The Clock Tinker
The harvesting was over in Brier Dale. It was near dinner-time, and Allen, Trove, and the two hired men were trying feats in the dooryard. Trove, then a boy of fifteen, had outdone them all at the jumping. A stranger came along, riding a big mare with a young filly at her side. He was a tall, spare man, past middle age, with a red, smooth-shaven face and long, gray hair that fell to his rolling collar. He turned in at the gate. A little beyond it his mare halted for a mouthful of grass. The stranger unslung a strap that held a satchel to his side and hung it on the pommel.
“Go and ask what we can do for him,” Allen whispered to the boy.
Trove went down the drive, looking up at him curiously.
“What can I do for you?” he inquired.
“Give me thy youth,” said the stranger, quickly, his gray eyes twinkling under silvered brows.
The boy, now smiling, made no answer.
“No?” said the man, as he came on slowly. “Well, then, were thy wit as good as thy legs it would be o’ some use to me.”
The words were spoken with dignity in a deep, kindly tone. They were also faintly salted with Irish brogue.
He approached the men, all eyes fixed upon him with a look of inquiry.
“Have ye ever seen a drunken sailor on a mast?” he inquired of Allen,
“Well, sor,” said the stranger, dismounting slowly, “I am not that. Let me consider—have ye ever seen a cocoanut on a plum tree?”
“I believe not,” said Allen, laughing.
“Well, sor, that is more like me. ’Tis long since I rode a horse, an’ am out o’ place in the saddle.”
He stood erect with dignity, a smile deepening the many lines in his face.