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The Californian’s Tale
by [?]

“When do you expect her back?”

“This is Wednesday. She’ll be back Saturday, in the evening—about nine o’clock, likely. ”

I felt a sharp sense of disappointment.

“I’m sorry, because I’ll be gone then,” I said, regretfully.

“Gone? No—why should you go?
Don’t go. She’ll be so disappointed. ”

She would be disappointed—that beautiful creature! If she had said the words herself they could hardly have blessed me more. I was feeling a deep, strong longing to see her—a longing so supplicating, so insistent, that it made me afraid. I said to myself: “I will go straight away from this place, for my peace of mind’s sake. ”

“You see, she likes to have people come and stop with us—people who know things, and can talk—people like you. She delights in it; for she knows—oh, she knows nearly everything herself, and can talk, oh, like a bird—and the books she reads, why, you would be astonished. Don’t go; it’s only a little while, you know, and she’ll be so disappointed. ”

I heard the words, but hardly noticed them, I was so deep in my thinkings and strugglings. He left me, but I didn’t know it. Presently he was back, with the picture-case in his hand, and he held it open before me and said:

“There, now, tell her to her face you could have stayed to see her, and you wouldn’t. ”

That second glimpse broke down my good resolution. I would stay and take the risk. That night we smoked the tranquil pipe, and talked till late about various things, but mainly about her; and certainly I had had no such pleasant and restful time for many a day. The Thursday followed and slipped comfortably away. Towards twilight a big miner from three miles away came—one of the grizzled, stranded pioneers—and gave us warm salutation, clothed in grave and sober speech. Then he said:

“I only just dropped over to ask about the little madam, and when is she coming home. Any news from her?”

“Oh yes, a letter. Would you like to hear it Tom?”

“Well, I should think I would, if you don’t mind, Henry!”

Henry got the letter out of his wallet, and said he would skip some of the private phrases, if we were willing; then he went on and read the bulk of it—a loving, sedate, and altogether charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley, and other close friends and neighbors.

As the reader finished, he glanced at Tom, and cried out:

“Oho, you’re at it again! Take your hands away, and let me see your eyes. You always do that when I read a letter from her. I will write and tell her. ”

“Oh no, you mustn’t, Henry. I’m getting old, you know, and any little disappointment makes me want to cry. I thought she’d be here herself, and now you’ve got only a letter. ”

“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 gayety 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, youknow she’d sit up six weeks to please any one of you!”