"Why-ee!" says I.
"Yes, you will see 'em all down that man's throat." And says she, in still more bitter axents, "You will see four mules, and a span of horses, two buggies, a double sleigh, and three buffalo-robes. He has drinked 'em all up—and 2 horse-rakes, a cultivator, and a thrashin'-machine.
"Why! Why-ee!" says I agin. "And where are the children?"
"The boys have inherited their father's evil habits, and drink as bad as he duz; and the oldest girl has gone to the bad."
"Oh, dear! oh, dear me!" says I. And we both sot silent for a spell. And then, thinkin' I must say sunthin', and wantin' to strike a safe subject, and a good-lookin' one, I says,—
"Where is your aunt Eunice'es girl? that pretty girl I see to your house once."
"That girl is in the lunatick asylum."
"Dorlesky Burpy!" says I. "Be you a tellin' the truth?" "Yes, I be, the livin' truth. She went to New York to buy millinary goods for her mother's store. It wus quite cool when she left home, and she hadn't took off her winter clothes: and it come on brilin' hot in the city; and in goin' about from store to store, the heat and the hard work overcome her, and she fell down in the street in a sort of a faintin'-fit, and was called drunk, and dragged off to a police court by a man who wus a animal in human shape. And he misused her in such a way, that she never got over the horror of what befell her—when she come to, to find herself at the mercy of a brute in a man's shape. She went into a melancholy madness, and wus sent to the asylum. Of course they couldn't have wimmen in such places to take care of wimmen," says she bitterly.
I sithed a long and mournful sithe, and sot silent agin for quite a spell. But thinkin' I must be sociable, I says,—
"Your aunt Eunice is well, I s'pose?"
"She is a moulderin' in jail," says she.
"In jail? Eunice Keeler in jail?"
"Yes, in jail." And Dorlesky's tone wus now like wormwood, wormwood and gall.
"You know, she owns a big property in tenement-houses, and other buildings, where she lives. Of course her taxes wus awful high; and she didn't expect to have any voice in tellin' how that money, a part of her own property, that she earned herself in a store, should be used.
"But she had jest been taxed high for new sidewalks in front of some of her buildin's.
"And then another man come into power in that ward, and he natrully wanted to make some money out of her; and he had a spite aginst her, too, so he ordered her to build new sidewalks. And she wouldn't tear up a good sidewalk to please him or anybody else, so she was put to jail for refusin' to comply with the law."
Thinks'es I to myself, I don't believe the law would have been so hard on her if she hadn't been so humbly. The Burpys are a humbly lot. But I didn't think it out loud. And I didn't uphold the law for feelin' so, if it did. No: I says in pityin' tones,—for I wus truly sorry for Eunice Keeler,—
"How did it end?"
"It hain't ended," says she. "It only took place a month ago; and she has got her grit up, and won't pay: and no knowin' how it will end. She lays there a moulderin'."
I myself don't believe Eunice wus "mouldy;" but that is Dorlesky's way of talkin',—very flowery.
"Wall," says I, "do you think the weather is goin' to moderate?"
I truly felt that I dassent speak to her about any human bein' under the sun, not knowin' what turn she would give to the conversation, bein' so embittered. But I felt the weather wus safe, and cotton stockin's, and factory-cloth; and I kep' her down onto them subjects for more'n two hours.
But, good land! I can't blame her for bein' embittered aginst men and the laws they have made; for, if ever a woman has been tormented, she has.
It honestly seems to me as if I never see a human creeter so afflicted as Dorlesky Burpy has been, all her life.
Why, her sufferin's date back before she wus born; and that is goin' pretty fur back. You see, her father and mother had had some difficulty: and he wus took down with billious colic voyolent four weeks before Dorlesky wus born; and some think it wus the hardness between 'em, and some think it wus the gripin' of the colic at the time he made his will; anyway, he willed Dorlesky away, boy or girl, whichever it wuz, to his brother up on the Canada line.
So, when Dorlesky wus born (and born a girl, entirely onbeknown to her), she wus took right away from her mother, and gin to this brother. Her mother couldn't help herself: he had the law on his side. But it jest killed her. She drooped right away and died, before the baby wus a year old. She was a affectionate, tenderhearted woman; and her husband wus kinder overbearin', and stern always.
But it wus this last move of hisen that killed her; for I tell you, it is pretty tough on a mother to have her baby, a part of her own life, took right out of her arms, and gin to a stranger.
For this uncle of hern wus a entire stranger to Dorlesky when the will wus made. And almost like a stranger to her father, for he hadn't seen him sence he wus a boy; but he knew he hadn't any children, and s'posed he wus rich and respectable. But the truth wuz, he had been a runnin' down every way,—had lost his property and his character, wus dissipated and mean (onbeknown, it wus s'posed, to Dorlesky's father). But the will was made, and the law stood. Men are ashamed now, to think the law wus ever in voge; but it wuz, and is now in some of the States. The law wus in voge, and the poor young mother couldn't help herself. It has always been the boast of our American law, that it takes care of wimmen. It took care of her. It held her in its strong, protectin' grasp, and held her so tight, that the only way she could slip out of it wus to drop into the grave, which she did in a few months. Then it leggo.
But it kep' holt of Dorlesky: it bound her tight to her uncle, while he run through with what little property she had; while he sunk lower and lower, until at last he needed the very necessaries of life; and then he bound her out to work, to a woman who kep' a drinkin'-den, and the lowest, most degraded hant of vice.
Twice Dorlesky run away, bein' virtuous but humbly; but them strong, protectin' arms of the law that had held her mother so tight, jest reached out, and dragged her back agin. Upheld by them, her uncle could compel her to give her service wherever he wanted her to work; and he wus owin' this woman, and she wanted Dorlesky's work, so she had to submit.
But the 3d time, she made a effort so voyalent that she got away. A good woman, who, bein' nothin' but a woman, couldn't do any thing towards onclinchin' them powerful arms that wuz protectin' her, helped her to slip through 'em. And Dorlesky come to Jonesville to live with a sister of that good woman; changed her name, so's it wouldn't be so easy to find her; grew up to be a nice, industrious girl. And when the woman she was took by, died, she left Dorlesky quite a handsome property.
And finally she married Lank Rumsey, and did considerable well, it was s'posed. Her property, put with what little he had, made 'em a comfortable home; and they had two pretty little children,—a boy and a girl. But when the little girl was a baby, he took to drinkin', neglected his business, got mixed up with a whisky-ring, whipped Dorlesky—not so very hard. He went accordin' to law; and the law of the United States don't approve of a man whippin' his wife enough to endanger her life—it says it don't. He made every move of hisen lawful, and felt that Dorlesky hadn't ort to complain and feel hurt. But a good whippin' will make anybody feel hurt, law or no law. And then he parted with her, and got her property and her two little children. Why, it seemed as if every thing under the sun and moon, that could happen to a woman, had happened to Dorlesky, painful things, and gaulin'.
Jest before Lank parted with her, she fell on a broken sidewalk: some think he tripped her up, but it never was proved. But, anyway, Dorlesky fell, and broke her hip bone; and her husband sued the corporation, and got ten thousand dollars for it. Of course, the law give the money to him, and she never got a cent of it. But she wouldn't never have made any fuss over that, knowin' that the law of the United States was such. But what made it gaulin' to her wuz, that, while she was layin' there achin' in splints, he took that very money and used it to court up another woman with. Gin her presents, jewellry, bunnets, head-dresses, artificial flowers, and etcetery, out of Dorlesky's own hip-money.
And I don't know as any thing could be much more gaulin' to a woman than that wuz,—while she lay there, groanin' in splints, to have her husband take the money for her own broken bones, and dress up another woman like a doll with it.
But the law gin it to him; and he was only availin' himself of the glorious liberty of our free republic, and doin' as he was a mind to.
And it was s'posed that that very hip-money was what made the match. For, before she wus fairly out of splints, he got a divorce from her. And by the help of that money, and the Whisky Ring, he got her two little children away from her.
And I wonder if there is a mother in the land, that can blame Dorlesky for gettin' mad, and wantin' her rights, and wantin' the Whisky Ring broke up, when they think it over,—how she has been fooled round with by men, willed away, and whipped and parted with and stole from. Why, they can't blame her for feelin' fairly savage about 'em—and she duz. For as she says to me once when we wus a talkin' it over, how every thing had happened to her that could happen to a woman, and how curious it wuz,—
"Yes," says she, with a axent like boneset and vinegar,—"and what few things there are that hain't happened to me, has happened to my folks."
And, sure enough, I couldn't dispute her. Trouble and wrongs and sufferin's seemed to be epidemic in the race of Burpy wimmen. Why, one of her aunts on her father's side, Patty Burpy, married for her first husband Eliphalet Perkins. He was a minister, rode on a circuit. And he took Patty on it too; and she rode round with him on it, a good deal of the time. But she never loved to: she wus a woman who loved to be still, and be kinder settled down at home.
But she loved Eliphalet so well, she would do any thing to please him: so she rode round with him on that circuit, till she was perfectly fagged out.
He was a dretful good man to her; but he wus kinder poor, and they had hard times to get along. But what property they had wuzn't taxed, so that helped some; and Patty would make one doller go a good ways.
No, their property wasn't taxed till Eliphalet died. Then the supervisor taxed it the very minute the breath left his body; run his horse, so it was said, so's to be sure to get it onto the tax-list, and comply with the law.
You see, Eliphalet's salary stopped when his breath did. And I s'pose mebby the law thought, seem' she was a havin' trouble, she might jest as well have a little more; so it taxed all the property it never had taxed a cent for before.
