Sweet Cicely - Or Josiah Allen as a Politician
by Josiah Allen's Wife (Marietta Holley)
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Says he in that low, gentle tone, and lookin' modest and patient as a lily, but as determined and sot as ever a iron teakettle was sot over a stove,—

"You are under a mistake, mom."

Says I, "Don't you tell me that agin if you know what is good for yourself. I guess I know my own mind. I was past the age of whifflin', and foolin' round. I married that feller from pure love, and no other reason under the heavens. For there wuzn't any other reason only jest that, why I should marry him."

And for a moment, or two moments, my mind roamed back onto that old, mysterious question that has haunted me more or less through my natural life, for over twenty years. Why did I marry Josiah Allen? But I didn't revery on it long. I was too agitated, and wrought up; and I says agin, in tones witherin' enough to wither him,—

"The idee of sellin' me a feller!"

But the chap didn't look withered a mite: he stood there firm and immovible, and says he,—

"I didn't mean no offense, mom. Sellin' attachments is what I get my living by"—

"Wall, I should ruther not get a livin'," says I, interruptin' of him. "I should ruther not live."

"As I said, mom, I get my livin' that way: and one of your neighbors told me that your feller was an old one, and sort o' givin' out; and I have got 'em with all the latest improvements, and—and she thought mebby I could sell you one."

"You miserable coot you!" says I. "Do you stop your impudent talk, or I will holler to Josiah. What do you s'pose I want with another feller? Do you s'pose I'd swap Josiah Allen for all the fellers that ever swarmed on the globe? What do you s'pose I care for the latest improvements? If a feller was made of pure gold from head to feet, with diamond eyes and a garnet nose, do you s'pose he would look so good to me as Josiah Allen duz?

"And I would thank the neighbers to mind their own business, and let my affairs alone. What if he is a gettin' old and wore out? What if he is a givin' out? He is always kinder spindlin' in the spring of the year. Some men winter harder than others: he is a little tizicky, and breathes short, and his liver may not be the liver it was once; but he will come round all right when the weather moderates. And mebby they meant to hint and insinuate sunthin' about his bein' so bald, and losin' his teeth.

"But I'll let you know, and I'll let the neighbors know, that I didn't marry that man for hair; I didn't marry that man for teeth, and a few locks more or less, or a handful of teeth, has no power over that love,— that love that makes me say from the very depths of my soul, that my feller is one of a thousand."

"I hain't disputed you, mom," says he, with his firm, patient look. "I dare presume to say that your feller was good in the day of such fellers. But every thing has its day: we make fellers far different now."

Says I sarcasticly, givin' him quite a piercin' look, "I know they do: I've seen 'em."

"Yes, they make attachments now very different: yours is old-fashioned."

"Yes, I know it is: I know that love, such love as hisen and mine, and I know that truth and fidelity and constancy, are old-fashioned. But I thank God that our souls are clothed with that beautiful old fashion, that seamless, flawless robe that wus cut out in Eden, and a few true souls have wore ever since."

"But your attachment will grow older and older, and give out entirely after a while. What will you do then?"

"My attachment will never give out."

"But mom"—

"No, you needn't argue and contend—I say it will never give out. It is a heavenly gift dropped down from above, entirely unbeknown. True love is not sought after, it comes; and when it comes, it stays. Talk about love gettin' old—love never grows old; talk about love goin'—love never goes: that which goes is not love, though it has been called so time and agin. Talk about love dyin'—why, it can't die, no more than the souls can, in which its sweet light is born. Why, it is a flame that God Himself kindles: it is a bit of His own brightness a shinin' down through the darkness of our earthly life, and is as immortal and indestructible as His own glory.

"It is the only fountain of Eternal Youth that gushes up through this dreary earthly soil, for the refreshin' of men and wimmen, in which the weary soul can bathe itself, and find rest."

"Sometimes," says he, sort o' dreamily, "sometimes we repair old fellers."

