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   Chapter 6 A LOAD OF GRAPES

The White Crystals By Howard R. Garis Characters: 13683

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


When the boys reached the house they found Mrs. Kimball just putting supper on the table. There was a delicious smell, which Roger at first did not recognize.

"Hurrah!" cried Adrian. "That's what I like!"

"What?"

"Fried chicken and corn bread. Can't anybody beat mother at that."

"Nor at anything else in the cooking line, I guess," agreed Roger.

The two boys made short work of washing up and combing their hair, and when they hurried down to the kitchen they had hungry looks that did Mrs. Kimball good to see.

"I can't abide a poor eater," she said, as she heaped Roger's plate with the crisp brown chicken, fried in sweet butter, and handed him a plate of smoking hot golden-yellow corn bread. "I do like t' see a body pitch in 'n' eat th' victuals set afore 'em," she went on. "After a body goes t' work 'n' gits up a good meal, it's mighty disparagin' t' see th' things scorned down on. I'm glad t' see ye eat, Roger. Yer appetite's improved wonderful already. Yer uncle 'n' cousin usually don't need much urgin' in th' eatin' line," she added significantly, as she glanced at her husband's and son's well-heaped plates.

"I guess not," mumbled Mr. Kimball, picking up a nicely browned wing, and munching it with every indication of enjoyment. "I guess not, Mrs. Kimball."

Clara and her mother now sat down, and the meal progressed merrily. Roger almost forgot the homesickness that had twinged him once or twice during the day. The supper was about over when some one knocked at the kitchen door, opening it at the same time and calling out:

"I brought your mail, neighbor Kimball."

"Thanks, Enberry," said the farmer, as he got up to take several letters which Mr. Took had brought from the post-office. "Won't ye set down 'n' hev a bite, Enberry?"

"No, thanks; got t' do my chores yit. How's th' drowned boy?"

"Oh, I'm all right," called out Roger, "and I'm much obliged for getting me home so quick."

"Allers willin' t' do a neighborly turn," said Mr. Took, as he went out.

"Hello!" exclaimed Roger's uncle, looking at the addresses on the envelopes by the light of the kerosene lamp, "Hello! Here's a letter for you, Mr. Roger Anderson."

"It's from mother," cried the boy, as he caught sight of the beloved writing, and for a few minutes he paid no attention to what went on around him, as he read the news from the dear ones at home. It told him all were well, and how they missed him greatly.

"Take good care of yourself," Mrs. Anderson wrote, "and, though I shall miss you very much, though we all miss you, we hope your visit to Cardiff will do you good."

There was a little mist in the boy's eyes as he saw, in memory, the pleasant little circle about the table at home; his father reading, his mother sewing, and the baby building a wonderful house of blocks.

"Wa'al, what's th' news?" asked Mr. Kimball, in his deep hearty voice, and Roger told him what his mother had written.

It was not long before supper was over, and, while Mrs. Kimball and Clara were clearing away the dishes, Roger, with his uncle and cousin, went out to the barn, where, by the light of a lantern, the two wagons were loaded up, ready for an early start on the next day's trip. Mr. Kimball was to take his own horses and wagon to Syracuse with a load of produce, while Roger and Adrian would have Truem Wright's rig.

The last basket of grapes, the last crate of honey, and the celery, potatoes, and cabbage had been piled securely on the vehicles. Mr. Kimball pulled out his big silver watch.

"Hello!" he cried. "Nine o'clock. Time to go t' bed, fer we'll hev t' be up early in th' mornin'. Skedaddle, all on ye!"

The boys hurried to the house, laughing and shouting in anticipation of the pleasant trip next day.

That night Roger dreamed he was swimming in a big green pond, while a swarm of bees carrying bunches of grapes flew buzzing after him. He thought a whole hive of the insects were about to settle down on him, when he was caught by a big fish that shook him in its mouth as a dog might a rat. Then he awoke suddenly to find that the shaking was being done by his cousin Adrian, who stood bending over him, pulling him by the arm. A lamp burned in the room.

