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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 29. Bradley Discouraged
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A Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 29. Bradley Discouraged Post by :jorgemv Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :919

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A Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 29. Bradley Discouraged

CHAPTER XXIX. BRADLEY DISCOURAGED

The Judge and Mrs. Brown were alarmed at the change in him. He was gloomy and pale, but he protested he was all right.

"I'm going out on the farm. I believe it'll do me good to go out and help Councill put up his hay. It seems to me if I could get physically tired and wolfishly hungry again it would do me good."

The Judge drove him out to Councill's one afternoon. Everybody they met seemed delighted to see him. Mrs. Councill came out to the horse-block, her bare arm held up to shield her eyes.

"Well, Brad Talcott, how are you--anyway? you're jest in time to help me pick berries."

Bradley sprang out and shook hands with hearty force. "Give us your dish."

"H'yare!" yelled Councill from the load of hay he was driving in, "I can use you out here."

"Oh, you go long," replied Mrs. Councill. "He's got better company and a better job."

Out in the berry patch he talked over the neighborhood affairs and picked berries and killed mosquitoes, while the wind wandered by with rustling steps on the lombardy poplar leaves. The locusts sang and the grasshoppers snapped their shining wings. It was a blessed relief to his troubled older self, for he slipped back into the more tranquil life of his boyhood.

At supper he sat at the table with the men, whose wet shirts showed how fierce the work of pitching the hay had been.

"Be ye out f'r play or work, Brad?" asked Councill.

"Work. Need a hand?"

"They's plenty to do--but I'm afraid you can't take a hand's place, for a while."

"Try me and see."

They were all curious to hear of Washington, but he was more inclined to talk of the crops and the cattle.

He went to sleep that night in the bare garret with the men, and woke the next morning at sun-rise at sound of Councill's voice calling him, just as he used to do when he was a hired man.

"_Hello_, Brad! Roll out!"

He went down to breakfast, sloshed his face at the cistern pump and was ready to eat when the men came in.

"We live jest the same as ever, Brad," said Mrs. Councill, "you'll haf to put up with it jest as if y' wa'n't a Congressman."

"I guess he can stand a few days what we stand all the while," Councill interjected.

There was a good deal of banter during the meal about "downing" the Congressman.

Bradley's physical pride was roused and he took his place in the field determined to show them their mistake. Night came bringing weariness that was exhaustion, and next morning he was too lame to lift a fork. It emphasized the unnatural inactivity into which he had fallen.

He improved physically and by the end of the week was able to pitch hay with the rest. The Judge drove up for him on Saturday afternoon, and found him pitching hay upon the stack behind the wind-break, wet with sweat and covered with timothy bloom. Councill was stacking.

"Hello, Congressman," called the Judge.

"Get off, 'n take right hold, Judge," said Councill. "A Judge aint no better'n a Congressman, not a darn bit."

"I'll take a hand at the table," the Judge replied.

"I've had about enough of it," Bradley said to him privately while Councill was putting his team in the barn. "I'm better, but it begins to seem like a waste of time."

They drove home that night through the still, warm, star-lit air, like father and son in slow talk of the future.

The Judge told of the plan for the fall campaign, to which Bradley listened silently.

"We'll win yet if you only keep your grit."

He planned also a broadening out of their law business. A new block had just been built and they were to take two adjoining rooms.

"You need a library of your own and a chance to work where you won't be disturbed. I'll do the consulting business and leave you the business in court." For a time Bradley was interested and occupied in moving into the new office and in getting in some new books and arranging the shelves.

But the narrowness, the quiet, the mental stagnation of the life of Rock River settled down on him at last. There were days when he walked the floor of the office, wild with dismay over his prospect. How could he settle down again to this life of the country lawyer? The honors and ease that accompanied his office, the larger horizon of Washington, had ruined him for life in Rock River. Love might have enabled him to bear it, but he had given up the thought of marriage and he longed for the larger life he had left.

There was a sorrowful scene when the Judge read for the first time Bradley's letter of withdrawal from the canvass. The Judge was deeply hurt because he had not been consulted, and was depressed by Bradley's despair. He tried to reason with him, but Bradley was in no mood to reason.

"I'm out of it, Judge; it's of no use to go on; I'm beaten; that's all there is about it; we'd only get a minority vote, and show how weak we are; I'm a failure as a politician, and every other way. I give it up."

The Judge sat staring at him without words to express his terrible disappointment and alarm, for the condition into which his lieutenant had sunk alarmed him and he communicated his fear to Mrs. Brown.

They discussed the matter that night in bed. Bradley heard their voices still mumbling on when he sank to sleep.

"You don't suppose, Mrs. Brown," the Judge said a little timidly, "it can't be possible it's a woman"--

"If it had been, Mr. Brown, he would have told me," she said convincingly. "It's just the heat, and then his defeat has told on him more than you admit."

"If I felt sure of that, Mrs. Brown," the Judge said in answer, "but I don't. All ambition seems to have gone out of him. I hate to acknowledge myself mistaken in the man. I've believed in Brad. I am alarmed about him. He isn't right; I've a good mind to send him down to St. Louis and Kansas City on some collection cases."

"I think he'd better do that, Mr. Brown, if he will go."

"Oh, he'll go; he wants to get away from the campaign; it seems to wear upon him some way; he avoids everybody, and won't speak of it at all if he can help it."

Bradley was very glad to accept the offer, and made himself ready to go with more of his old-time interest than he had shown since his sickness. The Judge brightened up also, and said to him, as he was about to step into the train: "Now, Brad, don't hurry back; take your time, and enjoy yourself. Go around by Chicago, if you feel like it."

After the train pulled out, and they were riding home, the Judge said to his wife: "Mrs. Brown, you must take good care of me now. I want to live to see a party grow up to the level of that young man's ideas. This firm is crippled, but it is not in the hands of a receiver, Mrs. Brown."

"I'll be the receiver," Mrs. Brown said.

The Judge shifted the lines into his left hand.

The horse fell into a walk. "Mrs. Brown, if this weren't a public road, I'd be tempted to put my strong right arm around you and give you a squeeze."

"I don't see any one looking," she said, and her eyes took on a pathetic suggestion of the roguishness her face must have worn in girlhood.

He put his arm about her, and gave her a great hug. After that she laid her head against his shoulder, and cried a little; the Judge sighed.

"Well, we'll have to get reconciled to being alone, I suppose; we can't expect to keep him always. I think it's a woman, Mrs. Brown."

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