But she had this to console her anyway,—that the law didn't forget her in her widowhood. No: the law is quite thoughtful of wimmen, by spells. It says, the law duz, that it protects wimmen. And I s'pose in some mysterious way, too deep for wimmen to understand, it was protectin' her now.
Wall, she suffered along, and finally married agin. I wondered why she did. But she was such a quiet, home-lovin' woman, that it was s'posed she wanted to settle down, and be kinder still and sot. But of all the bad luck she had! She married on short acquaintance, and he proved to be a perfect wanderer. Why, he couldn't keep still. It was s'posed to be a mark.
He moved Patty thirteen times in two years; and at last he took her into a cart,—a sort of a covered wagon,—and travelled right through the Eastern States with her. He wanted to see the country, and loved to live in the wagon: it was his make. And, of course, the law give him the control of her body; and she had to go where he moved it, or else part with him. And I s'pose the law thought it was guardin' and nourishin' her when it was a joltin' her over them praries and mountains and abysses. But it jest kep' her shook up the hull of the time.
It wus the regular Burpy luck.
And then, another one of her aunts, Drusilla Burpy, she married a industrius, hard-workin' man,—one that never drinked a drop, and was sound on the doctrines, and give good measure to his customers: he was a grocer-man. And a master hand for wantin' to foller the laws of his country, as tight as laws could be follered. And so, knowin' that the law approved of "moderate correction" for wimmen, and that "a man might whip his wife, but not enough to endanger her life," he bein' such a master hand for wantin' to do every thing faithful, and do his very best for his customers, it was s'posed that he wanted to do his best for the law; and so, when he got to whippin' Drusilla, he would whip her too severe —he would be too faithful to it.
You see, the way ont was, what made him whip her at all wuz, she was cross to him. They had nine little children. She always thought that two or three children would be about all one woman could bring up well "by hand," when that one hand wuz so awful full of work, as will be told more ensuin'ly. But he felt that big families wuz a protection to the Government; and "he wanted fourteen boys," he said, so they could all foller their father's footsteps, and be noble, law-making, law-abiding citizens, jest as he was.
But she had to do every mite of the housework, and milk cows, and make butter and cheese, and cook and wash and scour, and take all the care of the children, day and night, in sickness and in health, and spin and weave the cloth for their clothes (as wimmen did in them days), and then make 'em, and keep 'em clean. And when there wuz so many of 'em, and only about a year's difference in their ages, some of 'em—why, I s'pose she sometimes thought more of her own achin' back than she did of the good of the Government; and she would get kinder discouraged sometimes, and be cross to him.
And knowin' his own motives was so high and loyal, he felt that he ought to whip her. So he did.
And what shows that Drusilla wuzn't so bad as he s'posed she wuz, what shows that she did have her good streaks, and a deep reverence for the law, is, that she stood his whippin's first-rate, and never whipped him.
Now, she wuz fur bigger than he wuz, weighed 80 pounds the most, and might have whipped him if the law had been such.
But they was both law-abidin', and wanted to keep every preamble; so she stood it to be whipped, and never once whipped him in all the seventeen years they lived together.
She died when her twelfth child was born: there wus jest 13 months difference in the age of that and the one next older. And they said she often spoke out in her last sickness, and said,—
"Thank fortune, I have always kept the law."
And they said the same thought wus a great comfort to him in his last moments.
He died about a year after she did, leaving his 2nd wife with twins and a good property.
Then, there was Abagail Burpy. She married a sort of a high-headed man, though one that paid his debts, and was truthful, and considerable good- lookin', and played well on the fiddle. Why, it seemed as if he had almost every qualification for makin' a woman happy, only he had jest this one little excentricity,—that man would lock up Abagail Burpy's clothes every time he got mad at her.
Of course the law give her clothes to him; and knowin' it was one of the laws of the United States, she wouldn't have complained only when she had company. But it was mortifyin', and nobody could dispute it, to have company come, and nothin' to put on.
Several times she had to withdraw into the wood-house, and stay most of the day, shiverin', and under the cellar-stairs, and round in clothes- presses.
But he boasted in prayer-meetin's, and on boxes before grocery-stores, that he wus a law-abidin' citizen; and he wuz. Eben Flanders wouldn't lie for anybody.
But I'll bet that Abagail Flanders beat our old Revolutionary 4 mothers in thinkin' out new laws, when she lay round under stairs, and behind barrells, in her nightdress.
You see, when a man hides his wive's corset and petticoat, it is governin' without the "consent of the governed." And if you don't believe it, you ort to have peeked round them barrells, and seen Abagail's eyes. Why, they had hull reams of by-laws in 'em, and preambles, and "declarations of independence." So I have been told.
Why, it beat every thing I ever heard on, the lawful sufferin's of them wimmen. For there wuzn't nothin' illegal about one single trouble of theirn. They suffered accordin' to law, every one of 'em. But it wus tuff for 'em—very tuff.
And their all bein' so dretful humbly wuz and is another drawback to 'em; though that, too, is perfectly lawful, as everybody knows.
And Dorlesky looks as bad agin as she would otherways, on account of her teeth.
It wus after Lank had begun to kinder get after this other woman, and wus indifferent to his wive's looks, that Dorlesky had a new set of teeth on her upper jaw. And they sort o' sot out, and made her look so bad that it fairly made her ache to look at herself in the glass. And they hurt her gooms too. And she carried 'em back to the dentist, and wanted him to make her another set.
But the dentist acted mean, and wouldn't take 'em back, and sued Lank for the pay. And they had a lawsuit. And the law bein' such that a woman can't testify in court in any matter that is of mutual interest to husband and wife—and Lank wantin' to act mean, too, testified that "they wus good sound teeth."
And there Dorlesky sot right in front of 'em with her gooms achin', and her face all pokin' out, and lookin' like furyation, and couldn't say a word. But she had to give in to the law.
And ruther than go toothless, she wears 'em to this day. And I do believe it is the raspin' of them teeth aginst her gooms, and her discouraged and mad feelin's every time she looks in a glass, that helps to embitter her towards men, and the laws men have made, so's a woman can't have the control over her own teeth and her own bones.
Wall, Dorlesky went home about 4 P.M., I a promisin' at the last minute as sacred as I could, without usin' a book, to do her errents for her.
I urged her to stay to supper, but she couldn't; for she said the man where she worked was usin' his horses, and couldn't come after her agin. And she said that—
"Mercy on her! how could anybody eat any more supper after such a dinner as I had got?"
And it wuzn't nothin' extra, I didn't think. No better than my common run of dinners.
Wall, she hadn't been gone over an hour (she a hollerin' from the wagon, a chargin' on me solemn, about the errents,—the man she works for is deef, deef as a post,—and I a noddin' to her firm, honorable nods, that I would do 'em), and I wus a slickin' up the settin'-room, and Martha, who had jest come in, wus measurin' off my skirt-breadths, when Josiah Allen drove up, and Cicely and the boy with him.
And there I had been a layin' out to write to her that very night to tell her I wus goin' away, and to be sure and come jest as quick as I got back!
Wall, I never see the time I wuzn't glad to see Cicely, and I felt that she could visit to Tirzah Ann's and Thomas J.'s while I wus gone. She looked dretful pale and sad, I thought; but she seemed glad to see me, and glad to get back. And the boy asked Josiah and Ury and me 47 questions between the wagon and the front doorstep, for I counted 'em. He wus well.
I broached the subject of my tower to Cicely when she and I wus all alone in her room. And, if you'll believe it, she all rousted up with the idee of wantin' to go too.
She says, "You know, aunt Samantha, just how I have prayed and labored for my boy's future; how I have made all the efforts that it is possible for a woman to make; how I have thrown my heart and life into the work,—but I have done no good. That letter," says she, takin' one out of her pocket, and throwin' it into my lap,—"that letter tells me just what I knew so well before,—just how weak a woman is; that they have no power, only the power to suffer."
It wus from that old executor, refusin' to comply with some request she had made about her own property,—a request of right and truth.
Oh, how glad I would have been to had him execkuted that very minute! Why, I'd done it myself if wimmen could execkit—but they can't.
Says she, "I'll go with you to Washington,—I and the boy. Perhaps I can do something for him there." But when she mentioned the boy, I demurred in my own mind, and kep' a demurrin'. Thinks'es I, how can I stand it, as tired as I expect to be, to have him a askin' questions all the hull time? She see I was a demurrin'; and her pretty face grew sadder than it had, and overcasteder.
And as I see that, I gin in at once, and says with a cheerful face, but a forebodin' mind,—
"Wall, Cicely, we three will embark together on our tower."
Wall, after supper Cicely and I sot down under the front stoop,—it was a warm evenin',—and we talked some about other wimmen. Not runnin' talk, or gossipin' talk, but jest plain talk, about her aunt Mary, and her aunt Melissa, and her aunt Mary's daughter, who wus a runnin' down, runnin' faster than ever, so I judged from what she said. And how Susan Ann Grimshaw that was, had a young babe. She said her aunt Mary was better now, so she had started for the Michigan; but she had had a dretful sick spell while she was there.
While she wuz a tellin' me this, Cicely sot on one of the steps of the stoop: I sot up under it in my rockin'-chair. And she looked dretful good to me. She had on a white dress. She most always wears white in the house, when we hain't got company; and always wears black when she is dressed up, and when she goes out.