"What's the matter? Is the house afire?" asked Roger, as he jumped up in alarm.

"Land sakes, no," said Adrian, "but if we're going to Tully with the grapes, we'll have to start pretty soon. Dad went some time ago. Dress, and we'll have breakfast."

Roger looked out of the window while putting his clothes on. It was just getting faintly light, and some stars were still to be seen. From the kitchen there came the good smell of hot coffee and buckwheat cakes with fried sausage, and Roger knew his aunt was up.

While the boys were eating the excellent breakfast Mrs. Kimball set on the table, she put them up a good lunch in a basket, as they would not be home to dinner. In a short time they were ready for the start, and the wagon clattered out the side yard, Adrian driving the big white horse.

It was a pleasant trip to Tully, a town about eight miles from Cardiff. The first part of the journey was along the valley road, but at the upper end of this there began an ascent, which led up a steep hill to a sort of plateau on the small mountain top.

Past the scattered farmhouses they drove in the early dawn, and they had proceeded nearly a mile before the sun peeped up smiling from behind the hills, to send the gray, misty fog swirling lazily upward. The white horse pulled nobly up the incline, stopping now and then to rest at the "thank-'e-ma'ams," as certain places in the road were called; being mounds of earth dug across the highway, designed to prevent the too sudden rush of water down the hill during a rain. These hummocks served to divert the water to one side like a gutter, and also made good resting places, for they held the rear wheels of the wagon. At length the boys reached the top of the hill and started off on a level stretch for Tully, where Andrews Brothers had a store, at which Mr. Kimball sold considerable produce.

James Andrews, one of the brothers, was arranging some barrels of apples outside the place when Adrian drove up.

"Good morning, Mr. Andrews," called Adrian.

"Same to you," replied the store-keeper, heartily. "What brings you over here so early?"

"I've got that load of grapes you ordered of my father."

"Load of grapes?" with a puzzled air.

"Yes. Father got your letter, and he didn't have time to come over himself to-day, so I made the trip."

"But I didn't order any grapes-Oh, yes, I did, come to think of it; but, Ade, I didn't want 'em until next week. I said so in my letter. Let's see, to-day is the 18th. I ordered 'em for the 26th. Can't possibly use 'em this week, for I've got all I need. Sorry," as he saw the

disappointed look on the boy's face. "Just tell your father if he looks at my letter he'll see I asked him to send a load over next week. Better try some of the other stores, they might need 'em."

"Well," said Adrian, slowly, "I s'pose you're right, Mr. Andrews, and father must have read your letter wrong. So I guess the only thing to do is to try to get rid of this load over at Smith's or Brown's."

"Don't forget I 'll want some a week from to-day," cautioned Mr. Andrews as Adrian drove off. "Be sure and tell your father."

"I will," called back Adrian.

Two rather sober-faced boys watched the white horse slowly jog along the Tully street. They had expected to unload the grapes, get the money and have a nice drive back, taking their time. But the wrong date had upset their plans. However there was a chance that Mr. Brown or Mr. Smith might need grapes, and the prospect of selling their produce there brightened matters for a little while. But their hopes were soon shattered, for, at both places, the supply of this fruit was large enough to last several days, though both proprietors said they would be in the market next week.

"Well," said Roger, slowly, as they turned about from a visit to the last store, "I suppose the only thing to do is to go back home."

"What? And with this load of grapes unsold?" exclaimed Adrian. "Not much! I came to Tully to sell them, and I'm going to do it."

"How?"

"By peddling them from house to house. Dad expects me back with the money for these, and I'm going to bring it if I can. You needn't help if you don't want to. I suppose you're not used to peddling, but I've done it before."

"Well, I guess I will help," replied Roger, a little hurt to think that his cousin felt he wouldn't stand by him in an emergency. "Here, we'll drive along, and I'll take one side of the street, and you can go on the other."

"That'll be just the thing," said Adrian.

