“There’s a piece of real stuff,” he said to the engineer as they sat talking together. “Looks just like my old pard. It took real pluck to go after that baby. If Bill’d a been here he would have gotten enthusiastic over that lad.”
A Story Is Told and a Promise Made
An open fire had always been tremendously fascinating to Willis Thornton, and on winter evenings, when his chores were done and supper over, he would pile the big fireplace high with maple logs, then sit and dream as the flames danced and the fire roared. He was a sturdy lad, healthy, cheerful, wholesome, and tonight he was thinking.
The snow-laden wind was sweeping across the “Flat Bush.” At every fresh gust the fire would crackle and the little blue flames start up along the none-too-well seasoned logs. Outside the old farmhouse the great dead limb of a monstrous white oak moaned and sighed, while the usual sounds from the barnyard were lost in the patter of the icy snowflakes that rattled against the window pane. From the open door of the kitchen came faint odors of freshly-popped corn and the monotonous hum of the old sewing-machine. Willis was hardly aware of any presence in the room save his own until a warm hand was laid gently on his and a dish of snowy popcorn set in his lap. He had been so engrossed with his own fancies that he had not seen his mother enter the firelit room and come toward him.
“Well, my boy; what are you dreaming of tonight?” she asked, as she seated herself in her accustomed place on the arm of his chair and placed her arm gently on his shoulder.
“O, I’ve just been planning a bit, mother,” he said with a smile. “Sometimes when I sit here by this old fire I forget myself. I travel to the strangest lands and think the strangest thoughts. Still, they all seem so very real to me that when I try not to think of them a peculiar restlessness comes over me. I can hardly wait for summer and the great big out-of-doors. Did you ever think, mother, what life would be if we didn’t have the birds and the bees and the flowers? Are people in the cities happy and contented without them? I’ve often wondered. I suppose some day I’ll be going to the city to live, as all the other boys have done; but when I think of it it makes me sad. I don’t believe I’d ever be happy in the city, mother, unless—”
He paused long enough to stir up the fire and put on another log.
“Unless what, Willis?” his mother inquired.
“Unless—” he hesitated as if thinking. “I could go West to where father was.”