Windy McPherson's Son
For two years Sam lived the life of a travelling buyer, visiting towns in Indiana, Illinois,
and Iowa, and making deals with men who, like Freedom Smith, bought the farmers'
products. On Sundays he sat in chairs before country hotels and walked in the streets of
strange towns, or, getting back to the city at the week end, went through the downtown
streets and among the crowds in the parks with young men he had met on the road. From
time to time he went to Caxton and sat for an hour with the men in Wildman's, stealing
away later for an evening with Mary Underwood.
In the store he heard news of Windy, who was laying close siege to the farmer's widow
he later married, and who seldom appeared in Caxton. In the store he saw the boy with
freckles on his nose--the same John Telfer had watched running along Main Street on the
night when he went to show Eleanor the gold watch bought for Sam and who sat now on
the cracker barrel in the store and later went with Telfer to dodge the swinging cane and
listen to the eloquence poured out on the night air. Telfer had not got the chance to stand
with a crowd about him at the railroad station and make a parting speech to Sam, and in
secret he resented the loss of that opportunity. After turning the matter over in his mind
and thinking of many fine flourishes and ringing periods to give colour to the speech he
had been compelled to send the gift by mail. And Sam, while the gift had touched him
deeply and had brought back to his mind the essential solid goodness of the town amid
the cornfields, so that he lost much of the bitterness aroused by the attack upon Mary
Underwood, had been able to make but a tame and halting reply to the four. In his room
in Chicago he had spent an evening writing and rewriting, putting in and taking out
flourishes, and had ended by sending a brief line of thanks.
Valmore, whose affection for the boy had been a slow growth and who, now that he was
gone, missed him more than the others, once spoke to Freedom Smith of the change that
had come over young McPherson. Freedom sat in the wide old phaeton in the road before
Valmore's shop as the blacksmith walked around the grey mare, lifting her feet and
looking at the shoes.
"What has happened to Sam--he has changed so much?" he asked, dropping a foot of the
mare and coming to lean upon the front wheel. "Already the city has changed him," he
Freedom took a match from his pocket and lighted the short black pipe.
"He bites off his words," continued Valmore; "he sits for an hour in the store and then
goes away, and doesn't come back to say good-bye when he leaves town. What has got
Freedom gathered up the reins and spat over the dashboard into the dust of the road. A
dog idling in the street jumped as though a stone had been hurled at him.