Chapter 3: Past Due

Early morning, and Jack Skelly pulled a wagon behind him with newly sewn upholstery stacked up. Wes Culp walked next to him, a bag slung over his shoulder with his sandwich and an apple for lunch later in the day. Coming the opposite direction was Jennie Wade, blonde hair past her shoulders with a portion of it tied up with a ribbon.

“Morning, Jack!” she called brightly.

“Good morning, Jennie,” Jack said flatly.

“What have you got in the bag, Wes?” Jennie said.

“Same as always, Jennie. My lunch,” Wes said.

“Will you be going to school today, Jack?” Jennie said.

Jack nodded. “I’ll be along as soon as I drop Father’s delivery at the Hoffmans’ business.”

“Seems like you could have had Wes take it,” said Jennie. “But who am I to say? I suppose you must be about your Father’s business.”

Jack gave her a half smile. “Father asked me to collect money, too.”

“I see,” said Jennie. “We do not trust the young squire Culp with that duty.”

“Indeed not,” said Wes with a false highbrow accent.

“And where is Ed today? He could not take the delivery?”

“Still getting over his cough. Mr. Hoffman don’t want him spreading it,” said Jack.

Jennie shrugged. “I will see you among our scholars, Jack. And I am sure to run across you again, Wes.”

She nearly skipped away, and Jack moved along with his wagon.

“Does it please your father that Captain Wade is out of the picture?” Wes said.

“What do you mean?” said Jack without turning.

“I mean, Captain Wade was your father’s apprentice, and then he opened his own place. Advertised just like your father. Probably took some of his business. And now he’s up at the poorhouse and out of the way.”

“He’s a good tailor,” said Jack. “Father said he needed very little training.”

“All the better for your father that Captain Wade has closed up shop,” said Wes.

They reached the corner where the Hoffman business stood under a wooden sign that read Gettysburg Carriage Company. As Jack and Wes approached, Wes’s brother William was just opening the workshop to reveal an in-progress carriage.

“I don’t think Father looks at things like that,” said Jack. “Besides, Mrs. Wade and the girls are keeping up with the business without him.”

Wes shrugged. “Whatever suits you. But facts are facts. One less tailor in town means more clothes for Mr. Skelly to alter.”

“Could you shut your mouth and help out?” William called.

“Now see here,” said Wes. “I’ve brought Jack who has brought the upholstery and curtains.”

“You have those?” William said. “You’re just in time. Bring them here.”

Just then, Robert Hoffman came around the corner of the workshop. “Did I hear we have the curtains?”

“I’m to bring them only to your father,” said Jack.

Robert put his fists on his hips. “I can receive them for him.”

“Do you plan to pay toward the account?” Jack said.

Robert glowered but said nothing for several long moments. “Well then,” he muttered, then headed to one of the back buildings.

A few minutes later, an older man in a loose white shirt came striding toward Jack. His dishwater blond hair was speckled with gray and was uncombed and unkempt this particular morning.

“Hello, Junior,” he said, his German accent still traceable.

Junior. Jack was named Johnston after his father, but no one called him Johnston or Junior. Except for Charles W. Hoffman.

“What can I help you with?”

“Father sent me with the upholstery and curtains.”

“On time as always.”

“But I am not to give them to you until you pay at least some toward the balance.”

Charles half-smiled and winked at the young man. He motioned to the in-progress carriage. “Do you see that skeleton over there?”

“Yes,” said Jack.

“The curtains and upholstery are going into that carriage. The money from the sale pays for the work on them. If I cannot sell it, I cannot pay.”

Jack look at him unmoved. “Father said you would try to talk me out of it. He said he knows you have at least some to pay to the account and you don’t get these until you hand me money.”

Robert stepped toward the two of them. “Want me to take these, Pa?”

Charles looked at him briefly, his dark eyes flashing. “I know my business, boy.” He turned back to Jack. “You listen very well to your father, don’t you, Jack? Very well.” He reached into a pocket in his pants and pulled out a few coins. “Here is some of the money. It’s not much, but it’s something.”

Jack looked at his hand, counted it quickly, then said. “Very good. You may take these and I can get along to school.”

Robert stepped forward and grabbed the wagon. He wheeled it over to the in-progress carriage.

“Do you want to bring your wagon with you?” Charles asked.

“Ed can get it tomorrow,” said Jack.

“He is feeling better?”

“He is,” said Jack.

“I’ll meet up with you after work,” Wes said to Jack, as he headed toward the shop.

“See you then,” said Jack, and he started back toward where Jennie had come from.

***

After reading Chapter 3, teachers, parents, or learners may want to dive into more historical sources by visiting the Chapter 3 resource page. Resources for all chapters can be found at the book’s resources page.

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