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AMONG THE BRETHREN.
“JOSIAH ALLEN’S WIFE”
WHO WORK, TRYING TO BRING INTO DARK LIVES
THE BRIGHTNESS AND HOPE OF A
_THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED_.
Again it come to pass, in the fulness of time, that my companion, Josiah Allen, see me walk up and take my ink stand off of the manteltry piece, and carry it with a calm and majestick gait to the corner of the settin’ room table devoted by me to literary pursuits. And he sez to me:
“What are you goin’ to tackle now, Samantha?”
And sez I, with quite a good deal of dignity, “The Cause of Eternal Justice, Josiah Allen.”
“Anythin’ else?” sez he, lookin’ sort o’ oneasy at me. (That man realizes his shortcomin’s, I believe, a good deal of the time, he duz.)
“Yes,” sez I, “I lay out in petickuler to tackle the Meetin’ House. She is in the wrong on’t, and I want to set her right.”
Josiah looked sort o’ relieved like, but he sez out, in a kind of a pert way, es he set there a-shellin corn for the hens:
“A Meetin’ House hadn’t ort to be called she–it is a he.”
And sez I, “How do you know?”
And he sez, “Because it stands to reason it is. And I’d like to know what you have got to say about him any way?”
Sez I, “That ‘him’ don’t sound right, Josiah Allen. It sounds more right and nateral to call it ‘she.’ Why,” sez I, “hain’t we always hearn about the Mother Church, and don’t the Bible tell about the Church bein’ arrayed like a bride for her husband? I never in my life hearn it called a ‘he’ before.”
“Oh, wall, there has always got to be a first time. And I say it sounds better. But what have you got to say about the Meetin’ House, anyway?”
“I have got this to say, Josiah Allen. The Meetin’ House hain’t a-actin’ right about wimmen. The Founder of the Church wuz born of woman. It wuz on a woman’s heart that His head wuz pillowed first and last. While others slept she watched over His baby slumbers and His last sleep. A woman wuz His last thought and care. Before dawn she wuz at the door of the tomb, lookin’ for His comin’. So she has stood ever sense–waitin’, watchin’, hopin’, workin’ for the comin’ of Christ. Workin’, waitin’ for His comin’ into the hearts of tempted wimmen and tempted men–fallen men and fallen wimmen–workin’, waitin’, toilin’, nursin’ the baby good in the hearts of a sinful world–weepin’ pale-faced over its crucefixion–lookin’ for its reserection. Oh how she has worked all through the ages!”
“Oh shaw!” sez Josiah, “some wimmen don’t care about anythin’ but crazy work and back combs.”
I felt took down, for I had been riz up, quite considerble, but I sez, reasonable:
“Yes, there are such wimmen, Josiah, but think of the sweet and saintly souls that have given all their lives, and hopes, and thoughts to the Meetin’ House–think of the throngs to-day that crowd the aisles of the Sanctuary–there are five wimmen to one man, I believe, in all the meetin’ houses to-day a-workin’ in His name. True Daughters of the King, no matter what their creed may be–Catholic or Protestant.
“And while wimmen have done all this work for the Meetin’ House, the Meetin’ House ort to be honorable and do well by her.”
“Wall, hain’t _he_?” sez Josiah.
“No, _she_ hain’t,” sez I.
“Wall, what petickuler fault do you find? What has _he_ done lately to rile you up?”
Sez I, “_She_ wuz in the wrong on’t in not lettin’ wimmen set on the Conference.”
“Wall, I say _he_ wuz right,” sez Josiah. “_He_ knew, and I knew, that wimmen wuzn’t strong enough to set.”
“Why,” sez I, “it don’t take so much strength to set as it duz to stand up. And after workin’ as hard as wimmen have for the Meetin’ House, she ort to have the priveledge of settin’. And I am goin’ to write out jest what I think about it.”
“Wall,” sez Josiah, as he started for the barn with the hen feed, “don’t be too severe with the Meetin’ House.”
And then, after he went out, he opened the door agin and stuck his head in and sez:
“Don’t be too hard on _him_”
And then he shet the door quick, before I could say a word. But good land! I didn’t care. I knew I could say what I wanted to with my faithful pen–and I am bound to say it.
JOSIAH ALLEN’S WIFE,
near Adams, New York,
Oct. 14th, 1890.
When I first heard that wimmen wuz goin’ to make a effort to set on a Conference, it wuz on a Wednesday, as I remember well. For my companion, Josiah Allen, had drove over to Loontown in a Democrat and in a great hurry, to meet two men who wanted him to go into a speculation with ’em.
And it wuz kinder curious to meditate on it, that they wuz all deacons, every one on ’em. Three on ’em wuz Baptis’es, and two on ’em had jined our meetin’ house, deacons, and the old name clung to ’em–we spoze because they wuz such good, stiddy men, and looked up to.
Take ’em all together there wuz five deacons. The two foreign deacons from ‘way beyond Jonesville, Deacon Keeler and Deacon Huffer, and our own three Jonesvillians–Deacon Henzy, Deacon Sypher, and my own particular Deacon, Josiah Allen.
It wuz a wild and hazardous skeme that them two foreign deacons wuz a-proposin’, and I wuz strongly in favor of givin’ ’em a negative answer; but Josiah wuz fairly crazy with the idee, and so wuz Deacon Henzy and Deacon Sypher (their wives told me how they felt).
The idee was to build a buzz saw mill on the creek that runs through Jonesville, and have branches of it extend into Zoar, Loontown, and other more adjacent townships (the same creek runs through ’em all).
As near as I could get it into my head, there wuz to be a buzz saw mill apiece for the five deacons–each one of ’em to overlook their own particular buzz saw–but the money comin’ from all on ’em to be divided up equal among the five deacons.
[Illustration: “A WILD AND HAZARDOUS SKEME.”]
They thought there wuz lots of money in the idee. But I wuz very set against it from the first. It seemed to me that to have buzz saws a-permeatin’ the atmosphere, as you may say, for so wide a space, would make too much of a confusion and noise, to say nothin’ of the jarin’ that would take place and ensue. I felt more and more, as I meditated on the subject, that a buzz saw, although estimable in itself, yet it wuz not a spear in which a religious deacon could withdraw from the world, and ponder on the great questions pertainin’ to his own and the world’s salvation.
I felt it wuz not a spear that he could revolve round in and keep that apartness from this world and nearness to the other, that I felt that deacons ought to cultivate.
But my idees wuz frowned at by every man in Jonesville, when I ventured to promulgate ’em. They all said, “The better the man, the better the deed.”
They said, “The better the man wuz, the better the buzz saw he would be likely to run.” The fact wuz, they needed some buzz saw mills bad, and wuz very glad to have these deacons lay holt of ’em.
[Illustration: TALKING OVER THE BUZZ-SAW.]
But I threw out this question at ’em, and stood by it–“If bein’ set apart as a deacon didn’t mean anything? If there wuzn’t any deacon-work that they ought to be expected to do–and if it wuz right for ’em to go into any world’s work so wild and hazardous and engrossin’, as this enterprise?”
And again they sez to me in stern, decided axents, “The better the man, the better the deed. We need buzz saws.”
And then they would turn their backs to me and stalk away very high-headed.
And I felt that I wuz a gettin’ fearfully onpopular all through Jonesville, by my questions. I see that the hull community wuz so sot on havin’ them five deacons embark onto these buzz saws that they would not brook any interference, least of all from a female woman.
But I had a feelin’ that Josiah Allen wuz, as you may say, my lawful prey. I felt that I had a right to question my own pardner for the good of his own soul, and my piece of mind.
And I sez to him in solemn axents:
“Josiah Allen, what time will you get when you are fairly started on your buzz saw, for domestic life, or social, or for religious duties?”
And Josiah sez, “Dumb ’em! I guess a man is a goin’ to make money when he has got a chance.” And I asked him plain if he had got so low, and if I had lived with him twenty years for this, to hear him in the end dumb religious duties.
And Josiah acted skairt and conscience smut for most half a minute, and said, “he didn’t dumb ’em.”
“What wuz you dumbin’?” sez I, coldly.
“I wuz dumbin’ the idee,” sez he, “that a man can’t make money when he has a chance to.”
But I sez, a haulin’ up this strong argument agin–
“Every one of you men, who are a layin’ holt of this enterprise and a-embarkin’ onto this buzz saw are married men, and are deacons in a meetin’ house. Now this work you are a-talkin’ of takin’ up will devour all of your time, every minute of it, that you can spare from your farms.
“And to say nothin’ of your wives and children not havin’ any chance of havin’ any comfort out of your society. What will become of the interests of Zion at home and abroad, of foreign and domestic missions, prayer meetin’s, missionary societies, temperance meetin’s and good works generally?”
And then again I thought, and it don’t seem as if I can be mistaken, I most know that I heerd Josiah Allen mutter in a low voice,
“Dumb good works!”
[Illustration: “I HEERD JOSIAH MUTTER, ‘DUMB GOOD WORKS!'”]
But I wouldn’t want this told of, for I may be mistook. I didn’t fairly ketch the words, and I spoke out agin, in dretful meanin’ and harrowin’ axents, and sez, “What will become of all this gospel work?”
And Josiah had by this time got over his skare and conscience smite (men can’t keep smut for more’n several minutes anyway, their consciences are so elastic; good land! rubber cord can’t compare with ’em), and he had collected his mind all together, and he spoke out low and clear, and in a tone as if he wuz fairly surprised I should make the remark:
“Why, the gospel work will get along jest as it always has, the wimmen will ‘tend to it.”
And I own I was kinder lost and by the side of myself when I asked the question–and very anxious to break up the enterprise or I shouldn’t have put the question to him.
For I well knew jest as he did that wimmen wuz most always the ones to go ahead in church and charitable enterprises. And especially now, for there wuz a hardness arozen amongst the male men of the meetin’ house, and they wouldn’t do a thing they could help (but of this more anon and bimeby).
