In the brightness of the wintry sun next morning as it streamed over the breakfast table he laughed at his fears. The room felt as it always had and there was an air of health and happiness which was not there the previous night. The dirty, dried-up little paw was thrown on the cabinet with a carelessness which indicated no great belief in what good it could do.“I suppose all old soldiers are the same,” said Mrs. White. “The idea of our listening to such nonsense! How could wishes be granted in these days? And if they could, how could two hundred pounds hurt you, father?” “Might drop on his head from the sky,” said Herbert. “Morris said the things happened so naturally,” said his father, “that you might if you so wished not see the relationship.” “Well don’t break into the money before I come back,” said Herbert as he rose from the table to go to work. “I’m afraid it’ll turn you into a mean, greedy old man, and we shall have to tell everyone that we don’t know you.” His mother laughed, and following him to the door, watched him go down the road, and returning to the breakfast table, she felt very happy at the expense of her husband’s readiness to believe such stories. All of which did not prevent her from hurrying to the door at the postman’s knock nor, when she found that the post brought only a bill, talking about how Sergeant-Majors can develop bad drinking habits after they leave the army. “Herbert will have some more of his funny remarks, I expect, when he comes home,” she said as they sat at dinner. “I know,” said Mr. White, pouring himself out some beer; “but for all that, the thing moved in my hand; that I’ll swear to.” “You thought it did,” said the old lady, trying to calm him. “I say it did,” replied the other. “There was no thought about it; I had just – What’s the matter?” His wife made no reply. She was watching the mysterious movements of a man outside, who, looking in an undecided fashion at the house, appeared to be trying to make up his mind to enter. In mental connection with the two hundred pounds, she noticed that the stranger was well dressed, and wore a silk hat of shiny newness. Three times he stopped briefly at the gate, and then walked on again. The fourth time he stood with his hand upon it, and then with sudden firmness of mind pushed it open and walked up the path. Mrs White at the same moment placed her hands behind her, hurriedly untied the strings of her apron, and put it under the cushion of her chair. She brought the stranger, who seemed a little uncomfortable, into the room. He looked at her in a way that said there was something about his purpose that he wanted to keep secret, and seemed to be thinking of something else as the old lady said she was sorry for the appearance of the room and her husband’s coat, which he usually wore in the garden. She then waited as patiently as her sex would permit for him to state his business, but he was at first strangely silent. “I – was asked to call,” he said at last, and bent down and picked a piece of cotton from his trousers. “I come from ‘Maw and Meggins.’ ” The old lady jumped suddenly, as in alarm. “Is anything the matter?” she asked breathlessly. “Has anything happened to Herbert? What is it? What is it?” Her husband spoke before he could answer. “There there mother,” he said hurriedly. “Sit down, and don’t jump to a conclusion. You’ve not brought bad news, I’m sure sir,” and eyed the other, expecting that it was bad news but hoping he was wrong.“I’m sorry – ” began the visitor. “Is he hurt?” demanded the mother wildly. The visitor lowered and raised his head once in agreement.”Badly hurt,” he said quietly, “but he is not in any pain.” “Oh thank God!” said the old woman, pressing her hands together tightly. “Thank God for that! Thank – ” She broke off as the tragic meaning of the part about him not being in pain came to her. The man had turned his head slightly so as not to look directly at her, but she saw the awful truth in his face. She caught her breath, and turning to her husband, who did not yet understand the man’s meaning, laid her shaking hand on his. There was a long silence. “He was caught in the machinery,” said the visitor at length in a low voice. “Caught in the machinery,” repeated Mr. White, too shocked to think clearly, “yes.” He sat staring out the window, and taking his wife’s hand between his own, pressed it as he used to do when he was trying to win her love in the time before they were married, nearly forty years before. “He was the only one left to us,” he said, turning gently to the visitor. “It is hard.” The other coughed, and rising, walked slowly to the window. “The firm wishes me to pass on their great sadness about your loss,” he said, without looking round. “I ask that you to please understand that I am only their servant and simply doing what they told me to do.” There was no reply; the old woman’s face was white, her eyes staring, and her breath unheard; on the husband’s face was a look such as his friend the Sergeant-Major might have carried into his first battle. “I was to say that Maw and Meggins accept no responsibility,” continued the other. “But, although they don’t believe that they have a legal requirement to make a payment to you for your loss, in view of your son’s services they wish to present you with a certain sum.” Mr. White dropped his wife’s hand, and rising to his feet, stared with a look of horror at his visitor. His dry lips shaped the words, “How much?” “Two hundred pounds,” was the answer. Without hearing his wife’s scream, the old man smiled weakly, put out his hands like a blind man, and fell, a senseless mass, to the floor. (Like for part 3)

Story is told by Davon Rodriguez

Gigi


amazing story. love it. thanks.