BY ELIZA CALVERT HALL
Author of "The Land of Long Ago."
WITH FRONTISPIECE AND PAGE DECORATIONS
BY BEULAH STRONG
A. L. BURT COMPANY
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1898, 1899, 1900,
BY JOHN BRISBANE WALKER.
BY COSMOPOLITAN PUBLISHING COMPANY.
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
* * * * *
MY MOTHER AND FATHER
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
* * * * *
PAGE I. SALLY ANN'S EXPERIENCE 1
II. THE NEW ORGAN 29
III. AUNT JANE'S ALBUM 53
IV. "SWEET DAY OF REST" 83
V. MILLY BAKER'S BOY 105
VI. THE BAPTIZING AT KITTLE CREEK 141
VII. HOW SAM AMOS RODE IN THE TOURNAMENT 169
VIII. MARY ANDREWS' DINNER-PARTY 193
IX. THE GARDENS OF MEMORY 247
* * * * *
"There is not an existence about us but at first seems colorless, dreary, lethargic: what can our soul have in common with that of an elderly spinster, a slow-witted plowman, a miser who worships his gold?... But ... the emotion that lived and died in an old-fashioned country parlor shall as mightily stir our heart, shall as unerringly find its way to the deepest sources of life as the majestic passion that ruled the life of a king and shed its triumphant luster from the dazzling height of a throne."—Maeterlinck.
* * * * *
SALLY ANN'S EXPERIENCE
"Come right in and set down. I was jest wishin' I had somebody to talk to. Take that chair right by the door so's you can get the breeze."
And Aunt Jane beamed at me over her silver-rimmed spectacles and hitched her own chair a little to one side, in order to give me the full benefit of the wind that was blowing softly through the white-curtained window, and carrying into the room the heavenliest odors from a field of clover that lay in full bloom just across the road. For it was June in Kentucky, and clover and blue-grass were running sweet riot over the face of the earth.
Aunt Jane and her room together always carried me back to a dead and gone generation. There was a rag carpet on the floor, of the "hit-or-miss" pattern; the chairs were ancient Shaker rockers, some with homely "shuck" bottoms, and each had a tidy of snowy thread or crochet cotton fastened primly over the back. The high bed and bureau and a shining mahogany table suggested an era of "plain living" far, far remote from the day of Turkish rugs and Japanese bric-a-brac, and Aunt Jane was in perfect correspondence with her environment. She wore a purple calico dress, rather short and scant; a gingham apron, with a capacious pocket, in which she always carried knitting or some other "handy work"; a white handkerchief was laid primly around the wrinkled throat and fastened with a pin containing a lock of gray hair; her cap was of black lace and lutestring ribbon, not one of the butterfly affairs that perch on the top of the puffs and frizzes of the modern old lady, but a substantial structure that covered her whole head and was tied securely under her chin. She talked in a sweet old treble with a little lisp, caused by the absence of teeth, and her laugh was as clear and joyous as a young girl's.
"Yes, I'm a-piecin' quilts again," she said, snipping away at the bits of calico in her lap. "I did say I was done with that sort o' work; but this mornin' I was rummagin' around up in the garret, and I come across this bundle of pieces, and thinks I, 'I reckon it's intended for me to piece one more quilt before I die;' I must 'a' put 'em there thirty years ago and clean forgot 'em, and I've been settin' here all the evenin' cuttin' 'em and thinkin' about old times.
"Jest feel o' that," she continued, tossing some scraps into my lap. "There ain't any such caliker nowadays. This ain't your five-cent stuff that fades in the first washin' and wears out in the second. A caliker dress was somethin' worth buyin' and worth makin' up in them days. That blue-flowered piece was a dress I got the spring before Abram died. When I put on mournin' it was as good as new, and I give it to sister Mary. That one with the green ground and white figger was my niece Rebecca's. She wore it for the first time to the County Fair the year I took the premium on my salt-risin' bread and sponge cake. This black-an'-white piece Sally Ann Flint give me. I ricollect 'twas in blackberry time, and I'd been out in the big pasture pickin' some for supper, and I stopped in at Sally Ann's for a drink o' water on my way back. She was cuttin' out this dress."
Aunt Jane broke off with a little soprano laugh.
"Did I ever tell you about Sally Ann's experience?" she said, as she laid two three-cornered pieces together and began to sew with her slender, nervous old fingers.
To find Aunt Jane alone and in a reminiscent mood! This was delightful.
"Do tell me," I said.
Aunt Jane was silent for a few moments. She always made this pause before beginning a story, and there was something impressive about it. I used to think she was making an invocation to the goddess of Memory.
"'Twas forty years ago," she began musingly, "and the way of it was this. Our church was considerably out o' fix. It needed a new roof. Some o' the winder lights was out, and the floor was as bare as your hand, and always had been. The men folks managed to git the roof shingled and the winders fixed, and us women in the Mite Society concluded we'd git a cyarpet. We'd been savin' up our money for some time, and we had about twelve dollars. I ricollect what a argument we had, for some of us wanted the cyarpet, and some wanted to give it to furrin missions, as we'd set out to do at first. Sally Ann was the one that settled it. She says at last—Sally Ann was in favor of the cyarpet—she says, 'Well, if any of the heathen fails to hear the gospel on account of our gittin' this cyarpet, they'll be saved anyhow, so Parson Page says. And if we send the money and they do hear the gospel, like as not they won't repent, and then they're certain to be damned. And it seems to me as long as we ain't sure what they'll do, we might as well keep the money and git the cyarpet. I never did see much sense anyhow,' says she, 'in givin' people a chance to damn theirselves.'
"Well, we decided to take Sally Ann's advice, and we was talkin' about app'intin' a committee to go to town the follerin' Monday and pick out the cyarpet, when all at once 'Lizabeth Taylor—she was our treasurer—she spoke up, and says she, 'There ain't any use app'intin' that committee. The money's gone,' she says, sort o' short and quick. 'I kept it in my top bureau drawer, and when I went for it yesterday, it was gone. I'll pay it back if I'm ever able, but I ain't able now.' And with that she got up and walked out o' the room, before any one could say a word, and we seen her goin' down the road lookin' straight before her and walkin' right fast.
"And we—we set there and stared at each other in a sort o' dazed way. I could see that everybody was thinkin' the same thing, but nobody said a word, till our minister's wife—she was as good a woman as ever lived—she says, 'Judge not.'
"Them two words was jest like a sermon to us. Then Sally Ann spoke up and says: 'For the Lord's sake, don't let the men folks know anything about this. They're always sayin' that women ain't fit to handle money, and I for one don't want to give 'em any more ground to stand on than they've already got.'
