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About The frontier. (O'Neill City, Holt County, Neb.) 1880-1965 | View Entire Issue (Nov. 7, 1935)
COPYRIGHT MARTHA OSTtNSO |
Anna ("Silver") Grenoble, daugh
ter of “Gentleman Jim." formerly of
the community, but known ns a
gambler, news of whose recent mur
der In Chicago has reached the town,
comes to Heron Klver to live with
Sophronia Willard, Jim Grenoble’s
sister. Sophronla’s household consists
of her husband, and stepsons, Roder
ick and Jason. The Willards own
only half of the farm, the other half
being Anna’s. On Silver's arrival
Duke Melbank, shiftless youth,
makes himself obnoxious. Roderick
is on the eve of marriage to Cortnne
Meader. Silver snys she wants to
live on the farm, and has no inten
tion iof selling her half, which the
Willards had feared. Silver tells
Sophronia (“Phronie,” by request)
something—but by no means all—of
her relations with Gerald Lucas,
gambler friend of her father. Roddy
marries Corinne. She has a maid,
Paula, who seems to attract Jason.
Silver again meets Lucas, who has
established a gambling resort near
town. She introduces him to Co
rinne, though against her will.
Friendship between the two devel
ops, to Silver’s dismay. At a dance
Duke Melbank insults Silver. Rod
dy’s solicitude brings Silver to the
realization that she loves him. Rod
dy is offered a position at the Uni
versity farm, but, to Corlnne's dis
may, he declines it, declaring he is a
farmer, not a "white collar man."
Determined to break up the growing
Intimacy between Lucas and Co
rinne, Silver tells Roddy she has
decided to sell her portion of the
farm. Not understanding, he re
proaches her for her "treachery.”
Jason went self-consciously to> a
shelf and drew down a portfolio
of drawings. “Nobody but Paula
has ever seen these,” he said.
The drawings were pastel scenes
with a simplicity of line and tone
that surprised Silver. “Why, .Tase,
they are lovely 1" she exclaimed.
She turned to him Impulsively.
“Would you rather do this than
He laughed and shook his head,
then looked at Paula. “I guess not,”
he said quietly. “I’m a farmer. But
it’s because I like farming that I
get a kick out of doing this once
in a while. Which one do you want,
After a moment’s thought Silver
selected a light autumn sketch In
grays and browns.
“Has Roddy never seen this?” she
“No—he hasn’t seen any of them.
I used to show him some of my
things—and he liked them. But
after he met Corinne—well, It’s
none of my business. I never could
quite figure it out, myself. D—n it
—I feel sorry for Roddy 1”
Silver tucked the drawing under
her arm. “I’ll hang this In my
room.” she said, then started toward
the door. “And don’t worry about
Roddy. When a man falls in love,
It does funny things to him some
Jason laughed. “Gosh, doesn’t It?”
he exclaimed, and looked at Paula.
“Shall I tell Silver?” he asked
“Sure!” she said at once.
Jason looked at Sliver and smiled.
"Paula and I are going to be mar
ried in the summer,” Jason con
fessed, “—maybe In the spring.
We’re thinking of a little dairy farm
up north—maybe—we're not sure
Silver exclaimed with delight.
"Am I the first to hear about it?"
“We didn’t know ourselves—not
until this afternoon,’’ Juson grinned.
Tears came Into Silver’s eyes as
she looked at them. Jason and Paula
—beginning life together on a dairy
farm . . .
“Don't say anything," Jason said.
“Don’t tell the others just yet.”
“Well, I suppose I ought to wish you
luck,” Silver said, “but when two
people are In love, there’s nothing
much anyone can say. Isn't that so,
“It sure Is so,” Paula agreed, laps
ing into an accent she had almost
conquered since her advent from
the Rhineland ten years ago.
The days passed, and Silver
Grenoble came presently to know
what it meant to live on a farm in
winter. Rut the weekly round of
hard work fell into a rhythm which
somehow eased the discomfort, and
in the old stone house there was al
ways an overtone of contentment.
