Mrs. Wheeler and Mahailey always lost weight in thrashing time, just as the horses did; this year Nat Wheeler had six hundred acres of winter wheat that would run close upon thirty bushels to the acre. Such a harvest was as hard on the women as it was on the men. Leonard Dawson's wife, Susie, came over to help Mrs. Wheeler, but she was expecting a baby in the fall, and the heat proved too much for her. Then one of the Yoeder daughters came; but the methodical German girl was so distracted by Mahailey's queer ways that Mrs. Wheeler said it was easier to do the work herself than to keep explaining Mahailey's psychology. Day after day ten ravenous men sat down at the long dinner table in the kitchen. Mrs. Wheeler baked pies and cakes and bread loaves as fast as the oven would hold them, and from morning till night the range was stoked like the fire-box of a locomotive. Mahailey wrung the necks of chickens until her wrist swelled up, as she said, "like a puff-adder."
By the end of July the excitement quieted down. The extra leaves were taken out of the dining table, the Wheeler horses had their barn to themselves again, and the reign of terror in the henhouse was over.
One evening Mr. Wheeler came down to supper with a bundle of newspapers under his arm. "Claude, I see this war scare in Europe has hit the market. Wheat's taken a jump. They're paying eighty-eight cents in Chicago. We might as well get rid of a few hundred bushel before it drops again. We'd better begin hauling tomorrow. You and I can make two trips a day over to Vicount, by changing teams,--there's no grade to speak of."
Mrs. Wheeler, arrested in the act of pouring coffee, sat holding the coffee-pot in the air, forgetting she had it. "If this is only a newspaper scare, as we think, I don't see why it should affect the market," she murmured mildly. "Surely those big bankers in New York and Boston have some way of knowing rumour from fact."
"Give me some coffee, please," said her husband testily. "I don't have to explain the market, I've only got to take advantage of it."
"But unless there's some reason, why are we dragging our wheat over to Vicount? Do you suppose it's some scheme the grain men are hiding under a war rumour? Have the financiers and the press ever deceived the public like this before?"
"I don't know a thing in the world about it, Evangeline, and I don't suppose. I telephoned the elevator at Vicount an hour ago, and they said they'd pay me seventy cents, subject to change in the morning quotations. Claude," with a twinkle in his eye, "you'd better not go to mill tonight. Turn in early. If we are on the road by six tomorrow, we'll be in town before the heat of the day."
"All right, sir. I want to look at the papers after supper. I haven't read anything but the headlines since before thrashing. Ernest was stirred up about the murder of that Grand Duke and said the Austrians would make trouble. But I never thought there was anything in it."