Part 4 out of 4
of things--and soon, indeed, brought me nearer to the brink of
great events than ever I was before in all my days.
I could see that Mr. Vedder considered Bill Hahn as a sort of
devouring monster, a wholly incendiary and dangerous person. So
terrible, indeed, was the warning he gave me (considering me, I
suppose an unsophisticated person) that I couldn't help laughing
"I assure you--" he began, apparently much offended.
But I interrupted him.
"I'm sorry I laughed," I said, "but as you were talking about
Bill Hahn, I couldn't help thinking of him as I first saw him."
And I gave Mr. Vedder as lively a description as I could of the
little man with his bulging coat tails, his furry ears, his odd
round spectacles. He was greatly interested in what I said and
began to ask many questions. I told him with all the earnestness
I could command of Bill's history and of his conversion to his
present beliefs. I found that Mr. Vedder had known Robert Winter
very well indeed, and was amazed at the incident which I narrated
of Bill Hahn's attempt upon his life.
I have always believed that if men could be made to understand
one another they would necessarily be friendly, so I did my best
to explain Bill Hahn to Mr. Vedder.
"I'm tremendously interested in what you say," he said, "and we
must have more talk about it."
He told me that he had now to put in an appearance at his office,
and wanted me to go with him; but upon my objection he pressed me
to take luncheon with him a little later, an invitation which I
accepted with real pleasure.
"We haven't had a word about gardens," he said, "and there are no
end of things that Mrs. Vedder and I found that we wanted to talk
with you about after you had left us."
"Well!" I said, much delighted, "let's have a regular
old-fashioned country talk."
So we parted for the time being, and I set off in the highest
spirits to see something more of Kilburn.
A city, after all, is a very wonderful place. One thing, I
recall, impressed me powerfully that morning--the way in which
every one was working, apparently without any common agreement or
any common purpose, and yet with a high sort of understanding.
The first hearing of a difficult piece of music (to an
uncultivated ear like mine) often yields nothing but a confused
sense of unrelated motives, but later and deeper hearings reveal
the harmony which ran so clear in the master's soul.
Something of this sort happened to me in looking out upon the
life of that great city of Kilburn. All about on the streets, in
the buildings, under ground and above ground, men were walking,
running, creeping, crawling, climbing, lifting, digging, driving,
buying, selling, sweating, swearing, praying, loving, hating,
struggling, failing, sinning, repenting--all working and living
according to a vast harmony, which sometimes we can catch clearly
and sometimes miss entirely. I think, that morning, for a time, I
heard the true music of the spheres, the stars singing together.
Mr. Vedder took me to a quiet restaurant where we had a snug
alcove all to ourselves. I shall remember it always as one of the
truly pleasant experiences of my pilgrimage.
I could see that my friend was sorely troubled, that the strike
rested heavy upon him, and so I led the conversation to the hills
and the roads and the fields we both love so much. I plied him
with a thousand questions about his garden. I told him in the
liveliest way of my adventures after leaving his home, how I had
telephoned him from the hills, how I had taken a swim in the
mill-pond, and especially how I had lost myself in the old
cowpasture, with an account of all my absurd and laughable
adventures and emotions.
Well, before we had finished our luncheon I had every line ironed
from the brow of that poor plagued rich man, I had brought jolly
crinkles to the corners of his eyes, and once or twice I had him
chuckling down deep inside (Where chuckles are truly effective).
Talk about cheering up the poor: I think the rich are usually far
more in need of it!
But I couldn't keep the conversation in these delightful
channels. Evidently the strike and all that it meant lay heavy
upon Mr. Vedder's consciousness, for he pushed back his coffee
and began talking about it, almost in a tone of apology. He told
me how kind he had tried to make the mill management in its
dealings with its men.
"I would not speak of it save in explanation of our true attitude
of helpfulness; but we have really given our men many
advantages"--and he told me of the reading-room the company had
established, of the visiting nurse they had employed, and of
several other excellent enterprises, which gave only another
proof of what I knew already of Mr. Vedder's sincere kindness of
"But," he said, "we find they don't appreciate what we try to do
I laughed outright.
"Why," I exclaimed, "you are having the same trouble I have had!"
"How's that?" he inquired, I thought a little sharply. Men don't
like to have their seriousness trifled with.
"No longer ago than this morning," I said, "I had exactly that
idea of giving them advantages; but I found that the difficulty
lies not with the ability to give, but with the inability or
unwillingness to take. You see I have a great deal of surplus
Mr. Vedder's eyes flickered up at me.
