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HOME > Short Stories > Ted and the Telephone > CHAPTER II TED RENEWS OLD TIMES
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 Mr. Wharton was about the last person on earth one would have connected with boxes of strings and wires hidden away beneath beds. He was a graduate of a Massachusetts agricultural college; a keen-eyed, quick, impatient creature toward whom people in general stood somewhat in awe. He had the reputation of being a top-notch farmer and those who knew him declared with zest that there was nothing he did not know about soils, fertilizers, and crops. There was no nonsense when Mr. Wharton appeared on the scene. The men who worked for him soon found that out. You didn't lean on your hoe, light your pipe, and hazard the guess that there would be rain to-morrow; you just hoed as hard as you could and did not stop to guess anything.  
Now it happened that it was haying time both at Aldercliffe and Pine Lea and the rumor got abroad that the crop was an unusually heavy one; that Mr. Wharton was short of help and ready to hire at a good wage extra men from the adjoining village. Mr. Turner brought the tidings home from the mill one June night when he returned from work.
"Why don't you try for a job up at Aldercliffe, my lad?" concluded he, after stating the case. "Ever since you were knee-high to a grasshopper you had a knack for pitching hay. Besides, you'd make a fine bit of money and the work would be no heavier than handling freight down at the mills. You've got to work somewhere through your summer vacation."
He made the latter statement as a matter of course for a matter of course it had long since become. Ted always worked when he was not studying. Vacations, holidays, Saturdays, he was always busy earning money for if he had not been, there would have been no chance of his going to school the rest of the time. Sometimes he did errands for one of the dry-goods stores; sometimes, if there were a vacancy, he helped in Fernald and Company's shipping rooms; sometimes he worked at the town market or rode about on the grocer's wagon, delivering orders. By one means or another he had usually contrived, since he was quite a small boy, to pick up odd sums that went toward his clothes and "keep." As he grew older, these sums had increased until now they had become a recognized part of the family income. For it was understood that Ted would turn in toward the household expenses all that he earned. His father had never believed in a boy having money to spend and even if he had every cent which the Turners could scrape together was needed at home. Ted knew well how much sugar and butter cost and therefore without demur he cheerfully placed in the hands of his sister Ruth, who ran the house, every farthing that was given him.
From childhood this sense of responsibility had always been in his background. He had known what it was to go hungry that he might have shoes and go without shoes that he might have underwear. Money had been very scarce on the Vermont farm, and although there was now more of it than there ever had been in the past, nevertheless it was not plentiful. Therefore, as vacation was approaching and he must get a job anyway, he decided to present himself before Mr. Wharton and ask for a chance to help in harvesting the hay crops at Aldercliffe and Pine Lea.
"You are younger than the men I am hiring," Mr. Wharton said, after he had scanned the lad critically. "How old are you?"
"I thought as much. What I want is men."
"But I have farmed all my life," protested Ted with spirit.
"Indeed!" the manager exclaimed not unkindly. "Where?"
"In Vermont."
"You don't say so! I was born in the Green Mountains," was the quick retort. "Where did you live?"
Instantly the man's face lighted.
"I know that place well. And you came from Newfane here? How did you happen to do that?"
"My father could not make the farm pay and we needed money."
"Humph! Were you sorry to give up farming?"
"Yes, sir. I didn't want to come to Freeman's Falls. But," added the boy brightening, "I like the school here."
The manager paused, studying the sharp, eager face, the spare figure, and the fine carriage of the lad before him.
"Do you like haying?" asked he presently.
"Not particularly," Ted owned with honesty.
Mr. Wharton laughed.
"I see you are a human boy," he said. "If you don't like it, why are you so anxious to do it now?"
"I've got to earn some money or give up going to school in the fall."
"Oh, so that's it! And what are you working at in school that is so alluring?" demanded the man with a quizzical glance.
"Wireless, telegraphs, telephones, and things like that," put in Ted.
For comment Mr. Wharton tipped back in his chair and once more let his eye wander over the boy's face; then he wheeled abruptly around to his desk, opened a drawer, and took out a yellow card across which he scrawled a line with his fountain pen.
"You may begin work to-morrow morning," he remarked curtly. "If it is pleasant, Stevens will be cutting the further meadow with a gang of men. Come promptly at eight o'clock, prepared to stay all day, and bring this card with you."
He waved the bit of pasteboard to and fro in the air an instant to be certain that the ink on it was dry and afterward handed it to Ted. Instinctively the boy's gaze dropped to the message written upon it and before he realized it he had read the brief words:
"Ted Turner. He says he has farmed in Vermont. If he shows any evidence of it keep him. If not turn him off. Wharton."