So the two boys started in to get rid of the fruit. They went from house to house, carrying the baskets with the covers off to show the big red, white, and purple clusters. They inquired politely of the villagers whether they didn't need some freshly picked grapes, at ten or fifteen cents a basket, and, before they had been in half a dozen places each one had sold four. The bony old white horse jogged slowly along the road, contentedly stopping now and then to nibble a sweet bunch of grass.

At first Roger was a little bashful about going to houses peddling, for he had never done that sort of thing before. But he soon got the knack of it, and, though at several places the old ladies said they thought they wanted no fruit that day, he didn't mind the refusals. Adrian had good luck on his side of the road, and sold many baskets. By noon they had gone over all of the main and only street in Tully, and had disposed of a little more than half the load.

"I guess we can't sell any more here," said Adrian as he counted over his money.

"What'll we do? Go back home?"

"No, I guess we'll push on to Dagman's Corners. That's only four miles farther, and we can peddle some on the way. But, come to think of it, I'm hungry. Ain't you?"

"A little bit," admitted Roger with a laugh.

So the boys drove a short way out of the village, and pulled the white horse up along side of a grassy bank. After Adrian had fixed the oats, which they had brought with them, so that the patient nag could eat, he opened the lunch his mother had put up for him and Roger. There was a clear spring of water near by, and from this the boys and the horse drank. It was like a picnic instead of work, Roger thought, as he breathed in the pure, cool air, and felt his cheeks glowing in the October sun.

The meal over they took a brief rest, and then resumed the trip. In the next village they succeeded in disposing of all the remaining grapes, the dusty miller of the town taking the last four baskets. Thus, with about fifteen dollars snugly tucked away in his pocket, Adrian felt that he and Roger had accomplished something worth while, for he had received a little higher price for the fruit by peddling it around than if he had sold it to Mr. Andrews, who would have paid wholesale rates, while the boys had done business at retail.

"I don't call this bad," commented Adrian as he turned the horse for the journey home.

"I should say not," agreed Roger, heartily.

It was the first time he had ever taken an active part in any real business transactions, and it made him want to do more in that line when he saw how self-reliant Adrian had been in the trading.

When the boys reached Tully on the return trip it was five o'clock. They had eight miles to drive, but, as Adrian knew the road, he didn't mind the gathering darkness, though to Roger it seemed strange, for he had never driven in the country after nightfall. In the city it was very light after dark, but here in Cardiff it was almost as black as ink when twilight had faded, for there were no street lamps to dispel the gloom.

It was mostly down-hill going now, and the old white horse, knowing his stable and a manger full of oats was ahead of him, jogged rapidly along. It grew darker and darker, until, when they reached the top of the long slope of Tully hill, the last vestige of the slanting rays of the sun disappeared, and night had settled down. Calling cheerfully to the horse Adrian whistled a merry tune, and Roger joined in. Then they talked of various topics,-of the success of their trip, and what they would do to-morrow and next day.

"That's the last house in the village of Tully," said Adrian, suddenly, indicating a lonely cabin. "Pete Hallenbeck lives there, but he can't be home to-night, or there'd be a light in the window. He's lived all alone since his wife died. After we pass this there's not a place where anybody lives for three miles, until we get to the edge of Cardiff."

They went along for a mile or so, whistling and singing. Suddenly there was a jolt of the wagon, and Roger, who was sitting well toward the front of the seat, felt himself thrown forward with considerable force. Instinctively he stuck out his hands, and he felt them strike the broad haunches of the horse. Then, with a rattle and bang he kept on falling down until he had rolled out completely on the animal's back, and thence off to one side, into the soft grass along the road, where he lay stunned.

He could hear, as in a dream, Adrian faintly shouting to him, and then something seemed to flash by him. There was a confused rattle and rumble that grew fainter and fainter, and the blackness became more intense.

As if he was falling fast asleep he heard a voice calling: "Roger! Roger!"

Then his eyes seemed to close tightly and he knew nothing more, as he lay in a huddled heap on the ground.

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