The Brown Mouse by Herbert Quick
CHAPTER I. A MAIDEN'S “HUMPH”
CHAPTER II. REVERSED UNANIMITY
CHAPTER III. WHAT IS A BROWN MOUSE
CHAPTER IV. THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
CHAPTER V. THE PROMOTION OF JENNIE
CHAPTER VI. JIM TALKS THE WEATHER COLD
CHAPTER VII. THE NEW WINE
CHAPTER VIII. AND THE OLD BOTTLES
CHAPTER IX. JENNIE ARRANGES A CHRISTMAS PARTY
CHAPTER X. HOW JIM WAS LINED UP
CHAPTER XI. THE MOUSE ESCAPES
CHAPTER XII. FACING TRIAL
CHAPTER XIII. FAME OR NOTORIETY
CHAPTER XIV. THE COLONEL TAKES THE FIELD
CHAPTER XV. A MINOR CASTS HALF A VOTE
CHAPTER XVI. THE GLORIOUS FOURTH
CHAPTER XVII. A TROUBLE SHOOTER
CHAPTER XVIII. JIM GOES TO AMES
CHAPTER XIX. JIM'S WORLD WIDENS
CHAPTER XX. THINK OF IT
CHAPTER XXI. A SCHOOL DISTRICT HELD UP
CHAPTER XXII. AN EMBASSY FROM DIXIE
CHAPTER XXIII. AND SO THEY LIVED——
THE BROWN MOUSE
By HERBERT QUICK
Author of Aladdin &Company, The Broken Lance On Board the Good Ship
INDIANAPOLIS THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright 1915 The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Printed in the United States of America
PRESS OF BRAUNWORTH &CO. BOOK MANUFACTURERS BROOKLYN, N. Y.
THE BROWN MOUSE
CHAPTER I. A MAIDEN'S HUMPH
A Farm-hand nodded in answer to a question asked him by Napoleon on
the morning of Waterloo. The nod was false, or the emperor
misunderstoodand Waterloo was lost. On the nod of a farm-hand rested
the fate of Europe.
This story may not be so important as the battle of Waterlooand it
may be. I think that Napoleon was sure to lose to Wellington sooner or
later, and therefore the words fate of Europe in the last paragraph
should be understood as modified by for a while. But this story may
change the world permanently. We will not discuss that, if you please.
What I am endeavoring to make plain is that this history would never
have been written if a farmer's daughter had not said Humph! to her
father's hired man.
Of course she never said it as it is printed. People never say
Humph! in that way. She just closed her lips tight in the manner of
people who have a great deal to say and prefer not to say it, andI
dislike to record this of a young lady who has been off to school,
but truthfulness compelsshe grunted through her little nose the
ordinary Humph! of conversational commerce, which was accepted at its
face value by the farm-hand as an evidence of displeasure, disapproval,
and even of contempt. Things then began to happen as they never would
have done if the maiden hadn't Humphed! and this is a history of
As I have said, it may be more important than Waterloo. Uncle
Tom's Cabin was, and I hopeI am just beginning, you knowto make
this a much greater book than Uncle Tom's Cabin. And it all
rests on a Humph! Holmes says,
Soft is the breath of a maiden's 'Yes,'
Not the light gossamer stirs with less.
but what bard shall rightly sing the importance of a maiden's
Humph! when I shall have finished telling what came of what Jennie
Woodruff said to Jim Irwin, her father's hired man?
Jim brought from his day's work all the fragrances of next year's
meadows. He had been feeding the crops. All things have opposite poles,
and the scents of the farm are no exception to the rule. Just now, Jim
Irwin possessed in his clothes and person the olfactory pole opposite
to the new-mown hay, the fragrant butter and the scented breath of the
lowing kineperspiration and top-dressing.
He was not quite so keenly conscious of this as was Jennie Woodruff.
Had he been so, the glimmer of her white piqué dress on the bench under
the basswood would not have drawn him back from the gate. He had come
to the house to ask Colonel Woodruff about the farm work, and having
received instructions to take a team and join in the road work next
day, he had gone down the walk between the beds of four o'clocks and
petunias to the lane. Turning to latch the gate, he saw through the
dusk the white dress under the tree and drawn by the greatest
attraction known in nature, had re-entered the Woodruff grounds and
A brief hello betrayed old acquaintance, and that social equality
which still persists in theory between the work people on the American
farm and the family of the employer. A desultory murmur of voices
ensued. Jim Irwin sat down on the benchnot too close, be it observed,
to the piqué skirt.... There came into the voices a note of deeper
earnestness, betokening something quite aside from the rippling of the
course of true love running smoothly. In the man's voice was a tone of
protest and pleading....
I know you are, said she; but after all these years don't you
think you should be at least preparing to be something more than that?
What can I do? he pleaded. I'm tied hand and foot.... I might
You might have, said she, but, Jim, you haven't ... and I don't
see any prospects.... I have been writing for the farm papers, said
Jim; but ...
But that doesn't get you anywhere, you know.... You're a great deal
more able and intelligent than Ed and see what a fine position he
has in Chicago....
There's mother, you know, said Jim gently.
You can't do anything here, said Jennie. You've been a farm-hand
for fifteen years ... and you always will be unless you pull yourself
loose. Even a girl can make a place for herself if she doesn't marry
and leaves the farm. You're twenty-eight years old.
It's all wrong! said Jim gently. The farm ought to be the place
for the best sort of careerI love the soil!
I've been teaching for only two years, and they say I'll be
nominated for county superintendent if I'll take it. Of course I
won'tit seems sillybut if it were you, now, it would be a first
step to a life that leads to something.
Mother and I can live on my wagesand the garden and chickens and
the cow, said Jim. After I received my teacher's certificate, I tried
to work out some way of doing the same thing on a country teacher's
wages. I couldn't. It doesn't seem right.
Jim rose and after pacing back and forth sat down again, a little
closer to Jennie. Jennie moved away to the extreme end of the bench,
and the shrinking away of Jim as if he had been repelled by some sort
of negative magnetism showed either sensitiveness or temper.
It seems as if it ought to be possible, said Jim, for a man to do
work on the farm, or in the rural schools, that would make him a
livelihood. If he is only a field-hand, it ought to be possible for him
to save money and buy a farm.
Pa's land is worth two hundred dollars an acre, said Jennie. Six
months of your wages for an acreeven if you lived on nothing.
No, he assented, it can't be done. And the other thing can't,
either. There ought to be such conditions that a teacher could make a
They do, said Jennie, if they can live at home during vacations.
But a man teaching in the country ought to be able to marry.
Marry! said Jennie, rather unfeelingly, I think. You
marry! Then after remaining silent for nearly a minute, she uttered
the syllablewithout the utterance of which this narrative would not
have been written. You marry! Humph!
Jim Irwin rose from the bench tingling with the insult he found in
her tone. They had been boy-and-girl sweethearts in the old days at the
Woodruff schoolhouse down the road, and before the fateful time when
Jennie went off to school and Jim began to support his mother. They
had even kissedand on Jim's side, lonely as was his life, cut off as
it necessarily was from all companionship save that of his tiny home
and his fellow-workers of the field, the tender little love-story was
the sole romance of his life. Jennie's Humph! retired this romance
from circulation, he felt. It showed contempt for the idea of his
marrying. It relegated him to a sexless category with other defectives,
and badged him with the celibacy of a sort of twentieth-century monk,
without the honor of the priestly vocation. From another girl it would
have been bad enough, but from Jennie Woodruffand especially on that
quiet summer night under the lindenit was insupportable.
Good night, said Jimsimply because he could not trust himself to
Good night, replied Jennie, and sat for a long time wondering just
how deeply she had unintentionally wounded the feelings of her father's
field-hand; deciding that if he was driven from her forever, it would
solve the problem of terminating that old childish love affair which
still persisted in occupying a suite of rooms all of its own in her
memory; and finally repenting of the unpremeditated thrust which might
easily have hurt too deeply so sensitive a man as Jim Irwin. But girls
are not usually so made as to feel any very bitter remorse for their
male victims, and so Jennie slept very well that night.
Great events, I find myself repeating, sometimes hinge on trivial
things. Considered deeply, all those matters which we are wont to call
great events are only the outward and visible results of occurrences in
the minds and souls of people. Sir Walter Raleigh thought of laying his
cloak under the feet of Queen Elizabeth as she passed over a
mud-puddle, and all the rest of his career followed, as the effect of
Sir Walter's mental attitude. Elias Howe thought of a machine for
sewing, Eli Whitney of a machine for ginning cotton, George Stephenson
of a tubular boiler for his locomotive engine, and Cyrus McCormick of a
sickle-bar, and the world was changed by those thoughts, rather than by
the machines themselves. John D. Rockefeller thought strongly that he
would be rich, and this thought, and not the Standard Oil Company,
changed the commerce and finance of the world. As a man thinketh so is
he; and as men think so is the world. Jim Irwin went home thinking of
the Humph! of Jennie Woodruffthinking with hot waves and cold waves
running over his body, and swellings in his throat. Such thoughts
centered upon his club foot made Lord Byron a great sardonic poet. That
club foot set him apart from the world of boys and tortured him into a
fury which lasted until he had lashed society with the whips of his
Jim Irwin was not club-footed; far from it. He was bony and rugged
and homely, with a big mouth, and wide ears, and a form stooped with
labor. He had fine, lambent, gentle eyes which lighted up his face when
he smiled, as Lincoln's illuminated his. He was not ugly. In fact, if
that quality which fair ladiesif they are wiseprize far more than
physical beauty, the quality called charm, can with propriety be
ascribed to a field-hand who has just finished a day of the rather
unfragrant labor to which I have referred, Jim Irwin possessed charm.
That is why little Jennie Woodruff had asked him to help with her
lessons, rather oftener than was necessary, in those old days in the
Woodruff schoolhouse when Jennie wore her hair down her back.
But in spite of this homely charm of personality, Jim Irwin was set
off from his fellows of the Woodruff neighborhood in a manner quite as
segregative as was Byron by his deformity. He was different. In local
parlance, he was an off ox. He was as odd as Dick's hatband. He ran in
a gang by himself, like Deacon Avery's celebrated bull. He failed to
matriculate in the boy banditti which played cards in the haymows on
rainy days, told stereotyped stories that smelled to heaven, raided
melon patches and orchards, swore horribly like Sir Toby Belch, and
played pool in the village saloon. He had always liked to read, and had
piles of literature in his attic room which was good, because it was
cheap. Very few people know that cheap literature is very likely to be
good, because it is old and unprotected by copyright. He had Emerson,
Thoreau, a John B. Alden edition of Chambers' Encyclopedia of
English Literature, some Franklin Square editions of standard poets
in paper covers, and a few Ruskins and Carlylesall read to rags. He
talked the book English of these authors, mispronouncing many of the
hard words, because he had never heard them pronounced by any one
except himself, and had no standards of comparison. You find this sort
of thing in the utterances of self-educated recluses. And he had piles
of reports of the secretary of agriculture, college bulletins from
Ames, and publications of the various bureaus of the Department of
Agriculture at Washington. In fact, he had a good library of
publications which can be obtained gratis, or very cheaplyand he knew
their contents. He had a personal philosophy, which while it had cost
him the world in which his fellows lived, had given him one of his own,
in which he moved as lonely as a cloud, and as untouched of the life
He seemed superior to the neighbor boys, and felt so; but this
feeling was curiously mingled with a sense of degradation. By every
test of common life, he was a failure. His family history was a badge
of failure. People despised a man who was so incontestably smarter than
they, and yet could do no better with himself than to work in the
fields alongside the tramps and transients and hoboes who drifted back
and forth as the casual market for labor and the lure of the cities
swept them. Save for his mother and their cow and garden and flock of
fowls and their wretched little rented house, he was a tramp himself.
His father had been no better. He had come into the neighborhood
from nobody knows where, selling fruit trees, with a wife and baby in
his old buggyand had died suddenly, leaving the baby and widow, and
nothing else save the horse and buggy. That horse and buggy were still
on the Irwin books represented by Spot the cowso persistent are the
assets of cautious poverty. Mrs. Irwin had labored in kitchen and
sewing room until Jim had been able to assume the breadwinner's
burdenwhich he did about the time he finished the curriculum of the
Woodruff District school. He was an off ox and odd as Dick's hatband,
largely because his duties to his mother and his love of reading kept
him from joining the gangs whereof I have spoken. His duties, his
mother, and his father's status as an outcast were to him the
equivalent of the Byronic club foot, because they took away his
citizenship in Boyville, and drove him in upon himself, and, at first,
upon his school books which he mastered so easily and quickly as to
become the star pupil of the Woodruff District school, and later upon
Emerson, Thoreau, Ruskin and the poets, and the agricultural reports
All this degradedor exaltedhim to the position of an
intellectual farm-hand, with a sense of superiority and a feeling of
degradation. It made Jennie Woodruff's Humph! potent to keep him
awake that night, and send him to the road work with Colonel Woodruff's
team next morning with hot eyes and a hotter heart.
What was he anyhow? And what could he ever be? What was the use of
his studies in farming practise, if he was always to be an underling
whose sole duty was to carry out the crude ideas of his employers? And
what chance was there for a farm-hand to become a farm owner, or even a
farm renter, especially if he had a mother to support out of the
twenty-five or thirty dollars of his monthly wages? None.
A man might rise in the spirit, but how about rising in the world?
Colonel Woodruff's gray percherons seemed to feel the unrest of
their driver, for they fretted and actually executed a clumsy prance as
Jim Irwin pulled them up at the end of the turnpike across Bronson's
Slewthe said slew being a peat-marsh which annually offered the men
of the Woodruff District the opportunity to hold the male equivalent of
a sewing circle while working out their road taxes, with much
conversational gain, and no great damage to the road.
In fact, Columbus Brown, the pathmaster, prided himself on the
Bronson Slew Turnpike as his greatest triumph in road engineering. The
work consisted in hauling, dragging and carrying gravel out on the low
fill which carried the road across the marsh, and then watching it
slowly settle until the next summer.
Haul gravel from the east gravel bed, Jim, called Columbus Brown
from the lowest spot in the middle of the turnpike. Take Newt here to
Jim smiled his habitual slow, gentle smile at Newton Bronson, his
helper. Newton was seventeen, undersized, tobacco-stained, profane and
proud of the fact that he had once beaten his way from Des Moines to
Faribault on freight trains. A source of anxiety to his father, and the
subject of many predictions that he would come to no good end, Newton
was out on the road work because he was likely to be of little use on
the farm. Clearly, Newton was on the downward road in a double
senseand yet, Jim Irwin rather liked him.
The fellers have put up a job on you, Jim, volunteered Newton, as
they began filling the wagon with gravel.
What sort of job? asked Jim.
They're nominating you for teacher, replied Newton.
Since when has the position of teacher been an elective office?
Sure, it ain't elective, answered Newton. But they say that with
as many brains as you've got sloshing around loose in the neighborhood,
you're a candidate that can break the deadlock in the school board.
Jim shoveled on silently for a while, and by example urged Newton to
earn the money credited to his father's assessment for the day's work.
Aw, what's the use of diggin' into it like this? protested Newton,
who was developing an unwonted perspiration. None of the others are
heatin' themselves up.
Don't you get any fun out of doing a good day's work? asked Jim.
Fun! exclaimed Newton. You're crazy!
A slide of earth from the top of the pit threatened to bury Newton
in gravel, sand and good top soil. A sweet-clover plant growing rankly
beside the pit, and thinking itself perfectly safe, came down with it,
its dark green foliage anchored by the long roots which penetrated to a
depth below the gravel pit's bottom. Jim Irwin pulled it loose from its
anchorage, and after looking attentively at the roots, laid the whole
plant on the bank for safety.
What do you want of that weed? asked Newton.
Jim picked it up and showed him the nodules on its rootslittle
white knobs, smaller than pinheads.
Know what they are, Newt?
Just white specks on the roots, replied Newton.
The most wonderful specks in the world, said Jim. Ever hear of
the use of nitrates to enrich the soil?
Ain't that the stuff the old man used on the lawn last spring?
Yes, said Jim, your father used some on his lawn. We don't put it
on our fields in Iowanot yet; but if it weren't for those white
specks on the clover-roots, we should be obliged to do soas they do
How do them white specks keep us from needin' nitrates?
It's a long story, said Jim. You see, before there were any
plants big enough to be visibleif there had been any one to see
themthe world was full of little plants so small that there may be
billions of them in one of these little white specks. They knew how to
take the nitrates from the air
Air! ejaculated Newton. Nitrates in the air! You're crazy!
No, said Jim. There are tons of nitrogen in the air that press
down on your headbut the big plants can't get it through their
leaves, or their roots. They never had to learn, because when the
little plantsbacteriafound that the big plants had roots with sap
in them, they located on those roots and tapped them for the sap they
needed. They began to get their board and lodgings off the big plants.
And in payment for their hotel bills, the little plants took nitrogen
out of the air for both themselves and their hosts.
What d'ye mean by 'hosts'?
Their hotel-keepersthe big plants. And now the plants that have
the hotel roots for the bacteria furnish nitrogen not only for
themselves but for the crops that follow. Corn can't get nitrogen out
of the air; but clover canand that's why we ought to plow down clover
before a crop of corn.
Gee! said Newt. If you could get to teach our school, I'd go
It would interfere with your pool playing.
What business is that o' yours? interrogated Newt defiantly.
Well, get busy with that shovel, suggested Jim, who had been
working steadily, driving out upon the fill occasionally to unload. On
his return from dumping the next load, Newton seemed, in a superior
way, quite amiably disposed toward his workfellowrather the habitual
thing in the neighborhood.
I'll work my old man to vote for you for the job, said he.
What job? asked Jim.
Teacher for our school, answered Newt.
Those school directors, replied Jim, have become so bullheaded
that they'll never vote for any one except the applicants they've been
The old man says he will have Prue Foster again, or he'll give the
school a darned long vacation, unless Peterson and Bonner join on some
one else. That would beat Prue, of course.
And Con Bonner won't vote for any one but Maggie Gilmartin, added
And, supplied Newton, Haakon Peterson says he'll stick to Herman
Paulson until the Hot Springs freeze over.
And there you are, said Jim. You tell your father for me that I
think he's a mere muleand that the whole district thinks the same.
All right, said Newt. I'll tell him that while I'm working him to
vote for you.
Jim smiled grimly. Such a position might have been his years ago, if
he could have left his mother or earned enough in it to keep both
alive. He had remained a peasant because the American rural teacher is
placed economically lower than the peasant. He gave Newton's chatter no
consideration. But when, in the afternoon, he hitched his team with
others to the big road grader, and the gang became concentrated within
talking distance, he found that the project of heckling and chaffing
him about his eminent fitness for a scholastic position was to be the
real entertainment of the occasion.
Jim's the candidate to bust the deadlock, said Columbus Brown,
with a wink. Just like Garfield in that Republican convention he was
nominated ineh, Con?
Con was Cornelius Bonner, an Irishman, one of the deadlocked
school board, and the captain of the road grader. He winked back at the
Jim's the gray-eyed man o' destiny, he replied, if he can get two
votes in that board.
You'd vote for me, wouldn't you, Con? asked Jim.
I'll try annything wance, replied Bonner.
Try voting with Ezra Bronson once, for Prue Foster, suggested Jim.
She's done good work here.
Opinions differ, said Bonner, an' when you try annything just for
wance, it shouldn't be an irrevocable shtip, me bye.
You're a reasonable board of public servants, said Jim ironically.
I'd like to tell the whole board what I think of them.
Come down to-night, said Bonner jeeringly. We're going to have a
board meeting at the schoolhouse and ballot a few more times. Come
down, and be the Garfield of the convintion. We've lacked brains on the
board, that's clear. They ain't a man on the board that iver studied
algebra, 'r that knows more about farmin' than their impl'yers. Come
down to the schoolhouse, and we'll have a field-hand addriss the school
boardand begosh, I'll move yer illiction mesilf! Come, now, Jimmy, me
bye, be game. It'll vary the program, anny-how.
The entire gang grinned. Jim flushed, and then reconquered his
calmness of spirit.
All right, Con, said he. I'll come and tell you a few thingsand
you can do as you like about making the motion.
CHAPTER II. REVERSED UNANIMITY
The great blade of the grading machine, running diagonally across
the road and pulling the earth toward its median line, had made several
trips, and much persiflage about Jim Irwin's forthcoming appearance
before the board had been addressed to Jim and exchanged by others for
To Newton Bronson was given the task of leveling and distributing
the earth rolled into the road by the gradera labor which in the
interests of fitting a muzzle on his big mongrel dog he deserted
whenever the machine moved away from him. No dog would have seemed less
deserving of a muzzle, for he was a friendly animal, always wagging his
tail, pressing his nose into people's palms, licking their clothing and
otherwise making a nuisance of himself. That there was some mystery
about the muzzle was evident from Newton's pains to make a secret of
it. Its wires were curled into a ring directly over the dog's nose, and
into this ring Newton had fitted a cork, through which he had thrust a
large needle which protruded, an inch-long bayonet, in front of Ponto's
nose. As the grader swept back, horses straining, harness creaking and
a billow of dark earth rolling before the knife, Ponto, fully equipped
with this stinger, raced madly alongside, a friend to every man, but
not unlike some people, one whose friendship was of all things to be
As the grader moved along one side of the highway, a high-powered
automobile approached on the other. It was attempting to rush the swale
for the hill opposite, and making rather bad weather of the newly
repaired road. A pile of loose soil that Newton had allowed to lie just
across the path made a certain maintenance of speed desirable. The
knavish Newton planted himself in the path of the laboring car, and
waved its driver a command to halt. The car came to a standstill with
its front wheels in the edge of the loose earth, and the chauffeur
fuming at the possibility of stallinga contingency upon which Newton
had confidently reckoned.
What d'ye want? he demanded. What d'ye mean by stopping me in
this kind of place?
I want to ask you, said Newton with mock politeness, if you have
the correct time.
The chauffeur sought words appropriate to his feelings. Ponto and
his muzzle saved him the trouble. A pretty pointer leaped from the car,
and attracted by the evident friendliness of Ponto's greeting, pricked
up its ears, and sought, in a spirit of canine brotherhood, to touch
noses with him. The needle in Ponto's muzzle did its work to the agony
and horror of the pointer, which leaped back with a yelp, and turned
tail. Ponto, in an effort to apologize, followed, and finding itself
bayonetted at every contact with this demon dog, the pointer definitely
took flight, howling, leaving Ponto in a state of wonder and
humiliation at the sudden end of what had promised to be a very
friendly acquaintance. I have known instances not entirely dissimilar
among human beings. The pointer's master watched its strange flight,
and swore. His eye turned to the boy who had caused all this, and he
alighted pale with anger.
I've got time, said he, remembering Newton's impudent question,
to give you what you deserve.
Newton grinned and dodged, but the bank of loose earth was his
undoing, and while he stumbled, the chauffeur caught and held him by
the collar. And as he held the boy, the operation of flogging him in
the presence of the grading gang grew less to his taste. Again Ponto
intervened, for as the chauffeur stood holding Newton, the dog,
evidently regarding the stranger as his master's friend, thrust his
nose into the chauffeur's palmthe needle necessarily preceding the
nose. The chauffeur behaved much as his pointer had done, saving and
excepting that the pointer did not swear.
It was funnyeven the pain involved could not make it otherwise
than funny. The grading gang laughed to a man. Newton grinned even
while in the fell clutch of circumstance. Ponto tried to smell the
chauffeur's trousers, and what had been a laugh became a roar, quite
general save for the fact that the chauffeur did not join in it.
Caution and mercy departed from the chauffeur's mood; and he drew
back his fist to strike the boyand found it caught by the hard hand
of Jim Irwin.
You're too angry to punish this boy, said Jim gently,even if
you had the right to punish him at all!
Oh, cut it out, said a fat man in the rear of the car, who had
hitherto manifested no interest in anything save Ponto. Get in, and
let's be on our way!
The chauffeur, however, recognized in a man of mature years and full
size, and a creature with no mysterious needle in his nose, a relief
from his embarrassment. Unhesitatingly, he released Newton, and
blindly, furiously and futilely, he delivered a blow meant for Jim's
jaw, but which really miscarried by a foot. In reply, Jim countered
with an awkward swinging uppercut, which was superior to the
chauffeur's blow in one respect onlyit landed fairly on the point of
the jaw. The chauffeur staggered and slowly toppled over into the soft
earth which had caused so much of the rumpus. Newton Bronson slipped
behind a hedge, and took his infernally equipped dog with him. The
grader gang formed a ring about the combatants and waited. Colonel
Woodruff, driving toward home in his runabout, held up by the traffic
blockade, asked what was going on here, and the chauffeur, rising
groggily, picked up his goggles, climbed into the car; and the meeting
dissolved, leaving Jim Irwin greatly embarrassed by the fact that for
the first time in his life, he had struck a man in combat.
Good work, Jim, said Cornelius Bonner. I didn't think 'twas in
It's beastly, said Jim, reddening. I didn't know, either.
Colonel Woodruff looked at his hired man sharply, gave him some
instructions for the next day and drove on. The road gang dispersed for
the afternoon. Newton Bronson carefully secreted the magic muzzle, and
chuckled at what had been perhaps the most picturesquely successful bit
of deviltry in his varied record. Jim Irwin put out his team, got his
supper and went to the meeting of the school board.
The deadlocked members of the board had been so long at loggerheads
that their relations had swayed back to something like amity. Jim had
scarcely entered when Con Bonner addressed the chair.
Mr. Prisidint, said he, we have wid us t'night, a young man who
nades no introduction to an audience in this place, Mr. Jim Irwin. He
thinks we're bullheaded mules, and that all the schools are bad. At the
proper time I shall move that we hire him f'r teacher; and pinding that
motion, I move that he be given the floor. Ye've all heared of Mr.
Irwin's ability as a white hope, and I know he'll be listened to wid
Much laughter from the board and the spectators, as Jim arose. He
looked upon it as ridicule of himself, while Con Bonner regarded it as
a tribute to his successful speech.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Board, said Jim, I'm not going
to tell you anything that you don't know about yourselves. You are
simply making a farce of the matter of hiring a teacher for this
school. It is not as if any of you had a theory that the teaching
methods of one of these teachers would be any better than or much
different from those of the others. You know, and I know, that
whichever is finally engaged, or even if your silly deadlock is broken
by employing a new candidate, the school will be the same old story. It
will still be the school it was when I came into it a little ragged
boyhere Jim's voice grew a little huskyand when I left it, a
bigger boy, but still as ragged as ever.
There was a slight sensation in the audience, as if, as Con Bonner
said about the knockdown, they hadn't thought Jim Irwin could do it.
Well, said Con, you've done well to hold your own.
In all the years I attended this school, Jim went on, I never did
a bit of work in school which was economically useful. It was all dry
stuff copied from the city schools. No other pupil ever did any real
work of the sort farmers' boys and girls should do. We copied city
schoolsand the schools we copied are poor schools. We made bad copies
of them, too. If any of you three men were making a fight for what
Roosevelt's Country Life Commission called a 'new kind of rural
school,' I'd say fight. But you aren't. You're just making individual
fights for your favorite teachers.
Jim Irwin made a somewhat lengthy speech after the awkwardness wore
off, so long that his audience was nodding and yawning by the time he
reached his peroration, in which he abjured Bronson, Bonner and
Peterson to study his plan of a new kind of rural school,in which the
work of the school should be correlated with the life of the home and
the farma school which would be in the highest degree cultural by
being consciously useful and obviously practical. There sharp spats of
applause from the useless hands of Newton Bronson gave the final touch
of absurdity to a situation which Jim had felt to be ridiculous all
through. Had it not been for Jennie Woodruff's Humph! stinging him to
do something outside the round of duties into which he had fallen, had
it not been for the absurd notion that perhaps, after they had heard
his speech, they would place him in charge of the school, and that he
might be able to do something really important in it, he would not have
been there. As he sat down, he felt himself a silly clodhopper, filled
with the east wind of his own conceit, out of touch with the real world
of men. He knew himself a dreamer. The nodding board of directors, the
secretary, actually snoring, and the bored audience restored the
field-hand to a sense of his proper place.
We have had the privilege of list'nin', said Con Bonner, rising,
to a great speech, Mr. Prisidint. We should be proud to have a borned
orator like this in the agricultural pop'lation of the district. A
reg'lar William Jennin's Bryan. I don't understand what he was trying
to tell us, but sometimes I've had the same difficulty with the spaches
of the Boy Orator of the Platte. Makin' a good spache is one thing, and
teaching a good school is another, but in order to bring this matter
before the board, I nominate Mr. James E. Irwin, the Boy Orator of the
Woodruff District, and the new white hope, f'r the job of teacher of
this school, and I move that when he shall have received a majority of
the votes of this board, the secretary and prisidint be insthructed to
enter into a contract with him f'r the comin' year.
The seconding of motions on a board of three has its objectionable
features, since it seems to commit a majority of the body to the motion
in advance. The president, therefore, followed usage, when he saidIf
there's no objection, it will be so ordered. The chair hears no
objectionand it is so ordered. Prepare the ballots for a vote on the
election of teacher, Mr. Secretary. Each votes his preference for
teacher. A majority elects.
For months, the ballots had come out of the boxan empty
crayon-boxHerman Paulson, one; Prudence Foster, one; Margaret
Gilmartin, one; and every one present expected the same result now.
There was no surprise, however, in view of the nomination of Jim Irwin
by the blarneying Bonner when the secretary smoothed out the first
ballot, and read: James E. Irwin, one. Clearly this was the Bonner
vote; but when the next slip came forth, James E. Irwin, two, the
Board of Directors of the Woodruff Independent District were stunned at
the slowly dawning knowledge that they had made an election! Before
they had rallied, the secretary drew from the box the third and last
ballot, and read, James E. Irwin, three.
President Bronson choked as he announced the resultchoked and
stammered, and made very hard weather of it, but he went through with
the motion, as we all run in our grooves.
The ballot having shown the unanimous election of James E. Irwin, I
declare him elected.
He dropped into his chair, while the secretary, a very methodical
man, drew from his portfolio a contract duly drawn up save for the
signatures of the officers of the district, and the name and signature
of the teacher-elect. This he calmly filled out, and passed over to the
president, pointing to the dotted line. Mr. Bronson would have signed
his own death-warrant at that moment, not to mention a perfectly legal
document, and signed with Peterson and Bonner looking on stonily. The
secretary signed and shoved the contract over to Jim Irwin.
Sign there, he said.
Jim looked it over, saw the other signatures, and felt an impulse to
dodge the whole thing. He could not feel that the action of the board
was serious. He thought of the platform he had laid down for himself,
and was daunted. He thought of the days in the open field, and of the
untroubled evenings with his books, and he shrank from the work. Then
he thought of Jennie Woodruff's Humph!and he signed!
Move we adjourn, said Peterson.
No 'bjection 't's so ordered! said Mr. Bronson.
The secretary and Jim went out, while the directors waited.
What the Billy began Bonner, and finished lamely! What for did
you vote for the dub, Ez?
I voted for him, replied Bronson, because he fought for my boy
this afternoon. I didn't want it stuck into him too hard. I wanted him
to have one vote.
An' I wanted him to have wan vote, too, said Bonner. I thought
mesilf the only dang fool on the boardan' he made a spache that
airned wan votebut f'r the love of hivin, that dub f'r a teacher!
