When a Man Marries
The following letters were found in the house post box after the lifting of the quarantine,
and later were presented to me by their writers, bound in white kid (the letters, not the
authors, of course).
FROM THOMAS HARBISON, LATE ENGINEER OF BRIDGES, PERUVIAN
TRUNK LINES, SOUTH AMERICA, TO HENRY LLEWELLYN, CARE OF UNION
NITRATE COMPANY, IQUIQUE, CHILI.
Dear Old Man:
I think I was fully a week trying to drive out of my mind my last glimpse of you with
your sickly grin, pretending to be tickled to pieces that the only white man within two
hundred miles of your shack was going on a holiday. You old bluffer! I used to hang over
the rail of the steamer, on the way up, and see you standing as I left you beside the car
with its mule and the Indian driver, and behind you a million miles of soul-destroying
pampa. Never mind, Jack; I sent yesterday by mail steamer the cigarettes, pipes and
tobacco, canned goods and poker chips. Put in some magazines, too, and the collars.
Don't know about the ties--guess it won't matter down there.
Nothing happened on the trip. One of the engines broke down three days out, and I spent
all my time below decks for forty-eight hours. Chief engineer raving with D.T.'s. Got the
engine fixed in record time, and haven't got my hands clean yet. It was bully.
With this I send the papers, which will tell you how I happen to be here, and why I have
leisure to write you three days after landing. If the situation were not so ridiculous, it
would be maddening. Here I am, off for a holiday and congratulating myself that I am
foot free and heart free--yes, my friend, heart free--here I am, shut in the house of a man I
never saw until last night, and wouldn't care if I never saw again, with a lot of people
who never heard of me, who are almost equally vague about South America, who play as
hard at bridge as I ever worked at building one (forgive this, won't you? The novelty has
gone to my head), and who belong to the very class of extravagant, luxury-loving, non-
producing parasites (isn't that what we called them?) that you and I used to revile from
our lofty Andean pinnacle.
To come down to earth: here we are, six women and five men, including a policeman, not
a servant in the house, and no one who knows how to do anything. They are really
immensely interesting, these people; they all know each other very well, and it is
"Jimmy" here, and "Dal" there--Dallas Brown, who went to India with me, you remember
my speaking of him--and they are good natured, too, except at meal times. The little
hostess, Mrs. Wilson, took over the cooking, and although luncheon was better than
breakfast, the food still leaves much to the imagination.
I wish you could see this Mrs. Wilson, Hal. You would change a whole lot of your ideas.
She is a thoroughbred, sure enough, and of course some of her beauty is the result of the
exquisite care about which you and I--still from our Andean pinnacle--used to rant. But
the fact is, she is more than that. She has fire, and pluck, no end. If you could have seen
her this morning, standing in front of a cold kitchen range, determined to conquer it, and
had seen the tilt of her chin when I offered to take over the cooking--you needn't grin; I