On a clear day in winter or summer that walk from the Overlook to
Plaat Clove affords extraordinary views over the Hudson. The road was
once used for carriages, but nature has restaked her claim. Washouts,
new trees, deserted flagstone quarries, decaying cabins mark the
re-occupancy by the wilderness. It is doubly lonely now, and the
porcupine, the fox, the woodchuck, and the bear openly share the
territory with their shyer neighbors. Several times we had to avoid
slipping into the depths by going on all fours across a river of ice.
It grew f airly late, and we were tired with the snow-tramping and
wind-buff eting before we stumbled down some long slopes, crossed a
rickety bridge, and entered the scattered village of Plaat Clove.
For the past hour our conversation had specialized on things to eat,
and we had determined to pitch upon a house that had a prosperous
air. At length, after passing one or another because of some defect
in its shingling or the paint, we knocked upon a well-to-do looking
door which seemed capable of offering to us at least three courses,
if not a salad. The light from its window shone straight to the
heart, for night had suddenly fallen and we were not yet acclimated
to the feeling of homelessness. A little girl opened the door about
wide enough to admit a lizard, and through this aperture I ventured
to project my wishes. In a minute the little girl came back, said
mama said something, and slammed the door upon our three-course
dreams. What a noise that door made! It seemed to reverberate through
our hollow interiors. Brute spoke in the vernacular.
"Gosh!" he said. "Now we know what a spider feels like."
Without commenting on the sensitiveness of that insect, I should say
that I felt very flat. "The next house is yours," I said,
"and for Pete's sake put your foot in the door. 'I
The next house would have been passed by earlier, for the rain-spout
was broken; but our three courses had now come down to two and a bed.
This time a woman answered our knock. Brute's voice, coming from such
a broad-chested youth, sounded ludicrously meek:
"Please, ma'am, is it too late to get some supper?"
The lamplight shone on his good-looking, windreddened face, and his
appearance must have won over anything short of shrew; but the woman
"Yes, supper's all put away; besides, there isn't much in the
house. But up the road maybe they I give you something."
"No, I don't think they will," I interrupted, "and we
really won't eat much if-"
"Up the road- " she began.
Brute turned, without a word; but no master of the unspoken drama
could have performed an oath more delicately with a simple gesture of
a presented back. I tried the Christian device of thanking the lady
as heartily as if she had presented us with two roast turkeys; but it
affected her not a bit, and I hurried to catch up with my enraged
companion. On that cold road there seemed no heat left in the
universe, but we felt not its loss. We burned to have at these fed
but unfeeding people. We longed to demolish a house or two. We
pictured the pleasure of setting one on fire, warming our fingers
over the embers while the late householders cowered before us and
offered us fried potatoes and custard pie. It put us in spirit, and
suddenly Brute laughed aloud.
"You can't blame them. You've an awful hungry look. I've got an
idea, and I bet you we're fed at the next place. I'll manage it."
"How?" I inquired.
"You wait. All you have to do is eat."
There was some doubt at first as to whether there would be a next
house. When it appeared, it looked dark and windbeaten, unpromising
for even a crust. But up the lane we trudged, I lagging. This time a
"Good evening, sir," began Brute, apparently with all
confidence. "Could I have a drink of water?"
The man looked somewhat surprised, but, as he couldn't well refuse,
bade us enter. I registered a point for Brute. The water came.
"Would it bother you," continued the boy, "to sell us
a couple of pieces of bread? We'll spread them ourselves."
"Like a little meat with them?" asked the man.
"Yes; and if there are any potatoes that could be fried easily,
and perhaps a pinch of tea- It was pretty cold on the mountain. We
're prepared to pay."
"How far 'a' you come?" asked the man, putting down the
lamp, which was a good omen. I I Strikes me you fellers 'd like a
real meal. Ma," he called into the next room, "here is a
couple of fellers who've had jest raisins and chocolate for their
dinner. I guess you kin git 'em up a little something. "
"I guess I kin," she said. And I guess she did.
And if it hadn't been strictly forbidden I'd put down her name in
capitals. For the "little something" began with a four-egg
omelet and wound up with some wild strawberry jam, with our original
three courses in between. We sat about the stove and talked till
nearly ten o'clock. And that is dissipation for those who rise at five.
Before we went to bed the good dame warmed us a cherry-pit bag,
against the rigors of arctic sheets. The discovery of that cherry-pit
bag was alone worth the long trudge across the Plattekill heights.
Cherry-stones thoroughly heated in an oven will keep their heat all
night. Before we slept we laughed once more over the strategy that
had gained us our entry. And that was a rule of the road which we
applied many times thereafter: If you want something big, begin with
something easy and work up.