What come over you, Haakonyou voted f'r him, too!
Ay vanted him to have one wote, too, said Peterson.
And in this wise, Jim became the teacher in the Woodruff
Districtall on account of Jennie Woodruff's Humph!
CHAPTER III. WHAT IS A BROWN MOUSE
Immediately upon the accidental election of Jim Irwin to the
position of teacher of the Woodruff school, he developed habits
somewhat like a ghost's or a bandit's. That is, he walked of nights and
on rainy days.
On fine days, he worked in Colonel Woodruff's fields as of yore. Had
he been appointed to a position attached to a salary of fifty thousand
dollars a year, he might have spent six months on a preliminary
vacation in learning something about his new duties. But Jim's salary
was to be three hundred and sixty dollars for nine months' work in the
Woodruff school, and he was to find himselfand his mother. Therefore,
he had to indulge in his loose habits of night walking and roaming
about after hours only, or on holidays and in foul weather.
The Simms family, being from the mountings of Tennessee, were rather
startled one night, when Jim Irwin, homely, stooped and errandless,
silently appeared in their family circle about the front door. They had
lived where it was the custom to give a whoop from the big road before
one passed through the palin's and up to the house. Otherwise, how was
one to know whether the visitor was friend or foe?
From force of habit, Old Man Simms started for his gun-rack at Jim's
appearance, but the Lincolnian smile and the low slow speech, so much
like his own in some respects, ended that part of the matter. Besides,
Old Man Simms remembered that none of the Hobdays, whose hostilities
somewhat stood in the way of the return of the Simmses to their native
hills, could possibly be expected to appear thus in Iowa.
Stranger, said Mr. Simms, after greetings had been exchanged,
you're right welcome, but in my kentry you'd find it dangersome to
walk in thisaway.
How so? queried Jim Irwin.
You'd more'n likely git shot up some, replied Mr. Simms, onless
you whooped from the big road.
I didn't know that, replied Jim. I'm ignorant of the customs of
other countries. Would you rather I'd whoop from the big roadnobody
I reckon, replied Mr. Simms, that we-all will have to accommodate
ourse'ves to the ways hyeh.
Evidently Jim was the Simms' first caller since they had settled on
the little brushy tract whose hills and trees reminded them of their
mountains. Low hills, to be sure, with only a footing of rocks where
the creek had cut through, and not many trees, but down in the creek
bed, with the oaks, elms and box-elders arching overhead, the Simmses
could imagine themselves beside some run falling into the French Broad,
or the Holston. The creek bed was a withdrawing room in which to retire
from the eternal black soil and level corn-fields of Iowa. What if the
soil was so poor, in comparison with those black uplands, that the
owner of the old wood-lot could find no renter? It was better than the
soil in the mountains, and suited the lonesome Simmses much more than a
better farm would have done. They were not of the Iowa people anyhow,
not understood, not their equalsthey were pore, and expected to stay
porewhile the Iowa people all seemed to be either well-to-do, or
expecting to become so. It was much more agreeable to the Simmses to
retire to the back wood-lot farm with the creek bed running through it.
Jim Irwin asked Old Man Simms about the fishing in the creek, and
whether there was any duck shooting spring and fall.
We git right smart of these little panfish, said Mr. Simms, an'
Calista done shot two butterball ducks about 'tater-plantin' time.
Calista blushedbut this stranger, so much like themselves, could
not see the rosy suffusion. The allusion gave him a chance to look
about him at the family. There was a boy of sixteen, a girlthe
duck-shooting Calistayounger than Raymonda girl of eleven, named
Virginia, but called Jinnieand a smaller lad who rejoiced in the name
of McGeehee, but was mercifully called Buddy.
Calista squirmed for something to say. Raymond runs a line o' traps
when the fur's prime, she volunteered.
Then came a long talk on traps and trapping, shooting, hunting and
the joys of the mountingsduring which Jim noted the ignorance and
poverty of the Simmses. The clothing of the girls was not decent
according to local standards; for while Calista wore a skirt hurriedly
slipped on, Jim was quite sureand not without evidence to support his
viewsthat she had been wearing when he arrived the same regimentals
now displayed by Jinniea pair of ragged blue overalls. Evidently the
Simmses were wearing what they had and not what they desired. The
father was faded, patched, gray and earthy, and the boys looked better
than the rest solely because we expect boys to be torn and patched.
Mrs. Simms was invisible except as a gray blur beyond the rain-barrel,
in the midst of which her pipe glowed with a regular ebb and flow of
On the next rainy day Jim called again and secured the services of
Raymond to help him select seed corn. He was going to teach the school
next winter, and he wanted to have a seed-corn frolic the first day,
instead of waiting until the lastand you had to get seed corn while
it was on the stalk, if you got the best. No Simms could refuse a favor
to the fellow who was so much like themselves, and who was so greatly
interested in trapping, hunting and the Tennessee mountainsso Raymond
went with Jim, and with Newt Bronson and five more they selected
Colonel Woodruff's seed corn for the next year, under the colonel's
In the evening they looked the grain over on the Woodruff lawn, and
the colonel talked about corn and corn selection. They had supper at
half past six, and Jennie waited on themhaving assisted her mother in
the cooking. It was quite a festival. Jim Irwin was the least
conspicuous person in the gathering, but the colonel, who was a
seasoned politician, observed that the farm-hand had become a fisher of
men, and was angling for the souls of these boys, and their interest in
the school. Jim was careful not to flush the covey, but every boy
received from the next winter's teacher some confidential hint as to
plans, and some suggestion that Jim was relying on the aid and comfort
of that particular boy. Newt Bronson, especially, was leaned on as a
strong staff and a very present help in time of trouble. As for Raymond
Simms, it was clearly best to leave him alone. All this talk of corn
selection and related things was new to him, and he drank it in
thirstily. He had an inestimable advantage over Newt in that he was
starved, while Newt was surfeited with advantages for which he had no
Jennie, said Colonel Woodruff, after the party had broken up, I'm
losing the best hand I ever had, and I've been sorry.
I'm glad he's leaving you, said Jennie. He ought to do something
except work in the field for wages.
I've had no idea he could make good as a teacherand what is there
in it if he does?
What has he lost if he doesn't? rejoined Jennie. And why can't he
The school board's against him, for one thing, replied the
colonel. They'll fire him if they get a chance. They're the
laughing-stock of the country for hiring him by mistake, and they're
irritated. But after seeing him perform to-night, I wonder if he can't
If he could feel like anything but an underling he'd
succeed, said Jennie.
That's his heredity, stated the colonel, whose live-stock
operations were based on heredity. Jim's a scrub, I suppose; but he
acts as if he might turn out to be a Brown Mouse.
What do you mean, pa, scoffed Jenniea Brown Mouse!
A fellow in Edinburgh, said the colonel, crossed the Japanese
waltzing mouse with the common white mouse. Jim's pedling father was a
waltzing mouse, no good except to jump from one spot to another for no
good reason. Jim's mother is an albino of a woman, with all the color
washed out in one way or another. Jim ought to be a mongrel, and I've
always considered him one. But the Edinburgh fellow every once in a
while got out of his variously-colored, waltzing and albino hybrids, a
brown mouse. It wasn't a common house mouse, either, but a wild mouse
unlike any he had ever seen. It ran away, and bit and gnawed, and
raised hob. It was what we breeders call a Mendelian segregation of
genetic factors that had been in the waltzers and albinos all the
timetheir original wild ancestor of the woods and fields. If Jim
turns out to be a Brown Mouse, he may be a bigger man than any of us.
Anyhow, I'm for him.
He'll have to be a big man to make anything out of the job of a
country school-teacher, said Jennie.
Any job's as big as the man who holds it down, said her father.
Next day, Jim received a letter from Jennie.
* * * * *
Dear Jim, it ran. Father says you are sure to have a hard
timethe school board's against you, and all that. But he added, 'I'm
for Jim, anyhow!' I thought you'd like to know this. Also he said, 'Any
job's as big as the man who holds it down,' And I believe this also,
and I'm for you, too! You are doing wonders even before the school
starts in getting the pupils interested in a lot of things, which,
while they don't belong to school work, will make them friends of
yours. I don't see how this will help you much, but it's a fine thing,
and shows your interest in them. Don't be too original. The wheel runs
easiest in the beaten track. Yours. Jennie.
Jennie's caution made no impression on Jimbut he put the letter
away, and every evening took it out and read the italicized words,
I'm for you, too! The colonel's dictum, Any job's as big as the
man who holds it down, was an Emersonian truism to Jim. It reduced all
jobs to an equality, and it meant equality in intellectual and
spiritual development. It didn't mean, for instance, that any job was
as good as another in making it possible for a man to marryand Jennie
Woodruff's Humph! returned to kill and drag off her I'm for you,
CHAPTER IV. THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
I suppose every reader will say that genius consists very largely in
seeing Opportunity in the set of circumstances or thoughts or
impressions that constitute Opportunity, and making the best of them.
Jim Irwin would have said so, anyhow. He was full of his Emerson's
Representative Men, and his Carlyle's French Revolution, and
the other old-fashioned, excellent good literature which did not cost
over twenty-five cents a volume; and he had pored long and with many
thrills over the pages of Matthews' Getting on in the World
which is the best book of purely conventional helpfulness in the
language. And his view of efficiency was that it is the capacity to see
opportunity where others overlook it, and make the most of it.
All through his life he had had his own plans for becoming great. He
was to be a general, hurling back the foes of his country; he was to be
the nation's master in literature; a successful drawing on his slate
had filled him with ambition, confidently entertained, of becoming a
Rubensand the story of Benjamin West in his school reader fanned this
spark to a flame; science, too, had at times been his chosen field; and
when he had built a mousetrap which actually caught mice, he saw
himself a millionaire inventor. As for being president, that was a
commonplace in his dreams. And all the time, he was barefooted,
ill-clad and dreamed his dreams to the accompaniment of the growl of
the plow cutting the roots under the brown furrow-slice, or the
wooshing of the milk in the pail. At twenty-eight, he considered these
As for this new employment, he saw no great opportunity in it. Of
any spark of genius he was to show in it, of anything he was to suffer
in it, of those pains and penalties wherewith the world pays its
geniuses, Jim Irwin anticipated nothing. He went into the small, mean,
ill-paid task as a part of the day's work, with no knowledge of the
stirring of the nation for a different sort of rural school, and no
suspicion that there lay in it any highway to success in life. He was
not a college man or even a high-school man. All his other dreams had
found rude awakening in the fact that he had not been able to secure
the schooling which geniuses need in these days. He was unfitted for
the work geniuses do. All he was to be was a rural teacher,
accidentally elected by a stupid school board, and with a hard tussle
before him to stay on the job for the term of his contract. He could
have accepted positions quite as good years ago, save for the fact that
they would have taken him away from his mother, their cheap little
home, their garden and their fowls. He rather wondered why he had
allowed Jennie's sneer to sting him into the course of action which put
him in this new relation to his neighbors.
But, true to his belief in honest thorough work, like a general
preparing for battle, he examined his field of operations. His manner
of doing this seemed to prove to Colonel Woodruff, who watched it with
keen interest as something new in the world, that Jim Irwin was
possibly a Brown Mouse. But the colonel knew only a part of Jim's
performances. He saw Jim clothed in slickers, walking through
rainstorms to the houses in the Woodruff District, as greedy for every
moment of rain as a haymaker for shine; and he knew that Jim made a
great many evening calls.
But he did not know that Jim was making what our sociologists call a
survey. For that matter, neither did Jim; for books on sociology cost
more than twenty-five cents a volume, and Jim had never seen one.
However, it was a survey. To be sure, he had long known everybody in
the district, save the Simmsesand he was now a friend of all that
exotic race; but there is knowing and knowing. He now had note-books
full of facts about people and their farms. He knew how many acres each
family possessed, and what sort of farming each husband was doinglive
stock, grain or mixed. He knew about the mortgages, and the debts. He
knew whether the family atmosphere was happy and contented, or the
reverse. He knew which boys and girls were wayward and insubordinate.
He made a record of the advancement in their studies of all the
children, and what they liked to read. He knew their favorite
amusements. He talked with their mothers and sistersnot about the
school, to any extent, but on the weather, the horses, the automobiles,
the silo-filling machinery and the profits of farming.
I suppose that no person who has undertaken the management of the
young people of any school in all the history of education, ever did so
much work of this sort before his school opened. Really, though Jennie
Woodruff did not see how such doings related to school work, Jim
Irwin's school was running full blast in the homes of the district and
the minds of many pupils, weeks and weeks before that day when he
called them to order on the Monday specified in his contract as the
first day of school.
Con Bonner, who came to see the opening, voiced the sentiments of
the older people when he condemned the school as disorderly. To be
sure, there were more pupils enrolled than had ever entered on a first
day in the whole history of the school, and it was hard to accommodate
them all. But the director's criticism was leveled against the
free-and-easy air of the children. Most of them had brought seed corn
and a good-sized corn show was on view. There was much argument as to
the merits of the various entries. Instead of a language lesson from
the text-book, Jim had given them an exercise based on an examination
of the ears of corn.
The number exercises of the little chaps had been worked out with
ears and kernels of corn. One class in arithmetic calculated the
percentage of inferior kernels at tip and butt to the full-sized grains
in the middle of the ear.
All the time, Jim Irwin, awkward and uncouth, clad in his
none-too-good Sunday suit and trying to hide behind his Lincolnian
smile the fact that he was pretty badly frightened and much
embarrassed, passed among them, getting them enrolled, setting them to
work, wasting much time and laboring like a heavy-laden barge in a
That feller'll never do, said Bonner to Bronson next day. Looks
like a tramp in the schoolroom.
Wearin' his best, I guess, said Bronson.
Half the kids call him 'Jim,' said Bonner.
That's all right with me, replied Bronson.
The room was as noisy as a caucus, was Bonner's next indictment,
and the flure was all over corn like a hog-pin.
Oh! I don't suppose he can get away with it, assented Bronson
disgustedly, but that boy of mine is as tickled as a colt with the
whole thing. Says he's goin' reg'lar this winter.
That's because Jim don't keep no order, said Bonner. He lets Newt
do as he dam pleases.
First time he's ever pleased to do anything but deviltry,
protested Bronson. Oh, I suppose Jim'll fall down, and we'll have to
fire himbut I wish we could git a good teacher that would git
hold of Newt the way he seems to!
CHAPTER V. THE PROMOTION OF JENNIE
If Jennie Woodruff was the cause of Jim Irwin's sudden irruption
into the educational field by her scoffing Humph! at the idea of a
farm-hand's ever being able to marry, she also gave him the opportunity
to knock down the driver of the big motor-car, and perceptibly elevate
himself in the opinion of the neighborhood, while filling his own heart
with something like shame.
The fat man who had said Cut it out to his driver, was Mr. Charles
Dilly, a business man in the village at the extreme opposite corner of
the county. His choice of the Woodruff District as a place for motoring
had a secret explanation. I am under no obligation to preserve the
secret. He came to see Colonel Woodruff and Jennie. Mr. Dilly was a
candidate for county treasurer, and wished to be nominated at the
approaching county convention. In his part of the county lived the
county superintendenta candidate for renomination. He was just a
plain garden or field county superintendent of schools, no better and
no worse than the general political run of them, but he had local pride
enlisted in his cause, and was a good politician.
Mr. Dilly was in the Woodruff District to build a backfire against
this conflagration of the county superintendent. He expected to use
Jennie Woodruff to light it withal. That is, while denying that he
wished to make any deal or tradeevery candidate in every convention
always says thathe wished to say to Miss Woodruff and her father,
that if Miss Woodruff would permit her name to be used for the office
of county superintendent of schools, a goodly group of delegates could
be selected in the other corner of the county who would be glad to
reciprocate any favors Mr. Charles J. Dilly might receive in the way of
votes for county treasurer with ballots for Miss Jennie Woodruff for
superintendent of schools.
Mr. Dilly never inquired as to Miss Woodruff's abilities as an
educator. That would have been eccentric. Miss Woodruff never asked
herself if she knew anything about rural education which especially
fitted her for the task; for was she not a popular and successful
teacherand was not that enough? Mr. Dilly merely asked himself if
Miss Woodruff's name could command strength enough to eliminate the
embarrassing candidate in his part of the county and leave the field to
himself. Miss Woodruff asked herself whether the work would not give
her a pleasanter life than did teaching, a better salary, and more
chances to settle herself in life. So are the officials chosen who
supervise and control the education of the farm children of America.
This secret mission to effect a political trade accounted for Mr.
Dilly's desire that his driver should cut out the controversy with
Newton Bronson, and the personal encounter with Jim Irwinand it may
account for Jim's easy victory in his first and only physical
encounter. An office seeker could scarcely afford to let his friend or
employee lick a member of a farmers' road gang. It certainly explains
the fact that when Jim Irwin started home from putting out his team the
day after his first call on the Simms family, Jennie was waiting at the
gate to be congratulated on her nomination.
I congratulate you, said Jim.
Thanks, said Jennie, extending her hand.
I hope you're elected, Jim went on, holding the hand; but there's
no doubt of that.
They say not, replied Jennie; but father says I must go about and
let the people see me. He believes in working just as if we didn't have
a big majority for the ticket.
A woman has an advantage of a man in such a contest, said Jim;
she can work just as hard as he can, and at the same time profit by
the fact that it's supposed she can't.
I need all the advantage I possess, said Jennie, and all the
votes. Say a word for me when on your pastoral rounds.
All right, said Jim, what shall I say you'll do for the schools?
Why, said Jennie, rather perplexed, I'll be fair in my
examinations of teachers, try to keep the unfit teachers out of the
schools, visit schools as often as I can, andwhy, what does any good
I never heard of a good county superintendent, said Jim.
Never heard of onewhy, Jim Irwin!
I don't believe there is any such thing, persisted Jim, and if
you do no more than you say, you'll be off the same piece as the rest.
Your system won't give us any better schools than we haveof the old
sortand we need a new kind.
Oh, Jim, Jim! Dreaming as of yore! Why can't you be practical! What
do you mean by a new kind of rural school?
A truly-rural rural school, said Jim.
I can't pronounce it, smiled Jennie, to say nothing of
understanding it. What would your tralalooral rural school do?
It would be correlated with rural life, said Jim.
It would get education out of the things the farmers and farmers'
wives are interested in as a part of their lives.
What, for instance?
Dairying, for instance, in this district; and soil management; and
corn-growing; and farm manual training for boys; and sewing, cooking
and housekeeping for the girlsand caring for babies!
Jennie looked serious, after smothering a laugh.
Jim, said she, you're going to have a hard enough time to succeed
in the Woodruff school, if you confine yourself to methods that have
been tested, and found good.
But the old methods, urged Jim, have been tested and found bad.
Shall I keep to them?
They have made the American people what they are, said Jennie.
Don't be unpatriotic, Jim.
They have educated our farm children for the cities, said Jim.
This county is losing populationand it's the best county in the
Pessimism never wins, said Jennie.
Neither does blindness, answered Jim. It is losing the farms
their dwellers, and swelling the cities with a proletariat.
For some time, now, Jim had ceased to hold Jennie's hand; and their
sweetheart days had never seemed farther away.
Jim, said Jennie, I may be elected to a position in which I shall
be obliged to pass on your acts as teacherin an official way, I mean.
I hope they will be justifiable.
Jim smiled his slowest and saddest smile.
If they're not, I'll not ask you to condone them, said he. But
first, they must be justifiable to me, Jennie.
Good night, said Jennie curtly, and left him.
Jennie, I am obliged to admit, gave scant attention to the new
career upon which her old sweetheart seemed to be entering. She was in
politics, and was playing the game as became the daughter of a local
politician. The reader must not by this term get the impression that
Colonel Woodruff was a man of the grafting tricky sort of which we are
prone to think when the term is used. The West has been ruled by just
such men as he, and the West has done rather well, all things
considered. Colonel Albert Woodruff went south with the army as a
corporal in 1861, and came back a lieutenant. His title of colonel was
conferred by appointment as a member of the staff of the governor, long
years ago, when he was county auditor. He was not a rich man, as I may
have suggested, but a well-to-do farmer, whose wife did her own work
much of the time, not because the colonel could not afford to hire
help, but for the reason that hired girls were hard to get.
The colonel, having seen the glory of the coming of the Lord in the
triumph of his side in the great war, was inclined to think that all
reform had ceased, and was a political stand-pattera very honest and
sincere one. Moreover, he was influential enough so that when Mr.
Cummins or Mr. Dolliver came into the county on political errands,
Colonel Woodruff had always been called into conference. He was of the
old New England type, believed very much in heredity, very much in the
theory that whatever is is right, in so far as it has secured money or
He had hated General Weaver and his forces; and had sometimes
wondered how a man of Horace Boies' opinions had succeeded in being so
good a governor. He broke with Governor Larrabee when that excellent
man had turned against the great men who had developed Iowa by building
the railroads. He was always in the county convention, and preferred to
serve on the committee on credentials, and leave to others the more
showy work of membership in the committee on resolutions. He believed
in education, provided it did not unsettle things. He had a good deal
of Latin and some Greek, and lived on a farm rather than in a fine
house in the county seat because of his lack of financial ability. As a
matter of fact, he had been too strictly scrupulous to do the
thingssuch as dealing in lands belonging to eastern speculators who
were not advised as to their values, speculating in county warrants,
buying up tax titles with county money, and the likeby which his
fellow-politicians who held office in the early years of the county had
founded their fortunes. A very respectable, honest, American tory was
the colonel, fond of his political sway, and rather soured by the fact
that it was passing from him. He had now broken with Cummins and
Dolliver as he had done years ago with Weaver and later with
Larrabeeand this breach was very important to him, whether they were
greatly concerned about it or not.
Such being her family history, Jennie was something of a politician
herself. She was in no way surprised when approached by party managers
on the subject of accepting the nomination for county superintendent of
schools. Colonel Woodruff could deliver some delegates to his daughter,
though he rather shied at the proposal at first, but on thinking it
over, warmed somewhat to the notion of having a Woodruff on the county
pay-roll once more.
CHAPTER VI. JIM TALKS THE WEATHER
Going to the rally, James?
Jim had finished his supper, and yearned for a long evening in his
attic den with his cheap literature. But as the district schoolmaster
he was to some extent responsible for the protection of the school
property, and felt some sense of duty as to exhibiting an interest in
I guess I'll have to go, mother, he replied regretfully. I want
to see Mr. Woodruff about borrowing his Babcock milk tester, and I'll
go that way. I guess I'll go on to the meeting.
He kissed his mother when he wenta habit from which he never
deviated, and another of those personal peculiarities which had marked
him as different from the other boys of the neighborhood. His mother
urged his overcoat upon him in vainfor Jim's overcoat was distinctly
a bad one, while his best suit, now worn every day as a concession to
his scholastic position, still looked passably well after several weeks
of schoolroom duty. She pressed him to wear a muffler about his neck,
but he declined that also. He didn't need it, he said; but he was
thinking of the incongruity of a muffler with no overcoat. It seemed
more logical to assume that the weather was milder than it really was,
on that sharp October evening, and appear at his best, albeit rather
aware of the cold. Jennie was at home, and he was likely to see and be
seen of her.
You can borrow that tester, said the colonel, and the cows that
go with it, if you can use 'em. They ain't earning their keep here. But
how does the milk tester fit into the curriculum of the school? A
We want to make a few tests of the cows in the neighborhood,
answered Jim. Just another of my fool notions.
All right, said the colonel. Take it along. Going to the
Certainly, he's going, said Jennie, entering. This is my meeting,
Surely, I'm going, assented Jim. And I think I'll run along.
I wish we had room for you in the car, said the colonel. But I'm
going around by Bronson's to pick up the speaker, and I'll have a
Not so much of a load as you think, said Jennie. I'm going with
Jim. The walk will do me good.
Any candidate warms to her voting population just before election;
but Jennie had a special kindness for Jim. He was no longer a
farm-hand. The fact that he was coming to be a center of disturbance in
the district, and that she quite failed to understand how his eccentric
behavior could be harmonized with those principles of teaching which
she had imbibed at the state normal school in itself lifted him nearer
to equality with her. A public nuisance is really more respectable than
She gave Jim a thrill as she passed through the gate that he opened
for her. White moonlight on her white furs suggested purity,
exaltation, the essence of womanhoodthings far finer in the woman of
twenty-seven than the glamour thrown over him by the schoolgirl of
Jim gave her no thrill; for he looked gaunt and angular in his
skimpy, ready-made suit, too short in legs and sleeves, and too thin
for the season. Yet, as they walked along, Jim grew upon her. He strode
on with immense strides, made slow to accommodate her shorter steps,
and embarrassing her by his entire absence of effort to keep step. For
all that, he lifted his face to the stars, and he kept silence, save
for certain fragments of his thoughts, in dropping which he assumed
that she, like himself, was filled with the grandeur of the sparkling
sky, its vast moon, plowing like an astronomical liner through the
cloudlets of a wool-pack. He pointed out the great open spaces in the
Milky Way, wondering at their emptiness, and at the fact that no
telescope can find stars in them.
They stopped and looked. Jim laid his hard hands on the shoulders of
her white fur collarette.
What's the use of political meetings, said Jim, when you and I
can stand here and think our way out, even beyond the limits of our
A wonderful journey, said she, not quite understanding his mood,
but very respectful to it.
And together, said Jim. I'd like to go on a long, long journey
with you to-night, Jennie, to make up for the years since we went
And we shouldn't have come together to-night, said Jennie, getting
back to earth, if I hadn't exercised my leap-year privilege.
She slipped her arm in his, and they went on in a rather intimate
I'm not to blame, Jennie, said he. You know that at any time I'd
have given anythinganything
And even now, said Jennie, taking advantage of his depleted stock
of words, while we roam beyond the Milky Way, we aren't getting any
votes for me for county superintendent.
Jim said nothing. He was quite, quite reestablished on the earth.
Don't you want me to be elected, Jim?
Jim seemed to ponder this for some timea period of taking the
matter under advisement which caused Jennie to drop his arm and busy
herself with her skirts.
Yes, said Jim, at last; of course I do.
Nothing more was said until they reached the schoolhouse door.
Well, said Jennie rather indignantly, I'm glad there are plenty
of voters who are more enthusiastic about me than you seem to be!
More interesting to a keen observer than the speeches, were the
unusual things in the room itself. To be sure, there were on the
blackboards exercises and outlines, of lessons in language, history,
mathematics, geography and the like. But these were not the usual
things taken from text-books. The problems in arithmetic were
calculations as to the feeding value of various rations for live stock,
records of laying hens and computation as to the excess of value in
eggs produced over the cost of feed. Pinned to the wall were market
reports on all sorts of farm products, and especially numerous were the
statistics on the prices of cream and butter. There were files of farm
papers piled about, and racks of agricultural bulletins. In one corner
of the room was a typewriting machine, and in another a sewing machine.
Parts of an old telephone were scattered about on the teacher's desk. A
model of a piggery stood on a shelf, done in cardboard. Instead of the
usual collection of text-books in the desk, there were hectograph
copies of exercises, reading lessons, arithmetical tables and essays on
various matters relating to agriculture, all of which were accounted
for by two or three hand-made hectographsa very fair sort of printing
plantlying on a table. The members of the school board were there,
looking on these evidences of innovation with wonder and more or less
disfavor. Things were disorderly. The text-books recently adopted by
the board against some popular protest had evidently been pitched, neck
and crop, out of the school by the man whom Bonner had termed a dub. It
was a sort of contempt for the powers that be.
Colonel Woodruff was in the chair. After the speechifying was over,
and the stereotyped, though rather illogical, appeal had been made for
voters of the one party to cast the straight ticket, and for those of
the other faction to scratch, the colonel rose to adjourn the meeting.
Newton Bronson, safely concealed behind taller people, called out,
Jim Irwin! speech!
There was a giggle, a slight sensation, and many voices joined in
the call for the new schoolmaster.
Colonel Woodruff felt the unwisdom of ignoring the demand. Probably
he relied upon Jim's discretion and expected a declination.
Jim arose, seedy and lank, and the voices ceased, save for another
I don't know, said Jim, whether this call upon me is a joke or
not. If it is, it isn't a practical one, for I can't talk. I don't care
much about parties or politics. I don't know whether I'm a Democrat, a
Republican or a Populist.
This caused a real sensation. The nerve of the fellow! Really, it
must in justice be said, Jim was losing himself in a desire to tell his
true feelings. He forgot all about Jennie and her candidacyabout
everything except his real, true feelings. This proves that he was no
I don't see much in this county campaign that interests me, he
went onand Jennie Woodruff reddened, while her seasoned father
covered his mouth with his hand to conceal a smile. The politicians
come out into the farming districts every campaign and get us hayseeds
for anything they want. They always have got us. They've got us again!
They give us clodhoppers the glad hand, a cheap cigar, and a cheaper
smile after election;and that's all. I know it, you all know it, they
know it. I don't blame them so very much. The trouble is we don't ask
them to do anything better. I want a new kind of rural school; but I
don't see any prospect, no matter how this election goes, for any
change in them. We in the Woodruff District will have to work out our
own salvation. Our political ring never'll do anything but the old
things. They don't want to, and they haven't sense enough to do it if
they did. That's alland I don't suppose I should have said as much as
There was stark silence for a moment when he sat down, and then as
many cheers for Jim as for the principal speaker of the evening, cheers
mingled with titters and catcalls. Jim felt a good deal as he had done
when he knocked down Mr. Billy's chauffeurrather degraded and
humiliated, as if he had made an ass of himself. And as he walked out
of the door, the future county superintendent passed by him in high
displeasure, and walked home with some one else.
Jim found the weather much colder than it had been while coming. He
really needed an Eskimo's fur suit.
CHAPTER VII. THE NEW WINE
In the little strip of forest which divided the sown from the Iowa
sown wandered two boys in earnest converse. They seemed to be Boy
Trappers, and from their backloads of steel-traps one of them might
have been Frank Merriwell, and the other Dead-Shot Dick. However,
though it was only mid-December, and the fur of all wild varmints was
at its primest, they were bringing their traps into the settlements,
instead of taking them afield. The settlements were represented by
the ruinous dwelling of the Simmses, and the boy who resembled Frank
Merriwell was Raymond Simms. The other, who was much more barbarously
accoutered, whose overalls were fringed, who wore a cartridge belt
about his person, and carried hatchet, revolver, and a long knife with
a deerfoot handle, and who so studiously looked like Dead-Shot Dick,
was our old friend of the road gang, Newton Bronson. On the right, on
the left, a few rods would have brought the boys out upon the levels of
rich corn-fields, and in sight of the long rows of cottonwoods,
willows, box-elders and soft maples along the straight roads, and of
the huge red barns, each of which possessed a numerous progeny of
outbuildings, among which the dwelling held a dubious headship. But
here, they could be the Boy Trappersa thin fringe of bushes and trees
made of the little valley a forest to the imagination of the boys.
Newton put down his load, and sat upon a stump to rest.
