You don't really like to see the dimpled, soft hands change into an older person's hands; you kinder hate to change the face for an older, more care-worn face; you get sick of lookin'-glasses.
And sometimes you feel a sort of a homesick longin' for your old self—for the bright, eager face that looked back to you from the old lookin'-glass on summer mornin's, when the winder was open out into the orchard, and the May birds was singin' amidst the apple-blows. The red lips parted with a happy smile; the bright, laughin' eyes, sort o' soft too, and wistful— wishful for the good that mebby come to you, and mebby didn't, but which the glowin' face was sure of, on that spring morning with the May birds singin' outside, and the May birds singin' inside.
Time may have brought you somethin' better—better than you dreamed of on that summer mornin'. But it is different, anyhow; and you can't help gettin' kinder homesick, longin', wantin' that pretty young face again, wantin' the heart back again that went with it.
Wall, I s'pose we shall have it back—sometime. I s'pose we shall get back our lost youth in the place where we first got it. And it is all right, anyway.
We must move on. You see, Time won't stop to argue with us, or dicker; and our settin' down, and coaxin' him to stop a minute, and whet his scythe, and give us a chance to get round the swath he cuts, won't ammount to nothin' only wastin' our breath. His scythe is one that don't need any grindstun, and his swath is one that must be cut.
No! Time won't lean up aginst fence corners, and wipe his brow on a bandanna, and hang round. He jest moves right on—up and down, up and down. On each side of us the ripe blades fall, and the flowers; and pretty soon the swath will come right towards us, the grass-blades will fall nearer and nearer—a turn of the gleamin' scythe, and we, too, will be gone. The sunlight will rest on the turf where our shadows were, and one blade of grass will be missed out of that broad harvest-field more than we will be, when a few short years have rolled by.
The beauty and the clamor of life will go on without us. You see, we hain't needed so much as we in our egotism think we are. The world will get along without us, while we rest in peace.
But until then we have got to move along: we can't set down anywhere, and set there. No: if we want to be fore mothers and fore fathers, we mustn't set still: we must give the babies a chance to be fore mothers and fore fathers too. It wouldn't be right to keep the babies from bein' ancestors.
We must keep a movin' on. How the summer follows the spring, and the winter follows the autumn, and the years go by! And the clouds sail on through the sky, and the shadows follow each other over the grass, and the grass fadeth.
And the sun moves down the west, and the twilight follows the sun, and at last the night comes—and then the stars shine.
Strange that all this long revery of my mind should spring from that letter of my pardner's. But so it is. Why, I sot probable 3 fourths of a hour—entirely by the side of myself. Why, I shouldn't have sensed whether I was settin' on a sofy in a Washington boarding-house (a hard one too), or a bed of flowers in Asia Minor, or in the middle of the Desert of Sarah. Why, I shouldn't have sensed Sarah or A. Minor at all, if they had stood right by me, I was so lost and unbeknown to myself.
But anon, or pretty nigh that time (for I know it was ten when I got into bed, and it probable took me 1/2 an hour to comb out my hair and wad it up, and ondress), I rousted up out of my revery, and realized I was Josiah Allen's wife on a tower of Principle and Discovery. I realized I was a forerunner, and on the eve of return to the bosom of my family (a linen bosom, with five pleats on a side).
Wall, I rose betimes in the mornin', or about that time, and eat a good, noble breakfast, so's to start feelin' well; embraced Cicely and the boy, who asked me 32 questions while I was embracin' him. I kissed him several times, with hugs according; and then I took leave of Sally and Bub Smith. I paid for my board honorable, although Sally said she would not take any pay for so short a board. But I knew, in her condition, boards of any length should be paid for. So I insisted, and the board was paid for. I also rewarded Bub Smith for his efforts at doin' my errents, in a way that made his blushes melt into a glowin' background of joyousness.
And then, havin' asked the hired man to get a covered carriage to convey my body to the depot, and my trunk, I left Washington, D.C.
The snort of the engine as it ketched sight of me, sounded friendly to me. It seemed to say to me,—
"Forerunner, your runnin' is done, and well done! Your labors of duty and anxiety is over. Soon, soon will you be with your beloved pardner at home."
Home, the dearest word that was ever said or sung.
The passengers all looked good to me. The men's hats looked like Josiah's. They looked out of their eyes some as he did out of hisen: they looked good to me. There was one man upbraidin' his wife about some domestic matter, with crossness in his tone, but affectionate care and interest in his mean. Oh, how good, and sort o' natural, he did look to me! it almost seemed as if my Josiah was there by my side.
Never, never, does the cords of love fairly pull at your heart-strings, a drawin' you along towards your heart's home, your heart's desire, as when you have been off a movin' round on a tower. I longed for my dear home, I yearned for my Josiah.
I arrove at Jonesville as night was a lettin' down her cloudy mantilly fringed with stars (there wuzn't a star: I jest put that in for oritory, and I don't think it is wrong if I tell of it right away).
Evidently Josiah's creek wus better; for he wus at the depot with the mair, to convey my body home. He wus stirred to the very depths of his heart to see me agin; but he struggled for calmness, and told me in a voice controlled by his firm will, to "hurry and get in, for the mair wus oneasy stand-in' so long."
I, too, felt that I must emulate his calmness; and I says,—
"I can't get in no faster than I can. Do hold the mair still, or I can't get in at all."
"Wall, wall! hain't I a holdin' it? Jump in: there is a team behind a waitin'."
After these little interchanges of thought and affection, there was silence between us. Truly, there is happiness enough in bein' once more by the side of the one you love, whether you speak or not. And, to tell the truth, I was out of breath hurryin' so. But few words were interchanged until the peaceful haven of home was reached.
Some few words, peaceful, calm words were uttered, as to what we wus goin' to have for supper, and a desire on Josiah's part for a chicken-pie and vegitables of all kinds, and various warm cakes and pastries, compromised down to plans of tender steak, mashed potatoes, cream biscuit, lemon custard, and coffee. It wus settled in peace and calmness. He looked unstrung, very unstrung, and wan, considerable wan. But I knew that I and the supper could string him up agin; and I felt that I would not speak of the plan or the creek, or any agitatin' subject, until the supper was over, which resolve I follered. After the table was cleared, and Josiah looked like a new man,—the girl bein' out in the kitchen washin' the dishes,—I mentioned the creek; and he owned up that he didn't know as it was exactly a creek, but "it was a dumb pain, anyway, and he felt that he must see me."
It is sweet, passing sweet, to be missed, to be necessary to the happiness of one you love. But, at the same time, it is bitter to know that your pardner has prevaricated to you, and so the sweet and the bitter is mixed all through life.
I smiled and sithed simultaneous, as it were, and dropped down the creek.
Then with a calm tone, but a beatin' heart, I took up the Plan, and presented it to him. I wanted to find out the heights and depths of that Plan before I said a word about my own adventures at Washington, D.C. Oh, how that plan had worried me! But the minute I mentioned it, Josiah looked as if he would sink. And at first he tried to move off the subject, but I wouldn't let him. I held him up firm to that plan, and, to use a poetical image, I hitched him there.
Says I, "You know what you told me, Josiah,—you said that plan would make you beloved and revered."
Says I, "You know you said it would make you a lion, and me a lioness: do you remember, Josiah Allen?"
He groaned awful.
Says I firmly, "It didn't make you a lion, did it?"
He didn't speak, only sithed. But says I firmly, for I wus bound to come to the truth of it,—
"Are you a lion?"
"No," say she, "I hain't,"
"Wall," says I, "then what be you?"
"I am a fool," says he bitterly, "a dumb fool."
"Wall," says I encouragingly, "you no need to have laid on plans, and I needn't have gone off on no towers of discovery, to have found that out. But now," says I in softer axents, for I see he did indeed look agitated and melancholy,—
"Tell your Samantha all about it."
Says he mournfully, "I have got to find 'The Gimlet.'"
"The Gimlet!" I sithed to myself; and the wild and harrowin' thought went through me like a arrow,—that my worst apprehensions had been realized, and that man had been a writing poetry.
But then I remembered that he had promised me years ago, that he never would tackle the job agin. He begun to make a poem when we was first married; but there wuzn't no great harm done, for he had only wrote two lines when I found it out and broke it up.
Bein' jest married, I had a good deal of influence over him; and he promised me sacred, to never, never, as long as he lived and breathed, try to write another line of poetry agin. We was married in the spring, and these 2 lines was as follers:—
"How happified this spring appears— More happier than I ever knew springs to be, shears."
And I asked him what he put the "shears" in for, and he said he did it to rhyme. And then was the time, then and there, that I made him promise on the Old Testament, never to try to write a line of poetry agin. And I felt that he could not do himself and me the bitter wrong to try it agin, and still I trembled.
And right while I was tremblin', he returned, and silently laid "The Gimlet" in my lap, and sot down, and nearly buried his face in his hands. And the very first piece on which the eye of my spectacle rested, was this: "Josiah Allen on a Path-Master."
And I dropped the paper in my lap, and says I,—
"What have you been doing now, Josiah Allen? Have you been a fightin'? What path-master have you been on?"
