Waterloo by Elia Wilkinson Peattie
"WE must get married before time to put in crops," he wrote. "We
must make a success of the farm the first year, for luck. Could you
manage to be ready to come out West by the last of February? After
March opens there will be no let-up, and I do not see how I could get
away. Make it February, Annie dear. A few weeks more or less can make
no difference to you, but they make a good deal of difference to me."
The woman to whom this was written read it with something like
anger. "I don't believe he's so impatient for me!" she said to herself.
"What he wants is to get the crops in on time." But she changed the
date of their wedding, and made it February.
Their wedding journey was only from the Illinois village where she
lived to their Nebraska farm. They had never been much together, and
they had much to say to each other.
"Farming won't come hard to you," Jim assured her. "All one needs
to farm with is brains."
"What a success you'll make of it!" she cried saucily.
"I wish I had my farm clear," Jim went on; "but that's more than
any one has around me. I'm no worse off than the rest. We've got to pay
off the mortgage, Annie."
"Of course we must. We'll just do without till we get the mortgage
lifted. Hard work will do anything, I guess. And I'm not afraid to
work, Jim, though I've never had much experience."
Jim looked out of the window a long time, at the gentle undulations
of the brown Iowa prairie. His eyes seemed to pierce beneath the sod,
to the swelling buds of the yet invisible grass. He noticed how
disdainfully the rains of the new year beat down the grasses of the
year that was gone. It opened to his mind a vision of the season's
possibilities. For a moment, even amid the smoke of the car, he seemed
to scent clover, and hear the stiff swishing of the corn and the dull
burring of the bees.
"I wish sometimes," he said, leaning forward to look at his bride,
"that I had been born something else than a farmer. But I can no more
help farming, Annie, than a bird can help singing, or a bee making
honey. I didn't take to farming. I was simply born with a hoe in my
"I don't know a blessed thing about it," Annie confessed. "But I
made up my mind that a farm with you was better than a town without
you. That's all there is to it, as far as I am concerned."
Jim Lancy slid his arm softly about her waist, unseen by the other
passengers. Annie looked up apprehensively, to see if any one was
noticing. But they were eating their lunches. It was a common coach on
which they were riding. There was a Pullman attached to the train, and
Annie had secretly thought that, as it was their wedding journey, it
might be more becoming to take it. But Jim had made no suggestion about
it. What he said later explained the reason. "I would have liked to
have brought you a fine present," he said. "It seemed shabby to come
with nothing but that little ring. But I put everything I had on our
home, you know. And yet, I'm sure you'll think it poor enough after
what you've been used to. You'll forgive me for only bringing the ring,
"But you brought me something better," Annie whispered. She was a
foolish little girl. "You brought me love, you know." Then they rode in
silence for a long time. Both of them were new to the phraseology of
love. Their simple compliments to each other were almost ludicrous. But
any one who might have chanced to overhear them would have been
charmed, for they betrayed an innocence as beautiful as an unclouded
Annie tried hard not to be depressed by the treeless stretches of
the Nebraska plains.
"This is different from Illinois," she ventured once, gently; "it
is even different from Iowa."
"Yes, yes," cried Jim, enthusiastically, "it is different! It is
the finest country in the world! You never feel shut in. You can always
see off. I feel at home after I get in Nebraska. I'd choke back where
you live, with all those little gullies and the trees everywhere. It's
a mystery to me how farmers have patience to work there."
Annie opened her eyes. There was evidently more than one way of
looking at a question. The farm-houses seemed very low and mean to her,
as she looked at them from the window. There were no fences, excepting
now and then the inhospitable barbed wire. The door-yards were bleak to
her eyes, without the ornamental shrubbery which every farmer in her
part of the country was used to tending. The cattle stood unshedded in
their corrals. The reapers and binders stood rusting in the dull
"How shiftless!" cried Annie, indignantly. "What do these men mean
by letting their machinery lie out that way? I should think one winter
of lying out would hurt it more than three summers of using."
"It does. But sheds are not easily had. Lumber is dear." "But I
should think it would be economy even then."
