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Vandemark's Folly by Herbert Quick

Part 5 out of 7

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"Well, Jake," said Henderson L., "you're in luck. You'll ride to the
party with your old flame, in a carriage. My wife and I are going on a
load of hay. Jim Boyd is the only other man here that's got a rig with
springs under it. The aristocracy of Monterey County, a lot of it, will
ride plugs or shank's mares. You're getting up among 'em, Jakey, my boy.
Never thought of this when you were in jail, did you?"

Nobody can realize how this talk made me suffer; and yet I kind of liked
it. I suffered more than ever, because I had not seen Virginia for a
long time for several reasons. I quit singing in the choir in the fall,
when it was hard getting back and forth with no horses, and the heavy
snow of the winter of 1855-6 began coming down.

It was a terrible winter. The deer were all killed in their stamping
grounds in the timber, where they trod down the snow and struggled to
get at the brush and twigs for forage. The settlers went in on snowshoes
and killed them with clubs and axes. We never could have preserved the
deer in a country like this, where almost every acre was destined to go
under plow--but they ought to have been given a chance for their lives.
I remember once when I was cussing[12] the men who butchered the pretty
little things while Magnus Thorkelson was staying all night with me to
help me get my stock through a bad storm--it was a blizzard, but we had
never heard the word then--and as I got hot in my blasting and
bedarning of them (though they needed the venison) he got up and grasped
my hand, and made as if to kiss me.

[12] "Cussing" and "cursing" are quite different things, insists the
author. He would never have cursed any one, he protests; but a man is
always justified in cussing when a proper case for it is

"It is murder," said he, and backed off.

I felt warmed toward him for wanting to kiss me, though I should have
knocked him down if he had. He told me it was customary for men to kiss
each other sometimes, in Norway. The Dunkards--like the Bohns and
Bemisdarfers--were the only Americans I ever knew anything about (if
they really were Americans, talking Pennsylvania Dutch as they did) who
ever practised it. They greeted each other with a "holy kiss" and washed
each other's feet at their great communion meeting every year. I never
went but once. The men kissed the men and the women the women. So I
never went but once; though they "fed the multitude" as a religious
function--and if there are any women who can cook bread and meat so it
will melt in your mouth, it is the Pennsylvania Dutch women. And the
Bohn and Bemisdarfer women seem to me the best cooks among them, they
and the Stricklers. They taught most of our wives the best cookery
they know.

I was disappointed when we started from Monterey Centre, with Judge
Horace Stone and me in the front seat, and Virginia in the back. As I
started to say a while back, I had not been singing in the choir during
the winter. The storms kept me looking out for my stock until the snow
went off in the February thaw that covered Vandemark's Folly with water
from bluff to bluff; and by that time I had stayed out so long that I
thought I ought to be coaxed back into the choir by Virginia or Grandma
Thorndyke in order to preserve my self-respect. But neither of them
said anything about it. In fact, I thought that Grandma Thorndyke was
not so friendly in the spring as she had been in the fall--and, of
course, I could not put myself forward. I had the pure lunkhead pride.

So I had not seen Virginia for months. We early Iowa settlers, the men
and women who opened up the country to its great career of development,
shivered through that winter and many like it, in hovels that only broke
the force of the tempest but could not keep it back. The storms swept
across without a break in their fury as we cowered there, with no such
shelters as now make our winters seemingly so much milder. Now it is
hard to convince a man from the East that our state was once
bare prairie.

"It's funny," said the young doctor that married a granddaughter of mine
last summer, "that all your groves of trees seem to be in rows. Left
them that way, I suppose, when you cut down the forest."

The country looks as well wooded as the farming regions of Ohio or
Indiana. Trees grew like weeds when we set them out; and we set them out
as the years passed, by the million. I never went to the timber when the
sap was down, without bringing home one or more elms, lindens, maples,
hickories or even oaks--though the latter usually died. Most of the
lofty trees we see in every direction now, however, are cottonwoods,
willows and Lombardy poplars that were planted by the mere sticking in
the ground of a wand of the green tree. They hauled these "slips" into
Monterey County by the wagon-load after the settlers began their great
rush for the prairies; and how they grew! It was no bad symbol of the
state itself--a forest on four wheels.

What I began to write a few moments ago, though concerned the difference
between our winter climate then and now. Then the snow drifted before
our northwest winds in a moving ocean unbroken by corn-field, grove, or
farmstead. It smothered and overwhelmed you when caught out in it; and
after a drifting storm, the first groves we could see cast a shadow in
the blizzard; and there lay to the southeast of every block of trees a
long, pointed drift, diminishing to nothing at the point where ended the
influence of the grove--this new foe to the tempest which civilization
was planting. Our groves were yet too small of course to show themselves
in this fight against the elements that first winter, and there I had
hung like a leaf caught on a root in a freshet, an eighteen-year-old
boy, lonely, without older people to whom I could go for advice or
comfort, and filled with dreams, visions and doubts, and with no bright
spot in my frosty days and frostier nights but my visions and dreams.

And I suppose my loneliness, my hardships, my lack of the fireplaces of
York State and the warm rooms that we were used to in a country where
fuel was plentiful, made my visions and dreams more to me than they
otherwise would have been. It is the hermit who loses the world in his
thoughts. And I dreamed of two things--my mother, and Virginia. Of my
mother I found myself thinking with less and less of that keenness of
grief which I had felt at Madison the winter before, and on my road
west; so I used to get out the old worn shoe and the rain-stained letter
she had left for me in the old apple-tree and try to renew my grief so
as to lose the guilty feeling of which I was conscious at the waning
sense of my loss of her. This was a strife against the inevitable; at
eighteen--or at almost any other age, to the healthy mind--it is the
living which calls, not the dead.

In spite of myself, it was Virginia Royall to whom my dreams turned all
the time. Whether in the keen cold of the still nights when the howl of
the wolves came to me like the cries of torment, or in the howling
tempests which roared across my puny hovel like trampling hosts of wild
things, sifting the snow in at my window, powdering the floor, and
making my cattle in their sheds as white as sheep, I went to sleep every
night thinking of her, and thinking I should dream of her--but never
doing so; for I slept like the dead. I held her in my arms again as I
had done the night Ann Gowdy had died back there near Dubuque, all
senseless in her faint; or as I had when I scared the wolves away from
her back along the Old Ridge Road; or as when I had carried her across
the creek back in our Grove of Destiny--and she always, in my dreams,
was willing, and conscious that I held her so tight because I loved her.

I saw her again as she played with her doll under the trees. Again I
rode by her side into Waterloo; and again she ran back to me to bid me
her sweet good-by after I had given her up. Often I did not give her up,
but brought her to my new home, built my house with her to cheer me; and
often I imagined that she was beside me, sheltered from the storm and
happy while she could be by my side and in my arms. Oh, I lived whole
lives over and over again with Virginia that lonely winter. She had
been such a dear little creature. I had been able to do so much for her
in getting her away from what she thought a great danger. She had done
so much for me, too. Had not she and I cried together over the memory of
my mother? Had she not been my intimate companion for weeks, cooked for
me, planned for me, advised me, dreamed with me? It was not nearly so
lonely as you might think, in one sense of the word.

And now I had not seen her for such a long time that I wondered if she
were not forgetting me. No wonder that I was a little flighty, as I
crowded myself into my poor best suit which I was so rapidly outgrowing,
and walked into Monterey Centre in time to be Judge Horace Stone's
body-guard the night of the party--I heard it called a reception--at
Governor DeWitt Clinton Wade's new Gothic house, over in Benton Township
that was to be.

I was proportionately miserable when I called at Elder Thorndyke's, to
find that Virginia was not ready to see me, and that Grandma Thorndyke
seemed cool and somehow different toward me. When she left me, I slipped
out and went to Stone's.

"Thought you wasn't coming, Jake," said he. "Almost give you up. Just
time for you to get a bite to eat before we start."


When we did start, his wife came out in a new black silk dress--for the
Stones were quality--and was helped into the back seat, and the judge
came out of the house carrying a satchel which when he handed it to me I
found to be very heavy. I should say, as I have often stated, that it
weighed about fifty to sixty pounds, and when he shoved it back under
the seat before sitting down, it gave as I seemed to remember afterward
a sort of muffled jingle.

"The treasures of Golconda, or Goldarnit," said he, "or some of those
foreign places. Hear 'em jingle? Protect them with your life, Jake."

"All right," I said, as glum as you please; for he had left the only
vacant place in the carriage back with Mrs. Stone. This was no way to
treat me! But I was almost glad when Virginia came out to the carriage
wearing a pink silk dress, and looking so fearful to the eyes of her
obscure adorer that he could scarcely speak to her--she was so
unutterably lovely and angelic-looking.

"How do you do, Teunis!" said she, and paused for some one to help her
in. Judge Stone waited a moment, and gave her a boost at the elbow as
she skipped up the step. I could have bitten myself. I was the person
who should have helped her in. I was a lummox, a lunkhead, a lubber, a
fool, a saphead--I was everything that was awkward and clumsy and
thumb-hand-sided! To let an old married man get ahead of me in that way
was a crime. I slouched down into the seat, and the judge drove off,
after handing me a revolver. I slipped it into my pocket.

"Jake's my body-guard to-night, Miss Royall," said the judge. "We've got
the county's money here. Did you hear it jingle?"

"No, Judge, I didn't," said she, and she never could remember any jingle

"Aren't you afraid, Teunis?"

"What of?" I inquired, looking around at her, just as she was spreading
a beautiful Paisley shawl about her shoulders. I dared now take a long
look at her. A silk dress and a Paisley shawl, even to my eyes, and I
knew nothing about their value or rarity at that time and place, struck
me all of a heap with their gorgeousness. They reminded me of the fine
ladies I had seen in Albany and Buffalo.

"Of the Bunker boys," said she. "If they knew that we were out with all
this money, don't you suppose they would be after it? And what could you
and Mr. Stone do against such robbers?"

"I've seen rougher customers than they are," said I; and then I wondered
if the man I had seen with the Bushyagers back in our Grove of Destiny
had not been one of the Bunker boys. They certainly had had a bunch of
stolen horses. If he was a member of the Bunker gang, weren't the
Bushyagers members of it also? And was it not likely that they, being
neighbors of ours, and acquainted with everything that went on in
Monterey Centre, would know that we were out with the money, and be
ready to pounce upon us? I secretly drew my Colt from my pocket and
looked to see that each of the five chambers was loaded, and that each
tube had its percussion cap. I wished, too, that I had had a little more
practise in pistol shooting.

"What do you think of Virginia's dress and shawl?" asked Mrs. Stone, as
we drove along the trail which wound over the prairie, in disregard of
section lines, as all roads did then. The judge and I both looked at
Virginia again.

"They're old persimmons," commented the judge. "You'll be the belle of
the ball, Virginia."

"They're awful purty," said I, "especially the dress. Where did you get
'em, Virginia?"

"They were found in Miss Royall's bedroom," said Mrs. Stone emphasizing
the "Miss"--for my benefit, I suppose; but it never touched me. "But I
guess she knows where they come from."

"They were Ann's," said Virginia, a little sadly, and yet blushing and
smiling a little at our open admiration, "my sister's, you know."