There wuz two or three old males in the meetin’ house, too old to get mad and excited easy, that held firm, and two very pious old male brothers, but poor, very poor, had to be supported by the meetin’ house, and lame. They stood firm, or as firm as they could on such legs as theirs wuz, inflammatory rheumatiz and white swellin’s and such.
But all the rest had got their feelin’s hurt, and got mad, etc., and wouldn’t do a thing to help the meetin’ house along.
Well, I tried every lawful, and mebby a little on-lawful way to break this enterprise of theirs up–and, as I heern afterwards, so did Sister Henzy.
Sister Sypher is so wrapped up in Deacon Sypher that she would embrace a buzz saw mill or any other enterprise he could bring to bear onto her.
“She would be perfectly willin’ to be trompled on,” so she often sez, “if Deacon Sypher wuz to do the tromplin’.”
Some sez he duz.
Wall, in spite of all my efforts, and in spite of all Sister Henzy’s efforts, our deacons seemed to jest flourish on this skeme of theirn. And when we see it wuz goin’ to be a sure thing, even Sister Sypher begin to feel bad.
She told Albina Widrig, and Albina told Miss Henn, and Miss Henn told me, that “what to do she didn’t know, it would deprive her of so much of the deacon’s society.” It wuz goin’ to devour so much of his time that she wuz afraid she couldn’t stand it. She told Albina in confidence (and Albina wouldn’t want it told of, nor Miss Henn, nor I wouldn’t) that she had often been obleeged to go out into the lot between breakfast and dinner to see the deacon, not bein’ able to stand it without lookin’ on his face till dinner time.
And when she was laid up with a lame foot it wuz known that the deacon left his plowin’ and went up to the house, or as fur as the door step, four or five times in the course of a mornin’s work, it wuz spozed because she wuz fearful of forgettin’ how he looked before noon.
She is a dretful admirin’ woman.
She acts dretful reverential and admirin’ towards men–always calls her husband “the Deacon,” as if he was the one lonely deacon who was perambulatin’ the globe at this present time. And it is spozed that when she dreams about him she dreams of him as “the Deacon,” and not as Samuel (his given name is Samuel).
[Illustration: “THE INITIALS STOOD FOR ‘MISS DEACON SYPHER.'”]
But we don’t know that for certain. We only spoze it. For the land of dreams is a place where you can’t slip on your sun-bonnet and foller neighbor wimmen to see what they are a-doin’ or what they are a-sayin’ from hour to hour.
No, the best calculator on gettin’ neighborhood news can’t even look into that land, much less foller a neighborin’ female into it.
No, their barks have got to be moored outside of them mysterious shores.
But, as I said, this had been spozen.
But it is known from actual eyesight that she marks all her sheets, and napkins, and piller-cases, and such, “M. D. S.” And I asked her one day what the M. stood for, for I ‘spozed, of course, the D. S. stood for Drusillia Sypher.
And she told me with a real lot of dignity that the initials stood for “Miss Deacon Sypher.”
Wall, the Jonesville men have been in the habit of holdin’ her up as a pattern to their wives for some time, and the Jonesville wimmen hain’t hated her so bad as you would spoze they all would under the circumstances, on account, we all think, of her bein’ such a good-hearted little creeter. We all like Drusilly and can’t help it.
Wall, even she felt bad and deprested on account of her Deacon’s goin’ into the buzz saw-mill business.
But she didn’t say nothin’, only wept out at one side, and wiped up every time he came in sight.
They say that she hain’t never failed once of a-smilin’ on the Deacon every time he came home. And once or twice he has got as mad as a hen at her for smilin’. Once, when he came home with a sore thumb–he had jest smashed it in the barn door–and she stood a-smilin’ at him on the door step, there are them that say the Deacon called her a “infernal fool.”
But I never have believed it. I don’t believe he would demean himself so low.
But he yelled out awful at her, I do ‘spoze, for his pain wuz intense, and she stood stun still, a-smilin’ at him, jest accordin’ to the story books. And he sez:
“Stand there like a—-fool, will you! Get me a _rag!_”
I guess he did say as much as that.
But they say she kept on a-smilin’ for some time–couldn’t seem to stop, she had got so hardened into that way.
[Illustration: “ONCE, WHEN HER FACE WUZ ALL SWELLED UP, SHE SMILED AT HIM.”]
And once, when her face wuz all swelled up with the toothache, she smiled at him accordin’ to rule when he got home, and they say the effect wuz fearful, both on her looks and the Deacon’s acts. They say he was mad again, and called her some names. But as a general thing they get along first rate, I guess, or as well as married folks in general, and he makes a good deal of her.
I guess they get along without any more than the usual amount of difficulties between husbands and wives, and mebby with less. I know this, anyway, that she just about worships the Deacon.
Wall, as I say, it was the very day that these three deacons went to Loontown to meet Deacon Keeler and Deacon Huffer, to have a conference together as to the interests of the buzz saw mill that I first heard the news that wimmen wuz goin’ to make a effort to set on the Methodist Conference, and the way I heerd on’t wuz as follows:
Josiah Allen brought home to me that night a paper that one of the foreign deacons, Deacon Keeler, had lent him. It contained a article that wuz wrote by Deacon Keeler’s son, Casper Keeler–a witherin’ article about wimmen’s settin’ on the Conference. It made all sorts of fun of the projeck.
We found out afterwards that Casper Keeler furnished nearly all the capital for the buzz saw mill enterprise at his father’s urgent request. His father, Deacon Keeler, didn’t have a cent of money of his own; it fell onto Casper from his mother and aunt. They had kept a big millinery store in the town of Lyme, and a branch store in Loontown, and wuz great workers, and had laid up a big property. And when they died, the aunt, bein’ a maiden woman at the time, the money naturally fell onto Casper. He wuz a only child, and they had brung him up tender, and fairly worshipped him.
They left him all the money, but left a anuety to be paid yearly to his father, Deacon Keeler, enough to support him.
The Deacon and his wife had always lived happy together–she loved to work, and he loved to have her work, so they had similar tastes, and wuz very congenial–and when she died he had the widest crape on his hat that wuz ever seen in the town of Lyme. (The crape was some she had left in the shop.)
He mourned deep, both in his crape and his feelin’s, there hain’t a doubt of that.
Wall, Miss Keelerses will provided money special for Casper to be educated high. So he went to school and to college, from the time he was born, almost. So he knew plenty of big words, and used ’em fairly lavish in this piece. There wuz words in it of from six to seven syllables. Why, I hadn’t no idee till I see ’em with my own eye, that there wuz any such words in the English language, and words of from four to six syllables wuz common in it.
His father, Deacon Keeler, wouldn’t give the paper to my companion, he thought so much of it, but he offered to lend it to him, because he said he felt that the idees it promulgated wuz so sound and deep they ought to be disseminated abroad.
The idees wuz, “that wimmen hadn’t no business to set on the Conference. She wuz too weak to set on it. It wuz too high a place for her too ventur’ on, or to set on with any ease. There wuzn’t no more than room up there for what men would love to set on it. Wimmen’s place wuz in the sacred precinks of home. She wuz a tender, fragile plant, that needed guardin’ and guidin’ and kep by man’s great strength and tender care from havin’ any cares and labors whatsoever and wheresoever and howsumever.”
Josiah said it wuz a masterly dockument. And it wuz writ well. It painted in wild, glarin’ colors the fear that men had that wimmen would strain themselves to do anything at all in the line of work–or would weaken her hull constitution, and lame her moral faculties, and ruin herself by tryin’ to set up on a Conference, or any other high and tottlin’ eminence.
The piece wuz divided into three different parts, with a headin’ in big letters over each one.
The _first_ wuz, wimmen to have no labors and cares WHATSOEVER;
_Secondly_, NONE WHERESOEVER;
_Thirdly_, NONE HOWSUMEVER.
The writer then proceeded to say that he would show first, _what_ cares and labors men wuz willin’ and anxious to ward offen women. And he proved right out in the end that there wuzn’t a thing that they wanted wimmen to do–not a single thing.
Then he proceeded to tell _where_ men wuz willin’ to keep their labors and cares offen wimmen. And he proved it right out that it wuz every _where_. In the home, the little sheltered, love-guarded home of the farmer, the mechanic and the artizen (makin’ special mention of the buzz sawyers). And also in the palace walls and the throne. There and every _where_ men would fain shelter wimmen from every care, and every labor, even the lightest and slightest.
Then lastly came the _howsumever_. He proceeded to show _how_ this could be done. And he proved it right out (or thought he did) that the first great requisit’ to accomplish all this, wuz to keep wimmen in her place. Keep her from settin’ on the Conference, and all other tottlin’ eminences, fitted only for man’s stalwart strength.
And the end of the article wuz so sort of tragick and skairful that Josiah wept when he read it. He pictured it out in such strong colors, the danger there wuz of puttin’ wimmen, or allowin’ her to put herself in such a high and percipitous place, such a skairful and dangerous posture as settin’ up on a Conference.
[Illustration: “JOSIAH WEPT WHEN HE READ IT.”]
“To have her set up on it,” sez the writer, in conclusion, “would endanger her life, her spiritual, her mental and her moral growth. It would shake the permanency of the sacred home relations to its downfall. It would hasten anarchy, and he thought sizm.” Why, Josiah Allen handled that paper as if it wuz pure gold. I know he asked me anxiously as he handed it to me to read, “if my hands wuz perfectly clean,” and we had some words about it.
And till he could pass it on to Deacon Sypher to read he kep it in the Bible. He put it right over in Galatians, for I looked to see–Second Galatians.
And he wrapped it up in a soft handkerchief when he carried it over to Deacon Sypherses. And Deacon Sypher treasured it like a pearl of great price (so I spoze) till he could pass it on to Deacon Henzy.
And Deacon Henzy was to carry it with care to a old male Deacon in Zoar, bed rid.
Wall, as I say, that is the very first I had read about their bein’ any idee promulgated of wimmens settin’ up on the Conference.
