The entrance of Scattergood Baines into Coldriver Valley, and the manner of his first taking root in its soil, are legendary. This much is clear past even disputing in the post office at mail time, or evenings in the grocery—he walked in, perspiring profusely, for he was very fat.
It is asserted that he walked the full twenty-four miles from the railroad, subsisting on the country, as it were, and sagged down on the porch of Locker’s grocery just before sundown. It is not implied that he walked all of the twenty-four miles in that single day. Huge bodies move deliberately.
He sagged down on Locker’s porch, and it is reported the corner of the porch sagged with him. George Peddie has it from his grandfather, who was an eyewitness, that Scattergood did not so much as turn his head to look at the assembled manhood of the vicinity, but with infinite pains and audible grunts, succeeded in bringing first one foot, then the other, within reach of his hands, and removed his shoes. Following this he sighed with a great contentment and twiddled his bare toes openly and flagrantly in the eyes of all Coldriver. He is said now to have uttered the first words to fall from his mouth in the town where were to lie his life’s unfoldings and fulfillments. They were significant—in the light of subsequent activities.
“One of them railroads runnin’ up here,” said he to the mountain just across the road from him, “would have spared me close to a dozen blisters.”
Conversation had expired on Scattergood’s arrival, and the group on the porch converted itself into an audience. It was an audience that got its money’s worth. Not for an instant did the attention of a single member of it stray away from this Godsend come to furnish them with their first real topic of conversation since Crazy French stole a box of Paris green, mistaking it for a new sort of pancake flour.
Scattergood arose ponderously and limped out into the middle of the dusty road. From this vantage point he slowly and conscientiously studied the village.
“Uh-huh!” he said. “‘Twouldn’t pay to do all that walkin’ just for a visit. Calc’late I’ll have to settle.”
He walked directly back to the absorbed group of leading citizens, his shoes dangling, one in each hand, and addressed them genially.
“Your town,” said he, “is growin’. Its population jest increased by me.”
“Sizable growth,” said Old Man Penny, dryly, letting his eye rove over Scattergood’s bulk.
“My line,” said Scattergood, “is anythin’ needful. Outside of a railroad, what you figger you need most?”
“Is it a grocery store?” asked Scattergood.
Locker stiffened in his chair. “Me and Sam Kittleman calc’lates to sell all the groceries this town needs,” he said.
“How about dry goods?” said Scattergood.