Darrel of the Blessed Isles by Irving Bacheller
X. An Odd Meeting
They were up betimes in the morning, and Trove ate hastily from his own store and bade them all good-by and made off, for he had yet a long road to travel.
That day Trove fell in with a great, awkward country boy, slouching along the road on his way to Cleveland. He was an odd figure, with thick hair of the shade of tow that burst out from under a slouch hat and muffled his neck behind; his coat was thread-bare and a bit too large; his trousers of satinet fell loosely far enough to break joints with each bootleg; the dusty cowhide gave his feet a lonely and arid look. He carried a bundle tied to a stick that lay on his left shoulder. They met near a corner, nodded, and walked on a while together in silence. For a little time they surveyed each other curiously. Then each began to quicken the pace.
"Maybe you think you can walk the fastest," said he of the long hair.
They were going a hot pace, their free arms flying. Trove bent to his work stubbornly. They both began to tire and slow up. The big boy looked across at the other and laughed loudly.
"Wouldn't give up if ye broke a leg, would ye?" said he.
"Not if I could swing it," said Trove.
"Goin' t' Cleveland?"
"Yes; are you?"
"Yes. I'm goin' t' be a sailor," said the strange boy.
"Goin' off on the ocean?" Trove inquired with deep interest.
"Yes; 'round the world, maybe. Then I'll come back an' go t' school--if I don't git wrecked like Robi'son Crusoe."
"My stars!" said Trove, with a look of awe.
"Like t' go?" the other inquired.
"Guess I would!"
"Better stay t' home; it's a hard life." This with an air of parental wisdom.
"I've read 'Robi'son Crusoe,'" said Trove, as if it were some excuse.
"So 've I; an' Grimshaw's 'Napoleon,' an' Weems's 'Life o' Marion,' an' 'The Pirates' Book,' an' the Bible."
"I've got half through the Bible," said Trove.
"Who slew Absolum?" the other inquired doubtfully.
Trove remembered the circumstances, but couldn't recall the name.
They sat down to rest and eat luncheon.
"You going to be a statesman?" Trove inquired.
"No; once I thought I'd try t' go t' Congress, but I guess I'd rather go t' sea. What you goin' t' be?"
"I shall try to be an author," said Trove.
"Why, if I was you, I'd go into politics," said the other. "Ye might be President some day, no telling. Do ye know how t' chop er hoe er swing a scythe?"
"Wal, then, if ye don't ever git t' be President, ye won't have t' starve. I saw an author one day."
"He was an awful-lookin' cuss," said the other, with a nod of affirmation.
The strange boy took another bite of bread and butter.
"Wrote dime novels an' drank whisky an' wore a bearskin vest," he added presently.
"Do you know the Declaration of Independence?"
"I do," said the strange boy, and gave it word for word.
They chatted and tried tricks and spent a happy hour there by the roadside. It was an hour of pure democracy--neither knew even the name of the other so far.
They got to Cleveland late in the afternoon.
"Now keep yer hand on yer wallet," said the strange boy, as they were coming into the city. "I've got three dollars an' seventy-five cents in mine, an' I don't propose t' have it took away from me."
Trove went to a tavern, the other to stay with friends. Near noon next day both boys met on the wharf, where Trove was to board a steamboat.
"Got a job?" Trove inquired.
"No," said the other, with a look of dejection. "I tried, an' they cursed an' damned me awful. I got away as quick as I could. Dunno but I'll have t' go back an' try t' be a statesman er something o' that kind. Guess it's easier than goin' t' sea. Give me yer name an' address, an' maybe I'll write ye a letter."
"Please give me yours," said he.
"It's James Abram Garfield, Orange, O.," said the other.
Then they spoke a long good-by.