He could see from the top of the hill, down which the road wound to the river, that the bridge was gone, and he paused for a moment with an involuntary feeling that it was useless to go forward; but remembering that his way led across, at all events, he walked down to the bank. There it ran, broad, rapid, and in places apparently deep. He looked up and down in vain: no lodged drift-wood; no fallen trees; no raft or wreck; a recent freshet had swept all clear to high-water mark, and the stream rolled, and foamed, and boiled, and gurgled, and murmured in the afternoon August sun as gleefully and mockingly as if its very purpose was to baffle the wearied youth who looked into and over its changing tide.
In coming from Cleveland that morning he had taken a wrong road, and now, at mid-afternoon, he found his progress stayed with half his day’s journey still before him. It would have been but a moment’s task to remove his clothes and swim over, but the region was open and clear on that side for a considerable distance, and notwithstanding his solitude, he hesitated to make the transit in that manner. It was apparent, from the little-travelled road, that the stream had been forded by an indirect course, and one not easily determined from the shore. It occurred to him that possibly some team from Cleveland might pass along and take him over; and, wearied, he sat down by his light valise to wait, and at least rest; and as he gazed into the rapid current a half-remembered line of a forgotten poet ran and ran through his mind thus:
“Which running runs, and will run forever on.”
His reflections were not cheerful. Three months before he had gone over to Hudson with a very young man’s scheme of maintaining himself at school, and finally in college; and finding it impracticable, had strayed off to the lower part of the State with a vague idea of going down the Mississippi, and, perhaps, to Texas. He spent some time with relatives near Cincinnati, and under a sudden impulse—all his plans, as he was pleased to call them, were impulses—he had returned, adding, as he was conscious, another to a long-growing list of failures, which, in the estimation of many acquaintances, also included himself.
His meditations were interrupted by the sound of an approaching carriage coming over the hill. He knew the horses. They were Judge Markham’s, and driven by the Judge himself, alone, in a light vehicle. The young man sprang up at the sight. Here was the man whom of all men he most respected, and feared as much as he could fear any man, whose good opinion he most cared to have, and yet who he was conscious had a dislike for him.