When a Man Marries (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 8

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.

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