrup the living daylights out of you."

Times were soft, Stud argued. Kids got notions in their heads.
Like Peter wanting to build automobiles or trailers. Everyone
riding instead of walking, talking about a device to milk cows by
electricity, wearing gloves for husking in the fields.

When Stud was a boy men husked corn bare-handed. He could remember
how his fingers cracked and bled in the cold, how one could follow
his trail across the snow by the drops of blood. At night the men
laughed about their split fingers, rubbed in hot tallow, and next
morning went at it again.

Underwear was a luxury and almost unknown. Men wore their coarse
homespun against their skin. The burrs in the virgin wool scratched
like pins and needles.

Stud put another horse-shoe into the charcoal and worked the
bellows. He tossed a handful of hickory nuts through the open
window into the pig pen where the big sows cracked them between
their teeth and swallowed them with noisy gusto. Stud noticed that
the sick sow was back on her feet again and as greedy as any of her
fantastically enormous sisters.

Better hogs than we raised in the old days, he thought. That's
one place we've improved. Men get meaner and weaker and filthier,
while hogs and cattle get to be better animals every year. That's
on account of the way we breed the beasts. No romance. No guessing
what's under a bustle. Just hard-headed facts and scientific
breeding. Do the human race some good to have a first rate breeder
put in charge for a few generations.

"Whang, whang," went the hammer on the anvil as sparks flew out
like Fourth-of-July. "Hissss" went the second shoe in the tub of
scummy water. The smithy was filled with the delectable odor of hot
metal and scorching hooves and dung, age old dust and the first
breath of crab-apple blossoms now bursting on the scraggly black
trees beside the smithy window.

Man got meaner and smaller while the animals got greater and finer,
thought Stud again, and that was why a man could give his best
years to raising Jersey bulls like Napoleon, or Percheron stallions
like Teddy Roosevelt ... could care for his cattle almost more than
his family. There was a decency about animals not to be found in
men.

This he had known ever since as a young man--a spoiled but
good-looking young fellow who dominated his daddy and bought the
big farm for a song--he had found that one can't trust bankers,
share farmers, renters, or hired men, but one can trust horses,
cows, and pigs....

"Give 'em your best and they'll give you their best," thought Stud.
And no stock in the Rock River valley had better care or better
feed than the Brailsford stock.

Stud thinks now, seeing Peter dash down the road like mad on his
new red motorcycle, that a buggy was good enough for him at that
age. No, he didn't get his first buggy until he was eighteen. It
had red wheels and a fringed whip-socket, and his father had given
him a spanking bay gelding to go with it. What a figure he cut
courting Sarah to the tune of "I'm the Man Who Broke the Bank at
Monte Carlo".... Black curls, a little mustache turned up at the
ends, derby hat, pants tight over strong rippling thighs, smart
checked coat. A dashing young giant, muscled like a bull.

And Sarah in her long flaring gown, curls down the back of her
neck, rows and rows of buttons, puff sleeves and a waist so small
he could reach around it with his two hands.

"Ah, Sarah, you were beautiful then," Stud says aloud. He slaps the
mare sharply across her gleaming flank. "Get going, you lazy piece
of horse flesh."


2

Miss Temperance Crandall bustled along the road with the air of a
woman who has a mission in life. She noticed with shocked delight
that there were several pairs of young women's bloomers on the
Barton wash lines, no corset covers, and scarcely any petticoats.
Bloomers, of all things! That was really too much. Temperance
Crandall still wore drawers, and she always said the underwear her
mother wore was good enough for her.

The diapers hanging in snowy squares behind the tumble-down Oleson
household reminded her that the Oleson baby was born less than
seven months after the young couple were married.... September,
October, November, December, January, February, March, she counted
again. And you couldn't tell her it was a seven-month baby. She had
traipsed all the way out from town the second day after it was born
to bring Mrs. Oleson a baby sweater she had knitted, and she had
had a good look at the cute little brat. Perfectly good fingernails
and a huge mass of blond hair.

Peter Brailsford and Dutchy Bloom were coming down the road a mile
a minute on their motorcycles, and just before they reached the
spot where she was standing Dutchy stood up on the seat, let go the
handlebars, and started yelling like a wild Indian. Why, he might
have killed her! He might have run right over her.

"You better watch out, young man," she shouted after him, shaking
her parasol. "You can't go up the narrow road to heaven on a
motorcycle. You're just tearing down the wide, primrose path to
hell."

The motorcycles were making so much noise that Dutchy did not catch
the full import of her remarks, but he turned, nevertheless, and
thumbed his nose in answer.

She went in at the Brailsford gate, took the letters out of the
mail-box as she went by, stopped behind the lilac bush at the turn
of the flagstone walk to peer through the envelopes, then composing
bonnet, shawl, flounced skirt, and lace parasol climbed briskly up
the wooden steps and opened the front door.

"Sarah!" she called. "Oh-h, Sarah! It's just me, Temperance
Crandall. I just came to tell you...."

"Why, do come in, Miss Crandall," said Sarah, wiping her hands on
her apron. "Won't you sit down?"

"I really haven't a minute," said the determined and bright-eyed
person. "I've got to tell everybody along the road about the church
supper next Wednesday night. I knew you'd bake the pies, Sarah.
You do bake the loveliest pies if you would only use a little more
shortening in the crust and be careful not to put too much cinnamon
on your apples."

"Yes," said Sarah, "I suppose I can bake the pies."

"Oh, not all of them. Just ten or fifteen. I'll have the Barton
girls bake the rest. They ought to do something for the good of
their souls. Why, when I went past there a minute ago I saw they
had bloomers on the line."

"I think bloomers are real sensible," said Sarah Brailsford.

"Oh, you do!" said Temperance. "Well, I don't. And what's more when
I was listening in this morning to see if old man Whalen had got
over his D.T.'s I heard Kate Barton and that good-for-nothing Joe
Whalen going on something scandalous, throwing kisses over the wire
and whispering about Saturday night. You can't tell _me_ that silk
bloomers do a girl's morals any good."

"Why shouldn't a girl have pretty underclothes?" asked Sarah. "They
won't have many years to dress pretty and have a good time."

"I'm going to tell Reverend Tooton to preach a sermon on girls'
bloomers," said Temperance. "What those girls need is a good
dressing down and not so much dressing up. I must hurry back to
town and see him this very afternoon.... But what I came to tell
you about, Sarah...."

"Yes?"

"Well, now I sorta hate to do it. But it's for your own good."

"I'm sure we understand each other," said Sarah Brailsford, coolly,
sitting proudly in her straight-backed chair.

"Well, I'm no one for beating about the bush," said Miss Crandall.
"And far be it from me to stir up any trouble in a Christian
household. But if you ask me, I'd watch that Early Ann."

"Would you mind if I closed the door into the kitchen?" Sarah asked
quietly.

"No, shut the door so the hussy can't hear us," said Miss Crandall,
"not that you can ever keep a secret from a hired girl so long as
there are keyholes."

"What was it you were going to say?"

"Well, now, Sarah. I just want to do you a good turn same as I
would expect you to do for me."

"Will you please come to the point, Miss Crandall?"

"Since you insist, Sarah, and may the Lord forgive me for telling
you. But I think you ought to know that Early Ann Sherman is
Stanley Brailsford's daughter, and the way they cut up together
makes it all the nastier."

Sarah Brailsford swayed faintly, caught herself, and rose
unsteadily to her feet. Her face was white and pinched, but her
voice was clear and proud.

"I'll bake the pies, Miss Crandall." She opened the door with a
hauteur which quieted even the garrulous Temperance Crandall. And
it was not until she was beyond the lilacs that Temperance started
worrying. "Now I've done it again. But someone had to tell her."


3

"You're a jinx," Gus told Early Ann as he stood beside her in the
lamp light helping with the dishes. "Nothing but rain since the
night you came. Never knew it to fail. That's what comes of having
a strange girl on the farm."

"I ain't a strange girl," said Early Ann. "I certainly ain't as
strange as you are. You're the strangest guy I ever seen."

"All Gundersons have got faces like mine," said Gus sadly.

"You ain't homely," said Early Ann. "You're awful handsome. Can you
tango or sing,'You Great Big Beautiful Doll'?"

"I can't sing nothing," Gus said. "Can't carry a tune worth a cent.
Stud says maybe I could sing better if I had my tonsils cut."

Early Ann giggled. She looked up with flashing eyes at the dour
hired man and winked wickedly. She giggled again.

"You ought to see the picture postcards I got and the bon bon
boxes, and the dance programs with silk tassels." (How she wished
she _did_ have these lovely, unattainable things!) "I bet I could
teach you how to do the Castle Walk."

"Not me," said Gus. "No you don't." He cast an apprehensive glance
at the girl and all but let a tureen slip out of his hands.

"You bust that tureen and I'll run you out of the kitchen with a
broom," said Early Ann.

"My, my!" said Gus. "You're a wild woman, ain't you?"

"You bet I'm wild." She tossed her shining curls in the lamp light
and added a kettle to the gleaming row of copper vessels hanging
along the wall. "I used to bite like everything when I was a little
girl."

"Let's see your teeth," said the hired man.

She flashed her white teeth, then opened wide her pretty mouth.

"Yep, you're a biter," Gus said. "But you ain't a day over
seventeen by the looks of your molars."

"You don't know anything about girls," said Early Ann. "All you
know about is horses."

From the other room came the voice of Sarah reading to Stanley by
lamp light. Her voice was sweet, but particularly colorless this
evening.

"Where'd you come from anyway?" Gus wanted to know. "And who are
your folks? There ain't no Shermans in Brailsford Junction."

"None of your beeswax," the girl said firmly. "It's none of your
beeswax where I came from."

"Not that I care," said Gus. "Not that I'm curious. Ishkabibble! I
should worry."

"Oh, no. You ain't curious. You just got your tongue hanging out
and your eyes popping, that's all. You're just running around like
a couple of strange new dogs. You ain't curious."

"It ain't nice for a girl to talk the way you talk," said Gus. "It
ain't proper for a girl to talk about dogs like that."

"I wasn't talking about dogs, I was talking about you," Early Ann
said.

"Don't you ever want to be a lady, Early Ann? Don't you ever want
to ride in a hansom cab or a limousine, with ostrich plumes in your
hat, and a parasol? Don't you ever want to learn how to be sweet
and talk nice like Sarah Brailsford?"

"She's lovely," said Early Ann with a sigh. "I sure wish I could
be like Mrs. Brailsford. But I got a tongue like a little snake.
I can't help what my tongue says.... Sure I want to be a lady and
ride in a limousine. I want to be as graceful as Irene Castle, and
dance like an angel, and have a house with swell brass beds and
fumed oak mission furniture like you see in the Hartman catalogue,
and a big cut-glass dish for the center of my table, and real lace
curtains, and a new Ford with a Disco self-starter and...."

"Gee whiz, you must be figurin' on marrying a millionaire," Gus
said.

"I want things," the girl said. "All I've had all my life is work,
work, work."

Her fervor had flushed her cheeks and brightened her eyes until the
vision of young loveliness before him made Gus forget that he was
a woman-hater. He wished he were a good-looking young fellow with
some money. She'd get everything she wanted soon enough.

"You better not let Temperance Crandall hear you talk like that,"
warned Gus. "She'd tell everybody from Stoughton to Fort Atkinson."

"What does she look like?" Early Ann asked with excitement. "Has
she got a long scraggly neck and a raggedy black parasol, and a
black shawl, and does she wear glasses?"

"That's her," said Gus.

"Let me get my fingers around that hag's neck," said Early Ann.

"You certainly do talk rough," said the hired man. "I wouldn't want
to meet you alone somewhere on a dark night."

"She was over here today telling tales about me," said Early Ann.
"They shut the door and I was too proud to listen. She's just a....
Oh, Gus, she's just a nasty old busy-body. Mrs. Brailsford came out
in the kitchen as white as a ghost after she left and asked for the
camphor."

"There's something mysterious about you," said Gus. "I knew it from
the night you came."

"It's just talk," said Early Ann. "They don't know a thing. There's
nothing in my life to be ashamed of.... But it seems like old
ladies just can't leave a girl alone. There's nobody in my past
who...."

Early Ann broke off abruptly in the middle of her sentence. Her
eyes grew large and the terror crept down her cheeks and caught
at the comers of her mouth. She started to scream, then bit
her knuckles and with great deliberation turned away from the
apparition at the window-pane. By the time Gus had rushed out into
the yard no one was to be seen and the starlit night was silent and
empty.

In the parlor Sarah still read to Stanley, unaware of anything
beyond her own circle of lamp light. But as Early Ann listened in
the throbbing stillness she heard the older woman falter and stop.
Then she heard quiet weeping.

"Why ... what are you crying about, Mother?" she heard Stanley ask.

"Nothing, nothing at all," Sarah said. "I--I guess I'm just tired,
that's all."



CHAPTER III


1

The basement of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Brailsford
Junction rang with the shouts of children playing tag despite the
scolding of their busy mothers. Flushed matrons buzzed in laden
down with loaves of homemade bread, pans of biscuits ready for the
oven, mason jars full of sweet, sour, and mixed pickles, bags of
ground coffee, and huge pots of dressed and dismembered chickens
so tender and plump that their flesh would have warranted the term
"voluptuous" if stewed by a less austere generation.

Joe Whalen, town drunk, general roustabout, and janitor of the
church was starting a paper fire in the furnace.

"Put in more paper," shouted Old Mrs. Crandall, mother of
Temperance, who had left her room for the first time in months for
this occasion. "Terrible weather for rheumatism, ain't it?"

"Terrible," shouted Joe.

"You don't need to holler at me," said Old Mrs. Crandall. "I ain't
as hard of hearing as all that."

She pulled her shawl a little tighter about her rheumatic
shoulders, and cocked a sly old ear for the salty gossip Sister
Atwell was passing on to Sister Bailey.

Girls of high school age, whispering and giggling, twisted long
streamers of red, white, and blue crêpe paper in dizzy crescents
from pillar to pillar of the festive room, while over each blazing
chromo the same laughing girls hung shooting stars, bluebells,
anemones, and other spring flowers.

The chromos were of the unforgettable period in religious art which
offered holy scenes in dazzling triads, stirring masterpieces which
could not help but move saints and sinners alike, pictures which
carried a message and a warning. "Rock of Ages Cleft for Me" with
a courageous lady in a white nightgown hanging perilously to a
granite cross amid seas which would have sunk the _Titanic_; an
amazingly tinted "Last Supper"; Christ driving the money changers
from the temple with a ferocious rawhide blacksnake which Stud
Brailsford privately admitted a man would not use on a team of
balky mules.

Flowers were also heaped upon the golden oak upright piano, lacking
three ivories, sadly out of tune, and showing unmistakable battle
scars from the militant hammering it received during every Sunday
School session, no less than from the attempts of Epworth League
members to "rag" such sacred selections as "Holy, Holy, Holy."

The kitchen was a mad-house. Along ten feet of glowing griddles
perspiring sisters of the Ladies' Aid were stewing chickens,
thickening gravy, starting great pots of coffee (two hours before
suppertime with the result that church supper coffee had a wallop
like 100 proof Bourbon) cutting slices of home-baked bread,
quartering apple, pumpkin, and gooseberry pies, whipping half
gallons of Jersey cream in wooden bowls two feet in diameter,
pouring into boat-shaped cut-glass dishes jars of pickles, glass
after glass of jams, jellies and preserves.

Crocks of golden butter and creamy cottage cheese made a formidable
bulwark of richly laden earthenware in one corner, while a phalanx
of ice cream freezers stood guard beside the kitchen door. And
never except in time of war were seen such tubs of potatoes and
kettles of peas.

Thirty tables for which thirty women had each brought her largest
tablecloth were being set with six hundred ironware plates and
as many indestructible cups and saucers, while what was smilingly
known as the church silverware was lined up, knife, fork and spoon
at the right of every plate.

It was the scandal of the Ladies' Aid that some of these pieces
of husky serviceware were not stamped as they should have been
with "Property of the Methodist Episcopal Church" but were labeled
instead "Property of the First Congregational Church" or, breath of
popery, heresy and damnation, "Property of the St. James Catholic
Church."

A venturesome member of the Ladies' Aid who had once attended a
Congregational supper came back with the juicy information that
the Congregational church had hundreds of knives, forks, and
spoons marked with the bold Methodist insignia. This served as an
excellent palliative to Methodist consciences.

No one, of course, had ever worried about what might have been
stolen from the papists.

Into this wild and frantic scene shortly before supper time came
Sarah Brailsford, Early Ann, and Gus. The hired man shuffled
sheepishly behind the protecting women folks loaded to the gunwales
with apple pies.

"Oh, Sister Brailsford, how _do_ you do!" chorused the sisterhood.
"My, what lovely apple pies!"

They greeted Early Ann with reserved enthusiasm, insisting she must
join the Epworth League, and Standard Bearers.

"So important that a girl gets the right atmosphere during her
formative years," said Sister Dickenson.

Across the kitchen, however, the comments were less cordial:
"Did you hear? And think of bringing her to a church supper! You
mustn't breathe a word but Temperance Crandall told me in strictest
confidence...."

Meanwhile Gus, red of face and almost tongue-tied with
embarrassment had been put to work mashing the potatoes. Women
came with milk, butter, salt, and advice while Gus mashed on. Gus
thought that perhaps he would not have been embittered about women
so early in life had it not been for twenty-five years of church
suppers.


2

Above the First National Bank of Brailsford Junction with its
wooden Doric columns and gilt-lettered windows was the office
of Timothy Halleck, attorney at law, justice of the peace,
dealer in real estate and farm mortgages, notary, and Protestant
father-confessor for half the town.

To him came ranting suffragettes; militant members of the W.C.T.U.
bent on destruction of the town's twenty-six easy-going saloon
proprietors; the saloon proprietors; fathers of wayward girls;
mothers of incorrigible boys; wives who were beaten, and husbands
who had been cuckolded. Into Timothy's great hairy ears were poured
the despairs and heartbreaks which have been the lot of man these
many centuries.

His office was nothing less than amazing. Buffalo skulls and
polished buffalo horns from his brother's ranch in Montana elbowed
stuffed fish, antlers of deer, and the head of a wild cat upon the
walls; five hundred dusty law tomes filled the sagging shelves; in
a glass case stood a shock of prize Wisconsin wheat, seed corn,
and dirty mason jars filled with every variety of grain known to
horticulture. Enormous leaves of Wisconsin tobacco framed and
labeled, Indian quivers, and year-old calendars vied for space on
the wainscoting.

Half a dozen swivel chairs and as many spittoons gave the spot
an air of luxurious informality to visiting farmers, whose well
informed nostrils might have quivered distrustfully at the dusty
stench of rotting law books had it not been synthesized with the
comfortable aroma from the livery stable next door.

Timothy Halleck himself, six feet two, large-boned, gaunt,
hawk-nosed, with great brown eyes deep-socketed and thatched above
with bristling brows, white-haired and gruff, ruled like a kindly
tyrant in his chaotic kingdom. He was the town's one-man organized
charity, a poverty-stricken philanthropist who denied himself so
that he might help others; a widower, lonesome and fond of children.

He had a few old friends, among them Stanley Brailsford now
entering his office.

"Well, Timothy," said Stud, uncomfortable in his serge suit and
well-blacked bulldog shoes, "still making a living robbing the
widows and orphans?"

"Sit down, you lazy, hog-breeding son-of-a-gun and have a cigar,"
said the lawyer. "How are those emaciated razor-backs doing on that
run-down farm of yours?"

"Getting fatter and sassier every week," said Stud, biting off
the tip of the cigar and scratching a match on the seat of his
trousers. "What you been up to?"

"Just the usual day. Forging checks and foreclosing on
octogenarians. Where've you been keeping yourself?"

"Anywhere the fish are biting. There ain't much work to be done on
a farm in the spring time."

"Need a good hand?"

"Maybe you could do my whittling," Stud said. "Anyhow it's a
standing invitation."

"Might teach you how to raise hogs instead of razor-backs. Might
breed you some beeves you could tell from bags of bones."

"Who'd you find to defraud your clients meanwhile?" Stud asked.
"Where would you find a man to run your shell game while you was
gone?"

The two old cronies glowered at each other joyfully and let fly at
the nearest gobboon simultaneously and accurately, a symphony in
expectoration which had taken nearly thirty years to perfect.

Their talk ran on: the spring floods in Ohio and Indiana, the price
of hogs, milk, and eggs, the new trailer factory which was to
occupy the old wagon-works on the creek bottom, President Wilson
and his professorial theories, the German Kaiser and his fight to
remove one of his tenant farmers, the ridiculous little Balkan
squabbles.

And getting back to their own affairs Stud asked, "Are you going
to the church supper this evening?"

"No ..." said Halleck slowly. "Something about church suppers makes
me feel ... Martha was always the center of everything, you know."

"I know," Stud said.

"You don't appreciate a woman until you've lost her," Halleck said
quietly.

"No," said Stud, "I don't suppose you do."

"You're apt to take her for granted."

"Sarah's happy," Stanley said. "We get along all right."

"It isn't just getting along all right," the lawyer said, gazing
down upon the street where small boys jubilant with spring were
fighting, roller-skating, and playing marbles; little girls
skipping rope, and chalking squares for sky-blue. "It's treating a
woman like another human being. Like an individual."

He swung his chair to face his life-long friend.

"You ain't thinking of taking up woman suffrage, are you?" Stud
asked with mild sarcasm. "Not Pankhurst and Belle La Follette and
that sort of thing?"

"They don't need our help, Stanley. It's we who need theirs.
They'll get more than the vote. They'll get rid of corsets, smoke
if they want to, go into business, live alone in a room like Early
Ann Sherman wanted to...."

"I ... I wanted to ask you about her," Stud said. "I wanted you to
tell me more than you could that night you put her in my spring
wagon."

Halleck hesitated, looked down at the glowing tip of his cigar,
then began slowly. "I don't think I know much more about her than
you do, Stanley. She came to Brailsford Junction last winter
and got a job stemming tobacco in one of the warehouses. She
took a room across the track with Mrs. Marsden,--that front room
downstairs with the outside door."

"And then ...?"

"Well, nothing really. She didn't tell anyone where she came from,
or who her folks were, or why she wanted to live alone like that.
She was pretty and proud and full of spunk, so the gossips got
their tongues wagging ... Mrs. Marsden, and old Mrs. Crandall, and
that blue jay, Temperance...."

"But what was wrong?"

"Nothing so far as I know. The Hubbards who live next door thought
they saw a man around her window one night, and on another
occasion Mrs. Marsden heard her scream, but when she reached the
girl's room Early Ann was alone...."

"The sluts."

"Temperance Crandall and a delegation came to me--they always
do--and said they wanted to swear out a warrant. I told them they
couldn't swear out a warrant for a girl just because she was living
alone and there was gossip...."

"Dirty-minded old women," Stud said.

"But they insisted it was up to me to do something. They said that
if I didn't they would make it so uncomfortable for the girl she
would have to leave town. I had to save the kid from that pack of
she-bloodhounds."

"And you knew I'd been sort of figuring on getting a hired girl to
help Sarah...."

"So I brought her down to your wagon that night. I knew you folks
would take care of her. It was a chance to get her away from
Temperance Crandall."

"Not so sure you got her away," said Stud. "Temperance turned in at
our place the other day. No telling what she dished out to Sarah."

"She went clear out there to start trouble?"

"I reckon she did."

"That bitch," said Timothy Halleck.


3

At the church supper that evening Peter had a revelation. Maxine
Larabee brushed against him in the coatroom, and he knew as though
he had seen it in the paper that he was in love.

Not that Maxine had even noticed his presence. Why should she with
every boy in Brailsford Junction running after her? She had simply
swept by in her smart tailored suit and velvet hat exhaling the
very faint odor of violets. It was not quite nice to use violet
perfume in Brailsford Junction in 1913. It gave Maxine an air of
sin and secrecy. Peter felt a trifle heady watching her disappear
into the forbidden realm marked WOMEN from whence came the
concerted giggles, shrieks, and titterings of a dozen high-school
girls.

Peter yanked viciously at his two-inch starched collar,
polished the bright yellow toes of his bulldog oxfords with his
handkerchief, kicked and stamped to straighten the legs of his peg
trousers which had an embarrassing manner of working up the calves
of his legs exposing a vast expanse of green polka-dot socks to say
nothing of the clips of his garters. He hummed through the tenor
part to "When It's Apple-Blossom Time in Normandy," corrected a
few minor errors in his harmony, then with the determination of
a martyr entering the arena left the comparative safety of the
coatroom and strode manfully into the bedlam of the church basement
where whole flocks of chickens were being devoured by the famished
Methodists.

Maxine Larabee! So that was what had been troubling him! But a fine
chance he had with any girl as swell as Maxine. Particularly now
that he had quit school. Why, even the college guys serenaded her;
so did rich Bud Spillman the football hero and bully. She had more
picture postcards and sofa pillows and fraternity pennants than any
girl in Rock County. She had about twelve different dresses and six
or seven hats, and a hat-pin which was supposed to have a real ruby
set in the head of it. A fine chance he had with Maxine!

Peter was so absorbed in this new and disastrous turn of events
that he failed to answer the greetings and friendly gibes with
which he was met as he elbowed his way to the ticket table,
purchased for thirty-five cents a frayed rectangle of cardboard,
and finding a vacant seat, set to like the good young trencherman
he was. He scarcely noticed when Mrs. Fulton whisked away his
empty plate and returned plump, red, and beaming with a second
helping, and he was half way through his pumpkin pie loaded with
whipped cream before he noticed that something cataclysmic and
world-shaking was about to occur. Maxine Larabee was taking the
chair beside him.

"Gee, you're a regular swell tonight," the blond vision of
loveliness crowned with a coronet braid murmured sotto voce to the
embarrassed boy beside her. She looked approvingly at the green
polka-dot tie which matched the socks, the black curls slicked down
on either side of the central part. "Why don't you take me down to
the ice-cream parlor and buy me a lover's delight sometime?"

"Me?" Peter asked, astonished. "Me take you right down to the
ice-cream parlor and buy you an ice-cream sundae?"

"Why not?" the girl wanted to know. "There isn't any law against
it." She had a low, husky voice and a thrilling little laugh which
made the goose-flesh stand up on Peter's arms and electric chills
run up and down his spine.

"Why don't you take me for a ride on the handlebars of your new
motorcycle sometime?"

"Aw, you'd get hurt," Peter said with a tinge of his boyhood
contempt for mere girls springing up from some remote corner of
his still adolescent mind. "You'd get your skirts caught in the
spokes and we'd both go in the ditch."

"Oh, I would!" said the girl, raising her eyebrows. "Oh, I would,
would I! Well, I didn't the night Bud Spillman took me for a spin
on his motorcycle."

"I can go faster than Bud Spillman," Peter said irrelevantly. "I
ran him ragged the day we raced home from Janesville. I can go a
mile a minute on my machine."

"Give me a ride sometime and let's see you do it."

"But gee whiz, Maxine...."

"Gee whiz, nothing!" the girl said. "Either you give me a ride on
your motorcycle or I won't let you take me down to the ice-cream
parlor."

"I'll give you a ride," Peter promised, glowering at the bit of
pie-crust he was pushing about with his fork, "I'll give you a ride
that'll blow all the hair pins out of your hair."

The girl tittered quietly. "You _are_ a dear," she murmured. "But
here comes mother. I'll see you at eight down by the post office."