"Yes," I said. "I've got immense accumulations of the wealth of
the ages--ingots of Emerson and Whitman, for example, gems of
Voltaire, and I can't tell what other superfluous coinage!" (And
I waved my hand in the most grandiloquent manner.) "I've also
quite a store of knowledge of corn and calves and cucumbers, and
I've a boundless domain of exceedingly valuable landscapes. I am
prepared to give bountifully of all these varied riches (for I
shall still have plenty remaining), but the fact is that this
generation of vipers doesn't appreciate what I am trying to do
for them. I'm really getting frightened, lest they permit me to
perish from undistributed riches!"
Mr. Vedder was still smiling.
"Oh," I said, warming up to my idea, "I'm a regular
multimillionaire. I've got so much wealth that I'm afraid I shall
not be as fortunate as jolly Andy Carnegie, for I don't see how I
can possibly die poor!"
"Why not found a university or so?" asked Mr. Vedder.
"Well, I had thought of that. It's a good idea. Let's join our
forces and establish a university where truly serious people can
take courses in laughter."
"Fine idea!" exclaimed Mr. Vedder; "but wouldn't it require an
enormous endowment to accommodate all the applicants? You must
remember that this is a very benighted and illiterate world,
"It is, indeed," I said, "but you must remember that many people,
for a long time, will be too serious to apply. I wonder sometimes
if any one ever learns to laugh really laugh much before he is
"But," said Mr. Vedder anxiously, "do you think such an
institution would be accepted by the proletariat of the
"Ah, that's the trouble," said I, "that's the trouble. The
proletariat doesn't appreciate what we are trying to do for them!
They don't want your reading-rooms nor my Emerson and cucumbers.
The seat of the difficulty seems to be that what seems wealth to
us isn't necessarily wealth for the other fellow."
I cannot tell with what delight we fenced our way through this
foolery (which was not all foolery, either). I never met a man
more quickly responsive than Mr. Vedder. But he now paused for
some moments, evidently ruminating.
"Well, David," he said seriously, "what are we going to do about
this obstreperous other fellow?"
"Why not try the experiment," I suggested, "of giving him what he
considers wealth, instead of what you consider wealth?"
"But what does he consider wealth?"
"Equality," said I.
Mr. Vedder threw up his hands.
"So you're a Socialist, too!"
"That," I said, "is another story."
"Well, supposing we did or could give him this equality you speak
of--what would become of us? What would we get out of it?"
"Why, equality, too!" I said.
Mr. Vedder threw up his hands up with a gesture of mock
"Come," said he, "let's get down out of Utopia!"
We had some further good-humoured fencing and then returned to
the inevitable problem of the strike. While we were discussing
the meeting of the night before which, I learned, had been
luridly reported in the morning papers, Mr. Vedder suddenly
turned to me and asked earnestly:
"Are you really a Socialist?"
"Well," said I, "I'm sure of one thing. I'm not ALL Socialist,
Bill Hahn believes with his whole soul (and his faith has made
him a remarkable man) that if only another class of people--his
class--could come into the control of material property, that
all the ills that man is heir to would be speedily cured. But I
wonder if when men own property collectively--as they are going
to one of these days--they will quarrel and hate one another any
less than they do now. It is not the ownership of material
property that interests me so much as the independence of it.
When I started out from my farm on this pilgrimage it seemed to
me the most blessed thing in the world to get away from property
"What are you then, anyway?" asked Mr. Vedder, smiling.
"Well, I've thought of a name I would like to have applied to me
sometimes," I said. "You see I'm tremendously fond of this world
exactly as it is now. Mr. Vedder, it's a wonderful and beautiful
place! I've never seen a better one. I confess I could not
possibly live in the rarefied atmosphere of a final solution. I
want to live right here and now for all I'm worth. The other day
a man asked me what I thought was the best time of life. 'Why,' I
answered without a thought, 'Now.' It has always seemed to me
that if a man can't make a go of it, yes, and be happy at this
moment, he can't be at the next moment. But most of all, it seems
to me, I want to get close to people, to look into their hearts,
and be friendly with them. Mr. Vedder, do you know what I'd like
to be called?"
"I cannot imagine," said he.
"Well, I'd like to be called an Introducer. My friend, Mr.
Blacksmith, let me introduce you to my friend, Mr. Plutocrat. I
could almost swear that you were brothers, so near alike are you!
You'll find each other wonderfully interesting once you get over
the awkwardness of the introduction. And Mr. White Man, let me
present you particularly to my good friend, Mr. Negro. You will
see if you sit down to it that this colour of the face is only
"It's a good name!" said Mr. Vedder, laughing.
"It's a wonderful name," said I, "and it's about the biggest and
finest work in the world--to know human beings just as they are,
and to make them acquainted with one another just as they are.