And I, in spite of Josiah Allen’s excitement, wuz in favor on’t from the very first.
Yes, I wuz awfully in favor of it, and all I went through durin’ the next and ensuin’ weeks didn’t put the idee out of my head. No, far from it. It seemed as if the severer my sufferin’s wuz, the much more this idee flourished in my soul. Just as a heavy plow will meller up the soil so white lilies can take root, or any other kind of sweet posies.
And oh! my heart! wuz not my sufferin’s with Lodema Trumble, a hard plow and a harrowin’ one, and one that turned up deep furrows?
But of this, more anon and bimeby.
Wall, it wuz on the very next day–on a Thursday as I remember well, for I wuz a-thinkin’ why didn’t Lodema’s letter come the next day–Fridays bein’ considered onlucky–and it being a day for punishments, hangin’s, and so forth.
But it didn’t, it came on a Thursday. And my companion had been to Jonesville and brung me back two letters; he brung ’em in, leavin’ the old mair standin’ at the gate, and handed me the letters, ten pounds of granulated sugar, a pound of tea, and the request I should have supper on the table by the time that he got back from Deacon Henzy’s.
(On that old buzz-saw business agin, so I spozed, but wouldn’t ask.)
Wall, I told him supper wuz begun any way, and he had better hurry back. But he wuz belated by reason of Deacon Henzy’s bein’ away, so I set there for some time alone.
Wall, I wuz goin’ to have some scolloped oysters for supper, so the first thing I did wuz to put ’em into the oven–they wuz all ready, I had scolloped ’em before Josiah come, and got ’em all ready for the oven–and then I set down and read my letters.
Wall, the first one I opened wuz from Lodema Trumble, Josiah’s cousin on his own side. And her letter brought the sad and harrowin’ intelligence that she was a-comin’ to make us a good long visit. The letter had been delayed. She was a-comin’ that very night, or the next day. Wall, I sithed deep. I love company dearly, but–oh my soul, is there not a difference, a difference in visitors?
Wall, suffice it to say, I sithed deep, and opened the other letter, thinkin’ it would kind o’ take my mind off.
And for all the world! I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes. But it wuz! It wuz from Serena Fogg. It wuz from the Authoress of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose.”
I hadn’t heard a word from her for upwards of four years. And the letter brung me startlin’ intelligence.
It opened with the unexpected information that she wuz married. She had been married three years and a half to a butcher out to the Ohio.
And I declare my first thought wuz as I read it, “Wall, she has wrote dretful flowery on wedlock, and its perfect, onbroken calm, and peaceful repose, and now she has had a realizin’ sense of what it really is.”
But when I read a little further, I see what the letter wuz writ for. I see why, at this late day, she had started up and writ me a letter. I see it wuz writ on duty.
She said she had found out that I wuz in the right on’t and she wuzn’t. She said that when in the past she had disputed me right up and down, and insisted that wedlock wuz a state of perfect serenity, never broken in upon by any cares or vexations whatsomever, she wuz in the wrong on’t.
She said she had insisted that when anybody had moored their barks into that haven of wedded life, that they wuz forever safe from any rude buffetin’s from the world’s waves; that they wuz exempt from any toil, any danger, any sorrow, any trials whatsomever. And she had found she was mistook.
She said I told her it wuz a first-rate state, and a satisfactory one for wimmen; but still it had its trials, and she had found it so. She said that I insisted its serenity wuz sometimes broken in upon, and she had found it so. The last day at my house had tottled her faith, and her own married experience had finished the work. Her husband wuz a worthy man, and she almost worshipped him. But he had a temper, and he raved round considerable when meals wuzn’t ready on time, and she havin’ had two pairs of twins durin’ her union (she comes from a family on her mother’s side, so I had hearn before, where twins wuz contagious), she couldn’t always be on the exact minute. She had to work awful hard; this broke in on her serenity.
Her husband devotedly loved her, so she said; but still, she said, his bootjack had been throwed voyalent where corns wuz hit onexpected.
[Illustration: “FOUR TWINS BROKE IN ALSO ON HER WAVELESS CALM.”]
Their souls wuz mated firm as they could be in deathless ties of affection and confidence, yet doors _had_ been slammed and oaths emitted, when clothin’ rent and buttons tarried not with him. Strange actions and demeanors had been displayed in hours of high-headedness and impatience, which had skaired her almost to death before gettin’ accustomed to ’em.
The four twins broke in also on her waveless calm. They wuz lovely cherubs, and the four apples of her eyes. But they did yell at times, they kicked, they tore round and acted; they made work–lots of work. And one out of each pair snored. It broke up each span, as you may say. The snorin’ filled each room devoted to ’em.
_He_ snored, loud. A good man and a noble man he wuz, so she repeated it, but she found out too late–too late, that he snored. The house wuz small; she could _not_ escape from snores, turn she where she would. She got tired out with her work days, and couldn’t rest nights. Her husband, as he wuz doin’ such a flourishin’ business, had opened a cattle-yard near the house. She wuz proud of his growin’ trade, but the bellerin’ of the cattle disturbed her fearfully. Also the calves bleating and the lambs callin’ on their dams.
It wuz a long letter, filled with words like these, and it ended up by saying that for years now she had wanted to write and tell me that I had been in the right on’t and she in the wrong. I had been megum and she hadn’t. And she ended by sayin’, “God bless me and adoo.”
[Illustration: THE LECTURE.]
The fire crackled softly on the clean hearth. The teakettle sung a song of welcome and cheer. The oysters sent out an agreeable atmosphere. The snowy table, set out in pretty china and glassware, looked invitin’, and I set there comfortable and happy and so peaceful in my frame, that the events of the past, in which Serena Fogg had flourished, seemed but as yesterday.
I thought it all over, that pleasant evenin’ in the past, when Josiah Allen had come in unexpected, and brung the intelligence to me that there wuz goin’ to be a lectur’ give that evenin’ by a young female at the Jonesville school-house, and beset me to go.
And I give my consent. Then my mind travelled down that pleasant road, moongilded, to the school-house. It stopped on the door-step while Josiah hitched the mair.
We found the school-house crowded full, fur a female lecturer wuz a rarity, and she wuz a pretty girl, as pretty a girl as I ever see in my life.
And it wuz a pretty lecture, too, dretful pretty. The name of the lecture wuz, “Wedlock’s Peaceful and Perfect Repose.”
A pretty name, I think, and it wuz a beautiful lecture, very, and extremely flowery. It affected some of the hearers awfully; they wuz all carried away with it. Josiah Allen wept like a child durin’ the rehearsin’ of it. I myself didn’t weep, but I enjoyed it, some of it, first rate.
I can’t begin to tell it all as she did, ‘specially after this length of time, in such a lovely, flowery way, but I can probably give a few of the heads of it.
It hain’t no ways likely that I can give the heads half the stylish, eloquent look that she did as she held ’em up, but I can jest give the bare heads.
She said that there had been a effort made in some directions to try to speak against the holy state of matrimony. The papers had been full of the subject, “Is Marriage a Failure, or is it not?”
She had even read these dreadful words–“Marriage is a Failure.” She hated these words, she despised ’em. And while some wicked people spoke against this holy institution, she felt it to be her duty, as well as privilege, to speak in its praise.
I liked it first rate, I can tell you, when she went on like that. For no living soul can uphold marriage with a better grace that can she whose name vuz once Smith.
I _love_ Josiah Allen, I am _glad_ that I married him. But at the same time, my almost devoted love doesn’t make me blind. I can see on every side of a subject, and although, as I said heretofore, and prior, I love Josiah Allen, I also love megumness, and I could not fully agree with every word she said.
But she went on perfectly beautiful–I didn’t wonder it brought the school-house down–about the holy calm and perfect rest of marriage, and how that calm wuz never invaded by any rude cares.
How man watched over the woman he loved; how he shielded her from every rude care; kept labor and sorrow far, far from her; how woman’s life wuz like a oneasy, roarin’, rushin’ river, that swept along discontented and onsatisfied, moanin’ and lonesome, until it swept into the calm sea of Repose–melted into union with the grand ocian of Rest, marriage.
And then, oh! how calm and holy and sheltered wuz that state! How peaceful, how onruffled by any rude changes! Happiness, Peace, Calm! Oh, how sweet, how deep wuz the ocian of True Love in which happy, united souls bathed in blissful repose!
[Illustration: “HE HAD ON A NEW VEST.”]
It was dretful pretty talk, and middlin’ affectin’. There wasn’t a dry eye in Josiah Allen’s head, and I didn’t make no objection to his givin’ vent to his feelin’s, only when I see him bust out a-weepin’ I jest slipped my pocket-handkerchief ’round his neck and pinned it behind. (His handkerchief wuz in constant use, a cryin’ and weepin’ as he wuz.) And I knew that salt water spots black satin awfully. He had on a new vest.
Submit Tewksbury cried and wept, and wept and cried, caused by remembrances, it wuz spozed. Of which, more anon, and bimeby.
And Drusilly Sypher, Deacon Sypherses wife, almost had a spazzum, caused by admiration and bein’ so highly tickled.
I myself didn’t shed any tears, as I have said heretofore. And what kep’ me calmer wuz, I _knew_, I knew from the bottom of my heart, that she went too fur, she wuzn’t megum enough.
And then she went on to draw up metafors, and haul in illustrations, comparin’ married life and single–jest as likely metafors as I ever see, and as good illustrations as wuz ever brung up, only they every one of ’em had this fault–when she got to drawin’ ’em, she drawed ’em too fur. And though she brought the school-house down, she didn’t convince me.
[Illustration: “I MYSELF DIDN’T SHED ANY TEARS.”]
Once she compared single life to a lonely goose travellin’ alone acrost the country, ‘cross lots, lonesome and despairin’, travellin’ along over a thorny way, and desolate, weighed down by melancholy and gloomy forebodin’s, and takin’ a occasional rest by standin’ up on one cold foot and puttin’ its weery head under its wing, with one round eye lookin’ out for dangers that menaced it, and lookin’, also, perhaps, for a possible mate, for the comin’ gander–restless, wobblin’, oneasy, miserable.
