Cain't make a livin' here no mo', sich times as these. Si Higgins he's ben over to Kaintuck n' married a high- toned gal thar, outen the fust families, an' he's come back to the Forks with jist a hell's-mint o' whoop-jamboree notions, folks says. He's tuck an' fixed up the ole house like they does in Kaintuck, he say, an' tha's ben folks come cler from Turpentine for to see it. He's tuck an gawmed it all over on the inside with plarsterin'."

"What's plasterin'?"

"I dono. Hit's what he calls it. 'Ole Mam Higgins, she tole me. She say she wasn't gwyne to hang out in no sich a dern hole like a hog. Says it's mud, or some sich kind o' nastiness that sticks on n' covers up everything. Plarsterin', Si calls it."

This marvel was discussed at considerable length; and almost with animation. But presently there was a dog-fight over in the neighborhood of the blacksmith shop, and the visitors slid off their perch like so many turtles and strode to the battle-field with an interest bordering on eagerness. The Squire remained, and read his letter. Then he sighed, and sat long in meditation. At intervals he said:

Missouri. Missouri. Well, well, well, everything is so uncertain."

At last he said:

"I believe I'll do it.--A man will just rot, here. My house my yard, everything around me, in fact, shows' that I am becoming one of these cattle--and I used to be thrifty in other times."

He was not more than thirty-five, but he had a worn look that made him seem older. He left the stile, entered that part of his house which was the store, traded a quart of thick molasses for a coonskin and a cake of beeswax, to an old dame in linsey-woolsey, put his letter away, an went into the kitchen. His wife was there, constructing some dried apple pies; a slovenly urchin of ten was dreaming over a rude weather-vane of his own contriving; his small sister, close upon four years of age, was sopping corn-bread in some gravy left in the bottom of a frying-pan and trying hard not to sop over a finger-mark that divided the pan through the middle--for the other side belonged to the brother, whose musings made him forget his stomach for the moment; a negro woman was busy cooking, at a vast fire-place. Shiftlessness and poverty reigned in the place.

"Nancy, I've made up my mind. The world is done with me, and perhaps I ought to be done with it. But no matter--I can wait. I am going to Missouri. I won't stay in this dead country and decay with it. I've had it on my mind sometime. I'm going to sell out here for whatever I can get, and buy a wagon and team and put you and the children in it and start."

"Anywhere that suits you, suits me, Si. And the children can't be any worse off in Missouri than, they are here, I reckon."

Motioning his wife to a private conference in their own room, Hawkins said: "No, they'll be better off. I've looked out for them, Nancy," and his face lighted. "Do you see these papers? Well, they are evidence that I have taken up Seventy-five Thousand Acres of Land in this county- think what an enormous fortune it will be some day! Why, Nancy, enormous don't express it--the word's too tame! I tell your Nancy----"

"For goodness sake, Si----"

"Wait, Nancy, wait--let me finish--I've been secretly bailing and fuming with this grand inspiration for weeks, and I must talk or I'll burst! I haven't whispered to a soul--not a word--have had my countenance under lock and key, for fear it might drop something that would tell even these animals here how to discern the gold mine that's glaring under their noses. Now all that is necessary to hold this land and keep it in the family is to pay the trifling taxes on it yearly--five or ten dollars-- the whole tract would not sell for over a third of a cent an acre now, but some day people wild be glad to get it for twenty dollars, fifty dollars, a hundred dollars an acre! What should you say to" [here he dropped his voice to a whisper and looked anxiously around to see that there were no eavesdroppers,] "a thousand dollars an acre!

"Well you may open your eyes and stare! But it's so.

The Gilded Age Page 04

Mark Twain

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