This dress was made of white mull. The yoke wus made all of thin embroidery, and her white neck and shoulders shone through it like snow. Her sleeves was all trimmed with lace, and fell back from her pretty white arms. Her hands wus clasped over her knees; and her hair, which the boy had got loose a playin' with her, wus fallin' round her face and neck. And her great, earnest eyes wus lookin' into the West, and the light from the sunset fallin' through the mornin'-glorys wus a fallin' over her, till I declare, I never see any thing look so pretty in my hull life. And there was some thin' more, fur more than prettiness in her face, in her big eyes.
It wuzn't unhappiness, and it wuzn't happiness, and I don't know as I can tell what it wuz. It seemed as if she wuz a lookin' fur, fur away, further than Jonesville, further than the lake that lay beyend Jonesville, and which was pure gold now,—a sea of glass mingled with fire,—further than the cloudy masses in the western heavens, which looked like a city of shinin' mansions, fur off; but her eyes was lookin' away off, beyend them.
And I kep' still, and didn't feel like talkin' about other wimmen.
Finally she spoke out. "Aunt Samantha, what do you suppose I thought when dear aunt Mary was so ill when I was there?"
And I says, "I don't know, dear: what did you?"
"Well, I thought, that, though I loved her so dearly, I almost wished she would die while I was there."
"Why, Cicely!" says I. "Why-ee! what did you wish that for? and thinkin' so much of your aunt as you do."
"Well, you know how mother and aunt Mary loved each other, how near they were to each other. Why, mother could always tell when aunt Mary was ill or in trouble, and she was just the same in regard to mother. And I can't think that when death has freed the soul from the flesh, that they will have less spiritual knowledge of each other than when they were here; and I felt, that with such a love as theirs, death would only make their souls nearer: and you know what the Bible says,—that 'God shall make of his angels ministering spirits;' and I know He would send no other angel but my mother, to dear aunt Mary's bedside, to take her spirit home. And I thought, that, if I were there, my mother would be there right in the room with me; and I didn't know but I might feel her presence if I could not see her. And I do want my mother so sometimes, aunt Samantha," says she with the tears comin' into them soft brown eyes. "It seems as if she would tell me what to do for the boy—she always knew what was right and best to do."
Says I to myself, "For the land's sake, what won't Cicely think on next?" But I didn't say a word, mind you, not a single word would I say to hurt that child's feelin's—not for a silver dollar, I wouldn't.
I only says, in calm accents,—
"Don't for mercy's sake, child, talk of seein' your mother now."
She looked far off into the shinin' western heavens with that deep, searchin', but soft gaze,—seemin' to look clear through them cloudy mansions of rose and pearl,—and says she,—
"If I were good enough, I think I could."
And I says, "Cicely, you are goin' to take cold, with nothin' round your shoulders." Says I, "The weather is very ketchin', and it looks to me as if we wus goin' to have quite a spell of it."
And the boy overheard me, and asked me 75 questions about ketchin' the weather.
"If the weather set a trap? If it ketched with bait, or with a hook, and what it ketched? and how? and who?"
Oh my stars! what a time I did have!
The next mornin' after this Cicely wuzn't well enough to get up. I carried up her breakfast with my own hands,—a good one, though I am fur from bein' the one that ort to say it.
And after breakfast, along in the forenoon, Martha, who was makin' my dress, felt troubled in mind as to whether she had better cut the polenay kitrin' ways of the cloth, or not: and Miss Gowdey had jest had one made in the height of the fashion, to Jonesville; and so to ease Martha's mind (she is one that gets deprested easy, when weighty subjects are pressin' her down), I said I would run over cross-lots, and carry home a drawin' of tea I had borrowed, and look at the polenay, and bring back tidin's from it. And I wus goin' there acrost the orchard, when I see the boy a layin' on his back under a apple-tree, lookin' up into the sky; and says I,—
"What be you doin' here, Paul?"
He never got up, nor moved a mite. That is one of the peculiarities of the boy, you can't surprise him: nothin' seems to startle him.
He lay still, and spoke out for all the world as if I had been there with him all day.
"I am lookin' to see if I can see it. I thought I got a glimpse of it a minute ago, but it wus only a white cloud."
"Lookin' for what?" says I.
"The gate of that City that comes down out of the heavens. You know, uncle Josiah read about it this morning, out of that big book he prays out of after breakfast. He said the gate was one pearl.
"And I asked mamma what a pearl was, and she said it was just like that ring she wears that papa gave her. And I asked her where the City was, and she said it was up in the heavens. And I asked her if I should ever see it; and she said, if I was good, it would swing down out of the sky, sometime, and that shining gate would open, and I should walk through it into the City.
"And I went right to being good, that minute; and I have been good for as many as three hours, I should think. And say, how long have you got to be good before you can go through? And say, can you see it before you go through? And SAY"—
But I had got most out of hearin' then.
I heard his last "say" just as I got out of hearin' of him.
He acted kinder disappointed at dinner-time, and said "he wus tired of watchin', and tired out of bein' good;" and he wus considerable cross all that afternoon. But he got clever agin before bedtime. And he come and leaned up aginst my lap at sundown, and asked me, I guess, about 200 questions about the City.
And his eyes looked big and dreamy and soft, and his cheeks looked rosy, and his mouth awful good and sweet. And his curls wus kinder moist, and hung down over his white forehead. I did love him, and couldn't help it, chin or no chin.
He had been still for quite a spell, a thinkin'; and at last he broke out,—
"Say, auntie, shall I see my father there in the City?"
And I didn't know what to tell him; for you know what it says,—
"Without are murderers."
But then, agin, I thought, what will become of the respectable church members who sell the fire that flames up in a man's soul, and ruins his life? What will become of them who lend their votes and their influence to make it right? They vote on Saturdays, to make the sale of this poison legal, and on Sundays go to church with their respectable families. And they expect to go right to heaven, of course; for they have improved all the means of grace. Hired costly pews, and give big charities—in money obtained by sellin' robberies, murders, broken hearts, ruined lives.
But the boy wanted an answer; and his eyes looked questioning but soft.
"Say, auntie, do you think we'll find him there, mamma and I? You know, that is what mamma cries so for,—she wants him so bad. And do you think he will stand just inside the gate, waiting for us? Say!"
But agin I thought of what it said,—
"No drunkard shall inherit eternal life."
And agin I didn't know what to say, and I hurried him off to bed.
But, after he had gone, I spoke out entirely unbeknown to myself, and says,—
"I can't see through it."
"You can't see through what?" says Josiah, who wus jest a comin' in.
"I can't see through it, why drunkards and murderers are punished, and them that make 'em drink and murder go free. I can't see through it."
"Wall, I don't see how you can see through any thing here—dark as pitch." Here he fell over a stool, which made him madder.
"Folks make fools of themselves, a follerin' up that subject." Here he stubbed his foot aginst the rockin'-chair, and most fell, and snapped out enough to take my head off,—
"The dumb fools will get so before long, that a man can't drink milk porridge without their prayin' over him."
Says I, "Be calm! stand right still in the middle of the floor, Josiah Allen, and I'll light a lamp," which I did; and he sot down cleverer, though he says,—
"You want to take away all the rights of a man. Liquor is good for sickness, and you know it. You go onto extremes, you go too fur."
Says I calmly, "Do you s'pose, at this late hour, I am goin' to stop bein' mejum? No! mejum have I lived, and mejum will I die. I believe liquor is good for medicine: if I should say I didn't, I should be a lyin', which I am fur from wantin' to do at my age. I think it kep' mother Allen alive for years, jest as I believe arsenic broke up Bildad Smith's chills. And I s'pose folks have jest as good a right to use it for the benefit of their health, as to use any other pizen, or fire, or any thing.
"And it should be used jest like pizen and fire and etcetery. You don't want to eat pizen for a treat, or pass it round amongst your friends. You don't want to play with fire for fun, or burn yourself up with it. You don't want to use it to confligrate yourself or anybody else.
"So with liquor. You don't want to drink liquor to kill yourself with, or to kill other folks. You don't want to inebriate with it. If I had my way, Josiah Allen," says I firmly, "the hull liquor-trade should be in the hands of doctors, who wouldn't sell a drop without knowin' positive that it wus needed for sickness, or the aged and infirm. Good, honest doctors who couldn't be bought nor sold."
"Where would you find 'em?" says Josiah in a gruff tone (I mistrust his toe pained him).
Says I thoughtfully, "Surely there is one good, reliable man left in every town—that could be found."
"I don't know about it," says he, sort o' musin'ly. "I am gettin' pretty old to begin it, but I don't know but I might get to be a doctor now."
Says he, brightenin' up, "It can't take much study to deal out a dose of salts now and then, or count anybody's pult."
But says I firmly, "Give up that idee at once, Josiah Allen. I have come out alive, out of all your other plans and progects, and I hain't a goin' to be killed now at my age, by you as a doctor."
My tone wus so powerful, and even skairful, that he gin up the idee, and wound up the clock, and went to bed.
Cicely wus some better the next day. And two days before we sot sail for Washington, Philury Mesick, the girl Ury was payin' attention to, and who was goin' to keep my house durin' my absence on my tower, come with a small, a very small trunk, ornimented with brass nails.
Poor little thing! I wus always sorry for her, she is so little, and so freckled, and so awful willin' to do jest as anybody wants her to. She is a girl that Miss Solomon Gowdey kinder took. And I think, if there is any condition that is hard, it is to be "kinder took." Why, if I was took at all, I should want to be "took."
