A BAD PENNY TURNS UP
Eugene did not inform Canaan, nor any inhabitant, of his adventure of “Straw-Cellar,” nor did any hear of his meeting with his step-brother; and after Mr. Arp’s adventure, five years passed into the imperishable before the town heard of the wanderer again, and then it heard at first hand; Mr. Arp’s prophecy fell true, and he took it back to his bosom again, claimed it as his own the morning of its fulfilment. Joe Louden had come back to Canaan.
The elder Louden was the first to know of his prodigal’s return. He was alone in the office of the wooden-butter-dish factory, of which he was the superintendent, when the young man came in unannounced. He was still pale and thin; his eyebrows had the same crook, one corner of his mouth the same droop; he was only an inch or so taller, not enough to be thought a tall man; and yet, for a few moments the father did not recognize his son, but stared at him, inquiring his business. During those few seconds of unrecognition, Mr. Louden was somewhat favorably impressed with the stranger’s appearance.
“You don’t know me,” said Joe, smiling cheerfully. “Perhaps I’ve changed in seven years.” And he held out his hand.
Then Mr. Louden knew; he tilted back in his desk-chair, his mouth falling open. “Good God!” he said, not noticing the out-stretched hand. “Have you come back?”
Joe’s hand fell.
“Yes, I’ve come back to Canaan.”
Mr. Louden looked at him a long time without replying; finally he remarked:
“I see you’ve still got a scar on your forehead.”
“Oh, I’ve forgotten all about that,” said the other, twisting his hat in his hands. “Seven years wipes out a good many grievances and wrongs.”
“You think so?” Mr Louden grunted. “I suppose it might wipe out a good deal with some people. How’d you happen to stop off at Canaan? On your way somewhere, I suppose.”
“No, I’ve come back to stay.”
Mr. Louden plainly received this as no pleasant surprise. “What for?” he asked, slowly.
“To practise law, father.”
“Yes,” said the young man. “There ought to be an opening here for me. I’m a graduate of as good a law-school as there is in the country—”
“Certainly,” said Joe, quietly. “I’ve put myself through, working in the summer—”
“Working!” Mr. Louden snorted. “Side-shows?”
“Oh, worse than that, sometimes,” returned his son, laughing. “Anything I could get. But I’ve always wanted to come back home and work here.”
Mr. Louden leaned forward, a hand on each knee, his brow deeply corrugated. “Do you think you’ll get much practice in Canaan?”
“Why not? I’ve had a year in a good office in New York since I left the school, and I think I ought to get along all right.”