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The Sociable At Dudley’s: Dancing The "Weevily Wheat"
by [?]

“Good night, Lettie!”
“Goodnight, Ben!”
(The moon is sinking at the west.)
“Good night, my sweetheart.” Once again
The parting kiss, while comrades wait
Impatient at the roadside gate,
And the red moon sinks beyond the west.

I

John Jennings was not one of those men who go to a donation party with fifty cents’ worth of potatoes and eat and carry away two dollars’ worth of turkey and jelly-cake. When he drove his team around to the front door for Mrs. Jennings, he had a sack of flour and a quarter of a fine fat beef in his sleigh and a five-dollar bill in his pocket-book, a contribution to Elder Wheat’s support.

Milton, his twenty-year-old son, was just driving out of the yard, seated in a fine new cutter, drawn by a magnificent gray four-year-old colt. He drew up as Mr. Jennings spoke.

“Now be sure and don’t never leave him a minute untied. And see that the harness is all right. Do you hear, Milton?”

“Yes, I hear!” answered the young fellow, rather impatiently, for he thought himself old enough and big enough to look out for himself.

“Don’t race, will y’, Milton?” was his mother’s anxious question from the depth of her shawls.

“Not if I can help it,” was his equivocal response as he chirruped to Marc Antony. The grand brute made a rearing leap that brought a cry from the mother and a laugh from the young driver, and swung into the road at a flying pace. The night was clear and cold, the sleighing excellent, and the boy’s heart was full of exultation.

It was a joy just to control such a horse as he drew rein over that night. Large, with the long, lithe body of a tiger and the broad, clear limbs of an elk, the gray colt strode away up the road, his hoofs flinging a shower of snow over the dasher. The lines were like steel rods; the sleigh literally swung by them; the traces hung slack inside the thills. The bells clashed out a swift clamor; the runners seemed to hiss over the snow as the duck-breasted cutter swung round the curves and softly rose and fell along the undulating road.

On either hand the snow stood billowed against the fences and amid the wide fields of corn-stalks bleached in the wind. Over in the east, above the line of timber skirting Cedar Creek, the vast, slightly gibbous moon was rising, sending along the crusted snow a broad path of light. Other sleighs could be heard through the still, cold air. Far away a party of four or five were singing a chorus as they spun along the road.

Something sweet and unnamable was stirring in the young fellow’s brain as he spun along in the marvelously still and radiant night. He wished Eileen were with him. The vast and cloudless blue vault of sky glittered with stars, which even the radiant moon could not dim. Not a breath of air was stirring save that made by the swift, strong stride of the horse.

It was a night for youth and love and bells, and Milton felt this consciously, and felt it by singing:

“Stars of the summer night,
Hide in your azure deeps,–
She sleeps–my lady sleeps.”

He was on his way to get Bettie Moss, one of his old sweethearts, who had become more deeply concerned with the life of Edwin Blackler. He had taken the matter with sunny philosophy even before meeting Eileen Deering at the Seminary, and he was now on his way to bring about peace between Ed and Bettie, who had lately quarreled. Incidentally he expected to enjoy the sleigh-ride.

“Stiddy, boy! Ho, boy! Stiddy, old fellow,” he called soothingly to Marc, as he neared the gate and whirled up to the door. A girl came to the door as he drove up, her head wrapped in a white hood, a shawl on her arms. She had been waiting for him.