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The Californian’s Tale
by [?]

“Boys, I’m sick with fear. Help me—I want to lie down!”

They helped him to the sofa. He began to nestle and drowse, but presently spoke like one talking in his sleep, and said: “Did I hear horses’ feet? Have they come?”

One of the veterans answered, close to his ear:“It was Jimmy Parrish come to say the party got delayed, but they’re right up the road a piece, and coming along. Her horse is lame, but she’ll be here in half an hour. ”

“Oh, I’m sothankful nothing has happened!”

He was asleep almost before the words were out of his mouth. In a moment those handy men had his clothes off, and had tucked him into his bed in the chamber where I had washed my hands. They closed the door and came back. Then they seemed preparing to leave; but I said: “Please don’t go, gentlemen. She won’t know me; I am a stranger. ”

They glanced at each other. Then Joe said:

“She? Po
or thing, she’s been dead nineteen years!”


“That or worse. She went to see her folks half a year after she was married, and on her way back, on a Saturday evening, the Indians captured her within five miles of this place, and she’s never been heard of since. ”

“And he lost his mind in consequence?”

“Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when that time of the year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here, three days before she’s due, to encourage him up, and ask if he’s heard from her, and Saturday we all come and fix up the house with flowers, and get everything ready for a dance. We’ve done it every year for nineteen years. The first Saturday there was twenty-seven of us, without counting the girls; there’s only three of us now, and the girls are all gone. We drug him to sleep, or he would go wild; then he’s all right for another year—thinks she’s with him till the last three or four days come round; then he begins to look for her, and gets out his poor old letter, and we come and ask him to read it to us. Lord, she was a darling!”