"Yes," he said, "perhaps. But we all do that way out here. It takes
some money for a man to be economical with. Some of us haven't even
There was a six-mile ride from the station. The horses were
waiting, hitched up to a serviceable light wagon, and driven by the
"help." He was a thin young man, with red hair, and he blushed
vicariously for Jim and Annie, who were really too entertained with
each other, and at the idea of the new life opening up before them, to
think anything about blushing. At the station, a number of men insisted
on shaking hands with Jim, and being introduced to his wife. They were
all bearded, as if shaving were an unnecessary labor, and their
trousers were tucked in dusty top-boots, none of which had ever seen
blacking. Annie had a sense of these men seeming unwashed, or as if
they had slept in their clothes. But they had kind voices, and their
eyes were very friendly. So she shook hands with them all with
heartiness, and asked them to drive out and bring their womenkind. "I
am going to make up my mind not to be lonesome," she declared; "but,
all the same, I shall want to see some women."
Annie had got safe on the high seat of the wagon, and was balancing
her little feet on the inclined foot-rest, when a woman came running
across the street, calling aloud, —
"Mr. Lancy! Mr. Lancy! You're not going to drive away without
introducing me to your wife!"
She was a thin little woman, with movements as nervous and as
graceless as those of a grasshopper. Her dun-colored garments seemed to
have all the hue bleached out of them with wind and weather. Her face
was brown and wrinkled, and her bright eyes flashed restlessly, deep in
their sockets. Two front teeth were conspicuously missing; and her
faded hair was blown in wisps about her face. Jim performed the
introduction, and Annie held out her hand. It was a pretty hand,
delicately gloved in dove color. The woman took it in her own, and
after she had shaken it, held it for a silent moment, looking at it.
Then she almost threw it from her. The eyes which she lifted to scan
the bright young face above her had something like agony in them. Annie
blushed under this fierce scrutiny, and the woman, suddenly conscious
of her demeanor, forced a smile to her lips.
"I'll come out an' see yeh," she said, in cordial tones. "May be,
as a new house-keeper, you'll like a little advice. You've a nice
place, an' I wish yeh luck."
"Thank you. I'm sure I'll need advice," cried Annie, as they drove
off. Then she said to Jim, "Who is that old woman?"
"Old woman? Why, she ain't a day over thirty, Mis' Dundy ain't."
Annie looked at her husband blankly. But he was already talking of
something else, and she asked no more about the woman, though all the
way along the road the face seemed to follow her. It might have been
this that caused the tightening about her heart. For some way her
vivacity had gone; and the rest of the ride she asked no questions, but
sat looking straight before her at the northward stretching road, with
eyes that felt rather than saw the brown, bare undulations, rising
every now and then clean to the sky; at the side, little
famished-looking houses, unacquainted with paint, disorderly yards, and
endless reaches of furrowed ground, where in summer the corn had waved.
The horses needed no indication of the line to make them turn up a
smooth bit of road that curved away neatly 'mid the ragged grasses. At
the end of it, in a clump of puny scrub oaks, stood a square little
house, in uncorniced simplicity, with blank, uncurtained windows
staring out at Annie, and for a moment her eyes, blurred with the cold,
seemed to see in one of them the despairing face of the woman with the
wisps of faded hair blowing about her face.
"Well, what do you think of it?" Jim cried, heartily, swinging her
down from her high seat, and kissing her as he did so. "This is your
home, my girl, and you are as welcome to it as you would be to a
palace, if I could give it to you."
Annie put up her hands to hide the trembling of her lips; and she
let Jim see there were tears in her eyes as an apology for not
replying. The young man with the red hair took away the horses, and
Jim, with his arm around his wife's waist, ran toward the house and
threw open the door for her to enter. The intense heat of two great
stoves struck in their faces; and Annie saw the big burner, erected in
all its black hideousness in the middle of the front room, like a sort
of household hoodoo, to be constantly propitiated, like the gods of
Greece; and in the kitchen, the new range, with a distracted tea-kettle
leaping on it, as if it would like to loose its fetters and race away
over the prairie after its cousin, the locomotive.
It was a house of four rooms, and a glance revealed the fact that
it had been provided with the necessaries.
"I think we can be very comfortable here," said Jim, rather
Annie saw she must make some response. "I am sure we can be more
than comfortable, Jim," she replied. "We can be happy. Show me, if you
please, where my room is. I must hang my cloak up in the right place so
that I shall feel as if I were getting settled." It was enough. Jim
had no longer any doubts. He felt sure they were going to be happy ever
It was Annie who got the first meal; she insisted on it, though
both the men wanted her to rest. And Jim hadn't the heart to tell her
that, as a general thing, it would not do to put two eggs in the
corn-cake, and that the beefsteak was a great luxury. When he saw her
about to break an egg for the coffee, however, he interfered.
"The shells of the ones you used for the cake will settle the
coffee just as well," he said. "You see we have to be very careful of
eggs out here at this season."
