Page:Poor White.djvu/32

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wife had always held concerning the people of the Mis- souri village. ' They're a lot of miserable lazy louts," she had declared a thousand times, and Hugh, agreed with her, but sometimes wondered if in the end he might not also become a lazy lout. That possi- bility he knew was in him and for the sake of the wo- man as well as for his own sake he was determined it should not be so. The truth is that the people of Mudcat Landing were totally unlike any of the people Sarah Shepard had ever known and unlike the people Hugh was to know dur- ing his mature life. He who had come from a people not smart was to live among smart energetic men and women and be called a big man by them without in the least understanding what they were talking about. Practically all of the people of Hugh's home town were of Southern origin. Living originally in a land where all physical labor was performed by slaves, they had come to have a deep aversion to physical labor. In the South their fathers, having no money to buy slaves of their own and being unwilling to compete with slave labor, had tried to live without labor. For the most part they lived in the mountains and the hill country of Kentucky and Tennessee, on land too poor and unproductive to be thought worth cultivating by their rich slave-owning neighbors of the valleys and plains. Their food was meager and of an enervating sameness and their bodies degenerate. Children grew up long and gaunt and yellow like badly nourished plants. Vague indefinite hungers took hold of them and they gave themselves over to dreams. The more energetic among them, sensing dimly the unfairness of their position in life, became vicious and dangerous.