Alexandra and Emil spent five days down
among the river farms, driving up and down
the valley. Alexandra talked to the men about
their crops and to the women about their poul-
try. She spent a whole day with one young
farmer who had been away at school, and who
was experimenting with a new kind of clover
hay. She learned a great deal. As they drove
along, she and Emil talked and planned. At
last, on the sixth day, Alexandra turned Brig-
ham's head northward and left the river behind.
"There's nothing in it for us down there,
Emil. There are a few fine farms, but they are
owned by the rich men in town, and couldn't be
bought. Most of the land is rough and hilly.
They can always scrape along down there, but
they can never do anything big. Down there
they have a little certainty, but up with us
there is a big chance. We must have faith in
the high land, Emil. I want to hold on harder
than ever, and when you're a man you'll thank
me." She urged Brigham forward.
When the road began to climb the first long
swells of the Divide, Alexandra hummed an old
Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his
sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant
that he felt shy about asking her. For the first
time, perhaps, since that land emerged from
the waters of geologic ages, a human face was
set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed
beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious.
Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her
tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the
Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes
across it, must have bent lower than it ever
bent to a human will before. The history of
every country begins in the heart of a man or
Alexandra reached home in the afternoon.
That evening she held a family council and told
her brothers all that she had seen and heard.
"I want you boys to go down yourselves and
look it over. Nothing will convince you like
seeing with your own eyes. The river land was
settled before this, and so they are a few years
ahead of us, and have learned more about farm-
ing. The land sells for three times as much as
this, but in five years we will double it. The
rich men down there own all the best land, and
they are buying all they can get. The thing to
do is to sell our cattle and what little old corn
we have, and buy the Linstrum place. Then
the next thing to do is to take out two loans on
our half-sections, and buy Peter Crow's place;
raise every dollar we can, and buy every acre
"Mortgage the homestead again?" Lou cried.
He sprang up and began to wind the clock
furiously. "I won't slave to pay off another
mortgage. I'll never do it. You'd just as
soon kill us all, Alexandra, to carry out some
Oscar rubbed his high, pale forehead. "How
do you propose to pay off your mortgages?"
Alexandra looked from one to the other and
bit her lip. They had never seen her so ner-
vous. "See here," she brought out at last.
"We borrow the money for six years. Well,
with the money we buy a half-section from
Linstrum and a half from Crow, and a quarter
from Struble, maybe. That will give us up-
wards of fourteen hundred acres, won't it?
You won't have to pay off your mortgages for
six years. By that time, any of this land will be
worth thirty dollars an acre--it will be worth
fifty, but we'll say thirty; then you can sell a
garden patch anywhere, and pay off a debt of
sixteen hundred dollars. It's not the principal
I'm worried about, it's the interest and taxes.
We'll have to strain to meet the payments. But
as sure as we are sitting here to-night, we can
sit down here ten years from now independent
landowners, not struggling farmers any longer.
The chance that father was always looking for
Lou was pacing the floor. "But how do you
KNOW that land is going to go up enough to pay
the mortgages and--"
"And make us rich besides?" Alexandra put
in firmly. "I can't explain that, Lou. You'll
have to take my word for it. I KNOW, that's all.
When you drive about over the country you
can feel it coming."
Oscar had been sitting with his head lowered,
his hands hanging between his knees. "But we
can't work so much land," he said dully, as if he
were talking to himself. "We can't even try.
It would just lie there and we'd work ourselves
to death." He sighed, and laid his calloused
fist on the table.
Alexandra's eyes filled with tears. She put
her hand on his shoulder. "You poor boy, you
won't have to work it. The men in town who
are buying up other people's land don't try to
farm it. They are the men to watch, in a new
country. Let's try to do like the shrewd ones,
and not like these stupid fellows. I don't want
you boys always to have to work like this. I
want you to be independent, and Emil to go
Lou held his head as if it were splitting.
"Everybody will say we are crazy. It must be
crazy, or everybody would be doing it."
"If they were, we wouldn't have much
chance. No, Lou, I was talking about that with
the smart young man who is raising the new
kind of clover. He says the right thing is usu-
ally just what everybody don't do. Why are
we better fixed than any of our neighbors?
Because father had more brains. Our people
were better people than these in the old coun-
try. We OUGHT to do more than they do, and see
further ahead. Yes, mother, I'm going to clear
the table now."
Alexandra rose. The boys went to the stable
to see to the stock, and they were gone a long
while. When they came back Lou played on
his DRAGHARMONIKA and Oscar sat figuring at his
father's secretary all evening. They said no-
thing more about Alexandra's project, but she
felt sure now that they would consent to it.
Just before bedtime Oscar went out for a pail of
water. When he did not come back, Alexandra
threw a shawl over her head and ran down the
path to the windmill. She found him sitting
there with his head in his hands, and she sat
down beside him.
"Don't do anything you don't want to do,
Oscar," she whispered. She waited a moment,
but he did not stir. "I won't say any more
about it, if you'd rather not. What makes you
"I dread signing my name to them pieces of
paper," he said slowly. "All the time I was a
boy we had a mortgage hanging over us."
"Then don't sign one. I don't want you to,
if you feel that way."
Oscar shook his head. "No, I can see there's
a chance that way. I've thought a good while
there might be. We're in so deep now, we
might as well go deeper. But it's hard work
pulling out of debt. Like pulling a threshing-
machine out of the mud; breaks your back. Me
and Lou's worked hard, and I can't see it's got
us ahead much."
"Nobody knows about that as well as I do,
Oscar. That's why I want to try an easier way.
I don't want you to have to grub for every
"Yes, I know what you mean. Maybe it'll
come out right. But signing papers is signing
papers. There ain't no maybe about that."
He took his pail and trudged up the path to the
Alexandra drew her shawl closer about her and stood leaning against the frame of the mill, looking at the stars which glittered so keenly through the frosty autumn air. She always loved to watch them, to think of their vastness and distance, and of their ordered march. It fortified her to reflect upon the great operations of nature, and when she thought of the law that lay behind them, she felt a sense of personal security. That night she had a new conscious- ness of the country, felt almost a new relation to it. Even her talk with the boys had not taken away the feeling that had overwhelmed her when she drove back to the Divide that afternoon. She had never known before how much the country meant to her. The chirping of the insects down in the long grass had been like the sweetest music. She had felt as if her heart were hiding down there, somewhere, with the quail and the plover and all the lit- tle wild things that crooned or buzzed in the sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the future stirring.