Why, she brought the school-house down, and got the audience all wrought up with pity, and sympathy. Oh, how Submit Tewksbury did weep; she wept aloud (she had been disappointed, but of this more bimeby).
And then she went on and compared that lonesome voyager to two blissful wedded ones. A pair of white swans floatin’ down the waveless calm, bathed in silvery light, floatin’ down a shinin’ stream that wuz never broken by rough waves, bathed in a sunshine that wuz never darkened by a cloud.
And then she went on to bring up lots of other things to compare the two states to–flowery things and sweet, and eloquent.
She compared single life to quantities of things, strange, weird, melancholy things, and curius. Why, they wuz so powerful that every one of ’em brought the school-house down.
And then she compared married life to two apple blossoms hangin’ together on one leafy bough on the perfumed June air, floatin’ back and forth under the peaceful benediction of summer skies.
And she compared it to two white lambs gambolin’ on the velvety hill-side. To two strains of music meltin’ into one dulcet harmony, perfect, divine harmony, with no discordant notes.
Josiah hunched me, he wanted me to cry there, at that place, but I wouldn’t. He did, he cried like an infant babe, and I looked close and searchin’ to see if my handkerchief covered up all his vest.
He didn’t seem to take no notice of his clothes at all, he wuz a-weepin’ so–why, the whole schoolhouse wept, wept like a babe.
But I didn’t. I see it wuz a eloquent and powerful effort. I see it was beautiful as anything could be, but it lacked that one thing I have mentioned prior and before this time. It lacked megumness.
I knew they wuz all impressive and beautful illustrations, I couldn’t deny it, and I didn’t want to deny it. But I knew in my heart that the lonely goose that she had talked so eloquent about, I knew that though its path might be tegus the most of the time, yet occasionally it stepped upon velvet grass and blossomin’ daisies. And though the happy wedded swans floated considerable easy a good deal of the time, yet occasionally they had their wings rumpled by storms, thunder storms, sudden squalls, and et cetery, et cetery.
And I knew the divine harmony of wedded love, though it is the sweetest that earth affords, I knew that, and my Josiah knew it–the very sweetest and happiest strains that earthly lips can sing.
Yet I knew that it wuz both heavenly sweet, and divinely sad, blended discord and harmony. I knew there wuz minor chords in it, as well as major, I knew that we must await love’s full harmony in heaven. There shall we sing it with the pure melody of the immortals, my Josiah and me. But I am a eppisodin’, and to continue and resoom.
Wall, we wuz invited to meet the young female after the lecture wuz over, to be introduced to her and talk it over.
She wuz the Methodist minister’s wive’s cousin, and the minister’s wife told me she wuz dretful anxious to get my opinion on the lecture. I spoze she wanted to get the opinion of one of the first wimmen of the day. For though I am fur from bein’ the one that ort to mention it, I have heard of such things bein’ said about me all round Jonesville, and as far as Loontown and Shackville. And so, I spoze, she wanted to get hold of my opinion.
Wall, I wuz introduced to her, and I shook hands with her, and kissed her on both cheeks, for she is a sweet girl and I liked her looks.
I could see that she was very, VERY sentimental, but she had a sweet, confidin’, innocent look to her, and I give her a good kissin’ and I meant it. When I like a person, I _do_ like ’em, and visy-versey.
But at the same time my likin’ for a person mustn’t be strong enough to overthrow my principles. And when she asked me in her sweet axents, “How I liked her lecture, and if I could see any faults in it?” I leaned up against Duty, and told her, “I liked it first-rate, but I couldn’t agree with every word of it.”
Here Josiah Allen give me a look sharp enough to take my head clear off, if looks could behead anybody. But they can’t.
And I kept right on, calm and serene, and sez I, “It wuz very full of beautiful idees, as full of ’em as a rose-bush is full of sweetness in June, but,” says I, “if I speak at all I must tell the truth, and I must say that while your lecture is as sweet and beautiful a effort as I ever see tackled, full of beautiful thoughts, and eloquence, still I must say that in my opinion it lacked one thing, it wuzn’t mean enough.”
“Mean enough?” sez she. “What do you mean?”
“Why,” sez I, “I mean, mean temperature, you know, middleinness, megumness, and whatever you may call it; you go too fur.”
She said with a modest look “that she guessed she didn’t, she guessed she didn’t go too far.”
And Josiah Allen spoke up, cross as a bear, and, sez he, “I know she didn’t. She didn’t say a word that wuzn’t gospel truth.”
Sez I, “Married life is the happiest life in my opinion; that is, when it is happy. Some hain’t happy, but at the same time the happiest of ’em hain’t _all_ happiness.”
“It is,” sez Josiah (cross and surly), “it is, too.”
[Illustration: “YOU GO TOO FUR.”]
And Serena Fogg said, gently, that she thought I wuz mistaken, “she thought it wuz.” And Josiah jined right in with her and said:
“He _knew_ it wuz, and he would take his oath to it.”
But I went right on, and, sez I, “Mebby it is in one sense the most peaceful; that is, when the affections are firm set and stabled it makes ’em more peaceful than when they are a-traipsin’ round and a-wanderin’. But,” sez I, “marriage hain’t _all_ peace.”
Sez Josiah: “It is, and I’ll swear to it.”
Sez I, goin’ right on, cool and serene, “The sunshine of true love gilds the pathway with the brightest radiance we know anything about, but it hain’t all radiance.”
“Yes, it is,” sez Josiah, firmly, “it is, every mite of it.”
And Serena Fogg sez, tenderly and amiably, “Yes, I think Mr. Allen is right; I think it is.”
“Wall,” sez I, in meanin’ axcents, awful meanin’, “when you are married you will change your opinion, you mark my word.”
And she said, gently, but persistently, “That she guessed she shouldn’t; she guessed she was in the right of it.”
Sez I, “You think when anybody is married they have got beyend all earthly trials, and nothin’ but perfect peace and rest remains?”
And she sez, gently, “Yes, mem!”
“Why,” sez I, “I am married, and have been for upwards of twenty years, and I think I ought to know somethin’ about it; and how can it be called a state of perfect rest, when some days I have to pass through as many changes as a comet, and each change a tegus one. I have to wabble round and be a little of everything, and change sudden, too.
“I have to be a cook, a step-mother, a housemaid, a church woman, a wet nurse (lots of times I have to wade out in the damp grass to take care of wet chickens and goslins). I have to be a tailoress, a dairy-maid, a literary soarer, a visitor, a fruit-canner, a adviser, a soother, a dressmaker, a hostess, a milliner, a gardener, a painter, a surgeon, a doctor, a carpenter, a woman, and more’n forty other things.
“Marriage is a first-rate state, and agreeable a good deal of the time; but it haint a state of perfect peace and rest, and you’ll find out it haint if you are ever married.”
But Miss Fogg said, mildly, “that she thought I wuz mistaken–she thought it wuz.”
“You do?” sez I.
“Yes, mem,” sez she.
I got up, and sez I, “Come, Josiah, I guess we had better be a-goin’.” I thought it wouldn’t do no good to argue any more with her, and Josiah started off after the mair. He had hitched it on the barn floor.
She didn’t seem willin’ to have me go; she seemed to cling to me. She seemed to be a good, affectionate little creetur. And she said she would give anything almost if she could rehearse the hull lecture over to me, and have me criticise it. Sez she:
“I have heard so much about you, and what a happy home you have.”
“Yes,” sez I, “it is as happy as the average of happy homes, any way.”
And sez she, “I have heard that you and your husband wuz just devoted to each other.” And I told her “that our love for each other wuz like two rocks that couldn’t be moved.”
And she said, “On these very accounts she fairly hankered after my advice and criticism. She said she hadn’t never lived in any house where there wuz a livin’ man, her father havin’ died several months before she was born; and she hadn’t had the experience that I had, and she presumed that I could give her several little idees that she hadn’t thought on.”
And I told her calmly “that I presumed I could.”
It seemed that her father died two months after marriage, right in the midst of the mellow light of the honeymoon, before he had had time to drop the exstatic sweetness of courtship and newly-married bliss and come down into the ordinary, everyday, good and bad demeanors of men.
And she had always lived with her mother (who naturally worshipped and mentally knelt before the memory of her lost husband) and three sentimental maiden aunts. And they had drawed all their knowledge of manhood from Moore’s poems and Solomon’s Songs. So Serena Fogg’s idees of men and married life wuz about as thin and as well suited to stand the wear and tear of actual experience as a gauze dress would be to face a Greenland winter in.
And so, after considerable urgin’ on her part (for I kinder hung back and hated to tackle the job, but not knowin’ but that it wuz duty’s call), I finally consented, and it wuz arranged this way:
She wuz to come down to our house some day, early in the mornin’, and stay all day, and she wuz to stand up in front of me and rehearse the lecture over to me, and I wuz to set and hear it, and when she came to a place where I didn’t agree with her I wuz to lift up my right hand and she wuz to stop rehearsin’, and we wuz to argue with each other back and forth and try to convince each other.
And when we got it all arranged Josiah and I set out for home, I calm in my frame, though dreadin’ the job some.
But Josiah Allen wuz jest crazy over that lecture–crazy as a loon. He raved about it all the way home, and he would repeat over lots of it to me. About “how a man’s love was the firm anchor that held a woman’s happiness stiddy; how his calm and peaceful influence held her mind in a serene calm–a waveless repose; how tender men wuz of the fair sect, how they watched over ’em and held ’em in their hearts.”
“Oh,” sez he, “it went beyond anything I ever heard of. I always knew that men wuz good and pious, but I never realized how dumb pious they wuz till to-night”
“She said,” sez I, in considerable dry axents–not so dry as I keep by me, but pretty dry–“No true man would let a woman perform any manuel labor.”
“Wall, he won’t. There ain’t no need of your liftin’ your little finger in emanuel labor.”