Raymond Simms was dimly conscious of a change in Newton since the
day when they met and helped select Colonel Woodruff's next year's seed
corn. Newton's mother had a mother's confidence that Newton was now a
good boy, who had been led astray by other boys, but had reformed. Jim
Irwin had a distinct feeling of optimism. Newton had quit tobacco and
beer, casually stating to Jim that he was in training. Since Jim had
shown his ability to administer a knockout to that angry chauffeur, he
seemed to this hobbledehoy peculiarly a proper person for athletic
confidences. Newton's mind seemed gradually filling up with interests
that displaced the psychological complex out of which oozed the bad
stories and filthy allusion. Jim attributed much of this to the clear
mountain atmosphere which surrounded Raymond Simms, the ignorant
barbarian driven out of his native hills by a feud. Raymond was of the
open spaces, and refused to hear fetid things that seemed out of place
in them. There was a dignity which impressed Newton, in the blank gaze
with which Raymond greeted Newton's sallies that were wont to set the
village pool room in a roar; but how could you have a fuss with a
feller who knew all about trapping, who had seen a man shot, who had
shot a bear, who had killed wild turkeys, who had trapped a hundred
dollars' worth of furs in one winter, who knew the proper sets for
all fur-bearing animals, and whom you liked, and who liked you?
As the reason for Newton's improvement in manner of living, Raymond,
out of his own experience, would have had no hesitation in naming the
school and the schoolmaster.
I wouldn't go back on a friend, said Newton, seated on the stump
with his traps on the ground at his feet, the way you're going back on
You got no call to talk thataway, replied the mountain boy. How'm
I goin' back on you?
We was goin' to trap all winter, asseverated Newton, and next
winter we were goin' up in the north woods together.
You know, said Raymond somberly, that we cain't run any trap line
and do whut we got to do to he'p Mr. Jim.
Newton sat mute as one having no rejoinder.
Mr. Jim, went on Raymond, needs all the he'p every kid in this
settlement kin give him. He's the best friend I ever had. I'm a pore
ignerant boy, an' he teaches me how to do things that will make me
Darn it all! said Newton.
You know, said Raymond, that you'd think mahgty small of me, if
I'd desert Mr. Jim Irwin.
Well, then, replied Newton, seizing his traps and throwing them
across his shoulder, come on with the traps, and shut up! What'll we
do when the school board gets Jennie Woodruff to revoke his certificate
and make him quit teachin', hey?
Nobody'll eveh do that, said Raymond. I'd set in the schoolhouse
do' with my rifle and shoot anybody that'd come to th'ow Mr. Jim outen
Not in this country, said Newton. This ain't a gun country.
But it orto be either a justice kentry, or a gun kentry, replied
the mountain boy. It stands to reason it must be one 'r the otheh,
No, it don't, neither, said Newton dogmatically.
Why should they th'ow Mr. Jim outen the school? inquired Raymond.
Ain't he teachin' us right?
Newton explained for the tenth time that his father, Mr. Con Bonner
and Mr. Haakon Peterson had not meant to hire Jim Irwin at all, but
each had voted for him so that he might have one vote. They were all
against him from the first, but they had not known how to get rid of
him. Now, however, Jim had done so many things that no teacher was
supposed to do, and had left undone so many things that teachers were
bound by custom to perform, that Newton's father and Mr. Bonner and Mr.
Peterson had made up up their minds that they would call upon him to
resign, and if he wouldn't, they would turn him out in some way. And
the best way if they could do it, would be to induce County
Superintendent Woodruff, who didn't like Jim since the speech he made
at the political meeting, to revoke his certificate.
What wrong's he done committed? asked Raymond. I don't know what
teachers air supposed to do in this kentry, but Mr. Jim seems to be the
only shore-enough teacher I ever see!
He don't teach out of the books the school board adopted, replied
But he makes up better lessons, urged Raymond. An' all the things
we do in school, he'ps us make a livin'.
He begins at eight in the mornin', said Newton, an' he has some
of us there till half past five, and comes back in the evening. And
every Saturday, some of the kids are doin' something at the
They don't pay him for overtime, do they? queried Raymond. Well,
then, they orto, instid of turnin' him out!
Well, they'll turn him out! prophesied Newton. I'm havin' more
fun in school than I everan' that's why I'm with you on this quittin'
trappingbut they'll get Jim, all right!
I'm having something betteh'n fun, replied Raymond. My pap has
never understood this kentry, an' we-all has had bad times hyeh; but
Mr. Jim an' I have studied out how I can make a betteh livin' next
yearand pap says we kin go on the way Mr. Jim says. I'll work for
Colonel Woodruff a part of the time, an' pap kin make corn in the
biggest field. It seems we didn't do our work right last yearan' in a
couple of years, with the increase of the hawgs, an' the land we kin
get under plow....
Raymond was off on his pet dream of becoming something better than
the oldest of the Simms tribe of outcasts, and Newton was
subconsciously impressed by the fact that never for a moment did
Raymond's plans fail to include the elevation with him of Calista and
Jinnie and Buddy and Pap and Mam. It was taken for granted that the
Simmses sank or swam together, whether their antagonists were poverty
and ignorance, or their ancient foes, the Hobdays. Newton drew closer
to Raymond's side.
It was still an hour before ninewhen the rural school
traditionally takes upwhen the boys had stored their traps in a
shed at the Bronson home, and walked on to the schoolhouse. That rather
scabby and weathered edifice was already humming with industry of a
sort. In spite of the hostility of the school board, and the aloofness
of the patrons of the school, the pupils were clearly interested in Jim
Irwin's system of rural education. Never had the attendance been so
large or regular; and one of the reasons for sessions before nine and
after four was the inability of the teacher to attend to the needs of
his charges in the five and a half hours called school hours.
This, however, was not the sole reason. It was the new sort of work
which commanded the attention of Raymond and Newton as they entered.
This morning, Jim had arranged in various sorts of dishes specimens of
grain and grass seeds. By each was a card bearing the name of the farm
from which one of the older boys or girls had brought it. Wheat,
Scotch Fife, from the farm of Columbus Smith. Timothy, or Herd's
Grass, from the farm of A. B. Talcott. Alsike Clover, from the farm
of B. B. Hamm. Each lot was in a small cloth bag which had been made
by one of the little girls as a sewing exercise; and each card had been
written as a lesson in penmanship by one of the younger pupils, and
contained, in addition to the data above mentioned, heads under which
to enter the number of grains of the seed examined, the number which
grew, the percentage of viability, the number of alien seeds of weeds
and other sorts, the names of these adulterants, the weight of true and
vitalized, and of foul and alien and dead seeds, the value per bushel
in the local market of the seeds under test, and the real market values
of the samples, after dead seeds and alien matter had been subtracted.
Now get busy, here, cried Jim Irwin. We're late! Raymond, you've
a quick eyeyou count seedsand you, Calista, and Mary Smithand
mind, next year's crop may depend on making no mistakes!
Mistakes! scoffed Mary Smith, a dumpy girl of fourteen. We don't
make mistakes any more, teacher.
It was a frolic, rather than a task. All had come with a perfect
understanding that this early attendance was quite illegal, and not to
be required of thembut they came.
Newt, suggested Jim, get busy on the percentage problems for that
second class in arithmetic.
Sure, said Newt. Let's see.... Good seed is the base, and bad
seed and dead seed the percentagefind the rate....
Oh, you know! said Jim. Make them easy and plain and as many as
you can get outand be sure that you name the farm every pop!
Got you! answered Newton, and in a fine frenzy went at the job of
creating a text-book in arithmetic.
Buddy, said Jim, patting the youngest Simms on the head, you and
Virginia can print the reading lessons this morning, can't you?
Yes, Mr. Jim, answered both McGeehee Simms and his sister
cheerily. Where's the copy?
Here, answered the teacher, handing each a typewritten sheet for
use as the original from which the young mountaineers were to make
hectograph copies, and mind you make good copies! Bettina Hansen
pretty nearly cried last night because she had to write them over so
many times on the typewriter before she got them all right.
The reading lesson was an article on corn condensed from a farm
paper, and a selection from Hiawathathe Indian-corn myth.
We'll be careful, Mr. Jim, said Buddy.
Half past eight, and only half an hour until school would officially
Newton Bronson was writing in aniline ink for the hectographs, such
problems as these:
If Mr. Ezra Bronson's seed wheat carries in each 250 grains, ten
cockle grains, fifteen rye grains, twenty fox-tail seeds, three
iron-weed seeds, two wild oats grains, twenty-seven wild buckwheat
seeds, one wild morning-glory seed, and eighteen lamb's quarter seeds,
what percentage of the seeds sown is wheat, and what foul seed?
If in each 250 grains of wheat in Mr. Bronson's bins, 30 are
cracked, dead or otherwise not capable of sprouting, what per cent, of
the seed sown will grow?
If the foul seed and dead wheat amount to one-eighth by weight of
the mass, what did Mr. Bronson pay per bushel for the good wheat, if it
cost him $1.10 in the bin, and what per cent, did he lose by the
adulterations and the poor wheat?
Jim ran over these rapidly. Your mathematics is good, Newton, said
the schoolmaster, but if you expect to pass in penmanship, you'll have
to take more pains.
How about the grammar? asked Newton. The writing is pretty bad,
I'll own up.
The grammar is good this morning. You're gradually mastering the
art of stating a problem in arithmetic in Englishand that's
The hands of Jim Irwin's dollar watch gradually approached the
position indicating nine o'clockat which time the schoolmaster rapped
on his desk and the school came to order. Then, for a while, it became
like other schools. A glance over the room enabled him to enter the
names of the absentees, and those tardy. There was a song by the
school, the recitation in concert of Little Brown Hands, some
general remarks and directions by the teacher, and the primary pupils
came forward for their reading exercises. A few classes began poring
over their text-books, but most of the pupils had their work passed out
to them in the form of hectograph copies of exercises prepared in the
As the little ones finished their recitations, they passed to the
dishes of wheat, and began aiding Raymond's squad in the counting and
classifying of the various seeds. They counted to five, and they
counted the fives. They laughed in a subdued way, and whispered
constantly, but nobody seemed disturbed.
Do they help much, Calista? asked the teacher, as the oldest Simms
girl came to his desk for more wheat.
No, seh, not much, replied Calista, beaming, but they don't hold
us back anyand maybe they do he'p a little.
That's good, said Jim, and they enjoy it, don't they?
Oh, yes, Mr. Jim, assented Calista, and the way Buddy is learnin'
to count is fine! They-all will soon know all the addition they is, and
a lot of multiplication. Angie Talcott knows the kinds of seeds
better'n what I do!
CHAPTER VIII. AND THE OLD BOTTLES
The day passed. Four o'clock came. In order that all might reach
home for supper, there was no staying, except that Newt Bronson and
Raymond Simms remained to sweep and dust the schoolroom, and prepare
kindling for the next morning's firea work they had taken upon
themselves, so as to enable the teacher to put on the blackboards such
outlines for the morrow's class work as might be required. Jim was
writing on the board a list of words constituting a spelling exercise.
They were not from the text-book, but grew naturally out of the study
of the seed wheatcockle, morning-glory, convolvulus, viable,
viability, sprouting, iron-weed and the like. A tap was heard at
the door, and Raymond Simms opened it.
In filed three womenand Jim Irwin knew as he looked at them that
he was greeting a deputation, and felt that it meant a struggle. For
they were the wives of the members of the school board. He placed for
them the three available chairs, and in the absence of any for himself
remained standing before them, a gaunt shabby-looking revolutionist at
the bar of settled usage and fixed public opinion.
Mrs. Haakon Peterson was a tall blonde woman who, when she spoke
betrayed her Scandinavian origin by the northern burr to her r's, and
a slight difficulty with her j's, her y's and long a's. She was
slow-spoken and dignified, and Jim felt an instinctive respect for her
personality. Mrs. Bronson was a good motherly woman, noted for her
housekeeping, and for her church activities. She looked oftener at her
son, and his friend Raymond than at the schoolmaster. Mrs. Bonner was
the most voluble of the three, and was the only one who shook hands
with Jim; but in spite of her rather offhand manner, Jim sensed in the
little, black-eyed Irishwoman the real commander of the expedition
against himfor such he knew it to be.
You may think it strange of us coming after hours, said she, but
we wanted to speak to you, teacher, without the children here.
I wish more of the parents would call, said Jim. At any hour of
Or night either, I dare say, suggested Mrs. Bonner. I hear you've
the scholars here at all hours, Jim.
Jim smiled his slow patient smile.
We do break the union rules, I guess, Mrs. Bonner, said he; there
seems to be more to do than we can get done during school hours.
What right have ye, struck in Mrs. Bonner, to be burning the
district's fuel, and wearing out the school's property out of hours
like thatnot that it's anny of my business, she interposed, hastily,
as if she had been diverted from her chosen point of attack. I just
thought of it, that's all. What we came for, Mr. Irwin, is to object to
the way the teachin's being donecorn and wheat, and hogs and the
like, instead of the learnin' schools was made to teach.
Schools were made to prepare children for life, weren't they, Mrs.
To be sure, went on Mrs. Bonner, I can see an' the whole district
can see that it's easier for a man that's been a farm-hand to teach
farm-hand knowledge, than the learnin' schools was set up to teach; but
if so be he hasn't the book education to do the right thing, we think
he should get out and give a real teacher a chance.
What am I neglecting? asked Jim mildly.
Mrs. Bonner seemed unprepared for the question, and sat for an
instant mute. Mrs. Peterson interposed her attack while Mrs. Bonner
might be recovering her wind.
We people that have had a hard time, she said in a precise way
which seemed to show that she knew exactly what she wanted, want to
give our boys and girls a chance to live easier lives than we lived. We
don't want our children taught about nothing but work. We want higher
Mrs. Peterson, said Jim earnestly, we must have first things
first. Making a living is the first thingand the highest.
Haakon and I will look after making a living for our family, said
she. We want our children to learn nice things, and go to high school,
and after a while to the Juniwersity.
And I, declared Jim, will send out from this school, if you will
let me, pupils better prepared for higher schools than have ever gone
from itbecause they will be trained to think in terms of action. They
will go knowing that thoughts must always be linked with things. Aren't
your children happy in school, Mrs. Peterson?
I don't send them to school to be happy, Yim, replied Mrs.
Peterson, calling him by the name most familiarly known to all of them;
I send them to learn to be higher people than their father and mother.
That's what America means!
They'll be higher peoplehigher than their parentshigher than
their teacherthey'll be efficient farmers, and efficient farmers'
wives. They'll be happy, because they will know how to use more brains
in farming than any lawyer or doctor or merchant can possibly use in
his business. I'm educating them to find an outlet for genius in
It's a fine thing, said Mrs. Bonner, coming to the aid of her
fellow soldiers, to work hard for a lifetime, an' raise nothing but a
family of farmers! A fine thing!
They will be farmers anyhow, cried Jim, in spite of your
effortsninety out of every hundred of them! And of the other ten,
nine will be wage-earners in the cities, and wish to God they were back
on the farm; and the hundredth one will succeed in the city. Shall we
educate the ninety-and-nine to fail, that the hundredth, instead of
enriching the rural life with his talents, may steal them away to make
the city stronger? It is already too strong for us farmers. Shall we
drive our best away to make it stronger?
The guns of Mrs. Bonner and Mrs. Peterson were silenced for a
moment, and Mrs. Bronson, after gazing about at the typewriter, the
hectograph, the exhibits of weed seeds, the Babcock milk tester, and
the other unscholastic equipment, pointed to the list of words, and the
arithmetic problems on the board.
Do you get them words from the speller? she asked.
No, said he, we got them from a lesson on seed wheat.
Did them examples come out of an arithmetic book? cross-examined
No, said Jim, we used problems we made ourselves. We were
figuring profits and losses on your cows, Mrs. Bronson!
Ezra Bronson, said Mrs. Bronson loftily, don't need any help in
telling what's a good cow. He was farming before you was born!
Like fun, he don't need help! He's going to dry old Cherry off and
fatten her for beef; and he can make more money on the cream by beefing
about three more of 'em. The Babcock test shows they're just boarding
on us without paying their board!
The delegation of matrons ruffled like a group of startled hens at
this interposition, which was Newton Bronson's effective seizing of the
opportunity to issue a progress bulletin in the research work on the
Bronson dairy herd.
Newton! said his mother, don't interrupt me when I'm talking to
Well, then, said Newton, don't tell the teacher that pa knew
which cows were good and which were poor. If any one in this district
wants to know about their cows they'll have to come to this shop. And I
can tell you that it'll pay 'em to come too, if they're going to make
anything selling cream. Wait until we get out our reports on the herds,
The women were rather stampeded by this onslaught of the irregular
troopsespecially Mrs. Bronson. She was placed in the position of a
woman taking a man's wisdom from her ne'er-do-well son for the first
time in her life. Like any other mother in this position, she felt a
flutter of pridebut it was strongly mingled with a motherly desire to
spank him. The deputation rose, with a unanimous feeling that they had
been scored upon.
Cows! scoffed Mrs. Peterson. If we leave you in this yob, Mr.
Irwin, our children will know nothing but cows and hens and soils and
grainsand where will the culture come in? How will our boys and girls
appear when we get fixed so we can move to town? We won't have no
culture at all, Yim!
Culture! exclaimed Jim. Whywhy, after ten years of the sort of
school I would give you if I were a better teacher, and could have my
way, the people of the cities would be begging to have their children
admitted so that they might obtain real cultureculture fitting them
for life in the twentieth century
Don't bother to get ready for the city children, Jim, said Mrs.
Bonner sneeringly, you won't be teaching the Woodruff school that
All this time, the dark-faced Cracker had been glooming from a
corner, earnestly seeking to fathom the wrongness he sensed in the
gathering. Now he came forward.
I reckon I may be making a mistake to say anything, said he, f'r
we-all is strangers hyeh, an' we're pore; but I must speak out for Mr.
JimI must! Don't turn him out, folks, f'r he's done mo' f'r us than
eveh any one done in the world!
What do you mean? asked Mrs. Peterson.
I mean, said Raymond, that when Mr. Jim began talking school to
us, we was a pore no-'count lot without any learnin', with nothin' to
talk about except our wrongs, an' our enemies, and the meanness of the
Iowa folks. You see we didn't understand you-all. An' now, we have
hope. We done got hope from this school. We're goin' to make good in
the world. We're getting education. We're all learnin' to use books. My
little sister will be as good as anybody, if you'll just let Mr. Jim
alone in this schoolas good as any one. An' I'll he'p pap get a farm,
and we'll work and think at the same time, an' be happy!
CHAPTER IX. JENNIE ARRANGES A
The great party magnates who made up the tickets from governor down
to the lowest county office, doubtless regarded the little political
plum shaken off into the apron of Miss Jennie Woodruff of the Woodruff
District, as the very smallest and least bloomy of all the plums on the
tree; but there is something which tends to puff one up in the mere
fact of having received the votes of the people for any office,
especially in a region of high average civilization, covering six
hundred or seven hundred square miles of good American domain. Jennie
was a sensible country girl. Being sensible, she tried to avoid
uppishness. But she did feel some little sense of increased importance
as she drove her father's little one-cylinder runabout over the smooth
earth roads, in the crisp December weather, just before Christmas.
The weather itself was stimulating, and she was making rapid
progress in the management of the little car which her father had
offered to lend her for use in visiting the one hundred or more rural
schools soon to come under her supervision. She rather fancied the
picture of herself, clothed in more or less authority and queening it
over her little army of teachers.
Mr. Haakon Peterson was phlegmatically conscious that she made
rather an agreeable picture, as she stopped her car alongside his top
buggy to talk with him. She had bright blue eyes, fluffy brown hair, a
complexion whipped pink by the breeze, and she smiled at him
Don't you think father is lovely? said she. He is going to let me
use the runabout when I visit the schools.
That will be good, said Haakon. It will save you lots of time. I
hope you make the county pay for the gasoline.
I haven't thought about that, said Jennie. Everybody's been so
nice to meI want to give as well as receive.
Why, said Haakon, you will yust begin to receive when your salary
begins in Yanuary.
Oh, no! said Jennie. I've received much more than that now! You
don't know how proud I feel. So many nice men I never knew before, and
all my old friends like you working for me in the convention and at the
polls, just as if I amounted to something.
And you don't know how proud I feel, said Haakon, to have in
county office a little girl I used to hold on my lap.
In early times, when Haakon was a flat-capped immigrant boy, he had
earned the initial payment on his first eighty acres of prairie land as
a hired man on Colonel Woodruff's farm. Now he was a rather richer man
than the colonel, and not a little proud of his ascent to affluence. He
was a mild-spoken, soft-voiced Scandinavian, quite completely
Americanized, and possessed of that aptitude for local politics which
makes so good a citizen of the Norwegian and Swede. His influence was
always worth fifty to sixty Scandinavian votes in any county election.
He was a good party man and conscious of being entitled to his voice in
party matters. This seemed to him an opportunity for exerting a bit of
Yennie, said he, this man Yim Irwin needs to be lined up.
Lined up! What do you mean?
The way he is doing in the school, said Haakon, is all wrong. If
you can't line him up, he will make you trouble. We must look ahead.
Everybody has his friends, and Yim Irwin has his friends. If you have
trouble with him, his friends will be against you when we want to
nominate you for a second term. The county is getting close. If we go
to conwention without your home delegation it would weaken you, and if
we nominate you, every piece of trouble like this cuts down your wote.
You ought to line him up and have him do right.
But he is so funny, said Jennie.
He likes you, said Haakon. You can line him up.
Jennie blushed, and to conceal her slight embarrassment, got out for
the purpose of cranking her machine.
But if I can not line him up? said she.
I tank, said Haakon, if you can't line him up, you will have a
chance to rewoke his certificate when you take office.
So Jim Irwin was to be crushed like an insect. The little local
gearing of the big party machine was to crush him. Jennie dimly sensed
the tragedy of it, but very dimly. Mainly she thought of Mr. Peterson's
suggestion as to lining up Jim Irwin as so thoroughly sensible that
she gave it a good deal of thought that day. She could not help feeling
a little resentment at Jim for following his own fads and fancies so
far. We always resent the necessity of crushing any weak creature which
must needs be wiped out. The idea that there could be anything
fundamentally sane in his overturning of the old and tried school
methods under which both he and she had been educated, was absurd to
Jennie. To be sure, everybody had always favored more practical
education, and Jim's farm arithmetic, farm physiology, farm reading
and writing, cow-testing exercises, seed analysis, corn clubs and the
tomato, poultry and pig clubs he proposed to have in operation the next
summer, seemed highly practical; but to Jennie's mind, the fact that
they introduced dissension in the neighborhood and promised to make her
official life vexatious, seemed ample proof that Jim's work was
visionary and impractical. Poor Jennie was not aware of the fact that
new truth always comes bringing, not peace to mankind, but a sword.
Father, said she that night, let's have a little Christmas
All right, said the colonel. Whom shall we invite?
Don't laugh, said she. I want to invite Jim Irwin and his mother,
and nobody else.
All right, reiterated the colonel. But why?
Oh, said Jennie, I want to see whether I can talk Jim out of some
of his foolishness.
You want to line him up, do you? said the colonel. Well, that's
good politics, and incidentally, you may get some good ideas out of
Rather unlikely, said Jennie.
I don't know about that, said the colonel, smiling. I begin to
think that Jim's a Brown Mouse. I've told you about the Brown Mouse,
Yes, said Jennie. You've told me. But Professor Darbishire's
brown mice were simply wild and incorrigible creatures. Just because it
happens to emerge suddenly from the forests of heredity, it doesn't
prove that the Brown Mouse is any good.
Justin Morgan was a Brown Mouse, said the colonel. And he founded
the greatest breed of horses in the world.
You say that, said Jennie, because you're a lover of the Morgan
Napoleon Bonaparte was a Brown Mouse, said the colonel. So was
George Washington, and so was Peter the Great. Whenever a Brown Mouse
appears he changes things in a little way or a big way.
For the better, always? asked Jennie.
No, said the colonel. The Brown Mouse may throw back to
slant-headed savagery. But Jim ... sometimes I think Jim is the kind of
Mendelian segregation out of which we get Franklins and Edisons and
their sort. You may get some good ideas out of Jim. Let us have them
here for Christmas, by all means.
In due time Jennie's invitation reached Jim and his mother, like an
explosive shell fired from a distance into their humble dwellingquite
upsetting things. Twenty-five years constitute rather a long wait for
social recognition, and Mrs. Irwin had long since regarded herself as
quite outside society. To be sure, for something like half of this
period, she had been of society if not in it. She had done the family
washings, scrubbings and cleanings, had made the family clothes and
been a woman of all work, passing from household to household, in an
orbit determined by the exigencies of threshing, harvesting, illness
and child-bearing. At such times she sat at the family table and
participated in the neighborhood gossip, in quite the manner of a
visiting aunt or other female relative; but in spite of the democracy
of rural life, there is and always has been a social difference between
a hired woman and an invited guest. And when Jim, having absorbed
everything which the Woodruff school could give him in the way of
education, found his first job at making a hand, Mrs. Irwin, at her
son's urgent request, ceased going out to work for a while, until she
could get back her strength. This she had never succeeded in doing, and
for a dozen years or more had never entered a single one of the houses
in which she had formerly served.
I can't go, James, said she; I can't possibly go.
Oh, yes, you can! Why not? said Jim. Why not?
You know I don't go anywhere, urged Mrs. Irwin.
That's no reason, said her son.
I haven't a thing to wear, said Mrs. Irwin.
Nothing to wear!
I wonder if any ordinary person can understand the shock with which
Jim Irwin heard those words from his mother's lips. He was approaching
thirty, and the association of the ideas of Mother and Costume was
foreign to his mind. Other women had surfaces different from hers, to
be surebut his mother was not as other women. She was just Mother,
always at work in the house or in the garden, always doing for him
those inevitable things which made up her part in life, always clothed
in the browns, grays, gray-blues, neutral stripes and checks which were
cheap and common and easily made. Clothes! They were in the Irwin
family no more than things by which the rules of decency were complied
with, and the cold of winter turned backbut as for their appearance!
Jim had never given the thing a thought further than to wear out his
Sunday best in the schoolroom, to wonder where the next suit of Sunday
best was to come from, and to buy for his mother the cheap and common
fabrics which she fashioned into the garments in which alone, it seemed
to him, she would seem like Mother. A boy who lives until he is nearly
thirty in intimate companionship with Carlyle, Thoreau, Wordsworth,
Shakespeare, Emerson, Professor Henry, Liberty H. Bailey, Cyril
Hopkins, Dean Davenport and the great obscurities of the experiment
stations, may be excused if his views regarding clothes are derived in
a transcendental manner from Sartor Resartus and the
agricultural college tests as to the relation between Shelter and
Why, mother, said he, I think it would be pretty hard to explain
to the Woodruffs that you stayed away because of clothes. They have
seen you in the clothes you wear pretty often for the last thirty
* * * * *
Was a woman ever quite without a costume?
Mrs. Irwin gazed at vacancy for a while, and went to the old bureau.
From the bottom drawer she took an old, old black alpaca dressa dress
which Jim had never seen. She spread it out on her bed in the alcove
off the combined kitchen, parlor and dining-room in which they lived,
and smoothed out the wrinkles. It was almost whole, save for the places
where her body, once so much fuller than now, had drawn the threads
apartunder the arms, and at some of the seamsand she handled it as
one deals with something very precious.
I never thought I'd wear it again, said she, but once. I've been
saving it for my last dress. But I guess it won't hurt to wear it once
for the benefit of the living.
Jim kissed his mothera rare thing, save as the caress was called
for by the established custom between them.
Don't think of that, mother, said he, for years and years yet!
CHAPTER X. HOW JIM WAS LINED UP
There is no doubt that Jennie Woodruff was justified in thinking
that they were a queer couple. They weren't like the Woodruffs, at all.
They were of a different pattern. To be sure, Jim's clothes were not
especially noteworthy, being just shiny, and frayed at cuff and instep,
and short of sleeve and leg, and ill-fitting and cheap. They betrayed
poverty, and the inability of a New York sweatshop to anticipate the
prodigality of Nature in the matter of length of leg and arm, and
wealth of bones and joints which she had lavished upon Jim Irwin. But
the Woodruff table had often enjoyed Jim's presence, and the standards
prevailing there as to clothes were only those of plain people who eat
with their hired men, buy their clothes at a county seat town, and live
simply and sensibly on the fat of the land. Jim's queerness lay not so
much in his clothes as in his personality.
On the other hand, Jennie could not help thinking that Mrs. Irwin's
queerness was to be found almost solely in her clothes. The black
alpaca looked undeniably respectable, especially when it was helped out
by a curious old brooch of goldstone, bordered with flowers in blue and
white and red and greentiny blossoms of little stones which looked
like the flowers which grow at the snow line on Pike's Peak. Jennie
felt that it must be a cheap affair, but it was decorative, and she
wondered where Mrs. Irwin got it. She guessed it must have a storya
story in which the stooped, rusty, somber old lady looked like a
character drawn to harmonize with the period just after the war. For
the black alpaca dress looked more like a costume for a masquerade than
a present-day garment, and Mrs. Irwin was so oppressed with doubt as to
whether she was presentable, with knowledge that her dress didn't fit,
and with the difficulty of behaving naturallylike a convict just
discharged from prison after a ten years' termthat she took on a
stiffness of deportment quite in keeping with the idea that she was a
female Rip Van Winkle not yet quite awake. But Jennie had the keenness
to see that if Mrs. Irwin could have had an up-to-date costume she
would have become a rather ordinary and not bad-looking old lady. What
Jennie failed to divine was that if Jim could have invested a hundred
dollars in the services of tailors, haberdashers, barbers and other
specialists in personal appearance, and could for this hour or so have
blotted out his record as her father's field-hand, he would have seemed
to her a distinguished-looking young man. Not handsome, of course, but
the sort people look afterand follow.
Come to dinner, said Mrs. Woodruff, who at this juncture had a
hired girl, but was yoked to the oar nevertheless when it came to
turkey and the other fixings of a Christmas dinner. It's good enough,
what there is of it, and there's enough of it such as it isbut the
dressing in the turkey would be better for a little more sage!
The bountiful meal piled mountain high for guest and hired help and
family melted away in a manner to delight the hearts of Mrs. Woodruff
and Jennie. The colonel, in stiff starched shirt, black tie and frock
coat, carved with much empressement, and Jim felt almost for the first
time a sense of the value of manner.
I had bigger turkeys, said Mrs. Woodruff to Mrs. Irwin, but I
thought it would be better to cook two turkey-hens instead of one great
big gobbler with meat as tough as tripe and stuffed full of fat.
One of the hens would 'a' been plenty, replied Mrs. Irwin. How
much did they weigh?
About fifteen pounds apiece, was the answer. The gobbler would
'a' weighed thirty, I guess. He's pure Mammoth Bronze.
I wish, said Jim, that we could get a few breeding birds of the
wild bronze turkeys from Mexico.
Why? asked the colonel.
They're the original blood of the domestic bronze turkeys, said
Jim, and they're bigger and handsomer than the pure-bred bronzes,
even. They're a better stock than the northern wild turkeys from which
our common birds originated.
Where do you learn all these things, Jim? asked Mrs. Woodruff. I
declare, I often tell Woodruff that it's as good as a lecture to have
Jim Irwin at table. My intelligence has fallen since you quit working
There came into Jim's eyes the gleam of the man devoted to a
Causeand the dinner tended to develop into a lecture. Jennie saw a
little more plainly wherein his queerness lay.
There's an education in any meal, if we would just use the things
on the table as materials for study, and follow their trails back to
their starting-points. This turkey takes us back to the chaparral of
What's chaparral? asked Jennie, as a diversion. It's one of the
words I have seen so often and know perfectly to speak it and read
itbut after all it's just a word, and nothing more.