"So we agreed to say nothin' about it, and all of us kept our promise except Milly Amos. She had mighty little sense to begin with, and havin' been married only about two months, she'd about lost that little. So next mornin' I happened to meet Sam Amos, and he says to me, 'Aunt Jane, how much money have you women got to'rds the new cyarpet for the church?' I looked him square in the face, and I says, 'Are you a member of the Ladies' Mite Society of Goshen church, Sam Amos? For if you are, you already know how much money we've got, and if you ain't, you've got no business knowin'. And, furthermore,' says I, 'there's some women that can't keep a secret and a promise, and some that can, and I can.' And that settled him.
"Well, 'Lizabeth never showed her face outside her door for more'n a month afterwards, and a more pitiful-lookin' creatur' you never saw than she was when she come out to prayer-meetin' the night Sally Ann give her experience. She set 'way back in the church, and she was as pale and peaked as if she had been through a siege of typhoid. I ricollect it all as if it had been yesterday. We sung 'Sweet Hour of Prayer,' and Parson Page prayed, and then called on the brethren to say anything they might feel called on to say concernin' their experience in the past week. Old Uncle Jim Matthews begun to clear his throat, and I knew, as well as I knew my name, he was fixin' to git up and tell how precious the Lord had been to his soul, jest like he'd been doin' every Wednesday night for twenty years. But before he got started, here come 'Lizabeth walkin' down the side aisle and stopped right in front o' the pulpit.
"'I've somethin' to say,' she says. 'It's been on my mind till I can't stand it any longer. I've got to tell it, or I'll go crazy. It was me that took that cyarpet money. I only meant to borrow it. I thought sure I'd be able to pay it back before it was wanted. But things went wrong, and I ain't known a peaceful minute since, and never shall again, I reckon. I took it to pay my way up to Louisville, the time I got the news that Mary was dyin'.'
"Mary was her daughter by her first husband, you see. 'I begged Jacob to give me the money to go on,' says she, 'and he wouldn't do it. I tried to give up and stay, but I jest couldn't. Mary was all I had in the world; and maybe you that has children can put yourself in my place, and know what it would be to hear your only child callin' to you from her death-bed, and you not able to go to her. I asked Jacob three times for the money,' she says, 'and when I found he wouldn't give it to me, I said to myself, "I'm goin' anyhow." I got down on my knees,' says she, 'and asked the Lord to show me a way, and I felt sure he would. As soon as Jacob had eat his breakfast and gone out on the farm, I dressed myself, and as I opened the top bureau drawer to get out my best collar, I saw the missionary money. It come right into my head,' says she, 'that maybe this was the answer to my prayer; maybe I could borrow this money, and pay it back some way or other before it was called for. I tried to put it out o' my head, but the thought kept comin' back; and when I went down into the sittin'-room to get Jacob's cyarpetbag to carry a few things in, I happened to look up at the mantelpiece and saw the brass candlesticks with prisms all 'round 'em that used to belong to my mother; and all at once I seemed to see jest what the Lord intended for me to do.
"'You know,' she says, 'I had a boarder summer before last—that lady from Louisville—and she wanted them candlesticks the worst kind, and offered me fifteen dollars for 'em. I wouldn't part with 'em then, but she said if ever I wanted to sell 'em, to let her know, and she left her name and address on a cyard. I went to the big Bible and got out the cyard, and I packed the candlesticks in the cyarpetbag, and put on my bonnet. When I opened the door I looked up the road, and the first thing I saw was Dave Crawford comin' along in his new buggy. I went out to the gate, and he drew up and asked me if I was goin' to town, and said he'd take me. It looked like the Lord was leadin' me all the time,' says she, 'but the way things turned out it must 'a' been Satan. I got to Mary just two hours before she died, and she looked up in my face and says, "Mother, I knew God wouldn't let me die till I'd seen you once more."'"
Here Aunt Jane took off her glasses and wiped her eyes.
"I can't tell this without cryin' to save my life," said she; "but 'Lizabeth never shed a tear. She looked like she'd got past cryin', and she talked straight on as if she'd made up her mind to say jest so much, and she'd die if she didn't git to say it."
"'As soon as the funeral was over,' says she, 'I set out to find the lady that wanted the candlesticks. She wasn't at home, but her niece was there, and said she'd heard her aunt speak of the candlesticks often; and she'd be home in a few days and would send me the money right off. I come home thinkin' it was all right, and I kept expectin' the money every day, but it never come till day before yesterday. I wrote three times about it, but I never got a word from her till Monday. She had just got home, she said, and hoped I hadn't been inconvenienced by the delay. She wrote a nice, polite letter and sent me a check for fifteen dollars, and here it is. I wanted to confess it all that day at the Mite Society, but somehow I couldn't till I had the money right in my hand to pay back. If the lady had only come back when her niece said she was comin', it would all have turned out right, but I reckon it's a judgment on me for meddling with the Lord's money. God only knows what I've suffered,' says she, 'but if I had to do it over again, I believe I'd do it. Mary was all the child I had in the world, and I had to see her once more before she died. I've been a member of this church for twenty years,' says she, 'but I reckon you'll have to turn me out now.'
"The pore thing stood there tremblin' and holdin' out the check as if she expected somebody to come and take it. Old Silas Petty was glowerin' at her from under his eyebrows, and it put me in mind of the Pharisees and the woman they wanted to stone, and I ricollect thinkin', 'Oh, if the Lord Jesus would jest come in and take her part!' And while we all set there like a passel o' mutes, Sally Ann got up and marched down the middle aisle and stood right by 'Lizabeth. You know what funny thoughts people will have sometimes.
"Well, I felt so relieved. It popped into my head all at once that we didn't need the Lord after all, Sally Ann would do jest as well. It seemed sort o' like sacrilege, but I couldn't help it.
"Well, Sally Ann looked all around as composed as you please, and says she, 'I reckon if anybody's turned out o' this church on account o' that miserable little money, it'll be Jacob and not 'Lizabeth. A man that won't give his wife money to go to her dyin' child is too mean to stay in a Christian church anyhow; and I'd like to know how it is that a woman, that had eight hundred dollars when she married, has to go to her husband and git down on her knees and beg for what's her own. Where's that money 'Lizabeth had when she married you?' says she, turnin' round and lookin' Jacob in the face. 'Down in that ten-acre medder lot, ain't it?—and in that new barn you built last spring. A pretty elder you are, ain't you? Elders don't seem to have improved much since Susannah's times. If there ain't one sort o' meanness in 'em it's another,' says she.
"Goodness knows what she would 'a' said, but jest here old Deacon Petty rose up. And says he, 'Brethren,'—and he spread his arms out and waved 'em up and down like he was goin' to pray,—'brethren, this is awful! If this woman wants to give her religious experience, why,' says he, very kind and condescendin', 'of course she can do so. But when it comes to a woman standin' up in the house of the Lord and revilin' an elder as this woman is doin', why, I tremble,' says he, 'for the church of Christ. For don't the Apostle Paul say, "Let your women keep silence in the church"?'
