“She’s had a new dress on twice a day,” said my wife, “but that’s the prettiest yet. Oh, somehow—I’m awfully sorry they’re going!”
But going they were. They moved toward the steps. Mrs. Brede looked toward my wife, and my wife moved toward Mrs. Brede. But the ostracized woman, as though she felt the deep humiliation of her position, turned sharply away, and opened her parasol to shield her eyes from the sun. A shower of rice—a half-pound shower of rice—fell down over her pretty hat and her pretty dress, and fell in a spattering circle on the floor, outlining her skirts—and there it lay in a broad, uneven band, bright in the morning sun.
Mrs. Brede was in my wife’s arms, sobbing as if her young heart would break.
“Oh, you poor, dear, silly children!” my wife cried, as Mrs. Brede sobbed on her shoulder, “why didn’t you tell us?”
“W-W-W-We didn’t want to be t-t-taken for a b-b-b-b-bridal couple,” sobbed Mrs. Brede; “and we d-d-didn’t dream what awful lies we’d have to tell, and all the aw-awful mixed-up-ness of it. Oh, dear, dear, dear!”
* * * * *
“Pete!” commanded Mr. Jacobus, “put back them trunks. These folks stays here’s long’s they wants ter. Mr. Brede”—he held out a large, hard hand—“I’d orter’ve known better,” he said. And my last doubt of Mr. Brede vanished as he shook that grimy hand in manly fashion.
The two women were walking off toward “our view,” each with an arm about the other’s waist—touched by a sudden sisterhood of sympathy.
“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Brede, addressing Jacobus, Biggle, the Major and me, “there is a hostelry down the street where they sell honest New Jersey beer. I recognize the obligations of the situation.”
We five men filed down the street. The two women went toward the pleasant slope where the sunlight gilded the forehead of the great hill. On Mr. Jacobus’s veranda lay a spattered circle of shining grains of rice. Two of Mr. Jacobus’s pigeons flew down and picked up the shining grains, making grateful noises far down in their throats.
THE BULLER-PODINGTON COMPACT
BY FRANK RICHARD STOCKTON (1834-1902)
[From Scribner’s Magazine, August, 1897. Republished in Afield and Afloat, by Frank Richard Stockton; copyright, 1900, by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Reprinted by permission of the publishers.]
“I tell you, William,” said Thomas Buller to his friend Mr. Podington, “I am truly sorry about it, but I cannot arrange for it this year. Now, as to my invitation—that is very different.”
“Of course it is different,” was the reply, “but I am obliged to say, as I said before, that I really cannot accept it.”