THE BOOK OF FOOD
Nobody knows what starts the sap along the twigs of a very young, tender, and green woman’s nature. In my case it was Samuel Foster Crittenden, though how could he have counted on the amount of Grandmother Nelson that was planted deep in my disposition, ready to spring up and bear fruit as soon as I was brought in direct acquaintance with a seed-basket and a garden hoe? Also why should Sam’s return to a primitive state have forced my ancestry up to the point of flowering on the surface? I do hope Sam will not have to suffer consequences, but I can’t help it if he does. What’s born in us is not our fault.
“Yes, Betty, I know I’m an awful shock to you as a farmer. I ought to have impressed it on you more thoroughly before you—you saw me in the act. I’m sorry, dear,” Sam comforted me gently and tenderly as I wept with dismay into the sleeve of his faded blue overalls.
“I can’t understand it,” I sniffed as I held on to his sustaining hand while I balanced with him on the top of an old, moss-covered stone wall he had begged me to climb to for a view of Harpeth Valley which he thought might turn my attention from him. “Have you mislaid your beautiful ambitions anywhere?”
“I must have planted them along with my corn crop, I reckon,” he answered, quietly, as he steadied his shoulder against an old oak-tree that grew close to the fence and then steadied my shoulder against his.
“It is just for a little while, to get evidence about mud and animals and things like that, isn’t it?” I asked, with great and undue eagerness, while an early blue jay flitted across from tree-top to tree-top in so happy a spirit that I sympathized with the admiring lady twit that came from a bush near the wall. “You are going back out into the world where I left you, aren’t you?”
“No,” answered Sam, in an even tone of voice that quieted me completely; it was the same he had used when he made me stand still the time his fishhook caught in my arm at about our respective sixth and tenth years. “No, I’m going to be just a farmer. It’s this way, Betty. That valley you are looking down into has the strength to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry men, women, and children when they come down to us over Paradise Ridge from the crowded old world; but men have to make her give it up and be ready for them. At first I wasn’t sure I could, but now I’m going to put enough heart and brain and muscle into my couple of hundred acres to dig out my share of food, and that of the other folks a great strapping thing like I am ought to help to feed. I’ll plow your name deep into the potato-field, dear,” he ended, with a laugh, as he let go my hand, which he had almost dislocated while his eyes smoldered out over the Harpeth Valley, lying below us like an earthen cup full of green richness, on whose surface floated a cream of mist.
“It just breaks my heart to see you away from everything and everybody, all burned up and scratched up and muddy, and—and—” I was saying as he lifted me back into the road again beside my shiny new Redwheels that looked like an enlarged and very gay sedan-chair.