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dust he must return, being for the most part too much occupied in
thinking how little he had for supper and how much more he
would eat if he had it-in these times, as he raised his eyes from his
lonely labour, and viewed the prospect, he would see some rough
figure approaching on foot, the like of which was once a rarity in
those parts, but was now a frequent presence. As it advanced, the
mender of roads would discern without surprise, that it was a
shaggy-haired man, of almost barbarian aspect, tall, in wooden
shoes that were clumsy even to the eyes of a mender of roads,
grim, rough, swart, steeped in the mud and dust of many
highways, dank with the marshy moisture of many low grounds,
sprinkled with the thorns and leaves and moss of many byways
Such a man came upon him, like a ghost, at noon in the July
weather, as he sat on his heap of stones under a bank, taking such
shelter as he could get from a shower of hail.
The man looked at him, looked at the village in the hollow, at the
mill, and at the prison on the crag. When he had identified these
objects in what benighted mind he had, he said, in a dialect that
was just intelligible:
“How goes it, Jacques?” “All well, Jacques.” “Touch then!” They
joined hands, and the man sat down on the heap of stones.
“No dinner?” “Nothing but supper now,” said the mender of
roads, with a hungry face.
“It is the fashion,” growled the man. “I meet no dinner anywhere.”
He took out a blackened pipe, filled it, lighted it with flint and
steel, pulled at it until it was in a bright glow: then, suddenly held
it from him and dropped something into it from between his finger
and thumb, that blazed and went out in a puff of smoke.
“Touch then.” It was the turn of the mender of roads to say it this
time, after observing these operations. They again joined hands.
“To-night?” said the mender of roads.
“To-night,” said the man, putting the pipe in his mouth.
“Where?” “Here.” He and the mender of roads sat on the heap of
stones looking silently at one another, with the hail driving in
between them like a pigmy charge of bayonets, until the sky began
to clear over the village.
“Show me!” said the traveller then, moving to the brow of the hill.
“See!” returned the mender of roads, with extended finger. “You
go down here, and straight through the street, and past the
fountain--” “To the Devil with all that!” interrupted the other,
rolling his eye over the landscape. “I go through no streets and past
no fountains. Well?” “Well! About two leagues beyond the summit
of that hill above the village.” “Good. When do you cease to