"I hain't been on any," says he sadly, out from under his hand. "I headed it so, to have a strong, takin' title. You know they 'pinted me path- master some time ago."
I groaned and sithed to that extent that I was almost skairt at myself, not knowin' but I would have the highstericks unbeknown to me (never havin' had 'em, I didn't know exactly what the symptoms was), and I felt dredfully. But anon, or pretty nigh anon, I grew calmer, and opened the paper, and read. It seemed to be in answer to the men who had nominated him for path-master, and it read as follers:—
JOSIAH ALLEN ON A PATH-MASTER.
Feller Constituents and Male Men of Jonesville and the surroundin' and adjacent worlds!
I thank you, fellow and male citizents, I thank you heartily, and from the depths of my bein', for the honor you have heaped onto me, in pintin' me path-master.
But I feel it to be my duty to decline it. I feel that I must keep entirely out of political matters, and that I cannot be induced to be path-master, or President, or even United-States senator. I have not got the constitution to stand it. I don't feel well a good deal of the time. My liver is out of order, I am liable to have the ganders any minute, I am bilious, am troubled with rheumatiz and colic, my blood don't circulate proper, I have got a weak back, and lumbago, and biles. And I hain't a bit well. And I dassent put too much strain on myself, I dassent.
And then, I am a husband and a father. I have sacred duties to perform about, nearer and more sacred duties, that I dast not put aside for any others.
I am a husband. I took a tender and confidin' woman away from a happy home (Mother Smith's, in the east part of Jonesville), and transplanted her (carried her in a one-horse wagon and a mare) into my own home. And I feel that it is my first duty to make that home the brightest spot on earth to her. That home is my dearest and most sacred treasure. And how can I disturb its sweet peace with the wild turmoil of politics? I can not. I dast not.
And politics are dangerous to enter into. There is bad folks in Jonesville 'lection day,—bad men, and bad women. And I am liable to be led astray. I don't want to be led astray, but I feel that I am liable to.
I have to hear swearin'. Now, I don't swear myself. (I don't call "dumb" swearin', nor never did.) I don't swear, but I think of them oaths afterwards. Twice I thought of 'em right in prayer-meetin' time, and it worrys me.
I have to see drinkin' goin' on. I don't want to drink; but they offer to treat me, old friends do, and Samantha is afraid I shall yield to the temptation; and I am most afraid of it myself.
Yes, politics is dangerous and hardenin'; and, should I enter into the wild conflict, I feel that I am in danger of losin' all them tender, winnin' qualities that first won me the love of my Samantha. I dare not imperil her peace, and mine, by the effort.
I can not, I dast not, put aside these sacred duties that Providence has laid upon me. My wive's happiness is the first thing I must consider. Can I leave her lonely and unhappy while I plunge into the wild turmoil of caurkusses and town-meetin's, and while I go to 'lection, and vote? No.
And the time I would have to spend in study in order to vote intelligent, I feel as if that time I must use in strugglin' to promote the welfare and happiness of my Samantha. No, I dassent vote, I dassent another time.
Again, another reason. I have a little grandchild growin' up around me. I owe a duty to her. I must dandle her on my knee. I must teach her the path of virtue and happiness. If I do not, who will? For though there are plenty to make laws, and to vote, little Samantha Joe has but one grandpa on her mother's side.
And then, I have sights of cares. The Methodist church is to be kep' up: I am one of the pillows of the church, and sometimes it rests heavy on me. Sometimes I have to manage every way to get the preacher's salary. I am school-trustee: I have to grapple with the deestrict every spring and fall. The teachers are high-headed, the parents always dissatisfied, and the children act like the Old Harry. I am the salesman in the cheese- factory. Anarky and quarellin' rains over me offen that cheese-factory; and its fault-findin', mistrustin' patrons, embitters my life, and rends my mind with cares.
The care of providin' for my family wears onto me; for though Samantha tends to things on the inside of the house, I have to tend to things outside, and I have to provide the food she cooks.
And then, I have a great deal of work to do. Besides my barn-chores, and all the wearin' cares I have mentioned, I have five acres of potatoes to hoe and dig, a barn to shingle, a pig-pen to new cover, a smoke-house to fix, a bed of beets and a bed of turnips to dig,—ruty bagys,—and four big beds of onions to weed—dumb 'em! and six acres of corn to husk. My barn-floor at this time is nearly covered with stooks. How dare I leave my barn in confusion, and, by my disorderly doin's, run the risk of my wive's bein' so disgusted with my want of neatness and shiftlessness, as to cause her to get dissatisfied with home and husband, and wander off into paths of dissipation and vice? Oh! I dassent, I dassent, take the resk! When I think of all the terrible evils that are liable to come onto me, I feel that I dassent vote agin, as long as I live and breathe—I dast not have any thing whatever to do with politics.
FINY. THE END.
I read it all out loud, every word of it, interrupted now and then, and sometimes oftener, by the groans of my pardner. And as I finished, I looked round at him, and I see his looks was dretful. And I says in soothin' tones—for oh! how a companion's distress calls up the tender feelin's of a lovin' female pardner!
Says I, "It hain't the worst piece in the world, Josiah Allen! It is as sensible as lots of political pieces I have read." Says I, "Chirk up!"
"It hain't the piece! It is the way it was took," says he. "Life has been a burden to me ever sense that appeared in 'The Gimlet.' Tongue can't tell the way them Jonesvillians has sneered and jeered at me, and run me down, and sot on me."
I sithed, and remained a few moments almost lost in thought; and then says I,—
"Now, if you are more composed and gathered together, will you tell your companion how you come to write it? what you did it for?"
"I did it to be populer," says he, out from under his hand. "I thought I would branch off, and take a new turn, and not act so fierce and wolfish after office as most of 'em did. I thought I would get up something new and uneek."
"Wall, you have, uneeker than you probable ever will agin. But, if you wanted to be a senator, why did you refuse to have any thing to do with politics?"
"I did it to be urged," says he, in the same sad, despairin' tones. "I made the move to be loved—to be the favorite of the Nation. I thought after they read that, they would be fierce to promote me, fierce as blood- hounds. I thought it would make me the most populer man in Jonesville, and that I should be sought after, and praised up, and follered."
"What give you that idee?" says I calmly.
"Why, don't you remember Letitia Lanfear? She wrote a article sunthin' like this, only not half so smart and deep, when she was nominated for school-trustee, and it jest lifted her right up. She never had been thought any thing off in Jonesville till she wrote that, and that was the makin' of her. And she hadn't half the reason to write it that I have. She hadn't half nor a quarter the cares that I have got. She was a widder, educated high, without any children, with a comfortable income, and she lived in her brother's family, and didn't have no cares at all.
"And only see how that piece lifted her right up! They all said, what right feelin', what delicacy, what a noble, heart-stirrin', masterly document hern was! And I hankered, I jest hankered, after bein' praised up as she was. And I thought," says he with a deep sithe, "I thought I should get as much agin praise as she did. I thought I should be twice as populer, because it wus sunthin' new for a man to write such a article. I thought I should be all the rage in Jonesville. I thought I should be a lion."
"Wall, accordin' to your tell, they treat you like one, don't they?"
"Yes," says he, "speakin' in a wild animal way." Says he, growin' excited, "I wish I wuz a African lion right out of a jungle: I'd teach them Jonesvillians to get out of my way. I'd love, when they was snickerin', and pokin' fun at me, and actin' and jeerin' and sneerin', and callin' me all to nort, I'd love to spring onto 'em, and roar."
"Hush, Josiah," says I. "Be calm! be calm!"
"I won't be calm! I can't see into it," he hollered. "Why, what lifted Letitia Lanfear right up, didn't lift me up. Hain't what's sass for the goose, sass for the gander?"
"No," says I sadly. "It hain't the same sass. The geese have to get the same strength from it,—strength to swim in the same water, fly over the same fences, from the same pursuers and avengers; and they have to grow the same feathers out of it; but the sass, the sass is fur different.
"But," says I, "I don't approve of all your piece. A man, as a general thing, has as much time as a woman has. And I'd love to see the time that I couldn't do a job as short as puttin' a letter in the post-office. Why, I never see the time, even when the children was little, and in cleanin' house, or sugarin'-time, but what I could ride into Jonesville every day, to say nothin' of once a year, and lay a vote onto a pole. And you have as much time as I do, unless it is springs and falls and hayin'-time. And if I could do it, you could. I don't approve of such talk.
"And you know very well that you and I had better spend a little of our spare time a studyin' into matters, so as to vote intelligently; study into the laws that govern us both,—that hang us if we break 'em, and protect us if we obey 'em,—than to spend it a whittling shingles, or wonderin' whether Miss Bobbet's next baby will be a boy or a girl."
"Wall," says he, takin' his hand down, and winkin',—a sort of a shrewd, knowin' wink, but a sad and dejected one, too, as I ever see wunk,—
"I didn't have no idee of stoppin' votin'."
Says I coldly, as cold as Zero, or pretty nigh as coldblooded as the old man,—
"Did you write that article jest for the speech of people? Didn't you have no principle to back it up?"