I scarcely said another word during all that trip. I was furious at the
thought of Buck Gowdy's smuggling those clothes into Virginia's room, so
she could have a good costume for the party. How did he know she was
invited, or going? To be sure, her sister Ann's things ought to have
been given to the poor orphan girl--that was all right; but back there
along the road she would never speak his name. Had it come to pass in
all these weeks and months in which I had not seen her that they had
come to be on speaking terms again? Had that scoundrel who had killed
her sister, after a way of speaking, and driven Virginia herself to run
away from him, and come to me, got back into her good graces so that she
was allowing him to draw his wing around her again? It was gall and
wormwood to think of it. But why were the dress and shawl smuggled into
her room, instead of being brought openly? Maybe they were not really on
terms of association after all. I wished I knew, or that I had the right
to ask. I forgot all about the Bunkers, until the judge whipped up the
horses as we turned into the Wade place, and brought us up standing
at the door.

"Well," said he, with a kind of nervous laugh, "the Bunkers didn't get
us after all!"

I was out before him this time, and helped Virginia and Mrs. Stone to
get down. The judge was wrestling with the heavy bag. The governor came
out to welcome us, and he and Judge Stone carried it in. Mrs. Wade, a
scared-looking little woman, stood in the hall and gave me her hand as
I went in.

"Good evening, Mr.----," said she.

"Mr. Vandemark," said the judge. "My body-guard, Mrs. Wade."

The good lady looked at my worn, tight-fitting corduroys, at my clean
boiled shirt which I had done up myself, at my heavy boots, newly
greased for the occasion, and at my bright blue and red silk
neckerchief, and turned to other guests. After all I was dressed as well
as some of the rest of them. There are many who may read this account of
the way the Boyds, the Burnses, the Flemings, the Creedes, the Stones
and others of our county aristocracy, came to this party in alpacas,
delaines, figured lawns, and even calicoes, riding on loads of hay and
in lumber wagons with spring seats, who may be a little nettled when a
plain old farmer tells it; but they should never mind this: the time
will come when their descendants will be proud of it. For they were the
John Aldens, the Priscillas, the Miles Standishes and the Dorothy Q's of
as great a society as the Pilgrim Fathers and Pilgrim Mothers set
a-going: the society of the great commonwealth of Iowa.

The big supper--I guess they would call it a dinner now--served in the
large room on a long table and some smaller ones, was the great event of
the party. The Wades were very strict church-members. Such a thing as
card playing was not to be thought of, and dancing was just as bad.
Both were worldly amusements whose feet took hold on hell. We have lost
this strictness now, and sometimes I wonder if we have not lost our
religion too.

The Wades were certainly religious--that is the Governor and Mrs. Wade.
Jack Wade, the John P. Wade who was afterward one of the national bosses
of the Republican party, and Bob, the Robert S. Wade who became so
prominent in the financial circles of the state, were a little worldly.
A hired hand I once had was with the Wades for a while, and said that
when he and the Wade boys were out in the field at work (for they worked
as hard as any of the hands, and Bob was the first man in our part of
the country who ever husked a hundred bushels of corn in a day) the Wade
boys and the hired men cussed and swore habitually. But this scamp, when
they were having family worship, used to fill in with "Amen!" and "God
grant it!" and the like pious exclamations when the governor was
offering up his morning prayer. But one morning Bob Wade brought a
breast-strap from off the harness, and took care to kneel within easy
reach of the kneeling hired man's pants. When he began with his
responses that morning, a loud slap, and a smothered yell disturbed the
governor--but he only paused, and went on.

"What in hell," asked the hired man when they got outside, "did you hit
me for with that blasted strap?"

"To show you how to behave," said Bob. "When the governor is talking to
the Lord, you keep your mouth shut."

I tell this, because it shows how even our richest and most aristocratic
family lived, and how we were supposed to defend religion against
trespass. I am told that in some countries the wickedest person is
likely to be a praying one. It seems, however, that in this country the
church-members are expected to protect their monopoly of the ear of God.
Anyhow, Bob Wade felt that he was doing a fitting if not a very seemly
thing in giving this physical rebuke to a man who was pretending to be
more religious than he was. The question is a little complex; but the
circumstance shows that there could be no cards or dancing at the
Wade's party.

Neither could there be any drinking. The Wades had a vineyard and made
wine. The Flemings lived in the next farm-house down the road, and when
our party took place, the families were on fairly good terms; though the
governor and his wife regarded the Flemings as beneath them, and this
idea influenced the situation between the families when Bob Wade began
showing attentions to Kittie Fleming, a nice girl a year or so older
than I. Charlie Fleming, the oldest of the boys, was very sick one fall,
and they thought he was going to die. Doctor Bliven prescribed wine, and
the only wine in the neighborhood was in the cellar of Governor Wade;
so, even though the families were very much at the outs, owing to the
fuss about Bob and Kittie going together, Mrs. Fleming went over to the
Wades' to get some wine for her sick boy.

"We can't allow you to have it," said the governor, with his jaws set a
little closer than usual. "We keep wine for sacramental purposes only."

This proves how straight they were about violating their temperance
vows, and how pious. Though there are some lines of poetry in the _Fifth
Reader_ which seem to show that the governor missed a real sacrament.
They read:

"Who gives himself with his alms feeds three--
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me;"

but Governor Wade was a practical man who made his religion fit what he
wanted to do, and what he felt was the proper thing. Bob and Jack were
worldly, like the rest of us. The governor got the reputation of being a
hard man, and the wine incident did a good deal to add to it. The point
is that there had to be some other way of entertaining the company at
the party, besides drinking, card-playing, or dancing. Of course the
older people could discuss the price of land, the county organization
and the like; but even the important things of the country were mostly
in the hands of young people--and young folks will be young folks.


Kittie Fleming was a pretty black-eyed girl, who afterward made the
trouble between Bob Wade and his father. At this party the thing which
made it a sad affair to me was the attentions paid to Virginia by Bob. I
might have been comforted by the nice way Kittie Fleming treated me, if
I had had eyes for any one but Virginia; but when Kittie smiled on me, I
always thought how much sweeter was Virginia's smile. But _her_ smiles
that evening were all for Bob Wade. In fact, he gave nobody else a
chance. It really seemed as if the governor and his wife were pleased to
see him deserting Kittie Fleming, but whether or not this was because
they thought the poor orphan Virginia a better match, or for the reason
that any new flame would wean him from Kittie I could not say. And I
suppose they thought Kittie's encouraging behavior to me was not only a
proof of her low tastes, or rather her lack of ambition, but a sure sign
to Bob that she was not in his class. So far as I was concerned I was
wretched, especially when the younger people began turning the gathering
into a "play party."

Now there was a difference between a play party and a kissing party or
kissing bee, as we used to call it. The play party was quite
respectable, and could be indulged in by church-members. In it the
people taking part sang airs each with its own words, and moved about in
step to the music. The absence of the fiddle and the "calling off" and
the name of dancing took the curse off. They went through figures a lot
like dances; swung partners by one hand or both; advanced and retreated,
"balanced to partners" bowing and saluting; clasping hands, right and
left alternately with those they met; and balanced to places, and the
like. Sometimes they had a couple to lead them, as in the dance called
the German, of which my granddaughter tells me; but usually they were
all supposed to know the way the play went, and the words were always
such as to help. Here is the one they started off with that night:

"We come here to bounce around,
We come here to bounce around,
We come here to bounce around,
Tra, la, la!
Ladies, do si do,
Gents, you know,
Swing to the right,
And then to the left,
And all promenade!"

Oh, yes! I have seen Wades and Flemings and Holbrooks and all the rest
singing and hopping about to the tune of _We Come Here to Bounce
Around_; and also _We'll All Go Down to Rowser_; and _Hey, Jim Along,
Jim Along Josie_; and _Angelina Do Go Home_; and _Good-by Susan Jane_;
and _Shoot the Buffalo_; and _Weevilly Wheat_; and _Sandy He Belonged to
the Mill_; and _I've Been to the East, I've Been to the West, I've Been
to the Jay-Bird's Altar_; and _Skip-to-My-Lou_; and _The Juniper Tree_;
and _Go In and Out the Window_; and _The Jolly Old Miller_; and _Captain
Jinks_; and lots more of them. Boyds and Burnses and Smythes tripping
the light fantastic with them, and not half a dozen dresses better than
alpacas in the crowd, and the men many of them in drilling trousers--and
half of them with hayseed in their hair from the load on which they rode
to the party! So, ye Iowa aristocracy, put that in your pipes and smoke
it, as ye bowl over the country in your automobiles--or your airships,
as I suppose it may be before you read this!

I went round with the rest of them, for I had seen all these plays on
the canal boats, and had once or twice taken part in them. Kittie
Fleming, very graceful and gracious as she bowed to me, and as I swung
her around, was my partner. Bob Wade still devoted himself to Virginia,
who was like a fairy in her fine pink silk dress.

"This is enough of these plays," shouted Bob at last, after looking
about to see that his father and mother were not in the room. "Let's
have the 'Needle's Eye'!"

"The 'Needle's Eye'!" was the cry, then.

"I won't play kissing games!" said one or two of the girls.

"Le's have 'The Gay Balonza Man'!" shouted Doctor Bliven, who was in
the midst of the gaieties, while his wife too, plunged in as if to
outdo him.

"Oh, yes!" she said, smiling up into the face of Frank Finster, with
whom she had been playing. "Let's have 'The Gay Balonza Man!' It's
such fun[13]!"

[13] One here discovers a curious link between our recent past and olden
times in our Old Home, England. This game has like most of the kissing
or play-party games of our fathers (and mothers) more than one version.
By some it was called "The Gay Galoney Man," by others "The Gay Balonza
Man." It is a last vestige of the customs of the sixteenth century and
earlier in England. It was brought over by our ancestors, and survived
in Iowa at the time of its settlement, and probably persists still in
remote localities settled by British immigrants. The "Gay Balonza Man"
must be the character--the traveling beggar, pedler or tinker,--who was
the hero of country-side people, and of the poem attributed to James V.
called _The Gaberlunzie-Man_ (1512-1542) in which the event is summed up
in two lines relating to a peasant girl, "She's aff wi the
gaberlunzie-man." The words of the play run in part as follows:

"See the gay balonza-man, the charming gay balonza-man; We'll do all
that ever we can, To cheat the gay balonza-man!"

The things he was to be cheated of seemed to be osculations.--G.v.d.M.

"The Needle's Eye" won, and we formed in a long line of couples--Wades,
Finsters, Flemings, Boyds and the rest of the roll of present-day
aristocrats, and marched, singing, between a boy and a girl standing on
chairs with their hands joined. Here is the song--I can sing the
tune to-day:

"The needle's eye,
Which doth supply
The thread which runs so true;
{And many a lass
{Have I let pass
{And many a beau
{Have I let go
Because I wanted you!"

At the word "you," the two on the chairs--they were Lizzie Finster and
Charley McKim at first--brought their arms down and caught a
couple--they caught Kittie and me--who were at that moment passing
through between the chairs--which were the needle's eye; and then they
sang, giving us room to execute:

"And they bow so neat!
And they kiss so sweet!
We do intend before we end, to have this couple meet!"