Ain't that the trouble with our education, Jim? queried the
colonel, cleverly steering Jim back into the track of his discourse.
They are not even living words, answered Jim, unless we have
clothed them in flesh and blood through some sort of concrete notion.
'Chaparral' to Jennie is just the ghost of a word. Our civilization is
full of inefficiency because we are satisfied to give our children
these ghosts and shucks and husks of words, instead of the things
themselves, that can be seen and hefted and handled and tested and
Jennie looked Jim over carefully. His queerness was taking on a new
phaseand she felt a sense of surprise such as one experiences when
the conjurer causes a rose to grow into a tree before your very eyes.
Jim's development was not so rapid, but Jennie's perception of it was.
She began to feel proud of the fact that a man who could make his
impractical notions seem so plausibleand who was clearly fired with
some sort of evangelistic fervorhad kissed her, once or twice, on
bringing her home from the spelling school.
I think we lose so much time in school, Jim went on, while the
children are eating their dinners.
Well, Jim, said Mrs. Woodruff, every one but you is down on the
human level. The poor kids have to eat!
But think how much good education there is wrapped up in the school
dinnerif we could only get it out.
Jennie grew grave. Here was this Brown Mouse actually introducing
the subject of the schooland he ought to suspect that she was
planning to line him up on this very thingif he wasn't a perfect
donkey as well as a dreamer. And he was calmly wading into the subject
as if she were the ex-farm-hand country teacher, and he was the county
Eating a dinner like this, mother, said the colonel gallantly, is
an education in itselfand eating some others requires one; but just
how 'larnin' is wrapped up in the school lunch is a new one on me,
Well, said Jim, in the first place the children ought to cook
their meals as a part of the school work. Prior to that they ought to
buy the materials. And prior to that they ought to keep the accounts of
the school kitchen. They'd like to do these things, and it would help
prepare them for life on an intelligent plane, while they prepared the
Isn't that looking rather far ahead? asked the county
It's like a lot of other things we think far ahead, urged Jim.
The only reason why they're far off is because we think them so. It's
a thoughtand a thought is as near the moment we think it as it will
I guess that's soto a wild-eyed reformer, said the colonel. But
go on. Develop your thought a little. Have some more dressing.
Thanks, I believe I will, said Jim. And a little more of the
cranberry sauce. No more turkey, please.
I'd like to see the school class that could prepare this dinner,
said Mrs. Woodruff.
Why, said Jim, you'd be there showing them how! They'd get
credits in their domestic-economy course for getting the school
dinnerand they'd bring their mothers into it to help them stand at
the head of their classes. And one detail of girls would cook one week,
and another serve. The setting of the table would come in as a
studyflowers, linen and all that. And when we get a civilized
teacher, table manners!
I'd take on that class, said the hired man, winking at Selma
Carlson, the maid, from somewhere below the salt. The way I make my
knife feed my face would be a great help to the children.
And when the food came on the table, Jim went on, with a smile at
his former fellow-laborer, who had heard most of this before as a part
of the field conversation, just think of the things we could study
while eating it. The literary term for eating a meal is discussing
itwell, the discussion of a meal under proper guidance is much more
educative than a lecture. This breast-bone, now, said he, referring to
the remains on his plate. That's physiology. The
cranberry-saucethat's botany, and commerce, and soil managementdo
you know, Colonel, that the cranberry must have an acid soilwhich
would kill alfalfa or clover?
Read something of it, said the colonel, but it didn't interest me
And the difference between the types of fowl on the tablethat's
breeding. And the nutmeg, pepper and cocoanutthat's geography. And
everything on the table runs back to geography, and comes to us linked
to our lives by dollars and centsand they're mathematics.
We must have something more than dollars and cents in life, said
Jennie. We must have culture.
Culture, cried Jim, is the ability to think in terms of
Like Jesse James, suggested the hired man, who was a careful
student of the life of that eminent bandit.
There was a storm of laughter at this sally amidst which Jennie
wished she had thought of something like that. Jim joined in the
laughter at his own expense, but was clearly suffering from
That's the best answer I've had on that point, Pete, he said,
after the disturbance had subsided. But if the James boys and the
Youngers had had the sort of culture I'm for, they would have been
successful stock men and farmers, instead of train-robbers. Take
Raymond Simms, for instance. He had all the qualifications of a member
of the James gang when he came here. All he needed was a few
exasperated associates of his own sort, and a convenient railway with
undefended trains running over it. But after a few weeks of real
'culture' under a mighty poor teacher, he's developing into the most
enthusiastic farmer I know. That's real culture.
It's snowing like everything, said Jennie, who faced the window.
Don't cut your dinner short, said the colonel to Pete, but I
think you'll find the cattle ready to come in out of the storm when you
get good and through.
I think I'll let 'em in now, said Pete, by way of excusing
himself. I expect to put in most of the day from now on getting ready
to quit eating. Save some of everything for me, Selma,I'll be right
All right, Pete, said Selma.
CHAPTER XI. THE MOUSE ESCAPES
Jennie played the piano and sang. They all joined in some simple
Christmas songs. Mrs. Woodruff and Jim's mother went into other parts
of the house on research work connected with their converse on domestic
economy. The colonel withdrew for an inspection of the live stock on
the eve of the threatened blizzard. And Jim was left alone with Jennie
in the front parlor. After the buzz of conversation, they seemed to
have nothing to say. Jennie played softly, and looked at nothing, but
scrutinized Jim by means of the eyes which women have concealed in
their back hair. There was something new in the manshe sensed that.
He was more confident, more persuasive, more dynamic. She was used to
him only as a static force.
And Jim felt something new, too. He had felt it growing in him ever
since he began his school work, and knew not the cause of it. The
cause, however, would not have been a mystery to a wise old yogi who
might discover the same sort of change in one of his young novices. Jim
Irwin had been a sort of ascetic since his boyhood. He had mortified
the flesh by hard labor in the fields, and by flagellations of the
brain to drive off sleep while he pored over his books in the
atticwhich was often so hot after a day of summer's sun on its low
thin roof, that he was forced to do his reading in the midmost night.
He had looked long on such women as Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Isabel,
Cressida, Volumnia, Virginia, Evangeline, Agnes Wickfleld and Fair
Rosamond; but on women in the flesh he had gazed as upon trees walking.
The aforesaid spiritual director, had this young ascetic been under
one, would have foreseen the effects on the psychology of a stout
fellow of twenty-eight of freedom from the toil of the fields, and
association with a group of young human beings of both sexes. To the
novice struggling for emancipation from earthly thoughts, he would have
recommended fasting and prayer, and perhaps, a hair shirt. Just what
his prescription would have been for a man in Jim's position is, of
course, a question. He would, no doubt, have considered carefully his
patient's symptoms. These were very largely the mental experiences
which most boys pass through in their early twenties, save, perhaps
that, as in a belated season, the transition from winter to spring was
more sudden, and the contrast more violent. Jim was now thrown every
day into contact with his fellows. He was no longer a lay monk, but an
active member of a very human group. He was becoming more of a boy,
with the boys, and still more was he developing into a man with the
women. The budding womanhood of Calista Simms and the other girls of
his school thrilled him as Helen of Troy or Juliet had never done. This
will not seem very strange to the experienced reader, but it astonished
the unsophisticated young schoolmaster. The floating hair, the heaving
bosom, the rosebud mouth, the starry eye, the fragrant breath, the
magnetic handall these disturbed the hitherto sedate mind, and filled
the brief hours he was accustomed to spend in sleep with strange
dreams. And now, as he gazed at Jennie, he was suddenly aware of the
fact that, after all, whenever these thoughts and dreams took on
individuality, they were only persistent and intensified continuations
of his old dreams of her. They had always been dormant in him, since
the days they both studied from the same book. He was quite sure, now,
that he had never forgotten for a moment, that Jennie was the only girl
in the world for him. And possibly he was right about this. It is
perfectly certain, however, that for years he had not consciously been
in love with her.
Now, however, he arose as from some inner compulsion, and went to
her side. He wished that he knew enough of music to turn her sheets for
her, but, alas! the notes were meaningless to him. Still scanning him
by means of her back hair, Jennie knew that in another moment Jim would
lay his hand on her shoulder, or otherwise advance to personal
nearness, as he had done the night of his ill-starred speech at the
schoolhouseand she rose in self-defense. Self-defense, however, did
not seem to require that he be kept at too great a distance; so she
maneuvered him to the sofa, and seated him beside her. Now was the time
to line him up.
It seems good to have you with us to-day, said she. We're such
old, old friends.
Yes, repeated Jim, old friends .... We are, aren't we, Jennie?
And I feel sure, Jennie went on, that this marks a new era in our
Why? asked Jim, after considering the matter.
Oh! everything is different, nowand getting more different all
the time. My new work, and your new work, you know.
I should like to think, said Jim, that we are beginning over
Oh, we are, we are, indeed! I am quite sure of it.
And yet, said Jim, there is no such thing as a new beginning.
Everything joins itself to something which went before. There isn't any
No? said Jennie interrogatively.
Our regard for each other, Jennie noted most pointedly his word
regardmust be the continuation of the old regard.
I hardly know what you mean, said Jennie.
Jim reached over and possessed himself of her hand. She pulled it
from him gently, but he paid no attention to the little muscular
protest, and examined the hand critically. On the back of the middle
finger he pointed out a scara very tiny scar.
Do you remember how you got that? he asked.
Because Jim clung to the hand, their heads were very close together
as she joined in the examination.
Why, I don't believe I do, said she.
I do, he replied. Weyou and I and Mary Forsythe were playing
mumble-peg, and you put your hand on the grass just as I threw the
knifeit cut you, and left that scar.
I remember, now! said she. How such things come back over the
memory. And did it leave a scar when I pushed you toward the red-hot
stove in the schoolhouse one blizzardy day, like this, and you peeled
the skin off your wrist where it struck the stove?
Look at it, said he, baring his long and bony wrist. Right
And they were off on the trail that leads back to childhood. They
had talked long, and intimately, when the shadows of the early evening
crept into the corners of the room. He had carried her across the
flooded slew again after the big rain. They had relived a dozen moving
incidents by flood and field. Jennie recalled the time when the tornado
narrowly missed the schoolhouse, and frightened everybody in school
nearly to death.
Everybody but you, Jim, Jennie remembered. You looked out of the
window and told the teacher that the twister was going north of us, and
would kill somebody else.
Did I? asked Jim.
Yes, said Jennie, and when the teacher asked us to kneel and
thank God, you said, 'Why should we thank God that somebody else is
blowed away?' She was greatly shocked.
I don't see to this day, Jim asserted, what answer there was to
In the gathering darkness Jim again took Jennie's hand, but this
time she deprived him of it.
He was trembling like a leaf. Let it be remembered in his favor that
this was the only girl's hand he had ever held.
You can't find any more scars on it, she said soberly.
Let me see how much it has changed since I stuck the knife in it,
Jennie held it up for inspection.
It's longer, and slenderer, and whiter, and even more beautiful,
said he, than the little hand I cut; but it was then the most
beautiful hand in the world to meand still is.
I must light the lamps, said the county superintendent-elect,
rather flustered, it must be confessed. Mama! Where are all the
Mrs. Woodruff and Mrs. Irwin came in, and the lamplight reminded
Jim's mother that the cow was still to milk, and that the chickens
might need attention. The Woodruff sleigh came to the door to carry
them home; but Jim desired to breast the storm. He felt that he needed
the conflict. Mrs. Irwin scolded him for his foolishness, but he strode
off into the whirling drift, throwing back a good-by for general
consumption, and a pathetic smile to Jennie.
He's as odd as Dick's hatband, said Mrs. Woodruff, tramping off
in a storm like this.
Did you line him up? asked the colonel of Jennie.
The young lady started and blushed. She had forgotten all about the
politics of the situation.
II'm afraid I didn't, papa, she confessed.
Those brown mice of Professor Darbishire's, said the colonel,
were the devil and all to control.
Jennie was thinking of this as she dropped asleep.
Hard to control! she thought. I wonder. I wonder, after all, if
Jim is not capable of being easily lined upwhen he sees how foolish I
think he is!
And Jim? He found himself hard to control that night. So much so
that it was after midnight before he had finished work on a plan for a
The boys can be given work in helping to operate it, he wrote on a
tablet, which, in connection with the labor performed by the teacher,
will greatly reduce the expense of operation. A skilled butter-maker,
with slender white handsbut he erased this last clause and retired.
CHAPTER XII. FACING TRIAL
A distinct sensation ran through the Woodruff school, but the
schoolmaster and a group of five big boys and three girls engaged in a
very unclasslike conference in the back of the room were all
unconscious of it. The geography classes had recited, and the language
work was on. Those too small for these studies were playing a game
under the leadership of Jinnie Simms, who had been promoted to the
position of weed-seed monitor.
The game was forfeits. Each child had been encouraged to bring some
sort of weed from the winter fieldspreferably one the seed of which
still clung to the dried receptaclesbut anyhow, a weed. Some pupils
had brought merely empty tassels, some bare stalks, and some seeds
which they had winnowed from the grain in their father's bins; and with
them they played forfeits. They counted out by the arey, Ira, ickery
an' method, and somebody was It. Then, in order, they presented to
him a seed, stalk or head of a weed, and if the one who was It could
tell the name of the weed, the child who brought the specimen became
It, and the name was written on slates or tablets, and the new It told
where the weed or seed was collected. If any pupil brought in a
specimen the name of which he himself could not correctly give, he paid
a forfeit. If a specimen was brought in not found in the school
cabinetwhich was coming to contain a considerable collectionit was
placed there, and the task allotted to the best penman in the school to
write its proper label. All this caused excitement, and not a little
buzzbut it ceased when the county superintendent entered the room.
For it was after the first of January, and Jennie was visiting the
The group in the back of the room went on with its conference,
oblivious of the entrance of Superintendent Jennie. Their work was
rather absorbing, being no more nor less than the compilation of the
figures of a cow census of the district.
Altogether, said Mary Talcott, we have in the district one
hundred and fifty-three cows.
I don't make it that, said Raymond Simms. I don't get but a
hundred and thirty-eight.
The trouble is, said Newton Bronson, that Mary's counting in the
Bailey herd of Shorthorns.
Well, they're cows, ain't they? interrogated Mary.
Not for this census, said Raymond.
Why not? asked Mary. They're the prettiest cows in the
Scotch Shorthorns, said Newton, and run with their calves.
Leave them out, said Jim, and to-morrow, I want each one to tell
in the language class, in three hundred words or less, whether there
are enough cows in the district to justify a cooperative creamery, and
give the reason. You'll find articles in the farm papers if you look
through the card index. Now, how about the census in the adjoining
There are more than two hundred within four miles on the roads
leading west, said a boy.
My father and I counted up about a hundred beyond us, said Mary.
But I couldn't get the exact number.
Why, said Raymond, we could find six hundred dairy cows in this
neighborhood, within an hour's drive.
Six hundred! scoffed Newton. You're crazy! In an hour's drive?
I mean an hour's drive each way, said Raymond.
I believe we could, said Jim. And after we find how far we will
have to go to get enough cows, if half of them patronized the creamery,
we'll work over the savings the business would make, if we could get
the prices for butter paid the Wisconsin cooperative creameries, as
compared with what the centralizers pay us, on a basis of the last six
months. Who's in possession of that correspondence with the Wisconsin
I have it, said Raymond. I'm hectographing a lot of arithmetic
problems from it.
How do you do, Mr. Irwin! It was the superintendent who spoke.
Jim's brain whirled little prismatic clouds before his vision, as he
rose and shook Jennie's extended hand.
Let me give you a chair, said he.
Oh, no, thank you! she returned. I'll just make myself at home. I
know my way about in this schoolhouse, you know!
She smiled at the children, and went about looking at their
workwhich was not noticeably disturbed, by reason of the fact that
visitors were much more frequent now than ever before, and were no
rarity. Certainly, Jennie Woodruff was no novelty, since they had known
her all their lives. Most of the embarrassment was Jim's. He rose to
the occasion, however, went through the routine of the closing day, and
dismissed the flock, not omitting making an engagement with a group of
boys for that evening to come back and work on the formalin treatment
for smut in seed grains, and the blue-vitriol treatment for seed
We hadn't time for these things, said he to the county
superintendent, in the regular class workand it's getting time to
take them up if we are to clean out the smut in next year's crop.
They repeated Whittier's Corn Song in concert, and school was
Alone with her in the old schoolhouse, Jim confronted Jennie in the
flesh. She felt a sense of his agitation, but if she had known the
power of it, she would have been astonished. Since that Christmas
afternoon when she had undertaken to follow Mr. Peterson's advice and
line Yim Irwin up, Jim had gone through an inward transformation. He
had passed from a late, cold, backward sexual spring, into a warm June
of the spirit, in which he had walked amid roses and lilies with
Jennie. He was in love with her. He knew how insane it was, how much
less than nothing had taken place in his circumstances to justify the
hope that he could ever emerge from the state in which she would not
say Humph! at the thought that he could marry her or any one else.
Yet, he had made up his mind that he would marry Jennie Woodruff ....
She ought never have tried to line him up. She knew not what she did.
He saw her through clouds of rose and pink; but she looked at him as
at a foolish man who was making trouble for her, chasing rainbows at
her expense, and deeply vexing her. She was in a cold official frame of
Jim, said she, do you know that you are facing trouble?
Trouble, said Jim, is the natural condition of a man in my state
of mind. But it is going to be a delicious sort of tribulation.
I don't know what you mean, she replied in perfect honesty.
Then I don't know what you mean, replied Jim.
Jim, she said pleadingly, I want you to give up this sort of
teaching. Can't you see it's all wrong?
No, answered Jim, in much the manner of a man who has been stabbed
by his sweetheart. I can't see that it's wrong. It's the only sort I
can do. What do you see wrong in it?
Oh, I can see some very wonderful things in it, said Jennie, but
it can't be done in the Woodruff District. It may be correct in theory,
but it won't work in practise.
Jennie, said he, when a thing won't work, it isn't correct in
Well, then, Jim, said she, why do you keep on with it?
It works, said Jim. Anything that's correct in theory will work.
If the theory seems correct, and yet won't work, it's because something
is wrong in an unsuspected way with the theory. But my theory is
correct, and it works.
But the district is against it.
Who are the district?
The school board are against it.
The school board elected me after listening to an explanation of my
theories as to the new sort of rural school in which I believe. I
assume that they commissioned me to carry out my ideas.
Oh, Jim! cried Jennie. That's sophistry! They all voted for you
so you wouldn't be without support. Each wanted you to have just one
vote. Nobody wanted you elected. They were all surprised. You know
They stood by and saw the contract signed, said Jim, andyes,
Jennie, I am dealing in sophistry! I got the school by a sort of
shell-game, which the board worked on themselves. But that doesn't
prove that the district is against me. I believe the people are for me,
now, Jennie. I really do!
Jennie rose and walked to the rear of the room and back, twice. When
she spoke, there was decision in her toneand Jim felt that it was
As an officer, she said rather grandly, my relations with the
district are with the school board on the one hand, and with your
competency as a teacher on the other.
Has it come to that? asked Jim. Well, I have rather expected it.
His tone was weary. The Lincolnian droop in his great, sad, mournful
mouth accentuated the resemblance to the martyr president. Possibly his
feelings were not entirely different from those experienced by Lincoln
at some crises of doubt, misunderstanding and depression.
If you can't change your methods, said Jennie, I suggest that you
Do you think, said Jim, that changing my methods would appease
the men who feel that they are made laughing-stocks by having elected
Jennie was silent; for she knew that the school board meant to
pursue their policy of getting rid of the accidental incumbent
regardless of his methods.
They would never call off their dogs, said Jim.
But your methods would make a great difference with my decision,
Are you to be called upon to decide? asked Jim.
A formal complaint against you for incompetency, she replied, has
been lodged in my office, signed by the three directors. I shall be
obliged to take notice of it.
And do you think, queried Jim, that my abandonment of the things
in which I believe in the face of this attack would prove to your mind
that I am competent? Or would it show me incompetent?
Again Jennie was silent.
I guess, said Jim, that we'll have to stand or fall on things as
Do you refuse to resign? asked Jennie.
Sometimes I think it's not worth while to try any longer, said
Jim. And yet, I believe that in my way I'm working on the question
which must be solved if this nation is to standthe question of making
the farm and farm life what they should be and may well be. At this
moment, I feel like surrenderingfor your sake more than mine; but
I'll have to think about it. Suppose I refuse to resign?
Jennie had drawn on her gloves, and stood ready for departure.
Unless you resign before the twenty-fifth, said she, I shall hear
the petition for your removal on that date. You will be allowed to be
present and answer the charges against you. The charges are
incompetency. I bid you good evening!
Incompetency! The disgraceful word, representing everything he had
always despised, rang through Jim's mind as he walked home. He could
think of nothing else as he sat at the simple supper which he could
scarcely taste. Incompetent! Well, had he not always been incompetent,
except in the use of his muscles? Had he not always been a dreamer?
Were not all his dreams as foreign to life and common sense as the
Milky Way from the earth? What reason was there for thinking that this
crusade of his for better schools had any sounder foundation than hia
dream of being president, or a great painter, or a poet or novelist or
philosopher? He was just a hayseed, a rube, a misfit, as odd as Dick's
hatband, an off ox. He was incompetent. He picked up a pen, and
began writing. He wrote, To the Honorable the Board of Education of
the Independent District of And he heard a tap at the door. His
mother admitted Colonel Woodruff.
Hello, Jim, said he.
Good evening, Colonel, said Jim. Take a chair, won't you?
No, replied the colonel. I thought I'd see if you and the boys at
the schoolhouse can't tell me something about the smut in my wheat. I
heard you were going to work on that to-night.
I had forgotten! said Jim.
I wondered if you hadn't, said the colonel, and so I came by for
you. I was waiting up the road. Come on, and ride up with me.
The colonel had always been friendly, but there was a new note in
his manner to-night. He was almost deferential. If he had been talking
to Senator Cummins or the president of the state university, his tone
could not have been more courteous, more careful to preserve the
amenities due from man to man. He worked with the class on the problem
of smut. He offered to aid the boys in every possible way in their
campaign against scab in potatoes. He suggested some tests which would
show the real value of the treatment. The boys were in a glow of pride
at this cooperation with Colonel Woodruff. This was real work! Jim and
the colonel went away together. It had been a great evening.
Jim, said the colonel, can these kids spell?
You mean these boys?
I mean the school.
I think, said Jim, that they can outspell any school about here.
Good, said the colonel. How are they about reading aloud?
Better than they were when I took hold.
How about arithmetic and the other branches? Have you sort of kept
them up to the course of study?
I have carried them in a course parallel to the text-books, said
Jim, and covering the same ground. But it has been vocational work,
you knowrelated to life.
Well, said the colonel, if I were you, I'd put them over a rapid
review of the text-books for a few dayssay between now and the
Oh, nothingjust to please me .... And say, Jim, I glanced over a
communication you have started to the more or less Honorable Board of
Well, don't finish it .... And say, Jim, I think I'll give myself
the luxury of being a wild-eyed reformer for once.
Yes, said Jim, dazed.
And if you think, Jim, that you've got no friends, just remember
that I'm for you.
Thank you, Colonel.
And we'll show them they're in a horse race.
I don't see ... said Jim.
You're not supposed to see, said the colonel, but you can bet
that we'll be with them at the finish; and, by thunder! while they're
getting a full meal, we'll get at least a lunch. See?
But Jennie says, began Jim.
Don't tell me what she says, said the colonel. She's acting
according to her judgment, and her lights and other organs of
perception, and I don't think it fittin' that her father should try to
influence her official conduct. But you go on and review them common
branches, and keep your nerve. I haven't felt so much like a scrap
since the day we stormed Lookout Mountain. I kinder like being a
wild-eyed reformer, Jim.
CHAPTER XIII. FAME OR NOTORIETY
The office of county superintendent was, as a matter of course, the
least desirable room of the court-house. I say room advisedly,
because it consisted of a single chamber of moderate size, provided
with office furniture of the minimum quantity and maximum age. It
opened off the central hall at the upper end of the stairway which led
to the court room, and when court was in session, served the
extraordinary needs of justice as a jury room. At such times the county
superintendent's desk was removed to the hall, where it stood in a
noisy and confusing but very democratic publicity. Superintendent
Jennie might have anticipated the time when, during the March term,
offenders passing from the county jail in the basement to arraignment
at the bar of justice might be able to peek over her shoulders and
criticize her method of treating examination papers. On the
twenty-fifth of February, however, this experience lurked unsuspected
in her official future.
Poor Jennie! She anticipated nothing more than the appearance of
Messrs. Bronson, Peterson and Bonner in her office to confront Jim
Irwin on certain questions of fact relating to Jim's competency to hold
a teacher's certificate. The time appointed was ten o'clock. At nine
forty-five Cornelius Bonner and his wife entered the office, and took
twenty-five per cent. of the chairs therein. At nine fifty Jim Irwin
came in, haggard, weather-beaten and seedy as ever, and looked as if he
had neither eaten nor slept since his sweetheart stabbed him. At nine
fifty-five Haakon Peterson and Ezra Bronson came in, accompanied by
Wilbur Smythe, attorney-at-law, who carried under his arm a code of
Iowa, a compilation of the school laws of the state, and Throop on
Public Officers. At nine fifty-six, therefore, the crowd in
Jennie's office exceeded its seating capacity, and Jennie was in a
flutter as the realization dawned upon her that this promised to be a
bigger and more public affair than she had anticipated. At nine
fifty-nine Raymond Simms opened the office door and there filed in
enough children, large and small, some of them accompanied by their
parents, and all belonging to the Woodruff school, to fill completely
the interstices of the corners and angles of the room and between the
legs of the grownups. In addition there remained an overflow meeting in
the hall, under the command of that distinguished military gentleman,
Colonel Albert Woodruff.
Say, Bill, come here! said the colonel, crooking his finger at the
What you got here, Al! said Bill, coming up the stairs, puffing.
Ain't it a little early for Sunday-school picnics?
This is a school fight in our district, said the colonel. It's
Jennie's baptism of fire, I reckon ... and say, you're not using the
court room, are you?
Nope, said Bill.
Well, why not just slip around, then, said the colonel, and tell
Jennie she'd better adjourn to the big room.
Which suggestion was acted upon instanter by Deputy Bill.
But I can't, I can't, said Jennie to the courteous deputy sheriff.
I don't want all this publicity, and I don't want to go into the court
I hardly see, said Deputy Bill, how you can avoid it. These
people seem to have business with you, and they can't get into your
But they have no business with me, said Jennie. It's mere
Whereupon Wilbur Smythe, who could see no particular point in
restricted publicity, said, Madame County Superintendent, this hearing
certainly is public or quasi-public. Your office is a public one, and
while the right to attend this hearing may not possibly be a universal
one, it surely is one belonging to every citizen and taxpayer of the
county, and if the taxpayer, qua taxpayer, then certainly a
fortiori to the members of the Woodruff school and residents of
Jennie quailed. All right, all right! said she. But, shall I have
to sit on the bench!
You will find it by far the most convenient place, said Deputy
Was this the life to which public office had brought her? Was it for
this that she had bartered her independencefor this and the musty
office, the stupid examination papers, and the interminable visiting of
schools, knowing that such supervision as she could give was
practically worthless? Jim had said to her that he had never heard of
such a thing as a good county superintendent of schools, and she had
thought him queer. And now, here was she, called upon to pass on the
competency of the man who had always been her superior in everything
that constitutes mental ability; and to make the thing more a matter
for the laughter of the gods, she was perched on the judicial bench,
which Deputy Bill had dusted off for her, tipping a wink to the
assemblage while doing it. He expected to be a candidate for sheriff,
one of these days, and was pleasing the crowd. And that crowd! To
Jennie it was appalling. The school board under the lead of Wilbur
Smythe took seats inside the railing which on court days divided the
audience from the lawyers and litigants. Jim Irwin, who had never been
in a court room before, herded with the crowd, obeying the attraction
of sympathy, but to Jennie, seated on the bench, he, like other persons
in the auditorium, was a mere blurry outline with a knob of a head on
She couldn't call the gathering to order. She had no idea as to the
proper procedure. She sat there while the people gathered, stood about
whispering and talking under their breaths, and finally became silent,
all their eyes fixed on her, as she wished that the office of county
superintendent had been abolished in the days of her parents' infancy.
May it please the court, said Wilbur Smythe, standing before the
bar. Or, Madame County Superintendent, I should say ...
A titter ran through the room, and a flush of temper tinted Jennie's
face. They were laughing at her! She wouldn't be a spectacle any
longer! So she rose, and handed down her first and last decision from
the bencha rather good one, I think.
Mr. Smythe, said she, I feel very ill at ease up here, and I'm
going to get down among the people. It's the only way I have of getting
She descended from the bench, shook hands with everybody near her,
and sat down by the attorney's table.
Now, said she, this is no formal proceeding and we will dispense
with red tape. If we don't, I shall get all tangled up in it. Where's
Mr. Irwin? Please come in here, Jim. Now, I know there's some feeling
in these thingsthere always seems to be; but I have none. So I'll
just hear why Mr. Bronson, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Bonner think that Mr.
James E. Irwin isn't competent to hold a certificate.
Jennie was able to smile at them now, and everybody felt more at
ease, save Jim Irwin, the members of the board and Wilbur Smythe. That
individual arose, and talked down at Jennie.
I appear for the proponents here, said he, and I desire to
suggest certain principles of procedure which I take it belong
indisputably to the conduct of this hearing.
Have you a lawyer? asked the county superintendent of the
A what? exclaimed Jim. Nobody here has a lawyer!
Well, what do you call Wilbur Smythe? queried Newton Bronson from
the midst of the crowd.
He ain't lawyer enough to hurt! said the thing which the
dramatists call A Voice.
There was a little tempest of laughter at Wilbur Smythe's expense,
which was quelled by Jennie's rapping on the table. She was beginning
to feel the mouth of the situation.
I have no way of retaining a lawyer, said Jim, on whom the truth
had gradually dawned. If a lawyer is necessary, I am without
protectionbut it never occurred to me ...
There is nothing in the school laws, as I remember them, said
Jennie, giving the parties any right to be represented by counsel. If
there is, Mr. Smythe will please set me right.
She paused for Mr. Smythe's reply.
There is nothing which expressly gives that privilege, said Mr.
Smythe, but the right to the benefit of skilled advisers is a
universal one. It can not be questioned. And in opening this case for
my clients, I desire to call your honor's attention
You may advise your clients all you please, said Jennie, but I'm
not going to waste time in listening to speeches, or having a lot of
lawyers examine witnesses.
I protest, said Mr. Smythe.
Well, you may file your protest in writing, said Jennie. I'm
going to talk this matter over with these old friends and neighbors of
mine. I don't want you dipping into it, I say!
Jennie's voice was rising toward the scream-line, and Mr. Smythe
recognized the hand of fate. One may argue with a cantankerous judge,
but the woman, who like necessity, knows no law, and who is smothering
in a flood of perplexities, is beyond reason. Moreover, Jennie dimly
saw that what she was doing had the approval of the crowd, and it
solved the problem of procedure.
