WHEN THE HARVESTER MADE GOOD
The sassafras and skunk cabbage were harvested. The last workman was gone.
There was not a sound at Medicine Woods save the babel of bird and animal notes
and the never-ending accompaniment of Singing Water. The geese had gone over,
some flocks pausing to rest and feed on Loon Lake, and ducks that homed there
were busy among the reeds and rushes. In the deep woods the struggle to maintain
and reproduce life was at its height, and the courting songs of gaily coloured
birds were drowned by hawk screams and crow calls of defiance.
Every night before he plunged into the lake and went to sleep the Harvester
made out a list of the most pressing work that he would undertake on the coming
day. By systematizing and planning ahead he was able to accomplish an
unbelievable amount. The earliest rush of spring drug gathering was over. He
could be more deliberate in collecting the barks he wanted. Flowers that were to
be gathered at bloom time and leaves were not yet ready. The heavy leaf
coverings he had helped the winds to heap on his beds of lily of the valley,
bloodroot, and sarsaparilla were removed carefully.
Inside the cabin the Harvester cleaned the glass, swept the floors with a
soft cloth pinned over the broom, and hung pale yellow blinds at the windows.
Every spare minute he worked on making furniture, and with each piece he grew in
experience and ventured on more difficult undertakings. He had progressed so far
that he now allowed himself an hour each day on the candlesticks for her. Every
evening he opened her door and with soft cloths polished the furniture he had
made. When her room was completed and the dining-room partially finished, the
Harvester took time to stain the cabin and porch roofs the shade of the willow
leaves, and on the logs and pillars he used oil that served to intensify the
light yellow of the natural wood. With that much accomplished he felt better. If
she came now, in a few hours he would be able to offer a comfortable room,
enough conveniences to live until more could be provided, and of food there was
His daily programme was to feed and water his animals and poultry, prepare
breakfast for himself and Belshazzar, and go to the woods, dry-house or
store-room to do the work most needful in his harvesting. In the afternoon he
laboured over furniture and put finishing touches on the new cabin, and after
supper he carved and found time to read again, as before his dream.
He was so happy he whistled and sang at his work much of the time at first,
but later there came days when doubts crept in and all his will power was
required to proceed steadily. As the cabin grew in better shape for occupancy
each day, more pressing became the thought of how he was going to find and meet
the girl of his dream. Sometimes it seemed to him that the proper way was to
remain at home and go on with his work, trusting her to come to him. At such
times he was happy and gaily whistled and sang:
"Stay in your chimney corner,
Don't roam the world about,
Stay in your chimney corner,
And your own true love will find you out."
But there were other days while grubbing in the forest, battling with roots
in the muck and mire of the lake bank, staggering under a load for two men,
scarcely taking time to eat and sleep enough to keep his condition perfect, when
that plan seemed too hopeless and senseless to contemplate. Then he would think
of locking the cabin, leaving the drugs to grow undisturbed by collecting,
hiring a neighbour to care for his living creatures, and starting a search over
the world to find her. There came times when the impulse to go was so strong
that only the desire to take a day more to decide where, kept him. Every time
his mind was made up to start the following day came the counter thought, what
if I should go and she should come in my absence? In the dream she came. That
alone held him, even in the face of the fact that if he left home some one might
know of and rifle the precious ginseng bed, carefully tended these seven years
for the culmination the coming fall would bring. That ginseng was worth many
thousands and he had laboured over it, fighting worms and parasites, covering
and uncovering it with the changing seasons, a siege of loving labour.
Sometimes a few hours of misgiving tortured him, but as a rule he was
cheerful and happy in his preparations. Without intending to do it he was
gradually furnishing the cabin. Every few days saw a new piece finished in the
workshop. Each trip to Onabasha ended in the purchase of some article he could
see would harmonize with his colour plans for one of the rooms. He had filled
the flower boxes for the veranda with delicate plants that were growing
Then he designed and began setting a wild-flower garden outside her door and
started climbing vines over the logs and porches, but whatever he planted he
found in the woods or took from beds he cultivated. Many of the medicinal vines
had leaves, flowers, twining tendrils, and berries or fruits of wonderful
beauty. Every trip to the forest he brought back a half dozen vines, plants, or
bushes to set for her. All of them either bore lovely flowers, berries, quaint
seed pods, or nuts, and beside the drive and before the cabin he used especial
care to plant a hedge of bittersweet vines, burning bush, and trees of mountain
ash, so that the glory of their colour would enliven the winter when days might
He planted wild yam under her windows that its queer rattles might amuse her,
and hop trees where their castanets would play gay music with every passing wind
of fall. He started a thicket along the opposite bank of Singing Water where it
bubbled past her window, and in it he placed in graduated rows every shrub and
small tree bearing bright flower, berry, or fruit. Those remaining he used as a
border for the driveway from the lake, so that from earliest spring her eyes
would fall on a procession of colour beginning with catkins and papaw lilies,
and running through alders, haws, wild crabs, dogwood, plums, and cherry
intermingled with forest saplings and vines bearing scarlet berries in fall and
winter. In the damp soil of the same character from which they were removed, in
the shade and under the skilful hand of the Harvester, few of these knew they
had been transplanted, and when May brought the catbirds and orioles much of
this growth was flowering quite as luxuriantly as the same species in the woods.
