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The Girl from Keller's   By: (1866-1945)

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THE GIRL FROM KELLER'S

By Harold Bindloss

ORIGINAL PREPARER'S NOTE

This text was prepared from an edition, published by Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1917. It was published in England under the title "Sadie's Conquest."

THE GIRL FROM KELLER'S

CHAPTER I

THE PORTRAIT

It was getting dark when Festing stopped at the edge of a ravine on the Saskatchewan prairie. The trail that led up through the leafless birches was steep, and he had walked fast since he left his work at the half finished railroad bridge. Besides, he felt thoughtful, for something had happened during the visit of a Montreal superintendent engineer that had given him a hint. It was not exactly disturbing, because Festing had, to some extent, foreseen the line the superintendent would take; but a post to which he thought he had a claim had been offered to somebody else. The post was not remarkably well paid, but since he was passed over now, he would, no doubt, be disappointed when he applied for the next, and it was significant that as he stood at the top of the ravine he first looked back and then ahead.

In the distance, a dull red glow marked the bridge, where the glare of the throbbing blast lamps flickered across a muddy river, swollen by melting snow. He heard the ring of the riveters' hammers and the clang of flung down rails. The whistle of a gravel train came faintly across the grass, and he knew that for a long distance gangs of men were smoothing the roughly graded track.

In front, everything was quiet. The pale green sky was streaked along the horizon by a band of smoky red, and the gray prairie rolled into the foreground, checkered by clumps of birches and patches of melting snow. In one place, the figures of a man and horses moved slowly across the fading light; but except for this, the wide landscape was without life and desolate. Festing, however, knew it would not long remain a silent waste. A change was coming with the railroad; in a few years, the wilderness would be covered with wheat; and noisy gasoline tractors would displace the plowman's teams. Moreover, a change was coming to him; he felt that he had reached the trail fork and now must choose his path.

He was thirty years of age and a railroad builder, though he hardly thought he had much talent for his profession. Hard work and stubborn perseverance had carried him on up to the present, but it looked as if he could not go much farther. It was eight years since he began by joining a shovel gang, and he felt the lack of scientific training. He might continue to fill subordinate posts, but the men who came to the front had been taught by famous engineers and held certificates.

Yet Festing was ambitious and had abilities that sprang rather from character than technical knowledge, and now wondered whether he should leave the railroad and join the breakers of virgin soil. He knew something about prairie farming and believed that success was largely a matter of temperament. One must be able to hold on if one meant to win. Then he dismissed the matter for a time, and set off again with a firm and vigorous tread.

Spring had come suddenly, as it does on the high Saskatchewan plains, and he was conscious of a strange, bracing but vaguely disturbing quality in the keen air. One felt moved to adventure and a longing for something new. Men with brain and muscle were needed in the wide, silent land that would soon waken to busy life; but one must not give way to romantic impulses. Stern experience had taught Festing caution, his views were utilitarian, and he distrusted sentiment. Still, looking back on years of strenuous effort that aimed at practical objects, he felt that there was something he had missed. One must work to live, but perhaps life had more to offer than the money one earned by toil.

The red glow on the horizon faded and an unbroken arch of dusky blue stretched above the plain. He passed a poplar bluff where the dead branches cut against the sky. The undergrowth had withered down and the wood was very quiet, with the snow bleached grass growing about its edge, but he seemed to feel the pulse of returning life... Continue reading book >>




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