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Chapter 9

IX.

Kinney came into town the next morning bright and early, as he phrased it; but he did not stop at the hotel for Bartley till nine o'clock. "Thought I'd give you time for breakfast," he exclaimed, "and so I didn't hurry up any about gettin' in my supplies."

It was a beautiful morning, so blindingly sunny that Bartley winked as they drove up through the glistening street, and was glad to dip into the gloom of the first woods; it was not cold; the snow felt the warmth, and packed moistly under their runners. The air was perfectly still; at a distance on the mountain-sides it sparkled as if full of diamond dust. Far overhead some crows called.

"The sun's getting high," said Bartley, with the light sigh of one to whom the thought of spring brings no hope.

"Well, I shouldn't begin to plough for corn just yet," replied Kinney. "It's curious," he went on, "to see how anxious we are to have a thing over, it don't much matter what it is, whether it's summer or winter. I suppose we'd feel different if we wa'n't sure there was going to be another of 'em. I guess that's one reason why the Lord concluded not to keep us clearly posted on the question of another life. If it wa'n't for the uncertainty of the thing, there are a lot of fellows like you that wouldn't stand it here a minute. Why, if we had a dead sure thing of over-the-river,—good climate, plenty to eat and wear, and not much to do,—I don't believe any of us would keep Darling Minnie waiting,—well, a great while. But you see, the thing's all on paper, and that makes us cautious, and willing to hang on here awhile longer. Looks splendid on the map: streets regularly laid out; public squares; band-stands; churches; solid blocks of houses, with all the modern improvements; but you can't tell whether there's any town there till you're on the ground; and then, if you don't like it, there's no way of gettin' back to the States." He turned round upon Bartley and opened his mouth wide, to imply that this was pleasantry.

"Do you throw your philosophy in, all under the same price, Kinney?" asked the young fellow.

"Well, yes; I never charge anything over," said Kinney. "You see, I have a good deal of time to think when I'm around by myself all day, and the philosophy don't cost me anything, and the fellows like it. Roughing it the way they do, they can stand 'most anything. Hey?" He now not only opened his mouth upon Bartley, but thrust him in the side with his elbow, and then laughed noisily.

Kinney was the cook. He had been over pretty nearly the whole uninhabitable globe, starting as a gaunt and awkward boy from the Maine woods, and keeping until he came back to them in late middle-life the same gross and ridiculous optimism. He had been at sea, and shipwrecked on several islands in the Pacific; he had passed a rainy season at Panama, and a yellow-fever season at Vera Cruz, and had been carried far into the interior of Peru by a tidal wave during an earthquake season; he was in the Border Ruffian War of Kansas, and he clung to California till prosperity deserted her after the completion of the Pacific road. Wherever he went, he carried or found adversity; but, with a heart fed on the metaphysics of Horace Greeley, and buoyed up by a few wildly interpreted maxims of Emerson, he had always believed in other men, and their fitness for the terrestrial millennium, which was never more than ten days or ten miles off. It is not necessary to say that he had continued as poor as he began, and that he was never able to contribute to those railroads, mills, elevators, towns, and cities which were sure to be built, sir, sure to be built, wherever he went. When he came home at last to the woods, some hundreds of miles north of Equity, he found that some one had realized his early dream of a summer hotel on the shore of the beautiful lake there; and he unenviously settled down to admire the landlord's thrift, and to act as guide and cook for parties of young ladies and gentlemen who started from the hotel to camp in the woods. This brought him into the society of cultivated people, for which he had a real passion. He had always had a few thoughts rattling round in his skull, and he liked to make sure of them in talk with those who had enjoyed greater advantages than himself. He never begrudged them their luck; he simply and sweetly admired them; he made studies of their several characters, and was never tired of analyzing them to their advantage to the next summer's parties. Late in the fall, he went in, as it is called, with a camp of loggers, among whom he rarely failed to find some remarkable men. But he confessed that he did not enjoy the steady three or four months in the winter woods with no coming out at all till spring; and he had been glad of this chance in a logging camp near Equity, in which he had been offered the cook's place by the owner who had tested his fare in the Northern woods the summer before. Its proximity to the village allowed him to loaf in upon civilization at least once a week, and he spent the greater part of his time at the Free Press office on publication day. He had always sought the society of newspaper men, and, wherever he could, he had given them his. He was not long in discovering that Bartley was smart as a steel trap; and by an early and natural transition from calling the young lady compositors by their pet names, and patting them on their shoulders, he had arrived at a like affectionate intimacy with Bartley.