"Oh! Will the shells really settle it? This is what you must call
prairie lore. I suppose out here we find out what the real relations of
invention and necessity are — eh?"
Jim laughed disproportionately. He thought her wonderfully witty.
And he and the help ate so much that Annie opened her eyes. She had
thought there would be enough left for supper. But there was nothing
left. For the next two weeks Jim was able to be much with her; and
they amused themselves by decorating the house with the bright
curtainings that Annie had brought, and putting up shelves for a few
pieces of china. She had two or three pictures, also, which had come
from her room in her old home, and some of those useless dainty things
with which some women like to litter the room.
"Most folks," Jim explained, "have to be content with one fire, and
sit in the kitchen; but I thought, as this was our honeymoon, we would
put on some lugs."
Annie said nothing then; but a day or two after she ventured, —
"Perhaps it would be as well now, dear, if we kept in the kitchen.
I'll keep it as bright and pleasant as I can. And, anyway, you can be
more about with me when I'm working then. We'll lay a fire in the
front-room stove, so that we can light it if anybody comes. We can just
as well save that much."
Jim looked up brightly. "All right," he said. "You're a sensible
little woman. You see, every cent makes a difference. And I want to be
able to pay off five hundred dollars of that mortgage this year."
So, after that, they sat in the kitchen; and the fire was laid in
the front room, against the coming of company. But no one came, and it
Then the season began to show signs of opening, — bleak signs,
hardly recognizable to Annie; and after that Jim was not much in the
house. The weeks wore on, and spring came at last, dancing over the
hills. The ground-birds began building, and at four each morning awoke
Annie with their sylvan opera. The creek that ran just at the north of
the house worked itself into a fury and blustered along with much noise
toward the great Platte which, miles away, wallowed in its vast sandy
bed. The hills flushed from brown to yellow, and from mottled green to
intensest emerald, and in the superb air all the winds of heaven seemed
to meet and frolic with laughter and song.
Sometimes the mornings were so beautiful that, the men being afield
and Annie all alone, she gave herself up to an ecstasy and kneeled by
the little wooden bench outside the door, to say, "Father, I thank
Thee," and then went about her work with all the poem of nature rhyming
itself over and over in her heart.
It was on such a day as this that Mrs. Dundy kept her promise and
came over to see if the young housekeeper needed any of the advice she
had promised her. She had walked, because none of the horses could be
spared. It had got so warm now that the fire in the kitchen heated the
whole house sufficiently, and Annie had the rooms clean to
exquisiteness. Mrs. Dundy looked about with envious eyes.
"How lovely!" she said.
"Do you think so?" cried Annie, in surprise. "I like it, of course,
because it is home, but I don't see how you could call anything here
"Oh, you don't understand," her visitor went on. "It's lovely
because it looks so happy. Some of us have — well, kind o' lost our
"It's easy to do that if you don't feel well," Annie remarked
sympathetically. "I haven't felt as well as usual myself, lately. And I
do get lonesome and wonder what good it does to fix up every day when
there is no one to see. But that is all nonsense, and I put it out of
She smoothed out the clean lawn apron with delicate touch. Mrs.
Dundy followed the movement with her eyes.
"Oh, my dear," she cried, "you don't know nothin' about it yet! But
you will know! You will!" and those restless, hot eyes of hers seemed
to grow more restless and more hot as they looked with infinite pity at
the young woman before her.
Annie thought of these words often as the summer came on, and the
heat grew. Jim was seldom to be seen now. He was up at four each
morning, and the last chore was not completed till nine at night. Then
he threw himself in bed and lay there log-like till dawn. He was too
weary to talk much, and Annie, with her heart aching for his fatigue,
forbore to speak to him. She cooked the most strengthening things she
could, and tried always to look fresh and pleasant when he came in.
But she often thought her pains were in vain, for he hardly rested his
sunburned eyes on her. His skin got so brown that his face was
strangely changed, especially as he no longer had time to shave, and
had let a rough beard straggle over his cheeks and chin. On Sundays
Annie would have liked to go to church, but the horses were too tired
to be taken out, and she did not feel well enough to walk far; besides,
Jim got no particular good out of walking over the hills unless he had
a plough in his hand.
Harvest came at length, and the crop was good. There were any way
from three to twenty men at the house then, and Annie cooked for all of
them. Jim had tried to get some one to help her, but he had not
succeeded. Annie strove to be brave, remembering that farm-women all
over the country were working in similar fashion. But in spite of all
she could do, the days got to seem like nightmares, and sleep between
was but a brief pause in which she was always dreaming of water, and
thinking that she was stooping to put fevered lips to a running brook.