"Wall," says he mournfully, "I wouldn't want it to get out of the family, but I'll tell you the truth. I didn't write it on a single principle, not a darn principle. I wrote it jest for popularity, and to make 'em fierce to promote me."
I groaned aloud, and he groaned. It wus a sad and groanful time.
Says he, "I pinned my faith onto Letitia Lanfear. And I can't understand now, why a thing that made Letitia so populer, makes me a perfect outcast. Hain't we both human bein's—human Methodists and Jonesvillians?" Says he, in despairin', agonized tone, "I can't see through it."
Says I soothenly, "Don't worry about that, Josiah, for nobody can. It is too deep a conundrum to be seen through: nobody has ever seen through it."
But it seemed as if he couldn't be soothed; and agin he kinder sithed out,—
"I pinned my faith onto Letitia, and it has ondone me;" and he kinder whimpered.
But I says firmly, but gently,—
"You will hear to your companion another time, will you not? and pin your faith onto truth and justice and right?"
"No, I won't. I won't pin it onto nothin' nor nobody. I'm done with politics from this day."
And bad as we both felt, this last speech of hisen made a glimmer of light streak up, and shine into my future. Some like heat lightenin' on summer evenin's. It hain't so much enjoyment at the time, but you know it is goin' to clear the cloudy air of the to-morrow. And so its light is sweet to you, though very curious, and crinkley.
And as mournful and sort o' curious as this time seemed to me and to Josiah, yet this speech of hisen made me know that all private and public peril connected with Hon. Josiah Allen was forever past away. And that thought cast a rosy glow onto my to-morrows.
I found, on lookin' round the house the next mornin', that Philury had kep' things in quite good shape. Although truly the buttery looked like a lonesome desert, and the cubbards like empty tents the Arabs had left desolate.
But I knew I could soon make 'em blossom like the rosy with provisions, which I proceeded at once to do, with Philury's help.
While I wus a rollin' out the pie-crust, Philury told me "she had changed her mind about long engagements."
And while I wus a makin' the cookies, she broached it to me that "she and Ury was goin' to be married the next week."
I wus agreable to the idee, and told her so. I like 'em both. Ury is a tall, limber-jinted sort of a chap, sandy complected, and a little round shouldered, but hard-workin' and industrious, and seems to take a interest.
His habits are good: he never drinks any thing stronger than root-beer, and he never uses tobacco—never has chawed any thing to our house stronger than gum. He used that, I have thought sometimes, more than wuz for his good. And I thought it must be expensive, he consumed such quantities of it. But he told me he made it himself out of beeswax and rozum.
And I told Josiah that I shouldn't say no more about it; because, although it might be a foolish habit, gum was not what you might call inebriatin'; it was not a intoxicatin' beverage, and didn't endanger the publick safety. So he kep' on a chawin' it, to home and abroad. He kep' at it all day, and at night if he felt lonesome.
I had mistrusted this, because I found a great chunk now and then on the head-board; and I tackled him about it, and he owned up.
"When he felt lonesome in the night," he said, "gum sort o' consoled him."
Well, I thought that in a great lonesome world, that needed comfort so much, if he found gum a consoler, I wouldn't break it up. So I kep' still, and would clean the head-board silently with kerosine and a woolen rag.
And Philury is a likely girl. Very freckled, but modest and unassuming. She is little, and has nice little features, and a round little face; and though she can't be said to resemble it in every particular, yet I never could think of any thing whenever I see her, but a nice little turkey-egg.
She is very obligin', and would always curchy and smile, and say "Yes'm" whenever I asked her to do any thing. She always would, and always will, I s'pose, do jest what you tell her to,—as near as she can; and she is thought a good deal of.
Wall, she has liked Ury for some time—that has been plain to see: she thought her eyes of him, and he of her. He has got eight or nine hundred dollars laid up; and I thought it was well enough for 'em to marry if they wanted to, and so I told Josiah the first time he come into the house that forenoon.
And he said "he guessed our thinkin' about it wouldn't alter it much, one way or the other."
And I said "I s'posed not." But says I, "I spoke out, because I feel quite well about it. I like 'em both, and think they'll make a happy couple: and to show my willin'ness still further, I mean to make a weddin' for her; for she hain't got no mothers, and Miss Gowdy won't have it there, for you know there has been such a hardness between 'em about that grindstun. So I'll have it here, get a good supper, and have 'em married off respectable."
He hung back a little at first, but I argued him down. Says I,—
"I have heerd you say, time and agin, that you liked 'em, and wanted 'em to do well: now, what do good wishes ammount to, unless you are willin' to back 'em up with good acts?" Says I, "I might say that I wished 'em well and happy, and that would be only a small expendature of wind, that wouldn't be no loss to me, and no petickuler help to them. But if I show my good will towards 'em by stirrin' up fruit-cakes and bride-cake, and pickin' chickens, and pressin' 'em, and makin' ice-cream and coffee and sandwitches, and workin' myself completely tired out, a wishin' 'em well, why, then they can depend on it that I am sincere in my good wishes."
"Wall," says Josiah, "if you wish me well, I wish you would get me a little sunthin' to eat before I starve: it is past eleven o'clock."
"The hand is on the pinter," says I calmly. "But start a good fire, and I will get dinner."
So he did, and I did, and he never made no further objections to my enterprise; and it was all understood that I should get their weddin' supper, and they should start from here on their tower.
And I offered, as she and Miss Gowdy didn't agree, that she might come back here, if she wanted to, and get some quiltin' done, and get ready for housekeepin'. She was tickled enough with the idee, and said she would help me enough to pay for her board. Ury's time wouldn't be out till about a month later.
I told her she needn't work any for me. But she is a dretful handy little thing about the house, or outdoors. When Josiah was sick, and when the hired man happened to be away, she would go right out to the barn, and fodder the cattle jest as well as a man could. And Josiah said she milked faster than he could, to save his life. Her father had nine girls and no boys; and he brought some of the girls up when they was little, kinder boy-like, and they knew all about outdoor work.
Wall, it was all decided on, that they should come right back here jest as soon as they ended their tower. They was a goin' to Ury's sister's, Miss Reuben Henzy's, and laid out to be gone about four days, or from four days to a week.
And I went to cookin' for the weddin' about a week before it took place. I thought I would invite the minister and his wife and family, and Philury's sister-in-law's family,—the only one of her relations who lived near us, and she was poor; and her classmates at Sunday school,—there was twelve of 'em,—and our children and their families. And I asked Miss Gowdey'ses folks, but didn't expect they would come, owin' to that hardness about the grindstun. But everybody else come that was invited; and though I am far from bein' the one that ort to say it, the supper was successful. It was called "excellent" by the voice, and the far deeper language of consumption.
They all seemed to enjoy it: and Ury took out his gum, and put it under the table-leaf before he begun to eat; and I found it there afterwards. He was excited, I s'pose, and forgot to take it agin when he left the table.
Philury looked pretty. She had on a travellin'-dress of a sort of a warm brown,—a color that kinder set off her freckles. It was woosted, and trimmed with velvet of a darker shade; and her hat and her gloves matched.
Her dress was picked out to suit me. Ury wanted her to be married in a yellow tarleton, trimmed with red. And she was jest that obleegin', clever creeter, that she would have done it if it hadn't been for me.
I says to her and to him,—
"What use would a yeller tarleton trimmed with red be to her after she is married, besides lookin' like fury now?" Says I, "Get a good, sensible dress, that will do some good after marriage, besides lookin' good now." Says I, "Marriage hain't exactly in real life like what it is depictered in novels. Life don't end there: folks have to live afterwards, and dress, and work." Says I, "If marriage was really what it is painted in that literature—if you didn't really have nothin' to do in the future, only to set on a rainbow, and eat honey, why, then, a yaller tarleton dress with red trimmin's would be jest the thing to wear. But," says I, "you will find yourself in the same old world, with the same old dishcloths and wipin'-towels and mops a waitin' for you to grasp, with the same pair of hands. You will have to konfront brooms and wash-tubs and darnin'-needles and socks, and etcetery, etcetery. And you must prepare yourself for the enkounter."
She heerd to me; and that very day, after we had the talk, I took her to Jonesville, drivin' the old mare myself, and stood by her while she picked it out.
And thinkin' she was young and pretty, and would want somethin' gay and bright, I bought some flannel for a mornin'-dress for her, and give it to her for a present. It was a pretty, soft gray and pink, in stripes about half a inch wide, and would be pretty for her for years, to wear in the house, and when she didn't feel well.
I knew it would wash.
She was awful tickled with it. And I bought a present for Ury on that same occasion,—two fine shirts, and two pair of socks, with gray toes and heels, to match the mornin'-dress. I do love to see things kompared, especially in such a time as this.
My weddin' present for 'em was a nice cane-seat rocker, black walnut, good and stout, and very nice lookin'. And, knowin' she hadn't no mother to do for her, I gave her a pair of feather pillows and a bed-quilt,—one that a aunt of mine had pieced up for me. It was a blazin' star, a bright red and yeller, and it had always sort o' dazzled me.
