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"You Are Invited To Be Present"
by [?]

Anderson Crow sat on the porch of the post-office, ruminating over the epidemic that had assailed Tinkletown with singular virulence, and, in a sense, enthusiasm. Not that there was anything sinister or loathsome about the plague. Far from it, he reflected, because it had broken out so soon after his bitter comments on the prolonged absence of the slightest symptom, or indication that a case was even remotely probable. And here he was, holding in his hand four fresh and unmistakable signs that the contagion was spreading. In short, he had just received and opened four envelopes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. A. Crow, and each contained an invitation to a wedding.

Alf Reesling, commonly known as the town drunkard, sat on the top step, whittling.

“No law against gittin’ married, is there, constable?” he inquired.

“I don’t know much about this new eugenric law,” mused Mr. Crow, gingerly pulling at his whiskers. “So fer as I know, it ain’t been violated up here.”

“What’s the harm, anyway? You was sayin’ yourself only the other day that it’s a crime the way the young fellers in this town never git married. Just set around the parlour stoves all winter holdin’ hands, and on the front steps all summer—-“

“Like as not the gosh-derned cowards heard what I said and got up spunk enough to tackle matrimony,” interrupted the venerable town marshal. “June seems to be a good month fer weddin’s everywhere else in the world except right here in Tinkletown. The last one we had was in December, and that was two years ago. Annie Bliss and Joe Hodges. Now we’re goin’ to have ’em so thick and fast there won’t be an unmarried man in the place, first thing you know. Up to date, me and Mrs. Crow have had seventeen printed invitations, and I don’t know how many by word o’ mouth. Fellers that never even done any courtin’, so fer as I know, are gittin’ married to girls that ain’t had a beau since the Methodist revival in nineteen-ten. They all got religion then, male and female, and there’s nothin’ like religion to make people think they ought to have somebody to share their repentance with.”

“George Hoover’s been goin’ with Bessie Slayback ever sence McKinley beat Bryan in ‘ninety-six. Swore he’d never git married till we had another democratic president. We’ve had one fer more’n four years and now he says he never dreamed there’d be another one, so he didn’t think it was worth while to save up enough to git married on. You don’t happen to have a bid there fer his weddin’, have you, Anderson? That would be too much to expect, I guess.”

“How old do you make out Bessie is, Alf?” asked Mr. Crow, shuffling the envelopes until he found the one he wanted. He removed the card, printed neatly by the Tinkletown Banner Press, and squinted at it through his spectacles.

“Forty-nine,” said Alf, promptly. “Twenty-sixth of last January.”

“Well, poor old George’ll have to do his settin’ in Sofer’s store after the third o’ June,” said the other, chuckling. “She has threw him over, as my daughter would say.”

“What’s that?”

“Yep. Bessie’s goin’ to be married next Sunday to Charlie Smith.”

“Fer the Lord’s sake!” gasped Alf. “How c’n that be? Charlie’s got a wife an’ three grown children.”

“‘Tain’t old Charlie. It’s young Charlie,” said Anderson, looking hard at the invitation. “‘Charles Elias Smith, Junior,’ it says.”

Alf was speechless. He merely stared while the town marshal made mental calculations.

“She’s twenty-six years older’n he is, Alf.”

“There must be some mistake,” muttered Alf.

“Not if you’re sure she’s forty-nine,” said Anderson. “Subtract twenty-three from forty-nine and you have twenty-six, with nothin’ to carry. Besides, old Charlie’s middle name is Bill.”

“Well, I’ll be dog-goned,” said Alf, in a weak voice.

“And here’s another’n’,” said Anderson, passing a card to his companion.

Alf read: “‘The son and daughter of Mrs. Ellen Euphemia Ricketts request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their mother to Mr. Pietro Emanuel Cocotte, on June 1, 1917, at twelve o’clock noon at the family residence, No. 17 Lincoln Street, Tinkletown, New York.’ Well, I’ll be–” Alf interrupted himself to repeat one of the names. “Who is this Pietro Emanuel Cocotte? I never heard of–“