The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter
Chapter VIII. Belshazzar's Record Point
The Harvester set the neglected cabin in order; then he carefully and deftly packed all his dried herbs, barks, and roots. Next came carrying the couch grass, wild alum, and soapwort into the store- room. Then followed July herbs. He first went to his beds of foxglove, because the tender leaves of the second year should be stripped from them at flowering time, and that usually began two weeks earlier; but his bed lay in a shaded, damp location and the tall bloom stalks were only in half flower, their pale lavender making an exquisite picture. It paid to collect those leaves, so the Harvester hastily stripped the amount he wanted.
Yarrow was beginning to bloom and he gathered as much as he required, taking the whole plant. That only brought a few cents a pound, but it was used entire, so the weight made it worth while.
Catnip tops and leaves were also ready. As it grew in the open in dry soil and the beds had been weeded that spring, he could gather great arm loads of it with a sickle, but he had to watch the swarming bees. He left the male fern and mullein until the last for different reasons.
On the damp, cool, rocky hillside, beneath deep shade of big forest trees, grew the ferns, their long, graceful fronds waving softly. Tree toads sang on the cool rocks beneath them, chewinks nested under gnarled roots among them, rose-breasted grosbeaks sang in grape-vines clambering over the thickets, and Singing Water ran close beside. So the Harvester left digging these roots until nearly the last, because he so disliked to disturb the bed. He could not have done it if he had not been forced. All of the demand for his fern never could be supplied. Of his products none was more important to the Harvester because this formed the basis of one of the oldest and most reliable remedies for little children. The fern had to be gathered with especial care, deteriorated quickly, and no staple was more subject to adulteration.
So he kept his bed intact, lifted the roots at the proper time, carefully cleaned without washing, rapidly dried in currents of hot air, and shipped them in bottles to the trade. He charged and received fifteen cents a pound, where careless and indifferent workers got ten.
On the banks of Singing Water, at the head of the fern bed, the Harvester stood under a gray beech tree and looked down the swaying length of delicate green. He was lean and rapidly bronzing, for he seldom remembered a head covering because he loved the sweep of the wind in his hair.
"I hate to touch you," he said. "How I wish she could see you before I begin. If she did, probably she would say it was a sin, and then I never could muster courage to do it at all. I'd give a small farm to know if those violets revived for her. I was crazy to ask Doc if they were wilted, but I hated to. If they were from the ones I gathered that morning they should have been all right."
A tree toad dared him to come on; a chipmunk grew saucy as the Harvester bent to an unloved task. If he stripped the bed as closely as he dared and not injure it, he could not fill half his orders; so, deftly and with swift, skilful fingers and an earnest face, he worked. Belshazzar came down the hill on a rush, nose to earth and began hunting among the plants. He never could understand why his loved master was so careless as to go to work before he had pronounced it safe. When the fern bed was finished, the Harvester took time to make a trip to town, but there was no word waiting him; so he went to the mullein. It lay on a sunny hillside beyond the couch grass and joined a few small fields, the only cleared land of the six hundred acres of Medicine Woods. Over rocks and little hills and hollows spread the pale, grayish-yellow of the green leaves, and from five to seven feet arose the flower stems, while the entire earth between was covered with rosettes of young plants. Belshazzar went before to give warning if any big rattlers curled in the sun on the hillside, and after him followed the Harvester cutting leaves in heaps. That was warm work and he covered his head with a floppy old straw hat, with wet grass in the crown, and stopped occasionally to rest.
