SAMANTHA AT THE ST. LOUIS EXPOSITION
JOSIAH ALLEN’S WIFE (MARIETTA HOLLEY)
ILLUSTRATIONS BY CH. GRUNWALD
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
[Transcriber’s note: These are the captioned halftone illustrations. There are several other uncaptioned line drawings.]
He showed ’em in a careless way as much as fifteen dollars in cash
Josiah’s good nater returnin’ with every mouthful he took
It is the big crowd that is surgin’ through the Pike to and fro, fro and to
“I hain’t Theodore. I’m President of a Gas Company.”
She laid her pretty head in my lap, sobbin’ out, “What shall I do? What shall I do?”
Good land! I couldn’t sort ’em out and describe them that passed by in an hour. _Frontispiece_
SAMANTHA AT THE ST. LOUIS EXPOSITION
I had noticed for some time that Josiah Allen had acted queer. He would seem lost in thought anon or oftener, and then seemin’ly roust himself up and try to act natural.
And anon he would drag his old tin chest out from under the back stairway and pour over musty old deeds and papers, drawed up by his great-grandpa mebby.
He did this last act so often that I said to him one day, “What under the sun do you find in them yeller old papers to attract you so, Josiah?”
But he looked queer at me, queer as a dog, as if he wuz lookin’ through me to some distant view that interested him dretfully, and answered evasive, and mebby he wouldn’t answer at all.
And then I’d see him and Uncle Sime Bentley, his particular chum, with their heads clost together, seemin’ly plottin’ sunthin’ or ruther, though what it wuz I couldn’t imagine.
And then they would bend their heads eagerly over the daily papers, and more’n once Josiah got down our old Olney’s Atlas and he and Uncle Sime would pour over it and whisper, though what it wuz about I couldn’t imagine. And if I’d had the curosity of some wimmen it would drove me into a caniption fit.
And more’n a dozen times I see him and Uncle Sime down by the back paster on the creek pacin’ to and fro as if they wuz measurin’ land. And most of all they seemed to be measurin’ off solemn like and important the lane from the creek lot up to the house and takin’ measurements, as queer lookin’ sights as I ever see, and then they would consult the papers and atlas agin, and whisper and act.
And about this time he begun to talk to me about the St. Louis Exposition. He opened the subject one day by remarkin’ that he spozed I had never hearn of the Louisana Purchase. He said that the minds of females in their leisure hours bein’ took up by more frivolous things, such as tattin’ and crazy bed-quilts, he spozed that I, bein’ a female woman, had never hearn on’t.
And my mind bein’ at that time took up in startin’ the seams in a blue and white sock I wuz knittin’ for him, didn’t reply, and he went on and talked and talked about it.
But good land! I knowed all about the Louisana Purchase; I knowed it come into our hands in 1803, that immense tract of land, settlin’ forever in our favor the war for supremacy on this continent between ourselves and England, and givin’ us the broad highway of the Mississippi to sail to and fro on which had been denied us, besides the enormous future increase in our wealth and population.
I knowed that between 1700 and 1800 this tract wuz tossted back and forth between France and Spain and England some as if it wuz a immense atlas containing pictured earth and sea instead of the real land and water.
It passed backwards and forwards through the century till 1803 when it bein’ at the time in the hands of France, we bought it of Napoleon Bonaparte who had got possession of it a few years before, and Heaven only knows what ambitious dreams of foundin’ a new empire in a new France filled that powerful brain, under that queer three-cornered hat of hisen when he got it of Spain.
But ‘tennyrate he sold it in 1803 to our country, the writin’s bein’ drawed up by Thomas Jefferson, namesake of our own Thomas Jefferson, Josiah’s child by his first wife. Napoleon, or I spoze it would sound more respectful to call him Mr. Bonaparte, he wanted money bad, and he didn’t want England to git ahead, and so he sold it to us.
He acted some as Miss Bobbett did when she sot up her niece, Mahala Hen, in dressmakin’ for fear Miss Henzy’s girl would git all the custom and git rich. She’d had words with Miss Henzy and wanted to bring down her pride. And we bein’ some like Miss Hen in sperit (she had had trouble with Miss Henzy herself, and wuz dretful glad to have Mahala sot up), we wuz more’n willin’ to buy it of Mr. Bonaparte. You know he didn’t like England, he had had words with her, and almost come to hands and blows, and it did come to that twelve years afterwards.
But poor creeter! I never felt like makin’ light of his reverses, for do not we, poor mortals! have to face our Waterloo some time durin’ our lives, when we have fought the battle and lost, when the ground is covered with slain Hopes, Ambition, Happiness, when the music is stilled, the stringed instruments and drums broken to pieces, or givin’ out only wailin’ accompaniments to the groans and cries of the dyin’ layin’ low in the dust.
We marched onward in the mornin’ mebby with flyin’ colors towards Victory, with gaily flutterin’ banners and glorious music. Then come the Inevitable to crush us, and though we might not be doomed to a desert island in body, yet our souls dwell there for quite a spell.
Till mebby we learn to pick up what is left of value on the lost field, try to mend the old instruments that never sound as they did before. Sew with tremblin’ fingers the rents in the old tattered banners which Hope never carries agin with so high a head, and fall into the ranks and march forward with slower, more weary steps and our sad eyes bent toward the settin’ sun.
But to stop eppisodin’ and resoom. I had hearn all about how it wuz bought and how like every new discovery, or man or woman worth while, the Purchase had to meet opposition and ridicule, though some prophetic souls, like Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Livingstone and others, seemed to look forward through the mists of the future and see fertile fields and stately cities filled with crowds of prosperous citizens, where wuz then almost impassable swamps and forests inhabited by whoopin’ savages.
And Mr. Bonaparte himself, let us not forgit in this proud year of fulfilled hopes and achievement and progress how he always seemed to set store by us and his words wuz prophetic of our nation’s glorious destiny.
I had knowed all about this but Josiah seemed to delight to instruct me as carefully as a mother would guide a prattlin’ child jest beginnin’ to walk on its little feet. And some times I would resent it, and some times when I wuz real good natured, for every human bein’ no matter how high principled, has ebbs and flows in their moral temperatures, some times I would let him instruct me and take it meekly like a child learnin’ its A-B abs.
But to resoom. Day by day Josiah’s strange actions continued, and at intervals growin’ still more and more frequent and continuous he acted, till at last the truth oozed out of him like water out of a tub that has been filled too full, it wuz after an extra good meal that he confided in me.
He said the big celebration of the Louisana Purchase had set him to thinkin’ and he’d investigated his own private affairs and had discovered important facts that had made him feel that he too must make a celebration of the Purchase of the Allen Homestead.
“On which we are now dwellin’, Samantha,” sez he. “Seventy-four acres more or less runnin’ up to a stake and back agin, to wit, as the paper sez.”
Sez I, “You needn’t talk like a lawyer to me, Josiah Allen, but tell me plain as a man and a deacon what you mean.”
“Well, I’m tellin’ you, hain’t I, fast as I can? I’ve found out by my own deep research (the tin trunk wuzn’t more’n a foot deep but I didn’t throw the trunk in his face), I’ve discovered this remarkable fact that this farm the very year of the Louisana Purchase came into the Allen family by purchase. My great-great-grandfather, Hatevil Allen, bought it of Ohbejoyful Gowdey, and the papers wuz signed the very day the other momentous purchase wuz made.
“There wuz fourteen children in the family of old Hatevil, jest as many as there is States in the purchase they are celebratin’ to St. Louis.
“And another wonderful fact old Hatevil Allen paid jest the same amount for this farm that our Government paid for the Louisiana Purchase.”
“Do you mean to tell me, Josiah, that Hatevil Allen paid fifteen millions for this farm. Will you tell me that? You, a member of the meetin’ house and a deacon?”
“Well, what you might call the same, it is the same figgers with the six orts left out. Great-granther Allen paid fifteen dollars for this piece of land, it wuz all woods then.”
“Another of these most remarkable series of incidents that have ever took place on this continent, Thomas Jefferson wuz a main actor in the Louisana Purchase. He has left this spear some years ago, and who, who is the father of Thomas Jefferson to-day?”
I didn’t say nothin’, for I wuz engrossed in my knittin’, I wuz jest turnin’ the heel of his sock and needed my hull mind.
“And,” sez he, smitin’ his breast agin, “I ask you, Samantha, who is the father of Thomas Jefferson to-day?”
I had by this time turned the heel and I sez, “Why, I spoze he’s got the same father now he always had, children don’t change their fathers very often as a general thing.”
“Well, you needn’t be so grumpy about it. Don’t you see that these wonderful coincidences are enough to apall a light-minded person. Why, I, even I with my cast iron strength of mind, have almost felt my brain stagger and reel as I onraveled the momentous affair.
“And I am plannin’ a celebration, Samantha, that will hist up the name of Allen where it ort to be onto the very top of Fame’s towerin’ pillow, and keep it in everlastin’ remembrance.
“And I, Samantha,” and here he smote himself agin in the breast, “I, Josiah Allen, havin’ exposed these circumstances, the most remarkable in American history, I lay out to name my show the Exposition of Josiah Allen. And I’ve thought some times that in order to mate mine with the St. Louis show, as you may say, I’d mebby ort to call myself St. Josiah.”
“Saint Josiah!” sez I, and my axent wuz that icy cold that he shivered imperceptibly and added hastily, “Well, we will leave that to the future to decide.”
“But,” sez he firmly, spruntin’ up agin, “if the nation calls on me to name myself thus I shall respond, and expose myself at my Exposition as Saint Josiah.”
Sez I anxiously, “I wouldn’t expose myself too much, Josiah. You remember the pa that took his weak-minded child to the ball, and told him to set still and not speak or they would find him out.
“And they asked him question after question and he didn’t say a word, and finally they begun to scoff at him and told him he wuz a fool, and he called out, ‘Father, father, they’ve found me out.'”
Josiah sez snappishly, “What you mean by bringin’ that old chestnut up I cant see.”
“Well,” sez I, “I shan’t sew the moral on any tighter.” But he kep’ on ignorin’ my sarcastick allusion.
“To keep up the train of almost miraclous incidents marchin’ along through the past connecting the St. Louis and the Allen Purchase like historical twins, I’m goin’ to spend on the Exposition of Josiah Allen jest the amount paid for the other original purchase, and I may, for there is no tellin’ what a Allen may do when his blood is rousted up, I may swing right out and pay jest the same amount St. Louis is payin’ for her Exposition.”
“Fifty millions!” sez I with emotions of or–or to think I had a pardner that would tell such a gigantic falsehood, and instinctively I thought of a story I’d hearn Thomas Jefferson tell the evenin’ before.
He said three commercial travelers wuz talkin’ before an old man from the country whose loose fittin’ clothes were gently scattered with hay-seed. The first one told with minute particulars of a Western cyclone that had lifted a house and sot it down in a neighborin’ township. The next one said that he wuz knowin’ to the circumstances and how the cyclone swep back and brought the suller and sot it down under the house. And the third one remembered vividly how the cyclone went back the second time and brought the hole the suller left and distributed it round under the new site.
The old man listened with deep interest, and said he wuz glad he’d had the privelige of hearin’ ’em, for their talk had cleared up a Bible verse he’d long pondered over.
They wuz astounded to think their talk had awakened religious meditations. But the old gentleman said their conversation had cleared up that passage where it said:
“Annanias come forth.”
