The Gentleman from Indiana (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 3

When the rusty hands of the office clock marked half-past four, the
editor-in-chief of the "Carlow County Herald" took his hand out of his
hair, wiped his pen on his last notice from the White-Caps, put on his
coat, swept out the close little entry, and left the sanctum for the
bright June afternoon.

He chose the way to the west, strolling thoughtfully out of town by the
white, hot, deserted Main Street, and thence onward by the country road
into which its proud half-mile of old brick store buildings, tumbled-down
frame shops and thinly painted cottages degenerated. The sun was in his
face, where the road ran between the summer fields, lying waveless, low,
gracious in promise; but, coming to a wood of hickory and beech and walnut
that stood beyond, he might turn his down-bent-hat-brim up and hold his
head erect. Here the shade fell deep and cool on the green tangle of rag
and iron weed and long grass in the corners of the snake fence, although
the sun beat upon the road so dose beside. There was no movement in the
crisp young leaves overhead; high in the boughs there was a quick flirt of
crimson where two robins hopped noiselessly. No insect raised resentment
of the lonesomeness: the late afternoon, when the air is quite still, had
come; yet there rested--somewhere--on the quiet day, a faint, pleasant,
woody smell. It came to the editor of the "Herald" as he climbed to the
top rail of the fence for a seat, and he drew a long, deep breath to get
the elusive odor more luxuriously--and then it was gone altogether.

"A habit of delicacies," he said aloud, addressing the wide silence
complainingly. He drew a faded tobacco-bag and a brier pipe from his coat
pocket and filled and lit the pipe. "One taste--and they quit," he
finished, gazing solemnly upon the shining little town down the road. He
twirled the pouch mechanically about his finger, and then, suddenly
regarding it, patted it caressingly. It had been a giddy little bag, long
ago, satin, and gay with embroidery in the colors of the editor's
university; and although now it was frayed to the verge of tatters, it
still bore an air of pristine jauntiness, an air of which its owner in no
wise partook. He looked from it over the fields toward the town in the
clear distance and sighed softly as he put the pouch back in his pocket,
and, resting his arm on his knee and his chin in his hand, sat blowing
clouds of smoke out of the shade into the sunshine, absently watching the
ghostly shadows dance on the white dust of the road.

A little garter snake crept under the fence beneath him and disappeared in
the underbrush; a rabbit progressing timidly on his travels by a series of
brilliant dashes and terror-smitten halts, came within a few yards of him,
sat up with quivering nose and eyes alight with fearful imaginings--
vanished, a flash of fluffy brown and white. Shadows grew longer; the
brier pipe sputtered feebly in depletion and was refilled. A cricket
chirped and heard answer; there was a woodland stir of breezes; and the
pair of robins left the branches overhead in eager flight, vacating before
the arrival of a great flock of blackbirds hastening thither ere the
eventide should be upon them. The blackbirds came, chattered, gossiped,
quarrelled, and beat each other with their wings above the smoker sitting
on the top fence rail.

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