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Chapter 92: Remembering

April 29, 1905
Marianna, Florida
5:45 p.m.

After Long had shut the door behind him, and I knew I was all alone, I turned again to gaze out of the window at the courthouse; the shadows of the oaks around the building growing longer with the sunset. I didn’t want to go home; I knew Cephas and Walter Kehoe planned to stop by the office as soon as they got in — I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to run or hide from whatever it was Cephas would do to me for screwing up the Daniels case, but I didn’t have the energy anymore.

I remembered the mail from earlier this afternoon — there was a letter from my friend Van Sant, in Sterling, Illinois; and, a copy of the Stetson Weekly Collegiate.

Second page, Stetson Weekly Collegiate, April 1905. Source: Stetson University Archives.

I glanced at the front page of the paper — mostly it covered a mock trial by the law school, and the rivalry between the Stetson and Rollins College baseball teams. And yes, soon, the class of 1905 was preparing for graduation. I couldn’t believe it had already been a year since I was there, when I was the valedictorian, and my name was in every single issue of that campus paper — usually on several pages. I smiled at the memory — I was popular there; my whole time at Stetson, I felt like I was on top of the world.

I turned to the second page, and right away, Pearl Spaulding’s name on the masthead jumped right out at me. She was a reporter for the paper this year.

Pearl was the reason my name was in the paper so much last year.

I felt a twinge of discomfort at the memory of that last visit to her in Seabreeze, and the last time I saw her at Stetson on graduation day. Cephas had advised me to stay away from her — not even talk to her — and I did what he said because I didn’t want to screw up my future. Ironic; here I was screwing up my own future all by myself.

There was my classmate J. Hall Brumsey’s law firm advertisement. He had a solo practice; I heard he was doing quite well for himself. I had thought about taking out an ad myself, to promote the Wilson & Wilson firm, but really, to show everyone that I was doing well. Cephas said we had too much going on here, in West Florida, to keep us busy; competition here was brisk enough. Besides, he really didn’t want to compete for business with law firms on the East Coast of Florida.

I leafed through the paper; then put it aside; I put Van Sant’s letter in my coat pocket to read later at home. I had other issues of the Chronicle in a desk drawer. I kept them hidden under a pile of papers, but I pull them out now and again, and to see what my friends are doing – I use that as a sort of achievement measuring stick — mostly I compare them to myself and what I’ve done so far, which hasn’t been all that much.

William Bloxham Crawford, also known by Emmett as “Billy.” One of Emmett’s roommates, both at West Florida Seminary and at Stetson University. Photo in public domain from West Florida Seminary’s The Argo, 1902.

I hadn’t kept up with everyone in my graduating class — only Van Sant and Crawford. I didn’t like to admit to Cephas or anyone else that I was nostalgic and lonely for my college days. I was happy there.

Also, Pearl’s comings and goings were mentioned often in the paper. I was still curious about her, although I knew it was over between us. She must have known I still took the paper; I sometimes wondered if the notices I saw posted about her — and not many other students — was a way of sending me a subtle message of her whereabouts.

I knew where she was. Pearl knew that I knew where she was. But I wasn’t going back to Stetson, and I wasn’t going back to her. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about Pearl; eventually, I might have convinced myself that I loved her. Thing is, though, if I let her in any more closer, she’d see the real me.

And then, she’d probably leave, anyway, just like….

…suddenly, there was a clamor of men’s voices outside the office, and then front door squeaked open, loud voices, laughter — footsteps were headed down the hallway towards my office.

Quickly, I slipped the Stetson Weekly Collegiate underneath a stack of papers and correspondence on his desk, arranging them slightly askew, and put the water glass in a drawer. Truth be told, a messy desk bothered me immensely, as I was naturally fastidious, but I had discovered the convenience of a messy desk for hiding private letters, or, personal reading.

Categories: Book Congressman Family In Emmett's Words

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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