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An Alien In The Pines
by [?]

I

A man and a woman were pacing up and down the wintry station platform, waiting for a train. On every side the snow lay a stained and crumpled blanket, with here and there a light or a chimney to show the village sleeping beneath.

The sky was a purple-black hemisphere, out of which the stars glittered almost white. The wind came out of the west, cold but amiable; the cracked bell of a switch-engine gurgled querulously at intervals, followed by the bumping of coupling freight-cars; roosters were crowing, and sleepy train-men were assembling in sullen silence.

The couple walked with arms locked like lovers, but the tones of their voices had the quality which comes after marriage. They were man and wife.

The woman’s clear voice arose. “Oh, Ed, isn’t this delicious? What one misses by not getting up early!”

“Sleep, for instance,” laughed her husband.

“Don’t drag me down. You know what I mean. Let’s get up early every morning while we’re up here in the woods.”

“Shouldn’t wonder if we had to. There’ll be a lot to do, and I want to get back to Chicago by the 1st of February.”

“This is an experience! Isn’t it still? When is our train due?”

“Due now; I think that is our headlight up the track.”

As he spoke an engine added its voice to the growing noise of the station, and drew solemnly down the frosty steel.

An eruption of shapeless forms of men from the depot filled the one general coach of the train. They nearly all were dressed in some sort of fur coat, and all had the look of men accustomed to out-door life–powerful, loud-voiced, unrefined. They were, in fact, travelling men, business men, the owners of mills or timber. The stolid or patient ox-like faces of some Norwegian workmen, dressed in gay Mackinac jackets, were sprinkled about.

The young wife was a fine type of woman anywhere, but these surroundings made her seem very dainty and startlingly beautiful. Her husband had the fair skin of a city man, but his powerful shoulders and firm step denoted health and wholesome living. They were both good to look at.

They soon felt the reaction to sleepiness which comes to those not accustomed to early rising, and the wife, soothed by the clank of the train, leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder and dozed. He looked out upon the landscape, glad that his wife was not observing it. He did not know such desolation existed in Wisconsin.

On every side were the evidences of a ruined forest land. A landscape of flat wastes, of thinned and burned and uprooted trees. A desolate and apparently useless land.

Here and there a sawmill stood gray and sagging, surrounded by little cabins of unpainted wood, to testify to the time when great pines stood all about, and the ring of the swamper’s axe was heard in the intervals of silence between the howls of a saw.

To the north the swells grew larger. Birch and tamarack swamps alternated with dry ridges on which an inferior pine still grew. The swamps were dense tangles of broken and uprooted trees. Slender pike-like stumps of fire-devastated firs rose here and there, black and grim skeletons of trees.

It was a land that had been sheared by the axe, torn by the winds, and blasted by fire.

Off to the west low blue ridges rose, marking the boundaries of the valley which had been washed out ages ago by water. After the floods pine forest had sprung up, and these in their turn had been sheared away by man. It lay now awaiting the plough and seeder of the intrepid pioneer.

Suddenly the wife awoke and sat up. “Why, we haven’t had any breakfast!”

He smiled at her childish look of bewilderment. “I’ve been painfully aware of it for some time back. I’ve been suffering for food while you slept.”