“I smell wood smoke,” remarked Thad, after they had gone about a third of the distance; “and as the wind is almost dead ahead the fire must be in that direction. There’s no house in that quarter that I remember, Hugh. There, now can see smoke coming out of that thin patch of woods yonder. I wonder if they’re meaning to cut those trees down and clear more land?”
“No, you’re away off there, Thad,” remarked Hugh, just then. “I can glimpse the fire now, and there’s just one chap hanging over it. Don’t you see he’s a Weary Willie of a hobo, who’s getting his dinner ready with wet wood. Here’s a chance for us to see just how the thing is done, so let’s make him a friendly call!”
THE MAN WITH THE COUGH
Thad seemed quite agreeable.
“Do you know I’ve never come in close contact with any tramp,” he went on to remark, as they turned their faces toward the patch of trees where the smoke arose, “and I’ve always wanted to watch just how they managed. I note that this fellow has a couple of old tomato cans he’s picked up on some dump, and they’re set over the fire to warm up some coffee, or something he’s evidently gotten at a back door. Perhaps he’ll be sociable, and invite us to join him in his afternoon meal. I guess they eat at any old time, just as the notion seizes them, eh, Hugh?”
“They’re a good deal like savages in that respect, I understand,” the other told him. “You know Indians often go a whole day without breaking their fast; but when they do eat they stuff themselves until they nearly burst. There, he has seen us coming in, for he’s shading his eyes with his hand, and taking a good look.”
“I hope we haven’t given him a scare,” chuckled Thad, “under the impression that one of us may be the sheriff, or some indignant farmer who’s lost some of his chickens lately, and traced them feathers to this camping spot.”
The hobo, however, did not attempt to run. He watched their approach with interest, and even waved a friendly hand toward the two lads.
“Why, evidently he’s something of a jolly dog,” remarked the surprised Thad, “and there are no chicken feathers around that I can notice. Hello, bo’, getting your five o’clock tea ready, I see.”
At these last words, called out louder than ordinary, the man in the ragged and well-worn garments grinned amiably.
“Well, now, young feller,” he went on to say in a voice that somehow was not unpleasant to Hugh’s ear, “that’s about the size of it. I haven’t had a bite since sun-up this morning, and I’m near caving in. Out for a walk, are you, lads?”
“Oh! we live in Scranton,” Hugh explained, “and I had an errand up beyond. We went by another road, and came back this way, which is why we sighted your smoke. Fact is, Thad, my chum here, has never seen a knight of the railroad ties cooking his grub, and he said he’d like to drop in and learn just how you managed, because he’s read so much about how splendidly tramps get on.”