Fruits of the Earth

Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove Page A

Book: Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederick Philip Grove
Tags: Classics
    â€œHow about Blaine?” Nicoll asked.
    â€œI’ll carry him over. Can you feed us all?”
    Half an hour later, Abe, carrying the teacher on his back, entered Nicoll’s yard where the horses were munching hay and oats from the box of a wagon, up to their hocks in water.
    At the house, dinner was ready. Two tall, slender girls and the enormous woman waited on the famished crew; three big boys and a host of smaller girls sat about in the dim room,devouring every word that was spoken. To them this was a red-letter day: the men were heroes and giants fighting the elements. Outside, the rain was thickening again.
    It was past five o’clock when Abe, leaving his Clydes at Nicoll’s Corner, himself straddling the Percheron gelding, tackled the task of taking horses and wagon across a culvert which moved under foot. Two or three times he made the attempt; but when their feet touched the floating edge of the timbers, the horses reared and backed away. At last Nicoll, Shilloe, and Hilmer bestrode one each of the other horses; and though they still scattered water all about them, their riders forced them on.
    At Hilmer’s Corner they anchored the bridge; it was dark by that time; but for fear that the worst might happen and they be cut off from the world, they did not give in till all was safe. It was midnight before Abe got home; and the rain was falling with that steady swish with which it falls on a sea becalmed.

    T he district needed a new man on the council. Davis, huge, bottle-shaped, the typical politician, could not be trusted. He abused his position for the sake of his “pickings.”
    The trail town became a thing to be dreaded.
    So far, the traveller had been able to avoid the worst spots by circling over the prairie. But the road-allowance was being fenced. Blaine had filed on the school quarter and was enclosing it. He had no intention of farming; but Abe had promised to haul his cottage over from Arkwright if he secured the land to place it on. It looked as if Blaine were permanently established in the district; Abe’s ascendancy in matters of local policy seemed assured.
    The three quarter sections remaining between Nicoll’s and Hilmer’s Corners had been filed on by three brothers, young fellows who intended to farm in partnership. In imitation of a commercial firm they called themselves Topp Brothers Limited. They, too, started operations by fencing their long strip of land.
    This made the problem of the road vital. Often one ofthe settlers got stuck on his way to town, especially after a rain, when the water stood yard-deep in the ruts.
    Davis promised whatever was asked for. “I’ll do my best, fellows. I’ll see that you get what you need.” But he had disappointed them once too often. Besides, while it was known that the council had already discussed the situation in plenary session, Davis tried to create the impression that everything depended on him. At least he allowed it to be inferred when they were assembled in groups; by appointment he met the settlers at Nicoll’s Corner and made a speech. But he overshot his mark. At a time when everybody was busy seeding, he kept dropping in on individual farmers. Who was looking after his place? He could not afford to hire help; how, then, could he neglect his fields unless his position–to which no salary was attached apart from mileage fees–yielded “pickings” enough to carry him through the year? He used his very need for money as a plea; and to such a plea most of the settlers were accessible enough; they all knew that need for money. Poor devil! The trouble was he could not be trusted.
    The ward comprised, in addition to Spalding District, Davis’s own settlement and the village of Morley. Who was to take Davis’s place?
    Abe’s prestige had grown enormously. He owned the biggest holding, not only in the ward but in the municipality. He paid the

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