Near the foot of the hill there is a little-bridge. It is a pleasant, quiet spot. My companion stopped and put down his bag.
“What do you think,” said he, “I should paint here?”
“Well,” I said, “you know better than I do. What would you paint?”
He looked around at me and then smiled as though he had a quiet little joke with himself.
“When in doubt,” he said, “I always paint ‘God is Love,’ I’m sure of that. Of course ‘Hell yawns’ and ‘Repent ye’ have to be painted—near towns—but I much rather paint ‘God is Love.’”
I left him kneeling there on the bridge, the bit of carpet under his knees, his two little cans at his side. Half way up the hill I turned to look back. He lifted his hand with the paint brush in it, and I waved mine in return. I have never seen him since, though it will be a long, long time before the sign of him disappears from our roadsides.
At the top of the hill, near the painted boulder, I climbed the fence, pausing a moment on the top rail to look off across the hazy countryside, warm with the still sweetness of autumn. In the distance, above the crown of a little hill, I could see the roof of my own home—and the barn near it—and the cows feeding quietly in the pastures.
Harriet and I had the first intimation of what we have since called the “gunsmith problem” about ten days ago. It came to us, as was to be expected, from that accomplished spreader of burdens, the Scotch Preacher. When he came in to call on us that evening after supper I could see that he had something important on his mind; but I let him get to it in his own way.
“David,” he said finally, “Carlstrom, the gunsmith, is going home to Sweden.”
“At last!” I exclaimed.
Dr. McAlway paused a moment and then said hesitatingly:
“He says he is going.”
Harriet laughed. “Then it’s all decided,” she said; “he isn’t going.”
“No,” said the Scotch Preacher, “it’s not decided—yet.”
“Dr. McAlway hasn’t made up his mind,” I said, “whether Carlstrom is to go or not.”
But the Scotch Preacher was in no mood for joking.
“David,” he said, “did you ever know anything about the homesickness of the foreigner?”
He paused a moment and then continued, nodding his great shaggy head:
“Man, man, how my old mither greeted for Scotland! I mind how a sprig of heather would bring the tears to her eyes; and for twenty years I dared not whistle “Bonnie Doon” or “Charlie Is My Darling” lest it break her heart. ’Tis a pain you’ve not had, I’m thinking, Davy.”
“We all know the longing for old places and old times,” I said.
“No, no, David, it’s more than that. It’s the wanting and the longing to see the hills of your own land, and the town where you were born, and the street where you played, and the house——”