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   Chapter 35 LOOKING AHEAD

Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 10220

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


During this year Hiram had not seen much of Mr. Bronson, or Lettie. They had gone back to the West over the summer vacation, and when Lettie had returned for her last year at St. Beris, her father had not come on until near Thanksgiving.

Hiram had spoken with Lettie several times during the fail, and he thought that she had vastly improved in one way, at least.

She could not be any prettier, it seemed to him; but her manner was more cordial, and she always asked after Sister and Mrs. Atterson, and showed that her interest in him was not a mere surface interest.

One day, when Hiram had been shipping some of the last of his celery, Lettie met him on the street near the Scoville railroad station. Hiram was in his high boots, and overalls; and Lettie was with two of her girl friends.

But the girl stopped him and shook hands, and told him that her father had arrived and wanted to see him.

"We want you to come to dinner Saturday evening, Hiram. Father insists, and I shall be very much disappointed if you do not come."

"Why, that's very kind of you, Miss Lettie," responded the young farmer, slowly, trying to find some good reason for refusing the invitation. He was determined not to be patronized.

"Now, Hiram! This is very important. We want you to meet somebody," said Lettie, her eyes dancing. "Somebody very particular. Now! do say you'll come like a good boy, and not keep me teasing."

"Well, I'll come, Miss Lettie," he finally agreed, and she gave him a most charming smile.

Lettie's two friends had waited for her, very much amused.

"I declare, Let!" cried one of them-and her voice reached Hiram's ears quite plainly. "You do have the queerest friends. Why did you stop to speak to that yokel?"

"Hush! he'll hear you," said Miss Bronson; yet she smiled, too. "So you think Hiram is a yokel, do you?"

"Hiram!" repeated her friend. "Goodness me! I should think the name was enough. And those boots-and overalls!"

"Well," said Lettie, still amused, "I've seen my own father in just such a costume. And you know very well that he is a pretty good looking man, dressed up."

"But Let! your father's never a farmer$" gasped the other girl.

"Why not?"

"Oh, she's just joking us," laughed the third girl. "Of course he's a farmer-he owns half a dozen farms. But he's the kind of a farmer who rides around in his automobile and looks over his crops."

"Well, and this young man may do that-in time," said Lettie. "At least, my father believes Hi is aimed that way."

"Nonsense!"

"He doesn't look as though he had a cent," said the third girl.

"He is putting away more money of his very own in the bank than any boy we know, who works. Father says so," declared Lettie. "He says Hi has done wonderfully well with his crops this year-and he is only raising them on shares.

"Let me tell you, girls, the farmer is coming into his own, these days. That is a great saying of father's. He believes that the man who produces the food-stuffs for the rest of the world should have a satisfactory share of the proceeds of their sale. And that is coming, father says.

"Farmers don't have to half starve, and be burdened by mortgages and ignorance, any longer. The country sections are waking up. With good schools and good roads, and the grange, and all, many rural districts are already ahead of the cities in the things worth while."

"Listen to Let lecture!" sniffed one of her friends.

"All right. You wait. Maybe you'll see that same young fellow-Hi Strong-come through this town in his own auto before you graduate from St. Beris."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed the other. "If I do I'll ask him for a ride," and the discussion ended in a laugh.

Perhaps, however, had Hiram heard all Lettie had said he would not have been so doubtful in regard to fulfilling his promise about taking dinner with Mr. Bronson and his daughter on Saturday evening.

To tell the truth, the more he thought of it, the more he shrank from the ordeal. Once he had hoped Mr. Bronson would be the one to show him the way out of the backwater of Crawberry. Hiram had not forgotten how terribly disappointed he had been when he could not find the gentleman's card in the sewer excavation.

And later, when Mr. Bronson had suggested that he leave Mrs. Atterson and come to him to work, Hiram feared that he had missed an opportunity that would never be offered him again. His contract was practically over with his present employer, and Hiram's ambition urged him to desire greater things in the farming line.

It might be in Mr. Bronson's power to aid the young farmer right along this line. The gentleman owned farms in the Middle West that were being tilled on up-to-date methods, and by modern machinery. Hiram desired very strongly to get upon a place of that character. He wished to learn how to handle tools and machinery which it would never pay a "one-horse farmer" to own. But how deeply had the gentleman been offended by Hiram's refusal to come to work for him when he gave him that opportunity? That was a question that bit deep into the young farmer'

s mind.

