Bound to Rise/Chapter II
Efforts for the recovery of the cow went on. Elihu Perkins exhausted all his science in her behalf. I do not propose to detail his treatment, because I am not sure whether it was the best, and possibly some of my readers might adopt it under similar circumstances, and then blame me for its unfortunate issue. It is enough to say that the cow grew rapidly worse in spite of the hot-water treatment, and about eleven o'clock breathed her last. The sad intelligence was announced by Elihu, who first perceived it.
"The critter's gone," he said. "'Tain't no use doin' anything more."
"The cow's dead!" repeated Mr. Walton, sorrowfully. He had known for an hour that this would be the probable termination of the disease. Still while there was life there was hope. Now both went out together.
"Yes, the critter's dead!" said Elihu, philosophically, for he lost nothing by her. "It was so to be, and there wa'n't no help for it. That's what I thought from the fust, but I was willin' to try."
"Wasn't there anything that could have saved her?"
Elihu shook his head decidedly.
"If she could a-been saved, I could 'ave done it," he, said." What I don't know about cow diseases ain't wuth knowin'."
Everyone is more or less conceited. Elihu's conceit was as to his scientific knowledge on the subject of cows and horses and their diseases. He spoke so confidently that Mr. Walton did not venture to dispute him.
"I s'pose you're right, Elihu," he said; "but it's hard on me."
"Yes, neighbor, it's hard on you, that's a fact. What was she wuth?"
"I wouldn't have taken forty dollars for her yesterday."
"Forty dollars is a good sum."
"It is to me. I haven't got five dollars in the world outside of my farm."
"I wish I could help you, neighbor Walton, but I'm a poor man myself."
"I know you are, Elihu. Somehow it doesn't seem fair that my only cow should be taken, when Squire Green has got ten, and they're all alive and well. If all his cows should die, he could buy as many more and not feel the loss."
"Squire Green's a close man."
"He's mean enough, if he is rich."
"Sometimes the richest are the meanest."
"In his case it is true."
"He could give you a cow just as well as not. If I was as rich as he, I'd do it."
"I believe you would, Elihu; but there's some difference between you and him."
"Maybe the squire would lend you money to buy a cow. He always keeps money to lend on high interest."
Mr. Walton reflected a moment, then said slowly, "I must have a cow, and I don't know of any other way, but I hate to go to him."
"He's the only man that's likely to have money to lend in town."
"Well, I'll go."
"Good luck to you, neighbor Walton."
"I need it enough," said Hiram Walton, soberly. "If it comes, it'll be the first time for a good many years."
"Well, I'll be goin', as I can't do no more good."
Hiram Walton went into the house, and a look at his face told his wife the news he brought before his lips uttered it.
"Is she dead, Hiram?"
"Yes, the cow's dead. Forty dollars clean gone," he said, rather bitterly.
"Don't be discouraged, Hiram. It's bad luck, but worse things might happen."
"Such as what?"
"Why, the house might burn down, or--or some of us might fall sick and die. It's better that it should be the cow."
"You're right there; but though it's pleasant to have so many children round, we shan't like to see them starving."
"They are not starving yet, and please God they won't yet awhile. Some help will come to us."
Mrs. Walton sometimes felt despondent herself, but when she saw her husband affected, like a good wife she assumed cheerfulness, in order to raise his spirits. So now, things looked a little more hopeful to him, after he had talked to his wife. He soon took his hat, and approached the door.
"Where are you going, Hiram?" she asked.
"Going to see if Squire Green will lend me money; enough to buy another cow."
"That's right, Hiram. Don't sit down discouraged, but see what you can do to repair the loss."
"I wish there was anybody else to go to. Squire Green is a very mean man, and he will try to take advantage of any need."
"It is better to have a poor resource than none at all."
"Well, I'll go and see what can be done."
Squire Green was the rich man of the town. He had inherited from his father, just as he came of age, a farm of a hundred and fifty acres, and a few hundred dollars.
The land was not good, and far from productive; but he had scrimped and saved and pinched and denied himself, spending almost nothing, till the little money which the farm annually yielded him had accumulated to a considerable sum. Then, too, as there were no banks near at t hand to accommodate borrowers, the squire used to lend money to his poorer neighbors. He took care not to exact more than six per cent. openly, but it was generally understood that the borrower must pay a bonus besides to secure a loan, which, added to the legal interest, gave him a very handsome consideration for the use of his spare funds. So his money rapidly increased, doubling every five or six years through his shrewd mode of management, and every year he grew more economical. His wife had died ten years before. She had worked hard for very poor pay, for the squire's table was proverbially meager, and her bills for dress, judging from her appearance, must have been uncommonly small.
The squire had one son, now in the neighborhood of thirty, but he had not been at home for several years. As soon as he attained his majority he left the homestead, and set out to seek his fortune elsewhere. He vowed he wouldn't any longer submit to the penurious ways of .the squire. So the old man was left alone, but he did not feel the solitude. He had his gold, and that was company enough. A time was coming when the two must part company, for when death should come he must leave the gold behind; but he did not like to think of that, putting away the idea as men will unpleasant subjects. This was the man to whom Hiram Walton applied for help in his misfortune.
"Is the squire at home?" he asked, at the back door. In that household the front door was never used. There was a parlor, but it had not been opened since Mrs. Green's funeral.
"He's out to the barn," said Hannah Green, a niece of the old man, who acted as maid of all work.
"I'll go out there."
The barn was a few rods northeast of the house, and thither Mr. Walton directed his steps.
Entering, he found the old man engaged in some light work.
"Good morning, Squire Green."
"Good morning, Mr. Walton," returned the squire.
He was a small man, with a thin figure, and a face deep seamed with wrinkles, more so than might have been expected in a man of his age, for he was only just turned of sixty; but hard work, poor and scanty food and sharp calculation, were responsible for them.
"How are you gettin' on?" asked the squire.
This was rather a favorite question of his, it being so much the custom for his neighbors to apply to him when in difficulties, so that their misfortune he had come to regard as his harvests. .
"I've met with a loss," answered Hiram Walton.
"You don't say so," returned the squire, with instant attention. "What's happened?"
"My cow is dead."
"When did she die?"
"What was the matter?"
"I don't know. I didn't notice but that she was welt enough last night; but this morning when I went out to the barn, she was lying down breathing heavily."
"What did you do?"
"I called in Elihu Perkins, and we worked over her for three hours; but it wasn't of any use; she died half an hour ago."
"I hope it isn't any disease that's catchin'," said the squire in alarm, thinking of his ten. "It would be a bad job if it should get among mine."
"It's a bad job for me, squire. I hadn't but one cow, and she's gone."
"Just so, just so. I s'pose you'll buy another."
"Yes, I must have a cow. My children live on bread and milk mostly. Then there's the butter and cheese, that I trade off at the store for groceries."
"Just so, just so. Come into the house, neighbor Walton."
The squire guessed his visitor's business in advance, and wanted to take time to talk it over. He would first find out how great his neighbor's necessity was, and then he accommodated him, would charge him accordingly.