He loved that yellow-faced hillside. Because so much of his reaping lay in the shade and commonly his feet sank in dead leaves and damp earth, the change was a rest. He cheerfully stubbed his toes on rocks, and endured the heat without complaint. It appeared to him as if a member of every species of butterfly he knew wavered down the hillside. There were golden-brown danais, with their black-striped wings, jetty troilus with an attempt at trailers, big asterias, velvety black with longer trails and wide bands of yellow dots. Coenia were most numerous of all and to the Harvester wonderfully attractive in rich, subdued colours with a wealth of markings and eye spots. Many small moths, with transparent wings and noses red as blood, flashed past him hunting pollen. Goldfinches, intent on thistle bloom, wavered through the air trailing mellow, happy notes behind them, and often a humming-bird visited the mullein. On the lake wild life splashed and chattered incessantly, and sometimes the Harvester paused and stood with arms heaped with leaves, to interpret some unusually appealing note of pain or anger or some very attractive melody. The red-wings were swarming, the killdeers busy, and he thought of the Dream Girl and smiled.
"I wonder if she would like this," he mused.
When the mullein leaves were deep on the trays of the dry-house he began on the bloom and that was a task he loved. Just to lay off the beds in swaths and follow them, deftly picking the stamens and yellow petals from the blooms. These he would dry speedily in hot air, bottle, and send at once to big laboratories. The listed price was seventy-five cents a pound, but the beautiful golden bottles of the Harvester always brought more. The work was worth while, and he liked the location and gathering of this particular crop: for these reasons he always left it until the last, and then revelled in the gold of sunshine, bird, butterfly, and flower. Several days were required to harvest the mullein and during the time the man worked with nimble fingers, while his brain was intensely occupied with the question of what to do next in his search for the Girl.
When the work was finished, he went to the deep wood to take a peep at acres of thrifty ginseng, and he was satisfied as he surveyed the big bed. Long years he had laboured diligently; soon came the reward. He had not realized it before, but as he studied the situation he saw that he either must begin this harvest at once or employ help. If he waited until September he could not gather one third of the crop alone.
"But the roots will weigh less if I take them now," he argued, "and I can work at nothing in comfort until I have located her. I will go on with my search and allow the ginseng to grow that much heavier. What a picture! It is folly to disturb this now, for I will lose the seed of every plant I dig, and that is worth almost as much as the root. It is a question whether I want to furnish the market with seed, and so raise competition for my bed. I think, be jabbers, that I'll wait for this harvest until the seed is ripe, and then bury part of a head where I dig a root, as the Indians did. That's the idea! The more I grow, the more money; and I may need considerable for her. One thing I'd like to know: Are these plants cultivated? All the books quote the wild at highest rates and all I've ever sold was wild. The start grew here naturally. What I added from the surrounding country was wild, but through and among it I've sown seed I bought, and I've tended it with every care. But this is deep wood and wild conditions. I think I have a perfect right to so label it. I'll ask Doc. And another thing I'll go through the woods west of Onabasha where I used to find ginseng, and see if I can get a little and then take the same amount of plants grown here, and make a test. That way I can discover any difference before I go to market. This is my gold mine, and that point is mighty important to me, so I'll go this very day. I used to find it in the woods northeast of town and on the land Jameson bought, west. Wonder if he lives there yet. He should have died of pure meanness long ago. I'll drive to the river and hunt along the bank."
Early the following morning the Harvester went to Onabasha and stopped at the hospital for news. Finding none, he went through town and several miles into the country on the other side, to a piece of lowland lying along the river bank, where he once had found and carried home to reset a big bed of ginseng. If he could get only a half pound of roots from there now, they would serve his purpose. He went down the bank, Belshazzar at his heels, and at last found the place. Many trees had been cut, but there remained enough for shade; the fields bore the ragged, unattractive appearance of old. The Harvester smiled grimly as he remembered that the man who lived there once had charged him for damage he might do to trees in driving across his woods, and boasted to his neighbours that a young fool was paying for the privilege of doing his grubbing. If Jameson had known what the roots he was so anxious to dispose of brought a pound on the market at that time, he would have been insane with anger. So the Harvester's eyes were dancing with fun and a wry grin twisted his lips as he clambered over the banks of the recently dredged river, and looked at its pitiful condition and straight, muddy flow.
