“Good-bye, Mrs. Garner,” Nick said. “Thanks for taking me.”
“Oh shucks, Nickie.”
“I had a wonderful time.”
“We like to have you. Won’t you stay and eat some supper?”
“I better go. I think Dad probably waited for me.”
“Well, get along then. Send Carl up to the house, will you?”
“Good night, Nickie!”
“Good night, Mrs. Garner.”
Nick went out the farmyard and down to the barn. Joe and Frank were milking.
“Good night,” Nick said. “I had a swell time.”
“Good night, Nick,” Joe Garner called. “Aren’t you going to stay and eat?”
“No, I can’t. Will you tell Carl his mother wants him?”
“All right. Good night, Nickie.”
Nick walked barefooted along the path through the meadow below the barn. The path was smooth and the dew was cool on his bare feet. He climbed a fence at the end of the meadow, went down through a ravine, his feet wet in the swamp mud, and then climbed up through the dry beech woods until he saw the lights of the cottage. He climbed over the fence and walked around to the front porch. Through the window he saw his father sitting by the table, reading in the light from the big lamp. Nick opened the door and went in.
“Well, Nickie,” his father said, “was it a good day?”
“I had a swell time, Dad. It was a swell Fourth of July.”
“Are you hungry?”
“What did you do with your shoes?”
“I left them in the wagon at Garner’s.”
“Come on out to the kitchen.”
Nick’s father went ahead with the lamp. He stopped and lifted the lid of the ice-box. Nick went on into the kitchen. His father brought in a piece of cold chicken on a plate and a pitcher of milk and put them on the table before Nick. He put down the lamp.
“There’s some pie too,” he said. “Will that hold you?”
His father sat down in a chair beside the oilcloth-covered table. He made a big shadow on the kitchen wall.
“Who won the ball game?”
“Petoskey. Five to three.”
His father sat watching him eat and filled his glass from the milk-pitcher. Nick drank and wiped his mouth on his napkin. His father reached over to the shelf for the pie. He cut Nick a big piece. It was huckleberry pie.
“What did you do, Dad?”
“I went out fishing in the morning.”
“What did you get?”
His father sat watching Nick eat the pie.
“What did you do this afternoon?” Nick asked.
“I went for a walk up by the Indian camp.”
“Did you see anybody?”
“The Indians were all in town getting drunk.”
“Didn’t you see anybody at all?”
“I saw your friend, Prudie.”
“Where was she?”
“She was in the woods with Frank Washburn. I ran on to them. They were having quite a time.”
His father was not looking at him.
“What were they doing?”
“I didn’t stay to find out.”
“Tell me what they were doing.”
“I don’t know,” his father said. “I just heard them threshing around.”
“How did you know it was them?”
“I saw them.”
“I thought you said you didn’t see them.”
“Oh, yes, I saw them.”
“Who was it with her?” Nick asked.
“Were they—were they—”
“Were they what?”
“Were they happy?”
“I guess so.”
His father got up from the table and went out of the kitchen screen door. When he came back Nick was looking at his plate. He had been crying.
“Have some more?” His father picked up the knife to cut the pie.
“No,” said Nick.
“You better have another piece.”
“No, I don’t want any.”
His father cleared off the table.
“Where were they in the woods?” asked Nick.
“Up back of the camp.” Nick looked at his plate. His father said, “You better go to bed, Nick.”
Nick went into his room, undressed, and got into bed. He heard his father moving around in the living-room. Nick lay in the bed with his face in the pillow.
“My heart’s broken,” he thought. “If I feel this way my heart must be broken.”