"As soon as he named the 'Postle Paul, Sally Ann give a kind of snort. Sally Ann was terrible free-spoken. And when Deacon Petty said that, she jest squared herself like she intended to stand there till judgment day, and says she, 'The 'Postle Paul has been dead ruther too long for me to be afraid of him. And I never heard of him app'intin' Deacon Petty to represent him in this church. If the 'Postle Paul don't like what I'm sayin', let him rise up from his grave in Corinthians or Ephesians, or wherever he's buried, and say so. I've got a message from the Lord to the men folks of this church, and I'm goin' to deliver it, Paul or no Paul,' says she. 'And as for you, Silas Petty, I ain't forgot the time I dropped in to see Maria one Saturday night and found her washin' out her flannel petticoat and dryin' it before the fire. And every time I've had to hear you lead in prayer since then I've said to myself, "Lord, how high can a man's prayers rise toward heaven when his wife ain't got but one flannel skirt to her name? No higher than the back of his pew, if you'll let me tell it." I knew jest how it was,' said Sally Ann, 'as well as if Maria'd told me. She'd been havin' the milk and butter money from the old roan cow she'd raised from a little heifer, and jest because feed was scarce, you'd sold her off before Maria had money enough to buy her winter flannels. I can give my experience, can I? Well, that's jest what I'm a-doin',' says she; 'and while I'm about it,' says she, 'I'll give in some experience for 'Lizabeth and Maria and the rest of the women who, betwixt their husbands an' the 'Postle Paul, have about lost all the gumption and grit that the Lord started them out with. If the 'Postle Paul,' says she, 'has got anything to say about a woman workin' like a slave for twenty-five years and then havin' to set up an' wash out her clothes Saturday night, so's she can go to church clean Sunday mornin', I'd like to hear it. But don't you dare to say anything to me about keepin' silence in the church. There was times when Paul says he didn't know whether he had the Spirit of God or not, and I'm certain that when he wrote that text he wasn't any more inspired than you are, Silas Petty, when you tell Maria to shut her mouth.'
"Job Taylor was settin' right in front of Deacon Petty, and I reckon he thought his time was comin' next; so he gets up, easy-like, with his red bandanna to his mouth, and starts out. But Sally Ann headed him off before he'd gone six steps, and says she, 'There ain't anything the matter with you, Job Taylor; you set right down and hear what I've got to say. I've knelt and stood through enough o' your long-winded prayers, and now it's my time to talk and yours to listen.'
"And bless your life, if Job didn't set down as meek as Moses, and Sally Ann lit right into him. And says she, 'I reckon you're afraid I'll tell some o' your meanness, ain't you? And the only thing that stands in my way is that there's so much to tell I don't know where to begin. There ain't a woman in this church,' says she, 'that don't know how Marthy scrimped and worked and saved to buy her a new set o' furniture, and how you took the money with you when you went to Cincinnata, the spring before she died, and come back without the furniture. And when she asked you for the money, you told her that she and everything she had belonged to you, and that your mother's old furniture was good enough for anybody. It's my belief,' says she, 'that's what killed Marthy. Women are dyin' every day, and the doctors will tell you it's some new-fangled disease or other, when, if the truth was known, it's nothin' but wantin' somethin' they can't git, and hopin' and waitin' for somethin' that never comes. I've watched 'em, and I know. The night before Marthy died she says to me, "Sally Ann," says she, "I could die a heap peacefuler if I jest knew the front room was fixed up right with a new set of furniture for the funeral."' And Sally Ann p'inted her finger right at Job and says she, 'I said it then, and I say it now to your face, Job Taylor, you killed Marthy the same as if you'd taken her by the throat and choked the life out of her.'
"Mary Embry, Job's sister-in-law, was settin' right behind me, and I heard her say, 'Amen!' as fervent as if somebody had been prayin'. Job set there, lookin' like a sheep-killin' dog, and Sally Ann went right on. 'I know,' says she, 'the law gives you the right to your wives' earnin's and everything they've got, down to the clothes on their backs; and I've always said there was some Kentucky law that was made for the express purpose of encouragin' men in their natural meanness,—a p'int in which the Lord knows they don't need no encouragin'. There's some men,' says she, 'that'll sneak behind the 'Postle Paul when they're plannin' any meanness against their wives, and some that runs to the law, and you're one of the law kind. But mark my words,' says she, 'one of these days, you men who've been stealin' your wives' property and defraudin' 'em, and cheatin' 'em out o' their just dues, you'll have to stand before a Judge that cares mighty little for Kentucky law; and all the law and all the Scripture you can bring up won't save you from goin' where the rich man went.'
"I can see Sally Ann right now," and Aunt Jane pushed her glasses up on her forehead, and looked with a dreamy, retrospective gaze through the doorway and beyond, where swaying elms and maples were whispering softly to each other as the breeze touched them. "She had on her old black poke-bonnet and some black yarn mitts, and she didn't come nigh up to Job's shoulder, but Job set and listened as if he jest had to. I heard Dave Crawford shufflin' his feet and clearin' his throat while Sally Ann was talkin' to Job. Dave's farm j'ined Sally Ann's, and they had a lawsuit once about the way a fence ought to run, and Sally Ann beat him. He always despised Sally Ann after that, and used to call her a 'he-woman.' Sally Ann heard the shufflin', and as soon as she got through with Job, she turned around to Dave, and says she: 'Do you think your hemmin' and scrapin' is goin' to stop me, Dave Crawford? You're one o' the men that makes me think that it's better to be a Kentucky horse than a Kentucky woman. Many's the time,' says she, 'I've seen pore July with her head tied up, crawlin' around tryin' to cook for sixteen harvest hands, and you out in the stable cossetin' up a sick mare, and rubbin' down your three-year-olds to get 'em in trim for the fair. Of all the things that's hard to understand,' says she, 'the hardest is a man that has more mercy on his horse than he has on his wife. July's found rest at last,' says she, 'out in the graveyard; and every time I pass your house I thank the Lord that you've got to pay a good price for your cookin' now, as there ain't a woman in the country fool enough to step into July's shoes.'
"But, la!" said Aunt Jane, breaking off with her happy laugh,—the laugh of one who revels in rich memories,—"what's the use of me tellin' all this stuff? The long and the short of it is, that Sally Ann had her say about nearly every man in the church. She told how Mary Embry had to cut up her weddin' skirts to make clothes for her first baby; and how John Martin stopped Hannah one day when she was carryin' her mother a pound of butter, and made her go back and put the butter down in the cellar; and how Lije Davison used to make Ann pay him for every bit of chicken feed, and then take half the egg money because the chickens got into his garden; and how Abner Page give his wife twenty-five cents for spendin' money the time she went to visit her sister.