Some of these men were very disgusting to Annie. Their manners were as
bad as they could well be, and a coarse word came naturally to their
"To be master of the soil, that is one thing," said she to herself
in sickness of spirit; "but to be the slave of it is another. These men
seem to have got their souls all covered with muck." She noticed that
they had no idea of amusement. They had never played anything. They did
not even care for base-ball. Their idea of happiness appeared to be to
do nothing; and there was a good part of the year in which they were
happy, — for these were not for the most part men owning farms; they
were men who hired out to help the farmer. A good many of them had been
farmers at one time and another, but they had failed. They all talked
politics a great deal, — politics and railroads. Annie had not much
patience with it all. She had great confidence in the course of things.
She believed that in this country all men have a fair chance. So when
it came about that the corn and the wheat, which had been raised with
such incessant toil, brought them no money, but only a loss, Annie
"I said the rates were ruinous," Jim said to her one night, after
it was all over, and he had found out that the year's slavish work had
brought him a loss of three hundred dollars; "it's been a conspiracy
from the first. The price of corn is all right. But by the time we set
it down in Chicago we are out eighteen cents a bushel. It means ruin.
What are we going to do? Here we had the best crop we've had for years
— but what's the use of talking! They have us in their grip."
"I don't see how it is," Annie protested. "I should think it would
be for the interest of the roads to help the people to be as prosperous
"Oh, we can't get out! And we're bound to stay and raise grain. And
they're bound to cart it. And that's all there is to it. They force us
to stand every loss, even to the shortage that is made in
transportation. The railroad companies own the elevators, and they have
the cinch on us. Our grain is at their mercy. God knows how I'm going
to raise that interest. As for the five hundred we were going to pay on
the mortgage this year, Annie, we're not in it."
Autumn was well set in by this time, and the brilliant cold sky
hung over the prairies as young and fresh as if the world were not old
and tired. Annie no longer could look as trim as when she first came to
the little house. Her pretty wedding garments were beginning to be worn
and there was no money for more. Jim would not play chess now of
evenings. He was forever writing articles for the weekly paper in the
adjoining town. They talked of running him for the state legislature,
and he was anxious for the nomination.
"I think I might be able to stand it if I could fight 'em!" he
declared; "but to sit here idle, knowing that I have been cheated out
of my year's work, just as much as if I had been knocked down on the
road and the money taken from me, is enough to send me to the asylum
with a strait-jacket on!"
Life grew to take on tragic aspects. Annie used to find herself
wondering if anywhere in the world there were people with light
hearts. For her there was no longer anticipation of joy, or present
companionship, or any divertissement in the whole world. Jim read books
which she did not understand, and with a few of his friends, who
dropped in now and then evenings or Sundays, talked about these books
in an excited manner.
She would go to her room to rest, and lying there in the darkness
on the bed, would hear them speaking together, sometimes all at once,
in those sternly vindictive tones men use when there is revolt in their
"It is the government which is helping to impoverish us," she would
hear Jim saying. "Work is money. That is to say, it is the active form
of money. The wealth of a country is estimated by its power of
production. And its power of production means work. It means there are
so many men with so much capacity. Now the government owes it to these
men to have money enough to pay them for their work; and if there is
not enough money in circulation to pay to each man for his honest and
necessary work, then I say that government is in league with crime. It
is trying to make defaulters of us. It has a hundred ways of cheating
us. When I bought this farm and put the mortgage on it, a day's work
would bring twice the results it will now. That is to say, the total at
the end of the year showed my profits to be twice what they would be
now, even if the railway did not stand in the way to rob us of more
than we earn. So that it will take just twice as many days' work now to
pay off this mortgage as it would have done at the time it was
contracted. It's a conspiracy, I tell you! Those Eastern capitalists
make a science of ruining us."
He got more eloquent as time went on, and Annie, who had known him
first as rather a careless talker, was astonished at the boldness of
his language. But conversation was a lost art with him. He no longer
talked. He harangued.
In the early spring Annie's baby was born, — a little girl with a
nervous cry, who never slept long at a time, and who seemed to wail
merely from distaste at living. It was Mrs. Dundy who came over to look
after the house till Annie got able to do so. Her eyes had that fever
in them, as ever. She talked but little, but her touch on Annie's head
was more eloquent than words. One day Annie asked for the glass, and
Mrs. Dundy gave it to her. She looked in it a long time. The color was
gone from her cheeks, and about her mouth there was an ugly tightening.