Crimson of face, awkward as a calf, I bowed to Kittie and she to me; and
then she threw her arms about me and kissed me on the lips. And then I
saw her wink slyly at Bob Wade. Then Kittie and I became the needle's
eye and she worked it so we caught Bob Wade and Virginia, even though it
was necessary to wait a moment after the word "you"--she meant to do it!
As Bob's lips met Virginia's I groaned, and turning my back on Kittie
Fleming, I rushed out of the room. Judge Stone tried to stop me.


"Jake, Jake!" Judge Stone whispered in my ear, looking anxiously around,
"have you seen the governor in the last half or three-quarters of
an hour?"

"He hain't been in here," I said, jerking away from him.

"Sure?" he persisted. "I've looked everywhere except in his office where
he put the money--and that's locked."

I broke away from him and went out. I had no desire to see Governor
Wade or any one else. I wanted to be alone. I had seen Virginia kissed
by Bob Wade--and they were still singing that sickish play in there.
They would be kissing and kissing all the rest of the night. She to be
kissed in this way, and I had been so careful of her, when I was all
alone with her for days, and would have given my right hand for a kiss!
It was terrible. I walked back and forth in the yard, and then came up
on the porch and sat down on a bench, so as to hear the play-singing.
They were singing _The Gay Balonza-Man_, now. I started up once to walk
home, but I thought that Judge Stone was paying me wages for guarding
the county's money, and turned to go back where I could watch the games,
lured by a sort of fascination to see how many times Virginia would
allow herself to be kissed. A woman came out of the house, and in
passing saw and recognized me. It was Mrs. Bliven. She dropped down on
the bench.

"My God!" she sobbed. "I'll go crazy! I'll kill myself!"

I sat down again on the bench. She had been so happy a few minutes ago,
to all appearances, that I was astonished; but after waiting quite a
while I could think of nothing to say to her. So I turned my face away
for fear that she might see what I felt must show in it.

"You're in trouble, too," she said. "You babies! My God, how I'd like to
change places with you! Did you see him kissing them?"

"Who?" I asked.

"My man," she cried. "Bliven. You know how it is, with us. You're the
only one that knows about me--about us--Jake. I've been scared to death
for fear you'd tell ever since I found you were coming here to live; and
I dasn't tell him--he don't know you know. And now I almost wish you
would tell--put it in Dick McGill's paper. He wants somebody else
already. A woman that's done as I have--he can throw me away like an old
shoe! But I want you to promise me that if he ever shelves me you'll let
the world know. Did you see him hugging them girls? He's getting ready
to shelve me, I tell you!"

I sat for some time thinking this matter over. Finally I spoke, and she
seemed surprised, as if she had forgotten I was there.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said I. "I won't tell on you just because
you think you want me to. What would happen if everything in the lives
of us folks out here was to be told, especially as it would be told in
Dick McGill's paper? But if you ever find out for sure that he is going
to--going to--to shelve you, why, come to me, and I'll go to him. I
think he would be a skunk to--to shelve you. And I don't see
that--that--that he--was any more fairce to hug and kiss than--than some
others. Than you!"

"Or you," said she, sort of snickering through her tears.

"I hated it!" I said.

"So did I," said she.

"Maybe Doc did, too," I suggested.

"No," she replied, after a while. "I'll tell you, Jake, I'll hold you to
your promise. Sometime I may come to you or send for you. May I?"

"Any time," I answered, and she went in, seeming quite cheered up. I
suppose she needed that blow-off, like an engine too full of steam. I
wonder if it was wrong to feel for her? But it must be remembered that I
had very little religious bringing up.

Well, the party came to an end presently, and Judge Stone came out and
holloed for me to bring the team. When I drove up to the door he asked
me in a low tone to come and help carry the money out. The governor
unlocked his office, and then the safe, and took out the bag, which he
handed to Judge Stone.

"Heavy as ever," said the judge. "Catch hold here, Jake, and help me
carry it."

"A heavy responsibility at least," said the governor. The governor's
hired people of whom he had always a large force had not taken part in
the proceedings of the party, but most of them were gathered about as we
took our departure. They were to a great extent the younger men among
the settlers, and the governor in later times never got tired of saying
how much he had done for the early settlers in giving them employment.

N.V. Creede in answering him in campaigns always said that if he gave
the boys work, they gave the governor labor in return, and at a dollar a
day it seemed to him that the governor was the one who was under
obligations to them. It is a curious thing that people who receive money
are supposed to be under obligations to those who pay it, no matter what
the deal may be. We say "thank you" to the man who pays us for a day's
wages; but why, if the work is worth the money?

Well, as I looked about among the governor's working people, as I have
said, I saw a head taller than the rest, the big form of Pitt
Bushyager. He was looking at me with that daredevil smile of his, the
handsomest man there, with his curling brown mustache and goatee; and
nodded at me as the judge got into the carriage in the back seat with
Mrs. Stone, and Virginia came up in her pretty pink silk, with the
Paisley shawl around her shoulders, to be helped up into the front seat
with me. The satchel of money was placed under the seat where the judge
could feel it with his feet.

We drove off in that silence which comes with the drowsiness that
follows excitement, especially along toward morning. The night was dark
and still. Virginia's presence reminded me of those days of happiness
wher we drove into Iowa alone together; but I was not happy I had lived
with this girl in my dreams ever since, and now I faced the wrench of
giving her up; for I repeated in my own mind over and over again that
she would never think of me with such big bugs as Bob Wade shining
around her.

The Judge and Mrs. Stone were talking together now, and I heard
references to the money. Then I began to turn over in my slow mind the
fact, known to me alone, that there was a man at the Wade farm who was
one of a band of thieves, and who knew about our having the money. If he
really was connected with the Bunker boys, what was more likely than
that he had ways of passing the word along to some of them who might be
waiting to rob us on our way home? But the crime that I was sure had
been committed back along the road the spring before had been
horse-stealing. I wondered whether or not the business of outlawry was
not specialized, so that some stole horses, others robbed banks, others
were highwaymen, and the like.

All this time Virginia seemed to be snuggling up a little closer. Maybe
Pitt Bushyager and his brothers were just plain horse-thieves, and
nothing else. Perhaps they were just hired to help drive in the horses;
but why, then, did Pitt have two animals in Monterey Centre when I saw
him there the morning I arrived?


Jim Boyd's light buggy had got far ahead of us, out of hearing, and the
lumber wagons, with the bulk of the crowd, were far in the rear. We were
alone. As we came to a road which wound off to the south toward where
there was a settlement of Hoosiers who had made a trail to the Wade
place, I turned off and followed it, knowing that when I got to the
Hoosier settlement, I should find a road into the Centre. It was a
mistake made a-purpose, done on that instinct which protects the man who
feels that he may be trailed. I was on an unexpected path to any one
waiting for us. Finally Virginia spoke to me.

"How is our farm?" she asked.

Now I had not forgotten how she had been kissed by Bob Wade, and
probably, while I was outside sulking, by a dozen others. By instinct
again--the instinct of a jealous boy--I started in to punish her.

"All right," I said surlily.

"What crops have you planted?" she went on.

"About ten acres of wheat," I said, "and the rest of my breaking in corn
and oats. You see, I have to put in all the time I can in breaking."

"How is the white heifer?" she asked, inquiring as to one of my cattle
that she had petted a lot.

"She has a calf," said I.

"Oh, has she? How I wish I could see it! What color is it?"


There followed a long silence, during which we went farther and farther
off the road.

"Jake," said the judge, "whose house is that we just passed?"

"It's that new Irishman's," said I. "Mike Cosgrove, ain't that his

"Well, then," said the judge, "we're off the road. Stop!"

"Yes," I said, "I made the wrong turn back there. It's only a little

The judge was plainly put out about this. He even wanted to go back to
the regular road again, and when I explained that we would soon reach a
trail which would lead right into the Centre, he still persisted.

"If we were to be robbed on this out-of-the-way road," said he, "it
would look funny."

"It would look funnier," I said, "if we were to go back and then get
robbed. Any one waiting to rob us would be on the regular road,
wouldn't they?"

So I stubbornly drove on, the judge grumbling all the while for a mile
or so. Then he and Mrs. Stone began talking in a low tone, under the
cover of which Virginia resumed her conversation with me.

"You are a stubborn Dutchman," said she. To which I saw no need of
making any reply.

"You seemed to have a good time," she said, presently.

"I didn't," said I. "I'm nobody by the side of such people as Bob Wade.
I wasn't even invited. I'm just paid to come along with the judge to
protect the county's money. You'll never see me again at any of your
grand kissing parties."

"It was the first I ever went to," said she; "but you seemed to know
what to do pretty well--you and Kittie Fleming."

This stumped me for a while, and we drove on in silence.

"I didn't kiss her," I said.

"It looked like it," said Virginia.

"She kissed me," I protested.

"You seemed to like it," she insisted.

"I didn't!" I said, mad all over. "And I quit just as soon as the
kissing began."

"You ought to have stayed," she said stiffly. "The fun was just
beginning when you flounced out."

And then came one of the interesting events of this eventful night. We
turned into the main road to Monterey Centre, just where Duncan
McAlpine's barn now stands, and I thought I saw down in the hollow where
it was still dark, though the light was beginning to dawn in the east, a
clump of dark objects like cattle or horses--or horsemen. As I looked,
they moved into the road as if to stop us. I drew my pistol, fired it
over their heads, and they scattered. Then, I was scared still more, by
a sound as of a cavalry or a battery of artillery coming behind us. It
was three loads of people on the hayracks, who had overtaken us on
account of our having gone by the roundabout way; coming at a keen
gallop down the hill to have the credit of passing a fancy carriage.
They passed us like a tornado; shouting as they went by, asking what I
had shot at, and telling us to hurry up so as to get home by breakfast
time. The horsemen ahead, whatever might have been their plans, did not
seem to care to argue matters with so large a force, and rode off in
several directions, while I pressed close to the rear of the last
hayrack. Thus we drove into Monterey Centre.

"What did you shoot for?" asked the judge as we stopped at his house.

"I wanted to warn a lot of men on horseback that were heading us off,
that there'd be trouble if they tried to stop us," I answered.

"Damned foolishness," said the judge. "Well, come in and let's have a
bite to eat."


Virginia was staying with them the rest of the night; but as I helped
her out, feeling in her stiffness that she was offended with me, I
insisted that I would go on home. The judge, who had been ready to abuse
me a moment before, now took hold of me and forced me into the house. As
we went in carrying the satchel, he lifted it up on the table.

"We may as well take a look at it," said he.

Mrs. Stone and Virginia and I all stood by the table as he unsnapped the
catch and opened the bag. It was full almost to the top.

"That ain't the way I packed that money!" said the judge.

His hands trembled as he pulled the contents out. It was full of the
bags and wrappers in which the money had been packed, according to the
judge's tell; but there was no money in the wrappers, and the bags were
full, not of coins, but of common salt. That was what made it so heavy;
and that was what always made it such a mystery: for all the salt used
in Monterey County then was common barrel salt. It was the same kind,
whether it was got from the barrel from which the farmer salted his
cattle, or from the supply in the kitchen of the dweller in the town.
There was no clue in it. It was just salt! We all cried out in surprise,
not understanding that we were looking at the thing which was to be
fought over until either Judge Stone or Governor Wade was destroyed.

