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- Elder Conklin and Other Stories - 33/33 -

formed a lane through which, heralded by the obsequious station-master, Mr. Gulmore, with his daughter on his arm, was coming towards them. Heedless of their astonishment, the Boss walked on till he stood in front of Roberts.

"Professor, we've heard of your good fortune, and are come to congratulate you. Ida here always thought a pile of your knowledge an' teachin', an' I guess she was right. Our little difference needn't count now. You challenged me to a sort of wrastle an' you were thrown; but I bear no malice, an' I'm glad to offer you my hand an' to wish you-- success."

Roberts shook hands without hesitation. He was simply surprised, and had no inkling of the reason which had led Gulmore to come to the station and to bring Ida. Had he been told that this was the father's plan for protecting his daughter against the possibility of indiscreet gossip he would have been still more astonished. "Nor do I bear malice," he rejoined, with a smile; "though the wrestling can hardly be considered fair when twenty pull one man down."

"'Twas my crowd against yours," replied the Boss indifferently. "But I'm kinder sorry that you're leavin' the town. I'd never have left a place where I was beaten. No, sir; I'd have taken root right there an' waited. Influence comes with time, an' you had youth on your side."

"That may be your philosophy, Mr. Gulmore," said Roberts lightly, as the other paused, "but it's not mine. I'm satisfied with one or two falls; they've taught me that the majority is with you."

Gulmore's seriousness relaxed still further; he saw his opponent's ingenuousness, and took his statement as a tribute to his own power.

"My philosophy," he began, as if the word pleased him, "my philosophy--I guess I ken give you that in a few words. When I was a boy in Vermont I was reckoned smart at figgerin'. But one day an old farmer caught me. 'See here, boy,' he said, 'I live seventeen miles out of town, and when in late fall the roads are bad and I drive in with a cartload of potatoes, the shakin' sends all the big potatoes to the top and all the little ones to the bottom. That's good for me that wants to sell, but why is it? How does it come?'

"Well, I didn't know the reason then, an' I told him so. But I took the fact right there for my philosophy. Ef the road was long enough and rough enough I was sure to come to the top."

"I understand," said Roberts laughingly. "But I've heard farmers here say that the biggest potatoes are not the best; they are generally hollow at the--in the middle, I mean."

"That's weak," retorted Gulmore with renewed seriousness. "I shouldn't hev thought you'd hev missed the point like that. When I was a boy I skipped away from the meanin' out of conceit. I thought I'd climb high because I was big, and meant gettin' up more'n a little un could. But before I was a man I understood the reason. It isn't that the big potatoes want partic'lar to come to the top; it is that the little potatoes are _de_termined to get to the bottom.

"You may now be havin' a boost up, Professor, I hope you are; but you've gone underneath once, an' that looks bad."

"The analogy seems perfect," replied Roberts thoughtfully. "But, by your own showing, the big men owe their position to the number of their inferiors. And at the bottom lie the very smallest, helpless and bruised, supporting their fortunate brethren. A sad state of things at the best, Mr. Gulmore; but unbearable if the favoured ones forget their debt to those beneath them."

"Sad or not," said the Boss, "it represents the facts, an' it's well to take account of them; but I guess we must be goin', your time'll soon be up. We wish you success, Professor."

SEPTEMBER, 1892 AND 1893.


Elder Conklin and Other Stories - 33/33

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