But Miss Gowdey took Philury jest enough not to pay her any regular wages, and didn't take her enough so Philury could collect any pay from her when she left. She left, because there wus a hardness between 'em, on account of a grindstun. Philury said Miss Gowdey's little boy broke the grindstun, and the boy laid it to Philury. Anyway, the grindstun wus broke, and it made a hardness. And when Philury left Miss Gowdey's, all her worldly wealth wuz held in that poor, pitiful lookin' trunk. Why, the trunk looked like Philury, and Philury looked like the trunk. It looked small, and meek, and well disposed; and the brass nails looked some like frecks, only larger.
Wall, I felt sorry for her: and I s'posed, that, married or single, she would have to wear stockin's; so I told her, that, besides her wages, she might have all the lamb's-wool yarn she wanted to spin while I was gone, after doin' the house-work.
She wus tickled enough as I told her.
"Why," says she, "I can spin enough to last me for years and years."
"Wall," says I, "so much the better. I have mistrusted," says I, "that Miss Gowdey wouldn't do much for you on account of that hardness about the grindstun; and knowin' that you hain't got no mother, I have laid out to do middlin' well by you and Ury when you get married."
And she blushed, and said "she expected to marry Ury sometime—years and years hence."
"Wall," says I, "you can spin the yarn anyway."
Philury is a real handy little thing about the house. And so willin' and clever, that I guess, if I had asked her to jump into the oven, and bake herself, she would have done it. And so I told Josiah.
And he said "he thought a little more bakin' wouldn't hurt her." Says he, "She is pretty soft."
And says I, "Soft or not, she's good. And that is more than I can say for some folks, who think they know a little more."
I will stand up for my sect.
Wall, in three days' time we sot sail for Washington, D.C., I a feelin' well about Josiah. For Philury and Ury wus clever, and would do well by him. And the cubbard wus full and overflowin' with every thing good to eat. And I felt that I had indeed, in that cubbard, left him a consoler.
Josiah took us to the train about an hour and a half too early. But I wus glad we wus on time, because it would have worked Josiah up dretfully if we hadn't been. For he had spent the most of the latter part of the night in gettin' up and walkin' out to the clock to see if it wus approachin' train time: the train left at a quarter to ten.
I wus glad on his account, and also on my own; for at the last minute, as you may say, who should come a runnin' down to the depot but Sam Shelmadine, a wantin' to send a errent by me to Washington.
He kinder wunk me out to one side of the waitin'-room, and asked me "if I would try to get him a license to steal horses."
It kinder runs in the blood of the Shelmadines to love to steal, and he owned up that it did. But he wuzn't goin' into it for that, he said: he wanted the profit of it.
But I told him "I wouldn't do any such thing;" and I looked at him in such a witherin' way, that I should most probable have withered him, only he is blind with one eye, and I was on the blind side.
But he argued with me, and said it was no worse than to give licenses for other kinds of meanness.
He said they give licenses now to steal—steal folks'es senses away, and then they would steal every thing else, and murder, and tear round into every kind of wickedness. But he didn't ask that. He wanted things done fair and square: he jest wanted to steal horses. He was goin' West, and he thought he could do a good business, and lay up something. If he had a license, he shouldn't be afraid of bein' shot up, or shot.
But I refused the job with scorn; and jest as I wus refusin', the cars snorted, and I wus glad they did. They seemed to express in that wild snort something of the indignation I felt.
When Cicely and the boy and I got to Washington, the shades of twilight was a shadin the earth gently; and we got a man to take us to Condelick Smith'ses.
The man was in a hack, as Cicely called it (and he had a hackin' cough, too, which made it seem more singular). We told him to take us right to Miss Condelick Smith'ses. Condelick is my own cousin on my own side, and travelin' on the road for groceries.
She keeps a nice, quiet boardin'-house. Only a few boarders, "with the comforts of a home, and congenial society," as she wrote to me when she heard I wus a comin' to Washington. She said we had got to go to her house; so we went, with the distinct knowledge in our minds and pocket-books, of payin' for our 3 boards.
She was very tickled to see us, and embraced us almost warmly. She had been over a hot fire a cookin'. She is humbly, but likely, I have been told and believe.
She has got a wen on her cheek, but that don't hurt her any. Wens hain't nothin' that detract from a person's moral worth.
There is only one child in the family,—Condelick, Jr., aged 13. A good, fat boy, with white hair and blue eyes, and a great capacity for blushin', but seemed to be good dispositioned.
It wus late supper time; and we had only time to go up into our rooms, and bathe our weary faces and hands, when we had to go down to supper.
Miss Condelick Smith called it dinner: she misspoke herself. Havin' so much on her hands, it is no wonder that she should make a slip once in a while. I should, myself, if my mind wuzn't like iron for strength. There wus only three or four to the table besides us: it wuz later than their usial supper time. There wus a young couple there who had jest been married, and come there to live.
Ever sense we left home we had seen sights and sights of brides and groomses. It seemed to be a good time of year for 'em; and Cicely and I would pass the time by guessin', from their demeaners, how long they had been married. You know they act very soft the first day or two, and then harden gradually, as time passes, till sometimes they get very hard.
Wall, as I looked at this young pair, I whispered to Cicely,—
They acted well. Though I see with pain that the bride was tryin' to foller after the groom blindly, and I see she was a layin' up trouble for herself. Amongst other good things, they had a baked chicken for supper; and when the young husband wus asked what part of the fowl he would take, he said,—
"It was immaterial!"
And then, when they asked the bride, she blushed sweetly, and said,—
"She would take a piece of the immaterial too."
And she bein' next to me, I said to her in a low tone, but firm and motherly,—
"You are a beginner in married life; and I say to you, as one who has had stiddy practice for 20 years, begin right. Let your affections be firm as adamant, cling closely to Duty's apron-strings, but do not too blindly copy after your groom. Try to stand up on your own feet, and be a helpmate to him, not a dead weight for him to carry. Do branch right out, and tell what part of the fowl, or of life, you want, if it hain't nothin' but the gizzard or neck; and then try to get it. If you don't have any self- reliance, if you don't try to help yourself any, it is highly probable to me, that you won't get any thing more out of the fowl, or of life, than a piece of 'the immaterial.'"
She blushed, and said she would. And so Duty bein' appeased, and attended to, I calmly pursued my own meal.
The next morning Cicely was so beat out that she couldn't get up at all. She wuzn't sick, only jest tired out. And so the boy and I sot out alone.
I told Cicely I would do my errents the first thing, so as to leave my mind and my conscience clear for the rest of my stay.
And I knew there wuz a good many who would feel hurt, deeply hurt, if I didn't notice 'em right off the first thing. The President, and lots of 'em, I knew would take it right to heart, and feel dretfully worked up and slighted, if I didn't call on 'em.
And then, I had to carry Dorlesky's errent to the President anyway. And I thought I would tend to it right away, so I sot out in good season.
When you are a noticin' anybody, and makin' 'em perfectly happy, you feel well yourself. I was in good spirits, and quite a number of 'em. The boy wus feelin' well too. He had a little black velvet suit and a deep lace collar, and his gold curls was a hangin' down under his little black velvet cap. They made him look more babyish; but I believe Cicely kept 'em so to make him look young, she felt so dubersome about his future. But he looked sweet enough to kiss right there in the street.
I, too, looked well, very. I had on that new dress, Bismark brown, the color remindin' me of 2 noble patriots. And made by a Martha. I thought of that proudly, as I looked at George's benign face on the top of the monument, and wondered what he'd say if he see it, and hefted my emotions I had when causin' it to be made for my tower. I realized as I meandered along, that patriotism wus enwrappin' me from head to foot; for my polynay was long, and my head was completely full of Gass'es "Journal," and Starks'es "Life of Washington," and a few martyrs.
I wus carryin' Dorlesky's errents.
On the outside of my head I had a good honorable shirred silk bunnet, the color of my dress, a good solid brown (that same color, B. B.). And my usial long green veil, with a lute-string ribbon run in, hung down on one side of my bunnet in its wonted way.
It hung gracefully, and yet it seemed to me there wus both dignity and principle in its hang. It give me a sort of a dressy look, but none too dressy.
And so we wended our way down the broad, beautiful streets towards the White House.
Handsomer streets I never see. I had thought Jonesville streets wus middlin' handsome and roomy. Why, two double wagons can go by each other with perfect safety, right in front of the grocery stores, where there is lots of boxes too; and wimmen can be a walkin' there too at the same time, hefty ones.
But, good land! Loads of hay could pass each other here, and droves of dromedaries, and camels, and not touch each other, and then there would be lots of room for men and wimmen, and for wagons to rumble, and perioguers to float up and down,—if perioguers could sail on dry land.
Roomier, handsomer, well shadeder streets I never want to see, nor don't expect to. Why, Jonesville streets are like tape compared with 'em; and Loontown and Toad Holler, they are like thread, No. 50 (allegory).
Bub Smith wus well acquainted with the President's hired man, so he let us in without parlay.
I don't believe in talkin big as a general thing. But thinks'es I, Here I be, a holdin' up the dignity of Jonesville: and here I be, on a deep, heart-searchin' errent to the Nation. So I said, in words and axents a good deal like them I have read of in "Children of the Abbey," and "Charlotte Temple,"—
"Is the President of the United States within?"
He said he was, but said sunthin' about his not receiving calls in the mornings.
But I says in a very polite way,—for I like to put folks at their ease, presidents or peddlers or any thing,—
"It hain't no matter at all if he hain't dressed up—of course he wuzn't expectin' company. Josiah don't dress up mornin's."