"I am ruined!" Judge Stone fell back into a chair groaning. Then he
jumped to his feet. "They've taken it out while we were at the party!"
he shouted. "The damned, canting, sniveling old thief! No wonder he's
got money! He probably stole it where he came from! Jake, we've got to
go back and make him give this money back--come on!"

"Make who give it back?" I asked.

"Who?" said he. "Why old DeWitt Clinton Wade, the old thief! Who else
had the key to the office or knew how to open that safe? Come on, Jake,
and bring your pistol!"

I handed him the pistol.

"I agreed to guard you and the county's money," I said, "and that's all.
You hain't got the county's money, it seems, and my job's over. I've got
to break prairie to-day, and I guess I'd better be going!"

I passed out of the door, and as I went I heard them--the judge and his
wife, and I thought Virginia joined in--condemning me for deserting
them. But I needed to think this thing over before I could see into it.
It looked pretty dark for some one then, and I saw it was a matter to
see N.V. about before taking any further part.

I never have seen through it. There it was: The money in the treasury,
and supposed to be in the bag, and placed in Governor Wade's safe. There
were the two men, both supposed to be rich. There was the time, when the
kissing games were going on, when the governor was not seen by any of
his guests. The governor was rich always afterward, while the judge
struggled along with adversity and finally went away from the county
poor as a church mouse. Then there was the jingle I seemed to remember
at starting, and Judge Stone's twice speaking of it--the jingle Virginia
did not hear. Salt does not jingle.

For a long time it appeared to me that these things seemed to prove that
the governor got the money; but lately, since both the men have passed
away, I have had my doubts. Judge Stone was a much nicer man than the
governor to meet up with, but--well, what's the use? It is long past. It
was past for me, too, as I walked out to my farm that morning as the
dawn broadened into day, with the prairie-chickens singing their
wonderful morning song, and the blue-joint grass soaking me with dew
to my knees.

At that moment, or soon after, in a stormy encounter at the Wade farm,
with witnesses that the judge took with him, began the great Wade-Stone
feud of Monterey County, Iowa. It lasted until the flood of new settlers
floated it away in a freshet of new issues during and after the great
Civil War.

I took the story to N.V. as soon as I went to town. He sat looking at
me with a mysterious grin on his face, as I told him of the loss of the
county funds.

"Well," said he, "this will make history. I venture the assertion that
the case will be compromised. I can't see this close corporation of a
county government making Stone's bondsmen pay the loss. Or Stone either.
And I can't see any one getting that amount of money out of old Wade,
whether it was in the bag when it went into his safe or not. Your
testimony on the jingle feature ain't worth a cuss. The Bunker boys had
that bag marked for their own; for we know now that they were out on a
raid that night and cleaned up several good horses. I must say, Jake,
that you are a hell of a hired man. If you had kept the main road, this
trouble which will raise blazes with things in this county till you and
I are gray-headed, never would have happened. The Bunkers would have had
that salt, and everybody else would have had an alibi. Maybe it was
Judge Stone's instinct for party harmony that made him cross at you for
dodging the Bunkers by driving down by the Hoosier settlement. He was
cross, wasn't he? Instinct is a great matter, says Falstaff. He was mad
on instinct, I reckon! And you drove off the road on instinct. Beware
instinct,' say I on the authority aforesaid. It would have smoothed
matters all out if the Bunker boys had got that salt!"



Iowa lived in the future in those days. It was a land of poverty and
privations and small things, but a land of dreams. We shivered in the
winter storms, and dreamed; we plowed and sowed and garnered in; but the
great things, the happy things, were our dreams and visions. We felt
that we were plowing the field of destiny and sowing for the harvest of
history; but we scarcely thought it. The power that went out of us as we
scored that wonderful prairie sod and built those puny towns was the
same power that nerved the heart of those who planted Massachusetts and
Rhode Island and Virginia, the power that has thrilled the world
whenever the white man has gone forth to put a realm under his feet.

Our harvest of that day seems pitifully small as I sit on my veranda and
look at my barns and silos, and see the straight rows of corn leaning
like the characters of God's handwriting across the broad intervale of
Vandemark's Folly flat, sloping to the loving pressure of the steady
warm west wind of Iowa, and clapping a million dark green hands in
acclamation of the full tide of life sucked up from the richest breast
that Mother Earth in all her bountiful curves turns to the lips of her
offspring. But all our children for all future generations shall help to
put the harvests of those days into the barns and silos of the future
state. God save it from the mildews of monopoly and tyranny, and the Red
rot of insurrection and from repression's explosions!

We were children, most of those of whom I have been writing. It was a
baby county, a baby state, and Vandemark Township was still struggling
up toward birth. "The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts": but
after all they are only the stirrings of the event in the womb of life.
I would not have married Virginia on the day after the party at Governor
Wade's if she had in some way conveyed to me that she wanted me. I
should not have dared; for I was a child. I suppose that Magnus would
have taken Rowena Fewkes in a minute, for he was older; but I don't
know. It takes a Norwegian or a Swede a long time to get ripe.

The destinies of the county and state were in the hands of youth,
dreaming of the future: and when the untamed prairie turned and bit us,
as it did in frosts and blizzards and floods and locusts and tornadoes,
we said to each other, like the boy in the story when the dog bit his
father, "Grin and bear it, Dad! It'll be the makin' o' the pup!" Even
the older men like Judge Stone and Governor Wade and Elder Thorndyke and
heads of families like the Bemisdarfers, were dreamers: and as for such
ne'er-do-weels as the Fewkeses, they, with Celebrate's schemes for
making money, and Surrager's inventions, and their plans for palaces and
estates, were only a little more absurd in their visions than the rest
of us. The actual life of to-day is to the dreams of that day as the
wheat plant to the lily. It starts to be a lily, but the finger and
thumb of destiny--mainly in the form of heredity--turn it into the
wheat, and then into the prosaic flour and bran in the bins.

As I came driving into Monterey County, every day had its event,
different from that of the day before; but now comes a period when I
must count by years, not days, and a lot of time passes without much to
record. As for the awful to-do about the county's lost money, I heard
nothing of it, except when, once in a while, somebody, nosing into the
matter for one reason or another, would come prying around to ask me
about it. I began by telling them the whole story whenever they asked,
and Henderson L. Burns once took down what I said and made me swear to
it. Whenever I came to the jingle of the money in the bag as we put it
in the carriage on starting for the Wades', they cross-examined me till
I said I sort of seemed to kind of remember that it jingled, and anyhow
I recollected that Judge Stone had said "Hear it jingle, Jake!" This
proved either that the money was there and jingled, or that it wasn't
there and that the judge was, as N.V. said, "As guilty as hell."

Dick McGill didn't know which way the cat would jump, and kept pretty
still about it in his paper; but he printed a story on me that made
everybody laugh. "There was once a Swede," said the paper, "that was
running away from the minions of the law, and took refuge in a cabin
where they covered him with a gunny sack. When the Hawkshaws came they
asked for the Swede. No information forthcoming. 'What's in that bag?'
asked the minions. 'Sleighbells,' replied the accomplices. The minion
kicked the bag, and there came forth from under it the cry, 'Yingle!
Yingle!' We know a Dutchman who is addicted to the same sort of
ventriloquism." (Monterey _Journal_, September 3, 1857.)

In 1856 we cut our grain with cradles. In 1857 Magnus and I bought a
Seymour & Morgan hand-rake reaper. I drove two yoke of cows to this
machine, and Magnus raked off. I don't think we gained much over
cradling, except that we could work nights with the cows, and bind
day-times, or the other way around when the straw in the gavels got dry
and harsh so that heads would pull off as we cinched up the sheaves. At
that very moment, the Marsh brothers back in De Kalb County, Illinois,
were working on the greatest invention ever given to agriculture since
the making of the first steel plow, the Marsh Harvester.

Every year we broke some prairie, and our cultivated land increased. By
the fall of 1857, my little cottonwood trees showed up in a pretty grove
of green for a distance of two or three miles, and were ten to fifteen
feet high: so I could lie in the shade of the trees I had planted.

But if the trees flourished, the community did not. The panic of 1857
came on in the summer and fall; but we knew nothing, out in our little
cabins, of the excitement in the cities, the throngs on Wall Street and
in Philadelphia, the closing banks, the almost universal bankruptcy of
the country. It all came from land speculation. According to what they
said, there was more land then laid out in town-sites in Kansas than in
all the cities and towns of the settled parts of the country. In Iowa
there were town-sites along all the streams and scattered all over the
prairies. Everybody was in debt, in the business world, and when land
stopped growing in value, sales stopped, and then the day of reckoning
came. All financial panics come from land speculation. Show me a way to
keep land from advancing in value, and I will tell you how to prevent
financial panics[14].

[14] The author, when his attention is called to the Mississippi Bubble,
insists that it was nothing more nor less than betting on the land
development of a great new region. As to the "Tulipomania" which once
created a small panic in Holland, he insists that such a fool notion can
not often occur, and never can have wide-spread results like a genuine
financial panic. In which the editor is inclined to believe the best
economists will agree with, him.--G.v.d.M.

But, though we knew nothing about this general wreck and ruin back east,
we knew that we were miserably poor. In the winter of 1857-8 Magnus and
I were beggarly ragged and so short of fuel and bedding that he came
over and stayed with me, so that we could get along with one bed and one
fire. My buffalo robes were the things that kept us warm, those howling
nights, or when it was so still that we could hear the ice crack in the
creek eighty rods off. My wife has always said that Magnus and I holed
up in our den like wild animals, and sometimes like a certain domestic
one. But what with Magnus and the fiddle and his stories of Norway and
mine of the canal we amused ourselves pretty well and got along without
baths. My cows, and the chickens, and our vegetables and potatoes, and
our white and buckwheat flour and the corn-meal mush and johnny-cake
kept us fat, and I entirely outgrew my best suit, so that I put it on
for every day, and burst it at most of the seams in a week.


I was sorry for the people in the towns, and sold most of my eggs,
fowls, butter, cream and milk on credit: and though Virginia and I were
not on good terms and I never went to see her any more; and though
Grandma Thorndyke was, I felt sure, trying to get Virginia's mind fixed
on a better match, like Bob Wade or Paul Holbrook, I used to take eggs,
butter, milk or flour to the elder's family almost every time I went to
town: and when the weather was warm enough so that they would not
freeze, I took potatoes, turnips, and sometimes some cabbage for a
boiled dinner, with a piece of pork to go with it.

When the elder found out who was sending it he tried to thank me, but I
made him promise not to tell his family where these things came from, on
pain of not getting any more. I said I had as good right to contribute
to the church as any one, and just because I had no money it was tough
to have the little I could give made public. By this time I had worked
up quite a case, and was looking like a man injured in his finest
feelings and twitted of his poverty. The elder looked bewildered, and
promised that he wouldn't tell.

"But I'm sure, Jake, that the Lord won't let your goodness go
unrewarded, in the next world, anyhow, and I don't think in this."

I don't think he actually told, but I have reason to believe he hinted.
In fact, Kittie Fleming told me when I went down to their place after
some seed oats, that Grandma Thorndyke had said at the Flemings' dinner
table that I was an exemplary boy, in my way, and when I grew up I would
make some girl a husband who would be kind and a good provider.

