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SAMANTHA AT SARATOGA BY JOSIAH ALLEN’S WIFE (Marietta Holly)
TO THE GREAT ARMY OF
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
BY THEIR COMRADE AND FELLOW WANDERER THE AUTHOR
CHAPTER I. SAMANTHA AT SARATOGA
CHAPTER II. ARDELIA TUTT AND HER MOTHER
CHAPTER III. THE CHERITY OF THE JONESVILLIANS
CHAPTER IV. ARDELIA AND ABRAM GEE
CHAPTER V. WE ARRIVE AT SARATOGA
CHAPTER VI. SARATOGA BY DAYLIGHT
CHAPTER VII. SEEING THE DIFFERENT SPRINGS
CHAPTER VIII. JOSIAH AND SAMANTHA TAKE A LONG WALK
CHAPTER IX. JOSIAH’S FLIRTATIONS
CHAPTER X. MISS G. WASHINGTON FLAMM
CHAPTER XI. VISIT TO THE INDIAN ENCAMPMENT
CHAPTER XII. A DRIVE TO SARATOGA LAKE
CHAPTER XIII. VISITS TO NOTABLE PLACES
CHAPTER XIV. LAKE GEORGE AND MOUNT McGREGOR
CHAPTER XV. ADVENTURES AT VARIOUS SPRINGS
CHAPTER XVI. AT A LAWN PARTY
CHAPTER XVII. A TRIP TO SCHUYLERVILLE
CHAPTER XVIII. THE SOCIAL SCIENCE MEETING
CHAPTER XIX. ST. CHRISTINA’S HOME
CHAPTER XX. AN ACCIDENT WITH RESULTS
A SORT OF PREFACE.
WHICH IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO READ.
When Josiah read my dedication he said “it wuz a shame to dedicate a book that it had took most a hull bottle of ink to write, to a lot of creeters that he wouldn’t have in the back door yard.”
But I explained it to him, that I didn’t mean tramps with broken hats, variegated pantaloons, ventilated shirt-sleeves, and barefooted. But I meant tramps with diamond ear-rings, and cuff-buttons, and Saratoga trunks, and big accounts at their bankers.
And he said, “Oh, shaw!”
But I went on nobly, onmindful of that shaw, as female pardners have to be, if they accomplish all the talkin’ they want to.
And sez I, “It duz seem sort o’ pitiful, don’t it, to think how sort o’ homeless the Americans are a gettin’? How the posys that blow under the winders of Home are left to waste their sweet breaths amongst the weeds, while them that used to love ’em are a climbin’ mountain tops after strange nosegays.”
The smoke that curled up from the chimbleys, a wreathin’ its way up to the heavens — all dead and gone. The bright light that shone out of the winder through the dark a tellin’ everybody that there wuz a Home, and some one a waitin’ for somebody — all dark and lonesome.
Yes, the waiter and the waited for are all a rushin’ round somewhere, on the cars, mebby, or a yot, a chasin’ Pleasure, that like as not settled right down on the eves of the old house they left, and stayed there.
I wonder if they will find her there when they go back again. Mebby they will, and then agin, mebby they won’t. For Happiness haint one to set round and lame herself a waitin’ for folks to make up their minds.
Sometimes she looks folks full in the face, sort o’ solemn like and heart-searchin’, and gives ’em a fair chance what they will chuse. And then if they chuse wrong, shee’ll turn her back to ’em, for always. I’ve hearn of jest such cases.
But it duz seem sort o’ solemn to think — how the sweet restful felin’s that clings like ivy round the old familier door steps — where old 4 fathers feet stopped, and stayed there, and baby feet touched and then went away — I declare for’t, it almost brings tears, to think how that sweet clingin’ vine of affection, and domestic repose, and content — how soon that vine gets tore up nowadays.
It is a sort of a runnin’ vine anyway, and folks use it as sech, they run with it. Jest as it puts its tendrils out to cling round some fence post, or lilock bush, they pull it up, and start off with it. And then its roots get dry, and it is some time before it will begin to put out little shoots and clingin’ leaves agin round some petickular mountain top, or bureau or human bein’. And then it is yanked up agin, poor little runnin’ vine, and run with — and so on — and so on — and so on.
Why sometimes it makes me fairly heart-sick to think on’t. And I fairly envy our old 4 fathers, who used to set down for several hundred years in one spot. They used to get real rested, it must be they did.
Jacob now, settin’ right by that well of his’n for pretty nigh two hundred years. How much store he must have set by it during the last hundred years of ’em! How attached he must have been to it!
Good land! Where is there a well that one of our rich old American patriarks will set down by for two years, leavin’ off the orts. There haint none, there haint no such a well. Our patriarks haint fond of well water, anyway.
And old Miss Abraham now, and Miss Isaac — what stay to home wimmen they wuz, and equinomical!
What a good contented creeter Sarah Abraham wuz. How settled down, and stiddy, stayin’ right to home for hundreds of years. Not gettin’ rampent for a wider spear, not a coaxin’ old Mr. Abraham nights to take her to summer resorts, and winter hants of fashion.
No, old Mr. Abraham went to bed, and went to sleep for all of her.
And when they did once in a hundred years, or so, make up their minds to move on a mile or so, how easy they traveled. Mr. Abraham didn’t have to lug off ten or twelve wagon loads of furniture to the Safe Deposit Company, and spend weeks and weeks a settlin’ his bisness, in Western lands, and Northern mines, Southern railroads, and Eastern wildcat stocks, to get ready to go. And Miss Abraham didn’t have to have a dozen dress-makers in the house for a month or two, and messenger boys, and dry goods clerks, and have to stand and be fitted for basks and polenays, and back drapery, and front drapery, and tea gowns, and dinner gowns, and drivin’ gowns, and mornin’ gowns, and evenin’ gowns, and etectery, etcetery, etcetery.
No, all the preperations she had to make wuz to wrop her mantilly a little closter round her, and all Mr. Abraham had to do wuz to gird up his lions. That is what it sez. And I don’t believe it would take much time to gird up a few lions, it don’t seem to me as if it would.
And when these few simple preperations had been made, they jest histed up their tent and laid it acrost a camel, and moved on a mild or two, walkin’ afoot.
Why jest imagine if Miss Abraham had to travel with eight or ten big Saratoga trunks, how could they have been got up onto that camel? It couldn’t lave been done. The camel would have died, and old Mr. Abraham would also have expired a tryin’ to lift ’em up. No, it was all for the best.
And jest think on’t, for all of these simple, stay to home ways, they called themselves Pilgrims and Sojourners. Good land! What would they have thought nowadays to see folks make nothin’ of settin’ off for China, or Japan or Jerusalem before breakfast.
And what did they know of the hardships of civilization? Now to sposen the case, sposen Miss Abraham had to live in New York winters, and go to two or three big receptions every day, and to dinner parties, and theatre parties, and operas and such like, evenin’s, and receive and return about three thousand calls, and be on more ‘n a dozen charitable boards (hard boards they be too, some on ’em) and lots of other projects and enterprizes — be on the go the hull winter, with a dress so tight she couldn’t breathe instead of her good loose robes, and instead of her good comfortable sandals have her feet upon high-heeled shoes pinchin’ her corns almost unto distraction. And then to Washington to go all through it agin, and more too, and Florida, and Cuba; and then to the sea-shore and have it all over agin with sea bathin’ added.
And then to the mountains, and all over agin with climbin’ round added. Then to Europe, with seas sickness, picture galleries, etc., added. And so on home agin in the fall to begin it all over agin.
Why Miss Abraham would be so tuckered out before she went half through with one season, that she would be a dead 4 mother.
And Mr. Abraham — why one half hour down at the stock exchange would have been too much for that good old creeter. The yells and cries, and distracted movements of the crowd of Luker Gatherers there, would have skairt him to death. He never would have lived to follow Miss Abraham round from pillow to post through summer and winter seasons — he wouldn’t have lived to waltz, or toboggen, or suffer other civilized agonies. No, he would have been a dead patriark. And better off so, I almost think.
Not but what I realize that civilization has its advantages. Not but what I know that if Mr. Abraham wanted Miss Abraham to part his hair straight, or clean off his phylackrity when she happened to be out a pickin’ up manny, he couldn’t stand on one side of his tent and telephone to bring her back, but had to yell at her.
And I realize fully that if one of his herd got strayed off into another county, they hadn’t no telegraf to head it off, but the old man had to poke off through rain or sun, and hunt it up himself. And he couldn’t set down cross-legged in front of his tent in the mornin’, and read what happened on the other side of the world, the evenin’ before.
And I know that if he wanted to set down some news, they had to kill a sheep, and spend several years a dressin’ off the hide into parchment — and kill a goose, or chase it up till they wuz beat out, for a goose-quill.
And then after about 20 years or so, they could put it down that Miss Isaac had got a boy — the boy, probably bein’ a married man himself and a father when the news of his birth wuz set down.
I realize this, and also the great fundimental fact that underlies all philosophies, that you can’t set down and stand up at the same time — and that no man, however pure and lofty his motives may be, can’t lean up against a barn door, and walk off simultanious. And if he don’t walk off, then the great question comes in, How will he get there? And he feels lots of times that he must stand up so’s to bring his head up above the mullien and burdock stalks, amongst which he is a settin’, and get a wider view-a broader horizeon. And he feels lots of time, that he must get there.
This is a sort of a curius world, and it makes me feel curius a good deal of the time as we go through it. But we have to make allowances for it, for the old world is on a tramp, too. It can’t seem to stop a minute to oil up its old axeltrys — it moves on, and takes us with it. It seems to be in a hurry.
Everything seems to be in a hurry here below. And some say Heaven is a place of continual sailin’ round and goin’ up and up all the time. But while risin’ up and soarin’ is a sweet thought to me, still sometimes I love to think that Heaven is a place where I can set down, and set for some time.
I told Josiah so (waked him up, for he wuz asleep), and he said he sot more store on the golden streets, and the wavin’ palms, and the procession of angels. (And then he went to sleep agin.)
But I don’t feel so. I’d love, as I say, to jest set down for quite a spell, and set there, to be kinder settled down and to home with them whose presence makes a home anywhere. I wouldn’t give a cent to sail round unless I wuz made to know it wuz my duty to sail. Josiah wants to.
