“Seen ’em, too,” answered Lander, comprehensively.
“Well, that a’n’t Claxon’s complaint exactly. He a’n’t a do-nothin’; he’s a do-everything. I guess it’s about as bad.” Lander glimmered back at the man, but did not speak.
“Kind of a machinist down at the Mills, where he come from,” the farmer began again, and Mrs. Lander, eager not to be left out of the affair for a moment, interrupted:
“Yes, Yes! That’s what the gul said.”
“But he don’t seem to think’t the i’on agreed with him, and now he’s goin’ in for wood. Well, he did have a kind of a foot-powa tu’nin’ lathe, and tuned all sots o’ things; cups, and bowls, and u’ns for fence-posts, and vases, and sleeve-buttons and little knick-knacks; but the place bunt down, here, a while back, and he’s been huntin’ round for wood, the whole winta long, to make canes out of for the summa-folks. Seems to think that the smell o’ the wood, whether it’s green or it’s dry, is goin’ to cure him, and he can’t git too much of it.”
“Well, I believe it’s so, Albe’t!” cried Mrs. Lander, as if her husband had disputed the theory with his taciturn back. He made no other sign of controversy, and the man in the hay-field went on.
“I hea’ he’s goin’ to put up a wind mill, back in an open place he’s got, and use the powa for tu’nin’, if he eva gits it up. But he don’t seem to be in any great of a hurry, and they scrape along somehow. Wife takes in sewin’ and the girl wo’ked at the Middlemount House last season. Whole fam’ly’s got to tu’n in and help s’po’t a man that can do everything.”
The farmer appealed with another humorous cast of his eye to Lander; but the old man tacitly refused to take any further part in the talk, which began to flourish apace, in question and answer, between his wife and the man in the hay-field. It seemed that the children had all inherited the father’s smartness. The oldest boy could beat the nation at figures, and one of the young ones could draw anything you had a mind to. They were all clear up in their classes at school, and yet you might say they almost ran wild, between times. The oldest girl was a pretty-behaved little thing, but the man in the hay-field guessed there was not very much to her, compared with some of the boys. Any rate, she had not the name of being so smart at school. Good little thing, too, and kind of mothered the young ones.
Mrs. Lander, when she had wrung the last drop of information out of him, let him crawl back to his work, mentally flaccid, and let her husband drive on, but under a fire of conjecture and asseveration that was scarcely intermitted till they reached their hotel. That night she talked along time about their afternoon’s adventure before she allowed him to go to sleep. She said she must certainly see the child again; that they must drive down there in the morning, and ask her all about herself.
“Albe’t,” she concluded; “I wish we had her to live with us. Yes, I do! I wonder if we could get her to. You know I always did want to adopt a baby.”