Why, it's the foundation of all the democracy there is, or ever
will be. Sometimes I think that friendliness is the only
achievement of life worth while--and unfriendliness the only
I have since felt ashamed of myself when I thought how I lectured
my unprotected host that day at luncheon; but it seemed to boil
out of me irresistibly. The experiences of the past two days had
stirred me to the very depths, and it seemed to me I must explain
to somebody how it all impressed me--and to whom better than to
my good friend Vedder?
As we were leaving the table an idea flashed across my mind which
seemed, at first, so wonderful that it quite turned me dizzy.
"See here, Mr. Vedder," I exclaimed, "let me follow my occupation
practically. I know Bill Hahn and I know you. Let me introduce
you. If you could only get together, if you could only understand
what good fellows you both are, it might go far toward solving
I had some trouble persuading him, but finally he consented, said
he wanted to leave no stone unturned, and that he would meet Bill
Hahn and some of the other leaders, if proper arrangements could
I left him, therefore, in excitement, feeling that I was at the
point of playing a part in a very great event. "Once get these
men together," I thought, "and they MUST come to an
So I rushed out to the mill district, saying to myself over and
over (I have smiled about it since!): "We'll settle this strike:
we'll settle this strike: we'll settle this strike." After some
searching I found my friend Bill in the little room over a saloon
that served as strike headquarters. A dozen or more of the
leaders were there, faintly distinguishable through clouds of
tobacco smoke. Among them sat the great R--- D---, his burly
figure looming up at one end of the table, and his strong, rough,
iron-jawed face turning first toward this speaker and then toward
that. The discussion, which had evidently been lively, died down
soon after I appeared at the door, and Bill Hahn came out to me
and we sat down together in the adjoining room. Here I broke
eagerly into an account of the happenings of the day, described
my chance meeting with Mr. Vedder--who was well known to Bill by
reputation--and finally asked him squarely whether he would meet
him. I think my enthusiasm quite carried him away.
"Sure, I will," said Bill Hahn heartily.
"When and where?" I asked, "and will any of the other men join
Bill was all enthusiasm at once, for that was the essence of his
temperament, but he said that he must first refer it to the
committee. I waited, in a tense state of impatience, for what
seemed to me a very long time; but finally the door opened and
Bill Hahn came out bringing R--- D-- himself with him. We all sat
down together, and R--- D--- began to ask questions (he was
evidently suspicious as to who and what I was); but I think,
after I talked with them for some time that I made them see the
possibilities and the importance of such a meeting. I was greatly
impressed with R--- D---, the calmness and steadiness of the man,
his evident shrewdness. "A real general," I said to myself. "I
should like to know him better."
After a long talk they returned to the other room, closing the
door behind them, and I waited again, still more impatiently.
It seems rather absurd now, but at that moment I felt firmly
convinced that I was on the way to the permanent settlement of a
struggle which had occupied the best brains of Kilburn for many
While I was waiting in that dingy ante-room, the other door
slowly opened and a boy stuck his head in.
"Is David Grayson here?" he asked.
"Here he is," said I, greatly astonished that any one in Kilburn
should be inquiring for me, or should know where I was.
The boy came in, looked at me with jolly round eyes for a moment,
and dug a letter out of his pocket. I opened it at once, and
glancing at the signature discovered that it was from Mr. Vedder.
"He said I'd probably find you at strike headquarters," remarked
This was the letter: marked "Confidential."
My Dear Grayson: I think you must be something of a hypnotist.
After you left me I began to think of the project you mentioned,
and I have talked it over with one or two of my associates. I
would gladly hold this conference, but it does not now seem wise
for us to do so. The interests we represent are too important to
be jeopardized. In theory you are undoubtedly right, but in this
case I think you will agree with me (when you think it over), we
must not show any weakness. Come and stop with us to-night: Mrs.
Vedder will be overjoyed to see you and we'll have another fine
I confess I was a good deal cast down as I read this letter.
"What interests are so important?" I asked myself, "that they
should keep friends apart?"
But I was given only a moment for reflection for the door opened
and my friend Bill, together with R--- D---and several other
members of the committee, came out. I put the letter in my
pocket, and for a moment my brain never worked under higher
pressure. What should I say to them now? How could I explain
Bill Hahn was evidently labouring under considerable excitement,
but R--- D--- was as calm as a judge. He sat down in the chair
opposite and said to me:
"We've been figuring out this proposition of Mr. Vedder's. Your
idea is all right, and it would be a fine thing if we could
really get together as you suggest upon terms of common
understanding and friendship."
"Just what Mr. Vedder said," I exclaimed.
"Yes," he continued, "it's all right in theory; but in this case
it simply won't work. Don't you see it's got to be war? Your
friend and I could probably understand each other--but this is a
class war. It's all or nothing with us, and your friend Vedder
knows it as well as we do."
After some further argument and explanation, I said:
"I see: and this is Socialism."