The Harvester was in the store-house packing boxes for shipment. His room was
so small and orders so numerous that he could not keep large quantities on hand.
All crude stuff that he sent straight from the drying-house was fresh and
brightly coloured. His stock always was marked prime A-No. 1. There was a step
behind him and the Harvester turned. A boy held out a telegram. The man opened
it to find an order for some stuff to be shipped that day to a large laboratory
His hands deftly tied packages and he hastily packed bottles and nailed
boxes. Then he ran to harness Betsy and load. As he drove down the hill to the
bridge he looked at his watch and shook his head.
"What are you good for at a pinch, Betsy?" he asked as he flecked the
surprised mare's flank with a switch. Belshazzar cocked his ears and gazed at
the Harvester in astonishment.
"That wasn't enough to hurt her," explained the man. "She must speed up. This
is important business. The amount involved is not so much, but I do love to make
good. It's a part of my religion, Bel. And my religion has so precious few parts
that if I fail in the observance of any of them it makes a big hole in my
performances. Now we don't want to end a life full of holes, so we must get
there with this stuff, not because it's worth the exertion in dollars and cents,
but because these men patronize us steadily and expect us to fill orders, even
by telegraph. Hustle, Betsy!"
The whip fell again and Belshazzar entered indignant protest.
"It isn't going to hurt her," said the Harvester impatiently. "She may walk
all the way back. She can rest while I get these boxes billed and loaded if she
can be persuaded to get them to the express office on time. The trouble with
Betsy is that she wants to meander along the road with a loaded wagon as her
mother and grandmother before her wandered through the woods wearing a bell to
attract the deer. Father used to say that her mother was the smartest bell mare
that ever entered the forest. She'd not only find the deer, but she'd make
friends with them and lead them straight as a bee-line to where he was hiding.
Betsy, you must travel!"
The Harvester drew the lines taut, and the whip fell smartly. The astonished
Betsy snorted and pranced down the valley as fast as she could, but every step
indicated that she felt outraged and abused. This was the loveliest day of the
season. The sun was shining, the air was heavy with the perfume of flowering
shrubs and trees, the orchards of the valley were white with bloom. Farmers were
hurrying back and forth across fields, leaving up turned lines of black, swampy
mould behind them, and one progressive individual rode a wheeled plow, drove
three horses and enjoyed the shelter of a canopy.
"Saints preserve us, Belshazzar!" cried the Harvester. "Do you see that? He
is one of the men who makes a business of calling me shiftless. Now he thinks he
is working. Working! For a full-grown man, did you ever see the equal? If I were
going that far I'd wear a tucked shirt, panama hat, have a pianola attachment,
and an automatic fan."
The Harvester laughed as he again touched Betsy and hurried to Onabasha. He
scarcely saw the delights offered on either hand, and where his eyes customarily
took in every sight, and his ears were tuned for the faintest note of earth or
tree top, to day he saw only Betsy and listened for a whistle he dreaded to hear
at the water tank. He climbed the embankment of the railway at a slower pace,
but made up time going down hill to the city.
"I am not getting a blame thing out of this," he complained to Belshazzar.
"There are riches to stagger any scientist wasting to-day, and all I've got to
show is one oriole. I did hear his first note and see his flash, and so unless
we can take time to make up for this on the home road we will have to christen
it oriole day. It's a perfumed golden day, too; I can get that in passing, but
how I loathe hurrying. I don't mind planning things and working steadily, but
it's not consistent with the dignity of a sane man to go rushing across country
with as much appreciation of the delights offered right now as a chicken with
its head off would have. We will loaf going back to pay for this! And won't we
invite our souls? We will stop and gather a big bouquet of crab apple blossoms
to fill the green pitcher for her. Maybe some of their wonderful perfume will
linger in her room. When the petals fall we will scatter them in the drawers of
her dresser, and they may distil a faint flower odour there. We could do that to
all her furniture, but perhaps she doesn't like perfume. She'll be compelled to
after she reaches Medicine Woods. Betsy, you must travel faster!"
