Eben strode out the door of the Child Placing Society and jammed his hat down on his damp brow at the fiercest angle. He had to get away from this women's world into a world he knew. Women and kids certainly could make a man look foolish. He felt empty. The fried egg sandwich from the five and dime store was a poor substitute for Myrtle's breakfasts. He'd keep going on the same street until he came to a place to eat.
"Home cooking," said a sign in a small store window. Eben looked in. He saw a table with blue and white checked oilcloth, and a man sitting there, with a toothpick in his mouth and a yellow cob pipe beside him. His hands were calloused and no city man could have such a sunburn in May...nor wore his city clothes with such a Sunday look. He looked sort of lonesome and forsaken, sitting there alone.
Eben sat down near him and picked up a menu that wasn't any too clean. "Nice day," he said.
The man smiled, but his mouth had a tragic twisted look.
"Is it sure enough home cooking," Eben asked.
"That's what they call it," said the man. "But not so you'd notice, I'd say. The beans aren't bad though...just canned beans...Kinda hard to hurt canned beans."
Eben grinned back. Over the beans they fell to talking about crops. There was no doubt but things were getting better, only it came slow...They agreed on what soil and fertilizer suited potatoes best and what was best for wheat and that the way some fellows left their straw outside all winter, when they could just as well blow it into the barn loft at threshing time, was terrible wasteful.
"Where's your place?" asked Eben.
"I couldn't keep it," said the stranger, that sad, lost look growing in his eyes. "My wife died after our kid was born and the bills for the doctors and medicine...anyhow I couldn't take care of the kid alone in the country...no jobs for a farmer in the city either it looks like..."
"Say that's tough," said Eben. "Mighty tough all right. But I'll tell you what's purty near as tough...that's to have a wife like mine that's taught school and wants kids and hasn't any..." He was horrified after he said it...blurting out a thing like that to a stranger! He stiffened and said formally. "I gotta be goin'."
"I better mosey along, too," said the stranger and trailed off listlessly down the street, the discouraged droop of his shoulders telling plainly enough, that he didn't have any place to go.
It made Eben feel bad just to watch him...a good farmer like that who wanted to farm. And all of a sudden it came to him, "Why couldn't I go shares? Suppose him and me take over the forty acres that's for rent across the road. He can board with us and share if there's any profit"...Here was something two men could settle between themselves. He started after the stranger with long scissor strides.