In Roddy alone, it seemed, was
there any discontent. He had ex
plained that Mrs. Meader had not
been well and that Corinne was
staying with her for a few days.
Rut when the middle of December
approached and Corinne was still
with her mother, Sophronia became
rather voluble on the subject of
Roddy’s living alone in the big
house. For Roddy had withdrawn
more and more to himself. His day*
he spent in work about the placn.
And at night he would shut himself
la his “shop" sorting and grading
ami completing his records, so as to
be ready for another season of ex
perimenting with his beloved corn.
Roddy’s mood was rarely dis
cussed by the others, but Silver
knew that beneath their silence lay
an Intensity of feeling that one day
must break the bonds of reticence
that held it. She knew, too, that
while Corinne’s absence had some
thing to do with the way ltoddy felt,
behind it all was the growing re
sentment toward herself that had
begun that night when she had told
him of her intention to sell her land
as soon as his lease hud expired.
That had rankled until he could
think of nothing else. She knew,
too, that the family was aware of it.
That, undoubtedly, accounted for
much of their restraint.
It was a black, blustery night,
and Silver put on her old leather
Jacket and her close-fitting tweed
hat. She went out Into the inky
darkness and started toward the
summit of the hill, when a sudden
flare of light, like the striking of a
match, arrested her attention
through the small window of Rod
dy’s workshop in the shelter of the
Roddy must be In there, she
thought, getting ready for another
night’s work. The thought of his
self-imposed loneliness smote drear
ily across Silver’s heart. Why
should she not go to him now and
talk to him—beg him not to re
main away from his father’s house
because of her?
She stepped to the threshold and
“Roddy!” she called softly.
He scooped up handfuls of corn.
“I came over to beg you not to—
not to stay away from our house
because of me,” Silver said. “If
that’s the reason—”
He stood up and looked at her.
At the painful flush that sprang
into her cheeks, he stepped toward
her with contrite haste. Ills feel
ings were in such confusion now
that he could scarcely speak.
“I’m sorry. Silver,” he said heav
ily. ‘‘It’s certainly no time for me
to hold out against you—after this.
We don’t seem to understand each
other, that’s all.”
Silver turned her eyes from him.
“I can't go on like this,” she said.
“It has been utter misery.”
“I can’t say I’ve been enjoying
It myself." He looked down at her
and saw that she was shivering.
“But listen—you’d better get back
into the house,” he remarked gruff
l.v. He reached down and drew her
to her feet, then took her hand In
the most acute embarrassment he
had ever known. “Let’s forget It,
For a moment she permitted her
hand to rest in his, then withdrew
It hurriedly. Without a word she
ran to the door and vanished in the
darkness toward the stone house.
Later, when Roddy thoughtfully
returned home, the strong wind
beating up the slope against him
seemed fantastically like that sud
den Impact of Silver’s cold, slender
“Good Lord!” he muttered, and
ran his hand across his eyes. “I
must be crazy.”
But as he lay In bed thinking
over the events of the night, It was
the memory of Silver Crenoble's
clinging to him that gnawed and
worried at the core of his being un
til at last as he stared up toward
the invisible celling, his whole life
seemed to be tangled in a hopeless
He vowed savagely that tomor
row he would do two things—he
would write a letter to Neal An
thony definitely rejecting his offer,
and in the evening he would drive
to Baliantyne and fetch Corinne
Beneath the cobalt glitter of the
sky Itodd.v found himself driving
along at a snail’s pace, although he
had forty miles yet to go—and fifty
miles hack home again, with Co
rinne beside him.
Corinne had deliberately pro
longed her visit with her mother, as
Roddy knew, in the hope that he
might finally nccept Neal Anthony’s
offer, if only to please her. She had
been affection itself, indeed, and al
ways spoke regretfully of her pro
longed absence. But Roddy had had
time to do a little thinking about
Corinne. She was young and spoiled
and wholly untrained in responsibil
ity. But she would grow up in
time, Roddy reflected, and the pass
ing months would bring to her a
sense of her place In the scheme of
But there would have to be a
change. For one thing, Corinne must
be thought to roadze that they’
would nave to economize at every
turn during the coming year.