But, as I say, everybody is in a hurry. Husbands can’t hardly find time to keep up a acquaintance with their wives. Fathers don’t have no time to get up a intimate acquaintance with their children. Mothers are in such a hurry — babys are in such a hurry — that they can’t scarcely find time to be born. And I declare for’t, it seems sometimes as if folks don’t want to take time to die.
The old folks at home wait with faithful, tired old eyes for the letter that don’t come, for the busy son or daughter hasn’t time to write it — no, they are too busy a tearin’ up the running vine of affection and home love, and a runnin’ with it.
Yes, the hull nation is in a hurry to get somewhere else, to go on, it can’t wait. It is a trampin’ on over the Western slopes, a trampin’ over red men, and black men, and some white men a hurryin’ on to the West — hurryin’ on to the sea. And what then?
Is there a tide of restfulness a layin’ before it? Some cool waters of repose where it will bathe its tired forward, and its stun-bruised feet, and set there for some time?
I don’t s’pose so. I don’t s’pose it is in its nater to. I s’pose it will look off longingly onto the far off somewhere that lays over the waters — beyend the sunset.
JOSIAH ALLEN’S WIFE. NEW YORK, June, 1887.
SAMANTHA AT SARATOGA.
The idee on’t come to me one day about sundown, or a little before sundown. I wuz a settin’ in calm peace, and a big rockin’ chair covered with a handsome copperplate, a readin’ what the Sammist sez about “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” The words struck deep, and as I said, it was jest that very minute that the idee struck me about goin’ to Saratoga. Why I should have had the idee at jest that minute, I can’t tell, nor Josiah can’t. We have talked about it sense.
But good land! such creeters as thoughts be never wuz, nor never will be. They will creep in, and round, and over anything, and get inside of your mind (entirely unbeknown to you) at any time. Curious, haint it? — How you may try to hedge ’em out, and shet the doors and everything. But they will creep up into your mind, climb up and draw up their ladders, and there they will be, and stalk round independent as if they owned your hull head; curious!
Well, there the idee wuz — I never knew nothin’ about it, nor how it got there. But there it wuz, lookin’ me right in the face of my soul, kinder pert and saucy, sayin’, “You’d better go to Saratoga next summer; you and Josiah.”
But I argued with it. Sez I, “What should we go to Saratoga for? None of the relations live there on my side, or on hison; why should we go?”
But still that idee kep’ a hantin me; “You’d better go to Saratoga next summer, you and Josiah.” And it whispered, “Mebby it will help Josiah’s corns.” (He is dretful troubled with corns.) And so the idee kep’ a naggin’ me, it nagged me for three days and three nights before I mentioned it to my Josiah. And when I did, he scorfed at the idee. He said, “The idee of water curing them dumb corns — “
Sez I, “Josiah Allen, stranger things have been done;” sez I, “that water is very strong. It does wonders.”
And he scorfed agin and sez, “Don’t you believe faith could cure em?”
Sez I, “If it wuz strong enough it could.”
But the thought kep a naggin’ me stiddy, and then — here is the curious part of it — the thought nagged me, and I nagged Josiah, or not exactly nagged; not a clear nag; I despise them, and always did. But I kinder kep’ it before his mind from day to day, and from hour to hour. And the idee would keep a tellin’ me things and I would keep a tellin’ ’em to my companion. The idee would keep a sayin’ to me, “It is one of the most beautiful places in our native land. The waters will help you, the inspirin’ music, and elegance and gay enjoyment you will find there, will sort a uplift you. You had better go there on a tower;” and agin it sez, “Mebby it will help Josiah’s corns.”
And old Dr. Gale a happenin’ in at about that time, I asked him about it (he doctored me when I wuz a baby, and I have helped ’em for years. Good old creetur, he don’t get along as well as he ort to. Loontown is a healthy place.) I told him about my strong desire to go to Saratoga, and I asked him plain if he thought the water would help my pardner’s corns. And he looked dreadful wise and he riz up and walked across the floor 2 and fro several times, probably 3 times to, and the same number of times fro, with his arms crossed back under the skirt of his coat and his eyebrows knit in deep thought, before he answered me. Finely he said, that modern science had not fully demonstrated yet the direct bearing of water on corn. In some cases it might and probably did stimulate ’em to greater luxuriance, and then again a great flow of water might retard their growth.
Sez I, anxiously, “Then you’d advise me to go there with him?”
“Yes,” sez he, “on the hull, I advise you to go.”
Them words I reported to Josiah, and sez I in anxious axents, “Dr. Gale advises us to go.”
And Josiah sez, “I guess I shan’t mind what that old fool sez.”
Them wuz my pardner’s words, much as I hate to tell on ’em. But from day to day I kep’ it stiddy before him, how dang’r’us it wuz to go ag’inst a doctor’s advice. And from day to day he would scorf at the plan. And I, ev’ry now and then, and mebby oftener, would get him a extra good meal, and attack him on the subject immegatly afterwards. But all in vain. And I see that when he had that immovible sotness onto him, one extra meal wouldn’t soften or molify him. No, I see plain I must make a more voyalent effort. And I made it. For three stiddy days I put before that man the best vittles that these hands could make, or this brain could plan.
And at the end of the 3d day I gently tackled him agin on the subject, and his state wuz such, bland, serene, happified, that he consented without a parlay. And so it wuz settled that the next summer we wuz to go to Saratoga. And he began to count on it and make preparation in a way that I hated to see.
Yes, from the very minute that our two minds wuz made up to go to Saratoga Josiah Allen wuz set on havin’ sunthin new and uneek in the way of dress and whiskers. I looked coldly on the idee of puttin’ a gay stripe down the legs of the new pantaloons I made for him, and broke it up, also a figured vest. I went through them two crisises and came out triumphent.
Then he went and bought a new bright pink necktie with broad long ends which he intended to have float out, down the front of his vest. And I immegatly took it for the light-colored blocks in my silk log-cabin bedquilt. Yes, I settled the matter of that pink neck-gear with a high hand and a pair of shears. And Josiah sez now that he bought it for that purpose, for the bedquilt, because he loves to see a dressy quilt, — sez he always enjoys seein’ a cabin look sort o’ gay. But good land! he didn’t. He intended and calculated to wear that neck-tie into Saratoga, — a sight for men and angels, if I hadn’t broke it up.
But in the matter of whiskers, there I was powerless. He trimmed ’em (unbeknow to me) all off the side of his face, them good honerable side whiskers of hisen, that had stood by him for years in solemnity and decency, and begun to cultivate a little patch on the end of his chin. I argued with him, and talked well on the subject, eloquent, but it wuz of no use, I might as well have argued with the wind in March.
He said, he wuz bound on goin’ into Saratoga with a fashionable whisker, come what would.
And then I sithed, and he sez, — ” You have broke up my pantaloons, my vest, and my neck-tie, you have ground me down onto plain broadcloth, but in the matter of whiskers I am firm! Yes!” sez he “on these whiskers I take my stand!”
And agin I sithed heavy, and I sez in a dretful impressive way, as I looked on ’em, “Josiah Allen, remember you are a father and a grandfather!”
And he sez firmly, “If I wuz a great-grandfather I would trim my whiskers in jest this way, that is if I wuz a goin’ to set up to be fashionable and a goin’ to Saratoga for my health.”
And I groaned kinder low to myself, and kep’ hopin’ that mebby they wouldn’t grow very fast, or that some axident would happen to ’em, that they would get afire or sunthin’. But they didn’t. And they grew from day to day luxurient in length, but thin. And his watchful care kep’ ’em from axident, and I wuz too high princepled to set fire to ’em when he wuz asleep, though sometimes, on a moonlight night, I was tempted to, sorely tempted.
But I didn’t, and they grew from day to day, till they wuz the curiusest lookin’ patch o’ whiskers that I ever see. And when we sot out for Saratoga, they wuz jest about as long as a shavin’ brush, and looked some like one. There wuz no look of a class-leader, and a perfesser about ’em, and I told him so. But he worshiped ’em, and gloried in the idee of goin’ afar to show ’em off.
But the neighbors received the news that we wuz goin’ to a waterin’ place coldly, or with ill-concealed envy.
Uncle Jonas Bently told us he shouldn’t think we would want to go round to waterin’ troughs at our age.
And I told him it wuzn’t a waterin’ trough, and if it wuz, I thought our age wuz jest as good a one as any, to go to it.
He had the impression that Saratoga wuz a immense waterin’ trough where the country all drove themselves summers to be watered. He is deef as a Hemlock post, and I yelled up at him jest as loud as I dast for fear of breakin’ open my own chest, that the water got into us, instid of our gettin’ into the water, but I didn’t make him understand, for I hearn afterwards of his sayin’ that, as nigh as he could make out we all got into the waterin’ trough and wuz watered.
The school teacher, a young man, with long, small lims, and some pimpley on the face, but well meanin’, he sez to me: “Saratoga is a beautiful spah.”
And I sez warmly, “It aint no such thing, it is a village, for I have seen a peddler who went right through it, and watered his horses there, and he sez it is a waterin’ place, and a village.”
“Yes,” sez he, “it is a beautiful village, a modest retiren city, and at the same time it is the most noted spah on this continent.”
I wouldn’t contend with him for it wuz on the stoop of the meetin’ house, and I believe in bein’ reverent. But I knew it wuzn’t no “spah,” — that had a dreadful flat sound to me. And any way I knew I should face its realities soon and know all about it. Lots of wimen said that for anybody who lived right on the side of a canal, and had two good, cisterns on the place, and a well, they didn’t see why I should feel in a sufferin’ condition for any more water; and if I did, why didn’t I ketch rain water?
Such wuz some of the deep arguments they brung up aginst my embarkin’ on this enterprise, they talked about it sights and sights; — why, it lasted the neighbors for a stiddy conversation, till along about the middle of the winter. Then the Minister’s wife bought a new alpacky dress — unbeknown to the church till it wuz made up — and that kind o’ drawed their minds off o’ me for a spell.
Aunt Polly Pixley wuz the only one who received the intelligence gladly. And she thought she would go too. She had been kinder run down and most bed rid for years. And she had a idee the water might help her. And I encouraged Aunt Polly in the idee, for she wuz well off. Yes, Mr. and Miss Pixley wuz very well off though they lived in a little mite of a dark, low, lonesome house, with some tall Pollard willows in front of the door in a row, and jest acrost the road from a grave-yard.
