They were gone three hours. I could have walked to the post office and back in less time. But, following a corollary in my expanded Ten Commandments, I said nothing and did not mention my frets about accidents. I smiled and said happily, ‘Welcome home, gentlemen! Lunch will be ready in twenty minutes. '
Briney said, ‘Mo, meet our new partner! Nel is going to justify our letterhead. He's going to teach me farms and ranches and which end of a cow the milk comes out of. .. and I'm going to teach him how to tell fool's gold from fools. '
‘Oh, wonderful! ' (One fifth of zero is zero; one sixth of zero is still zero - but it's what Brian wants. ) I gave Nelson a quick peck. ‘Welcome to the firm! '
‘Thank you, Maureen. It should be a good team, ' Nelson said solemnly. ‘Brian tells me he is too lazy to swing a pick, and you know I'm too lazy to pitch manure. .. so we'll both be gentlemen and tell other people how to do it. '
‘Logical, http://www.foreignstore.ru ' I agreed.
‘Besides, I don't own a farm and I haven't been able to find a job as a county agent - or even as the boy who opens the mail for a county agent. I'm looking for a job to let me support a wife. Brian's offer is heaven sent. '
‘Brian is paying you enough to support a wife? ' (Oh, Briney! )
‘That's just it, ' Brian answered. ‘I'm not paying him anything. That's why we can afford to hire him. '
‘Oh. ' I nodded in agreement. Seems a fair arrangement. Nelson, after a year, if your performance is still satisfactory, I'll recommend to Brian that we double your wages. '
‘Maureen, you always were a dead game sport. '
I did not ask him what he meant by that. I had a bottle of muscatel tucked away, bought by Briney for Thanksgiving. It was full, save for a little used for one toast. I fetched it for that purpose. ‘Gentlemen, let us toast the new partnership. '
‘Hear, hear! '
So we did and the gentlemen drank and I touched my lips to mine, then Nelson offered another toast: ‘Life is short. '
I looked at him, kept surprise out of my face, but answered, ‘But the years are long. '
He answered, just as judge Sperling had given it to us:
‘Not "While the evil days come not":
‘Oh, Nelson! ' I spilled my glass. Then I threw myself on him and kissed him properly.
There was no mystery, truly. Nelson was of course eligible on one side of his family; we shared Johnson grandparents (and great-grandparents, although three of four were dead now all past a hundred). My father had written to judge Sperling (I learnt later) and said that it had come to his attention that his sister in law, Mrs James Ewing Johnson of Thebes, née Carole Yvonne Pelletier of New Orleans, had living parents; therefore his nephew Nelson Johnson might be eligible for Howard Foundation benefits, stipulating that he married an eligible.
It took them awhile, as they check health and other things, and, in Nelson's case, that his father had actually died by mischance (drowning) and not through other cause.
Nelson was in Kansas City because Thebes and its environs had no Howard-listed young females. So he was given a list for Kansas City - both Kansas Cities, Missouri and Kansas.
And that's how we met Betty Lou - Miss Elizabeth Louise Barstow Nelson did his final courting - got her pregnant, I mean - under our roof, while Maureen played shut-eye chaperone, a role I would fill repeatedly for my own girls in future years.
This protected me from my own folly - and I felt rather grumpy about it. Nelson had been my personal property before Betty Lou ever set eyes on him. But Betty Lou is a darling; I couldn't stay grumpy. Eventually I had no need to feel grumpy.
Betty Lou was from Massachusetts. She had been attending KU, God knows why - Massachusetts has some adequate schools. But it worked out that we stood in for her parents as they could not come out for her wedding; they were taking care of their parents. Theoretically Nelson and Betty Lou should have gone back to Boston to be married. But they did not want to spend the money. The Gold Panic was getting underway, and, while that would make a boom in Brian's business, as yet it just meant that money was tight.
Her wedding took place in our parlour on 14 February, a blustery cold day. Our new pastor, Dr Draper, tied the knot, I presided over the reception, with too much help from Random Numbers, who was convinced that the party was in his honour.
Then, when Dr and Mrs Draper had left, I went slowly upstairs, with Brian and Dr Rumsey helping me. .. the first time and almost the last time that I waited long enough for my doctor to arrive.
George Edward weighed seven pounds three ounces.