“Wa’al, wa’al,” he was saying, “but you be in a putty consid’able state. Hullo, John! what you got there? Wa’al, you air the stuff! Slips, blanket-shawl, petticut, stockin’s—wa’al, you an’ Polly ben puttin’ your heads together, I guess. What’s that? Whisky! Wa’al, scat my ——! I didn’t s’pose wild hosses would have drawed it out o’ Polly to let on the’ was any in the house, much less to fetch it out. Jest the thing! Oh, yes ye are, Mis’ Cullom—jest a mouthful with water,” taking the glass from John, “jest a spoonful to git your blood a-goin’, an’ then Mr. Lenox an’ me ’ll go into the front room while you make yourself comf’table.”
“Consarn it all!” exclaimed Mr. Harum as they stood leaning against the teller’s counter, facing the street, “I didn’t cal’late to have Mis’ Cullom hoof it up here the way she done. When I see what kind of a day it was I went out to the barn to have the cutter hitched an’ send for her, an’ I found ev’rythin’ topsy-turvy. That dum’d uneasy sorril colt had got cast in the stall, an’ I ben fussin’ with him ever since. I clean forgot all ‘bout Mis’ Cullom till jest now.”
“Is the colt much injured?” John asked.
“Wa’al, he won’t trot a twenty gait in some time, I reckon,” replied David. “He’s wrenched his shoulder some, an’ mebbe strained his inside. Don’t seem to take no int’rist in his feed, an’ that’s a bad sign. Consarn a hoss, anyhow! If they’re wuth anythin’ they’re more bother ’n a teethin’ baby. Alwus some dum thing ailin’ ’em, an’ I took consid’able stock in that colt too,” he added regretfully, “an’ I could ‘a’ got putty near what I was askin’ fer him last week, an’ putty near what he was wuth, an’ I’ve noticed that most gen’ally alwus when I let a good offer go like that, some cussed thing happens to the hoss. It ain’t a bad idee, in the hoss bus’nis anyway, to be willin’ to let the other feller make a dollar once ’n a while.”
After that aphorism they waited in silence for a few minutes, and then David called out over his shoulder, “How be you gettin’ along, Mis’ Cullom?”
“I guess I’m fixed,” she answered, and David walked slowly back into the parlor, leaving John in the front office. He was annoyed to realize that in the bustle over Mrs. Cullom and what followed, he had forgotten to acknowledge the Christmas gift; but, hoping that Mr. Harum had been equally oblivious, promised himself to repair the omission later on. He would have preferred to go out and leave the two to settle their affair without witness or hearer, but his employer, who, as he had found, usually had a reason for his actions, had explicitly requested him to remain, and he had no choice. He perched himself upon one of the office stools and composed himself to await the conclusion of the affair.
Mrs. Cullom was sitting at one corner of the fire, and David drew a chair opposite to her.