"Sally Ann always was a masterful sort of woman, and that night it seemed like she was possessed. The way she talked made me think of the Day of Pentecost and the gift of tongues. And finally she got to the minister! I'd been wonderin' all along if she was goin' to let him off. She turned around to where he was settin' under the pulpit, and says she, 'Brother Page, you're a good man, but you ain't so good you couldn't be better. It was jest last week,' says she, 'that the women come around beggin' money to buy you a new suit of clothes to go to Presbytery in; and I told 'em if it was to get Mis' Page a new dress, I was ready to give; but not a dime was I goin' to give towards puttin' finery on a man's back. I'm tired o' seein' the ministers walk up into the pulpit in their slick black broadcloths, and their wives settin' down in the pew in an old black silk that's been turned upside down, wrong side out, and hind part before, and sponged, and pressed, and made over till you can't tell whether it's silk, or caliker, or what.'
"Well, I reckon there was some o' the women that expected the roof to fall down on us when Sally Ann said that right to the minister. But it didn't fall, and Sally Ann went straight on. 'And when it comes to the perseverance of the saints and the decrees of God,' says she, 'there ain't many can preach a better sermon; but there's some of your sermons,' says she, 'that ain't fit for much but kindlin' fires. There's that one you preached last Sunday on the twenty-fourth verse of the fifth chapter of Ephesians. I reckon I've heard about a hundred and fifty sermons on that text, and I reckon I'll keep on hearin' 'em as long as there ain't anybody but men to do the preachin'. Anybody would think,' says she, 'that you preachers was struck blind every time you git through with the twenty-fourth verse, for I never heard a sermon on the twenty-fifth verse. I believe there's men in this church that thinks the fifth chapter of Ephesians hasn't got but twenty-four verses, and I'm goin' to read the rest of it to 'em for once anyhow.'
"And if Sally Ann didn't walk right up into the pulpit same as if she'd been ordained, and read what Paul said about men lovin' their wives as Christ loved the church, and as they loved their own bodies.
"'Now,' says she, 'if Brother Page can reconcile these texts with what Paul says about women submittin' and bein' subject, he's welcome to do it. But,' says she, 'if I had the preachin' to do, I wouldn't waste time reconcilin'. I'd jest say that when Paul told women to be subject to their husbands in everything, he wasn't inspired; and when he told men to love their wives as their own bodies, he was inspired; and I'd like to see the Presbytery that could silence me from preachin' as long as I wanted to preach. As for turnin' out o' the church,' says she, 'I'd like to know who's to do the turnin' out. When the disciples brought that woman to Christ there wasn't a man in the crowd fit to cast a stone at her; and if there's any man nowadays good enough to set in judgment on a woman, his name ain't on the rolls of Goshen church. If 'Lizabeth,' says she, 'had as much common sense as she's got conscience, she'd know that the matter o' that money didn't concern nobody but our Mite Society, and we women can settle it without any help from you deacons and elders.'
"Well, I reckon Parson Page thought if he didn't head Sally Ann off some way or other she'd go on all night; so when she kind o' stopped for breath and shut up the big Bible, he grabbed a hymn-book and says:
"'Let us sing "Blest be the Tie that Binds."'
"He struck up the tune himself; and about the middle of the first verse Mis' Page got up and went over to where 'Lizabeth was standin', and give her the right hand of fellowship, and then Mis' Petty did the same; and first thing we knew we was all around her shakin' hands and huggin' her and cryin' over her. 'Twas a reg'lar love-feast; and we went home feelin' like we'd been through a big protracted meetin' and got religion over again.
"'Twasn't more'n a week till 'Lizabeth was down with slow fever—nervous collapse, old Dr. Pendleton called it. We took turns nursin' her, and one day she looked up in my face and says, 'Jane, I know now what the mercy of the Lord is.'"
Here Aunt Jane paused, and began to cut three-cornered pieces out of a time-stained square of flowered chintz. The quilt was to be of the wild-goose pattern. There was a drowsy hum from the bee-hive near the window, and the shadows were lengthening as sunset approached.
"One queer thing about it," she resumed, "was that while Sally Ann was talkin', not one of us felt like laughin'. We set there as solemn as if parson was preachin' to us on 'lection and predestination. But whenever I think about it now, I laugh fit to kill. And I've thought many a time that Sally Ann's plain talk to them men done more good than all the sermons us women had had preached to us about bein' 'shame-faced' and 'submittin'' ourselves to our husbands, for every one o' them women come out in new clothes that spring, and such a change as it made in some of 'em! I wouldn't be surprised if she did have a message to deliver, jest as she said. The Bible says an ass spoke up once and reproved a man, and I reckon if an ass can reprove a man, so can a woman. And it looks to me like men stand in need of reprovin' now as much as they did in Balaam's days.
"Jacob died the follerin' fall, and 'Lizabeth got shed of her troubles. The triflin' scamp never married her for anything but her money.
"Things is different from what they used to be," she went on, as she folded her pieces into a compact bundle and tied it with a piece of gray yarn. "My son-in-law was tellin' me last summer how a passel o' women kept goin' up to Frankfort and so pesterin' the Legislatur', that they had to change the laws to git rid of 'em. So married women now has all the property rights they want, and more'n some of 'em has sense to use, I reckon."
"How about you and Uncle Abram?" I suggested. "Didn't Sally Ann say anything about you in her experience?"
Aunt Jane's black eyes snapped with some of the fire of her long-past youth. "La! no, child," she said. "Abram never was that kind of a man, and I never was that kind of a woman. I ricollect as we was walkin' home that night Abram says, sort o' humble-like: 'Jane, hadn't you better git that brown merino you was lookin' at last County Court day?'
"And I says, 'Don't you worry about that brown merino, Abram. It's a-lyin' in my bottom drawer right now. I told the storekeeper to cut it off jest as soon as your back was turned, and Mis' Simpson is goin' to make it next week.' And Abram he jest laughed, and says, 'Well, Jane, I never saw your beat.' You see, I never was any hand at 'submittin'' myself to my husband, like some women. I've often wondered if Abram wouldn't 'a' been jest like Silas Petty if I'd been like Maria. I've noticed that whenever a woman's willin' to be imposed upon, there's always a man standin' 'round ready to do the imposin'. I never went to a law-book to find out what my rights was. I did my duty faithful to Abram, and when I wanted anything I went and got it, and Abram paid for it, and I can't see but what we got on jest as well as we'd 'a' done if I'd a-'submitted' myself."
Longer and longer grew the shadows, and the faint tinkle of bells came in through the windows. The cows were beginning to come home. The spell of Aunt Jane's dramatic art was upon me. I began to feel that my own personality had somehow slipped away from me, and those dead people, evoked from their graves by an old woman's histrionism, seemed more real to me than my living, breathing self.
"There now, I've talked you clean to death," she said with a happy laugh, as I rose to go. "But we've had a real nice time, and I'm glad you come."
The sun was almost down as I walked slowly away. When I looked back, at the turn of the road, Aunt Jane was standing on the door-step, shading her eyes and peering across the level fields. I knew what it meant. Beyond the fields was a bit of woodland, and in one corner of that you might, if your eyesight was good, discern here and there a glimpse of white. It was the old burying-ground of Goshen church; and I knew by the strained attitude and intent gaze of the watcher in the door that somewhere in the sunlit space between Aunt Jane's door-step and the little country graveyard, the souls of the living and the dead were keeping a silent tryst.
