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   Chapter 2 THE SALT CITY

The White Crystals By Howard R. Garis Characters: 11790

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


With a toot of the whistle, a squeak of the wheels and a sharp hissing, as the air brakes were released, the train started. The journey was uneventful, no delays or accidents occurring to mar it. About eleven o'clock the porter made up Roger's berth, and, though the boy wondered at the novelty of a bed on what looked much like a shelf, he soon fell asleep, and did not wake up until the sun was a half hour high, which time found him within a few miles of Syracuse.

The colored porter, grinning expansively and good naturedly, for he had been well remembered by Mr. Anderson, brought Roger a steaming hot cup of coffee, which was most agreeable.

"What time do we get in?" asked the boy traveller as he sipped the beverage.

"We'd ought a' be in at 7.42," replied the colored man, "but we's a leetle late this mornin', sah. Probably we'll arrive 'bout eight o'clock. Feelin' purty peart this mornin', sah?"

"Yes, I do feel pretty good," replied Roger, who really did seem better than he had in some weeks. "I didn't think I'd sleep much, but I did."

"Oh, these here is great beds fo' sleepin'," commented the porter, grinning once more, and causing Roger to wonder, if he smiled any larger, whether the top of his head wouldn't come off.

It was just ten minutes past eight when the train rolled along one of the main streets of Syracuse, and into the dingy depot, near the centre of the city. Roger was out on the vestibuled platform before the wheels stopped screeching under the force of the brakes. He was watching among the crowd under the shed for a tall man, with a big nose, a light sandy moustache and bright blue eyes, for thus his mother had described his Uncle Bert to him. He looked at several men.

The first one had everything but the blue eyes. The second one all the characteristics save the sandy moustache. But the third man, on whom he fixed his attention, Roger knew was Mr. Kimball. He waved his hand, and was glad to see the man wave back. The next minute the train stopped, and the blue-eyed uncle was ready to reach up for his nephew.

"Is this here Roger Anderson?" came from beneath the light sandy moustache, in a pleasant though high-pitched voice.

"I'm Roger; are you Uncle Bert?" asked the boy.

"Wa'al, I reckon thet's what! Guessed ye th' fust time, didn't I," and this fact seemed to give Mr. Kimball so much pleasure that he laughed with a heartiness which made several smile.

"Wa'al now, but d'ye know, I'm glad t' see ye! Ye're a leetle late, but land love ye, comin' three hunderd miles is no joke. I calalate I'd be a trifle behindhand myself. Now, let's hev yer satchel, 'n' we'll go 'n' git some breakfust. I ain't eat yit. Ye see I come out from Cardiff yist'day, hevin' t' do some tradin', 'n' I stayed over night at th' Candee House, so's t' be on hand t' meet ye. I told th' waiter at my table I'd hev a hungry boy back 'ith me soon. Ye be hungry, ain't ye?" with rather an anxious look at Roger.

"Well, not so very," admitted the boy, wondering a little at the strange sounding talk of his uncle, who spoke the central New York farmers' homely but comprehensive dialect.

"Oh, shucks now!" exclaimed Mr. Kimball. "I were calalatin' on seein' ye race 'ith me eatin' ham 'n' eggs 'n' bread 'n' butter," and he seemed a bit disappointed. "Howsomever we'll remedy thet when we git ye out t' Cardiff. 'Fore ye've been thar a week I'll hev ye eatin' salt-risin' bread, covered 'ith butter 'n' honey-say 'j ever tackle real fresh salt-risin' bread, spread thick 'ith nice brown buckwheat honey, right outen th' hives?"

"I never did," confessed Roger.

"Wa'al, then, ye've got a lot a' pleasure ahead on ye," remarked Mr. Kimball, "thet's all I've got t' say. But Land o' Goshen, here I be talkin', 'stid a leadin' th' way t' th' hotel. Come 'long now, 't ain't fer," and they started off in lively fashion, while Roger wondered what sort of a man his uncle was.

Though he did not eat a hearty meal, the boy, under the eyes of Mr. Kimball, made out quite a breakfast, while his companion put away a hearty one, with evident relish. The waiter was kept busy, and Roger wondered vaguely how a man could drink so many cups of coffee as his uncle did; no less than four large ones being disposed of.

"We don't start back 'til three o'clock," said Mr. Kimball, using his napkin rapidly. "Porter Amidown's stage leaves then. I'd a druv out 'ith th' Democrat wagin, but it needs a new wheel, so I calalated I'd better come in 'n' go out by th' stage."

"Is that Democratic too?" asked Roger, who, like nearly every New York boy, was of the political faith of his father, who was a Republican.

"Democrat? Th' stage Democrat? Land no, Porter's a rip-snortin' Prohib. Oh, I see, ye thought my wagin was a Democrat one, 'stid a' bein' Republican. Ha! ha! Why we call them vehicles thet name, not 'cause they're in politics, but jist t' hev a way a' speakin' 'bout 'em, thet's all, same's a phaeton er runabout. Th' stage a Democrat! Ho! ho! Don't ye let Porter hear ye say thet," and Mr. Kimball seemed quite tickled over Roger's natural mistake.

"So's we don't start back 'til three o'clock," he went on, occasionally chuckling over the joke, "we'll hev some time t' do a leetle tradin', fer I didn't finish yist'day. Thet'll give ye a chanst t' look around th' city. Ade, he's yer cousin, ye know, wanted me t' bring him 'long, but I calalated there'd be trouble ef I did, so I left him hum. He'd want ye t' rassal right here in th' street."