The whip fell again and the Harvester stopped at the depot with a few minutes
to spare. He threw the hitching strap to Belshazzar, and ran into the express
office with an arm load of boxes.
"Bill them!" he cried. "It's a rush order. I want it to go on the next
express. Almost due I think. I'll help you and we can book them afterward."
The expressman ran for a truck and they hastily weighed and piled on boxes.
When the last one was loaded from the wagon, a heap more lying in the office
were added, pitched on indiscriminately as the train pulled under the sheds of
the Union Station.
"I'll push," cried the Harvester, "and help you get them on."
Hurrying as fast as he could the expressman drew the heavy truck through the
iron gates and started toward the train slowing to a stop, and the Harvester
pushed. As they came down the platform they passed the dining and sleeping cars
of the long train and were several times delayed by descending passengers. Just
opposite the day coach the expressman narrowly missed running into several women
leading small children and stopped abruptly. A toppling box threatened the head
of the Harvester. He peered around the truck and saw they must wait a few
seconds. He put in the time watching the people. A gray-haired old man,
travelling in a silk hat, wavered on the top step and went his way. A fat woman
loaded with bundles puffed as she clung trembling a second in fear she would
miss the step she could not see. A tall, slender girl with a face coldly white
came next, and from the broken shoe she advanced, the bewildered fright of big,
dark eyes glancing helplessly, the Harvester saw that she was poor, alone, ill,
and in trouble. Pityingly he turned to watch her, and as he gauged her height,
saw her figure, and a dark coronet of hair came into view, a ghastly pallor
swept his face.
"Merciful God!" he breathed, "that's my Dream Girl!"
The truck started with a jerk. The toppling box fell, struck a passing boy,
and knocked him down. The mother screamed and the Harvester sprang to pick up
the child and see that he was not dangerously hurt. Then he ran after the truck,
pitched on the box, and whirling, sped beside the train toward the gates of
exit. There was the usual crush, but he could see the tall figure passing up the
steps to the depot. He tried to force his way and was called a brute by a
crowded woman. He ran down the platform to the gates he had entered with the
truck. They were automatic and had locked. Then he became a primal creature
being cheated of a lawful mate and climbed the high iron fence and ran for the
He swept it at a glance, not forgetting the women's apartment and the side
entrance. Then he hurried to the front exit. Up the street leading from the city
there were few people and he could see no sign of the slight, white-faced girl.
He crossed the sidewalk and ran down the gutter for a block and breathlessly
waited the passing crowd on the corner. She was not among it. He tried one more
square. Still he could not see her. Then he ran back to the depot. He thought
surely he must have missed her. He again searched the woman's and general
waiting room and then he thought of the conductor. From him it could be learned
where she entered the car. He ran for the station, bolted the gate while the
official called to him, and reached the track in time to see the train pull out
within a few yards of him.
"You blooming idiot!" cried the angry expressman as the Harvester ran against
him, "where did you go? Why didn't you help me? You are white as a sheet! Have
you lost your senses?"
"Worse!" groaned the Harvester. "Worse! I've lost what I prize most on earth.
How could I reach the conductor of that train?"
"Telegraph him at the next station. You can have an answer in a half hour."
The Harvester ran to the office, and with shaking hand wrote this message:
"Where did a tall girl with big black eyes and wearing a gray dress take your
Then he went out and minutely searched the depot and streets. He hired an
automobile to drive him over the business part of Onabasha for three quarters of
an hour. Up one street and down another he went slowly where there were crowds,
faster as he could, but never a sight of her. Then he returned to the depot and
found his message. It read, "Transferred to me at Fort Wayne from Chicago."
"Chicago baggage!" he cried, and hurried to the check room. He had lost
almost an hour. When he reached the room he found the officials busy and
unwilling to be interrupted. Finally he learned there had been a half dozen
trunks from Chicago. All were taken save two, and one glance at them told the
Harvester that they did not belong to the girl in gray. The others had been
claimed by men having checks for them. If she had been there, the officials had
not noticed a tall girl having a white face and dark eyes. When he could think
of no further effort to make he drove to the hospital.
