“Wa’al,” continued David, “I liked your letter, an’ when you come I liked your looks. Of course I couldn’t tell jest how you’d take holt, nor if you an’ me ‘d hitch. An’ then agin, I didn’t know whether you could stan’ it here after livin’ in a city all your life. I watched ye putty close—closter ’n you knowed of, I guess. I seen right off that you was goin’ to fill your collar, fur’s the work was concerned, an’ though you didn’t know nobody much, an’ couldn’t have no amusement to speak on, you didn’t mope nor sulk, an’ what’s more—though I know I advised ye to stay there fer a spell longer when you spoke about boardin’ somewhere else—I know what the Eagle tavern is in winter; summer, too, fer that matter, though it’s a little better then, an’ I allowed that air test ’d be final. He, he, he! Putty rough, ain’t it?”
“It is, rather,” said John, laughing. “I’m afraid my endurance is pretty well at an end. Elright’s wife is ill, and the fact is, that since day before yesterday I have been living on what I could buy at the grocery—crackers, cheese, salt fish, canned goods, et cetera.”
“Scat my ——!” cried David. “Wa’al! Wa’al! That’s too dum’d bad! Why on earth—why, you must be hungry! Wa’al, you won’t have to eat no salt herrin’ to-day, because Polly ‘n I are expectin’ ye to dinner.”
Two or three times during the conversation David had gone to the window overlooking his lawn and looked out with a general air of observing the weather, and at this point he did so again, coming back to his seat with a look of satisfaction, for which there was, to John, no obvious reason. He sat for a moment without speaking, and then, looking at his watch, said: “Wa’al, dinner ‘s at one o’clock, an’ Polly’s a great one fer bein’ on time. Guess I’ll go out an’ have another look at that pesky colt. You better go over to the house ‘bout quarter to one, an’ you c’n make your t’ilet over there. I’m ’fraid if you go over to the Eagle it’ll spoil your appetite. She’d think it might, anyway.”
So David departed to see the colt, and John got out some of the books and busied himself with them until the time to present himself at David’s house.
“Why, Mis’ Cullom, I’m real glad to see ye. Come right in,” said Mrs. Bixbee as she drew the widow into the “wing settin’ room,” and proceeded to relieve her of her wraps and her bundle. “Set right here by the fire while I take these things of your’n into the kitchen to dry ’em out. I’ll be right back”; and she bustled out of the room. When she came back Mrs. Cullom was sitting with her hands in her lap, and there was in her eyes an expression of smiling peace that was good to see.
Mrs. Bixbee drew up a chair, and seating herself, said: “Wa’al, I don’t know when I’ve seen ye to git a chance to speak to ye, an’ I was real pleased when David said you was goin’ to be here to dinner. An’ my! how well, you’re lookin’—more like Cynthy Sweetland than I’ve seen ye fer I don’t know when; an’ yet,” she added, looking curiously at her guest, “you ’pear somehow as if you’d ben cryin’.”