"Yes," said the great R--- D---, "this is Socialism."
"And it's force you would use," I said.
"It's force THEY use," he replied.
After I left the strike headquarters that evening--for it was
almost dark before I parted with the committee--I walked straight
out through the crowded streets, so absorbed in my thoughts that
I did not know in the least where I was going. The street lights
came out, the crowds began to thin away, I heard a strident song
from a phonograph at the entrance to a picture show, and as I
passed again in front of the great, dark, many-windowed mill
which had made my friend Vedder a rich man I saw a sentinel turn
slowly at the corner. The light glinted on the steel of his
bayonet. He had a fresh, fine, boyish face.
"We have some distance yet to go in this world," I said to
myself, "no man need repine for lack of good work ahead."
It was only a little way beyond this mill that an incident
occurred which occupied probably not ten minutes of time, and yet
I have thought about it since I came home as much as I have
thought about any other incident of my pilgrimage. I have thought
how I might have acted differently under the circumstances, how I
could have said this or how I ought to have done that--all, of
course, now to no purpose whatever. But I shall not attempt to
tell what I ought to have done or said, but what I actually did
do and say on the spur of the moment.
It was in a narrow, dark street which opened off the brightly
lighted main thoroughfare of that mill neighbourhood. A girl
standing in the shadows between two buildings said to me as I
I stopped instantly, it was such a pleasant, friendly voice.
"Good evening," I said, lifting my hat and wondering that there
should be any one here in this back street who knew me.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
I stepped over quickly toward her, hat in hand. She was a mere
slip of a girl, rather comely, I thought, with small childish
features and a half-timid, half-bold look in her eyes. I could
not remember having seen her before.
She smiled at me--and then I knew!
Well, if some one had struck me a brutal blow in the face I could
not have been more astonished.
We know of things!--and yet how little we know until they are
presented to us in concrete form. Just such a little school girl
as I have seen a thousand times in the country, the pathetic
childish curve of the chin, a small rebellious curl hanging low
on her temple.
I could not say a word. The girl evidently saw in my face that
something was the matter, for she turned and began to move
quickly away. Such a wave of compassion (and anger, too) swept
over me as I cannot well describe. I stepped after her and asked
in a low voice:
"Do you work in the mills?"
"Yes, when there's work."
"What is your name?"
"Well, Maggie," I said, "let's be friends."
She looked around at me curiously, questioningly.
"And friends," I said, "should know something about each other.
You see I am a farmer from the country. I used to live in a city
myself, a good many years ago, but I got tired and sick and
hopeless. There was so much that was wrong about it. I tried to
keep the pace and could not. I wish I could tell you what the
country has done for me."
We were walking along slowly, side by side, the girl perfectly
passive but glancing around at me from time to time with a
wondering look. I don't know in the least now what prompted me to
do it, but I began telling in a quiet, low voice--for, after all,
she was only a child--I began telling her about our chickens at
the farm and how Harriet had named them all, and one was Frances
E. Willard, and one, a speckled one, was Martha Washington, and I
told her of the curious antics of Martha Washington and of the
number of eggs she laid, and of the sweet new milk we had to
drink, and the honey right out of our own hives, and of the
things growing in the garden.
Once she smiled a little, and once she looked around at me with a
curious, timid, half-wistful expression in her eyes.
"Maggie," I said, "I wish you could go to the country."
"I wish to God I could," she replied.
We walked for a moment in silence. My head was whirling with
thoughts: again I had that feeling of helplessness, of
inadequacy, which I had felt so sharply on the previous evening.
What could I do?
When we reached the corner, I said:
"Maggie, I will see you safely home."
She laughed--a hard, bitter laugh.
"Oh, I don't need any one to show me around these streets!"
"I will see you home," I said.
So we walked quickly along the street together.
"Here it is," she said finally, pointing to a dark, mean-looking,
one-story house, set in a dingy, barren areaway.
"Well, good night, Maggie," I said, "and good luck to you."
"Good night," she said faintly.
When I had walked to the corner, I stopped and looked back. She
was standing stock-still just where I had left her--a figure I
shall never forget.
I have hesitated about telling of a further strange thing that
happened to me that night--but have decided at last to put it in.
I did not accept Mr. Vedder's invitation: I could not; but I
returned to the room in the tenement where I had spent the
previous night with Bill Hahn the Socialist. It was a small,
dark, noisy room, but I was so weary that I fell almost
immediately into a heavy sleep. An hour or more later I don't
know how long indeed--I was suddenly awakened and found myself
sitting bolt upright in bed. It was close and dark and warm there
in the room, and from without came the muffled sounds of the
city. For an instant I waited, rigid with expectancy. And then I
heard as clearly and plainly as ever I heard anything:
"David! David!" in my sister Harriet's voice.
