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   Chapter 29 LETTIE BRONSON’S CORN HUSKING

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 10640

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Sister had begun school on the very first day it opened-in September. She was delighted, for although she had had "lessons" at the "institution", they had not been like this regular attendance, with other free and happy children, at a good country school.

Sister was growing not alone in body, but in mind. And the improvement in her appearance was something marvelous.

"It certainly does astonish me, every time I think o' that youngun and the way she looked when she come to me from the charity school," declared Mother Atterson.

"Who'd want a better lookin' young'un now? She'd be the pride of any mother's heart, she'd be.

"If there's folks belongin' to her, and they have neglected her all these years, in my opinion they're lackin' in sense, Hiram."

"They certainly have been lacking in the milk of human kindness," admitted the young farmer.

"Huh! That milk's easily soured in many folks," responded Mrs. Atterson. "But Sister's folks, whoever they be, will be sorry some day."

"You don't suppose she really has any family, do you?" demanded Hiram.

"No father nor mother, I expect. But many a family will get rid of a young'un too small to be of any use, when they probably have many children of their own.

"And if there was a little bait of money coming to the child, as that lawyer told the institution matron, that would be another reason for losing her in this great world."

"I'm afraid Sister will never find her folks, Mrs. Atterson," said Hiram, shaking his head.

"Huh! If she don't, it's no loss to her. It's loss to them," declared the old lady. "And I'd hate to have anybody come and take her away from us now."

Sister no longer wore her short hair in four "pigtails". She had learned to dress it neatly like other girls of her age, and although it would never be like the beautiful blue-black tresses of Lettie Bronson, Hiram had to admit that the soft brown of Sister's hair, waving so prettily over her forehead, made the girl's features more than a little attractive.

She was an entirely different person, too, from the one who had helped Lettie and her friends ashore from the grounded motor-boat that day, so long ago-and so Lettie herself thought when she rode into the Atterson yard one October day on her bay horse, and Sister met her on the porch.

"Why, you're Mrs. Atterson's girl, aren't you?" cried Lettie, leaning from her saddle to offer her hand to Sister. "I wouldn't have known you."

Sister was getting plump, she had roses in her cheeks, and she wore a neat, whole, and becoming dress.

"You're Miss Bronson," said Sister, gravely. "I wouldn't forget you."

Perhaps there was something in what Sister said that stung Lettie Bronson's memory. She flushed a little; but then she smiled most charmingly and asked for Hiram.

"Husking corn, Miss, with Henry Pollock, down on the bottom-land."

"Oh! way down there? Well! you tell him-Why, I'll want you to come, too," laughed Lettie, quite at her best now.

Nobody could fail to answer Lettie Bronson's smile with its reflection, when she chose to exert herself in that direction.

"Why, I just came to tell you both that on Friday we're going to have an old-fashioned husking-bee for all the young folks of the neighborhood, at our place. You must come yourself-er-Sister, and tell Hiram to come, too.

"Seven o'clock, sharp, remember-and I'll be dreadfully disappointed if you don't come," added Lettie, turning her horse's head homeward, and saying it with so much cordiality that her hearer's heart warmed.

"She is pretty," mused Sister, watching the bay horse and its rider flying along the road. "I don't blame Hiram for thinking she's the very finest girl in these parts.

"She is," declared Sister, emphatically, and shook herself.

Hiram had finished husking the lowland corn that day, with Henry's help, and it was all drawn in at night. When the last measured basket was heaped in the crib by lantern light, the young farmer added up the figures chalked up on the lintel of the door.

"For goodness' sake, Hiram! it isn't as much as that, is it?" gasped Henry, viewing the figures the young farmer wrote proudly in his memorandum book.

"Six acres-six hundred and eighty baskets of sound corn," crowed "Hiram. And it's corn that is corn, as Mr. Bronson says.

"It's not quite as hard as the upland corn, for the growing season was not quite long enough for it; but it's better than the average in the county--"

"Three hundred and forty bushel of shelled corn from six acres?" cried Henry. "I should say it was! It's worth fifty cents now right at the crib-a hundred and seventy dollars. Hiram! that'll make dad let me go to the agricultural college."

"What?" cried Hiram, surprised and pleased. "Have you really got that idea in your head?"

"I been gnawin' on it ever since you talked so last spring," admitted his friend, rather shyly. "I told father, and at first he pooh-poohed.

"But I kept on pointing out to him how much more you knowed than we did-"

"That's nonsense, Henry," interrupted Hiram. "Only about some things. I wouldn't want to set myself up over the farmers of this neighborhood as knowing so much."