“Wall, I said so, didn’t I? Hain’t I always holdin’ you back from work?”
“Yes,” sez I. “You often speak of it, Josiah. You are as good,” sez I, firmly, “full as good as the common run of men, and I think a little better. But there are things that have to be done. A married woman that has a house and family to see to and don’t keep a hired girl, can’t get along without some work and care.”
“Wall I say,” sez he, “that there hain’t no need of you havin’ a care, not a single care. Not as long as I live–if it wuzn’t for me, you might have some cares, and most probable would, but not while I live.”
I didn’t say nothin’ back, for I don’t want to hurt his feelin’s, and won’t, not if I can help it. And he broke out again anon, or nearly anon–
[Illustration: “OH, WHAT A LECTURE THAT WUZ.”]
“Oh, what a lecture that wuz. Did you notice when she wuz goin’ on perfectly beautiful, about the waveless sea of married life–did you notice how it took the school house down? And I wuz perfectly mortified to see you didn’t weep or even clap your hands.”
“Wall,” sez I, firmly, “when I weep or when I clap, I weep and clap on the side of truth. And I can’t see things as she duz. I have been a-sailin’ on that sea she depictured for over twenty years, and have never wanted to leave it for any other waters. But, as I told her, and tell you now, it hain’t always a smooth sea, it has its ups and downs, jest like any other human states.”
Sez I, soarin’ up a very little ways, not fur, for it wuz too cold, and I was too tired, “There hain’t but one sea, Josiah Allen, that is calm forever, and one day we will float upon it, you and me. It is the sea by which angels walk and look down into its crystal depths, and behold their blessed faces. It is the sea on whose banks the fadeless lilies blow–and that mirrors the soft, cloudless sky of the Happy Morning. It is the sea of Eternal Repose, that rude blasts can never blow up into billows. But our sea–the sea of married life–is not like that, it is ofttimes billowy and rough.”
“I say it hain’t,” sez he, for he was jest carried away with the lecture, and enthused. “We have had a happy time together, Josiah Allen, for over twenty years, but has our sea of life always been perfectly smooth?”
“Yes, it has; smooth as glass.”
“Hain’t there never been a cloud in our sky?”
“No, there hain’t; not a dumb cloud.”
Sez I, sternly, “There has in mine. Your wicked and profane swearin’ has cast many and many a cloud over my sky, and I’d try to curb in my tongue if I was in your place.”
“‘Dumb’ hain’t swearin’,” sez he. And then he didn’t say nothin’ more till anon, or nearly at that time, he broke out agin, and sez he:
“Never, never did I hear or see such eloquence till to-night I’ll have that girl down to our house to stay a week, if I’m a living Josiah Allen.”
“All right,” sez I, cheerfully. “I’d love to have her stay a week or ten days, and I’ll invite her, too, when she comes down to rehearse her lecture.”
Wall we got home middlin’ tired, and the subject kinder dropped down, and Josiah had lots of work come on the next day, and so did I, and company. And it run along for over a week before she come. And when she did come, it wuz in a dreadful bad time. It seems as if she couldn’t have come in a much worse time.
It wuz early one mornin’, not more than nine o’clock, if it wuz that. There had come on a cold snap of weather unexpected, and Josiah wuz a-bringin’ in the cook stove from the summer kitchen, when she come.
Josiah Allen is a good man. He is my choice out of a world full of men, but I can’t conceal it from myself that his words at such a time are always voyalent, and his demeanor is not the demeanor that I would wish to have showed off to the public.
He wuz at the worst place, too. He had got the stove wedged into the entry-way door, and couldn’t get it either way. He had acted awkward with it, and I told him so, and he see it when it wuz too late.
He had got it fixed in such a way that he couldn’t get into the kitchen himself without gettin’ over the stove, and I, in the course of duty, thought it wuz right to tell him that if he had heerd to me he wouldn’t have been in such a fix. Oh! the voyalence and frenzy of his demeanor as he stood there a-hollerin’. I wuz out in the wood-house shed a-bilin’ my cider apple sass in the big cauldron kettle, but I heard the racket, and as I come a-runnin’ in I thought I heard a little rappin’ at the settin’-room door, but I didn’t notice it much, I wuz that agitated to see the way the stove and Josiah wuz set and wedged in.
There the stove wuz, wedged firm into the doorway, perfectly sot there. There wuz sut all over the floor, and there stood Josiah Allen, on the wood-house side, with his coat off, his shirt all covered with black, and streaks of black all over his face. And oh! how wild and almost frenzied his attitude wuz as he stood there as if he couldn’t move nor be moved no more than the stove could. And oh! the voyalence of the language he hurled at me acrost that stove.
“Why,” sez I, “you must come in here, Josiah Allen, and pull it from this side.”
And then he hollered at me, and asked me:
“How in thunder he was a goin’ to _get_ in.” And then he wanted to know “if I wanted him squshed into jelly by comin’ in by the side of it–or if I thought he wuz a crane, that he could step over it or a stream of water that he could run under it, or what else do you think?” He hollered wildly.
“Wall,” sez I, “you hadn’t ort to got it fixed in that shape. I told you what end to move first,” sez I. “You have moved it in side-ways. It would go in all right if you had started it the other way.”
“Oh, yes! It would have been all right. You love to see me, Samantha, with a stove in my arms. You love it dearly. I believe you would be perfectly happy if you could see me a luggin’ round stoves every day. But I’ll tell you one thing, if this dumb stove is ever moved either way out of this door–if I ever get it into a room agin, it never shall be stirred agin so much as a hair’s breadth–not while I have got the breath of life in me.”
Sez I, “Hush! I hear somebody a-knockin’ at the door.”
“I won’t hush. It is nothin’ but dumb foolishness a movin’ round stoves, and if anybody don’t believe it let ’em look at me–and let ’em look at that stove set right here in the door as firm as a rock.”
[Illustration: “WON’T YOU BE STILL?”]
Sez I agin in a whisper, “Do be still, and I’ll let ’em in, I don’t want them to ketch you a talkin’ so and a-actin’.” “Wall, I want ’em to ketch me, that is jest what I want ’em to do. If it is a man he’ll say every word I say is Gospel truth, and if it is a woman it will make her perfectly happy to see me a-swelterin’ in the job–seven times a year do I have to move this stove back and forth–and I say it is high time I said a word. So you can let ’em in just as quick as you are a mind to.”
Sez I, a whisperin’ and puttin’ my finger on my lip:
“Won’t you be still?”
“No, I won’t be still!” he yelled out louder than ever. “And you may go through all the motions you want to and you can’t stop me. All you have got to do is to walk round and let folks in, happy as a king. Nothin’ under the heavens ever made a woman so happy as to have some man a-breakin’ his back a-luggin’ round a stove.”
I see he wouldn’t stop, so I had to go and open the door, and there stood Serena Fogg, there stood the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose.” I felt like a fool. For I knew she had heard every word, I see she had by her looks. She looked skairt, and as surprised and sort o’ awe-stricken as if she had seen a ghost. I took her into the parlor, and took her things, and I excused myself by tellin’ her that I should have to be out in the kitchen a-tendin’ to things for a spell, and went back to Josiah.
And I whispered to him, sez I: “Miss Fogg has come, and she has heard every word you have said, Josiah Allen. And what will she think now about Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose?”
But he had got that wild and reckless in his demeanor and acts, that he went right on with his hollerin’, and, sez he, “She won’t find much repose here to-day, and I’ll tell her that. This house has got to be all tore to pieces to get that stove started.”
Sez I, “There won’t be nothin’ to do only to take off one side of the door casin’. And I believe it can be done without that.”
“Oh, you believe! you believe! You’d better take holt and lug and lift for two hours as I have, and then see.”
Sez I, “You hain’t been here more’n ten minutes, if you have that. And there,” sez I, liftin’ up one end a little, “see what anybody can do who is calm. There I have stirred it, and now you can move it right along.” “Oh, _you_ did it! I moved it myself.”
I didn’t contend, knowin’ it wuz men’s natural nater to say that.
[Illustration: “AND HE SAID I HAD RUBBED ‘EM OUT.”]
Wall, at last Josiah got the stove in, but then the stove-pipe wouldn’t go together, it wouldn’t seem to fit. He had marked the joints with chalk, and the marks had rubbed off, and he said I had “rubbed ’em out.” I wuz just as innocent as a babe, but I didn’t dispute him much, for I see a little crack open in the parlor door, and I knew the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose” was a-listenin’.
But when he told me for the third time that I rubbed ’em out on purpose to make him trouble, and that I had made a practice of rubbin’ ’em out for years and years–why, then I _had_ to correct him on the subject, and we had a little dialogue.
I spoze Serena Fogg heard it. But human nater can’t bear only just so much, especially when it has stoves a dirtien up the floor, and apple sass on its mind, and unexpected company, and no cookin’ and a threshin’ machine a-comin’.
Never knew a word about the threshin’ machine a-comin’ till about half an hour before. Josiah Allen wuzn’t to blame. It come just as onexpected onto him as it did onto me.
Solomon Gowdey wuz a-goin’ to have ’em first, which would have left me ample time to cook up for ’em. But he wuz took down bed sick, so they had to come right onto us with no warnin’ previous and beforehand.
They wuz a drivin’ up just as Josiah got the stove-pipe up. They had to go right by the side of the house, right by the parlor winders, to get to the side of the barn where they wanted to thresh; and just as they wuz a-goin’ by one of the horses got down, and of all the yellin’ I ever heard that was the cap sheaf.
Steve Yerden is rough on his horses, dretful rough. He yells at ’em enough to raise the ruff. His threshin’ machine is one of the kind where the horses walk up and look over the top. It is kinder skairful any way, and it made it as bad agin when you expected to see the horse fall out every minute.
Wall, that very horse fell out of the machine three times that day. It wuz a sick horse, I believe, and hadn’t ort to have been worked. But three times it fell, and each time the yellin’ wuz such that it skairt the author of “Peaceful Repose,” and me, almost to death.
