Page:Poor White.djvu/49

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the house, blaming Hugh for leaving so suddenly and declaring the tall Missourian was no doubt a drunkard who wanted to go off on a drunk, she had nothing to say. In her own heart she knew what was the matter with her father's farm hand and was sorry he had gone before she had more completely exercised her power over him. None of the towns Hugh visited during his three years of wandering approached realization of the sort of life Sarah Shepard had talked to him about. They were all very much alike. There was a main street with a dozen stores on each side, a blacksmith shop, and perhaps an elevator for the storage of grain. All day the town was deserted, but in the evening the citi- zens gathered on Main Street. On the sidewalks be- fore the stores young farm hands and clerks sat on store boxes or on the curbing. They did not pay any attention to Hugh who, when he went to stand near them, remained silent and kept himself in the back- ground. The farm hands talked of their work and boasted of the number of bushels of corn they could pick in a day, or of their skill in plowing. The clerks were intent upon playing practical jokes which pleased the farm hands immensely. While one of them talked loudly of his skill in his work a clerk crept out at the door of one of the stores and approached him. He held a pin in his hand and with it jabbed the talker in the back. The crowd yelled and shouted with de- light. If the victim became angry a quarrel started, but this did not often happen. Other men came to join the party and the joke was told to them. " Well,

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