“I know; but that drunken brute of a son will sell as soon as she’s under the sod, and they say the poor old girl is on her last legs,—down with distemper or some other beastly disease. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll sound the renegade son and see how he measures. Some one will get it before long, and it might as well be you.”
Jackson galloped off, and Kyrle and I sat on the porch and divided the widow’s 160-acre mite. It was a good strip of land, lying a fair mile on the south road and a quarter of a mile deep. The buildings were of no value, the fences were ragged to a degree, but I coveted the land. It was the vineyard of Naboth to me, and I planned its future with my friend and accessory sitting by. I destroyed the estimable old lady’s house and barns, ran my ploughshares through her garden and flower beds, and turned the home site into one great field of lusty corn, without so much as saying by your leave. Thus does the greed of land grow upon one. But in truth, I saw that I must have more land. My factory would require more than ten thousand bushels of grain, with forage and green foods in proportion, to meet its full capacity, and I could not hope to get so much from the land then under cultivation. Again, in a few years—a very few—the fifty acres of orchard would be no longer available for crops, and this would still further reduce my tillable land. With the orchards out of use, I should have but 124 acres for all crops other than hay. If I could add this coveted 160, it would give me 250 acres of excellent land for intensive farming.
“I should like it on this side of the road,” said I, “but I suppose that will have to do.”
“What will have to do?” asked Kyrle.
“The 160 acres over there.”
“You unconscionable wretch! Have you evicted the poor widow, and she on her deathbed? For stiffening the neck and hardening the heart, commend me to the close-to-nature life of the farmer. I wouldn’t own a farm for worlds. It risks one’s immortality. Give me the wicked city for pasturage—and a friend who will run a farm, at his own risk, and give me the benefit of it.”
MAIDS AND MALLARDS
We have so rarely entered our house with the reader that he knows little of its domestic machinery. So much depends upon this machinery that one must always take it into consideration when reckoning the pleasures and even the comforts of life anywhere, and this is especially true in the country. We have such a lot of people about that our servants cannot sing the song of lonesomeness that makes dolor for most suburbanites. They are “churched” as often as they wish, and we pay city wages; but still it is not all clear sailing in this quarter of Polly’s realm. I fancy that we get on better than some of our neighbors; but we do not brag, and I usually feel that I am smoking my pipe in a powder magazine. There is something essentially wrong in the working-girl world, and I am glad that I was not born to set it right. We cannot down the spirit of unrest and improvidence that holds possession of cooks and waitresses, and we needs must suffer it with such patience as we can.