At length he rose from the bench, crossed the room, opened the door, and stepped outside. Not a star was to be seen, and the wind was stronger than ever. It was keen, piercing. But the man heeded neither the one nor the other. He was listening intently, and the faint sound of Break Neck Falls drifting in from the distance was to him the sweetest of music.
And as he stood there a sudden change took place. His dead drooped, and he leaned against the side of the building for support. A shiver shook his body, and as he turned and entered the house his steps were slow, and he half-stumbled across the threshold. He looked at the wood-box behind the stove, but there was not a stick in it. He next opened the door of the little cupboard near by, but not a scrap of food was there. Almost mechanically he thrust his hand into his pocket and brought forth a purse. This he opened, but there was nothing inside. Half-dazed he stood there in the centre of the room. Then he glanced toward the paper with the drawings lying upon the table, and as he did so a peculiar light of comprehension shone in his eyes.
TO THE LOWEST BIDDER
There was an unusually large number of people gathered in front of Thomas Marshall’s store one morning about the last of May. Women were there as well as men, and all were talking and laughing in a most pleasant way. The cause of this excitement was explained by a notice tacked on the store door.
“The Board, Lodging, and Clothing of David Findley, Pauper, will be let to the lowest bidder for a period of one year, on Wednesday, May 30th inst., at Thomas Marshall’s store, Chutes Corner, at 10 o’clock A. M.
“J. B. Fletcher T. S. Titus O. R. Mitchell Overseers of Poor.”
This notice had been posted there for about two weeks, and had attracted the attention of all the people in the parish. It was out of the ordinary for such a sale to take place at this season of the year. Hitherto, it had occurred at the last of December. But this was an exceptional case, and one in which all were keenly interested.
“I hear he is stark crazy,” Mrs. Munson was saying to a neighbour, Peter McQueen, “and that he has a funny notion in his head.”
“Should say so,” McQueen replied. “Any man who has lived as he has for months must be pretty well off his base. Why, he didn’t have a scrap of food in the house when he was found by Jim Trask one morning the last of April. Jim has been keeping him ever since.”
“Isn’t he able to work?” Mrs. Munson inquired.
“Seems not. I guess he’s a scholar or something like that, and did some book-keeping in the city until he drifted this way. He must have had a little money to live as long as he has. He’s always been a mystery to me.”