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The Girl Farmers
by [?]


“I see no way out of this, girls, but for you to go to work and support yourselves with your accomplishments. At least I suppose you’ve got some. Your schooling cost a fortune, and maybe it was well enough, for now there’s a chance for you to make it count.”

And thus delivering himself, gruff Uncle Abner took a fresh chew of tobacco, and let his eyes wander aimlessly among those dead-and-gone relatives hanging on the walls. Anywhere indeed but at the two rosy, eager faces before him; for the sisters, Margaret and Elizabeth, sat watching and listening to this, the first hint of difficulty in the easy-going of their pampered lives.

Margaret spoke. “What is the amount of the mortgage, Uncle?”

“Tut, tut,” he grunted, with a show of impatience, “you can’t understand; girls aint expected to know about business; they h’aint any heads for it. You’d better just shut up the place and come over to my house till you can look around you a bit.”

“You are very kind, uncle, but we will consider that after you have answered my question,” continued Margaret with quiet insistence. “How are we to understand unless we are told? And why keep us in ignorance? We have a right to know just how our father’s affairs were left, and I, for my part, intend to know;–” and the earnest young voice stopped short of the sob that caught and held it quivering.

There was silence while the tall clock ticked a few moments away. The large grey eyes had no release in their steady depths. Thus driven Uncle Abner proceeded to explain that it was when their brother James got into that trouble over his wife’s property. Their father had been obliged to borrow, and he (Uncle Abner), accommodated him, taking as security a mortage on the farm.

“It was for five thousand dollars,” he concluded, “and of course if he had lived–,” he paused, and walking to the window, his hands plunged deep into his homespun pockets, gazed uncomfortably upon the broad stretch of field and pasture so dear to the orphan nieces he was unwittingly torturing.

The Milfords were a proud race. Proud in the sturdy yeoman spirit of honest independence. Margaret was not long in making up her mind.

“You are right, uncle,” she said with marked deliberation. “Libbie and I have indeed had every advantage that the best schools afford. We ought to go to work and we will. But–” and her wistful gaze swept their beloved possessions indoor and out–“it shall be here; not anywhere else.”

“What upon earth are you driving at?” spluttered Uncle Abner, while Elizabeth smiled acquiescence in the decision of the beloved older sister whose word had been law since their pinafore days. Whatever the outlook she would stand by her. “I’d like to know what you can do here!” went on their sage adviser, muttering audibly something about the “infernal nonsense of women folks.”

“I mean it, uncle. I never was further from talking nonsense. We will work here, on the old farm, and save our home from strangers, if you will only be patient and give us time. I can take charge of the hands and the crops. Elizabeth will manage the house and garden. In fact I find myself longing every minute to begin. It will be something to occupy us and divert us from gloomy thoughts;” and she glanced at the somber garments that told of recent bereavement.

“But you can’t stay here without a protector,” objected her uncle, getting downright wrathful as he felt inwardly conscious that he would be obliged to yield. He had seen his niece Margaret have her own way more than once. Still he must fight for it.

“You just take my advice and do what I said at first. Let somebody take the place and work off the debt–in a way, you understand. You can look about for a music class, and Lizzie here can get a position in the public schools. Of course you know you are welcome at my house as long as you need–“