And then he says something about "he didn't know but he was engaged."
Says I, "That hain't no news to me, nor the Nation. We have been a hearin' that for three years, right along. And if he is engaged, it hain't no good reason why he shouldn't speak to other wimmen,—good, honorable married ones too."
"Well," says he finally, "I will take up your card."
"No, you won't!" says I firmly. "I am a Methodist! I guess I can start off on a short tower, without takin' a pack of cards with me. And if I had 'em right here in my pocket, or a set of dominoes, I shouldn't expect to take up the time of the President of the United States a playin' games at this time of the day." Says I in deep tones, "I am a carrien' errents to the President that the world knows not of."
He blushed up red; he was ashamed; and he said "he would see if I could be admitted."
And he led the way along, and I follered, and the boy. Bub Smith had left us at the door.
The hired man seemed to think I would want to look round some; and he walked sort o' slow, out of courtesy. But, good land! how little that hired man knew my feelin's, as he led me on, I a thinkin' to myself,—
"Here I am, a steppin' where G. Washington strode." Oh the grandeur of my feelin's! The nobility of 'em! and the quantity! Why, it was a perfect sight.
But right into these exalted sentiments the hired man intruded with his frivolous remarks,—worse than frivolous.
He says agin something about "not knowin' whether the President would be ready to receive me."
And I stepped down sudden from that lofty piller I had trod on in my mind, and says I,—
"I tell you agin, I don't care whether he is dressed up or not. I come on principle, and I shall look at him through that eye, and no other."
"Wall," says he, turnin' sort o' red agin (he was ashamed), "have you noticed the beauty of the didos?"
But I kep' my head right up in the air nobly, and never turned to the right or the left; and says I,—
"I don't see no beauty in cuttin' up didos, nor never did. I have heard that they did such things here in Washington, D.C., but I do not choose to have my attention drawed to 'em."
But I pondered a minute, and the word "meetin'-house" struck a fearful blow aginst my conscience;' and I says in milder axents,—
"If I looked upon a dido at all, it would be, not with a human woman's eye, but the eye of a Methodist. My duty draws me:—point out the dido, and I will look at it through that one eye."
And he says, "I was a talkin' about the walls of this room."
And I says, "Why couldn't you say so in the first place? The idee of skairin' folks! or tryin' to," I added; for I hain't easily skairt.
The walls wus perfectly beautiful, and so wus the ceilin' and floors. There wuzn't a house in Jonesville that could compare with it, though we had painted our meetin-house over at a cost of upwards of 28 dollars. But it didn't come up to this—not half. President Arthur has got good taste; and I thought to myself, and I says to the hired man, as I looked round and see the soft richness and quiet beauty and grandeur of the surroundings,—
"I had just as lives have him pick me out a calico dress as to pick it out myself. And that is sayin' a great deal," says I. "I am always very putickuler in calico: richness and beauty is what I look out for, and wear."
Jest as I wus sayin' this, the hired man opened a door into a lofty, beautiful room; and says he,—
"Step in here, madam, into the antick room, and I'll see if the President can see you;" and he started off sudden, bein' called. And I jest turned round and looked after him, for I wanted to enquire into it. I had heard of their cuttin' up anticks at Washington,—I had come prepared for it; but I didn't know as they was bold enough to come right out, and have rooms devoted to that purpose. And I looked all round the room before I ventured in. But it looked neat as a pin, and not a soul in there; and thinks'es I, "It hain't probable their day for cuttin' up anticks. I guess I'll venture." So I went in.
But I sot pretty near the edge of the chair, ready to jump at the first thing I didn't like. And I kep' a close holt of the boy. I felt that I was right in the midst of dangers. I had feared and foreboded,—oh, how I had feared and foreboded about the dangers and deep perils of Washington, D.C.! And here I wuz, the very first thing, invited right in broad daylight, with no excuse or any thing, right into a antick room.
Oh, how thankful, how thankful I wuz, that Josiah Allen wuzn't there!
I knew, as he felt a good deal of the time, an antick room was what he would choose out of all others. And I felt stronger than ever the deep resolve that Josiah Allen should not run. He must not be exposed to such dangers, with his mind as it wuz, and his heft. I felt that he would suckumb.
And I wondered that President Arthur, who I had always heard was a perfect gentleman, should come to have a room called like that, but s'posed it was there when he went. I don't believe he'd countenance any thing of the kind.
I was jest a thinkin' this when the hired man come back, and said,—
"The President would receive me."
"Wall," says I calmly, "I am ready to be received."
So I follered him; and he led the way into a beautiful room, kinder round, and red colored, with lots of elegant pictures and lookin'-glasses and books.
The President sot before a table covered with books and papers: and, good land! he no need to have been afraid and hung back; he was dressed up slick—slick enough for meetin', or a parin'-bee, or any thing. He had on a sort of a gray suit, and a rose-bud in his button-hole.
He was a good-lookin' man, though he had a middlin' tired look in his kinder brown eyes as he looked up.
I had calculated to act noble on that occasion, as I appeared before him who stood in the large, lofty shoes of the revered G. W., and sot in the chair of the (nearly) angel Garfield. I had thought that likely as not, entirely unbeknown to me, I should soar right off into a eloquent oration. For I honored him as a President. I felt like neighborin' with him on account of his name—Allen! (That name I took at the alter of Jonesville, and pure love.)
But how little can we calculate on future contingencies, or what we shall do when we get there! As I stood before him, I only said what I had said before on a similar occasion, these simple words, that yet mean so much, so much,—
"Allen, I have come!"
He, too, was overcome by his feelin's: I see he wuz. His face looked fairly solemn; but, as he is a perfect gentleman, he controlled himself, and said quietly these words, that, too, have a deep import,—
"I see you have."
He then shook hands with me, and I with him. I, too, am a perfect lady. And then he drawed up a chair for me with his own hands (hands that grip holt of the same hellum that G. W. had gripped holt of. O soul! be calm when I think ont), and asked me to set down; and consequently I sot.
I leaned my umberell in a easy, careless position against a adjacent chair, adjusted my green veil in long, graceful folds,—I hain't vain, but I like to look well,—and then I at once told him of my errents. I told him—
"I had brought three errents to him from Jonesville,—one for myself, and two for Dorlesky Burpy."
He bowed, but didn't say nothin': he looked tired. Josiah always looks tired in the mornin' when he has got his milkin' and barn-chores done, so it didn't surprise me. And havin' calculated to tackle him on my own errent first, consequently I tackled him.
I told him how deep my love and devotion to my pardner wuz.
And he said, "he had heard of it."
And I says, "I s'pose so. I s'pose such things will spread, bein' a sort of a rarity. I'd heard that it had got out, way beyend Loontown, and all round."
"Yes," he said, "it was spoke of a good deal."
"Wall," says I, "the cast-iron love and devotion I feel for that man don't show off the brightest in hours of joy and peace. It towers up strongest in dangers and troubles." And then I went on to tell him how Josiah wanted to come there as senator, and what a dangerous place I had always heard Washington wuz, and how I had felt it was impossible for me to lay down on my goose-feather pillow at home, in peace and safety, while my pardner was a grapplin' with dangers of which I did not know the exact size and heft. And so I had made up my mind to come ahead of him, as a forerunner on a tower, to see jest what the dangers wuz, and see if I dast trust my companion there. "And now," says I, "I want you to tell me candid," says I. "Your settin' in George Washington's high chair makes me look up to you. It is a sightly place; you can see fur: your name bein' Allen makes me feel sort o' confidential and good towards you, and I want you to talk real honest and candid with me." Says I solemnly, "I ask you, Allen, not as a politician, but as a human bein', would you dast to let Josiah come?"
Says he, "The danger to the man and the nation depends a good deal on what sort of a man it is that comes." Then was a tryin' time for me. I would not lie, neither would I brook one word against my companion, even from myself. So I says,—
"He is a man that has traits and qualities, and sights of 'em."
But thinkin' that I must do so, if I got true information of dangers, I went on, and told of Josiah's political aims, which I considered dangerous to himself and the nation. And I told him of The Plan, and my dark forebodin's about it.
The President didn't act surprised a mite. And finally he told me, what I had always mistrusted, but never knew, that Josiah had wrote to him all his political views and aspirations, and offered his help to the Government. And says he, "I think I know all about the man."
"Then," says I, "you see he is a good deal like other men."
And he said, sort o' dreamily, "that he was."
And then agin silence rained. He was a thinkin', I knew, on all the deep dangers that hedged in Josiah Allen and America if he come. And a musin' on all the probable dangers of the Plan. And a thinkin' it over how to do jest right in the matter,—right by Josiah, right by the nation, right by me.
Finally the suspense of the moment wore onto me too deep to bear, and I says in almost harrowin' tones of anxiety and suspense,—
"Would it be safe for my pardner to come to Washington? Would it be safe for Josiah, safe for the nation?" Says I, in deeper, mournfuler tones,—
"Would you—would you dast to let him come?"
He said, sort o' dreamily, "that those views and aspirations of Josiah's wasn't really needed at Washington, they had plenty of them there; and"—
But I says, "I must have a plainer answer to ease my mind and heart. Do tell me plain,—would you dast?"
He looked full at me. He has got good, honest-looking eyes, and a sensible, candid look onto him. He liked me,—I knew he did from his looks,—a calm, Methodist-Episcopal likin',—nothin' light.
