Fruits of the Earth

Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove

Book: Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederick Philip Grove
Tags: Classics
swung on to the trail to the west. The broken braces underneath stayed behind; and the sledding of the structure, buoyed up by the water, grew easier at once. Again Abe called a halt.
    â€œYou’d better unhook, Nicoll. We’ll manage with three teams. Go back for the wagon. We’ll need the chains.”
    And forward again, the horses plunging wherever they met with soft footing. When the water was thrown aloft in sheets, Shilloe and Bill Stanley laughed. Abe’s broad face never moved under the projecting southwester; he took the brunt of it all; unlike the others, he stayed behind his horses, watching them closely, for Beaut, the leader, was with colt.
    At last they had covered the mile and a half and came to the crossing. But the biggest piece of work remained to bedone: the culvert, forty feet long, had to be manoeuvred across the swirling ditch; they waited for Nicoll. Nawosad passed them, with the Hartleys on the rack. Hartley himself had, after all, chosen to join them and was reclining on a miscellaneous assortment of bedding.
    Abe frowned when he saw him. Was he going to be content to let others rescue him and his without lending a hand?
    There followed three hours of titanic struggle. With poles and timbers they pushed the culvert into the wild current, often themselves in danger of slipping into deep water. The near corner was anchored, by a long chain, to Nicoll’s corner post, with enough slack to let the structure swing to the edge of the ditch. Another chain was fastened to the far corner which would be the forward one on the other bank. That chain lay coiled on the floating floor. Three times they almost succeeded in lodging the culvert against the far bank; one of them ran to pick up the coiled chain and to take the leap; but whenever the strength of a man was withdrawn, the culvert, caught broadside on by the current, swung back and frustrated all that had been done.
    Meanwhile, at the school which faced them with its northern row of windows, there was a spectator. Old man Blaine, as people called him, stood on the cement stoop of the trim, white building, his trousers clasped at the bottom as if he expected to use the bicycle for his escape. He looked on but of haggard eyes, a soft felt hat on his grey hair, his sandy, grey-streaked beard reaching to his waist. He seemed to stoop under the weight of his head, unconscious of the cold drizzle which interposed a veil between him and the men, so that he looked like a creature of mist.
    Nobody, so far, had thought of stopping for a meal when Nicoll proposed to fetch Tom, his oldest boy, to help. Theymust have another hand. But Abe shook his head and pointed to the south where a black spot was approaching out of the rain-dimmed distance, cleaving the surface of the huge lake. Hilmer had seen them from his place.
    They rested, waiting.
    When Hilmer arrived, Abe shouted directions. And once more they manoeuvred the culvert into the stream till its far point touched the submerged bank on the other side. Hilmer showed that he could at least carry out instructions. With a jump he landed on the raft, picked up the chain, and was back on the flooded prairie before the culvert had swung out again too far to take the leap. Heedless of the fact that he was getting drenched to his shoulders, he ran till the chain was taut and gave it two or three quick turns around the corner post of the school yard. But still the culvert lay at an angle. So Abe slackened the chain on the north side, allowing the culvert to drift till it bridged the ditch at right angles. Hilmer joined the other men.
    The next problem was how to get a team across. But, Hilmer reporting that his culvert was still in place, though in need of being anchored, Abe changed his mind. “We’ll go down by and by,” he said. “Let’s have something to eat. You go home,” he added to Bill Stanley. “We won’t need you again. Take your team and get into dry

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