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Broken to the Plow   By: (1881-1943)

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A Novel by





Printed in the United States of America

TO MY BROTHER Who Helped Make My Literary Career Possible.



Toward four o'clock in the afternoon Fred Starratt remembered that he had been commissioned by his wife to bring home oyster cocktails for dinner. Of course, it went without saying that he was expected to attend to the cigars. That meant he must touch old Wetherbee for money. Five dollars would do the trick, but, while he was about it, he decided that he might as well ask for twenty five. There were bound to be other demands before the first of the month, and the hard fisted cashier of Ford, Wetherbee & Co. seemed to grow more and more crusty over drafts against the salary account. If one caught him in a good humor it was all right. Usually a risqué story was the safest road to geniality. Starratt raked his brains for a new one, to no purpose. Every moment of delay added greater certainty to the conviction that he was in for a disagreeable encounter. At four o'clock Wetherbee always began to balance his cash for the day and he was particularly vicious at any interruptions during this precise performance. What in the world had possessed Helen to give this absurd dinner party to two people Starratt had never met? At least she might have put the thing off until pay day, when money was more plentiful.

How did others manage? Starratt asked himself. Because there was a small minority in the office who received their full month's salary without a break during the entire year. Take young Brauer, for instance. He got a little over a hundred a month and yet he never seemed short. He dressed well, too or neatly, to be nearer the truth; there was no great style to his make up. Of course, Brauer was not married, but Starratt could never remember a time, even before he took the plunge into matrimony, when he was not going through the motions of smoothing old Wetherbee into a good humored acceptance of an IOU tag. Starratt did not think himself extravagant, and it always had puzzled him to observe how free some of his salaried friends were with their coin. Only that morning his wife had reflected his own mood with exaggerated petulancy when she had said:

"I'm sure I don't know where all the money goes! We don't spend it on cafés, and we haven't a car, and goodness knows I only buy what I have to when it comes down to clothes."

What she had to! He thought over the phrase not with any desire to put Helen in the pillory, but merely to uncover, if possible, the source of their economic ills.

In days gone by, when his mother was alive, he had heard almost the same remark leveled at his father:

"Well, I suppose some people could save on our income. But we've got to be decent we can't go about in rags!"

He knew from long experience just the sort his mother had meant by the term "some people." Brauer was a case in point. Mrs. Starratt always spoke of such as he with lofty tolerance.

"Oh, of course, foreigners always get on! They're accustomed to live that way!"

Fred Starratt had not altogether accepted his mother's philosophy that everybody lacking the grace of an Anglo Saxon or Scotch name was a foreigner. There were times when he was given to wonder vaguely why the gift of "getting on" had been given to "foreigners" and denied him. Once in a while he rebelled against the implied gentility which had been wished on him. Were rags necessary to achieve economy? Granting the premises, in moments of rare revolt he became hospitable to any contingency that would free him from the ever present humiliation of an empty purse.

He soon had learned that the term "rags" was a mere figure of speech, which stood for every pretense offered up as a sacrifice upon the altar of appearances... Continue reading book >>

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