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Under the Lion’s Paw
by [?]

“I don’t want y’r land,” he said.”All I’m after is the int’rest on my money—that’s all. Now, if y’ want ‘o stay on the farm, why, I’ll give y’ a good chance. I can’t have the land layint vacant.” And in many cases the owner remained as tenant.

In the meantime he had sold his store; he couldn’t spend time in it—he was mainly occupied now with sitting around town on rainy days smoking and “gassin’ with the boys,” or in riding to and from his farms. In fishing-time he fished a good deal. Doc Grimes, Ben Ashley, and Cal Cheatham were his cronies on these fishing excursions or hunting trips in the time of chickens or partridges. In winter they went to Northern Wisconsin to shoot deer.

In spite of all these signs of easy life Butler persisted in saying he “hadn’t enough money to pay taxes on his land,” and was careful to convey the impression that he was poor in spite of his twenty farms. At one time he was said to be worth fifty thousand dollars, but land had been a little slow of sale of late, so that he was not worth so much. A fine farm, known as the Higley place, had fallen into his hands in the usual way the previous year, and he had not been able to find a tenant for it. Poor Higley, after working himself nearly to death on it in the attempt to lift the mortgage, had gone off to Dakota, leaving the farm and his curse to Butler.

This was the farm which Council advised Haskins to apply for; and the next day Council hitched up his team and drove down-town to see Butler.

“You jest let medo the talkin’,” he said.”We’ll find him wearin’ out his pants on some salt barrel somew’ers; and if he thought you wanteda place, he’d sock it to you hot and heavy. You jest keep quiet; I’ll fix ‘im.”

Butler was seated in Ben Ashley’s store telling “fish yarns,” when Council sauntered in casually.

“Hello, But; lyin’ agin, hey?”

“Hello, Steve! How goes it?”

“Oh, so-so. Too dang much rain these days. I thought it was goin’ t’ freeze up f’r good last night. Tight squeak if I get m’ ploughin’ done. How’s farmin’ with youthese days?”

“Bad. Ploughin’ ain’t half done.”

“It ‘ud be a religious idee f’r you t’ go out an’ take a hand y’rself.”

“I don’t haff to,” said Butler, with a wink.

“Got anybody on the Higley place?”

“No. Know of anybody?”

“Waal, no;not eggsackly. I’ve got a relation back t’ Michigan who’s ben hot an’ cold on the idea o’ comin’ West f’r some time. Mightcome if he could get a good lay-out. What do you talk on the farm?”

“Well, I d’ know. I’ll rent it on shares or I’ll rent it money rent.”

“Waal, how much money, say?”

“Well, say ten per cent, on the price—$250.”

“Waal, that ain’t bad. Wait on ‘im till ‘e thrashes?”

Haskins listened eagerly to this important question, but Council was coolly eating a dried apple which he had speared out of a barrel with his knife. Butler studied him carefully.

“Well, knocks me out of twenty-five dollars interest.”

“My relation’ll need all he’s got t’ git his crops in,” said Council, in the same, indifferent way.

“Well, all right; saywait,” concluded Butler.

“All right; this is the man. Haskins, this is Mr. Butler—no relation to Ben—the hardest-working man in Cedar County.”

On the way home Haskins said: “I ain’t much better off. I’d like that farm; it’s a good farm, but it’s all run down, an’ so ‘m I. I could make a good farm of it if I had half a show. But I can’t stock it n’r seed it.”

“Waal, now, don’t you worry,” roared Council in his ear.”We’ll pull y’ through somehow till next harvest. He’s agreed t’ hire it ploughed, an’ you can earn a hundred dollars ploughin’ an’ y’ c’n git the seed o’ me, an’ pay me back when y’ can.”

Haskins was silent with emotion, but at last he said, “I ain’t got nothin’ t’ live on.”

“Now, don’t you worry ’bout that. You jest make your headquarters at ol’ Steve Council’s. Mother’ll take a pile o’ comfort in havin’ y’r wife an’ children ’round. Y’ see, Jane’s married off lately, an’ Ike’s away a good ‘eal, so we’ll be darn glad t’ have y’ stop with us this winter. Nex’ spring we’ll see if y’ can’t git a start agin.” And he chirruped to the team, which sprang forward with the rumbling, clattering wagon.