"I was awful interested," she said.

"Why?" I asked; for I couldn't see for the life of me how it interested

"I'm a girl," said she, "and I feel interested in--in--in such
things--husbands, and good providers." Here I grew hot all over, and
twisted around like a worm on a hot griddle. "I didn't think, when you
were playing the needle's eye with me, that you acted as if you would be
a very good husband!"

I peeked up at her through my eyebrows, and saw she was grinning at me,
and sort of blushing, herself. But I had only one word for her.


"You didn't seem to--to--kiss back very much," she giggled; and as I was
struggling to think of something to say (for it seemed a dreadful
indictment as I looked at her, so winning to a boy who hadn't seen a
girl for weeks) she ran off; and it was not till I was sitting by the
stove at home after washing up the dishes that evening that I thought
what a fine retort it would have been if I had offered to pay back then,
with interest, all I owed her in the way of response. I spent much of
the evening making up nice little speeches which I wished I had had the
sprawl to get off on the spur of the moment. I grew fiery hot at the
thought of how badly I had come off in this little exchange of
compliments with Kittie. Poor Kittie! She supped sorrow with a big spoon
before many years; and then had a long and happy life. I forgave her,
even at the time, for making fun of the Hell Slew Dutch boy. All the
girls made fun of me but Virginia, and she did sometimes--Virginia and
Rowena Fewkes.

Thinking of Rowena reminded me of the fact that I had not seen any of
the Fewkeses for nearly two years. This brought up the thought of Buck
Gowdy, who had carried them off to his great farmstead which he called
Blue-grass Manor. Whenever I was in conversation with him I was under a
kind of strain, for all the fact that he was as friendly with me as he
was with any one else. I remembered how I had smuggled Virginia away
from him; and wondered whether or not he had got intimate enough by this
time at Elder Thorndyke's so that she had given him any inkling as to my
share in that matter.

This brought me back to Virginia--and then the whole series of Virginia
dreams recurred. She sat in the chair which I had bought for her, in the
warm corner next the window. She was sewing. She was reading to me. She
was coming over to my chair to sit in my lap while we talked over our
adventures. She looked at my chapped and cracked hands and told me I
must wear my mittens every minute. She--but every boy can go on with the
series: every boy who has been in the hopeless but blissful state in
which I then was: a state which out of hopelessness generates hope as a
dynamo generates current.

This was followed by days of dark despondency. Magnus Thorkelson and I
were working together plowing for oats, for we did not work our oats on
the corn ground of last year then as we do now, and he tried to cheer me
up. I had been wishing that I had never left the canal; for there I
always had good clothes and money in my pocket. We couldn't stay in this
country, I said. Nobody had any money except a few money sharks, and
they robbed every one that borrowed of them with their two per cent, a
month. I was getting raggeder and raggeder every day. I wished I had not
bought this other eighty. I wished I had done anything rather than what
I had done. I wished I knew where I could get work at fair wages, and I
would let the farm go--I would that! I would be gosh-blasted if I
wouldn't, by Golding's bow-key[15]!

[15] "By Golding's bow-key" was a very solemn objurgation. It could be
used by professors of religion, but under great provocation only. It
harks back to the time when every man who had oxen named them Buck and
Golding, and the bow-key held the yoke on. Ah, those far-off, Arcadian
days, and the blessing of blowing those who lived in them!--G.v.d.M.

"Oh!" exclaimed Magnus, "you shouldn't talk so! Ve got plenty to eat.
Dere bane lots people in Norvay would yump at de shance to yange places
wit' us. What nice land here in Iovay! Some day you bane rich man. All
dis slew bane some day dry for plow. I see it in Norvay and Sveden. And
now dat ve got ralroad, dere bane t'ousan's an' t'ousan's people in
Norvay, and Denmark, and Sveden and Yermany come here to Iovay, an' you
an' your vife an' shildern bane big bugs. Yust vait, Yake. Maybe you see
your sons in county offices an' your girls married vit bankers, an' your
vife vare new calico dress every day. Yust vait, Yake. And to-night I
pop some corn if you furnish butter, hey?"

To hear the pop-corn going off in the skillet, like the volleys of
musketry we were so soon to hear at Shiloh; to see Magnus with his coat
off, stirring it round and round in the sizzling butter until one or two
big white kernels popped out as a warning that the whole regiment was
about to fire; to see him, with his red hair all over his freckled face,
lift the hissing skillet and shake it until the volleys died down to
sharpshooting across the lines; and then to hear him laugh when he
turned the vegetable snowdrift out into the wooden butter-bowl a little
too soon, and a last shot or two blew the fluffy kernels all over the
room--all this was the very acme of success in making a pleasant
evening. All the time I was thinking of Magnus's prediction.

"County officer!" I snorted. "Banker! Me!"

"Ay dank so," said Magnus. "Or maybe lawyers and yudges."

"Any girl I would have," I said, "wouldn't have me; and any girl that
would have me, the devil wouldn't have!"

"Anybody else say dat to me, I lick him," he stated.

"There ain't any farm girls out in this prairie," I said; "and no town
girl would come in here," and I spread my hands out to show that I
thought my house the worst place in the world, though I was really a
little proud of it--for wasn't it mine? made with my own hands, mainly?

"Girls come where dey want to come," said he, "in spite of--"

"Of hell and high water," I supplied, as he hesitated.

"So!" he answered, adopting my words, and afterward using them at a
church social with some effect. "In spite of Hell Slew and high water.
An' if dey bane too soft in de hand to come, I bring you out a fine farm
girl from Norvay."


This idea furnished us meat for much joking, and then it grew almost
earnest, as jokes will. We finally settled down to a cousin of his,
Christina Quale. And whenever I bought anything for the house, which I
did from time to time as I got money, we discussed the matter as to
whether or not Christina would like it. The first thing I bought was a
fine silver-plated castor, with six bottles in it, to put in the middle
of the table so that it could be turned around as the company helped
themselves to salt, mustard, vinegar, red or black pepper; and the sixth
thing I never could figure out until Grandma Thorndyke told me it was
oil. A castor was a sort of title of nobility, and this one always
lifted me in the opinions of every one that sat down at my table. Magnus
said he was sure Christina would be tickled yust plumb to death with it.
Ah! Christina was a wonderful legal fiction, as N.V. calls it. How many
times Virginia's ears must have burned as we tenderly discussed the poor
yellow-haired peasant girl far off there by the foaming fjords.

One trouble with all of us Vandemark Township settlers was that we had
no money. I had long since stopped going to church or to see anybody,
because I was so beggarly-looking. Going away from our farms to earn
wages put back the development of the farms, and made the job of getting
started so much slower. It is so to-day in the new parts of the country,
and something ought to be done about it. With us it was hard to get
work, even when we were forced to look for it. I hated to work for Buck
Gowdy, because there was that thing between us, whether he knew it or
not; but when Magnus came to me one day after we had got our oats sowed,
and said that Mr. Gowdy wanted hands, I decided that I would go over
with Magnus and work out a while.


I was astonished, after we had walked the nine miles between the edge of
the Gowdy tract and the headquarters, to see how much he had done. There
were square miles of land under plow, and the yards, barns, granaries
and houses looked almost as much like a town as Monterey Centre. We went
straight to Gowdy's office. His overseer was talking with us, when
Gowdy came in.

"Hello, Thorkelson," said he; "you're quite a stranger. Haven't seen you
for a week."

Magnus stole a look at me and blushed so that his face was as red as his
hair. I was taken aback by this for he had never said a word to me about
the frequent visits to the Gowdy ranch which Buck's talk seemed to show
had taken place. What had he been coming over for? I wondered, as I
heard Gowdy greeting me.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Vandemark," said he. "What can I do for you-all?"

"We heard you wanted a couple of hands," said I, "and we thought--"

"I need a couple of hundred," said he. "Put 'em to work, Mobley,"
turning to the overseer; and then he went off into a lot of questions
and orders about the work, after which he jumped into the buckboard
buggy, in which Pinck Johnson sat with the whip in his hands, and they
went off at a keen run, with Pinck urging the team to a faster pace, and
Gowdy holding to the seat as they went careering along like the wind.

We lived in a great barracks with his other men, and ate our meals in a
long room like a company of soldiers. It was a most interesting business
experiment which he was trying; and he was going behind every day. Where
land is free nobody will work for any one else for less than he can make
working for himself; and land was pretty nearly free in Monterey County
then. All a man needed was a team, and he could get tools on credit; and
I know plenty of cases of people breaking speculator's land and working
it for years without paying rent or being molested. The rent wasn't
worth quarreling about. But Gowdy couldn't get, on the average, as much
out of his hired men in the way of work as they would do for themselves.

Most of the aristocrats who came early to Iowa to build up estates, lost
everything they had, and became poor; for they did not work with their
own hands, and the work of others' hands was inefficient and cost,
anyhow, as much as it produced or more. Gowdy would have gone broke long
before the cheap land was gone, if it had not been for the money he got
from Kentucky. The poor men like me, the peasants from Europe like
Magnus--we were the ones who made good, while the gentility
went bankrupt.

After a few years the land began to take on what the economists call
"unearned increment," or community value, and the Gowdy lands began the
work which finally made him a millionaire; but it was not his work. It
was mine, and Magnus Thorkelson's, and the work of the neighbors
generally, on the farms and in the towns. It was the railroads and
school and churches. He would have made property faster to let his land
lie bare until in the 'seventies. I could see that his labor was
bringing him a loss, every day's work of it; and at breakfast I was
studying out ways to organize it better,--when a small hand pushed a cup
of coffee past my cheek, and gave my nose a little pinch as it was drawn
back. I looked up, and there was Rowena, waiting on our table!

"Hello, Jake!" said she. "I heared you was dead."

"Hello, Rowena," I answered. "I'm just breathin' my last!"

All the hands began yelling at us.

"No sparkin' here!"

"None o' them love pinches, Rowena!"

"I swan to man if that Dutchman ain't cuttin' us all out!"

"Quit courtin' an' pass them molasses, sweetness!"

"Mo' po'k an' less honey, thar!"--this from a Missourian.

"Magnus, your pardner's cuttin' you out!"

I do not need to say that all this hectoring from a lot of men who were
most of them strangers, almost put me under the table; but Rowena,
tossing her head, sent them back their change, with smiles for
everybody. She was as pretty a twenty-year-old lass as you would see in
a day's travel. No longer was she the ragged waif to whom I had given
the dress pattern back toward Dubuque. She was rosy, she was plump, her
new calico dress was as pretty as it could be, and her brown skin and
browner hair made with her dark eyes a study in brown and pink, as the
artists say.

It was two or three days before I had a chance to talk with her. She had
changed a good deal, I sensed, as she told me all about her folks. Old
Man Fewkes was working in the vegetable garden. Celebrate was running a
team. Surajah was working on the machinery. Ma Fewkes was keeping house
for the family in a little cottage in the corner of the garden. I went
over and had a talk with them. Ma Fewkes, with her shoulder-blades
almost touching, assured me that they were in clover.

