“Well, now, what put that in your head? I thought everybody knew
she wasn’t coming till Saturday.”
“Saturday! Why, come to think, I did know it. I wonder
what’s the matter with me lately? Certainly I knew it.
Ain’t we all getting ready for her? Well, I must be going now.
But I’ll be on hand when she comes, old man!”
Late Friday afternoon another gray veteran tramped over from his
cabin a mile or so away, and said the boys wanted to have a little
gaiety and a good time Saturday night, if Henry thought she wouldn’t
be too tired after her journey to be kept up.
“Tired? She tired! Oh, hear the man! Joe, YOU know she’d sit up
six weeks to please any one of you!”
When Joe heard that there was a letter, he asked to have it read,
and the loving messages in it for him broke the old fellow all up;
but he said he was such an old wreck that THAT would happen to him
if she only just mentioned his name. “Lord, we miss her so!”
Saturday afternoon I found I was taking out my watch pretty often.
Henry noticed it, and said, with a startled look:
“You don’t think she ought to be here soon, do you?”
I felt caught, and a little embarrassed; but I laughed, and said
it was a habit of mine when I was in a state of expenctancy.
But he didn’t seem quite satisfied; and from that time on he began
to show uneasiness. Four times he walked me up the road to a point
whence we could see a long distance; and there he would stand,
shading his eyes with his hand, and looking. Several times he said:
“I’m getting worried, I’m getting right down worried. I know
she’s not due till about nine o’clock, and yet something seems
to be trying to warn me that something’s happened. You don’t
think anything has happened, do you?”
I began to get pretty thoroughly ashamed of him for his childishness;
and at last, when he repeated that imploring question still another time,
I lost my patience for the moment, and spoke pretty brutally to him.
It seemed to shrivel him up and cow him; and he looked so wounded
and so humble after that, that I detested myself for having done
the cruel and unnecessary thing. And so I was glad when Charley,
another veteran, arrived toward the edge of the evening, and nestled
up to Henry to hear the letter read, and talked over the preparations
for the welcome. Charley fetched out one hearty speech after another,
and did his best to drive away his friend’s bodings and apprehensions.
“Anything HAPPENED to her? Henry, that’s pure nonsense. There isn’t
anything going to happen to her; just make your mind easy as to that.
What did the letter say? Said she was well, didn’t it? And said
she’d be here by nine o’clock, didn’t it? Did you ever know her
to fail of her word? Why, you know you never did. Well, then,
don’t you fret; she’ll BE here, and that’s absolutely certain,
and as sure as you are born. Come, now, let’s get to decorating–
not much time left.”
Pretty soon Tom and Joe arrived, and then all hands set about adoring
the house with flowers. Toward nine the three miners said that
as they had brought their instruments they might as well tune up,
for the boys and girls would soon be arriving now, and hungry for
a good, old-fashioned break-down. A fiddle, a banjo, and a clarinet–
these were the instruments. The trio took their places side by side,
and began to play some rattling dance-music, and beat time with
their big boots.
It was getting very close to nine. Henry was standing in the door
with his eyes directed up the road, his body swaying to the torture
of his mental distress. He had been made to drink his wife’s
health and safety several times, and now Tom shouted:
“All hands stand by! One more drink, and she’s here!”
Joe brought the glasses on a waiter, and served the party.
I reached for one of the two remaining glasses, but Joe growled
Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135