Peter got up hurriedly as Mrs. Larabee, a buxom blonde of forty
with exaggerated Gibson Girl figure nosed her way like a lake
freighter through the lesser craft between her and her pampered
daughter.

"Won't you have my chair?" said the boy with a mixture of guilt
and gallantry. "No, Mrs. Larabee, I'm absolutely all through with
supper."

He disappeared like an eel into the milling crowd.

Outside it had started to rain lightly. He walked without hat
or coat through the misty spring dusk, his brain a tumult of
conflicting emotions. Oh, she was a beautiful girl. Such big, clear
blue eyes, such shining blond hair ... like, like a regular gold
crown on her head. Her skin was as soft as ... as the petal of a
flower, and she had the littlest feet.

He wasn't worthy of her. He wasn't even worthy to touch the hem of
her garments. He, a big awkward farm boy without any manners. He
wished he could give himself a good poke in the jaw for not saying
right away, "Why, of course, Maxine. I would be delighted to give
you a ride on my motorcycle."

He thought he must be going crazy to have argued with her like that
when she had just decided to notice him for the first time in their
lives.

"You big country boob," he said abusively, "I'll bet a town fellow
would have known what to say."

His eyes and throat felt so funny that he thought maybe he was
going to cry, but he choked back the tears angrily and hurried on
through the spring evening watching the nighthawks skimming low
over the houses, and the strange, soft flight of the bats. The wind
sighed in the newly feathered elms and the arc-lights sputtered
menacingly.

He felt incredibly alone, infinitely removed from the rest of the
world. No other boy in history had been so suddenly and deeply in
love, so troubled and filled with foreboding. He had never known
such a hurt as he now felt in his breast, such an unbelievable
longing, although for what he could not say.

Long before eight he was standing at the post office corner, and
there he stood in the mist until long after nine. Maxine did not
come.



CHAPTER IV


1

On the Brailsford farm the season rushed tumultuously into June
bringing honey-locust bloom, wild roses, blue spiderwort and vetch,
changing black fields to the geometrical green of growing corn,
transforming Attila, the black pony colt with his white star and
fiery eyes into a frisking, mischievous rascal who worried his
mother constantly, metamorphosing the Jersey calves from fawn-eyed
babies delicate as gazelles into willful stubborn young ladies who
butted their pails of skim milk all over the barn lot.

"You little she-devils," said Gus, "you carnsarned little hussies,
keep your heads in your own pails and try to learn some table
manners."

But either Gus was never cut out for a barnyard Emily Post, or the
husky young heifers, shoats, and foals didn't give a tinker's damn
which was the salad fork, for certainly to the most casual observer
it was obvious that the little pigs thoroughly enjoyed wallowing
in the delicious swill that filled their feeding troughs, loved
to hang on squealing and complaining while their matronly mothers
wandered aimlessly about the pig yard, and had no objection to
nosing through the fence for a sinful afternoon among the radishes,
peas, and lettuce of the garden plot. Attila, with forefeet braced,
tugged at the mare's black udders until she sometimes turned and
nipped his downy hide, and once when the foolhardy little colt
started nuzzling around his daddy's flank, the Admiral, insulted to
the very core of his masculine being, kicked and bit his tactless
son into temporary good behavior. Nor were the black kittens in the
barn above stealing milk from the brimming milk pails.

Peter, his imagination soaring at the thought of a trailer factory
in Brailsford Junction, dreamed through the corn on the sulky
cultivator, went through the whole eighty acres of waving green,
then started through it again in an endless battle against the
weeds. Early Ann picked half a milk pail full of wild strawberries
on a southern slope.

The tobacco land was worked and reworked until the soil was as fine
as silk before the tobacco setter with its big red barrel began its
monotonous journey back and forth across the field leaving rows
of green plants in its wake. Gus and Peter dropped plants from the
low rear seats while Stanley drove the team, sitting high up on the
barrel.

Evenings the men, covered with dirt and sweat, went down to the
lake to bathe, waded out over hard sand nearly one hundred yards
until they were in water deep enough for swimming. They splashed
and roared and spluttered, sometimes raced half a mile out into the
lake and back again.

The corn grew so fast that Stud claimed you could hear it if you
listened carefully at night. The pumpkin vines between the hills
of corn spread wide green leaves, and the spring lambs which Stud
was pasturing in peas and clover began to look like something which
would taste good with mint sauce.

At last it was haying time. And so with hard work and little time
for play Stanley and Sarah Brailsford approached their twentieth
wedding anniversary.


2

One evening Early Ann, Peter and Gus got out the croquet set for
a dashing game on the front lawn. Stanley and Sarah brought out
their rockers to furnish a gallery. A catbird who thought he was a
bobolink was singing in the topmost branches of the poplar tree.

"I get the red ball and mallet," Early Ann announced.

"They're mine," cried Peter. "I always use the red ones."

"Try and get 'em," Early Ann taunted. Swinging the mallet
menacingly she dashed behind the lilac bushes and out again,
encircled the mail box and the big oak tree, and, laughing and
screeching came to grips with Peter on an open strip of lawn. He
tried to wrench the mallet from her hands and was surprised at her
strength.

"Just try," Early Ann panted. She fought with a desperation which
amazed the boy. Her hair came tumbling down and her eyes flashed
fire. Suddenly she let go of the mallet and tore into Peter with
small hard fists and flying feet. Stud was laughing until his sides
hurt. Gus was rolling on the ground with mirth. While Sarah, seeing
that the struggle was getting rough, cried out in consternation,
"Children, children!"

"I hate you," Early Ann whispered passionately. "I'll scratch your
eyes out."

"Don't hurt yourself," Peter advised with a superior, mocking note
in his voice. He had her firmly by the arms now in a grip which he
knew was hurting, but she did not flinch.

In another moment she was laughing and straightening her hair, but
she recovered and kept the red ball and mallet.

The game began in the fighting atmosphere of technical pride, and
deadly serious rivalry, which had marked the pioneer stump-pullings
and sod-breakings of an earlier day, and which lived on in mortal
golfing and bridge frays of the 1920's. Gus and Peter handled their
striped wooden balls on the smooth green lawn with an accuracy
which would have done credit to an expert of the cue driving the
ivories about a billiard table. Gus was known for miles around as
the croquet fiend who had scored all the hoops in one turn at a
Sunday School picnic, while Peter could often run a hoop from a
most disadvantageous angle.

Early Ann made up in temperament what she lacked in technical
skill, and, whenever she had a chance to roquet on Peter's ball,
sent him flying off into the deep grass.

"If Taft had played croquet instead of that sissy game golf, he'd
still be president," Stud said. "If he'd pitched a good game of
horseshoes he could've been king."

"Think of them White House lawns," sighed Gus. "Gee whiz! If I was
president I'd make me the gol darndest croquet court you ever did
see."

"Why don't we play like we used to, Stanley?" Sarah asked.

"The kids are too good for me," Stud admitted. "But I'll tell you
what I'll do...."

"Tomorrow?"

"You bet! I'll challenge you to a game for our twentieth wedding
anniversary, Sarah."

They touched hands for a moment, shyly, hoping the others would not
see.

Playing grimly and consistently well, Peter overtook Gus and sent
that doleful individual into loud and vituperative lament by
driving the farm hand's ball under the distant front porch. He made
his next hoop, roqueted on Early Ann, and continued his run to win
the game.

He couldn't help comparing Early Ann Sherman to Maxine Larabee as
they began their second game in the heat of bitter competition.

"Early Ann's all right for croquet, or swimming, or a tussle on the
lawn. But she's not much of a lady," he decided, "and nothing at
all like Maxine Larabee."

He shouldn't have let himself think of them in the same breath.
Early Ann was nothing but a she wild-cat, and a tomboy. Once she
had pushed Gus over the wood box; and she said "damn" when she got
mad; and Gus had even seen her trying to smoke a cigarette.

Maxine would never do anything like that. Maxine would be ashamed
to tussle or swear or even raise her voice. Maxine was a lady in
every sense of the word. She looked just like the beautiful women
in the magazines, with her picture hats and delicate motoring veils.

Peter bet if he could only have a new White Steamer she would
notice him again as she had that night at the church supper. She
might even let him take her for a ride way down the river road
where they could have a weenie roast and sing songs together.
She might go to Janesville with him for a movie and a midnight
supper. Except that Maxine wasn't the kind of a girl who would eat
a midnight supper with any boy. One of the fellows had told Peter
that she was that kind of a girl and Peter had blackened both his
eyes and made him eat dirt and yell "enough." It made him fighting
mad when any other boy even mentioned her name casually.

He always felt like saying, "You leave her name out of this," the
way men did in stories. But he was afraid it might sound silly.

The way she walked! Just wheeling along as though all her joints
had ball-bearings. She was one girl who didn't need to practice
with a book on her head to get a perfect carriage. And her golden
hair, done up a new way every day. And such lovely white hands and
pretty nails. No, Early Ann just wasn't in Maxine's class.

"Your turn," Gus shouted at Peter. "Better stop dreaming about your
girl and try to learn croquet. I've got you down for the count this
time around."

"Listen, hayseed," Peter said, "you better crawl into your cellar
because this trip I'm going to blow down your shanty."

He took careful aim allowing for a little rise he knew in the lawn,
curved gracefully and improbably through the distant hoop, roqueted
on the astounded hired man's ball, drove him into a tangle of
raspberry bushes, and made two more hoops before missing.

"Nothing but a greenhorn's luck," Gus complained. He fished his
ball out of the thorns, brought it to within a mallet's-length
of the court, and promised himself sweet vengeance with plays of
prodigious technical brilliance when next it came his turn.

The summer dusk came down about them sweet and still. Far away over
the hills they could hear the church bell calling the faithful to
Thursday night prayer meeting in Brailsford Junction. The chimney
swifts and martins filled the evening sky with their graceful, airy
geometry, and the nighthawks swooped so low above them that one
might see the pale oval underneath each wing. Far down the lake in
some deep tangle of woods the whip-poor-will began.

Sarah hurried off to the ice house to fetch the half freezer of
homemade ice cream left from supper, and with it a bowl of sugared
strawberries. The game over, Early Ann went in for soup bowls and
table-spoons. And together on the lawn, under stars so large, soft,
and near they seemed almost to be caught in the upper branches of
the oak tree, they ate such a dish for the gods as one may never
find in these later years in distant cities.

The frogs began in the marshes along the lake. The crickets
shrilled. Silence was all about them like a song.

After they had eaten, Peter and Early Ann pulled up the hoops and
pegs, gathered the balls and mallets in their arms. They walked
down the dusty driveway to the wagon shed carrying the set, and
stopped at the milk house for a long cold drink from the pump.

They were too quiet, too delightfully tired and calm to wish to
talk. Their struggle was forgotten, and there was no upsetting
emotion of love or hate to keep them from kicking in comradely
fashion through the dust.

Then something altogether out of keeping with their mood shattered
the evening. The horses in the barn yard whinnied in fright; there
were startled hoof-beats; a cow mooed anxiously.

"Don't go," Early Ann pleaded, holding to the boy. "It might be...."

Gus and Stud came running.

"Someone after the stock, you think?" Gus asked.

They hurried in a straggling group down to the barnyard gate, saw
a shadowy figure jump the far fence and disappear into the dusky
brush lot, crashing through the branches.

"Tried to get in from the back road," Stud decided, "came up the
lane and found himself in the barnyard. Just a tramp, I guess."

But Early Ann had her own opinion.


3

There are nights when men and women cannot sleep but lie awake
talking until almost dawn, nights when they feel suddenly
articulate after long months or even years of silence. These nights
are better spent in talking than in sleep or even in love.

Stanley and Sarah Brailsford went up to their room with a lamp. A
cool wind was blowing from the lake rustling the old lace curtains
at the window. Stanley set the lamp with its brightly polished
chimney, neatly trimmed wick, and glass base filled with kerosene
(in which the lower end of the wick floated like some pale,
peculiar fish) upon the jig-sawed walnut bureau with its cracked
mirror, and tatted bureau runner.

The lamp light emphasized his gigantic proportions, projecting his
huge shadow on the walls and ceiling, lighting one half of his
strong face and leaving the other in darkness. He took off his
number eleven shoes, red and white cotton socks, and coarse blue
shirt stained at the arm pits. He yawned enormously.

Quickly, with little movements almost shy, Sarah Brailsford
unfastened her gray-sprigged percale waist and skirt. She took off
her shoes and stockings as though she were ashamed to have Stanley
notice that the shoes were cracked, misshapen, and run over at the
heel, the black lisle stockings one great mass of careful darns.
Before she removed her undergarments she slipped her nightgown on
over her head and worked beneath the gown unfastening her patched
unmentionables. Sarah wished she could have pretty bloomers like
the ones on the Barton line. Stud could afford a new thrashing
machine that year but no new clothes for the family. She hung her
garments neatly on a chair.

Unlike his careful wife, Stud Brailsford threw off his clothes
and strode about the room in his long knit drawers like an early
picture of John L. Sullivan if you overlooked Stud's graying hair.
He stood at the window looking out at the moonlit night, enjoying
the tickle of the wind in the heavy damp mat of hair on his big
chest. He scratched luxuriously with big blunt fingers, then turned
and rubbed his back against the window frame, yawned, blew out the
light, kicked off his drawers, and threw himself naked upon the
cool sheet.

The slats of the bed creaked and groaned under his weight, and
Sarah, as always, held herself a little rigid so that she would
not roll down into the hollow he created. By morning she might be
snugly against him, but that would come about slowly through the
relaxation of sleep during the long night.

Moonlight flooded the room glinting upon the flaked mirror, the
oval chromos in walnut frames on either side of the dresser, the
big white and gold washbowl and pitcher on the warped wash-stand,
the tin chimney-hole cover gilded and decorated with a romantic
landscape, the enamelware pot underneath the bed. It came sweetly
over the face of Sarah who in this light was beautiful even at the
age of forty-three.

Outside there were night sounds: a hoot owl whooing from Cottonwood
Hill, a farm dog howling at the moon, and far away across the lake
an answering howl from some equally miserable brother in sorrow.
The curtains billowed, moths brushed against the screen, a bittern
croaked in desolate flight over the marshes.

For some reason they did not fall asleep. Perhaps it was the
excitement of the man in the barn lot, perhaps thoughts of the
morrow when they would have been wed for twenty long years.

"I've been wanting to ask you for weeks now...."

"What, Sarah?"

"About Early Ann, could she possibly be ...?"

"Be what?"

"I hate to say it, Stanley. You've always been so good to me."

"Aw, Sarah, why don't you tell me what's eating you? You ain't
afraid of me, are you?"

"No, not afraid, I guess. But maybe you won't like it. Maybe it
will hurt you somehow.... But I must tell you, I can't go on
without. Is Early Ann your daughter?"

"My daughter!" He sat up straight in bed and turned toward her.
"Well, now. It ain't altogether impossible."

"Oh, Stanley! I knew it, but I wouldn't let myself think it. Only,
why did you tell me?"

"I don't know what's eating you, Sarah. I didn't say for sure she
was my daughter. I only said...."

"You said it was possible...." She was crying quietly now.

"Well, a young man sometimes...."

"I know. I couldn't be so stupid or so blind as not to see young
men all around the country.... But who was she, Stanley? No, don't
tell me."

"I--I don't remember her name," Stud faltered. "But I did notice
that Early Ann's face was like...."

"I'll treat her real nice," Sarah said, addressing the cracked
ceiling above her. "I'll treat her just like a daughter. We always
did want a daughter, Stanley."

"Aw, Sarah," he said. "Aw, Sarah, I'm sorry." It was almost the
first time in twenty years that he had told her he was sorry for
anything. It was the first time in ten that he had tried to soothe
her with his big, rough hands. She could tell that he was trying
not to sob, and a sudden flow of pity came out of her heart for the
great, clumsy fellow beside her whom she loved.

"I can forgive you," she said. "I can forgive you real easy."

"It ain't an easy thing to forgive."

"I do forgive you now for being unfaithful, Stanley."

"Unfaithful," he said, astonished. "I don't know what you mean."

"But you just said...."

"How old is the girl?"

"Eighteen, she claims."

"But, don't you see, Sarah. Then she can't be my daughter. That
would be _after_ we were married."

"You mean that never after we were married, not once, not even one
time...." There was such a note of joy and relief in her voice
that the big man beside her was moved to find her mouth and kiss it.

"What a silly woman!" he said. "What a silly girl!" He laughed
deeply, and suddenly hugged her until it hurt. She was laughing
and crying by turns and kissing him as she had not since their
honeymoon. She rubbed his beard the wrong way, thus giving him
one of the most delectable sensations he could experience. And he
kissed the nape of her neck as he used to years ago. A cock crowed
in the moonlight and Stanley struck a match to read the time.

"Why, it's after midnight, Mother. It's the nineteenth of June, and
we've been married twenty years."



BOOK TWO



CHAPTER V


1

 _On July 1, 1913, Greece delivered an ultimatum to Bulgaria. The
 G.A.R. turned out en masse for the bicentennial of the Battle of
 Gettysburg. The enfranchised women of Illinois promised a new era
 in politics, while deans of co-educational schools raved against
 the immorality of the Tango. Big panama hats were all the rage,
 with ankle length wrap-around skirts and frilly summer blouses.
 Girls ratted their hair and read Ford joke books to boys who sat
 beside them in the hammock holding a box of chocolate creams.
 Pitcher Brennan of the Phillies socked Manager McGraw of the New
 York Giants. The berry market was firm with a strong tone in
 swine. In Chicago the coroner promised he would do something about
 the crazy joy riders who had killed twenty people in Cook County
 during June._

But in the home of Temperance Crandall and her mother nothing else
really mattered because now Temperance had a huge, careless, messy
man to run after and do for.

If you had told her six months before that she would stand for a
man and a cat in her best bedroom Temperance would probably have
tongue-lashed you out of her front door and down the street. But
there they were, sleeping all day and out all night. A scandal and
a caution if you asked Temperance. She wanted to blurt it out to
the whole town but for once she held her tongue.

It was a trial and a tribulation, a plague of boils which would
have tried the patience of Job. The Lord could testify that
Temperance Crandall had the disposition of an angel and the
patience of a saint, but even she could be driven only so far and
not one inch farther.

"He throws his dirty socks and underwear all over the room," she
told her image in the mirror. "He misses the porcelain spittoon a
foot."

She yanked the kid curlers out of her hair with a viciousness which
added a tenth of an inch to the diameter of the bald spot which was
starting on her crown, twisted her hair into a hard knot at the
nape of her neck and punched in hairpins with fury.

The filthy man and his dirty cat in her very best brass bed,
sleeping under her nicest patchwork quilts, dirtying her
monogrammed pillow cases drawn taut and smooth over her finest
goose-down pillows.

"My land-a-living, why do you tolerate the brute?" she asked her
scowling image. "He's the seven plagues of Egypt, and that's a
fact."

Biting her upper lip touched with the lightest possible suggestion
of a black mustache, she pulled upon the pink strings of her corset
until the black enamel eyelets threatened to rip completely out of
the fabric, hastily donned a corset-cover, thrust her legs into a
luxurious pair of lisle hose, snapped on garters hanging from the
corset before and aft, pulled them a bit too tight, added a pair of
stiff white petticoats to her ensemble, then plunged like a swimmer
into the mass of calico, which, when jerked into position over her
gaunt posterior, assumed the general outlines of a dress.

For a moment a buttonhook clicked on the beady jet buttons of her
high shoes; there was a snap as she pinned the chain of her pince
nez to her under-developed bosom. A touch of rose water now and the
effect was complete.

Down the stairs she pattered while the grandfather clock in the
hall boomed five of a bright July morning. Beyond the hall window
the bachelor buttons wore their brightest blue; the four o'clocks
were just closing for the day, but the pastel trumpets of the
morning glories, the sun-loving zinnias and climbing roses were at
their best in a garden which had not changed its general appearance
in forty years.

She banged the hall door at the foot of the stairs with a violence
which shook the light-timbered house and sent down an avalanche of
soot around the parlor stove-pipe, marched out the kitchen door and
down the garden path to the not unromantic privy covered with grape
vines and ivy.

Later as she washed in a graniteware washbowl in the kitchen sink
she ruminated upon the disastrous day she had taken a man into her
house. He had come up the long board walk which led back through
nearly one hundred yards of trees and shrubbery to the hidden
clapboard residence of the Crandall women.

"Heard you had a room to rent," he said, vaguely. "Nice and quiet
back here." He looked about him with a dull but satisfied air and
stroked the big black tom cat in his arms.

"It's three dollars a week, mister," Temperance had said severely.
"That's just for bed and breakfast. I don't do no laundry, and I
don't like cats. Besides there hasn't ever been a man in my house,
and I don't think there ever will be." She banged her feather
duster against the peeling porch rail.

"That's all right," the man said, "Tommy and I ain't particular."

"Oh, so you ain't particular," she mocked. "Well listen here my
good man. You'd better be particular when you crawl into my best
bed."

"I don't want to sleep in your bed. I want to sleep by myself."

"Don't get sassy or I'll bat you over the head with this feather
duster," Temperance warned.

"All right, Sister," the man said. "All right. Are you going to
rent me the room or ain't you?"

"I'll think about it," Temperance said. "Come in and have a chair
but leave that filthy cat out of doors."

"It ain't a filthy cat," the man said. "Maybe in another life this
cat was your grandmother." Temperance shuddered. The man stooped
to come in through the door--his cat still safely in his arms. He
slouched comfortably into a red plush easy chair and put his head
back against the lace doily.

"Three dollars a week in advance," Temperance said. "And mind you
I have a sick mother who mustn't be disturbed. She's bedfast and
hard of hearing, and she'd probably have a relapse if she knew you
was in the downstairs bedroom."

"I get you, Sister."

Why, Temperance Crandall! Whatever are you thinking of? the
good woman asked herself while showing the man to his room. Why
not tell Mother? Evil woman! Nasty woman! She bustled about the
parlor flicking the dust from the gilded cat-tails, ferocious
crayon portraits of her ancestors, and the model of the Washington
Monument made of ground-up paper money.

But if Temperance had any idea she could deceive her mother she
was rudely disillusioned the next morning when she took toast and
poor-man's tea to the invalid.

"Temperance," shouted the old lady. "You've got a man in the house."

"But, Mother. How did you know?"

"Smelled him," said the old lady.

"Smelled him?"

"Tobacco and shaving soap. I'm no ninny."

Luckily her mother wasn't shocked, said that what they needed
around the house was a man. But Temperance on due consideration
decided not to tell the neighbors.

She remembered that Brailsford Junction was one bee-hive of
gossips. They would be sure to suspect the worst and add a few
details of their own. How Temperance hated gossips!

Not that everything wasn't Christian and proper with her mother
there every moment for a chaperon. And not that Temperance would
carry on with her roomer the way Mabel Bentley had done with that
railroad man. Nevertheless some women she knew had evil minds. She
didn't trust them.

She patted the sofa pillows embroidered with "God Bless Our Happy
Home" into an engaging fullness of ripe curves, straightened the
doily on the easy chair, and singing in a lusty off-keyed falsetto
the touching strains of "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," rustled off
to the kitchen to fix her boarder a tray.

My how the morning had flown. Eleven o'clock already. High time he
was up and eating breakfast, the lazy, filthy brute and his dirty
tom cat.

Such a big strange man. Huge, simply huge. And with a ferocious
appetite. She thought he would eat her out of house and home. It
cost more than three dollars a week to feed the big lummox.

"Our hearts in Christian love," warbled the busy woman as she
hastened about the old wainscoted kitchen, banging the spiders and
pots loudly enough to wake the dead. He certainly should be up by
this time. Almost noon, imagine! And Temperance up and busy since
five o'clock.

Three boiled eggs, five slices of toast, a whole pot of coffee that
held at least five cups, oatmeal in a bowl, cream and sugar, and,
well, she might condescend to put one of those rambler roses from
over the back stoop upon his tray. Not that he would appreciate it,
the filthy, lazy thing. He'd better pay his board bill today or
she'd throw him out like dishwater.

There, that tray looked nice. Altogether too nice if you asked
Temperance Crandall. She whisked off her apron, looked into the
kitchen mirror for a second, pushed her hair this way and that,
sneaked a pinch of flour out of the flour bin and dusted it on her
nose with the corner of a dish towel, then assuming the air of
Fox's entire conference of martyrs picked up the tray for prompt
delivery.


2

Joe Valentine was dreaming about a cat he had for a mascot in the
Spanish American War, about the time the little tabby scratched
hell out of the colonel, when the sharp rat-a-tat-tat at his
bedroom door awoke him from his slumber. He pulled the covers up
around his chest for the sake of modesty, thus exposing his large
left foot. He buttoned the two top buttons of his summer underwear.

"Come...."

"It's just me," said Temperance Crandall. "I hope I ain't intruding
upon your privacy." She hesitated a moment on the sill, then boldly
entered the room.

"Just a bite and a sup," said Temperance. She crossed to the bed to
set the tray upon her roomer's unaccustomed lap, then screamed in
terror as the black cat rose out of the covers like a bad dream,
spitting and scratching.

"Horrid thing," she cried. "Evil, nasty thing. You'll be the death
of me yet, you two."

She took in the room with one scornful glance: the bedspread thrown
in one corner, the big shoes on her cedar chest, his clothes in a
heap on the floor, a cigar-stub in her hand-painted porcelain pin
tray.

"Ain't you ashamed to be so messy?" she cried, picking up his
trousers gingerly and hanging them on the closet door-knob, putting
his muddy shoes on the floor and rapidly folding the bedspread,
catching the fold in her teeth but never ceasing to talk.

"All right," said Joe, his mouth full of toast. He pulled a buttery
and delicious central tidbit from the slice of toast and fed it to
the cat.

"Cigar ashes everywhere," Temperance said. "You're just driving
nails in your own coffin with that filthy weed ... nicotine ...
plain poison ... look at the yellow on your fingers."

"All right," said Joe.

"Why don't you be a man?" said Temperance. "You're big enough, the
Lord knows. Why don't you get a job? Gadding about all night."

"Why don't you go do your knitting?" Joe asked, wrapping his large
mouth around an entire boiled egg.

"Well, I like that," said Temperance Crandall, placing her hands on
her hips and glaring at the man in her best bed.

A pretty figure he cut: hair down in his eyes, a two-days' growth
of beard on his face, a nose that went straight for an inch or
two then detoured to the right, large loose lips, big even teeth
stained with tobacco, heavy biceps that were somehow flabby,
shoulders of a tired coal-heaver. The great toe of his large left
foot which was protruding from beneath one of her best quilts
twitched excruciatingly against the second toe of the same foot.
The bottom of the foot was covered with yellow calluses.

"You make me nervous," Joe said. He took another cup of coffee for
a bracer.

"After the way I've slaved for you," said Temperance; "Done all
your washing free, fixed your meals at any hour of the day or night
when all you should get is breakfast. You're just a filthy brute."

"All right," Joe said.

"No appreciation. Never a thank you."

"I didn't ask you," Joe said. He ripped the center out of another
slice of toast and offered it to the cat, then slowly sucked the
butter from each of his fingers.

"Either you pay your board and room today or else ..." she
threatened as she flaunted out of the room, slamming the door
behind her. She found that for the first time in months she was
dangerously near to tears, and she brushed these obvious symbols of
weak, womanly emotion out of her tired eyes with angry knuckles.
She just wasn't herself lately, she observed.

"I ... I'm going through the change of life," she thought, "and
Lydia Pinkham ain't doing me a bit of good."

