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They changed cars, and on a train made up of antiquated coaches they wound through a side valley, down
which rushing and tumbling came the river that bore Roger's name. He went into the smoking car, and
presently George joined him there. George did not yet smoke, (with his elders), but he had bought a package
of gum and he was chewing absorbedly. Plainly the lad was excited over the great existence which he saw
opening close ahead. Roger glanced at the boy's broad shoulders, noticed the eager lines of his jaw, looked
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down at his enormous hands, unformed as yet, ungainly; but in them was a hungriness that caused a glow in
Roger's breast. One more of the family starting out.
"It's all going to depend on you," Roger gravely counseled. "Your whole life will depend on the start you
make. Either you're going to settle down, like so many of your neighbors up there, or you're going to hustle,
plan out your day, keep on with your studies and go to college--the State Agricultural College, I mean. In
short, keep up to date, my boy, and become in time a big figure in farming."
"I'm going to do it," George replied. His grandfather glanced again at his face, so scowling, so determined.
And a gleam of compassion and yearning came for a moment in Roger's eyes. His heavy hand lay on George's
knee.
"That's right, son," he grunted. "Make the family proud of you. I'll do all I can to help you start. My business
is picking up, thank God, and I'll be able to back you now. I'll stay up here a good part of the summer. We've
both of us got a lot to learn--and not only from books--we want to remember we've plenty to learn from the
neighbors, too. Take old Dave Royce, for instance, who when all is said and done has worked our farm for
twenty odd years and never once run me into debt."
"But, Gee!" demurred George. "He's so 'way out of date!"
"I know he is, son, but we've got to go slow." And Roger's look passed furtively along the faces in the car.
"We don't want to forget," he warned, "that this is still New England. Every new idea we have we want to go
easy with, snake it in."
"I've got an awful lot of 'em," the boy muttered hungrily.
* * * * *
At the farm, the next morning at daybreak, Roger was awakened by the sound of George's voice. It was just
beneath his window:
"But cattle are only part of it, Dave," the boy declared, in earnest tones, "just part of what we can have up
here. Think what we've got--over three hundred acres! And we want to make every acre count! We want to
get in a whole lot more of hogs--Belted Hampshires, if we can afford 'em--and a couple of hundred hens.
White Leghorns ought to fill the bill. Of course that's just a starter. I've got a scheme for some
incubators--electric--run by the dynamo which we'll put in down by the dam. And we can do wonders with
bees, too, Dave--I've got a book on 'em I'd like you to read. And besides, there's big money in squab these
days. Rich women in New York hotels eat thousands of 'em every night. And ducks, of course, and turkeys.
I'd like a white gobbler right at the start, if we knew where we could get one cheap." The voice broke off and
there was a pause. "We can do an awful lot with this place."
Then Dave's deep drawl:
"That's so, George--yes, I guess that's so. Only we don't want to fool ourselves. That ain't Noah's Ark over
thar--it's a barn. And just for a starter, if I was you--" Here Dave deliberated. "Of course it's none of my
business," he said, "it's for you and your grandfather to decide--and I don't propose to interfere in what ain't
any of my affair--"
"Yes, yes, Dave, sure! That's all right! But go on! What, just for a starter?"
"Cows," came the tranquil answer. "I've been hunting around since you wrut me last month. And I know of
three good milkers--"
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"Three? Why, Dave, I wrote we want thirty or forty!"
"Yes--you wrut," Dave answered. "But I've druv all around these parts--and there ain't but three that I can
find. And I ain't so sure of that third one. She looks like she might--" George cut in.
"But you only had a buggy, Dave! Gee! I'm going to have a Ford!"
"That so, George?"
"You bet it's so! And we'll go on a cow hunt all over the State!"
"Well--I dunno but what you're right," Dave responded cautiously. "You might get more cows if you had a
Ford--an' got so you could run it. Yes, I guess it's a pretty good scheme. I believe in being conservative,
George--but I dunno now but what a Ford--"
Their voices passed from under the window, and Roger relaxed and smiled to himself. It was a good
beginning, he thought.
They bought a Ford soon afterwards and in the next few weeks of June they searched the farms for miles
around, slowly adding to their herd. To Roger's surprise he found many signs of a new life stirring there--the
farmers buying "autos" and improved machinery, thinking of new processes; and down in the lower valleys
they found several big stock farms which were decidedly modern affairs. At one such place, the man in charge
took a fancy to George and asked him to drop over often.
"You bet I'll drop over often!" George replied, as he climbed excitedly into his Ford. "I want to see more of
those milking machines! We're going to have 'em some day ourselves! A dynamo too!"
And at home, down by the ruined mill he again set about rebuilding the dam.
Roger felt himself growing stronger. His sleeps were sound, and his appetite had come back to a surprising
degree. The mountain air had got into his blood and George's warm vigor into his soul. One afternoon,
watching the herd come home, some thirty huge animals swinging along with a slow heavy power in their
limbs, he breathed the strong sweet scent of them on the mountain breeze. George came running by them and
stopped a moment by Roger's side, watching closely and eagerly every animal as it passed. And Roger
glanced at George's face. The herd passed on and George followed behind, his collie dog leaping and barking
beside him. And Roger looked up at a billowy cloud resting on a mountain top and wondered whether after all
that New York doctor had been right.
He followed the herd into the barn. In two long rows, the great heads of the cattle turned hungrily, lowing and
sniffing deep, breathing harshly, stamping, as the fodder cart came down the lines. What a splendidly
wholesome work for a lad, growing up with his roots in the soil, in these massive simple forces of life. What
of Edith's other children? Would they be willing to stay here long? Each morning Roger breakfasted with
Bruce the baby by his side. "What a thing for you, little lad," he thought, "if you could live here all your days.
But will you? Will you want to stay? Won't you, too, get the fever, as I did, for the city?" In the joyous,
shining, mysterious eyes of the baby he found no reply. He had many long talks with Betsy, who was eager to
go away to school, and with Bob and little Tad who were going to school in the village that fall. And the
feeling came to Roger that surely he would see these lives, at least for many years ahead. They were so
familiar and so real, so fresh and filled with hopes and dreams. And he felt himself so a part of them all.
But one morning, climbing the steep upper field to a spring George wanted to show him, Roger suddenly
swayed, turned faint. He caught hold of a boulder on the wall and held himself rigid, breathing hard. It passed,
and he looked at his grandson. But George had noticed nothing. The boy had turned and his brown eyes were
CHAPTER XXXIX 149
fixed on a fallow field below. Wistfully Roger watched his face. They both stood motionless for a long time.
As the summer drew slowly to a close, Roger spent many quiet hours alone by the copse of birches, where the
glory of autumn was already stealing in and out among the tall slender stems of the trees. And he thought of
the silent winter there, and of the spring which would come again, and the long fragrant summer. And he
watched the glow on the mountains above and the rolling splendors of the clouds. At dusk he heard the voices [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]