There was a little wrangling, and a little protest from Con Bonner,
but Jennie ruled with a rod of iron, and adhered to her ruling. When
the hearing was resumed after the noon recess, the crowd was larger
than ever, but the proceedings consisted mainly in a conference of the
principals grouped about Jennie at the big lawyers' table. They were
talking about the methods adopted by Jim in his conduct of the Woodruff
schooljust talking. The only new thing was the presence of a couple
of newspaper men, who had queried Chicago papers on the story, and been
given orders for a certain number of words on the case of the farm-hand
schoolmaster on trial before his old sweetheart for certain weird
things he had done in the home school in which they had once been
classmates. The fact that the old school-sweetheart had kicked a lawyer
out of the case was not overlooked by the gentlemen of the fourth
estate. It helped to make it a good story.
By the time at which gathering darkness made it necessary for the
bailiff to light the lamps, the parties had agreed on the facts. Jim
admitted most of the allegations. He had practically ignored the
text-books. He had burned the district fuel and worn out the district
furniture early and late, and on Saturdays. He had introduced domestic
economy and manual training, to some extent, by sending the boys to the
workshops and the girls to the kitchens and sewing-rooms of the farmers
who allowed those privileges. He had used up a great deal of time in
studying farm conditions. He had induced the boys to test the cows of
the district for butter-fat yield. He was studying the matter of a
cooperative creamery. He hoped to have a blacksmith shop on the
schoolhouse grounds sometime, where the boys could learn metal working
by repairing the farm machinery, and shoeing the farm horses. He hoped
to install a cooperative laundry in connection with the creamery. He
hoped to see a building sometime, with an auditorium where the people
would meet often for moving picture shows, lectures and the like, and
he expected that most of the descriptions of foreign lands, industrial
operations, wild animalsin short, everything that people should learn
about by seeing, rather than readingwould be taught the children by
moving pictures accompanied by lectures. He hoped to open to the boys
and girls the wonders of the universe which are touched by the work on
the farm. He hoped to make good and contented farmers of them, able to
get the most out of the soil, to sell what they produced to the best
advantage, and at the same time to keep up the fertility of the soil
itself. And he hoped to teach the girls in such a way that they would
be good and contented farmers' wives. He even had in mind as a part of
the schoolhouse the Woodruff District would one day build, an apartment
in which the mothers of the neighborhood would leave their babies when
they went to town, so that the girls could learn the care of infants.
An' I say, interposed Con Bonner, that we can rest our case right
here. If that ain't the limit, I don't know what is!
Well, said Jennie, do you desire to rest your case right here?
Mr. Bonner made no reply to this, and Jennie turned to Jim.
Now, Mr. Irwin, said she, while you have been following out these
very interesting and original methods, what have you done in the way of
teaching the things called for by the course of study?
What is the course of study? queried Jim. Is it anything more
than an outline of the mental march the pupils are ordered to make?
Take reading: why does it give the children any greater mastery of the
printed page to read about Casabianca on the burning deck, than about
the cause of the firing of corn by hot weather? And how can they be
given better command of language than by writing about things they have
found out in relation to some of the sciences which are laid under
contribution by farming? Everything they do runs into numbers, and we
do more arithmetic than the course requires. There isn't any branch of
studynot even poetry and art and musicthat isn't touched by life.
If there is we haven't time for it in the common schools. We work out
from life to everything in the course of study.
Do you mean to assert, queried Jennie, that while you have been
doing all this work which was never contemplated by those who have made
up the course of study, that you haven't neglected anything?
I mean, said Jim, that I'm willing to stand or fall on an
examination of these children in the very text-books we are accused of
Jennie looked steadily at Jim for a full minute, and at the clock.
It was nearly time for adjournment.
How many pupils of the Woodruff school are here? she asked. All
A mass of the audience, in the midst of which sat Jennie's father,
rose at the request.
Why, said Jennie, I should say we had a quorum, anyhow! How many
will come back to-morrow morning at nine o'clock, and bring your
school-books? Please lift hands.
Nearly every hand went up.
And, Mr. Irwin, she went on, will you have the school records, so
we may be able to ascertain the proper standing of these pupils?
I will, said Jim.
Then, said Jennie, we'll adjourn until nine o'clock. I hope to
see every one here. We'll have school here to-morrow. And, Mr. Irwin,
please remember that you state that you'll stand or fall on the mastery
by these pupils of the text-books they are supposed to have neglected.
Not the mastery of the text, said Jim. But their ability to do
the work the text is supposed to fit them for.
Well, said Jennie, I don't know but that's fair.
But, said Mrs. Haakon Peterson, we don't want our children
brought up to be yust farmers. Suppose we move to townwhere does the
culture come in?
* * * * *
The Chicago papers had a news item which covered the result of the
examinations; but the great sensation of the Woodruff District lay in
the Sunday feature carried by one of them.
It had a picture of Jim Irwin, and one of Jennie Woodruffthe
latter authentic, and the former gleaned from the morgue, and
apparently the portrait of a lumber-jack. There was also a very free
treatment by the cartoonist of Mr. Simms carrying a rifle with the
intention of shooting up the school board in case the decision went
against the schoolmaster.
* * * * *
When it became known, said the news story, that the schoolmaster
had bet his job on the proficiency of his school in studies supposed
and alleged to have been studiously neglected, the excitement rose to
fever heat. Local sports bet freely on the result, the odds being eight
to five on General Proficiency against the field. The field was Jim
Irwin and his school. And the way those rural kids rose in their might
and ate up the text-books was simply scandalous. There was a good deal
of nervousness on the part of some of the small starters, and some
bursts of tears at excusable failures. But when the fight was over, and
the dead and wounded cared for, the school board and the county
superintendent were forced to admit that they wished the average school
could do as well under a similar test.
The local Mr. Dooley is Cornelius Bonner, a member of the 'board.'
When asked for a statement of his views after the county superintendent
had decided that her old sweetheart was to be allowed the priceless
boon of earning forty dollars a month during the remainder of his
contract, Mr. Bonner said, 'Aside from being licked, we're all right.
But we'll get this guy yet, don't fall down and fergit that!'
'The examinations tind to show,' said Mr. Bonner, when asked for
his opinion on the result, 'that in or-r-rder to larn anything you shud
shtudy somethin' ilse. But we'll git this guy yit!'
* * * * *
Jim, said Colonel Woodruff, as they rode home together, the next
heat is the school election. We've got to control that board next
yearand we've got to do it by electing one out of three.
Is that a possibility? asked Jim. Aren't we sure to be defeated
at last? Shouldn't I quit at the end of my contract? All I ever hoped
for was to be allowed to fulfill that. And is it worth the fight?
It's not only possible, replied the colonel, but probable. As for
being worth whilewhy, this thing is too big to drop. I'm just
beginning to understand what you're driving at. And I like being a
wild-eyed reformer more and more.
CHAPTER XIV. THE COLONEL TAKES THE
Every Iowa county has its Farmers' Institute. Usually it is held in
the county seat, and is a gathering of farmers for the ostensible
purpose of listening to improving discussions and addresses both
instructive and entertaining. Really, in most cases, the farmers'
institutes have been occasions for the cultivation of relations between
a few of the exceptional farmers and their city friends and with one
another. Seldom is anything done which leads to any better selling
methods for the farmers, any organization looking to cooperative
effort, or anything else that an agricultural economist from Ireland,
Germany or Denmark would suggest as the sort of action which the
American farmer must take if he is to make the most of his life and
The Woodruff District was interested in the institute however,
because of the fact that a rural-school exhibit was one of its features
that year, and that Colonel Woodruff had secured an urgent invitation
to the school to take part in it.
We've got something new out in our district school, said he to the
president of the institute.
So I hear, said the presidentmostly a fight, isn't it?
Something more, said the colonel. If you'll persuade our school
to make an exhibit of real rural work in a real rural school, I'll
promise you something worth seeing and discussing.
Such exhibits are now so common that it is not worth while for us to
describe it; but then, the sight of a class of children testing and
weighing milk, examining grains for viability and foul seeds, planning
crop rotations, judging grains and live stock was so new in that county
as to be the real sensation of the institute.
Two persons were a good deal embarrassed by the success of the
exhibit. One was the county superintendent, who was constantly in
receipt of undeserved compliments upon her wisdom in fostering really
practical work in the schools. The other was Jim Irwin, who was
becoming famous, and who felt he had done nothing to deserve fame.
Professor Withers, an extension lecturer from Ames, took Jim to dinner
at the best hotel in the town, for the purpose of talking over with him
the needs of the rural schools. Jim was in agony. The colored waiter
fussed about trying to keep Jim in the beaten track of hotel manners,
restored to him the napkin which Jim failed to use, and juggled back
into place the silverware which Jim misappropriated to alien and
unusual uses. But, when the meal had progressed to the stage of
conversation, the waiter noticed that gradually the uncouth farmer
became master of the situation, and the well-groomed college professor
the interested listener.
You've got to come down to our farmers' week next year, and tell us
about these things, said he to Jim. Can't you?
Jim's brain reeled. He go to a gathering of real educators and tell
his crude notions! How could he get the money for his expenses? But he
had that gameness which goes with supreme confidence in the thing dealt
I'll come, said he.
Thank you, said the Ames man, There's a small honorarium
attached, you know.
Jim was staggered. What was an honorarium? He tried to remember what
an honorarium is, and could get no further than the thought that it is
in some way connected with the Latin root of honor. Was he obliged to
pay an honorarium for the chance to speak before the college gathering?
Well, he'd save money and pay it. The professor must be able to
understand that it couldn't be expected that a country school-teacher
would be able to pay much.
II'll try to take care of the honorarium, said he. I'll come.
The professor laughed. It was the first joke the gangling innovator
It won't bother you to take care of it, said he, but if you're
not too extravagant it will pay you your expenses and give you a few
Jim breathed more freely. An honorarium was paid to the person
receiving the honor, then. What a relief!
All right, he exclaimed. I'll be glad to come!
Let's consider that settled, said the professor. And now I must
be going back to the opera-house. My talk on soil sickness comes next.
I tell you, the winter wheat crop has been
But Jim was not able to think much of the winter wheat problem as
they went back to the auditorium. He was worth putting on the program
at a state meeting! He was worth the appreciation of a college
professor, trained to think on the very matters Jim had been so long
mulling over in isolation and blindness! He was actually worth paying
for his thoughts.
Calista Simms thought she saw something shining and saint-like about
the homely face of her teacher as he came to her at her post in the
room in which the school exhibit was held. Calista was in charge of the
little children whose work was to be demonstrated that day, and was in
a state of exaltation to which her starved being had hitherto been a
stranger. Perhaps there was something similar in her condition of
fervent happiness to that of Jim. She, too, was doing something outside
the sordid life of the Simms cabin. She yearned over the children in
her care, and would have been glad to die for themand besides was not
Newton Bronson in charge of the corn exhibit, and a member of the
corn-judging team? To the eyes of the town girls who passed about among
the exhibits, she was poorly dressed; but if they could have seen the
clothes she had worn on that evening when Jim Irwin first called at
their cabin and failed to give a whoop from the big road, they could
perhaps have understood the sense of wellbeing and happiness in
Calista's soul at the feeling of her whole clean underclothes, her
neat, if cheap, dress, and the boughten cloak she woreand any of
them, even without knowledge of this, might have understood Calista's
joy at the knowledge that Newton Bronson's eyes were on her from his
station by the big pillar, no matter how many town girls filed by. For
therein they would have been in a realm of the passions quite universal
in its appeal to the feminine soul.
Hello, Calista! said Jim. How are you enjoying it?
Oh! said Calista, and drew a long, long breath. Ah'm enjoying
myse'f right much, Mr. Jim.
Any of the home folks coming in to see?
Yes, seh, answered Calista. All the school board have stopped by
Jim looked about him. He wished he could see and shake hands with
his enemies, Bronson, Peterson and Bonner: and if he could tell them of
his success with Professor Withers of the State Agricultural College,
perhaps they would feel differently toward him. There they were now,
over in a corner, with their heads together. Perhaps they were agreeing
among themselves that he was right in his school methods, and they
wrong. He went toward them, his face still beaming with that radiance
which had shone so plainly to the eyes of Calista Simms, but they saw
in it only a grin of exultation over his defeat of them at the hearing
before Jennie Woodruff. When Sim had drawn so close as almost to call
for the extended hand, he felt the repulsion of their attitudes and
sheered off on some pretended errand to a dark corner across the room.
They resumed their talk.
I'm a Dimocrat, said Con Bonner, and you fellers is Republicans,
and we've fought each other about who we was to hire for teacher; but
when it comes to electing my successor, I think we shouldn't divide on
The fight about the teacher, said Haakon Peterson, is a t'ing of
the past. All our candidates got odder yobs now.
Yes, said Ezra Bronson. Prue Foster wouldn't take our school now
if she could get it
And as I was sayin', went on Bonner, I want to get this guy, Jim
Irwin. An' bein' the cause of his gittin' the school, I'd like to be on
the board to kick him off; but if you fellers would like to have some
one else, I won't run, and if the right feller is named, I'll line up
what friends I got for him. You got no friend can git as many wotes
as you can, said Peterson. I tank you better run.
What say, Ez? asked Bonner.
Suits me all right, said Bronson. I guess we three have had our
fight out and understand each other.
All right, returned Bonner, I'll take the office again. Let's not
start too soon, but say we begin about a week from Sunday to line up
our friends, to go to the school election and vote kind of
Suits me, said Bronson.
Wery well, said Peterson.
I don't like the way Colonel Woodruff acts, said Bonner. He
rounded up that gang of kids that shot us all to pieces at that
hearing, didn't he?
I tank not, replied Peterson. I tank he was yust interested in
how Yennie managed it.
Looked mighty like he was managin' the demonstration, said Bonner.
What d'ye think, Ez?
Too small a matter for the colonel to monkey with, said Bronson.
I reckon he was just interested in Jennie's dilemmer. It ain't
reasonable that Colonel Woodruff after the p'litical career he's had
would mix up in school district politics.
Well, said Bonner, he seems to take a lot of interest in this
exhibition here. I think we'd better watch the colonel. That decision
of Jennie's might have been because she's stuck on Jim Irwin, or
because she takes a lot of notice of what her father says.
Or she might have thought the decision was right, said Bronson.
Some people do, you know.
Right! scoffed Bonner. In a pig's wrist! I tell you that decision
Vell, said Haakon Peterson, talk of crookedness wit' Yennie
Woodruff don't get wery fur wit' me.
Oh, I don't mean anything bad, Haakon, replied Bonner, but it
wasn't an all-right decision. I think she's stuck on the guy.
The caucus broke up after making sure that the three members of the
school board would be as one man in maintaining a hostile front to Jim
Irwin and his tenure of office. It looked rather like a foregone
conclusion, in a little district wherein there were scarcely
twenty-five votes. The three members of the board with their immediate
friends and dependents could muster two or three ballots eachand who
was there to oppose them? Who wanted to be school director? It was a
post of no profit, little honor and much vexation. And yet, there are
always men to be found who covet such places. Curiously there are
always those who covet them for no ascertainable reason, for often they
are men who have no theory of education to further, and no fondness for
affairs of the intellect. In the Woodruff District, however, the
incumbents saw no candidate in view who could be expected to stand up
against the rather redoubtable Con Bonner. Jim's hold upon his work
seemed fairly secure for the term of his contract, since Jennie had
decided that he was competent; and after that he himself had no plans.
He could not expect to be retained by the men who had so bitterly
attacked him. Perhaps the publicity of his Ames address would get him
another place with a sufficient stipend so that he could support his
mother without the aid of the little garden, the cows and the
fowlsand perhaps he would ask Colonel Woodruff to take him back as a
farm-hand. These thoughts thronged his mind as he stood apart and alone
after his rebuff by the caucusing members of the school board.
I don't see, said a voice over against the cooking exhibit, what
there is in this to set people talking? Buttonholes! Cookies! Humph!
It was Mrs. Bonner who had clearly come to scoff. With her was Mrs.
Bronson, whose attitude was that of a person torn between conflicting
influences. Her husband had indicated to the crafty Bonner and the
subtle Peterson that while he was still loyal to the school board, and
hence perforce opposed to Jim Irwin, and resentful to the decision of
the county superintendent, his adhesion to the institutions of the
Woodruff District as handed down by the fathers was not quite of the
thick-and-thin type. For he had suggested that Jennie might have been
sincere in rendering her decision, and that some people agreed with
her: so Mrs. Bronson, while consorting with the censorious Mrs. Bonner
evinced restiveness when the school and its work was condemned. Was not
her Newton in charge of a part of this show! Had he not taken great
interest in the project? Was he not an open and defiant champion of Jim
Irwin, and a constant and enthusiastic attendant upon, not only his
classes, but a variety of evening and Saturday affairs at which the
children studied arithmetic, grammar, geography, writing and spelling,
by working on cows, pigs, chickens, grains, grasses, soils and weeds?
And had not Newton become a better boya wonderfully better boy? Mrs.
Bronson's heart was filled with resentment that she also could not be
enrolled among Jim Irwin's supporters. And when Mrs. Bonner sneered at
the buttonholes and cookies, Mrs. Bronson, knowing how the little
fingers had puzzled themselves over the one, and young faces had become
floury and red over the other, flared up a little.
And I don't see, said she, anything to laugh at when the young
girls do the best they can to make themselves capable housekeepers. I'd
like to help them. She turned to Mrs. Bonner as if to add If this be
treason, make the most of it! but that lady was far too good a
diplomat to be cornered in the same enclosure with a rupture of
And quite right, too, said she, in the proper place, and at the
proper time. The little things ought to be helped by every real
Of course, repeated Mrs. Bronson.
At home, now, and by their mothers, added Mrs. Bonner.
Well, said Mrs. Bronson, take them Simms girls, now. They have to
have help outside their home if they are ever going to be like other
Yes, agreed Mrs. Bonner, and a lot more help than a farm-hand can
give 'em in school. Pretty poor trash, they, and I shouldn't wonder if
there was a lot we don't know about why they come north.
As for that, replied Mrs. Bronson, I don't know as it's any of my
business so long as they behave themselves.
Again Mrs. Bonner felt the situation getting out of hand, and again
she returned to the task of keeping Mrs. Bronson in alignment with the
forces of accepted Woodruff District conditions.
Ain't it some of our business? she queried. I wonder now! By the
way Newtie keeps his eye on that Simms girl, I shouldn't wonder if it
might turn out your business.
Pshaw! scoffed Mrs. Bronson. Puppy love!
You can't tell how far it'll go, persisted Mrs. Bonner. I tell
you these schools are getting to be nothing more than sparkin' bees,
from the county superintendent down.
Well, maybe, said Mrs. Bronson, but I don't see sparkin' in
everything boys and girls do as quick as some.
I wonder, said Mrs. Bonner, if Colonel Woodruff would be as
friendly to Jim Irwin if he knew that everybody says Jennie decided he
was to keep his certif'kit because she wants him to get along in the
world, so he can marry her?
I don't know as she is so very friendly to him, replied Mrs.
Bronson; and Jim and Jennie are both of age, you know.
Yes, but how about our schools bein' ruined by a love affair?
interrogated Mrs. Bonner, as they moved away. Ain't that your business
Instead of desiring further knowledge of what they were discussing,
Jim felt a dreadful disgust at the whole thing. Disgust at being the
subject of gossip, at the horrible falsity of the picture he had been
able to paint to the people of his objects and his ambitions, and
especially at the desecration of Jennie by such misconstruction of her
attitude toward him officially and personally. Jennie was vexed at him,
and wanted him to resign from his position. He firmly believed that she
was surprised at finding herself convinced that he was entitled to a
decision in the matter of his competency as a teacher. She was against
him, he believed, and as for her being in love with himto hear these
women discuss it was intolerable.
He felt his face redden as at the hearing of some horrible
indecency. He felt himself stripped naked, and he was hotly ashamed
that Jennie should be associated with him in the exposure. And while he
was raging inwardly, paying the penalty of his new-found place in the
public eyea publicity to which he was not yet hardenedhe heard
other voices. Professor Withers, County Superintendent Jennie and
Colonel Woodruff were making an inspection of the rural-school exhibit.
I hear he has been having some trouble with his school board, the
professor was saying.
Yes, said Jennie, he has.
Wasn't there an effort made to remove him from his position? asked
Proceedings before me to revoke his certificate, replied Jennie.
On what grounds?
Incompetency, answered Jennie. I found that his pupils were
really doing very well in the regular course of studywhich he seems
to be neglecting.
I'm glad you supported him, said the professor. I'm glad to find
you helping him. Really, protested Jennie, I don't think myself
What do you think of his notions? asked the colonel.
Very advanced, replied Professor Withers. Where did he imbibe
He's a Brown Mouse, said the colonel.
I beg your pardon, said the puzzled professor. I didn't quite
One of papa's breeding jokes, said Jennie. He means a phenomenon
in heredityperhaps a genius, you know.
Ah, I see, replied the professor, a Mendelian segregation, you
Certainly, said the colonel. The sort of mind that imbibes things
Well, he's rather wonderful, declared the professor. I had him to
lunch to-day. He surprised me. I have invited him to make an address at
Ames next winter during farmers' week.
Jennie's tone showed her astonishment. Jim the underling. Jim the
off ox. Jim the thorn in the county superintendent's side. Jim the
country teacher! It was stupefying.
Oh, you musn't judge him by his looks, said the professor. I
really do hope he'll take some advice on the matter of clothesput on
a cravat and a different shirt and collar when he comes to Amesbut I
have no doubt he will.
He hasn't any other, said the colonel.
Well, it won't signify, if he has the truth to tell us, said the
Has he? asked Jennie.
Miss Woodruff, replied the professor earnestly, he has something
that looks toward truth, and something that we need. Just how far he
will go, just what he will amount to, it is impossible to say. But
something must be done for the rural schoolssomething along the lines
he is trying to follow. He is a struggling soul, and he is worth
helping. You won't make any mistake if you make the most of Mr. Irwin.
Jim slipped out of a side door and fled. As in the case of the
conversation between Mrs. Bronson and Mrs. Bonner, he was unable to
discern the favorable auspices in the showing of adverse things. He had
not sensed Mrs. Bronson's half-concealed friendliness for him, though
it was disagreeably plain to Mrs. Bonner. And now he neglected the
colonel's evident support of him, and Professor Withers' praise, in
Jennie's manifest surprise that old Jim had been accorded the
recognition of a place on a college program, and the professor's
criticism of his dress and general appearance.
It was unjust! What chance had he been given to discover what it was
fashionable to wear, even if he had had the money to buy such clothes
as other young men possessed? He would never go near Ames! He would
stay in the Woodruff District where the people knew him, and some of
them liked him. He would finish his school year, and go back to work on
the farm. He would abandon the struggle.
He started home, on foot as he had come, A mile or so out he was
overtaken by the colonel, driving briskly along with room in his buggy
Climb in, Jim! said he. Dan and Dolly didn't like to see you
They're looking fine, said Jim.
There is a good deal to say whenever two horse lovers get together.
Hoofs and coats and frogs and eyes and teeth and the queer sympathies
between horse and man may sometimes quite take the place of the weather
for an hour or so. But when Jim had alighted at his own door, the
colonel spoke of what had been in his mind all the time.
I saw Bonner and Haakon and Ez doing some caucusing to-day, said
he. They expect to elect Bonner to the board again.
Oh, I suppose so, replied Jim.
Well, what shall we do about it? asked the colonel.
If the people want him began Jim.
The people, said the colonel, must have a choice offered to 'em,
or how can you or any man tell what they want? How can they tell
Jim was silent. Here was a matter on which he really had no ideas
except the broad and general one that truth is mighty and shall
prevailbut that the speed of its forward march is problematical.
I think, said the colonel, that it's up to us to see that the
people have a chance to decide. It's really Bonner against Jim Irwin.
That's rather startling, said Jim, but I suppose it's true. And
much chance Jim Irwin has!
I calculate, rejoined the colonel, that what you need is a
To do what?
To take that office away from Bonner.
Who can do that?
Well, I'm free to say I don't know that any one can, but I'm
willing to try. I think that in about a week I shall pass the word
around that I'd like to serve my country on the school board.
Jim's face lighted upand then darkened.
Even then they'd be two to one, Colonel.
Maybe, replied the colonel, and maybe not. That would have to be
figured on. A cracked log splits easy.
Anyhow, Jim went on, what's the use? I shan't be disturbed this
yearand after thatwhat's the use?
Why, Jim, said the colonel, you aren't getting short of breath
are you? Do I see frost on your boots? I thought you good for the mile,
and you aren't turning out a quarter horse, are you? I don't know what
all it is you want to do, but I don't, believe you can do it in nine
months, can you?
Not in nine years! replied Jim.
Well, then, let's plan for ten years, said the colonel. I ain't
going to become a reformer at my time of life as a temporary job. Will
you stick if we can swing the thing for you?
I will, said Jim, in the manner of a person taking the vows in
some solemn initiation.
All right, said the colonel. We'll keep quiet and see how many
votes we can muster up at the election. How many oan you speak for?
Jim gave himself for a few minutes to thought. It was a new thing to
him, this matter of mustering votesand a thing which he had always
looked upon as rather reprehensible. The citizen should go forth with
no coercion, no persuasion, no suggestion, and vote his sentiments.
How many can you round up? persisted the colonel.
I think, said Jim, that I can speak for myself and Old Man
The colonel laughed.
Fine politician! he repeated. Fine politician! Well, Jim, we may
get beaten in this, but if we are, let's not have them going away
picking their noses and saying they've had no fight. You round up
yourself and Old Man Simms and I'll see what I can doI'll see what I
CHAPTER XV. A MINOR CASTS HALF A
March came in like neither a lion nor a lamb, but was scarcely a
week old before the wild ducks had begun to score the sky above
Bronson's Slew looking for open water and badly-harvested corn-fields.
Wild geese, too, honked from on high as if in wonder that these great
prairies on which their forefathers had been wont fearlessly to alight
had been changed into a disgusting expanse of farms. If geese are
favored with the long lives in which fable bids us believe, some of
these venerable honkers must have seen every vernal and autumnal phase
of the transformation from boundless prairie to boundless corn-land. I
sometimes seem to hear in the bewildering trumpetings of wild geese a
cry of surprise and protest at the ruin of their former paradise.
Colonel Woodruff's hired man, Pete, had no such foolish notions,
however. He stopped Newton Bronson and Raymond Simms as they tramped
across the colonel's pasture, gun in hand, trying to make themselves
believe that the shooting was good.
This ain't no country to hunt in, said he. Did either of you
fellows ever have any real duck-shooting?
The mountings, said Raymond, air poor places for ducks.
Not big enough water, suggested Pete. Some wood-ducks, I
Along the creeks and rivers, yes seh, said Raymond, and sometimes
a flock of wild geese would get lost, and some bewildered, and a man
would shoot one or twofrom the tops of the ridgesbut nothing to
I've never been nowhere, said Newton, except once to
Minnesotaandand that wasn't in the shooting season.
A year ago Newton would have boasted of having bummed his way to
Faribault. His hesitant speech was a proof of the embarrassment his new
respectability sometimes inflicted upon him.
I used to shoot ducks for the market at Spirit Lake, said Pete. I
know Fred Gilbert just as well as I know you. If I'd 'a' kep' on
shooting I could have made my millions as champion wing shot as easy as
he has. He didn't have nothing on me when we was both shooting for a
livin'. But that's all over, now. You've got to go so fur now to get
decent shooting where the farmers won't drive you off, that it costs
nine dollars to send a postcard home.
I think we'll have fine shooting on the slew in a few days, said
Humph! scoffed Pete. I give you my word, if I hadn't promised the
colonel I'd stay with him another year, I'd take a side-door Pullman
for the Sand Hills of Nebraska or the Devil's Lake country
to-morrowif I had a gun.
If it wasn't for a passel of things that keep me hyeh, said
Raymond, I'd like to go too.
The colonel, said Pete, needs me. He needs me in the election
to-morrow. What's the matter of your ol' man, Newt? What for does he
vote for that Bonner, and throw down an old neighbor?
I can't do anything with him! exclaimed Newton irritably. He's
all tangled up with Peterson and Bonner.
Well, said Pete, if he'd just stay at home, it would help some.
If he votes for Bonner, it'll be just about a stand-off.
He never misses a vote! said Newton despairingly.
Can't you cripple him someway? asked Pete jocularly. Darned funny
when a boy o' your age can't control his father's vote! So long!
I wish I could vote! grumbled Newton. I wish I could! We know a lot more about the school, and Jim Irwin bein' a good
teacher than dad doesand we can't vote. Why can't folks vote when
they are interested in an election, and know about the issues. It's
tyranny that you and I can't vote.
I reckon, said Raymond, the conservative, that the old-time
people that fixed it thataway knowed best.
Rats! sneered Newton, the iconoclast. Why, Calista knows more
about the election of school director than dad knows.
That don't seem reasonable, protested Raymond. She's prejudyced,
I reckon, in favor of Mr. Jim Irwin.
Well, dad's prejudiced against him,er, no, he hain't either. He
likes Jim. He's just prejudiced against giving up his old notions. No,
he hain't neitherI guess he's only prejudiced against seeming to give
up some old notions he seemed to have once! And the kids in school
would be prejudiced right, anyhow!
Paw says he'll be on hand prompt, said Raymond. But he had to be
p'swaded right much. Paw's proudand he cain't read.
Sometimes I think the more people read the less sense they've got,
said Newton. I wish I could tie dad up! I wish I could get snakebit,
and make him go for the doctor!
The boys crossed the ridge to the wooded valley in which nestled the
Simms cabin. They found Mrs. Simms greatly exercised in her mind
because young McGeehee had been found playing with some blue vitriol
used by Raymond in his school work on the treatment of seed potatoes
His hands was all blue with it, said she. Do you reckon, Mr.
Newton, that it'll pizen him?
Did he swallow any of it? asked Newton.
Nah! said McGeehee scornfully.
Newton reassured Mrs. Simms, and went away pensive. He was in
rebellion against the strange ways grown men have of discharging their
duties as citizensa rather remarkable thing, and perhaps a proof that
Jim Irwin's methods had already accomplished much in preparing Newton
and Raymond for citizenship. He had shown them the fact that voting
really has some relation to life. At present, however, the new wine in
the old bottles was causing Newton to forget his filial duty, and his
respect for his father. He wished he could lock him up in the barn so
he couldn't go to the school election. He wished he could become
illor poisoned with blue vitriol or somethingso his father would be
obliged to go for a doctor. He wishedwell, why couldn't he get
sick. Mrs. Simms had been about to send for the doctor for Buddy when
he had explained away the apparent necessity. People got dreadfully
scared about poisonNewton mended his pace, and looked happier. He
looked very much as he had done on the day he adjusted the
needle-pointed muzzle to his dog's nose. He looked, in fact, more like
a person filled with deviltry, than one yearning for the right to vote.
I'll fix him! said he to himself.
What time's the election, Ez? asked Mrs. Bronson at breakfast.
I'm goin' at four o'clock, said Ezra. And I don't want to hear
any more from any onelooking at Newtonabout the election. It's
none of the business of the women an' boys.
Newton took this reproof in an unexpectedly submissive spirit. In
fact, he exhibited his very best side to the family that morning, like
one going on a long journey, or about to be married off, or engaged in
some deep dark plot.
I s'pose you're off trampin' the slews at the sight of a flock of
ducks four miles off as usual? stated Mr. Bronson challengingly.