Her husband had been close and wuzn’t willin’ to have any other luxury or means of recreation in the house only a bass viol, that had been his father’s — he used to play on that for hours and hours. I thought that wuz one reason why Polly wuz so nervous. I said to Josiah that it would have killed me outright to have that low grumblin’ a goin’ on from day to day, and to look at them tall lonesome willows and grave stuns.
But, howsumever, Polly’s husband had died durin’ the summer, and Polly parted with the bass viol the day after the funeral. She got out some now, and wuz quite wrought up with the idee of goin’ to Saratoga.
But Sister Minkley; sister in the church and sister-in-law by reason of Wbitefield, sez to me, that she should think I would think twice before I danced and waltzed round waltzes.
And I sez, “I haint thought of doin’ it, I haint thought of dancin’ round or square or any other shape.”
Sez she, “You have got to, if you go to Saratoga.”
Sez I, “Not while life remains in this frame.”
And old Miss Bobbet came up that minute — it wuz in the store that we were a talkin’ — and sez she, “It seems to me, Josiah Allen’s wife, that you are too old to wear low-necked dresses and short sleeves.”
“And I should think you’d take cold a goin’ bareheaded,” sez Miss Luman Spink who wuz with her.
Sez I, lookin’ at ’em coldly, “Are you lunys or has softness begun on your brains?”
“Why,” sez they, “you are talking about goin’ to Saratoga, hain’t you?”
“Yes,” sez I.
“Well then you have got to wear ’em,” says Miss Bobbet. “They don’t let anybody inside of the incorporation without they have got on a low-necked dress and short sleeves.”
“And bare-headed,” sez Miss Spink; “if they have’ got a thing on their heads they won’t let ’em in.”
Sez I, “I don’t believe it”
Sez Miss Bobbet, “It is so, for I hearn it, and hearn it straight. James Robbets’s wife’s sister had a second cousin who lived neighbor to a woman whose niece had been there, been right there on the spot. And Celestine Bobbet, Uncle Ephraim’s Celestine, hearn it from James’es wife when she wuz up there last spring, it come straight. They all have to go in low necks.”
“And not a mite of anything on their heads,” says Miss Spink.
Sez I in sarcastical axents, “Do men have to go in low necks too?”
“No,” says Miss Bobbet. “But they have to have the tails of their coats kinder pinted. Why,” sez she, “I hearn of a man that had got clear to the incorporation and they wouldn’t let him in because his coat kinder rounded off round the bottom, so he went out by the side of the road and pinned up his coat tails, into a sort of a pinted shape, and good land the incorporation let him right in, and never said a word.”
I contended that these things wuzn’t so, but I found it wuz the prevailin’ opinion. For when I went to see the dressmaker about makin’ me a dress for the occasion, I see she felt just like the rest about it. My dress wuz a good black alpacky. I thought I would have it begun along in the edge of the winter, when she didn’t have so much to do, and also to have it done on time. We laid out to start on the follerin’ July, and I felt that I wanted everything ready.
I bought the dress the 7th day of November early in the forenoon, the next day after my pardner consented to go, and give 65 cents a yard for it, double wedth. I thought I could get it done on time, dressmakers are drove a good deal. But I felt that a dressmaker could commence a dress in November and get it done the follerin’ July, without no great strain bein’ put onto her; and I am fur from bein’ the one to put strains onto wimmen, and hurry ’em beyend their strength. But I felt Almily had time to make it on honor and with good buttonholes.
“Well,” she sez, the first thing after she had unrolled the alpacky, and held it up to the light to see if it was firm — sez she:
“I s’pose you are goin’ to have it made with a long train, and low neck and short sleeves, and the waist all girted down to a taper?”
I wuz agast at the idee, and to think Alminy should broach it to me, and I give her a piece of my mind that must have lasted her for days and days. It wuz a long piece, and firm as iron. But she is a woman who likes to have the last word and carry out her own idees, and she insisted that nobody was allowed in Saratoga — that they wuz outlawed, and laughed at if they didn’t have trains and low necks, and little mites of waists no bigger than pipe-stems.
Sez I, “Alminy Hagidone, do you s’pose that I, a woman of my age, and a member of the meetin’ house, am a goin’ to wear a low-necked dress?”
“Why not?,” sez she, “it is all the fashion and wimmen as old agin as you be wear ’em.”
Well, sez I, “It is a shame and a disgrace if they do, to say nothin’ of the wickedness of it. Who do you s’pose wants to see their old skin and bones? It haint nothin’ pretty anyway. And as fer the waists bein’ all girted up and drawed in, that is nothin’ but crushed bones and flesh and vitals, that is just crowdin’ down your insides into a state o’ disease and deformity, torturin’ your heart down so’s the blood can’t circulate, and your lungs so’s you can’t breathe, it is nothin’ but slow murder anyway, and if I ever take it into my head to kill myself, Alminy Hagidone, I haint a goin’ to do it in a way of perfect torture and torment to me, I’d ruther be drownded.”
She quailed, and I sez, “I am one that is goin’ to take good long breaths to the very last.” She see I wuz like iron aginst the idee of bein’ drawed in, and tapered, and she desisted. I s’pose I did look skairful. But she seemed still to cling to the idee of low necks and trains, and she sez sort a rebukingly:
“You ortn’t to go to Saratoga if you haint willin’ to do as the rest do. I spose,” sez she dreamily, “the streets are full of wimmen a walkin’ up and down with long trains a hangin’ down and sweepin’ the streets, and ev’ry one on ’em with low necks and short sleeves, and all on ’em a flirting with some man”
“Truly,” sez I, “if that is so, that is why the idee come to me. I am needed there. I have a high mission to perform about. But I don’t believe it is so.”
“Then you won’t have it made with a long train?” sez she, a holdin’ up a breadth of the alpacky in front of me, to measure the skirt.
“No mom!” sez I, and there wuz both dignity and deep resolve in that “mom.” It wuz as firm and stern principled a “mom” as I ever see, though I say it that shouldn’t. And I see it skairt her. She measured off the breadths kinder trembly, and seemed so anxious to pacify me that she got it a leetle shorter in the back than it wuz in the front. And (for the same reason) it fairly clicked me in the neck it wuz so high, and the sleeves wuz that long that I told Josiah Allen (in confidence) I was tempted to knit some loops across the bottom of ’em and wear ’em for mits.
But I didn’t, and I didn’t change the dress neither. Thinkses I, mebby it will have a good moral effect on them other old wimmen there. Thinkses I, when they see another woman melted and shortened and choked fur principle’s sake, mebby they will pause in their wild careers.
Wall, this wuz in November, and I wuz to have the dress, if it wuz a possible thing, by the middle of April, so’s to get it home in time to sew some lace in the neck. And so havin’ everything settled about goin’ I wuz calm in my frame most all the time, and so wuz my pardner.
And right here, let me insert this one word of wisdom for the special comfort of my sect and yet it is one that may well be laid to heart by the more opposite one. If your pardner gets restless and oneasy and middlin’ cross, as pardners will be anon, or even oftener — start them off on a tower. A tower will in 9 cases out of 10 lift ’em out of their oneasiness, their restlessness and their crossness.
Why this is so I cannot tell, no more than I can explain other mysteries of creation, but I know it is so. I know they will come home more placider, more serener, and more settled-downer. Why I have known a short tower to Slab City or Loontown act like a charm on my pardner, when crossness wuz in his mean and snappishness wuz present with him. I have known him to set off with the mean of a lion and come back with the liniment of a lamb. Curious, haint it?
And jest the prospect of a tower ahead is a great help to a woman in rulin’ and keepin’ a pardner straight and right in his liniments and his acts. Somehow jest the thought of a tower sort a lifts him up in mind, and happifys him, and makes him easier to quell, and pardners must be quelled at times, else there would be no livin’ with ’em. This is known to all wimmen companions and and men too. Great great is the mystery of pardners.
ARDELLA TUTT AND HER MOTHER.
But to resoom and continue on. I was a settin’ one day, after it wuz all decided, and plans laid on; I wuz a settin’ by the fire a mendin’ one of Josiah’s socks. I wuz a settin’ there, as soft and pliable in my temper as the woosted I wuz a darnin’ ’em with, my Josiah at the same time a peacefelly sawin’ wood in the wood-house, when I heard a rap at the door and I riz up and opened it, and there stood two perfect strangers, females. I, with a perfect dignity and grace (and with the sock still in my left hand) asked ’em to set down, and consequently they sot. Then ensued a slight pause durin’ which my two gray eyes roamed over the females before me.
The oldest one wuz very sharp in her face and had a pair of small round eyes that seemed when they were sot onto you to sort a bore into you like two gimlets. Her nose was very sharp and defient, as if it wuz constantly sayin’ to itself, “I am a nose to be looked up to, I am a nose to be respected, and feared if necessary.” Her chin said the same thing, and her lips which wuz very thin, and her elbow, which wuz very sharp.
Her dress was a stiff sort of a shinin’ poplin, made tight acrost the chest and elboes. And her hat had some stiff feathers in it that stood up straight and sort a sharp lookin’. She had a long sharp breast-pin sort a stabbed in through the front of her stiff standin’ collar, and her knuckles sot out through her firm lisle thread gloves, her umberell wuz long and wound up hard, to that extent I have never seen before nor sense. She wuz, take it all in all, a hard sight, and skairful.
The other one wuzn’t no more like her in looks than a soft fat young cabbage head is like the sharp bean pole that it grows up by the side on, in the same garden. She wuz soft in her complexion, her lips, her cheeks, her hands, and as I mistrusted at that first minute, and found out afterwards, soft in her head too. Her dress wuz a loose-wove parmetty, full in the waist and sort a drabbly round the bottom. Her hat wuz drab-colored felt with some loose ribbon bows a hangin’ down on it, and some soft ostridge tips. She had silk mits on and her hands wuz fat and kinder moist-lookin’. Her eyes wuz very large and round, and blue, and looked sort o’ dreamy and wanderin’ and there wuz a kind of a wrapped smile on her face all the time. She had a roll of paper in her hand and I didn’t dislike her looks a mite.