THE NEW ORGAN
"Gittin' a new organ is a mighty different thing nowadays from what it was when I was young," said Aunt Jane judicially, as she lifted a panful of yellow harvest apples from the table and began to peel them for dumplings.
Potatoes, peas, and asparagus were bubbling on the stove, and the dumplings were in honor of the invited guest, who had begged the privilege of staying in the kitchen awhile. Aunt Jane was one of those rare housekeepers whose kitchens are more attractive than the parlors of other people.
"And gittin' religion is different, too," she continued, propping her feet on the round of a chair for the greater comfort and convenience of her old knees. "Both of 'em is a heap easier than they used to be, and the organs is a heap better. I don't know whether the religion's any better or not. You know I went up to my daughter Mary Frances' last week, and the folks up there was havin' a big meetin' in the Tabernicle, and that's how come me to be thinkin' about organs.
"The preacher was an evangelist, as they call him, Sam Joynes, from 'way down South. In my day he'd 'a' been called the Rev. Samuel Joynes. Folks didn't call their preachers Tom, Dick, and Harry, and Jim and Sam, like they do now. I'd like to 'a' seen anybody callin' Parson Page 'Lem Page.' He was the Rev. Lemuel Page, and don't you forgit it. But things is different, as I said awhile ago, and even the little boys says 'Sam Joynes,' jest like he played marbles with 'em every day. I went to the Tabernicle three or four times; and of all the preachers that ever I heard, he certainly is the beatenest. Why, I ain't laughed so much since me and Abram went to Barnum's circus, the year before the war. He was preachin' one day about cleanliness bein' next to godliness, which it certainly is, and he says, 'You old skunk, you!' But, la! the worse names he called 'em the better they 'peared to like it, and sinners was converted wholesale every time he preached. But there wasn't no goin' to the mourners' bench and mournin' for your sins and havin' people prayin' and cryin' over you. They jest set and laughed and grinned while he was gittin' off his jokes, and then they'd go up and shake hands with him, and there they was all saved and ready to be baptized and taken into the church."
Just here the old yellow rooster fluttered up to the door-step and gave a hoarse, ominous crow.
"There, now! You hear that?" said Aunt Jane, as she tossed him a golden peeling from her pan. "There's some folks that gives right up and looks for sickness or death or bad news every time a rooster crows in the door. But I never let such things bother me. The Bible says that nobody knows what a day may bring forth, and if I don't know, it ain't likely my old yeller rooster does.
"What was I talkin' about? Oh, yes—the big meetin'. Well, I never was any hand to say that old ways is best, and I don't say so now. If you can convert a man by callin' him a polecat, why, call him one, of course. And mournin' ain't always a sign o' true repentance. They used to tell how Silas Petty mourned for forty days, and, as Sally Ann said, he had about as much religion as old Dan Tucker's Derby ram.
"However, it was the organ I set out to tell about. It's jest like me to wander away from the p'int. Abram always said a text would have to be made like a postage stamp for me to stick to it. You see, they'd jest got a fine new organ at Mary Frances' church, and she was tellin' me how they paid for it. One man give five hundred dollars, and another give three hundred; then they collected four or five hundred amongst the other members, and give a lawn party and a strawberry festival and raised another hundred. It set me to thinkin' o' the time us women got the organ for Goshen church. It wasn't any light matter, for, besides the money it took us nearly three years to raise, there was the opposition. Come to think of it, we raised more opposition than we did money."
And Aunt Jane laughed a blithe laugh and tossed another peeling to the yellow rooster, who had dropped the role of harbinger of evil and was posing as a humble suppliant.
"An organ in them days, honey, was jest a wedge to split the church half in two. It was the new cyarpet that brought on the organ. You know how it is with yourself; you git a new dress, and then you've got to have a new bonnet, and then you can't wear your old shoes and gloves with a new dress and a new bonnet, and the first thing you know you've spent five times as much as you set out to spend. That's the way it was with us about the cyarpet and the organ and the pulpit chairs and the communion set.
"Most o' the men folks was against the organ from the start, and Silas Petty was the foremost. Silas made a p'int of goin' against everything that women favored. Sally Ann used to say that if a woman was to come up to him and say, 'Le's go to heaven,' Silas would start off towards the other place right at once; he was jest that mulish and contrairy. He met Sally Ann one day, and says he, 'Jest give you women rope enough and you'll turn the house o' the Lord into a reg'lar toy-shop.' And Sally Ann she says, 'You'd better go home, Silas, and read the book of Exodus. If the Lord told Moses how to build the Tabernicle with the goats' skins and rams' skins and blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen and candlesticks with six branches, I reckon he won't object to a few yards o' cyarpetin' and a little organ in Goshen church.'
"Sally Ann always had an answer ready, and I used to think she knew more about the Bible than Parson Page did himself.
"Of course Uncle Jim Matthews didn't want the organ; he was afraid it might interfere with his singin'. Job Taylor always stood up for Silas, so he didn't want it; and Parson Page never opened his mouth one way or the other. He was one o' those men that tries to set on both sides o' the fence at once, and he'd set that way so long he was a mighty good hand at balancin' himself.
"Us women didn't say much, but we made up our minds to have the organ. So we went to work in the Mite Society, and in less'n three years we had enough money to git it. I've often wondered how many pounds o' butter and how many baskets of eggs it took to raise that money. I reckon if they'd 'a' been piled up on top of each other they'd 'a' reached to the top o' the steeple. The women of Israel brought their ear-rings and bracelets to help build the Tabernicle, but we had jest our egg and butter money, and the second year, when the chicken cholery was so bad, our prospects looked mighty blue.
"When I saw that big organ up at Danville, I couldn't help thinkin' about the little thing we worked so hard to git. 'Twasn't much bigger'n a washstand, and I reckon if I was to hear it now, I'd think it was mighty feeble and squeaky. But it sounded fine enough to us in them days, and, little as it was, it raised a disturbance for miles around.
"When it come down from Louisville, Abram went to town with his two-horse wagon and brought it out and set it up in our parlor. My Jane had been takin' lessons in town all winter, so's to be able to play on it.