I thought, said Newton, that I'd get a lot of raisin bait ready
for the pocket-gophers in the lower meadow. They'll be throwing up
their mounds by the first of April.
Not them, said Mr. Bronson, somewhat mollified, not before May.
Where'd you get the raisin idee?
We learned it in school, answered Newton. Jim had me study a
bulletin on the control and eradication of pocket-gophers. You use
raisins with strychnine in 'emand it tells how.
Some fool notion, I s'pose, said Mr. Bronson, rising. But go
ahead if you're careful about handlin' the strychnine.
Newton spent the time from twelve-thirty to half after two in
watching the clock; and twenty minutes to three found him seated in the
woodshed with a pen-knife in his hand, a small vial of strychnine
crystals on a stand before him, a saucer of raisins at his right hand,
and one exactly like it, partially filled with gopher baitby which is
meant raisins under the skin of each of which a minute crystal of
strychnine had been inserted on the point of the knife. Newton was
apparently happy and was whistling The Glow-Worm. It was a
lovely scene if one can forget the gopher's point of view.
At three-thirty, Newton went into the house and lay down on the
horsehair sofa, saying to his mother that he felt kind o' funny and
thought he'd lie down a while. At three-forty he heard his father's
voice in the kitchen and knew that his sire was preparing to start for
the scene of battle between Colonel Woodruff and Con Bonner, on the
result of which hinged the future of Jim Irwin and the Woodruff school.
A groan issued from Newton's lipsa gruesome groan as of the
painful death of a person very sensitive to physical suffering. But his
father's voice from the kitchen door betrayed no agitation. He was
scolding the horses as they stood tied to the hitching-post, in tones
that showed no knowledge of his son's distressed moans.
What's the matter?
It was Newton's little sister who asked the question, her facial
expression evincing appreciation of Newton's efforts in the line of
groans, somewhat touched with awe. Even though regarded as a pure
matter of make-believe, such sounds were terrible.
Oh, sister, sister! howled Newton, run and tell 'em that
Fanny disappeared in a manner which expressed her balanced
feelingsshe felt that her brother was making believe, but she
believed for all that, that something awful was the matter. So she went
rather slowly to the kitchen door, and casually remarked that Newton
was dying on the sofa in the sitting-room.
You little fraud! said her father.
Why, Fanny! said her motherand ran into the sitting-roomwhence
in a moment, with a cry that was almost a scream, she summoned her
husband, who responded at the top of his speed.
Newton was groaning and in convulsions. Horrible grimaces contorted
his face, his jaws were set, his arms and legs drawn up, and his
What's the matter? His father's voice was stern as well as full of
anxiety. What's the matter, boy?
Oh! cried Newton. Oh! Oh! Oh!
Newtie, Newtie! cried his mother, where are you in pain? Tell
Oh, groaned Newtie, relaxing, I feel awful!
What you been eating? interrogated his father.
Nothing, replied Newton.
I saw you eatin' dinner, said his father.
Again Newton was convulsed by strong spasms, and again his groans
filled the hearts of his parents with terror.
That's all I've eaten, said he, when his spasms had passed,
except a few raisins. I was putting strychnine in 'em
Oh, heavens! cried his mother. He's poisoned! Drive for the
doctor, Ezra! Drive!
Mr. Bronson forgot all about the electionforgot everything save
antidotes and speed. He leaped toward the door. As he passed out, he
shouted Give him an emetic! He tore the hitching straps from the
posts, jumped into the buggy and headed for the road. Skilfully
avoiding an overturn as he rounded into the highway, he gave the
spirited horses their heads, and fled toward town, carefully computing
the speed the horses could make and still be able to return. Mile after
mile he covered, passing teams, keeping ahead of automobiles and
advertising panic. Just at the town limits, he met the doctor in
Sheriff Dilly's automobile, the sheriff himself at the steering wheel.
Mr. Bronson signaled them to stop, ignoring the fact that they were
making similar signs to him.
We're just starting for your place, said the doctor. Your wife
got me on the phone.
Thank God! replied Bronson. Don't fool any time away on me.
Get in here, Ez, said the sheriff. Doc knows how to drive, and
I'll come on with your team. They need a slow drive to cool 'em off.
Why didn't you phone me? asked the doctor.
Never thought of it, replied Bronson. I hain't had the phone only
a few years. Drive faster!
I want to get there, or I would, answered the doctor. Don't
worry. From what your wife told me over the phone I don't believe the
boy's eaten any more strychnine than I haveand probably not so much.
He was alive, then?
Alive and making an argument against taking the emetic, replied
the doctor. But I guess she got it down him.
I'd hate to lose that boy, Doc!
I don't believe there's any danger. It doesn't sound like a genuine
poisoning case to me.
Thus reassured, Mr. Bronson was calm, even if somewhat tragic in
calmness, when he entered the death chamber with the doctor. Newton was
sitting up, his eyes wet, and his face pale. His mother had won the
argument, and Newton had lost his dinner. Haakon Peterson occupied an
What's all this? asked the doctor. How you feeling, Newt? Any
I'm all right, said Newton. Don't give me any more o' that nasty
No, said the doctor, but if you don't tell me just what you've
been eating, and doing, and pulling off on us, I'll use thisand the
doctor exhibited a huge stomach pump.
What'll you do with that? asked Newton faintly.
I'll put this down into your hold, and unload you, that's what I'll
Is the election over, Mr. Peterson? asked Newton.
Yes, answered Mr. Peterson, and the votes counted.
Who's elected? asked Newton.
Colonel Woodruff, answered Mr. Peterson. The vote was twelve to
Well, dad, said Newton, I s'pose you'll be sore, but the only way
I could see to get in half a vote for Colonel Woodruff was to get
poisoned and send you after the doctor. If you'd gone, it would 'a'
been a tie, anyhow, and probably you'd 'a' persuaded somebody to change
to Bonner. That's what's the matter with me. I killed your vote. Now,
you can do whatever you like to mebut I'm sorry I scared mother.
Ezra Bronson seized Newton by the throat, but his fingers failed to
close. Don't pinch, dad, said Newton. I've been using that neck an'
it's tired. Mr. Bronson dropped his hands to his sides, glared at his
son for a moment and breathed a sigh of relief.
Why, you darned infernal little fool, said he. I've a notion to
take a hamestrap to you! If I'd been there the vote would have been
eleven to thirteen!
There was plenty wotes there for the colonel, if he needed 'em,
said Haakon, whose politician's mind was already fully adjusted to the
changed conditions. Ay tank the Woodruff District will have a
junanimous school board from dis time on once more. Colonel Woodruff is
yust the man we have needed.
I'm with you there, said Bronson. And as for you, young man, if
one or both of them horses is hurt by the run I give them, I'll lick
you within an inch of your lifeHere comes Dilly driving 'em in
nowI guess they're all right. I wouldn't want to drive a good team
to death for any young hoodlum like himAll right, how much do I owe
CHAPTER XVI. THE GLORIOUS FOURTH
A good deal of water ran under the Woodruff District bridges in the
weeks between the school election and the Fourth of July picnic at
Eight-Mile Grove. They were very important weeks to Jim Irwin, though
outwardly uneventful. Great events are often mere imperceptible
developments of the spirit.
Spring, for instance, brought a sort of spiritual crisis to Jim; for
he had to face the accusing glance of the fields as they were plowed
and sown while he lived indoors. As he labored at the tasks of the
Woodruff school he was conscious of a feeling not very easily
distinguished from a sense of guilt. It seemed that there must be
something almost wicked in his failure to be afield with his team in
the early spring mornings when the woolly anemones appeared in their
fur coats, the heralds of the later comersviolets, sweet-williams,
puccoons, and the scarlet prairie lilies.
A moral crisis accompanies the passing of a man from the struggle
with the soil to any occupation, the productiveness of which is not
quite so clear. It requires a keenly sensitive nature to feel conscious
of it, but Jim Irwin possessed such a temperament; and from the
beginning of the daily race with the seasons, which makes the life of a
northern farmer an eight months' Marathon in which to fall behind for a
week is to lose much of the year's reward, the gawky schoolmaster slept
uneasily, and heard the earliest cock-crow as a soldier hears a call to
arms to which he has made up his mind he will not respond.
I think there is a real moral principle involved. I believe that
this deep instinct for labor in and about the soil is a valid one, and
that the gathering together of people in cities has been at the cost of
an obscure but actual moral shock.
I doubt if the people of the cities can ever be at rest in a future
full of moral searchings of conscience until every man has traced
definitely the connection of the work he is doing with the maintenance
of his country's population. Sometimes those vocations whose connection
can not be so traced will be recognized as wicked ones, and people
engaged in them will feel as did Jimuntil he worked out the facts in
the relation of school-teaching to the feeding, clothing and sheltering
of the world. Most school-teaching he believedcorrectly or
incorrectlyhas very little to do with the primary task of the human
race; but as far as his teaching was concerned, even he believed in it.
If by teaching school he could not make a greater contribution to the
productiveness of the Woodruff District than by working in the fields,
he would go back to the fields. Whether he could make his teaching thus
productive or not was the very fact in issue between him and the local
These are some of the waters that ran under the bridges before the
Fourth of July picnic at Eight-Mile Grove. Few surface indications
there were of any change in the little community in this annual
gathering of friends and neighbors. Wilbur Smythe made the annual
address, and was in rather finer fettle than usual as he paid his
fervid tribute to the starry flag, and to this very place as the most
favored spot in the best country of the greatest state in the most
powerful, intellectual, freest and most progressive nation in the best
possible of worlds. Wilbur was going strong. Jim Irwin read the
Declaration rather well, Jennie Woodruff thought, as she sat on the
platform between Deacon Avery, the oldest settler in the district, and
Mrs. Columbus Brown, the sole local representative of the Daughters of
the American Revolution. Colonel Woodruff presided in his Grand Army of
the Republic uniform.
The fresh northwest breeze made free with the oaks, elms, hickories
and box-elders of Eight-Mile Grove, and the waters of Pickerel Creek
glimmered a hundred yards away, beyond the flitting figures of the boys
who preferred to shoot off their own fire-crackers and torpedoes and
nigger-chasers, rather than to listen to those of Wilbur Smythe. Still
farther off could be heard the voice of a lone lemonade vender as he
advertised ice-cold lemonade, made in the shade, with a brand-new
spade, by an old maid, as a guaranty that it was the blamedest, coldest
lemonade ever sold. And under the shadiest trees a few incorrigible
Marthas were spreading the snowy tablecloths on which would soon be
placed the bountiful repasts stored in ponderous wicker baskets and
hampers. It was a lovely day, in a lovely spota good example of the
miniature forests which grew naturally from time immemorial in favored
locations on the Iowa prairieshalf a square mile of woodland, all
about which the green corn-rows stood aslant in the cool breeze,
waist-high and laid by.
They were passing down the rough board steps from the platform after
the exercises had terminated in a rousing rendition of America,
when Jennie Woodruff, having slipped by everybody else to reach him,
tapped Jim Irwin on the arm. He looked back at her over his shoulder
with his slow gentle smile.
Isn't your mother here, Jim? she asked. I've been looking all
over the crowd and can't see her.
She isn't here, answered Jim. I was in hopes that when she broke
loose and went to your Christmas dinner she would stay loosebut she
went home and settled back into her rut.
Too bad, said Jennie. She'd have had a nice time if she had
Yes, said Jim, I believe she would.
I want help, said Jennie. Our hamper is terribly heavy. Please!
It was rather obvious to Mrs. Bonner that Jennie was throwing
herself at Jim's head; but that was an article of the Bonner family
creed since the decision which closed the hearing at the court-house.
It must be admitted that the young county superintendent found tasks
which kept the schoolmaster very close to her side. He carried the
hamper, helped Jennie to spread the cloth on the grass, went with her
to the well for water and cracked ice wherewith to cool it. In fact, he
quite cut Wilbur Smythe out when that gentleman made ponderous efforts
to obtain a share of the favor implied in these permissions.
Sit down, Jim, said Mrs. Woodruff, you've earned a bite of what
we've got. It's good enough, what there is of it, and there's enough of
it, such as it is!
I'm sorry, said Jim, but I've a prior engagement.
Why, Jim! protested Jennie. I've been counting on you. Don't
I'm awfully sorry, said Jim, but I promised. I'll see you later.
One might have thought, judging by the colonel's quizzical smile,
that he was pleased at Jennie's loss of her former swain.
We'll have to invite Jim longer ahead of time, said he. He's
getting to be in demand.
He seemed to be in demanda fact that Jennie confirmed by
observation as she chatted with Deacon Avery, Mrs. Columbus Brown and
her husband, and the Orator of the Day, at the table set apart for the
guests and notables. Jim received a dozen invitations as he passed the
groups seated on the grassone of them from Mrs. Cornelius Bonner, who
saw no particular point in advertising disgruntlement. The children ran
to him and clung to his hands; young girls gave him sisterly smiles and
such trifles as chicken drumsticks, pieces of cake and like tidbits.
His passage to the numerous groups at a square table under a big
burr-oak was quite an ovationan ovation of the significance of which
he was himself quite unaware. The people were just friendly, that was
allto his mind.
But Jenniethe daughter of a politician and a promising one
herselfJennie sensed the fact that Jim Irwin had won something from
the people of the Woodruff District in the way of deference. Still he
was the gangling, Lincolnian, ill-dressed, poverty-stricken Jim Irwin
of old, but Jennie had no longer the feeling that one's standing was
somewhat compromised by association with him. He had begun to put on
something more significant than clothes, something which he had
possessed all the time, but which became valid only as it was publicly
apprehended. There was a slight air of command in his down-sitting and
up-rising at the picnic. He was clearly the central figure of his
group, in which she recognized the Bronsons, those queer children from
Tennessee, the Simmses, the Talcotts, the Hansens, the Hamms and
Colonel Woodruff's hired man, Pete, whose other name is not recorded.
Jim sat down between Bettina Hansen, a flaxen-haired young Brunhilde
of seventeen, and Calista SimmsJennie saw him do it, while listening
to Wilbur Smythe's account of the exacting nature of the big law
practise he was building up,and would have been glad to exchange
places with Calista or Bettina.
The repast drew to a close; and over by the burr-oak the crowd had
grown to a circle surrounding Jim Irwin.
He seems to be making an address, said Wilbur Smythe.
Well, Wilbur, replied the colonel, you had the first shot at us.
Suppose we move over and see what's under discussion.
As they approached the group, they heard Jim Irwin answering
something which Ezra Bronson had said.
You think so, Ezra, said he, and it seems reasonable that big
creameries like those at Omaha, Sioux City, Des Moines and the other
centralizer points can make butter cheaper than we would do herebut
we've the figures that show that they aren't economical.
They can't make good butter, for one thing, said Newton Bronson
Why can't they? asked Olaf Hansen, the father of Bettina.
Well, said Newton, they have to have so much cream that they've
got to ship it so far that it gets rotten on the way, and they have to
renovate it with lime and other ingredients before they can churn it.
Well, said Raymond Simms, I reckon they sell their butter fo' all
it's wuth; an' they cain't get within from foah to seven cents a pound
as much fo' it as the farmers' creameries in Wisconsin and Minnesota
get fo' theirs.
That's a fact, Olaf, said Jim.
How do you kids know so darned much about it? queried Pete.
Huh! sniffed Bettina. We've been reading about it, and writing
letters about it, and figuring percentages on it in school all winter.
We've done arithmetic and geography and grammar and I don't know what
else on it.
Well, I'm agin' any schoolin', said Pete, that makes kids smarter
in farmin' than their parents and their parents' hired men. Gi' me
another swig o' that lemonade, Jim!
You see, said Jim to his audience, meanwhile pouring the lemonade,
the centralizer creamery is uneconomic in several ways. It has to pay
excessive transportation charges. It has to pay excessive commissions
to its cream buyers. It has to accept cream without proper inspection,
and mixes the good with the bad. It makes such long shipments that the
cream spoils in transit and lowers the quality of the butter. It can't
make the best use of the buttermilk. All these losses and leaks the
farmers have to stand. I can proveand so can the six or eight pupils
in the Woodruff school who have been working on the cream question this
winterthat we could make at least six cents a pound on our butter if
we had a cooperative creamery and all sent our cream to it.
Well, said Ezra Bronson, let's start one.
I'll go in, said Olaf Hansen.
Me, too, said Con Bonner.
There was a general chorus of assent. Jim had convinced his
He's got the jury, said Wilbur Smythe to Colonel Woodruff.
Yes, said the colonel, and right here is where he runs into
danger. Can he handle the crowd when it's with him?
Well, said Jim, I think we ought to organize one, but I've
another proposition first. Let's get together and pool our cream. By
that, I mean that we'll all sell to the same creamery, and get the best
we can out of the centralizers by the cooperative method. We can save
two cents a pound in that way, and we'll learn to cooperate. When we
have found just how well we can hang together, we'll be able to take up
the cooperative creamery, with less danger of falling apart and
Who'll handle the pool? inquired Mr. Hansen.
We'll handle it in the school, answered Jim.
School's about done, objected Mr. Bronson.
Won't the cream pool pretty near pay the expenses of running the
school all summer? asked Bonner.
We ought to run the school plant all the time, said Jim. It's the
only way to get full value out of the investment. And we've corn-club
work, pig-club work, poultry work and canning-club work which make it
very desirable to keep in session with only a week's vacation. If
you'll add the cream pool, it will make the school the hardest working
crowd in the district and doing actual farm work, too. I like Mr.
Well, said Haakon Peterson, who had joined the group, Ay tank we
better have a meeting of the board and discuss it.
Well, darn it, said Columbus Brown, I want in on this cream
pooland I live outside the district!
We'll let you in, Clumb, said the colonel.
Sure! said Pete. We hain't no more sense than to let any one in,
Clumb. Come in, the water's fine. We ain't proud!
Well, said Clumb, if this feller is goin' to do school work of
this kind, I want in the district, too.
We'll come to that one of these days, said Jim. The district is
Wilbur Smythe's car stopped at the distant gate and honked for
hima signal which broke up the party. Haakon Peterson passed the word
to the colonel and Mr. Bronson for a board meeting the next evening.
The picnic broke up in a dispersion of staid married couples to their
homes, and young folks in top buggies to dances and displays of
fireworks in the surrounding villages. Jim walked across the fields to
his homeneither old nor young, having neither sweetheart with whom to
dance nor farm to demand labor in its inexorable chores. He turned
after crawling through a wire fence and looked longingly at Jennie as
she was suavely assisted into the car by the frock-coated lawyer.
You saw what he did? said the colonel interrogatively, as he and
his daughter sat on the Woodruff veranda that evening. Who taught him
the supreme wisdom of holding back his troops when they grew too wild
He may lose them, said Jennie.
Not so, said the colonel. Individuals of the Brown Mouse type
always succeed when they find their environment. And I believe Jim has
Well, said Jennie, I wish his environment would find him some
clothes. It's a shame the way he has to go looking. He'd be
nice-appearing if he was dressed anyway.
Would he? queried the colonel. I wonder, now! Well, Jennie, as
his oldest friend having any knowledge of clothes, I think it's up to
you to act as a committee of one on Jim's apparel.
CHAPTER XVII. A TROUBLE SHOOTER
A sudden July storm had drenched the fields and filled the swales
with water. The cultivators left the corn-fields until the next day's
sun and a night of seepage might once more fit the black soil for
tillage. The little boys rolled up their trousers and tramped home from
school with the rich mud squeezing up between their toes, thrilling
with the electricity of clean-washed nature, and the little girls
rather wished they could go barefooted, too, as, indeed, some of the
more sensible did.
A lithe young man with climbers on his legs walked up a telephone
pole by the roadside to make some repairs to the wires, which had been
whipped into a cross by the wind of the storm and the lashing of the
limbs of the roadside trees. He had tied his horse to a post up the
road, and was running out the trouble on the line, which was
plentifully in evidence just then. Wind and lightning had played hob
with the system, and the line repairer was cheerfully profane, in the
manner of his sort, glad by reason of the fire of summer in his veins,
and incensed at the forces of nature which had brought him out through
the mud to the Woodruff District to do these piffling jobs that any of
the subscribers ought to have known how to do themselves, and none of
which took more than a few minutes of his time when he reached the seat
of the difficulty.
Jim Irwin, his school out for the day, came along the muddy road
with two of his pupils, a bare-legged little boy and a tall girl with
flaxen hairBettina Hansen and her small brother Hans, who refused to
answer to any name other than Hans Nilsen. His father's name was Nils
Hansen, and Hans, a born conservative, being the son of Nils, regarded
himself as rightfully a Nilsen, and disliked the Hans Hansen on the
school register. Thus do European customs sometimes survive among us.
Hans strode through the pool of water which the shower had spread
completely over the low turnpike a few rods from the pole on which the
trouble shooter was at work, and the electrician ceased his labors and
rested himself on a cross-arm while he waited to see what the
flaxen-haired girl would do when she came to it.
Jim and Bettina stopped at the water's edge. Oh! cried she, I
can't get through! The trouble shooter felt the impulse to offer his
aid, but thought it best on the whole, to leave the matter in the hands
of the lank schoolmaster.
I'll carry you across, said Jim.
I'm too heavy, answered Bettina.
Nonsense! said Jim.
She's awful heavy, piped Hans. Better take off your shoes,
Jim thought of the welfare of his only good trousers, and saw that
Hans' suggestion was good; but a mental picture of himself with shoes
in hand and bare legs restrained him. He took Bettina in his arms and
went slowly across, walking rather farther with his blushing burden
than was strictly necessary. Bettina was undoubtedly heavy; but she was
also wonderfully pleasant to feel in arms which had never borne such a
burden before; and her arms about his neck as he slopped through the
pond were curiously thrilling. Her cheek brushed his as he set her upon
her feet and felt, rather than thought, that if there had only been a
good reason for it, Bettina would have willingly been carried much
How strong you are! she panted. I'm awful heavy, ain't I?
Not very, said Jim, with scholastic accuracy. You're just right.
II mean, you're simply well-nourished and wholesomely plump!
Bettina blushed still more rosily.
You've ruined your clothes, said she. Now you'll have to come
home with me and let mesee who's there!
Jim looked up at the trouble shooter, and went over to the foot of
the pole. The man walked down, striking his spurs deep into the wood
Hello! said he. School out?
For the day, said Jim. Any important work on the telephone line
Just trouble-shooting, was the answer. I have to spend three
hours hunting these troubles, to one in fixing 'em up.
Do they take much technical skill? asked Jim.
Mostly shakin' out crosses, and puttin' in new carbons in the
arresters, replied the trouble man. Any one ought to do any of 'em
with five minutes' instruction. But these farmersthey'd rather have
me drive ten miles to take a hair-pin from across the binding-posts
than to do it themselves. That's the way they are!
Will you be out here to-morrow? queried the teacher.
I'd like to have you show my class in manual training something
about the telephone, said Jim. The reason we can't fix our own
troubles, if they are as simple as you say, is because we don't know
how simple they are.
I'll tell you what I'll do, Professor, said the trouble man. I'll
bring a phone with me and give 'em a lecture. I don't see how I can
employ the company's time any better than in beating a little telephone
sense into the heads of the community. Set the time, and I'll be there
Bettina and her teacher walked on up the shady lane, feeling that
they had a secret. They were very nearly on a parity as to the
innocence of soul with which they held this secret, except that Bettina
was much more single-minded toward it than Jim. To her he had been
gradually attaining the status of a hero whose clasp of her in that
iron-armed way was mysteriously blissfuland beyond that her mind had
not gone. To Jim, Bettina represented in a very sweet way the
disturbing influences which had recently risen to the threshold of
consciousness in his being, and which were concretely but not very
hopefully embodied in Jennie Woodruff.
Thus interested in each other, they turned the corner which took
them out of sight of the lineman, and stopped at the shady avenue
leading up to Nils Hansen's farmstead. Little Hans Nilsen had
disappeared by the simple method of cutting across lots. Bettina's
girlish instinct called for something more than the casual good-by
which would have sufficed yesterday. She lingered, standing close by
Won't you come in and let me clean the mud off you, she asked,
and give you some dry socks?
Oh, no! replied Jim. It's almost as far to your house as it is
home. Thank you, no.
There's a splash of mud on your face, said Bettina. Let me And
with her little handkerchief she began wiping off the mud. Jim stooped
to permit the attention, but not much, for Bettina was of the mold of
women of whom warriors are borntheir faces approached, and Jim
recognized a crisis in the fact that Bettina's mouth was presented for
a kiss. Jim met the occasion like the gentleman he was. He did not
leave her stung by rejection; neither did he obey the impulse to
respond to the invitation according to his man's instinct; he took the
rosy face between his palms and kissed her foreheadand left her in
possession of her self-respect. After that Bettina Hansen felt,
somehow, that the world could not possibly contain another man like Jim
Irwina conviction which she still cherishes when that respectful
caress has been swept into the cloudy distance of a woman's memories.
Pete, Colonel Woodruff's hired man, was watering the horses at the
trough when the trouble shooter reached the Woodruff telephone. County
Superintendent Jennie had run for her father's home in her little
motor-car in the face of the shower, and was now on the bench where
once she had said Humph! to Jim Irwinand thereby started in motion
the factors in this story.
Anything wrong with your phone? asked the trouble man of Pete.
Nah, replied Pete. It was on the blink till you done something
down the road.
Crossed up, said the lineman. These trees along here are
I'd cut 'em all if they was mine, said Pete, but the colonel set
'em out, along about sixty-six, and I reckon they'll have to go on
Who's your school-teacher? asked the telephone man.
The county superintendent pricked up her earsbeing quite properly
interested in matters educational.
Feller name of Irwin, said Pete.
Not much of a looker, said the trouble shooter.
Nater of the sile, said Pete. He an' I both worked in it together
till it roughened up our complexions.
Farmer, eh? said the lineman interrogatively. Well, he's the
first farmer I ever saw in my life that recognized there's education in
the telephone business. I'm goin' to teach a class in telephony at the
Don't get swelled up, said Pete. He has everybody tell them young
ones about everythingblacksmith, cabinet-maker, pie-founder,
cookie-cooper, dressmakereven down to telephones. He'll have them
scholars figurin' on telephones, and writin' compositions on 'em, and
learnin' 'lectricity from 'em an' things like that
He must be some feller, said the lineman. And who's his star
Didn't know he had one, said Pete. Why?
Girl, said the trouble-shooter. Goes to school from the farm
where the Western Union brace is used at the road.
Nils Hansen's girl? asked Pete.
Toppy little filly, said the lineman, with silver manelooks
like she'd pull a good load and step some.
M'h'm, grunted Pete. Bettina Hansen. Looks well enough. What
Again the county superintendent, seated on the bench, pricked up her
ears that she might learn, mayhap, something of educational interest.
I never wanted to be a school-teacher as bad, continued the
shooter of trouble, as I did when this farmer got to the low place in
the road with the fair Bettina this afternoon when they was comin' home
from school. The water was all over the road
Then I win a smoke from the roadmaster, said Pete. I bet him it
Well, if I was in the professor's place, I'd be glad to pay the
bet, said the worldly lineman. And I'll say this for him, he rose
equal to the emergency and caved the emergency's head in. He carried
her across the pond, and her a-clingin' to his neck in a way to make
your mouth water. She wasn't a bit mad about it, either.
I'd rather have a good cigar any ol' time, said Pete. Nothin' but
a yaller-haired kidan' a Dane at that. I had a dame once up at Spirit
Well, I must be drivin' on, said the lineman. Got to get up a
lecture for Professor Irwin to-morrowand maybe I'll be able to meet
that yaller-haired kid. So long!
The county superintendent recognized at once the educational
importance of the matter, when one of her country teachers adopted the
policy of calling in everybody available who could teach the pupils
anything special, and converting the school into a local Chautauqua
served by local lecturers. She made a run of ten miles to hear the
trouble shooter's lecture. She saw the boys and some of the girls give
an explanation of the telephone and the use of it. She heard the
teacher give as a language exercise the next day an essay on the ethics
and proprieties of eavesdropping on party lines; and she saw the
beginning of an arrangement under which the boys of the Woodruff school
took the contract to look after easily-remedied line troubles in the
neighborhood on the basis which paid for a telephone for the school,
and swelled slightly the fund which Jim was accumulating for general
purposes. Incidentally, she saw how really educational was the work of
the day, and that to which it led.
She had no curiosity to which she would have confessed, about the
relations between Jim Irwin and his star pupil, that young
BrunhildeBettina Hansen; but her official duty required her to
observe the attitude of pupils to teachersBettina among them.
Clearly, Jim was looked upon by the girls, large and small, as a
possession of theirs. They competed for the task of keeping his desk in
order, and of dusting and tidying up the schoolroom. There was
something of exaltation of sentiment in this. Bettina's eyes followed
him about the room in a devotional sort of way; but so, too, did those
of the ten-year-olds. He was loved, that was clear, by Bettina, Calista
Simms and all the restan excellent thing in a school.
All the same, Jennie met Jim rather oftener after the curious
conversation between those rather low fellows, Pete and the trouble
shooter. As autumn approached, and the time came for Jim to begin to
think of his trip to Ames, Colonel Woodruff's hint that she should
assume charge of the problem of Jim's clothes for the occasion, came
more and more often to her mind. Would Jim be able to buy suitable
clothes? Would he understand that he ought not to appear in the costume
which was tolerable in the Woodruff District only because the people
there were accustomed to seeing him dressed like a tramp? Could she
approach the subject with any degree of safety? Really these were
delicate questions; and considering the fact that Jennie had quite
dismissed her old sweetheart from the list of eligibleshad never
actually admitted him to it, in factthey assumed great importance to
her mind. Once, only a little more than a year ago, she had scoffed at
Jim's mention of the fact that he might think of marrying; and now she
could not think of saying to him kindly, Jim, you really must have
some better clothes to wear when you go to Ames! It would have been
far easier last summer.
Somehow, Jim had been acquiring dignity and unapproachability. She
must sidle up to the subject. She did. She took him into her runabout
one day as he was striding toward town in that plowed-ground manner of
his, and gave him a spin over to the fair grounds and two or three
times around the half-mile track.
I'm going to Ames to hear your speech, said she.
I'm glad of that, said Jim. More of the farmers are going from
this neighborhood than ever before. I'll feel at home, if they all sit
together where I can talk at them.
Who's going? asked Jennie.
The Bronsons, Con Bonner and Nils Hansen and Bettina, replied Jim.
That's all from our districtand Columbus Brown and probably others
from near-by localities.
I shall have to have some clothes, said Jennie.
Jim failed to respond to this, as clearly out of his field. They
were passing the county fair buildings, and he began expatiating on the
kind of county fair he would havea great county exposition with the
schools as its central thoughta clearing house for the rural
activities of all the country schools.
And pa's going to have a suit before we go, too, said Jennie.
Here are some samples I got of Atkins, the tailor. Which would be the
most becoming do you think?
Jim looked the samples over carefully, but had little to say as to
their adaptation to Colonel Woodruff's sartorial needs. Jennie laid
great stress on the excellent quality of one or two samples, and
carefully specified the prices of them. Jim exhibited no more than a
languid and polite interest, and gave not the slightest symptom of ever
having considered even remotely the contingency of having a tailor-made
suit. Jennie sidled closer to the subject.
I should think it would be awfully hard for you to get fitted in
the stores, said she, you are so very tall.
