Dr. Gowdy and the Squash
Chapter VIII
 

Soon the Squash dawned on the town--the Last, the Ultimate. Jared had soothed his ruffled feelings and gone back to his old barn and worked for a fortnight. The result was in all men's eyes: a "Golden Hubbard"--an agricultural novelty--backed up by all the pomp and circumstance a pillaged farm could yield.

"There it stands, Melissa," he said to the girl, who had come out with an admiring little company to bid Jared's masterpiece godspeed. "And here I stand--a ten-thousand-dollar artist, and the only one in the country."

"I'm proud of you, Jared," panted Melissa, with little effort to conceal the affectionate admiration that filled her.

"And I'm grateful to you. You believed in me--you encouraged me----"

"Yes, I did, Jared," said Melissa shyly. They were alone, behind the shelter of the barn door.

"And next to Dr. Gowdy--"

"You've seen him? You've thanked him?"

"Not yet. But I'm going to as soon as I get this picture in place. This here ain't the end, Melissa; it ain't hardly the beginning. There ain't a picture of mine all over town that won't be worth double next week what it is this--and people anxious to pay the money, too. Just wait a little, Melissa; there's a good deal more to follow yet"--an ambiguous utterance to which the girl gave the meaning that her most vital hope required.

A few days later the city press was teeming with matter pertinent to young Mr. Meyer's newest display--the paper that refused to teem would have had to tell him why. Jared stood in the calcium-light of absolute unshaded publicity. "An American Boy's Triumph." "A New Idea in American Art." "The Western Angelus"--this last from a serf that submitted, indeed, yet grimaced in submitting. Under head-lines such as these were detailed his crude ideas and the scanty incidents of his life. And there were editorials, too, that contrasted the sturdy and wholesome truthfulness of his genius with the vain imaginings of so-called idealists. These accounts rolled back to Ringgold County. "Ten thousand dollars! ten thousand dollars!" rang through township after township. "Ten thousand dollars! ten thousand dollars!" murmured the crowds that blocked the street before the big entrance to Meyer, Van Horn, and Co.'s. All this homage helped Jared to gloss over the paltriness of their actual check. By reason of this double hosanna he was a ten-thousand-dollar man in very truth.

"And now," said Jared, "I will go and see Dr. Gowdy."