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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Little Norsk; Or, Ol' Pap's Flaxen - Chapter 12. Flaxen Says Good-Bye
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A Little Norsk; Or, Ol' Pap's Flaxen - Chapter 12. Flaxen Says Good-Bye Post by :pcmarket Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :1695

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A Little Norsk; Or, Ol' Pap's Flaxen - Chapter 12. Flaxen Says Good-Bye

CHAPTER XII. FLAXEN SAYS GOOD-BYE

Elga went back to her friends, the Holts, in the course of a week. It hurt Anson terribly to see how eager she was to get away, and he grew a little bitter--a quality of temper Bert did not know he possessed.

"What's that little whipper-snapper ever done for her, that she should leave us in the shade f'r him--f'rget us an' all we've done f'r her, an' climb out an' leave us just at his wink? It beats me, but it's all right. I don't blame her if she feels so--only it does seem queer, now don't it?"

"It does, that's a fact--'specially the idea of leaving us for a thing like that."

After arriving at a complete understanding of the matter, they said no more about it, but went to work to make everything as pleasant for Flaxen as possible. Again they rode down to the station with her, down past the wide, level fields of grain which the blazing sun had ripened prematurely. Again they parted from her at the train, but this time the girl was eager to go; and yet a peculiar feeling of sadness was mixed with her eagerness to be off.

"Now, boys, you'll come down just as soon as you can this fall, won't you?" she said, tearfully, as they stood in the aisle of the car. "I wish't you'd sell out an' come back there an' live--I want you to."

"Well, we'll try," Anson said, speaking with difficulty, the lump in his throat was so big and so dry.

They rode home in silence again, but this time there was something darker and more sullen in their thoughts.

"Well, Ans, that settles it. We're orphaned again, sure." He tried to give a little touch of jocoseness to it, but failed miserably.

"Yes," Anson sighed deeply, "we'll haf t' stand it, I s'pose, but it's tough."

It was hard, but it would have been harder had not the rush and push of the harvest come upon them just as it did. They never spoke of the matter again, except as a matter settled, till they received a letter from the young people asking their consent to an early marriage.

They both read the letter, and then Anson said, without raising his eyes:

"Well, what d' you think of it?"

"Oh, we might as well say yes," replied Bert irritably.

"But she's so young."

"She seems so to us, but my mother was married at fifteen. If she's going to leave us, why, the sooner she has a home the better, I s'pose."

"I s'pose you're right. But I'd rather have 'em put it off a year."

"Oh, a year wouldn't make any difference, and besides, you can't stop the thing now. She's out of our hands."

They wrote giving their consent, and the wedding was fixed for late September to enable the fall's work to be put out of the way. For Elga's sake they bought new suits and hats before starting on their trip, though the harvest hardly justified any extravagance.

Under other circumstances they would have rejoiced over the trip, for it was carrying them back to the gleam of leaf-dappled streams and waving trees and deep, cool forests. It made their nostrils dilate with pleasure as they whirled past fern-filled ravines, out of which the rivulets stole with stealthy circuits under mossy rocks. They were both forest-born, and it was like getting back home out of a strange desert country to come back into "the States."

St. Peter was a small town, situated on the steep bank of a broad river--that is to say, the business street was there, but the seminary and the residence part of the town was on a high and beautiful plateau. Tho country was well diversified with wood and prairie.

Kendall and Elga met them at the station. Elga with flushed face was searching the car-windows with eager glance, when Anson appeared on the platform. The quick rush she made for him drove out all his bitterness. It made him understand that she loved him as if he were her father.

She greeted Bert with a little less warmth, and chattering with joy she led the way up the street with Anson. She had a hundred things to tell him, and he listened in a daze. She seemed so different from his Flaxen. Bert walked behind with Kendall, who did not impress him favourably.

He was a harmless little creature enough--small, a little inclined to bow-legs, and dudish in manner and dress. His hair was smoothed till it shone like ebony, and he wore the latest designs in standing collars, high on his slim neck. His hands were beautifully small and white and held several rings. He had the manners of a dry-goods clerk.

"He can't abuse her, that's one good thing about the whelp," thought Bert as he crushed the young bridegroom's hand in his brown palm, just to see him cringe.

As for Kendall, he was a little afraid of these big fellows, so sullen and strong; and he tried his best to please them, chirping away brightly upon all kinds of things, ending up by telling them his business plans.

"We're one o' the best cities on the river. Couldn't be a better place fer a business stand, don't you see? And we're getting to the front with our wholesale department (of course--ha! ha! my wife's father ought to know how I'm getting on), so you're welcome to look over my books. Our trade is a cash trade so far as our retail trade goes, and we're mighty careful who gets tick from us on the wholesale trade. We're developing a great business."

Bert and Anson made no replies to his chatter, and he pattered along by Anson's side like a small boy, showing them the town and its beauties. Anson inwardly despised the little man, but held it a sort of treason to think so, and tried to look upon him kindly.

The wedding took place in the house of the Holt family, and was in charge of Miss Holt, Elga's teacher. Kendall's parents could not be present, which was a great disappointment to Elga, but Will was secretly glad of it. His father was a very crusty and brutal old fellow, and he would not have fitted in smoothly beside Bert and Anson, who were as uncomfortable as men could well be. Both wished to avoid it, but dared not object.

Anson stood bravely through the ceremony as the father of the bride, and bore himself with his usual massive, rude dignity. But he inwardly winced as he saw Elga, looking very stately and beautiful in her bride's veil, towering half a head above the sleek-haired little clerk. Not a few of the company smiled at the contrast, but she had no other feeling than perfect love and happiness.

When the ceremony was over and Anson looked around for Bert, he was gone. He couldn't stand the pressure of the crowd and the whispered comments, and had slipped away early in the evening.

Among the presents which were laid on the table in the dining-room was a long envelope addressed to Mrs. Will Kendall. It contained a deed for a house and lot in one of the most desirable parts of the suburbs. It was from Gearheart, but there was no other written word. This gift meant the sale of his claim in Dakota.

When Anson got back to the hotel that night, wondering and alarmed at his partner's absence, he found a letter from him. It was savage and hopeless.

This climate is getting too frigid for my lungs. I'm going to emigrate to California. I made a mistake: I ought to have gone in for stand-up collars, shiny hair, and bow-legs. You'd better skip back to Dakota and sell your claim. Keep my share of the stock and tools; it ain't worth bothering about. Don't try to live there alone, old man. If you can't sell, marry. Don't let that girl break you all up too. We are all fools, but some can get over it quicker than others.

If that little bow-legged thing gets under your feet or abuses her, jest get your toe under him and hoist him over into the alley.

Good-bye and good luck, old man.

BERT.

And the next day the doubly bereaved man started on his lonely journey back to the Dakota claim, back to an empty house, with a gnawing pain in his heart and a constriction like an iron band about his throat; back to his broad fields to plod to and fro alone.

As he began to realize it all and to think how terrible was this loss, he laid his head down on the car-seat before him and cried. His first great trial had come to him, and meeting it like a man, he must now weep like a woman.

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