Presently the door opened and the good man entered, he who had called to us from the marsh—a tall, emaciated old man, piteously thin, and old, and work-weary to look on, but with a keen, bright eye in his head, and something of a proud air about his ancient figure. It seemed cruel to think of his old bones having still to go on working, but our two old people, who seemed pathetically fond of each other, were evidently very poor, like the rest of the valley. The old man excused himself for his salutation of us—but there were so many dangerous characters about, and the old folk shook their heads and told of the daring operations of mysterious robbers in the neighbourhood. In their estimation, the times were generally unsafe, and lawless characters rife in the land. We looked around at the pathetic poverty of the place—and wondered why they should disquiet themselves. Poor souls! there was little left to rob them of, save the fluttering remnants of their mortal breath. But, poor as they were, they had their telephone,—a fact that struck us paradoxically in many a poor cabin as we went along. Yes! had they a mind, they could call up the White House, that instant, or the Waldorf-Astoria.
We spoke of our old trapper, and the old lady smiled.
“Those are his socks I’ve been darning for him,” she said. So the cynical old bachelor was taken care of by the good angel, woman, after all!
Trapping was about all there was to do now in the valley, she said. A mink brought seven dollars, a musk-rat thirty cents. Our old bachelor had made as much as eighteen dollars in two days—one day several years ago. The old man had told us this himself. It was evidently quite a piece of history in the valley, quite a local legend.
THE MAN AT DANSVILLE
At Dansville we fell in with a man after our own hearts. Fortunately for himself and his friends, he is unaware of the simple fact that he is a poet. We didn’t tell him, either—though we longed to. He was standing outside his prosperous-looking planing-mill, at about half-past eight of a dreaming October morning. Inside, the saws were making that droning, sweet-smelling, sawdust noise that made Colin think of “Adam Bede.” The willows and button-wood trees at the back of the workshops were still smoking with sunlit mist, and the quiet, massive, pretty water looked like a sleepy mirror, as it softly flooded along to its work on the big, dripping wheels.
To our left a great hill, all huge and damp, glittering with gossamers, and smelling of restless yellow leaves, shouldered the morning sky.
Then, turning away from talk with three or four workmen, standing at his office door, he saluted the two apparitional figures, so oddly passing along the muddy morning road.
“Out for a walk, boys?” he called.
He was a handsome man of about forty-three, with a romantic scar slashed down his left cheek, a startling scar that must have meant hideous agony to him, and yet, here in the end, had made his face beautiful, by the presence in it of a spiritual conquest.