"No-o, not troubles, exactly." She hesitated, then leaned impulsively across the counter and spoke in his ear. "But it ain't all so bad in de Old Country like what dey say. De poor people ain't slaves, and dey ain't ground down like what dey say here. Always de forester let de poor folks come into de wood and carry off de limbs dat fall, and de dead trees. Und if de rich farmer have maybe a liddle more manure dan he need, he let de poor man come and take some for his land. De poor folks don't git such wages like here, but dey lives chust as comfortable. Und dem wooden shoes, what dey makes such fun of, is cleaner dan what leather is, to go round in de mud and manure. Dey don't git so wet and dey don't stink so."
Claude could see that her heart was bursting with homesickness, full of tender memories of the far-away time and land of her youth. She had never talked to him of these things before, but now she poured out a flood of confidences about the big dairy farm on which she had worked as a girl; how she took care of nine cows, and how the cows, though small, were very strong,--drew a plough all day and yet gave as much milk at night as if they had been browsing in a pasture! The country people never had to spend money for doctors, but cured all diseases with roots and herbs, and when the old folks had the rheumatism they took "one of dem liddle jenny-pigs" to bed with them, and the guinea-pig drew out all the pain.
Claude would have liked to listen longer, but he wanted to find the old woman's tormentors before his train came in. Leaving his bags with her, he crossed the railroad tracks, guided by an occasional teasing tinkle of the bell in the cornfield. Presently he came upon the gang, a dozen or more, lying in a shallow draw that ran from the edge of the field out into an open pasture. He stood on the edge of the bank and looked down at them, while he slowly cut off the end of a cigar and lit it. The boys grinned at him, trying to appear indifferent and at ease.
"Looking for any one, soldier?" asked the one with the bell.
"Yes, I am. I'm looking for that bell. You'll have to take it back where it belongs. You every one of you know there's no harm in that old woman."
"She's a German, and we're fighting the Germans, ain't we?"
"I don't think you'll ever fight any. You'd last about ten minutes in the American army. You're not our kind. There's only one army in the world that wants men who'll bully old women. You might get a job with them."
The boys giggled. Claude beckoned impatiently. "Come along with that bell, kid."