“I guess that must be a suck-cuss hoss,” remarked Mr. Sewell, resting his loosely jointed figure against the rail fence as he watched his departing guest.
Mary backed to the ridge of the hill up which the turnpike stretched from the ancient tavern, then recovered herself and went on.
“I never saw such an out-and-out wilful old girl as you are, Mary!” ejaculated Lynde, scarlet with mortification. “I begin to admire you.”
Perhaps the covert reproach touched some finer chord of Mary’s nature, or perhaps Mary had done her day’s allowance of backing; whatever the case was, she indulged no further caprice that afternoon beyond shying vigorously at a heavily loaded tin-pedler’s wagon, a proceeding which may be palliated by the statement of the fact that many of Mary’s earlier years were passed in connection with a similar establishment.
The afterglow of sunset had faded out behind the serrated line of hills, and black shadows were assembling, like conspirators, in the orchards and under the spreading elms by the roadside, when Edward Lynde came in sight of a large manufacturing town, which presented a sufficiently bizarre appearance at that hour.
Grouped together in a valley were five or six high, irregular buildings, illuminated from basement to roof, each with a monstrous chimney from which issued a fan of party-colored flame. On one long low structure, with a double row of windows gleaming like the port-holes of a man-of-war at night, was a squat round tower that now and then threw open a vast valve at the top, and belched forth a volume of amber smoke, which curled upward to a dizzy height and spread itself out against the sky. Lying in the weird light of these chimneys, with here and there a gable or a spire suddenly outlined in vivid purple, the huddled town beneath seemed like an outpost of the infernal regions. Lynde, however, resolved to spend the night there instead of riding on farther and trusting for shelter to some farm-house or barn. Ten or twelve hours in the saddle had given him a keen appetite for rest.
Presently the roar of flues and furnaces, and the resonant din of mighty hammers beating against plates of iron, fell upon his ear; a few minutes later he rode into the town, not knowing and not caring in the least what town it was.
All this had quite the flavor of foreign travel to Lynde, who began pondering on which hotel he should bestow his patronage—a question that sometimes perplexes the tourist on arriving at a strange city. In Lynde’s case the matter was considerably simplified by the circumstance that there was but a single aristocratic hotel in the place. He extracted this information from a small boy, begrimed with iron-dust, and looking as if he had just been cast at a neighboring foundry, who kindly acted as cicerone, and conducted the tired wayfarer to the doorstep of The Spread Eagle, under one of whose wings—to be at once figurative and literal—he was glad to nestle for the night.