The machine wuz in plain sight of the house, and every time we see the horse’s head come a mountin’ up on top of the machine, we expected that over it would go. But though it didn’t fall out only three times, as I said, it kep’ us all nerved up and uneasy the hull of the time expectin’ it. And Steve Yerden kep’ a-yellin’ at his horses all the time; there wuzn’t no comfort to be took within a mile of him.
I wuz awful sorry it happened so, on her account.
[Illustration: “IT DIDN’T FALL OUT ONLY THREE TIMES.”]
Wall, I had to get dinner for nine men, and cook if all from the very beginnin’. If you’ll believe it, I had to begin back to bread. I hadn’t any bread in the house, but I had it a-risin’, and I got two loaves out by dinner time. But I had to stir round lively, I can tell you, to make pies and cookies and fried cakes, and cook meat, and vegetables of all kinds.
The author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose” came out into the kitchen. I told her she might, if she wanted to, for I see I wuzn’t goin’ to have a minute’s time to go into the parlor and visit with her.
She looked pretty sober and thoughtful, and I didn’t know as she liked it, to think I couldn’t do as I promised to do, accordin’ to agreement, to hear her lecture, and lift my hand up when I differed from her.
But, good land! I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t get a minute’s time to lift my hand up. I could have heard the lecture, but I couldn’t spare my hands.
And then Josiah would come a-rushin’ in after one thing and another, actin’ as was natural, accordin’ to the nater of man, more like a wild man than a Christian Methodist. For he was so wrought up and excited by havin’ so much on his hands to do, and the onexpectedness of it, that he couldn’t help actin’ jest as he did act. I don’t believe he could. And then Steve Yerden is enough to distract a leather-man, any way.
[Illustration: “TO FIND A PIECE OF OLD ROPE TO TIE UP THE HARNESS.”]
Twice I had to drop everything and find cloths to do up the horse’s legs, where it had grazed ’em a-fallin’ out of the machine. And once I took my hands out of the pie-crust to find a piece of old rope to tie up the harness. It seemed as if I left off every five minutes to wait on Josiah Allen, to find somethin’ that he wanted and couldn’t find, or else to do somethin’ for him that he couldn’t do.
Truly, it was a wild and harrowin’ time, and tegus. But I kept a firm holt of my principles, and didn’t groan–not when anybody could hear me. I won’t deny that I did, out in the buttery by myself, give vent to a groan or two, and a few sithes. But immegiately, or a very little after, I was calm again.
Wall, worse things wuz a-comin’ onto me, though I didn’t know it. I owed a tin peddler; had been owin’ him for four weeks. I owed him twenty-five pounds of paper rags, for a new strainer. I had been expectin’ him for over three weeks every day. But in all the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, there wuzn’t another day that would satisfy him; he had got to come on jest that day, jest as I wuz fryin’ my nut cakes for dinner.
I tried to put him off till another day. But no! He said it wuz his last trip, and he must have his rags. And so I had to put by my work, and lug down my rag-bag. His steel-yards wuz broke, so he had to weigh ’em in the house. It wuz a tegus job, for he wuz one of the perticuler kind, and had to look ’em all over before he weighed ’em, and pick out every little piece of brown paper, or full cloth–everything, he said, that wouldn’t make up into the nicest kind of writin’ paper.
And my steel-yards wuz out of gear any way, so they wouldn’t weigh but five pounds at a time, and he wuz dretful perticuler to have ’em just right by the notch.
And he would call on me to come and see just how the steel-yards stood every time. (He wuz as honest as the day; I hain’t a doubt of it.)
But it wuz tegus, fearful tegus, and excitin’. Excitin’, but not exhileratin’, to have the floor all covered with rags of different shapes and sizes, no two of a kind. It wuz a curius time before he come, and a wild time, but what must have been the wildness, and the curosity when there wuz, to put a small estimate on it, nearly a billion of crazy lookin’ rags scattered round on the floor.
[Illustration: “SHE LOOKED CURIUS, CURIUSER THAN THE FLOOR LOOKED.”]
But I kep’ calm; I have got giant self-control, and I used every mite of it, every atom of control I had by me, and kep’ calm. I see I must–for I see that Miss Fogg looked bad; yes, I see that the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose” wuz pretty much used up. She looked curius, curiuser than the floor looked, and that is goin’ to the complete end of curosity, and metafor.
Wall, I tussled along and got dinner ready. The tin peddler had to stay to dinner, of course. I couldn’t turn him out jest at dinner time. And sometimes I almost think that he delayed matters and touzled ’round amongst them rags jest a purpose to belate himself, so he would have to stay to dinner.
I am called a good cook. It is known ‘way out beyend Loontown and Zoar–it is talked about, I spoze. Wall, he stayed to dinner. But he only made fourteen; there wuz only thirteen besides him, so I got along. And I had a good dinner and enough of it.
I had to wait on the table, of course–that is, the tea and coffee. And I felt that a cup of good, strong tea would be a paneky. I wuz that wore out and flustrated that I felt that I needed a paneky to soothe.
And I got the rest all waited on and wuz jest a liftin’ my cup to my lips, the cup that cheers everybody but don’t inebriate ’em–good, strong Japan tea with cream in it. Oh, how good it smelt. But I hadn’t fairly got it to my mouth when I wuz called off sudden, before I had drinked a drop, for the case demanded help at once.
Miss Peedick had unexpected company come in, jest as they wuz a-settin’ down to the dinner-table, and she hadn’t hardly anything for dinner, and the company wuz very genteel–a minister and a Justice of the Peace–so she wanted to borrow a loaf of bread and a pie.
She is a good neighbor and is one that will put herself out for a neighborin’ female, and I went into the buttery, almost on the run, to get ’em for her, for her girl said she wanted to get ’em into the house and onto the table before Mr. Peedick come in with ’em from the horse barn, for they knew that Mr. Peedick would lead ’em out to dinner the very second they got into the house, and Miss Peedick didn’t want her husband to know that she had borrowed vittles, for he would be sure to let the cat out of the bag, right at the table, by speakin’ about ’em and comparin’ ’em with hern.
I see the necessity for urgent haste, and the trouble wuz that I hurried too much. In takin’ down a pie in my awful hurry, I tipped over a pan of milk right onto my dress. It wuz up high and I wuz right under the shelf, so that about three tea-cupsful went down into my neck. But the most went onto my dress, about five quarts, I should judge besides that that wuz tricklin’ down my backbone.
[Illustration: “I SEE THE NECESSITY FOR URGENT HASTE.”]
Wall, I started Serintha Ann Peedick off with her ma’s pie and bread, and then wiped up the floor as well as I could, and then I had to go and change my clothes. I had to change ’em clear through to my wrapper, for I wuz wet as sop–as wet as if I had been takin’ a milk swim.
Wall, the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose” wuz a-waitin’ for me to the table; the men had all got through and gone out. She sot right by me, and she had missed me, I could see. Her eyes looked bigger than ever, and more sad like.
She said, “she was dretful sorry for me,” and I believed her.
She asked me in a awe-stricken tone, “if I had such trials every day?”
And I told her “No, I didn’t.” I told her that things would run along smooth and agreeable for days and days, but that when things got to happenin’, they would happen right along for weeks at a time, sometimes, dretful curius. A hull batch of difficulties would rain down on anybody to once. Sez I, “You know Mr. Shakespeare says that’ Sorrows never come a-spyin’ along as single fighters, but they come in hull battles of ’em,’ or words to that effect.”
Sez I, in reasonable axents, “Mebby I shall have a hull lot of good things happen to me right along, one after another, some dretful agreeable days, and easy.”
Sez she in the same sad axents, and wonderin’, “Did you ever have another day in your hull life as hard as this you are a-passin’ through?”
“Oh, yes,” sez I, “lots of’em–some worse ones, and,” sez I, “the day has only jest begun yet, I presume I shall have lots and lots of new things happen to me before night. Because it is jest as I tell you, when things get to happenin’ there hain’t no tellin’ when they will ever stop.”
Miss Fogg groaned, a low, deep groan, and that is every word she said, only after a little while she spoke up, and sez:
“You hain’t eaten a bit of dinner; it all got cold while you wuz a changin’ your dress.”
“Oh, wall,” sez I, “I can get along some way. And I must hurry up and get the table cleared off any way, and get to my work agin’, for I have got to do a lot of cookin’ this afternoon. It takes a sight of pies and cakes and such to satisfy twelve or a dozen men.”
So I went to work vigorously agin. But well might I tell Miss Fogg “that the day had only jest begun, and there wuz time for lots of things to happen before night,” for I had only jest got well to work on the ingregiences of my pies when Submit Tewksbury sent over “to see if I could let her have them sturchien seeds I had promised her–she wanted ’em to run up the inside of her bedroom winder, and shade her through the winter. She wuz jest a-settin’ out her winter stock of flower roots and seeds, and wanted ’em immegiatly, and to once, that is, if it was perfectly convenient,” so the boy said.
Submit is a good creeter, and she wouldn’t have put that burden on me on such a time for nothin’, not if she had known my tribulations; but she didn’t, and I felt that one trial more wouldn’t, as the poet hath well said, “either make or break me.”
So I went to huntin’ for the seeds. Wall, it wuz a good half-hour before I could find ’em, for of course it wuz natural nater, accordin’ to the total deprivity of things, that I should find ’em in the bottom of the last bag of seeds that I overhauled.
But Submit had been disappointed, and I didn’t want to make her burdens any heavier, so I sent her the sturchien seeds.
But it wuz a trial I do admit to look over more than forty bags of garden and flower seeds in such a time as that. But I sent ’em. I sent Submit the sturchien seeds, and then I laid to work again fast as I possibly could.
But I sez to the author of “Peaceful Repose,” I sez to her, sez I:
“I feel bad to think I hain’t gettin’ no time to hear you rehearse your lecture, but you can see jest how it is; you see I hain’t had a minute’s time today. Mebby I will get a few minutes’ time before night; I will try to,” sez I.