But her eyes flashed and shone with that same — no, no, it could not
be that in her face also was coming the look of half-madness! She
motioned Mrs. Dundy to come to her.
"You knew it was coming," she said, brokenly, pointing to the
reflection in the glass. "That first day, you knew how it would be."
Mrs. Dundy took the glass away with a gentle hand.
"How could I help knowing?" she said simply. She went into the next
room, and when she returned Annie noticed that the handkerchief stuck
in her belt was wet, as if it had been wept on. A woman cannot stay
long away from her home on a farm at planting time, even if it is a
case of life and death. Mrs. Dundy had to go home, and Annie crept
about her work with the wailing baby in her arms. The house was often
disorderly now; but it could not be helped. The baby had to be cared
for. It fretted so much that Jim slept apart in the mow of the barn,
that his sleep might not be disturbed. It was a pleasant, dim place,
full of sweet scents, and he liked to be there alone. Though he had
always been an unusual worker, he worked now more like a man who was
fighting off fate, than a mere toiler for bread.
The corn came up beautifully, and far as the eye could reach around
their home it tossed its broad green leaves with an ocean-like swelling
of sibilant sound. Jim loved it with a sort of passion. Annie loved it,
too. Sometimes, at night, when her fatigue was unbearable, and her
irritation wearing out both body and soul, she took her little one in
her arms and walked among the corn, letting its rustling soothe the
baby to sleep. The heat of the summer was terrible. The sun came up in
that blue sky like a curse, and hung there till night came to comfort
the blistering earth. And one morning a terrible thing happened. Annie
was standing out of doors in the shade of those miserable little oaks,
ironing, when suddenly a blast of air struck her in the face, which
made her look up startled. For a moment she thought, perhaps, there was
a fire near in the grass. But there was none. Another blast came,
hotter this time, and fifteen minutes later that wind was sweeping
straight across the plain, burning and blasting. Annie went in the
house to finish her ironing, and was working there, when she heard
Jim's footstep on the door-sill. He could not pale because of the tan,
but there was a look of agony and of anger — almost brutish anger —
in his eyes. Then he looked, for a moment, at Annie standing there
working patiently, and rocking the little crib with one foot, and he
sat down on the door-step and buried his face in his brown arms.
The wind blew for three days. At the end of that time every ear
was withered in the stalk. The corn crop was ruined.
But there were the other crops which must be attended to, and Jim
watched those with the alertness of a despairing man; and so harvest
came again, and again the house was filled with men who talked their
careless talk, and who were not ashamed to gorge while this one woman
cooked for them. The baby lay on a quilt on the floor in the coolest
part of the kitchen. Annie fed it irregularly. Sometimes she almost
forgot it. As for its wailing, she had grown so used to it that she
hardly heard it, any more than she did the ticking of the clock. And
yet, tighter than anything else in life, was the hold that little thing
had on her heart-strings. At night, after the interminable work had
been finished — though in slovenly fashion — she would take it up and
caress it with fierceness, and worn as she was, would bathe it and
soothe it, and give it warm milk from the big tin pail.
"Lay the child down," Jim would say impatiently, while the men
would tell how their wives always put the babies on the bed and let
them cry if they wanted to. Annie said nothing, but she hushed the
little one with tender songs.
One day, as usual, it lay on its quilt while Annie worked. It was a
terribly busy morning. She had risen at four to get the washing out of
the way before the men got on hand, and there were a dozen loaves of
bread to bake, and the meals to get, and the milk to attend to, and the
chickens and pigs to feed. So occupied was she that she never was able
to tell how long she was gone from the baby. She only knew that the
heat of her own body was so great that the blood seemed to be pounding
at her ears, and she staggered as she crossed the yard. But when she
went at last with a cup of milk to feed the little one, it lay with
clenched fists and fixed eyes, and as she lifted it, a last convulsion
laid it back breathless, and its heart had ceased to beat.
Annie ran with it to her room, and tried such remedies as she had.
But nothing could keep the chill from creeping over the wasted little
form, — not even the heat of the day, not even the mother's agonized
embrace. Then, suddenly, Annie looked at the clock. It was time to get
the dinner. She laid the piteous tiny shape straight on the bed, threw
a sheet over it, and went back to the weltering kitchen to cook for
those men, who came at noon and who must be fed — who must be fed.