He said it wuz now plain to him that it meant that these three drummers should stand before Annanias, the Prince of Liars, he takin’ his place behind ’em, the fourth in the rank of liars.
But this is neither here or there I only mention it as comin’ into my mind instinctively and onbeknown to myself as I hearn Josiah Allen’s remark, it came and went, as thoughts will, like a lightning flash, even as I wuz repeatin’ the words agin in wonderment and horrow.
“Fifty million dollars!”
“No, I said to you, Samantha, that in our conversation we would leave out the orts, fifty dollars wuz what I meant. But as I said this is what I’ve thought when my brain wuz fired with ambition and glory of histin’ the name of Allen up where it ort to be and will be. But when my blood has quieted down and I took a dispassionate view of the affair I have thought it would be more in keepin’ with the old traditions of the Allen family, to spend jest fifteen, I can do a noble job with Uncle Sime’s help and Ury’s, with exactly the same sum that wuz paid for these purchases.”
I see he wuz jest bound to ignore the millions. But I knowed it wouldn’t do any good to keep twittin’ him of it. And then he went on to describe more fully the Exposition of Josiah Allen that he’d been plottin’ for weeks and weeks. He said that he and uncle Sime had used up two hull pads of writin’ paper at a cost of five cents each, plannin’ and figurin’. But he didn’t begrech the outlay, he said. He wuz layin’ out to have the lower paster used as a tentin’ ground for the hull Allen race, and the Gowdeys if he decided they wuz worthy to jine in, he hadn’t settled on that yet. The cow paster wuz to be used for Equinomical and Agricultural displays and also Peaceful Industries and Inventions, and the lane leadin’ up to the barn from the lower paster he laid out to use as a Pike for all sorts of amusements, pitchin’ quaits, bull-in-the-barnyard, turnin’ hand-springs and summer sets, etc., etc.
Sez I coldly, “It would draw quite a crowd to see you and Deacon Gowdey standin’ on your two old bald heads turnin’ a summer set.”
“Oh, I laid out to have younger people in such thrillin’ seens, Ury and others.” And then he went on to describe at length his Peaceful Industry Show.
I couldn’t sot still to hear it only I felt I wanted to know the worst and cope with it as a surgeon probes to the quick in order to cure.
He thought he could git Aunt Huldy Wood, who wove carpets, to set up her loom for a few days under the big but-nut tree, and be weavin’ there before the crowds. He said she wuz a peaceful old critter and would show off well in it. And Bildad Shoecraft, another good-natured creeter, he could bring his shoe-making bench and be tappin’ boots. He could not only show off but make money at the same time, for he spozed that many a boot would be wore down to the quick walkin’ round viewin’ the attractions. And Blandina Teeter he spozed she could run my sewin’ machine under the sugar maple. And he thought mebby I would set out under the slippery ellum makin’ ginger cookies or fryin’ nut-cakes, in either capacity he said I wuz a study for an artist and would draw crowds.
“The wife of Josiah Allen fryin’ nut-cakes, what a sound it would have through the world.”
“No, Josiah,” sez I, “I shan’t try to fry nut-cakes in a open lot without ingregients or fire.”
“Well, mebby you’d ruther be one of the attractions of the Pike, Samantha. I hain’t goin’ to limit you to one thing. As the pardner of the originator of this stupengous scheme you are entitled to respect. There is where Napoleon, the other great actor in these twin dramas, missed it, he didn’t use his wife as he ort to. But jest see the wonderful similarity in these cases. He had two step-children; the wife of Josiah had two; I am smaller in statute than my wife; so wuz Napoleon.”
“You spoke of your Peaceful Inventions, Josiah,” sez I, wantin’ to git his mind off, for truly I begun to fairly feel sick to the stomach to hear his talk about himself and the Great Conqueror.
“Oh, yes, Samantha, that in itself will be worth double the price of admission.”
“Then you expect to ask pay, Josiah?”
“Certainly, why not? Do they not ask pay at the twin celebration?
“But you spoke of inventions; I shall let the rest of the Allens show off. Lots of ’em have invented things, but of course my inventions will rank number one. There is my button on the suller door I cut it out of an old boot leg. Who ever hearn of a leather button before, and it works well if you don’t want to fasten the door tight. Then there is that self actin’ hen-coop of mine that lets a stick fall down and shuts the door when the hen walks up the ladder.”
“But no hen has ever clim the ladder yet, Josiah.”
“No, perhaps they hain’t yet, but I’m expectin’ to see ’em every day, ‘tennyrate paint that coop a bright red and yaller and it will attract a crowd.
“And then there is that travelin’ rat trap of brother Henzy’s, you know his grandmother wuz an Allen, I shall mayhap let him appear. And then there is all my farmin’ implements and the rest of the Allen’s I lay out to be just to all, and let ’em all come and show off in my Agricultural show.
“But of course there has got to be a head to it; Napoleon wuz the head of the other Purchase, and I’m the head of this. In short, Samantha, I am _It_.”
Oh, how full of pride and vain glory he wuz, and I knowed such feelin’s would have to be brung down for his spiritual good. I realized it as he went on,
“I tell you, Napoleon and I would have made a span, Samantha, if he could been spared till now.”
Oh how shamed I wuz to hear such talk, but I sot demute for reasons named, and he sez agin, “I thought mebby you would want to be one of the attractions of the Pike, Samantha; I lay out to have livin’ statutes adornin’ the side of the lane leadin’ up from the beaver medder to the horse trough.”
“Livin’ statutes!” sez I, coldly, “I don’t know what you mean by them.”
“Why, I thought for a few cents I could git a lot of children and old folks to be white-washed for a day or two and pose as statutes. It would be a new thing and a crackin’ good idee, for livin’ statutes that can wink, and bow, and talk, and walk round some, I don’t believe wuz ever hearn on before.”
“No indeed,” sez I, “but I can tell you, Josiah Allen, I’ve played many strange parts in the role of life at your request, but I tell you once for all I shall never, _never_ be whitewashed and set up for a statute, you can set your mind to rest on that to once.”
“Mebby you’d ruther be a Historical Tabloo, Samantha; I lay out to have beautiful ones, and I thought I wouldn’t confine myself to the States, but would branch out and have the foreign nations represented figuratively.
“A naval battle between Russia and Japan would draw; if I could fix some floats on the creek my stun boat could represent Russia, and Deacon Huffer’s Japan, I jest as lives mine would be blowed up and sunk as not, ’tain’t good for much. And if I did have that I would have the Russian Bear set on the shore growlin’, and the Powers furder back lookin’ pleasantly on. You might be a Power, Samantha, if you wuzn’t a female.”
“No, thank you, Josiah, I don’t hanker after the responsibility for good or evil that ort to hang onto a Power.”
“I’d be the Russian Bear myself, Samantha, with our old buffalo robe, only I’ve got everything else to do; I could grasp holt of things and squeeze ’em tight and growl and paw first rate.”
“I wouldn’t try to take that Russian Bear’s job of graspin’ and growlin’ and pawin’ onto me, Josiah, if I wuz in your place; it would tucker anybody out.”
“The Eagle of France,” sez he dreamily, “could be represented in reduced form, as artists say, by Solomon Bobbett’s old Bramy rooster with some claws tied on. And Scotland, the land knows there is thistles enough along the cow path to represent her if they’re handled right. And for Ireland I might have two fellers fightin’ with shelalays, Ury could make the shelalays if he had a pattern.”
I knit away with a look of cold mockery on my face that I spose worried him, for he sez, “I wish I could git you interested in my show, Samantha. Mebby you’d want to represent Britanny scourin’ the blue seas, you always thought so much of the Widder Albert. You could enact it in the creek where the water is shaller. You’ve got a long scrubbin’ brush, I always thought you looked some like Britanny, and you do scrub and scour so beautiful, Samantha.”
“No, Josiah, you’ll never git me into that scrape, not but what Britanny may need help with her scrubbin’ brush. But I shan’t catch my death cold makin’ a fool of myself by tacklin’ that job.”
“Oh, you could wear my rubber boots. But I shall not urge the matter, I only thought we two countries are such clost friends and I wanted you to have the foremost character, but I can probable git someone else to enact it. But the strain is fearful on me, Samantha, to have everything go on as it should.”
His looks wuz strange. I could see that he wuz all nerved up, and his mind (what he had) wuz all wrought up to its highest tension; I knowed what happened when the tension to my sewin’ machine wuz drawed too tight–it broke. And my machine wuz strong in comparison to some other things I won’t mention out of respect to my pardner. I felt that I must be cautious and tread carefully if I would influence him for his good, so I brought forth the argument that seldom failed with him, and sez I:
“If I hadn’t no other reason for jinin’ in these doin’s, cookin’ has got to be done and how can a statute or a Historical Tabloo bile potatoes and brile steak and make yeast emptin’s bread perked up on a pedestal or posin’ in the creek, and you know, Josiah, that no matter how fur ambition or vain glory may lead a man, his appetite has got to be squenched, and vittles has got to be cooked else how can he squench it.”
And to this old trustworthy weepon I held in all his different plans to inviggle me into his preposterous idees and found it answered better than reason or ridicule. But even this failed to break up his crazy plan. His hull mind (what he had) wuz sot on it.
I felt dretful and how I wuz goin’ to break it up and git his mind off I couldn’t tell; I talked it over with the children. They wuz goin’ to be mortified to death by the idee if carried out and they told me in confidence and the woodhouse kitchen, “It must be stopped!”
And I sez, “How is it goin’ to be stopped? I’ve handled every weepon I know how to lay holt on. I’ve pompied him, cooked the very best of vittles, argued with him, eppisoded, but all to no use, he’s as sot as a hen turkey on a brick bat, and I’ve got to the end of my chain.”
Sez Tirzah Ann, “Have you tried readin’ historical novels to him?”
“No,” sez I, “I don’t dast to be _too_ hash with him, your pa’s health hain’t what it wuz, I dassent take too hash measures.”
Sez she, “Have you tried readin’ poetry?”
“Yes,” sez I, “I have read Pollock’s Course of Time most through to him, and the biggest heft of ‘Paradise Lost,’ and I read the last named with deep feelin’, I can tell you.”
“Didn’t it do any good?”
“Not a mite,” sez I. “He would choke me off in the soarinest passages to boast about some crazy side-show at his Exposition.”
Tirzah Ann sithed and sez, “I don’t know what can be done.”
Thomas J. is more practical and sez, “Can’t you git his mind on some work? Hain’t there sunthin’ that ort to be done round the farm? Or in the house?”
“Id’no,” sez I. “He can’t plow or reap in February or pick gooseberries or wash sheep. But I know what ort to be done in the house, I tried my best to git him at it in the fall, I do want a furnace and hot water pipes put in to heat the house. We most freeze these cold days, and it is too much for your pa when Ury is away to tend to the fires.”
“That’s just the thing!” sez Thomas J., “get him interested in that and he will forgit all about the Allen Exposition by the time it is done.”
But I sez in a discouraged way, “If I couldn’t git him at it in the fall Id’no how I’m goin’ to now.”
“But it is worth tryin’,” sez Thomas J., “for his scheme must be broke up, and if you git your furnace in now it will be all ready for another fall.”