Ury worshiped it. I had kept it on his bed ever sense I knew what feelin's he had for it. He had said "that he didn't see how any thing so beautiful could be made out of earthly cloth." And I thought now was my time to part with it.
Wall, they had lots of good presents. I had advised the children, and the Sunday-school children, that, if they was goin' to give 'em any thing, they would give 'em somethin' that would do 'em some good.
Says I, "Perforated paper lambrequins, and feather flowers, and cotton- yarn tidies, look well; but, after all, they are not what you may call so nourishin' as some other things. And there will probable rise in their future life contingencies where a painted match-box, and a hair-pin receiver, and a card-case, will have no power to charm. Even china vases and toilet-sets, although estimable, will not bring up a large family, and educate them, especially for the ministry."
I s'pose I convinced 'em; for, as I heerd afterwards, the class had raised fifty cents apiece to get perforated paper, woosted yarn, and crystal beads. But they took it, and got her a set of solid silver teaspoons: the store-keeper threw off a dollar or two for the occasion. They was good teaspoons.
And our children got two good linen table-cloths, and a set of table- napkins; and the minister's wife brought her four towels, and the sister- in-law a patch-work bed-quilt. And Reuben Henzy's wife sent 'em the money to buy 'em a set of chairs and a extension table; and a rich uncle of hisen sent him the money for a ingrain carpet; and a rich uncle of hern in the Ohio sent her the money for a bedroom set,—thirty-two dollars, with the request that it should be light oak, with black-walnut trimmin's.
And I had all the things got, and took 'em up in one of our chambers, so folks could see 'em. And I beset Josiah Allen to give 'em for his present, a nice bedroom carpet. But no: he had got his mind made up to give Ury a yearlin' calf, and calf it must be. But he said "he would give in to me so fur, that, seein' I wanted to make such a show, if I said so, he would take the calf upstairs, and hitch it to the bed-post."
But I wouldn't parlay with him.
Wall, the weddin' went off first-rate: things went to suit me, all but one thing. I didn't love to see Ury chew gum all the time they was bein' married. But he took it out and held it in his hand when he said "Yes, sir," when the minister asked him, would he have this woman. And when she was asked if she would have Ury, she curchied, and said, "Yes, if you please," jest as if Ury was roast veal or mutton, and the minister was a passin' him to her. She is a good-natured little thing, and always was, and willin'.
Wall, they was married about four o'clock in the afternoon; and Josiah sot out with 'em, to take 'em to the six o'clock train, for their tower.
The company staid a half-hour or so afterwards: and the children stayed a little longer, to help me do up the work; and finally they went. And I went up into the spare chamber, and sort o' fixed Philury's things to the best advantage; for I knew the neighbors would be in to look at 'em. And I was a standin' there as calm and happy as the buro or table,—and they looked very light and cheerful,—when all of a sudden the door opened, and in walked Ury Henzy, and asked me,—
"If I knew where his overhauls was?"
You could have knocked me down with a pin-feather, as it were, I was so smut and dumb-foundered.
Says I, "Ury Henzy, is it your ghost?" says I, "or be you Ury?"
"Yes, I am Ury," says he, lookin', I thought, kinder disappointed and curious.
"Where is Philury?" says I faintly.
"She has gone on her tower," says he.
Says I, "Then, you be a ghost: you hain't Ury, and you needn't say you be."
But jest at that minute in come Josiah Allen a snickerin'; and says he,—
"I have done it now, Samantha. I have done somethin' now, that is new and uneek."
And as he see my strange and awful looks, he continued, "You know, you always say that you want a change now and then, and somethin' new, to pass away time."
"And I shall most probable get it," says I, groanin', "as long as I live with you. Now tell me at once, what you have done, Josiah Allen! I know it is your doin's."
"Yes," says he proudly, "yes, mom. Ury never would have thought of it, or Philury. I got it up myself, out of my own head. It is original, and I want the credit of it all myself."
Says I faintly, "I guess you won't be troubled about gettin' a patent for it." Says I, "What ever put it into your head to do such a thing as this?"
"Why," says he, "I got to thinkin' of it on the way to the cars. Philury said she would love to go and see her sister in Buffalo; and Ury, of course, wanted to go and see his sister in Rochester. And I proposed to 'em that she should go first to Buffalo, and see her folks, and when she got back, he should go to Rochester, and see his folks. I told her that I needed Ury's help, and she could jest as well go alone as not, after we got her ticket. And then in a week or so, when she had got her visit made out, she could come back, and help do the chores, and tend to things, and Ury could go. Ury hung back at first. But she smiled, and said she would do it."
I groaned aloud, "That clever little creeter! You have imposed upon her, and she has stood it."
"Imposed upon her? I have made her a heroine.
"Folks will make as much agin of her. I don't believe any female ever done any thing like it before,—not in any novel, or any thing."
"No," I groaned. "I don't believe they ever did."
"It will make her sought after. I told her it would. Folks will jest run after her, they will admire her so; and so I told her."
Says I, "Josiah Allen, you did it because you didn't want to milk. Don't try to make out that you had a good motive for this awful deed. Oh, dear! how the neighbors will talk about it!"
"Wall, dang it all, when they are a talkin' about this, they won't be lyin' about something else."
"O Josiah Allen!" says I. "Don't ever try to do any thing, or say any thing, or lay on any plans agin, without lettin' me know beforehand."
"I'd like to know why it hain't jest as well for 'em to go one at a time? They are both a goin You needn't worry about that. I hain't a goin' to break that up."
I groaned awful; and he snapped out,—
"I want sunthin' to eat."
"To eat?" says I. "Can you eat with such a conscience? Think of that poor little freckled thing way off there alone!"
"That poor little freckled thing is with her folks by this time, as happy as a king." But though he said this sort o' defient like, he begun to feel bad about what he had done, I could see it by his looks; but he tried to keep up, and says he, "My conscience is clear, clear as a crystal goblet; and my stomack is as empty as one. I didn't eat a mouthful of supper. Cake, cake, and ice-cream, and jell! a dog couldn't eat it. I want some potatoes and meat!"
And then he started out; and I went down, and got a good supper, but I sithed and groaned powerful and frequent.
Philury got home safely from her bridal tower, lookin' clever, but considerable lonesome.
Truly, men are handy on many occasions, and in no place do they seem more useful and necessary than on a weddin' tower.
Ury seemed considerable tickled to have her back agin. And Josiah would whisper to me every chance he got,—
"That now she had got back to help him, it was Ury's turn to go, and there wuzn't nothin' fair in his not havin' a tower." Josiah always stands up for his sect.
And I would answer him every time,—
"That if I lived, Philury and Ury should go off on a tower together, like human bein's."
And Josiah would look cross and dissatisfied, and mutter somethin' about the milkin'. There was where the shoe pinched.
Wall, right when he was a mutterin' one day, Cicely got back from Washington. And he stopped lookin' cross, and looked placid, and sunshiny. That man thinks his eyes of Cicely, both of 'em; and so do I.
But I see that she looked fagged out.
And she told me how hard she had worked ever sence she had been gone. She had been to some of the biggest temperance meetin's, and had done every thing she could with her influence and her money. She was willin' to spend her money like rain-water, if it would help any.
But she said it seemed as if the powers against it was greater than ever, and she was heart-sick and weary.
She had had another letter from the executor, too, that worried her.
She told me that, after she went up to her room at night, and the boy was asleep.
She had took off her heavy mournin'-dress, covered with crape, and put on a pretty white loose dress; and she laid her head down in my lap, and I smoothed her shinin' hair, and says to her,—
"You are all tired out to-night, Cicely: you'll feel better in the mornin'."
But she didn't: she was sick in bed the next day, and for two or three days.
And it was arranged, that, jest as quick as she got well enough to go, I was to go with her to see the executor, to see if we couldn't make him change his mind. It was only half a day's ride on the cars, and I'd go further to please her.
But she was sick for most a week. And the boy meant to be good. He wanted to be, and I know it.
But though he was such a sweet disposition, and easy to mind, he was dretful easy led away by temptation, and other boys.
Now, Cicely had told him that he must not go a fishin' in the creek back of the house, there was such deep places in it; and he must not go there till he got older.
And he would mean to mind, I would know it by his looks. He would look good and promise. But mebby in a hour's time little Let Peedick would stroll over here, and beset the boy to go; and the next thing she'd know, he would be down to the creek, fishin' with a bent pin.
And Cicely had told him he mustn't go in a swimmin'. But he went; and because it made his mother feel bad, he would deceive her jest as good-natured as you ever see.
Why, once he come in with his pretty brown curls all wet, and his little shirt on wrong side out.
He was kinder whistlin', and tryin' to act indifferent and innocent. And when his mother questioned him about it, he said,—
"He had drinked so much water, that it had soaked through somehow to his hair. And he turned his shirt gettin' over the fence. And we might ask Let Peedick if it wuzn't so."
We could hear Letty a whistlin' out to the barn, and we knew he stood ready to say "he see the shirt turn."
But we didn't ask.