As they worked deep into the woods on their way to the camp, the road dwindled to a well-worn track between the stumps and bushes. The ground was rough, and they constantly plunged down the slopes of little hills, and climbed the sides of the little valleys, and from time to time they had to turn out for teams drawing logs to the mills in Equity, each with its equipage of four or five wild young fellows, who saluted Kinney with an ironical cheer or jovial taunt in passing.

"They're all just so," he explained, with pride, when the last party had passed. "They're gentlemen, every one of 'em,—perfect gentlemen."

They came at last to a wider clearing than any they had yet passed through, and here on a level of the hillside stretched the camp, a long, low structure of logs, with the roof broken at one point by a stovepipe, and the walls irregularly pierced by small windows; around it crouched and burrowed in the drift the sheds that served as stables and storehouses.

The sun shone, and shone with dazzling brightness, upon the opening; the sound of distant shouts and the rhythmical stroke of axes came to it out of the forest; but the camp was deserted, and in the stillness Kinney's voice seemed strange and alien. "Walk in, walk in!" he said, hospitably. "I've got to look after my horse."

But Bartley remained at the door, blinking in the sunshine, and harking to the near silence that sang in his ears. A curious feeling possessed him; sickness of himself as of some one else; a longing, consciously helpless, to be something different; a sense of captivity to habits and thoughts and hopes that centred in himself, and served him alone.

"Terribly peaceful around here," said Kinney, coming back to him, and joining him in a survey of the landscape, with his hands on his hips, and a stem of timothy projecting from his lips.

"Yes, terribly," assented Bartley.

"But it aint a bad way for a man to live, as long as he's young; or haint got anybody that wants his company more than his room.—Be the place for you."

"On which ground?" Bartley asked, drily, without taking his eyes from a distant peak that showed through the notch in the forest.

Kinney laughed in as unselfish enjoyment as if he had made the turn himself. "Well, that aint exactly what I meant to say: what I meant was that any man engaged in intellectual pursuits wants to come out and commune with nature, every little while."

"You call the Equity Free Press intellectual pursuits?" demanded Bartley, with scorn. "I suppose it is," he added. "Well, here I am,—right on the commune. But nature's such a big thing, I think it takes two to commune with her."

"Well, a girl's a help," assented Kinney.

"I wasn't thinking of a girl, exactly," said Bartley, with a little sadness. "I mean that, if you're not in first-rate spiritual condition, you're apt to get floored if you undertake to commune with nature."

"I guess that's about so. If a man's got anything, on his mind, a big railroad depot's the place for him. But you're run down. You ought to come out here, and take a hand, and be a man amongst men." Kinney talked partly for quantity, and partly for pure, indefinite good feeling.

Bartley turned toward the door. "What have you got inside, here?"

Kinney flung the door open, and followed his guest within. The first two-thirds of the cabin was used as a dormitory, and the sides were furnished with rough bunks, from the ground to the roof. The round, unhewn logs showed their form everywhere; the crevices were calked with moss; and the walls were warm and tight. It was dark between the bunks, but beyond it was lighter, and Bartley could see at the farther end a vast cooking-stove, and three long tables with benches at their sides. A huge coffee-pot stood on the top of the stove, and various pots and kettles surrounded it.

"Come into the dining-room and sit down in the parlor," said Kinney, drawing off his coat as he walked forward. "Take the sofa," he added, indicating a movable bench. He hung his coat on a peg and rolled up his shirt-sleeves, and began to whistle cheerily, like a man who enjoys his work, as he threw open the stove door and poked in some sticks of fuel. A brooding warmth filled the place, and the wood made a pleasant crackling as it took fire.

"Here's my desk," said Kinney, pointing to a barrel that supported a broad, smooth board-top. "This is where I compose my favorite works." He turned round, and cut out of a mighty mass of dough in a tin trough a portion, which he threw down on his table and attacked with a rolling-pin. "That means pie, Mr. Hubbard," he explained, "and pie means meat-pie,—or squash-pie, at a pinch. Today's pie-baking day. But you needn't be troubled on that account. So's to-morrow, and so was yesterday. Pie twenty-one times a week is the word, and don't you forget it. They say old Agassiz," Kinney went on, in that easy, familiar fondness with which our people like to speak of greatness that impresses their imagination,—"they say old Agassiz recommended fish as the best food for the brain. Well, I don't suppose but what it is. But I don't know but what pie is more stimulating to the fancy. I never saw anything like meat-pie to make ye dream."

"Yes," said Bartley, nodding gloomily, "I've tried it."