It was exactly the voice in which she has called me a thousand
times. Without an instant's hesitation, I stepped out of bed and
"I'm coming, Harriet! I'm coming!"
"What's the matter?" inquired Bill Hahn sleepily.
"Nothing," I replied, and crept back into bed.
It may have been the result of the strain and excitement of the
previous two days. I don't explain it--I can only tell what
Before I went to sleep again I determined to start straight for
home in the morning: and having decided, I turned over, drew a
long, comfortable breath and did not stir again, I think, until
long after the morning sun shone in at the window.
CHAPTER XII. THE RETURN
"Everything divine runs with light feet."
Surely the chief delight of going away from home is the joy of
getting back again. I shall never forget that spring morning when
I walked from the city of Kilburn into the open country, my bag
on my back, a song in my throat, and the gray road stretching
straight before me. I remember how eagerly I looked out across
the fields and meadows and rested my eyes upon the distant hills.
How roomy it all was! I looked up into the clear blue of the sky.
There was space here to breathe, and distances in which the
spirit might spread its wings. As the old prophet says, it was a
place where a man might be placed alone in the midst of the
I was strangely glad that morning of every little stream that ran
under the bridges, I was glad of the trees I passed, glad of
every bird and squirrel in the branches, glad of the cattle
grazing in the fields, glad of the jolly boys I saw on their way
to school with their dinner pails, glad of the bluff, red-faced
teamster I met, and of the snug farmer who waved his hand at me
and wished me a friendly good morning. It seemed to me that I
liked every one I saw, and that every one liked me.
So I walked onward that morning, nor ever have had such a sense
of relief and escape, nor ever such a feeling of gayety.
"Here is where I belong," I said. "This is my own country. Those
hills are mine, and all the fields, and the trees and the sky--
and the road here belongs to me as much as it does to any one."
Coming presently to a small house near the side of the road, I
saw a woman working with a trowel in her sunny garden. It was
good to see her turn over the warm brown soil; it was good to see
the plump green rows of lettuce and the thin green rows of
onions, and the nasturtiums and sweet peas; it was good--after so
many days in that desert of a city--to get a whiff of blossoming
things. I stood for a moment looking quietly over the fence
before the woman saw me. When at last she turned and looked up, I
She paused, trowel in hand.
"Good morning," she replied; "you look happy."
I wasn't conscious that I was smiling outwardly.
"Well, I am," I said; "I'm going home."
"Then you OUGHT to be happy," said she.
"And I'm glad to escape THAT," and I pointed toward the city.
"Why, that old monster lying there in the valley."
I could see that she was surprised and even a little alarmed. So
I began intently to admire her young cabbages and comment on the
perfection of her geraniums. But I caught her eying me from time
to time as I leaned there on the fence, and I knew that she would
come back sooner or later to my remark about the monster. Having
shocked your friend (not too unpleasantly), abide your time, and
he will want to be shocked again. So I was not at all surprised
to hear her ask:
"Have you travelled far?"
"I should say so!" I replied. "I've been on a very long journey.
I've seen many strange sights and met many wonderful people."
"You may have been in California, then. I have a daughter in
"No," said I, "I was never in California."
"You've been a long time from home, you say?"
"A very long time from home."
"Three weeks! And how far did you say you had travelled?"
"At the farthest point, I should say sixty miles from home."
"But how can you say that in travelling only sixty miles and
being gone three weeks that you have seen so many strange places
"Why," I exclaimed, "haven't you seen anything strange around
"Why, no--" glancing quickly around her.
"Well, I'm strange, am I not?"
"And you're strange."
She looked at me with the utmost amazement. I could scarcely keep
"I assure you," I said, "that if you travel a thousand miles you
will find no one stranger than I am--or you are--nor anything
more wonderful than all this--" and I waved my hand.
This time she looked really alarmed, glancing quickly toward the
house, so that I began to laugh.
"Madam," I said, "good morning!"
So I left her standing there by the fence looking after me, and I
went on down the road.
"Well," I said, "she'll have something new to talk about. It may
add a month to her life. Was there ever such an amusing world!"
About noon that day I had an adventure that I have to laugh over
every time I think of it. It was unusual, too, as being almost
the only incident of my journey which was of itself in the least
thrilling or out of the ordinary. Why, this might have made an
item in the country paper!
For the first time on my trip I saw a man that I really felt like
calling a tramp--a tramp in the generally accepted sense of the
term. When I left home I imagined I should meet many tramps, and
perhaps learn from them odd and curious things about life; but
when I actually came into contact with the shabby men of the
road, I began to be puzzled. What was a tramp, anyway?