“Well,” sez I, “I can try.” And so I begun that very night on a new tact, or ruther the old tact in a new way, I told him how sot Thomas J. wuz on our havin’ a furnace and hot water pipes put in.
Josiah thinks his eyes of his only son, and I see it kinder moved him, but he wouldn’t give his consent, and sez:
“What do you want hot water pipes and a furnace for in the summer?”
Sez I pintin’ to the snowy fields, “Do you call this summer, Josiah? And Thomas J. sez it will be so nice to have it all ready in the fall. And I do wish, Josiah, you would hear to me.”
“Well, well, I am hearin’ you, hain’t I, and been hearin’ for a year back, I hain’t deef as an adder!” And he jammed his hat down over his ears and went to the barn. But there wuz a sort of a waverin’ expression to his linement that made me have hopes.
Well, when I had, with the children’s help and an enormous expenditure of good vittles and eloquence, brought him round to the idee, I found I had another trial worse than the first to contend with. Instead of hirin’ a first rate workman who knew his bizness, he wuz bound, on account of cheapness, to hire a conceited creeter who thought he could do anything better than anyone else could.
He knew how to milk, Jabez Wind did, and how to clean stables, and plough and hoe corn. But he felt he could do plumbin’ better than them who had handled plumbs for years. And when I see Josiah wuz sot on hirin’ him to do the job I felt dretful, for he wuz no more fit for it than our brindle cow to do fine sewin’, or our old steer to give music lessons on the banjo. He wuz a creeter I never liked, always tryin’ to invent sunthin’ and always failin. But Josiah insisted on havin’ him because he wuz so much cheaper.
And I sez, “You’ll sup sorrow yet, Josiah Allen, with your tendency to save and scrimp. Jabez Wind don’t know nothin’ about such work; he hain’t got any shop or tools and I don’t want him meddlin’ round my house. We want the rooms warmed good and we don’t want a big noise and racket, as I’ve hearn they make sometimes, I couldn’t stand it with such noise and cracklin’ goin’ on day and night.”
“Oh,” sez Josiah, “that’s one great beauty of Jabezeses invention, it is perfectly noiseless, not a murmur or gurgle from one year’s end to the other, and so easy to tend. Jest twice a year, he sez, to put a pail of water in the upper tank, two pails of water a year to insure summer warmth, no dirt, no noise, not much like luggin’ in wood from mornin’ till night, breakin’ your back cuttin’ and splittin’ it and litterin’ up the house.”
The idee of the perfect stillness did tempt me, I so love comfort and quiet, and also not havin’ to sweep up after chips and kindlin’ wood. But yet how did we know these things wuz so? And agin I sez, “How do you know he can do all this? He hain’t got any tools.”
Sez Josiah, “He’s got idees if he hain’t got tools. A man can borry tools, but he can’t dicker for such idees as Jabez has got. See the things he’s undertook.”
Sez I, “Anybody can undertake things; his idees hain’t made him rich or famous. That air ship of hisen he wuz goin’ to sail to Europe on, rared up and spilt him in his uncle’s back yard. And his automobile, when he sot off on it and headed it for the road it backed up and took him down that steep hill back of the barn into the creek, where it kep on ploughin’ up dirt and slate stuns till his uncle stopped it by main force and lifted Jabez out from under it drippin’ like a water rat. And his machine for perpetual motion, his ma uses it now for clothes bars,” sez I. “What has he ever done to merit your encomiums?”
“Well,” sez he, “he’s bound to succeed this time. His idees are some like the hardware man’s at Jonesville only Jabez’es are more deep and not nigh so expensive.” I never liked Jabez Wind and shouldn’t if I’d seen him settin’ swingin’ his legs off the very top of Fame’s pillow. He wuz oncongenial to me, made so from the beginin’. I never knew any particular hurt of him, but he seemed so much like his own sir name, so puffed up and onsubstantial. He wuz middlin’ well off to start with, or his ma wuz, but he had used up all her property in his different enterprises.
Now I dote on inventors, they wear a halo in my partial eyes. They’re the greatest men of our day, and I mentally kneel at their feet, but gold always has counterfeits. The real inventor, made by the Deity to carry out his plans, is modest, silent, broodin’ over his great secrets, away from the multitude where angels minister to him. But Jabez wuz loud, boastin’, arrogant, his pert impudent face proclaimin’ the great things he wuz goin’ to do, but never did. He wuz in love, too, or what he called love, with a girl that wuz a prime favorite of mine, sweet little Rosamond Nickleson, she and I wuz such great friends she often used to come and stay a week at a time with me.
When Jabez Wind came to Jonesville, Rosy wuz about the same as engaged to a good sensible young farmer, Royal Nelson, who lived three milds above Jonesville on the old stage road. He wuz a stiddy, likely young man, who owned a nice farm well stocked, wuz good lookin’, good appearin’, but ruther bashful and retirin’, which made him some times in company a little awkwud in his manners, and most offish where he wanted to please most. But he had a good mind, and his heart wuz pure gold, and he loved Rosy with the deep earnest love, such undemonstrative men often cherish for the one woman in the world for them. His calm gray eyes would light up with the pure light of deathless love when they rested on the sweet face of little Rosy. And he wuz always tryin’ to help her in some way, lookin’ out for her interest, he seemed to love to protect and wait on her in a way that argued well for the future, but mebby it wuz this constant and almost slavish devotion that made her slight him, she had got so used to his stiddy love that she didn’t appreciate it as she’d ort to.
He had paid attention to Rosy for most three years. I thought mebby he wuz such a manly chap he didn’t want to hurry her, she wuz so young, but everybody spozed they wuz as good as engaged when Jabez Wind come to Jonesville to live with his uncle, old Kellup Wind. He lost his wife, and Miss Wind, his brother’s widder, come to keep house for him and brung Jabez with her. I hurn it wuz the bargain she wuz to have two dollars a week and Jabez’es board. That showed me what he wuz, a young man twenty-five years old hangin’ on to his mother’s apron strings to support him, or ruther hangin’ onto her hard workin’ fingers, she wuz a good housekeeper.
Well, Jabez made such a splurge in the social pool of Jonesville society, he made such florid eloquent boasts of the wonderful things he wuz goin’ to do in the near future; his clothes wuz so showy, and his looks so showy (shaller I called it), with beady shiny black eyes, red cheeks, mustache and whiskers naturally red like his hair, but dyed black, and he played the fiddle so sweet, the girls said, and he sung comic songs so bea-eu-ti-ful, and he danced so light that he become a general favorite in Jonesville society and the girls all seemed to seek after him. But from the first he singled out Rosy as the object of his special patronizin’ affection. She wuz well off, her pa left her a good property in money besides bein’ so pretty and good herself.
And she, girls are so queer, the best of ’em, from the very fact that his affection wuz so patronizin’ and down stoopin’ to her, and kinder oncertain, for onlike Royal he would have spells of slightin’ her and waitin’ on other girls, why mebby for this very reason she seemed to be carried some distance away with him, and believed all his grand idees and looked forward to the realization of his stupendious schemes, high soundin’ schemes, which had took him no furder than the middle of the creek and his uncle’s back yard.
His uncle didn’t believe in him no more than I did, but stood it with him on account of Karen, bein’ a man that loved domestic comfort, and havin’ lived in dirt, on pan-cakes and canned meats durin’ different rains of incompetence materialized in hired girl form, before Karen come. But Karen worshipped Jabez, his highest mounts of future eminence seemed too low for his footstool in her adorin’ eyes, somehow the very loftiness of his airs to her, his own mother who supported him and bought his clothes, seemed to render him more precious in her eyes. Wimmen are queer, queer as dogs.
Well, Jabez knew I wuz onwillin’ to have him tackle the job of warmin’ our house with his new water pipe invention, because I had spoke my mind about it when he and Karen had been over to spend the evenin’, and Karen come over the next mornin’ ostensibly to borry a cup of molasses, she wuz lookin’ wore out, she’d worked so hard the day before, doin’ a big washin’ and bringin’ the water from the creek, and I sez, “Why didn’t Jabez bring it for you?”
“Oh, he wuz so busy with his inventions I couldn’t bear to disturb him,” sez she, holdin’ her hand to her achin’ side, “my son is the greatest genius in the world and folks will admit it yet, he’s a young man of a thousand.”
Sez I, “I should think more on him, Karen, if he should go to work and take care of you instead of you at your age workin’ so hard to take care of him.”
She married when she wuz quite well along in years and wuz gittin’ old now and hadn’t ort to work so hard. But her pale face lit up, “Oh, he will take care of me luxuriously when he’s completed some of his inventions.”
“But,” sez I pityin’ly, “you know they hain’t worked yet, any on ’em. You hung your washin’ yesterday on the remains of his Perpetual Motion, and his motor carriage bein’ dug up from the creek, his uncle uses it as a hen coop.”
“Oh, but they will be successful, they will.”
“I hope so, but I feel it my duty to tell you that I feel dubersome about it, dretful dubersome.”
“But,” sez she, “the New Perpetually Gushing Hot Water Tank is goin’ to make us independently rich. He’s takin’ the plans now of Luman Heath’s kitchen stove and riggin’ up the machinery; Luman is to pay him lavishly, you know Luman’s wife is my own cousin.”
I see how it wuz, Karen’s friends, to please her, wuz willin’ to offer up their sure comforts and solid foundations as a sacrifice on the altar of friendship and the thought come over me, mebby I’d ort to. But it did seem as if I couldn’t.
Sez Karen, “If it is a success at cousin Luman’s, as it is dead sure to be, Jabez is goin’ to take it to the St. Louis Exposition.”
“He thinks the foreign powers will want to treat with him for it. But I told him I would ruther he would let our Government have it. But ‘tennyrate he won’t let the Powers git the better of him in the contract and control it and enrich themselves at his expense. He will get his onparelled idees patented before he takes it to St. Louis, it wouldn’t be safe not to. I spoze the papers will be full of it.”
Such talk didn’t seem to move me a mite, but it impressed Josiah dretfully and he sez, “I shall have this new invention stand next to my hen coop at the Exposition of St. Josiah.”
I shuddered and turned the subject round quick as I could. Well, Karen labored with me over two hours, dwellin’ in particular on the perfect stillness of the heatin’ apparatus, and agin as before that thought tempted me awfully, for I’d hearn the cracklin’ snappin’ sounds that sometimes comes from steam heat and dreaded to have it reproduced in my home, and seein’ my looks Karen amplified on the idee, How sweet it would be in December to set down in a rockin’ chair in the still warmth of a day in July and go through the winter in that luxurious lovely way. She talked till she had to go home almost on the run, for she said Jabez’es mind worked so hard it exhausted his body completely so she had to have the most nourishin’ food ready for him at the very minute or he would break right down. But to the last she praised up Jabez’es work. But I wouldn’t say a encouragin’ word furder than this, “I feel dubersome about it, Karen, dretful dubersome.”
That afternoon Rosy come over to stay all night, and she too tackled me on the subject. He had asked her to, always hangin’ onto some woman for help. But with her too I used the same tick-tacks I had with Karen, I said mildly after each modest plea for his great genius, and how well he would do the work, “I feel dubersome about it, Rosy, dretful dubersome.”
Then she, too, sweetly spoke of the summer warmth, and the entire absence of noise, and agin that thought tempted me, but I sez, “How do you know, Rosy, that it will be entirely noiseless?”