The thought suddenly came to her, as she slumped down beside the
window unnoticing of the lush summer just beyond the screen, that
there would never be any children for her. And for just a moment
she let herself be sentimental and think of Timothy Halleck, of
sleigh-rides through the frosty starlit nights, of Virginia reels,
and box sociables, of poetry she had written as a girl, and again
of Timothy Halleck, who never knew, and would never know to his
dying day that Temperance Crandall sat by her front window morning
and night to see him pass.

From upstairs she heard the demanding voice of her mother whom she
had taken care of uncomplainingly since her twenty-second birthday.

"Coming," she called.


3

What did you want, Joe Valentine? Where were you going? Wandering
through countless nights, your cat on your shoulder!

The big man slouched through the alley behind Brailsford Junction's
Main Street. He passed the litter of broken boxes, barrels and
piles of rotting fruit in tangled shadows behind the Dingle
Brothers' general store where bats swept low between the wooden
buildings. His feet knew the cinders, and his eyes, like the
cat's, could see in the dark.

He skirted the cubistic mountains of empty beer cases behind the
Golden Glow Saloon, the heap of manure behind the livery stable,
the jumble of wrecked parts and rusting bodies piled at the back
door of the Ford Garage.

A dirty stream bubbled in the ditch that paralleled the alley, and
a huge black rat bloated with young leapt up the ash pile almost
level with his face. The cat stiffened like some electric thing,
lashed his tail and sprang. The rat went back on her hind legs
waving ineffectual little feet exposing her vast soft belly. A
shadowy struggle, a high-pitched squeal of terror. The man laughed
shortly; slouched on.

He passed the Ritz Royal Hotel smelling of hash and strong
disinfectant; the barred back windows of the First National Bank;
the empty ice-cream freezers and cartons behind the Tobacco City
Ice Cream Parlor.

All closed, dark and deserted, no laughter or singing, the player
piano still. From the high clock tower of the old town hall the
chimes spilled the half hour. Far away across the river a train
whistled, rumbled over the railroad bridge, was muffled by the
intervening hills, rushed dangerously upon the town screaming and
clanging, swept westward, died away in a distant whisper of steam
and clicking of wheels which lasted in the imagination long after
the night was once more silent and deserted.

The air was cool now after the long hot day. A breeze from the
river valley to the east of the town swept through the alley
stirring little whirlpools of dust. The air was suddenly filled
with the cool breath of rotting oak leaves, dank river odors, algæ,
fish and flowing water.

He thought of a shack among the willows, a box-car home on the
river bottom; his mother coming home early in the morning, lighting
the fire as though she had not been gone for nearly a month. Her
dancing slippers were covered with mud, her party dress torn. The
big man who was his father turned in his bunk, swore at the woman,
went out banging the sagging screen door.

"Look Mother," Joe whispered, "we got a new kitten while you was
gone."

River smells, fishing catfish down at the narrows, sitting all
night on the sandbar listening to the "tick, tick," far down
underneath the water, the splash of muskrats, the little crying
noises made by raccoons in the cornfield on the hill, the
whip-poor-wills, and the hoarse cry of night birds following the
river.

Oars dipping into the water, boats being pulled up on distant
sandbars, the mosquitoes and the damp chill, the lordly battle with
a sixteen pound catfish in the dark. Bad whiskey, later on a woman.

He breathed the night air wistfully. Never again a woman's arms
about him. Lost, deprived, utterly alone. He was not aware of
these thoughts as words. He did not think in words but in odors,
colors, sounds, and a blind hatred which he could not understand.
Cheated, haunted by some unknown thing, filled with sudden fear at
a footfall, foolhardy in the face of actual danger. A man who could
no longer call himself a man since that knife fight with a nigger
in Rockford, Illinois.

He came at last to the one light burning in the alley, a dim green
globe above a door (three steps down) between two walls of sweating
brick.

The twenty-six legitimate saloons serving the eighteen hundred
inhabitants of Brailsford Junction were closed at this hour. Only
the blind pig offered solace to the Dago section men, the farm
hands making a night of it in town, and Hannah Leary who had spent
half her life looking up at ceilings of empty box-cars on the
siding and at stars above the Brailsford Junction Cemetery.

Joe hesitated at the top of the stairs, drinking in the aroma of
the place: sweat, rot-gut whiskey, women. He ran the tip of his
tongue over his full, loose lips; felt in his pocket for change.

A big man stumbled out of the door at the foot of the stairs,
started forward, saw Joe blocking the way, and roared in a drunken
voice--

"Getahelloutamawayou."

Joe did not move.

The man lunged forward, fell, leapt to his feet and charged up the
stairs--

"Outamawaygodamnya."

Joe tipped him over with a right to the chin. At the bottom of the
stairs once more the man drew a knife and waited his chance. Joe
took a pair of brass knuckles out of his pocket, slipped them onto
his hands, pressed the buttons with his thumbs and little knives
appeared on each knuckle. He slashed at the air breathing deeply
and feeling fine. He pranced on his toes.

"Come on up," he offered.

The other was more careful now, almost sober. He advanced a step at
a time watching his footing, his knife drawn down and back for the
uprip, the belly slash. He stank of whiskey and bad teeth.

Joe let him reach the top of the stairs before he aimed a kick at
the knife arm. The man dropped the knife, howling with pain, his
arm half paralyzed. He threw caution to the winds, swung with his
left, and tried to close. Joyfully, methodically, Joe slashed him
to ribbons with the brass knuckles.

The man went down screaming and writhing while Joe ran lightly up
the alley. He met the cat who sprang up and settled himself in the
crook of Joe's arm. The cat was heavier now and licking his jowls
with contentment. Together they dodged through the dark streets and
alleys, between houses, and through the Crandall garden to the back
door.

"Time we were leaving this dump," Joe told the cat.

A moment now for throwing his clothes and other few belongings into
a knapsack, another moment for mussing up his bed as though he had
been sleeping there all night, back to the kitchen door again where
Temperance Crandall stood in her long white nightgown, a lamp in
her hands.

He reached in his pocket for three dollars and put it on the
kitchen table beside the door.

"Keep it," she said.

"Ain't that what you wanted?"

"I don't want your money."

He left her standing there looking at the three dollars on the
table. He swung off down the dark street with his cat and knapsack,
struck out into the country along the back roads which ran among
the poor hill farms to the northeast. The farmhouses were dark. The
cattle slept in the pastures. Hay was cocked in the fields and the
mingled smells of drying alfalfa, timothy, red clover, and sweet
clover came to his nostrils.

Like that early morning he had come along the country road and
stopped to pump himself a drink at the farmhouse, and the woman had
come out. That was before the fight in Rockford.

He swung along the dark roads talking to his cat, watching the sky
with its sprinkling of large stars. He did not feel so lost since
his fight. He almost remembered what it was he was searching for.

And so he came at last to the deserted hunting lodge on Lake House
Point early in the morning with the sun on the whitecaps of Lake
Koshkonong and the gulls screaming greedily about the cliff.

He looked across the bay to where Stud Brailsford's barns and
growing fields lay sunning under the shoulder of Cottonwood Hill.



CHAPTER VI


1

For days now the main topic of conversation on the Brailsford farm
had been the merits of the various makes of cars (a much more
intriguing subject than the tramp who had been discovered half dead
near Bad Pete's blind pig in Brailsford Junction). They talked
Imperials, Elcars, Cuttings, Speedwells, Marions, and the swank
new Garfords with the single headlight. They discussed pro and
con the new-fangled gas and electric self-crankers. Some members
of the family wanted Prest-O-Lites while others were eloquent for
electric. Each had his own ideas concerning which of the marvelous
creations had the most stylish lines.

Stud himself liked the notion of a big powerful White Steamer. He
said with the price of gasoline going up every month a White would
soon be a real economy. Besides you could go sixty miles an hour in
a steamer.

"Sixty miles an hour!" cried Sarah, throwing up her hands in
dismay.

"Shucks, that's nothing, Ma," Peter said. "I can go sixty on my
motorcycle."

"Yes, and you'll break your fool neck some day," said Early Ann.
"He pretty near went off the Busseyville bridge with me on behind
last night."

"Peter, you must be careful," his mother said.

"Tattle-tale," said Peter. He kicked Early Ann's shins under the
table, and she kicked back.

"Me for an Imperial," said Gus. "They're twenty years ahead of
their time and the classiest looking buggies you ever hope to see."

But in the end, of course, they bought a Ford, and a second hand
one at that, with brass braces in front and a figure that only an
owner could love. It stood up in the air like a lumber wagon, and
you could hear it coming for a mile. It boiled over at eighteen
miles an hour, but that was all right because the worse they
boiled the better they went. Stud shined the brass radiator until
it glittered like the gilded roof of Solomon's Temple. Sunday was
spent in tinkering with the magneto, the lighting system, and the
carburettor--that was what finally wrecked the Sabbath day. You
had to hold your thumb just right in cranking the thing to avoid a
broken arm, and when the engine finally decided to perambulate the
whole body shook like a dish of crab-apple jelly.

Stud had the appearance of a circus giant cramped over the steering
wheel. He had difficulty in manipulating the trio of pedals with
his large feet, and the idiosyncrasies of the spark and gas kept
him guessing, but he whooped it up and down the road like a
youngster with his first bicycle, and Sarah held on beside him,
game as a Red Cross nurse in the face of inevitable death. Sarah
purchased a linen duster and motoring veil. Stud bought himself a
pair of motor-goggles and a linen cap which he wore like Barney
Oldfield with the visor in back. The entire family grew suddenly
sensitive to Ford jokes.

Unfortunately, farming, even in those halcyon days, was not all
driving the Ford; and so despite races between Peter and Stud,--the
motorcycle versus the tin lizzy,--platonic midnight excursions by
Gus in the borrowed motorcar, and thrilling family forays about the
countryside, work went on as usual about the farm.

Crops were better than could have been expected. Some parts of the
great Middle West suffered floods in the spring of that year and
drought in the late summer, but on the Brailsford farm rains and
sunny weather were neatly interspersed. The pumpkin vines opened
their yellow flowers in corn which was waist-high by the fourth of
July. The moisture kept the tobacco from spindling up too soon; it
spread wide leaves of velvet green in rows which went as straight
as arrows across the fertile north twenty.

Stud's Jersey heifers, sleek Poland China shoats, and Shropshire
lambs looked like blue ribbon material down to the last little
orphan. A lively pair of twin kids had the family captivated with
their antics. At the age of six weeks this pair of baby billy goats
were leaping about the shed roofs like veritable young chamois.
Sarah discovered four beautiful new hybrids among her gladioli; and
her chickens--Plymouth Rocks and Leghorns--might have stepped right
out of the pages of the "Country Gentleman."

It was true that Sarah felt tired these days, and that Ulysses
S. Grant, the great Poland China boar, was acting particularly
vicious, but on the whole the farm was running like clock work.

Almost before the Brailsfords realized it the grain had all been
cut, and the thrashing crew had descended in a hungry horde upon
the farm. Some of the oats went sixty bushels to the acre, the
wheat nearly forty.

What a time they had with the thrashers! The womenfolks from all
over the country came to help with the baking and cooking. Country
kids for miles around rode Admiral Dewey and his patient wife, took
turns in carrying water to the men, slid down the hay rope, begged
for cookies, played pomp-pomp-pullaway and run-sheep-run.

The teen-aged boys, after work in the fields, wrestled and boxed,
not always in fun. The teen-aged girls, who helped their mothers as
little as possible, watched the boys and giggled.

Out in the fields and at the thrashing machine the men labored in
the hot, sticky atmosphere with barley beards in their shirts and
sweat in their burning eyes. They pitched bundles of grain onto
the wagons, pitched them off into the thrashing machine; they drew
water for the steam engine and shoveled coal in under the boiler;
they carried the great sacks of grain--which poured from the shoot,
winnowed, clean, and plump,--and dumped them into the big bins in
the granary.

They marveled at Stud's fine new red and silver thrashing machine
with its blower which could send the golden straw into a pile
at any point he wished. They looked forward to following this
beautiful machine up and down the valley.

In Sarah's kitchen the hot and perspiring women fairly tumbled over
one another in their efforts to prepare for the hungry men. They
stewed chickens by the dozen, fried thick slices of ham, made brown
ham gravy, boiled pecks of new potatoes, baked pies and cakes and
opened cans of pickles. There was nothing fancy about the fare they
served, but it was ample.

They were jovial, catty, good-natured, cross, polite, or rude as
the spirit moved them. They dropped the "sistering" and "Missusing"
of the church suppers and called each other plain Mary, Meg,
Bert, and Cissy. They had a perfectly grand time for all their
complaining.

And when the dirty men burst into the kitchen, joshing and pushing
one another over chairs, pouring well water down one another's
neck, splashing and crowding at the sink, and asking the women why
they couldn't rustle together a little food for the real workers,
the women thought of nothing but feeding and humoring the pack.
If a man proved too obstreperous, however, these Amazons were
thoroughly capable of forcing him to eat the extra food for which
he was shouting, until at last he had to cry "enough," grinning
sheepishly at his defeat, while his fellows jeered and taunted.

Against their better judgment, and in thorough contradiction to
their pre-conceived distrust of Early Ann, these women were forced
to admit some merit in the Sherman girl. They noticed how hard she
worked in Sarah Brailsford's kitchen, how, although she kidded with
their men-folks, she showed practically no inclination to lure them
into the haymow, and how, above all, she was a friendly girl and
not at all stuck up about her good looks.

Good looks she undoubtedly had, the men admitted as they lay about
the lawn during the hour of rest after their big dinner. They
complimented Stud upon his taste in hired girls, and suggested that
it was no wonder Peter took her for rides on his motorcycle.

"She'll be riding a motorcycle herself one of these days," Peter
said. "She's tomboy enough. I'll bet she could lick most of you
guys in a wrastle."

"Been wrastling her much, kid?" the men wanted to know. "She looks
like good wrastling."

Peter flushed. He had never thought of Early Ann as a sweetheart.
He had been thinking all morning about Maxine Larabee, and how he
hoped she would drive in at one of the farms where he was in charge
of the big thrashing outfit. Stud had told Peter _he_ could be
thrashing boss that year and take the fine new machine all over the
countryside. It would be wonderful to have Maxine hear him giving
orders and directing all the men.

Maybe Bud Spillman would come up with a sneer on his face right
while Maxine was there, and Peter would knock his block off.
Nothing could be sweeter.

"I'd like to wrastle that girl," one of the men was saying. "I'll
bet she'd make good wrastling."

During the past few weeks Sarah had tried to be particularly kind
to Early Ann. She had noticed how the girl had listened to her
manner of speech and tried to imitate it, how she had dropped many
of her "ain'ts" and "them theres," and was taking pains to set the
table nicely. One day Sarah had shown her some of her battered text
books left over from distant academy days. Early Ann had taken them
to her room and had painfully waded through several of them during
the long summer evenings. She had even asked Sarah to show her the
notes on the organ and had practiced faithfully at her scales.

In matters of personal appearance, however, Early Ann had a flair
which the older woman lacked. She had a way of doing her hair,
of wearing a flower or a ribbon which made her beautiful even in
an apron. But in matters of tidiness and cleanliness she learned
much from Sarah. She brushed her teeth more often now, and every
evening, to the tantalization of the hired man, bathed in the back
pantry before she went to bed.

She actually worshiped Mrs. Brailsford.

"You're ... you're wonderful, Mrs. Brailsford," the girl had told
her one afternoon when they were alone in the kitchen fixing
supper. "It just seems like you're the kindest thing in God's
world. I wish I _could_ be your daughter like you said."


2

When the bins of barley, wheat and oats were full to overflowing
and the thrashing crew had moved on to the Bussey farm, Stud found
that work was slack for a moment, and he decided to take a little
journey.

He filled the gasoline tank of his Ford from the big, red barrel
mounted on sawhorses beside the milk house, poured two quarts of
thick green oil into the engine, and emptied most of a sprinkling
can of water into the ever-thirsty radiator.

Four new tires were lashed to starboard and port. Pumps, jacks,
kits of tools, tire shoes, and extra inner tubes were stowed
beneath seats and in tool boxes. Stud had lunch enough for a
two-weeks' journey, and at Sarah's insistence a sweater, raincoat,
rubbers, and three changes of shirts and underwear. He felt as
adventurous as Daniel Boone.

Sarah waved until he was out of sight down the road, and returned
to the kitchen biting her lip to keep back the tears. While Stud,
racing along at twenty miles an hour through the dewy August
morning, felt as fit as a fiddle and as cocky as a bantam rooster.

He noticed the fine new circular barn Ed Underwood was building
upon the very site where two previous circular barns had been
struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Just flying up in the
face of providence to build another of those queer-shaped cow sheds
on the same spot. He craned his neck to look over the high board
fence at the Foote place where all the machinery stood rusting in
the front yard. He could see that Cyrus Babcock's bull wouldn't
furnish much competition for his Napoleon at the county fair that
year. Cy took too much stock in this scientific stuff his son was
learning at the University of Wisconsin. Science was all right in
its place but--

"You gotta have a feel for raising cattle same as for playing the
fiddle," Stud told the passing scenery.

He was genuinely glad to see that the Widow Morrison had a fine
stand of tobacco and that One Arm Bert Howe had the best corn in
miles. It was pretty tough about Bert and his tubercular girl.

The creek at Busseyville, meandering through its wide valley,
looked so inviting that Stud drove his car in among the willows,
kicked through a meadow of deep grass and dusty milkweed bloom on
which the big, brown butterflies were gathered, and came at last to
the deep hole at the bend where he had often gone swimming as a boy.

There was not a farm woman in sight, so Stud stripped, took a
running dive, and sported in the cool, clear water. How fine it
felt! He blew and bubbled, tried to swim to the bottom of the
twelve foot hole and pick up pebbles, opened his eyes under the
water and grabbed for the silver minnows with his big hands. Out
again with the wind and sun upon his body! Into his clothes and
back to the car where he sampled a pair of chicken sandwiches and
drank noisily from the artesian well beside the road.

Another ten miles of hard driving over wagon roads which followed
the ridge to the west of the lake, then into Fort Atkinson and on
up the Rock River Valley. On either side spread the fertile black
acres which had brought thousands of eager immigrants from across
the sea. The sons and grandsons of the pioneers were thrashing
grain and sweating in the fields.

Stud marveled when he thought how rapidly he was traversing these
miles which would have taken days by ox-cart. Not a blowout,
as yet, and not a broken spring. No trouble with the magneto,
carburettor, or the engine.

Until he was twenty miles from home Stud would not let himself
think what it was which had brought him on this wild goose chase.
It sobered him when he remembered.

From the moment on that June night when Sarah had asked if Early
Ann might be his daughter the simple mind of Stud Brailsford had
been troubled and perplexed. He wanted to ask the girl outright
what she knew about her mother but was embarrassed before her.
He tried to recall each of the girls with whom he had had secret
pleasure before he married Sarah. Suddenly it dawned upon him
that Early Ann Sherman was undoubtedly the daughter of Tess
Bedermier,--Tess, the girl with whom he had once gone swimming
naked in Lake Koshkonong in the days when to even speak of a girl's
legs was to risk an eternity in hell. It was a Sunday evening at
that. He was supposed to be driving her to the evening services at
the Methodist Episcopal church in Brailsford Junction.

Tess, the lovely and lost, the foolhardy and independent, the talk
of the Ladies' Aid and the scandal of the countryside. She had been
Doc Crandall's stylish hired girl during the last two years of the
veterinarian's life. Of an age with Temperance and Sarah, Tess had
been the most run-after girl in town during the years of 1890 and
'91.

Stud had not told Sarah of his discovery, nor why, when looking
into Early Ann's face, he was suddenly shocked (seeing the living,
breathing image of Tess).

But could she be his daughter?

Maybe she was older than she would admit. If she were twenty-one,
for instance....

He tried to analyze what it was that disturbed him and decided that
if a man sees his daughter growing up from babyhood, perhaps helps
to tend her, plays with her, teaches her to ride horseback and to
swim; if he watches her sprouting up to young womanhood, sees her
put up her hair and wear her first long skirts, then he can think
of her as his daughter and not be troubled with her pretty ways and
her fresh young body.

But if it should happen that a father did not see his daughter even
once in her life before she became a young woman, then he might be
disturbed by her prettiness, seeing in her, her mother of years
gone by.

It was not like Stud to be worrying about anything except possibly
the crops and the stock. He took the world as he found it and found
it good. He lived moment by moment and day by day and rested on
Sunday.

But here was a new and troubling element in his life; a worry,
and a dumb, sweet misery which he carried about with him, so that
sometimes Gus would have to ask him twice if he had ordered more
bran, or if he intended to send for that new belt for the gas
engine in the milk house, before Stud was aware Gus was speaking.

He thought of it as he went down into the woods with Shep to bring
home the cows, and he thought of it while he was topping the
tobacco, breaking off the budding white flowers to keep the plants
from spindling up and going to seed. He carried his troubles with
him into the barns and the haymow, to the table and to bed.

Was it likely that she was eighteen and not his daughter? Or
was she, perhaps, twenty-one, and the child he had got on Tess
Bedermier that moonlight night they had bathed in the lake and
afterwards gone back among the willows?

He did not know where Tess had gone that autumn. She had quarreled
with him and moved away from Brailsford Junction. He wondered if
she had ever married, and if she were living now. He thought he
would never be satisfied until he found her and asked about Early
Ann.

But to find her would be a job of clever sleuthing for which Stud
felt too big and clumsy. He called on his friend Timothy Halleck in
whom he placed utmost faith. Halleck went to Madison to look for a
marriage certificate. He came back puzzled and no wiser.

He wrote to the only Bedermier he knew, a second cousin of Tess's
living in Chicago, but found that this distant relative had not
heard of Tess in more than twenty years.

Then he went to Old Mrs. Crandall who seemed inclined to confide a
secret, but changed her mind and shut her mouth like a clam. At
last, having had a real inspiration, he visited Mrs. Marsden, Early
Ann's erstwhile landlady, and asked about the girl's mail.

"Don't you dare insinuate I look in other people's envelopes,"
squeaked Mrs. Marsden. "But I did notice the three letters she got
were postmarked from Horicon, Wisconsin."

This was the only clew which Halleck could offer his friend, but it
was sufficient.

As Stud followed the Rock River toward its source he watched the
stream grow smaller and smaller. He passed through Jefferson
and Watertown, neat towns in the midst of prosperous country.
On every side were the white-washed milk houses and bright red
barns of thrifty German farmers. The corn rustled, windmills
whirred, and bob-o-links scattered their liquid notes. He passed
busy creameries, a brewery, and a cross-road store, and still his
chariot wheeled on.

But as he climbed a hill giving a view of the rich valley and miles
of winding river, a tire expired with a long, soft sigh; and it was
an hour later after a mortal struggle with tire irons, pump, jack,
and obstinate valve-stems, that he was on his way again. Soon after
the engine coughed and died. He was out of gas.

Courteous drivers of that all but forgotten era when a Ford was a
fraternal emblem more binding than a Masonic button drew up with
boiling radiators and shrieking brakes to shout, "Need a lift,
friend?" It was one of these cheerful fellow motorists who drove
him three miles and back for a gallon of gasoline.

He stopped over night at a farm where the big German farmer and
his apple-dumpling wife would have been ashamed to even think of
charging for their hospitality. He was impressed by the clean barns
and white-washed trees, and spent several hours with the genial
farmer examining his Holsteins.

The next day he drove on to Horicon.

He came at last to the desolate marshes which seem to stretch
interminably across the wide valley of the upper reaches of the
Rock,--endless channels and pools, acres of billowing swamp grass,
millions of yellow pond lilies, red-wing blackbirds chattering in
hordes upon the swaying cat-tails.

Asking for Sherman, for Bedermier, and for Sherman again and
hearing this and that disturbing bit of their history until at last
he knew the whole sordid tale, he made his way along one of the
most desolate roads he had ever traversed. Huts among the gravel
hills bordering the marsh were over-run with chickens, pigs, and
dirty children. Pot-bellied women came to the door to see him pass.

He lost his way during the afternoon and had to retrace his path
over ruts and ditches which threatened at every moment to break
a spring. Toward sunset he arrived at the deserted Sherman place
and drove in through the stumps of a once generous orchard where
wheel-less wagons, overturned plows, and rusty cultivators vied
with sagging fences to make the spot as uninviting as can be
imagined.

There was scarcely an unbroken window left in the ramshackle
farmhouse; the windmill was down. Plantain and burrs had crept
into the barnyard, and the fields were giving way on every hand to
brambles, sumac and willows.

So this was where Tess Bedermier had come, pregnant with his child,
to live with the only man who would take her in, to bury that first
child in an unmarked grave, and to bear Bung Sherman three children
out of wedlock, of whom Early Ann alone had survived. Here was the
desolate farm on which Early Ann--no child of Stud's--had grown and
blossomed, and it was here that Bung Sherman had died in a drunken
brawl with a duck hunter.

After Bung's death Tess had gone off with a man who stopped at the
farm for a drink of water, a man whose name was unknown to the
neighbors and whose only distinguishing characteristic was that he
carried in the crook of his arm a large black cat. Two weeks later
Early Ann had gone to join them.

As Stud watched the sun setting over the vast marshes he thought he
felt a cold wind blow across the barn lot, and the hair stood up
on the nape of his neck. The killdeers called that a storm was at
hand. Clouds rolled up from the horizon and distant thunder rattled
like wheels on a far bridge. Then, suddenly, the sky was black
and over-cast. The lightning flashed close at hand,--jagged blue,
reflected on the dark pools and the channels. The trees bowed low,
the dust whirled, and rain came down over countless miles of marsh
land.



CHAPTER VII


1

When Stud returned from Horicon there was little time to think of
Tess, Early Ann, Sarah, or any other woman for the farm was up to
its ears in preparation for the Rock County Fair. Three magnificent
stud animals were to be entered: Napoleon, the bull; Teddy
Roosevelt, the stallion; and Ulysses S. Grant, the boar.

Napoleon, the dark and silky black Jersey bull, whose pedigree
covered several pages and included such ancestors as Imperial
Delight, sired by Royal Edward out of Queen of the Channel Islands,
looked every bit an aristocrat. National and international
prize-winning blood ran in his veins. Mothers and grandmothers with
amazing udders were listed on his family tree, and two or three of
his bovine ancestors had sailed from the Isle of Jersey on a cattle
boat named the _Mayflower_. With massive head and fiery eyes, he
seemed to challenge the whole world to battle. In reality he was as
gentle as a lamb and loved to be scratched behind the ears with a
corn cob.

As for Teddy Roosevelt, the Percheron stallion, with arching neck
and melodramatic proportions, undoubtedly the blood of medieval
chargers ran in his veins. Sired by the pride of Normandy, and
himself the sire of scores of the finest Percherons in Southern
Wisconsin, he walked as though a golden armored youth were on his
back and plumes behind his ears.

Finally there was Ulysses S. Grant, the mettlesome and vicious
Poland China boar, who was growing more temperamental daily about
his highly commercial amours. Stud often threatened to turn this
valuable piece of breeding machinery into second rate ham and
bacon, for as sure as some admiring farmer came ten miles with
a seductive and highly amenable sow, Ulysses would sulk in his
private bath of mud, capricious as a Roman emperor. There was no
accounting for his taste which was usually plebeian.

But to the judges at the county fair, Ulysses was annually the
sweetest thing on cloven hooves. Manicured and groomed as he always
was, his pink snout pointed at a most entrancing angle, his tightly
curled tail and glowing bristles the picture of health and good
breeding, this porcine Apollo usually won in a walk.

