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Chapter 28

The folks of Faraway have been carefully if rudely pictured, but
the look of my own person, since I grew to the stature of manhood,
I have left wholly to the imagination of the reader. I will wager he
knew long since what manner of man I was and has measured me
to the fraction of an inch, and knows even the colour of my hair
and eyes from having been so long in my company. If not - well, I
shall have to write him a letter.

When Uncle Eb and I took the train for New York that summer day
in 1860, some fifteen years after we came down Paradise Road
with the dog and wagon and pack basket, my head, which, in that
far day, came only to the latitude of his trouser pocket, had now
mounted six inches above his own. That is all I can say here on
that branch of my subject. I was leaving to seek my fortune in the
big city; Uncle Eb was off for a holiday and to see Hope and bring
her home for a short visit. I remember with what sadness I looked
back that morning at mother and father as they stood by the gate
slowly waving their handkerchiefs. Our home at last was emptied
of its young, and even as they looked the shadow of old age must
have fallen suddenly before them. I knew how they would go back
into that lonely room and how, while the clock went on with its
ticking, Elizabeth would sit down and cover her face a moment,
while David would make haste to take up his chores.

We sat in silence a long time after the train was off, a mighty
sadness holding our tongues. Uncle Eb, who had never ridden a
long journey on the cars before, had put on his grand suit of
broadcloth. The day was hot and dusty, and before we had gone far
he was sadly soiled. But a suit never gave him any worry, once it
was on. He sat calmly, holding his knee in his hands and looking
out of the open window, a squint in his eyes that stood for some
high degree of interest in the scenery.

'What do you think of this country?' I enquired.

'Looks purty fair,' said he, as he brushed his face with his
handkerchief and coughed to clear his throat of the dust, 'but 'tain't
quite so pleasant to the taste as some other parts o' the country. I
ruther liked the flavour of Saint Lawrence all through, but
Jefferson is a leetle gritty.'

He put down the window as he spoke.

'A leetle tobaccer'll improve it some,' he added, as his hand went
down for the old silver box. 'The way these cars dew rip along!
Consamed if it ain't like flyin'! Kind o' makes me feel like a bird.'

The railroad was then not the familiar thing it is now in the north
country. The bull in the fields had not yet come to an
understanding of its rights, and was frequently tempted into
argument with a locomotive. Bill Fountain, who came out of a
back township, one day had even tied his faithful hound to the rear
platform.

Our train came to a long stop for wood and water near midday, and
then we opened the lunch basket that mother had given us.

'Neighbour,' said a solemn-faced man, who sat in front of us, 'do
you think the cars are ag'in the Bible? D'you think a Christian orter
ride on 'em?'

'Sartin,' said Uncle Eb. 'Less the constable's after him - then I think
he orter be on a balky hoss.'

'Wife'n I hes talked it over a good deal,' said the man. 'Some says
it's ag'in the Bible. The minister 'at preaches over 'n our
neighbourhood says if God hed wanted men t' fly he'd g'in 'em
wings.'

'S'pose if he'd ever wanted 'm t' skate he'd hed 'em born with skates
on?' said Uncle Eb.

'Danno,' said the man. 'It behooves us all to be careful. The Bible
says "Go not after new things."'

'My friend,' said Uncle Eb, between bites of a doughnut, 'I don'
care what I ride in so long as 'tain't a hearse. I want sumthin' at's
comfortable an' purty middlin' spry. It'll do us good up here t' git
jerked a few hunderd miles an' back ev'ry leetle while. Keep our
j'ints limber. We'll live longer fer it, an' thet'll please God sure -
cuz I don't think he's hankerin' fer our society - not a bit. Don'
make no difference t' him whuther we ride 'n a spring wagon er on
the cars so long's we're right side up 'n movin'. We need more
steam; we're too dum slow. Kind o' think a leetle more steam in
our religion wouldn't hurt us a bit. It's purty fur behind.'

We got to Albany in the evening, just in time for the night boat.
Uncle Eb was a sight in his dusty broadcloth, when we got off the
cars, and I know my appearance could not have been prepossessing.
Once we were aboard the boat and had dusted our clothes and bathed
our hands and faces we were in better spirits.

'Consarn it!' said Uncle Eb, as we left the washroom, 'le's have a
durn good supper. I'll stan' treat.'

'Comes a leetle bit high,' he said, as he paid the bill, 'but I don' care
if it does. 'Fore we left I says t' myself, "Uncle Eb," says I, "you go
right in fer a good time an' don' ye count the pennies. Everybody's
a right t' be reckless once in seventy-five year."'

We went to our stateroom a little after nine. I remember the berths
had not been made up, and removing our boots and coats we lay
down upon the bare mattresses. Even then I had a lurking fear that
we might be violating some rule of steamboat etiquette. When I
went to New York before I had dozed all night in the big cabin.

A dim light came through the shuttered door that opened upon the
dinning-saloon where the rattle of dishes for a time put away the
possibility of sleep.

'I'll be awful glad t' see Hope,' said Uncle Eb, as he lay gaping.

'Guess I'll be happier to see her than she will to see me,' I said.

'What put that in yer head?' Uncle Eb enquired.

''Fraid we've got pretty far apart,' said I.

'Shame on ye, Bill,' said the old gentleman. 'If thet's so ye ain't
done right Hedn't orter let a girl like thet git away from ye - th' ain't
another like her in this world.'

'I know it' I said' 'but I can't help it Somebody's cut me out Uncle
Eb.'

''Tain't so,' said he emphatically. 'Ye want t' prance right up t' her.'

'I'm not afraid of any woman,' I said, with a great air of bravery,
'but if she don't care for me I ought not to throw myself at her.'

'Jerusalem!' said Uncle Eb, rising up suddenly, 'what hev I gone an'
done?'