“Oh, I know it will, Jabez sez so. He is sure to succeed, and it will help him so to have your influence, he expects to publish a book of the greater eulogies from noted people on this new invention, and he intends to have your name head the list. When you say this perfectly noiseless machine heats your house too warm in the coldest weather, what a help it will be to him, and your name will be first,” she repeated agin.
“He’d better have the President and Cabinet come first,” sez I dryly, dry as a chip in dog days.
“No, he spoke about that, but thought he would have them come next to yours, and I approved of it,” sez she affectionately, “and so did his ma.
“He will git out the book as soon as he comes home from the St. Louis Exposition with all the big eulogies he gits there on his inventions.”
I groaned to myself and got up quick and went into the buttery and took a drink of cold water, I felt so kinder sickish. Well at modest intervals she would politely and gently tackle me about it, at the table and while she wuz washin’ dishes, but I held firm, though very considerate and tender to her. I mogulated my axent low and gentle and looked mild at her over my specs, as I washed and she wiped, but my words wuz ever the same.
“I feel dubersome about it, Rosy, dretful dubersome.”
At last Josiah’s temper riz up and he vowed he wouldn’t dally any longer, sez he, “I earned this money by the sweat of my brow and I’m goin’ to use it as I’m a minter, and I’m a minter have these water pipes put in by Jabez Wind.” (He got the money by sellin’ a colt, Id’no as there wuz any great sweat about it).
But he wuz bound to have it done, and he did. And for reasons named I dassent cross him too fur and put my foot right down on the plan. And the children sez, “Better anything, mother, than his celebration. If he don’t tear the house down over your head let him go on.” (_Let him_! I guess I _had_ to let him.)
Jabez come on with all his riggin’. He’d borrowed tools of the hardware man at Zoar, another of Karen’s cousins, and obtained the furnace and pipes on credit, I spozed.
I made all the preparations I could in case of disaster. Took up the carpets in that part of the house, took down the curtains and moved the furniture, used all the precautions I could to escape with life and limb if possible, and insure the safety of my dear but misguided pardner, and then I sot down in the parlor bedroom, the furthest I could git without goin’ upstairs, and let the tide of events sweep by me or sweep me away, and I didn’t know which it would be. I had to be downstairs anyway, for (though Philury helped), I had to stand with my hand on the hellum, so to speak, and see to everything. What made it worse, too, it come on the coldest snap we’d had all winter.
Well, one of the main arguments by Jabez and Josiah wuz the speed with which this work wuz to be accomplished. The hull thing wuz to be done and we settin’ down fannin’ ourselves inside of three days, but for over four weeks our house wuz a perfect pandemonium of noise and confusion.
Iron pipes lay round in every direction, screws and vises, nuts and hammers, wrenches and irons of all shapes and descriptions strewed the house from top to bottom, and ashes, dirt and dust wuz rampant, and Jabez rennin’ up and down stairs, to and fro, talkin’ loud about what a success he wuz makin’ of it and how everything wuz workin’ jest as he wanted it to, and boasted in particular every time he come acrost me, ashakin’ with the cold, how perfectly still and noiseless it wuz goin’ to be, and how luxurious and almost enervatin’ would be the warmth. And I sez, rubbin’ my cold hands and pullin’ my heavy woolen shawl closter round me, “It would be a little different than it is now if it wuz still, or if it wuz warm.” And agin I shivered in the frigid air and sez:
“You guaranteed we wouldn’t be torn up here over three days, and it wuz four weeks yesterday.”
“That is because I have took such extra precautions to have it perfectly noiseless. Never,” sez he impressively, “from one year’s end to the other will you ever hear a sound from that apparatus, not the least murmur or echo of a sound.”
“Well, I hope not,” sez I, “and I hope to gracious it will be finished some time, for I’m most freezin’ and Josiah is takin’ cold, as I can see.”
“No I hain’t nuther,” sez Josiah, his voice soundin’ real wheezy and husky out from under his heavy wool comforter.
Sez I, “You be cold, Josiah Allen, your nose is blue this minute.”
“Well, what if it is! I always liked that color anyway, I’d ruther have it blue that red as madder,” sez he glancin’ at my most prominent feature.
Sez I, “It is the bitter cold that has turned our noses, Josiah Allen, and when is it goin’ to end?”
“It is going to end to-morrow mornin’, at seven A.M. we start the fire, and then,” sez he proudly, “I will set down in perfect summer heat, calm and happy, and you, too.” For I spoze my oncomplainin’ misery appealed to his latent manhood; and it had been latent in him for some time. But he wuz driv most beyend his strength, and the cold wuz almost Klondikey, I could make allowance for him. Well, the next day passed, and the next and the next, and finally, jest four weeks and four days after he had guaranteed to have it finished, Jabez hautily announced, and Josiah proudly proclaimed, a fire could be started. Karen wanted to be with us in the first trial of the heat, so she appeared on the seen, so triumphant and overjoyed it fairly made her worn haggard face look considerable brighter.
Rosy had come to spend the day and stay all night, invited by Karen to witness her son’s triumph. But I onbeknown to anybody, feelin’ I needed a strong arm and cool brain to depend on, had beset Royal Nelson to come and stand by me that day and night, I didn’t say Rosy wuz to be there for fear he wouldn’t come, for I could see by his white cheeks and sad, yet cool lookin’ eyes, that he’d about gin her up. He said to once that he would come, and his sad eyes kinder laughed as he added, “I will stand by you in your affliction.”
Well, Jabez, with his face gay and joyous and his tongue waggin’, weighted down with big, boastful words, headed the procession down suller; Josiah and Ury filled up the furnace and built the fire, Jabez seemin’ly willin’ they should do the work, he’s so lazy. Rosy, Karen and I remained upstairs, Philury and I tryin’ to mop and sweep up some of the dirt, and before long I hearn a buggy drive up, and see it wuz Royal Nelson, and in a few minutes he come in lookin’ solid and reliable as ever.
Well, the upper tank had been filled, and at the welcome news the fire wuz beginnin’ to burn bright we all went upstairs watchin’ to see the grateful heat come up, and some of our hands wuz on the pipes every minute, when a low hollow rumblin’ wuz hearn down in the suller, growin’ louder and louder every minute till it got to be perfectly terrific, and Jabez run down there, his coat tails almost layin’ level in his haste, and Josiah most fallin’ over him, and Royal follerin’ on more tranquil lookin’ but excited all through I could see.
Ury stayed by us a spell, but as the deep hollow noise strengthened to a loud roar, accompanied by a strange rushin’, gurglin’ sound, comin’ nearer and nearer, he seized Philury by the arm and rushed her outdoors through the snow, not stoppin’ till they got to the barn, then he leggo of her and stood in the barn door to reconnoiter. It wuz a awful and skairful seen. I couldn’t blame Ury, but like Sara of old, I felt that I must stay by my stuff, and Rosy and Karen hung to each other, and both hung onto me, all on us tremblin’ like three popple leaves.
Finally, jest as the three men come hurryin’ back into the room to rescue or die with us I spoze, the boilin’ water gin a louder, angrier roar, and riz up out of the tank three feet into the air and poured and steamed and deluged all over the floor. Well wuz it I took up the carpet. But Josiah Allen, to prove he feared no danger, had insisted on leavin’ the dressin’ gown he worshipped hangin’ up in the clothes press where the tank wuz. Alas! alas! as he brung it out drippin’ and steamin’ from the fiery bath, where wuz the once gay colors? Them tossels and red palm leaves on yeller ground that had so lately been the light of his eyes and desire of his heart? Who could tell which wuz palm leaves and which wuz yeller ground? And as for the red tossels, their glory had departed forever. Josiah groaned aloud as he bore it out leavin’ a watery wake of red and yeller all the way to the kitchen, where I follered him and told him, so strong is woman’s love in the hour of trouble, “Dear Josiah, I am sorry for you, but I told you jest how it would be.”
He dashed it onto the floor and hollered out, “You didn’t tell me nothin’ about it! you never said the word dressin’ gown! and I’d like to know what you’re sorry about, it is nothin’, only a valve has bust or sunthin’.”
“Yes,” sez I sadly, “I guess it is a sunthin’.” Here he kicked aginst the suller door so hard one of the panels has been shaky to this day, and run down there, Jabez follerin’ him, while I seized a dipper and a twelve quart pail and hurried up to the flooded deestrick, which we commenced to bail out like a sinkin’ boat, Royal, Karen and Rosy helpin’ me, and Ury havin’ his first fears squenched by the overflow of water (which he expected he said would blow off the hull ruff and top story of the house), he and Philury laid to and helped.
Well, Jabez said it wuz the sudden change from cold to hot water that had caused the overflow, so we put the biler on the kitchen stove and the caldron kettle in the woodhouse, and het water bilin’ hot and filled the empty tank, Josiah groanin’ loud as he lugged it up and sayin’ when he thought I didn’t hear him, “Oh, gracious Heavens! is this two pails a year?”
Then we all gathered in the front chamber agin watchin’ events to come, Jabez boastin’ louder than ever how like a charm it would work, and Karen opholdin’ him. But Josiah looked anxious as I could see. When agin that loud angry roar begun in the suller, and agin Ury ketched Philury round the waist, for she wanted to stand her ground, but he yanked her down stairs and half way acrost the back yard. He loves her dearly and thinks it a man’s place to protect his pardner. He didn’t go so fur this time, but had almost onbeknown to himself sought safety for his dear Philury in flight.
Agin Jabez and Josiah and Royal rushed down suller. The dretful roar ended in a higher more steaminer volume of water than before, agin we laid to and bailed it out, our ranks bein’ reinforced anon by the returnin’ Ury and Philury, and anon furder by Josiah, Royal, and Jabez. Jabez didn’t boast quite so loud now, and I wuz glad to see that Rosy kinder cuddled up closter to Royal as she wielded the dipper, as if she thought him a refuge in time of storm.
Well, from that time, about three in the afternoon, till ten P.M. the programmy wuz stidy over and over. Fillin’ the tank, low snortin’ and rushin’ of the waters up and down, chasin’ along the pipes in every room, hammerin’, kickin’, shootin’, like enraged artillery, at last thundering like the most skairful clap of thunder and then with a fearful roar the volume of water would mount up and pour into the spare room and drizzle down into the settin’ room below, takin’ off the plasterin’ in spite of our very best efforts to bail it out. Over and over agin wuz the wearisome and soul tuckerin’ job carried out, varied every time by Ury ketchin’ Philury and fleein’ with her, but the distance shortened every time, till at last he fled with her no furder than the top of the kitchen stairs. Karen’s horrow struck, mortified looks, Jabez’es entire absence of boastin’, which in itself wuz dog queer, and Rosy’s instinctive turning to Royal for protection, which wuz gladly granted.
