July 21, 1896
James was only supposed to be gone for a few days. It ended up being so long I was truly worried about him. He has been so different since I came home for summer. There was a time when James, Wilbur and I were inseparable. Clearly those days are long gone. Even Wilbur and James are separated by this divide.
It was about midday when they arrived. James looked like he had been in a fight and lost twice. The man who accompanied him was unmarked. His gaze was cold and angry and even though he was closer to my father’s age than my brother’s he looked more than capable of having been the other man in the fight.
The way he escorted James and James’ expression were both reminiscent of a naughty boy being escorted to his father for judgment and punishment. Were it not for the bruises and my concern, I might well have laughed at the sight. Wilbur had no so such compunctions and therefore nearly roared with laughter after the door to father’s study was closed with the three men inside.
I slapped Wilbur’s arm.
“That’s not very nice, he could be hurt.” I said.
“Only his pride and it could use some bruising if you ask me.”
I gave up. There was no point in arguing about it and besides, I agreed with him in most respects. Wilbur stared at me as if daring me to continue. I shook my head and he drained his lemonade.
“I wonder what they are talking about?” I said aloud to myself more than Wilbur.
He shrugged. He looked down at his glass. He offered it to me with a devious smile. I took it with a smile of my own.
The sound through the wall and glass was muffled, but clear enough I could hear what was going on. Wilbur stood next to me. He expected a full report with all the details.
“Was it not our agreement to let things be for now?” The distinguished visitor was saying.
“Are you insinuating I have not?” My father responded.
“There is nothing to be insinuated. I found your boy in the middle of it.”
“In the middle of what? I have no patience for games.”
“Do not tell me you have not read the papers.”
“I have read it. Are you saying my boy was responsible?”
“Ask him yourself.”
There was only silence for a moment but I could imagine my brother nodding his head in shame for whatever sin it was he had committed.
“I will deal with it directly. If there is nothing else…” My father said.
“Reign your boy in Sumter or I’ll do it for you.”
Suddenly the door opened and the gentleman exited at a brisk pace leaving my father’s study open behind him. He marched out the front door without a look back and slammed it behind him. I nearly dropped the glass, but Wilbur was quick enough to steady it in my hands. We made ourselves scarce before anyone else exited the study.
“What happened?” Wilbur asked in the privacy of my bedroom.
“I don’t know. James did something that really angered that man though.”
“There must have been more?”
“Something about a story in the papers. I don’t know which one or which papers, but father seemed to know.”
“Hmmm.” Wilbur scratched his head. “I’ll have to do some snooping.”
“Let me know if you figure anything out.”
He smiled and winked at me.
A little while later I overheard a bit of yelling between father and Wilbur. From the sounds of it Wilbur was caught snooping. I must admit, I was relieved it was him and not me. No doubt I would have been bent over father’s desk. There was a time when father’s disapproval would have driven my brother to tears, but these days he does not seem to care what our father thinks of him. Maybe James is the same? Maybe that is what happens when boys become men.