I found them all strangely different, each with his own
distinctive history, and each accounting for himself as logically
as I could for myself. And save for the fact that in none of them
I met were the outward graces and virtues too prominently
displayed, I have come back quite uncertain as to what a
scientist might call type-characteristics. I had thought of
following Emerson in his delightfully optimistic definition of a
weed. A weed, he says, is a plant whose virtues have not been
discovered. A tramp, then, is a man whose virtues have not been
discovered. Or, I might follow my old friend the Professor (who
dearly loves all growing things) in his even kindlier definition
of a weed. He says that it is merely a plant misplaced. The
virility of this definition has often impressed me when I have
tried to grub the excellent and useful horseradish plants out of
my asparagus bed! Let it be then--a tramp is a misplaced man,
whose virtues have not been discovered.
Whether this is an adequate definition or not, it fitted
admirably the man I overtook that morning on the road. He was
certainly misplaced, and during my brief but exciting experience
with him I discovered no virtues whatever.
In one way he was quite different from the traditional tramp. He
walked with far too lively a step, too jauntily, and he had with
him a small, shaggy, nondescript dog, a dog as shabby as he,
trotting close at his heels. He carried a light stick, which he
occasionally twirled over in his hand. As I drew nearer I could
hear him whistling and even, from time to time, breaking into a
lively bit of song. What a devil-may-care chap he seemed, anyway!
I was greatly interested.
When at length I drew alongside he did not seem in the least
surprised. He turned, glanced at me with his bold black eyes, and
broke out again into the song he was singing. And these were the
words of his song--at least, all I can remember of them:
Oh, I'm so fine and gay,
I'm so fine and gay,
I have to take a dog along,
To kape the ga-irls away.
What droll zest he put into it! He had a red nose, a globular red
nose set on his face like an overgrown strawberry, and from under
the worst derby hat in the world burst his thick curly hair.
"Oh, I'm so fine and gay," he sang, stepping to the rhythm of his
song, and looking the very image of good-humoured impudence. I
can't tell how amused and pleased I was--though if I had known
what was to happen later I might not have been quite so
friendly--yes, I would too!
We fell into conversation, and it wasn't long before I suggested
that we stop for luncheon together somewhere along the road. He
cast a quick appraising eye at my bag, and assented with
alacrity. We climbed a fence and found a quiet spot near a little
I was much astonished to observe the resources of my jovial
companion. Although he carried neither bag nor pack and appeared
to have nothing whatever in his pockets, he proceeded, like a
professional prestidigitator, to produce from his shabby clothing
an extraordinary number of curious things--a black tin can with a
wire handle, a small box of matches, a soiled package which I
soon learned contained tea, a miraculously big dry sausage
wrapped in an old newspaper, and a clasp-knife. I watched him
with breathless interest.
He cut a couple of crotched sticks to hang the pail on and in two
or three minutes had a little fire, no larger than a man's hand,
burning brightly under it. ("Big fires," said he wisely, "are not
for us.") This he fed with dry twigs, and in a very few minutes
he had a pot of tea from which he offered me the first drink.
This, with my luncheon and part of his sausage, made up a very
While we were eating, the little dog sat sedately by the fire.
From time to time his master would say, "Speak, Jimmy."
Jimmy would sit up on his haunches, his two front paws hanging
limp, turn his head to one side in the drollest way imaginable
and give a yelp. His master would toss him a bit of sausage or
bread and he would catch it with a snap.
"Fine dog!" commented my companion.
"So he seems," said I.
After the meal was over my companion proceeded to produce other
surprises from his pockets--a bag of tobacco, a brier pipe (which
he kindly offered to me and which I kindly refused), and a soiled
packet of cigarette papers. Having rolled a cigarette with
practised facility, he leaned up against a tree, took off his
hat, lighted the cigarette and, having taken a long draw at it,
blew the smoke before him with an incredible air of satisfaction.
"Solid comfort this here--hey!" he exclaimed.
We had some further talk, but for so jovial a specimen he was
surprisingly uncommunicative. Indeed, I think he soon decided
that I somehow did not belong to the fraternity, that I was a
"farmer"--in the most opprobrious sense--and he soon began to
drowse, rousing himself once or twice to roll another cigarette,
but finally dropping (apparently, at least) fast asleep.
I was glad enough of the rest and quiet after the strenuous
experience of the last two days--and I, too, soon began to
drowse. It didn't seem to me then that I lost consciousness at
all, but I suppose I must have done so, for when I suddenly
opened my eyes and sat up my companion had vanished. How he
succeeded in gathering up his pail and packages so noiselessly
and getting away so quickly is a mystery to me.
"Well," I said, "that's odd."
