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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

It occurred to Harwood that this big


"Oh,

of course it did come!" cried Allen eagerly.

"Well, that third time it wasn't a loose leaf torn out and stuck on a plank, or just an old weather-stained book; it was a copy that had been specially bound--a rare piece of work. I don't care particularly for fine bindings, but that had been done with taste,--a dark green,--the color you get looking across the top of a pine wood; and it seemed appropriate. Emerson would have liked it himself."

The sheet-iron stove had grown red hot and Harwood flung open the door. The glow from the fire fell full upon the dark, rugged face and the white hair of the minister, who was sitting on a soap-box with his elbows on his knees. In a gray flannel shirt he looked like a lumberman of the North. An unusual tenderness had stolen into his lean, Indian-like face.

"That was a long while after that ride in the Sierras. Let me see, it was more than twenty years ago,--I can't just place the year; no difference. I'd gone up into the Adirondacks to see my folks. I told you about our farm once, Allen,--not far from John Brown's old place. It isn't as lonesome up there now as it was when I was a boy; there were bully places to hide up there; I used to think of that when I was reading Scott and Cooper. Brown could have hid there forever if he'd got out of Virginia after the raid. Nowadays there are too many hotels, and people go canoeing in ironed collars.

No good. My folks were all gone even then, and strangers lived in my father's house. From the old place I moved along, walking and canoeing it. Stopped on Saturday in a settlement where there was a church that hadn't been preached in since anybody could remember. Preached for 'em on Sunday. An old Indian died, while I was there, and I baptized and buried him. But that wasn't what kept me. There was a young woman staying at the small boarding-house where I stopped--place run by a man and his wife. Stranger had brought her there early in the summer. City people--they told the folks they came from New York. They were young, well-appearing folks--at least the girl was. The man had gone off and left her there, and she was going to have a child soon and was terribly ill. They called me in one day when they thought the woman was dying. The country doctor wasn't much good--an old fellow who didn't know that anything particular had happened in his profession since Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. I struck off to Saranac and got a city doctor to go and look at the woman. Nice chap he was, too. He stayed there till the woman's troubles were over. Daughter born and everything all right. She never mentioned the man who had left her there. Wouldn't answer the doctor's questions and didn't tell me anything either. Strange business, just to drop in on a thing like that."

It occurred to Harwood that this big, gray, kindly man had probably looked upon many dark pictures in his life. The minister appeared to be talking half to himself, and there had been abrupt pauses in his characteristically jerky recital. There was a long silence which he broke by striking his hands together abruptly, and shaking his head.

"The man that kept the boarding-house was scared for fear the woman wasn't straight; didn't like the idea of having a strange girl with a baby left on his hands. I had to reason some with that fellow; but his wife was all right, and did her full duty by the girl. She was a mighty pretty young girl, and she took her troubles, whatever they were, like what you'd call a true sport, Ed."


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