Kinney laughed. "Well, I guess folks of sedentary pursuits, like you and me, don't need it; but these fellows that stamp round in the snow all day, they want something to keep their imagination goin'. And I guess pie does it. Anyway, they can't seem to get enough of it. Ever try apples when you was at work? They say old Greeley kep' his desk full of 'em; kep' munchin' away all the while when he was writin' his editorials. And one of them German poets—I don't know but what it was old Gutty himself—kept rotten ones in his drawer; liked the smell of 'em. Well, there's a good deal of apple in meat-pie. May be it's the apple that does it. I don't know. But I guess if your pursuits are sedentary, you better take the apple separate."

Bartley did not say anything; but he kept a lazily interested eye on Kinney as he rolled out his piecrust, fitted it into his tins, filled these from a jar of mince-meat, covered them with a sheet of dough pierced in herring-bone pattern, and marshalled them at one side ready for the oven.

"If fish is any better for the brain," Kinney proceeded, "they can't complain of any want of it, at least in the salted form. They get fish-balls three times a week for breakfast, as reg'lar as Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday comes round. And Fridays I make up a sort of chowder for the Kanucks; they're Catholics, you know, and I don't believe in interferin' with any man's religion, it don't matter what it is."

"You ought to be a deacon in the First Church at Equity," said Bartley.

"Is that so? Why?" asked Kinney.

"Oh, they don't believe in interfering with any man's religion, either."

"Well," said Kinney, thoughtfully, pausing with the rolling-pin in his hand, "there 'a such a thing as being too liberal, I suppose."

"The world's tried the other thing a good while," said Bartley, with cynical amusement at Kinney's arrest.

It seemed to chill the flow of the good fellow's optimism, so that he assented with but lukewarm satisfaction.

"Well, that's so, too," and he made up the rest of his pies in silence.

"Well," he exclaimed at last, as if shaking himself out of an unpleasant reverie, "I guess we shall get along, somehow. Do you like pork and beans?"

"Yes, I do," said Bartley.

"We're goin' to have 'em for dinner. You can hit beans any meal you drop in on us; beans twenty-one times a week, just like pie. Set 'em in to warm," he said, taking up a capacious earthen pot, near the stove, and putting it into the oven. "I been pretty much everywheres, and I don't know as I found anything for a stand-by that come up to beans. I'm goin' to give 'em potatoes and cabbage to-day,—kind of a boiled-dinner day,—but you'll see there aint one in ten 'll touch 'em to what there will these old residenters. Potatoes and cabbage'll do for a kind of a delicacy,—sort of a side-dish,—on-tree, you know; but give 'em beans for a steady diet. Why, off there in Chili, even, the people regularly live on beans,—not exactly like ours,—broad and flat,—but they're beans. Wa'n't there some those ancients—old Horace, or Virgil, may be—rung in something about beans in some their poems?"

"I don't remember anything of the kind," said Bartley, languidly.

"Well, I don't know as I can. I just have a dim recollection of language thrown out at the object,—as old Matthew Arnold says. But it might have been something in Emerson."

Bartley laughed "I didn't suppose you were such a reader, Kinney."

"Oh, I nibble round wherever I can get a chance. Mostly in the newspapers, you know. I don't get any time for books, as a general rule. But there's pretty much everything in the papers. I should call beans a brain food."

"I guess you call anything a brain food that you happen to like, don't you,
Kinney?"

"No, sir," said Kinney, soberly; "but I like to see the philosophy of a thing when I get a chance. Now, there's tea, for example," he said, pointing to the great tin pot on the stove.

"Coffee, you mean," said Bartley.

"No, sir, I mean tea. That's tea; and I give it to 'em three times a day, good and strong,—molasses in it, and no milk. That's a brain food, if ever there was one. Sets 'em up, right on end, every time. Clears their heads and keeps the cold out."

"I should think you were running a seminary for young ladies, instead of a logging-camp," said Bartley.

"No, but look at it: I'm in earnest about tea. You look at the tea drinkers and the coffee-drinkers all the world over! Look at 'em in our own country! All the Northern people and all the go-ahead people drink tea. The Pennsylvanians and the Southerners drink coffee. Why our New England folks don't even know how to make coffee so it's fit to drink! And it's just so all over Europe. The Russians drink tea, and they'd e't up those coffee-drinkin' Turks long ago, if the tea-drinkin' English hadn't kept 'em from it. Go anywheres you like in the North, and you find 'em drinkin' tea. The Swedes and Norwegians in Aroostook County drink it; and they drink it at home."