It was two o’clock in the morning
when Roddy returned to the farm
with Corlnne. She had broached the
subject of Neal Anthony. When
he told her of the letter he had
written that day, Corlnne had
lapsed Into a silence more deadly
than any virulent denunciation he
might have anticipated.
In the house she sank down on
the couch in the living room and
gazed blankly before her.
Roddy came over to her. He drew
a chair, seated himself, and took
her hands into his own.
"Look at me, Corrle!’’ he begged
softly. "Let's not begin like this.
You don't know what It means to
have you home again. And you can’t
guess how lonely It has been here
She sighed and leaned back
against the couch. Then she looked
at him. “I wonder.’’ she said slowly.
"It’s so easy to sentimentalize.”
"Listen, Corrle. I'm sorry about
that job Neal Anthony threw my
way. I wish I could have tnken It
—for your sake, Corrle. But—I
couldn’t. And some day you’re go
ing to be glad I didn’t."
Corlnne sighed again. “I’d rather
not discuss it any more," she said
coldly, "You’ve made your deci
She drew her hands away from
him and Roddy sat back In his
chair. For a moment he regarded
her thoughtfully. During the imst
few days a hope had formed in his
mind that he must express to her
—a profound and solemn hope ok
which, he believed, depended the
serenity of their lives together.
“All right, Corrle,’’ he said at
last. “We’ll drop it—and start In
again. But let us start In right
this time. Let us face the problems
together and work them out to
gether. I want a home—a home
with you, Corrle, where we can
bring up our children and be happy
She Sank Down on the Couch in
the Living Room and Gazed
Blankly Before Her.
together. I’ve been thinking about
that very thing while you’ve been
away. If we had a baby, you’d find
something to live for here. We’d
be closer to each other, Corrie—”
She sprang up suddenly. “Have
you gone crazy?’’ she cried huskily/
“Do you want me to bring a child
Into a place like this—where we
may be starving next year? Or
wasn’t it enough for you to throw
Xnthony's offer into my face? You
had to think up something more
“Corrlne—for God's sake!’’Roddy
stammered in despair. "We are not
going to starve,” he went on lame
ly, obstinately. “Lots of people are
bringing up children on less than
It dawned on him painfully that
Corinne was not listening. lie felt
completely lost, floundering about
In a gray and chilling chaos.
“All right, Corinne,” he conclud
ed dully, “I did not know that I
was Insulting you. I’ll not do It
He got to his feet and turned to
And her eyes upon him, widening
for a moment with reflective Indo
lence, then closing as though she
were shutting him out of her con
sciousness, shutting herself in with
her own resignation and defeat.
On an evening In February, Paula
bad come down from tbe big house
and sat beside the table munching
Sophronia pushed her glasses back
into place on the bridge of her nose
and shook her head.
“There’s no use in gettln’ your
self worked up Into a state over Co
rlnne,” she said to Paula. “If you
ask me—all that woman needs Is
exercise. If she’d do a bit of her
own housework, it’d be better for
"I don’t know," Pauln ventured.
“She doesn’t seem right. She took
one of them headaches again today.
Sometimes she scares me. She stares
at the walls and says the wind Is
drivln’ her crazy."
"I think I’ll go up and stay with
Corlnne for a while," Silver said.
“That’s better,” old Roderick said.
“It’s the first time anybody here
has been In Roddy's house In almost
"I think I’ll go along with you,"
Paula said hesitatingly.
“Let's go, then," Silver said.
Corlnne was huddled up In bed
“Corlnne!” Silver said sharply.
"You ought to be ashamed of your
Corlnne stared at her with wild
eyes. "Who sent you here?” she de
manded petulantly. “I suppose the
whole Willard family has been hav
ing a conclave!"
“Stop It!" Silver broke In. “No
one sent me—and you’re acting like
Corlnne began to weep in earnest
“Ia-I might have known—you'd say
that. This place Is driving me mad!
