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A Mountain Woman Elia W. Peattie

Jim Lancy's Waterloo

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"To be master of the soil, that is one thing," said she to herself in sickness of spirit; "but to be the slave of it is another. These men seem to have got their souls all covered with muck." She noticed that they had no idea of amusement. They had never played anything. They did not even care for base-ball. Their idea of happiness appeared to be to do nothing; and there was a good part of the year in which they were happy, -- for these were not for the most part men owning farms; they were men who hired out to help the farmer. A good many of them had been farmers at one time and another, but they had failed. They all talked politics a great deal, -- politics and railroads. Annie had not much patience with it all. She had great confidence in the course of things. She believed that in this country all men have a fair chance. So when it came about that the corn and the wheat, which had been raised with such incessant toil, brought them no money, but only a loss, Annie stood aghast.

"I said the rates were ruinous," Jim said to her one night, after it was all over, and he had found out that the year's slavish work had brought him a loss of three hundred dollars; "it's been a conspiracy from the first. The price of corn is all right. But by the time we set it down in Chicago we are out eighteen cents a bushel. It means ruin. What are we going to do? Here we had the best crop we've had for years -- but what's the use of talking! They have us in their grip."

"I don't see how it is," Annie protested. "I should think it would be for the interest of the roads to help the people to be as prosperous as possible."

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"Oh, we can't get out! And we're bound to stay and raise grain. And they're bound to cart it. And that's all there is to it. They force us to stand every loss, even to the shortage that is made in transportation. The railroad companies own the elevators, and they have the cinch on us. Our grain is at their mercy. God knows how I'm going to raise that interest. As for the five hundred we were going to pay on the mortgage this year, Annie, we're not in it."

Autumn was well set in by this time, and the brilliant cold sky hung over the prairies as young and fresh as if the world were not old and tired. Annie no longer could look as trim as when she first came to the little house. Her pretty wedding garments were beginning to be worn and there was no money for more. Jim would not play chess now of evenings. He was forever writing articles for the weekly paper in the adjoining town. They talked of running him for the state legislature, and he was anxious for the nomination.

"I think I might be able to stand it if I could fight 'em!" he declared; "but to sit here idle, knowing that I have been cheated out of my year's work, just as much as if I had been knocked down on the road and the money taken from me, is enough to send me to the asylum with a strait-jacket on!"

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A Mountain Woman
Elia W. Peattie

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