"Appears to match the remainder of the Jameson property," he said. "I don't know who he is or where he came from, but he's no farmer. Perhaps he uses this land to corral the stock he buys until he can sell it again."
He went down the embankment and began to search for the location where he formerly had found the ginseng. When he came to the place he stood amazed, for from seed, roots, and plants he had missed, the growth had sprung up and spread, so that at a rapid estimate the Harvester thought it contained at least five pounds, allowing for what it would shrink on account of being gathered early. He hesitated an instant, and thought of coming later; but the drive was long and the loss would not amount to enough to pay for a second trip. About taking it, he never thought at all. He once had permission from the owner to dig all the shrubs, bushes, and weeds he desired from that stretch of woods, and had paid for possible damages that might occur. As he bent to the task there did come a fleeting thought that the patch was weedless and in unusual shape for wild stuff. Then, with swift strokes of his light mattock, he lifted the roots, crammed them into his sack, whistled to Belshazzar, and going back to the wagon, drove away. Reaching home he washed the ginseng, and spread it on a tray to dry. The first time he wanted the mattock he realized that he had left it lying where he had worked. It was an implement that he had directed a blacksmith to fashion to meet his requirements. No store contained anything half so useful to him. He had worked with it for years and it just suited him, so there was nothing to do but go back. Betsy was too tired to return that day, so he planned to dig his ginseng with something else, finish his work the following morning, and get the mattock in the afternoon.
"It's like a knife you've carried for years, or a gun," muttered the Harvester. "I actually don't know how to get along without it. What made me so careless I can't imagine. I never before in my life did a trick like that. I wonder if I hurried a little. I certainly was free to take it. He always wanted the stuff dug up. Of all the stupid tricks, Belshazzar, that was the worst. Now Betsy and a half day of wasted time must pay for my carelessness. Since I have to go, I'll look a little farther. Maybe there is more. Those woods used to be full of it."
According to this programme, the next afternoon the Harvester again walked down the embankment of the mourning river and through the ragged woods to the place where the ginseng had been. He went forward, stepping lightly, as men of his race had walked the forest for ages, swerving to avoid boughs, and looking straight ahead. Contrary to his usual custom of coming to heel in a strange wood, Belshazzar suddenly darted around the man and took the path they had followed the previous day. The animal was performing his office in life; he had heard or scented something unusual. The Harvester knew what that meant. He looked inquiringly at the dog, glanced around, and then at the earth. Belshazzar proceeded noiselessly at a rapid pace over the leaves: Suddenly the master saw the dog stop in a stiff point. Lifting his feet lightly and straining his eyes before him, the Harvester passed a spice thicket and came in line.
For one second he stood as rigid as Belshazzar. The next his right arm shot upward full length, and began describing circles, his open palm heavenward, and into his face leapt a glorified expression of exultation. Face down in the rifled ginseng bed lay a sobbing girl. Her frame was long and slender, a thick coil of dark hair; bound her head. A second more and the Harvester bent and softly patted Belshazzar's head. The beast broke point and looked up. The man caught the dog's chin in a caressing grip, again touched his head, moved soundless lips, and waved toward the prostrate figure. The dog hesitated. The Harvester made the same motions. Belshazzar softly stepped over the leaves, passed around the feet of the girl, and paused beside her, nose to earth, softly sniffing.
In one moment she came swiftly to a sitting posture.
"Oh!" she cried in a spasm of fright.
Belshazzar reached an investigating nose and wagged an eager tail.
"Why you are a nice friendly dog!" said the trembling voice.
He immediately verified the assertion by offering his nose for a kiss. The girl timidly laid a hand on his head.
"Heaven knows I'm lonely enough to kiss a dog," she said, "but suppose you belong to the man who stole my ginseng, and then ran away so fast he forgot his---- his piece he digged with."
Belshazzar pressed closer.
"I am just killed, and I don't care whose dog you are," sobbed the girl.
She threw her arms around Belshazzar's neck and laid her white face against his satiny shoulder. The Harvester could endure no more. He took a step forward, his face convulsed with pain.