Over and over the seen wuz enacted, Jabez every time turnin’ some screw or valve or sunthin’ and prophesyin’ every time it would go right the next time, but said it with feathers droopin’, so to speak, more humble like and doubtful. My poor pardner as he lugged up two heavy pails of water at half-past nine P.M., I hearn him say:
“Oh, gracious, Peter! is this two pails a year? This makes more’n a hundred pails I’ve carried up to-night myself besides Ury’s and Jabezs’es.” It wuzn’t so, he hadn’t carried up more’n thirty or forty twelve quart pails. But yet I pitied him. Well, that also thundered and deluged and guyzered out onto the floor accompanied by the drips and drizzles into the settin’ room, Ury’s flight with Philury, Karen’s mourns, and Josiah’s groans, for he had lost his pride and openly groaned and jawed at Jabez and sez to him:
“You dum fool you! you don’t know beans from a broom stick! I wouldn’t trust you to make splinters to do up a dog’s leg!” And Jabez jawed back again, and Josiah sez, “I’ll make you pay heavy damages for this job, and I’ve as good a mind as I ever had to eat, to give you a good floggin’ with a rawhide.” And as he grew madder and madder he went on:
“This is your perfectly noiseless apparatus is it?” sez he pintin’ down towards the thunderin’ roar, “this is your summer heat, hain’t it?” pintin’ to the shiverin’ crowd. “This is your freedom from labor-two-pails-a-year job! one hundred pails of water have I lugged upstairs to-night if I have a pint! Now,” sez he, makin’ towards him, “do you start out of this house before I fall on you and rend you.” Karen screamed and rushed between ’em and fell onto Jabez and dragged him off with her, he seemin’ glad to go.
Well, we let the fire go down as low as we could without goin’ out, and went to bed shiverin’ and half froze, but with soap stuns and hot-water bags we made out to git through the night. In the mornin’ a sorry seen greeted us, coldness, discomfort, broken plasterin’ and dirt, and no prospect to all appearance of havin’ any better times. The only gleam of light I could see in the hull prospect wuz that Josiah in his excitement and wretchedness had seemin’ly forgot that he’d ever mentioned the Exposition of St. Josiah.
Well, right after breakfast Karen come over lookin’ as if she hadn’t slep’ a wink and sez she, “Jabez lay awake all night studyin’ on it and he knows now where he made the mistake, he pinted one small lead pipe up where it ort to been pinted down, he can make it all right in an hour.”
Well, Josiah, so sure it is that the hottest love soonest cools, vowed that Jabez should never step his foot into the house agin. And I wuz glad enough to see that Rosy agreed with him.
But I wuz naterally made more megum, and thought, any port in a storm, and a hour won’t be much anyway. If we’ve stood all this dirt and confusion for five weeks we could stand it a hour longer.
“Well,” sez Josiah, “I shall go into the woods for a jag of maple, I won’t see him, I dassent, for I should fall on him and destroy him if I did.”
So he went after a load of maple wood and Jabez come and tinkered and hammered and pounded and then sayin’ with some of his pride returned into his port:
“It will go now like clock work.”
He filled the tank and lit the fire agin with Ury’s help. But I wuz glad enough that Josiah wuz absent, for this time the noise wuz so skairful that when Ury ketched Philury round the waist and absconded with her, he didn’t stop till they had ploughed through the snow clear past the old hen house.
I, too, ketched Rosy by the arm and run and stumbled along most to the barn before I remembered myself and regained my faculties, so to speak, it wuz so turrible this time the loud, angry, roarin’, hissin’ noise.
Karen nobly stood by Jabez, who I must say stood by his job in that respect, but I guess they went out into the hall, I thought I ketched a glimpse of ’em, as I havin’ regained my faculty, run in. We got in jest after the deluge poured out agin, higher, louder and more steaminer than ever, and when what few scraps of plaster remained on the settin’ room had fell victims to the bilin’ flood. Well, we let the fire go down agin and cowered over the kitchen stove that day, and agin went shiverin’ to bed. That night the weather moderated, and with a low fire in the furnace, and the heat from the kitchen stove, we kep’ middlin’ warm. We cleaned up the plaster, mopped the floor and wuz comparitively comfortable for three days. The fourth night the fire in the furnace riz up onbeknown to us in the night, and the first we knew we wuz waked up by what we thought a loud clap of thunder overhead, accompanied by a loud roar, and shakin’ of the walls, and Josiah started up in bed and sez, “Is the house struck, Samantha? Who ever heard of thunder at this time of year? Or is it a earthquake?”
But I gittin’ holt of my conscientiousness quicker than he did, sez, “Josiah Allen, it is that heatin’ apparatus.” And to confirm my words we hearn the angry loud roar and the water splurgin’ out over our heads and drizzlin’ down through the laths in the next room. Even as I spoke Rosy come down stairs in her pretty pink wrapper, and sez she half asleep, but wholly afraid, “Oh, Aunt Samantha, I do wish Royal was here! what a fearful time!” sez she.
And if you’ll believe it, so onselfish is a woman’s heart, even in the midst of her deepest tribulations, and so kinder sentimental, her words sent a faint ray of joy over my heart, some like the pale light of a star shinin’ out over a wild western tornado. But before I could reply Ury come runnin’ down stairs holdin’ Philury, faithful critter that he wuz, and Josiah yelled at him: “Do you go over to Kellup Wind’s and bring that cussed fool over here, and if he don’t take out that invention of his under ten minutes I will have the law on him, and whip him within an inch of his life!”
It wuz half-past three and we all got up, and I got breakfast by lamp light. Ury come back and said Jabez had been studyin’ for the hull of the last three days and said he wuz absolutely sure now he knew what ailed it, it wuz the little piece of pipe that led to the tank, it wuz set in the wrong place, it would take about twenty minutes to fix it so it would be entirely right. Josiah hollered out, “Be we goin’ to be used by that dum fool to try his experiments on? Let him take it out or I will take it out and throw it at him!”
But Karen had writ a note to me, pleadin’ with me as a sister in the meetin’ house, to let Jabez have this sole chance, and I showed this note to Josiah and sez, “For Karen’s sake mebby we’d better let him try it.”
“For Karen’s sake!” he yelled out, “why should we pompey her? It is all _her_ fault. What did she let him live for when he wuz a babe? She is to the bottom of it, if it hadn’t been for her lettin’ him live we shouldn’t be in this state, up at midnight, hungry as bears, cold as frogs, and our house a wreck!”
But how true it is the noisest grief is soonest squenched. At last he gin in and Jabez attacked it agin, and tinkered and puttered at it all day, I watchin’ Josiah clost for fear he would surround Jabez and fall on him and demolish him in his anger. But all the difference his work made it seemed as if the noise wuz a little louder and the flood more tumultious and rushin’ if it could be tumultiouser and rushiner. And by my advice Jabez fled out of the suller door and streaked it for home cross lots, for I feared that my beloved pardner might be led by his righteous wrath, even into salt and buttery.
Jest as Jabez streaked it home, I watchin’ him from the buttery window and also keepin’ my pardner at bey in the milk room, I see a buggy drive into the yard, and wuz I not glad to see the manly form and calm quiet face of Royal Nelson. After he drove his handsome span of grays into the horse barn he come in and I see his linement looked considerable brighter and happier, brightenin’ still more as he met Rosy’s sweet smiles and cordial words.
She wuz sick of Jabez, sick as lobely could make her. And her old love and leanin’ on Royal Nelson had come back in full force. Her fancy for Jabez had been light and transitory as his sir-name. And as I see their happy means as they met, I felt that even the wreck and ruin about us wuz mebby not too dear a price to pay for their future happiness. The first thing Royal and Ury did, Josiah helpin’ ’em, wuz to take out the furnace and pipes, the hull caboodle on ’em, and then went over to Jonesville and bought a new furnace and got a good responsible man to put it in that very day. They telephoned to that hardware man to Zoar to come and take away the remains of that invention, and how he settled with Jabez I never knew, for Karen hushed it up, but I know there is a coldness between ’em and they don’t speak.
Well, the places all bein’ made in the walls, and this man bein’ a good workman, who had learnt his trade, that night about eight P.M. the hull job wuz done, and stillness and genial warmth made the place seem almost like Heaven compared to what it had been. The next day a man come and plastered overhead, Ury and Philury helped clean the floors and put down the carpets, and in three day’s time everything wuz happy and calm and quiet, and Josiah wuz beginnin’ to recover from the effects of too voylent wrath upon his nerve.
Our noses had regained their natural color, and on the third day Rosy with a last warm kiss and sweet smile on me and visey versey went home, Royal carryin’ her in his new covered buggy, drawed by them two handsome gray horses. They wuz engaged, and their plans all made, they wuz to be married in the summer and go to the St. Louis Exposition on their weddin’ tower.
And I thought, as I see ’em drive off, happy as a king and queen in the bright moonlight, how true it is our brightest joys often come through darkest tribulations. Rosy’s and Royal’s happiness wuz enough in itself to pay me abundantly for my tribulations. And then my settin’ room new plastered and Josiah would never consented to tear it off, and it wuz lumpy and streaked and broken, and here it wuz new plastered over smooth as glass.
Oh! thinkses I how thankful I ort to be and how I ort to forgit the troubles of the night in the joys of the mornin’.
And crownin’ blessin’ of all Josiah had seemin’ly forgot all about the Exposition of Josiah Allen. He hadn’t mentioned it for days and the children and I wuz full of hope, it wuz broke up. But, alas! in this world how little you can tell what is broke and what hain’t.
And the news Josiah brung home, what comfort there wuz in the thought–I like Karen and felt to rejoice with her. It seemed that Luman Heath, not havin’ heard of our afflictions, had let Jabez go on with his work the very next day after he finished here. And the Perpetually Gushing Hot Water Tank wuz the death blow to Jabez Wind’s inventive ambition, and alas! proved almost the death blow to Luman Heath’s beloved ones, the hull family circle on ’em.
He attached it to the kitchen stove, which wuz a perfect steamer to burn and heat up. And fixed it so that instead of the hot water goin’ acrost the room to the kitchen sink as he meant to have it, it jest squirted right up into the air bilin’ hot, so they had a perfect fiery geyser there in their kitchen. Jabez run for his life, it had hit him in the face.
They wuz Methodist folks with lots of children well brung up and they never thought of havin’ such doin’s in their house, but the bilin’ crater pourin’ down hot water come so sudden and onexpected onto ’em that three of the little children wuz scalded most to-death as they sot on the floor readin’ Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” And Luman, bald-headed, too, the fiery flood descended onto him while he wuz tryin’ to bear his wife, who fell into hystericks, into the settin’ room, he wuz hit on top by the bilin’ torrent and blistered right on his bare head as big as your hand.
He laid his wife down half faintin’, told the screamin’ children to look out for her and keep out of the kitchen, hollered for the hired man to go after a doctor, and fell back into a kind of spazzum. He bein’ a good man who wouldn’t swear, or rare round kep in his feelin’s more. The children got over it before he did, bad as they wuz scalded, they screamed and yelled and let off considerable steam that way. But he wuz bed sick for weeks holdin’ onto his wrath and bein’ too good to jaw and kick Jabez, the doctor said made it worse than if he had kicked some.
But to resoom backwards. The hired girl wuz the coolest of any of ’em, she went into the kitchen with a waterproof and umbrella, and tried to turn the nozzle of the Perpetual Gushing Hot Water Tank out-doors, and havin’ to use both hands, and bein’ smart and quick witted, she put the coal scuttle on bottom side up, and though blinded by it and some scalded, she made out to turn the fury of it out through the kitchen winder where it steamed and squirted and poured out bilin’ water onto the flower beds and acrost ’em into the road, scaldin’ passers by, and bein’ a perfect horrow and mystery to ’em. It wuz big and powerful, there hain’t no doubt of that.