It would be, said Jim, if I had ever considered the matter of
looks very much. I guess I'm not constructed on any plan the clothing
manufacturers have regarded as even remotely possible. How about this
county fair idea? Couldn't we do this next fall? You organize the
Jennie advanced the spark, cut out the muffler and drowned the rest
of Jim's remarks in wind and dust.
I give it up, dad, said she to her father that evening.
What? queried the colonel.
Jim Irwin's clothes, she replied. I think he'll go to Ames in a
disgraceful plight, but I can't get any closer to the subject than I
Oh, then you haven't heard the news, said the colonel. Jim's
going to have his first made-to-measure suit for Ames. It's all fixed.
Who's making it? asked Jennie.
Gustaf Paulsen, the Dane that's just opened a shop in town. A
Dane? queried Jennie. Isn't he related to some of the neighbors?
A brother to Mrs. Hansen, answered the colonel.
Ratherly, said the colonel jocularly, seeing as how Bettina's
Mrs. Hansen's daughter.
Clothes are rather important, but the difference between a suit made
by Atkins the tailor, and one built by Gustaf Paulsen, the new Danish
craftsman, could not be supposed to be crucially important, even when
designed for a very dear friend. And Jim was scarcely thatof course
not! Why, then, did the county superintendent hastily run to her room,
and cry? Why did she say to herself that the Hansens were very good
people, and well-to-do, and it would be a fine thing for Jim and his
mother,and then cry some more? Colonel failed to notice Jennie's
unceremonious retirement from circulation that evening, and had he
known all about what took place, he would have been as mystified as you
CHAPTER XVIII. JIM GOES TO AMES
The boat tipped over, and Jim Irwin was left struggling in the
water. It was in the rapids just above the cataractand poor Jim could
not swim a stroke. Helpless, terrified, gasping, he floated to
destruction, and Jennie Woodruff was not able to lift a hand to help
him. To see any human being swept to such an end is dreadful, but for a
county superintendent to witness the drowning of one of her
bestthough sometimes it must be confessed most
insubordinateteachers, under such circumstances, is unspeakable; and
when that teacher is a young man who was once that county
superintendent's sweetheart, and falls in, clothed in a new
made-to-order suit in which he looks almost handsome despite his
manifest discomfort in his new cravat and starched collar, the
experience is something almost impossible to endure. That is why Jennie
gripped her seat until she must have scratched the varnish. That is why
she felt she must go to himand do something. She could not endure it
a moment longer, she felt; and there he floated away, his poor pale
face dipping below the waves, his sad, long, homely countenance sadder
than ever, his lovelyyes, she must confess it now, his eyes were
lovely!his lovely blue eyes, so honest and true, wide with terror;
and she unable to give him so much as a cry of encouragement!
And then Jim began to swim. He cast aside the roll of manuscript
which he had held in his hand when the waters began to rise about him,
and struck out for the shore with strong strokeswild and agitated at
first, but gradually becoming controlled and coordinated, and Jennie
drew a long breath as he finally came to shore, breasting the waves
like Triton, and master of the element in which he moved. There was a
burst of applause, and people went forward to congratulate the
greenhorn who had really made good.
Jennie felt like throwing her arms about his neck and weeping out
her joy at his escape, and his restoration to her. Her eyes told him
something of this; for there was a look in them which reminded him of
fifteen years ago. Bettina Hansen was proud of him, and Con Bonner
shook his hand and said that he agreed with him. Neither Bettina nor
Con had noticed the capsizing of the boat or saw the form of Jim as it
went drifting toward the cataract. But Jim knew how near he had been to
disaster, and knew that Jennie knew. For she had seen him turn pale
when he came on the platform to make his address at the farmers'
meeting at Ames, had seen him begin the speech he had committed to
memory, had observed how unable he was to remember it, had noted his
confusion as he tried to find his manuscript, and then his place of
beginning in itand when his confusion had seemingly quite overcome
him, had seen him begin talking to his audience just as he had talked
to the political meeting that time when he had so deeply offended her,
and had observed how he won first their respect, then their attention,
then apparently their convictions.
To Jennie's agitated mind Jim had barely escaped being drowned in
the ocean of his own unreadiness and confusion under trying conditions.
And she was right. Jim had never felt more the upstart uneducated
farm-hand than when he was introduced to that audience by Professor
Withers, nor more completely disgraced than when he concluded his
remarks. Even the applause was to him a kindly effort on the part of
the audience to comfort him in his failure. His only solace was the
look in Jennie's eyes.
Young man, said an old farmer who wore thick glasses and looked
like a Dutch burgomaster, I want to have a little talk with you.
This is Mr. Hofmyer of Pottawatomie County, said the dean of the
I'm glad to meet you, said Jim. I can talk to you now.
No, said Jennie. I know Mr. Hofmyer will excuse you until after
dinner. We have a little party for Mr. Irwin, and we shall be late if
we don't hurry.
Where can I see you after supper? asked Mr. Hofmyer.
Easy it was to satisfy Mr. Hofmyer; and Jim was carried off to a
dinner given by County Superintendent Jennie to Jim, the dean,
Professor Withers, and one or two othersand a wonderfully select and
distinguished company it seemed to Jim. Jennie seized a moment's
opportunity to say, You did beautifully, Jim; everybody says so.
I failed! said. Jim. You know I failed. I couldn't remember my
speech. I can't stay here feasting. I want to get out in the snow.
You made the best address of the meeting; and you did it because
you forgot your speech, insisted Jennie.
Does anybody else think so?
Why, Jim! You must learn to believe in what you have done. Even Con
Bonner says it was the best. He says he didn't think you had it in ye!
This advice from her to believe in what you have done,wasn't
there something new in Jennie's attitude here? Wasn't his belief in
what he was doing precisely the thing which had made him such a
nuisance to the county superintendent? However, Jim couldn't stop to
answer the question which popped up in his mind.
What does Professor Withers say? he asked.
Silly! How wonderful it was to be called sillyin that tone.
I shouldn't have forgotten the speech if it hadn't been for this
darned boiled shirt and collar, and for wearing a cravat, urged Jim in
You ought to 've worn them around the house for a week before
coming, said Jennie. Why didn't you ask my advice?
I will, next time, Jennie, said Jim. I didn't suppose I needed a
bitting-rigbut I guess I did!
Jennie ran away then to ask Nils Hansen and Bettina to join their
dinner party. She had a sudden access of friendliness for the Hansens.
Nils refused because he was going out to see the college herds fed; but
at Jennie's urgent request, reinforced by pats and hugs, Bettina
consented. Jennie was very happy, and proved herself a beaming hostess.
The dean devoted himself to Bettinaand Jim found out afterward that
this inquiring gentleman was getting at the mental processes of a
specimen pupil in one of the new kind of rural schools, in which he was
only half inclined to believe. He thanked Jim for his speech, and said
it was most suggestive and thought-provoking, and as the party broke
up slipped into Jim's hand a check for the honorarium. It was not until
then that Jim felt quite sure that he was actually to be paid for his
speech; and he felt a good deal like returning the check to the
conscience fund of the State of Iowa, if it by any chance possessed
such a fund. But the breach made in his financial entrenchments by the
expenses of the trip and the respectable and well-fitting suit of
clothes overcame his feeling of getting something for nothing. If he
hadn't given the state anything, he had at least expended somethinga
good deal in facton the state's account.
CHAPTER XIX. JIM'S WORLD WIDENS
Mr. Hofmyer was waiting to give Jim the final convincing proof that
he had produced an effect with his speech.
Do you teach the kind of school you lay out in your talk? he
I try to, said Jim, and I believe I do.
Well, said Mr. Hofmyer, that's the kind of education I b'lieve
in. I kep' school back in Pennsylvany fifty years ago, and I made the
scholars measure things, and weigh things, and apply their studies as
fur as I could.
All good teachers have always done that, said Jim. Froebel,
Pestalozzi, Colonel Parkerthey all had the idea which is at the
bottom of my work; 'learn to do by doing,' and connecting up the school
M'h'm, grunted Mr. Hofmyer, I hain't been able to see how Latin
connects up with a high-school kid's lifeunless he can find a Latin
settlement som'eres and git a job clerkin' in a store.
But it used to relate to life, said Jim, the life of the people
who made Greek and Latin a part of everybody else's education as well
as their own. Latin and Greek were the only languages in which anything
worth much was written, you know. But nowJim spread out his arms as
if to take in the whole worldscience, the marvelous literature of
our tongue in the last three centuries! And to make a child learn Latin
with all that, a thousand times richer than all the literature of
Latin, lying unused before him!
Know any Latin? asked Mr. Hofmyer.
Jim blushed, as one caught in condemning what he knows nothing
II have studied the grammar, and read Cæsar, he faltered,
but that isn't much. I had no teacher, and I had to work pretty hard,
and it didn't go very well.
I've had all the Latin they gave in the colleges of my time, said
Mr. Hofmyer, if I do talk dialect; and I'll agree with you so far as
to say that it would have been a crime for me to neglect the chemistry,
bacteriology, physics, engineering and other sciences that pertain to
farmin'if there'd been any such sciences when I was gettin' my
And yet, said Jim, some people want us to guide ourselves by the
courses of study made before these sciences existed.
I don't, by hokey! said Mr. Hofmyer. I'll be dag-goned if you
ain't right. I wouldn't 'a' said so before I heard that speechbut I
say so now.
Jim's face lighted up at this, the first convincing evidence that he
I b'lieve, too, went on Mr. Hofmyer, that your idee would please
our folks. I've been the stand-patter in our partsmostly on English
andsay German. What d'ye say to comin' down and teachin' our school?
We've got a two-room affair, and I was made a committee of one to find
II don't see how Jim stammered, all taken aback by this new
breeze of recognition.
We can't pay much, said Mr. Hofmyer. You have charge of the dis-
cip-line in the whole school, and teach in Number Two room.
Seventy-five dollars a month. Does it appeal to ye?
Appeal to him! Why, eighteen months ago it would have been worth
crawling across the state after, and now to have it offered to himit
was stupendous. And yet, how about the Simmses, Colonel Woodruff, the
Hansens and Newton Bronson, now just getting a firm start on the upward
path to usefulness and real happiness? How could he leave the little,
crude, puny structure on which he had been workingon which he had
been merely practisingfor a year, and remove to the new field? Jim
was in exactly the same situation in which every able young minister of
the gospel finds himself sooner or later. The Lord was calling to a
broader fieldbut how could he be sure it was the Lord?
I'm afraid I can't, said Jim Irwin, but
If you're only 'fraid you can't, said Mr. Hofmyer, think it over.
I've got your post-office address on this program, and we'll write you
a formal offer. We may spring them figures a little. Think it over.
You mustn't think, said Jim, that we've done all the
things I mentioned in my talk, or that I haven't made any mistakes or
Your county superintendent didn't mention any failures, said Mr.
Did you talk with her about my work? inquired Jim, suddenly very
Then I don't see why you want me, Jim went on.
Why? asked Mr. Hofmyer.
I had not supposed, said Jim, that she had a very high opinion of
I didn't ask her about that, said Mr. Hofmyer, though I guess she
thinks well of it. I asked her what you are tryin' to do, and what sort
of a fellow you are. I was favorably impressed; but she didn't mention
We haven't succeeded in adopting a successful system of selling our
cream, said Jim. I believe we can do it, but we haven't.
Wal, said Mr. Hofmyer, I d'know as I'd call that a failure. The
fact that you're tryin' of it shows you've got the right idees. We'll
write ye, and mebbe pay your way down to look us over. We're a pretty
good crowd, the neighbors think.
CHAPTER XX. THINK OF IT
Ames was an inspiration. Jim Irwin received from the great
agricultural college more real education in this one trip than many
students get from a four years' course in its halls; for he had spent
ten years in getting ready for the experience. The great farm of
hundreds of acres, all under the management of experts, the beautiful
campus, the commodious classrooms and laboratories, and especially the
barns, the greenhouses, gardens, herds and flocks filled him with a
sort of apostolic joy.
Every school, said he to Professor Withers, ought to be doing a
good deal of the work you have to do here.
I'll admit, said the professor, that much of our work in
agriculture is pretty elementary.
It's intermediate school work, said Jim. It's a wrong to force
boys and girls to leave their homes and live in a college to get so
much of what they should have before they're ten years old.
There's something in what you say, said the professor, but some
experiment station men seem to think that agriculture in the common
schools will take from the young men and women the felt need, and
therefore the desire to come to the college.
If you can't give them anything better than high-school work, said
Jim, that will be so; but if the science and art of agriculture is
what I think it is, it would make them hungry for the advanced work
that really can't be done at home. To make the children wait until
they're twenty is to deny them more than half what the college ought to
give themand make them pay for what they don't get.
I think you're right, said the professor.
Give us the kind of schools I ask for, cried Jim, and I'll fill a
college like this in every congressional district in Iowa, or I'll
force you to tear this down and build larger.
The professor laughed at his enthusiasm.
More nearly happy, and rather shorter of money than he had recently
been, Jim journeyed home among the companions from his own
neighborhood, in a frenzy of plans for the future. Mr. Hofmyer had
dropped from his mind, until Con Bonner, his old enemy, drew him aside
in the vestibule of the train and spoke to him in the mysterious manner
peculiar to politicians.
What kind of a proposition did that man Hofmeister make you? he
inquired. He asked me about you, and I told him you're a crackerjack.
I'm much obliged, replied Jim.
No use in back-cappin' a fellow that's tryin' to make somethin' of
himself, said Bonner. That ain't good politics, nor good sense.
Anything to him?
He offered me a salary of seventy-five dollars a month to take
charge of his school, said Jim.
Well, said Con, we'll be sorry to lose yeh, but you can't turn
down anything like that.
I don't know, said Jim. I haven't decided.
Bonner scrutinized his face sharply, as if to find out what sort of
game he was playing.
Well, said he, at last, I hope you can stay with us, o' course.
I'm licked, and I never squeal. If the rist of the district can stand
your kind of thricks, I can. And say, Jimhere he grew still more
mysteriousif you do stay, some of us would like to have you be
enough of a Dimmycrat to go into the next con'vintion f'r county
Why, replied Jim, I never thought of such a thing!
Well, think of it, said Con. The county's close, and wid a
pop'lar young educatoran' a farmer, too, it might be done. Think of
It must be confessed that Jim was almost dazed at the number of
propositions of which he was now required to thinkand that
Bonner's did not at first impress him as having anything back of it but
blarney. He was to find out later, however, that the wily Con had made
up his mind that the ambition of Jim to serve the rural schools in a
larger sphere might be used for the purpose of bringing to earth what
he regarded as the soaring political ambitions of the Woodruff family.
To defeat the colonel in the defeat of his daughter when running for
her traditionally-granted second term; to get Jim Irwin out of the
Woodruff District by kicking him up-stairs into a county office; to
split the forces which had defeated Mr. Bonner in his own school
district; and to do these things with the very instrument used by the
colonel on that sad but glorious day of the last school
electionthese, to Mr. Bonner, would be diabolically fine things to
dothings worthy of those Tammany politicians who from afar off had
won his admiration.
Jim had scarcely taken his seat in the car, facing Jennie Woodruff
and Bettina Hansen in the Pullman, when Columbus Brown, pathmaster of
the road district and only across the way from residence in the school
district, came down the aisle and called Jim to the smoking-room.
Did an old fellow named Hoffman from Pottawatomie County ask you to
leave us and take his school? he asked.
Mr. Hofmyer, said Jim, yes, he did.
Well, said Columbus, I don't want to ask you to stand in your own
light, but I hope you won't let him toll you off there among strangers.
We're proud of you, Jim, and we don't want to lose you.
Proud of him! Sweet music to the underling's ears! Jim blushed and
The fact is, said Columbus, I know that Woodruff District job
hain't big enough for you any more; but we can make it bigger. If
you'll stay, I believe we can pull off a deal to consolidate some of
them districts, and make you boss of the whole shooting match.
I appreciate this, Clumb, said Jim, but I don't believe you can
Well, think of it, said Columbus. And don't do anything till you
talk with me and a few of the rest of the boys.
Think of it again!
A fine home-coming it was for Jim, with the colonel waiting at the
station with a double sleigh, and the chance to ride into the snowy
country in the same seat with Jenniea chance which was blighted by
the colonel's placing of Jennie, Bettina and Nils Hansen in the broad
rear seat, and Jim in front with himself. A fine ride, just the same,
over fine roads, and past fine farmsteads snuggled into their
rectangular wrappages of trees set out in the old pioneer days. The
colonel would not allow him to get out and walk when he could really
have reached home more quickly by doing so; no, he set the Hansens down
at their door, took Jennie home, and then drove the lightened sleigh
merrily to the humble cabin of the rather excited young schoolmaster.
Did you make any deal with those people down in the western part of
the state? asked the colonel. Jennie wrote me that you've got an
No, said Jim, and he told the colonel about the proposal of Mr.
Well, said the colonel, in my capacity of wild-eyed reformer,
I've made up my mind that the first four miles in the trip is to make
the rural teacher's job a bigger job. It's got to be a man's size,
woman's size job, or we can't get real men and real women to stay in
I think that's a statesmanlike formulation of it, said Jim.
Well, said the colonel, don't turn down the Pottawatomie County
job until we have a chance to see what we can do. I'll get some kind of
a meeting together, and what I want you to do is to use this offer as a
club over this helpless school district. What we need is to be held up.
Do the Jesse James act, Jim!
I can't, Colonel!
Yes, you can, too. Will you try it?
I want to treat everybody fairly, said Jim, including Mr.
Hofmyer. I don't know what to do, hardly.
Well, I'll get the meeting together, said the colonel, and in the
meantime, think of what I've said.
Another thing to think of! Jim rushed into the house and surprised
his mother, who had expected him to arrive after a slow walk from town
through the snow. Jim caught her in his arms, from which she was
released a moment later, quite flustered and blushing.
Why, James, said she, you seem excited. What's happened?
Nothing, mother, he replied, except that I believe there's just a
possibility of my being a success in the world!
My boy, my boy! said she, laying her hand on his arm, if you were
to die to-night, you'd die the greatest success any boy ever wasif
your mother is any judge.
Jim kissed her, and went up to his attic to change his clothes.
Inside the waistcoat was a worn envelope, which he carefully opened,
and took from it a letter much creased from many foldings. It was the
old letter from Jennie, written when the comical mistake had been made
of making him the teacher of the Woodruff school. It still contained
her rather fussy cautions about being too original, and the sage
statement that the wheel runs easiest in the beaten track. It was
written before the vexation and trouble he had caused her; but he did
not read the advice, nor think of the coolness which had come between
themhe read only the sentence in which Jennie had told of her
father's interest in Jim's success, ending with the underscored words,
I'm for you, too.
I wonder, said Jim, as he went out to do the evening's tasks, I
wonder if she is for me!
CHAPTER XXI. A SCHOOL DISTRICT HELD
Young McGeehee Simms was loitering along the snowy way to the
schoolhouse bearing a brightly scoured tin pail two-thirds full of
water. He had been allowed to act as Water Superintendent of the
Woodruff School as a reward of meritsaid merit being an essay on
which he received credit in both language and geography on Harvesting
Wheat in the Tennessee Mountains. This had been of vast interest to
the school in view of the fact that the Simmses were the only pupils in
the school who had ever seen in use that supposedly-obsolete harvesting
implement, the cradle. Buddy's essay had been passed over to the class
in United States history as the evidence of an eye-witness concerning
farming conditions in our grandfathers' times.
The surnameless Pete, Colonel Woodruff's hired man, halted Buddy at
Mr. Simms, I believe? he said.
I reckon you must be lookin' for my brother, Raymond, suh, said
I am a-lookin', said Pete impressively, for Mr. McGeehee Simms.
That's me, said Buddy; but I hain't been doin' nothin' wrong,
I have a message here, said Pete, for Professor James E. Irwin.
He's what-ho within, there, ain't he?
He's inside, I reckon, said Buddy.
Then will you be so kind and condescendin' as to stoop so low as to
jump so high as to give him this letter? asked Pete.
Buddy took the letter and was considering of his reply to this
remarkable speech, when Pete, gravely saluting, passed on, rather
congratulating himself on having staged a very good burlesque of the
dignified manners of those queer mountaineers, the Simmses.
Please come to the meeting to-night, ran the colonel's note to
and when you come, come prepared to hold the district up. If we
can't meet the Pottawatomie County standard of wages, we ought to
lose you. Everybody in the district will be there. Come late, so
won't hear yourself talked aboutI should recommend nine-thirty
It was a crisis, no doubt of that; and the responsibility of the
situation rather sickened Jim of the task of teaching. How could he
impose conditions on the whole school district? How could the colonel
expect such a thing of him? And how could any one look for anything but
scorn for the upstart field-hand from these men who had for so many
years made him the butt of their good-natured but none the less
contemptuous ridicule? Who was he, anyway, to lay down rules for these
substantial and successful menhe who had been for all the years of
his life at their command, subservient to their demands for
labortheir underling? Only one thing kept him from dodging the whole
issue and remaining at homethe colonel's matter-of-fact assumption
that Jim had become master of the situation. How could he flee, when
this old soldier was fighting so valiantly for him in the trenches? So
Jim went to the meeting.
The season was nearing spring, and it was a mild thawy night. The
windows of the schoolhouse were filled with heads, evidencing the
presence of a crowd of almost unprecedented size, and the sashes had
been thrown up for ventilation and coolness. As Jim climbed the back
fence of the school-yard, he heard a burst of applause, from which he
judged that some speaker had just finished his remarks. There was
silence when he came alongside the window at the right of the
chairman's desk, a silence broken by the voice of Old Man Simms, saying
The chair, said the voice of Ezra Bronson, recognizes Mr. Simms.
Jim halted in indecision. He was not expected while the debate was
in progress, and therefore regarded himself at this time as somewhat
de trop. There is no rule of manners or morals, however, forbidding
eavesdropping during the proceedings of a public meetingand anyhow,
he felt rather shiveringly curious about these deliberations. Therefore
he listened to the first and last public speech of Old Man Simms.
Ah ain't no speaker, said Old Man Simms, but Ah cain't set here
and be quiet an' go home an' face my ole woman an' my boys an' gyuhls
withouten sayin' a word fo' the best friend any family evah had, Mr.
Jim Irwin. (Applause.) Ah owe it to him that Ah've got the right to
speak in this meetin' at all. Gentlemen, we-all owe everything to Mr.
Jim Irwin! Maybe Ah'll be thought forrard to speak hyah, bein' as Ah
ain't no learnin' an' some may think Ah don't pay no taxes; but it will
be overlooked, I reckon, seein' as how we've took the Blanchard farm, a
hundred an' sixty acres, for five yeahs, an' move in a week from
Sat'day. We pay taxes in our rent, Ah reckon, an' howsomever that may
be, Ah've come to feel that you-all won't think hard of me if Ah speak
what we-uns feel so strong about Mr. Jim Irwin?
Old Man Simms finished this exordium with the rising inflection,
which denoted a direct question as to his status in the meeting. Go
on! You've got as good a right as any one! You're all right, old
man! Such exclamations as these came to Jim's ears with scarcely less
gratefulness than to those of Old Man Simmswho stammered and went on.
Ah thank you-all kindly. Gentlemen an' ladies, when Mr. Jim Irwin
found us, we was scandalous pore, an' we was wuss'n porewe was
low-down. (Cries of NoNo!) Yes, we was, becuz what's respectable
in the mountings is one thing, whar all the folks is pore, but when a
man gets in a new place, he's got to lift himse'f up to what folks does
where he's come to, or he'll fall to the bottom of what there is in
that there communityan' maybe he'll make a place fer himse'f lower'n
anybody else. In the mountings we was good people, becuz we done the
best we could an' the best any one done; but hyah, we was low-down
people becuz we hated the people that had mo' learnin', mo' land, mo'
money, an' mo' friends than what we had. My little gyuhls wasn't
respectable in their clothes. My childern was igernant, an' triflin',
but I was the most triflin' of all. Ah'll leave it to Colonel Woodruff
if I was good fer a plug of terbacker, or a bakin' of flour at any sto'
in the county. Was I, Colonel? Wasn't I perfectly wuthless an'
There was a ripple of laughter, in the midst of which the colonel's
voice was heard saying, I guess you were, Mr. Simms, I guess you were,
Thankee, said Old Man Simms, as if the colonel had given a really
valuable testimonial to his character. I sho' was! Thankee kindly!
An'now, what am I good fer? Cain't I get anything I want at the stores?
Cain't I git a little money at the bank, if I got to have it?
You're just as good as any man in the district, said the colonel.
You don't ask for more than you can pay, and you can get all you ask.
Thankee, said Mr. Simms gravely. What Ah tell you-all is right,
ladies and gentlemen. An' what has made the change in we-uns, ladies
and gentlemen? It's the wuk of Mr. Jim Irwin with my boy Raymond, the
best boy any man evah hed, and my gyuhl, Calista, an' Buddy, an'
Jinnie, an' with me an' my ole woman. He showed us how to get a
toe-holt into this new kentry. He teached the children what orto be did
by a rentin' farmer in Ioway. He done lifted us up, an' made people of
us. He done showed us that you-all is good people, an' not what we
thought you was. Outen what he learned in school, my boy Raymond an' me
made as good crops as we could last summer, an' done right much wuk
outside. We got the name of bein' good farmers an' good wukkers, an'
when Mr. Blanchard moved to town, he said he was glad to give us his
fine farm for five years. Now, see what Mr. Jim Irwin has done for a
pack o' outlaws and outcasts. Instid o' hidin' out from the Hobdays
that was lay-wayin' us in the mountings, we'll be livin' in a house
with two chimleys an' a swimmin' tub made outen crock'ryware. We'll be
in debt a whole lotan' we owe it to Mr. Jim Irwin that we got the
credit to git in debt with, an' the courage to go on and git out agin!
(Applause.) Ah could affo'd to pay Mr. Jim Irwin's salary mysr'f, if
Ah could. An' there's enough men hyah to-night that say they've been
money-he'ped by his teachin' the school to make up mo' than his wages.
Let's not let Mr. Jim Irwin go, neighbors! Let's not let him go!
Jim's heart sank. Surely the case was desperate which could call
forth such a forlorn-hope charge as that of Old Man Simmsa
performance on Mr. Simms' part which warmed Jim's soul. There isn't a
man in that meeting, said he to himself, as he walked to the
schoolhouse door, possessed of the greatness of spirit of Old Man
Simms. If he's a fair sample of the people of the mountains, they are
of the stuff of which great nations are madeif they only are given a
Colonel Woodruff was on his feet as Jim made his way through the
crowd about the door.
Mr. Irwin is here, ladies and gentlemen, said he, and I move that
we hear from him as to what we can do to meet the offer of our friends
in Pottawatomie County, who have heard of his good work, and want him
to work for them; but before I yield the floor, I want to say that this
meeting has been worth while just to have been the occasion of our all
becoming better acquainted with our friend and neighbor, Mr. Simms.
Whatever may have been the lack of understanding, on our part, of his
qualities, they were all cleared up by that speech of histhe best I
have ever heard in this neighborhood.
More applause, in the midst of which Old Man Simms slunk away down
in his seat to escape observation. Then the chairman said that if there
was no objection they would hear from their well-known citizen, whose
growing fame was more remarkable for the fact that it had been gained
as a country schoolmasterhe need not add that he referred to Mr.
James E. Irwin. More and louder applause.
Friends and neighbors, said Jim, you ask me to say to you what I
want you to do. I want you to do what you want to donothing more nor
less. Last year I was glad to be tolerated here; and the only change in
the situation lies in the fact that I have another place offered
meunless there has been a change in your feelings toward me and my
work. I hope there has been; for I know my work is good now, whereas I
only believed it then.
Sure it is! shouted Con Bonner from a front seat, thus signalizing
that astute wire-puller's definite choice of a place in the bandwagon.
Tell us what you want, Jim!
What do I want? asked Jim. More than anything else, I want such
meetings as thisoftenand a place to hold them. If I stay in the
Woodruff District, I want this meeting to effect a permanent
organization to work with me. I can't teach this district anything.
Nobody can teach any one anything. All any teacher can do is to direct
people's activities in teaching themselves. You are gathered here to
decide what you'll do about the small matter of keeping me at work as
your hired man. You can't make any legal decision here, but whatever
this meeting decides will be law, just the same, because a majority of
the people of the district are here. Such a meeting as this can decide
almost anything. If I'm to be your hired man, I want a boss in the
shape of a civic organization which will take in every man and woman in
the district. Here's the place and now's the time to make that
organizationan organization the object of which shall be to put the
whole district at school, and to boss me in my work for the whole
Dat sounds good, cried Haakon Peterson. Ve'll do dat!
Then I want you to work out a building scheme for the school, Jim
went on. We want a place where the girls can learn to cook, keep
house, take care of babies, sew and learn to be wives and mothers. We
want a place in which Mrs. Hansen can come to show them how to cure
meatshe's the best hand at that in the countywhere Mrs. Bonner can
teach them to make bread and pastryshe ought to be given a doctor's
degree for thatwhere Mrs. Woodruff can teach them the cooking of
turkeys, Mrs. Peterson the way to give the family a balanced ration,
and Mrs. Simms induct them into the mysteries of weaving rag rugs and
making jellies and preservesyou can all learn these things from her.
There's somebody right in this neighborhood able to teach anything the
young people want to learn.
And I want a physician here once in a while to examine the children
as to their health, and a dentist to look after their teeth and teach
them how to care for them. Also an oculist to examine their eyes. And
when Bettina Hansen comes home from the hospital a trained nurse, I
want her to have a job as visiting nurse right here in the Woodruff
I want a counting-room for the keeping of the farm accounts and the
record of our observation in farming. I want cooperation in letting us
have these accounts.
I want some manual training equipment for wood-working and metal
working, and a blacksmith and wagon shop, in which the boys may learn
to shoe horses, repair tools, design buildings, and practise the best
agricultural engineering. So I want a blacksmith and handyman with
tools regularly on the joband he'll more than pay his way. I want
some land for actual farming. I want to do work in poultry according to
the most modern breeding discoveries, and I want your cooperation in
that, and a poultry plant somewhere in the district.
I want a laboratory in which we can work on seeds, pests, soils,
feeds and the like. For the education of your children must come out of
I want these things because they are necessary if we are to get the
culture out of life we should getand nobody gets culture out of any
sort of schoolthey get it out of life, or they don't get it at all.
So I want you to build as freely for your school as for your cattle
and horses and hogs.
The school I ask for will make each of you more money than the
taxes it will require would make if invested in your farm equipment. If
you are not convinced of this, don't bother with me any longer. But the
money the school will make for youthis new kind of rural schoolwill
be as nothing to the social life which will grow upa social life
which will make necessary an assembly-room, which will be the social
center, because it will be the educational center, and the business
center of the countryside.
I want all these things, and more. But I don't expect them all at
once. I know that this district is too small to do all of them, and
therefore, I am going to tell you of another want which will tempt you
to think that I am crazy. I want a bigger districtone that will give
us the financial strength to carry out the program I have sketched.
This may be a presumptuous thing for me to propose; but the whole
situation here to-night is presumptuous on my part, I fear. If you
think so, let me go; but if you don't, please keep this meeting
together in a permanent organization of grown-up members of the
Woodruff school, and by pulling together, you can do these thingsall
of themand many moreand you'll make the Woodruff District a good
place to live in and die inand I shall be proud to live and die in it
at your service, as the neighborhood's hired man!