"Please don't!" he begged. "I took your ginseng. I'll bring it back to-morrow. There wasn't more than twenty-five or thirty dollars' worth. It doesn't amount to one tear."
The girl arose so quickly, the Harvester could not see how she did it. With a startled fright on her face, and the dark eyes swimming, she turned to him in one long look. Words rolled from the lips of the man in a jumble. Behind the tears there was a dull, expressionless blue in the girl's eyes and her face was so white that it appeared blank. He began talking before she could speak, in an effort to secure forgiveness without condemnation.
"You see, I grow it for a living on land I own, and I've always gathered all there was in the country and no one cared. There never was enough in one place to pay, and no other man wanted to spend the time, and so I've always felt free to take it. Every one knew I did, and no one ever objected before. Once I paid Henry Jameson for the privilege of cleaning it from these woods. That was six or seven years ago, and it didn't occur to me that I wasn't at liberty to dig what has grown since. I'll bring it back at once, and pay you for the shrinkage from gathering it too early. There won't be much over six pounds when it's dry. Please, please don't feel badly. Won't you trust me to return it, and make good the damage I've done?"
The face of the Harvester was eager and his tones appealing, as he leaned forward trying to make her understand.
"Certainly!" said the Girl as she bent to pat the dog, while she dried her eyes under cover of the movement. "Certainly! It can make no difference!"
But as the Harvester drew a deep breath of relief, she suddenly straightened to full height and looked straight at him.
"Oh what is the use to tell a pitiful lie!" she cried. "It does make a difference! It makes all the difference in the world! I need that money! I need it unspeakably. I owe a debt I must pay. What----what did I understand you to say ginseng is worth?"
"If you will take a few steps," said the Harvester, "and make yourself comfortable on this log in the shade, I will tell you all I know about it."
The girl walked swiftly to the log indicated, seated herself, and waited. The Harvester followed to a respectful distance.
"I can't tell to an ounce what wet roots would weigh," he said as easily as he could command his voice to speak with the heart in him beating wildly, "and of course they lose greatly in drying; but I've handled enough that I know the weight I carried home will come to six pounds at the very least. Then you must figure on some loss, because I dug this before it really was ready. It does not reach full growth until September, and if it is taken too soon there is a decrease in weight. I will make that up to you when I return it."
The troubled eyes were gazing on his face intently, and the Harvester studied them as he talked.
"You would think, then, there would be all of six pounds?
"Yes," said the Harvester, "closer eight. When I replace the shrinkage there is bound to be over seven."
"And how much did I understand you to say it brought a pound?"
"That all depends," answered he. "If you cure it yourself, and dry it too much, you lose in weight. If you carry it in a small lot to the druggists of Onabasha, probably you will not get over five dollars for it."
It was a startled cry.
"How much did you expect?" asked the Harvester gently.
"Uncle Henry said he thought he could get fifty cents a pound for all I could find."
"If your Uncle Henry has learned at last that ginseng is a salable article he should know something about the price also. Will you tell me what he said, and how you came to think of gathering roots for the market?"
"There were men talking beneath the trees one Sunday afternoon about old times and hunting deer, and they spoke of people who made money long ago gathering roots and barks, and they mentioned one man who lived by it yet."
"Was his name Langston?"
"Yes, I remember because I liked the name. I was so eager to earn something, and I can't leave here just now because Aunt Molly is very ill, so the thought came that possibly I could gather stuff worth money, after my work was finished. I went out and asked questions. They said nothing brought enough to make it pay any one, except this ginseng plant, and the Langston man almost had stripped the country. Then uncle said he used to get stuff here, and he might have got some of that. I asked what it was like, so they told me and I hunted until I found that, and it seemed a quantity to me. Of course I didn't know it had to be dried. Uncle took a root I dug to a store, and they told him that it wasn't much used any more, but they would give him fifty cents a pound for it. What makes you think you can get five dollars?"