"Wall, you won't repair my feller, I can let you know that. I won't have him repaired. The impudence of the hull idee," says I, roustin' up afresh, "goes ahead of any thing I ever dreamed of, of impudence. Repair my feller! I don't want him any different. I want him jest as he is. I would scorn to repair him. I could if I wanted to,—his teeth could be sharpened up, what he has got, and new ones sot in. And I could cover his head over with red curls; or I could paint it black, and paste transfer flowers onto it. I could have a sot flower sot right on the top of his bald head, and a trailin' vine runnin' round his forward. Or I could trim it round with tattin', if I wanted to, and crystal beads. I could repair him up so he would look gay. But do you s'pose that any artificials that was ever made, or any hair, if it was as luxuriant as Ayer'ses Vigor, could look so good to me as that old bald head that I have seen a shinin' acrost the table from me for so many years?

"I tell you, there is memories and joys and sorrows a clusterin' round that head, that I wouldn't swap for all the beauty and the treasures of the world.

"Memories of happy mornin's dewy fresh, with cool summer breezes a comin' in through the apple-blows by the open door, and the light of the happy sunrise a shinin' on that old bald head, and then gleamin' off into my happy heart.

"There is memories of pleasant evenin' hours, with the tea-table drawed up in front of the south door, and the sweet southern wind a comin' in over the roses, and the tender light of the sunset, and the waverin' shadows of the honeysuckles and mornin'-glorys, fallin' on us, wrappin' us all round, and wrappin' all of the rest of the world out."

Mebby the young chap said sunthin' here, but it was entirely unbeknown to me; though I thought I heard the murmur of his voice makin' a sort of a tinklin' accompinment to my thoughts, sunthin' like the babble of a brook a runnin' along under forest boughs, when the wind with its mighty melody is sweepin' through 'em. Great emotions was sweepin' along with power, and couldn't be stayed. And I went right on, not sensin' a thing round me,—

"There is memories of sabbath drives, in fair June mornin's, through the old lane alder and willow fringed, with the brook runnin' along on one side of it; where the speckled trout broke the Sunday quiet by dancin' up through the brown and gold shadows of the cool water, and the odor of the pine woods jest beyend comin' fresh and sweet to us.

"Memories of how that road and that face looked in the week-day dusk, as we sot out for the revival meetin', when the sun had let down his long bars of gold and crimson and yellow, and had got over 'em, and sunk down behind 'em out of sight. And we could ketch glimpses through the willow- sprays of them shinin' bars a layin' down on the gray twilight field. And fur away over the green hills and woods of the east, the moon was a risin', big and calm and silvery. And we could hear the plaintive evenin' song of the thrush, and the crickets' happy chirp, till we got nearer the schoolhouse, when they sort o' blended in with 'There is a fountain filled with blood,' and 'Come, ye disconsolate.'

"And the moonlight, and sister Bobbet's and sister Minkly's candles, shone down and out, on that dear old bald head as his hat fell off, as he helped me out of the wagon.

"Memories of how I have seen it a bendin' over the Word, in hours of peace and happiness, and hours of anxiety and trouble, a readin' every time about the eternal hills, and the shadow of the Rock, and the Everlastin' Arms that was a holdin' us both up, me and Josiah, and the Everlastin' Love that was wrappin' us round, helpin' us onward by these very joys, these very sorrows.

"Memories of the midnight lamp lightin' it up in the chamber of the sick, in the long, lonesome hours before day-dawn.

"Memories of its bendin' over the sick ones in happier mornin's, as he carried 'em down-stairs in his arms, and sot 'em in their old places at the table.

"Memories of how it looked in the glare of the tempest, and under the rainbow when the storm had passed. It stands out from a background of winter snows and summer sunshine, and has all the shadows and brightness of them seasons a hangin' over it.

"Yes, there is memories of sorrows borne by both, and so made holier and more blessed than happiness. That head has bent with mine over a little coffin, and over open graves, when he shared my anguish. And stood by me under the silent stars, when he shared my prayers, my hopes, for the future.

"That old bald head stands up on the most sacred height of my heart, like a beacon; the glow of the soul shines on it; love gilds it. And do you s'pose any other feller's head on earth could ever look so good to me as that duz? Do you s'pose I will ever have it repaired upon? never! I won't repair him. I won't have him dickered and fooled with. Not at all.

"He'd look better to me than any other feller that ever walked on earth if he hadn't a tooth left in his head, or a hair on his scalp. As long as Josiah Allen has got body enough left to wrap round his soul, and keep it down here on earth, my heart is hisen, every mite of it, jest as he is too.

