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laughed. "The old one and the young one will be strolling arm in arm to get shaved in my
place presently. The tailor shall be set to work, and the barber, and the candlestick maker;
high old times are coming for Colebrook, they are coming, to be sure. It used to be 'next
week,' now it has come to 'next month,' and so on--soon it will be next spring, for all I
Noticing a stranger listening to him with a vacant grin, he explained, stretching out his
legs cynically, that this queer old Hagberd, a retired coasting-skipper, was waiting for the
return of a son of his. The boy had been driven away from home, he shouldn't wonder;
had run away to sea and had never been heard of since. Put to rest in Davy Jones's locker
this many a day, as likely as not. That old man came flying to Colebrook three years ago
all in black broadcloth (had lost his wife lately then), getting out of a third-class smoker
as if the devil had been at his heels; and the only thing that brought him down was a
letter--a hoax probably. Some joker had written to him about a seafaring man with some
such name who was supposed to be hanging about some girl or other, either in Colebrook
or in the neighbourhood. "Funny, ain't it?" The old chap had been advertising in the
London papers for Harry Hagberd, and offering rewards for any sort of likely
information. And the barber would go on to describe with sardonic gusto, how that
stranger in mourning had been seen exploring the country, in carts, on foot, taking
everybody into his confidence, visiting all the inns and alehouses for miles around,
stopping people on the road with his questions, looking into the very ditches almost; first
in the greatest excitement, then with a plodding sort of perseverance, growing slower and
slower; and he could not even tell you plainly how his son looked. The sailor was
supposed to be one of two that had left a timber ship, and to have been seen dangling
after some girl; but the old man described a boy of fourteen or so--"a clever-looking,
high-spirited boy." And when people only smiled at this he would rub his forehead in a
confused sort of way before he slunk off, looking offended. He found nobody, of course;
not a trace of anybody--never heard of anything worth belief, at any rate; but he had not
been able somehow to tear himself away from Colebrook.
"It was the shock of this disappointment, perhaps, coming soon after the loss of his wife,
that had driven him crazy on that point," the barber suggested, with an air of great
psychological insight. After a time the old man abandoned the active search. His son had
evidently gone away; but he settled himself to wait. His son had been once at least in
Colebrook in preference to his native place. There must have been some reason for it, he
seemed to think, some very powerful inducement, that would bring him back to
Colebrook again.
"Ha, ha, ha! Why, of course, Colebrook. Where else? That's the only place in the United
Kingdom for your long-lost sons. So he sold up his old home in Colchester, and down he
comes here. Well, it's a craze, like any other. Wouldn't catch me going crazy over any of
my youngsters clearing out. I've got eight of them at home." The barber was showing off
his strength of mind in the midst of a laughter that shook the tap-room.
Strange, though, that sort of thing, he would confess, with the frankness of a superior
intelligence, seemed to be catching. His establishment, for instance, was near the harbour,