Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Widger and PG Distributed Proofreaders
AMONG THE BRETHREN.
“Josiah Allen’s Wife”
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.
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