"I feel sure," said she, "that Celebrate Fourth will soon git something
better to do than make a hand in the field. He has idees of makin' all
kinds of money, if he could git Mr. Gowdy to lis'en to him. But
Surrager Dowler is right where he orto be. He has got a patent
corn-planter all worked out, and I guess Mr. Gowdy'll help him make and
sell it. Mr. Gowdy is awful good to us--ain't he, Rowena."

Rowena busied herself with her work; and when Mrs. Fewkes repeated her
appeal, the girl looked out of the window and paused a long time before
she answered,

"Good enough," she finally said. "But I guess he ain't strainin' himself
any to make something of us."

There was something strange and covered up in what she said, and in the
way she said it. She shot a quick glance at me, and then looked down at
her work again.

"Well, Rowena Fewkes!" exclaimed her mother, with her hands thrown up as
if in astonishment or protest. "In all my born days, I never expected to
hear a child of mine--"

Old Man Fewkes came in just then, and cut into the talk by his surprised
exclamation at seeing me there. He had supposed that I had gone out of
his ken forever. He had thought that one winter in this climate would be
all that a young man like me, free as I was to go and come as I pleased,
would stand. As he spoke about my being free, he looked at his wife and
sighed, combing his whiskers with his skinny bird's claws, and showing
the biggest freckles on the backs of his hands that I think I ever saw.
He was still more stooped and frail-looking than when I saw him last;
and when I told him I had settled down for life on my farm, I could see
that I had lost caste with him. He was pining for the open road.

"Negosha," he said, "is the place for a young man. You can be a baron
out there with ten thousan' head of rattle. But the place for me is
Texas. Trees is in constant varder!"

"But," said Ma Fewkes, repeating her speech of three years ago, "it's so
fur, Fewkes!"

"Fur!" he scornfully shouted, just as he had before. "Fur!" this time
letting his voice fall in contempt for the distance, for any one that
spoke of the distance, and for things in general in Iowa. "Why,
Lord-heavens, womern, it hain't more'n fifteen hundred mile!"

"Fewkes," she retorted, drawing her shoulders back almost as far as she
had had them forward a moment before, "I've been drailed around the
country, fifteen hundred miles here, and fifteen hundred miles there,
with old Tom takin' mad fits every little whip-stitch, about as much as
I'm a-going to!"

"I don't," said Rowena, "see why you've got so sot on goin' into your
hole here, an' pullin' the hole in after you. You hook up ol' Tom, pa,
an' me an' you'll go to Texas. I'll start to-morrow morning, pa!"

"I never seen sich a girl," said her mother; "to talk of movin' when
prospects is as good f'r you as they be now!"

"Wal, le's stop jourin' at each other," said Rowena, hastily, as if to
change the subject. "It ain't the way to treat company."

I discovered that Rowena was about to change her situation in the
Blue-grass Manor establishment. She was going into "the Big House" to
work under Mrs. Mobley, the wife of the superintendent, or as we called
him, the overseer.

"Well, that'll be nice," said I.

"I don't want to," she said. "I like to wait on table better."

"Then why do you change?" said I.

"Mr. Gowdy--," began Ma Fewkes, but was interrupted by her daughter, who
talked on until her mother was switched off from her explanation.

"I wun't work with niggers!" said Rowena. "That Pinck has brought a
yellow girl here from Dubuque, and she's goin' to wait on the table as
she did in Dubuque. They claim they was married the last time he was
back there, an' he brought her here. I wun't work with her. I wun't
demean myself into a black slave--. But tell me, Jake," coming over and
sitting by me, "how you're gittin' along. Off here we don't hear no news
from folks over to the Centre at all. We go to the new railroad, an'
never see any one from over there--."

"Exceptin' Magnus," said Ma Fewkes.

"You ain't married, yet, be you?" Rowena asked.

"I should say not! Me married!"

We sat then for quite a while without saying anything. Rowena sat
smoothing out a calico apron she had on. Finally she said: "Am I wearin'
anything you ever seen before, Jake?"

Looking her over carefully I saw nothing I could remember. I told her so
at last, and said she was dressed awful nice now and looked lots better
than I had ever seen her looking. My own rags were sorely on my mind
just then.

"This apern," said she, spreading it out for me to see, "is the back
breadth of that dress you give me back along the road. I'm goin' to keep
it always. I hain't goin' to wear it ever only when you come to see me!"

This was getting embarrassing; but her next remarks made it even more

"How old be you, Jake?" she asked.

"I'll be twenty," said I, "the twenty-seventh day of next July."

"We're jest of an age," she ventured--and after a long pause, "I should
think it would be awful hard work to keep the house and do your work

I told her that it was, and spread the grief on very thick, thinking all
the time of the very precious way in which I hoped sometime to end my
loneliness, and give myself a house companion: in the very back of my
head even going over the plans I had made for an "upright" to the house,
with a bedroom, a spare room, a dining-room and a sitting-room in it.

"Well," said she, "for a smart, nice-lookin' young man, like you, it's
your own fault--"


And then there was a tap on the door. Rowena started, turned toward the
door, made as if to get up to open it, and then sat down again, her face
first flushed and then pale. Her mother opened the door, and there stood
Buckner Gowdy. He came in, with his easy politeness and sat down among
us like an old friend.

"I didn't know you had company," said he; "but I now remember that Mr.
Vandemark is an old friend."

He always called me Mr. Vandemark, because, I guess, I owned seven
hundred and twenty acres of land, and was not all mortgaged up. Virginia
told me afterward, that where they came from people who owned so much
land were the quality, and were treated more respectfully than the
poor whites.

"Yes, sir," said Old Man Fewkes, "Jake is the onliest real old friend
we got hereabouts."

Gowdy took me into the conversation, but he sat where he could look at
Rowena. He seemed to be carrying on a silent conversation with her with
his eyes, while he talked to me, looking into my eyes a good deal too,
and stooping toward me in that intimate, confidential way of his. When I
told him that I thought he was not getting as much done as he ought to
with all the hands he had, he said nobody knew it better than he; but
could I suggest any remedy? Now on the canal, we had to organize our
work, and I had seen a lot of public labor done between Albany and
Buffalo; so I had my ideas as to people's getting in one another's way.
I told him that his men were working in too large gangs, as I looked at
it. Where he had twenty breaking-teams following one another, if one
broke his plow, or ran on a boulder and had to file it, the whole gang
had to stop for him, or run around him and make a balk in the work. I
thought it would be better to have not more than two or three breaking
on the same "land," and then they would not be so much in one another's
way, and wouldn't have so good an excuse for stopping and having jumping
matches and boxing bouts and story-tellings. Then their work could be
compared, they could be made to work against one another in a kind of
competition, and the bad ones could be weeded out. It would be the same
with corn-plowing, and some other work.

"There's sense in that, sir," he said, after thinking it over. "You see,
Mr. Vandemark, my days of honest industry are of very recent date. Thank
you for the suggestion, sir."

I got up to leave. Rowena's father was pulling off his boots, which
with us then, was the signal that he was going to bed. If I stayed after
that alone with Rowena, it was a sign that we were to "sit up"--and that
was courtship. I was slowly getting it through my wool that it looked as
if Buckner Gowdy and Rowena were going to sit up, when I heard her
giving me back my good evening, and at the same time, behind his back,
motioning me to my chair, and shaking her head. And while I was backing
and filling, the door' opened and a woman appeared on the step.

"Ah, Mrs. Mobley," said Buck, "anything for me?"

She was very nicely dressed for a woman busy about her own home, but the
thing that I remembered was her pallor. Her hair was light brown and
curled about her forehead, and her eyes were very blue, like china. And
there was a quiver in her like that which you see in the little
quaking-asps in the slews--something pitiful, and sort of forsaken. Her
face was not so fresh as it had been a few years before, and on her
cheeks were little red spots, like those you see in the cheeks of people
with consumption--or a pot of face-paint. She was tall and
strong-looking, and somewhat portly, and quite masterful in her ways as
a general rule; but that night she seemed to be in a sort of pleading
mood, not a bit like herself when dealing with ordinary people. She was
not ordinary, as could be sensed by even an ignorant bumpkin like me.
She had more education than most, and had been taught better manners and
brought up with more style.

"Mr. Mobley requested me to say," she said, her voice low and quivery,
bowing to all of us in a very polite and elegant way, "that he has
something of importance to say to you, Mr. Buckner."

"I'm greatly obliged to you, Miss Flora," said he. "Let me go to him
with you. Good evening, Rowena. Good evening, Mr. Vandemark. I shall
certainly think over what you have been so kind as to suggest."

He bowed to Rowena, nodded to me, and we all three left together. As we
separated I heard him talking to her in what in any other man I should
have called a loving tone; but there was a sort of warm note in the way
he spoke to me, too; and still more of that vital vibration I have
mentioned before, when he spoke to Rowena. But he did not take my arm,
as he did that of the imposing "Miss Flora" as he called Mrs. Mobley, to
whom he was "Mr. Buckner." I could see them walking very, very close
together, even in the darkness.


When I found that Mr. Mobley was over at the barracks, and had been
there playing euchre with the boys since supper, I wondered. I wondered
why Mrs. Mobley had come with an excuse to get Mr. Gowdy away from
me--or after a couple of weeks' thinking, was it from Rowena? Yet Mr.
Gowdy did see Mr. Mobley that evening; for the next morning Mobley put
me over a gang of eight breaking-teams, "To handle the way you told Mr.
Gowdy last night," he said.

He was a tall, limber-jointed, whipped-looking man with a red nose and a
long stringy mustache, and always wore his vest open clear down to the
lower button which was fastened, and thus his whole waistcoat was thrown
open so as to show a tobacco-stained shirt bosom. The Missourian whom I
had noticed at table said that this was done so that the wearer of the
vest could reach his dirk handily. But Mobley was the last man I should
have suspected of carrying a dirk, or if he did packing the gumption
to use it.

I made good with my gang, and did a third more than any other eight
teams on the place. Before I went away, Gowdy talked around as if he
wanted me for overseer; but I couldn't decide without studying a long
time, to take a step so far from what I had been thinking of, and he
dropped the subject. I did not like the way things were going there. The
men were out of control. They despised Mobley, and said sly things about
his using his wife to keep him in a job. One day I told Magnus
Thorkelson about Mrs. Mobley's coming and taking Gowdy away from the
little cabin of the Fewkes family.

"She do dat," said he, "a dozen times ven Ay bane dar. She alvays bane
chasing Buck Gowdy."

"Well," I said, "who be you chasing, coming over here a dozen times when
I didn't know it? That's why you bought that mustang pony, eh?"

"I yust go over," said he, squirming, "to help Surajah fix up his
machines--his inwentions. Sometimes I take over de wyolin to play for
Rowena. Dat bane all, Yake."

When we went home, I with money enough for some new clothes, with what I
had by me, we caught a ride with one of Judge Stone's teams to a point
two-thirds of the way to Monterey Centre, and came into our own places
from the south. We were both glad to see long black streaks of new
breaking in the section of which my eighty was a part, and two new
shanties belonging to new neighbors. This would bring cultivated land up
to my south line, and I afterward found out, take the whole half of the
section into the new farms. The Zenas Smith family had moved on to the
southwest quarter, and the J.P. Roebuck family on the southeast.