The man in the chair watched him as he read.
"Well?" said he.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I did not mean to read it," Ted replied with a start. "I'm very much obliged to you for giving me the job."
"I don't see that you've got it yet."
"But I shall have," asserted the lad confidently. "All I asked was a chance."
"That's all the world gives any of us," responded the manager gruffly, as he drew forth a sheet of paper and began to write. "Nobody can develop our brains, train our muscles, or save our souls but ourselves."
With this terse observation he turned his back on the boy, and after loitering a moment to make sure that he had nothing more to say, the lad slipped away, triumphantly bearing with him the coveted morsel of yellow pasteboard. That its import was noncommittal and even contained a tang of skepticism troubled him not a whit. The chief thing was that he had wrested from the manager an opportunity, no matter how grudgingly accorded, to show what he was worth. He could farm and he knew it and he had no doubt that he could demonstrate the fact to any boss he might encounter.
Therefore with high courage he was promptly on hand the next morning and even before the time assigned he approached Stevens, the superintendent.
"What do you want, youngster?" demanded the man sharply. He was in a hurry and it was obvious that something had nettled him and that he was in no humor to be delayed.
"I came to help with the haying."
"We don't want any boys as young as you," Stevens returned, moving away.
"I've a card from Mr. Wharton."
"A card, eh? Why didn't you say so in the first place? Shell it out."
Shyly Ted produced his magic fragment of paper which the overseer read with disapproval in his glance.
"Well, since Wharton wants you tried out, you can pitch in with the crowd," grumbled he. "But I still think you're too young. I've had boys your age before and never found them any earthly use. However, you won't be here long if you're not—that's one thing. You'll find a pitchfork in the barn. Follow along behind the men who are mowing and spread the grass out."
"I know."
"Oh, you do, do you! Trust people your size for knowing everything."
To the final remark the lad vouchsafed no reply. Instead he moved away and soon returned, fork in hand. What a flood of old memories came surging back with the touch of the implement! Again he was in Vermont in the stretch of mowings that fronted the old white house where he was born. The scent of the hay in his nostrils stirred him like an elixir, and with a thrill of pleasure he set to work. He had not anticipated toiling out there in the hot sunshine at a task which he had always disliked; but to-day, by a strange miracle, it did not seem to be a task so much as a privilege.
How familiar the scene was! As he approached the group of older men it took him only a second to see where he was needed and he thrust his pitchfork into the swath at his feet with a swing of easy grace.
"Guess you've done this job before," called a man behind him after he had worked for an interval.
"Yes, I have."
"You show it," was the brief observation.
They moved on in silence up the field.
"Where'd you learn to handle that fork, sonny?" another voice shouted, as they neared the farther wall.
"In Vermont," laughed Ted.
"I judged as much," grunted the speaker. "They don't train up farmers of your size in this part of the world."
Ted flushed with pleasure and for the first time he stopped work and mopped the perspiration from his forehead. He was hot and thirsty but he found himself strangely exhilarated by the exercise and the sweet morning air and sunshine. Again he took up his fork and tossed the newly cut grass up into the light, spreading it on the ground with a methodical sweep of his young arm. The sun had risen higher now and its dazzling brilliance poured all about him. Up and down the meadow he went and presently he was surprised to find himself alone near the point from which he had started. His fellow-laborers were no longer in sight. The field was very still and because it was, Ted began to whistle softly to himself.
He was startled to hear a quiet laugh at his elbow.
"Don't you ever eat anything, kid?"
Mr. Wharton was standing beside him, a flicker of amusement in his gray eyes.
"I didn't know it was noon," gasped Ted.
"We'll have to tie an alarm clock on you," chuckled the manager. "The gang stopped work a quarter of an hour ago."
"I didn't notice they had."
The boy flushed. He felt very foolish to have been discovered working there all by himself in this ridiculous fashion.
"I wanted to finish this side of the field and I forgot about the time," he stammered apologetically.
"Have you done it to your satisfaction?"
"Yes, I'm just through."
For the life of him Ted could not tell whether the manager was laughing at him or not. He kicked the turf sheepishly.
"Aren't you tired?" inquired Mr. Wharton at length.
"No—at least—well, I haven't thought about it. Perhaps I am a little."
"And well you may be. You've put in a stiff morning's work. You'd better go and wash up now and eat your lunch. Take your full hour of rest. No matter if the others do get back here before you. Stevens says you are worth any two of them, anyway."
"It's just that I'm used to it," was the modest reply.
"We'll let it go at that," Mr. Wharton returned ambiguously. "And one thing more before you go. You needn't worry about staying on. We can use you one way or another all summer. There'll always be work for a boy who knows how to do a job well."

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