The boys were just clinking glasses with Blizzer himself, who, during his wife’s absence and illness, had drifted back to the store, when Arkansas Bill again opened the door.
“She’s a-sinkin’, all of a sudden!” he gasped. “Blizzer, yer wanted.”
The two men hurried away, and the crowd poured out of the store. By the light of a fire in front of the hut in which the sick woman lay, they saw Blizzer enter, and Arkansas Bill remain outside the hut, near the door.
The boys stood on one foot, put their hands into their pockets and took them out again, snapped their fingers, and looked at each other, as if they wanted to talk about something that they couldn’t. Suddenly the doctor emerged from the hut, and said something to Arkansas Bill, and the boys saw Arkansas Bill put both hands up to his face. Then the boys knew that their sympathy could help Blizzer’s wife no longer.
Slowly the crowd re-entered the store, and mechanically picked up the yet untasted glasses. Sim Ripson filled a glass for himself, looked a second at the crowd, and dropping his eyes, raised them again, looked as if he had something to say, looked intently into his glass, as if espying some irregularity, looked up again, and exclaimed:
“Boys, it’s no use—mebbe ther’s no hell—mebbe the Bible contradicts itself, but—but ther is a heaven, or such folks would never git their just dues. Here’s to Blizzer’s wife, the best man in camp, an’ may the Lord send us somebody like her!”
In silence, and with uncovered heads, was the toast drank; and for many days did the boys mourn for her whose advent brought them such disappointment.
I keep a boarding-house.
If any fair proportion of my readers were likely to be members of my own profession, I should expect the above announcement to call forth more sympathetic handkerchiefs than have waved in unison for many a day. But I don’t expect anything of the sort; I know my business too well to suppose for a moment that any boarding-house proprietor, no matter how full her rooms, or how good pay her boarders are, ever finds time to read a story. Even if they did, they’d be so lost in wonder at one of themselves finding time to write a story, that they’d forget the whole plot and point of the thing.
I can’t help it, though—I must tell about poor dear Mrs. Perry, even if I run the risk of cook’s overdoing the beef, so that Mr. Bluff, who is English, and the best of pay, can’t get the rare cut he loves so well. Mrs. Perry’s story has run in my head so long, that it has made me forget to take change from the grocer at least once to my knowledge, and even made me lose a good boarder, by showing a room before the bed was made up. They say that poets get things out of their heads by writing them down, and I don’t know why boarding-house keepers can’t do the same thing.