Ma Pettengill, long morose, for months made hostile of mood by the shortage of help, now bubbled with a strange vivacity. At her desk in the Arrowhead living room she cheerfully sorted a jumble of befigured sheets and proclaimed to one and all that the Arrowhead ranch was once more a going concern. She’d thought it was gone, and here it was merely going. She would no longer be compelled to stare ruin in the face till it actually got embarrassed and had to look the other way. And it was the swift doings of this here new foreman. He’d not only got us going again but had put us on a military basis. And at that he was nothing but a poor old wreck of a veteran from the trenches, aged all of twenty-one, shot to pieces, gassed, shell-shocked, trench feeted and fevered, and darned bad with nervous dyspepsia into the bargain.
Thus described, the bargain seemed to me to be a poor one, for I had not yet viewed this decrepit newcomer or been refreshed with tales of his prowess. But Ma Pettengill knows men, and positively will not bubble except under circumstances that justify it, so I considered the matter worth a question or two.
Very well then! What about this mere shattered bit of flotsam from the world welter? How could so misused a remnant cope with the manifold cares of the long-harried Arrowhead ranch?
Why, he just plain coped, that was all. He might be mere shattered flotsam, but you bet he was still some little coper, take her word for that! Matter of fact, though, he didn’t aim to hold the job for long. Only until this here smarty of a medical officer, that turned him down from going back to the trenches, was retired to private life again. This here new foreman had to be on the ground when this puppet got out of his uniform and so could be handled proper by the right party without incurring twenty years in Leavenworth. At this brief meeting the unfortunate man would be told politely that he had guessed wrong on the foreman’s physical condition, after which the same would be proved to him then and there, leaving him to wish that he hadn’t been so arrogant telling parties they was unfit for further service and had better go home and forget all about the war. Yes, sir; he’d be left himself with something to forget that most likely he’d still be remembering vividly when folks had got to wondering what them funny little buttons with “Liberty Loan” on ’em could ever of been used for.
Still, this palsied wreck was with us for a time and had started in that very morning to carry on. He used but few words, but treated ’em rough if they come looking for it. First, they was two I.W.W.’s down to the lower field had struck for three-fifty a day, and had threatened to burn someone’s haystacks when it was coldly refused. So one had been took to jail and one to the hospital the minute the flotsam slowed up with ’em. It was a fair enough hospital case for both, but the one for jail could still walk.