IT is sixteen years since John Bergson died.
His wife now lies beside him, and the white
shaft that marks their graves gleams across the
wheat-fields. Could he rise from beneath it,
he would not know the country under which he
has been asleep. The shaggy coat of the prairie,
which they lifted to make him a bed, has van-
ished forever. From the Norwegian graveyard
one looks out over a vast checker-board, marked
off in squares of wheat and corn; light and
dark, dark and light. Telephone wires hum
along the white roads, which always run at
right angles. From the graveyard gate one can
count a dozen gayly painted farmhouses; the
gilded weather-vanes on the big red barns wink
at each other across the green and brown and
yellow fields. The light steel windmills trem-
ble throughout their frames and tug at their
moorings, as they vibrate in the wind that often
blows from one week's end to another across
that high, active, resolute stretch of country.
The Divide is now thickly populated. The
rich soil yields heavy harvests; the dry, bracing
climate and the smoothness of the land make
labor easy for men and beasts. There are few
scenes more gratifying than a spring plowing
in that country, where the furrows of a single
field often lie a mile in length, and the brown
earth, with such a strong, clean smell, and such
a power of growth and fertility in it, yields itself
eagerly to the plow; rolls away from the shear,
not even dimming the brightness of the metal,
with a soft, deep sigh of happiness. The wheat-
cutting sometimes goes on all night as well as
all day, and in good seasons there are scarcely
men and horses enough to do the harvesting.
The grain is so heavy that it bends toward the
blade and cuts like velvet.
There is something frank and joyous and
young in the open face of the country. It gives
itself ungrudgingly to the moods of the season,
holding nothing back. Like the plains of Lom-
bardy, it seems to rise a little to meet the sun.
The air and the earth are curiously mated and
intermingled, as if the one were the breath of
the other. You feel in the atmosphere the same
tonic, puissant quality that is in the tilth, the
same strength and resoluteness.
One June morning a young man stood at the
gate of the Norwegian graveyard, sharpening
his scythe in strokes unconsciously timed to the
tune he was whistling. He wore a flannel cap
and duck trousers, and the sleeves of his white
flannel shirt were rolled back to the elbow.
When he was satisfied with the edge of his
blade, he slipped the whetstone into his hip
pocket and began to swing his scythe, still
whistling, but softly, out of respect to the quiet
folk about him. Unconscious respect, probably,
for he seemed intent upon his own thoughts,
and, like the Gladiator's, they were far away.
He was a splendid figure of a boy, tall and
straight as a young pine tree, with a hand-
some head, and stormy gray eyes, deeply set
under a serious brow. The space between his
two front teeth, which were unusually far
apart, gave him the proficiency in whistling
for which he was distinguished at college.
(He also played the cornet in the University
When the grass required his close attention,
or when he had to stoop to cut about a head-
stone, he paused in his lively air,--the "Jewel"
song,--taking it up where he had left it when
his scythe swung free again. He was not think-
ing about the tired pioneers over whom his
blade glittered. The old wild country, the
struggle in which his sister was destined to suc-
ceed while so many men broke their hearts and
died, he can scarcely remember. That is all
among the dim things of childhood and has been
forgotten in the brighter pattern life weaves
to-day, in the bright facts of being captain of
the track team, and holding the interstate
record for the high jump, in the all-suffusing
brightness of being twenty-one. Yet some-
times, in the pauses of his work, the young man
frowned and looked at the ground with an
intentness which suggested that even twenty-
one might have its problems.
When he had been mowing the better part of
an hour, he heard the rattle of a light cart on
the road behind him. Supposing that it was
his sister coming back from one of her farms,
he kept on with his work. The cart stopped at
the gate and a merry contralto voice called,
"Almost through, Emil?" He dropped his
scythe and went toward the fence, wiping his
face and neck with his handkerchief. In the
cart sat a young woman who wore driving
gauntlets and a wide shade hat, trimmed with
red poppies. Her face, too, was rather like a
poppy, round and brown, with rich color in her
cheeks and lips, and her dancing yellow-brown
eyes bubbled with gayety. The wind was flap-
ping her big hat and teasing a curl of her
chestnut-colored hair. She shook her head at
the tall youth.
"What time did you get over here? That's
not much of a job for an athlete. Here I've
been to town and back. Alexandra lets you
sleep late. Oh, I know! Lou's wife was telling
me about the way she spoils you. I was going
to give you a lift, if you were done." She gath-
ered up her reins.
"But I will be, in a minute. Please wait for
me, Marie," Emil coaxed. "Alexandra sent me
to mow our lot, but I've done half a dozen
others, you see. Just wait till I finish off the
Kourdnas'. By the way, they were Bohemians.
