“Yes,” he exclaimed wearily, “I am the man.”
“I thought you was. Glad to see you, sir,” said Mr. Dodge politely.
“This morning you took me for an escaped lunatic?”
“I did so—fust-off.”
“A madman who imagined himself a horse?”
“That’s what I done,” said Mr. Dodge contritely, “an’ no wonder, with that there saddle. They’re a very queer lot, them crazy chaps. There’s one on ’em up there who calls himself Abraham Lincoln, an’ then there’s another who thinks he’s a telegraph wire an’ hes messages runnin’ up an’ down him continally. These is new potatoes, sir—early rosers. There’s no end to their cussed kinks. When I see you prancin’ round under the winder with that there saddle, I says at once to Martha, ’Martha, here’s a luny!’”
“A very natural conclusion,” said Lynde meekly.
“Wasn’t it now?”
“And if you had shot me to death,” said Lynde, helping himself to another chop, “I should have been very much obliged to you.”
Mr. Dodge eyed the young man dubiously for a dozen seconds or so.
“Comin’! comin’!” cried Mr. Dodge, in response to a seemingly vociferous call which had failed to reach Lynde’s ear.
When Edward Lynde had finished dinner, Mary was brought to the door. Under the supervision of a group of spectators assembled on the piazza, Lynde mounted, and turned the mare’s head directly for Rivermouth. He had no heart to go any farther due north. The joyousness had dropped out of the idle summer journey. He had gone in search of the picturesque and the peculiar; he had found them—and he wished he had not.
On the comb of the hill where his adventure had begun and culminated—it seemed to him now like historic ground—Edward Lynde reined in Mary, to take a parting look at the village nestled in the plain below. Already the afternoon light was withdrawing from the glossy chestnuts and drooping elms, and the twilight—it crept into the valley earlier than elsewhere—was weaving its half invisible webs under the eaves and about the gables of the houses. But the two red towers of the asylum reached up into the mellow radiance of the waning sun, and stood forth boldly. They were the last objects his gaze rested upon, and to them alone his eyes sent a farewell.
“Poor little thing! poor little Queen of Sheba!” he said softly. Then the ridge rose between him and the village, and shut him out forever.
Nearly a mile beyond the spot where Mary had escaped from him that morning, Edward Lynde drew up the mare so sharply that she sunk back on her haunches. He dismounted in haste, and stooping down, with the rein thrown over one arm, picked up an object lying in the middle of the road under the horse’s very hoofs.
It was on a Tuesday morning that Lynde reentered Rivermouth, after an absence of just eight days. He had started out fresh and crisp as a new bank-note, and came back rumpled and soiled and tattered, like that same note in a state to be withdrawn from circulation. The shutters were up at all the shop-windows in the cobble-paved street, and had the appearance of not having been taken down since he left. Everything was unchanged, yet it seemed to Lynde that he had been gone a year.