"Rassal?" inquired Roger, wondering what was meant.

"Yep, rassal. Ketch 's ketch kin, collar 'n' elbow, ye know. Ade 's dead set on rassalin'. Do ye do it much?"

"No," said Roger, "I'm not much good at wrestling," and he began to be a little apprehensive as to the character of his cousin Adrian.

"Wa'al, ye'll hev t' rassal 'ith him when ye git hum," remarke

d Mr. Kimball, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "He's allers a rassalin' all th' boys, th' hired men, 'n' so on."

"Is he pretty strong?" asked Roger.

"Tol'able, jest tol'able," replied Mr. Kimball. "But ye needn't worry, he'll let ye alone ef he finds out he kin throw ye. He never rassals th' second time 'ith anybody he kin throw, lessen it's fer practice. He's allers tryin' t' tackle some un a leetle better 'n' what he is. Wants t' git a reputation, he says. His mother says he wants t' git a busted neck, 'n' say, d' ye know," and Mr. Kimball whispered, "sometimes I think she's more 'n' half right, I do, honest Injun, I do," and he shook his head warningly.

"Wa'al, I guess we might 's well be goin'," he remarked, after a pause, and he led the way from the dining-room.

Mr. Kimball had several places where he wanted to do some trading. He had to buy some dress goods for his wife, a book for Adrian, some sewing silk for his daughter Clara, and some tools for himself. He finished by noon, and after dinner he asked Roger if he didn't want to pay a visit to the salt works, for which Syracuse is noted.

"Indeed, I'd like to go, first rate," said the boy.

So they walked up to the northern part of the pretty town, where, stretched out in the sun, were the big shallow wooden vats for the evaporation of the brine which was pumped into them. On the way through the works Mr. Kimball explained how the salt springs were underneath the ground on which they were walking, and how the brine was brought to the surface of the earth by machinery. Then it was left for the sun to draw off the water, leaving behind the shining particles that formed the salt of commerce.

The place was filled with buildings, large and small, with pumps, engines and vats, with sheds about which hurried scores of men, and Roger took a great interest looking at everything. He never knew before what a lot of salt came from Syracuse, nor what an important industry it was in the trade of the world, and particularly of New York State.

"My, but we'll hev t' hustle," remarked Mr. Kimball, suddenly, looking at his big silver watch. "It's nigh two o'clock, 'n' Porter leaves at three smack. I guess we'll postpone the rest a' th' salt investigation 'til another time."

So Roger and his uncle made a hurried trip to the Candee House, from which the stage started. They reached it with about five minutes to spare, which Mr. Kimball used in getting together his packages and Roger's baggage, and putting them all snugly in the lumbering vehicle. As he finished, the stage driver came out to see to the hitching up of the horses.

"Porter, this is my nephew I were tellin' ye of," said Mr. Kimball.

Mr. Amidown looked Roger over carefully.

"Leetle spindlin', ain't he?" he suggested after a pause.

"Wa'al, he ain't's stout's he will be when we git through 'ith him," replied Mr. Kimball with a hearty laugh, as he poked Porter playfully in the ribs. Then he helped Roger up to the high seat, and followed nimbly himself. There was a crack of the long whip, a rattle of the harness chains, a rumble of the wheels and the stage started off.

There were several other passengers making the trip from Syracuse by stage that day, but Roger and his uncle were the only ones on the outside. The big wagon rolled along, first on the asphalt streets, under tall elm and maple trees that lined the thoroughfares, where the houses were so close together that they reminded the boy of New York. Then the residences became more scattered, and farther and farther apart, as the suburbs were reached.

During the early part of the journey Porter was too busy guiding his team of horses in and out among other vehicles to do much talking. Mr. Kimball was engaged in looking over an account book, and making notes of his recent purchases, with the amounts they cost, and so was too much occupied to talk. Thus Roger was left to himself for a while. He was much interested in all that he saw, though of course the city sights were almost like those of New York, except there was not the same bustle and excitement, nor such big, towering buildings.

But when he came into the pretty suburbs it was different. The air was pure and fresh, and the wind was just cool enough to be delightful that October afternoon. Soon the horses were jogging along, the reins flapping loose on their broad backs. Mr. Kimball, putting up his account book, turned to Porter, and asked:

"How's everything in Cardiff?"

"Oh, so-so," replied Mr. Amidown. "Ain't changed much sence ye come out yist'day."

"No, I don't calalate it has hed much chanst," agreed Mr. Kimball.

Then the two men began to talk of crops, of cows and horses, of the farm of this one and the garden of that one, the grape and the honey outlook, until Roger wondered how they could remember so many different names and the kinds of things that grew.

Finally Mr. Kimball bethought himself that his nephew might be lonesome, with no one to talk to, so he turned his attention to the boy, and told him of the country through which they were passing. He showed him where Enos Jones had a good field of wheat, and where Nathan Parks was expecting to gather in a fine yield of corn, and so on, until the city boy felt some of the importance of farming, and how much the people of this country depend on it.

The stage rumbled on, up hill and down dale, along the twelve miles. About five o'clock they came within sight of the white-spired church of Cardiff, and it was not long before they reached the outskirts of the village. The big vehicle stopped at the post-office. Porter threw off a bag of mail, called to the horses to resume their pulling again, and, five minutes later he drew up in front of a comfortable farmhouse, in the yard of which stood a pleasant-faced woman and a boy about Roger's age.

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