Well, owin’ to the hired girl’s courage, by the time the doctor got there the tank wuz emptied, and the torrent had subsided into a drizzle. Luman Heath didn’t prosecute Jabez, bein’ such a good man, and how I honor him for it, how I honor him for not actin’ and swearin’. The doctor may say what he wants to, he wuz noble to bear it as he did. I have seen kickin’ and actin’ in times of trial, and how I honor a man who can refrain, and he got well as quick, I believe, as though he had acted.
But as I wuz sayin’ the greatest relief that come to the community from our trials wuz as follers. Take it with his doin’s at our house and Luman Heath’s, Jabez Wind had evidently had enough of inventions. He hired out for a year the very next day after the eppisode, to work for twenty dollars a month on a farm, house rent, wood, and cow furnished. Kellup Wind is goin’ to live with a daughter, and Karen is blissful at thought of keepin’ house for Jabez. Good creeter! I hope she will have a little rest now. I said I meant to go and see her jest as soon as she wuz settled.
Well, for two days my feelin’s of joy and thankfulness wuz onclouded. But alas, poor mortals! that plant the flowers of their happiness on earthly sile, they must see ’em wither before their face and eyes anon or oftener like Jonah’s gourd.
The third day, whilst I wuz settin’ happy and calm in my frame in my warm peaceful settin’ room often liftin’ my eyes contentedly to the satin smooth ceilin’.
What wuz my emotions of grief and horrow to see Josiah rise up, haul out his tin trunk where he’d carefuly stored away the plans of the St. Josiah Exposition, and go to studyin’ ’em agin with renewed vigor, sayin’:
“I hope to gracious I can have my mind clear now to go on and plan my Exposition; this dum work has set me back turribly.”
I let my work fall into my lap and gin vent to some sithes, so deep they wuz almost groans, whilst the bitter waters of disappintment trickled over my hopes and drownded ’em out. Had I got to go through another siege of argument and persuasion and extra vittles? Could my too hard worked oratory hold out, and also my provisions?
I see the children next day and told ’em how it wuz, that their Pa seemed more sot on his plan than ever, and talked more excited and earnest about it than I had ever seen him. For it did seem as if his deep ambitions dammed up for a time by furnaces and Jabezeses, had broke loose into a wider, deeper current than ever. He talked incessantly about it day and night, laid on his plans, and reached out onto new ones.
The children sez to me agin: “Mother, it must be stopped at all hazards!”
And agin I wep’, and sez to ’em: “How can it be stopped?”
Tirzah Ann looked completely squelched and could do nothin’ only weakly ask: “If I spozed I could git him to play on a accordeon, she kinder thought that some time she’d hearn of some man, somewhere havin’ his mind soothed by one.”
“Accordeon!” sez I. “You couldn’t git his mind offen that plan if you gin him one of the golden harps we read about.”
Tirzah Ann subsided, only sayin’: “We would all be the town’s talk, and it would probable kill her with mortification.”
Thomas J. sot still with his brow knit in deep thought and sez “I will try one thing more.”
I never knew exactly how Thomas J. worked it, or what he paid ’em, but I know that a day or two after, the prices them livin’ statutes asked Josiah for bein’ whitewashed, wuz sunthin’ perfectly exorbitant, and so with the Powers and the Peaceful Inventors. He never could stood it with his closeness.
Thomas J. didn’t appear outwardly, but wuz the power behind the thrones, so I spoze. When Josiah wuz taxed with these fearful expenses (they writ it in letters to him) his plan tottled ready to fall. And of course I stood ready and follered it up with eloquent arguments, tenderness and the very best of vittles. Neither on ’em could carried the day alone, but all together conquered. He gin in. The plan tottered over and fell onto him, and my pardner, to continue the metafor, lay under the ruins as squshed and mute as if he wuz never goin’ to git up agin.
But when his wild emotions of ambition and vanity and display wuz all broke up a settled melancholy hovered down onto him and draped him like a black mantilly. He seemed all onstrung, and all my efforts to string him up agin seemed vain.
I strove to hide my apprehensions under a holler veil of calmness and even hilarity; I give him catnip with a smile on my lip but deep forebodin’ in my mind, and the same with thoroughwert. But catnip didn’t nip his ambition and thoroughwort wuzn’t thorough enough to restore his cheerfulness.
I encouraged him to go to the lake fishin’ with Deacon Henzy, though I’d suffered more than I had ever told from similar occasions. Deacon Henzy loves hard cider and keeps a kag on tap durin’ the summer, he sez it is for his liver, but liver or no liver it hain’t right.
I hain’t goin’ to make no insinuations about their doin’s though sister Henzy has approached me on the subject time and agin, she hain’t so clost mouthed as I am. But I will merely say that when they got back their two breaths didn’t smell as two deacon’s breaths ort to smell. But I didn’t say nothin’ about it outside and shan’t, I use tack. I spoke on’t to Josiah at the time, yes indeed I hearn the call of Duty and obeyed.
But as I wuz sayin’, though it trompled on all my feelin’s and forebodin’s I urged ’em to go agin and they went. And I shan’t tell how their breaths smelt when they got back–it hain’t best, only simply sayin’ that Josiah took an empty pint fruit can with him that mornin’ when he went over to the Deacon’s to start, and I never inquired what he took it for, so fur will a female let even her principles be outraged when the life of her beloved companion is at the stake–I tried to think he wuz goin’ to take milk in it.
But the small string of tiny fish wuz all he ketched out of the deep waters, he didn’t ketch any cheerfulness or happiness for himself or me, only disappintment and shagrin for I felt if I didn’t use all my tack mebby the meetin’ house would try to set down on him. Two deacons! the very idee on’t!
But I kep’ mum and dressed the fish myself and fried ’em in butter, only hopin’ I wouldn’t lose ’em in the fryin’ pan, but Josiah didn’t seem to relish ’em no better than he would side pork, and agin I felt baffled, and rememberin’ the fruit can, a element of guilt also mingled with the baffle. Biled vittles with a bag puddin’ which he loved almost to idolatry I put before him in vain; I petted him; I called him “dear Josiah” repeatedly; I fairly pompeyed him, but no change could I see, I felt turrible.
He still kep’ a runnin’ down and I didn’t know when he would stop runnin’ and I shuddered to think where he might run to. At last in spite of Josiah’s onwillingness I sent for Doctor Bombus. He come and took his wrist in hisen and Josiah sez kinder mad actin’: “What do you want to feel of my polt for? My polt beats all right!”
He looked at his tongue, Josiah stickin’ it out as if he wuz makin’ a face at him. He inquired about symptoms, all of which Josiah answered snappishly, the examination over, the doctor walked the floor back and forth with one hand under his coat tail and the other in his breast in deep thought and then said:
“My diagnosis denotes no diametrical and insurmountable difficulties but I would recommend a temporary transition or in other words a change of climate.”
“Change of climate!” muttered Josiah, “I guess anybody that lives in this state gits changes enough, from torrid to zero in twenty-four hours lots of times–I’d like to know where you wintered!”
“Nevertheless and notwithstanding,” sez Doctor Bombus, blandly ignoring Josiah’s muttering impatience, “I can but recapitulate my former prescription, a temporary translation from surrounding environment.”
And he gathered up his saddle bags and went out, bagoning me out into the hall as he did so. And then he advised me to take him to the St. Louis Exposition.
But I sez, “I dassent, I’m afraid it would open his woonds afresh, he knowed all the circumstances that had caused his sickness.” But he wuz a Homeopath and believed in takin’ the same kind of medicine backward and forward as it were, sunthin’ as the poem runs:
Tobacco hic when you’re well will make you sick, Tobacco hic will make you well when you’re sick.
I told him I thought it wuz a hazardous undertakin’, and I hardly dast, but he informed me in words more’n two inches long that he could do nothing more for him, and if I didn’t foller his advice it would be at my own peril.
I felt turrible. What wuz I to do to do right? How wuz I to handle this enormous prescription, St. Louis Exposition, and give it in proper doses to the beloved patient? I knowed the size of the mind I had to deal with, I knowed the size of the medicine I wuz told to deal out to that mind.
Could it stand the strain? Could that small citadel stand a assault of such magnitude without crumplin’ and crumblin’ right down? Dast I venter? And then agin dast I disobey the imperative advice of Doctor Bombus? So I wuz tossted to and fro like the waves of the sea.
But one thing I wuz determined on, I wouldn’t start alone with him in the state he wuz in, for if he should lose his mind in that immense place how could I find it with no one to help me? It would be worse than lookin’ for a cambric needle in a hay-mow.
I knew how the shafts of calumny and envy might be aimed at me by his relations, so I would take along one on his side to share my responsibility, so if he did lose his mind and couldn’t find it agin, they couldn’t find fault with me and say I hadn’t done my best. So I proposed that his niece, Blandina Teeter, should go with us, she is well off and a willin’ creeter.
Josiah didn’t seem to care either way, but languidly remarked that if he did go he wanted a sky blue neck-tie. That wuz the first sign of interest he had took in anything, and I hailed it as a good omen but got the tie as dark a blue as I dast.
Blandina Teeter, formerly Allen, is a widder with a tall spindlin’ figger pale complected, with big light blue eyes that ruther stand out of her head, and a tall peaked forehead with light hair combed down smooth on both sides with scalops made in it by hand. She is good natered to a fault, you know you can kill yourself on milk porridge, and though folks don’t philosophize on it you can be too good to be comfortable.
She is a natural lover of mankind, nothin’ light in it, jest a deep meetin’ house love. She wuz born that way onbeknown to her I spoze, and so I d’no as I ort to blame her for her soft ways. I hadn’t seen her for some years and had kinder forgot how soft and squshy she wuz in her nater, and I declare for’t when I got her and Josiah both together, had marshaled my forces, as you may say before my mind’s review, I didn’t know how I wuz goin’ to git ’em to St. Louis and back agin hull. It did seem to me that if I got through all right with Josiah, she wuz that soft and meller she would spile on my hands anyway.
But she wuz the only one on his side available in the position of second chaperone to Josiah and so I took my chances.
She had been a widder some years; Teeter had used her shameful, spent her property and throwed her round considerable, but still she kep’ up her perennial love and passionate adoration of man. And thinkses I it will work well anyway with her Uncle Josiah, for lovin’ all mankind as she did from infancy to age, I knowed that bein’ the only male in the party she would keep her eye on him.
Blandina wuz more than willin’ when I explained matters to her. She said she felt that men wuz such precious creeters that too much care could not be took of ’em, and that it would give her the greatest pleasure to surround her Uncle Josiah with all the care that a most devoted affection could dictate.
She’s an awful clever critter, it hain’t good nater that she lacks. But there is sunthin’ wantin’ in her, I believe it is common sense.
But we sot out, I with considerable misgivin’ at heart, but calm and cool on the outside, clad as I wuz in dignity and a gray braize delaine dress and a bunnet of the same color, I also wore my costly cameo pin fastened in my linen collar. Some gray lisle thread gloves and a rich Paisley shawl completed my _toot a sembly_.
Blandina had on a soft yellerish dress, I guess it wuz lawn it looked most as soft as she did, and a hat that kinder drooped ’round her face trimmed with crushed strawberry roses. She also wore some open-work mitts, and a lace long shawl that had been her ma’s.
Josiah had on his pepper and salt costoom, and in my partial eyes he wuz beautiful, but, oh, so sad, so deprested. Would the gloom ever be lifted from his beloved liniment? So my heart questioned itself as we helped ourselves out of the Democrat, Ury tendin’ to the trunks.