"We had a right good choir for them days; the only trouble was that everybody wanted to be leader. That's a common failin' with church choirs, I've noticed. Milly Amos sung soprano, and my Jane was the alto; John Petty sung bass, and young Sam Crawford tenor; and as for Uncle Jim Matthews, he sung everything, and a plenty of it, too. Milly Amos used to say he was worse'n a flea. He'd start out on the bass, and first thing you knew he'd be singin' tenor with Sam Crawford; and by the time Sam was good and mad, he'd be off onto the alto or the soprano. He was one o' these meddlesome old creeturs that thinks the world never moved till they got into it, and they've got to help everybody out with whatever they happen to be doin'. You've heard o' children bein' born kickin'. Well, Uncle Jim must 'a' been born singin'. I've seen people that said they didn't like the idea o' goin' to heaven and standin' around a throne and singin' hymns for ever and ever; but you couldn't 'a' pleased Uncle Jim better than to set him down in jest that sort o' heaven. Wherever there was a chance to get in some singin', there you'd be sure to find Uncle Jim. Folks used to say he enjoyed a funeral a heap better than he did a weddin', 'cause he could sing at the funeral, and he couldn't at the weddin'; and Sam Crawford said he believed if Gabriel was to come down and blow his trumpet, Uncle Jim would git up and begin to sing.
"It wouldn't 'a' been so bad if he'd had any sort of a voice; but he'd been singin' all his life and hollerin' at protracted meetin's ever since he got religion, till he'd sung and hollered all the music out of his voice, and there wasn't much left but the old creaky machinery. It used to make me think of an old rickety house with the blinds flappin' in the wind. It mortified us terrible to have any of the Methodists or Babtists come to our church. We was sort o' used to the old man's capers, but people that wasn't couldn't keep a straight face when the singin' begun, and it took more grace than any of us had to keep from gittin' mad when we seen people from another church laughin' at our choir.
"The Babtists had a powerful protracted meetin' one winter. Uncle Jim was there to help with the singin', as a matter of course, and he begun to git mightily interested in Babtist doctrines. Used to go home with 'em after church and talk about Greek and Hebrew words till the clock struck twelve. And one communion Sunday he got up solemn as a owl and marched out o' church jest before the bread and wine was passed. Made out like he warn't sure he'd been rightly babtized. The choir was mightily tickled at the idea o' gittin' shed o' the old pest, and Sam Crawford went to him and told him he was on the right track and to go ahead, for the Babtists was undoubtedly correct, and if it wasn't for displeasin' his father and mother he'd jine 'em himself. And then—Sam never could let well enough alone—then he went to Bush Elrod, the Babtist tenor, and says he, 'I hear you're goin' to have a new member in your choir.' And Bush says, 'Well, if the old idiot ever jines this church, we'll hold his head under the water so long that he won't be able to spile good music agin.' And then he give Uncle Jim a hint o' how things was; and when Uncle Jim heard that the Presbyterians was anxious to git shed of him, he found out right away that all them Greek and Hebrew words meant sprinklin' and infant babtism. So he settled down to stay where he was, and hollered louder'n ever the next Sunday.
"The old man was a good enough Christian, I reckon; but when it come to singin', he was a stumblin'-block and rock of offense to the whole church, and especially to the choir. The first thing Sally Ann said when she looked at the new organ was, 'Well, Jane, how do you reckon it's goin' to sound with Uncle Jim's voice?' and I laughed till I had to set down in a cheer.
"Well, when the men folks found out that our organ had come, they begun to wake up. Abram had brought it out Tuesday, and Wednesday night, as soon as prayer-meetin' broke, Parson Page says, says he: 'Brethren, there is a little business to be transacted. Please remain a few minutes longer.' And then, when we had set down again, he went on to say that the sisters had raised money and bought an organ, and there was some division of opinion among the brethren about usin' it, so he would like to have the matter discussed. He used a lot o' big words and talked mighty smooth, and I knew there was trouble ahead for us women.
"Uncle Jim was the first one to speak. He was so anxious to begin, he could hardly wait for Parson Page to stop; and anybody would 'a' thought that he'd been up to heaven and talked with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost and all the angels, to hear him tell about the sort o' music there was in heaven, and the sort there ought to be on earth. 'Why, brethren,' says he, 'when John saw the heavens opened there wasn't no organs up there. God don't keer nothin',' says he, 'about such new-fangled, worldly instruments. But when a lot o' sweet human voices git to praisin' him, why, the very angels stop singin' to listen.'
"Milly Amos was right behind me, and she leaned over and says, 'Well, if the angels'd rather hear Uncle Jim's singin' than our organ, they've got mighty pore taste, that's all I've got to say.'
"Silas Petty was the next one to git up, and says he: 'I never was in favor o' doin' things half-way, brethren; and if we've got to have the organ, why, we might as well have a monkey, too, and be done with it. For my part,' says he, 'I want to worship in the good old way my fathers and grandfathers worshiped in, and, unless my feelin's change very considerable, I shall have to withdraw from this church if any such Satan's music-box is set up in this holy place.'
"And Sally Ann turned around and whispered to me, 'We ought to 'a' got that organ long ago, Jane.' I like to 'a' laughed right out, and I leaned over, and says I, 'Why don't you git up and talk for us, Sally Ann?' and she says: 'The spirit ain't moved me, Jane. I reckon it's too busy movin' Uncle Jim and Silas Petty.'
"Jest then I looked around, and there was Abram standin' up. Well, you could 'a' knocked me over with a feather. Abram always was one o' those close-mouthed men. Never spoke if he could git around it any way whatever. Parson Page used to git after him every protracted meetin' about not leadin' in prayer and havin' family worship; but the spirit moved him that time sure, and there he was talkin' as glib as old Uncle Jim. And says he: 'Brethren, I'm not carin' much one way or another about this organ. I don't know how the angels feel about it, not havin' so much acquaintance with 'em as Uncle Jim has; but I do know enough about women to know that there ain't any use tryin' to stop 'em when they git their heads set on a thing, and I'm goin' to haul that organ over to-morrow mornin' and set it up for the choir to practise by Friday night. If I don't haul it over, Sally Ann and Jane'll tote it over between 'em, and if they can't put it into the church by the door, they'll hist a window and put it in that way. I reckon,' says he, 'I've got all the men against me in this matter, but then, I've got all the women on my side, and I reckon all the women and one man makes a pretty good majority, and so I'm goin' to haul the organ over to-morrow mornin'.'
"I declare I felt real proud of Abram, and I told him so that night when we was goin' home together. Then Parson Page he says, 'It seems to me there is sound sense in what Brother Parish says, and I suggest that we allow the sisters to have their way and give the organ a trial; and if we find that it is hurtful to the interests of the church, it will be an easy matter to remove it.' And Milly Amos says to me, 'I see 'em gittin' that organ out if we once git it in.'
"When the choir met Friday night, Milly come in all in a flurry, and says she: 'I hear Brother Gardner has gone to the 'Sociation down in Russellville, and all the Babtists are comin' to our church Sunday; and I want to show 'em what good music is this once, anyhow. Uncle Jim Matthews is laid up with rheumatism,' says she, 'and if that ain't a special providence I never saw one.' And Sam Crawford slapped his knee, and says he, 'Well, if the old man's rheumatism jest holds out over Sunday, them Babtists'll hear music sure.'