The Smiths and Roebucks still live in the township--as good neighbors as
a man need ask for; except that I never could agree with Zenas Smith
about line fences, when the time came for them. Once we almost came to
the spite-fence stage; but our children were such friends that they kept
us from that disgrace. But Mrs. Smith was as good a woman in sickness as
I ever saw.

George Story was working for the Smiths, and was almost one of the
family. He finally took the northeast quarter of the section, and lives
there yet. David Roebuck, J.P.'s son, when he came of age acquired the
eighty next to me, and thus completed the settlement of the section.
Most of the Roebuck girls and boys became school-teachers, and they had
the biggest mail of anybody in the neighborhood. I never saw Dave
Roebuck spelled down but once, and that was by his sister Theodosia,
called "Dose" for short.

We went to both houses and called as we went home so as to begin
neighboring with them. Magnus stopped at his own place, and I went on,
wondering if the Frost boy I had engaged to look out for my stock while
I was gone had been true to his trust. I saw that there had been a lot
of redding up done; and as I came around the corner of the house I heard
sounds within as of some one at the housework. The door was open, and as
I peeped in, there, of all people, was Grandma Thorndyke, putting the
last touches to a general house-cleaning.

The floor was newly scrubbed, the dishes set away in order, and all
clean. The churn was always clean inwardly, but she had scoured it on
the outside. There was a geranium in bloom in the window, which was as
clear as glass could be made. The bed was made up on a different plan
from mine, and the place where I hung my clothes had a flowered cotton
curtain in front of it, run on cords. It looked very beautiful to me;
and my pride in it rose as I gazed upon it. Grandma Thorndyke had not
heard me coming, and gave way to her feelings as she looked at her
handiwork in her manner of talking to herself.

"That's more like a human habitation!" she ejaculated, standing with her
hands on her hips. "I snum! It looked like a hooraw's nest!"

"It looks a lot better," I agreed. She was startled at seeing me, for
she expected to get away, with Henderson L. Burns as he came back from
his shooting of golden plover, all unknown to me. But we had quite a
visit all by ourselves. She said quite pointedly, that somebody had been
keeping her family in milk and butter and vegetables and chickens and
eggs all winter, and she was doing a mighty little in repayment. Her
eyes were full of tears as she said this.

"He who gives to the poor," said she, "lends to the Lord; and I don't
know any place where the Lord's credit has been lower than in Monterey
Centre for the past winter. Now le'me show you where things are, Jacob."

I got all the news of the town from her. Several people had moved in;
but others had gone back east to live with their own or their wives'
folks. Elder Thorndyke, encouraged by the favor of "their two rich men,"
had laid plans for building a church, and she believed their fellowship
would be blessed with greater growth if they had a consecrated building
instead of the hall where the secret societies met. On asking who their
two richest men were she mentioned Governor Wade, of course, and
Mr. Gowdy.

"Mr. Gowdy," she ventured, "is in a very hopeful, frame of mind. He is,
I fervently hope and believe, under conviction of sin. We pray for him
without ceasing. He would be a tower of strength, with his ability and
his wealth, if he should, under God, turn to the right and seek
salvation. If you and he could both come into the fold, Jacob, it would
be a wonderful thing for the elder and me."

"I guess I'd ruther come in alone!" I said.

"You mustn't be uncharitable," said she. "Mr. Gowdy is still hopeful of
getting that property for Virginia Royall. He is working on that all the
time. He came to get her signature to a paper this week. He is a changed
man, Jacob--a changed man."

I can't tell how thunderstruck I was by this bit of news. Somehow, I
could not see Buck Gowdy as a member of the congregation of the
saints--I had seen too much of him lately: and yet, I could not now
remember any of the old hardness he had shown in every action back along
the Ridge Road in 1855. But Virginia must have changed toward him, or
she would not have allowed him to approach her with any kind of paper,
not even a patent of nobility.

But I rallied from my daze and took Grandma Thorndyke to see my live
stock--birds and beasts. I discovered that she had been a farmer's
daughter in New England, and I began to suspect that it relieved her to
drop into New England farm talk, like "I snum!" and "Hooraw's nest." I
never saw a hooraw's nest, but she seemed to think it a very
disorderly place.

"This ain't the last time, Jacob," said she, as she climbed into Jim
Boyd's buggy that Henderson L. had borrowed. "You may expect to find
your house red up any time when I can get a ride out."

I was in a daze for some time trying to study out developments. Buck
Gowdy and Mrs. Mobley; Rowena and Magnus Thorkelson; Gowdy's calls on
Rowena, or at least at her home; Rowena's going to live in his house as
a hired girl; her warmth to me; her nervousness, or fright, at Gowdy;
Gowdy's religious tendency in the midst of his entanglements with the
fair sex; his seeming reconciliation with Virginia; his pulling of the
wool over the eyes of Mrs. Thorndyke, and probably the elder's--. Out of
this maze I came to a sudden resolution. I would go to Waterloo and get
me a new outfit of clothes, even to gloves and a pair of "fine boots."



Dogs and cats get more credit, I feel sure, for being animals of fine
feeling and intelligence, than in justice they are entitled to; because
they have so many ways of showing forth what they feel. A dog can growl
or bark in several ways, and show his teeth in at least two, to tell how
he feels. He can wag his tail, or let it droop, or curl it over his
back, or stick it straight out like a flag, or hold it in a bowed shape
with the curve upward, and frisk about, and run in circles, or sit up
silently or with howls; or stand with one foot lifted; or cock his head
on one side: and as for his eyes and his ears, he can almost talk
with them.

As for a cat, she has no such rich language as a dog; but see what she
can do: purring, rubbing against things, arching her back, glaring out
of her eyes, setting her hair on end, swelling out her tail, sticking
out her claws and scratching at posts, sneaking along as if ready to
pounce, pouncing either in earnest or in fun, mewing in many voices,
catching at things with nails drawn back or just a little protruded, or
drawing the blood with them, laying back her ears, looking up pleadingly
and asking for milk--why a cat can say almost anything she wants to say.

Now contrast these domestic animals with a much more necessary and
useful one, the cow. Any stockman knows that a cow is a beast of very
high nervous organization, but she has no very large number of ways of
telling us how she feels: just a few tones to her lowing, a few changes
of expression to her eye, a small number of shades of uneasiness, a
little manner with her eyes, showing the whites when troubled or letting
the lids droop in satisfaction--these things exhausted, and poor bossy's
tale is told. You can get nothing more out of her, except in some spasm
of madness. She is driven to extremes by her dumbness.

I am brought to this sermon by two things: what happened to me when
Rowena Fewkes came over to see me in the early summer of 1859, a year
almost to a day from the time when Magnus and I left Blue-grass Manor
after our spell of work there: and what our best cow, Spot, did

We were trying to lead Spot behind a wagon, and she did not like it. She
had no way of telling us how much she hated it, and how panicky she was,
as a dog or a cat could have done; and so she just hung back and acted
dumb and stubborn for a minute or two, and then she gave an awful
bellow, ran against the wagon as if she wanted to upset it, and when she
found she could not affect it, in as pathetic a despair and mental agony
as any man ever felt who has killed himself, she thrust one horn into
the ground, broke it off flush with her head, and threw herself down
with her neck doubled under her shoulder, as if trying to commit
suicide, as I verily believe she was. And yet dogs and cats get credit
for being creatures of finer feelings than cows, merely because cows
have no tricks of barking, purring, and the like.

It is the same as between other people and a Dutchman. He has the same
poverty of expression that cows are cursed with. To wear his feelings
like an overcoat where everybody can see them is for him impossible. He
is the bovine of the human species. This is the reason why I used to
have such fearful crises once in a while in my dumb life, as when I was
treated so kindly by Captain Sproule just after my stepfather whipped
me; or when I nearly killed Ace, my fellow-driver, on the canal in my
first and successful rebellion; or when I used to grow white, and cry
like a baby in my fights with rival drivers. I am thought by my
children, I guess, an unfeeling person, because the surface of my nature
is ice, and does not ripple in every breeze; but when ice breaks up, it
rips and tears--and the thicker the ice, the worse the ravage. The only
reason for saying anything about this is that I am an old man, and I
have always wanted to say it: and there are some things I have said, and
some I shall now have to say, that will seem inconsistent unless the
truths just stated are taken into account.

But there are some things to be told about before this crisis can be
understood. Life dragged along for all of us from one year to another in
the slow movement of a new country in hard times: only I was at bottom
better off than most of my neighbors because I had cattle, though I
could not see how they then did me much good. They grew in numbers, and
keeping them was just a matter of labor. My stock was the only thing I
had except land which was almost worthless; for I could use the land of
others for pasture and hay without paying rent.

Town life went backward in most ways. My interest in it centered in
Virginia and through her in Elder Thorndyke's family; but of this family
I saw little except for my visits from Grandma Thorndyke. She came out
and red up the house as often as she could catch a ride, and I kept up
my now well-known secret policy of supplying the Thorndyke family with
my farm, dairy and poultry surplus. Why not? I lay in bed of nights
thinking that Virginia had been that day fed on what I grew, and in the
morning would eat buckwheat cakes from grain that I worked to grow,
flour from my wheat that I had taken to mill, spread with butter which I
had made with my own hands, from the cows she used to pet and that had
hauled her in my wagon back along the Ridge Road, and with nice sorghum
molasses from cane that I had grown and hauled to the sorghum mill. That
she would have meat that I had prepared for her, with eggs from the
descendants of the very hens to which she had fed our table scraps when
we were together. That maybe she would think of me when she made bread
for Grandma Thorndyke from my flour. It was sometimes almost like being
married to Virginia, this feeling of standing between her and hunger.
The very roses in her cheeks, and the curves in her developing form,
seemed of my making. But she never came with grandma to help red up.


Grandma often told me that now I was getting pretty nearly old enough to
be married, or would be when I was twenty-one, which would be in
July--"Though," she always said, "I don't believe in folks's being
married under the spell of puppy love. Thirty is soon enough; but yet,
you might do well to marry when you are a little younger, because you
need a wife to keep you clean and tidy, and you can support a wife." She
began bringing girls with her to help fix my house up; and she would
always show them the castor and my other things.

"Dat bane for Christina," said Magnus one time, when she was showing my
castor and a nice white china dinner set, to Kittie Fleming or Dose
Roebuck, both of whom were among her samples of girls shown me. "An' dat
patent churn--dat bane for Christina, too, eh, Yake?"

"Christina who?" asked Grandma Thorndyke sharply.

"Christina Quale," said Magnus, "my cousin in Norvay."

This was nuts and apples for Grandma Thorndyke and the girls who came.
Magnus showed them Christina's picture, and told them that I had a copy
of it, and all about what a nice girl Christina was. Now grandma made a
serious thing of this and soon I had the reputation of being engaged to
Magnus's cousin, who was the daughter of a rich farmer, and could write
English; and even that I had received a letter from her. This seemed
unjust to me, though I was a little mite proud of it; for the letter was
only one page written in English in one of Magnus's. All the time
grandma was bringing girls with her to help, and making me work with
them when I helped. They were nice girls, too--Kittie, and Dose, Lizzie
Finster, and Zeruiah Strickler, and Amy Smith--all farmer girls. Grandma
was always talking about the wisdom of my marrying a farmer girl.

