The Carriers

At night, when supper was over and Mr. Hayward had some leisure to look about, he was in the habit of saying that the man who built his house, whoever he might be, would not have ruined himself had he made the ceiling a log or two higher.
“Nor can I see, for the life of me,” he would add, as he surveyed our narrow quarters, “why he cut the logs so short, when the forest is full of fine timber he could have had for the taking.”
Off the main room, and there was but one, we built a kitchen, and beside it a sleeping-room. This was thought by some of the neighbors to indicate growing pride and a striving after luxury, though the addition sloped to the ground so fast that the side next the eaves did not afford room for one to stand upright. This inconvenience, however, we did not much regard, a little stooping now and then not doing any one harm. The attic over the main room was mine, to do with as I pleased, save some small space set apart for seed-corn and things of that kind in winter. It was reached, and deftly enough, by a ladder of stout poles, which answered the purpose perfectly, and had the great merit, moreover, of taking up little or no room. My bed occupied one corner, and lying outstretched my nose would have scraped the shingles had it been an inch or two longer. These shingles were neither black walnut nor cottonwood, as you may think, but oak clapboards split and shaved in the old way, before shingles were known in the new country. If they did not always keep out the water, it did not enter in any great quantity, and by using a little calculation one might avoid it entirely.
The room was greatly to my fancy, and I have never seen one I liked so well. If in summer it was sometimes hot, because of proximity to the roof, air might always be obtained from the window at the end; and as for light and ventilation, this and the crevices in the roof afforded all that any reasonable person could desire. What was best about it, though, was its nearness to the wind and rain. For lying upon my bed, the patter and swash of the water sounded directly in my face, and when the wind pushed and crowded about the house it was not at some far-off place, but in my very ears. Such volume and artfulness of sound, too, words cannot describe, each log and crevice of varying size answering back some note of its own to pouring rain or driving wind. Nowhere else, indeed, have I heard, or ever will, such symphonies; for these things belong to our youth, and come not in like freshness to the mind or wearied body of more mature years.
It was the river, however, that attracted me most, for there was no end to its beauty and variety. In rain and sunshine, it made no difference, it kept its way, changing with every cloud and breath of air, always offering some new and better view. Of the ferry, Mr. Hayward, discarding all the devices of our competitors, adopted in their place a method better than them all; and in this I will not except the McDuffs, who made so much of their new-fangled power and patent steering-gear. Nothing could be more picturesque, either, than our device. For going up the river a little way, Mr. Hayward attached a stout wire to a great tree that grew on an island there, and uncoiling the wire, brought it down, and connected it to a rope fastened to each end of the great boat. Drawing this rope taut at the prow, the latter pointed up the stream, and so, loosening the craft from the shore, the current carried it swiftly to the other side. Of all Mr. Hayward’s methods for saving labor and cutting down expenses not one exceeded this, I thought. To prevent the wire dragging in the water, it was upheld by buoys, and these always facing about in the direction the great boat was going, added to the beauty and animation of the scene. These devices were the subject of much ridicule at first, and more especially on the part of the McDuffs, but on trial, the community coming to regard them with favor, the subject was not referred to again.
Of the doings of these McDuffs little that was good could be said. Not only were they innovators in respect to the use of steam, but given, as we proved more than once, to the cutting of rates and other underhand dealings of a like nature. Such practices Mr. Hayward despised as unworthy of common carriers, nor would he be a party to them in any way; unless, indeed, it might be in the case of a large customer, but then only sparingly and under close cover, so that there could be no known excuse save weakness or pure spite for the cutting of rates on the part of others. The McDuffs were also given to misrepresenting distances, to the injury of our ferry, so far as their stories were believed by the simple-minded. In this and other ways they were a constant source of irritation and injury to trade, and to such a degree that as a way out Mr. Hayward, with great circumspection of conduct, finally proposed a trust, or consolidation of the properties. This project came nigh to happening, too, and indeed was thought to be as good as done, when word of it somehow came to the ears of the public. Upon this the community flew into a rage, accusing us of monopolistic tendencies and other and worse things, so that in the end the undertaking fell through. In the warfare that was made upon us at this time, strangely enough the most bitter were those who never made any use of the ferry to speak of. This I could not understand until Mr. Hayward explained it.
14“There are a lot of people who lie awake nights watching and listening lest the public suffer some wrong. These guardians, as a rule, never achieve anything themselves, and in the end are buried at the expense of their friends. In every case they are impracticable people, with little or no knowledge of affairs. Well meaning enough, they will pull a house down to straighten the lightning-rod, or destroy a garment to remove a stain. The trouble is they lack sense. With skulls big enough to hold a squash, they have nothing to fill the space save surmises and suspicions.”
