“‘Where’s the fiddle?’ I says to him one day when I was feelin’ social. And then, all of a minute, I guessed why he wasn’t patchin’ up like what was his duty. You see, that b-blessed parapet hadn’t had any more sense than to go and spoil his right arm for him—the one he fiddled with, see?”
(Here the Sergeant delivered one brick loaf instead of two sandwich ditto.)
“Well, they kept sayin’ there weren’t any reason he shouldn’t mend up. But he didn’t. And one night—” the Sergeant pulled up the cart so quickly that Desire almost fell out of it. “You won’t believe this part,” he said in a kind of shamefaced way.
“Well then, one night he called to me in a kind of clear whisper. ‘Bob!’ he says, ‘I’ve got my fiddle!’
“‘Sure you have, old cock,’ says I.
“‘And my arm’s as good as ever,’ says he.
“‘Sure it is! Better,’ says I.
“‘Listen!’ says he.
“And I listened and—but you won’t believe this part—”
“Well, I heared him playin’! Not loud—not very near but so clear not one of the Httlest, tinkly notes was lost. I never heard playin’ like that—no, mam! And the ward was still. I never heard the ward still, like that. I think I went to sleep listenin’. I don’t know.”
The Sergeant broke off here long enough to deliver several orders— all wrong. Desire waited quietly and presently he finished with a jerk.
“When I woke up in the mornin’, I was feelin’ fine—fine. The first thing I did was to look over to the next cot. But there was a screen around it. . . . I ain’t told the story to his folks because he hasn’t got any,” he added after a pause. “And I kind of thought it mightn’t comfort his fiancy any—it not bein’ personal, so to speak.”
Desire frankly wiped her eyes. (It was fortunate that no one saw her do this.)
“It’s a beautiful story,” she said.
“Well, if you think I ought to tell, I will. But if his fiancy says, ‘Was there any message?’ hadn’t I best put in a little one— somethin’ comforting?”
“All right. Couldn’t I just say that at the end he called out ’Amelia!’?”
“Oh, Mr. Timms!”
“Not quite playin’ the game, eh? Well, then I won’t. But it does seem kind of skimp like. . . . There’s the doctor waitin’ at the gate.”
It seemed to Desire, waiting in the garden, that the Sergeant was taking an unnecessarily long time in telling his story. She had thought it best that he should be left alone to tell it, so the doctor had gone on to visit another patient, promising to call for her as he came back.