Late one afternoon in August, Galusha, returning along this path, met a man coming in the other direction. The man was a stranger to him and obviously not a resident of East Wellmouth. He was a stout, prosperous-looking individual, well-dressed and with a brisk manner. When Mr. Bangs first saw him he was standing at a point near the foot of the bluff, and gazing intently at the view. Galusha turned the corner above the bridge where the path re-entered the pine grove. When he emerged again the man had walked on to the little rise by the farther edge of the creek. He was standing there, as he had stood at the point where Galusha first noticed him, looking about, up and down the creek, across the little harbor, at the beaches, the sand cliffs, the pines and the sea.
Galusha crossed the bridge and approached along the path. The stranger heard his step and turned.
“Good-afternoon,” said Galusha.
The man nodded and returned the greeting.
“Nice view from here,” he observed. Galusha agreed that the view was very nice, indeed. He passed on and turned to climb the bluff. Then the stranger called to him.
“Excuse me,” he said. “But may I ask you a question or two? Don’t want to keep you if you are in a hurry, though.”
Galusha declared himself to be not in the least hurried. The man walked toward him.
“Are you acquainted about here?” he asked.
“Why—why—ah—yes, to some extent. Yes.”
“I mean do you know the lay of the land in this vicinity?”
“Why—ah—yes, I think so. Fairly well.”
“I see. Can you tell me how much water there is in that channel out yonder?” He pointed toward the mouth of the inlet, where the two lines of creaming breakers approached each other, but did not meet.
“No—no, I am sorry, but I can’t.”
“How deep is it off here opposite where we’re standing?”
“Dear me! I’m afraid I don’t know that, either. When you asked concerning the lay of the land I didn’t understand you meant the— ah—lay of the water. I’m very sorry.”
The man laughed. “That’s all right,” he said. “Asked my question the wrong way, didn’t I? Well, tell me a little about the land, then. Are the woods the other side of that hill or only on this?”
Galusha informed him concerning the extent of the pine grove. The stranger asked some questions about the course of the creek above the bridge, the distance from the main highway, whether the land beyond the hill was settled or unoccupied. His final question was concerning the Restabit Inn.
“Any other hotels around here within ten miles?” he asked. When told there were not, he merely nodded, making no comment.
“Well, I’m much obliged,” he said. “I was just loafing around and a little curious, that’s all. Thanks. Hope I haven’t kept you too long. Good-day.”