October and June
by O. Henry
The Captain gazed gloomily at his sword that hung upon
the wall. In the closet nearby was stored his faded
uniform, stained and worn by weather and service. What
a long, long time it seemed since those old days of
And now, veteran that he was of his country's strenuous
times, he had been reduced to abject surrender by a
woman's soft eyes and smiling lips. As he sat in his
quiet room he held in his hand the letter he had just
received from her--the letter that had caused him to
wear that look of gloom. He re-read the fatal paragraph
that had destroyed his hope.
In declining the honor you have done me in asking me
to be your wife, I feel that I ought to speak frankly.
The reason I have for so doing is the great difference
between our ages. I like you very, very much, but I am
sure that our marriage would not be a happy one. I am
sorry to have to refer to this, but I believe that you
will appreciate my honesty in giving you the true reason.
The Captain sighed, and leaned his head upon his hand.
Yes, there were many years between their ages. But he
was strong and rugged, he had position and wealth.
Would not his love, his tender care, and the advantages
he could bestow upon her make her forget the question
of age? Besides, he was almost sure that she cared for
The Captain was a man of prompt action. In the field
he had been distinguished for his decisiveness and
energy. He would see her and plead his cause again
in person. Age!--what was it to come between him and
the one he loved?
In two hours he stood ready, in light marching order,
for his greatest battle. He took the train for the
old Southern town in Tennessee where she lived.
Theodora Deming was on the steps of the handsome,
porticoed old mansion, enjoying the summer twilight,
when the Captain entered the gate and came up the
gravelled walk. She met him with a smile that was free
from embarrassment. As the Captain stood on the step
below her, the difference in their ages did not appear
so great. He was tall and straight and clear-eyed and
browned. She was in the bloom of lovely womanhood.
"I wasn't expecting you," said Theodora; "but now
that you've come you may sit on the step. Didn't
you get my letter?"
"I did," said the Captain; "and that's why I came.
I say, now, Theo, reconsider your answer, won't you?"
Theodora smiled softly upon him. He carried his
years well. She was really fond of his strength,
his wholesome looks, his manliness--perhaps, if--
"No, no," she said, shaking her head, positively;
"it's out of the question. I like you a whole lot,
but marrying won't do. My age and yours are--but
don't make me say it again--I told you in my letter."
The Captain flushed a little through the bronze on
his face. He was silent for a while, gazing sadly
into the twilight. Beyond a line of woods that he
could see was a field where the boys in blue had
once bivouacked on their march toward the sea. How
long ago it seemed now! Truly, Fate and Father Time
had tricked him sorely. Just a few years interposed
between himself and happiness!
Theodora's hand crept down and rested in the clasp
of his firm, brown one. She felt, at least, that
sentiment that is akin to love.
"Don't take it so hard, please," she said, gently.
"It's all for the best. I've reasoned it out very
wisely all by myself. Some day you'll be glad I
didn't marry you. It would be very nice and lovely
for a while--but, just think! In only a few short
years what different tastes we would have! One of
us would want to sit by the fireside and read, and
maybe nurse neuralgia or rheumatism of evenings,
while the other would be crazy for balls and theatres
and late suppers. No, my dear friend. While it isn't
exactly January and May, it's a clear case of October
and pretty early in June."
"I'd always do what you wanted me to do, Theo. If
you wanted to--"
"No, you wouldn't. You think now that you would, but
you wouldn't. Please don't ask me any more."
The Captain had lost his battle. But he was a gallant
warrior, and when he rose to make his final adieu his
mouth was grimly set and his shoulders were squared.
He took the train for the North that night. On the
next evening he was back in his room, where his sword
was hanging against the wall. He was dressing for
dinner, tying his white tie into a very careful bow.
And at the same time he was indulging in a pensive
"'Pon my honor, I believe Theo was right, after
all. Nobody can deny that she's a peach, but she
must be twenty-eight, at the very kindest calculation."
For you see, the Captain was only nineteen, and his
sword had never been drawn except on the parade
ground at Chattanooga, which was as near as he ever
got to the Spanish-American War.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~