His mother rose and went toward him; his father and brother rose like apparitions, and slanted after her at one angle.
“Say,” the boy called again to his mother, “there comes a peddler.” He pointed down the road at the figure of a man briskly ascending the lane toward the house, with a pack on his back and some strange appendages dangling from it.
The woman did not look round; neither of the men looked round; they all kept on in-doors, and she said to the boy, as she passed him: “I got no time to waste on peddlers. You tell him we don’t want anything.”
The boy waited for the figure on the lane to approach. It was the figure of a young man, who slung his burden lightly from his shoulders when he arrived, and then stood looking at the boy, with his foot planted on the lowermost tread of the steps climbing from the ground to the porch.
The boy must have permitted these advances that he might inflict the greater disappointment when he spoke. “We don’t want anything,” he said, insolently.
“Don’t you?” the stranger returned. “I do. I want dinner. Go in and tell your mother, and then show me where I can wash my hands.”
The bold ease of the stranger seemed to daunt the boy, and he stood irresolute. His dog came round the corner of the house at the first word of the parley, and, while his master was making up his mind what to do, he smelled at the stranger’s legs. “Well, you can’t have any dinner,” said the boy, tentatively. The dog raised the bristles on his neck, and showed his teeth with a snarl. The stranger promptly kicked him in the jaw, and the dog ran off howling. “Come here, sir!” the boy called to him, but the dog vanished round the house with a fading yelp.
“Now, young man,” said the stranger, “will you go and do as you’re bid? I’m ready to pay for my dinner, and you can say so.” The boy stared at him, slowly taking in the facts of his costume, with eyes that climbed from the heavy shoes up the legs of his thick-ribbed stockings and his knickerbockers, past the pleats and belt of his Norfolk jacket, to the red neckcloth tied under the loose collar of his flannel outing-shirt, and so by his face, with its soft, young beard and its quiet eyes, to the top of his braidless, bandless slouch hat of soft felt. It was one of the earliest costumes of the kind that had shown itself in the hill country, and it was altogether new to the boy. “Come,” said the wearer of it, “don’t stand on the order of your going, but go at once,” and he sat down on the steps with his back to the boy, who heard these strange terms of command with a face of vague envy.