Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #59

We pulled the wagon in under the trees and an got out to greet the people who were approaching the wagon.  I asked, "How may I help you ladies and gentlemen?"

A tall gentleman, nicely dressed, jumped down from the wagon seat and walked toward me.  He seemed to speak for the group as he stepped forward and extended his hand, " "Why, " he said, " We are here to greet you.  Mrs. Mattingly spoke of you and your wagon in glowing terms this morning and urged this meeting knowing that you would stop here for lunch.  The ladies have prepared a luncheon for us and we most heartily invite you and your men to help us eat it."  The man smiled a boyish grin, and looked around at the several ladies in the group.  They all nodded their heads and each lady carried a wicker basket with a white towel covering the contents.  Two men were moving portable tables from their wagons and setting them up.  I could well imagine what was in those baskets and my stomach rumbled in spite of me.

I shook the gentleman's hand and said, " I am Ian McKay, and who may I have the pleasure of addressing?"

The gentleman answered , " I am Robert Hunter, and the young man who is setting up the tables is my son James Hunter.  The three ladies with the baskets are Lilly Frey, Joelina Webster, and Mrs. Kidnell.  The two men in the wagon handing out chairs and boxes are Mr. Thomas Thorn, and Mr. Ezekial Firstin."

This was way more publicity than I wanted but in turn it was a further indication of our acceptance in this community.  I decided that the best course was to go along with this hospitality and see where it led.  I relied to Mr. Hunter, " Well, this is a real surprise, and I will accept your very kind offer both for myself and for my young friend Josh who is my driver.  Let me talk with him and inform him that there is no need to break out his food or fire making tools.  I will be right back."  I turned to seek out Josh and as usual he stood right behind me.  I put my arm around his shoulder and as we walked back to the wagon, I said in a low voice, "cover the paint and brushes that we used at Mrs. Barry's House.  We will use only paper and ink today."  Josh climbed back into the wagon to cover those things and dig out the paper, pens, ink, and sealing wax kit.  I turned towards the tables which were now set up and I saw a fire going in a large ring of rocks that had apparently been set up for that purpose by the church.  They were black and burnt showing much use for previous picnics here.  The ladies were setting out the luncheon that they had brought together with plates of fresh vegetables and fruit from local gardens.  A big turkey was being wired to a spit and set over the fire .  The turkey had been precooked so the idea here was merely to warm it up and crisp the skin.

I walked over to the table and the people came over to shake my hand and one by one we greeted each other, exchanged names, and all had something to say about how the community needed what we were here to perform and how glad they were to see us.  Josh joined me and the handshaking went on all over again.  I mentioned to Mr. Hunter that Josh had a speech problem and he mentioned that aside to several people waiting to greet Josh.  Soon we all sat down and the ladies filled our plates with piles of delicious food.  After about an hour the meal was over and the remaining food and dishes were being put away, I broached the subject of  payment for this wonderful meal to Mr. Hunter who seemed to be the spokesman for the group.  "How can we repay you for this very delicious meal Mr, Hunter?" I asked.  "We have enjoyed ourselves hugely ."  

Mr. Hunter said, "Just call me Bob and I'll call you Ian.  It will be much easier this way.  Actually, we in this community have need of someone who can write well as we have several people who need to have letters written for legal purposes, replies to loved one, and letters for making various inquiries.  However, those of us who can write do not do it well and several in this community cannot write at all.  We wonder if you would be willing to stay for a few hours and take care of these people's needs.  We should be glad to pay your rates whatever they are, and the meal was just a small bonus insisted upon by the ladies in the community."

"All right Bob, that sounds good to me, " I said.  " What do you have in mind for the writing?"

Bob waved to one of the men at one of the wagons, and the man reached under the seat to get a leather case which he brought to the table.   I waved to Josh to bring me my case and and writing equipment.  Once both cases were on the table, Bob Said, " There are fifteen letters that need writing and there are notes here about the letters but each person will have to tell you personally what they want to do."

I said, "All right if those who need the letters done will gather round I will show you some examples of my letter writing.  Here we have a plain letter in Copperplate writing for everyday use.  Here is a letter written in Spencerian Script which is more for contacting a loved one."  Several women expressed their obvious delight at the Spencerian Letter example.  I continued on in my explanation, " and here are some examples of Spencerian decoration that you can have at the end of the letter,  There are seventeen different examples of this kind of decoration from which to choose in this booklet.  Each person should determine what he or she wants in a letter design and any decoration to go with it.  The price for a letter in Copperplate without any decoration is seventy-five cents a page, and a letter in Spencerian Script is one dollar a page.  Each Spencerian decoration is fifty cents."  

One lady dressed very well in a white and red trimmed full skirted dress and a black vest with black lace came forward, "Oh I already know what I want to send to my dearest George.  I want the Spencerian Script and one of the blue bird decorations.  I will be first, while everyone else is choosing what they want."

I looked up at the lady and smiled.  I dipped my pen into th inkstand that Josh had put on the table and began the letter writing.  I noticed as I put the words on paper that the lady provided, Josh had gone back to the wagon and was sitting in the front keeping an eye on things.  Good man, that youngster.  He has a second sense about what needs to be done and when to do it.

Three hours later I finished the last flourish, with my pen and handed the letter, wrapped and sealed to it's owner.  Everyone there had wanted the Spencerian Script, and at least one decoration, even the ones that were written for legal purposes.  Our business had garnered a total of $24.50 in the second day of business not to mention three delicious meals which cost nothing.  It was obvious that someone in this business for true could make a good living at it.  It was late and the sun was going down.  Most of our customers had left after thanking me most handsomely with their letters clutched in their hands.  

"Hezzie" should have been here by now.  That was another reason to stay the night here.  I decided to stay where we were and as I got up from the table to stretch the last two men put the table and chairs in the one wagon that remained, and then all three shook my hand , thanked me and waved goodbye to Josh. As their wagon pulled away and rattled toward the main road, I walked over to our wagon and noticed that Josh was looking hard at me.  I asked him what was the matter and he pointed to a word that he had scribbled on the wagon seat with a piece of charcoal from the fire-pit, "Hezzie" with three question marks.  I looked at him and put my hand on his shoulder.  "I surely don't know son," I said.  "He was supposed to meet us here.  We will wait the night here, since I don't like the idea of moving at night.  We don't have a good map of the road to the South and I think moving during the day would be more productive considering why we are here."  Josh looked down at the word he had scrawled on the seat and nodded his head sadly as he brushed away the marking.  

An hour later I had sketched out the area where we were, and I was about to call it a day, when I heard a horse approaching.  It was closer to us than the main road, and as the hoofbeats got louder a lone rider came down the road .  He slowed, looked around and saw the wagon under the trees.  I slipped my hand into my coat for the Colt Pistol that hung there under my armpit.  Josh moved back into the wagon. The stranger walked the horse over to the wagon, leaned down from his horse and said as a question, "Mr. McKay??"

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