Finally the oldest female opened her lips, some as a steel trap would open sudden and kinder sharp, and sez she: “I am Miss Deacon Tutt, of Tuttville, and this is my second daughter Ardelia. Cordelia is my oldest, and I have 4 younger than Ardelia.”
I bowed real polite and said, “I wuz glad to make the acquaintance of the hull 7 on ’em.” I can be very genteel when I set out, almost stylish.
“I s’pose,” says she, “I am talkin’ to Josiah Allen’s wife?”
I gin her to understand that that wuz my name and my station, and she went on, and sez she: “I have hearn on you through my husband’s 2d cousin, Cephas Tutt.”
“Cephas,” sez she, “bein’ wrote to by me on the subject of Ardelia, the same letter containin’ seven poems of hern, and on bein’ asked to point out the quickest way to make her name and fame known to the world at large, wrote back that he havin’ always dealt in butter and lard, wuzn’t up to the market price in poetry, and that you would be a good one to go to for advice. And so,” sez she a pointin’ to a bag she carried on her arm (a hard lookin’ bag made of crash with little bullets and knobs of embroidery on it), “and so we took this bag full of Ardelia’s poetry and come on the mornin’ train, Cephas’es letter havin’ reached us at nine o’clock last night. I am a woman of business.”
The bag would hold about 4 quarts and it wuz full. I looked at it and sithed.
“I see,” sez she, “that you are sorry that we didn’t bring more poetry with us. But we thought that this little batch would give you a idee of what a mind she has, what a glorious, soarin’ genus wuz in front of you, and we could bring more the next time we come.”
I sithed agin, three times, but Miss Tutt didn’t notice ’em a mite no more’n they’d been giggles or titters. She wouldn’t have took no notice of them. She wuz firm and decided doin’ her own errent, and not payin’ no attention to anything, nor anybody else.
“Ardelia, read the poem you have got under your arm to Miss Allen! The bag wuz full of her longer ones,” sez she, “but I felt that I must let you hear her poem on spring. It is a gem. I felt it would be wrongin’ you, not to give you that treat. Read it Ardelia.”
I see Ardelia wuz used to obeyin’ her ma. She opened the sheet to once, and begun.
Jest the minute Ardelia stopped readin’ Miss Tatt says proudly: “There! haint that a remarkable poem,?”
Sez I, calmly, “Yes it is a remarkable one.”
“Did you ever hear anything like it?” says she, triumphly.
“No,” sez I honestly, “I never did.”
“Ardelia, read the poem on Little Ardelia Cordelia; give Miss Allen the treat of hearin’ that beautiful thing.”
I sort a sithed low to myself; it wuz more of a groan than a common sithe, but Miss Tutt didn’t heed it, she kep’ right on —
“I have always brought up my children to make other folks happy, all they can, and in rehearsin’ this lovely and remarkable poem, Ardelia will be not only makin’ you perfectly happy, givin’ you a rich intellectual feast, that you can’t often have, way out here in the country, fur from Tuttville; but she will also be attendin’ to the business that brought us here. I have always fetched my children up to combine joy and business; weld ’em together like brass and steel. Ardelia, begin!”
So Ardelia commenced agin’. It wuz wrote on a big sheet of paper and a runnin’ vine wuz a runnin’ all ’round the edge of the paper, made with a pen.
Jest as soon as Ardelia stopped rehearsin’ the verses, Miss Tutt sez agin to me:
“Haint that a most remarkable poem?”
And agin I sez calmly, and trutbfully, “Yes, it is a very remarkable one!”
“And now,” sez Miss Tutt, plungin’ her hand in the bag, and drawin’ out a sheet of paper, “to convince you that Ardelia has always had this divine gift of poesy — that it is not, all the effect of culture and high education — let me read to you a poem she wrote when she wuz only a mere child,” and Miss Tutt read:
“LINES ON A CAT
“WRITTEN BY ARDELIA TUTT, “At the age of fourteen years, two months and eight days.
“Oh Cat! Sweet Tabby cat of mine; 6 months of age has passed o’er thee, And I would not resign, resign
The pleasure that I find in you. Dear old cat!”
“Don’t you think,” sez Miss Tutt, “that this poem shows a fund of passion, a reserve power of passion and constancy, remarkable in one so young?”
“Yes,” sez I reasonably, “no doubt she liked the cat. And,” sez I, wantin’ to say somethin’ pleasant and agreeable to her, “no doubt it was a likely cat.”
“Oh the cat itself is of miner importance,” sez Miss Tutt. “We will fling the cat to the winds. It’s of my daughter I would speak. I simply handled the cat to show the rare precocious intellect. Oh! how it gushed out in the last line in the unconquerable burst of repressed passion — `Dear old cat!’ Shakespeare might have wrote that line, do you not think so?”
“No doubt he might,” sez I, calmly, “but he didn’t.”
I see she looked mad and I hastened to say: “He wuzn’t aquainted with the cat.”
She looked kinder mollyfied and continued:
“Ardelia dashes off things with a speed that would astonish a mere common writer. Why she dashed off thirty-nine verses once while she wuz waitin’ for the dish water to bile, and sent ’em right off to the printer, without glancin’ at ’em agin.’
“I dare say so,” sez I, “I should judge so by the sound on ’em.”
“Out of envy and jealousy, the rankest envy, and the shearest jealousy, them verses wuz sent back with the infamous request that she should use ’em for curl papers. But she sot right down and wrote forty-eight verses on a `Cruel Request,’ wrote ’em inside of eighteen minutes. She throws off things, Ardelia does, in half an hour, that it would take other poets, weeks and weeks to write.”
“I persume so,” sez I, “I dare persume to say, they never could write ’em.”
“And now,” sez Miss Tutt, “the question is, will you put Ardelia on the back of that horse that poets ride to glory on? Will you lift her onto the back of that horse, and do it at once? I require nothin’ hard of you,” sez she, a borin’ me through and through with her eyes. “It must be a joy to you, Josiah Allen’s wife, a rare joy, to be the means of bringin’ this rare genius before the public. I ask nothin’ hard of you, I only ask that you demand, demand is the right word, not ask; that would be grovelin’ trucklin’ folly, but demand that the public that has long ignored my daugther Ardelia’s claim to a seat amongst the immortal poets, demand them, compel them to pause, to listen, and then seat her there, up, up on the highest, most perpendiciler pinnacle of fame’s pillow. Will you do this?”
I sat in deep dejection and my rockin’ chair, and knew not what to say — and Miss Tutt went on:
“We demand more than fame, deathless, immortal fame for ’em. We want money, wealth for ’em, and want it at once! We want it for extra household expenses, luxuries, clothing, jewelry, charity, etc. If we enrich the world with this rare genius, the world must enrich us with its richest emmolients. Will you see that we have it! Will you at once do as I asked you to? Will you seat her immegately where I want her sot?
Sez I, considerin’, “I can’t get her up there alone, I haint strong enough.” Sez I, sort a mekanikly, “I have got the rheumatez.”
“So you scoff me do you? I came to you to get bread, am I to get worse than a stun — a scoff?”
“I haint gin you no scoff,” sez I, a spunkin’ up a little, “I haint thought on it. I like Ardelia and wish her well, but I can’t do merikles, I can’t compel the public to like things if they don’t.”
Sez Miss Tutt, “You are jealous of her, you hate her.”
“No, I don’t,” sez I, “I haint jealous of her, and I like her looks first-rate. I love a pretty young girl,” sez I candidly, “jest as I love a fresh posy with the dew still on it, a dainty rose-bud with the sweet fragrance layin’ on its half-folded heart. I love ’em,” sez I, a beginnin’ to eppisode a little unbeknown to me, “I love ’em jest as I love the soft unbroken silence of the early spring mornin’, the sun all palely tinted with rose and blue, and the earth alayin’ calm and unwoke-up, fresh and fair. I love such a mornin’ and such a life, for itself and for the unwritten prophecis in it. And when I see genius in such a sweet, young life, why it makes me feel as it duz to see through all the tender prophetic beauty of the mornin’ skies, a big white dove a soarin’ up through the blue heavens.”
Sez Miss Tutt, “You see that in Ardelia, but you wont own it, you know you do.”
“No!” sez I, “I would love to tell you that I see it in Ardelia; I would honest, but I can’t look into them mornin’ skies and say I see a white dove there, when I don’t see nothin’ more than a plump pullet, a jumpin’ down from the fence or a pickin’ round calmly in the back door-yard. Jest as likely the hen is, as the white dove, jest as honerable, but you mustn’t confound the two together.”
“A hen,” sez Miss Tutt bitterly. “To confound my Ardelia with a hen! And I don’t think there wuz ever a more ironieler `hen’ than that wuz, or a scornfuller one.”
“Why,” sez I reasonably. “Hens are necessary and useful in any position, both walkin’ and settin’, and layin’. You can’t get’em in any position hardly, but what they are useful and respectable, only jest flyin’. Hens can’t fly. Their wings haint shaped for it. They look some like a dove’s wings on the outside, the same feathers, the same way of stretchin’ ’em out. But there is sunthin lackin’ in ’em, some heaven-given capacity for soarin’ an for flight that the hens don’t have. And it makes trouble, sights and sights of trouble when hens try to fly, try to, and can’t!
“At the same time it is hard for a dove to settle down in a back yard and stay there, hard and tegus. She can and duz sometimes, but never till after her wings have been clipped in some way. Poor little dove! I am always sorry for ’em to see ’em a walkin’ round there, a wantin’ to fly — a not forgettin’ how it seemed to have their wings soarin’ up through the clear sky, and the rush of the pure liquid windwaves a sweepin’ aginst ’em, as they riz up, up, in freedom, and happiness, and glory. Poor little creeters.
“Yes, but doves can, if you clip their wings, settle down and walk, but hens CAN’T fly, not for any length of time they can’t. No amount of stimulatin’ poultices applied to the ends of their tail feathers and wings can ever make ’em fly. They can’t; it haint their nater. They can make nests, and fill them with pretty downy chicks, they can be happy and beautiful in life and mean; they can spend their lives in jest as honerable and worthy a way as if they wuz a flyin’ round, and make a good honerable appearance from day to day, till they begin to flop their wings, and fly — then their mean is not beautiful and inspirin’; no, it is fur from it. It is tuff to see ’em, tuff to see the floppin’, tuff to see their vain efforts to soar through the air, tuff to see ’em fall percepitously down onto the ground agin. For they must come there in the end; they are morally certain to.
