In the midst of this springtime carnival there came also cheering news from the old home in Vermont—a letter to Sarah from her brother, which contained the welcome promise that he was coming to visit them and expected to be in Beardstown about the fourth of May. Samson drove across country to meet the steamer. He was at the landing when The Star of the North arrived. He saw every passenger that came ashore, and Eliphalet Biggs, leading his big bay mare, was one of them, but the expected visitor did not arrive. There would be no other steamer bringing passengers from the East for a number of days.
Samson went to a store and bought a new dress and sundry bits of finery for Sarah. He returned to New Salem with a heavy heart. He dreaded to meet his faithful partner and bring her little but disappointment. The windows were lighted when he got back, long after midnight. Sarah stood in the open door as he drove up.
“Didn’t come,” he said mournfully.
Without a word, Sarah followed him to the barn, with the tin lantern in her hand. He gave her a hug as he got down from the wagon. He was little given to like displays of emotion.
“Don’t feel bad,” he said.
She tried bravely to put a good face on her disappointment, but, while he was unharnessing and leading the weary horses into their stalls, it was a wet face and a silent one.
“Come,” he said, after he had thrown some hay into the mangers. “Let’s go into the house. I’ve got something for ye.”
“I’ve given them up—I don’t believe we shall ever see them again,” said Sarah, as they were walking toward the door. “I think I know how the dead feel who are so soon forgotten.”
“Ye can’t blame ’em,” said Samson. “They’ve probably heard about the Injun scare and would expect to be massacreed if they came.”
Indeed the scare, now abating, had spread through the border settlements and kept the people awake o’ nights. Samson and other men, left in New Salem, had met to consider plans for a stockade.
“And then there’s the fever an’ ague,” Samson added.
“Sometimes I feel sorry I told ’em about it because they’ll think it worse than it is. But we’ve got to tell the truth if it kills us.”
“Yes: we’ve got to tell the truth,” Samson rejoined. “There’ll be a railroad coming through here one of these days and then we can all get back and forth easy. If it comes it’s going to make us rich. Abe says he expects it within three or four years.”
Sarah had a hot supper ready for him. As he stood warming himself by the fire she put her arms around him and gave him a little hug.
“You poor tired man!” she said. “How patient and how good you are!”
There was a kind of apology for this moment of weakness in her look and manner. Her face seemed to say: “It’s silly but I can’t help it.”
“I’ve been happy all the time for I knew you was waiting for me,” Samson remarked. “I feel rich every time I think of you and the children. Say, look here.”