A Man of Honor
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There was a little flutter in Miss Sudie's manner as she sat down, unable to stand any longer.
"Tell me about it, please," was all she could say.
"Well, in a word, Bob's all right, with a big balance over. He's as straight as a well rope when the bucket's full. Let me make you understand that in advance, and then I'll tell my story."
And with this Billy proceeded in his own way to tell the young woman all about the visit to Philadelphia and its results. When he had finished Miss Sudie simply sat and looked at him, smiling through her tears the thankfulness she could not put into words. When after awhile she found her voice she said some things which were very pleasant indeed to Mr. Billy in the hearing.
The next day's mail carried three letters to Mr. Robert Pagebrook. What Miss Sudie said in hers I do not know, and if I did I should not tell. Col. Barksdale wrote in a stately way, as he always did when he meant to be particularly affectionate, the gist of his letter lying in the sentence with which he opened it, which was:
"I did not know, until now, how much of your father there is in you."
Mr. Billy's letter would make the fortune of any comic paper if it could be published. Robert insists that there were just three hundred and sixty-five hitherto unheard of metaphors in the body of it, and twenty-one more in the postscript. He says he counted them carefully.
Naturally enough, after all that had happened, everybody at Shirley wanted Robert to come back again as soon as possible, and one and all entreated him to spend the Christmas there. This he promised to do, but at the last moment he was forced to abandon his purpose in consequence of the utter failure of Mr. Dudley's health, an occurrence which left Robert with the entire burden of the paper upon him, and made it impossible for him to leave New York during the holidays. Even with Robert there the publishers were anxious about the management of the paper at so critical a time; but Robert's single-handed success fully justified the confidence Mr. Dudley had felt and expressed in his ability to conduct the paper, and when, a month later, Dudley resigned entirely, to go abroad in search of health, our friend Robert Pagebrook was promoted to his place and pay, having won his way in a few months to a position in his new profession which he had not hoped to gain without years of patient toil.
The rest of my story hardly needs telling. The winter was passed in hard work on Robert's part, but the work was of a sort which it delighted him to do. He knew the worth of printed words, and rejoiced in the possession of that power which the printing-press only can give to a man, multiplying him, as it were, and enabling him to give utterance to his thought in the presence of an audience too vast and too widely scattered ever to be reached by any one human voice. It was a favorite theory of his, too, that printed words carry with them some of the force expended upon them by the press itself – that a sentence which would fall meaningless from its author's lips may mold a score of human lives if it be put in type.He was and is an enthusiast in his work, and never apostle went forth to preach a new gospel with more of earnestness or with a stronger sense of responsibility than Robert Pagebrook brings with him daily to his desk.
The winter softened into spring, and when the spring was richest in its promise there was a quiet wedding at Shirley.
My story is fully told, but my friend who writes novels insists that I must not lay down the pen until I shall have gathered up what he calls the loose threads, and knitted them into a seemly and unraveled end.
Major Pagebrook, dreading the possible exposure of his wife's misconduct, placed money in the hands of a friend, and that friend became surety for Dr. Harrison's appearance when called for trial. Of course Dr. Harrison betook himself to other parts, going, indeed, to the West Indies, where he died of yellow fever a year or two later. Foggy disappeared also, but whither he went I really do not know.
Billy Barksdale is still a bachelor, and still likes to listen while Aunt Catherine explains relationships with her keys.
Col. Barksdale has retired from practice, and lives quietly at Shirley.
Cousin Sarah Ann is still Cousin Sarah Ann, but she lives in Richmond now, having discovered years ago that the air of the country did not agree with her.
Robert and Sudie have a pretty little place in the country, within half an hour's ride of New York, and I sometimes run out to spend a quiet Sunday with Cousin Sudie. Robert I can see in his office any day. Their oldest boy, William Barksdale Pagebrook, entered college last September.
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