We were always of the firm opinion that the McDuffs had made known Mr. Hayward’s efforts to consolidate the properties, and this to discredit us with the public, for grievously we suffered from the falling off of traffic that followed. This until, happily, the wife of the mayor of Appletop bringing forth triplets, and all boys, the mind of the community was diverted for the moment. As it would happen, too, an accident occurring about the same time at the McDuffs’, whereby a passenger lost his life—a thing Mr. Hayward had clearly foretold—we came again into our share of the business, and kept it. Mr. Hayward, however, was ever very sore on the subject.
“The consolidation was clearly in the interest of the people,” he would say in speaking of it. “They would have had only one family to support instead of two, as at present, and reduction in tolls would surely have followed sooner or later. Why, except for such things mankind would be eating roots to-day and living in caves. Affairs of state have felt this most of all, for one government answers now where there were myriads at one time. Thus England has but one ruler, where she once had fifty to support, with all their hungry followers. There was consolidation for you with a vengeance, and it has been so with every country on the globe. So it will be with many industries. You may be sure, though, that not one little despot was ever tumbled from his throne without the people raising a cry that they were being enslaved.”
“Has everything been done that will be in this direction?” a chance traveler asked one day, hearing what Mr. Hayward said.
“No; it will go on until each continent has but one government, and in the end all will be merged.”
“Which people will dominate?” the traveler inquired, as if quizzing him.
“The most vigorous and the wisest. The nations we know, however, will all have disappeared ere then, it is probable. No one can tell.”
Thus Mr. Hayward would go on by the hour when the subject of interference with natural laws was spoken of, and nothing could stop him.
Among other things that favored our ferry was a certain romantic fancy that attached to it. Thus the little buoys, skimming the water like ducklings, never failed to attract the attention and elicit the admiration of those who crossed. Of our signaling devices, they were very simple; two strokes of the bell indicated a horse or wagon, one a foot passenger. The last fell to me, and because of it, I became in time very expert in handling the small boat, never failing, as good fortune would have it, to bring my passenger safely to shore. Our landing-places, too, were exceedingly picturesque, and caused the more sentimental no end of foolish talk. On the side where we lived hawthorns and elder covered the banks and edges of the river, and on the other shore two great elms guarded the approach. These last were remarkable in their way, and because of it added considerable to our earnings. One was of great height and grand to look upon from a distance, but the other, stopping midway, as if tired of striving to keep pace with its neighbor, reached out its limbs in every direction in the most picturesque and pathetic way, as if inviting alms. This tree was called the Penitent, and the other, because of its stateliness and dearth of shade, the Pharisee. The trees were given these names at first in idle fancy by a customer of ours, a devout woman much given to snuff and gossip; but the cunningness of the fancy tickling her greatly, she gave it the widest publicity, so that in time travelers came miles out of their way to view the curiosity and comment upon it. Because of this and the good lady’s attendance upon covenant meetings and the like, Mr. Hayward, who was not lacking in sentiment, reduced her fare one-half. This, like most things he did, proved a great stroke of business in the end, for now she visited Appletop twice as often as before, and in her journeyings to and fro never tired of speaking of the beauties of our ferry and its fine location and good business management.
“A queer woman, that,” Mr. Hayward one day remarked as I came up from the landing after setting her ashore, “and tending to show that what people think, they will do. If her name, now, had been something beside Snuffe, she would never have thought of using the stuff as she does.”
“Why, what has that to do with it?” I asked, not seeing the connection.
“After she got married, much thinking of the name of Snuffe, and some worrying about it, she says, caused her to help herself to a pinch now and then out of pure perversity of spirit, until in the end she got to like it, so that now she can scarce finish a prayer without a sly dip into her bag.” NORFLOXACIN NICOTINATE
“Her husband might have changed his name; he would not have had to look far for a better one,” I answered, to see what he would say.
“Oh, Snuffe is as good as any, and the family will be a power in the land some day. The old man will not eat anything he can find a market for, and there is no surer way to get on than that if one has the patience to stick to it.”
Constance, who was always in my thoughts, I grew to love more and more as the years passed, and as Mrs. Hayward had her much at our house, scarce a day went by without my seeing her. When she stayed to supper, which was often the case, I would take her home; and of these journeyings I remember every one, and what we said, which was not much, for we were but little given to speech when in each other’s company. Her visits clothed our little home with such a halo of romance and delight, that my heart swells to this day when I think of it. For my belief in her knew no bounds, and, like my love, grew stronger as we grew to be man and woman. This not strangely, for at sixteen she was such perfection of loveliness that there was no joy like that of being near her, and if I but touched her hand, heaven itself, I thought, could not convey greater happiness. Yet, strangely enough, I could not have told the color of her eyes, if indeed they were always the same, which I knew they were not. Nor could I have described her mouth, except that it expressed such tenderness that its like was never seen before. Of her face this I know, that it was oval, but of her complexion, it was of such delicacy of white and pink that no one could describe it, nor have conceived anything so perfect. Her hair, too, like her eyes, could not be described, but was ever taking on some different phase or color, so that if you thought you knew its every shade of loveliness, some new light or manner of arrangement would add beauties to it not before dreamed of. Such, you must know, was Constance, my sweet love, at the time of which I speak.