Page:Poor White.djvu/53

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water from the cistern for a family washing, or pull weeds in the garden, he heard the woman singing as she went about the doing of her innumerable petty tasks. Hugh decided that he also must do small tasks, fix his mind upon definite things. In the town where he was employed as a section hand, the cloud dream in which the world became a whirling, agitated center of disaster came to him almost every night. Winter came on and he walked through the streets at night in the darkness and through the deep snow. He was almost frozen; but as the whole lower part of his body was habitually cold he did not much mind the added dis- comfort, and so great was the reserve of strength in his big frame that the loss of sleep did not affect his ability to labor all day without effort. Hugh went into one of the residence streets of the town and counted the pickets in the fences before the houses. He returned to the hotel and made a cal- culation as to the number of pickets in all the fences in town. Then he got a rule at the hardware store and carefully measured the pickets. He tried to esti- mate the number of pickets that could be cut out of cer- tain sized trees and that gave his mind another open- ing. He counted the number of trees in every street in town. He learned to tell at a glance and with rela- tive accuracy how much lumber could be cut out of a tree. He built imaginary houses wtih lumber cut from the trees that lined the streets. He even tried to figure out a way to utilize the small limbs cut from the tops of the trees, and one Sunday went into the wood back of the town and cut a great armful of twigs, which he carried to his room and later with great patience wove into the form of a basket.

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