This was no new matter of thought with me. I had given some thought to Hazen in the past. I was interested in the man and in that which should come to him. He was, it seemed to me, a problem in fundamental ethics; he was, as matters stood, a demonstration of the essential uprightness of things as they are. The biologist would have called him a sport, a deviation from type, a violation of all the proper laws of life. That such a man should live and grow great and prosper was not fitting; in a well-regulated world it could not be. Yet Hazen Kinch did live; he had grown—in his small way—great; and by our lights he had prospered. Therefore I watched him. There was about the man the fascination which clothes a tight-rope walker above Niagara; an aeronaut in the midst of the nose dive. The spectator stares with half-caught breath, afraid to see and afraid to miss seeing the ultimate catastrophe. Sometimes I wondered whether Hazen Kinch suspected this attitude on my part. It was not impossible. There was a cynical courage in the man; it might have amused him. Certainly I was the only man who had in any degree his confidence.
I have said there was not another within forty miles whom he would have given a lift to town; I doubt if there was another man anywhere for whom he would have done this small favour.
He seemed to find a mocking sort of pleasure in my company.
When I came to his house he was in the barn harnessing his mare to the sleigh. The mare was a good animal, fast and strong. She feared and she hated Hazen. I could see her roll her eyes backward at him as he adjusted the traces. He called to me without turning:
“Shut the door! Shut the door! Damn the cold!”
I slid the door shut behind me. There was within the barn the curious chill warmth which housed animals generate to protect themselves against our winters.
“It will snow,” I told Hazen. “I was not sure you would go.”
He laughed crookedly, jerking at the trace.
“Snow!” he exclaimed. “A man would think you were the personal manager of the weather. Why do you say it will snow?”
“The drift of the clouds—and it’s warmer,” I told him.
“I’ll not have it snowing,” he said, and looked at me and cackled. He was a little, thin, old man with meager whiskers and a curious precision of speech; and I think he got some enjoyment out of watching my expression at such remarks as this. He elaborated his assumption that the universe was conducted for his benefit, in order to see my silent revolt at the suggestion. “I’ll not have it snowing.” he said. “Open the door.”
He led the mare out and stopped by the kitchen door.
“Come in,” he said. “A hot drink.”
I went with him into the kitchen. His wife was there, and their child. The woman was lean and frail; and she was afraid of him. The countryside said he had taken her in payment of a bad debt. Her father had owed him money which he could not pay.