"With your permission," said the Harvester.
He seated himself on the log, drew from his pocket an old pamphlet, and spreading it before her, ran a pencil along the line of a list of schedule prices for common drug roots and herbs. Because he understood, his eyes were very bright, and his voice a trifle crisp. A latent anger springing in his breast was a good curb for his emotions. He was closely acquainted with all of the druggists of Onabasha, and he knew that not one of them had offered less than standard prices for ginseng.
"The reason I think so," he said gently, "is because growing it is the largest part of my occupation, and it was a staple with my father before me. I am David Langston, of whom you heard those men speak. Since I was a very small boy I have lived by collecting herbs and roots, and I get more for ginseng than anything else. Very early I tired of hunting other people's woods for herbs, so I began transplanting them to my own. I moved that bed out there seven years ago. What you found has grown since from roots I overlooked and seeds that fell at that time. Now do you think I am enough of an authority to trust my word on the subject?"
There was not a change of expression on her white face.
"You surely should know," she said wearily, "and you could have no possible object in deceiving me. Please go on."
"Any country boy or girl can find ginseng, gather, wash, and dry it, and get five dollars a pound. I can return yours to-morrow and you can cure and take it to a druggist I will name you, and sell for that. But if you will allow me to make a suggestion, you can get more. Your roots are now on the trays of an evaporating house. They will dry to the proper degree desired by the trade, so that they will not lose an extra ounce in weight, and if I send them with my stuff to big wholesale houses I deal with, they will be graded with the finest wild ginseng. It is worth more than the cultivated and you will get closer eight dollars a pound for it than five. There is some speculation in it, and the market fluctuates: but, as a rule, I sell for the highest price the drug brings, and, at times when the season is very dry, I set my own prices. Shall I return yours or may I cure and sell it, and bring you the money?"
"How much trouble would that make you?"
"None. The work of digging and washing is already finished. All that remains is to weigh it and make a memorandum of the amount when I sell. I should very much like to do it. It would be a comfort to see the money go into your hands. If you are afraid to trust me, I will give you the names of several people you can ask concerning me the next time you go to the city."
She looked at him steadily.
"Never mind that," she said. "But why do you offer to do it for a stranger? It must be some trouble, no matter how small you represent it to be."
"Perhaps I am going to pay you eight and sell for ten."
"I don't think you can. Five sounds fabulous to me. I can't believe that. If you wanted to make money you needn't have told me you took it. I never would have known. That isn't your reason!"
"Possibly I would like to atone for those tears I caused," said the Harvester.
"Don't think of that! They are of no consequence to any one. You needn't do anything for me on that account."
"Don't search for a reason," said the Harvester, in his gentlest tones. "Forget that feature of the case. Say I'm peculiar, and allow me to do it because it would be a pleasure. In close two weeks I will bring you the money. Is it a bargain?"
"Yes, if you care to make it."
"I care very much. We will call that settled."
"I wish I could tell you what it will mean to me," said the Girl.
"If you only would," plead the Harvester.
" I must not burden a stranger with my troubles."
"But if it would make the stranger so happy!"
"That isn't possible. I must face life and bear what it brings me alone."
"Not unless you choose," said the Harvester. "That is, if you will pardon me, a narrow view of life. It cuts other people out of the joy of service. If you can't tell me, would you trust a very lovely and gentle woman I could bring to you?"
"No more than you. It is my affair; I must work it out myself."
"I am mighty sorry," said the Harvester. "I believe you err in that decision. Think it over a day or so, and see if two heads are not better than one. You will realize when this ginseng matter is settled that you profited by trusting me. The same will hold good along other lines, if you only can bring yourself to think so. At any rate, try. Telling a trouble makes it lighter. Sympathy should help, if nothing can be done. And as for money, I can show you how to earn sums at least worth your time, if you have nothing else you want to do."
The Girl bent toward him.