“Oh,” sez she, “it hain’t no matter about that; I–I–I somehow–I don’t feel like rehearsin’ it as it was.” Sez she, “I guess I shall make some changes in it before I rehearse it agin.”
Sez I, “You lay out to make a more mean thing of it, more megum.”
“Yes,” sez she, in faint axents, “I am a-thinkin’ of it.”
[Illustration: “AS I STARTED FOR THE BUTTERY.”]
“Wall,” sez I cheerfully, as I started for the buttery with a pile of cups in one hand, the castor and pickle dish in the other, and a pile of napkins under my arm, “I believe I shall like it as well again if you do, any way,” sez I, as I kicked away the cat that wuz a-clawin’ my dress, and opened the door with my foot, both hands bein’ full.
“Any way, there will be as much agin truth in it.”
Wall, I went to work voyalently, and in two hours’ time I had got my work quelled down some. But I had to strain nearly every nerve in the effort.
And I am afraid I didn’t use the colporter just exactly right, who come when I wuz right in the midst of puttin’ the ingregiences into my tea cakes. I didn’t enter so deep into the argument about the Revised New Testament as I should in easier and calmer times. I conversed considerable, I argued some with him, but I didn’t get so engaged as mebby I had ort to. He acted disappointed, and he didn’t stay and talk more’n an hour and three quarters.
He generally spends half a day with us. He is a master hand to talk; he’ll make your brain fairly spin round he talks so fast and handles such large, curius words. He talked every minute, only when I wuz a-answerin’ his questions.
[Illustration: “THERE WUZ SOMETHIN’ WRONG ABOUT ‘EM.”]
Wall, he had jest gone, the front gate had just clicked onto him, when Miss Philander Dagget came in at the back door. She had her press-board in her hand, and a coat over her arm, and I see in a minute that I had got another trial onto me. I see I had got to set her right.
I set her a chair, and she took off her sun-bonnet and hung it over the back of her chair, and set down, and then she asked me if I could spend time to put in the sleeves of her husband’s coat. She said “there wuz somethin’ wrong about em’, but she didn’t know what.”
She said “she wouldn’t have bothered me that day when I had so much round, but Philander had got to go to a funeral the next day, as one of the barriers, and he must have his coat.”
Wall, I wrung my hands out of the dish-water they was in at the time, and took the coat and looked at it, and the minute I set my eyes on it I see what ailed it I see she had got the sleeves sot in so the elbows come right in front of his arms, and if he had wore it in that condition to the funeral or anywhere else he would have had to fold up his arms right acrost his back; there wuzn’t no other possible way.
And then I turned tailoress and helped her out of her trouble. I sot the sleeves in proper, and fixed the collar. She had got it sot on as a ruffle. I drawed it down smooth where it ort to be and pinned it–and she went home feelin’ first rate.
I am very neighborly, and helpful, and am called so. Jonesville would miss me if any thing should happen.
[Illustration: “SHE IS APT TO GET THINGS WRONG.”]
I have often helped that woman a sight. She is a good, willin’ creeter, but she is apt to get things wrong, dretful apt. She made her little boy’s pantaloons once wrong side before, so it would seem that he would have to set down from the front side, or else stand up.
And twice she got her husband’s pantaloons sewed up so there wuz no way to get into em’ only to crawl up into ’em through the bottom of the legs. But I have always made a practice of rippin’ and tearin’ and bastin’, and settin’ her right, and I did now.
Wall, she hadn’t hardly got out of the back door, when Josiah Allen came in in awful distress, he had got a thorn in his foot, he had put on an old pair of boots, and there wuz a hole in the side of one of ’em, and the thorn had got in through the hole. It pained him dretfully, and he wuz jest as crazy as a loon for the time bein’. And he hollered the first thing that “he wanted some of Hall’s salve.” And I told him “there wuzn’t a mite in the house.”
And he hollered up and says, “There would be some if there wuz any sense in the head of the house.”
[Illustration: “HE WANTED SOME OF HALL’S SALVE.”]
I glanced up mechanically at his bald head, but didn’t say nothin’, for I see it wouldn’t do. And he hollered out agin, “Why hain’t there any Hall’s salve?” Sez I, “Because old Hall has been dead for years and years, and hain’t made any salve.”
“Wall, he wouldn’t have been dead if he had had any care took of him,” he yelled out.
“Why,” sez I, “he wuz killed by lightnin’; struck down entirely onexpected five years ago last summer.”
“Oh, argue and dispute with a dying man. Gracious Peter! what will become of me!” he groaned out, a-holdin’ his foot in his hand.
Sez I, “Let me put some Pond’s Extract on it, Josiah.”
“Pond’s Extract!” he yelled, and then he called that good remedy words I wuz ashamed to hear him utter.
And he jumped round and pranced and kicked just as it is the nater of man to act under bodily injury of that sort. And then he ordered me to take a pin and get the thorn out, and then acted mad as a hen at me all the time I wuz a-doin’ it; acted jest as if I wuz a-prickin’ him a-purpose.
He talked voyalent and mad. I tried to hush him down; I told him the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful Repose” would hear him, and he hollered back “he didn’t care a cent who heard him. He wuz killed, and he shouldn’t live to trouble anybody long if that pain kept up.”
His acts and words wuz exceedingly skairful to anybody who didn’t understand the nater of a man. But I wuzn’t moved by ’em so much as the width of a horse hair. Good land! I knew that jest as soon as the pain subsided he would be good as gold, so I kep’ on, cool and collected, and got the thorn out, and did up the suffering toe in Pond’s Extract, and I hadn’t only jest got it done, when, for all the world! if I didn’t see a double team stop in front of the house, and I peeked through the winder and see as it wuz the livery stable man from Jonesville, and he had brung down the last straws to be lifted onto the camel’s back–a hull lot of onexpected company. A hull load of ’em.
There wuz the Baptist minister and his wife and their three children, and the minister’s wife’s sister-in-law from the West, who wuz there a-visitin’, and the editor of the _Augur’ses_ wife (she wuz related to the visitor from the West by marriage) and three of the twins. And old Miss Minkley, she wuz acquainted with the visitor’s mother, used to go to school with her. And Drusilly Sypher, she wuz the visitor from the West’s bosom friend, or used to be.
Wall, they had all come down to spend the afternoon and visit with each other, and with me and Josiah, and stay to supper.
The author of “Peaceful Repose” sez to me, and she looked pale and skairt; she had heard every word Josiah had said, and she wuz dretful skairt and shocked (not knowin’ the ways of men, and not understandin’, as I said prior and before, that in two hours’ time he would be jest as good as the very best kind of pie, affectionate, and even spoony, if I would allow spoons, which I will not the most of the time). Wall, she proposed, Miss Fogg did, that she should ride back with the livery man. And though I urged her to stay till night, I couldn’t urge her as hard as I would otherwise, for by that time the head of the procession of visitors had reached the door-step, and I had to meet ’em with smiles.
[Illustration: “SHE PROPOSED THAT SHE SHOULD RIDE BACK WITH THE LIVERY MAN.”]
I smiled some, I thought I must. But they wuz curius smiles, very, strange-lookin’ smiles, sort o’ gloomy ones, and mournful lookin’. I have got lots of different smiles that I keep by me for different occasions, every woman has, and this wuz one of my most mournfulest and curiusest ones.
Wall, the author of “Wedlock’s Peaceful and Perfect Repose” insisted on goin’, and she went. And I sez to her as she went down the steps, “That if she would come up some other day when I didn’t have quite so much work round, I would be as good as my word to her about hearin’ her rehearse the lecture.”
But she said, as she hurried out to the gate, lookin’ pale an’ wan (as wan agin as she did when she came, if not wanner): “That she should make _changes_ in it before she ever rehearsed it agin–_deep changes_!”
And I should dare to persume to say that she did. Though, as I say, she went off most awful sudden, and I hadn’t seen nor heard from her sence till I got this letter.
Wall, jest as I got through with the authoresses letter, and Lodema Trumble’s, Josiah Allen came. And I hurried up the supper. I got it all on the table while I wuz a steepin’ my tea (it wuz good tea). And we sot down to the table happy as a king and his queen. I don’t s’pose queens make a practice of steepin’ tea, but mebby they would be better off if they did–and have better appetites and better tea. Any way we felt well, and the supper tasted good. And though Josiah squirmed some when I told him Lodema wuz approachin’ and would be there that very night or the next day–still the cloud wore away and melted off in the glowin’ mellowness of the hot tea and cream, the delicious oysters and other good things.
[Illustration: “MY PARDNER ENJOYS GOOD VITTLES.”]
My pardner, though, as he often says, is not a epicack, still he duz enjoy good vittles dretful well and appreciates ’em. And I make a stiddy practice of doin’ the best I can by him in this direction.
And if more females would foller on and cipher out this simple rule, and get the correct answer to it, the cramp in the right hands of divorce lawyers would almost entirely disappear.
For truly it seems that _no_ human man _could be_ more worrysome, and curius, and hard to get along with than Josiah Allen is at times; still, by stiddy keepin’ of my table set out with good vittles from day to day, and year to year, the golden cord of affection has bound him to me by ties that can’t never be broken into.
He worships me! And the better vittles I get, the more he thinks on me. For love, however true and deep it is, is still a tumultous sea; it has its high tides, and its low ones, its whirlpools, and its calms.
He loves me a good deal better some days than he does others; I see it in his mean. And mark you! mark it well, female reader, these days are the ones that I cook up sights and sights of good food, and with a cheerful countenance and clean apron, set it before him in a bright room, on a snowy table-cloth!
Great–great is the mystery of men’s love.
I have often and often repeated this simple fact and truth that underlies married life, and believe me, dear married sisters, too much cannot be said about it, by those whose hearts beat for the good of female and male humanity–and it _cannot_ be too closely followed up and practised by female pardners.
But I am a-eppisodin’; and to resoom.
