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Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 11590

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

"I've sure got plenty of time now to look for a job," observed Hiram Strong when he was two blocks away from Dwight's Emporium. "But I declare I don't know where to begin."

For his experience in talking with the farmers around the market had rather dashed Hiram's hope of getting a place in the country at once. It was too early in the season. Nor did it look so much like Spring as it had a week ago. Already Hiram had to turn up the collar of his rough coat, and a few flakes of snow were settling on his shoulders as he walked.

"It's winter yet," he mused. "If I can't get something to do in the city for a few weeks to tide me over, I'm afraid I shall have to find a cheaper place to board than at Mother Atterson's."

After half an hour of strolling from street to street, however, Hiram decided that there was nothing in that game. He must break in somewhere, so he turned into the very next warehouse.

"Want a job? I'll be looking for one myself pretty soon, if business isn't better," was the answer he got from the first man he approached.

But Hiram kept at it, and got short answers and long answers, pleasant ones and some that were not so pleasant; but all could be summed up in the single monosyllable:


"I certainly am a failure here in town," Hiram thought, as he walked through the snow-blown streets. "How foolish I was ever to have come away from the country.

"A fellow ought to stick to the job he is fitted for-and that's sure. But I didn't know. I thought there would be forty chances in town to one in the country.

"And there doesn't seem to be a single chance right now. Why, I'll have to leave Mrs. Atterson's, if I can't find a job before next week is out!

"This mean old town is over-crowded with fellows like me looking for work. And when it comes to office positions, I haven't a high-school diploma, nor am I fitted for that kind of a job.

"I want to be out of doors. Working in a stuffy office wouldn't suit me. Oh, as a worker in the city I am a rank failure, and that's all there is about it!"

He went home to supper much more tired than he would have been had he done a full day's work at Dwight's Emporium. Indeed, the job he had lost now loomed up in his troubled mind as much more important than it had seemed when he had desired to change it for another.

Mother Atterson was at home. She hadn't more than taken off her bonnet, however, and had had but a single clash with Chloe in the kitchen.

"I smelled it burnin' the minute I set my foot on the front step!" she declared. "You can't fool my nose when it comes to smelling burned stuff.

"Well, Hiram," she continued, too full of news to remark that he was at home long before his time, "I saw the poor old soul laid away, at least. I wish now I'd got Chloe in before, and gone to see Uncle Jeptha before he was in his coffin.

"But I didn't think I could afford it, and that's a fact. We poor folks can't have many pleasures in this world of toil and trouble!" added the boarding house mistress, to whom even the break of a funeral, or a death-bed visit, was in the nature of a solemn amusement.

"And there the old man went and made his will years ago, unbeknownst to anybody, and me bein' his only blood relation, as you might say, though it was years since I seen him much, but he remembered my mother with love," and she began to wipe her eyes.

"Poor old man! And me with a white-faced cow that I'm afraid of my life of, and an old horse that looks like a moth-eaten hide trunk we to have in our garret at home when I was a little girl, and belonged to my great-great-grandmother Atterson--

"And there's a mess of chickens that eat all day long and don't lay an egg as far as I could see, besides a sow and a litter of six pigs that squeal worse than the the switch-engine down yonder in the freight yard--

"And they're all to be fed, and how I'm to do it, and feed the boarders, too, I don't for the life of me see!" finished Mrs. Atterson, completely out of breath.

"What do you mean?" cried Hiram, suddenly waking to the significance of the old lady's chatter. "Do you mean he willed you these things?"

"Of course," she returned, smoothing down her best black skirt. "They go with the house and outbuildings-`all the chattels and appurtenances thereto', the will read."

"Why, Mrs. Atterson!" gasped Hiram. "He must have left you the farm."

"That's what I said," returned the old lady, complacently. "And what I'm to do with it I've no more idea than the man in the moon."

"A farm!" repeated Hiram, his face flushing and his eyes beginning to shine.

Now, Hiram Strong was not a particularly handsome youth, but in his excitement he almost looked so.

"Eighty acres, so many rods, and so many perches," pursued Mrs. Atterson, nodding. "That's the way it reads. The perches is in the henhouse, I s'pose-though why the description included them and not the hens' nests I dunno."

"Eighty acres of land!" repeated Hiram in a daze.

"All free and clear. Not a dollar against it-only encumbrances is the chickens, the cow, the horse and the pigs," declared Mrs. Atterson. "If it wasn't for them it might not be so bad. Scoville's an awfully nice place, and the farm's on an automobile road. A body needn't go blind looking for somebody to go by the door occasionally.

"And if it got so bad here finally that I couldn't make a livin' keeping boarders," pursued the lady, "I might go out there and live in the old house-which isn't much, I know, but it's a shelter, and my tastes are simple, goodness knows."

"But a farm, Mrs. Atterson!" broke in Hiram. "Think what you can do with it!"

"That's what I'd like to have, you, or somebody else tell me," exclaimed the old lady, tartly. "I ain't got no more use for a

farm than a cat has for two tails!"

"But-but isn't it a good farm?" queried Hiram, puzzled.

