David looked up incredulously. Then he took the bit of paper. A big tear rolled down his cheek.
‘Why, Holden! What does this mean?’ he asked.
‘’At the Lord pays His debts,’ said Uncle Eb. ‘Read it.’
Hope had lighted the lamp.
David rose and put on his spectacles. One eyebrow had lifted above the level of the other. He held the check to the lamplight. Elizabeth stood at his elbow.
‘Why, mother!’ said he. ’Is this from our boy? From Nehemiah? Why, Nehemiah is dead!’ he added, looking over his spectacles at Uncle Eb.
‘Nehemiah is not dead,’ said the latter.
‘Nehemiah not dead!’ he repeated, looking down at the draft. They turned it in the light, reading over and over again the happy tidings pinned to one corner of it. Then they looked into each other’s eyes.
Elizabeth put her arms about David’s neck and laid her head upon his shoulder and not one of us dare trust himself to speak for a little. Uncle Eb broke the silence.
‘Got another present,’ he said. ’S a good deal better ‘n gold er silver.’ A tall, bearded man came in.
‘Mr Trumbull!’ Hope exclaimed, rising.
‘David an’ Elizabeth Brower,’ said Uncle Eb, ’the dead hes come if life. I give ye back yer son — Nehemiah.’
Then he swung his cap high above his head, shouting in a loud voice:
‘Merry Crissmus! Merry Crissmus!’
The scene that followed I shall not try to picture. It was so full of happiness that every day of our lives since then has been blessed with it and with a peace that has lightened every sorrow; of it, I can truly say that it passeth all understanding.
‘Look here, folks!’ said Uncle Eb, after awhile, as he got his flute, ’my feelin’s hev been teched hard. If I don’t hev some jollification I’ll bust. Bill Brower, limber up yer leather a leetle bit.’
Nehemiah, whom I had known as John Trumbull, sat a long time between his father and mother, holding a hand of each, and talking in a low tone, while Hope and I were in the kitchen with Uncle Eb. Now that father and son were side by side we saw how like they were and wondered we bad never guessed the truth.
‘Do you remember?’ said Nehemiah, when we returned. ’Do you remember when you were a little boy, coming one night to the old log house on Bowman’s Hill with Uncle Eb?
‘I remember it very well,’ I answered.
‘That was the first time I ever saw you,’ he said.
‘Why, you are not the night man?’
‘I was the night man,’ he answered.
I stared at him with something of the old, familiar thrill that had always come at the mention of him years agone.
‘He’s grown a leetle since then,’ said Uncle Eb.
‘I thought so the night I carried him off the field at Bull Run,’ said Nehemiah.