Iowa Writes

OCTAVE THANET (ALICE FRENCH)
from The Face of Failure


"Well, I know one thing, that Uncle ain't EVER going to make money. He—" The last word shrivelled on her lips, which puckered into a confused smile at the warning frown of her brother. The man that they were discussing had come round to them past the henhouse. How much had he overheard?

He didn't seem angry, anyhow. He called: "Well, Evy, ready?" and Eve was glad to run into the house for her hat without looking at him. It was a relief that she must sit on the back seat where she need not face Uncle Nelson. Tim sat in front; but Tim was so stupid he wouldn't mind.

Nor did he; it was Nelson Forrest that stole furtive glances at the lad's profile, the knitted brows, the freckled cheeks, the undecided nose, and firm mouth.

"Well, I know one thing, that Uncle ain't EVER going to make money. He—" The last word shrivelled on her lips, which puckered into a confused smile at the warning frown of her brother. The man that they were discussing had come round to them past the henhouse. How much had he overheard?

He didn't seem angry, anyhow. He called: "Well, Evy, ready?" and Eve was glad to run into the house for her hat without looking at him. It was a relief that she must sit on the back seat where she need not face Uncle Nelson. Tim sat in front; but Tim was so stupid he wouldn't mind.

Nor did he; it was Nelson Forrest that stole furtive glances at the lad's profile, the knitted brows, the freckled cheeks, the undecided nose, and firm mouth.

The boyish shoulders slouched forward at the same angle as that of the fifty-year-old shoulders beside him. Nelson, through long following of the plough, had lost the erect carriage painfully acquired in the army. He was a handsome man, whose fresh-colored skin gave him a perpetual appearance of having just washed his face. The features were long and delicate. The brown eyes had a liquid softness like the eyes of a woman. In general the countenance was alertly intelligent; he looked younger than his years; but this afternoon the lines about his mouth and in his brows warranted every gray hair of his pointed short beard. There was a reason. Nelson was having one of those searing flashes of insight that do come occasionally to the most blindly hopeful souls. Nelson had hoped all his life. He hoped for himself, he hoped for the whole human race. He served the abstraction that he called "PROgress" with unflinching and unquestioning loyalty. Every new scheme of increasing happiness by force found a helper, a fighter, and a giver in him; by turns he had been an Abolitionist, a Fourierist, a Socialist, a Greenbacker, a Farmers' Alliance man. Disappointment always was followed hard on its heels by a brand-new confidence. Progress ruled his farm as well as his politics; he bought the newest implements and subscribed trustfully to four agricultural papers; but being a born lover of the ground, a vein of saving doubt did assert itself sometimes in his work; and, on the whole, as a farmer he was successful. But his success never ventured outside his farm gates. At buying or selling, at a bargain in any form, the fourteen-year-old Tim was better than Nelson with his fifty years' experience of a wicked and bargaining world.

Was that any part of the reason, he wondered to-day, why at the end of thirty years of unflinching toil and honesty, he found himself with a vast budget of experience in the ruinous loaning of money, with a mortgage on the farm of a friend, and a mortgage on his own farm likely to be foreclosed?....

There was only one way. Should he make Richards suffer or suffer himself? Did a man have to grind other people or be ground himself?

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


OCTAVE THANET (ALICE FRENCH)

Alice French (1850-1934), whose pen name was Octave Thanet, was born in Massachusetts but lived in Davenport, Iowa, from the age of five until her death. She wrote seven novels and seventeen short-story collections. "The Face of Failure" is from Stories of a Western Town (1893).

It can be read online here.

This page was first displayed
on June 01, 2006

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