When they were all seated at the table, Jim among them, and she had
served them, she said, standing at the head of the table, with her
hands on her hips: —
"I don't suppose any of you have time to do anything about it; but
I thought you might like to know that the baby is dead. I wouldn't
think of asking you to spare the horses, for I know they have to rest.
But I thought, if you could make out on a cold supper, that I would go
to the town for a coffin."
There was satire in the voice that stung even through the dull
perceptions of these men, and Jim arose with a cry and went to the room
where his dead baby lay.
About two months after this Annie insisted that she must go home to
Illinois. Jim protested in a way. "You know, I'd like to send you," he
said; "but I don't see where the money is to come from. And since I've
got this nomination, I want to run as well as I can. My friends expect
me to do my best for them. It's a duty, you know, and nothing less, for
a few men, like me, to get in the legislature. We're going to get a
railroad bill through this session that will straighten out a good many
things. Be patient a little longer, Annie."
"I want to go home," was the only reply he got. "You must get the
money, some way, for me to go home with."
"I haven't paid a cent of interest yet," he cried angrily. "I don't
see what you mean by being so unreasonable!"
"You must get the money, some way," she reiterated.
He did not speak to her for a week, except when he was obliged to.
But she did not seem to mind; and he gave her the money. He took her to
the train in the little wagon that had met her when she first came. At
the station, some women were gossiping excitedly, and Annie asked what
they were saying. "It's Mis' Dundy," they said. "She's been sent to
th' insane asylum at Lincoln. She's gone stark mad. All she said on the
way out was, 'Th' butter won't come! Th' butter won't come!'" Then they
laughed a little — a strange laugh; and Annie thought of a
drinking-song she had once heard, "Here's to the next who dies."
Ten days after this Jim got a letter from her. "I am never coming
back, Jim," it said. "It is hopeless. I don't think I would mind
standing still to be shot down if there was any good in it. But I'm not
going back there to work harder than any slave for those money-loaners
and the railroads. I guess they can all get along without me. And I am
sure I can get along without them. I do not think this will make you
feel very bad. You haven't seemed to notice me very much lately when
I've been around, and I do not think you will notice very much when I
am gone. I know what this means. I know I am breaking my word when I
leave you. But remember, it is not you I leave, but the soil, Jim! I
will not be its slave any longer. If you care to come for me here, and
live another life — but no, there would be no use. Our love, like our
toil, has been eaten up by those rapacious acres. Let us say good-by."
Jim sat all night with this letter in his hand. Sometimes he dozed
heavily in his chair. But he did not go to bed; and the next morning he
hitched up his horses and rode to town. He went to the bank which held
"I'll confess judgment as soon as you like," he said. "It's all up
It was done as quickly as the law would allow. And the things in
the house were sold by auction. All the farmers were there with their
wives. It made quite an outing for them. Jim moved around impassively,
and chatted, now and then, with some of the men about what the horses
ought to bring.
The auctioneer was a clever fellow. Between the putting up of the
articles, he sang comic songs, and the funnier the song, the livelier
the bidding that followed. The horses brought a decent price, and the
machinery a disappointing one; and then, after a delicious snatch
about Nell who rode the sway-backed mare at the county fair, he got
down to the furniture, — the furniture which Jim had bought when he
was expecting Annie.
Jim was walking around with his hands in his pockets, looking
unconcerned, and, as the furniture began to go off, he came and sat
down in the midst of it. Every one noticed his indifference. Some of
them said that after all he couldn't have been very ambitious. He
didn't seem to take his failure much to heart. Every one was
concentrating attention on the cooking-stove, when Jim leaned forward,
quickly, over a little wicker work-stand.
There was a bit of unfinished sewing there, and it fell out as he
lifted the cover. It was a baby's linen shirt. Jim let it lie, and then
lifted from its receptacle a silver thimble. He put it in his
The campaign came on shortly after this, and Jim Lancy was
defeated. "I'm going to Omaha," said he to the station-master, "and
I've got just enough to buy a ticket with. There's a kind of
satisfaction in giving the last cent I have to the railroads."
Two months later, a "plain drunk" was registered at the station in
Nebraska's metropolis. When they searched him they found nothing in his
pockets but a silver thimble, and Joe Benson, the policeman who had
brought in the "drunk," gave it to the matron, with his compliments.
But she, when no one noticed, went softly to where the man was
sleeping, and slipped it back into his pocket, with a sigh. For she
knew somehow — as women do know things — that he had not stolen that