The Tramp’s Romance

“Was you ever dissypinted in love?” inquired the Chronic Loafer of the
Tramp.

A light summer shower had driven the traveller to the shelter of the
store porch for a few hours, and he was stretched easily along the floor
with his back resting against a pillar. In reply to the question he
brought the butt of his heavy hickory stick down on the loose boards with
such vigor as to raise a small cloud of dust from the cracks, and cried,
“Wull, have I!”

“Come tell us about it, ole feller,” said the Tinsmith.

“Not muchy.”

“We ain’t surprised at your hevin’ ben dissypinted,” said the Loafer,
“but it’s your persumption catches me. What’s her name?”

“I called her Emily Kate,” answered the Tramp, wiping one of his eyes
with his sleeve. “She’ll allus be Emily Kate to me, though to other folks
she ain’t nothin’.”

“A truly remarkable state of affairs,” said the Teacher. “I presume that
the young woman must have been a mere chimera, a hallucination.”

“Mebbe she was; mebbe she wasn’t,” the traveller replied. “I never knowd
her well enough to git acquainted with all her qualities. In fact I’ve
allus kept Emily Kate pretty much to meself an’ have never said nothin’
’bout her to nobody. But youse gentlemens asts so many questions, I
s’pose yez might ez well know the hull thing. ’Bout three year ago I was
workin’ th’oo this valley toward the Sussykehanner River, an’ one fine
day–it was one o’ them days when you feels like settin’ down an’ jest
doin’ nothin’–I come th’oo this very town an’ went up the main road
’bout two mile tell I reached Shale Hill. I never knowd why I done it–it
must ’a’ ben fate–but I switched off onter the by-road there ’stead o’
stickin’ to the pike. I walked on ’bout a mile an’ didn’t meet no one or
see no houses tell I come to a farm wit’ a peach orchard sout’ o’ the
barn.

“They was a nice grassy place under an apple tree on the other side the
road, an’ ez it was one o’ them warm, lazy, summer days I made up me
min’ to rest, an’ lay down there. Ye kin laugh at folks who allus talks
weather, but I tell ye it does a powerful sight wit’ a man. I know ef
that had ’a’ ben a rainy day I’d never had that fairy-core, ez the French
calls it, that hit me then an’ come near spoilin’ me life.

“I was layin’ there watchin’ the clouds overhead, an’ listenin’ to the
plover whistlin’ out in the fiel’s, an’ to the tree-frawg bellerin’ up
in the locus’, when all of a sudden I see a blue gleam in an apple tree
in the orchard ’crosst the way. I watched it an’ pretty soon made out
that it was a woman. She was settin’ there quiet an’ still, like she was
readin’, an’ down below I see the top of a chicking coop an’ hear the ole
hen cluckin’. I couldn’t see much fer the leaves an’ didn’t git sight o’
her face, but I made out the outlines o’ that blue caliker dress an’ jest
kind o’ drank ’em in.

“It was the day done it all. ’Fore I knowd it I begin to imagine the face
that must ’a’ fit that form. I pictured her like the girls that rides
the mowin’ machines in the agricult’ral advertisemen’ chromos–yeller
hair an’ all. I wanted to try an’ git sight o’ her face but didn’t dast,
fer she’d ’a’ seen me an’ that ’ud a spoilt my chancet. So I lay there
dreamin’ like, an’ ’fore I knowd it I could think o’ nothin’ but that
girl in the tree, who I figured must ’a’ ben a heap better-lookin’ than a
circus lady.




“It come sundown, an’ ez I had to hustle to git supper I dragged meself
together an’ moved on. I went up the valley fer three days an’ got ’bout
thirty mile nearer the river. But I didn’t have no peace. The hull time I
was thinkin’ o’ nothin’ but the girl in the blue caliker dress. I never
felt so queer before, an’ didn’t know jest what to do. Last I decided
I’d hev to go back an’ hev another look at her, so I turned ’round an’
kivered me tracks.

“‘Bout one day later, in the afternoon, I reached the orchard. Hanged ef
she wasn’t there an’ settin’ in a tree closer to the road! I didn’t dast
go near her, fer I knows how ’fraid the weemen is of us men. But I slid
inter me ole placet, an’ lay there watchin’ her blue dress wavin’ in the
breeze. Then when I seen ez how she’d changed trees, I begin to think
mebbe she’d seen me an’ moved up a tree nearer the road kinder so ez we’d
be closer.”

The Tramp’s voice broke and he paused.

“Now quit yer blubberin’, Trampy,” cried the Loafer, “an’ git to the end
o’ this here yarn.”

The vagrant rubbed his sleeve across his eyes and continued,

“Wull, ez I lay there watchin’ her so still an’ quiet, I begin to think.
I wondered what her name must be, an’ ’lowed it orter be a pretty one.
I kind o’ thought, bein’ ez I didn’t know it, I might give her one–the
prettiest I could git up. I racked me brain an’ final’ sot on Emily
Kate–that sounded high-toned. Then I begin to wonder who’d be so
fort’nit ez ter git Emily, an’ cussed meself for bein’ sich a bum. I kind
o’ thought I might reform, but last I ’lowed ef she’d take me without me
havin’ to reform, it ’ud be a sight pleasanter all ’round. I see how
she’d moved up a tree an’ kind o’ wondered ef she’d notice me. The more I
thought on it, the worse I got. I begin to think mebbe ef I cleaned up I
wouldn’t be so bad–in fact a heap better ’an lots o’ folks I knows. By
the time it come sunset I had concided to resk it, an’ was thinkin’ o’
crawlin’ over the fence an’ interducin’ meself. But me heart failed me. I
put it off tell the next day an’ slid over the fiel’s to a barn an’ spent
the night.

“I didn’t eat no breakfas’. I couldn’t. When it come sun up I went down
to the spring an’ washed up. Then I cut fer the orchard, tendin’ to wait
tell she come. I didn’t expect she’d be there so airly sence she’d likely
do up the breakfas’ dishes.

“I climbed the fence inter the road. Then what a sight I seen! I near
yelled. A great big feller had his arm ’round her wais’. She was layin’
all limp like, wit’ her head pitched for’a’d so I couldn’t see it, an’
her feet was draggin’ th’oo the timothy, fer the man was pullin’ her
’long down the orchard. First I was fer runnin’ to her resky, but I
thought mebbe I’d better wait tell I see what come of it.

“The big feller, he pulled her, all limp, down to the other side, an’
leaned her up agin a tree, an’ hit her a punch wit’ his fis’. The blue
caliker sunbonnet drooped. Then he jumped the fence an’ started away over
the meddy.

“Me heart was a-thumpin’ awful. I waited tell he was out o’ sight. Then
I slipped down to where Emily Kate lay half dead agin the tree. I seen
a chicking coop there an’ hear the ole hen cluckin’. I stepped up an’
raised the girl’s head. She had a straw face an’ was keepin’ hawks away
from them chickings. My Emily Kate was a scare—-”

The Tramp’s voice grew husky and he faltered.

“See here, you ole fool,” cried the Loafer, “it’s quit rainin’ this ten
minutes an’ you’ve kep’ me from splittin’ to-morrer’s wood with yer
bloomin’ story.”

The wanderer picked up his bandana and stick, arose and replied,

“Youse gentlemen ’sisted that I tell ye ’bout it. I tol’ ye. Now I must
be movin’.”

A moment later he disappeared around the bend in the road just beyond the
mill.

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