“Now Ardelia is a sweet pretty lookin’ girl, she can set down in a cushioned arm-chair by a happy fireside, with pretty baby faces a clusterin’ around her and some man’s face like the sun a reflectin’ back the light of her happy heart. But she can’t sit up on the pinnacle of fame’s pillow. I don’t believe she can ever get up there, I don’t. Honestly speakin’, I don’t.”
“Envy!” sez Miss Tutt, “glarin’, shameless envy! You don’t want Ardelia to rise! You don’t want her to mount that horse I spoke of; you don’t want to own that you see genius in her. But you do, Josiah Allen’s wife, you know you do — “
“No,” sez I, “I don’t see it. I see the sweetness of pretty girlhood, the beauty and charm of openin’ life, but I don’t see nothin’ else, I don’t, honest. I don’t believe she has got genius,” sez I, “seein’ you put the question straight to me and depend a answer; seein’ her future career depends on her choice now, I must tell you that I believe she would succeed better in the millionary trade or the mantilly maker’s than she will in tryin’ to mount the horse you speak on.
“Why,” sez I, candidly, “some folks can’t get up on that horse, their legs haint strong enough. And if they do manage to get on, it throws ’em, and they lay under the heels for life. I don’t want to see Ardelia there, I don’t want to see her maimed and lamed and stunted so early in the mornin’ of life, by a kick from that animal, for she can’t ride it,” sez I, “honestly she can’t.
“There is nothin’ so useless in life, and so sort a wearin’ as to be a lookin’ for sunthin’ that haint there. And when you pretend it is there when it haint, you are addin’ iniquity to uselessness; so if you’ll take my advice, the advice of a wellwisher, you will stop lookin’, for I tell you plain that it haint there.”
Sez Miss Tutt, “Josiah Allen’s wife, you have for reasens best known to your conscience baulked my hopes of a speedy immortality. You have willfully tried to break down my hopes of an immense, immediate income to flow out of them poems for luxuries, jewelry, charity, etc. But I can at least claim this at your hands, I demand honesty. Tell me honestly what you yourself think of them poems.”
Sez I (gettin’ up sort a quick and goin’ into the buttery, and bringin’ out a little basket), “Here are some beautiful sweet apples, won’t you have one?”
“Apples, at such a time as this;” sez Miss Tutt
“When the slumberin’ world trembles before the advancin’ tread of a new poet — When the heavens are listenin’ intently to ketch the whispers of an Ardelia’s fate — Sweet apples! in such a time as this!” sez she. But she took two.
“I demand the truth,” sez she. “And you are a base, trucklin’ coward, if you give it not.”
Sez I, tryin’ to carry off the subject and the apples into the buttery; “Poetry ort to have pains took with it.”
“Jealousy!” sez Miss Tutt. “Jealousy might well whisper this. Envy, rank envy might breathe the suspicion that Ardelia haint been took pains with. But I can see through it,” sez she. “I can see through it.”
“Well,” sez I, wore out, “if they belonged to me, and if she wuz my girl, I would throw the verses into the fire, and set her to a trade.”
She stood for a minute and bored me through and through with them eyes. Why it seemed as if there wuz two holes clear through my very spirit, and sole; she partly lifted that fearful lookin’ umberell as if to pierce me through and through; it wuz a fearful seen.
At last she turned, and flung the apple she wuz a holdin’ onto the floor at my feet — and sez she, “I scorn ’em, and you too.” And she kinder stomped her feet and sez, “I fling off the dust I have gethered here, at your feet.”
Now my floor wuz clean and looked like yeller glass, almost, it wuz so shinin’ and spotless, and I resented the idee of her sayin’ that she collected dust off from it. But I didn’t say nothin’ back. She had the bag of poetry on her arm, and I didn’t feel like addin’ any more to her troubles.
But Ardelia, after her mother had swept out ahead, turned round and held out her hand, and smiled a sweet but ruther of a despondent and sorrowful smile, and I kissed her warmly. I like Ardelia. And what I said, I said for her good, and she knew it. I like Ardelia.
Well, Miss Tutt and Ardelia went from our house to Eben Pixley’s. They are distant relatives of hern, and live about 3 quarters of a mile from us. The Pixleys think everything of Ardelia but they can’t bear her mother. There has been difficulties in the family.
But Ardelia stayed there mor’n two weeks right along. She haint very happy to home I believe. And before she went back home it wuz arranged that she should teach the winter’s school and board to Miss Pixley’s. But Miss Pixley wuz took sick with the tyfus before she had been there two weeks — and, for all the world, if the deestrict didn’t want us to board her. Josiah hadn’t much to do, so he could carry her back and forth in stormy weather, and it wuz her wish to come. And it wuz Josiah’s wish too, for the pay wuz good, and the work light — for him. And so I consented after a parlay.
But I didn’t regret it. She is a good little creeter and no more like her mother than a feather bed is like a darnin’ needle. I like Ardelia: so does Josiah.
THE CHERITY OF THE JONESVILLIANS.
We have been havin’ a pound party here in Jonesville. There wuz a lot of children left without any father or mother, nobody only an old grandma to take care of ’em, and she wuz half bent with the rheumatiz, and had a swelled neck, and lumbago and fits.
They lived in an old tumble-down house jest outside of Jonesville. The father wuz, I couldn’t deny, a shiftless sort of a chap, good-natured, always ready to obleege a neighbor, but he hadn’nt no faculty. And I don’t know, come to think of it, as anybody is any more to blame if they are born without a faculty, than if they are born with only one eye. Faculty is one of the things that you can’t buy.
He loved to hunt. That is, he loved to hunt some kinds of things. He never loved to hunt stiddy, hard work, and foller on the trail of it till he evertook success and captured it. No, he druther hunt after catamounts and painters, in woods where catamounts haint mounted, and painters haint painted sence he wuz born.
He generally killed nothin’ bigger than red squirrels and chipmunks. The biggest game he ever brought down wuz himself. He shot himself one cold day in the fall of the year. He wuz gettin’ over a brush fence, they s’posed the gun hit against somethin’ and went off, for they found him a layin’ dead at the bottom of the fence.
I always s’posed that the shock of his death comin’ so awful sudden unto her, killed his wife. She had been sick for a long spell, she had consumption and dropsy, and so forth, and so forth, for a long time, and after he wuz brought in dead, she didn’t live a week. She thought her eyes of him, for no earthly reason as I could ever see. How strange, how strange a dispensation of Providence it duz seem, that some women love some men, and vicy versey and the same.
But she did jest about worship him, and she died whisperin’ his name, and reachin’ out her hands as if she see him jest ahead of her. And I told Josiah I didn’t know but she did. I shouldn’t wonder a mite if she did see him, for there is only the veil of mystery between us and the other world at any time, and she had got so nigh to it, that I s’pose it got so thin that she could see through it.
Just as you can see through the blue haze that lays before our forest in Injun summer. Come nigh up to it and you can see the silvery trunks of the maples and the red sumac leaves, and the bright evergreens, and the forms of the happy hunters a passin’ along under the glint of the sunbeams and the soft shadows.
They died in Injun summer. I made a wreath myself of the bright-colored leaves to lay on their coffins. Dead leaves, dead to all use and purpose here, and yet with the bright mysterious glow upon them that put me in mind of some immortal destiny and blossoming beyond our poor dim vision. Jane Smedley wuz a good woman, and so wuz Jim, good but shiftless.
But I made the same wreath for her and Jim, and the strange mellow light lay on both of ’em, makin’ me think in spite of myself of some happy sunrisin’ that haply may dawn on some future huntin’ ground, where poor Jim Smedley even, may strike the trail of success and happiness, hid now from the sight of Samantha, hid from Josiah.
Wall, they died within a week’s time of each other, and left nine children, the oldest one of ’em not quite fifteen. She, the oldest one, wuz a good girl, only she had the rickets so that when she walked, she seemed to walk off all over the house backwards, and sideways, and every way, but when she sot down, she wuz a good stiddy girl, and faithful; she took after her mother, and her mother took after her grandmother, so there wuz three takin’ after each other, one right after the other.
Jane wuz a good, faithful, hard-workin’ creeter when she wuz well, brought up her children good as she could, learnt ’em the catechism, and took in all kinds of work to earn a little somethin’ towards gettin’ a home for ’em; she and her mother both did, her mother lived with ’em, and wuz a smart old woman, too, for one that wuz pretty nigh ninety. And she wuzn’t worrysome much, only about one thing — she wanted a home, wanted a home dretfully. Some wimmen are so; she had moved round so much, from one poor old place to another, that she sort o’ hankered after bein’ settled down into a stiddy home.
Wall, there wuz eight children younger than Marvilla, that wuz the oldest young girl’s name. Eight of ’em, countin’ each pair of twins as two, as I s’pose they ort. The Town buried the father and mother, which wuz likely and clever in it, but after that it wouldn’t give only jest so much a week, which wuz very little, because it said, Town did, that they could go to the poor-house, they could be supported easier there.
I don’t know as the Town could really be blamed for sayin’ it, and yet it seemed kinder mean in it, the Town wuz so big, and the children, most of ’em, wuz so little.
But any way, it wuz jest sot on it, and there wuz the end of it, for you might jest as well dispute the wind as to dispute the Town when it gets sot.
Wall, the old grandma said she would die in the streets before she would go to the poor-house. She had come from a good family in the first place,
They say she run away and left a good home and got married, and did dretful poor in the married state. He waz shiftless and didn’t have nothin’ and didn’t lay up any. And she didn’t keep any of her old possessions only jest her pride. She kept that, or enough of it to say that she would die on the road before she would go to the poor-house. And once I see her cry she wanted a home so bad.
And lots of folks blamed her for it, blamed the old woman awfully. They said pride wuz so wicked. Wimmen who would run like deers if company came when they wuzn’t dressed up slick, they would say the minute they got back into the room, all out of breath with hurryin’ into their best clothes, they’d say a pantin’ “That old woman ought to be made to go to the poorhouse, to take the pride out of her, pride wuz so awfully, dretfully wicked, and it wuz a shame that she wuz so ongrateful as to want a home of her own.” And then they would set down and rest.
