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Hugh and Clara were married in less than a week after their first walk together. A
chain of circumstances touching their two lives hurled them into marriage, and
the opportunity for the intimacy with a woman for which Hugh so longed came to
him with a swiftness that made him fairly dizzy.
It was a Wednesday evening and cloudy. After dining in silence with his landlady,
Hugh started along Turner's Pike toward Bidwell, but when he had got almost
into town, turned back. He had left the house intending to go through town to the
Medina Road and to the woman who now occupied so large a place in his
thoughts, but hadn't the courage. Every evening for almost a week he had taken
the walk, and every evening and at almost the same spot he turned back. He
was disgusted and angry with himself and went to his shop, walking in the middle
of the road and kicking up clouds of dust. People passed along the path under
the trees at the side of the road and turned to stare at him. A workingman with a
fat wife, who puffed as she walked at his side, turned to look and then began to
scold. "I tell you what, old woman, I shouldn't have married and had kids," he
grumbled. "Look at me, then look at that fellow. He goes along there thinking big
thoughts that will make him richer and richer. I have to work for two dollars a day,
and pretty soon I'll be old and thrown on the scrap-heap. I might have been a rich
inventor like him had I given myself a chance."
The workman went on his way, grumbling at his wife who paid no attention to his
words. Her breath was needed for the labor of walking, and as for the matter of
marriage, that had been attended to. She saw no reason for wasting words over
the matter. Hugh went to the shop and stood leaning against the door frame. Two
or three workmen were busy near the back door and had lighted gas lamps that
hung over the work benches. They did not see Hugh, and their voices ran
through the empty building. One of them, an old man with a bald head,
entertained his fellows by giving an imitation of Steve Hunter. He lighted a cigar
and putting on his hat tipped it a little to one side. Puffing out his chest he
marched up and down talking of money. "Here's a ten-dollar cigar," he said,
handing a long stogie to one of the other workmen. "I buy them by the thousands
to give away. I'm interested in uplifting the lives of workmen in my home town.
That's what takes all my attention."
The other workmen laughed and the little man continued to prance up and down
and talk, but Hugh did not hear him. He stared moodily at the people going along
the road toward town. Darkness was coming but he could still see dim figures
striding along. Over at the foundry back of the corn-cutting machine plant the
night shift was pouring off, and a sudden glare of light played across the heavy
smoke cloud that lay over the town. The bells of the churches began to call
people to the Wednesday evening prayer-meetings. Some enterprising citizen
had begun to build workmen's houses in a field beyond Hugh's shop and these
were occupied by Italian laborers. A crowd of them came past. What would some
day be a tenement district was growing in a field beside a cabbage patch