"Well, you've proved it. Dad says so himself. He was taken all aback when I showed him how you had beat him on the toma

to crop. And I been talking to him about your corn.

"That hit father where he lived," chuckled Henry, "for father's a corn-growing man-and always has been considered so in this county.

"He watched the way you tilled your crop, and he believed so much shallow cultivating was wrong, and said so. But he says you beat him on poor ground; and when I tell him what that lowland figures up, he'll throw up his hands.

"And I'm going to take a course in fertilizers, farm management, and the chemistry of soils," continued Henry.

"Just as you say, I believe we have been planting the wrong crops on the right land! Anyway, I'll find out. I believe we've got a good farm, but we're not getting out of it what we should."

"Well, Henry," admitted Hiram, slowly, "nothing's pleased me so much since I came into this neighborhood, as to hear you say this. You get all you can at the experiment station this winter, and I believe that your father will soon begin to believe that there is something in 'book farming', after all."

If it had not been for the hair-hung sword over them, Mrs. Atterson and Hiram would have taken great delight in the generous crops that had been vouchsafed to them.

"Still, we can't complain," said the old lady, "and for the first time for more'n twenty years I'm going to be really thankful at Thanksgiving time."

"Oh, I believe you!" cried Sister, who heard her. "No boarders."

"Nope," said the old lady, quietly. "You're wrong. For we're going to have boarders on Thanksgiving Day. I've writ to Crawberry. Anybody that's in the old house now that wants to come to eat dinner with us, can come. I'm going to cook the best dinner I ever cooked-and make a milkpail full of gravy."

"I know," said the good old soul, shaking her head, "that them two old maids I sold out to have half starved them boys. We ought to be able to stand even Fred Crackit, and Mr. Peebles, one day in the year."

"Well!" returned Sister, thoughtfully. "If you can stand 'em I can. I never did think I could forgive 'em all-so mean they was to me-and the hair-pulling and all.

"But I guess you're right, Mis' Atterson. It's heapin' coals of fire on their heads, like what the minister at the chapel says."

"Good Land o' Goshen, child!" exclaimed the old lady, briskly. "Hot coals would scotch 'em, and I only want to fill their stomachs for once."

The husking at the Bronsons was a very well attended feast, indeed. There was a great barn floor, and on this were heaped the ear-corn in the husks-not too much, for Lettie proposed having the floor cleared and swept for square dancing, and later for the supper.

She had a lot of her school friends at the husking, and at first the neighborhood boys and girls were bashful in the company of the city girls.

But after they got to work husking the corn, and a few red ears had been found (for which each girl or boy had to pay a forfeit) they became a very hilarious company indeed.

Now, Lettie, broadly hospitable, had invited the young folk far and wide. Even those whom she had not personally seen, were expected to attend.

So it was not surprising that Pete Dickerson should come, despite the fact that Mr. Bronson had once discharged him from his employ-and for serious cause.

But Pete was not a thin-skinned person. Where there was anything "doing" he wanted to cut a figure. And his desire to be important, and be marked by the company, began to make him objectionable before the evening was half over.

For instance, he thought it was funny to take a run down the long barn floor and leap over the heads of those huskers squatting about a heap of corn, and land with his heavy boots on the apex of the pile, thus scattering the ears in all directions.

He got long straws, too, and tickled the backs, of the girls' necks; or he dumped handfuls of bran down their backs, or shook oats into their hair-and the oats stuck.

Mr. Bronson could not see to everything; and Pete was very sly at his tricks. A girl would shriek in one corner, and the lout would quickly transport himself to a distant spot.

When the corn was swept aside, and the floor cleared for the dance, Pete went beyond the limit, however. He had found a pail of soft-soap in the shed and while the crowd was out of the barn, playing a "round game" in the yard while it was being swept, Pete slunk in with the soap and a swab, and managed to spread a good deal of the slippery stuff around on the boards.

A broom would not remove this soft-soap. When the hostler swept, he only spread it. And when the dancing began many a couple measured their length on the planks, to Pete's great delight.

But the hired man had observed Pete sneaking about while he was removing the last of the corn, and Hiram Strong discovered soft-soap on Pete's clothes, and the smell of it strong upon his unwashed hands.

"You get out of here," Mr. Bronson told the boy. "I had occasion to put you off my land once, and don't let me have to do it a third time," and he shoved him with no gentle hand through the door and down the driveway.

But Pete laid it all to Hiram. He called back over his shoulder:

"I'll be square with you, yet, Hi Strong! You wait!"

But Hiram bad been threatened so often from that quarter by now, that he was not much interested.

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