Soldier’s Return

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During this time, the farm family had arrived at the unlighted Sunderland way station and sat in the wagon waiting for the train to stop. But it did not stop. The train rattled its noisy way past without even slowing down.

Well, the people in the farm wagon thought, Sandy must somehow have missed the train. Or perhaps a mistake had been made by the person who had telegraphed them. Disappointed, and a little anxious for tear something had happened to the boy, they turned the horses’ heads and plodded back to the farm. As they came down the road near the farmhouse, to their surprise, they saw a light in the cow barn. Who in the world could that be? It did not occur to them that it might be Sandy. He could not possibly have come in from the other direction. Uncle Niram said they’d better drive on down to the farm, change from their best clothes to their everyday ones, while he would walk back up to the barn to see who was there.

As he approached, the natural idea came to his mind that a neighbor had been going by, had heard, perhaps, a cow in distress and had gone in to help her. Then in his turn, he lifted the big wooden latch, opened the door and stepped in.

There sat a man in a blue uniform, on the milk stool, leaning his head against the cow’s flank while the streams of milk drummed into the pail, watched by a waiting cat. As Uncle Niram’s old eyes grew used to the dim light of the candle in the lantern, he could see who the man was. It was Sandy. His boy, come back alive from the furnace.

Sandy had heard the door open and felt the breath of fresh air on his cheek. Just as the old dog on the porch had recognized him in the dark, he knew who it was who had come in. But he did not turn his head. Uncle Niram could see, in the dim light, that the tears started from under his downcast lids and ran down his thin, young cheeks in a glistening stream. Uncle Niram’s knees bent a little under him and he leaned back against the barn wall. There was a silence.

It was no dream. The war was over.

“What did you do, Uncle Niram?” asked the little girl.

“Oh, I just cried too,” said Uncle Niram.