I awoke to the same silvery salutation, and the sound of country boots echoing across farm-yard cobble-stones. A lantern flashing in and out among barns lit up my ceiling for a moment, a rough country voice hailed another rough country voice somewhere outside, and the day slowly coughed and sneezed itself awake in the six-o’clock grayness. I heard Colin moving in the next room, and presently we were down-stairs, alertly hungry. Our hostess, with morning smile, asked if we would mind waiting breakfast for “the boarders.” Meanwhile, we stepped out into the unfolding day, and the village that had been a mystery to us in the darkness was revealed; a handful of farmhouses on the brow of a solitary-looking upland, and, looming over all, a great cathedral-like church that seemed to have been transported bodily from France. Stepping out to say good-morning to some young pigs that were sociably grunting in a neighbouring sty, we beheld the vast landscape of our preceding day stretched out beneath us, mistily emerging into the widening sunrise. With pride our eyes traced the steep white road we had so arduously travelled, and, for remembrance, Colin made a swift sketch of Dutch Hollow huddled down there in the valley, with its white church steeple catching the morning sun. And, by this, “the boarders” had assembled, and we found ourselves at breakfast in a cheery company of three workmen, who were as bright and full of fun as boys out for a holiday. They were presently joined by a fourth, a hearty, middle-aged man, who, as he sat down, greeted us with:
“I feel just like singing this morning.”
“Good for you!” said one of us. “That’s the way to begin the day.” His good nature was magnetic.
“Yes,” he laughed, “we sing in Sheldon from morning till night.”
“Sheldon’s evidently a good place to know,” I said. “I will make a note of that for New Yorkers.”
So, reader, sometimes when the world seems all wrong, and life a very doubtful speculation, you may care to know of a place where the days go so blithely that men actually sing from morning till night! Sheldon Center is that place. You can find it on any map, and I can testify that the news is true.
And the men that thus sang from morning till night—what was the trade they worked and sang at?
We gathered from a few dropped words that they were engaged on some work over at the church—masonry, no doubt—and, as they left the breakfast-table, in a laughing knot, to begin the day’s work, they suggested our giving a look in at them on our way. This we promised to do, for a merrier, better-hearted lot of fellows it would be hard to find. To meet them was to feel a warm glow of human comradeship. Healthy, normal, happy fellows, enjoying their work as men should, and taking life as it came with sane, unconscious gusto; it was a tonic encounter to be in their company.
They were grave-diggers, engaged in renovating the village churchyard!