"All personality and no character," was the way Stud fondly put it.

Although a cholera epidemic was rampant that summer, and Gus with
pardonable pessimism predicted that Ulysses would contract the
disease from sheer pig-headedness, no such thing occurred. He did
acquire a singular case of temperament, however.

Like the other animals which were to be entered Ulysses was
brushed, beautified and pampered for days preceding the fair, and
in former years he had seemed to enjoy not only the extra corn
but the effortless scratching. This year, however, he squealed
with rage whenever Stud entered the pen, gleamed wickedly at his
trainers out of small, blood-shot eyes, and more than once tried to
annihilate his owner.

The boar's private quarters were closed off from the main pig pen
by a stout, narrow gate through which one entered at his own risk.
One day when Stud brought Sarah down to observe how beautifully the
boar was pointing up, he started into the inner pen and was charged
by the infuriated animal. Brailsford took one step backward,
tripped over a trough, and falling struck his head on a stone. The
next moment the boar was upon him.

Sarah seized a five-pronged manure fork which was leaning against
the fence and drove it with all her strength into the shoulder of
the boar, turning him at the crucial moment.

Stud leapt to his feet, one arm bleeding, and despite Sarah's cry
of warning plunged barehanded into the fight. He kicked the great
ringed nose again and again with his heavy boot, grabbed a large
hind leg for a brief but titanic struggle to drag the beast back
into his pen, at last drove him through the gate with a piece of
two-by-four.

Gus and Early Ann came running. Sarah managed to use the pitch fork
effectively from the top of the fence. But Stud motioned them all
away. This was now his fight and he wanted to handle it alone.

To their cries that he come away Stud turned a deaf ear. Years
of pent up fury went into the struggle. The boar was blind with
rage yet respectful of the giant with his heavy stick. The man was
filled with righteous anger against this stubborn beast and ready
for a showdown. They fought and maneuvered, charged and leapt
aside, the man shouting incoherently, the big animal squealing and
tearing up the earth.

"I'll fix the bastard," Stud cried. His shirt was ripped. His
muscles knotted and gleaming.

Again and again the boar charged and went crashing into the fence
as Stud scrambled to safety. And time after time Stud brought the
two-by-four crashing down between the maddened animal's eyes.

At last they were both too tired to fight. The boar lay squealing
and panting in impotent rage across the pen, while Stud, proud that
he could walk from the arena, smiled as he climbed the fence.

"Well, there's one blue ribbon gone to holy blazes," said Gus. "But
by golly it was worth it."


2

The fight with the boar had two immediate consequences: Sarah
suffered a nervous collapse, and Ulysses S. Grant, although
carefully tended, proved conclusively that he would not be
prize-winning material for the fall of 1913.

It was the veterinarian who was called first and later the family
doctor.

"Now don't you worry about me," Sarah said. "I'm all right. You
just take care of Ulysses and go on getting ready for the fair. I
don't need to go this year."

"Why, I couldn't go without you, Mother," Stud said, "and ... and
without Ulysses."

Old Doc Carlyle, the vet who had tended Ulysses ever since he was
a small, squealing red suckling, shook his head sadly. He had a
genuine fondness for the vicious old boar and had always claimed
that he would make blue ribbon material.

"You hadn't ought to beat no dumb animal like you beat Ulysses," he
told Stud. "It ain't Christian."

The less efficient and far more callous general practitioner,
Doctor Whitehead, who came to see Sarah, took her pulse with his
inch-thick stem-winder and as usual lost count at eleven. He took
her temperature with a thermometer which had not been properly
sterilized in three years, and looked down her throat with a spoon.

He pooh-poohed her fear that she had been internally injured during
the fight with the boar.

"Probably some female ailment," he insisted, shaking several
harmless pink powders onto papers which he folded deftly and left
upon the dresser. "You ain't bad off. You'll be up and around in no
time."

Sarah watched a spider making his web in the corner of the
ceiling. She continued to watch him long after the doctor's Ford
could no longer be heard down the road.

"Spin your pretty web," she told him. "I won't brush it down. I'm
just going to let myself be sick. I reckon I got a right to lie
back and be sick one time in my life."


3

Stud tried to straighten his back at the end of the row. The sweat
poured from his temples and the grizzled creases of his stubbled
cheeks. The pain went in wide, flat bands down the heavy muscles on
either side of his spine.

It was weakness to show this pain. One must laugh, throw down the
shining tobacco hatchet beside the shagbark hickory, snatch up the
heavy, brown-earthenware jug, tip it deftly over the shoulder and
slosh long, cool swigs of cider down one's parched and dusty throat.

"Uuufff, Uuuggg," said the big tobacco harvester, wiping his mouth
with the back of his sleeve and spitting into the dust. "Sure
tastes good, don't it?"

"Fair to middling," said Gus.

"It's darn good cider," said Ansel Ottermann, "even iffen it is
full of rotten apples and worms and such."

"Don't need to drink no more than you like," said Stud, holding the
jug just out of Ansel's reach. "Is it good cider or ain't it?"

"It's good cider," Ansel said.

The almanac had predicted early frost that year, and although the
entire family scoffed at almanac predictions Stud had cleaned and
sharpened his tobacco axes, suckered his tobacco plants, cleaned
out the sheds and gathered together a crew.

On the stroke of six one hazy blue Indian summer morning the
noisy crowd of farmers and men from Brailsford Junction began
the backbreaking labor. Up one row and down the next went the
sweating workers. The left hand grasped the stalk, the right sent
the tobacco hatchet cleanly through the heavy-fibered stem. Flash,
flash went the bright steel in the sunlight.

"Great crop this year," said Vern Barton. "Just heft them stalks."

"Too darned good a crop," growled Gus. "I got a crick in my back
like a he-dog in April."

"That's what you get gallivantin' around nights," said Stud. The
men laughed.

"How you do talk," said Gus. "You know I ain't took a girl into a
haymow for twenty years."

"How about a cornfield?" Stud asked.

Laths tipped with steel were spudded through the butt ends of the
stalks--five or six plants to each lath. The tobacco was then
loaded upon wagons and hauled to the sheds. Men climbed nimbly
among the poles hanging the heavily laden laths, tier upon tier.
The hot, suffocating air was pungent with the smell of green
tobacco.

The thick, moss-green leaves were soft and heavy as velvet to the
touch. Later they would be brown and brittle. Still later, when to
the vast excitement of the countryside "case" weather began, they
would be fine and pliable as thin brown leather.

The swallows had gathered long weeks before, and, as though at some
invisible signal sent along the thousands of miles of wire on which
they were mobilized, had left over night for the south. The fields
were strewn with yellowing pumpkins and swelling hubbard squashes,
knobbed, burly, and deep green. The first ducks were dropping in
from the north. Soon it would be time for the Rock County Fair.

As fair week approached, however, Stud announced his decision to
remain at home. He declared that since Ulysses and Sarah were both
laid up, Peter still thrashing, and Early Ann of necessity tied to
the housework, he too would pass up the event of the year.

He looked over the fence into the pen of Ulysses S. Grant and shook
his head sadly.

"We're just a couple of darned old fools!"

"Oink," said the boar.

"First fair you and me have missed in five years."

The boar sighed gustily and lay down in his consoling bath of mud.

Stud helped Gus give the bull and stallion their final beauty
treatments, loaded the big bull into the wagon, and hitched the
Percheron on behind. Early Ann gave the bow of blue ribbon on the
stallion's tail a final twist and pat. Stud slipped Gus a twenty
dollar bill. And off went the shining green wagon, its bright
yellow wheels looking like huge sunflowers as they flashed in the
sunlight. The tug links played a merry tune, the stallion whinnied
gently, while Stud and Early Ann cheered the debonair farm hand on
his way.

"You better bring home some cups and ribbons," Early Ann called
after the retreating cavalcade.

"Trust me," shouted Gus, waving his derby.

The girl and man stood as if entranced until they could no longer
hear the rattle of the wagon, and until the dust had settled on the
roadway.


4

Sarah continued to feel ailing despite pink powders, herb tea, and
a highly advertised variety of vegetable compound.

The work was thrown completely upon the shoulders of Early Ann.
Stud would have been blind not to have noticed how well she bore
up under this burden and how gladly she cared for Sarah. The girl
could cook as fine a meal as he had ever tasted, and be as gay and
fresh after hours over the cook stove as when she came clicking
down the stairs with the chamber pots at four in the morning.

She never asked Stud to kill chickens for her. She went to the
chicken house herself, chased down a pair of plump friers, and
chopped off their heads without more ado. These she scalded,
plucked, singed, drew, washed in cold well water, rolled in egg
and flour, and fried to a crisp golden brown. It made Stud's mouth
fairly water to think of those chicken dinners: hot biscuits,
mashed potatoes, lots of chicken gravy, coffee with Jersey cream,
and hot mince pie for dessert.

Such roasts, fries and stews! Such homemade bread, dumplings, pies
and cakes! Her cooking was better than hotel dinners, Stud averred.
There was a tang to everything she cooked and everything she did.

Stud had never before been completely aware of the work a woman
must do around a farm. He had rather thought that Sarah was having
the best of the bargain all these years. Now, perversely, he was
conscious of every task a farm-wife must perform.

He noticed how from Monday morning when she started pumping cistern
water for the week's washing, until Saturday night when she put
over water for baths Early Ann never sat down to rest. He noticed
particularly how clean she kept the house and milk house; how
shining and sweet-smelling were the milk pails and separator;
how the meals were always on the dot and the dishes cleared away
promptly after the meal. She canned, churned, carried in cords of
wood.

Stud found himself wondering if there were not some way to heat
flatirons save over a roaring cook stove. Somehow the mountains of
dishes seemed unnecessary.

But Early Ann did not complain. She sang as she worked.

Watching her now, as with hair and dress blowing she fed five
hundred snowy chickens, Stud told himself she was a "darned good
hired girl and would make some lucky fellow a good wife."

The phone rang two longs and three shorts the following Saturday.
It was Gus calling jubilantly from Janesville. He had squandered
a quarter to inform the family that Napoleon was not only the
greatest _Jersey_ bull in the county, but, according to the judges
who awarded him a silver loving cup, the greatest bull of _any_
variety. Teddy, the stallion, had won a blue ribbon, while Sarah's
raspberry preserves had been judged the best in their class.
Peter's pumpkin was three pounds and four ounces heavier than its
nearest rival, and Gus had won a kewpie doll for Early Ann by
hitting a nigger baby with a baseball.

Stud could hear the subdued exclamations from every kitchen on the
party line.

"But I didn't get nothing in the wood-chopping contest," Gus
complained. "I got licked seven-ways-for-Sunday by a lady from East
Fulton."

The family celebrated with homemade ice cream eaten in Sarah's
bedroom.

That evening at dusk a storm arose. Lightning quivered along the
horizon, and a wind sprang up. Early Ann, throwing her apron over
her head to protect it from the spattering drops, hurried down to
the old mill to get in a late brood of chicks raised by the fierce
old one-legged hen who every summer stole her nest.

As she reached the doorway of the mill Joe Valentine grabbed her
around the waist and put a large, hairy hand over her mouth. He
pulled her into the dark building and began talking to her in a
hoarse whisper.

"You're my step daughter," he said. "You're coming with me."

She bit his fingers in fury and cried out for help, but the moaning
of the wind and the rush of the rain muffled her words. She forgot
all the nice ways and pretty talk she had learned from Sarah
Brailsford and kicked and fought and swore.

"I'll scratch your eyes out, Joe!"

"You're my girl. You ran away from me." He nursed his bitten hand.

"I'll tell everybody how you treated Maw."

"Come along now." He tried to pull her toward the door, then
stopped. "I was good to your maw," he said.

"You killed her," the girl cried. "You made her take in washings,
and ... and worse."

"You can't teach an old cat new tricks."

"You killed her," Early Ann shouted.

"Shut your mouth, you little bastard," Joe said.

He tried to kiss her and she began to fight again. He slapped her
face methodically a dozen times.

"You're my girl," Joe said. "You're my step daughter, and you ain't
eighteen yet."

"I am eighteen," she panted. "Let me go, Joe." She sunk her teeth
into his arm while he screamed.

"Now you're going to get it," he said. He ripped her dress and
bent her backward until she thought he would break her back. Then
she went limp and did not fight any more, but nothing happened. A
moment later he flung her away.

"You ain't any good to me, either," he said with a great, wistful
sigh. She saw his face in a flash of lightning. There was no lust
there nor anger. A cat rubbed against her leg purring loudly.

She went out past the man who did not try to stop her. She hurried
through the rain toward the hollow of lantern light which was
approaching.

"Are you all right, Early Ann?" Stud cried. He came running and
held up the lantern to look at her. He saw the torn dress and
disheveled hair.

"Who was it?" he cried. "Where is he?"

She shook her head.

"You know, but you won't tell."

"Yes."

He pushed past her angrily and went into the mill holding the
lantern high. He snatched up a piece of iron pipe and plunged
through the dark rooms shouting. A cat rubbed against him, a big
black fellow. Stud heard laughter out in the storm, hurried out
into the rain, but could find no one.

In the kitchen once more he threw off his wet jacket, hung up the
lantern, took Early Ann by the shoulders and tried to make her meet
his eyes.

"You're not my daughter," he said. "I ... I could...."

"No, Mr. Brailsford, please!" She was crying quietly.

He let his hands drop from her shoulders, turned and looked out
through the black, dripping window toward the lake. He could hear
the waves rushing up on the shore and breaking, the wind soughing
through the elms and maples. He thought of Sarah lying pale and
weak on her bed, and he thought of the robust girl standing in the
lamp light behind him.

Very deliberately he left the kitchen and climbed the narrow, dark
stairs to his bed.



  BOOK THREE



CHAPTER VIII


1

 _In the early autumn of 1913 a French flyer looped the loop to the
 amazement of an incredulous world. More troops were ordered to the
 Mexican border. In Chicago the Bon Ton girls were the last word in
 burlesque. Smart horses wore bobbed tails and well-cropped manes.
 Forty-four thousand eight hundred tons of dynamite tore away the
 barrier at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal while Shriners
 cheered. Prime favorites on the piano rolls were "Good-bye Boys,"
 "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" and "You're a Great Big Blue-Eyed
 Baby." Wheat sold at around ninety cents in Chicago with hogs
 close to nine dollars. Aunt Martha of the Needle Notes column
 found that one could cut whalebone to any desired length by
 warming it first before the fire. German and American yachts raced
 off Marblehead, and Lieutenant Governor Thomas Morris of Wisconsin
 told an attentive audience that never again would his fair state
 become a coaling station for Wall Street, nor a water tank for the
 Rockefeller and Morgan interests._

But to Peter Brailsford, impatient with his youth; torn with fear
of God, of hell, and of sex; romantic, inexperienced, wistful;
anxious to get ahead in the world, yet essentially unworldly;
intolerant, rebellious, headstrong; filled with hatreds,
jealousies, and a morbid interest in death; saddled with concepts
of duty, patriotism, and courage which were fatal to millions of
his generation; big, clumsy, lovable; obsessed with the idea that
he was only a country boy; almost as supersensitive as Sarah and
nearly as lusty as Stud; fine, intelligent, mechanically minded,
and above all a considerate and good hearted young fellow....

To this healthy but unhappy product of English ancestry, Methodist
theology, and the American public school system the tumult of the
outer world meant little compared to the tumult within his brain.

Now, striding along Main Street in greasy coveralls, glowering at
the Saturday afternoon sun through eyes dark with anger, kicking
defiantly through drifts of yellow elm leaves, flaunting rebellion
and stubborn pride at every step, he was just a kid coming home
from work at the "Trailer" to those he met; but to himself, Peter
was quite naturally the center of the Universe.

He would show the world and particularly Mike O'Casey and the front
office gang what sort of a boy they had greasing their trailers.
He would invent some new and world-revolutionizing trailer which
would make them pop-eyed with amazement. And when he had been made
vice-president of the company he would call Bud Spillman into his
office and dismiss him with great dignity.

Peter told himself that he was talking nonsense and acting like an
unbroken yearling. He knew that he should be the happiest boy in
the world and should thank God for his good fortune. Nevertheless
as he elbowed his way through clots of gossiping farmers whose rigs
and Fords lined Main Street he knew that he was far from being
happy.

Maybe life in town wasn't so perfect after all. Perhaps after he
had taken a crack at this trailer job.... But no. He would never go
back to the farm. Not even if he could be thrashing boss every year
with twenty men under him. He would stick it out greasing trailers
until the day he died. Bud Spillman or anyone else couldn't whip
Peter Brailsford.

He stopped before the Bentley Brothers' Hardware store,
irrepressibly drawn by the beautiful stag and pearl-handled
jack-knives in the window, and remembered the jack-knife he had
stolen from a boy at country school and how he had known that God
had seen him steal the knife, and how for days he went in constant
dread that God would strike him dead for his sin. He still had an
overwhelming desire for pearl-handled jack-knives. He remembered
how he had thought that eternal damnation was not too great a price
to pay for that shining knife, which was as cool and smooth as
slippery elm between his fingers.

Looking in at the hardware store window cluttered with milk pails,
muskrat traps, fish poles, pitchforks and spades he suddenly caught
sight of his own offensive image in the glass: ears that stuck out
on either side of his head like sails, a thatch of dark, unruly
curls which would never stay combed, big brown calf's eyes which
might have graced a Jersey heifer, and pouting lips.

He wondered how anyone could look so ugly. "What you need," he said
irrelevantly, "is a good swift kick in the pants." Undoubtedly,
with a face like that, he was getting more than he deserved from a
most generous world.

He began to count his blessings, unconvinced but hopeful. He was
away from the farm at last, had freedom, a job, and a room in town.
His third weekly paycheck of twenty-two dollars and fifty cents was
in his pocket. He had a girl who some day might give him a kiss,
and a dapper little employer, Mike O'Casey, whom he admired beyond
all power of expression.

Still he was miserable.

The very eminence of O'Casey was deflating to Peter. How could a
country lout with big feet and clumsy red hands ever hope to reach
such pinnacles of success? The president of O'Casey Trailers was
not only a man of the world, a fine mechanic, an inventor of proven
genius, a baritone soloist, and a buck and wing dancer. He was
also the most popular and best dressed man in town. Peter bet that
nobody in New York's Four Hundred was better looking or a classier
dresser.

The boy leaned against the hitching rail and sighed as his hero
went roaring past in his big red car with cutout open. Peter wished
that Mr. O'Casey would turn and nod, but no such miracle occurred.

Peter asked himself what he was mooning about. But he knew all
too well. Bud Spillman, out of all the hundreds of thousands of
possible men, had been made his straw-boss at the "Trailer." Peter
remembered once when he was going to kill Bud Spillman. He had
waited for hours behind the Methodist church with a piece of pipe.
He had stood all that he could possibly stand from the bully, had
been kicked in the stomach when he was down, had been insulted in
the showers before all the other boys, had had his clothes tied in
knots in the locker room, and his tennis shoes filled with tacks.

He had stood in the cold behind the Methodist church waiting for
Spillman who usually took that short cut home. He had envisioned
just how the bully would look when he lay there pale and dead,
and he had planned all his own actions: what he would do if he
were chased, and where he would jump the freight which was to take
him from Brailsford Junction forever. A wishful little song from
childhood echoed and re-echoed in his brain:

  "_Moonlight, starlight,
  I guess the bears ain't out tonight._"

But Bud had gone home another way.

And now, out of all the possible fellows in Brailsford Junction,
Bud Spillman had been made his straw-boss. Bud, his rival for
Maxine, and his instinctive enemy since childhood.

Ruthaford S. Spillman, Bud's father, and owner of the biggest
livery stable in Brailsford Junction had been one of the twenty
backers who had put up money with which O'Casey had built his
factory. It had been a snap for Bud to get the job.

Peter's adventure had started so auspiciously that he could
scarcely believe this new turn of events. He had come steaming into
town sixty miles an hour on his motorcycle, dressed in his best
serge suit and wearing his brightest tie. After an hour of agony
and anticipation he had been ushered into the awe-inspiring offices
of president Mike O'Casey.

"Know anything about trailers?" asked O'Casey.

"No, but I could learn."

"Is that your motorcycle out in front?"

"Yes sir."

"Can you take'er apart and put'er together?"

"You're darned right I can ... I mean, yes sir. And I know all
about Fords and thrashing machines."

Mr. O'Casey smiled at the serious, eager young man before him.

"I'm seventeen going on eighteen," Peter said.

"I guess you'll do, Kid."

Peter walked out, floating on air.

He started work the next morning and was temporarily assigned to
the paint shop where a shipment of the crude semi-trailers of that
day, based on the early Martin patents, were being painted a snowy
white for a Chicago milk company. He was clever with a brush and
soon acquired the knack of enameling and varnishing without leaving
a sag or a brush mark. All went well until the second week when Bud
Spillman came to work at the "Trailer." From that moment on Peter
was miserable.

"So you wanted a job as a mechanic?" asked Bud. "I'll see what I
can do."

Several days later Peter was transferred to the assembly plant
where from morning until night he greased trailers and plant
machinery. Bud promised to have him cleaning out toilets and
spittoons by the end of the month.

To hell with all of them! Some day Brailsford Junction would wake
up to the fact that Peter was a genius. They would go around
telling anecdotes of his youth, and laugh about the time he quit
school, told "Indian Face" Bolton where he could go, and tossed
his school books into the creek. He would invent an "equalizer" to
take the "whip" out of the action between car and trailer. He would
make a half a million dollars and would live in a large house on
Shannon's Hill with Maxine Larabee and their many children.

The day began to brighten all about him as he dreamed. The farmers
and their wives looked more kindly, the girls more handsome and
the men more noble. By the time Peter had reached the Brailsford
Junction National Bank he was noticing how blue the sky seemed
overhead, how bright the leaves, how keen the wood-smoke in the
air. Not even the appearance of the prissy Mr. Clarence Bolton,
principal of the Brailsford Junction high school of recent and
unpleasant memory could take the sunshine out of this newly
discovered Saturday afternoon.

Peter stopped to admire a brace of mallards which Hank Vetter the
butcher was just taking from his Ford roadster. Hank said that
in his opinion Mike O'Casey was a card and highly worthy of the
admiration of every young man in town. In front of the pool hall,
men sat on the hitching rail watching the farm girls go by. Cats
dreamed happily on piles of fresh vegetables in the grocery store
windows. The loafers sitting on the steps of the cigar store spat
idly at the wooden Indian.

In Peter's new frame of mind even Old Man Mulroy who was teaching
his bow-legged grandson to say "God damn" before a highly
appreciative male audience in front of the livery stable, was
mildly amusing on this day.

"Dod damn," said the toddler.

The men slapped their thighs and guffawed.

Old Man Mulroy, drooling tobacco juice at the corners of his
toothless mouth, grinned slyly.

A job in town. A paycheck in his pocket. The boy whistled gayly as
he marched along.

He looked in over the swinging half-doors of the Red Moon Bar and
felt that the time would never come when he would be twenty-one and
could stand with one foot on the brass rail and drink with the rest
of the men. A new and brilliant bock-beer billy goat was charging
out of a sign on the back wall. A large red bull, and a superior
cowboy rolling a cigarette with one hand advertised a well-known
brand of cigarette tobacco.

Peter wished that he dared to smoke on the street. He wished quite
violently that he could roll a cigarette with one hand like the
superior cowboy in the picture.

He paused before the Palace theater where he examined the bright
billboards displaying a serial queen poised in midair between
precipice and precipice, another view of the same harassed young
woman to whom the villain was touching a torch, while the hero of
the affair looked on calmly from his rearing mount.

Life was very full and romantic, thought Peter Brailsford. He
realized that he could see every movie that came to Brailsford
Junction without making the least impression upon his nearly
inexhaustible weekly stipend. He could even buy himself a new suit
and some dazzling new ties.

A room of his own, no school work. He could skip church and Sunday
School if he wished.

But no, he could not. A momentary cloud passed over his sunny
landscape as Peter came abreast of the Dingle Brothers' General
Store into which Temperance Crandall was just disappearing. He
really liked the fussy creature even if she did make him go to
church, knit him wristlets which he dared not wear and equally
dared not refuse, brought him soapstones on chilly autumn nights,
and saw that his flannel nightgown was warmed before the base
burner before he went to bed. But he did wish that she would be a
little less curious as to where he went evenings and what time he
got in.

Rooms were scarce in Brailsford Junction with the "Trailer"
booming. Peter had taken what he could get. He could abide the
games of Authors and Flinch played with Temperance and her mother
in the latter's upstairs bedroom, with the oil heater making weird
patterns of light and shadow on the ceiling, and the kerosene lamp
spluttering. But he did not like to be crossquestioned about Maxine
Larabee.

"Maxine Larabee!" He rolled the syllables over his tongue and felt
the excitement that even her name produced. How delicate and fine
and unattainable she was. He felt like a great clumsy oaf beside
her. He felt as awkward and shy as the boys in the milling stag
corner at the Firemen's Ball.

He only asked to be allowed to watch her from a distance, to wait
outside the library hoping that she would speak to him, or to
wander disconsolately back and forth before her house, wondering
which room was hers, wishing that some marauder might attempt to
break in so that he could prove his love by cracking the fellow
over the head.

Love-sick and divinely miserable he walked the streets at night
listening to the wind in the trees, holding imaginary conversations
with his beloved, devising tests and trials for his devotion.
Sometimes the sweet pain of his affliction seemed more than he
could bear. But when he had a chance to speak to her there was
nothing of this he could express. He was apt to be rough and
boisterous, or merely shy and dumb.

His emotions could scarcely have been phrased by Shakespeare nor
captured in music by Beethoven, yet the most that found utterance
was:

"Gee, you look swell tonight."

Coming upon her as he rounded the corner at Main Street and Albion
he managed a loud and joyous greeting. But Maxine had no answering
shout. She took one look at his greasy coveralls, his blackened
hands and face, then turned away. She did not speak as she passed.


2

At the iron sink in the Crandall kitchen Peter Brailsford labored
to remove the dirt and grease so offensive to the eyes of Maxine
Larabee. He scoured with violence, grimly pleased by the stinging
of his outraged skin and the smart of the soap in his eyes. He
scowled at himself in the broken mirror, scrubbed his ears until
they burned, wiped the last trace of his recent shame on Temperance
Crandall's roller towel and was running a comb through his wet
curls when Early Ann burst radiantly through the kitchen door
followed by the less impulsive Gus.

"Early Ann! Gus!" cried the young fellow.

"Peter! Peter!" cried the girl. "I've inherited a farm. We'll all
go to the movies."

"Not really?" said the astonished Peter as Early Ann danced him in
mad circles about the kitchen.

"Really," said Early Ann. "And it's been sold, and I've got the
three hundred dollars above the mortgage."

"Look out," cried the hired man. But his warning came too late.
They had jarred the lamp from its shelf, and it fell with a crash
scattering glass all over the kitchen floor.

At this inopportune moment Temperance Crandall returned from
shopping. She had been cheated two cents on eggs, sniggered at by
the pool hall gang, and despite two trips the length of Main Street
had not caught so much as a glimpse of Timothy Halleck. Now she
discovered her kitchen strewn with glass. Early Ann had her hat
over one eye, Peter's shirt tail was out, and Gus was studying the
floor.

"I didn't mean to," said Gus. "I was just hunting for some matches
for my pipe."