"Then Milly went on to tell that she'd been up to Squire Elrod's, and Miss Penelope, the squire's niece from Louisville, had promised to sing a voluntary Sunday.
"'Voluntary? What's that?' says Sam.
"'Why,' says Milly, 'it's a hymn that the choir, or somebody in it, sings of their own accord, without the preacher givin' it out; just like your tomatoes come up in the spring, voluntary, without you plantin' the seed. That's the way they do in the city churches,' says she, 'and we are goin' to put on city style Sunday.'
"Then they went to work and practised some new tunes for the hymns Parson Page had give 'em, so if Uncle Jim's rheumatism didn't hold out, he'd still have to hold his peace.
"Well, Sunday come; but special providence was on Uncle Jim's side that time, and there he was as smilin' as a basket o' chips if he did have to walk with a cane. We'd had the church cleaned up as neat as a new pin. My Jane had put a bunch of honeysuckles and pinks on the organ, and everybody was dressed in their best. Miss Penelope was settin' at the organ with a bunch of roses in her hand, and the windows was all open, and you could see the trees wavin' in the wind and hear the birds singin' outside. I always did think that was the best part o' Sunday—that time jest before church begins."
Aunt Jane's voice dropped. Her words came slowly; and into the story fell one of those "flashes of silence" to which she was as little given as the great historian. The pan of dumplings waited for the sprinkling of spice and sugar, while she stood motionless, looking afar off, though her gaze apparently stopped on the vacant whitewashed wall before her. No mind reader's art was needed to tell what scene her faded eyes beheld. There was the old church, with its battered furniture and high pulpit. For one brief moment the grave had yielded up its dead, and "the old familiar faces" looked out from every pew. We were very near together, Aunt Jane and I; but the breeze that fanned her brow was not the breeze I felt as I sat by her kitchen window. For her a wind was blowing across the plains of memory; and the honeysuckle odor it carried was not from the bush in the yard. It came, weighted with dreams, from the blossoms that her Jane had placed on the organ twenty-five years ago. A bob-white was calling in the meadow across the dusty road, and the echoes of the second bell had just died away. She and Abram were side by side in their accustomed place, and life lay like a watered garden in the peaceful stillness of the time "jest before church begins."
The asparagus on the stove boiled over with a great spluttering, and Aunt Jane came back to "the eternal now."
"Sakes alive!" she exclaimed, as she lifted the saucepan; "I must be gittin' old, to let things boil over this way while I'm studyin' about old times. I declare, I believe I've clean forgot what I was sayin'."
"You were at church," I suggested, "and the singing was about to begin."
"Sure enough! Well, all at once Miss Penelope laid her hands on the keys and begun to play and sing 'Nearer, My God, to Thee.' We'd heard that hymn all our lives at church and protracted meetin's and prayer-meetin's, but we didn't know how it could sound till Miss Penelope sung it all by herself that day with our new organ. I ricollect jest how she looked, pretty little thing that she was; and sometimes I can hear her voice jest as plain as I hear that robin out yonder in the ellum tree. Every word was jest like a bright new piece o' silver, and every note was jest like gold; and she was lookin' up through the winder at the trees and the sky like she was singin' to somebody we couldn't see. We clean forgot about the new organ and the Baptists; and I really believe we was feelin' nearer to God than we'd ever felt before. When she got through with the first verse, she played somethin' soft and sweet and begun again; and right in the middle of the first line—I declare, it's twenty-five years ago, but I git mad now when I think about it—right in the middle of the first line Uncle Jim jined in like an old squawkin' jay-bird, and sung like he was tryin' to drown out Miss Penelope and the new organ, too.
"Everybody give a jump when he first started, and he'd got nearly through the verse before we took in what was happenin'. Even the Babtists jest looked surprised like the rest of us. But when Miss Penelope begun the third time and Uncle Jim jined in with his hollerin', I saw Bush Elrod grin, and that grin spread all over the Babtist crowd in no time. The Presbyterian young folks was gigglin' behind their fans, and Bush got to laughin' till he had to git up and leave the church. They said he went up the road to Sam Amos' pasture and laid down on the ground and rolled over and over and laughed till he couldn't laugh any more.
"I was so mad I started to git up, though goodness knows what I could 'a' done. Abram he grabbed my dress and says, 'Steady, Jane!' jest like he was talkin' to the old mare. The thing that made me maddest was Silas Petty a-leanin' back in his pew and smilin' as satisfied as if he'd seen the salvation of the Lord. I didn't mind the Babtists half as much as I did Silas.
"The only person in the church that wasn't the least bit flustered was Miss Penelope. She was a Marshall on her mother's side, and I always said that nobody but a born lady could 'a' acted as she did. She sung right on as if everything was goin' exactly right and she'd been singin' hymns with Uncle Jim all her life. Two or three times when the old man kind o' lagged behind, it looked like she waited for him to ketch up, and when she got through and Uncle Jim was lumberin' on the last note, she folded her hands and set there lookin' out the winder where the sun was shinin' on the silver poplar trees, jest as peaceful as a angel, and the rest of us as mad as hornets. Milly Amos set back of Uncle Jim, and his red bandanna handkerchief was lyin' over his shoulders where he'd been shooin' the flies away. She told me the next day it was all she could do to keep from reachin' over and chokin' the old man off while Miss Penelope was singin'.
"I said Miss Penelope was the only one that wasn't flustered. I ought to 'a' said Miss Penelope and Uncle Jim. The old creetur was jest that simple-minded he didn't know he'd done anything out o' the way, and he set there lookin' as pleased as a child, and thinkin', I reckon, how smart he'd been to help Miss Penelope out with the singin'.
"The rest o' the hymns went off all right, and it did me good to see Uncle Jim's face when they struck up the new tunes. He tried to jine in, but he had to give it up and wait for the doxology.
"Parson Page preached a powerful good sermon, but I don't reckon it did some of us much good, we was so put out about Uncle Jim spilin' our voluntary.
"After meetin' broke and we was goin' home, me and Abram had to pass by Silas Petty's wagon. He was helpin' Maria in, and I don't know what she'd been sayin', but he says, 'It's a righteous judgment on you women, Maria, for profanin' the Lord's house with that there organ.' And, mad as I was, I had to laugh when I thought of old Uncle Jim Matthews executin' a judgment of the Lord. Uncle Jim never made more'n a half-way livin' at the carpenter's trade, and I reckon if the Lord had wanted anybody to help him execute a judgment, Uncle Jim would 'a' been the last man he'd 'a' thought of.
"Of course the choir was madder'n ever at Uncle Jim; and when Milly Amos had fever that summer, she called Sam to her the day she was at her worst, and pulled his head down and whispered as feeble as a baby: 'Don't let Uncle Jim sing at my funeral, Sam. I'll rise up out of my coffin if he does.' And Sam broke out a-laughin' and a-cryin' at the same time—he thought a heap o' Milly—and says he, 'Well, Milly, if it'll have that effect, Uncle Jim shall sing at the funeral, sure.' And Milly got to laughin', weak as she was, and in a few minutes she dropped off to sleep, and when she woke up the fever was gone, and she begun to git well from that day. I always believed that laugh was the turnin'-p'int. Instead of Uncle Jim singin' at her funeral, she sung at Uncle Jim's, and broke down and cried like a child for all the mean things she'd said about the pore old creetur's voice."