"Oh please do tell me!" she cried eagerly. "I've tried and tried to find some way ever since I have been here, but every one else I have met says I can't, and nothing seems to be worth anything. If you only would tell me something I could do!"
"If you will excuse my saying so," said the Harvester, "it appeals to me that ease, not work, is the thing you require. You appear extremely worn. Won't you let me help you find a way to a long rest first?"
"Impossible!" cried the Girl. "I know I am white and appear ill, but truly I never have been sick in all my life. I have been having trouble and working too much, but I'll be better soon. Believe me, there is no rest for me now. I must earn the money I owe first."
"There is a way, if you care to take it," said the Harvester. "In my work I have become very well acquainted with the chief surgeon of the city hospital. Through him I happen to know that he has a free bed in a beautiful room, where you could rest until you are perfectly strong again, and that room is empty just now. When you are well, I will tell you about the work."
As she arose the Harvester stood, and tall and straight she faced him.
"Impossible!" she said. "It would be brutal to leave my aunt. I cannot pay to rest in a hospital ward, and I will not accept charity. If you can put me in the way of earning, even a few cents a day, at anything I could do outside the work necessary to earn my board here, it would bring me closer to happiness than anything else on earth."
"What I suggest is not impossible," said the Harvester softly. "If you will go, inside an hour a sweet and gentle lady will come for you and take you to ease and perfect rest until you are strong again. I will see that your aunt is cared for scrupulously. I can't help urging you. It is a crime to talk of work to a woman so manifestly worn as you are."
"Then we will not speak of it," said the Girl wearily. "It is time for me to go, anyway. I see you mean to be very kind, and while I don't in the least understand it, I do hope you feel I am grateful. If half you say about the ginseng comes true, I can make a payment worth while before I had hoped to. I have no words to tell you what that will mean to me."
"If this debt you speak of were paid, could you rest then?"
"I could lie down and give up in peace, and I think I would."
"I think you wouldn't," said the Harvester, "because you wouldn't be allowed. There are people in these days who make a business of securing rest for the tired and over weary, and they would come and prevent that if you tried it. Please let me make another suggestion. If you owe money to some one you feel needs it and the debt is preying on you, let's pay it."
He drew a small check-book from his pocket and slipped a pen from a band.
"If you will name the amount and give me the address, you shall be free to go to the rest I ask for you inside an hour."
Then slowly from head to foot she looked at him.
"Because your face and attitude clearly indicate that you are over tired. Believe me, you do yourself wrong if you refuse."
"In what way would changing creditors rest me?"
"I thought perhaps you were owing some one who needed the money. I am not a rich man, but I have no one save myself to provide for and I have funds lying idle that I would be glad to use for you. If you make a point of it, when you are rested, you can repay me."
"My creditor needs the money, but I should prefer owing him rather than a perfect stranger. What you suggest would help me not at all. I must go now."
"Very well," said the Harvester. "If you will tell me whom to ask for and where you live, I will come to see you to-morrow and bring you some pamphlets. With these and with a little help you soon can earn any amount a girl is likely to owe. It will require but a little while. Where can I find you?"
The Girl hesitated and for the first time a hint of colour flushed her cheek. But courage appeared to be her strong point.
"Do you live in this part of the country?" she asked.
"I live ten miles from here, east of Onabasha," he answered.
"Do you know Henry Jameson?"
"By sight and by reputation."
"Did you ever know anything kind or humane of him?"
"I never did."
"My name is Ruth Jameson. At present I am indebted to him for the only shelter I have. His wife is ill through overwork and worry, and I am paying for my bed and what I don't eat, principally, by attempting her work. It scarcely would be fair to Uncle Henry to say that I do it. I stagger around as long as I can stand, then I sit through his abuse. He is a pleasant man. Please don't think I am telling you this to harrow your sympathy further. The reason I explain is because I am driven. If I do not, you will misjudge me when I say that I only can see you here. I understood what you meant when you said Uncle Henry should have known the price of ginseng if he knew it was for sale. He did. He knew what he could get for it, and what he meant to pay me. That is one of his original methods with a woman. If he thought I could earn anything worth while, he would allow me, if I killed myself doing it; and then he would take the money by force if necessary. So I can meet you here only. I can earn just what I may in secret. He buys cattle and horses and is away from home much of the day, and when Aunt Molly is comfortable I can have a few hours."