Wall, Lodema Trumble arrove the next mornin’ bright and early–I mean the mornin’ wuz bright, not Lodema–oh no, fur from it; Lodema is never bright and cheerful–she is the opposite and reverse always.
She is a old maiden. I do think it sounds so much more respectful to call ’em so rather than “old maid” (but I had to tutor Josiah dretful sharp before I could get him into it).
I guess Lodema is one of the regular sort. There is different kinds of old maidens, some that could marry if they would, and some that would but couldn’t. And I ruther mistrust she is one of the “would-but-couldn’t’s,” though I wouldn’t dast to let her know I said so, not for the world.
Josiah never could bear the sight of her, and he sort o’ blamed her for bein’ a old maiden. But I put a stop to that sudden, for sez I:
“She hain’t to blame, Josiah.”
And she wuzn’t. I hain’t a doubt of it.
Wall, how long she calculated to stay this time we didn’t know. But we had our fears and forebodin’s about it; for she wuz in the habit of makin’ awful long visits. Why, sometimes she would descend right down onto us sudden and onexpected, and stay fourteen weeks right along–jest like a famine or a pestilence, or any other simely that you are a mind to bring up that is tuckerin’ and stiddy.
And she wuz disagreeable, I’ll confess, and she wuz tuckerin’, but I done well by her, and stood between her and Josiah all I could. He loved to put on her, and she loved to impose on him. I don’t stand up for either on ’em, but they wuz at regular swords’ pints all the time a’most. And it come fearful tuff on me, fearful tuff, for I had to stand the brunt on it.
But she is a disagreeable creeter, and no mistake. She is one of them that can’t find one solitary thing or one solitary person in this wide world to suit ’em. If the weather is cold she is pinin’ for hot weather, and if the weather is hot she is pantin’ for zero.
[Illustration: “BUT SHE IS A DISAGREEABLE CREETER.”]
If it is a pleasant day the sun hurts her eyes, and if it is cloudy she groans aloud and says “she can’t see.”
And no human bein’ wuz ever known to suit her. She gets up early in the mornin’ and puts on her specs, and goes out (as it were) a-huntin’ up faults in folks. And she finds ’em, finds lots of ’em. And then she spends the rest of the day a-drivin’ ’em ahead of her, and groanin’ at ’em.
You know this world bein’ such a big place and so many different sort o’ things in it that you can generally find in it the perticuler sort of game you set out to hunt in the mornin’.
If you set out to hunt beauty and goodness, if you take good aim and are perseverin’–if you jest track ’em and foller ’em stiddy from mornin’ till night, and don’t get led away a-follerin’ up some other game, such as meanness and selfishness and other such worthless head o’ cattle–why, at night you will come in with a sight of good game. You will be a noble and happy hunter.
[Illustration: “BUT FIT WITH THEIR TONGUES, FEARFUL.”]
At the same time, if you hunt all day for faults you will come in at night with sights of pelts. You will find what you hunt for, track ’em right along and chase ’em down. Wall, Lodema never got led away from her perticuler chase. She just hunted faults from mornin’ till night, and done well at it. She brought in sights of skins.
But oh! wuzn’t it disagreeable in the extreme to Samantha, who had always tried to bend her bow and bring down Beauty, to have her familiar huntin’ grounds turned into so different a warpath. It wuz disagreeable! It wuz! It wuz!
And then, havin’ to stand between her and Josiah too, wuz fearful wearin’ on me. I had always stood there in the past, and now in this visit it wuz jest the same; all the hull time, till about the middle of the fifth week, I had to stand between their two tongues–they didn’t fight with their hands, but fit with their tongues, fearful.
But along about the middle of the fifth week I see a change. Lodema had been uncommon exasperatin’, and I expected she would set Josiah to goin’, and I groaned in spirit, to think what a job wuz ahead of me, to part their two tongues–when all of a sudden I see a curius change come over my pardner’s face.
I remember jest the date that the change in his mean wuz visible, and made known to me–for it wuz the very mornin’ that we got the invitation to old Mr. and Miss Pressley’s silver weddin’. And that wuz the fifteenth day of the month along about the middle of the forenoon.
And it wuz not half an hour after Elnathen Pressley came to the door and give us the invitations, that I see the change in his mean.
And when I asked him about it afterwards, what that strange and curius look meant, he never hung back a mite from tellin’ me, but sez right out plain:
“Mebby, Samantha, I hain’t done exactly as I ort to by cousin Lodema, and I have made up my mind to make her a happy surprise before she goes away.”
“Wall,” sez I, “so do.”
I thought he wuz goin’ to get her a new dress. She had been a-hintin’ to him dretful strong to that effect. She wanted a parmetty, or a balzereen, or a circassien, which wuz in voge in her young days. But I wuz in hopes he would get her a cashmere, and told him so, plain.
But I couldn’t get him to tell what the surprise wuz. He only sez, sez he:
“I am goin’ to make her a happy surprise.”
And the thought that he wuz a-goin’ to branch out and make a change, wuz considerable of a comfort to me. And I needed comfort–yes, indeed I did–I needed it bad. For not one single thing did I do for her that I done right, though I tried my best to do well by her.
But she found fault with my vittles from mornin’ till night, though I am called a excellent cook all over Jonesville, and all round the adjoining country, out as far as Loontown, and Zoar. It has come straight back to me by them that wouldn’t lie. But it hain’t made me vain.
But I never cooked a thing that suited Lodema, not a single thing. Most of my vittles wuz too fresh, and then if I braced up and salted ’em extra so as to be sure to please her, why then they wuz briny, and hurt her mouth.
Why, if you’ll believe it, I give her a shawl, made her a present of it; it had even checks black and white, jest as many threads in the black stripes as there wuz in the white, for I counted ’em.
And she told me, after she had looked it all over and said it wuz kinder thin and slazy, and checkered shawls had gone out of fashion, and the black looked some as if it would fade with washin’, and the white wuzn’t over clear, and the colors wuzn’t no ways becomin’ to her complexion, and etcetery, etcetery.
“But,” sez she, after she had got all through with the rest of her complaints–“if the white stripes wuz where the black wuz, and the black where the white wuz, she should like it quite well.” And there it wuz, even check, two and two. Wall, that wuz a sample of her doin’s. If anybody had a Roman nose she wanted a Greecy one.
[Illustration:”IF THE WHITE STRIPES WUZ WHERE THE BLACK WUZ.”]
And if the nose wuz Greece, why then she wanted Rome.
Why, Josiah sez to me along about the third week, he said (to ourselves, in private), “that if Lodema went to Heaven she would be dissatisfied with it, and think it wuz livelier, and more goin’ on down to the other place.” And he said she would get the angels all stirred up a findin’ fault with their feathers.
I told him “I would not hear such talk.”
“Wall,” sez he, “don’t you believe it?”
And I kinder turned him off, and wouldn’t tell, and told him it wuz wicked to talk so.
“Wall,” sez Josiah, “you dassent say she wouldn’t.”
And I dassent, though I wouldn’t own it up to him, I dassent.
And if she kinder got out of other occupations for a minute durin’ them first weeks she would be a quarrelin’ with Josiah Allen about age.
I s’pose she and Josiah wuzn’t far from the same age, for they wuz children together. But she wanted to make out she wuz young.
And she would tell Josiah that “he seemed jest like a father to her, and always had.” And sometimes when she felt the most curius, she would call him “Father,” and “Pa,” and “Papa.” And it would mad Josiah Allen so that I would have all I could do to quell him down.
Now I didn’t feel so, I didn’t mind it so much. Why, there would be days, when she felt the curiusest, that she would call me “Mother,” and “Ma,” and foller me round with foot-stools and things, when I went to set down, and would kinder worry over my fallin’ off the back step, and would offer to help me up the suller stairs, and so forth, and watchin’ over what I et, and tellin’ me folks of my age ort to be careful, and not over-eat.
And Josiah asked me to ask her “How she felt about that time?” For she wuz from three to four years older than I wuz.
But I wouldn’t contend with her, and the footstools come kinder handy, I had jest as lieve have ’em under my feet as not, and ruther. And as for rich vittles not agreein’ with me, and my not over-eatin’, I broke that tip by fallin’ right in with her, and not cookin’ such good things–that quelled her down, and gaulded Josiah too.
But, as I said, it riled Josiah the worst of anything to have Lodema call him father, for he wants to make out that he is kinder young himself.
And sez he to her one day, about the third week, when she was a-goin’ on about how good and fatherly he looked, and how much he seemed like a parent to her, and always had, sez he: “I wonder if I seemed like a father to you when we wuz a-kickin’ at each other in the same cradle?” Sez he: “We both used to nuss out of the same bottle, any way, for I have heard my mother say so lots of times. There wuzn’t ten days’ difference in our ages. You wuz ten days the oldest as I have always made out.”
She screamed right out, “Why, Josiah Allen, where is your conscience to talk in that way–and your heart?”
“In here, where everybody’s is,” sez Josiah, strikin’ himself with his right hand–he meant to strike against his left breast, but struck too low, kinder on his stomach.
And sez I, “That is what I have always thought, Josiah Allen. I have always had better luck reachin’ your conscience through your stomach than in any other way. And now,” sez I coldly, “do you go out and bring in a pail of water.”
I used to get beat out and sick of their scufflin’s and disagreein’s, and broke ’em up whenever I could.
But oh! oh! how she did quarrel with Josiah Allen and that buzz saw scheme of his’n. How light she made of that enterprise, how she demeaned the buzz, and run the saws–till I felt that bad as I hated the enterprise myself, I felt that a variety of loud buzz saws would be a welcome relief from her tongue–from their two tongues; for as fur down as she would run them buzz saws, jest so fur would Josiah Allen praise ’em up.
[Illustration: LODEMA AND JOSIAH IN YOUTH.]
She never agreed with Josiah Allen but in jest one thing while she was under his ruff. I happened to mention one day how extremely anxious I wuz to have females set on the Conference; and then, wantin’ to dispute