“Can’t I be going to-morrow? Friday, then? I’d never dare trust meself over the week.”
“Friday, then. But mind, no more prancing to-night; we must both go to bed.”
Neither of them did so, however. Sandy went to his room and sat in his window, watching a tiny light that flickered, far across the valley, in the last bend of the river before it left the town. His muscles were tense, his nerves a-tingle, as he strained his eyes in the darkness to keep watch of the beacon. It was the last glimpse of home to a sailor who expected never to return.
Down in the sitting-room the judge was lost in the pages of a worn old copy of Tom Moore. He fingered the pages with a tenderness of other days, and lingered over the forgotten lines with a half-quizzical, half-sad smile on his lips. For he had been a lover once, and Sandy’s romance stirred dead leaves in his heart that sent up a faint perfume of memory.
“Yes,” he mused half aloud; “I marked that one too:
“Be it bliss to remember
that thou wert the star
That arose on his darkness and guided him home.”
THE TRIALS OF AN ASSISTANT POSTMASTER
By all laws of mercy the post-master in a small town should be old and mentally near-sighted. Jimmy Reed was young and curious. He had even yielded to temptation once in removing a stamp on a letter from Annette Fenton to a strange suitor. Not that he wanted to delay the letter. He only wanted to know if she put tender messages under the stamp when she wrote to other people.
During the two years Sandy remained at the university, Jimmy handed his letters out of the post-office window to the judge once a week, following them half-way with his body to pick up the verbal crumbs of interest the judge might let fall while perusing them. The supremacy which Sandy had established in the base-ball days had lent him a permanent halo in the eyes of the younger boys of Clayton. “Letter from Sandy this morning,” Jimmy would announce, adding somewhat anxiously, “Ain’t he on the team yet?”
The judge was obliging and easy-going, and he frequently gratified Jimmy’s curiosity.
“No; he’s studying pretty hard these days. He says he is through with athletics.”
“Does he like it up there?”
“Oh, yes, yes; I guess he likes it well enough,” the judge would answer tentatively; “but I am afraid he’s working too hard.”
“Looks like a pity to spoil such a good pitcher,” said Jimmy, thoughtfully. “I never saw him lose but one game, and that nearly killed him.”
“Disappointment goes hard with him,” said the judge, and he sighed.
Jimmy’s chronic interest developed into acute curiosity the second winter—about the time the Nelsons returned to Clayton after a long absence.
On Thanksgiving morning he found two letters bearing his hero’s handwriting. One was to Judge Hollis and one to Miss Ruth Nelson. The next week there were also two, both of which went to Miss Nelson. After that it became a regular occurrence.