Rousing myself deliberately I put on my hat and was about to take
up my bag when I suddenly discovered that it was open. My
rain-cape was missing! It wasn't a very good rain-cape, but it
At first I was inclined to be angry, but when I thought of my
jovial companion and the cunning way in which he had tricked me,
I couldn't help laughing. At the same time I jumped up quickly
and ran down the road.
"I may get him yet," I said.
Just as I stepped out of the woods I caught a glimpse of a man
some hundreds of yards away, turning quickly from the main road
into a lane or by-path. I wasn't altogether sure that he was my
man, but I ran across the road and climbed the fence. I had
formed the plan instantly of cutting across the field and so
striking the by-road farther up the hill. I had a curious sense
of amused exultation, the very spirit of the chase, and my mind
dwelt with the liveliest excitement on what I should say or do if
I really caught that jolly spark of impudence
So I came by way of a thicket along an old stone fence to the
by-road, and there, sure enough, only a little way ahead of me,
was my man with the shaggy little dog close at his heels. He was
making pretty good time, but I skirted swiftly along the edge of
the road until I had nearly overtaken him. Then I slowed down to
a walk and stepped out into the middle of the road. I confess my
heart was pounding at a lively rate. The next time he looked
behind him--guiltily enough, too!--I said in the calmest voice I
"Well, brother, you almost left me behind."
He stopped and I stepped up to him.
I wish I could describe the look in his face--mingled
astonishment, fear, and defiance.
"My friend," I said, "I'm disappointed in you."
He made no reply.
"Yes, I'm disappointed. You did such a very poor job."
"Poor job!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," I said, and I slipped my bag off my shoulder and began to
rummage inside. My companion watched me silently and
"You should not have left the rubbers."
With that I handed him my old rubbers. A peculiar expression came
into the man's face.
"Say, pardner, what you drivin' at?"
"Well," I said, "I don't like to see such evidences of haste and
He stood staring at me helplessly, holding my old rubbers at
"Come on now," I said, "that's over. We'll walk along together."
I was about to take his arm, but quick as a flash he dodged, cast
both rubbers and rain-cape away from him, and ran down the road
for all he was worth, the little dog, looking exactly like a
rolling ball of fur, pelting after him. He never once glanced
back, but ran for his life. I stood there and laughed until the
tears came, and ever since then, at the thought of the expression
on the jolly rover's face when I gave him my rubbers, I've had to
smile. I put the rain-cape and rubbers back into my bag and
turned again to the road.
Before the afternoon was nearly spent I found myself very tired,
for my two days' experience in the city had been more exhausting
for me, I think, than a whole month of hard labour on my farm. I
found haven with a friendly farmer, whom I joined while he was
driving his cows in from the pasture. I helped him with his
milking both that night and the next morning, and found his
situation and family most interesting--but I shall not here
enlarge upon that experience.
It was late afternoon when I finally surmounted the hill from
which I knew well enough I could catch the first glimpse of my
farm. For a moment after I reached the top I could not raise my
eyes, and when finally I was able to raise them I could not see.
"There is a spot in Arcady--a spot in Arcady--a spot in Arcady--"
So runs the old song.
There IS a spot in Arcady, and at the centre of it there is a
weather-worn old house, and not far away a perfect oak tree, and
green fields all about, and a pleasant stream fringed with alders
in the little valley. And out of the chimney into the sweet,
still evening air rises the slow white smoke of the supper-fire.
I turned from the main road, and climbed the fence and walked
across my upper field to the old wood lane. The air was heavy and
sweet with clover blossoms, and along the fences I could see that
the raspberry bushes were ripening their fruit.
So I came down the lane and heard the comfortable grunting of
pigs in the pasture lot and saw the calves licking one another as
they stood at the gate.
"How they've grown!" I said.
I stopped at the corner of the barn for a moment. From within I
heard the rattling of milk in a pail (a fine sound), and heard a
man's voice saying:
"Whoa, there! Stiddy now!"
"Dick's milking," I said.
So I stepped in at the doorway.
"Lord, Mr. Grayson!" exclaimed Dick, rising instantly and
clasping my hand like a long-lost brother.
"I'm glad to see you!"
"I'm glad to see YOU!"
The warm smell of the new milk, the pleasant sound of animals
stepping about in the stable, the old mare reaching her long head
over the stanchion to welcome me, and nipping at my fingers when
I rubbed her nose--
And there was the old house with the late sun upon it, the vines
hanging green over the porch, Harriet's trim flower bed--I crept
along quietly to the corner. The kitchen door stood open.
"Well, Harriet!" I said, stepping inside.
I have rarely known Harriet to be in quite such a reckless mood.
