Ho wondered if she cared for him. She was apparently pleased when he found her, and they had taken long walks alone in the twilight. Once he had kissed her, and she had not been angry. What sort of drift was this, and why was he so carried by it? How different it all was from even the life of a few weeks ago! Then there came before his eyes a picture of the great, splendid animal in town, and it remained with him. It bothered him for many a day and night.
If the Hindoo king were right, if all were so undefined, why not do as did the birds and squirrels, and seek all sunny places? He could not work at his fence Sunday. He had not done that yet, but he would walk the miles Saturday night and spend his Sunday in the town.
As he thought, so he did. He did not swing the maul late the next Saturday that came, but took up his journey and reached home in early evening.
He had been absent but three weeks, yet his family had much to ask, and his father laughed at his hardened palms, and congratulated him. He changed his garb and took the way toward Mrs. Rolfston’s. She had not looked for him sooner, though she knew men well, for she had seen his growing trouble and she knew his will. Her eyes blazed as might the eyes of some hungry thing to which food is brought. It was late when he reached his home again, and the next day he must read a book, he said, that he had found at Mrs. Rolfston’s. At night he was stalking across the country again, to his couch on the dry clover; and he thought not even of the Hindoo king. Mrs. Rolfston’s school of theology was not of the sort which worries one with puzzling things, and he had been in a receptive mood.
The next day he worked like a giant. In the early evening he found Jenny Bierce. She questioned him, but he had not much to answer.
“Is there some one in the town ?” she asked.
“There are several hundred people there.”
“You know what I mean. Is there any one in particular?”—this poutingly.
He said that of late the only one, to speak of, he had found anywhere was a girl in a calico dress.
Settling with Woodell.
So passed the days away. What added brawn came to the strong young fellow’s arms from the driving of the rails and lifting them to place! Brown, almost, as the changing beech-leaves his face, and the palms of his hands became like celluloid. He was unlike the farmers, though, for he lacked the farmers’ stoop—he had not to dig nor mow, nor rake nor bind. He swung his ax or maul, and commanded the red oxen in country speech, and deeper and deeper into the forest grew the fence. And, of evenings, he was with Jenny, and Sundays he was in the town. What days they were, with all their force, and health, and lawless abandonment, though in the line of nature. He drank not, nor smoked, nor ate made dishes. He was like an unreasoning bobolink, or hawk, or fawn, or wolf. But there grew apace the problem of Jenny.