A little winding railway in a southern county connects two widely parallel systems and is known as the C. & G. The trains are small and meek when compared with the long aggregation of cars with which they connect at G.
But to the old man who sat today in one of the cramped, uncomfortable coaches, defects were not apparent. For forty years little cars like these had passed his door; along this same road he and Mary had taken their wedding trip. How proud he was of her when they returned, and he had taken her home, where his father and his father's father had lived before him. There they had lived and labored together, going on Saturdays to the village and on Sundays to the little church; and there Tom had been born.
It seemed hard to realize that all this was long ago; for so much had happened since then. No lusty boy would come rushing to meet him today; the rocking chair where she used to sit would be very still. The old man choked a little and wiped his eyes with his cotton handkerchief.
He had not known what all this meant to him until he had left it. He had been lonely and Tom had persuaded him to go live with him. But it was all so strange in this new place, so little like he had pictured it. He said nothing. They were kind to him, and he must not seem ungrateful. He would not admit, even to himself, that he wished to go back, but he grew so silent, white and still that his son, watching his wistful face, was touched.
"Father," said he, "am I not your son? Tell me." And the old man answered humbly: "Tom, I am old and getting childish, but I want to go back. I've never lived anywhere else before, and- and she's there, Tom."
So today he was going home; back to the hills and trees; back to his old house and graves; back where she had left him to wait until she had called him; and the journey was almost done.
The sunshine crept across the car, and the noise of voices grew lower and lower. Somehow it was evening, and he was coming home down the long lanes between the fields. Over the hills came the tinkle of bells, as the cattle came home to the milking; here, running to meet him, was little Tom, the red stains of berries still marking his face and fingers; and there by the gate, the love-light as strong in her eyes as on the day they were married, stood Mary, the wife of his youth.
“I am late," he said, “and tired.”
"Come," she said, "you can rest now; it is only a step more," and- a long, quavering sigh of relief- and- he was at home. The little rough train went jolting along and reached his station at last. But when the conductor shook him he did not answer.
E. Crayton McCants.