But when the boy see that his actin' and behavin' made his mother feel real bad, he would ask her forgiveness jest as sweet; and I knew he meant to do jest right, and mebby he would for as much as an hour, or till some temptation come along—or boy.
But the good-tempered easiness to be led astray made Cicely feel like death: she had seen it in another; she see it was a inherited trait. And she could see jest how hard it was goin' to make his future: she would try her best to break him of it. But how, how was she goin' to do it, with them weak, good-natured lips, and that chin?
But she tried, and she prayed.
And, oh, how we all loved the boy! We loved him as we did the apples in our eyes.
But as I said, he was a child that had his spells. Sometimes he would be very truthful and honest,—most too much so. That was when he had his sort o' dreamy spells.
I know one day, she that wus Kezier Lum come here a visitin'. She is middlin' old, and dretful humbly.
Paul sot and looked at her face for a long time, with that sort of a dreamy look of hisen; and finally he says,—
"Was you ever a young child?"
And she says,—
"Why, law me! yes, I s'pose so."
And he says,—
"I think I would rather have died young, than to grow up, and be so homely."
I riz up, and led him out of the room quick, and told him "never to talk so agin."
And he says,—
"Why, I told the truth, aunt Samantha."
"Wall, truth hain't to be spoken at all times."
"Mother punished me last night for not telling the truth, and told me to tell it always."
And then I tried to explain things to him; and he looked sweet, and said "he would try and remember not to hurt folks'es feelin's."
He never thought of doin' it in the first place, and I knew it. And I declare, I thought to myself, as I went back into the room,—
"We whip children for tellin' lies, and shake 'em for tellin' the truth. Poor little creeters! they have a hard time of it, anyway."
But when I went back into the room, I see Kezier was mad. And she said in the course of our conversation, that "she thought Cicely was too much took up on the subject of intemperance, and some folks said she was crazy on the subject."
Kezier was always a high-headed sort of a woman, without a nerve in her body. I don't believe her teeth has got nerves; though I wouldn't want to swear to it, never havin' filled any for her.
And I says back to her, for it made me mad to see Cicely run,—
Says I, "She hain't the first one that has been called crazy, when they wus workin' for truth and right. And if the old possles stood it, to be called crazy, and drunken with new wine—why, I s'pose Cicely can."
"Wall," says she, "don't you believe she is almost crazy on that subject?"
Says I, deep and earnest, "It is a good crazy, if it is. And," says I, "to s'posen the case,—s'posen the one we loved best in the world, your Ebineezer, or my Josiah, should have been ruined, and led into murder, by drinkin' milk, don't you believe we should have been sort o' crazy ever afterwards on the milk question?"
"Why," says she, "milk won't make anybody crazy."
There it wuz—she hadn't no imagination.
Says I, "I am s'posen milk, I don't mean it." Says I, "Cicely means well."
And so she did, sweet little soul.
But day by day I could see that her eagerness to accomplish what she had sot out to, her awful anxiety about the boy's future, wus a wearin' on her: the active, keen mind, the throbbin', achin' heart, was a wearin' out the tender body.
Her eyes got bigger and bigger every day; and her face got the solemnest, curiusest look to it, that I ever see.
And her cheeks looked more and more like the pure white blow of the Sweet Cicely, only at times there would be a red upon 'em, as if a leaf out of a scarlet rose had dropped dowrn upon their pure whiteness.
That would be in the afternoon; and there would be such a dazzlin' brightness in her eyes, that I used to wonder if it was the fire of immortality a bein' kindled there, in them big, sad eyes.
And right about this time the executor (and I wish he could have been executed with a horse-whip: he knew how she felt about it)—he wuz sot, a good man, but sot. Why, his own sir name wuz never more sot in the ground than he wuz sot on top of it. And he didn't like a woman's interference. He wrote to her that one of her stores, that he had always rented for the sale of factory-cloth and sheep's clothin', lamb's-wool blankets, and etcetery, he had had such a good offer for it, to open a new saloon and billiard-room, that he had rented it for that purpose; and he told how much more he got for it. That made 4 drinkin' saloons, that wuz in the boy's property. Every one of 'em, so Cicely felt, a drawin' some other mother's boys down to ruin.
Cicely thought of it nights a sight, so she said,—said she was afraid the curses of these mothers would fall on the boy.
And her eyes kep' a growin' bigger and solemner like, and her face grew thinner and thinner, and that red flush would burn onto her cheeks regular every afternoon, and she begun to cough bad.
But one day she felt better, and was anxious to go. So she and I went to see the executor, Condelick Post.
We left the boy with Philury. Josiah took us to the cars, and we arrove there at 1 P.M. We went to the tarven, and got dinner, and then sot out for Mr. Post'ses office.
He greeted Cicely with so much politeness and courtesy, and smiled so at her, that I knew in my own mind that all she would have to do would be to tell her errent. I knew he would do every thing jest as she wanted him to. His smile was truly bland—I don't think I ever see a blander one, or amiabler.
I guess she was kinder encouraged, too, for she begun real sort o' cheerful a tellin' what she come for,—that she wanted him to rent these buildin's for some other purpose than drinkin' and billiard saloons.
And he went on in jest as cheerful a way, almost jokeuler, to tell her "that he couldn't do any thing of the kind, and he was doing the business to the best of his ability, and he couldn't change it at all."
And then Cicely, in a courteus, reasonable voice, begun to argue with him; told him jest how bad she felt about it, and urged him to grant her request.
But no, the pyramids couldn't be no more sot than he wuz, nor not half so polite.
And then she dropped her own sufferings in the matter, and argued the right of the thing.
She said when she was married, her husband took the whole of her property, and invested it for her in these very buildings. And in reality, it was her own property. The most of her husband's wealth was in the mills and government bonds. But she wanted her money invested here, because she wanted a larger interest. And she was intending to let the interest accumulate, and found a free library, and build a chapel, for the workmen at the mills.
And says she, "Is it right that my own property should be used for what I consider such wicked purposes?"
"Wicked? why, my dear madam! it brings in a larger interest than any other investment that I have been able to make. And you know your husband's will provides handsomely for you—the yearly allowance is very handsome indeed."
"It is all I wish, and more than I care for. I am not speaking of that."
"Yes, it is very handsome indeed. And by the time Paul is of age, in the way I am managing the property now, he will be the richest young man in this section of the State. The revenue of which you make complaints, will be of itself a handsome property, a large patrimony."
"It will seem to be loaded with curses, weighed down with the weight of heavy hearts, broken hearts, ruined lives."
"All imagination, my dear madam! You have a vivid imagination. But there will be nothing of the kind, I assure you," says he, with a patronizing smile. "It will all be invested in government bonds,—good, honest dollars, with nothing more haunting than the American eagle on them."
"Yes, and these words, 'In God we trust.' But do you know," says she, with the red spot growin' brighter on her cheek, and her eyes brighter,—"do you know, if one did not possess great faith, they would be apt to doubt the existence of a God, who can allow such injustice?"
"What injustice, my dear madam?" says he, smilin' blandly.
"You know, Mr. Post, just how my husband died: you know he was killed by intemperance. A drinking-saloon was just as surely the cause of his death, as the sword is, that pierces through a man's heart. Intemperance was the cause of his crime. He, the one I loved better than my own self, infinitely better, was made a murderer by it. I have lost him," says she, a throwin' out her arms with a wild gesture that skairt me. "I have lost him by it."
And her eyes looked as big and wild and wretched, as if she was lookin' down the endless ages of eternity, a tryin' to find her love, and knew she couldn't. All this was in her eyes, in her voice. But she seemed to conquer her emotion by a mighty effort, tried to smother it down, and speak calmly for the sake of her boy.
"And now, after I have suffered by it as I have, is it right, is it just, that I should be compelled to allow my property to be used to make other women's hearts, other mothers' hearts, ache as mine must ache forever?"
"But, my dear madam, the law, as it is now, gives me the right to do as I am doing."
"I am pleading for justice, right: you have it in your power to grant my prayer. Women have no other weapon they can use, only just to plead, to beg for mercy."
"O my dear madam! you are quite wrong: you are entirely wrong. Women are the real rulers of the world. They, in reality, rule us men, with a rod of iron. Their dainty white hands, their rosy smiles, are the real autocrats of—of the breakfast-table, and of life."
You see, he went on, as men used to went on, to females years ago. He forgot that that Alonzo and Melissa style of talkin' to wimmen had almost entirely gone out of fashion. And it was a good deal more stylish now to talk to wimmen as if they wuz human bein's, and men wuz too.
But Cicely looked at him calm and earnest, and says,—
"Will you do as I wish you to in this matter?"
"Well, really, my dear madam, I don't quite get at your meaning."
"Will you let this store remain as it is, and rent those other saloons to honest business men for some other purpose than drinking-saloons?"
"O my dear, dear madam! What can you be thinking of? The rent that I get from those four buildings is equal in amount to any eight of the other buildings of the same size. I cannot, I cannot, consent to make any changes whatever."
"You will not, then, do as I wish?"
"I cannot, my dear madam: I prefer to put it in that way,—I cannot. I do not see as you do in the matter. And as the law empowers me to use my own discretion in renting the buildings, investing money, etc., I shall be obliged to do so."