Why aren't they up in the Catholic grave-
"Free-thinkers," replied the young woman
"Lots of the Bohemian boys at the Univer-
sity are," said Emil, taking up his scythe again.
"What did you ever burn John Huss for, any-
way? It's made an awful row. They still jaw
about it in history classes."
"We'd do it right over again, most of us,"
said the young woman hotly. "Don't they ever
teach you in your history classes that you'd all
be heathen Turks if it hadn't been for the
Emil had fallen to mowing. "Oh, there's no
denying you're a spunky little bunch, you
Czechs," he called back over his shoulder.
Marie Shabata settled herself in her seat
and watched the rhythmical movement of the
young man's long arms, swinging her foot as
if in time to some air that was going through
her mind. The minutes passed. Emil mowed
vigorously and Marie sat sunning herself and
watching the long grass fall. She sat with the
ease that belongs to persons of an essentially
happy nature, who can find a comfortable spot
almost anywhere; who are supple, and quick in
adapting themselves to circumstances. After a
final swish, Emil snapped the gate and sprang
into the cart, holding his scythe well out over
the wheel. "There," he sighed. "I gave old
man Lee a cut or so, too. Lou's wife needn't
talk. I never see Lou's scythe over here."
Marie clucked to her horse. "Oh, you know
Annie!" She looked at the young man's bare
arms. "How brown you've got since you came
home. I wish I had an athlete to mow my
orchard. I get wet to my knees when I go
down to pick cherries."
"You can have one, any time you want him.
Better wait until after it rains." Emil squinted
off at the horizon as if he were looking for clouds.
"Will you? Oh, there's a good boy!" She
turned her head to him with a quick, bright
smile. He felt it rather than saw it. Indeed,
he had looked away with the purpose of not see-
ing it. "I've been up looking at Angelique's
wedding clothes," Marie went on, "and I'm so
excited I can hardly wait until Sunday. Ame-
dee will be a handsome bridegroom. Is any-
body but you going to stand up with him? Well,
then it will be a handsome wedding party."
She made a droll face at Emil, who flushed.
"Frank," Marie continued, flicking her horse,
"is cranky at me because I loaned his saddle
to Jan Smirka, and I'm terribly afraid he won't
take me to the dance in the evening. Maybe
the supper will tempt him. All Angelique's
folks are baking for it, and all Amedee's twenty
cousins. There will be barrels of beer. If once
I get Frank to the supper, I'll see that I stay
for the dance. And by the way, Emil, you
mustn't dance with me but once or twice. You
must dance with all the French girls. It hurts
their feelings if you don't. They think you're
proud because you've been away to school or
Emil sniffed. "How do you know they think
"Well, you didn't dance with them much at
Raoul Marcel's party, and I could tell how they
took it by the way they looked at you--and at
"All right," said Emil shortly, studying the
glittering blade of his scythe.
They drove westward toward Norway Creek,
and toward a big white house that stood on a
hill, several miles across the fields. There were
so many sheds and outbuildings grouped about
it that the place looked not unlike a tiny village.
A stranger, approaching it, could not help notic-
ing the beauty and fruitfulness of the outlying
fields. There was something individual about
the great farm, a most unusual trimness and
care for detail. On either side of the road, for a
mile before you reached the foot of the hill,
stood tall osage orange hedges, their glossy
green marking off the yellow fields. South of
the hill, in a low, sheltered swale, surrounded by
a mulberry hedge, was the orchard, its fruit trees
knee-deep in timothy grass. Any one there-
abouts would have told you that this was one
of the richest farms on the Divide, and that
the farmer was a woman, Alexandra Bergson.
If you go up the hill and enter Alexandra's
big house, you will find that it is curiously
unfinished and uneven in comfort. One room
is papered, carpeted, over-furnished; the next
is almost bare. The pleasantest rooms in the
house are the kitchen--where Alexandra's
three young Swedish girls chatter and cook and
pickle and preserve all summer long--and the
sitting-room, in which Alexandra has brought
together the old homely furniture that the
Bergsons used in their first log house, the fam-
ily portraits, and the few things her mother
brought from Sweden.
When you go out of the house into the flower garden, there you feel again the order and fine arrangement manifest all over the great farm; in the fencing and hedging, in the windbreaks and sheds, in the symmetrical pasture ponds, planted with scrub willows to give shade to the cattle in fly-time. There is even a white row of beehives in the orchard, under the walnut trees. You feel that, properly, Alexandra's house is the big out-of-doors, and that it is in the soil that she expresses herself best.