Such an expansion required Eli to
take on hired hands, which was a problem for someone
so extremely closed-off. He did not want to hire locals,
as he was also growing increasingly paranoid that those
around him were jealous of his holdings. As the Civil
War had ended, there were drifters heading northward
looking for any kind of work. Here, Norah was useful;
both charming and desperate for human contact, she could
compensate for her husband's harshness towards those
few that he hired. Such kindness would also be her downfall.
A lengthy drought caused crop failure for the farm;
animals began dying; even the barren apple trees seemed
to moan in the night wind. Old Eli couldn't grow anything,
it seemed. He let all the farmhands go but one; and
that "one" was at his wife's insistence. Thomas
Watson had been a Union soldier who found employment
on the Atrum Farm. No matter the chore, Tom handled
it cheerfully and ably. Though Eli worked him hard,
he never complained--and he always had a smile for Mrs.
Many in town already knew what Old Eli wouldn't allow
himself to suspect: That Norah and Tom were lovers.
Rumor had it that Norah was with child. Even then, Old
Eli never said a word. And when, one day, Norah and
Tom vanished (presumably to find a new life together
somewhere else), Eli remained silent.
You'd think that a man who'd endured that much hardship
would crack at some point, but not Eli. He kept to himself,
and he kept about his business. About the only change
people noted on his property was the appearance of a
couple of new scarecrows in the fields. Suddenly, it
seemed his fortunes turned around...the animals began
to flourish, and the crops came back better than before.
No matter how bad the weather, insects, or other conditions
afflicted his neighbors, Old Eli always had bountiful
livestock and crops. Old Eli's corn was taller and sweeter
than any around, and notable for it's peculiar red coloring.
There were occasional problems with the livestock though,
who had become considerably more aggressive towards