It wuz a Monday mornin’, for I felt that I wanted to tackle this job jest as I would a three weeks’ washin’, the first day of the week. Ury shook our hands firmly but sadly, promisin’ to the last to see to things and not let the cows into the garden, and keep the buttery door shet up nights, for though the cat is not a habitual snooper, yet she will sometimes snoop.
The car wuz crowded, mebby folks had hearn of our goin’ and wanted to ride a spell with us. ‘Tennyrate Josiah and I had to be separated at the outset of our journey, he settin’ with a man acrost the aisle; Blandina got a seat with an aged gentleman while I sot down with a pale complected woman in deep mournin’. Or at least what mournin’ she had wuz deep. She wore a thick crape veil and black cotton gloves. But her dress wuz chocklate delaine. The mournin’ wuz borryed, she told me most as soon as I sot down.
She wuz on the way to the funeral of her father. He had lived with her, but died while he wuz on a visit to her sister. She wuz feelin’ dretful and said she didn’t know what she would do without him; she took on real bad, and I sez, “Yes, losin’ a pa is an awful loss.”
“Yes,” sez she, “pa wuz a dretful good man. I don’t see what we’re goin’ to do without him; we shall miss him so makin’ line fences. He knew all about where they ort to stand.”
I wuz kinder took back. But then come to think it over I see it wuz better to be missed in line fences than not at all. She got out at the next station, and my own pardner took the vacant seat by my side, and on and on we wuz whirled from the peaceful shores of Jonesville to the pleasures and dangers of the great city.
As I said, I wanted to get to St. Louis the first of the week, but Josiah took it into his head that he wanted to visit his nephew, Orange Allen, who lives in the Ohio, and under the circumstances it wuz not for me to cross him in anything that wuz more or less reasonable. So we stopped there and had a good visit. He keeps a dairy farm and owns forty cows besides a wife and three young children; he is doing well. His pa havin’ a horticultural and floral turn of mind, named his two boys Lemon and Orange. His girls are Lily, Rose and Violet. Lily is dark complected and so fat that she looks like a pillar with a string tied in the middle, and Rose and Violet are as humbly as they make but respectable. Folks ort to be more cautious in namin’ children, but they’re all married quite well, and we had a good visit with ’em, stayin’ most of the time at Orange’s.
And I see with joy that the shadder on my pardner’s face lifted quite a little durin’ our stay there, but of course this belated us and we didn’t git to St. Louis till Saturday late in the afternoon. St. Louis is a big sizeable place. Mr. Laclede cut the tree for the first log-house in the forest where St. Louis now stands in 1764. America had several cities all started at that time, but St. Louis jest put in and growed, and now it is the fourth city in the United States. It’s an awful worker, why it produces more in its factories than is produced by the hull of thirty-seven States, jest think on’t! And it has thirty-two million folks to buy the things it produces. Twenty-seven railways run into it; the city rules itself and leads the world in many manufactures. They say it is the richest community in the world, and I couldn’t dispute it, for they seemed jest rollin’ in riches all the while I wuz there; wuzn’t put to it for a thing so fur as I could see.
It is noted for its charities; it has the biggest Sunday-school in the world, two thousand three hundred and forty-four children in one school–jest think on’t! Its Union railroad station is the finest in the Universe, so they say, and jest the buildin’ covers twenty acres. And it has the greatest bridge over the greatest river in the world.
But everything has its drawbacks, the water there hain’t like Jonesville water; I don’t say it to twit ’em, but it is a solemn truth, the water is riley, they can’t dispute it. I’d love to hand ’em out a pailful now and then from our well, and would if I had the chance–how they would enjoy it.
Blandina and I wanted to go to once to Miss Huff’s, a woman we used to know in Jonesville who keeps a small boardin’ house.
But Josiah, who had seen pictures on’t, wanted to go to the Inside Inn. He said they’d advertised cheap rooms, it would have a stylish sound to tell on’t in Jonesville and it would be so handy and equinomical for we wouldn’t have to pay entrance fees. So to please him, which wuz the main effort of us two chaperones, we went there. We wuz tired to death that night anyway, and wanted a quiet haven and wanted it to once, for truly when Josiah pinted out the elegant buildin’s that we passed I looked coldly on ’em, and said that there wuzn’t one that looked so good to me as a goose feather piller would. And I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t take a note or act as a Observer at all till Monday mornin’. So I faced the crowd and the Fair ground as not seein’ ’em as it were, carryin’ out my firm idee to begin’ the job as Observer and Delineator the first day of the week.
The Inside Inn we found wuz a buildin’ as big as the hull of our neighborhood and I d’no but part of Loontown and Zoar, it wuz immense. And everywhere you’d look you would see this sign pasted up:
“Pay In Advance! Pay In Advance!”
Josiah acted real puggicky about it, he said he believed they had hearn we wuz comin’ and got them signs printed for fear we would cheat ’em out of their pay or wuzn’t able to pay. And he sez, “I’ll let ’em know I am a solid man and have got money!” And he took out his little leather bag where he keeps the most of his money and showed ’em in a careless way, as much as fifteen dollars in cash.
I told him it wuz venturesome to show off so much money, but he said he wuzn’t goin’ to have ’em insinuatin’ in this mean underhanded way that we couldn’t pay our bills.
Blandina would pay her own bills, but then she’s got plenty and Josiah said, “Let her pay for herself if she wants to.” And I said:
“Well, I spoze it will make her feel better to pay her way.”
“Yes,” he sez, “and it makes me feel better too.”
A young chap took our satchel bags and went to show us our room, and we went through one long hall after another, and walked and walked and walked, till I thought we should drop down. And finally Josiah stopped in his tracks and faced the feller, and sez he:
“Look here, young man, what do you take us for? We hain’t runnin’ for mail carriers, and we hain’t niggers trainin’ for a cake walk. We’d love to git a room and set down some time to-day!”
“Yes, sir,” sez the man, “we are most to your rooms.” And he turned and begun to go down stairs, and we follered him down two flights and started for a third one, and then Josiah faced him agin:
“What in Tunket ails you, anyway? Because we come from the country we don’t propose to be put down suller amongst your cabbages and turnips! I want you to take us to some good rooms; I’ve paid in advance, dum you! and I’m goin’ to stand for my rights.”
“Yes, sir,” sez the man, “they’re good rooms.”
And I knowin’ we wuz three to one and if he wuz leadin’ us off into a trap to git Josiah’s money we could overpower him, I wunked for Josiah to keep still, but he wouldn’t, but kep’ on mutterin’ whilst the man led us down two more flights, and into some quite good rooms, only if you’ll believe it there wuz a tree growin’ right up through our room as big as Josiah’s waist.
And that made Josiah as mad as a hen agin, and he told the man, “We’ve been imposed upon ever since we entered this house. You knew we lived on the outskirts of Jonesville, and you’ve took liberties with us that you wouldn’t if we had come from the heart of the village. But I’ll let you know we’re knowed and respected, and Jonesville will resent it to think you’ve put us in with trees, tryin’ to make out we’re green, I spoze.”
But the man wuz up two flights of stairs by this time. And I quelled Josiah down by sayin’ we would try to make the best on’t. The hotel is built on a side hill, that’s why we had to come down stairs; there are four stories more in the back than in front, and they wouldn’t let ’em cut down all the trees so they had to build right round ’em.
But I ruther enjoyed it, and hung my mantilly up on it, there wuz some nails that somebody had left in it, and the tabs hung down noble. And as I told Josiah, “Trees are kinder sociable things anyway.”
“Sociable!” he groaned. “We don’t need trees in order to be sociable.” And sure enough, on both sides on us wuz goin’ on private conversations that we could hear every word on. It wuz a very friendly place.
Well, I het up my little alcohol lamp and made a cup of tea and we had lots left in our lunch basket. So I called Blandina, her room wuz only jest a little ways from ourn, and we had a good lunch and felt recooperated.
We slep’ as well as we could considerin’ the size and hardness of the mattress and pillows, and the confidences that wuz bein’ poured into us onbeknown from both sides.
The house is built dretful shammy. Why I hearn that a man weighin’ most three hundred took a room there, and comin’ in one evenin’ dretful tired from the day’s tramp on the Fair ground leaned up heavy aginst the wall to pull off his boots, and broke right through into the next room.
And that room wuz occupied by a young married couple. You know it wuz dretful fashionable to marry and go to St. Louis on your tower. So they’d follered Fashion and the star of Love and wuz havin’ a first rate time.
They had been there several days, and this evenin’, he thinkin’ his eyes of her, and feelin’ very sentimental as wuz nateral, wuz readin’ poetry to her, she settin’ the picture of happiness and contentment with her feet on a foot-stool, her pretty hands clasped in her lap, and her eyes lookin’ up adorin’ly into hisen as he read:
“Oh, beautious love, sweet realm of joy, No wild alarm shall ere thy sweet calm break.”
When crash! bang! down come the partition with a half dressed man on top, brandishin’ aloft a boot and screamin’ like a painter, as wuz only natural. He broke right into Love’s Sweet Realm and skairt ’em into fits.
She fell to once into highstericks, and he, when he recovered conscientiousness threatened to lick the man, and everybody in St. Louis, and made the air blue with conversation that the Realm of Love never ort to hearn on, and wouldn’t probable for years and years if it hadn’t been for this _contrary temps_.
I hearn this, but don’t say it is so; you can hear most anything and it held us in all right.
The next day, bein’ Sunday, Josiah thought it would be our duty to stay on the Fair ground and see the Pike, etc. But I sez: “Josiah, we will begin this hefty job right, we will go to meetin’.”
So we went out into the city and hunted up a M.E. meetin’ house and hearn a good sermon and went into class meetin’ and gin testimonies both on us. And Blandina bein’ asked to by a man went forward for prayers and sot for a spell on the sinners’ bench. She’s been a member for years, but she’s such a clever creeter she wants to obleege everybody.
Well, havin’ done our three duties we went back peaceful and pious in frame and went to walk in of course to our own temporary home. But what do you think! that misuble, cheatin’ man at the gate asked us to pay to git in. We hearn afterward that this wuz a dishonest man and wuz sent off.
“Pay!” sez Josiah. “Pay to come home from meetin’? Did you want us to hang round the meetin’ house all day and sleep on the steps? Or what did you want?”
The man kep’ that stuny look onto him and sez, “Fifty cents each.”
Josiah fairly trembled with rage as he handed out the money, and sez he in a threatenin’ way, “You hain’t hearn the last of this, young man. Square Baker of Jonesville will git onto your tracks, and you’d better have a tiger after you than have him when he’s rousted up. Pay for comin’ home from meetin’, it is a disgrace to the nation! Call this a land of liberty when you have to pay for comin’ home from meetin’!”
And sez he, as he took his change back, “Do you know what you’re doin’? You’re drivin’ Samantha and me away from this place, and Blandina.” And sez he, with an air of shootin’ his sharpest arrer, “We shall go to Miss Huff’s to-morry.”
And so we did. Blandina and I wanted to go there in the first place, so we felt well about it. We had fulfilled our duties as chaperones to the fullest extent, and had also got our own two ways in the end, which is always comfortin’ to a woman.
