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   Chapter 31 “MR. DAMOCLES’S SWORD”

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 5396

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Hiram Strong was not likely to forget that long and arduous night. It was impossible to force the horse out of a walk, for the drifts were in some places to the creature's girth.

He stopped at the house for a minute and roused Mrs. Atterson and Old Lem and sent them over to help the unhappy Dickersons.

He was nearly an hour getting to the crossroads store. There were lights and revelry there. Some of the lingering crowd were snowbound for the night and were making merry with hard cider and provisions which Schell was not loath to sell them.

Pete was one of the number, and Hiram sent him home with the news of his mother's serious hurt.

He forced the horse to take him into town to Dr. Broderick. It was nearly two o'clock when he routed out the doctor, and it was four o'clock when the physician and himself, in a heavy sleigh and behind a pair of mules, reached the Dickerson farmhouse.

The woman had not returned to consciousness, and Mrs. Atterson remained through the day to do what she could. But it was many a tedious week before Mrs. Dickerson was on her feet again, and able to move about.

Meanwhile, more than one kindly act had Mother Atterson done for the neighbors who had seemed so careless of her rights. Pete never appeared when either Mrs. Atterson or Sister came to the house; but in his sour, gloomy way, Sam Dickerson seemed to be grateful.

Hiram kept away, as there was nothing he could do to help them. And he saw when Pete chanced to pass him, that the youth felt no more kindly toward him than he had before.

"Well, let him be as ugly as he wants to be-only let him keep away from the place and let our things alone," thought Hiram. "Goodness knows! I'm not anxious to be counted among Pete Dickerson's particular friends."

Thanksgiving came on apace, and every one of the old boarders of Mother Atterson had written that he would come to the farm to spend the holiday. Even Mr. Peebles acknowledged the invitation with thanks, but adding that he hoped Sister would not forget he must "eschew any viands at all greasy, and that his hot water was to be at 101, exactly."

"The poor ninny!" ejaculated Mother Atterson. "He doesn't know what he wants. Sister only poured it out of the teakettle, and he had to wait for it to cool, anyway, before he could drink it."

But it was determined to give the city folk a good time, and this determination was accomplished. Two of Sister's turkeys, bought and paid for in hard cash by Mother Atterson, graced the long table in the sitting-room.

Many of the good things with which the table was laden came from the farm. And, without Hiram and Sister, and Old Lem Camp, Mrs. Atterson made even Fre

d Crackit understand, these good things had not been possible!

But the Crawberry folk, as a whole, were much subdued. They had missed Mother Atterson dreadfully; and, really, they had felt some affection for their old landlady, after all.

After dinner Fred Crackit, in a speech that was designed to be humorous, presented a massive silver plated water-pitcher with "Mother Atterson" engraved upon it. And really, the old lady broke down at that.

"Good Land o' Goshen!" she exclaimed. "Why, you boys do think something of the old woman, after all, don't ye?

"I must say that I got ye out here more than anything to show ye what we could do in the country. 'Specially how it had improved Sister. And how Hiram Strong warn't the ninny you seemed to think he was. And that Mr. Camp only needed a chance to be something in the world again.

"Well, well! It wasn't a generous feeling I had toward you, mebbe; but I'm glad you come and-I hope you all had enough gravy."

So the occasion proved a very pleasant one indeed. And it made a happy break in the hard work of preparing for the winter.

The crops were all gathered ere this, and they could make up their books for the season just passed.

But there was wood to get in, for all along they had not had wood enough, and to try and get wood out of the snowy forest in winter for immediate use in the stoves was a task that Hiram did not enjoy.

He had Henry to help him saw a goodly pile before the first snow fell; and Mr. Camp split most of it and he and Sister piled it in the shed.

"We've got to haul up enough logs by March-or earlier-to have a wood sawing in earnest," announced Hiram. "We must get a gasoline engine and saw, and call on the neighbors for help, and have a sawing-bee."

"But what will be the use of that if we've got to leave here in February?" demanded Mrs. Atterson, worriedly. "The last time I saw that Pepper in town he grinned at me in a way that made me want to break my old umbrel' over his dratted head!"

"I don't care," said Hiram, sullenly. "I don't want to sit idle all winter. I'll cut the logs, anyway, and draw 'em out from time to time. If we have to leave, why, we have to, that's all."

"And we can't tell a thing to do about next year till we know what Pepper is going to do," groaned Mrs. Atterson.

"That is very true. But if he doesn't exercise his option before February tenth, we needn't worry any more. And after that will be time enough to make our plans for next season's crops," declared Hiram, trying to speak more cheerfully.

But Mrs. Atterson went around with clouded brow again, and was heard to whisper, more than once, something about "Mr. Damocles's sword."

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