"The best thing about Christina," said she, "is that she is the daughter
of a farmer."

I struggled with this Christina idea, and tried to make it clear that
she was nothing to me, that it was just a joke. Grandma
Thorndyke smiled.

"Of course you'd say that," said she.

But the Christina myth grew wonderfully, and it made me more interesting
to the other girls.

"You look too high
For things close by,
And slight the things around you!"

So sang Zeruiah Strickler as she scrubbed my kitchen, and in pauses of
her cheerful and encouraging song told of the helplessness of men
without their women. I really believed her, in spite of my success in
getting along by myself.

"Why don't you bring Virginia out some day?" I asked on one of these
occasions, when it seemed to me that Grandma Thorndyke was making
herself just a little too frequent a visitor at my place.

"Miss Royall," said she, as if she had been speaking of the Queen of
Sheba, "is busy with her own circle of friends. She is now visiting at
Governor Wade's. She is almost a member of the family there. And her law
matters take up a good deal of her time, too. Mr. Gowdy says he thinks
he may be able to get her property for her soon. She can hardly be
expected to come out for this."

And grandma swept her hands about to cast down into nothingness my
house, my affairs, and me. This plunged me into the depths of misery.

So, when I furnished the cream for the donation picnic at Crabapple
Grove in strawberry time, I went prepared to see myself discarded by my
love. She was there, and I had not overestimated her coldness toward
me. Buck Gowdy came for only a few minutes, and these he spent eating
ice-cream with Elder Thorndyke, with Virginia across the table from him,
looking at her in that old way of his. Before he left, she went over and
sat with Bob Wade and Kittie Fleming; but he joined them pretty soon,
and I saw him bending down in that intimate way of his, first speaking
to Kittie, and then for a longer time, to Virginia--and I thought of the
time when she would not even speak his name!

Once she walked off by herself in the trees, and looked back at me as
she went; but I was done with her, I said to myself, and hung back. She
soon returned to the company, and began flirting with Matthias Trickey,
who was no older than I, and just as much of a country bumpkin. I found
out afterward that right off after that, Matthias began going to see
her, with his pockets full of candy with mottoes on it. I called this
sparking, and the sun of my hopes set in a black bank of clouds. I do
not remember that I was ever so unhappy, not even when John Rucker was
in power over me and my mother, not even when I was seeking my mother up
and down the canal and the Lakes, not even when I found that she had
gone away on her last long journey that bleak winter day in Madison. I
now devoted myself to the memory of my old dreams for my mother, and
blamed myself for treason to her memory, getting out that old letter and
the poor work-worn shoe, and weeping over them in my lonely nights in
the cabin on the prairie. I can not now think of this without pity for
myself; and though Grandma Thorndyke was one of the best women that ever
lived on this footstool, and was much to me in my after life, I can not
think of her happiness at my despair without blaming her memory a
little. But she meant well. She had better plans, as she thought, for
Virginia, than any which she thought I could have.


It was not more than a week after this donation picnic, when I came home
for my nooning one day, and found a covered wagon in the yard, and two
strange horses in the stable. When I went to the house, there were Old
Man Fewkes and Mrs. Fewkes, and Surajah Dowlah and Celebrate Fourth. I
welcomed them heartily. I was so lonesome that I would have welcomed a
stray dog, and that is pretty nearly what I was doing.

"I guess," ventured the old man, after we had finished our dinner, "that
you are wondering where we're goin', Jake."

"A long ways," I said, "by the looks of your rig."

"You see us now," he went on, "takin' steps that I've wanted to take
ever sen' I found out what a den of inikerty we throwed ourselves into
when we went out yon'," pointing in the general direction of the
Blue-grass Manor.

"What steps are you takin'?" I asked.

"We are makin'," said he, "our big move for riches. Gold! Gold! Jake,
you must go with us! We are goin' out to the Speak."

I had never heard of any place called the Speak, but I finally got it
through my head that he meant Pike's Peak. We were in the midst of the
Pike's Peak excitement for two or three years; and this was the earliest
sign of it that I had seen, though I had heard Pike's Peak mentioned.

"Jake," said Old Man Fewkes, "it's a richer spot than the Arabian
Knights ever discovered. The streams are rollin' gold sand. Come along
of us to the Speak, an' we'll make you rich. Eh, ma?"

"I have been drailed around," said ma, as she saw me looking at her,
"about as much as I expect to be; but this is like goin' home. It's the
last move; and as pa has said ag'in an' ag'in, it ain't but six or eight
hundred mile from Omaha, an' with the team an' wagin we've got, that's
nothin' if we find the gold, an' I calculate there ain't no doubt of
that. The Speak looks like the best place we ever started fur, and we
all hope you'll leave this Land o' Desolation, an' come with us. We like
you, an' we want you to be rich with us."

"Where's Rowena?" I asked.

Silence for quite a while. Then Ma Fewkes spoke.

"Rowena," she said, her voice trembling, "Rowena ain't goin' with us."

"Why," I said, "last summer, she seemed to want to start for Texas. She
ain't goin' with you? I want to know!"

"She ain't no longer," said Old Man Fewkes, "a member o' my family. I
shall will my proputty away from her. I've made up my mind, Jake: an'
now le's talk about the Speak. Our plans was never better laid.
Celebrate, tell Jake how we make our money a-goin', and you, Surrager,
denote to him your machine f'r gittin' out the gold."

I was too absorbed in thinking about Rowena to take in what Surajah and
Celebrate said. I have a dim recollection that Celebrate's plan for
making money was to fill the wagon box with white beans which were
scarce in Denver City, as we then called Denver, and could be sold for
big money when they got there. I have no remembrance of Surajah Dowlah's
plan for mining. I declined to go with them, and they went away toward
Monterey Centre, saying that they would stay there a few days, "to kind
of recuperate up," and they hoped I would join them. What about Rowena?
They had been so mysterious about her, that I had a new subject of
thought now, and, for I was very fond of the poor girl, of anxiety. Not
that she would be the worse for losing her family. In fact, she would be
the better for it, one might think. Her older brothers and sisters, I
remembered, had been bound out back east, and this seemed to show a lack
of family affection; but the tremor in Ma Fewkes's voice, and the
agitation in which Old Man Fewkes had delivered what in books would be
his parental curse, led me to think that they were in deep trouble on
account of their breach with Rowena. Poor girl! After all, they were her
parents and brothers, and as long as she was with them, she had not been
quite alone in the world. My idea of what had taken place may be judged
by the fact that when I next saw Magnus I asked him if he knew that
Rowena and her people had had a fuss. I looked upon the case as that of
a family fuss, and that only. Magnus looked very solemn, and said that
he had seen none of the family since we had finished our work for
Gowdy--a year ago.

"What said the old man, Yake?" he asked anxiously.

"He said he was going to will his property away from her!" I replied,
laughing heartily at the idea: but Magnus did not laugh. "He said that
she ain't no longer a member of his family, Magnus. Don't that
beat you!"

"Yes," said Magnus gravely, "dat beat me, Yake."

He bowed his head in thought for a while, and then looked up.

"Ay can't go to her, Yake. Ay can't go to her. But you go, Yake; you go.
An' you tal her--dat Magnus Thorkelson--Norsky Thorkelson--bane ready to
do what he can for her. All he can do. Tal her Magnus ready to live or
die for her. You tal her dat, Yake!"

I had to think over this a few days before I could begin to guess what
it meant; and three days after, she came to see me. It was a Sunday
right after harvest. I had put on my new clothes thinking to go to hear
Elder Thorndyke preach, but when I thought that I had no longer any
pleasure in the thought of Virginia, no chance ever to have her for my
wife, no dreams of her for the future even, I sat in a sort of stupor
until it was too late to go, and then I walked out to look at things.

The upland phlox, we called them pinks, were gone; the roses had fallen
and were represented by green haws, turning to red; the upland scarlet
lilies were vanished; but the tall lilies of the moist places were
flaming like yellow stars over the tall grass, each with its six dusty
anthers whirling like little windmills about its red stigma; and beside
these lilies, with their spotted petals turned back to their roots,
stood the clumps of purple marsh phlox; while towering over them all
were the tall rosin-weeds with their yellow blossoms like sunflowers,
and the Indian medicine plant waving purple plumes. There was a sense of
autumn in the air. Far off across the marsh I saw that the settlers had
their wheat in symmetrical beehive-shaped stacks while mine stood in the
shock, my sloping hillside slanting down to the marsh freckled with the
shocks until it looked dark--the almost sure sign of a bountiful crop.
And as I looked at this scene of plenty, I sickened at it. What use to
me were wheat in the shock, hay in the stack, cattle on the prairie,
corn already hiding the ground? Nothing! Less than nothing: for I had
lost the thing for which I had worked--lost it before I had claimed it.
I sat down and saw the opposite side of the marsh swim in my tears.


And then Rowena came into my view as she passed the house. I hastily
dried my eyes, and went to meet her, astonished, for she was alone. She
was riding one of Gowdy's horses, and had that badge of distinction in
those days, a side-saddle and a riding habit. She looked very
distinguished, as she rode slowly toward me, her long skirt hanging
below her feet, one knee crooked about the saddle horn, the other in the
stirrup. I had not seen a woman riding thus since the time I had watched
them sweeping along in all their style in Albany or Buffalo. She came up
to me and stopped, looking at me without a word.

"Why of all things!" I said. "Rowena, is this you!"

"What's left of me," said she.

I stood looking at her for a minute, thinking of what her father and
mother had said, and finally trying to figure out what seemed to be a
great change in her. There was something new in her voice, and her
manner of looking at me as she spoke; and something strange in the way
she looked out of her eyes. Her face was a little paler than it used to
be, as if she had been indoors more; but there was a pink flush in her
cheeks that made her look prettier than I had ever seen her. Her eyes
were bright as if with tears just trembling to fall, rather than with
the old glint of defiance or high spirits; but she smiled and laughed
more than ever I had seen her do. She acted as if she was in high
spirits, as I have seen even very quiet girls in the height of the fun
and frolic of a dance or sleigh-ride. When she was silent for a moment,
though, her mouth drooped as if in some sort of misery; and it was not
until our eyes met that the laughing expression came over her face, as
if she was gay only when she knew she was watched. She seemed
older--much older.

Somehow, all at once there came into my mind the memory of the woman
away back there in Buffalo, who had taken me, a sleepy, lonely,
neglected little boy, to her room, put me to bed, and been driven from
the fearful place in which she lived, because of it. I have finally
thought of the word to describe what I felt in both these
cases--desperation; desperation, and the feeling of pursuit and flight.
I did not even feel all this as I stood looking at Rowena, sitting on
her horse so prettily that summer day at my farm; I only felt puzzled
and a little pitiful for her--all the more, I guess, because of her nice
clothes and her side-saddle.

"Well, Mr. Vandemark," said she, finally, "I don't hear the perprietor
of the estate say anything about lighting and stayin' a while.' Help me
down, Jake!"

I swung her from the saddle and tied her horse. I stopped to put a
halter on him, unsaddle him, and give him hay. I wanted time to think;
but I do not remember that I had done much if any thinking when I got
back to the house, and found that she had taken off her long skirt and
was sitting on the little stoop in front of my door. She wore the old

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