Wall, the family wuz in a sufferin’ state. The Town allowed ’em one dollar a week. But how wuz ten human beings to live on a dollar a week. The children worked every chance they got, but they couldn’t earn enough to keep ’em in shoes, let alone other clothin’ and vittles. And the old house wuz too cold for ’em to stay in durin’ the cold weather, it wuz for Grandma Smedley, anyway, if the children could stand it she couldn’t. And what wuz to be done. A cold winter wuz a cumin’ on, and it wouldn’t delay a minute because Jim Smedley had got shot, and his wife had follered him, into, let us hope, a happier huntin’ ground than he had ever found in earthly forests.
Wall, I proposed to have a pound party for ’em. I said they might have it to our house if they wanted it, but if they thought they wanted it in a more central place (our house wuz quite a little to one side), why we could have it to the schoolhouse.
I proposed to Josiah the first one. He wuz a settin’ by the fire relapsed into silence. It wuz a cold night outside, but the red curtains wuz down at our sitting-room winders, shettin’ out the cold drizzlin’ storm of hail and snow that wuz a deseendin’ onto the earth. The fire burned up warm and bright, and we sot there in our comfortable home, with the teakettle singin’ on the stove, and the tea-table set out cosy and cheerful, for Josiah had been away and I had waited supper for him.
As I sot there waitin’ for the tea-kettle to bile (and when I say bile, I mean bile, I don’t, mean simmer) the thought of the Smedleys would come in. The warm red curtains would keep the storm out, but they couldn’t keep the thought of the children, and the feeble old grandmother out of the room. They come right in, through the curtains, and the firelight, and everything, and sot right down by me and hanted me.
And what curious creeters thoughts be, haint they? and oncertain, too. You may make all your plans to get away from ’em. You may shet up your doors and winders, and set with a veil on and an umbrell up – but good land! how easy they jest ontackle the doors and windows, with no sounds of ontacklin’ and come right in by you.
First you know there they be right by the side of you, under your umbrell, under your veil, under your spectacles, a lookin’ right down into your soul, and a hantin’ you.
And then agin, when you expect to be hanted by ’em, lay out to, why, they’ll jest stand off somewhere else, and don’t come nigh you. Don’t want to. Oncertain creeters, thoughts be, and curious, curious where they come from, and how.
Why, I got to thinkin’ about it the other day, and I got lost, some like children settin’ on a log over a creek a ridin’; there they be, and there the log is, but they don’t seem to be there, they seem to be a floatin’ down the water.
And there I wuz, a settin’ in my rockin’ chair, and I seemed to be a floatin’ down deep water, very deep. A thinkin’ and a wonderin’. A thinkin’ how all through the ages what secrets God had told to man when the time had come, and the reverent soul below was ready to hear the low words whispered to his soul, and a wonderin’ what strange revelation God held now, ready to reveal when the soul below had fitted itself to hear, and comprehend it.
Ah! such mysteries as He will reveal to us if we will listen. If we wait for God’s voice. If we did not heed so much the confusing clamor of the world’s voices about us. Emulation, envy, anger, strife, jealousy; if we turned our heads away from these discords, and in the silence which is God’s temple, listened, listened, — who knows the secrets He would make known to us?
Secrets of the day, secrets of the night, the sunshine, the lightning, the storm. The white glow of that wonderful light that is not like the glow of the sun or of the moon, but yet lighteth the world. That strange light that has a soul – that reads our thoughts, translates our wishes, overleaps distance, carrying our whispered words after holding our thoughts for ages, and then unfoldin’ ’em at will. What other wondrous mysteries lie concealed, wrapped around by that soft pure flame, mysteries that shall lie hidden until some inspired eye shall be waiting, looking upward at the moment when God’s hand shall draw back the shining veil for an instant, and let him read the glowing secret.
Secrets of language! shall some simple power, some symbol be revealed, and the nations speak together?
Secrets of song! shall some serene, harmonious soul catch the note to celestial melodies?
Secrets of sight! shall the eyes too dim now, see the faces of the silent throngs that surround them, “the great cloud of witnesses”?
Secrets of the green pathways that lead up through the blue silent fields of space – shall we float from star to star?
Secrets of holiness! shall earthly faces wear the pure light of the immortals?
But oh! who shall be the happy soul that shall be listening when the time has fully come and He shall reveal His great secret? The happy soul listening so intently that it shall catch the low, clear whisper.
Listening, maybe, through the sweet twilight shadows for the wonderful secret, while the silver shallop of the moon is becalmed over the high northern mountains, as if a fleet of heavenly guests had floated down through the clear ocean waves of the sky to listen too – to hear the wonderful heavenly secret revealed to man – and a clear star looks out over the glowing rose of the western heavens, looking down like God’s eye, searching his soul, searching if it be worthy of the great trust.
Maybe it will be in the fresh dawning of the day, that the great secret will grow bright and clear and luminous, as the dawning of the light.
Maybe it will be in the midst of the storm – a mighty voice borne along by the breath of the wind and the thunder, clamoring and demanding the hearer to listen.
Oh! if we were only good enough, only pure enough, what might not our rapt vision discern?
But we know not where or when the time shall be fully come, but who, who, shall be the happy soul that shall, at the time, be listening?
Oh! how deep, how strange the waters wuz, and how I floated away on ’em, and how I didn’t. For there I wuz a settin in my own rockin’ chair and there opposite me sot my own Josiah a whittlin’, for the “World” hadn’t come, and he wuz restless and ill at ease, and time hung heavy on his hands.
There I sot the same Samantha – and the thought of the Smedleys, the same old Smedleys, was a hantin’ of me, the same old hant, and I says to my Josiah, says I: “Josiah, I can’t help thinkin’ about the Smedleys,” says I. “What do you think about havin’ a pound party for ’em, and will you take holt, and do your part?”
“Good land, Samantha! Are you crazy? Crazy as a loon? What under the sun do you want to pound the Smedleys for? I should think they had trouble enough without poundin’ ’em. Why,” says he, “the old woman couldn’t stand any poundin’ at all, without killin’ her right out and out, and the childern haint over tough any of ’em. Why, what has got into you? I never knew you to propose anything of that wicked kind before. I sha’n’t have anything to do with it. If you want ’em pounded you must get your own club and do your own poundin’.”
Says I, “I don’t mean poundin’ ’em with a club, but let folks buy a pound of different things to eat and drink and carry it to ’em, and we can try and raise a little money to get a warmer horse for ’em to stay in the coldest of the weather.”
“Oh!” says he, with a relieved look. “That’s a different thing. I am willin’ to do that. I don’t know about givin’ ’em any money towards gettin’ ’em a home, but I’ll carry ’em a pound of crackers or a pound of flour, and help it along all I can.”
Josiah is a clever creeter (though close), and he never made no more objections towards havin’ it.
Wall, the next day I put on my shawl and hood (a new brown hood knit out of zephyr worsted, very nice, a present from our daughter Maggie, our son Thomas Jefferson’s wife), and sallied out to see what the neighbor’s thought about it.
The first woman I called on wuz Miss Beazley, a new neighbor who had just moved into the neighborhood. They are rich as they can be, and I expected at least to get a pound of tea out of her.
She said it wuz a worthy object, and she would love to help it along, but they had so many expenses of their own to grapple with, that she didn’t see her way clear to promise to do anything. She said the girls had got to have some new velvet suits, and some sealskin sacques this winter, and they had got to new furnish the parlors, and send their oldest boy to college, and the girls wanted to have some diamond lockets, and ought to have ’em but she didn’t know whether they could manage to get them or not, if they did, they had got to scrimp along every way they could. And then they wuz goin’ to have company from a distance, and had got to get another girl to wait on ’em. And though she wished the poor well, she felt that she could not dare to promise a cent to ’em. She wished the Smedley family well — dretful well — and hoped I would get lots of things for ’em. But she didn’t really feel as if it would be safe for her to promise’em a pound of anything, though mebby she might, by a great effort, raise a pound of flour for ’em, or meal.
Says I dryly (dry as meal ever wuz in its dryest times), “I wouldn’t give too much. Though,” says I, “A pound of flour would go a good ways if it is used right.” And I thought to myself that she had better keep it to make a paste to smooth over things.
Wall, I went from that to Miss Jacob Hess’es, and Miss Jacob Hess wouldn’t give anything because the old lady wuz disagreeable, old Grandma Smedley, and I said to Miss Jacob Hess that if the Lord didn’t send His rain and dew onto anybody only the perfectly agreeable, I guessed there would be pretty dry times. It wuz my opinion there would be considerable of a drouth.
There wuz a woman there a visitin’ Miss Hess — she wuz a stranger to me and I didn’t ask her for anything, but she spoke up of her own accord and said she would give, and give liberal, only she wuz hampered. She didn’t say why, or who, or when, but she only sez this that “she wuz hampered,” and I don’t know to this day what her hamper wuz, or who hampered her.
And then I went to Ebin Garven’ses, and Miss Ebin Garven wouldn’t help any because she said “Joe Smedley had been right down lazy, and she couldn’t call him anything else.”
“But,” says I, “Joe is dead, and why should his children starve because their pa wasn’t over and above smart when he wuz alive?” But she wouldn’t give.
Wall, Miss Whymper said she didn’t approve of the manner of giving. Her face wuz all drawed down into a curious sort of a long expression that she called religus and I called somethin’ that begins with “h-y-p-o” — and I don’t mean hypoey, either.
No, she couldn’t give, she said, because she always made a practise of not lettin’ her right hand know what her left hand give.
And I said, for I wuz kinder took aback, and didn’t think, I said to her, a glancin’ at her hands which wuz crossed in front of her, that I didn’t see how she managed it, unless she give when her right hand was asleep.
And she said she always gave secret.
And I said, “So I have always s’posed — very secret.”
I s’pose my tone was some sarcastic, for she says, “Don’t the Scripter command us to do so?”
Says I firmly, “I don’t believe the Scripter means to have us stand round talkin’ Bible, and let the Smedleys starve,” says I. “I s’pose it means not to boast of our good deeds.”
Says she, “I believe in takin’ the Scripter literal, and if I can’t git my stuff there entirely unbeknown to my right hand I sha’n’t give.”
“Wall,” says I, gettin’ up and movin’ towards the door, “you must do as you’re a mind to with fear and tremblin’.”