Cicely got up: she was white as snow now, but as quiet as snow ever wus.
Mr. Post got up, too, about the politest actin' man I ever see, a movin' chairs out of the way, and a smilin', and a waitin' on us out. He was ready to give plenty of politeness to Cicely, but no justice.
And I guess he was kinder sorry to see how white and sad she looked, for he spoke out in a sort of a comfortin' voice,—
"You have had great sorrows, Mrs. Slide, but you have also a great deal to comfort you. Just think of how many other widows have been left in poverty, or, as you may say, penury, and you are rich."
Cicely turned then, and made the longest speech I ever heard her make.
"Yes, many a drunkard's wife is clothed in rags, and goes hungry to bed at night, with her hungry children crying for bread about her. She can lie on her cold pile of rags, with the snow sifting down on her, and think that her husband, a sober, honest man once, was made a low, brutal wretch by intemperance; that he drank up all his property, killed himself by strong drink, was buried in a pauper's grave, and left a starving wife and children, to live if they could. The cold of winter freezes her, the want of food makes her faint, and to see her little ones starving about her makes her heart ache, no doubt. I have plenty of money, fine clothes, dainty food, diamonds on my fingers."
Says she, stretching out her little white hands, and smilin' the bitterest smile I ever see on Cicely's face,—
"But do you not think, that, as I lie on my warm, soft couch at night, my heart is wrung by a keener pang than that drunkard's wife can ever know? I can lie and think that by my means, my wealth, I am making just such homes as that, making just such broken hearts, just such starving children, filling just such paupers' graves,—laying up a long store of curses and judgments, for my boy's inheritance. And I am powerless to do any thing but suffer."
And she opened the door, and walked right out. And Mr. Post stood and smiled till we got to the bottom of the stairs.
"Good-afternoon, good-afternoon, my clear madam, call again; happy to see you—Good-afternoon."
Wall, Cicely went right to bed the minute we got home; and she never eat a mite of supper, only drinked a cup of tea, and thanked me so pretty for bringin' it to her.
And there was such a sad and helpless, and sort of a outraged, look in her pretty brown eyes, some as a noble animal might have, who wus at bay with the cruel hunters all round it. And so I told Josiah after I went down- stairs.
And the boy overheard me, and asked me 87 questions about "a animal at bay," and what kind of a bay it was—was it the bay to a barn? or on the water? or—
Oh my land! my land! How I did suffer!
But Cicely grew worse fast, from that very day. She seemed to run right down.
One day Cicely had been worryin' dretfully all the forenoon about the boy. And I declare, it seemed so pitiful to hear her talk and forebode about him, with her face lookin' so wan and white, and her big eyes so sorrowful lookin', as if they was lookin' onto all the sadness and trouble of the world, and couldn't help herself—such a sort of a hopeless look, and lovin' and broken-hearted, that it was all I could do to stand it without breakin' right down, and cry in' with her.
But I knew her state, and held firm. And she went over all the old grounds agin to me, that she had foreboded on; and I went over all the old grounds of soothing agin and agin.
Why, good land! I had had practice enough. For every day, and every night, would she forebode and forebode, and I would soothe and soothe, till I declare for't, I should have felt (to myself) a good deal like a bread- and-milk poultice, or even lobelia or catnip, if my feelin's on the subject hadn't been so dretful deep and solemn, deeper than any poultice that was ever made—and solemner.
Why, Tirzah Ann says to me one day,—she had been settin' with Cicely for a hour or two; and she come out a cryin', and says she,—
"Mother, I don't see how you can stand it. It would break my heart to see Cicely's broken-hearted look, and hear her talk for half a day; and you have to hear her all the time." And she wiped her eyes.
And I says, "Tongue can't tell, Tirzah Ann, how your ma's heart does ache for her. And," says I, "if I knew myself, I had got to die and leave a boy in the world with such temptations round him, and such a chin on him, why, I don't know what I should do, and what I shouldn't do."
And says Tirzah Ann, "That is jest the way I feel, mother;" and we both of us wiped our eyes.
But I held firm before her, and reminded her every time, of what she knew already,—"that there was One who was strong, who comforted her in her hour of need, and He would watch over the boy."
And sometimes she would be soothed for a little while, and sometimes she wouldn't.
Wall, this day, as I said, she had worried and worried and worried. And at last I had soothed her down, real soothed. And she asked me before I went down-stairs, for a poem, a favorite one of hers,—"The Celestial Country." And I gin it to her. And she said I might shet the door, and she would read a spell, and she guessed she should drop to sleep.
And as I was goin' out of the room, she called me back to hear a verse or two she particularly liked, about the "endless, ageless peace of Syon:"—
"True vision of true beauty, Sweet cure of all distrest."
And I stood calm, and heard her with a smooth, placid face, though I knew my pies was a scorchin' in the oven, for I smelt 'em. I did well by Cicely.
After she finished it, I told her it was perfectly beautiful, and I left her feelin' quite bright; and there wuzn't but one of my pies spilte, and I didn't care if it wuz. I wuzn't goin' to have her feelin's hurt, pies or no pies.
After I got my pies out, I went into my nearest neighbor's on a errent, tellin' Josiah to stay in Thomas Jefferson's room, just acrost from Cicely's, so's if she wanted any thing, he could get it for her. I wuzn't gone over a hour, and, when I went back, I went up-stairs the first thing; and I found Cicely a cryin,' though there was a softer, more contented look in her eyes than I had seen there for a long time.
And I says, "What is the matter, Cicely?"
And she says,—
"Oh! if I had been a better woman, I could have seen my mother! she has been here!"
"Why, Cicely!" says I. "Here, take some of this jell."
But she put it away, and says in a sort of a solemn, happy tone,—
"She has been here!"
She said it jest as earnest and serene as I ever heard any thing said; and there was a look in her eyes some as there wuz when she come home from her aunt Mary's, and told me "she almost wished her aunt had died while she was there, because she felt that her mother would be the angel sent from heaven to convey her aunt's soul home—and she could have seen her."
There was that same sort of deep, soulful, sad, and yet happy look to her eyes, as she repeated,—
"She has been here! I was lying here, aunt Samantha, reading 'The Celestial Country,' not thinking of any thing but my book, when suddenly I felt something fanning my forehead, like a wing passing gently over my face. And then something said to me just as plain as I am speaking to you, only, instead of being spoken aloud, it was said to my soul,—
"'You have wanted to see your mother: she is here with you.'
"And I dropped my book, and sprung up, and stood trembling, and reached out my hands, and cried,—"'Mother! mother! where are you? Oh! how I have wanted you, mother!'
"And then that same voice said to my heart again,—
"'God will take care of the boy.'
"And as I stood there trembling, the room seemed full. You know how you would feel if your eyes were shut, and you were placed in a room full of people. You would know they were there—you would feel their presence, though you couldn't see them. You know what the Bible says,—'Seeing we are encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses.' That word just describes what I felt. There seemed to be all about me, a great cloud of people. And I put my arms out, and made a rush through them, as you would through a dense crowd, and said again,—
"'Mother! mother! where are you? Speak to me again.'
"And then, suddenly, there seemed to be a stir, a movement in the room, something I was conscious of with some finer, more vivid sense than hearing. It seemed to be a great crowd moving, receding. And farther off, but clear, these words came to me again, sweet and solemn,—
"'God will take care of the boy.'
"And then I seemed to be alone. And I went out into the hall; and uncle Josiah heard me, and he came out, and asked me what the matter was.
"And I told him 'I didn't know.' And my strength left me then; and he took me up in his arms, and brought me back into my room, and laid me on the lounge, and gave me some wine, and I couldn't help crying."
"What for, dear?" says I.
"Because I wasn't good enough to see my mother. If I had only been good enough, I could have seen her. For she was here, aunt Samantha, right in this room."
Her eyes wus so big and solemn and earnest, that I knew she meant what she said. But I soothed her down as well as I could, and I says,—
"Mebby you had dropped to sleep, Cicely: mebby you dremp it."
"Yes," says Josiah, who had come in, and heard my last words.
"Yes, Cicely, you dremp it."
Wall, after a while Cicely stopped cryin', and dropped to sleep.
And now what I am goin' to tell you is the truth. You can believe it, or not, jest as you are a mind to; but it is the truth.
That night, at sundown, Thomas J. come in with a telegram for Cicely; and she says, without actin' a mite surprised,—
"Aunt Mary is dead."
And sure enough, when she opened it, it was so. She died jest before the time Cicely come out into the hall. Josiah remembered plain. The clock had jest struck two as she opened the door.
Her aunt died at two.
This is the plain truth; and I will make oath to it, and so will Josiah. And whether Cicely dremp it, or whether she didn't; whether it wus jest a coincidin' coincidence, her havin' these feelin's at exactly the time her aunt died, or not,—I don't know any more than you do. I jest put down the facts, and you can draw your own inferences from 'em, and draw 'em jest as fur as you want to, and as many of 'em.