"I understand," said the Harvester. "But this is an added hardship. Why do you remain? Why subject yourself to force and work too heavy for you?"
"Because his is the only roof on earth where I feel I can pay for all I get. I don't care to discuss it, I only want you to say you understand, if I ask you to bring the pamphlets here and tell me how I can earn money."
"I do," said the Harvester earnestly, although his heart was hot in protest. "You may be very sure that I will not misjudge you. Shall I come at two o'clock to-morrow, Miss Jameson?"
"If you will be so kind."
The Harvester stepped aside and she passed him and crossing the rifled ginseng patch went toward a low brown farmhouse lying in an unkept garden, beside a ragged highway. The man sat on the log she had vacated, held his head between his hands and tried to think, but he could not for big waves of joy that swept over him when he realized that at last he had found her, had spoken with her, and had arranged a meeting for the morrow.
"Belshazzar," he said softly, "I wish I could leave you to protect her. Every day you prove to me that I need you, but Heaven knows her necessity is greater. Bel, she makes my heart ache until it feels like jelly. There seems to be just one thing to do. Get that fool debt paid like lightning, and lift her out of here quicker than that. Now, we will go and see Doc, and call off the watch-dogs of the law. Ahead of them, aren't we, Belshazzar? There is a better day coming; we feel it in our bones, don't we, old partner?"
The Harvester started through the woods on a rush, and as the exercise warmed his heart, he grew wonderfully glad. At last he had found her. Uncertainty was over. If ever a girl needed a home and care he thought she did. He was so jubilant that he felt like crying aloud, shouting for joy, but by and by the years of sober repression made their weight felt, so he climbed into the wagon and politely requested Betsy to make her best time to Onabasha. Betsy had been asked to make haste so frequently of late that she at first almost doubted the sanity of her master, the law of whose life, until recently, had been to take his time. Now he appeared to be in haste every day. She had become so accustomed to being urged to hurry that she almost had developed a gait; so at the Harvester's suggestion she did her level best to Onabasha and the hospital, where she loved to nose Belshazzar and rest near the watering tap under a big tree.
The Harvester went down the hall and into the office on the run, and his face appeared like a materialized embodiment of living joy. Doctor Carey turned at his approach and then bounded half way across the room, his hands outstretched.
"You've found her, David!"
The Harvester grabbed the hand of his friend and stood pumping it up and down while he gulped at the lump in his throat, and big tears squeezed from his eyes, but he could only nod his proud head.
"Found her!" exulted Doctor Carey. "Really found her! Well that's great! Sit down and tell me, boy! Is she sick, as we feared? Did you only see her or did you get to talk with her?"
"Well sir," said the Harvester, choking back his emotions, "you remember that ginseng I told you about getting on the old Jameson place last night. To-day, I learned I'd lost that hand-made mattock I use most, and I went back for it, and there she was."
"In the country?"
"Well why didn't we think of it before?"
"I suppose first we would have had to satisfy ourselves that she wasn't in town, anyway."
"Sure! That would be the logical way to go at it! And so you found her?"
"Yes sir, I found her! Just Belshazzar and I! I was going along on my way to the place, and he ran past me and made a stiff point, and when I came up, there she was!"
"There she was?"
"Yes sir; there she was!"
They shook hands again.
"Then of course you spoke to her."
"Yes I spoke to her."
" Were you pleased?"
"With her speech and manner?----yes. But, Doc, if ever a woman needed everything on earth!"
"Well did you get any kind of a start made?"
"I couldn't do so very much. I had to go a little slow for fear of frightening her, but I tried to get her to come here and she won't until a debt she owes is paid, and she's in no condition to work."
