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The Californian’s Tale
by [?]

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 thatwould happen to him if she only just mentioned his name. “Lord, we miss her so!” he said.

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 so 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 expectancy. 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 towards 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 happenedto 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 behere, 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 adorning the house with flowers. Towards 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 breakdown. 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, under his breath:

“Drop that! Take the other. ”

Which I did. Henry was served last. He had hardly swallowed his drink when the clock began to strike. He listened till it finished, his face growing pale and paler; then he said: