Read CHAPTER XVIII of Mr. Opp , free online book, by Alice Hegan Rice, on ReadCentral.com.

The marriage of Guinevere Gusty and Willard Hinton took place in mid-winter, and the account of it, published in the last issue of “The Opp Eagle,” proved that the eagle, like the swan, has its death-song.

Like many of the masterpieces of literature, the article had been written in anguish of spirit; but art, like nature, ignores the process, and reckons only the result, and the result, in Mr. Opp’s opinion at least, more than justified the effort.

“In these strenuous, history-making meanderings of the sands of life,” it ran, “we sometimes overlook or neglect particulars in events which prove of larger importance than appears on the surface.  The case to which we have allusion to is the wedding which was solemnized at eventide at the residence of the bride’s mother.  The Gustys may be justly considered one of the best-furnished families in the county, and the parlors were only less beautiful than the only daughter there presiding.  The collation served therein was of such a liberal nature that every guest, we might venture to say, took dinner enough home for supper.  It has seldom been our fate to meet a gentleman of such intelligent attainments as Mr. Hinton, and his entire future existence, be it long or short, cannot fail of being thrice blessed by the companionship of the one who has confided her trust to him, her choice, world-wide.  Although a bachelor ourself, we know what happiness must be theirs, and with all our heart we vouchsafe them a joyful voyage across the uncertain billows of Time until their nuptial or matrimonial bark shall have been safely moored in the haven of everlasting bliss, where the storms of this life spread not their violence.”

Some men spend their lives in the valley, and some are born and die on the heights; but it was Mr. Opp’s fate to climb from the valley to his own little mountain-top of prosperity, only to have to climb down on the other side.  It was evidence of his genius that in time he persuaded himself and his fellow-citizens that it was exactly what he wanted to do.

“That there life of managing and promoting was all right in its way,” he said one day to a group of men at the post-office, “but a man owes something to himself, don’t he?  Now that the town has got well started, and Mr. Hinton is going to take main charge of the paper, I’ll be freer than I been for years to put some of my ideas into practice.”

“We are counting on getting you back in the orchestra,” said Mr. Gallop, whose admiration for Mr. Opp retained its pristine bloom.

Mr. Opp shook his head regretfully.  “No, I’m going to give all my evenings over to study.  This present enterprise I am engaged on requires a lot of personal application.  I sometimes think that I have in the past scattered my forces too much, in a way.”

So persistently did Mr. Opp refer to the mysterious work that was engrossing him that he reduced Mr. Gallop’s curiosity to the saturation-point.

When he was no longer able to stand it, the telegraph operator determined upon a tour of investigation.  The projected presentation of a new cornet by the Unique Orchestra to its erstwhile leader proved a slender excuse for a call, and while he knew that, with the exception of Willard Hinton, no visitor had ever been known to cross the Opp threshold, yet he permitted desire to overrule delicacy.

It was a blustery December night when he climbed the hill, and he had to pause several times during the ascent to gain sufficient breath to proceed.  By the time he reached the house he was quite speechless, and he dropped on the steps to rest a moment before knocking.  As he sat there trying to imagine the flying-machine or torpedo-boat upon which he felt certain Mr. Opp was engaged, he became aware of voices from within, and looking up, he saw the window above him was slightly raised.  Overcome by his desire to see his friend at work upon his great invention, he cautiously tiptoed across the porch and peeped in.

The low-ceilinged old room was bright with firelight, and in the center of it, with his knees drawn up, his toes turned in, and his tongue thrust out, sat Mr. Opp, absorbed in an object which he held between his knees.  Miss Kippy knelt before him, eagerly watching proceedings.

Mr. Gallop craned his neck to see what it was that held their interest, and at last discovered that they were fitting a dress on a large china doll.

Miss Kippy’s voice broke the silence.  “You can sew nice,” she was saying; “you can sew prettier than Aunt Tish.”

“Can’t nobody beat me making skirts,” said Mr. Opp, and Mr. Gallop saw him push his needle through a bit of cloth, with the handle of the shovel; “but sleeves is a more particular proposition.  Why, I’d rather thread three needles than to fix in one sleeve!  Why don’t you make like it’s summer-time and let her go without any?”

Miss Kippy’s lips trembled.  “I want sleeves, D. two of them, and a lady’s hat, with roses on it.  We can let her be grown up, can’t we, D.?”