"Didn't mean to," mimicked Temperance. "Didn't mean to. Well you'd
just better get busy and clean up that mess."

"Yes, mam," said Gus, looking around for broom and dustpan.

Early Ann giggled. Peter tucked in his shirt tail. Temperance
Crandall whisked off shawl and bonnet, donned an apron, clattered
the griddles and stoked the fire preparatory to getting supper.

"You're Sarah's hired girl, ain't you?" she asked over her shoulder.

"I'm Early Ann Sherman."

"When your maw used to work for us...." Temperance began. Then
catching a murderous look in the kitchen mirror she changed her
tune. "Well now, you and Gus had better stay for supper," she said.
"There's plenty for all."

"No," said Early Ann. "We're eating at the Ritz Royal this evening.
I've inherited a farm." She pulled her coat about her in an Anna
Held gesture, adjusted her hat, tilted her lovely chin and started
for the door. "Come along, Gus."

"Oh, stay," said Peter.

"A farm!" said Temperance.

"Yes, a farm," said Gus, bent double with the dustpan and feeling
surly.

"Nevertheless," said Temperance, "you'd just better stay for
supper. What would Sarah ever think if I didn't feed you? Take off
your coat, Miss Sherman. And Gus, you can dump that busted glass
out on the ash pile."

Smiling again, Early Ann tossed her hat and coat over a chair, tied
an apron about her waist, and with the uncanny instinct of one
woman in another woman's kitchen began to set the table and to help
get supper.

Watching the girl, Temperance sighed. She felt old and tired today.
She had never inherited a farm, and never in her life had she had
such a peaches-and-cream complexion as Early Ann's. She wished she
might have a girl like this one to help her about the house. She
supposed that Miss Sherman wouldn't be working any more now that
she had come into property, and she put the question to the newly
made heiress.

"You bet I'll go on working," said Early Ann. "I'm going to save my
money. Except enough for some dresses and maybe a two-week trip to
Chicago."

"Are you going to Chicago all by yourself?" asked the horrified
Temperance. But Early Ann had made up her mind that she had told
the town gossip more than enough.

Gus returned from the ash pile and settled himself in the kitchen
rocker with a copy of the "Modern Priscilla" replete with corset
advertisements, while Peter loudly announced that if he were taking
Early Ann to the movies he would have to shave.

"Shave," scoffed Early Ann. "Let's see...." She ran her fingers
over the soft down which covered his cheeks.

"Pin feathers," she said.

Peter ignored her. He dipped hot water from the reservoir at the
end of the stove, examined his beard critically in the mirror, and
began to lather in a business-like manner. He wished that Maxine
might see him now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Upstairs, Old Mrs. Crandall lay in her bed wondering what it was
that had shaken the house a few minutes before. After a time she
smelled coffee and knew that there must be company. Temperance and
Peter always drank tea for supper.

Deaf and bed-ridden, the old woman still kept in touch with the
world with her other senses. Through a rift in the trees she could
see the front of the Methodist Episcopal church and in through one
of the basement windows. She knew what went on in the elderberry
bushes to the south of the church, and she had seen a flash of Kate
Barton's red dress through the blinds of the belfry last Thursday
and had seen the pigeons and sparrows come out in dreadful fright.
You couldn't tell Mrs. Crandall that Kate was practicing and Joe
Whalen pumping the organ that afternoon.

Mrs. Pat O'Toole looked to be about five months along with her
ninth. Peter Brailsford, from the way he was mooning around, was
certainly in love, probably with Maxine Larabee.

Unlike Temperance, Old Mrs. Crandall had no desire to reform
mankind. She liked to hum popular music and feel the vibration. She
enjoyed love-making, fights, and all the other delightful and rowdy
actions of mortals. She lay in a world of almost complete silence,
looking out wistfully at the young people going by, and the blowing
autumn leaves; feeling the wind pushing against the house. She did
not want to die. She wanted passionately to be alive next spring
when the lilacs bloomed in her front yard.

The odor of frying meat came up to her from the kitchen, and
finally the vibration of her daughter's feet on the stairs. She
hastily brushed aside two big tears.

"Temperance," she scolded, "you're late with my victuals."

       *       *       *       *       *

Supper that evening was of sufficient social importance so that
Temperance covered the kitchen oil cloth with her red and white
gingham table cloth, but not of a caliber which demanded the use
of the gloomy dining room adorned with chromos of dead ducks,
fruit, and fish; it was a function worthy of the Crandall cut-glass
teaspoon tumbler, but scarcely a feast which necessitated the
crocheted and paraffined napkin rings. Temperance brought out her
tureen which she herself had painted with blue birds and daisies,
but she used the bone-handled knives and forks rather than the
silver plate.

"I hear there's been a man snooping around out your way,"
Temperance began after a hasty blessing, followed by a pan to plate
service of fried potatoes, liver and bacon.

"No one you'd be interested in," said Early Ann, as saucily as she
dared.

"Don't try to be funny," said Temperance.

Temperance had little luck in eliciting any information about the
prowler or about Early Ann's farm. The conversation turned to
the latest antics of Ulysses, and of his son Ulysses Jr., who was
proving to be a chip off the old block, to Sarah's convalescence,
the fall plowing, the hickory nut crop and the plans for a new
silo. Not until the dishes had been cleared away and Gus had
gone his chaste and solitary way did Early Ann begin to feel
confidential.

On the way to the movies she was surprised to find herself telling
Peter all about how she had inherited the farm at Horicon, about
her mother, and a comic version of the latest Joe Valentine
business. She claimed that she had beaten off Joe with a stick of
stove wood and she had run him off the place.

"You don't need to worry about me," said Early Ann. "I can
certainly take care of myself. I'll bet I can even lick you in a
wrastle."

"I'll bet you can't," said Peter indignantly. "Any old day!"


3

Stud Brailsford and Timothy Halleck had been instrumental in
getting Early Ann her small inheritance. Now Stud wondered whether
he had been wise. Not that Early Ann had been spoiled by her
riches. She was still the same rosy-cheeked, hardworking, saucy
spitfire she had always been. She was still devoted to Sarah,
Peter, Gus and Stud, and she announced quite passionately that she
intended to live with the Brailsfords and do their work until the
day she died. But now, added to all the other barriers which kept
Stud from the girl, there was the fact that she was independently
wealthy.

Three hundred dollars was not to be sneezed at in 1913. True,
automobiles and mushroom-brimmed velvet hats smothered in ostrich
plumes were rather expensive, but the lisle stockings worn by all
the virtuous women of the period were priced at six pairs for a
dollar; high buttoned shoes usually described as classy, nobby,
or natty sold for two dollars a pair; and no woman dreamed of
squandering more than fifty-nine cents on a pair of drawers, a
corset cover, or a princess slip.

Free, white, eighteen, full of mustard and vinegar, and with three
hundred dollars in the bank, the Brailsfords' hired girl was
distinctly a person to be reckoned with. Her new clothes from Sears
Roebuck were the talk of the party line.

And now, to increase Stud's worries, Early Ann was insisting on a
two weeks' trip to Chicago. It was unheard of that a girl should
make such an excursion unchaperoned.

It took less than six hours on the C., M. & St. P. to reach the
sinful, brightly lighted metropolis on Lake Michigan; nevertheless
Chicago was fifty years and a half a world from the muddy village
of Brailsford Junction.

Chicago might rag; make fortunes in wheat, hogs, and steel; discuss
atheism, Freud, and the early H. L. Mencken. But Brailsford
Junction still attended barn dances and revival meetings. It lived
by the laws of Solomon and Moses only slightly conditioned by the
paganism of Omar and the invasion of the Ford.

These Junctionites lived by the crude practical joke, the rough and
ready generosity of their pioneer grandparents, by gossip and by
Jesus. They lived in a world of lamp light and lantern light, of
full corn cribs and Sunday School picnics. Chicago was almost as
remote as Mars.

Even Stud would have made the journey to Chicago with misgivings;
and for an unmarried young woman to make such a trip was
unthinkable. They all pleaded with her to be sensible.

"I'd never forgive myself," said Sarah. "It's up to me to keep you
safe from harm. I'd worry myself sick every day you were gone."

"Never heard of a girl going off to Chicago alone," said Stud. "It
ain't right."

"It's a big, wicked city," said Gus, knowingly. "I went to Chicago
once for the Columbian Exposition. And by golly, the way little
Egypt shook her ..."

"Sh-h-h," said Sarah.

"Well, I'm going," said Early Ann, "and that's that. But, Mrs.
Brailsford, you mustn't worry for a minute. I grew up as wild as a
chipmunk and I guess I can take care of myself."

"But why do you want to go?" Stud asked the bright-eyed girl,
whose ripe young breasts under her middy rose and fell with her
breathing, and whose well-turned ankles under her sailor skirt were
a treat to the eye.

"I've been wanting all my life to see Chicago," Early Ann said. "I
never seen a tall building, or rich ladies riding in limousines, or
the silver dollars in the Palmer House floor. I never seen Irene
Castle dance, or heard Grand Opera, or had people wait on me like
they do in a hotel."

"Yes, Early Ann, I know, I know," said Sarah, earnestly. "You got a
right to have one good time like that in your life. Everybody has
got a right to be happy just once."

"But I won't budge out of this house if you ain't well enough
yet," said Early Ann. "You've only been up and around for six days,
Mrs. Brailsford."

"No, no, Early Ann. You mustn't stay on my account. I'm fit as a
fiddle. It's only for your own good I want you to stay."

"Then I'm going tomorrow on the ten o'clock train," said Early Ann.
She began to pack in the parlor while the family showered advice
and ran errands.

Sarah kissed her goodby tearfully. Gus was suspiciously misty-eyed
as he carried her telescope suitcase out to the Ford, and Stud
drove her recklessly to the station where he insisted on paying for
her round-trip ticket and for a chair on the parlor car--a luxury
he had never allowed himself.

"You hang on to your money, young lady," he said. "And don't make
up to any city fellows."

He stood watching the train until it had passed out of sight around
the curve, then leaping into his Ford roared back to the farm
where he began two weeks of mad labor. He worked on the fences,
set posts, strung shining lines of new barbed wire, pruned several
trees and filled a small ravine with boulders. He trapped a weasel
that had been getting his chickens, put barrels around his young
fruit trees to save them from the rabbits. He sent for a new
stump-puller, seductively described in the mail order catalogue,
hoping to clean out the brush lot in the slack months which were
ahead.

One morning he noticed that the barns needed painting. He called
in Mack Curren, who had finally given up hope of being a great
portrait painter. Mack and his crew gave the buildings a new red
coat visible for miles.

"Might as well be fancy and add white trimmings," Stud told the
willing Mr. Curren.

Stud himself was hard at work on the new silo. He drove himself
happily these days, and he drove Gus who was not so happy
concerning his employer's sudden desire to move the world, to paint
the farm from end to end, and to add a wing to the milk house.

Stud remembered to bring in frosty asters and goldenrod to Sarah.
He told her that what she needed was a wild duck dinner, and he
fixed himself a blind beside the lake and waited, watching his
decoys.

The shotgun shells were heavy and cool in his hand. The long, clean
barrels of his gun shone like blue fire when he looked through them
at the sun. Not a speck of dust! Every part oiled and working like
a seventeen-jewel watch. The carved walnut stock was as smooth as
satin to his fingers, and the gun balanced perfectly as he threw it
to his shoulder.

He had carved the decoys himself from white pine and had painted
the intricate markings from memory. He knew the glossy green head
and bold coloration of the drake mallard, as well as the more
modest hues of his mate. He was familiar to the last tail feather
with the tones and patterns which distinguish canvasback, redhead,
bluebill, widgeon, goldeneye, and black mallard. He could imitate
the quack of a duck or the honk of a Canadian goose almost too well
for his own safety.

Bright water bugs skimmed the quietly heaving surface of the lake.
A muskrat with reeds in his mouth, his nose barely above the
water, his tail trailing for a rudder, swam past the blind. Stud's
live decoys anchored in the shallow water, preened, tipped for
food, gossiped of the days when they themselves were free to skim
southward ahead of the storms, bound for southern bayous.

Stud lay back looking up at the immensity of sky, never more deeply
blue, he thought, than above Wisconsin in the autumn. He watched a
flight of coots but let them pass; followed a wood duck with his
gun but did not shoot. A hell-diver was playing among his decoys,
and a couple of green-winged teal went by just out of gunshot,
their wings whirring like toy windmills in a cyclone.

"Nothing but a ruddy can outfly them," Stud observed, "and the
ruddies fly so darned fast it's a wonder they don't catch fire."

Toward sunset the flight began in earnest, and for about ten
minutes Stud banged away like the Federal gunboats before
Vicksburg. He shot his bag limit without crippling a bird, waded
out in hip boots to bring them ashore, and went singing home,
loaded down with rice-fattened mallards.

One morning he crossed the field of wheat stubble stretching yellow
and frosty on either hand and went into the brown woods to choose
his trees for winter cutting. It would be good to swing an axe
again, to take big white chips out of a tree, to hear it crash to
the ground and settle with a sigh. It would be good to get on one
end of a cross-cut saw again, to make Gus cry out for mercy as they
sliced through three feet of oak. His big muscles yearned for the
sixteen pound mall he used for driving wedges, a sledge which made
the average man pant like a one-cylinder gas engine, but which was
a plaything for Stud.

At night he came in tired, soaked with sweat, but almost happy.
Sarah noticed and was glad.

Fall, with the red of sumac and of hard maple, the leathery brown
of hickory leaves, and the pale yellow of elm was upon the land.
The leaves drifted in the brisk winds, and the wind sighed through
the pines of the front yard. The marshes turned to brown and almost
overnight the muskrat houses sprang up in rough brown piles along
the deeper channels through the grass. The orchard was a wilderness
of ripening, fragrant fruit, yellow, scarlet and deep red. The
house was banked about with shocks of corn. Five cords of wood were
already sawed and split, and more would come out of the woods as
the days grew colder.

Gus came running in from the mail box one morning with a postcard
from Early Ann. It had a picture of a huge hotel where Early Ann
was staying and in a large, girlish hand:

"Having a good time. Wish you were here!"



CHAPTER IX


1

In the Brailsford Junction Public Library where the youth of
the town came to make love, look at classic nudes, peruse the
stimulating success stories to be found in the Alger books, explore
the jungles with Livingstone and Stanley, sigh and weep with the
Victorian poets, wallow in Cooper, Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Louisa May Alcott and General Lew Wallace, and if special favorites
of the Librarian to visit the restricted shelves where such
infamous authors as Lord Byron, Walt Whitman, Anatole France and
Theodore Dreiser languished in sin....

In this den of vicarious iniquity Peter Brailsford found companions
more in harmony with his spirit than in the town itself, which just
now was banking around its houses with manure, putting up storm
doors, and getting out long underwear, fur caps, and mackinaws.

Here were Hamlets who wandered brooding and mourning even as Peter
brooded and mourned. Here were flaming young women who spoke
in well-rounded phrases to dashing, intelligent young men who
really got somewhere in life. Here were Poetic heroes off on their
tremendous Odysseys through wine-dark seas. Soldiers of Fortune
easily subduing whole South American Republics.

Reading had been something of a chore while he was still in high
school. Now he read for the joy of reading, everything he could
get his hands on from Dumas to Ibsen and from Rider Haggard to
Shakespeare.

Haggard's terrific tales curdled his blood and started him off on
the chain of episodes in his own life which bothered his dreams.
The great men who had stood beside his bed at night bringing their
huge faces closer and closer until he awoke in a cold sweat; the
fear of God which had made his childhood miserable, the early fear
of railroad trains which during his fourth and fifth years had sent
him terrified into the cellar whenever he heard the distant whistle
and the clanging of the bell; night fears as when he had gone down
into the woods to find a calf and had heard the stealthy whisper of
some unseen thing passing through the deep grass; the fear of death
and the absolute finality of damnation.

Other authors started other trains of thought in his mind:
nostalgic, wistful, lonely thoughts of the time when he had been
lost and his mother and father had come hunting him with a lantern.
He had heard them calling far off through the rain-wet woods. They
had wrapped him in a blanket and they had driven for miles in the
horse and buggy until at last they were at home again; thoughts of
his mother coming to tuck him in at night and how desperately he
wanted her to come and how fearful he was that she might forget;
thoughts of the picnic to which he was not invited and how he had
lain beneath the lilac bush watching the other children going by
with their picnic baskets. (Often he was homesick for the farm.)

But some of the things he read made him fighting mad, and others
made him ambitious. This evening, waiting for Maxine Larabee, he
had picked up a book on the Gypsies. A young Gypsy woman stepping
from her van had given him what he thought was a tremendous idea....

Why not a camp trailer fitted up with every convenience for a
traveling home? If Gypsies could live in vans so could a world of
roving motorists. Here was the idea which would make him famous and
which would cinch his progressive rise at the "Trailer." He wanted
to shout his discovery to everyone in the room. He wanted most
desperately to find Maxine Larabee and pour out his hopes and plans.

He could see just how the camp trailer would look. It would be
mounted on a one-ton chassis. There would be two small windows on
each side and one at the front end fitted out with screens and
bright curtains. There would be a door at the back with steps which
would let down. Inside there would be one bunk on either side which
would fold up against the wall; a folding table; built-in, narrow
cupboards and clothes press; a small coal-oil stove for cooking.
He felt somewhat at a loss in designing the tiny kitchen. He would
have to ask Maxine to help him with that.

It suddenly came over him that after he and Maxine were married
they could take their honeymoon in one of his own camp trailers. He
was sure that she would be an awfully good sport. He could see her
helping to catch their dinner and cooking it over the camp fire. He
took a pencil and paper from his pocket, began to sketch rapidly.
Despite two years of mechanical drawing at the high school his
fingers lagged behind his racing mind.

And now the sketch was finished. But where was Maxine? He was
afraid that she would not come.

At eight forty-seven, however, there was a stir near the door. In
a new fall ensemble with a hobble skirt that not one of the girls
in the room had seen before, and which must have been purchased
at some exclusive shop like Bostwick's in Janesville, the Belle
of Brailsford Junction made her majestic entry. Cleopatra, or
Helen of Troy, or Marie Antoinette could not have slain them more
effectively. And, _mirabile dictu_, she was headed for Peter's
table. She sat down directly across from the boy, who, despite
his delight, experienced as always an empty feeling in his solar
plexus, blurred vision, and cold sweat in the palms of his hands.

"Whatcha reading?" asked Maxine, sticking her gum on the under
surface of the library table already plastered with dried chicle in
geological strata running back half a decade.

"Uh ... uh ... a book on Gypsies."

"The dirty things," squealed Maxine. "Ee-magine going out in the
woods like that with spiders and snakes and everything. They steal
and have things in their hair."

"Aw, you're always spoiling everything," said Peter.

"Well, if I'm spoiling everything I'll just run along," said the
girl.

"No, don't. Please stay," said Peter.

"You can walk me home," the girl said, smiling archly, "if you
don't talk about Gypsies and horrid things like that."

"Can I walk you home?" Peter asked, his disappointment forgotten,
his whole being an ecstasy of expectation.

"Sure, you can walk me home," Maxine said. "Walking a girl home
don't mean anything. I let lots of fellows walk me home."

"Gee, Maxine. Gee, you're beautiful tonight."

"Did you notice the hobble skirt?"

"Did I notice it! How could I help but notice it?"

"I just coaxed and teased till Mamma had to get it for me."

"Gee, Maxine. You sure look swell in it. I guess you're the
prettiest girl in Rock County."

"In Rock County?" asked Maxine, regarding him through large,
offended eyes from beneath her coyly-tilted hat brim.

"In the world, I mean," said Peter, feeling his Adam's apple
pressing uncomfortably against his high, stiff collar.

"Well, it's nine o'clock," said the girl, as the Librarian began
banging Webster's Dictionary on her desk,--the usual signal for
closing time.

They walked home together through the fall evening talking of
everything except what was near their hearts. She took his arm
at the crossing, and the small place where her hand rested was
burning hot beneath his coat. There was a big harvest moon rising
out of the elm trees from which the leaves were drifting down like
large yellow petals. Their breath was white on the frosty air. Far
overhead they could hear the honk of the wild geese flying south
and the whistle of wings cutting the air.

They stood for a long time at the gate of the Larabee home whose
windows gleamed invitingly. A smell of wood-smoke came from the
chimney of the fireplace. The wind stirred in the trees.

"Well, ain't you going to kiss me goodnight," Maxine pouted,
putting up her lips.

He thought she couldn't have said it. Nothing so wonderful could
happen to a country boy. He hesitated, looking down at her
loveliness, her lips a trifle apart, her eyes closed, waiting. His
blood was singing a chorus through his temples and his ears rang
with a strange music.

"Well," she said.

But he had waited too long. From the front door of the Larabee
domicile came the booming voice of Mr. Larabee:

"Maxine! You come right in the house, young lady. It's after nine
o'clock."

       *       *       *       *       *

The clock had struck eleven before Peter Brailsford, tossing on
his bed, remembered the camp trailer which was to revolutionize
motoring, the beautiful little green vans, complete with running
water, small kitchens, electric lights run from storage batteries,
even curtains at the windows. He went to sleep dreaming of Maxine,
of sweet revenge, and of his trailers.


2

A Hallowe'en party at the Methodist Episcopal church in Brailsford
Junction was a social event of the first magnitude. The Epworth
Leaguers excelled Salem witch-burners in striking terror into one
another's hearts and upsetting usually sturdy stomachs. They put
skinned grapes in one another's hands in lieu of cats' eyes, poured
thick red fluid down each other's necks after having realistically
cut the jugular vein with rubber daggers, they removed boards on
the dark stairs to the organ loft so that one fell ten feet into
a pile of leaves in the woodshed, burned each other with red hot
pokers which were in reality slivers of ice, and in general proved
themselves worthy disciples of Torquemada. Unholy shrieks from
belfry, organ loft, and song-book cupboard kept the girls mildly
hysterical. No good young Methodist would have thought of missing
the fun.

For days the entertainment committee had been decorating and
ripping up the church. Half a cornfield and a wagon load of
pumpkins had been transported to the basement and arranged
realistically around the pillars and in the corners. Red leaves,
jack-o'-lanterns, miles of orange tissue paper, black cats,
witches, and tubs for apple bobbing completed the effect in the
dimly lit cavern where early on Hallowe'en the young people began
to gather.

Peter arrived at seven-thirty wearing a cardboard pumpkin head but
otherwise uncostumed. He wanted to parade his stylish new green
suit, his tie which would have enraged a bull, and his oxfords
with exaggerated bows. Young Brailsford was celebrating his
two-dollar-and-a-half raise at the "Trailer" where he had gained
the ear of Mike O'Casey with his invention and had been promoted to
the role of super office boy in charge of making blue prints for
the draftsmen.

Radiating pride and self-assurance he strode across the room
toward the knot of Epworth Leaguers in the far corner. But as he
approached he felt an electric discharge of uncordiality which
could mean but one thing. Bud Spillman, who was holding forth to
his coterie of pretty girls and local scions, had been jeering at
his expense. Peter was a farm boy and definitely an outsider.

"My, my! Ain't you stylish!" said the erstwhile football hero,
dressed for the occasion in Roman toga and laurel wreath.

"Take that back or I'll give you a poke," warned Peter, forgetting
that he stood on sacred ground.

"All right, hayseed. You look like you was all dressed up for
greasing trailers."

"Come on out in back and I'll show you."

"You might get your new pants all dirty," said Bud.

The crowd sniggered.

"What about your nightshirt?"

"Don't get funny or I'll make you laugh out of the other side of
your mouth."

"I'll give you a leave," Peter said.

"I wouldn't dirty my hands fighting a clodhopper. Go clean your
cowbarns."

"What about you?" Peter said. "Your old man runs a livery stable."

"Kick in his box car," the boys shouted to Bud, "poke him in the
breadbasket."

"Anybody busted in your new shoes?" Bud asked, stamping on one of
Peter's toes and spitting on the crushed leather.

Unwanted tears were welling up in Peter's eyes but his voice was
brave and scornful. "I dare you. I double-dare you. You yellow
Brailsford Junction smart Aleck!"

Then a minor miracle occurred. Maxine Larabee squealed, "Punch him
in the nose, Peter. Knock his block off."

That was all the encouragement Peter needed. Dumbfounded but
deliriously happy and filled with a soul-satisfying desire to beat
Bud Spillman to a pulp he waded into the big fellow while the girls
scattered screeching to view the fight from piano-top or chair, and
the boys formed a yelling circle about the young battlers.

"Knock him for a gool ... cave in his shanty ... kick him in the
belly," advised Bud Spillman's supporters. They also suggested
that he beat Peter's ears off, flatten his beezer and knock all
his teeth down his throat. Forgetting the fact that they were in
the presence of ladies and the Methodist Deity, these same young
Christians remembered and used effectively all the forbidden
four-letter Anglo-Saxon words.

More agile than his big opponent, lighter on his feet and faster
with his punches, Peter slipped in and out with sharp slashing
blows which bruised and cut the big football player but did not
stop him. Bud's haymakers seldom connected, but when they did they
carried the weight of a pile driver behind them.

They clinched, broke apart, flayed the air, drew a little blood,
maneuvered about the basement knocking over shocks of corn and
stumbling on pumpkins. Bud began to tire while Peter was still as
fresh as a daisy. This change in probabilities did not go unnoticed
by the ringside who one by one shifted their loyalties to the farm
boy. Maxine in particular was cheering for Peter. Now they were all
engrossed in telling their new hero just how to mutilate the winded
Spillman.

Peter was slipping through the guard of the big fellow time after
time. He gave him a final clip to the chin followed by a clout
which sent Bud spinning and by accident landed him squarely in a
tub filled with water for apple bobbing....

"Boys, boys! In the House of God?" cried the Reverend Mr. Tooton,
who had entered at that moment. "Is that Christian? Is that the way
Jesus teaches us to treat one another?"

"He started it," blubbered Bud Spillman who was struggling to get
out of the icy water.

"Yes, and I finished it," said Peter. He walked over to where the
Bully stood crestfallen and dripping, and added in an undertone,
"Any more funny stuff at the 'Trailer' and I'll give you a real
licking."

"I'm your friend," said Bud. "I always was your friend."

With the ice very thoroughly broken, and everyone at his hilarious
ease, the fun began. Peter, a somewhat disheveled but happy
ringleader, promoted charades, Blind Man's Bluff, Drop the
Handkerchief, Skip-Come-a-Lou, and a version of the Virginia Reel
which included elements of the Tango and the Bunny Hug. They
splashed and shrieked while bobbing for apples, giggled as they
stole kisses in the Den of Horrors and behind the piano, sang at
the top of their lungs while playing Four in a Boat and Going to
Jerusalem, and ended a perfectly wonderful evening with pumpkin pie
and coffee.

Bud Spillman left early.

And that night, for the second time in their lives, Peter and
Maxine walked together under the bright autumn stars. They watched,
with the superior amusement of teen-age individuals the Hallowe'en
antics of the younger hellions who were taking out a year's
grievances on Old Man Ottoson who always spoiled the ice on his
hill by spreading ashes, Aunt Nellie Fitch who was stingy with her
apples, and Grandpa Green who had once peppered with rock salt a
boy who was stealing one of his watermelons. It was only tit for
tat if the kids now ripped up their board sidewalks, pulled down
their gates, and tipped over their backhouses.

