They also walked past a number of houses which were being repainted, and fitted up with new windows and glass-enclosed verandas, and past gardens where spading and planting were going on. All whom they met along the way had muddy shoes and grimy hands from working in fields and vegetable gardens, where they had been planting potatoes, setting out cabbages, and sowing turnips and carrots.
The peasant simply had to stop and ask them what kind of potatoes they were planting and just when they had sown their oats. At sight of a calf or a foal, he at once began to figure out how old it was. He calculated the number of cows they would be likely to keep at such and such a farm, and wondered how much this or that colt would fetch when broken.
The son tried time after time to turn his father’s thought away from such things. “I’m thinking that you and I will soon be wandering through the valley of Sharon and the desert of Judea,” he said.
The father smiled, and his face brightened for a moment. “It will indeed be a blessed privilege to walk in the footsteps of our dear Lord Jesus,” he answered. But the next minute, on seeing a couple of cartloads of quicklime, his thoughts were diverted. “I say, Gabriel, who do you suppose is hauling lime? Folks say that lime as a fertilizer makes a rich crop. That will be something to feast your eyes on in the fall.”
“In the fall, father!” said the son reprovingly.
“Yes, I know,” returned the farmer, “that by fall I shall be dwelling in the tents of Jacob and labouring in the Lord’s vineyard.”
“Amen!” cried the son. “So be it. Amen!”
Then they walked on in silence for a space, watching the signs of spring. Water trickled in the ditches, and the road itself was badly broken up from the spring rains. Whichever way they looked there was work to be done. Every one wanted to turn to and help, even when crossing some field other than his own.
“To tell the truth,” said the farmer thoughtfully, “I wish I had sold my property some fall, when the work was over. It’s hard having to leave it all in the springtime, just when you’d like to take hold with might and main.”
The son only shrugged; he knew that he would have to let the old man talk.
“It’s just thirty-one years now since I, as a young man, bought a piece of waste land on the north side of this parish,” said the farmer. “The ground had never been touched by a spade. Half of it was bog, the other half a mass of stones. It looked pretty bad. On that very land I worked like a slave, digging up stones until my back was ready to break. But I think I laboured even harder with the swamp, before I finally got it drained and filled in.”
“Yes, you have certainly worked hard, father,” the son admitted. “This is why God thinks of you, and summons you to His Holy Land.”
“At first,” the farmer went on, “I lived in a hovel that wasn’t much better than a charcoaler’s hut. It was made of unstripped logs, with only sod for a roof. I could never make that but water tight; so the rains always came in. It was mighty uncomfortable, especially at night. The cow and the horse fared no better than I; the whole of the first winter they were housed in a mud cave that was as dark as a cellar.”