And I see in them eyes that he didn't like Josiah's political idees. I see that he was afraid, as afraid as death of that plan; and I see that he considered Washington a dangerous, dangerous place for grangers and Josiah Allens to be a roamin' round in. I could see that he dreaded the sufferin's for me and for the nation if the Hon. Josiah Allen was elected.
But still, he seemed to hate to speak; and wise, cautious conservatism, and gentlemanly dignity, was wrote down on his linement. Even the red rosebud in his button-hole looked dretful good-natured, but close-mouthed.
I don't know as he would have spoke at all agin, if I hadn't uttered once more them soul-harrowin' words, "Would you dast?"
Pity and good feelin' then seemed to overpower for a moment the statesman and courteous diplomat.
And he said in gentle, gracious tones, "If I tell you just what I think, I would not like to say it officially, but would say it in confidence, as from an Allen to an Allen."
Says I, "It sha'n't go no further."
And so I would warn everybody that it must not be told.
Then says he, "I will tell you. I wouldn't dast."
Says I, "That settles it. If human efforts can avail, Josiah Allen will not be United-States senator." And says I, "You have only confirmed my fears. I knew, feelin' as he felt, that it wuzn't safe for Josiah or the nation to have him come."
Agin he reminded me that it was told to me in confidence, and agin I want to say that it must be kep'.
I thanked him for his kindness. He is a perfect gentleman; and he told me jest out of courtesy and politeness, and I know it. And I can be very polite too. And I am naturally one of the kindest-hearted of Jonesvillians.
So I says to him, "I won't forget your kindness to me; and I want to say right here, that Josiah and me both think well on you—first-rate."
Says he with a sort of a tired look, as if he wus a lookin' back over a hard road, "I have honestly tried to do the best I could."
Says I, "I believe it." And wantin' to encourage him still more, says I,—
"Josiah believes it, and Dorlesky Burpy, and lots of other Jonesvillians." Says I, "To set down in a chair that an angel has jest vacated, a high chair under the full glare of critical inspection, is a tegus place. I don't s'pose Garfield was really an angel, but his sufferin's and martyrdom placed him almost in that light before the world.
"And you have filled that chair, and filled it well. With dignity and courtesy and prudence. And we have been proud of you, Josiah and me both have."
He brightened up: he had been afraid, I could see, that we wuzn't suited with him. And it took a load offen him. His linement looked clearer than it had, and brighter.
"And now," says I, sithin' a little, "I have got to do Dorlesky's errents."
He, too, sithed. His linement fell. I pitied him, and would gladly have refrained from troubling him more. But duty hunched me; and when she hunches, I have to move forward.
Says I in measured tones, each tone measurin' jest about the same,—half duty, and half pity for him,—
"Dorlesky Burpy sent these errents to you. She wanted intemperance done away with—the Whiskey Ring broke right up. She wanted you to drink nothin' stronger than root-beer when you had company to dinner, she offerin' to send you a receipt for it from Jonesville; and she wanted her rights, and she wanted 'em all this week without fail."
He sithed hard. And never did I see a linement fall further than his linement fell. I pitied him. I see it wus a hard stent for him, to do it in the time she had sot.
And I says, "I think myself that Dorlesky is a little onreasonable. I myself am willin' to wait till next week. But she has suffered dretfully from intemperance, dretfully from the Rings, and dretfully from want of Rights. And her sufferin's have made her more voyalent in her demands, and impatienter."
And then I fairly groaned as I did the rest of the errent. But my promise weighed on me, and Duty poked me in the side. I wus determined to do the errent jest as I would wish a errent done for me, from borryin' a drawin' of tea to tacklin' the nation, and tryin' to get a little mess of truth and justice out of it.
"Dorlesky told me to tell you that if you didn't do these things, she would have you removed from the Presidential chair, and you should never, never, be President agin."
He trembled, he trembled like a popple-leaf. And I felt as if I should sink: it seemed to me jest as if Dorlesky wus askin' too much of him, and was threatenin' too hard.
And bein' one that loves truth, I told him that Dorlesky was middlin' disagreeable, and very humbly, but she needed her rights jest as much as if she was a dolly. And then I went on and told him all how she and her relations had suffered from want of rights, and how dretfully she had suffered from the Ring, till I declare, a talkin about them little children of hern, and her agony, I got about as fierce actin' as Dorlesky herself; and entirely unbeknown to myself, I talked powerful on intemperance and Rings—and sound.
When I got down agin onto my feet, I see he had a sort of a worried, anxious look; and he says,—
"The laws of the United States are such, that I can't interfere."
"Then," says I, "why don't you make the United States do right?"
And he said somethin' about the might of the majority and the powerful rings.
And that sot me off agin. And I talked very powerful, kinder allegored, about allowin' a ring to be put round the United States, and let a lot of whiskey-dealers lead her round, a pitiful sight for men and angels. Says I, "How does it look before the Nations, to see Columbia led round half tipsy by a Ring?"
He seemed to think it looked bad, I knew by his looks.
Says I, "Intemperance is bad for Dorlesky, and bad for the Nation."
He murmured somethin' about the "revenue that the liquor-trade brought to the Government."
But I says, "Every penny they give, is money right out of the people's pockets; and every dollar that the people pay into the liquor-traffic, that they may give a few cents of it into the Treasury, is costin' the people three times that dollar, in the loss that intemperance entails,— loss of labor, by the inability of drunken men to do any thing but wobble and stagger round; loss of wealth, by all the enormous losses of property and of taxation, of almshouses and madhouses, jails, police forces, paupers' coffins, and the digging of the thousands and thousands of graves that are filled yearly by them that reel into 'em." Says I, "Wouldn't it be better for the people to pay that dollar in the first place into the Treasury, than to let it filter through the dram-seller's hands, and 2 or 3 cents of it fall into the National purse at last, putrid, and heavy with all these losses and curses and crimes and shames and despairs and agonies?"
He seemed to think it would: I see by the looks of his linement, he did. Every honorable man feels so in his heart; and yet they let the liquor ring control 'em, and lead 'em round.
Says I, "All the intellectual and moral power of the United States are jest rolled up and thrust into that Whiskey Ring, and are being drove by the whiskey-dealers jest where they want to drive 'em." Says I, "It controls New-York village, and nobody pretends to deny it; and all the piety and philanthropy and culture and philosiphy of that village has to be jest drawed along in that Ring. And," says I, in low but startlin' tones of principle,—
"Where, where, is it a drawin' 'em to? Where is it a drawin' the hull nation to? Is it' a drawin' 'em down into a slavery ten times more abject and soul-destroyin' than African slavery ever was? Tell me," says I firmly, "tell me."
His mean looked impressed, but he did not try to frame a reply. I think he could not find a frame. There is no frame to that reply. It is a conundrum as boundless as truth and God's justice, and as solemnly deep in its sure consequences of evil as eternity, and as sure to come as that is.
Agin I says, "Where is that Ring a drawin' the United States? Where is it a drawin' Dorlesky?"
"Oh! Dorlesky!" says he, a comin' up out of his deep reveryin', but polite,—a politer demeanerd, gentlemanly appeariner man I don't want to see. "Ah, yes! I would be glad, Josiah Allen's wife, to do her errent. I think Dorlesky is justified in asking to have the Ring destroyed. But I am not the one to go to—I am not the one to do her errent."
Says I, "Who is the man, or men?"
Says he, "James G. Blaine."
Says I, "Is that so? I will go right to James G. Blaineses."
So I spoke to the boy. He had been all engaged lookin' out of the winders, but he was willin' to go.
And the President took the boy upon his knee, wantin' to do something agreeable, I s'pose, seein' he couldn't do the errent. And he says, jest to make himself pleasant to the boy,—
"Well, my little man, are you a Republican, or Democrat?"
"I am a Epispocal."
And seein' the boy seemed to be headed onto theoligy instead of politics, and wantin' to kinder show him off, I says,—
"Tell the gentleman who made you."
He spoke right up prompt, as if hurryin' to get through theoligy, so's to tackle sunthin' else. He answered as exhaustively as an exhauster could at a meetin',—
"I was made out of dust, and breathed into. I am made out of God and dirt."
Oh, how deep, how deep that child is! I never had heard him say that before. But how true it wuz! The divine and the human, linked so close together from birth till death. No philosipher that ever philosiphized could go deeper or higher.
I see the President looked impressed. But the boy branched off quick, for he seemed fairly burstin' with questions.
"Say, what is this house called the White House for? Is it because it is to help white folks, and not help the black ones, and Injins?"
I declare, I almost thought the boy had heard sunthin' about the elections in the South, and the Congressional vote for cuttin' down the money for the Indian schools. Legislative action to perpetuate the ignorance and brutality of a race.
The President said dreamily, "No, it wasn't for that."
"Well, is it called white like the gate of the City is? Mamma said that was white,—a pearl, you know,—because every thing was pure and white inside the City. Is it because the laws that are made here are all white and good? And say"—
Here his eyes looked dark and big with excitement.
"What is George Washington up on top of that big white piller for?"
"He was a great man."
"How much did he weigh? How many yards did it take for his vest—forty?"
"He did great and noble deeds—he fought and bled."
"If fighting makes folks great, why did mamma punish me when I fought with Jim Gowdey? He stole my jack-knife, and knocked me down, and set down on me, and took my chewing-gum away from me, and chewed it himself. And I rose against him, and we fought and bled: my nose bled, and so did his. But I got it away from him, and chewed it myself. But mamma punished me, and said; God wouldn't love me if I quarrelled so, and if we couldn't agree, we must get somebody to settle our trouble for us. Why didn't she stand me up on a big white pillow out in the door-yard, and be proud of me, and not shut me up in a dark closet?"