When he went to the Bronson's house on Saturday, in good season, Mr. Bronson met him cordially, in the library.

"Well, my boy, they all tell me you have done it!" exclaimed the Westerner.

"Done what?" queried Hiram.

"Made the most money per acre for Mrs. Atterson that this county ever saw. Is that right?"

"I've succeeded in what I set out to do," said Hiram, modestly.

"And I did not believe myself that you could do it," declared the gentleman. "And it's too bad, too, that I was a Doubting Thomas," added Mr. Bronson, his eyes beginning to dance a good deal like Lettie's.

"You see, Hiram, I had it in my mind when I took this place to get a young men from around here and teach him something of my ways of work, and finally take him back West with me.

"I have several farms that are paying me good incomes; but good farm-managers are hard to get. I wanted to train one-a young man. I ran against a promising lad before you came to the Atterson place; but I lost track of him.

"Had you been willing to leave Mrs. Atterson and come to me," continued Mr. Bronson, "I believe I could have licked you into shape last season so that you would have suited me very well," and he laughed outright.

"But now I want you to meet my future farm-manager. He is the very fellow I wanted before I offered the chance to you. I reckon you'll be glad to see him--"

While he was talking, Mr. Bronson had put his hand on Hiram's shoulder, and urged him down the length of the room. They had come to a heavy portiere; Hiram thought it masked a doorway.

"Here is the fellow himself," exclaimed Bronson suddenly.

The curtain was whisked away. Hiram heard Lettie giggling somewhere in the folds of it. And he found himself staring straight into a long mirror which reflected both himself and the laughing Mr. Bronson.

"Hiram Strong!" spoke the Westerner, admonishingly, "why didn't you tell me long ago that you were the lad who turned my horses out of the ditch that evening back in Crawberry?"

"Why-why--"

"His fatal modesty," laughed Lettie, appearing and clapping her hands.

"I guess it wasn't that," said Hiram, slowly. "What was the use? I would have been glad of your assistance at the time; but when I found you I had already made a contract with Mrs. Atterson, and-what was the use?"

"Well, perhaps it would have made no difference. When I had dug up the fact that you were the same fellow whom I had looked for at Dwight's Emporium, it struck me that possibly the character that old scoundrel gave you had some basis in fact.

"So I said nothing to you after you had refused to break your contract. That, Hiram, was a good point in your favor. And what that little girl at your house has told Lettie about you-and the way Mrs. Atterson speaks of you, and all-long since convinced me that you were just the lad I wanted.

"Now, Hiram, I believe you know a good deal about farming that I don't know myself. And, at any rate, if you can do what you have done with a run-down place like the Atterson Eighty, I'd like to see what you can do with a bigger and better farm.

"What do you say? Will you come to me-if only for a year? I'll make it worth your while."

And that Hiram Strong did not let this opportunity slip past him will be shown in the next volume of this series, entitled: "Hiram in the Middle West; Or, A Young Farmer's Upward Struggle."

He was sorry to leave Mrs. Atterson at Christmas time; but the old lady saw that it was to Hiram's advantage to go.

"And good land o' Goshen, Hiram! I wouldn't stand in no boy's way-not a boy like you, leastways. You've always been square with me, and you've given me a new lease of life. For I never would have dared to give up the boarding house and come to the farm if it hadn't been for you.

"This is your home-jest as much as it is Sister's home, and Old Lem Camp's. Don't forgit that, Hiram.

"You'll find us all here whenever you want to come back to it. For I've talked with Mr. Strickland and I'm going to adopt Sister, all reg'lar, and she shall have what I leave when I die, only promising to give Mr. Camp a shelter, if he should outlast me.

"Sister's folks may never look her up, and she may never git that money the institution folk think is coming to her. But she'll be well fixed here, that's sure."

Indeed, taking it all around, everybody of importance to the story seemed to be "well fixed", as Mother Atterson expressed it. She herself need never be disturbed by the vagaries of boarders, or troubled in her mind, either waking or sleeping, about the gravy-save on Thanksgiving Day.

Old Lem Camp and Sister were provided for by their own exertions and Mrs. Atterson's kindness. The Dickersons-even Pete-had become friendly neighbors. Henry Pollock had waked up his father, and they were running the Pollock farm on much more modern lines than before.

And Hiram himself was looking ahead to a scheme of life that suited him, and to a chance "to make good" on a much larger scale than he had on the Atterson Eighty where, nevertheless, he had made the soil pay.

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