The young man was surprised. He had not expected such talk from a ladder climber. He looked at Kelso, groping for an answer. Then—
“Perhaps not,” said he. “I have been a little wild, but that is all in the past. You can learn about me and my family from any one in St. Louis. I am not ashamed of anything I have done.”
“Nevertheless, I must ask you to back away from this subject. I can not even discuss it with you.”
“May I not hope that you will change your mind?”
“Not at present. Let the future take care of itself.”
“I generally get what I want,” said the young man.
“And now and then something that you don’t want,” said Kelso, a bit nettled by his persistence.
“You ought to think of her happiness. She is too sweet and beautiful for a home like this.”
There was an awkward moment of silence. The young man said good night and opened the door.
“I’ll go with you,” said Kelso.
He went with Mr. Biggs to the tavern and got his daughter and returned home with her.
Mrs. Kelso chided her husband for being hard on Mr. Biggs.
“He has had his lesson, perhaps he will turn over a new leaf,” she said.
“I fear there isn’t a new leaf in his book,” said Kelso. “They’re all dirty.”
He told his wife what Abe had said in the store.
“The wisdom of the common folk is in that beardless young giant,” he said. “It is the wisdom of many generations gathered in the hard school of bitter experience. I wonder where it is going to lead him.”
As Eliphalet Biggs was going down the south road next morning he met Bim on her pony near the schoolhouse, returning from the field with her cow. They stopped.
“I’m coming back, little girl,” he said.
“What for?” she asked.
“To tell you a secret and ask you a question. Nobody but you has the right to say I can not. May I come?”
“I suppose you can—if you want to,” she answered.
“I’ll come and I’ll write to you and send the letters to Ann.”
Mentor Graham, who lived in the schoolhouse, had come out of its door.
“Good-by!” said young Mr. Biggs, as his heels touched the flanks of his horse. Then he went flying down the road.
WHEREIN ABE MAKES SUNDRY WISE REMARKS TO THE BOY HARRY
AND ANNOUNCES HIS
PURPOSE TO BE A CANDIDATE FOR THE LEGISLATURE AT KELSO’S DINNER PARTY.
Harry Needles met Bim Kelso on the road next day, when he was going down to see if there was any mail. She was on her pony. He was in his new suit of clothes—a butternut background striped into large checks.
“You look like a walking checkerboard,” said she, stopping her pony.
“This—this is my new suit,” Harry answered, looking down at it.
“It’s a tiresome suit,” said she impaciently. “I’ve been playing checkers on it since I caught sight o’ you, and I’ve got a man crowned in the king row.”