"He fought for Liberty."
"Did he get it?"
"He fought that the United States might be free."
"Is it free?"
The President waved off that question, and the boy kep' on.
"Is it true what you have been talkin' about,—is there a great big ring put all round it, and is it bein' drawed along into a mean place?"
And then the boy's eyes grew black with excitement; and he kep' right on without waitin' for breath, or for a answer,—
"He had heard it talked about, was it right to let anybody do wrong for money? Did the United States do it? Did it make mean things right? If it did, he wanted to get one of Tom Gowdy's white rats. He wouldn't sell it, and he wanted it. His mother wouldn't let him steal it; but if the United States could make it right for him to do wrong, he had got ten cents of his own, and he'd buy the right to get that white rat. And if Tom wanted to cry about it, let him. If the United States sold him the right to do it, he guessed he could do it, no matter how much whimperin' there was, and no matter who said it was wrong. He wanted the rat."
But I see the President's eyes, which had looked kinder rested when he took him up, grew bigger and bigger with surprise and anxiety. I guess he thought he had got his day's work in front of him. And I told the boy we must go. And then I says to the President,—
"That I knew he was quite a traveller, and of course he wouldn't want to die without seein' Jonesville;" and says I, "Be sure to come to our house to supper when you come." Says I, "I can't reccomend the huntin' so much; there haint nothin' more excitin' to shoot than red squirrels and chipmunks: but there is quite good fishin' in the creek back of our house; they ketched 4 horned Asa's there last week, and lots of chubs."
He smiled real agreable, and said, "when he visited Jonesville, he wouldn't fail to take tea with me."
Says I, "So do; and, if you get lost, you jest enquire at the Corners of old Grout Nickleson, and he will set you right."
He smiled agin, and said "he wouldn't fail to enquire if he got lost."
And then I shook hands with him, thinkin' it would be expected of me (his hands are white, and not much bigger than Tirzah Ann's). And then I removed the boy by voyalence, for he was a askin' questions agin, faster than ever; and he poured out over his shoulder a partin' dribble of questions, that lasted till we got outside. And then he tackled me, and he asked me somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1,000 questions on the way back to Miss Smiths'es.
He begun agin on George Washington jest as quick as he ketched sight of his monument agin.
"If George Washington is up on the top of that monument for tellin' the truth, why didn't all the big men try to tell the truth so's to be stood up on pillows outdoors, and not be a layin' down in the grass? And did the little hatchet help him do right? If it did, why didn't all the big men wear them in their belts to do right with, and tell the truth with? And say"—
Oh, dear me suz! He asked me over 40 questions to a lamp-post, for I counted 'em; and there wuz 18 posts.
Good land! I'd ruther wash than try to answer him; but he looked so sweet and good-natured and confidin', his eyes danced so, and he was so awful pretty, that I felt in the midst of my deep fag, that I could kiss him right there in the street if it wuzn't for the looks of it: he is a beautiful child, and very deep.
Wall, after dinner I sot sail for James G. Blains'es, a walkin' afoot, and carryin' Dorlesky's errent. I was determined to do that errent before I slept. I am very obleegin', and am called so.
When I got to Mr. Blaines'es, I was considerably tired; for though Dorlesky's errent might not be heavy as weighed by the steelyards, yet it was very hefty and wearin' on the moral feelin's. And my firm, unalterable determination to carry it straight, and tend to it, to the very utmost of my ability, strained on me.
I was fagged.
But I don't believe Mr. Blaine see the fag. I shook hands with him, and there was calmness in that shake. I passed the compliments of the day (how do you do, etc.), and there was peace and dignity in them compliments.
He was most probable, glad I had come. But he didn't seem quite so over- rejoiced as he probable would if he hadn't been so busy. I can't be so highly tickled when company comes, when I am washin' and cleanin' house.
He had piles and piles of papers on the table before him. And there was a gentleman a settin' at the end of the room a readin'.
I like James G. Blaines'es looks middlin' well. Although, like myself, he don't set up for a professional beauty. It seems as if some of the strength of the mountain pines round his old home is a holdin' up his backbone, and some of the bracin' air of the pine woods of Maine has blowed into James'es intellect, and braced it.
I think enough of James, but not too much. My likin' is jest about strong enough from a literary person to a literary person.
We are both literary, very. He is considerable taller than I am; and on that account, and a good many others, I felt like lookin' up to him.
Wall, when I have got a hard job in front of me, I don't know any better way than to tackle it to once. So consequently I tackled it.
I told James, that Dorlesky Burpy had sent two errents by me, and I had brought 'em from Jonesville on my tower.
And then I told him jest how she had suffered from the Whisky Ring, and how she had suffered from not havin' her rights; and I told him all about her relations sufferin', and that Dorlesky wanted the Ring broke, and her rights gin to her, within seven days at the longest.
He rubbed his brow thoughtfully, and says,—
"It will be difficult to accomplish so much in so short a time."
"I know it," says I. "I told Dorlesky it would. But she feels jest so, and I promised to do her errent; and I am a doin' it."
Agin he rubbed his brow in deep thought, and agin he says,—
"I don't think Dorlesky is unreasonable in her demands, only in the length of time she has set."
Says I, "That is jest what I told Dorlesky. I didn't believe you could do her errents this week. But you can see for yourself that she is right, only in the time she has sot."
"Yes," he said. "He see she wuz." And says he, "I wish the 3 could be reconciled."
"What 3?" says I.
Says he, "The liquor traffic, liberty, and Dorlesky."
And then come the very hardest part of my errent. But I had to do it, I had to.
Says I, in the deep, solemn tones befitting the threat, for I wuzn't the woman to cheat Dorlesky when she was out of sight, and use the wrong tones at the wrong times—no, I used my deepest and most skairful one—says I, "Dorlesky told me to tell you that if you didn't do her errent, you should not be the next President of the United States."
He turned pale. He looked agitated, fearful agitated.
I s'pose it was not only my words and tone that skairt him, but my mean. I put on my noblest mean; and I s'pose I have got a very noble, high-headed mean at times. I got it, I think, in the first place, by overlookin' Josiah's faults. I always said a wife ort to overlook her husband's faults; and I have to overlook so many, that it has made me about as high- headed, sometimes, as a warlike gander, but more sort o' meller-lookin', and sublime, kinder.
He stood white as a piece of a piller-case, and seemin'ly plunged down into the deepest thought. But finally he riz part way out of it, and says he,—
"I want to be on the side of Truth and Justice. I want to, awfully. And while I do not want to be President of the United States, yet at the same time I do want to be—if you'll understand that paradox," says he.
"Yes," says I sadly. "I understand that paradox. I have seen it myself, right in my own family." And I sithed. And agin silence rained; and I sot quietly in the rain, thinkin' mebby good would come of it.
Finally he riz out of his revery; and says he, with a brighter look on his linement,—
"I am not the one to go to. I am not the one to do Dorlesky's errent."
"Who is the one?" says I.
"Senator Logan," says he.
Says I, "I'll send Bub Smith to Senator Logan'ses the minute I get back; for much as I want to obleege a neighbor, I can't traipse all over Washington, walkin' afoot, and carryin' Dorlesky's errent. But Bub is trusty: I'll send him." And I riz up to go. He riz up too. He is a gentleman; and, as I said, I like his looks. He has got that grand sort of a noble look, I have seen in other literary people, or has been seen in 'em; but modesty forbids my sayin' a word further.
But jest at this minute Mr. Blaines'es hired man come in, and told him that he was wanted below; and he took up his hat and gloves.
But jest as he was startin' out, he says, turnin' to the other gentleman in the room,—
"This gentleman is a senator. Mebby he can do Dorlesky's errent for you."
"Wall," says I, "I would be glad to get it done, without goin' any further. It would tickle Dorlesky most to death, and lots and lots of other wimmen."
Mr. Blaine spoke to the gentleman; and he come forward, and Mr. Blaine introduced us. But I didn't ketch his name; because, jest as Mr. Blaine spoke it, my umberell fell, and the gentleman sprung forward to pick it up; and then he shook hands with me: and Mr. Blaine said good-bye to me, and started off.
I felt willin' and glad to have this senator do Dorlesky's errents, but I didn't like his looks from the very first minute I sot my eyes on him.
My land! talk about Dorlesky Burpy bein' disagreable—he wus as disagreable as she is, any day. He was kinder tall, and looked out of his eyes, and wore a vest: I don't know as I can describe him any more close than that. He was some bald-headed, and he kinder smiled once in a while: I persume he will be known by this description. It is plain, anyway, almost lucid.
But his baldness didn't look to me like Josiah Allen's baldness; and he didn't have a mite of that smart, straight-forward way of Blaine, or the perfect courtesy and kindness of Allen Arthur. No. I sort o' despised him from the first minute.
Wall, he was dretful polite: good land! politeness is no name for his mean. Truly, as Josiah Allen says, I don't like to see anybody too good.
He drawed a chair up, for me and for himself, and asked me,—
"If he should have the inexpressible honor and the delightful joy of aiding me in any way: if so, command him to do it," or words to that effect. I can't put down his smiles, and genteel looks, and don't want to if I could.
But tacklin' hard jobs as I always tackle 'em, I sot right down calmly in front of him, with my umberell acrost my lap, and told him over all of Dorlesky's errents. And how I had brought 'em from Jonesville on my tower. I told over all of her sufferin's, from the Ring, and from not havin' her rights; and all her sister Susan Clapsaddle's sufferin's; and all her aunt Eunice's and Patty's, and Drusilla's and Abagail's, sufferin's. I did her errent up honorable and square, as I would love to have a errent done for me. I told him all the particulers; and as I finished, I said firmly,—
"Now, can you do Dorlesky's errents? and will you?"