"And I'll thank the neighbors to mind their own business!" says I, kinder comin' to agin. For truly, I had soared up high above my kitchen, and gossipin' neighbors, and feller-agents, and all other tribulations. And as I lit down agin (as it were), I see he was a standin' on one foot, with his watch, a big silver one, in his hand, and gazin' pensively onto it; and he says,—

"Your remarks are worthy, mom—but somewhat lengthy," says he, in a voice of pain; "nearly nine moments long: but," says he, sort o' bracin' up agin on both feet, "I beg of you not to be too hasty. I did not come into this neighborhood to make dissensions or broils. I merely stated that I got the idee, from what they said, that your feller didn't work good."

"Didn't work good! You impudent creeter you! What of it? What if he don't work at all? What earthly business is it of yourn or the neighbors? I guess he is able to lay by for a few days if he wants to."

"You are laborin' under a mistake, mom."

"No, I hain't laborin' under no mistake! And don't you tell me agin that I be. We have got a good farm all paid for, and money out on interest; and whose business is it whether he works all day, or don't. When I get to goin' round to see who works, and who don't; and when I get so low as to watch my neighbors the hull of the time, to find out every minute they set down; when I can't find nothin' nobler to do,—I'll spend my time talkin' about hens' teeth, and lettis seed."

Says he, lookin' as amiable and patient as a factory-cloth rag-babe, but as determined as a weepin' live one, with the colic,—

"You don't seem to get my meaning. I merely wished to remark that I could fix over your feller if you wanted me to"—

Oh! how burnin' indignant I wuz! But all of a sudden, down on this seethin' tumult of anger fell this one calmin' word,—Meeting- house! I felt I must be calm,—calm and impressive; so says I,—

"You need not repeat your infamous proposal. I say to you agin, that the form where Love has set up his temple, is a sacred form. Others may be more beautiful, and even taller, but they don't have the same look to 'em. It is one of the strangest things," says I, fallin' agin' a little ways down into a revery,—

"It is one of the very solemnest things I ever see, how a emotion large and boundless enough to fill eternity and old space itself, should all be gathered up and centered into so small a temple, and such a lookin' one, too, sometimes," says I pensively, as I thought it over, how sort o' meachin' and bashful lookin' Josiah Allen wuz, when I married to him. And how small his weight wuz by the steelyards. But it is so, curious it can be, but so it is.

"Why Love, like a angel, springs up in the heart unawares, as Lot entertained another, I don't know. If you should ask me why, I'd tell you plain, that I didn't know where Love come from; but if you should ask me where Love went to, I should answer agin plain, that it don't go, it stays. The only right way for pardners to come, is to come down free gifts from above, free as the sun, or the showers—that fall down in a drouth— and perfectly unbeknown, like them. Such a love is oncalculatin', givin' all, unquestionin', unfearin', no dickering no holdin' back lookin' for better chances."

"Yes, mom," says he, a twirlin' his hat round, and standin' on one foot some like a patient old gander in the fall of the year.

"Yes, mom, what you say is very true; but your elequent remarks, your very sociable talk, has caused me to tarry a longer period than is really consistent with the claims of business. As I told you when I first come in, I merely called to see if I could sell you"—

"Yes, I know you did. And a meaner, low-liveder proposal I never heard from mortal lips, be he male, or be he female. The idee of me, Josiah Allen's wife, who has locked arms with principle, and has kep' stiddy company with it, for years and years—the idee of me buyin' a feller! I dare persume to say"—

Says I more mildly, as he took up his hat and little box he had, and started for the door,—and seein' I was goin' to get rid of him so soon, I felt softer towards him, as folks will towards burdens when they are bein' lifted from 'em,—

"I dare persume to say, you thought I was a single woman, havin' been told time and agin, that I am young-lookin' for my age, and fair complected. I won't think," says I, feelin' still softer towards him as I see him a openin' the door,—

"I won't think for a minute that you knew who it was you made your infamous proposal to. But never, never make it agin to any livin' human bein', married or single."

He looked real sort o' meachin' as I spoke; and he said in considerable of a meek voice,—

"I was talkin' to you about a new feller, jest got up by the richest firm in North America."