Mr. Gallop beat a hasty and shame-faced retreat.  Though his idol had fallen from its pedestal, he determined to stand guard over the fragments, and from that night on, he constituted himself Mr. Opp’s loyal defender.

And Mr. Gallop was not the only one who came forth boldly in expressions of sympathy and respect for the ex-editor.  It was especially easy for those who had prospered by the oil boom to express unbounded admiration for the conscientious stand he had taken in the late transaction.  They had done him a grave injustice, they acknowledged.  The wells had been reinvestigated and proved of small value.  The fact that the truth was discovered too late to affect their luck deepened their appreciation of Mr. Opp.

Willard Hinton, seeing what balm these evidences of approval brought to Mr. Opp’s wounded spirit, determined to arrange for a banquet to the retiring editor, at which he planned to bring forth as many testimonials of friendship and good-will as was possible.

The affair was to take place New Year’s night, in the dining-room of Fallows’s new Your Hotel.  The entire masculine contingent of the Cove was invited, and the feminine element prepared the supper.  There had never been a social event of such an ambitious nature attempted in the Cove before, and each citizen took a personal pride in its success.

For a week in advance the town was in violent throes of speech-writing, cake-baking, salad-mixing, and decorating.  Even Mrs. Fallows warmed to the occasion, and crocheted a candlestick, candle, flame, and all, to grace the table.

When the night arrived, Jimmy Fallows did the honors.  He was resplendent in his dress-suit, which consisted of a black sateen shirt and a brown suit of clothes.

When the guests were all seated, Willard Hinton rose, and in a few brief, pointed remarks, called the attention of the town to the changes that had been wrought by the indefatigable efforts of one citizen in particular.  He spoke of the debt of gratitude they owed, collectively and individually, to the late editor of “The Opp Eagle,” and added that after Mr. Opp’s response, the guests desired, each in turn, to voice his sentiments upon the subject.

Mr. Opp then rose amid a thunder of applause, and stood for a moment in pleased but overwhelming embarrassment.  Then he put forward one foot inflated his chest, and began: 

“Valued brother fellow-beings, I come before you to-night to express that which there is no words in the English vocabulary to express.  Whatever you may have to say concerning me, or my part in the awakening of this our native city, I shall listen at with a grateful heart.  I believe in a great future for Cove City.  We may not live to see it, but I believe that the day will arrive when our city shall be the gateway to the South, when the river front will be not dissimilar to Main Street, New York.  I predict that it reaches a pivot of prominence of which we wot not of.  As for Mr. Hinton, one and all we welcome him amid our mongst.  ‘The Opp Eagle’ strikes palms with ‘The Weekly News,’ and wishes it a lasting and eternal success.”

A burst of applause interrupted the flow of his eloquence, and as he glanced around the room, he saw there was some commotion at the door.  A turbaned head caught his eye, then Aunt Tish’s beckoning hand.

Hastily excusing himself, he made his way through the crowd, and bent to hear her message.

“Hit’s Miss Kippy,” she whispered.  “I hate to ’sturb you, but she done crack her doll’s head, an’ she’s takin’ on so, I can’t do nuffin ’t all wif her.”

“Couldn’t you contrive to get her quiet no way at all?” asked Mr. Opp, anxiously.

“Naw, sir.  She mek like dat doll her shore ’nough baby, and she ’low she gwine die, too, furst chanct she gits.  I got Val’s mother to stay wif her till I git back.”

“All right,” said Mr. Opp, hastily.  “You go right on and tell her I’m coming.”

When he reentered the dining-room, he held his hat in his hand.

“I find a urgent matter of business calls me back home; for only a few moments, I trust,” he said apologetically, with bows and smiles.  “If the banquet will kindly proceed, I will endeavor to return in ample time for the final speeches.”

With the air of a monarch taking temporary leave of his subjects, he turned his back upon the gay, protesting crowd, upon the feast prepared in his honor, upon the speech-making, so dear to his heart.  Tramping through the snow of the deserted street, through the lonely graveyard, and along the river road, he went to bind up the head of a china doll, and to wipe away the tears of a little half-crazed sister.

He wears the same checked suit as when we saw him first, worn and frayed, to be sure, but carefully pressed for the occasion, the same brave scarf and pin, and watch fob, though the watch is missing.

Passing out of sight with the sleet in his face, and the wind cutting through his finery, he whistles as he goes, such a plucky, sturdy, hopeful whistle as calls to arms the courage that lies slumbering in the hearts of men.