He jumped out of his berth quickly and in the dim light I could see
him reaching for several big sheets of paper adhering to the back
of his shirt and trousers. I went quickly to his assistance and began
stripping off the broadsheets which, covered with some strongly
adhesive substance, had laid a firm hold upon him. I rang the bell
and ordered a light.

'Consam it all! what be they - plasters?' said Uncle Eb, quite out of
patience.

'Pieces of brown paper, covered with - West India molasses, I
should think,' said I.

'West Injy molasses!' he exclaimed. 'By mighty! That makes me
hotter'n a pancake. What's it on the bed fer?'

'To catch flies,' I answered.

'An' ketched me,' said Uncle Eb, as he flung the sheet he was
examining into a corner. 'My extry good suit' too!'

He took off his trousers, then, holding them up to the light.

'They're sp'ilt,' said he mournfully. 'Hed 'em fer more'n ten year,
too.'

'That's long enough,' I suggested.

'Got kind o' 'tached to 'em,' he said, looking down at them and
rubbing his chin thoughtfully. Then we had a good laugh.

'You can put on the other suit,' I suggested, 'and when we get to the
city we'll have these fixed.'

'Leetle sorry, though,' said he, 'cuz that other suit don' look reel
grand. This here one has been purty - purty scrumptious in its day -
if I do say it.'

'You look good enough in anything that's respectable,' I said.

'Kind o' wanted to look a leetle extry good, as ye might say,' said
Uncle Eb, groping in his big carpet-bag. 'Hope, she's terrible proud,
an' if they should hev a leetle fiddlin' an' dancin' some night we'd
want t' be as stylish as any on em. B'lieve I'll go'n git me a spang,
bran' new suit, anyway, 'fore we go up t' Fuller's.'

As we neared the city we both began feeling a bit doubtful as to
whether we were quite ready for the ordeal.

'I ought to,' I said. 'Those I'm wearing aren't quite stylish enough,
I'm afraid.'

'They're han'some,' said Uncle Eb, looking up over his spectacles,
'but mebbe they ain't just as splendid as they'd orter be. How much
money did David give ye?'

'One hundred and fifty dollars,' I said, thinking it a very grand sum
indeed.

''Tain't enough,' said Uncle Eb, bolting up at me again. 'Leastways
not if ye're goin' t' hev a new suit. I want ye t' be spick an' span.'

He picked up his trousers then, and took out his fat leather wallet.

'Lock the door,' he whispered.

'Pop goes the weasel!' he exclaimed, good-naturedly, and then he
began counting the bills.

'I'm not going to take any more of your money, Uncle Eb,' I said.

'Tut, tut!' said he, 'don't ye try t' interfere. What d' ye think they'll
charge in the city fer a reel, splendid suit?'

He stopped and looked up at me.

'Probably as much as fifty dollars,' I answered.

'Whew-w-w!' he whistled. 'Patty steep! It is sartin.'

'Let me go as I am,' said I. 'Time enough to have a new suit when
I've earned it.'

'Wall,' he said, as he continued counting, 'I guess you've earnt it
already. Ye've studied hard an' tuk first honours an' yer goin' where
folks are purty middlin' proud'n haughty. I want ye t' be a reg'lar
high stepper, with a nice, slick coat. There,' he whispered, as he
handed me the money, 'take thet! An' don't ye never tell 'at I g'in it
t' ye.'

I could not speak for a little while, as I took the money, for
thinking of the many, many things this grand old man had done
for me.

'Do ye think these boots'll do?' he asked, as he held up to the light
the pair he had taken off in the evening.

'They look all right,' I said.

'Ain't got no decent squeak to 'em now, an' they seem t' look kind
o' clumsy. How're your'n?' he asked.

I got them out from under the berth and we inspected them
carefully deciding in the end they would pass muster.

The steward had made up our berths, when he came, and lit our
room for us. Our feverish discussion of attire had carried us far
past midnight, when we decided to go to bed.

'S'pose we musn't talk t' no strangers there 'n New York,' said
Uncle Eb, as he lay down. 'I've read 'n the Tribune how they'll
purtend t' be friends an' then grab yer money an' run like Sam Hill.
If I meet any o' them fellers they're goin' t' find me purty middlin'
poor comp'ny.'

We were up and on deck at daylight, viewing the Palisades. The
lonely feeling of an alien hushed us into silence as we came to the
noisy and thickening river craft at the upper end of the city.
Countless window panes were shining in the morning sunlight.
This thought was in my mind that somewhere in the innumerable
host on either side was the one dearer to me than any other. We
enquired our way at the dock and walked to French's Hotel, on
Printing House Square. After breakfast we went and ordered all the
grand new things we had planned to get. They would not be ready
for two days, and after talking it over we decided to go and make a
short call. Hope, who had been up and looking for us a long time,
gave us a greeting so hearty we began to get the first feeling of
comfort since landing. She was put out about our having had
breakfast, I remember, and said we must have our things brought
there at once.

'I shall have to stay at the hotel awhile,' I said, thinking of the new
clothes.

'Why,' said Mrs Fuller, 'this girl has been busy a week fixing your
rooms and planning for you. We could not hear of your going
elsewhere. It would be downright ingratitude to her.'

A glow of red came into the cheeks of Hope that made me
ashamed of my remark. I thought she looked lovelier in her pretty
blue morning gown, covering a broad expanse of crinoline, than
ever before.

'And you've both got to come and hear me sing tonight at the
church,' said she. 'I wouldn't have agreed to sing if I had not
thought you were to be here.'

We made ourselves at home, as we were most happy to do, and
that afternoon I went down town to present to Mr Greeley the
letter that David Brower had given me.

Irving Bacheller