This old fosse seemed to strike the somewhat forgotten, out-of-the-world note of the surrounding country. Picturesque to the eye, with bounteous green prospects and smooth, smiling hills, it was not, we were told, as prosperous as it looked. For some vague reason, the tides of agricultural prosperity had ebbed from that spacious sunlit vale. A handsome old trapper, who sat at his house door smoking his pipe and looking across the green flats, set down the cause to the passing of the canal. Ah, yes! it was possible for him, thirty years ago, to make the trip to Rochester and back by the canal, and bring home a good ten dollars; but now—well, every one in the valley was poor, except the man whose beehives we had seen on the hillside half-a-mile back. He had made no less than a thousand dollars out of his honey this last season. He was an old bachelor, too, like himself. There were no less than five bachelors in the valley—five old men without a woman to look after them.
“—or bother them,” the old chap added humorously, relighting his pipe. Mrs. Mulligan, half a mile farther up the valley, was the only woman thereabouts; and she, by the way, would give us some lunch. We could say that he had sent us.
So we left the old trapper to his pipe and his memories, and went in search of Mrs. Mulligan. Presently a poor little house high up on the hillside caught our eye, and we made toward it. As we were nearing the door, a dog, evidently not liking our packs, sprang out at us, and from down below in the marshy flats floated the voice of a man calling to us.
“Get out o’ that!” hailed the voice. “There’s nothing there for you.”
Poor Colin! We were evidently taken for tramps once more.
However, undaunted by this reception, we reached the cottage door, and at our knock appeared a very old, but evidently vigorous, woman.
“Is this Mrs. Mulligan’s house?”
Her name on the lips of two strangers brought a surprised smile to her face—a pleasant feeling of importance, even notoriety, no doubt—and she speedily made us welcome, and, with many apologies, set before us the cold remains of lunch which had been over an hour or two ago—cold squash, pumpkin pie, cheese and milk. It was too bad we were late, for they had had a chicken for dinner, and had sent the remains of it to a friend down the road,—our trapper, no doubt,—and if the fire hadn’t gone out she would have made us some tea. Now, cold squash is not exactly an inflammatory diet, but we liked the old lady so much, she had such a pleasant, motherly way with her, and such an entertaining, wise and even witty tongue, that we decided that cold squash, with her as hostess, was better than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.