As Jim sat down there was a hush in the crowded room, as if the
people were dazed at his assurance. There was no applause, until Jennie
Woodruff, now seen by Jim for the first time over next the blackboard,
clapped her gloved hands together and started it; then it swept out
through the windows in a storm. The dust rose from stamping feet until
the kerosene lamps were dimmed by it. And as the noise subsided, Jim
saw standing out in front the stooped form of B. B. Hamm, one of the
most prosperous men in the district.
Mr. ChairmanEzra Bronson, he roared, this feller's crazy, an'
from the sound of things, you're all as crazy as he is. If this fool
scheme of his goes through, my farm's for sale! I'll quit before I'm
sold out for taxes!
Just a minute, B. B.! interposed Colonel Woodruff. This ain't as
dangerous as you think. You don't want us to do all this in fifteen
minutes, do you, Jim?
Oh, as to that, replied Jim, I just wanted you to have in your
minds what I have in my mindand unless we can agree to work toward
these things there's no use in my staying. But timethat's another
matter. Believe with me, and I'll work with you.
Get out of here! said the colonel to Jim in an undertone, and
leave the rest to your friends.
Jim walked out of the room and took the way toward his home. A horse
tied to the hitching-pole had his blanket under foot, and Jim replaced
it on his back, patting him kindly and talking horse language to him.
Then he went up and down the line of teams, readjusting blankets, tying
loosened knots, and assuring himself that his neighbors' horses were
securely tied and comfortable. He knew horses better than he knew
people, he thought. If he could manage people as he could manage
horsesbut that would be wrong. The horse did his work as a servant,
submissive to the wills of others; the community could never develop
anything worth while in its common life, until it worked the system out
for itself. Horse management was despotism; man-government must be like
the government of a society of wild horses, the result of the common
work of the members of the herd.
Two figures emerged from the schoolhouse door, and as he turned
toward his home after his pastoral calls on the horses, they overtook
him. They were the figures of Newton Bronson and the county
superintendent of schools.
We were coming after you, said Jennie.
Dad wants you back there again, said Newton.
What for? inquired Jim.
You silly boy, said Jennie, you talked about the good of the
schools all of the time, and never said a word about your own salary!
What do you want? They want to know?
Oh! exclaimed Jim in the manner of one who suddenly remembers that
he has forgotten his umbrella or his pocket-knife. I forgot all about
it. I haven't thought about that at all, Jennie!
Jim, said she, you need a guardian!
I know it, Jennie, said he, and I know who I want. I want
Please come back, said Jennie, and tell papa how much you're
going to hold the district up for.
You run back, said Jim to Newton, and tell your father that
whatever is right in the way of salary will be satisfactory to me. I
leave that to the people.
Newton darted off, leaving the schoolmaster standing in the road
with the county superintendent.
I can't go back there! said Jim.
I'm proud of you, Jim, said Jennie. This community has found its
master. They can't do all you ask now, nor very soon; but finally
they'll do just as you want them to do. And, Jim, I want to say that
I've been the biggest little fool in the county!
CHAPTER XXII. AN EMBASSY FROM DIXIE
Superintendent Jennie sat at her desk in no very satisfactory frame
of mind. In the first place court was to convene on the following
Monday, and both grand jury and petit juries would be in session, so
that her one-room office was not to be hers for a few days. Her desk
was even now ready to be moved into the hall by the janitor. To Wilbur
Smythe, who did her the honor of calling occasionally as the exigencies
of his law practise took him past the office of the pretty country girl
on whose shapely shoulders rested the burden of the welfare of the
schools, she remarked that if they didn't soon build the new
court-house so as to give her such accommodations as her office really
needed, they might take their old officeso there!
Fair woman, said Wilbur, as he creased his Prince Albert in a
parting bow, should adorn the home!
Bosh! sneered Jennie, rather pleased, all the same, suppose she
isn't fair, and hasn't any home!
This question of adorning a home was no nearer settlement with
Jennie than it had ever been, though increasingly a matter of
There were two or three menrather good catches, toowho, if they
were encouragedbut what was there to any of them? Take Wilbur Smythe,
now; he would by sheer force of persistent assurance and fair abilities
eventually get a good practise for a country lawyerthree or four
thousand a yearserve in the legislature or the state senate, and
finally become a bank director with a goodly standing as a safe
business man; but what was there to him? This is what Jennie asked her
paper-weight as she placed it on a pile of unfinished examination
papers. And the paper-weight echoed, Not a thing out of the ordinary!
And then, said Jennie, Well, you little simpleton, who and what are
you so out of the ordinary that you should sneer at Wilbur Smythe
and Beckman Fifield and such men? And echo answered, What?and then
the mail-carrier came in.
Down near the bottom of the pile she found this letter, signed by a
southern state superintendent of schools, but dated at Kirksville,
I am a member of a party of southern educatorsstate
superintendents in the main, the letter ran, en tour of
country to see what we can find of an instructive nature in rural
school work. I assure you that we are being richly repaid for the
time and expense. There are things going on in the schools here
northeastern Missouri, for instance, which merit much study. We
met Professor Withers, of Ames, who suggests that we visit your
schools, and especially the rural school taught by a young man
Irwin, and I wonder if you will be free on next Monday morning,
come to your office, to direct us to the place? If you could
accompany us on the trip, and perhaps show us some of your other
excellent schools, we should be honored and pleased. The South is
recreating her rural schools, and we are coming to believe that
shall be better workmen if we create a new kind rather than an
improvement of the old kind.
There was more of this courteous and deferential letter, all giving
Jennie a sense of being saluted by a fine gentleman in satin and
ruffles, and with a plume on his hat. And then came the shocka party
of state officials were coming into the county to study Jim Irwin's
school! They would never come to study Wilbur Smythe's law
practisenever in the worldor her work as county
superintendentnever!and Jim was getting seventy-five dollars a
month, and had a mother to support. Moreover, he was getting more than
he had asked when the colonel had told him to hold the district up!
But there could be no doubt that there was something to Jimthe
man was out of the ordinary. And wasn't that just what she had been
looking for in her mind?
Jennie wired to her southerner for the number of his party, and
secured automobiles for the trip. She sent a note to Jim Irwin telling
of the prospective visitation. She would show all concerned that she
could do some things, anyhow, and she would send these people on with a
good impression of her county.
She was glad of the automobiles the next Monday morning, when at
nine-thirty the train discharged upon her a dozen very alert, very
up-to-date, very inquisitive southerners, male and female, most of whom
seemed to have left their r's in the gulf region. It was eleven when
the party parked their machines before the schoolhouse door.
There are visitors here before us, said Jennie.
Seems rather like an educational shrine, said Doctor Brathwayt, of
Mississippi. How does he accommodate so many visitors in that small
I am not aware, said Jennie, that he has been in the habit of
receiving so very many from outside the district. Well, shall we go
Once inside, Jennie felt a queer return of her old aversion to Jim's
methodsthe aversion which had caused her to criticize him so sharply
on the occasion of her first visit. The reason for the return of the
feeling lay in the fact that the work going on was of the same sort,
but of a more intense character. It was so utterly unlike a school as
Jennie understood the word, that she glanced back at the group of
educators with a little blush. The school was in a sort of uproar. Not
that uproar of boredom and mischief of which most of us have familiar
memories, but a sort of eager uproar, in which every child was
intensely interested in the same thing; and did little rustling things
because of this interest; something like the hum at a football game or
On one side of the desk stood Jim Irwin, and facing him was a smooth
stranger of the old-fashioned lightning-rod-agent typethe shallower
and laxer sort of salesman of the kind whose sole business is to get
signatures on the dotted line, and let some one else do the rest. In
short, he was a closer.
Standing back of him in evident distress was Mr. Cornelius Bonner,
and grouped about were Columbus Brown, B. B. Hamm, Ezra Bronson, A. B.
Talcott and two or three others from outside the Woodruff District.
With envelopes in their hands and the light of battle in their eyes
stood Newton Bronson, Raymond Simms, Bettina Hansen, Mary Smith and
Angie Talcott, the boys filled with delight, the girls rather
frightened at being engaged in something like a debate with the
As the latest-coming visitors moved forward, they heard the
schoolmaster finishing his passage at arms with the salesman.
You should not feel exasperated at us, Mr. Carmichael, said he in
tones of the most complete respect, for what our figures show. You are
unfortunate in the business proposition you offer this community. That
is all. Even these children have the facts to prove that the creamery
outfit you offer is not worth within two thousand dollars of what you
ask for it, and that it is very doubtful if it is the sort of outfit we
I'll bet you a thousand dollars began Carmichael hotly, when Jim
waved him down.
Not with me, said Jim. Your friend, Mr. Bonner, there, knows what
chance there is for you to bet even a thousand cents with me. Besides,
we know our facts, in this school. We've been working on them for a
Bet your life we have! interpolated Newton Bronson.
Before we finish, said Jim, I want to thank you gentlemen for
bringing in Mr. Carmichael. We have been reading up on the literature
of the creamery promoter, and it is a very fine thing to have one in
the flesh with whom totodemonstrate, if Mr. Carmichael will allow
me to say so.
Carmichael looked at Bonner, made an expressive motion with his head
toward the door, and turned as if to leave.
Well, said he, I can do plenty of business with men. If
you men want to make the deal I offer you, and I can show you
from the statistics I've got at the hotel that it's a special deal just
to get started in this part of the state, and carries a thousand
dollars of cut in price to you. Let's leave these children and this he
school-ma'am and get something done.
I can't allow you to depart, said Jim more gently than before,
without thanking you for the very excellent talk you gave us on the
advantage of the cooperative creamery over the centralizer. We in this
school believe in the cooperative creamery, and if we can get rid of
you, Mr. Carmichael, without buying your equipment, I think your work
here may be productive of good.
He's off three or four points on the average overrun in the
Wisconsin co-ops, said Newton.
And we thought, said Mary Smith, that we'd need more cows than he
said to keep up a creamery of our own.
Oh, replied Jim, but we mustn't expect Mr. Carmichael to know the
subject as well as we do, children. He makes a practise of talking
mostly to people who know nothing about itand he talks very well. All
in favor of thanking Mr. Carmichael please say 'Aye.'
There was a rousing chorus of Aye! in which Mr. Carmichael,
followed closely by Mr. Bonner, made his exit. B. B. Hamm went forward
and shook Jim's hand slowly and contemplatively, as if trying to
remember just what he should say.
James E. Irwin, said he, you've saved us from being skinned by
the smoothest grafter that I ever seen.
Not I, said Jim; the kind of school I stand for, Mr. Hamm, will
save you more than thatand give you the broadest culture any school
ever gave. A culture based on life. We've been studying life, in this
schoolthe life we all live here in this district.
He had a smooth partner, too, said Columbus Brown. Jim looked at
Bonner's little boy in one of the front seats and shook his head at
If I hadn't herded 'em in here to ask you a few questions about
cooperative creameries, said Mr. Talcott, we'd have been stuckthey
pretty near had our names. And then the whole neighborhood would have
been sucked in for about fifty dollars a name.
I'd have gone in for two hundred, said B. B. Hamm.
May I call a little meeting here for a minute, Jim? asked Ezra
Bronson. Why, where's he gone?
They's some other visitors come in, said a little girl, pulling
her apron in embarrassment at the teacher's absence.
Jim had, after what seemed to Jennie an interminable while, seen the
county superintendent and her distinguished party, and was now engaged
in welcoming them and endeavoring to find them seats,quite an
impossible thing at that particular moment, by the way.
Don't mind us, Mr. Irwin, said Doctor Brathwayt. This is the best
thing we've seen on our journeyings. Please go on with the proceedin's.
That gentleman seems to have in mind the perfectin' of some so't of
organization. I'm intensely interested.
I'd like to call a little meetin' here, said Ezra to the teacher.
Seein' we've busted up your program so far, may we take a little while
Certainly, said Jim. The school will please come to order.
The pupils took their seats, straightened their books and papers,
and were at attention. Doctor Brathwayt nodded approvingly as if at the
answer to some question in his mind.
Children, said Mr. Irwin, you may or may not be interested in
what these gentlemen are about to dobut I hope you are. Those who
wish may be members of Mr. Bronson's meeting. Those who do not prefer
to do so may take up their regular work.
Gentlemen, said Mr. Bronson to the remains of Mr. Carmichael's
creamery party, we've been cutting bait in this neighborhood about
long enough. I'm in favor of fishing, now. It would have been the
biggest disgrace ever put on this district to have been swindled by
that sharper, when the man that could have set us right on the subject
was right here working for us, and we never let him have a chance. And
yet that's what we pretty near did. How many here favor building a
cooperative creamery if we can get the farmers in with cows enough to
make it profitable, and the equipment at the right price?
Each man held up a hand.
Here's one of our best farmers not voting, said Mr. Bronson,
indicating Raymond Simms. How about you, Raymond?
Ah reckon paw'll come in, said Raymond blushingly.
He will if you say so, said Mr. Bronson.
Raymond's hand went up amid a ripple of applause from the pupils,
who seemed glad to have a voter in their ranks.
Unanimous! said Mr. Bronson. It is a vote! Now I'd like to hear a
motion to perfect a permanent organization to build a creamery.
I think we ought to have a secretary first, said Mr. Talcott, and
I nominate Mr. James E. Irwin for the post.
Quite correct, said Mr. Bronson, thankee, A. B. I was about to
forgit the secretary. Any other nominations? No 'bjections, Mr. Irwin
will be declared unanimously elected. Mr. Irwin's elected. Mr. Irwin,
will you please assume the duties?
Jim sat down at the desk and began making notes.
I think we ought to call this the Anti-Carmichael Protective
Association, said Columbus Brown, but Mr. Bronson interrupted him,
All in good time, Clumb, said he, but this is serious work. So
admonished, the meeting appointed committees, fixed upon a time for a
future meeting, threw a collection of half-dollars on the desk to start
a petty cash fund, made the usual joke about putting the secretary
under bond, adjourned and dispersed.
It's a go this time! said Newton to Jim.
I think so, said Jim, with those men interested. Well, our study
of creameries has given a great deal of language work, a good deal of
arithmetic, some geography, and finally saved the people from a
swindle. Rather good work, Raymond!
My mother has a delayed luncheon ready for the party, said Jennie
to Jim. Please come with usplease!
But Jim demurred. Getting off at this time of day was really out of
the question if he was to be ready to show the real work of the school
in the afternoon session.
This has been rather extraordinary, said Jim, but I am very glad
you were here. It shows the utility of the right sort of work in
letter-writing, language, geography and arithmeticin learning things
It certainly does, said Doctor Brathwayt. I wouldn't have missed
it under any consideration; but I'm certainly sorry for that creamery
shark and his accompliceto be routed by the Fifth Reader grade in
The luncheon was rather a wonderful affairand its success was
unqualified after everybody discovered that the majority of those in
attendance felt much more at home when calling it dinner. Colonel
Woodruff had fought against the regiment of the father of Professor
Gray, of Georgia, in at least one engagement, and tentative plans were
laid for the meeting of the two old veterans some winter in the
What d'ye think of our school? asked the colonel.
Well, said Professor Gray, it's not fair to judge, Colonel, on
what must have been rather an extraordinary moment in the school's
history. I take it that you don't put on a representation of 'The Knave
Unmasked' every morning.
It was more like a caucus than I've ever seen it, daddy, said
Jennie, and less like a school.
Don't you think, said Doctor Brathwayt, that it was less like a
school because it was more like life? It was life. If I am not
mistaken, history for this community was making in that schoolroom as
You're perfectly right, Doctor, said the colonel. Columbus Brown
and about a dozen others living outside the district are calling Wilbur
Smythe in counsel to perfect plans for an election to consolidate a few
of these little independent districts, for the express purpose of
giving Jim Irwin a plant that he can do something with. Jim's got too
big for the district, and so we're going to enlarge the district, and
the schoolhouse, and the teaching force, and the means of educational
grace generally. That's as sure as can beafter what took place this
He's rather a wonderful person, to be found in such a position,
said Professor Gray, or would be in any region I have visited.
He's a native product, said the colonel, but a wonder all the
same. He's a Brown Mouse, you know.
Aa? Doctor Brathwayt was plainly astonished. And so the
colonel was allowed to tell again the story of the Darbishire brown
mice, and why he called Jim Irwin one. Doctor Brathwayt said it was an
interesting Mendelian explanation of the appearance of such a character
as Jim. And if you are right, Colonel, you'll lose him one of these
days. You can't expect to retain a Cæsar, a Napoleon, or a Lincoln in a
rural school, can you?
I don't know about that, said the colonel. The great opportunity
for such a Brown Mouse may be in this very school, right now. He'd have
as big an army right here as Socrates ever had. The Brown Mouse is the
only judge of his own proper place.
I think, said Mrs. Brathwayt, as they motored back to the school,
that your country schoolmaster is rather terrible. The way he crushed
that Mr. Carmichael was positively merciless. Did he know how cruel he
I think not, said Jennie. It was the truth that crushed Mr.
But that vote of thanks, said Mrs. Brathwayt. Surely that was the
I wonder if it was, said Jennie. No, I am sure it wasn't. He
wanted to leave the children thinking as well as possible of their
victim, and especially of Mr. Bonner; and there was really something in
Mr. Carmichael's talk which could be praised. I have known Jim Irwin
since we were both children, and I feel sure that if he had had any
idea that his treatment of this man had been unnecessarily cruel, it
would have given him a lot of pain.
My dear, said Mrs. Brathwayt, I think you are to be congratulated
for having known for a long time a genius.
Thank you, said Jennie. And Mrs. Brathwayt gave her a glance which
brought to her cheek another blush; but of a different sort from the
one provoked by the uproar in the Woodruff school.
There could be no doubt now that Jim was thoroughly wonderfulnor
that she, the county superintendent, was quite as thoroughly a little
fool. She to be put in authority over him! It was too absurd for
laughter. Fortunately, she hadn't hindered him muchbut who was to be
thanked for that? Was it owing to any wisdom of hers? Well, she had
decided in his favor, in those first proceedings to revoke his
certificate. Perhaps that was as good a thing to remember as was to be
found in the record.
CHAPTER XXIII. AND SO THEY LIVED
And so it turned out quite as if it were in the old ballad, that
all in the merry month of May, and also all in the merry green
wood, there were great doings about the bold little promontory where
once stood the cabin on the old wood-lot where the Simms family had
dwelt. The brook ran about the promontory, and laid at its feet on
three sides a carpet of blue-grass, amid clumps of trees and wild
bushes. Not far afield on either hand came the black corn-land, but up
and down the bluffy sides of the brook for some distance on both sides
of the King-dragged highway, ran the old wood-lot, now regaining much
of the unkempt appearance which characterized it when Jim Irwin had
drawn upon himself the gentle rebuke of Old Man Simms for not giving a
whoop from the big road before coming into the yard.
But Old Man Simms was gone, with all the Simmses, now thoroughly
established on the Blanchard farm, and quite happy in their new
success. The cabin was gone, and in its place stood a pretty little
bungalow, about which blossomed the lilacs and peonies and roses and
other old-fashioned flowers, planted there long ago by some pioneer
woman, nourished back to thriftiness by old Mrs. Simms, and carefully
preserved during the struggles with the builders of the bungalow by
Mrs. Irwin. For this was Mrs. Irwin's new home. It was, in point of
fact, the teacher's house or schoolmanse for the new consolidated
Woodruff District, and the old Simms wood-lot was the glebe-land of the
Jim turned over and over in his mind these new applications of old,
historic, significant words, dear to every reader of
historyglebe-land, schoolmanseand it seemed to him that they
signified the return of many old things lost in Merrie England, lost in
New England, lost all over the English-speaking world, when the old
publicly-paid clergyman ceased to be so far the servant of all the
people that they refused to be taxed for his support. Was not the new
kind of rural teacher to be a publicly-paid leader of thought, of
culture, of progress, and was he not to have his manse, his glebe-land,
and his living? And all because, like the old clergymen, he was doing
a work in which everybody was interested and for which they were
willing to be taxed. Perhaps it was not so high a status as the old;
but who was to say that? Certainly not Jim Irwin, the possessor of the
new kind of living, with its glebe-land and its schoolmanse. He
would have rated the new quite as high as the old.
From the brow of the promontory, a light concrete bridge took the
pretty little gorge in the leap of a single arch, and landed the eye at
the bottom of the front yard of the schoolhouse. Thus the new
institution of life was in full view of the schoolmanse veranda, and
yet shut off from it by the dry moat of the brook and its tiny meadow
Across the road was the creamery, with its businesslike unloading
platform, and its addition in process of construction for the reception
of the machinery for the cooperative laundry. Not far from the
creamery, and also across the road, stood the blacksmith and
wheelwright shop. Still farther down the stream were the barn, poultry
house, pens, hutches and yards of the little farmsmall, economically
made, and unpretentious, as were all the buildings save the schoolhouse
itself, which was builded for the future.
And even the schoolhouse, when one thinks of the uses to which it
was to be putkitchen, nursery, kindergarten, banquet-hall, theater,
moving-picture hall, classrooms, manual training rooms, laboratory and
counting-room and what-not, was wonderfully smallColonel Woodruff
said far too smallthough it was necessarily so large as to be rather
astonishing to the unexpectant passer-by.
The unexpectant passer-by this May day, however, would have been
especially struck by the number of motor-cars, buggies and surreys
parked in the yard back of the creamery, along the roadside, and by the
driveway running to the schoolhouse. People in numbers had arrived by
five o'clock in the afternoon, and were still coming. They strolled
about the place, examining the buildings and grounds, and talking with
the blacksmith and the butter-maker, gradually drawing into the
schoolhouse like a swarm of bees into a hive selected by the queen.
None of them, however, went across the concrete bridge to the
schoolmanse, save Mrs. Simms, who crossed, consulted with Mrs. Irwin
about the shrubbery and flowers, and went back to Buddie and Jinnie,
who were good children but natchally couldn't be trusted with so many
other young ones withouten some watchin'.
They're coming! They're coming!
This was the cry borne to the people in and about the schoolhouse by
that Hans Hansen who would be called Hans Nilsen. Hans had been to the
top of the little hill and had a look toward town. Like a crew manning
the rigging, or a crowd having its picture taken, the assemblage
crystallized into forms determined by the chances of getting a glimpse
of the bungalow across the ravineon posts, fences, trees and
hillocks. Still nobody went across the bridge, and when McGeehee Simms
and Johnny Bonner strayed to the bridge-head, Mrs. Simms called them
back by a minatory, Buddy, what did I tell you? You come hyah!
A motor-car came over the hillock, ran down the road to the driveway
to the schoolmanse and drew up at the door. Out of it stepped Mrs.
Woodruff and the colonel, their daughter, the county superintendent of
schools, and Mr. Jim Irwin. Jennie was dressed in a very well-tailored
traveling costume, and Jim in a moderately well-tailored business suit.
Mrs. Irwin kissed her son and Jennie, and led the way into the house.
Jennie and Jim followedand when they went in, the crowd over across
the ravine burst forth into a tremendous cheer, followed by a
three-times-three and a tiger. The unexpectant passer-by would have
been rather surprised at this, but we who are acquainted with the
parties must all begin to have our suspicions. The fact that when they
reached the threshold Jim picked Jennie up in his arms and carried her
in, will enable any good detective to put one and one together and make
a pairwhich comes pretty near telling the whole story.
By this time it was nearly seven, and Calista Simms came across the
charmed bridge as a despatch-bearer, saying that if Mr. Jim and Miss
Jennie didn't mind, dinner would be suhved right soon. It was cooked
about right, and the folks was gettin' right hungryan' such a crowd!
There were fifteen in the babies' room, and for a while they thought
the youngest Hamm young one had swallowed a marble. She would tell 'em
they would be right over; good-by.
There was another cheer as the three elderly and the two young
people emerged from the schoolmanse and took their way over the bridge
to the school side of the velvet-bottomed moat; but it did not
terminate in three-times-three and a tiger. It was, in fact shut off
like the vibration of a bell dipped in water by the sudden rush of the
shouters into the big assembly-room, now filled with tables for the
banquetand here the domestic economy classes, with their mothers,
sisters, female cousins and aunts, met them, as waiters, hat-snatchers,
hostesses, floor-managers and cooks, scoring the greatest triumph of
history in the Woodruff District. For everything went off like
clockwork, especially the victualsand such victuals!
There was quantity in meats, breads, vegetablesand there was also
savor. There was plenty, and there was style. Ask Mrs. Haakon Peterson,
who yearned for culture, and had been afraid her children wouldn't get
it if Yim Irwin taught them nothing but farming. She will tell you that
the dinnerwhich so many thought of all the time as supperwas yust
as well served as it if had been in the Chamberlain Hotel in Des
Moines, where she had stayed when she went with Haakon to the state
Why shouldn't it have been even better served? It was planned,
cooked, served and eaten by people of intelligence and brains, in their
own house, as a community affair, and in a community where, if any one
should ask you, you are authorized to state that there's as much wealth
to the acre as in any strictly farming spot between the two oceans, and
where you are perfectly safefinanciallyin dropping from a balloon
in the dark of the moon, and paying a hundred and fifty dollars an acre
for any farm you happen to land on. Why shouldn't things have been well
done, when every one worked, not for money, but for the love of the
doing, and the love of learning to do in the best way?
Some of these things came out in the speeches following the
repastand some other things, too. It was probably not quite fair for
B. B. Hamm to incorporate in his wishes for the welfare and prosperity
and so forth of Jim and Jennie that stale one about the troubles of
life, but he wanted to see Jennie blushwhich as a matter of fact he
did; but she failed to grow quite so fiery red as did Jim. But B. B.
was a good fellow, and a Trojan in his work for the cause, and the
schoolmaster and superintendent of schools forgave him. A remark may be
a little broad, and still clean, and B. B. made a clean speech mainly
devoted to the increased value of that farm he at one memorable time
was going to sell before Jim's fool notions could be carried out.
Colonel Woodruff made most of the above points which I have niched
from him. He had begun as a reformer late in life, he said, but he
would leave it to them if he hadn't worked at the trade steadily after
enlistment. He had become a follower of Jim Irwin, because Jim's reform
was like dragging the road in front of your own farmit was reform
right at home, and not at the county seat, or Des Moines, or
Washington. He had followed Jim Irwin as he had followed Lincoln, and
Grant, and Blaine, and McKinleybecause Jim Irwin stood for more
upward growth for the average American citizen than the colonel could
see any prospect of getting from any other choice. And he was proud to
live in a country like this, saved and promoted by the great men he had
followed, and in a neighborhood served and promoted, if not quite
saved, by Jim Irwin. And he was not so sure about its not being saved.
Every man and nation had to be saved anew every so often, and the
colonel believed that Jim Irwin's new kind of rural school is just as
necessary to the salvation of this country as Lincoln's new kind of
recognition of human rights was half a century ago. I am about to
close my speech, said the colonel, and the small service I have been
able to give to this nation. I went through the war, neighborsand am
proud of it; but I've done more good in the peaceful service of the
last three years than I did in four of fighting and campaigning. That's
the way I feel about what we've done in Consolidated District Number
One. (Vociferous and long-continued applause.)
Oh, Colonel! The voice of Angie Talcott rose from away back near
the kitchen. Can Jennie keep on bein' county superintendent, now she's
A great guffaw of laughter reduced poor Angie to tears; and Jennie
had to go over and comfort her. It was all right for her to ask that,
and they ought not to laugh at Angie, so there! Now, you're all right,
and let's talk about the new schoolhouse, and so forth. Jennie brought
the smiles back to Angle's face, just in time to hear Jim tell the
people amid louder cheers that he had been asked to go into the
rural-school extension work in two states, and had been offered a fine
salary in either place, but that he wasn't even considering these
offers. And about that time, the children began to get sleepy and cross
and naughty, and the women set in motion the agencies which moved the
* * * * *
Before a bright wood firewhich they really didn't need, but how
else was Jim's mother to show off the little fireplace?sat Jim and
Jennie. They had been together for a week nowthis being their
home-comingand had only begun to get really happy.
Isn't it fine to have the fireplace? said Jennie.
Yes, but we can't really afford to burn a fire in itin Iowa,
said Jim. Fuel's too everlastingly scarce. If we use it much, the
fagots and deadwood on our 'glebe-land' won't last long.
If you should take that Oklahoma position, said Jennie, we could
afford to have open wood fires all the time.
It's warmer in Oklahoma, said Jim, and wood's more plentiful.
Yescontemplativelywe could, dear.
It would be nice, wouldn't it? said Jennie.
All right, said Jim briskly, get me my writing materials, and
we'll accept. It's still open.
Jennie sat looking into the fire oblivious of the suggestion. She
was smiling. Jim moved uneasily, and rose.
Well, he said, I believe I can better guess where mother would
put those writing materials than you could, after all. I'll hunt them
As he passed, Jennie took him by the hand and pulled him down on the
arm of her chair.
Jim, she said, don't be mean to me! You know you wouldn't do such
a wicked, wicked thing at this time as to leave the people here.
All right, said Jim, whatever you say is the law.
When Jennie spoke again things had taken place which caused her
voice to emanate from Jim's shirt-front.
Did you hear, said she, what Angie Talcott asked?
M'h'm, said Jim.
Well, said Jennie, now that I'm married can I go on being county
There was a long silence.
Would you like to? asked Jim.
Kind of, said Jennie; if I knew enough about things to do
anything worth while; but I'm afraid that by rising to my full height I
shall always just fail to be able to see over anything.
You've done more for the schools of the county, said Jim, in the
last year than any other county superintendent has ever done.
And we shall need the money so likeso like the dickens, said
Oh, not so badly, laughed Jim, except for the first year. I'll
have this little farm paying as much as some quarter-sections when we
get squared about. Why, we can make a living on this school farm,
Jennie,or I'm not fit to be the head of the school.
There was another silence, during which Jennie took down her hair,
and wound it around Jim's neck.
It will settle itself soon one of these days anyhow, said he at
last. There's enough to do for both of us right here.
But they won't pay me, she protested.
They don't pay the ministers' wives, said Jim, and yet, the
ministers with the right sort of wives are always the best paid. I
guess you'll be in the bill, Jennie.
Jim walked to the open window and looked out over the still
landscape. The untidy grounds appealed to himthere would be lessons
in their improvement for both the children and the older people. It was
all good. Down in the little meadow grew the dreaming trees, their
round crowns rising as from a sea not quite to the level of the
bungalow, their thrifty leaves glistening in the moonlight. Across the
pretty bridge lay the silent little campus with its twentieth-century
temple facing its chief priest. It was all good, without and within. He
went across the hall to bid his mother good night. She clung to him
convulsively, and they had their own five minutes which arranged
matters for these two silent natures on the new basis forever. Jennie
was in white before the mantel when he returned, smiling at the
Why didn't you put it in Latin? she inquired. It would have had
so much more distinction.
I wanted it to have meaning instead, said Jim. And besides,
nobody who was at hand was quite sure how to turn the Latin phrase. Are
Jennie leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, and studied it.
I believe I could, said she, without any pony. But after all, I
like it better as it is. I like everything, Jimeverything!
LET US CEASE THINKING SO MUCH OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION, AND DEVOTE
OURSELVES TO EDUCATIONAL AGRICULTURE. SO WILL THE NATION BE MADE