"Got any idea how much it is?"
"No, but it can't be any large sum. I tried to offer to pay it, but she had no hesitation in telling me she preferred owing a man she knew to a stranger."
"Well if she is so particular, how did she come to tell you first thing that she was in debt?"
The Harvester explained.
"Oh I see!" said the doctor. "Well you'll have to baby her along with the idea that she is earning money and pay her double until you get that off her mind, and while you are at it, put in your best licks, my boy; perk right up and court her like a house afire. Women like it. All of them do. They glory in feeling that a man is crazy about them."
"Well I'm insane enough over her," said the Harvester, "but I'd hate like the nation for her to know it. Seems as if a woman couldn't respect such an addle-pate as I am lately."
"Don't you worry about that," advised the doctor. "Just you make love to her. Go at it in the good old- fashioned way."
"But maybe the `good old-fashioned way' isn't my way."
"What's the difference whose way it is, if it wins?"
"But Kipling says: `Each man makes love his own way!' "
"I seem to have heard you mention that name be fore," said the doctor. "Do you regard him as an authority?"
"I do!" said the Harvester. "Especially when he advises me after my own heart and reason. Miss Jameson is not a silly girl. She's a woman, and twenty-four at least. I don't want her to care for a trick or a pretence. I do want her to love me. Not that I am worth her attention, but because she needs some strong man fearfully, and I am ready and more `willing' than the original Barkis. But, like him, I have to let her know it in my way, and court her according to the promptings of my heart."
"You deceive yourself!" said the doctor flatly. "That's all bosh! Your tongue says it for the satisfaction of your ears, and it does sound well. You will court her according to your ideas of the conventions, as you understand them, and strictly in accordance with what you consider the respect due her. If you had followed the thing you call the `promptings of your heart,' you would have picked her up by main force and brought her to my best ward, instead of merely suggesting it and giving up when she said no. If you had followed your heart, you would have choked the name and amount out of her and paid that devilish debt. You walk away in a case like that, and then have the nerve to come here and prate to me about following your heart. I'll wager my last dollar your heart is sore because you were not allowed to help her; but on the proposition that you followed its promptings I wouldn't stake a penny. That's all tommy-rot!"
"It is," agreed the Harvester. "Utter! But what can a man do?"
"I don't know what you can do! I'd have paid that debt and brought her to the hospital."
"I'll go and ask Mrs. Carey about your courtship. I want her help on this, anyway. I can pick up Miss Jameson and bring her here if any man can, but she is nursing a sick woman who depends solely on her for care. She is above average size, and she has a very decided mind of her own. I don't think you would use force and do what you think best for her, if you were in my place. You would wait until you understood the situation better, and knew that what you did was for the best, ultimately."
"I don't know whether I would or not. One thing is sure: I'm mighty glad you have found her. May I tell my wife?"
"Please do! And ask her if I may depend on her if I need a woman's help. Now I'll call off the valiant police and go home and take a good, sound sleep. Haven't had many since I first saw her."
So Betsy trotted down the valley, up the embankment, crossed the railroad, over the levee across Singing Water, and up the hill to the cabin. As they passed it, the Harvester jumped from the wagon, tossed the hitching strap to Belshazzar, and entered. He walked straight to her door, unlocked it, and uncovering, went inside. Softly he passed from piece to piece of the furniture he had made for her, and then surveyed the walls and floor.
"It isn't half good enough," he said, "but it will have to answer until I can do better. Surely she will know I tried and care for that, anyway. I wonder how long it will take me to get her here. Oh, if I only could know she was comfortable and happy! Happy! She doesn't appear as if she ever had heard that word. Well this will be a good place to teach her. I've always enjoyed myself here. I'm going to have faith that I can win her and make her happy also. When I go to the stable to do my work for the night if I could know she was in this cabin and glad of it, and if I could hear her down here singing like a happy care-free girl, I'd scarcely be able to endure the joy of it."