Page:Poor White.djvu/50

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you should have seen the look on his face. I thought I would die," one of the bystanders declared. Hugh got a job with a carpenter who specialized in the building of barns and stayed with him all through one fall. Later he went to work as a section hand on a railroad. Nothing happened to him. He was like one compelled to walk through life with a bandage over his eyes. On all sides of him, in the towns and on the farms, an undercurrent of life went on that did not touch him. In even the smallest of the towns, inhabited only by farm laborers, a quaint interesting civilization was being developed. Men worked hard but were much in the open air and had time to think. Their minds reached out toward the solution of the mystery of existence. The schoolmaster and the coun- try lawyer read Tom Paine's " Age of Reason " and Bellamy's " Looking Backward." They discussed these books with their fellows. There was a feeling, ill expressed, that America had something real and spiritual to offer to the rest of the world. Workmen talked to each other of the new tricks of their trades, and after hours of discussion of some new way to cul- tivate corn, shape a horseshoe or build a barn, spoke of God and his intent concerning man. Long drawn out discussions of religious beliefs and the political destiny of America were carried on. And across the background of these discussions ran tales of action in a sphere outside the little world in which the inhabitants of the towns lived. Men who had been in the Civil War and who had climbed fighting over hills and in the terror of defeat had swum wide rivers, told the tale of their adventures. In the evening, after his day of work in the field or