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Over Paradise Ridge

Maria Thompson Daviess

  Produced by David Garcia, Edna Badalian and the PG Online DistributedProofreading Team. Page images were generously provided by theKentuckiana Digital Library.























  Nobody knows what starts the sap along the twigs of a very young,tender, and green woman's nature. In my case it was Samuel FosterCrittenden, though how could he have counted on the amount ofGrandmother Nelson that was planted deep in my disposition, ready tospring up and bear fruit as soon as I was brought in direct acquaintancewith a seed-basket and a garden hoe? Also why should Sam's return to aprimitive state have forced my ancestry up to the point of flowering onthe surface? I do hope Sam will not have to suffer consequences, but Ican't help it if he does. What's born in us is not our fault.

  "Yes, Betty, I know I'm an awful shock to you as a farmer. I ought tohave impressed it on you more thoroughly before you--you saw me in theact. I'm sorry, dear," Sam comforted me gently and tenderly as I weptwith dismay into the sleeve of his faded blue overalls.

  "I can't understand it," I sniffed as I held on to his sustaining handwhile I balanced with him on the top of an old, moss-covered stone wallhe had begged me to climb to for a view of Harpeth Valley which hethought might turn my attention from him. "Have you mislaid yourbeautiful ambitions anywhere?"

  "I must have planted them along with my corn crop, I reckon," heanswered, quietly, as he steadied his shoulder against an old oak-treethat grew close to the fence and then steadied my shoulder against his.

  "It is just for a little while, to get evidence about mud and animalsand things like that, isn't it?" I asked, with great and undueeagerness, while an early blue jay flitted across from tree-top totree-top in so happy a spirit that I sympathized with the admiring ladytwit that came from a bush near the wall. "You are going back out intothe world where I left you, aren't you?"

  "No," answered Sam, in an even tone of voice that quieted me completely;it was the same he had used when he made me stand still the time hisfishhook caught in my arm at about our respective sixth and tenth years."No, I'm going to be just a farmer. It's this way, Betty. That valleyyou are looking down into has the strength to feed hundreds of thousandsof hungry men, women, and children when they come down to us overParadise Ridge from the crowded old world; but men have to make hergive it up and be ready for them. At first I wasn't sure I could, butnow I'm going to put enough heart and brain and muscle into my couple ofhundred acres to dig out my share of food, and that of the other folks agreat strapping thing like I am ought to help to feed. I'll plow yourname deep into the potato-field, dear," he ended, with a laugh, as helet go my hand, which he had almost dislocated while his eyes smolderedout over the Harpeth Valley, lying below us like an earthen cup full ofgreen richness, on whose surface floated a cream of mist.

  "It just breaks my heart to see you away from everything and everybody,all burned up and scratched up and muddy, and--and--" I was saying as helifted me back into the road again beside my shiny new Redwheels thatlooked like an enlarged and very gay sedan-chair.

  "Look, look, Betty!" Sam interrupted my distress over his farmer aspect,which was about to become tearful, and his eyes stopped regarding mewith sad seriousness and lit with affectionate excitement as he peeredinto the bushes on the side of the road. "There's my lost heifer calf!You run your car on up to my house beyond the bend there and I'll driveher back through the woods to meet you. Get out and head her off if shetries to pass you." With which command he was gone just as I was aboutto begin to do determined battle for his rescue.

  I did not run my car up to his farm-house. I "negotiated a turn" just asthe man I bought it from in New York had taught me to do; only hehadn't counted on a rail fence on one side, a rock wall just fifty feetacross from it, and two stumps besides. It was almost like a maxixe, butI finally got headed toward Providence Road, down which, five milesaway, Hayesboro is firmly planted in a beautiful, dreamy, vine-coveredrustication.

  "Oh, I wonder if it could be a devil that is possessing Sam?" I askedmyself, stemming with my tongue a large tear that was taking ameandering course down my cheek because I was afraid to take either handoff the steering-gear for fear I would run into a slow, old farm horse,with a bronzed overalled driver and wagon piled high with all sorts ofuninteresting crates and bales and unspeakable pigs and chickens. As Iskidded past them I told myself I had more than a right to weep over Samwhen I thought of the last time I had seen him before this distressinginterview; the contrast was enough to cause grief.

  It had happened the night after Sam's graduation in June and just thenight before I had sailed with Mabel Vandyne and Miss Greenough for awander-year in Europe. Sam was perfectly wonderful to look at with histeam ribbon in the buttonhole of his dress-coat, and I was very proud ofhim. We were all having dinner at the Ritz with two of Sam's classmatesand the father of one, Judge Vandyne, who is one of the greatestcorporation lawyers in New York. He had just offered Sam a chance in hisoffices, together with his own son.

  "You'll buck right on up through center just as you do on the gridiron,old man, to the Supreme bench before you are forty. I'm glad thegovernor will have you, for I'll never make it. Oh, you Samboy!" saidPeter Vandyne, who was their class poet and who adored Sam from everyangle--from each of which Sam reciprocated.

  And all the rest raised their glasses and said:

  "Oh, Samboy!"

  The waiters even knew who Sam was on account of the last Thanksgivinggame, and beamed on him with the greatest awe and admiration. And Ibeamed with the rest, perhaps even more proudly. Still, that twinkle inSam's hazel eyes ought to have made me uneasy even then. I had seen itoften enough when Sam had made up his mind to things he was not talkingabout.

  "The ladies and all of us," answered Sam to Peter's toast, as he raisedhis glass and set it down still full, then grinned at me as he said, solow that the others couldn't hear, "Will you meet me in Hayesboro aftera year and a day, Betty?"

  I don't see why I didn't understand and begin to defend Sam from himselfright then instead of going carelessly and light-heartedly to Europe andletting him manage his own affairs. I didn't even write to him, exceptwhen I saw anything that interested or moved me, and then I justscribbled "remind me to tell you about this" on a post-card and sent itto him. You can seal some friends up in your heart and forget aboutthem, and when you take them out they are perfectly fresh and good, butthey may have changed flavor. That is what Sam did, and I am notsurprised that the rural flavor of what he offered me out there in dirtlane shocked me slightly. I didn't think then that I liked it and I alsofelt that I wished I had stayed by Sam at that wobbling period of hiscareer; but, on the other hand, it was plainly my duty to go to Europewith Mabel and Peter Vandyne and Miss Greenough. The inclination to dotwo things at once is a sword that slices you in two, as the man in theBible wanted to do to the baby to make enough of him for the twomothers; and that is the way I felt about Peter and Sam as I whirledalong the road. I am afraid Sam is going to be the hardest to manage. Heis harder than Peter by nature. If Sam had just take
n to drink insteadof farming I would have known better what to do. I reformed Peter in onenight in Naples when he took too much of that queer Italian wine merelybecause it was his birthday. I used tears, and he said it should neverhappen again. I don't believe it has, or he wouldn't have got an act anda half of his "Epic of American Life" finished as he told me he had donewhen I dined with him in New York the night I landed. I missed Peterdreadfully when he left us in London in June, and so did Miss Greenoughand Mabel, though she is his sister. We all felt that if he had beenwith us it wouldn't have taken us all these months of that dreadful warto get comfortably home. Peter said at the dock that he hadn't drawn afull breath since war had been declared until he got my feet off thegang-plank on to American soil. He needn't have worried quite as muchas that,