Doctor Carey was not in his office, and the Harvester sat in the revolving
chair before the desk and gripped his head between his hands as he tried to
think. He could not remember anything more he could have done, but since what he
had done only ended in failure, he was reproaching himself wildly that he had
taken his eyes from the Girl an instant after recognizing her. Yet it was in his
blood to be decent and he could not have run away and left a frightened woman
and a hurt child. Trusting to his fleet feet and strength he had taken time to
replace the box also, and then had met the crowd and delay. Just for the instant
it appeared to him as if he had done all a man could, and he had not found her.
If he allowed her to return to Chicago, probably he never would. He leaned his
head on his hands and groaned in discouragement.
Doctor Carey whirled the chair so that it faced him before the Harvester
realized that he was not alone.
"What's the trouble, David?" he asked tersely.
The Harvester lifted a strained face.
"I came for help," he said.
"Well you will get it! All you have to do is to state what you want."
That seemed simplicity itself to the doctor. But when it came to putting his
case into words, it was not easy for the Harvester.
"Go on!" said the doctor.
"You'll think me a fool."
The doctor laughed heartily.
"No doubt!" he said soothingly. "No doubt, David! Probably you are; so why
shouldn't I think so. But remember this, when we make the biggest fools of
ourselves that is precisely the time when we need friends, and when they stick
to us the tightest, if they are worth while. I've been waiting since latter
February for you to tell me. We can fix it, of course; there's always a way. Go
"Well I wasn't fooling about the dream and the vision I told you of then,
Doc. I did have a dream預nd it was a dream of love. I did see a vision預nd it
was a beautiful woman."
"I hope you are not nursing that experience as something exclusive and
peculiar to you," said the doctor. "There is not a normal, sane man living who
has not dreamed of love and the most exquisite woman who came from the clouds or
anywhere and was gracious to him. That's a part of a man's experience in this
world, and it happens to most of us, not once, but repeatedly. It's a case where
the wish fathers the dream."
"Well it hasn't happened to me 'on repeated occasions,' but it did one night,
and by dawn I was converted. How CAN a dream be so real, Doc? How could I see as
clearly as I ever saw in the daytime in my most alert moment, hear every step
and garment rustle, scent the perfume of hair, and feel warm breath strike my
face? I don't understand it!"
"Neither does any one else! All you need say is that your dream was real as
life. Go on!"
"I built a new cabin and pretty well overturned the place and I've been
making furniture I thought a woman would like, and carrying things from town
"Gee! It was reality to you, lad!"
"Nothing ever more so," said the Harvester.
"And of course, you have been looking for her?"
"And this morning I saw her!"
"Not the ghost of a chance for a mistake. Her height, her eyes, her hair, her
walk, her face; only something terrible has happened since she came to me. It
was the same girl, but she is ill and in trouble now."
"Where is she?"
"Do you suppose I'd be here if I knew?"
"David, are you dreaming in daytime?"
"She got off the Chicago train this morning while I was helping Daniels load
a big truck of express matter. Some of it was mine, and it was important. Just
at the wrong instant a box fell and knocked down a child and I got in a jam覧"
"And as it was you, of course you stopped to pick up the child and do
everything decent for other folks, before you thought of yourself, and so you
lost her. You needn't tell me anything more. David, if I find her, and prove to
you that she has been married ten years and has an interesting family, will you
"Can't be done!" said the Harvester calmly. "She has been married only since
she gave herself to me in February, and she is not a mother. You needn't bank on
"You are mighty sure!"
"Why not? I told you the dream was real, and now that I have seen her, and
she is in this very town, why shouldn't I be sure?"
"What have you done?"
The Harvester told him.
"What are you going to do next?"
"Talk it over with you and decide."
The doctor laughed.
"Well here are a few things that occur to me without time for thought. Talk
to the ticket agents, and leave her description with them. Make it worth their
while to be on the lookout, and if she goes anywhere to find out all they can.
They could make an excuse of putting her address on her ticket envelope, and get
it that way. See the baggagemen. Post the day police on Main Street. There is no
chance for her to escape you. A full-grown woman doesn't vanish. How did she act
when she got off the car? Did she appear familiar?"
"No. She was a stranger. For an instant she looked around as if she expected
some one, then she followed the crowd. There must have been an automobile
waiting or she took a street car. Something whirled her out of sight in a few
"Well we will get her in range again. Now for the most minute description you
The Harvester hesitated. He did not care to describe the Dream Girl to any
one, much less the living, suffering face and poorly clad form of the reality.