"How do I know?" snapped the boarding house mistress. "I wouldn't know one farm from another, exceptin' two can't be in exactly the same spot. Oh! do you mean, could I sell it?"


"The lawyer advised me not to sell just now. He said something about the state of the real estate market in that section. Prices would be better in a year or two. And then, the old place is mighty run down."

"That's what I mean," Hiram hastened to say. "Has it been cropped to death? Is the soil worn out? Can't you run it and make something out of it?"

"For pity's sake!" ejaculated the good lady, "how should I know? And I couldn't run it-I shouldn't know how.

"I've got a neighbor-woman in the house just now to 'tend to things-and that's costin' me a dollar and a half a week. And there'll be taxes to pay, and-and-Well, I just guess I'll have to try and sell it now and take what I can get.

"Though that lawyer says that if the place was fixed up a little and crops put in it would make a thousand dollars' difference in the selling price. That is, after a year or two.

"But bless us and save us" cried Mrs. Atterson, "I'd be swamped with expenses before that time."

"Mebbe not," said Hiram Strong, trying to repress his eagerness. "Why not try it?"

"Try to run that farm?" cried she. "Why, I'd jest as lief go up in one o' those aeroplanes and try to run it. I wouldn't be no more up in the air then than I would be on a farm," she added, grimly.

"Get somebody to run it for you-do the outside work, I mean, Mrs. Atterson," said Hiram. "You could keep house out there just as well as you do here. And it would be easy for you to learn to milk--"

"That whitefaced cow? My goodness! I'd just as quick learn to milk a switch-engine!"

"But it's only her head that looks so wicked to you," laughed Hiram. "And you don't milk that end."

"Well-mebbe," admitted Mrs. Atterson, doubtfully. "I reckon I could make butter again-I used to do that when I was a girl at my aunt's. And either I'd make those hens lay or I'd have their dratted heads off!

"And my goodness me! To get rid of the boarders-Oh, stop your talkin', Hi Strong! That is too good to ever be true. Don't talk to me no more."

"But I want to talk to you, Mrs. Atterson," persisted the youth, eagerly.

"Well, who'd I get to do the outside work-put in crops, and 'tend 'em, and look out for that old horse?"

Hiram almost choked. This opportunity should not get past him if he could help it!

"Let me do it, Mrs. Atterson. Give me a chance to show you what I can do," he cried. "Let me run the farm for you!"

"Why-why do you suppose that it could be made to pay us, Hi?" demanded his landlady, in wonder.

"Other farms pay; why not this one?" rejoined Hiram, sententiously. "Of course," he added, his native caution coming to the surface, "I'd want to see the place-to look it over pretty well, in fact-before I made any agreement. And I can assure you, Mrs. Atterson, if I saw no chance of both you and me making something out of it I should tell you so."

"But-but your job, Hiram? And I wouldn't approve of your going out there and lookin' at the place on a Sunday."

"I'll take the early train Monday morning," said the youth, promptly.

"But what will they say at the store? Mr. Dwight--"

"He turned me off to-day," said Hiram, steadily. "So I won't lose anything by going out there.

"I tell you what I'll do," he added briskly. "I won't have any too much money while I'm out of a job, of course. And I shall be out there at Scoville a couple of days looking the place over, it's probable.

"So, if you will let me keep this three dollars and a half I should pay you for my next week's board to-night, I'll pay my own expenses out there at the farm and if nothing comes of it, all well and good."

Mrs. Atterson had fumbled for her spectacles and now put them on to survey the boy's earnest face.

"Do you mean to say you can run a farm, Hi Strong?" she asked.

"I do," and he smiled confidently at her.

"And make it pay?"

"Perhaps not much profit the first season; but if the farm is fertile, and the marketing conditions are right, I know I can make it pay us both in two years."

"I've got a little money saved up. I could sell the house in a week, for it's always full and there are always lone women like me with a little driblet of money to exchange for a boarding house-heaven help us for the fools we are!" Mrs. Atterson exclaimed.

"And I expect you could raise vegetables enough to part keep us, Hi, even if the farm wasn't a great success?"

"And eggs, and chickens, and the pigs, and milk from the cow," suggested Hiram.

"Well! I declare, that's so," admitted Mrs. Atterson. "I'd been lookin' on all them things as an expense. They could be made an asset, eh?"

"I should hope so," responded Hiram, smiling.

"And I could get rid of these boarders-My soul and body!" gasped the tired woman, suddenly. "Do you suppose it's true, Hi? Get rid of worryin' about paying the bills, and whether the boarders are all going to keep their jobs and be able to pay regularly-And the gravy!

"Hiram Strong! If you can show me a way out of this valley of tribulation I'll be the thankfullest woman that you ever seen. It's a bargain. Don't you pay me a cent for this coming week. And I shouldn't have taken it, anyway, when you're throwed out of work so. That's a mighty mean man, that Daniel Dwight.

"You go right ahead and look that farm over. If it looks good, you come back and we'll strike a bargain, I know. And-and-Just to think of getting rid of this house and these boarders!" and Mrs. Atterson finished by wiping her eyes again vigorously.

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