"Well, what do you think of the French and Germans? They drink coffee, and they're pretty smart, active people, too."

"French and Germans drink coffee?"

"Yes."

Kinney stopped short in his heated career of generalization, and scratched his shaggy head. "Well," he said, finally, "I guess they're a kind of a missing link, as old Darwin says." He joined Bartley in his laugh cordially, and looked up at the round clock nailed to a log. "It's about time I set my tables, anyway. Well," he asked, apparently to keep the conversation from flagging, while he went about this work, "how is the good old Free Press getting along?"

"It's going to get along without me from this out," said Bartley. "This is my last week in Equity."

"No!" retorted Kinney, in tremendous astonishment.

"Yes; I'm off at the end of the week. Squire Gaylord takes the paper back for the committee, and I suppose Henry Bird will run it for a while; or perhaps they'll stop it altogether. It's been a losing business for the committee."

"Why, I thought you'd bought it of 'em."

"Well, that's what I expected to do; but the office hasn't made any money.
All that I've saved is in my colt and cutter."

"That sorrel?"

Bartley nodded. "I'm going away about as poor as I came. I couldn't go much poorer."

"Well!" said Kinney, in the exhaustion of adequate language. He went on laying the plates and knives and forks in silence. These were of undisguised steel; the dishes and the drinking mugs were of that dense and heavy make which the keepers of cheap restaurants use to protect themselves against breakage, and which their servants chip to the quick at every edge. Kinney laid bread and crackers by each plate, and on each he placed a vast slab of cold corned beef. Then he lifted the lid of the pot in which the cabbage and potatoes were boiling together, and pricked them with a fork. He dished up the beans in a succession of deep tins, and set them at intervals along the tables, and began to talk again. "Well, now, I'm sorry. I'd just begun to feel real well acquainted with you. Tell you the truth, I didn't take much of a fancy to you, first off."

"Is that so?" asked Bartley, not much disturbed by the confession.

"Yes, sir. Well, come to boil it down," said Kinney, with the frankness of the analytical mind that disdains to spare itself in the pursuit of truth, "I didn't like your good clothes. I don't suppose I ever had a suit of clothes to fit me. Feel kind of ashamed, you know, when I go into the store, and take the first thing the Jew wants to put off on to me. Now, I suppose you go to Macullar and Parker's in Boston, and you get what you want."

"No; I have my measure at a tailor's," said Bartley, with ill-concealed pride in the fact.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Kinney. "Well!" he said, as if he might as well swallow this pill, too, while he was about it. "Well, what's the use? I never was the figure for clothes, anyway. Long, gangling boy to start with, and a lean, stoop-shouldered man. I found out some time ago that a fellow wa'n't necessarily a bad fellow because he had money, or a good fellow because he hadn't. But I hadn't quite got over hating a man because he had style. Well, I suppose it was a kind of a survival, as old Tylor calls it. But I tell you, I sniffed round you a good while before I made up my mind to swallow you. And that turnout of yours, it kind of staggered me, after I got over the clothes. Why, it wa'n't so much the colt,—any man likes to ride after a sorrel colt; and it wa'n't so much the cutter: it was the red linin' with pinked edges that you had to your robe; and it was the red ribbon that you had tied round the waist of your whip. When I see that ribbon on that whip, damn you, I wanted to kill you." Bartley broke out into a laugh, but Kinney went on soberly. "But, thinks I to myself: 'Here! Now you stop right here! You wait! You give the fellow a chance for his life. Let him have a chance to show whether that whip-ribbon goes all through him, first. If it does, kill him cheerfully; but give him a chance first.' Well, sir, I gave you the chance, and you showed that you deserved it. I guess you taught me a lesson. When I see you at work, pegging away hard at something or other, every time I went into your office, up and coming with everybody, and just as ready to pass the time of day with me as the biggest bug in town, thinks I: 'You'd have made a great mistake to kill that fellow, Kinney!' And I just made up my mind to like you."

"Thanks," said Bartley, with ironical gratitude.

Kinney did not speak at once. He whistled thoughtfully through his teeth, and then he said: "I'll tell you what: if you're going away very poor, I know a wealthy chap you can raise a loan out of."

Bartley thought seriously for a silent moment. "If your friend offers me twenty dollars, I'm not too well dressed to take it."

"All right," said Kinney. He now dished up the cabbage and potatoes, and throwing a fresh handful of tea into the pot, and filling it up with water, he took down a tin horn, with which he went to the door and sounded a long, stertorous note.

William Dean Howells