Peter lent a hand hoisting a particularly obstreperous billy goat
onto the porch roof of Old Lady Perkins' general store, then,
with his girl on his arm, strolled leisurely to the Tobacco City
Ice Cream Parlor, where beneath pink and green lights reflected
in gilt-framed mirrors they lingered long over a concoction known
as "Lover's Delight" while the nickel-in-the-slot piano played
"Everybody's Doing It."

Feeling deliciously extravagant, he bought her a three pound box
of bon bons adorned with large red roses, and they made their way
through the crisp cold to Maxine's home on the hill where the girl
discovered with joy that her parents were not yet home from their
evening of bridge in Janesville, wherefore Peter must come in for a
cup of hot cocoa.

Unbelievable delight! To be invited into her house. To be near her,
allowed to touch her, and perhaps even to kiss her if he chose.

The very air seemed different in the house where his love ate and
slept and bathed and dressed. He was sure that never before had he
seen anything so exquisite as the sofa pillows she had made out of
cigarette flags, or the pictures she had burned on wood.

She had a little alcove off the sitting room which was all her own
hung with school pennants and drawings of the Charles Dana Gibson
variety. She had a cupboard full of bon bon boxes, dance programs,
comic postcards inscribed with "Oh, You Girl!" and a whole album of
snapshots.

Peter was awed. He had never before seen an alcohol burner nor a
chafing dish. He watched the glowing girl as she prepared cocoa and
Welsh rarebit, was delighted with every movement she made and every
word she spoke.

"I got a raise," Peter said. "I'm a draftsman's assistant now. Mike
O'Casey says he might build one of my camp trailers when I get it
designed."

"Gee, could I meet Mr. O'Casey sometime?" Maxine asked.

"Well, gosh, Maxine. I dunno. That's pretty hard to arrange."

"Oh, all right, smarty. You think he's too good for a little girl
like me."

"But, darling...." He could have bitten his tongue for having said
a thing like that. Calling her "darling"! Who did he think he was?
She stood perfectly still, waiting.

"You're an awful pretty girl," he said at last. He watched her as
she turned to the chafing dish again. Her movements were deft and
very feminine.

"I ... I wish you would let me kiss you like you said that night."

"Why not?" said Maxine. She turned up her face for the first kiss
Peter had given a girl in his life.

To Peter the world was non-existent for that moment. Maxine broke
away to keep the cocoa from boiling over.

Afterwards she turned out the lights and they sat on the sofa
looking out into the starlight. They could see across the creek
and across mysterious miles of frozen brown marshland beyond the
town to where lights twinkled in distant farmhouses. She put his
hand down the neck of her dress and he was surprised and almost
frightened by the soft delicacy of her breasts.

"Well," said Maxine from the depths of her pillows. "Are you just
going to sit there all night?"

She put her arms around him and kissed him again and again. She
drew him down toward her and he found himself strangely wishing to
be free.

"No, no, Maxine," he said humbly. "I couldn't. Why, Maxine, you're
just an angel to me. I never even thought of you like that."


3

Throughout the rest of her days Temperance Crandall measured time
as before or after 1913. Often in later Novembers when the leaves
hurried across her lawn and the hickory nuts tumbled down from the
shagbark hickory she dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief.

It was of little interest to her that Mrs. Sean McGinty died of
cancer of the uterus after bearing thirteen children in eighteen
years, or that Father O'Malley in laying her away spoke of her as
an outstanding example of motherhood. She scarcely bothered to
learn the details of the scandalous conduct of the Reverend Charles
MacArthur of the Congregational church who had been caught in a
compromising situation with his soprano soloist, thus confirming
the worst suspicions of the Methodists. And although Gerty
MacDougal, 18, entered the bonds of holy matrimony with Cornelius
Vandenheim, 82, just in time to inherit a Civil War pension for
life, Temperance all but forgot to pass on the information to
Sister Dickenson.

For Temperance Crandall was discovering that when tragedy and
scandal touch one's own household the salt has lost its savor.

In the first place her mother was definitely sinking. Doctor
Whitehead doubted that the old heart could stand the strain of
another winter. Secondly Temperance's own Peter Brailsford was
being seen so often with that wanton hussy Maxine Larabee that
Temperance could have wept. Now, as she waited for Peter to come to
breakfast, the harsh whisper of calloused fingers on hard knuckles
filled the room.

Peter Brailsford, awaking from a sound sleep, was instantly aware
that this was no usual day. He jumped out of bed with a shout,
threw his flannel nightgown into a corner, dashed half a pitcher
of icy water into the wash bowl, and with chattering teeth sponged
his warm skin with a washcloth and rubbed dry with a rough towel.
He danced around on his toes throwing a flurry of effective punches
into some large, tough adversary, burst into a baritone solo which
suddenly went soprano, pulled on long scratchy underwear, corduroy
trousers, stiff cowhide boots, and a rough woolen shirt and hurried
to the kitchen.

"Um! Pancakes!"

"Put on plenty of butter and mmaple syrup," said Temperance. "I
ain't going to let any boy starve under my roof."

It was a bright, cold Saturday morning. Peter had begged the day
off. Now he ran shouting with exuberance to join the crowd gathered
on the Library steps. Maxine, the English teacher for chaperon, and
nearly a dozen others were headed for Lake Koshkonong and a day in
the woods.

They piled into an ancient Ford three deep and several on the
running boards, chugged and steamed up hills and through valleys
bright with maple and sumac until at last they came to Charley's
Bluff where they unloaded and built a fire of driftwood on the
beach between huge granite boulders. They raced, wrestled and shot
at targets with a twenty-two, buried each other in the leaves and
shook down hickory nuts.

At noon they gathered about the fire to roast wieners on sticks and
to drink black coffee.

All went well until the couples paired off and Maxine decided to
sing songs to the accompaniment of Thomas Carlyle's five-string
banjo. Who did that half-witted son of a horse-doctor think he
was, Peter wondered. They were making outrageous love, Peter
thought. Starting off with such comparatively innocuous ditties as
"Moonlight Bay" and "You're a Great Big Blue-Eyed Baby," they were
soon harmonizing on "Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine," and
"Every Little Movement Has a Meaning All Its Own." Peter began to
wonder what sort of a girl Maxine was.

Then he was remorseful.

He was ashamed that he had let himself question Maxine's character.
Certainly she had never let another boy kiss her or touch her
breasts. She was sitting beside Thomas Carlyle singing songs
because he had a banjo; but very soon now she would come over to
Peter and they would wander off together. He mustn't let himself be
jealous like this. Peter didn't think that he could trust himself
if he should find that Maxine was in any way unfaithful. He thought
that he would kill her and then himself, and that people would find
them locked in each other's arms.

He would write a verse for their common gravestone which would be
inscribed beneath twin turtle doves on pure white marble.

He told himself that he was talking nonsense, that no boy should
keep his girl from singing songs and flirting a little. But he lay
among the leaves, looking up at the sky and brooding over the loss
of this precious day which was to mean so much to them. He had
intended to ask her to marry him and had thought out just what he
was going to say. He had intended to tell her that first love like
theirs was always true love, and how their marriage wouldn't turn
out like so many marriages. Their life together was going to be
different.

He had envisioned the whole scene over and over. They would be
cozily sitting in deep leaves in some protected ravine with nothing
but the trees and sky to hear what they were saying. He would pour
out his heart, and she would listen with rapt attention and turn up
her lips for kisses.

He would tell her of his progress at the factory, and of the house
they would have on Shannon's hill. They would talk about their
children, and about life together after they were married. It was
to have been an idyllic day.

And now, a gaunt, freckle-faced, banjo-strumming young fool had
spoiled it all. Peter felt like going over and pushing the boy in
the face and picking up Maxine as he might a child and carrying her
away. It would be easy to do. She was as light as a feather and
always tripped along as though she were made of thistle down. Her
flesh was like thistle down too. It made his head whirr to think of
her soft flesh.

Always, always something came between Peter and happiness. He had
been brooding and miserable for as long as he could remember, with
only now and then a moment of intense happiness to repay him for
his misery.

All his life he had worried about good and evil, about God and
hell, about his features, his clothes, what people were thinking of
him, and whether he would ever amount to anything. And now that he
was in love he was experiencing a deeper and more exquisite misery
than he could have imagined possible.

Maxine! Maxine!

But here she came at last, all radiant and smiling, her cheeks as
red as apples. His heart leapt up in a moment and all his doubts
left him. They walked along the beach, skipped stones on the thin
ice and on the open stretches of water, dug a bird's nest out of
the high, black banks of peat which skirt the beach to the south
of Charley's Bluff. They discovered a little stream and followed
its course back through the willows to a clearing where they
explored a deserted cabin and a barn still filled with timothy and
clover. From the wide door of the loft they could see across the
lake to Lake House Point and to the Brailsford farm with its bright
red barns and to the great cottonwood tree on Cottonwood Hill.

"You see that big tree," Peter said. "Not a man in the country can
climb it, not even my father. But I'm going to climb it some day."

"Uh huh," said Maxine comfortably.

"I'm going to do lots of things in my life. Great things. I'm
learning a heap about draftsmanship at the Trailer factory. I'm
almost finished with my blue prints for that camp trailer. Maybe
some day when I get to be famous...."

"Don't talk shop," Maxine said.

"Well, what shall we talk about?"

"Don't let's talk, beautiful boy."

She stopped his mouth with kisses and unashamed gave him his first
lesson in love.

       *       *       *       *       *

As was usual in Brailsford Junction death came before the doctor.
Temperance was alone in the house when her mother died. She went
up the stairs at six o'clock bringing the old lady a bite of
supper and found her breathing heavily and rather chilled. She
tried to reach Doctor Whitehead by telephone, but no one answered
at the house or the office. She called out the upstairs window to
a passing boy and told him to look for the doctor in front of the
pool hall, then turned back to the stricken woman who opened her
eyes once and smiled at Temperance feebly.

Temperance thought that the poor old thing was humming a hymn but
when she leaned closer she realized that it was "Daisy Bell,"
a great favorite of her mother's. Thinking about it later she
realized that her mother had never been what Brailsford Junction
usually termed a Christian.

Even before the death rattle began, the thin face turned blue and
the small hands clutching the counterpane were as cold as ice.

Temperance did not break down until she had pulled the sheet up
over the face of the dead. Then a great flood of loneliness and
grief came over her and she ran down the street in her house dress
with her hair stringing out behind. Hardly knowing what she was
doing she hurried up the stairs leading to the offices of Timothy
Halleck and incidentally to the fly-blown waiting-room of Doctor
Whitehead.

Brailsford Junction's leading physician was hanging up his
prevaricating gilt placard, "Back in Half an Hour."

"Well, well, I was just heading for your home," he said. "I hope it
ain't anything serious. How is your mother?"

"As well as could be expected with you on the case," cried
Temperance, bitterly. "She died fifteen minutes ago."

"Now ain't that too bad," said Doctor Whitehead, squirting a stream
of tobacco juice into a convenient corner. "I suppose you'll want a
death certificate, eh?"

Temperance burst in upon Timothy Halleck who during that day had
met a delegation of indignant mothers complaining about the oldest
son of Crazy Jack Bailey, a young wife whose drunken husband beat
her up every Saturday night with the stove poker, and the president
of the bank who threatened to cut off his credit if he cancelled
his mortgage against the Widow Morrison. For once his patience was
tried beyond endurance.

"No, Miss Crandall, this time I will not listen to your gossip.
I've heard all that I can stand for one day. Why can't you leave
people alone? Let them live their lives and you live yours.
For twenty years I've been wanting to tell you that you're
a meddlesome, tale-bearing.... There, there now. Don't cry,
Temperance. I realize I was a bit thoughtless. Why ... why, what is
it?"

"I didn't know who else to tell," Temperance said, hiding her face
in her hands. "Mother's dead, Timothy."

Temperance Crandall was to remember to her dying day that Timothy
Halleck came around the desk and put his arm across her shoulders
and told her that he would take care of the funeral arrangements.



CHAPTER X


1

The eastbound train had gone shrieking through Brailsford Junction
pulled by two engines to buck the drifts. Bundles of Madison papers
were tossed from the baggage car as the train passed, and the
engineer had waved at Nat Cumlien, the station master.

Now in a corner of the station half a dozen rosy-faced young
rascals fought and laughed as they stuffed their paper sacks.

"Wish I had about ten kids," thought Stud, watching the boys while
waiting for the long over-due four-thirty-nine from Chicago. "Six
or eight sons and a batch of girls."

He sighed as he looked out at the unexpected November blizzard.
The telephone wires sang a high monotonous tune. Snow drifted in
rippled waves over the tracks and the cinder piles beyond. The
station windows rattled in the forty mile gale and the telegraph
instrument kept up its incessant, monotonous tattoo.

"Gol darn! There never was nothing in my life I wanted like a lot
of youngsters. Big strapping boys to help me with the cows and
crops. Good looking girls to help Sarah."

He spat reflectively at the roaring stove, shifted his position on
the bench.

"Peter's a good boy, and he certainly ran that thrashing machine
slicker than a greased pig. But now he's figuring on spending all
his mortal days in a trailer factory."

He couldn't make the boy out, always mooning around and sighing.
Not mean nor hard to handle, but with a head full of silly ideas.
Maybe all he needed was to sow his wild oats.

Peter'd make a good enough farmer if he'd put his mind to it. He
was smart enough, and strong enough, and a real good worker. But
Stud doubted that he would ever see the boy back on the farm again.

He wished he had a dozen big sons, strapping fellows who could
handle a quarter section at sixteen. He wished it were as easy to
get human young ones as it was calves, colts and lambs.

Why, if a mare didn't foal you tried another mare. If a cow didn't
calve you turned her into beef steak. And any stallion, bull or
ram could serve half a hundred females of his species.

"Wish I had a harem," thought Stud; "I'd get me all the children a
man could want. We've got enough victuals to feed about forty on
that farm. I'd breed 'em big and feed 'em plenty. It'd be a sight
for sore eyes to see my litter."

Stud was awaiting Early Ann's train from the big city. She would
be getting off the cars any time now all rosy and fresh and pert
with her tongue running away with her and her feet fairly dancing.
Young, healthy, and going to waste. What was the matter with young
fellows these days, didn't they know a good thing when they saw it?
Early Ann was just what Stud needed around the farm: a good little
filly that'd make a good mare.

"Shoot, such a way to talk," thought Stud, spitting at the glowing
stove. "Can't breed humans like you breed cattle. Got to think
about marriage vows and morality and all that sort of business."

Nevertheless the thought stayed with him,--how he was getting along
in his forties and how he wanted more boys. Often that winter he
would stop work in the snowy fields where he was husking corn to
look out across the frozen lake and sigh.

"Four-thirty-nine'll be another half hour late," said Nat Cumlien,
coming out of his cage to throw half a hod of soft coal into the
stove. "Got some big drifts down near Janesville."

"Four-thirty-nine ain't been on time in ten years, drifts or no
drifts," said Stud.

"Well, I do my best," said Nat.

He went out onto the platform and changed the lantern, threw a
couple of bundles of hides and some milk cans onto the truck, came
in blowing on his fingers and brushing off the snow.

"Whew, that'd freeze the ears off a brass monkey," said Nat. He
retired to his cage and his game of solitaire.

After an eternity the big headlight cut through the snow and the
muffled whistle shook the windows. Stud hurried out to the platform
as the train wheezed in and ground to a stop. Early Ann jumped
off, laughing and squealing. He carried her baggage to the cutter
and they streaked home through the storm to the accompaniment
of jingling sleigh-bells and creaking snow beneath the polished
runners. Deeply covered with robes and sharing each other's warmth,
they shouted to each other above the storm.

It was good to be home again, good to be turning in at the
Brailsford gate with the windows of the farmhouse shining on the
snow. Stud hurried off to unhitch while Gus helped Early Ann with
her bundles.

Sarah stood on the back stoop shivering and wiping her hands on her
apron.

"Welcome home, Early Ann," she cried.

"Here I am safe and sound, Mrs. Brailsford. I had a wonderful time."

"Did you see the stock yards?" Gus wanted to know. "Or Sears,
Roebuck's?"

"It'll take a year to tell all I saw," said Early Ann. She went
into the warm, lamp-lit kitchen fragrant with the smells of pie
and coffee and roasting meat. They had a surprise for Early Ann.
Gus had caught a raccoon in one of his traps. They were having a
raccoon supper with sweet potatoes and corn bread.

"Hope it tastes as good as it smells," said Early Ann. "Here, Mrs.
Brailsford, let me help with everything."

"Change your dress first, child."

Throughout supper she regaled them with the wonders of Chicago: the
room she had had six stories above the street with electric lights
and a brass bed, and a private bathroom with hot and cold running
water. She had lived like a queen. She had slept until eight
o'clock every morning, and once she had taken her breakfast in bed.

"And you should see the limousines and street cars, and boats on
the river! They got bridges that lift up, and buildings five times
as tall as the windmill," said Early Ann.

"Did you see the Board of Trade?" Stud wanted to know.

"No I didn't," the girl admitted, "but I saw a woman smoking a
cigarette, and couples doing the tango on a glass dance floor. It
was lovely the way they served food, with white napkins and pretty
glass and silver."

"I'm so glad you went," Sarah said. "It'll be something to think
about until the day you die."

"Such pretty dresses in the stores," said Early Ann. "I sure do
wish you could have been along, Mrs. Brailsford. I bought myself a
new corset and.... Oh, I shouldn't."

"Don't mind me," said Gus.

"There was a big parade for Emmeline Pankhurst who came all the way
from London to talk about woman suffrage, and I was as close as
across this room from her. She looked like a fighter all right."

"She's a criminal," said Gus, "she oughta be hanged."

"She's a great leader and a fine woman," said Sarah, quietly.
"They'll treat her like a real saint before she dies."

"And everybody was all aflutter about General Booth coming to town,
and I went to a drama called 'Lead, Kindly Light.' It was awful
uplifting."

When she couldn't think of another thing to tell them, Early Ann
brought some packages to the table.

"This is for you, Mrs. Brailsford."

Sarah opened the pretty box with trembling fingers, saying, "You
shouldn't have done it, Early Ann. I don't deserve a thing." And
when she found silk stockings in the box she started to cry.

"Why, I never had a pair of silk stockings in my life," she said.

"I'll have to watch you, now you got silk stockings," said Stud.
"You'll be running off with Vern Barton or somebody the first thing
I know."

Sarah looked through the silk at the lamp and rubbed the smooth
stuff against her cheek. She kept them treasured in her bureau
drawer, but never wore them to the day she died.

The present Early Ann had bought for Gus was a set of arm garters
and matching green tie. The hired man grinned like a Cheshire cat
when he opened the box.

Stud was given a magnificent, fancy white vest of imported
bird's-eye weave with detachable pearl buttons.

"Never seen anything so classy in all my born days," said Stud,
slipping into the vest. He put his watch in the watch pocket,
draped his gold log-chain across his middle, and paraded in front
of the kitchen mirror, holding up the lamp to get the full effect.

"That's mighty nice of you, girl," said Stud. "I reckon I ought to
kiss you for that."

"Stanley," said Sarah, in laughing disapproval, "I reckon you
better not."

Early Ann said she would keep Peter's present until she saw
him. Meanwhile she had one more gift for the entire family. She
unwrapped a small stereopticon on which she had squandered seven
dollars. Sarah put up a sheet at one end of the kitchen, while
Early Ann lighted the coal-oil lamp in the little black box and
blew out all the other lights in the room. There in the warm, dark
kitchen they spent two magic hours. Over and over again they called
for "Rock of Ages," "Niagara Falls," "The Statue of Liberty," "The
Sinking of the Maine" and "The Washington Monument." Altogether
there were twenty-four slides in full color.

"Next time you go to Chicago you got to take me," said Gus, pouring
Early Ann another mug of cider.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was not until Early Ann saw Peter, and gave him the gold watch
she had bought him, that she told the other side of her trip to
Chicago.

"I was scared half the time and so lonesome. I felt like coming
home on the first train. I didn't know a single soul and the city
was so big and noisy. You don't catch me going to Chicago all alone
again."

"And I'll bet you spent all your money," Peter growled accusingly.

"I got two hundred and three dollars left," said Early Ann,
averting her eyes. "I feel kind of wicked when I think how I've
squandered ninety-seven dollars. But I ain't going to spend one
more cent until the day I'm married. I've got to have something
left to help set up housekeeping."

"Who you going to marry?" Peter asked.

"Oh, I got a fellow," lied Early Ann. She wanted to egg him on, and
she was a trifle disappointed at the casual way in which he had
taken it.


2

One windy November afternoon when Stud and Gus were cutting
firewood in the grove beside the lake, Stud looked across the bay
and was surprised to see smoke streaming from the chimney of the
old hunting lodge on Lake House Point. The blizzard, which had
flung ten-foot waves against the crumbling cliff, had stripped the
leaves from oak and elm and maple, sent them in cascades down every
ravine and gully, left the old building naked to the eye.

"Looks like we got a neighbor," said Stud.

"Better not monkey with my mushrat traps."

"What'd you do?"

"Pepper his behind with rock salt from the old ten gauge."

"You talk big," Stud admitted. "Why don't you mosey over and see
who it is?"

"Not me," said Gus. "It ain't healthy."

Stud grinned. He knew that Gus would rather sleep in a cemetery or
break a looking-glass than set foot on Lake House Point.

Long ago the limestone bluff had been the stronghold of Indians.
Later a small colony of Mormons, hated alike for their polygamy and
their horse-thieving, had made the Point their hide-away until
chased from the country by the indignant settlers. In the eighties
a club of rich Chicago duck hunters had put up the present lodge
where shortly before the turn of the century a bloody murder had
occurred. No one went near the lodge now. The porches were drifted
deep with leaves, the old boathouse was strewn in whitened planks
the length of the beach. The bluff was overgrown with sumac, ivy
and grapevines. Scrub oak extended from the edge of the cliff to
the marsh behind the Point.

Old women, children and hired hands believed implicitly that ghosts
could be seen at the broken windows of the lodge and in the rotting
halls and paneled rooms. Stud scoffed at all these old-wives'
tales, but admitted he would rather live on his own side of the bay
than on that bluff with its unpleasant memories.

"Might be that feller," suggested Gus.

"The one prowling around here nights?"

"Might be."

"Might be, but probably ain't."

Possibly Gus was right. Stud had an uneasy feeling that a man
by the name of Joe Valentine was living in the lodge, trapping
perhaps, catching fish, stealing a few chickens.

Stud had heard of Joe Valentine from Timothy Halleck who in
tracing Early Ann's claim to the Horicon farm had run across Joe's
trail. Later Early Ann herself had admitted the existence of this
stepfather, and had confessed to Stud that it was Joe who had been
annoying her. She told Stud something of her early life, her days
with Joe and her mother in the shack near Rockford, Illinois, her
mother's death, and her flight from her stepfather.

She said she had been ashamed of Joe, of his treatment of her
mother, and of his attitude toward _her_. She had wanted to
forget the past, to live where no one would know that she was the
illegitimate child of Bung Sherman, or the stepdaughter of Joe
Valentine.

Stud thought of Joe as more of a nuisance than a menace.
Nevertheless he was determined to investigate his new neighbor on
Lake House Point.

Other matters intervened. Ulysses S. Grant had acquired a taste for
chicken, and almost every unlucky fowl who got into his pen was
caught by the wily boar and eaten alive. Stud had to put chicken
wire outside the planks of the boar's pen to save Sarah's flock
from destruction.

Then there was the problem of Peter and Maxine Larabee. Stud was
of the opinion that the boy would never be a man until he learned
the facts of life first-hand, but Sarah was worrying herself into
another nervous breakdown. Stud made a futile trip to town. Peter
was belligerent and uncommunicative. Stud was outwardly bellicose
but secretly sympathetic. The net result was a widened breach
between father and son, although Stanley led Sarah to believe that
he had put some sense into the boy's head.

Brailsford had momentarily forgotten his plan to investigate the
old hunting lodge when one morning--the day before Thanksgiving--he
found a man setting a trap at the end of a hollow log just out of
sight of the house over the crest of Cottonwood Hill.

"Trying to catch one of my 'coons?" Stud asked amiably.

The man whirled to face him, his hand on his sheath knife.

"Nothing to fight about," said Stud. "What's your name?"

"Joe Valentine."

"You ain't the fellow who's moved in over on the Point?"

"That's my business," said Joe.

"I'll make it my business. You been prowling around here quite a
bit lately."

"I got a right to catch my living," said Joe. Every night he looked
across the bay at the glowing windows of the Brailsford farm,
thought of his stepdaughter over there, all the good things to eat.
"I got a right," he said.

"I got a right to run you off my land."

"You ain't got a right to Early Ann."

"Get off my place before I get mad," Stud said. He had his
womenfolks and cattle to think about.

Joe whipped out his knife and prepared to spring. Like sticking a
pig, he thought. Like the time his father killed his kitten with a
butcher knife. He had buried the cat and put flowers on its grave.
After a few days he dug it up to see if it had gone to heaven.

Joe leapt. Stud sidestepped, put out his foot. Joe tripped, fell
into the bushes, turned a complete somersault and was up again,
knife in hand.

"You're going to hurt yourself with that knife," Stud said. "We
don't fight with knives in these parts."

Stud never gouged or bunted, but he could see that anything went
with Joe Valentine.

Joe sprang again. His knife slashed empty air. Simultaneously
something like a sledge hammer hit him behind the ear. He
staggered, whirled.

More careful now, the men feinted, maneuvered, circled for
advantage.

Joe doubled over as though caught with pain. Stud rushed. Joe
tossed a handful of snow and fine gravel into Stud's eyes.
Half-blinded, Stud leapt back. He felt the knife rip into his right
shoulder and the blood wet his shirt. Bright blood sprinkled the
dirty snow.

Now Stud was fighting in earnest. As Joe came on, Stud aimed a kick
at the knife arm, missed, fell. Joe tried to hamstring the fallen
giant, was lifted bodily into the air by a great backward kick.

They were up again, feinting and charging. Stud grabbed the knife
arm in a clinch, held it as in a vise, slugged with his other fist
Joe's head and body. Joe brought up his knee. Sickness swept over
Stud in a great wave.

They were rolling on the ground now, panting and straining,
tearing up the bloody snow and gravel. Stud caught Joe's arm in a
hammer-lock. Joe screamed in pain, dropped his knife. Stud grabbed
for a full Nelson, and Joe slipped out of his grasp like a snake.

Stud kicked the knife out of reach as they leapt to their feet.
They slugged, sweat and panted. Two men on a hilltop overlooking
the world. Murder in their hearts.

Joe was quicker and more slippery, a tricky boxer, fast with rabbit
punches, kidney punches, jabs below the belt. Stud had the power of
a bull, was tireless and able to take almost limitless punishment.
He sent haymakers crashing to Joe's lantern jaw, heart, and solar
plexus. His shoulder was throbbing, but he battled on.

Joe made a crying sound through his torn lips. Suddenly he was
afraid. He turned and ran down the hill through the hazel brush,
sobbing, breathless.

Stud did not follow. He watched Joe Valentine bee-lining for Lake
House Point. Slowly he doubled his right arm and felt the huge
bicep.

"That's the last we'll see of Joe Valentine," he told the giant
cottonwood. He chuckled as he strode back toward the house.


3

With silos full, full haymows, bins of grain; with sheds loaded to
the last beam with tobacco; with the farm shipshape and bright with
new paint they faced the coming winter.

The provision cellar was loaded with earthenware crocks of
pickles, sauerkraut and preserves; glasses of jelly; mason jars of
cherries, applesauce, plums, pears, raspberries, and strawberries.

