He was a goodly figure of a man as he stood there beside his valise2. Portly, tall, handsomely dressed, and with something unusually winning in his brown mustache and blue eyes, something scholarly suggested by the pinch-nose glasses, something strong in the repose of the head. He smiled as he saw how unchanged was the grouping of the loafers on the salt-barrels and nail-kegs. He recognized most of them—a little more bent and a little grayer.
They sat in the same attitudes and joked each other, breaking into short and sudden fits of laughter, and pounded each other on the back, just as when he was a student and going to and fro daily on the train.
They ruminated on him as he passed, speculating in a perfectly audible way upon his business.
“Looks like a drummer.3”
“No, he ain’t no drummer. See them Boston glasses?”
“That’s so. Guess he’s a teacher.”
“Bos’n, I guess.”
“You’re William McTurg,” Howard said, coming up to him.
“I am, sir,” replied the soft-voiced giant, turning and looking down on the stranger, with an amused twinkle in big deep brown eyes. He stood tall, though his hair and beard were white.
“I’m Howard McLane.”
“Ye begin t’ look it,” said McTurg, removing his right hand from his pocket. “How are ye?”
“I’m first-rate. How’s mother and Grant?”
“Saw ’m plowing corn as I came down. Guess he’s all right. Want a boost?”
“ ’Bout goin’ home. Climb right in. That’s my rig, right there,” nodding at a sleek bay colt hitched in a covered buggy.
They climbed into the seat after William had lowered the buggy-top and unhitched the horse from the post. “Want to go by river, or ’round by the hills?”
“Hills, I guess.”
The whole matter began to seem trivial, as if he had been away only for a month or two.