I said it pretty impressive, for I thought I would let her see I could quote Scripter as well as she could, if I sot out.
But good land! I knew it wuz a excuse. I knew she wouldn’t give nothin’ not if her right hand had the num palsy, and you could stick a pin into it — no, she wouldn’t give, not if her right hand was cut off and throwed away.
Wall, Miss Bombus, old Dr. Bombus’es widow, wouldn’t give — and for all the world — I went right there from Miss Whymper’ses. Miss Bombus wouldn’t give because I didn’t put the names in the Jonesville Augur or Gimlet, for she said, “Let your good deeds so shine.”
“Why,” says I, “Miss Whymper wouldn’t give because she wanted to give secreter, and you won’t give because you want to give publicker, and you both quote Scripter, but it don’t seem to help the Smedleys much.”
She said that probably Miss Whymper was wrestin’ the Scripter to her own destruction.”
“Wall,” says I, “while you and Miss Whymper are a wrestin’ the Scripter, what will become of the Smedleys? It don’t seem right to let them ‘freeze to death, and starve to death, while we are a debatin’ on the ways of Providence.”
But she didn’t tell, and she wouldn’t give.
A woman wuz there a visitin’, Miss Bombus’es aunt, I think, and she spoke up and said that she fully approved of her niece Bombus’es decision. And she said, “As for herself, she never give to any subject that she hadn’t thoroughly canvassed.”
Says I, “There they all are in that little hut, you can canvass them at any time. Though,” says I, thoughtfully, “Marvilla might give you some trouble.” And she asked why.
And I told her she had the rickets so she couldn’t stand still to be canvassed, but she could probably follow her up and canvass her, if she tried hard enough. And says I, “There is old Grandma Smedley, over eighty, and five children under eight, you can canvass them easy.”
Says she, “The Bible says, `Search the Sperits.'”
And I was so wore out a seein’ how place after place, for three times a runnin the Bible was lifted up and held as a shield before stingy creeters, to ward off the criticism of the world and their own souls, that I says to myself — loud enough so they could hear me, mebbe, “Why is it that when anybody wants to do a mean, ungenerous act, they will try to quote a verse of Scripter to uphold ’em, jest as a wolf will pull a lock of pure white wool over his wolfish foretop, and try to look innocent and sheepish.”
I don’t care if they did hear me, I wuz on the step mostly when I thought it, pretty loud.
Wall, from Miss Bombus’es I went to Miss Petingill’s.
Miss Petingill is a awful high-headed creeter. She come to the door herself and she said, I must excuse her for answerin’ the door herself. (I never heard the door say anything and don’t believe she did, it was jest one of her ways.) But she said I must excuse her as her girl wuz busy at the time.
She never mistrusted that I knew her hired girl had left, and she wuz doin’ her work herself. She had ketched off her apron I knew, as she come through the hall, for I see it a layin’ behind the door, all covered with flour. And after she had took me into the parlor, and we had set down, she discovered some spots of flour on her dress, and she said she “had been pastin’ some flowers into a scrap book to pass away the time.” But I knew she had been bakin’ for she looked tired, tired to death almost, and it wuz her bakin’ day. But she would sooner have had her head took right off than to own up that she had been doin’ housework — why, they say that once when she wuz doin’ her work herself, and was ketched lookin’ awful, by a strange minister, that she passed herself off’ for a hired girl and said, “Miss Petingill wasn’t to home, and when pressed hard she said she hadn’t “the least idee where Miss Petingill wuz.”
Jest think on ‘t once — and there she wuz herself. The idee!
Wall, the minute I sot down before I begun my business or anything, Miss Petingill took me to do about puttin’ in Miss Bibbins President of our Missionary Society for the Relief of Indignent Heathens.
The Bibbins’es are good, very good, but poor.
Says Miss Petingill: “It seems to me as if there might be some other woman put in, that would have had more influence on the Church.”
Says I, “Haint Miss Bibbins a good Christian sister, and a great worker?”
“Why yes, she wuz good, good in her place. But,” she said, “the Petingills hadn’t never associated with the Bibbins’es.”
And I asked her if she s’posed that would make any difference with the heathen; if the heathen would be apt to think less of Miss Bibbins because she hadn’t associated with the Petingills?
And she said, she didn’t s’pose “the heathens would ever know it; it might make some difference to ’em if they did,” she thought, “for it couldn’t be denied,” she said, “that Miss Bibbins did not move in the first circles of Jonesville.”
It had been my doin’s a puttin’ Miss Bibbins in and I took it right to home, she meant to have me, and I asked her if she thought the Lord would condemn Miss Bibbins on the last day, because she hadn’t moved in the first circles of Jonesville?
And Miss Petingill tosted her head a little, but had to own up, that she thought “He wouldn’t.”
“Wall, then,” sez I, “do you s’pose the Lord has any objections to her working for Him now?”
“Why no, I don’t know as the Lord would object.”
“Wall,” sez I, “we call this work the Lord’s work, and if He is satisfied with Miss Bibbins, we ort to be.”
But she kinder nestled round, and I see she wuzn’t satisfied, but I couldn’t stop to argue, and I tackled her then and there about the Smedleys. I asked her to give a pound, or pounds, as she felt disposed.
But she answered me firmly that she could’t give one cent to the Smedleys, she wuz principled against it.
And I asked her, “Why?”
And she said, because the old lady wuz proud and wanted a home, and she thought that pride wuz so wicked, that it ort to be put down.
Wall, Miss Huff, Miss Cephas Huff, wouldn’t give anything because one of the little Smedleys had lied to her. She wouldn’t encourage lyin’.
And I told her I didn’t believe she would be half so apt to reform him on an empty stomach, as after he wuz fed up. But she wouldn’t yield.
Wall, Miss Daggett said she would give, and give abundant, only she didn’t consider it a worthy object.
But it wuzn’t nothin’ only a excuse, for the object has never been found yet that she thought wuz a worthy one. Why, she wouldn’t give a cent towards painting the Methodist steeple, and if that haint a high and worthy object, I don’t know what is. Why, our steeple is over seventy feet from the ground. But she wouldn’t help us a mite — not a single cent.
Take such folks as them and the object never suits ’em. They won’t come right out and tell the truth that they are too stingy and mean to give away a cent, but they will always put the excuse onto the object — the object don’t suit ’em.
Why, I do believe it is the livin’ truth that if the angel Gabriel wuz the object, if he wuz in need and we wuz gittin’ up a pound party for him — she would find fault with Gabriel, and wouldn’t give him a ounce of provisions.
Yes, I believe it — I believe they would tost their heads and say, they always had had their thoughts about anybody that tooted so loud — it might be all right but it didn’t look well, and would be apt to make talk. Or they would say that he wuz shiftless and extravagant a loafin’ round in the clouds, when he might go to work — or that he might raise the money himself by selling the feathers offen his wings for down pillers — or some of the rest of the Gabriel family might help him — or something, or other — anyway they would propose some way of gittin’ out of givin’ a cent to Gabriel. I believe it as much as I believe I live and breathe; and so does Josiah.
Wall, Miss Mooney wouldn’t give anything because she thought Jane Smedley wuzn’t so sick as she thought she wuz; she said “she was spleeny.”
And I told Miss Mooney that when a woman was sick enough to die, I thought she ort to be called sick.
But Miss Mooney wouldn’t give up, and insisted to the very last that Miss Smedley wuz hypoey and spleeny — and thought she wuz sicker than she really wuz. And she held her head and her nose up in a very disagreeable and haughty way, and said as I left, that she never could bear to help spleeny people.
Wall, all that forenoon did I traipse through the street and not one cent did I get for the Smedleys, only Miss Gowdey said she would bring a cabbage and Miss Deacon Peedick and Miss Ingledue partly promised a squash apiece. And I mistrusted that they give ’em more to please me than anything else.
Wall, I wuz clean discouraged and beat out, and so I told Josiah. But he encouraged me some by sayin’:
“Wall, I could have told you jest how it would be,” and, “You would have done better, Samantha, to have been to home a cookin’ for your own famishin’ family.” And several more jest such inspirin’ remarks as men will give to the females of their families when they are engaged in charitable enterprises.
But I got a good, a very good dinner, and it made me feel some better, and then I haint one to give up to discouragements, anyway.
So I put on a little better dress for after noon, and my best bonnet and shawl, and set sail again after dinner.
And if I ever had a lesson in not givin’ up to discouragements in the first place I had it then. For whether it wuz on account of the more dressy look of my bonnet and shawl — or whether it wuz that folks felt cleverer in the afternoon — or whether it wuz that I had gone to the more discouragin’ places in the forenoon, and the better ones in the afternoon — or whether it wuz that I tackled on the subject in a better way than I had tackled ’em — whether it wuz for any of these reasons, or all of ’em or somethin’ — anyway my luck turned at noon, 12 M., and all that afternoon I had one triumph after another — place after place did I collect pound or pounds as the case may be (or collected the promises of ’em, I mean). I did splendid, and wuz prospered perfectly amazing — and I went home feelin’ as happy and proud as a king or a zar.
And the next Tuesday evenin’ we had the pound party. They concluded to have it to our house. And Thomas Jefferson and Maggie, and Tirzah Ann and Whitefield came home early in the afternoon to help trim the parlor and setin’ room with evergreens and everlastin’ posies, and fern leaves.
They made the room look perfectly beautiful. And they each of ’em, the two childern and their companions, brought home a motto framed in nice plush and gilt frames, which they put up on each side of the settin’ room, and left them there as a present to their pa and me. They think a sight of us, the childern do — and visey versey, and the same.
One of ’em wuz worked in gold letters on a red back-ground “Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens.” And the other wuz “Feed my Lambs.”
They think a sight on us, the childern do — they knew them mottoes would highly tickle their pa and me. And they did seem to kinder invigorate up all the folks that come to the party.
And they wuz seemingly legions. Why, they come, and they kept a comin’. And it did seem as if every one of ’em had tried to see who could bring the most. Why, they brought enough to keep the Smedleys comfortable all winter long. It wuz a sight to see ’em.
It wuz a curious sight, too, to set and watch what some of the folks said and done as they brought their pounds in.