She kept thinking of a new kind of sauce or jam for supper (I
think there were seven, or were there twelve? on the table before
I got through). And there was a new rhubarb pie such as only
Harriet can make, just brown enough on top, and not too brown,
with just the right sort of hills and hummocks in the crust, and
here and there little sugary bubbles where a suggestion of the
goodness came through--such a pie--! and such an appetite to go
"Harriet," I said, "you're spoiling me. Haven't you heard how
dangerous it is to set such a supper as this before a man who is
perishing with hunger? Have you no mercy for me?"
This remark produced the most extraordinary effect. Harriet was
at that moment standing in the corner near the pump. Her
shoulders suddenly began to shake convulsively.
"She's so glad I'm home that she can't help laughing," I thought,
which shows how penetrating I really am.
She was crying.
"Why, Harriet!" I exclaimed.
"Hungry!" she burst out, "and j-joking about it!"
I couldn't say a single word; something--it must have been a
piece of the rhubarb pie--stuck in my throat. So I sat there and
watched her moving quietly about in that immaculate kitchen.
After a time I walked over to where she stood by the table and
put my arm around her quickly. She half turned her head, in her
quick, businesslike way. I noted how firm and clean and sweet her
"Harriet," I said, "you grow younger every year."
"Harriet," I said, "I haven't seen a single person anywhere on my
journey that I like as much as I do you."
The quick blood came up.
"There--there--David!" she said.
So I stepped away.
"And as for rhubarb pie, Harriet--"
When I first came to my farm years ago there were mornings when I
woke up with the strong impression that I had just been hearing
the most exquisite sounds of music. I don't know whether this is
at all a common experience, but in those days (and farther back
in my early boyhood) I had it frequently. It did not seem exactly
like music either, but was rather a sense of harmony, so
wonderful, so pervasive that it cannot be described. I have not
had it so often in recent years, but on the morning after I
reached home it came to me as I awakened with a strange depth and
sweetness. I lay for a moment there in my clean bed. The morning
sun was up and coming in cheerfully through the vines at the
window; a gentle breeze stirred the clean white curtains, and I
could smell even there the odours of the garden.
I wish I had room to tell, but I cannot, of all the crowded
experiences of that day--the renewal of acquaintance with the
fields, the cattle, the fowls, the bees, of my long talks with
Harriet and Dick Sheridan, who had cared for my work while I was
away; of the wonderful visit of the Scotch Preacher, of Horace's
shrewd and whimsical comments upon the general absurdity of the
head of the Grayson family--oh, of a thousand things--and how
when I went into my study and took up the nearest book in my
favourite case--it chanced to be "The Bible in Spain"--it opened
of itself at one of my favourite passages, the one beginning:
"Mistos amande, I am content--"
So it's all over! It has been a great experience; and it seems to
me now that I have a firmer grip on life, and a firmer trust in
that Power which orders the ages. In a book I read not long ago,
called "A Modern Utopia," the writer provides in his imaginary
perfect state of society a class of leaders known as Samurai.
And, from time to time, it is the custom of these Samurai to cut
themselves loose from the crowding world of men, and with packs
on their backs go away alone to far places in the deserts or on
Arctic ice caps. I am convinced that every man needs some such
change as this, an opportunity to think things out, to get a new
grip on life, and a new hold on God. But not for me the Arctic
ice cap or the desert! I choose the Friendly Road--and all the
common people who travel in it or live along it--I choose even the
busy city at the end of it.
I assure you, friend, that it is a wonderful thing for a man to
cast himself freely for a time upon the world, not knowing where
his next meal is coming from, nor where he is going to sleep for
the night. It is a surprising readjuster of values. I paid my
way, I think, throughout my pilgrimage; but I discovered that
stamped metal is far from being the world's only true coin. As a
matter of fact, there are many things that men prize more
highly--because they are rarer and more precious.
My friend, if you should chance yourself some day to follow the
Friendly Road, you may catch a fleeting glimpse of a man in a
rusty hat, carrying a gray bag, and sometimes humming a little
song under his breath for the joy of being there. And it may
actually happen, if you stop him, that he will take a tin whistle
from his bag and play for you, "Money Musk," or "Old Dan Tucker,"
or he may produce a battered old volume of Montaigne from which
he will read you a passage. If such an adventure should befall
you, know that you have met
P. S.-- Harriet bemoans most of all the unsolved mystery of the
sign man. But it doesn't bother me in the least. I'm glad now I
never found him. The poet sings his song and goes his way. If we
sought him out how horribly disappointed we might be! We might
find him shaving, or eating sausage, or drinking a bottle of
beer. We might find him shaggy and unkempt where we imagined him
beautiful, weak where we thought him strong, dull where we
thought him brilliant. Take then the vintage of his heart and let
him go. As for me, I'm glad some mystery is left in this world. A
thousand signs on my roadways are still as unexplainable, as
mysterious, and as beguiling as this. And I can close my
narrative with no better motto for tired spirits than that of the
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