The wind—and the cold—and being
"You don’t have to be alone," Sil
ver protested. “Why didn’t you
come down with I’aula tonight
"Because they all hate me! I
know it. They hnte me because
Pm not a farm lout—like the rest
of them, Roddy hates me—and
loves to see me suffer! lie’s tickled
to deatli because Jason has humil
iated me. Paula for a sister-in-law
Silver took her by the shoulder.
“I’m not going to sit here and listen
to that nonsense.” she said severe
ly. "You've got to get yourself out
of this mood. Turn over here! Is
your head aching?”
"It has been bursting—all day!”'
Silver ran her fingers gently over
Corlnne’s shoulders. "I used to do
this for my father when lie had a
headache,” she said quietly, and be
gan pressing her finger tips into the
tendons and muscles thnt were knot
ted at the back of Cori one’s neck.
Corinne turned over on her face
and moaned. But Silver continued
to ply her fingers until Corinne be
gan to relax at last, and her uiuf
flled wailing ceased.
“That’s better," Silver said.
Silver worked more gently. “You
ought to get out and see what the
world is like around you. I’ll tell
you—tnke a walk with me early to
morrow morning, over to the Flathe
place and back. You have no Idea
how good It make's you feel.”
A sort of docility had crept over
Corinne. "I’ll do anything," she
mumbled, “Just to get away from
the grayness of this hill."
For some time there was silence
between them, until Silver began
to wonder If Corinne had fallen
asleep. Presently, however, Corinne
spoke up unexpectedly.
"Why didn’t you marry Gerald
Lucas, Silver, when you had the
“I should have been the most un
happy creature in the world,” Silver
“Because—I’ve seen enough of
that life to know," Silver said.
Corinne lay still and did not
speak. Fear filled Silver's heart as
she fixed her eyes upon Corinne and
wondered, with something like de
spair, what was passing in the mind
of this girl who was Roddy Willard’s
wife. Once or twice she felt that
she must say something to warn
her against Gernld Lucas and the
bright disnster that awaited any
woman who gave him her love. But
the words would not come. At last,
with an inner trembling, she got up
and spoke softly.
“I hope you feel better.”
Corinne turned over and yawned.
“Lots better. Thanks so much, Sil
Silver patted the coverlet on Co
rlnne’s shoulder. “Try to sleep now.
And I’ll come up in the morning,
right after breakfast, to take you
on our hike.”
“Perhaps it would be better to
postpone it till the afternoon—or
maybe another day,” Corlnne sug
gested. "I’m expecting a telephone
Silver regarded her for a moment
In silence. “Well, go to sleep now.
anyhow,” she said, and stole quiet
ly out of the room.
Alone again under the cold star
light, Sliver found that her minis
tering to Roddy's wife had had a
profound effect upon herself. All
that lawless feeling for Roddy that
had battled within her for weeks
retreated now before a burning pity
for Corlnne and a feverish resolve
to do everything In her power to
save Roddy's wife from herself and
her false sense of values.
IN MARCH, after a prolonged
spell of bitter cold and very lit
tle snow, a sudden tbaw set In. The
bark of the winter, as Sophronlo
said, was broken.
Rut everywhere the talk was of
the gloomy outlook for the farmer.
“A man doesn’t know whether to
pray for rain or drouth. If there’s
a bumper crop, prices will go still
lower—and If you don’t plant at all.
you get nothing.”
Roddy reflected. What If be had
to sell his last year’s grain at prac
tically no profit to himself! He
was no worse off than countless
farmers whose obligations were
staggering compared with his own
He could still give Corlnne enough
money to buy herself some spring
clothes, though she probably would
never know how much It meant to
him. Well, perhaps things would be
better now that spring, was here.
For that matter, things were bet
ter. Corlnne bad been more like her
old self during the past weeks. He
was well aware that Silver Grenoble
had had much to do with the
change In Corlnne’s state of mind
He hnd seen very little of Silver
but she and Corlnne had beconv
(TO BE CONTINUED)
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