"Cut out your scruples," laughed the doctor. "You have asked me to help you;
how can I if I don't know what kind of a woman to look for?"
"Very tall and slender," said the Harvester. "Almost as tall as I am."
"Unusually tall you think?"
"That's a good point for identification. How about her complexion, hair, and
"Very large, dark eyes, and a great mass of black hair."
The doctor roared.
"The eyes may help," he said. "All women have masses of hair these days. I
"Her hair is fast to her head," said the Harvester indignantly. "I saw it at
close range, and I know. It went around like a crown."
The doctor choked down a laugh. He wanted to say that every woman's hair was
like a crown at present, but there were things no man ventured with David
Langston; those who knew him best, least of any. So he suggested, "And her
"She was white and rosy, a lovely thing in the dream," said the Harvester,
"but something dreadful has happened. That's all wiped out now. She was very
pale when she left the car."
"Car sick, maybe."
"Soul sick!" was the grim reply.
Then Doctor Carey appeared so disturbed the Harvester noticed it.
"You needn't think I'd be here prating about her if I wasn't FORCED. If she
had been rosy and well as she was in the dream, I'd have made my hunt alone and
found her, too. But when I saw she was sick and in trouble, it took all the
courage out of me, and I broke for help. She must be found at once, and when she
is you are probably the first man I'll want. I am going to put up a pretty stiff
search myself, and if I find her I'll send or get her to you if I can. Put her
in the best ward you have and anything money will do覧"
The face of the doctor was growing troubled.
"Day coach or Pullman?" he asked.
"How was she dressed?"
"Small black hat, very plain. Gray jacket and skirt, neat as a flower."
"What you'd call expensively dressed?"
The Harvester hesitated.
"What I'd call carefully dressed, but覧but poverty poor, if you will have it,
Doctor Carey's lips closed and then opened in sudden resolution.
"David, I don't like it," he said tersely.
The Harvester met his eye and purposely misunderstood him.
"Neither do I!" he exclaimed. "I hate it! There is something wrong with the
whole world when a woman having a face full of purity, intellect, and refinement
of extreme type glances around her like a hunted thing; when her appearance
seems to indicate that she has starved her body to clothe it. I know what is in
your mind, Doc, but if I were you I wouldn't put it into words, and I wouldn't
even THINK it. Has it been your experience in this world that women not fit to
know skimp their bodies to cover them? Does a girl of light character and little
brain have the hardihood to advance a foot covered with a broken shoe? If I
could tell you that she rode in a Pullman, and wore exquisite clothing, you
would be doing something. The other side of the picture shuts you up like a
clam, and makes you appear shocked. Let me tell you this: No other woman I ever
saw anywhere on God's footstool had a face of more delicate refinement, eyes of
purer intelligence. I am of the woods, and while they don't teach me how to
shine in society, they do instil always and forever the fineness of nature and
her ways. I have her lessons so well learned they help me more than anything
else to discern the qualities of human nature. If you are my friend, and have
any faith at all in my common sense, get up and do something!"
The doctor arose promptly.
"David, I'm an ass," he said. "Unusually lop-eared, and blind in the bargain.
But before I ask you to forgive me, I want you to remember two things: First,
she did not visit me in my dreams; and, second, I did not see her in reality. I
had nothing to judge from except what you said: you seemed reluctant to tell me,
and what you did say was覧was覧disturbing to a friend of yours. I have not the
slightest doubt if I had seen her I would agree with you. We seldom disagree,
David. Now, will you forgive me?"
The Harvester suddenly faced a window. When at last he turned, "The offence
lies with me," he said, "I was hasty. Are you going to help me?"
"With all my heart! Go home and work until your head clears, then come back
in the morning. She did not come from Chicago for a day. You've done all I know
to do at present."
"Thank you," said the Harvester.
He went to Betsy and Belshazzar, and slowly drove up and down the streets
until Betsy protested and calmly turned homeward. The Harvester smiled ruefully
as he allowed her to proceed.
"Go slow and take it easy," he said as they reached the country. "I want to
Betsy stopped at the barn, the white doves took wing, and Ajax screamed
shrilly before the Harvester aroused in the slightest to anything around him.
Then he looked at Belshazzar and said emphatically: "Now, partner, don't ever
again interfere when I am complying with the observances of my religion. Just
look what I'd have missed if I hadn't made good with that order!"