He paused, “Ah, well, it’s hard for those who have it.”
“But I haven’t heard Carlstrom refer to Sweden for years,” I said. “Is it homesickness, or just old age?”
“There ye have it, Davy; the nail right on the head!” exclaimed the Scotch Preacher. “Is it homesickness, or is he just old and tired?”
With that we fell to talking about Carlstrom, the gunsmith. I have known him pretty nearly ever since I came here, now more than ten years ago—and liked him well, too—but it seemed, as Dr. McAlway talked that evening, as though we were making the acquaintance of quite a new and wonderful person. How dull we all are! How we need such an artist as the Scotch Preacher to mould heroes out of the common human clay around us! It takes a sort of greatness to recognize greatness.
In an hour’s time the Scotch Preacher had both Harriet and me much excited, and the upshot of the whole matter was that I promised to call on Carlstrom the next day when I went to town.
I scarcely needed the prompting of the Scotch Preacher, for Carlstrom’s gunshop has for years been one of the most interesting places in town for me. I went to it now with a new understanding.
Afar off I began to listen for Carlstrom’s hammer, and presently I heard the familiar sounds. There were two or three mellow strokes, and I knew that Carlstrom was making the sparks fly from the red iron. Then the hammer rang, and I knew he was striking down on the cold steel of the anvil. It is a pleasant sound to hear.
Carlstrom’s shop is just around the corner from the main street. You may know it by a great weather-beaten wooden gun fastened over the doorway, pointing in the daytime at the sky, and in the night at the stars. A stranger passing that way might wonder at the great gun and possibly say to himself:
“A gunshop! How can a man make a living mending guns in such a peaceful community!”
Such a remark merely shows that he doesn’t know Carlstrom, nor the shop, nor us.
I tied my horse at the corner and went down to the shop with a peculiar new interest. I saw as if for the first time the old wheels which have stood weathering so long at one end of the building. I saw under the shed at the other end the wonderful assortment of old iron pipes, kettles, tires, a pump or two, many parts of farm machinery, a broken water wheel, and I don’t know what other flotsam of thirty years of diligent mending of the iron works of an entire community. All this, you may say—the disorder of old iron, the cinders which cover part of the yard but do not keep out the tangle of goldenrod and catnip and boneset which at this time of the year grows thick along the neighbouring fences—all this, you say, makes no inviting picture. You are wrong. Where honest work is, there is always that which invites the eye.
I know of few things more inviting than to step up to the wide-open doors and look into the shop. The floor, half of hard worn boards half of cinders, the smoky rafters of the roof, the confusion of implements on the benches, the guns in the corners—how all of these things form the subdued background for the flaming forge and the square chimney above it.