A BIRD OUT OF THE SNARE
BY DOROTHY CANFIELD
AFTER the bargain was completed and the timber merchant had gone away, Jehiel Hawthorn walked stiffly to the pine tree and put his horny old fist against it, looking up to its spreading top with an expression of hostile exultation in his face. The neighbor who had been called to witness the transfer of Jehiel's woodland looked at him curiously.
"That was quite a sight of money to come in without your expectin', wa'n't it?" he said, fumbling awkwardly for an opening to the question he burned to ask.
Jehiel did not answer. The two old men stood silent, looking down the valley, lying like a crevasse in a glacier between the towering white mountains. The sinuous course of the frozen river was almost black under the slaty sky of March.
"Seems kind o' providential, havin' so much money come to you just now, when your sister-in-law's jest died, and left you the first time in your life without anybody you got to stay and see to, don't it?" commented the neighbor persistently.
Jehiel made a vague sign with his head.
"I s'pose likely you'll be startin' aout to travel and see foreign parts, same's you've always planned, won't you -- or maybe you cal'late you be too old now?"
Jehiel gave no indication that he had heard. His faded old blue eyes were fixed steadily on the single crack in the rampart of mountains, through which the afternoon train was just now leaving the valley. Its whistle echoed back hollowly, as it fled away from the prison walls into the great world.
The neighbor stiffened in offended pride. "I bid you good-night, Mr. Hawthorn," he said severely, and stumped down the steep, narrow road leading to the highway in the valley.
After he had disappeared Jehiel turned to the tree and leaned his forehead against it. He was so still he seemed a part of the great pine. He stood so till the piercing chill of evening chilled him through, and when he looked again about him it was after he had lived his life all through in a brief and bitter review.
It began with the tree and it ended with the tree, and in spite of the fever of unrest in his heart it was as stationary as any