I had to be to the table all the time a’most, for I wuz appointed a committee, or a board — I s’pose it would be more proper to call myself a board, more business like. Wall, I wuz the board appointed to lay the things on — to see that they wuz all took care of, and put where they couldn’t get eat up, or any other casuality happen to ’em.
And I declare if some of the queerest lookin’ creeters didn’t come up to the table and talk to me. There wuz lots of ’em there that I didn’t know, folks that come from Zoar, Jim Smedley’s old neighborhood.
There wuz a long table stretched acrost one end of the settin’ room, and I stood behind it some as if I wuz a dry goods merchant or grocery, and some like a preacher.
And the women would come up to me and talk. There wuz one woman who got real talkative to me before the evenin’ wuz out. She said her home wuz over two miles beyond Zoar.
She had a young babe with her, a dark complexioned babe, with a little round black head, that looked some like a cannon ball. She said she had shingled the child that day about eight o’clock in the forenoon; she talked real confidential to me.
She said the babe had sights of hair, and she told her husband that day that if he would shingle the babe she would come to the party and if he wouldn’t shingle it she wouldn’t come. It seemed they had had a altercation on the subject; she wanted it shingled and he didn’t. But it seemed that ruther than stay away from the party — he consented, and shingled it. So they come.
They brought a eight pound loaf of maple sugar and two dozen eggs. They did well. Then there wuz another woman who would walk her little girl into the bedroom every few minutes, and wet her hair, and comb it over, and curl it on her fingers. The child had a little blue flannel dress on, with a long plain waist, and a long skirt gethered on full all round. Her hair lay jest as smooth and slick as glass all the time, but five times did she walk her off, and go through with that performance. She brought ten yards of factory cloth, and a good woollen petticoat for the old grandma. She did first-rate.
And then there wuz another woman who stayed by the table most all the evenin’. She would gently but firmly ask everybody who brought anything, what the price of the article wuz — and then she would tackle the different women who come up to the table for patterns. I do believe she got the pattern of every bask waist there wuz there, and every mantilly.
And Abram Gee brought twenty-five loaves of bread — of different sizes, but all on ’em good. And he looked at Ardelia Tutt every minute of the time. And Ardelia brought a lot of verses, — “Stanzas on a Grandmother.” I didn’t think they would do Grandma Smedley much good, and then on the other hand I didn’t s’pose they would hurt her any.
But we had a splendid good time after the things wuz all brought in — of course, bein’ a board the fore part of the evenin’ I naturally had a harder time than I did the latter part, after I had got over it.
The children, Thomas J., and Tirzah Ann, and Ardelia Tutt, and Abram Gee, and some of the rest of the young folks sung and played some beautiful pieces, and they had four tablows, which wuz perfectly beautiful.
And then we passed good nice light biscuit and butter, and hot coffee, and pop corn and apples. And it did seem, and all the neighbors said so, that it wuz the very best party they had ever attended to.
And before they went away they made a motion some of the responsable men did — some made the motions and some seconded ’em — that they would adjourn till jest one year from that night, when if the Smedleys was still alive and in need — we would have jest such a party ag’in.
And at the last on’t Elder Minkley made a prayer — a very thankful and good prayer, but short. And then they went home.
Wall, the next mornin’ we started to carry the things to the Smedleys. It wuz very early, for Josiah had got to go clear to Loontown on business, and I wuz goin’ to stay with the childern till he got back.
It wuz a very cold mornin’. We hadn’t heard from the Smedleys for two or three days, because we wanted to surprise ’em, so we didn’t want to give ’em a hint beforehand of what we wuz a doin’. So, as I say, it wuz a number of days sense we had heard from ’em, and the weather wuz cold.
When we got to the door it seemed to be dretful still there inside. And there wuz some white frost on the latch jest as if a icy, white hand had onlatched the door, and had laid on it last.
We rapped, but nobody answered. And then we opened the door and went in, and there they all lay asleep. The children waked up. But old Grandma didn’t.
There wuzn’t any fire in the room, and you could see by the freezing coldness of the air that there hadn’t been any for a day or two.
Grandma Smedley had took the poor old coverin’s all off from herself, and put ’em round the youngest baby, little Jim. And he lay there all huddled up tight to his Grandma, with his red cheek close to her white one, for he loved her.
Josiah cried and wept, and wept and cried onto his bandana — but I didn’t.
The tears run down my face some, to see the childern feel so bad when Grandma couldn’t speak to ’em.
But I knew that the childern would be took care of now, I knew the Jonesvillians would be all rousted up and sorry enough for ’em, and would be willin’ to do anything now, when it wuz some too late.
And I felt that I couldn’t cry nor weep (and told Josiah so), the tears jest dripped down my face in a stream, but I wouldn’t weep — for as I said to myself:
While the Jonesvillians had been a disputin’ back and forth, and wrestin’ Scripter, and the meanin’ of Providence in regard to helpin’ Grandma Smedley and gittin’ her a comfortable place to stay in, and somethin’ to eat, the Lord himself had took the case in hand and had gin her a home and the bread that satisfies.”
ARDELIA AND ABRAM GEE.
Wall, I don’t s’pose there had been a teacher in our deestrict for years and years that gin’ better satisfaction than Ardelia Tutt. Good soft little creeter, the scholars any one of ’em felt above hurtin’ on her or plagin’ her any way. She sort a made ’em feel they had to take care on her, she wuz so sort a helpless actin’, and good natured, and yet her learnin’ wuz good, fust-rate.
Yes, Ardelia was thought a sight on in Jonesville by scholars and parents and some that wuzn’t parents. One young chap in perticiler, Abram Gee by name, who had just started a baker’s shop in Jonesville, he fell so deep in love with her from the very start that I pitied him from about the bottom of my heart. It wuz at our house that he fell.
The young folks of our meetin’-house had a sort of a evenin’ meetin’ there to see about raisin’ some money for the help of the steeple — repairin’ of it. Abram is a member, and so is Ardelia, and I see the hull thing. I see him totter and I see him fall. And prostrate he wuz, from that first night. Never was there a feller that fell in love deeper, or lay more helpless. And Ardelia liked him, that wuz plain to see; at fust as I watched and see him totter, I thought she wuz a sort o’ wobblin’ too, and when he fell deep, deep in love, I looked to see her a follerin’ on. But Ardelia, as soft as she wuz, had an element of strength. She wuz ambitious. She liked Abram, but she had read novels a good deal, and she had for years been lookin’ for a prince to come a ridin’ up to their dooryard in disguise with a crown on under his hat, and woo her to be his bride.
And so she braced herself against the sweet influence of love and it wuz tuff — I could see for myself that it wuz, when she had laid out to set on a throne by the side of a prince, he a holdin’ his father’s scepter in his hand — to descend from that elevation and wed a husband who wuz a moulder of bread, with a rollin’ pin in his hand. It wuz tuff for Ardelia; I could see right through her mind (it wuzn’t a great distance to see), and I could see jest how a conflict wuz a goin’ on between love and ambition.
But Abram had my best wishes, for he wuz a boy I had always liked. The Gees had lived neighbor to us for years. He wuz a good creeter and his bread wuz delicious (milk emptin’s). He wuz a sort of a hard, sound lookin’ chap, and she, bein’ so oncommon soft, the contrast kinder sot each other off and made ’em look well together.
He had a house and lot all paid for, with no incumbrances only a mortgage of 150 dollars and a lame mother. But he laid out to clear off the mortgage this year, and I wuz told that mother Gee wuz a goin’ to live with her daughter Susan, who had jest come into a big property — as much as 700 dollars worth of land, besides cows, 2 heads of cow, and one head of a calf.
I knew Mother Gee and she wuz goin’ to stay with Abram till he got married and then she wuz goin’ to live with Susan. And I s’pose it is so. She is a likely old woman with a milk leg.
Wall, Abram paid Ardelia lots of attention, sech as walkin’ home with her from protracted meetin’s nights, and lookin’ at her durin’ the meetin’s more protracted than the meetin’s wuz fur. And 3 times he sent her a plate of riz biscuit sweetened, sweetened too sweet almost, he went too fur in this and I see it.
Yes, he done his part as well as his condition would let him, paralyzed by his feelin’s — but she acted kinder offish, and I see that sonthin’ wuz in the way. I mistrusted at first, it might be Abram’s incumbrance, but durin’ a conversation I had with her, I see I wuz in the wrong on’t. And I could see plain, though some couldn’t, that she liked Abram as she did her eyes. Somebody run him down a little one day before me and she sprouted right up and took his part voyalent. I could see her feelin’s towards him though she wouldn’t own up to ’em. But one day she came out plain to me and lamented his condition in life. Somebody had attact her that day before me about marryin’ of him — and she owned up to me, that she had laid out to marry somebody to elevate her. Some one with a grand pure mission in life.
And I spoke right up and sez, “Why bread is jest as pure and innocent as anything can be, you won’t find anything wicked about good yeast bread, nor,” sez I, cordially, “in milk risin’, if it is made proper.”
But she said she preferred a occupation that wuz risin’, and noble, and that made a man necessary and helpful to the masses.
And I sez agin — “Good land! the masses have got to eat. And I guess you starve the masses a spell and they’ll think that good bread is as necessary and helpful to ’em as anything can be. And as fer its bein’ a risin’ occupation, why,” sez I, “it is stiddy risen’ — risin’ in the mornin,’ and risin’ at night, and all night, both hop and milk emptin’s. Why,” sez I, “I never see a occupation so risin’ as his’n is, both milk and hop.” But she wouldn’t seem to give in and encourage him much only by spells.
And then Abram didn’t take the right way with her. I see he wuz a goin’ just the wrong way to win a woman’s love. For his love, his great honest love for her made him abject, he groveled at her feet, loved to grovel.
I told him, for he confided in me from the first on’t and bewailed her coldness to me, I told him to sprout up and act as if he had some will of his own and some independent life of his own. Sez I, “Any woman that sees a man a layin’ around under her feet will be tempted to step on him,” sez I. “I don’t see how she can help it, if she calcerlates to get round any, and walk.” Sez I, “Sprout up and be somebody. She is a good little creeter, but no better than you are, Abram; be a man.”
And he would try to be. I could see him try. But one of her soft little glances, specially if it wuz kind and tender to him, es it wuz a good deal of the time, why it would just overthrow him ag’in. He would collapse and become nothin’ ag’in, before