The smokehouse reeked of ham and pleasant hickory smoke from
morning until night. Hams hung in the cellar beside the slabs of
bacon, and the small white ears of popcorn. In a dry bin with a
wooden floor were hickory nuts and walnuts by the bushel with a few
pecks of butternuts and hazel nuts to furnish variety.

Apple cider in brown jugs, wild grape juice in tight bottles, with
just a gallon or two of blackberry cordial in case of sickness
lined the lower shelf of the can cupboard. There were bins of sand
for carrots, beets and celery. Pie pumpkins in one corner, hubbard
squashes in another.

And although Stanley Brailsford longed for more children, wished
that Sarah could have better health, and mourned the rift which
was slowly arising between himself and Peter, he had much to be
thankful for as he said the blessing over his Thanksgiving dinner.

Above all he thanked God most devoutly that he was the strongest
man in Southern Wisconsin and could provide for and protect his
womenfolks and cattle.



CHAPTER XI


1

"Stop the team a minute," Peter told Gus. He looked down upon the
white-roofed house and barns, the frozen creek, strawstacks like
giant mushrooms capped with white, the drifted hedgerows interlaced
with rabbit tracks, Lake Koshkonong like a floor of green glass
surrounded by its gnarled forests of black, leafless oaks.

"What's the matter?" Gus asked. "Had a fight with your girl?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Don't trust no woman farther'n you could throw a horse," counseled
the hired man.

"I told her that if she went off to her Grandmother's in Madison
over Christmas she could stay away for good."

"And so she went!"

"How'd you know?"

"Any woman would."

"Damn her," said Peter. "No, I don't mean that." He wondered why he
was confiding in Gus. No one else to confide in, really.

"Just act like she doesn't exist," said Gus. "Go ahead and have a
good time without her. She'll come crawling back on her belly."

"You don't know this girl."

"Maybe not this one," Gus admitted, "but they're all cats out of
the same litter."

       *       *       *       *       *

"You home, boy?" Stud asked.

Early Ann helped Peter off with his coat and chucked him under the
chin.

"Trailer factory's shut down, Dad. They're losing money."

"Shut down for good?"

"Start up again the first of the year more'n likely."

"What'd you do if the 'Trailer' shut down for good?"

"Don't know, Father."

"Might you come back to the farm?"

"I might," said the boy, averting his eyes.

Four days until Christmas. The house was already decorated with
holly and red bells. There were frost flowers on the window panes
and the base burner glowed brightly. His mother was sitting before
the stove in her favorite rocker piecing a quilt.

"There's lots of rabbits this year," Sarah said. She thought: I
don't want him to kill rabbits. I hate trapping, hunting, and
slaughtering. It made me sick the time I saw Stanley castrating the
little boars.

"I'll have a good time, Mother," Peter said. He thought: why
shouldn't I have a good time. Maxine probably lets half the boys in
Brailsford Junction kiss her.

"We haven't had a good rabbit stew all season," Sarah said. She
thought: I used to tell him stories about every piece in the quilt.
What dress it came from and where I wore it. This piece is out of
the brown silk I took along on my honeymoon. I wore it that night
we rowed out on Lake Mendota and saw the dome of the capitol at
Madison shining in the moonlight. I wonder if Stanley remembers.

"That's a pretty quilt," Peter said. He thought: she used to tell
me stories about the pieces she was sewing. I wish she would again.

"See, it's a flower design," she said. She thought: he's grown up
now. He wouldn't want to listen.

"I got the drawings for my camp trailer done, Ma," he said. He
thought: I'll do something great for Mother when I'm rich.

"I'm sure Mr. O'Casey will build one," she said. She thought: then
he'll be gone forever.

"I'm not so sure," Peter said. He thought: if the "Trailer" shuts
down I'll probably have to come back to the farm and be glad of the
chance.

Sarah thought: I want to know every little thing about his
life--how he gets on at the factory, how Temperance Crandall takes
care of him, whether he smokes or drinks, whether he's a good boy
and goes to church, or whether he hangs around the pool hall. I
want to know about Maxine Larabee. But I don't dare ask. It would
frighten him still farther away.

The needle clicked against the thimble. The silk rustled in Sarah's
hands. Coal crackled in the stove and the wind whispered at the
corners of the house. After a while the smell of roasting chicken
drifted in from the kitchen.

"You're getting to be a big boy," she said. She thought: I wanted
him to stay little forever. I wanted to keep him close to me, but
he's grown so far away.

"I'm more than six feet," the boy said. He thought: it's beautiful
with Maxine. I can't get along without her any more. I'm a man now
and know all there is to know about women.

Sarah was startled looking into his face. She thought: why, he
isn't my little boy. He's a stranger.


2

That night at supper--chicken, dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed
potatoes, giblet gravy, hot mince pie and coffee--Stud waved a
drumstick while orating just what he would do if Joe Valentine came
across the Brailsford line again.

Still grasping the drumstick he assumed a fighting pose which would
have startled John L. Sullivan, the strong boy from Boston.

"I can't sleep nights for thinking of that terrible man," Sarah
confessed.

"Why don't we chase him off the Point?" Peter asked.

"Or have the law on him?" suggested Gus.

"I'll shoot him if I ever get a chance," Early Ann cried
passionately.

"Leave him to me," Stud told the rest of the family. "He ain't
harmful. He's got a right to live the same as we have. We ain't
going to shoot him or have the law on him, or run him off the
Point. But if he comes across our line again I'll give him a real
licking."

"Give him a couple of extra punches for me," said Early Ann. "I
wish I was a man. I'll bet I could lick him."

"And meanwhile," said Stud, "it's almost Christmas day. We'll have
to take him some victuals for his Christmas dinner,--something for
the Olesons and the Widow Morrison, too. We'll do it tonight."

"Drive over to Lake House Point at night?" Gus asked in dismay.

"Scared cat," taunted Early Ann.

"I wasn't thinking of myself," said Gus, "I was just worrying about
the womenfolks."

Early Ann tittered.

After supper they put on sheepskin coats and mufflers, filled a
bob-sleigh with pecks of potatoes, bags of apples, three small
picnic hams, and some canned fruit. They sat in the deep straw
covered with fur robes and went gayly down the road to the
tumble-down Oleson shack.

"They're Svenskies," said Stud, "but they're better neighbors than
some civilized people." He poked Gus in the ribs to emphasize the
taunt.

"I'd rather be a Scandihoovian than a gol darn beef-eating
Englishman," sniffed Gus.

It made Sarah sad to see how grateful Hilda Oleson was for the
presents. Ole Oleson was sullen as usual.

"Ay t'ink next yar Ay vill gif you sometink to eat, ya?" He puffed
vigorously at his corncob, and continued to carve his ship model.

The rosy Hilda, all aflutter, began to apologize for the state of
her house which was as spotless as a new pan. She led them in on
tiptoe to see young Ole, who would be a year old in a few months
now. He lay with his small, plump arms thrown above his head, his
lips working busily as he dreamed of Hilda's breast. The lamp light
made a halo of his blond fuzz, shone upon his pink cheeks and his
long eyelashes. The soft spot on his head beat rhythmically with
his pulse. He stirred, made a lusty sucking noise with his mouth,
opened his big blue eyes, and began to cry for his evening nursing.

Sarah, as always in the presence of a baby, mourned her age. Stud
was frankly envious; Gus, embarrassed.

"It seems like yesterday you were this size," Sarah told the
discomfited Peter.

Hilda put the baby in Sarah's arms, and he began to nuzzle at her
shrunken breasts. Quick tears sprang to her eyes.

"Ve yoost love little Ole," Hilda whispered to Sarah as they
returned to the other room. "Ay t'ink anudder kom pretty soon."

Ole senior brightened, seeing the Brailsfords gathered around his
son. He helped his wife to serve coffee cake and coffee, and when
the visitors were leaving forced them to take a beautiful little
full-rigged ship with a Norse figurehead at its prow. They had
never seen such exquisite carving. He followed them to the door,
and called after them, "Tack sa mycket ... thanks, thanks."

They were only a few minutes at the Widow Morrison's, then went
jingling through the snowy moonlight down the all but overgrown
road to Lake House Point. They crossed the corduroy stretch
bordered by leafless willow trees and climbed the rutted,
precipitous lane which rose through scrub oak and hazel brush to
the old hunting lodge. As they reached the kitchen door the light
went out, and although Stud went boldly in and called Joe Valentine
no one answered. They unloaded the food and carried it into the
dark kitchen, then turned the horses toward home and went plunging
down the hill,--sparks flying from the sharp-shod hooves.

One evening they went hunting rabbits in the moonlight to test out
the new shotgun which Temperance had given Peter as a pre-dated
Christmas present, and the next night all the young folks for
miles gathered for a bob-sleigh party.

Coming home at three in the morning through a white, silent world
Early Ann rested her head on Peter's shoulder. The moon was going
down in the west throwing long shadows from fenceposts and trees.
The tired horses walked slowly, blowing steam from their frosty
nostrils. Peter slipped his arm around Early Ann and she did not
take it away. He kissed her as they turned in at the farm and she
returned the kiss.

But he was happy that next morning she made no allusions to their
love-making. Instead she challenged him to a skating race and they
battled eagerly across the bay with the wind stinging their cheeks
and their skates ringing.


3

On Christmas Eve the whole family helped to decorate the Christmas
tree. They pinned their socks and stockings to the branches and
each in turn played surreptitious Santa Claus. Such rare luxuries
as oranges and English walnuts were stuffed into bags of red
netting, and these in turn were shoved into the foot of each
stocking. A very few inexpensive but thoughtful gifts were wrapped
in tissue paper and tied with silver ribbons. Stud had the worst
of it, trying to tie pretty bow knots with his large, blunt fingers.

They gathered about the organ and sang Christmas carols while
Sarah played. Beginning with such semi-frivolous songs as "Jingle
Bells" and "Deck the Halls with Wreaths of Holly," they progressed
to the more moving hymns such as "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,"
and "Silent Night, Holy Night." Sarah's sweet soprano, Stud's deep
bass, Early Ann's husky alto, and Peter's clear baritone joined
to praise the Mother and Child who one thousand nine hundred and
thirteen years before had occupied a manger in Bethlehem.

On that same Christmas Eve, Joe Whalen and Kate Barton who had been
respectively pumping and playing the Methodist pipe organ since
their late teens decided to elope to Janesville. Kate had finally
induced Joe to take the temperance pledge, but he felt that a quart
of rye was imperative to celebrate his coming nuptials.

Temperance Crandall lit the candle in her front window. She could
hear the children singing at the church, but she did not cross
the street to attend the cantata. After a while she blew out the
candle, stoked the fire, went up the cold, dark stairs to her bed.

On a Pullman sleeper roaring toward New York, Mike O'Casey awoke
from a fretful sleep, pulled up the blind, and found he was in
Cleveland. Christmas carollers were making an ungodly racket on the
station platform. He made obscene remarks about the whole idea of
Christmas as well as the fool notion of attempting to run a trailer
factory in Brailsford Junction. His friend O'Hallohan, the New York
banker, would have to sign his note for fifty thousand dollars, or
he would tell Tammany what he knew about O'Hallohan.

To the tune of the "Junkman Rag" Maxine Larabee was dancing the
night away in Madison, Wisconsin, with a Beta from the University
of Wisconsin who would presently know the last word on legumes,
rotation of crops, and soil analysis. She was very sleepy the next
morning when her wealthy grandmother came into her bedroom crying
"Merry Christmas."

From the windows where he sat brooding Joe Valentine could see the
Brailsford home ablaze with Christmas. A plan began to take form
in his slow mind. If Stud Brailsford thought that he could buy
him with a few groceries he was badly mistaken. Joe never forgot.
He hadn't forgotten that nigger who had knifed him in Rockford,
Illinois. Some black woman was probably still hunting for that
shine.

And Stud Brailsford--when the others were in bed--went out with his
lantern to take a last look at the barns. The ponies drowsed in
their box stalls, the big bull's eyes glowed in the lantern light.
Stud stopped to pet the stallion and the twin Percheron colts. One
of those twins would some day make a great sire.

He noticed that the stars were very large and bright above his barn
that night.



BOOK FOUR



CHAPTER XII


1

_During 1913 the Palace of Peace at The Hague was dedicated. War
and cholera swept the Balkans. The munition works prospered as
Germany and France greatly increased their standing armies. Irish
Home Rule agitators and militant suffragettes made life miserable
for British statesmen. Forty million American church-goers gave
four hundred million dollars to religious organizations. American
junkers and the oil interests wanted armed intervention in Mexico.
Pavlowa in a syndicated newspaper feature taught America the tango
and other popular steps, while Aunt Prudence in her advice to the
lovelorn sternly counseled "Anxious" against kissing any man but
the one she intended to marry...._


But to Peter Brailsford, enamored of woman, a trifle uncertain of
his newly attained maturity, six feet tall, his muscles swelling
toward the gigantic proportions of his father's, his chest
deepening, and his mind exploring ever more distant horizons....

To this big healthy product of Southern Wisconsin the year's-end
meant but one thing. He was invited to supper and a New Year's
Eve celebration at Maxine Larabee's home, and he was determined
to create the right impression in the household of Brailsford
Junction's leading attorney.

There was little doubt that he was correctly attired, his table
manners would pass muster--though he must remember not to tuck his
napkin in his vest--and he had learned by rote what he was going to
say when he spoke to Attorney Larabee about marrying Maxine.

Nevertheless the big fellow trembled as he was admitted into the
magnificence of the Larabee home with its golden-oak mission
furniture, its wilton carpets and its beaded portieres. Mrs.
Larabee descended upon him plump, pink, and gushing. Maxine laughed
musically as she gave him her hand, but Attorney Larabee merely
grunted a hello from behind his paper and rolled his cigar into the
other corner of his mouth.

Peter felt depressed.

Despite Maxine's rendition (at her mother's request) of "Too
Much Mustard," and "I've Got a Pain in My Sawdust," with other
instrumental and vocal numbers. Despite comic postcards showing
vegetables the size of freight cars, Fords no larger than insects,
and the romantic series by Harrison Fisher entitled "Six Periods in
a Girl's Life." Despite such notable diversions as a Chinese puzzle
and a set of views showing the Grand Cañon in its actual colors--

Peter felt depressed.

Supper was served at last. After the blessing, soup was ladled from
a tureen embossed with lilacs into soup bowls of the same design.
And with the soup came the deluge:

"I understand you want to marry my daughter," boomed Mr. Larabee.

"Well, yes, sir," Peter admitted, looking into the green, viscous
liquid in his bowl and feeling ill.

"Are you prepared to support her in the manner to which...."

"Now, Charles," said Mrs. Larabee, "you were as poor as a church
mouse when you asked me."

"Mother!" said the stern head of the house, "I will take care of
this."

Mrs. Larabee slipped back into the soft and matronly sea of pink
chiffon from which she had momentarily arisen.

"I suppose you realize," said Attorney Larabee, "that Maxine comes
from one of Brailsford Junction's first families...."

"They named the town after a Brailsford," blurted Peter. "My dad's
the biggest stock breeder in Rock County. And I've got the best
chance in the world to be a great inventor or something.... And,
well, anyhow I love her," he finished weakly.

"Hmmm, hmmm," said Mr. Larabee. "I shall have to think about it."

Fuming, and scarcely touching his supper, Peter managed somehow to
last out the eternity between soup and pie. He wished violently
that he might forget for a moment that Mr. Larabee was Maxine's
father so that he could give him the beating he so richly deserved.
He wondered how it was possible that anyone so delightful as Maxine
could be the daughter of such a conceited, bigoted old thundercloud
as Attorney Larabee and his addle-pated wife.

At last the meal was over. Mrs. Larabee was remorseful, but
announced that she and Mr. Larabee could not stay for the young
folks' party. They could scarcely turn down the Billings who had
invited them over for the evening.

Peter waited until the old folks were gone, then with rapidly
beating heart went up the stairs and slipped into Maxine's bedroom
where the girl was dressing for the party.

She was in bloomers and silk shirt and was pulling on her stockings.

"Go away, Peter," she said. "No, no ... I can't."

He sat on the edge of the bed watching her moodily as she dressed
and primped before the mirror. She could turn his heart inside out
with the least gesture of her lovely hands. The way she threw back
her curls as she combed her hair, the way she tilted her chin as
she looked at herself in the mirror! He was mad about her, and she
was as cool as a cucumber.

It had been in this very room that they had been together that
night. They had lain, listening to the wind scattering the leaves
in a shower across the roof; hearing the distant clop, clop of
horses' hooves. They had almost been caught when the Larabee
automobile had turned in at the drive half an hour previous to
their expectations. Peter had slipped out a side door not a minute
too soon. He had been tying his tie when he was a block down the
street.

"I guess you're getting tired of me," Peter said with a lump in his
throat. "I guess you'll be making love to some other fellow one of
these days."

"How dare you, Peter Brailsford!" she cried, taking the hairpins
out of her mouth and turning to glare at him. "Suggesting that it
might be any boy like that. What kind of a girl do you think I am?"

"I'm beginning to wonder," Peter admitted, shocked at his frankness.

"Don't be tiresome," said the pretty girl, giving a final pat to
her hair. "Do you think anybody will notice if I don't wear a
corset? I simply loathe corsets."

"I suppose I am tiresome," said Peter, gloomily.

"Oh, shush!" said Maxine. "I asked you a question."

"Wear whatever you please," Peter said.

"Why, Peter Brailsford," cried Maxine. "You're simply horrid. Now
do be a good boy and help me with these hooks and eyes. I never can
get them by myself."


2

When he could no longer stand the uncertainty, Peter Brailsford
made his excuses to Milly Vincent,--she of the silly lisp and
carrot-colored hair. He stalked from the room while the piano and
violin played Strauss, ascended the dark stairs, and stood at the
landing watching the clouds scudding across the face of the moon.

The sound of laughter and dancing feet floated up to the unhappy
boy. He heard the Strauss waltz vaguely.

He said that he would go away to some other town where no one would
know him. He would go to Chicago or even New York. He would go to
the farthest ends of the earth and forget that there had ever been
a town named Brailsford Junction or a girl named Maxine.

After a few moments he turned from the window and ascended quietly
to the upper hall. Scarcely breathing, he put his ear to Maxine's
bedroom door. All that he could hear was the throbbing of his own
pulse in his ears.

Bud Spillman and Maxine had been drinking. He had seen them slip
away together half an hour before, and they had not come back. If
he found them together he knew that he would kill them and then
himself.

There! The rustle of silk. And now their voices and quiet laughter.

Strangely, he was not angry now. All of his fury was suddenly
drained away and he felt empty and shaken. He was amazed to find
that the violin was still playing the Strauss waltz.



CHAPTER XIII


1

On a steel-cold January morning with the frozen lake booming and
the wind whining along the telephone wires--a morning so cold
that the pump in the kitchen was frozen and three inches of ice
capped the stock tanks--the Brailsfords rolled out at four to begin
butchering. They left the deep warmth of their feather-beds, came
down the narrow, precipitous back stairs worn in hollows by years
of weary feet.

Early Ann thawed the pump with hot water from the tea kettle; Sarah
started the oatmeal, ham and eggs, toast and coffee. Gus scratched
a peep-hole in the hoar frost on the window pane and looked out
into the ten-below moonlight.

"It's a cold day to butcher," Sarah said. "Mightn't we wait a few
days, Stanley?"

"Hank Vetter says he ain't got a pork chop left in his shop."

"I suppose if we must, we must."

The men pulled on arctics, wrapped red mufflers about their necks,
drew on their worn dogskin coats and fur caps, and taking milk
pails and lanterns went out to the barns. They had no time this
morning to carry water for the stock. They chopped holes in the ice
on the tanks; drove the animals out to drink. The water froze as it
streamed from the beasts' lips. Breath froze in white clouds about
the horses' nostrils. The great bull, led by the nose, bellowed and
snorted in the lantern light. The horses' hooves rang on the frozen
mud of the barnyard.

"It's a rip snorter today," said Stud, coming in from the barns. He
warmed his hands over the roaring stove.

Sarah dipped him hot water from the reservoir and poured it into
the wash basin. She hung his coat toward the fire to keep it warm,
and hastened to serve the breakfast. While they ate they argued
the all-important problem of which animals were to die; and by
five-thirty they were ready to begin the day's work.

Sarah, steeling herself for the ordeal; Early Ann, who pretended
she did not mind slaughtering; Gus, who had a sentimental fondness
for every animal on the place; and Stud, for whom this day was the
climax of the hog-raising season, trooped down the hill to the
slaughter house, started a fire in the stove, and carried water to
fill the great iron kettle just outside the slaughter house door.

Stud began whetting his knives on his butcher's steel, making a
sound which cut through Sarah's flesh like a blade. He liked to
whet knives. And he could not deny it, he liked to slaughter.
He had the finest butchering equipment of any farmer on Lake
Koshkonong. Sticking, boning, and skinning knives in their
rack--the steel blades and brass studs in the rosewood handles
gleaming in the lantern light; the biggest butchering kettle in the
township; the best pair of hand-wrought gambrels, hung from the
finest reel on the strongest hickory axle.

Some farmers still carried away the blood in buckets, but
Brailsford had built himself a slanting trough. His heavy cleavers
with their hickory handles, his meat saws, hog hooks, scrapers,
chopping block and sausage machine were the best that money could
buy.

As always, Sarah felt an agony which she would not show. She
could not understand that quality in Stanley which made him enjoy
killing,--enjoy going out at night to knock the sparrows out of
their nests in the straw to wring the necks of the drowsy, blinded
birds. At haying time, too, he was careless of the rabbits and
half-grown quail as he drove his mower through the timothy and
clover. Sometimes when she lay beside him at night she thought of
his God-like power to give life and to take it away.

Sarah's job on the farm was to feed, nurse and tenderly raise. She
supposed that Stud must kill. And yet it frightened her to think
that she and her family were no more secure from death than these
animals. When the time came God would take them all as easily and
with as little ceremony.

"Go get the hogs," Stud shouted to Gus. "And, Early Ann, you start
the fire under the kettle."

Out of their warm hog house the pigs and sows were driven by
the hired man's boots. They were herded across the pig yard,
littered with thousands of corn cobs from the tons of corn they
had eaten. They went in a complaining, squealing drove past the
soul-satisfying mudholes (now frozen) where they had wallowed
during the summer. They grunted and clambered over one another as
they were shunted into the slaughter house.

Early Ann, meanwhile, was starting the great fire of hickory and
oak under the black iron kettle mounted on its tripod. The red
and yellow flames licked up around the kettle, made a scene in the
darkness which might have accompanied an early witchburning on
the wind-swept New England shore. Sarah was singing a hymn as she
cleaned the sausage machine:

  "_Sweet the Sabbath morning,
  Cool and bright returning...._"

Then:

  "_The lovely spring has come at last;
  The rain is o'er, the winter past...._"

"Bring them on," cried Stud. He stripped off his mittens, picked up
the big sledge, spit on his hands and rubbed them on the smooth,
yellow hickory handle. He tested his strength with a couple of
preparatory swings, striking the sledge against the base of the
twelve-by-twelve hickory upright in the center of the building. His
blows shook the roof.

"Send me a big one, Gus."

The squealing of the pigs had by this time become terrific. The
crackle of the flames in the fire under the kettle, the thud of
Stanley's sledge, the shouts of Gus herding the pigs, the sweet,
clear notes of Sarah's singing filled the great, old building.

"Send me a big one, Gus. We'd better get going. It's lighting up in
the east."

Just as the edge of the sun appeared, sparkling like red fire
across five miles of frozen lake, Gus lifted the narrow sliding
door and booted a sow through the opening. "Crack, crack" went the
big sledge on the sow's skull. The pigs screamed and plunged about
in their pens. Quickly, now, they hooked the gambrels through the
tenons of her hind legs, heaved and sweat on the big pulley, lifted
the sow clear of the floor and snubbed the rope around a post. Stud
reached for his sticking knife, slit the sow's throat; the blood
poured into the trough beneath. There were horrid sounds of breath
gurgling through the slit throat.

All day they labored. They slaughtered six hogs and two young
steers, cleaned sausage casings, ground and stuffed sausage, coiled
it in tubs carefully. They scalded pigs and scraped them white and
smooth, then hung them up to freeze. They set aside a pail of blood
for blood pudding and blood gravy.

Stud sweat like a draft horse despite the chill of the building.
His big muscles worked like fine, heavy machinery. He was as happy
as a lark until they drove Ulysses S. Grant into the slaughtering
pen. Then his heart misgave him.

Ulysses, whom he had raised and tended so carefully. Ulysses whom
he had displayed so proudly at fair after fair. The great boar
whom he loved and hated, pampered and fought. But it could not be
helped. His breeding days were over. He was fierce and dangerous. A
menace to have about the farm. Ulysses Jr. would have to take his
place.

The boar's eyes gleamed wickedly as he stood with feet apart,
waiting. He smelled the blood, but he did not scream. He was ready
for his last fight and unafraid.

Stud trembled as he spit on his hands and picked up the heavy mall.

"Let him come, Gus. Get out of the way, girls."

He raised the sledge high above his head and brought it down with
every ounce of his strength squarely between the animal's eyes.

Then he dropped the sledge to the ground and cried like a baby.


2

Stud Brailsford paced the house like a caged bear. The family was
snowbound, and the enforced idleness made the big man restless and
moody.

For three days the snow had fallen burdening the trees, drifting
three feet deep against the parlor windows, making it necessary
to light the lamps at two each afternoon. Day and night the wind
and snow poured in torrents down the Rock River valley, lifted in
hissing spirals to strike against the house.

Stud had tried reading. He had mended and oiled harness, shucked
corn, shoveled snow for hours every day. He had played a dozen
games of checkers with the hired man. Still he was restless.

Coming upon Early Ann in the back pantry he pulled her roughly to
him and kissed her full on the mouth. She broke away but she did
not cry out. She looked at him bewildered, hurt, and tearful.

Stud was ashamed. He hung his head and went through into the
kitchen where Sarah helped him off with his boots and put on his
slippers. He knew now what was troubling him. He lay on the sofa
with his eyes closed, pretending to sleep, but in reality thinking
of Early Ann.

What a picture the girl was, her eyes bright and cheeks glowing!
Stud liked to watch her churning the cream (which they could not
deliver because of the blizzard). He liked to watch her poring over
the geography book to learn the state capitals and the principal
rivers of the United States. Her fingers flew deftly as she tatted
a yoke for a fancy nightgown. Stud wished he were still in his
twenties.

As Stud lay brooding on the sofa, Gus burst in with the exciting
news that the mailman had broken through and had brought the new
mail-order catalogue. Nothing short of this miracle could have
brightened the sad day for Stanley.

The new Sears Roebuck catalogue! It was a gala event. Let the snow
drift, stars fall, or nations vanish. The Brailsfords did not care.
They gathered around Stud who hastily tore the wrapping from "The
Farmer's Bible" and opened it on the kitchen table.

Stanley, as always, turned to the buggies, wagons and harnesses.
He had a Ford, it was true, but his first love had been the buggy.
He sighed deeply as he viewed the spanking new surreys, phaëtons,
runabouts, Concords and buckboards. He especially coveted buggy
number 11R720, a veritable dream in buggy manufacture illustrated
in full color. This swank creation, which the catalogue disclosed
had been especially designed for eastern customers, had drop axles,
green cloth cushions, triple-braced shaft, and flashing red wheels.
Even as steamboat captains must sometimes dream of smart clipper
ships, so Stud Brailsford, owner of a Ford, exclaimed aloud over
this beautiful mail order buggy--1914 model.

