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The Bear Wheat At Sixty-two








From: A Deal In Wheat And Other Stories

As Sam Lewiston backed the horse into the shafts of his backboard and
began hitching the tugs to the whiffletree, his wife came out from the
kitchen door of the house and drew near, and stood for some time at the
horse's head, her arms folded and her apron rolled around them. For a
long moment neither spoke. They had talked over the situation so long
and so comprehensively the night before that there seemed to be nothing
more to say.

The time was late in the summer, the place a ranch in southwestern
Kansas, and Lewiston and his wife were two of a vast population of
farmers, wheat growers, who at that moment were passing through a
crisis--a crisis that at any moment might culminate in tragedy. Wheat
was down to sixty-six.

At length Emma Lewiston spoke.

"Well," she hazarded, looking vaguely out across the ranch toward the
horizon, leagues distant; "well, Sam, there's always that offer of
brother Joe's. We can quit--and go to Chicago--if the worst comes."

"And give up!" exclaimed Lewiston, running the lines through the torets.
"Leave the ranch! Give up! After all these years!"

His wife made no reply for the moment. Lewiston climbed into the
buckboard and gathered up the lines. "Well, here goes for the last try,
Emmie," he said. "Good-by, girl. Maybe things will look better in town
to-day."

"Maybe," she said gravely. She kissed her husband good-by and stood for
some time looking after the buckboard traveling toward the town in a
moving pillar of dust.

"I don't know," she murmured at length; "I don't know just how we're
going to make out."

When he reached town, Lewiston tied the horse to the iron railing in
front of the Odd Fellows' Hall, the ground floor of which was occupied
by the post-office, and went across the street and up the stairway of a
building of brick and granite--quite the most pretentious structure of
the town--and knocked at a door upon the first landing. The door was
furnished with a pane of frosted glass, on which, in gold letters, was
inscribed, "Bridges & Co., Grain Dealers."

Bridges himself, a middle-aged man who wore a velvet skull-cap and who
was smoking a Pittsburg stogie, met the farmer at the counter and the
two exchanged perfunctory greetings.

"Well," said Lewiston, tentatively, after awhile.

"Well, Lewiston," said the other, "I can't take that wheat of yours at
any better than sixty-two."

"Sixty-two."

"It's the Chicago price that does it, Lewiston. Truslow is bearing the
stuff for all he's worth. It's Truslow and the bear clique that stick
the knife into us. The price broke again this morning. We've just got a
wire."

"Good heavens," murmured Lewiston, looking vaguely from side to side.
"That--that ruins me. I can't carry my grain any longer--what with
storage charges and--and--Bridges, I don't see just how I'm going to
make out. Sixty-two cents a bushel! Why, man, what with this and with
that it's cost me nearly a dollar a bushel to raise that wheat, and now
Truslow--"

He turned away abruptly with a quick gesture of infinite discouragement.

He went down the stairs, and making his way to where his buckboard was
hitched, got in, and, with eyes vacant, the reins slipping and sliding
in his limp, half-open hands, drove slowly back to the ranch. His wife
had seen him coming, and met him as he drew up before the barn.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Emmie," he said as he got out of the buckboard, laying his arm across
her shoulder, "Emmie, I guess we'll take up with Joe's offer. We'll go
to Chicago. We're cleaned out!"





Next: The Bull Wheat At A Dollar-ten

Previous: The Strategy Of Mr Peters



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