"What difference does it make to me who he belongs to? I don't care if he belongs to Vanderbilt, or Aster'ses family. Principle—that is what I am a workin' on; and the same principle that would hender me from buyin' a feller that was poor as a snail, would hender me from buyin' one that had the riches of Creshus; it wouldn't make a mite of difference to me.

"As the poet Mr. Burns says,—I have heard Thomas J. repeat it time and agin, and I always liked it: I may not get the words exactly right, but the meanin' is,—

"Rank is only the E pluribus Unum stamp, on the trade dollar: a feller is a feller for all that."

But I'll be hanged if he didn't, after all my expenditure of wind and eloquence, and quotin' poetry, and every thing—if he didn't turn round at the foot of that doorstep, and strikin' that same patient, determined attitude of hisen, say, says he,—

"You are mistaken, mom. I merely stopped this mornin' to see if I could sell you"—

But I jest shet the door in his face, and went off upstairs into the west chamber, and went to windin' bobbin's for my carpet. And I don't know how long he stayed there, nor don't care. He had gone when I come down to get dinner, and that was all I cared for.

I told Josiah about it when he and the boy come home; and I tell you, my eyes fairly snapped, I was that mad and rousted up about it: but he said,—

"He believed it was a sewin'-machine man, and wanted to sell me a feller for my sewin'-machine. He said he had heard there was a general agent in Jonesville that was a sendin' out agents with all sorts of attachments, some with hemmers, and some with fellers."

But I didn't believe a word of it: I believe he was mean. A mean, low-lived, insultin' creeter.


Wall, Cicely died in June; and how the days will pass by, whether we are joyful or sorrowful! And before we knew it (as it were), September had stepped down old Time's dusty track, and appeared before us, and curchied to us (allegory).

Ah, yes! time passes by swiftly. As the poet observes, In youth the days pass slowly, in middle life they trot, and in old age they canter.

But the time, though goin' fast, had passed by very quietly and peacefully to Josiah Allen and me.

Every thing on the farm wus prosperous. The children was well and happy; the babe beautiful, and growin' more lovely every day.

Ury had took his money, and bought a good little house and 4 acres of land in our neighborhood, and had took our farm for the next and ensuin' year. And they was happy and contented. And had expectations. They had (under my direction) took a tower together, and the memory of her lonely pilgrimage had seemed to pass from Philury's mind.

The boy wus a gettin' healthier all the time. And he behaved better and better, most all the time. I had limited him down to not ask over 50 questions on one subject, or from 50 to 60; and so we got along first- rate.

And we loved him. Why, there hain't no tellin' how we did love him. And he would talk so pretty about his ma! I had learned him to think that he would see her bime by, and that she loved him now jest as much as ever, and that she wanted him to be a good boy.

And he wuz a beautiful boy, if his chin wuz sort o' weak. He would try to tell the truth, and do as I would tell him to—and would, a good deal of the time. And he would tell his little prayers every night, and repeat lots of Scripture passages, and would ask more'n 100 questions about 'em, if I would let him.

There was one verse I made him repeat every night after he said his prayers: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

And I always would say to him, earnest and deep, that his ma was pure in heart.

And he'd say, "Does she see God now?"

And I'd say, "Yes."

And he would say, "When shall I see Him?"

And I'd say, "When you are good enough."

And he'd say, "If I was good enough, could I see Him now?"

And I would say, "Yes."

And then he would tell me that he would try to be good; and I would say, "Wall, so do."

And late one afternoon, a bright, sunny afternoon, he got tired of playin'. He had been a horse, and little Let Peedick had been a drivin' him. I had heard 'em a whinnerin' out in the yard, and a prancin', and a hitchin' each other to the post.

But he had got tired about sundown, and come in, and leaned up against my lap, and asked me about 88 questions about his ma and the City. He had never forgot what his uncle Josiah had read about it, and he couldn't seem to talk enough about it.

And says he, with a dreamy look way off into the glowin' western sky, "My mamma Cicely said it would swing right down out of heaven some day, and would open, and I could walk in; and don't you believe mamma will stand just inside of the gate as she used to, and say, 'Here comes my own little boy'?"