We found Miss Huff settled in a pleasant street in a good comfortable home, not so very fur away from the Fair ground. She’s a widder with one son, young and good lookin’, jest home from school; and a aged parent, toothless and no more hair on his head than on the cover of my glass butter dish. And I’ll be hanged if I knowed which one on ’em Blandina paid the most devoted attention to whilst we wuz there, but nothin’ light and triflin’.
She is likely, her morals mebby bein’ able to stand more bein’ so sort o’ withy and soft than if they wuz more hard and brittle, they could bend round considerable without breakin’.
And Miss Huff had also a little grand-niece, Dorothy Evans, whose mother had passed away, and Miss Huff bein’ next of kin had took into her family to take care of. Dretful clever I thought it wuz of Miss Huff. Dorothy’s mother, I guess, didn’t have much faculty and spent everything as she went along; she had an annuity that died with her, but she had been well enough off so she could hire a nurse for the child, an elderly colored woman, Aunt Tryphena by name, who out of love for the little one had offered to come to Miss Huff’s just to be near the little girl.
And Dotie, as they well called her, for everyone doted on her, wuz as sweet a little fairy as I ever see, her pretty golden head carried sunshine wherever it went. And her big blue eyes, full of mischief sometimes, wuz also full of the solemn sweetness of them “Who do always behold the face of the Father.”
I took to her from the very first, and so did Josiah and Blandina. The hull family loved and petted her from Miss Huff and her old father down to Billy, who alternately petted and teased her.
To Aunt Tryphena she wuz an object of perfect adoration. And Aunt Tryphena wuz a character uneek and standin’ alone. When she wuz made the mould wuz throwed away and never used afterwards. She follered Dorothy round like her shadow and helped make the beds and keep the rooms tidy, a sort of chamber-maid, or ruther chamber-woman, for she wuz sixty if she wuz a day.
Besides Aunt Tryphena Miss Huff had two more girls to cook and clean. She had good help and sot a good table, and Aunt Feeny as they called her wuz a source of constant amusement and interest; but of her more anon.
We got to Miss Huff’s in the afternoon and rested the rest of that day and had a good night’s sleep.
In the mornin’ Josiah, who went out at my request before breakfast to buy a little peppermint essence, come in burnin’ with indignation, his morals are like iron (most of the time).
He said a man had been advisin’ him to take the Immoral Railway as the best way of seein’ the Fair grounds as a hull before we branched out to see things more minutely one by one.
“Immoral Railway!” he snorted out agin.
“I hope you didn’t fall in with any such idee, Josiah Allen.” And I sithed as I thought how many took that kind of railway and wuz whirled into ruin on’t.
“Fall in with it! I guess the man that spoke to me about it thought I didn’t fall in with it. I gin that feller a piece of my mind.”
“I hope you didn’t give him too big a piece,” sez I anxiously; “you know you hain’t got a bit to spare, specially at this time.”
Oh, how I watched over that man day by day! I wanted the peppermint more for him than for me. I laid out if he seemed likely to break down to give him a peppermint sling.
Not that I am one of them who when fur away from home dash out into forbidden paths and dissipation, but I didn’t consider peppermint sling wrong anyway, there hain’t much stimulant to it.
Well, we started out for the Fair in pretty good season in the mornin’, Billy Huff offered to go and put us on the right car, so he walked ahead with Blandina, Josiah and I follerin’ clost in their rears. Blandina looked up at him and follered his remarks as clost and stiddy as a sunflower follers the sun. She had told me that mornin’ whilst I wuz gittin’ ready to start that he wuz the loveliest young man she had ever met, and a woman would be happy indeed who won him for her consort. And I said, as I pinned my collar on more firmly with my cameo pin, that I presoomed that he would make a good man and pardner when he growed up.
And she said, “Difference in age don’t count anything when there is true love.” Sez she, “Look at Aaron Burr and Lord Baconsfield,” and she brung up a number more for me to look at mentally, whilst I wuz drapin’ my mantilly round my frame in graceful folds.
But I told her I didn’t seem to want to spend my time on them old ghosts that mornin’, havin’ such a big job on my hands to tackle that day as first chaperone to Josiah, and I got her mind off for the time bein’, by the time I had fastened on my mantilly so the tabs hung as I wanted ’em to hang.
Josiah wuz for goin’ into the show by the entrance nighest to Miss Huff’s, but I said, “No, that may do for other times, but when I first enter this Fair ground as a Observer” (for in our visit to the Inside Inn we wuz only weary wayfarers, too tired to observe, and the Sabbath we felt wuz no time to jot down impressions). No, this day I felt wuz in reality our _dayboo_, and I sez impressively, “I will not go sneakin’ in by any side door or winder, I’m goin’ to enter by the main gateway.”
Josiah kinder hummed:
“Broad is the road that leads to death And thousands walk together there.”
But when he found we could go in there at the same price he didn’t parley further, and Billy took us to the car that would leave us where I wanted to be.
The main entrance is in itself a noble sight worth goin’ milds and milds to see, a long handsome buildin’ curvin’ round gracefully some in shape like a mammoth U only bendin’ round more at the ends, and endin’ with handsome buildin’s, and tall pillars decorate the hull length and flags wave out nobly all along on top.
Mebby it wuz meant for a U and meant Union, a name good enough for entrance into anything or anywhere. And if it wuz I approved on’t, and would encouraged ’em by tellin’ ’em so if they’d asked me beforehand. Union! a name commandin’ world-wide respect, writ in blue and gray on millions of hearts, sealed with precious blood.
The centre of the long buildin’ peaks up and arches over you in such a lofty and magnificent way that you feel there some as Miss Sheba must have felt when she went to visit Mr. and Miss Solomon or the Misses Solomon, I spoze I ort to say, he had a variety of wives, though it is nothin’ I ever approved on, and would told him so if I’d had the chance.
But good land! Mr. Solomon never had any sights to show Miss Sheba approachin’ this Fair, I wouldn’t been afraid to take my oath on’t.
We riz the flight of steps which hundreds and hundreds could rise similtaneously and abreast, paid our three fares and went in. And when you first stand inside of that gate the beauty jest strikes you in your face some like a great flash of lightnin’, only meller and happifyin’ instead of blindin’.
And the vastness of it as you look on every side on you impresses you so you feel sunthin’ as you would if you wuz sot down on the Desert of Sara, and Sara wuz turned into vistas of bewilderin’ beauty towards every pint of her compass.
There wuz broad, smooth paths leadin’ out on every side all on ’em full of folks from every country in the world, and clad in every costoom you ever see or ever didn’t see before. Folks in plain American dress side by side with dark complected folks wropped up seemin’ly in white sheets, jest their black-bearded faces and flashin’ eyes gleamin’ at you from the drapery. Then there would be mebby a pretty young girl with a rose-bud face under a lace parasol. Two sweet-faced nuns in sombry black with their pure white night caps on under their clost black bunnets and veils, and follerin’ them some fierce lookin’ creeters in red baggy trousers embroidered jackets and skull caps with long tossels on ’em; Persians mebby, or Arabs.
As Josiah looked at these last I hearn him murmur as if to himself, “Why under the sun didn’t Samantha put in my dressin’ gown with tossels, and the smokin’ cap Thomas J. gin me, I could showed off some then.”
But I pretended not to hear him for my eyes wuz fastened on the passin’ pageant. Smart lookin’ bizness men with handsome well-dressed wives and children, then a Injun with striped blanket, beaded moccasins and head-dress of high feathers. Then a American widder, mebby a plain one, and mebby grass; then some more wimmen. Then some Chinamen with long dresses and pig-tails follered by some gawky, awkwud country folks; some more smart-lookin’ Americans. Some English tourists with field-glasses strapped over one shoulder. Some Fillipinos in yellerish costoom. Then a kodak fiend ready to aim at anything or nothin’ and hit it; then some Scotchmen in Tarten dress and follerin’ clost some Japans, lots and lots of them scattered along. Then some brown children and their mothers, the children dressed mostly in a sash and some beads, and some more pretty white children dressed elaborate, and some niggers, and some soldiers, and some more wimmen, and more folks, and some more, and some more, in a stiddy and endless stream.
Good land! I couldn’t sort out and describe them that passed by in an hour even, no more than I could sort out and describe the slate stuns in Jonesville creek, and you well know that wagon loads could be took out of one little spot.
Josiah said to me, “Why jest to look at this crowd, Samantha, pays anybody for comin’ here clear from the Antipathies.”
Sez I, “Josiah, you mean the Antipodes.”
“I mean what I say!” he snapped out, “and les’s be movin’ on, no use standin’ here all day.”
He don’t love to be corrected. But truly that immense and strangely assorted crowd constantly comin’, constantly goin’ and changin’ all the time wuz a sight well worth comin’ from Jonesville to see, even if we didn’t see a thing more. But, oh, what didn’t we see! what a glorious sight as our eyes left the crowd and looked ’round us. Why the wonder and beauty on’t fairly struck you in the face some like a flash of lightnin’ only more meller and happifyin’.
There you are in the beautiful Court of St. Louis. And right in the centre sets Saint Louis himself on a prancin’ horse, holdin’ up a cross, I wuz glad to see that cross held up as if in benediction over all the immense crowd below, it seemed as if it begun the Fair right, jest as it begins the week right to go to meetin’ Sunday.
I always sot store by Saint Louis. Leadin’ them Crusades of hisen to protect Christians and free the Holy Land from lawless invaders. How much I thought on him for it. Though I could advised him for his good in lots of things if I’d been ’round.
Now his marryin’ a girl twelve years old who ort to been in pantalettes and high aprons, I should tried to break it up, I should told him plain and square that I wouldn’t have heard for a minute to his marryin’ our Tirzah Ann at that age. She shouldn’t married him if he’d been King Louis twenty or thirty instead of nine. But I wuzn’t there and he went on and had his way, as men will.
But he acted noble in lots of things, made a wise ruler and a generous one, lived and died like a hero. And I was glad to see him riz up in such a sightly place, holdin’ up the cross he wuz willin’ to give his life for.
He looked first rate, he wore a sort of a helmet and had a cloak on, shaped some like my long circle cape, only it didn’t set so good, and I wuz sorry they didn’t have my pattern to cut it by. Hisen kinder curled up at the back, they ort to cut it ketterin’. Two noble statutes stood on each side on him, kinder guardin’ him as it were, though he didn’t need it as long as he clung to the cross. Scattered all along by the side of the broad paths wuz little green oasises, on which the splendor-tired and people-tired eyes could rest and recooperate a little.
In front of you quite a little ways off on each side stood immense snow-white palaces each one on ’em seemin’ more beautiful than the last one you looked at, full of sculptured beauty and with long, long rows of pearl white collumns and ornaments of all kinds. Beyond, but still as it were in the foreground, as it ort to, high up on a lofty pedestal stood the statute of Peace.
My pardner, who for reasons named, wuz inclined to pick flaws in this glorious Exposition, sez to me:
“What’s the use of sculpin’ Peace up on so high a monument and showin’ her off as if she wuz safe and sound, and then histin’ cannons up right by her throwin’ balls that will travel twenty milds and then knock her sky high.”
I sithed, but almost onbeknown to myself looked at the Cross, and hoped that that divine light would go ahead through the wilderness of world warfare makin’ a safe path, so Peace could git down from her high monument bime-by and walk round some through the world without gittin’ her head blowed off.