But that night, way along in the night, as I lay awake a musin' on it, and a wonderin',—for I say plain that my specks hain't strong enough to see through the mysteries that wrap us round on every side,—I s'posed my companion wus asleep; but he spoke out sudden like, and decided, as if I had been a disputin' of him,—
"Yes, most probable she dremp it."
"Wall," says I, "I hain't disputed you,"
"Hain't you a goin' to?" says he.
"No," says I. And that seemed to quiet him down, and he went to sleep.
And I give up, that most probable she did, or didn't, one of the two.
But anyway, from that night, she didn't worry one bit about the boy.
She would talk to him sights about his bein' a good boy, but she would act and talk as if she was sure he would. She would look at him, not with the old, pitiful, agonized look, but with a sweet and happy light in her eyes.
And I guessed that she thought that the laws would be changed before the boy was of age. I thought that she felt real encouraged to think the march of civilization was a marchin' on, pretty slow but sure, and, before the boy got old enough to go out into a world full of temptations, there would be wiser laws, purer influences, to help the boy to be a good and noble man, which is about the best thing we know of, here below.
No, she never worried one worry about him after that day, not a single worry. But she made her will, and it was fixed lawful too. She wanted Paul to stay with us till he was old enough to send off to school and college. And she wanted her property and Paul's too, if he should die before he was of age, should be used to found a school, and a home for the children of drunkards. A good school and a Christian home, to teach them and help them to be good, and good citizens.
Josiah Allen and Thomas J. and I was appinted to see to it, appinted by law. It was to be right in them buildings that wus used now for dram- shops: them very housen was to be used to send out good influences and spirits into the world instead of the vile, murderous, brutal spirits, they wus sendin' out now.
And wuzn't it sort o' pitiful to think on, that Cicely had to die before her property could be used as she wanted it to be,—could be used to send out blessings into the world, instead of 'cursings and wickedness, as it was now? It was pitiful to look on it with the eye of a woman; but I kep' still, and tried to look on it with the eye of the United States, and held firm.
And we give her our solemn promises, that in case the job fell to us to do, it should be tended to, to the very best of our three abilities. Thomas J., bein' a good lawyer, could be relied on.
The executor consented to it,—I s'pose because he was so dretful polite, and he thought it would be a comfort to Cicely. He knew there wuzn't much danger of its ever takin' place, for Paul was a healthy child. And his appetite was perfectly startlin' to any one who never see a child's appetite.
I estimated, and estimated calmly, that there wuzn't a hour of the day that he couldn't eat a good, hearty meal. But truly, it needed a strong diet to keep up his strength. For oh! oh! the questions that child would ask! He would get me and Philury pantin' for breath in the house, and then go out with calmness and strength to fatigue his uncle Josiah and Ury nearly unto death.
But they loved him, and so did I, with a deep, pantin', tired-out affection. We loved him better and better as the days rolled by: the tireder we got with him seemin'ly, the more we loved him.
But one hope that had boyed me up durin' the first weeks of my intercourse with him, died out. I did think, that, in the course of time, he would get all asked out. There wouldn't be a thing more in heavens or on earth, or under the earth, that he hadn't enquired in perticular about.
But as days passed by, I see the fallicy of my hopes. Insperation seemed to come to him; questions would spring up spontanious in his mind; the more he asked, the more spontaniouser they seemed to spring.
Now, for instance, one evenin' he asked me about 3,000 questions about the Atlantic Ocian, its whales and sharks and tides and steamships and islands and pirates and cable and sailors and coral and salt, and etc., etc., and etcetery; and after a hour or two he couldn't think of another thing to ask, seemin'ly. And I begun to get real encouraged, though fagged to the very outmost limit of fag, when he drew a long breath, and says with a perfectly fresh, vigorous look,—
"Now less begin on the Pacific."
And I answered kindly, but with firmness,—
"I can't tackle any more ocians to-night, I am too tuckered out."
"Well," says he, glancin' out of the window at the new moon which hung like a slender golden bow in the west, "don't you think the moon to-night is shaped some like a hammock? and if I set down in it with my feet hanging out, would I be dizzy? and if I should curl my feet up, and lay back in it, and sail—and sail—and sail up into the sky, could I find out about things up in the heavens? Could I find the One up there that set me to breathing? And who made the One that made me? And where was I before I was made?—and uncle Josiah and Ury? And why wouldn't I tell him where we was before we was anywhere? and if we wasn't anywhere, did I suppose we would want to be somewhere? and say—SAY"—
Oh, dear me! dear me! how I did suffer!
But a better child never lived than he was, and I would have loved to seen anybody dispute it. He was a lovely child, and very deep.
And he would back up to you, and get up into your lap, with such a calm, assured air of owning you, as if you was his possession by right of discovery. And he would look up into your face with such a trustin', angelic look as he tackled you, that, no matter how tuckered out you would get, you was jest as ready for him the next time, jest as ready to be tackled and tuckered.
He was up with his mother a good deal. He would get up on the bed, and lay by her side; and she would hold him close, and talk good to him, dretful good.
I heard her tellin' him one day, that, "if ever he had a man's influence and strength, he must use them wisely, and deal tenderly and gently by those who were weaker, and in his power. That a manly man was never ashamed of doing what was right, no matter how many opposed him; that it was manly and noble to be pure and good, and helpful to all who needed help.
"And he must remember, if he ever got tired out and discouraged trying to be good himself, and helping others to be good, that he was never alone, that his loving Father would always be with him, and she should. She should never be far away from her boy.
"And it would only be a little while at the longest, before she should take him in her arms again, before life here would end, and the new and glorious life begin, that he must fit himself for. That life here was so short that it wasn't worth while to spend any part of it in less worthy work than in loving and serving with all his strength God and man."
And I thought as I listened to her, that her talk had the simplicity of a child, and the wisdom of all the philosiphers.
Yes, she would talk to him dretful good, a holdin' him close in her arms, and lookin' on him with that fur-off, happy look in her eyes, that I loved and hated to see,—loved to see because it was so beautiful and sweet, hated to see because it seemed to set her so fur apart from all of us.
It seemed as though, while her body was here below, she herself was a livin' in another world than ourn: you could see its bright radience in her eyes, hear its sweet and peaceful echoes in her voice.
She was with us, and she wuzn't with us; and I'd smile and cry about it, and cry and smile, and couldn't help it, and didn't want to.
And seein' her so satisfied about the boy—why, seein' her feel so good about him, made us feel good too. And seein' her so contented and happy, made us contented and happy—some.
And so the peaceful weeks went by, Cicely growin' weaker and weaker all the time in body, but happier and happier in her mind; so sweet and serene, that we all felt, that, instead of being sad, it was somethin' beautiful to die.
And as the long, sweet days passed by, the look in her eyes grew clearer, —the look that reminded us of the summer skies in early mornin', soft and dark, with a prophecy in them of the coming brightness and glory of the full day.
The mornin' of the last day in June Cicely was not so well; and I sent for the doctor in the mornin', and told Ury to have Tirzah Ann and Maggie come home and spend the day. Which they did.
And in the afternoon she grew worse so fast, that towards night I sent for the doctor again.
He didn't give any hope, and said the end was very near. A little before night the boys come,—Thomas Jefferson and Whitfield.
The sun went down; and it was a clear, beautiful evenin', though there was no moon. All was still in the house: the lamp was lighted, but the doors and windows was open, and the smell of the blossoms outside come in sweet; and every thing seemed so peacful and calm, that we could not feel sorrowful, much as we loved her.
She had wanted the boy on the bed with her; and I told Josiah and the children we would go out, and leave her alone with him. Only, the doctor sot by the window, with the lamp on a little stand by the side of him, and the mornin'-glories hangin' their clusters down between him and the sweet, still night outside.
Cicely's voice was very low and faint; but we could hear her talkin' to him, good, I know, though I didn't hear her words. At last it was all still, and we heard the doctor go to the bedside; and we all went in,— Josiah and the children and me. And as we stood there, a light fell on Cicely's face,—every one in the room saw it,—a white, pure light, like no other light on earth, unless it was something like that wonderful new light—that has a soul. It was something like that clear white light, falling through a soft shade. It was jest as plainly visible to us as the lamplight at the other end of the room.
It rested there on her sweet face, on her wide-open brown eyes, on her smilin' lips. She lay there, rapt, illumined, glorified, apart from us all. For that strange, beautiful glow on her face wrapped her about, separated her from us all, who stood outside.
The boy had fallen asleep, his dimpled arms around her neck, and his moist, rosy face against her white one. She held him there close to her heart; but in the awe, the wonder of what we saw, we hardly noticed the boy.
She heard voices we could not hear, for she answered them in low tones,— contented, happy tones. She saw faces we couldn't see, for she looked at them with wondern' rapture in her eyes. She was away from us, fur away from us who loved her,—we who were on this earth still. Love still held her here, human love yet held her by a slight link to the human; but her sweet soul had got with its true kindred, the pure in heart.
But still her arms was round the boy,—white, soft arms of flesh, that held him close to her heart. And at the very last, she fixed her eyes on him; and, oh! what a look that was,—a look of such full peace, and rapturous content, as if she knew all, and was satisfied with all that should happen to him. As if her care for him, her love for him, had blossomed, and bore the ripe fruit of blessedness.