And he wus jest a askin' me this,—and it beats all, how many times he had tackled me on this very subject,—when Whitfield drove up in a great hurry. Little Samantha Joe had been taken sick, very sick, and extremely sudden.

Scarlet-fever was round, and she and the boy had both been exposed. I was all excitement and agitation; and I hurried off without changin' my dress, or any thing. But I told Josiah to put the boy to bed about nine.

Wall, there was a uncommon sunset that night. The west was all aflame with light. And as we rode on towards Jonesville right towards it,—though very anxious about the babe,—I drawed Whitfield's attention to it.

The hull of the west did look, for all the world, like a great, shinin' white gate, open, and inside all full of radience, rose, and yellow, and gold light, a streamin' out, and changin', and glowin', movin' about, as clouds will.

It seemed sometimes, as if you could almost see a white, shadowy figure, inside the gate, a lookin' out, and watchin' with her arms reached out; and then it would all melt into the light again, as clouds will.

It wus the beautifulest sunset I had seen, that year, by far. And we s'pose, from what we could learn afterwards, that the boy, too, was attracted by that wonderful glory in the west, and strolled out to the orchard to look at it. It wus a favorite place with him, anyway. And there wus a certain tree that he loved to lay under. A sick-no-further apple. It wus the very tree I found him under that day in the spring, a lookin' up into the sky, a watchin' for the City to come down from heaven. You could see a good ways from there off into the west, and out over the lake. And the sunset must have looked beautiful from there, anyway.

Wall, my poor companion Josiah wus all rousted up in his mind about the babe, and he never thought of the boy till it was half-past nine; and then he hurried off to find him, skairt, but s'posen he was up on his bed with his clothes on, or asleep on the lounges, or carpets, or somewhere.

But he couldn't find him: he hunted all over the house, and out in the barn, and the door-yard, and the street; and then he rousted up Mr. Gowdey's folks, our nearest neighbors, to see if they could help find him.

Wall, Miss Gowdey, when she wus a bringin' in her clothes,—it was Monday night,—she had seen him out in the orchard under the sick-no-further tree.

And there they found him, fast asleep—where they s'pose he had fell asleep unexpected to himself.

It wus then almost eleven o'clock, and he was wet with dew: the dew was heavy that night. And when they rousted him up, he was so hoarse he couldn't speak. And before mornin' he was in a high fever. They sent for me and the doctor at daybreak. Little Samantha Joe wus better: it only proved to be a hard cold that ailed her.

But the boy had the scarlet-fever, so the doctor said. And he grew worse fast. He didn't know me at all when I got home, but wus a talkin' fast about his mamma Cicely; and he asked me "If the gate had swung down, for him to go through into the City, and if his mamma was inside, reachin' out her arms to him?"

And then he would get things all mixed up, and talk about things he had heard of, and things he hadn't heard of. And then he would talk about how bright it was inside the gate, and how he see it from the orchard. And so we knew he had been attracted out by the bright light in the west.

And then he would talk about the strangest things. His little tongue couldn't be still a minute; but it never could, for that matter.

Till along about the middle of the afternoon he become quiet, and grew so white and still that I knew before the doctor told me, that we couldn't keep the boy.

And I thought, and couldn't help it, of what Cicely had worried so about; and though my heart sunk down and down, to think of givin' the boy up,— for I loved him,—yet I couldn't help thinkin' that with his temperament, and as the laws was now, the grave was about the only place of safety that the Lord Himself could find for the boy.

And it wus about sundown that he died. I had been down-stairs for somethin' for him; and as I went back into the room, I see his eyes was wide open, and looked natural.

And as I bent over him, he looked up at me, and said in a faint voice, but rational,—


And I couldn't help a smilin' right there, with the tears a runnin' down my face like rain-water. He wanted to ask some question.

But he couldn't say no more. His little, eager, questionin' soul was too fur gone towards that land where the hard questions we can't answer here, will be made plain to us.

But he looked up into my face with that sort of a questionin' look, and then up over my head, and beyend it—and beyend—and I see there settled down over his face the sort of a satisfied look that he would have when I had answered his questions; and I sort o' smiled, and said to myself, I guessed the Lord had answered it.

And so he went through the gate of the City, and was safe. And that is the way God took care of the boy.


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