Fruits of the Earth

Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove Page B

Book: Fruits of the Earth by Frederick Philip Grove Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frederick Philip Grove
Tags: Classics
highest taxes. His progress was watched even at Somerville. He was buying a tractor. Hilmer, Nawosad, and Shilloe were fencing his new section. Abe, Bill Crane, and Nicoll had all they could do to get his seed into the ground: he seeded eight hundred acres.
    Nicoll was sent to sound him as to his willingness to “run” for a seat on the council. Having long played with the idea, Abe did not decline; but he refused to canvass the ward. “Elect meif you want to,” he said. “I’ll act. But I won’t go around and beg for votes. If you think I can do something for you, it’s up to you. I won’t stir a finger.” He pleaded the urgency of his work; but it was known to be pride which prompted his refusal to do the usual thing. This gave a few men from Britannia District the material to work against him. “Give Spalding power,” they said, “and he’ll rule you with an iron rod.”
    Among those, on the other hand, who were most active in the interest of Abe’s election was Blaine. As soon as the roads were dry, he straddled his bicycle every Saturday to go to town. His huge head with the long beard floated over the handle bar, trembling on a slender, corded neck; he did not go fast; but he pedalled along as though automatically.
    Thus he passed the cottage which the Topp brothers were building in the centre of their long holding–a neat little thing twenty feet square, perched on a high foundation, with a porch in front. And next Hilmer’s shack where old Mrs. Grappentin followed his progress from a window or through the open door. “There he goes,” she would say in German, “to win votes for the duke and lord!” This name had stuck.
    He would spend all day in town, talking to the farmers from the east half of the ward; he knew everybody who was not a new-comer to the prairie: years ago, he had taught in Britannia District.
    One day, when Abe and Bill were disking the new breaking, such as there was of it, the rattling noise of a motor car running with exhausts wide open caught Abe’s ear. He was facing north and nearing the line of the Hudson’s Bay section; and soon he saw a curious vehicle lumbering over the prairie from the north-east: it was that once familiar sight of an ancient Ford car of the first vintage, covered in all sorts of places with tarnished brass. It jolted and tilted and tossedalong, with an ever-increasing bellowing noise at which the horses pricked their ears; for, level as the prairie looked, it was by no means as smooth as it appeared to the eye. Everything about this car shook and rattled; the cloth of the top dangled behind in strips like a bunch of streamers; the fenders were suspended with binder-twine.
    The car came to a stop in front of Abe’s horses which were prancing with fright. The driver alighted, vaulting briskly over the door without opening it; and he came at once to where Abe was sitting perched on his harrow. Small and clad in grey overalls, the man looked more like a schoolboy than an adult of forty years. His face was freckled; his eyes grey-blue; his hair reddish. Abe recognized the Yankee who had been “snooping about” in the district before Nicoll’s time.
    â€œHello, Spalding,” he greeted Abe informally and in a business-like way. “Running for councillor, I hear. Remember me? Wheeldon, in case you’ve forgotten. From Destouches, Iowa. I’ve filed on the north-west quarter of eleven.” He pointed over his shoulder towards Stanley’s place. “I’m thinking of moving out next spring. Provided you and I can come to terms.” This on a rising note.
    â€œCome to terms?”–distantly; these two had disliked each other at sight.
    â€œI want road work for two men and two teams for three months, at current rates. I’m willing to pay the usual rake-off.”
    â€œI am not a councillor yet,” Abe said, stiffening.

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