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The Face Of Failure
by [?]

AFTER the week’s shower the low Iowa hills looked vividly green. At the base of the first range of hills the Blackhawk road winds from the city to the prairie. From its starting-point, just outside the city limits, the wayfarer may catch bird’s-eye glimpses of the city, the vast river that the Iowans love, and the three bridges tying three towns to the island arsenal. But at one’s elbow spreads Cavendish’s melon farm. Cavendish’s melon farm it still is, in current phrase, although Cavendish, whose memory is honored by lovers of the cantaloupe melon, long ago departed to raise melons for larger markets; and still a weather-beaten sign creaks from a post announcing to the world that “the celebrated Cavendish Melons are for Sale here!” To-day the melon-vines were softly shaded by rain-drops. A pleasant sight they made, spreading for acres in front of the green-houses where mushrooms and early vegetables strove to outwit the seasons, and before the brown cottage in which Cavendish had begun a successful career. The black roof-tree of the cottage sagged in the middle, and the weather-boarding was dingy with the streaky dinginess of old paint that has never had enough oil. The fences, too, were unpainted and rudely patched. Nevertheless a second glance told one that there were no gaps in them, that the farm machines kept their bright colors well under cover, and that the garden rows were beautifully straight and clean. An old white horse switched its sleek sides with its long tail and drooped its untrammelled neck in front of the gate. The wagon to which it was harnessed was new and had just been washed. Near the gate stood a girl and boy who seemed to be mutually studying each other’s person. Decidedly the girl’s slim, light figure in its dainty frock repaid one’s eyes for their trouble; and her face, with its brilliant violet eyes, its full, soft chin, its curling auburn hair and delicate tints, was charming; but her brother’s look was anything but approving. His lip curled and his small gray eyes grew smaller under his scowling brows.

“Is THAT your best suit?” said the girl.

“Yes, it is; and it’s GOING to be for one while,” said the boy.

It was a suit of the cotton mixture that looks like wool when it is new, and cuts a figure on the counters of every dealer in cheap ready-made clothing. It had been Tim Powell’s best attire for a year; perhaps he had not been careful enough of it, and that was why it no longer cared even to imitate wool; it was faded to the hue of a clay bank, it was threadbare, the trousers bagged at the knees, the jacket bagged at the elbows, the pockets bulged flabbily from sheer force of habit, although there was nothing in them.

“I thought you were to have a new suit,” said the girl. “Uncle told me himself he was going to buy you one yesterday when you went to town.”

“I wouldn’t have asked him to buy me anything yesterday for more’n a suit of clothes.”

“Why?” The girl opened her eyes. “Didn’t he do anything with the lawyer? Is that why you are both so glum this morning?”

“No, he didn’t. The lawyer says the woman that owns the mortgage has got to have the money. And it’s due next week.”

The girl grew pale all over her pretty rosy cheeks; her eyes filled with tears as she gasped, “Oh, how hateful of her, when she promised—-“

“She never promised nothing, Eve; it ain’t been hers for more than three months. Sloan, that used to have it, died, and left his property to be divided up between his nieces; and the mortgage is her share. See?”

“I don’t care, it’s just as mean. Mr. Sloan promised.”

“No, he didn’t; he jest said if Uncle was behind he wouldn’t press him; and he did let Uncle get behind with the interest two times and never kicked. But he died; and now the woman, she wants her money!”