Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3
Chapter 1

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. Atrum.

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 people.

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