He decided that his stallion, who had recently had a touch of
colic, needed more exercise, and within ten minutes had filled out
an order for a skeleton road cart of sturdy design. He lingered
over the new cream separators, bright red gasoline engines,
ornamental fences, milk cans, lanterns, and one of the most
inspiring manure spreaders which ever spread manure. The 1914
catalogue was epochal in the life of this big farmer.

When Sarah and Early Ann were given a chance to look between
the covers they devoured the sections on clothes, jewelry,
silverware and kitchen equipment. With dreaming eyes they
caressed the lavallières engraved with roses, doves, and hearts;
the real diamond rings flashing blue fire; the Parisian toilet
sets elaborately hand-painted, monogrammed, and including two
sizes of what were politely known as combinets. Perfumes, soaps,
conch shells, and "high-class, hand-painted pictures inset with
mother-of-pearl" transported them to fairy land.

Their senses starved with drab reality, they viewed with hungry
eyes hats dangling red cherries, grapes, stuffed birds and ostrich
plumes. They lusted for the dainty nightgowns, embroidered
underwear, stylish coats and dresses, rococo silver, and exotic
wall paper they might never own.

"I sure do wish I had one of them blue enamel coal-oil stoves,"
said Sarah. "It'd be a real blessing in hot weather."

"I'll make out the order right now," Stanley said, remembering
guiltily how he had kissed Early Ann in the back pantry.

"You're too good to me, Stanley, I don't deserve it."

Early Ann said she was going to buy herself a pair of navy blue
high-button velvet shoes with flexible cushion soles. They could be
had for two dollars and twenty-five cents, only a quarter more than
it would cost to buy a sensible pair.

"And I'm going to get the family a sugarbowl-with-teaspoon-rack for
the center of the table, and some new sheet music for the organ."

"You save your money, young lady," Stanley warned.

Personally Gus wished he had a bulldog so that he might buy dog
collar 6R6268, ablaze with brass and imitation topaz. Then with a
college-shaped meerschaum pipe, a cane, a green suit and yellow
gloves he would go calling upon the new school teacher. If that
didn't impress her he didn't know what would.

When no one else was around he hastily turned to the section
displaying corsets and women's underwear. He had never seen
anything like it. Montgomery Ward's didn't have half as many big,
blooming girls in lace-trimmed drawers, union suits, princess
slips, corsets, and corset covers. He had never seen so many
stylish stouts with blossoming cheeks and magnificent buttocks. The
moment he dared he would carefully cut out whole pages of those
colorful girls, particularly the smiling matron whose union suit
was described as "snug fitting with flaring umbrella bottom."

"Gee," said Gus, "I'd like to have one of everything in this
catalogue."

Life could be lived in those days, as it can now, without stepping
off the farm for so much as a length of ribbon. You could "laugh
yourself to death" for fourteen cents by perusing "On a Slow Train
Through Arkansas," "Through New Hampshire on a Buckboard," or
"I'm From Texas, You Can't Steer Me." You could buy--and still
can--hay forks, Wilton carpets adorned with large red roses, slide
trombones, butter paddles, post card albums, cylinder records, or
magic lanterns for a relatively trifling sum.

And never before in the history of civilization was seen such a
display of hammocks, guns, cuckoo clocks, home remedies, feather
dusters, folding tubs, bust forms, pacifiers, bed pans, trusses,
windmills, lard presses, hornless talking machines and morris
chairs. Ben Hur's famous chariot race enlivened a full page in
color, while the devout could purchase the Bible for as little as
sixty-three cents.

They did not care if the storm was raging outside. They did not
care that they were snowbound. They were living in the romantic
world of the mail order catalogue where they were all as rich as
kings, where every woman wore a beautiful new dress and every man
was handsome and stylish, where there were bonbons and books and
beautiful buggies.

"Well, now that we've got the new catalogue, we know where we can
put the old one," said Gus, winking at Stud.

Sarah blushed and Early Ann giggled.

On the stairs that night, Stanley again caught Early Ann and kissed
her. The girl fought silently but furiously to free herself, and it
was during the struggle that Sarah came upon them.

Stud's wife was suddenly overborne with her age, her fragility,
and her helplessness. For a moment she was jealous, angry with
them both, and bitter. The following moment she was thinking of
Stanley and wondering if he weren't entitled to be faithless just
once in his life. Sarah felt that she would be the last person in
the world to keep another from happiness. Then she remembered Early
Ann, and she was afraid for the girl as though she had been her own
daughter. Heartsick, frightened, but determined to face the issue;
lost, bewildered, so in love with Stanley that it hurt her in the
pit of her stomach,--Sarah, in that long moment before she spoke
experienced half a life-time of sorrow, and the despair of millions
of women of her age, standing in lamplight on the worn stairs,
looking a little older.

"You might at least think of Early Ann," she said.



CHAPTER XIV


1

Shortly after midnight Peter was awakened with lantern light in his
eyes, and he sprang out of bed, smelling the fog and knowing that
case weather had come.

He stumbled into his overalls and followed his father and Gus down
the stairs and out into the yard where Vern Barton, Dutchy Bloom
and others were waiting. The fog was so thick that a man might have
lost his way in his own barnyard. The lanterns looked like fox fire
at twenty feet.

Stud led the way and the others followed, Indian file, down the
slushy lane to the tobacco sheds. The mist, which had rolled
northward flooding the valley from hilltop to hilltop, enveloped
them in a thick, white blanket, muffled their footsteps, and
drowned their voices with its weight of silence. Once when the fog
lifted momentarily Peter could see lights at other farm houses,
other lanterns moving, the whole countryside astir.

Stud rolled back the doors of the tobacco shed on creaking rollers
and the men flowed in through the wide, dark opening, went up
among the beams, began methodically and rapidly to lower the
heavily-laden laths of tobacco to the men below who piled them
log-cabin fashion on the dirt floor. Not a moment could be lost.
Tobacco leaves which had been as brittle as spun glass five hours
before were now as pliable as brown satin. Before a cold wind
could lift the fog, again freezing the leaves, the men must pile
and protect tons of tobacco. Later it would be stripped from the
stalk, bundled and hauled to the warehouses of the tobacco buyers
in Brailsford Junction.

There was a breath of false spring in the air. The huge shadows
cast by the men sprang up the walls and fell noiselessly. And
Peter, surefooted as a cat among the beams, was jousting with
shadows while he worked. Would he come back to the farm if this ten
day layoff were extended, or would he catch a train for Chicago?
Where would he forget Maxine the more easily? Where would he find
happiness again?

On this night of fog, smelling of oak woods, of thawing earth and
maple sap; surrounded by men he had known since childhood; watching
his father moving gigantically in lantern light, he wrestled
with his problems. What if the "Trailer" shut down for good as it
easily might? Would he come back to this farm where his father and
grandfather had labored before him, inherit these woods and fields,
and marshes? Hunt ducks in the fall, plow the land in the spring,
help at the birthing of calves and lambs and foals? He would
introduce new machinery, build a new house, perhaps, high on one of
the hills. Almost he was resigned to the idea. He thought his fate
could have been worse.

Shortly before dawn, Early Ann came with black coffee and thick
sausage sandwiches and slabs of buttered coffee cake. The men ate
greedily after the hard night's work. They paid crude compliments
to the girl who stood with graniteware coffeepot waiting to refill
their cups.

Early Ann had brought something special for Peter. When none of the
others were looking she slipped a little white hickorynut cake with
white frosting into Peter's dirty hand.

"You take the first bite," he said, holding the cake to her lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

When his ten days were up Peter almost wished that he did not have
to go back to the factory again. He had been tinkering around with
the thrashing machine, oiling the parts and tightening a nut here
and there. He hoped that he might be thrashing boss again next
summer.


2

"You might at least think of Early Ann," Stud's wife had said. He
_had_ thought of her until his spirit was tired, argued the problem
with himself, tossed in his sleep.

Now he was almost happy to have another grievance to occupy his
mind. Momentarily Early Ann was forgotten.

The Percheron had been grained too heavily and had not been given
sufficient exercise. What else might be the matter with the great
beast, the Lord alone knew.

"You and me, both!" Stud said to the sick stallion. "I wish all I
had the matter with me was a belly ache."

Doc Carlyle was out of town, so it was up to Brailsford to save the
horse,--no easy task. Teddy Roosevelt's head drooped almost to the
floor; his big, shining barrel was blown, and his eyes were dull
and lifeless. As Stanley and Gus stood watching the unfortunate
animal he suddenly jerked up his head, pawed the floor, and tried
to climb into the manger with his front feet.

"Poor old bastard," said Gus.

"Run get the pig bladder and elder shoot," Stanley said. "I'll fix
some turpentine and linseed oil."

The turpentine made the stallion frantic. He broke into a cold
sweat, plunged around and around his pen, threw himself down with
a crash, rolled over and got up again, dashed headlong into the
planks of his stall, stood on his hind legs pawing the air wildly,
screamed and foamed at the mouth, fell to the floor--his gigantic
muscles contracting spasmodically under his gleaming black hide.
There was a mad, frightened light in his eyes.

"It'd be like losing a member of the family," Gus said.

"We've got to save him," Brailsford cried. "Get Sarah to put over a
boiler of water. And bring the cayenne pepper and baking soda and
barbadoes aloes off the medicine shelf."

All night Stanley Brailsford worked over the Percheron, carried
steaming blankets to cover the heaving body, forced whiskey down
the terrified animal's throat, tried to soothe the brute by
petting him and talking to him as he would a sick child. He fixed
himself a bed on the feed box and tried to snatch a few winks of
sleep.

Shortly after midnight a cold wind made the lantern flicker.
Stud Brailsford looked up to see Early Ann with coffee pot and
sandwiches.

"I couldn't sleep," she said. "How's the stallion?"

"Ain't kicking around so bad."

Early Ann gazed thoughtfully at the horse for several moments.

"Probably stomach staggers," she said.

"How'd you know?"

"I've taken care of 'em before."

The man wolfed his sandwiches and drank his scalding black coffee.
Early Ann went into the stall, dropped to her knees beside the
stallion and began to pet his quivering shoulder. His coat was
rumpled and full of straw, his heavy legs listless. The girl got
the curry comb and began to curry very gently. She put a gunny-sack
over the Percheron's head to shade his eyes from the lantern light.

"You're quite a hand with a sick stallion."

"Got to pamper 'em like you do all males."

"You'll make a great wife for some lucky farmer."

"I'm going to try," the girl said earnestly. "I'm sewing things
against the day."

"Wish I was twenty years younger."

"That'd be two years before I was born."

They were silent for several minutes, Early Ann currying the
stallion, Stanley brooding and munching his sandwiches. Once the
Percheron tried to get to his knees, then sank back wearily in the
straw.

"You'll be all right," Stanley told the big animal. "You ain't
going to die. You're a big husky critter that can stand all kinds
of belly aches."

The girl picked up the coffee pot and started for the door.

"Wait," the man said. He came quickly to her side and put his arm
around her. Trembling and frightened she tried to get away. The
rasping breath of the stallion, the strange light, and the huge arm
around her waist made her feel faint.

"I can't," she said.

"Why not?"

"I can't do anything like that to Sarah, and to you and me."

"No," the man said. "I suppose you can't."

After she had gone Stud tried to sleep, but could not. Mice
ventured out into the ring of light and nibbled at kernels of
corn. The wind shoved at the door and rattled the black window
panes. The animals stirred in their sleep, sighed deeply, dreamed
of lush green pastures.

At half past three in the morning the stallion had another bad
spell, and Stud thought he was going to die. He wished that he had
a hypodermic needle so that he could puncture the gut at the spot
where it had become the most distended. He felt helpless in the
face of death. He pleaded with the stallion not to die.

Strange how big male things could die so easily. They were so
strong and fiery and full of life one moment and dead the next.
You could breed them to size, color, speed or endurance but you
couldn't breed them against death. It made Stud Brailsford think
of his own mortality watching the stallion hour by hour. He wished
again that he could leave a dozen boys to propagate his kind.

"Don't die," he said. "Don't die, big fellow."

       *       *       *       *       *

All day they tended the stallion, and the next night Stanley again
insisted upon watching throughout the night. This time Early Ann
brought coffee and sandwiches before the rest of the family went
to bed. Stanley said nothing but pulled the girl roughly to him.

"No, no," she whispered. "Don't, Mr. Brailsford, please. I ain't
strong enough to fight you, Stanley, please."

She began to cry, so he let her go, unharmed. She did not leave
immediately, but waited to pour him another cup of coffee.

She wondered if he were asking too much, if other girls were so
virtuous. She wondered if she should be kind to this unhappy man.
But before she could answer these questions they saw the first
flames and caught the smell of burning hay.


3

Looking back upon that night of wind and gusty rain when the
Brailsford barn burned like a pile of dry shavings in a forest
fire, Sarah sometimes wondered what blind impulse had sent her
through the smoke and flames to save the twin Percheron colts. She
thought that perhaps it was her feeling of protection for young
things. She couldn't bear to think of the colts being burned.

"Save yourself, Mother," Brailsford had cried above the roaring
fire, struggling vainly to save the stallion; pleading, whipping
and cajoling. At last he left the inert sire, rushed to the box
stall of Napoleon and led the bull to safety.

"Help Gus with the cows down at the other end," Stud shouted to his
wife. "I'll get the horses."

He went in among the fire-crazed mares and geldings, old work
horses who were faithful and quiet in the field but who were now
leaping, terrified, wild animals, straining at their halter ropes,
pawing the floor, and shying like unbroken yearlings at the thunder
of the flames. Early Ann led the three ponies into the tobacco
shed, then ran like the wind to the telephone in the kitchen.

"Hurry, it's the Brailsford barn," she cried. "Take the short cut
over Barton's hill."

Vern Barton, Ole Oleson and Dutchy Bloom were carrying water from
the stock tanks. Sarah and Gus were leading out the cows.

The big flames ran in sheets up the curving walls of the wooden
silo, burst like a volcano through the peaked roof, cracked and
thundered like a kettle drum in the half-empty cylinder. The
resinous siding of the barn burned like a fire of pine knots,
kindling the hand-hewn oak and hickory timbers cut from the forest
with axe and adz fifty years before.

Cows bawled. Pigeons and sparrows shot out like flaming rockets and
fell into the fields. Chickens squawked as they tumbled from the
building, ran around in circles like fighting cocks, or flew back
crazily into the scorching flames. A mother cat carrying a singed
kitten in her mouth stalked out of the barn, her eyes gleaming like
green coals. Ganders added their hiss to the hiss of the fire, men
shouted and women screamed.

In the hub-bub that went on about him Stud alone kept a clear head.
He ordered the men to form a bucket line, sent others for the spray
wagon which was used to throw a small stream on the adjoining
buildings, rushed in again and again after horses. It was while
he was leading out the last, maddened gelding that he was all but
caught in the passageway by the rearing, screaming beast. He could
hear Sarah calling him, beside herself with fear. He could see the
flame licking at the edges of the doorway and eating at the lintel.

"Steady, boy. Steady."

He patted the nervous shoulder, talked quietly to the frantic
animal. Slowly the horse subsided, seemed to listen, followed Stud
in a dash through the door not a moment too soon as the flaming
lintel came crashing down behind them.

When the fire reached the haymow there was a flare and flash almost
like an explosion as the dust and loose hay ignited. All the colors
from blue-white to crimson played across the surface of the hay.
Then the fifty tons of timothy, alfalfa, and clover settled down
to a forty-eight hour blaze. Flame and smoke sucked and twisted up
the hay chutes like dust in a tornado. These blasts cut through
the shingled roof like a dozen blow-torches and spurted their
yellow pennants skyward. The flames licked and bellied in the wind,
belched from the open door of the loft with the hollow intonation
of a big gun.

"Help pull the hayfork down," cried Gus. He said in after years
that he had intended to fasten barrels of water to the fork, run
them down the fork track, and dump them on the flame. Before he
could attempt the impractical scheme the ropes had burned and the
fork had fallen with a crash, imbedding itself in the snow and mud.

Finally the fire department arrived. The big dapple grays had
run four miles dragging the heavy fire engine through the slushy
snow. They galloped into the barnyard lathered and panting, the
red wheels and brass mountings of their engine flashing in the
fire-light, steam and smoke belching from the funnel.

"Unwind the hose, boys," shouted Hank Vetter. "Where's the water,
Stud?"

"We'll use the tanks and then the cistern," Stud roared. "I got the
gasoline engine pumping from the well."

But all these sources were soon insufficient for the two inch hose
through which the fire engine forced its stream. They led the hose
to the creek, chopped a hole through the ice, and began to pump
from the deep hole beside the mill. The water sprayed upon the
burning roof, was shot in through the loft door; hissed into the
inferno leaving scarcely a trace.

"Look out!" cried Stud. "There goes the roof!" It fell with a
mighty crash throwing embers high into the air, shooting flames
seventy-five feet above the barn: blue, yellow, and red against
the inky sky; lighting up the countryside from Cottonwood Hill to
Charley's Bluff. Another fire was burning on the frozen lake, the
flames pointing downward toward the center of the earth.

Then the timbers holding up the hay collapsed and half-a-hundred
tons of burning grass fell into the stables. The great stallion
screamed once and then was still.

Sarah came over to comfort Stud.

"We've got each other and most of the stock," she said.

"We'll make it somehow, Mother. We'll start all over."

"I'll go to the house now and fix something for the firemen."

"I guess you might as well."

Hank Vetter, chief of the volunteers, left his engine and came over
to where Stud was listening to the condolences of his neighbors.

"How'd it start?" yelled Hank.

"Darned if I know," said Stud, scratching his singed head. "I was
tending a sick stallion and...."

"Was you smoking?" asked Hank.

"Never smoked around the barns in my life."

"Didn't tip over the lantern?"

"Lantern was hanging from a peg. Never touched the lantern."

"Well, it couldn't have started by itself," said Hank. "Let's look
around."

They had taken less than a dozen steps down the lane when a figure
started up from behind a stump, jumped the fence, crashed down the
hill toward the lake, and began to skirt the bay.

"It's Joe Valentine," shouted Early Ann.

"This is my job," Stud cried, dashing after the fleeing figure.

Hearing shouts, Joe Valentine decided to risk the shortest way
to Lake House Point. He leaped onto the melting ice and ran and
stumbled two hundred yards out from the shore. They saw him clearly
in the light of the burning barn as he crashed through into the
black water and went down; and although they watched the dark hole
in the ice for twenty minutes he did not come up again.



BOOK FIVE



CHAPTER XV

1


_During the spring of 1914 Edith Cavell was going quietly about her
civilian duties of mercy in Brussels. A Bolshevik agitator by the
name of Lenin was hiding in Galicia sending anonymous articles to
Russian newspapers. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary
of the U.S. Navy, attended the ceremonies which began construction
of battleship number 39, "the greatest fighting machine in the
universe." Villa had the federals on the run south of the Rio
Grande. The veteran Joffre deep in Plan 17 eyed the aging but wily
von Moltke across the Rhine. Aunt Martha in her Household Hints
suggested putting ordinary glass marbles in the tea-kettle to keep
the lime from gathering._

       *       *       *       *       *

But on the Brailsford farm they were building a new barn.

For twenty-four hours the Brailsfords had been stunned by the loss.
They had gone about their duties in a daze. No one had seen Sarah
crying, but her eyes were rimmed with red, and Stanley silently
mourned the loss of his big Percheron and the Jersey heifers.

Then, while the last charred timbers were still smouldering they
turned to the more consoling thought of reconstruction. They
would have a magnificent new barn with arching roof and silver
ventilators. They would have a barn which would house fifty head of
cattle besides the horses, with a hayloft twice the size of the old
one.

Peter came home every week-end to help with the work. He insisted
that the barn be piped with drinking water for the cattle, that
the steel stanchions and cement floor be of the latest design, and
that whole banks of windows replace what had previously been almost
windowless stone walls.

They worked with frantic haste for soon it would be spring, soon
there would be a quarter section to plow and plant. Already the ice
was breaking, the gulls were screaming overhead; great flights of
wild ducks and geese were wedging their way northward.

Stripped to his shirt sleeves even in the early March winds Stud
Brailsford worked early and late. He helped the carpenters to lift
the big four-by-eights and two-by-twelves into their places, drove
thirty-penny spikes as though they were finishing nails. He helped
to build the forms and pour the cement; wheeled big barrows of
sand, gravel and concrete; brought stone-boat loads of hard heads
to fill the sloping ramp.

Saws ripped through clean-smelling wood; hammers rang from dawn
until dark; wagonloads of lumber, shingles, barn-equipment and
paint came out daily from Brailsford Junction; and by the twentieth
of March the cows and horses were in their new, luxurious home.

It took all the insurance money on the old barn and nearly every
cent Stud Brailsford had in the bank. The big man was weary,
hard-hit financially, and definitely older. But he looked up
proudly at his great new barn and smiled.

Before Stud put a fork of hay in the mow they had a barn dance.
Corn meal was strewn over the wide pine boards and a four-piece
orchestra from Brailsford Junction was hired for the occasion. The
old folks danced the square dances to the squeaking of the fiddle,
and Stud who had not called the figures in fifteen years called
them that night as was his privilege since he owned the barn.
Neither he nor Sarah had gone to a dance in ten years, nevertheless
he led her proudly in the grand march and the Virginia Reel.

Later the young folks, to the scandalization of their elders,
danced the tango and the turkey trot, and they all ended the
evening with "Home, Sweet Home" and plenty of apple cider.

"I guess we can still kick up our heels," said Stanley, escorting
his wife from the barn to the kitchen door.

"Gee, you sure can rag," Early Ann told the glowing Peter.

"Maybe I can't dance so good," Gus confessed to the new school
teacher, "but I know where there's another jug of apple jack."

Almost before the paint was dry on the barn it was lambing time,
and night and day for more than a week the Brailsfords helped the
bleating ewes and their small dependents, warmed chilled lambs in
the "hospital" at the corner of the shed and gave the weakened
mothers encouraging shots of brandy. Four times there were twins
and once triplets. To Stud's dismay one little black lamb made
its appearance--a disgrace to his exceptionally pure flock of
Shropshires. As chance would have it the little black fellow was
orphaned and no ewe could be made to adopt it, so Early Ann raised
him a pet on a baby bottle.

The great old ram was kept securely locked in his pen through all
these proceedings. He looked on indifferently through the bars, his
thick white wool glowing and healthy; his massive, wide head, broad
shoulders and low-slung chassis the very essence of masculinity.

"He's got a leg on each corner," said Stanley admiringly, stopping
to pet the father of sixty-four new sons and daughters.

The pony mare and one of the Percherons dropped foals within the
next two weeks, and fawn-eyed Jersey calves arrived almost daily.
At the Oleson farm another little Swede entered the world. Sarah
and Temperance Crandall were on hand to help the midwife, but Early
Ann was strictly forbidden to go near the place until the baby was
born, washed, and placed in his hand-carved cradle. The arrival of
three small billy goats, and twelve litters of Poland China pigs
increased the blessed events on the west shore of Lake Koshkonong
to a staggering figure.

Stud Brailsford, deep in the spring plowing, had no time to think
of any woman. He bought a brooder and an incubator for Sarah,
and evenings he went into the cellar to tinker with the new
contraptions. In due time flotillas of fluffy ducklings, eight
hundred scrambling, peeping chicks, and a dozen long-necked,
awkward, yellow-green goslings were in evidence on every hand.

One night the orchard was taken in a single onslaught by the rush
of spring. The fragrant white billow swept over apple, cherry,
plum, and Sarah's flowering crab. Underneath the laden trees the
dandelions bloomed, and the bees came to plunder.

Once again spring was upon the land.


2

It might have occurred to Stanley--but never did--that throughout
the spring the boy had seemed curiously devoted to the farm,
unwilling to miss a single week-end in the country. It should have
seemed strange to Brailsford that when the "Trailer" went bankrupt
in May, Peter took the loss of his job so philosophically. But all
that Stud thought, when he thought about the matter at all, was now
his boy was back at last, that he had sown his wild oats and was
ready to settle down, and that during the coming season he would
make him thrashing boss again.


3

On the morning of June 28, 1914--the day that Gavro Princip shot
the Archduke Ferdinand at Serajevo--Stud Brailsford awoke just
before dawn. Ducks were quacking, geese hissing in the barnyard.
Roosters were heralding the dawn, answered across the lake by other
roosters. A cow bawled at her calf, the wind rustled in the corn.
Ten miles away a train whistled, and rumbled across the river
bridge. To Stud's simple mind the world had never seemed more
peaceful. The smell of coffee, toast and sausage drifted up from
the kitchen. The first streaks of color were showing in the east,
reflected on the surface of the lake.

Stud did not know that Europe was an armed camp, that civilization
was about to be blown to bits, that Wisconsin farm boys, whistling
as they went to the barns that morning, would soon be lying in the
mud of Flanders. Stud had never heard of the Archduke Ferdinand nor
of Serajevo. You could not have convinced him that a shot fired
by a Serb in remote Bosnia could affect his prosperous dairy farm
on Crabapple Point in the Fertile Rock River valley of Southern
Wisconsin.

It was Sunday. Peter and Gus were already up and doing the chores.
Stud could lie abed for another half hour if he wished. He could
go swimming in the lake, or merely lie in the hammock under the
trees, listening to the birds and taking life easy. Such indolence
was all but unbelievable to the big farmer who for the past three
and one-half months had been working sixteen hours a day, laboring
evenings and holidays, even breaking God's commandment by plowing
on Sunday. But at last the crops were planted; the corn was
knee-high, and the twenty acres of tobacco were a rich, healthy
green.

Stud yawned, stretched like a big cat, rolled out of bed and donned
clean blue shirt and overalls. Carrying his shoes and socks in his
hand he padded down the stairs, enjoying the feeling of the cool,
smooth wood under his bare feet. Sarah and Early Ann were busy over
the kitchen stove, the spot where they spent many a Sabbath.

"Sleepy-head," taunted Early Ann. "Chores are most done."

For the first time since the burning of the barn Stud really
noticed the girl. My, she was pretty! After breakfast he saw her
take sunbonnet and milkpail and start up the path toward the
strawberry patch beyond the hill. Ten minutes after she was out of
sight, he followed.

Sarah Brailsford guessed where he was going, and why, but she did
not raise a finger to stop him. Gus Gunderson knew by second nature
what was up. Stud, chewing a stem of Timothy, climbed the hill,
skirted the orchard, and there he found them.

For a moment Stanley Brailsford was dumbfounded. Then a slow smile
spread over his face. Briefly he stayed to watch Early Ann and
Peter sitting on the grassy bank with their arms around each other,
looking off across the lake.

Slowly old Brailsford retraced his steps, saying to no one
in particular, "Grandchildren. Ho, ho! I never thought of
grandchildren. Wonder what it'll be like to be a grandfather?"

He was still chuckling when he sat down beside Sarah on the front
porch.

"You know, when Peter and Early Ann get married, I'm going to build
them a house on Cottonwood Hill."

"I think that would be real nice," said Sarah. "It's the prettiest
view in southern Wisconsin."

"I hope they have a dozen children, Mother. I'd like about seven
boys and five girls. They'll be blue-ribbon babies if that pair
breeds 'em."



                        TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

-Obvious print and punctuation errors fixed.

-A Table of Contents was not in the original work; one has been
 produced and added by Transcriber.





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