Dry Bench farm had undergone a change. A neat frame house stood in front of the log hut, which had been boarded and painted to match the newer part. A barn filled with hay and containing horses and cows stood at a proper distance back. A granary and a corn-crib were near. The new county road now extended along the fronting of the Ames place, and a neat fence separated the garden from the public highway. On the left was the orchard, a beautiful sight. Standing in long, symmetrical rows were peaches, apples, pears, and a dozen other varieties of fruit, now just beginning to bear. At the rear, stretching nearly to the mountains, were the grain and alfalfa fields. Neighboring farms also were greatly improved by the advent of water, but none showed such labor and care as the Ames farm. Rupert grew with the growth of his labors, until he was now a tall, muscular fellow, browned and calloused. Nina was fast outgrowing childish things and entering the young-lady period. A beautiful girl she was, and a favorite among her schoolmates. She had attended school in town for the past three winters, and her brother was talking of sending her to the high school.
Practically, Rupert was the head of the family. Always respectful to his mother, and generally consulting with her on any important matter, he nevertheless could not help seeing that everything depended on him, and that he was the master mind of Ames farm. And then the neighbors came to him for advice, and older and presumably wiser men counseled with him, and so it suggested itself to Rupert that he was the master mind of all Dry Bench besides. Everybody called him a “rustler.” When he had leisure for school, he was beyond school age; so, nothing daunted, he set out to study by himself. He procured the necessary books, and went to them with an energy that made up for the lack of a teacher. Nina kept pace with him for a time, but the ungraded village school curriculum was too slow for Rupert; and when one spring the young reservoir projector appeared at the county teachers’ examination and passed creditably, all, as he said “just for fun and practice,” the people talked again—and elected him to the board of trustees.
A beautiful spring morning dawned on Dry Bench. A cool breeze came from the mountains and played with the young leaves of the orchard. The apricots were white with blossoms, and the plums and peaches were just bursting into masses of pink and white. The alfalfa and wheat fields were beautifully green. Blessed Morning, what a life promoter, what a dispeller of fears and bringer of hopes, thou art!
Rupert was out early. After tossing some hay to the horses and cows, he shouldered his shovel and strode up the ditch, whistling as he went. His straw hat set well back on his head. His blue “jumper” met the blue overalls which were tucked into a pair of heavy boots. His tune was a merry one and rang out over the still fields and up to the hills.