He leaned forward with that deceitful and sort of disagreable smile of hisen, and took up one corner of my mantilly. It wus cut tab fashion; and he took up the tab, and says he, in a low, insinuatin' voice, and lookin' close at the edge of the tab,—
"Am I mistaken, or is this pipein'? or can it be Kensington tattin'?"
I jest drawed the tab back coldly, and never dained a reply.
Again he says, in a tone of amiable anxiety,—
"Have I not heard a rumor that bangs were going out of style? I see you do not wear your lovely hair bang-like, or a pompidorus! Ah! wimmen are lovely creatures, lovely beings, every one of them." And he sithed. "You are very beautiful." And he sithed agin, a sort of a deceitful, love-sick sithe.
I sot demute as the Sfinx, and a chippin'-bird a tappin' his wing against her stunny breast would move it jest as much as he moved me by his talk or his sithes. But he kep' on, puttin' on a kind of a sad, injured look, as if my coldness wus ondoin' of him,—
"My dear madam, it is my misfortune that the topics I introduce, however carefully selected by me, do not seem to be congenial to you. Have you a leaning toward natural history, madam? Have you ever studied into the traits and habits of our American wad?"
"What?" says I. For truly, a woman's curiosity, however paralized by just indignation, can stand only jest so much strain. "The what?"
"The wad. The animal from which is obtained the valuable fur that tailors make so much use of."
Says I, "Do you mean waddin' 8 cents a sheet?"
"8 cents a pelt—yes, the skins are plentiful and cheap, owing to the hardy habits of the animal."
Says I, "Cease instantly. I will hear no more."
Truly, I had heard much of the flattery and the little talk that statesmen will use to wimmen, and I had heard much of their lies, etc.; but truly, I felt that the 1/2 had not been told. And then I thought out loud, and says,—
"I have hearn how laws of right and justice are sot one side in Washington, D.C., as bein' too triflin' to attend to, while the legislators pondered over, and passed laws regardin', hens' eggs and birds' nests. But this is goin' too fur—too fur. But," says I firmly, "I shall do Dorlesky's errents, and do 'em to the best of my ability; and you can't draw off my attention from her sufferin's and her suffragin's by talkin' about wads."
"I would love to obleege Dorlesky," says he, "because she belongs to such a lovely sex. Wimmen are the loveliest, most angelic creatures that ever walked the earth: they are perfect, flawless, like snow and roses."
Says I firmly, "That hain't no such thing. They are disagreable creeters a good deal of the time. They hain't no better than men. But they ought to have their rights all the same. Now, Dorlesky is disagreable, and kinder fierce actin', and jest as humbly as they make wimmen; but that hain't no sign she ort to be imposed upon. Josiah says, 'She hadn't ort to have a right, not a single right, because she is so humbly.' But I don't feel so."
"Who is Josiah?" says he.
Says I, "My husband."
"Ah! your husband! yes, wimmen should have husbands instead of rights. They do not need rights, they need freedom from all cares and sufferings. Sweet, lovely beings, let them have husbands to lift them above all earthly cares and trials! Oh! angels of our homes," says he, liftin' his eyes to the heavens, and kinder shettin' 'em, some as if he was goin' into a trance, "fly around, ye angels, in your native haunts! mingle not with rings, and vile laws; flee away, flee above them."
And he kinder moved his hand back and forth, in a floatin' fashion, up in the air, as if it was a woman a flyin' up there, smooth and serene. It would have impressed some folks dretful, but it didn't me. I says reasonably,—
"Dorlesky would have been glad to flew above 'em. But the ring and the vile laws laid holt of her, unbeknown to her, and dragged her down. And there she is, all dragged and bruised and brokenhearted by it. She didn't meddle with the political ring, but the ring meddled with her. How can she fly when the weight of this infamous traffic is a holdin' her down?"
"Ahem!" says he. "Ahem, as it were—as I was saying, my dear madam, these angelic angels of our homes are too ethereal, too dainty, to mingle with the rude crowds. We political men would fain keep them as they are now: we are willing to stand the rude buffetings of—of—voting, in order to guard these sweet, delicate creatures from any hardships. Sweet, tender beings, we would fain guard you—ah, yes! ah, yes!"
Says I, "Cease instantly, or my sickness will increase; for such talk is like thoroughwort or lobelia to my moral stomach." Says I, "You know, and I know, that these angelic, tender bein's, half clothed, fill our streets on icy midnights, huntin' up drunken husbands and fathers and sons. They are driven to death and to moral ruin by the miserable want liquor- drinkin' entails. They are starved, they are frozen, they are beaten, they are made childless and hopeless, by drunken husbands killing their own flesh and blood. They go down into the cold waves, and are drowned by drunken captains; they are cast from railways into death, by drunken engineers; they go up on the scaffold, and die of crimes committed by the direct aid of this agent of hell.
"Wimmen had ruther be a flyin' round than to do all this, but they can't. If men really believe all they say about wimmen, and I think some of 'em do, in a dreamy way—if wimmen are angels, give 'em the rights of angels. Who ever heard of a angel foldin' up her wings, and goin' to a poorhouse or jail through the fault of somebody else? Who ever heard of a angel bein' dragged off to a police court by a lot of men, for fightin' to defend her children and herself from a drunken husband that had broke her wings, and blacked her eyes, himself, got the angel into the fight, and then she got throwed into the streets and the prison by it? Who ever heard of a angel havin' to take in washin' to support a drunken son or father or husband? Who ever heard of a angel goin' out as wet nurse to get money to pay taxes on her home to a Government that in theory idolizes her, and practically despises her, and uses that same money in ways abomenable to that angel?
"If you want to be consistent—if you are bound to make angels of wimmen, you ort to furnish a free, safe place for 'em to soar in. You ort to keep the angels from bein' meddled with, and bruised, and killed, etc."
"Ahem," says he. "As it were, ahem."
But I kep' right on, for I begun to feel noble and by the side of myself.
"This talk about wimmen bein' outside and above all participation in the laws of her country, is jest as pretty as I ever heard any thing, and jest as simple. Why, you might jest as well throw a lot of snowflakes into the street, and say, 'Some of 'em are female flakes, and mustn't be trampled on.' The great march of life tramples on 'em all alike: they fall from one common sky, and are trodden down into one common ground.
"Men and wimmen are made with divine impulses and desires, and human needs and weaknesses, needin' the same heavenly light, and the same human aids and helps. The law should meet out to them the same rewards and punishments.
"Dorlesky says you call wimmens angels, and you don't give 'em the rights of the lowest beasts that crawls upon the earth. And Dorlesky told me to tell you that she didn't ask the rights of a angel: she would be perfectly contented and proud if you would give her the rights of a dog—the assured political rights of a yeller dog. She said 'yeller;' and I am bound on doin' her errent jest as she wanted me to, word for word.
"A dog, Dorlesky says, don't have to be hung if it breaks the laws it is not allowed any hand in making. A dog don't have to pay taxes on its bone to a Government that withholds every right of citizenship from it.
"A dog hain't called undogly if it is industrious, and hunts quietly round for its bone to the best of its ability, and wants to get its share of the crumbs that fall from that table that bills are laid on.
"A dog hain't preached to about its duty to keep home sweet and sacred, and then see that home turned into a place of torment under laws that these very preachers have made legal and respectable.
"A dog don't have to see its property taxed to advance laws that it believes ruinous, and that breaks its own heart and the hearts of other dear dogs.
"A dog don't have to listen to soul-sickening speeches from them that deny it freedom and justice—about its bein' a damosk rose, and a seraphine, when it knows it hain't: it knows, if it knows any thing, that it is a dog.
"You see, Dorlesky has been kinder embittered by her trials that politics, corrupt legislation, has brought right onto her. She didn't want nothin' to do with 'em; but they come right onto her unexpected and unbeknown, and she feels jest so. She feels she must do every thing she can to alter matters. She wants to help make the laws that have such a overpowerin' influence over her, herself. She believes from her soul that they can't be much worse than they be now, and may be a little better."
"Ah! if Dorlesky wishes to influence political affairs, let her influence her children,—her boys,—and they will carry her benign and noble influence forward into the centuries."
"But the law has took her boy, her little boy and girl, away from her. Through the influence of the Whisky Ring, of which her husband was a shinin' member, he got possession of her boy. And so, the law has made it perfectly impossible for her to mould it indirectly through him. What Dorlesky does, she must do herself."
"Ah! A sad thing for Dorlesky. I trust that you have no grievance of the kind, I trust that your estimable husband is—as it were, estimable."
"Yes, Josiah Allen is a good man. As good as men can be. You know, men or wimmen either can't be only jest about so good anyway. But he is my choice, and he don't drink a drop."
"Pardon me, madam; but if you are happy, as you say, in your marriage relations, and your husband is a temperate, good man, why do you feel so upon this subject?"
"Why, good land! if you understand the nature of a woman, you would know that my love for him, my happiness, the content and safety I feel about him, and our boy, makes me realize the sufferin's of Dorlesky in havin' her husband and boy lost to her, makes me realize the depth of a wive's, of a mother's, agony, when she sees the one she loves goin' down, goin' down so low that she can't reach him; makes me feel how she must yearn to help him in some safe, sure way.