At last that beautiful light grew dimmer, and more dim, till it was gone— gone with the pure soul of our sweet Cicely.
That night, way along in the night, I wuzn't sleeping, and I wuzn't crying, though I had loved Cicely so well. No: I felt lifted up in my mind, inspired, as if I had seen somethin' so beautiful that I could never forget it. I felt perhaps somethin' as our old 4 mothers did when they would see an angel standin' with furled wings outside their tents.
I thought Josiah was asleep; but it seems he wuzn't, for he spoke out sort o' decided like,—
"Most probable it was the lamp."
It was a lovely mornin' about three weeks after Cicely's death. Josiah had to go to Jonesville to mill, and the boy wanted to go to; and so I put on his little cloak and hat, and told him he might go.
We didn't act cast down and gloomy before the boy, Josiah and me didn't. He had worried for his ma dretfully, at first. But we had made every thing of him, and petted him. And I had told him that she had gone to a lovely place, and was there a waitin' for him. And I would say it to him with as cheerful a face as I could. (I knew I could do my own cryin', out to one side.)
And he believed me. He believed every word I said to him. And he would ask me sights and sights of questions about "the place."
And "if it was inside the gate, that uncle Josiah had read about,—that gate that was big and white, like a pearl? And if it would float down through the sky some day, and stand still in front of him? And would the gate swing open so he could see into the City? and would it be all glorious with golden streets, and shining, and full of light? And would his mamma Cicely stand just inside, and reach out her arms to him?—those pretty white arms."
And then the boy would sob and cry. And I'd soothe him, and swaller hard, and say "Yes," and didn't think it was wicked, when he would be a sobbin' so.
And then he'd ask, "Would she take him in her arms, and be glad to see her own little boy again? And would he have long to wait?"
And I'd comfort him, and tell him, "No, it wouldn't be but a little time to wait."
And didn't think it was wicked, for it wuzn't long anyway. For "our days are but shadows that flee away."
Wall, he loved us, some. And we loved him, and did well by him; and bein' a child, we could sometimes comfort him with childish things.
And this mornin' he wus all excitement about goin' to Jonesville with his uncle Josiah. And I gin him some pennys to get some oranges for him and the babe, and they set off feelin' quite chirk.
And I sot down to mend a vest for my Josiah. And I was a settin' there a mendin' it,—one of the pockets had gin out, and it was frayed round the edges.
And I sot there a sewin' on that fray, peaceful and calm and serene as the outside of the vest, which was farmer's satin, and very smooth and shinin'. The weather also wus as mild and serene as the vest, if not serener. I had got my work all done up as slick as a pin: the floor glittered like yellow glass, the stove shone a agreable black, a good dinner was a cookin'. And I sot there, happy, as I say; for though, when I had done so much work that mornin', if that vest had belonged to anybody else, it would have looked like a stent to me, I didn't mind it, for it was for my Josiah: and love makes labor light,—light as day.
I was jest a thinkin' this, and a thinkin' that though I had jest told Josiah, from a sense of duty, that "he had broke that pocket down by luggin' round so much stuff in it, and there was no sense in actin' as if he could carry round a hull car-load of things in his vest-pocket;" though I had spoken to him thus, from a sense of duty, tryin' to keep him straight and upright in his demeaner,—still, I was a thinkin' how pleasant it wuz to work for them you loved, and that loved you: for though he had snapped me up considerable snappish, and said "he should carry round in his pockets as much as he was a minter; and if I didn't want to mend it, I could let it alone," and had throwed it down in the corner, and slammed the door considerable hard when he went out, still, I knew that this slight pettishness was only the light bubbles that rises above the sparkling wine. I knew his love for me lay pure and clear and sparklin' in the very depths of his soul.
I was a settin' there, thinkin' about it, and thinkin' how true love, such as mine and hisen, glorified a earthly existence, when all of a sudden I heard a rap come onto the kitchen door right behind me; and I says, "Come in." And a tall, slim feller entered, with light hair, and sort o' thin, and a patient, determined countenance onto him. A sort of a persistent look to him, as if he wuzn't one to be turned round by trifles. I didn't dislike his looks a mite at first, and sot him a chair.
But little did I think what was a comin'. For, if you will believe it, he hadn't much more than got sot down when he says to me right there, in the middle of the forenoon, and right to my face,—the mean, miserable, lowlived scamp,—says he, right there, in broad daylight, and without blushing, or any thing, says he,—
"I called this morning, mom, to see if I couldn't sell you a feller."
"Sell me a feller!" I jest made out to say, for I wus fairly paralyzed by his impudence. "Sell me a feller!" "Yes: I have got some of the best kinds they make, and I didn't know but I could sell you one."
Sez I, gettin' my tongue back, "Buy a feller! you ask me, at my age, and with my respectability, and after carryin' round such principles as I have been carryin' round for years and years, you ask me to buy a feller!"
"Yes: I didn't know but you would want one. I have got the best kind there is made."
"I'll let you know, young man," says I, "I'll let you know that I have got a feller of my own, as good a one as was ever made, one I have had for 20 years and over."
"Wall, mom," says he, with that stiddy, determined way of hisen, "a feller that you have had for 20 years must be out of gear by this time."
"Out of gear!" says I, speakin' up sharp. "You will be out of gear yourself, young man, if I hear any more such talk out of your head."
"I hope you will excuse me, mom," says he, in that patient way of hisen. "It hain't my way to run down anybody's else's fellers."
"Wall, I guess you hadn't better try it again in this house," says I warmly. "I guess it won't be very healthy for you."
"Can't I sell you some other attachment, mom? I have got 'em of all kinds."
"Sell me another attachment? No, sir. You can't sell me another attachment. My attachment is as firm and endurin' as the rocks, and has always been, and is one not to be bought and sold."
"I presume yours was good in the day of 'em, mom, but they must be old- fashioned. I have the very best and newest attachments of all kinds. But I make a specialty of my fellers. You'd better let me sell you a feller, mom."
I declare for't, my first thought was, to turn him right outdoors, and shet the door in his face. And then agin, I thought, I am a member of the meetin'-house. I must be patient and long sufferin', and may be here is a chance for me to do good. Thinks'es I, if I was ever eloquent in a good cause, I must be now. I must convince him of the nefariousness of his conduct. And if soarin' in eloquence can do it, why, I must soar. And so I begun.
Says I, wavin' my right hand in a broad, soarin', eloquent wave, "Young man, when you talk about buyin' and sellin' a feller, you are talkin' on a solemn subject,—buyin and sellin' attachments! Buyin' and sellin' fellers! It hain't nothin' new to me. I've hearn tell of such things, but little did I suppose it was a subject I should ever be tackled on.
"But I have hearn of it. I have hearn of wimmen sellin' themselves to the highest bidder, with a minister for auctioneer and salesman. I have hearn of fathers and mothers sellin' beauty and innocence and youth to wicked old age for money—sellin' 'em right in the meetin'-house, under the very shadow of the steeple.
"Jerusalem hain't the only village where God's holy temple has been polluted by money-changers and them that sell doves. Many a sweet little dove of a girl is made by her father and mother, and other old money- changers, to walk up to God's holy altar, and swear to a lie. They think her tellin' that lie, makes the infamous bargain more sacred, makes the infamous life they have drove her into more respectable.
"There was One who cleansed from such accursed traffic the old Jewish temples, but He walks no more with humanity. If he did, would he not walk up the broad aisles of our orthodox churches in American cities, and release these doves, and overthrow the plots of these money-changers?
"But let me tell 'em, that though they can't see Him, He is there; and the lash of His righteous wrath will surely descend, not upon their bodies, but upon their guilty souls, teachin' them how much more terrible it is to sell a life, with all its rich dowery of freedom, happiness, purity, immortality."
Here my breath gin out, for I had used my very deepest principle tone; and it uses up a fearful ammount of wind, and is tuckerin' beyend what any one could imagine of tucker. You have to stop to collect breath.
And he looked at me with that same stiddy, patient, modest look of hisen; and says he, in that low, determined voice,—
"What you say, madam, is very true, and even beautiful and eloquent: but time is valuable to me; and as I said, I stopped here this morning to see if I could sell"—
"I know you did: I heard you with my own ears. If it had come through two or three, or even one, pair of ears besides my own, I couldn't have believed 'em—I never could have believed that any human creeter, male or female, would have dared to stand up before me, and try to sell me a feller! Sell a feller to me! Why, even in my young days, do you s'pose I would ever try to buy a feller?
"No, sir! fellers must come free and spontaneous? or not at all. Never was I the woman to advance one step towards any feller in the way of courtship—havin' no occasion for it, bein' one that had more offers than I knew what to do with, as I often tell my husband, Josiah Allen, now, in our little differences of opinion. 'Time and agin,' as I tell him, 'I might have married, but held back.' And never would I have married, never, had not love gripped holt of my very soul, and drawed me along up to the marriage alter. I loved the feller I married, and he was the only feller in the hull world for me."