The asparagus had been transferred to a china dish, and the browned butter was ready to pour over it. The potatoes were steaming themselves into mealy delicacy, and Aunt Jane peered into the stove where the dumplings were taking on a golden brown. Her story-telling evidently did not interfere with her culinary skill, and I said so.
"La, child," she replied, dashing a pinch of "seasonin" into the peas, "when I git so old I can't do but one thing at a time, I'll try to die as soon as possible."
AUNT JANE'S ALBUM
They were a bizarre mass of color on the sweet spring landscape, those patchwork quilts, swaying in a long line under the elms and maples. The old orchard made a blossoming background for them, and farther off on the horizon rose the beauty of fresh verdure and purple mist on those low hills, or "knobs," that are to the heart of the Kentuckian as the Alps to the Swiss or the sea to the sailor.
I opened the gate softly and paused for a moment between the blossoming lilacs that grew on each side of the path. The fragrance of the white and the purple blooms was like a resurrection-call over the graves of many a dead spring; and as I stood, shaken with thoughts as the flowers are with the winds, Aunt Jane came around from the back of the house, her black silk cape fluttering from her shoulders, and a calico sunbonnet hiding her features in its cavernous depth. She walked briskly to the clothes-line and began patting and smoothing the quilts where the breeze had disarranged them.
"Aunt Jane," I called out, "are you having a fair all by yourself?"
She turned quickly, pushing back the sunbonnet from her eyes.
"Why, child," she said, with a happy laugh, "you come pretty nigh skeerin' me. No, I ain't havin' any fair; I'm jest givin' my quilts their spring airin'. Twice a year I put 'em out in the sun and wind; and this mornin' the air smelt so sweet, I thought it was a good chance to freshen 'em up for the summer. It's about time to take 'em in now."
She began to fold the quilts and lay them over her arm, and I did the same. Back and forth we went from the clothes-line to the house, and from the house to the clothes-line, until the quilts were safely housed from the coming dewfall and piled on every available chair in the front room. I looked at them in sheer amazement. There seemed to be every pattern that the ingenuity of woman could devise and the industry of woman put together,—"four-patches," "nine-patches," "log-cabins," "wild-goose chases," "rising suns," hexagons, diamonds, and only Aunt Jane knows what else. As for color, a Sandwich Islander would have danced with joy at the sight of those reds, purples, yellows, and greens.
"Did you really make all these quilts, Aunt Jane?" I asked wonderingly.
Aunt Jane's eyes sparkled with pride.
"Every stitch of 'em, child," she said, "except the quiltin'. The neighbors used to come in and help some with that. I've heard folks say that piecin' quilts was nothin' but a waste o' time, but that ain't always so. They used to say that Sarah Jane Mitchell would set down right after breakfast and piece till it was time to git dinner, and then set and piece till she had to git supper, and then piece by candle-light till she fell asleep in her cheer.
"I ricollect goin' over there one day, and Sarah Jane was gittin' dinner in a big hurry, for Sam had to go to town with some cattle, and there was a big basket o' quilt pieces in the middle o' the kitchen floor, and the house lookin' like a pigpen, and the children runnin' around half naked. And Sam he laughed, and says he, 'Aunt Jane, if we could wear quilts and eat quilts we'd be the richest people in the country.' Sam was the best-natured man that ever was, or he couldn't 'a' put up with Sarah Jane's shiftless ways. Hannah Crawford said she sent Sarah Jane a bundle o' caliker once by Sam, and Sam always declared he lost it. But Uncle Jim Matthews said he was ridin' along the road jest behind Sam, and he saw Sam throw it into the creek jest as he got on the bridge. I never blamed Sam a bit if he did.
"But there never was any time wasted on my quilts, child. I can look at every one of 'em with a clear conscience. I did my work faithful; and then, when I might 'a' set and held my hands, I'd make a block or two o' patchwork, and before long I'd have enough to put together in a quilt. I went to piecin' as soon as I was old enough to hold a needle and a piece o' cloth, and one o' the first things I can remember was settin' on the back door-step sewin' my quilt pieces, and mother praisin' my stitches. Nowadays folks don't have to sew unless they want to, but when I was a child there warn't any sewin'-machines, and it was about as needful for folks to know how to sew as it was for 'em to know how to eat; and every child that was well raised could hem and run and backstitch and gether and overhand by the time she was nine years old. Why, I'd pieced four quilts by the time I was nineteen years old, and when me and Abram set up housekeepin' I had bedclothes enough for three beds.
"I've had a heap o' comfort all my life makin' quilts, and now in my old age I wouldn't take a fortune for 'em. Set down here, child, where you can see out o' the winder and smell the lilacs, and we'll look at 'em all. You see, some folks has albums to put folks' pictures in to remember 'em by, and some folks has a book and writes down the things that happen every day so they won't forgit 'em; but, honey, these quilts is my albums and my di'ries, and whenever the weather's bad and I can't git out to see folks, I jest spread out my quilts and look at 'em and study over 'em, and it's jest like goin' back fifty or sixty years and livin' my life over agin.
"There ain't nothin' like a piece o' caliker for bringin' back old times, child, unless it's a flower or a bunch o' thyme or a piece o' pennyroy'l—anything that smells sweet. Why, I can go out yonder in the yard and gether a bunch o' that purple lilac and jest shut my eyes and see faces I ain't seen for fifty years, and somethin' goes through me like a flash o' lightnin', and it seems like I'm young agin jest for that minute."
Aunt Jane's hands were stroking lovingly a "nine-patch" that resembled the coat of many colors.
"Now this quilt, honey," she said, "I made out o' the pieces o' my children's clothes, their little dresses and waists and aprons. Some of 'em's dead, and some of 'em's grown and married and a long way off from me, further off than the ones that's dead, I sometimes think. But when I set down and look at this quilt and think over the pieces, it seems like they all come back, and I can see 'em playin' around the floors and goin' in and out, and hear 'em cryin' and laughin' and callin' me jest like they used to do before they grew up to men and women, and before there was any little graves o' mine out in the old buryin'-ground over yonder."
Wonderful imagination of motherhood that can bring childhood back from the dust of the grave and banish the wrinkles and gray hairs of age with no other talisman than a scrap of faded calico!
The old woman's hands were moving tremulously over the surface of the quilt as if they touched the golden curls of the little dream children who had vanished from her hearth so many years ago. But there were no tears either in her eyes or in her voice. I had long noticed that Aunt Jane always smiled when she spoke of the people whom the world calls "dead," or the things it calls "lost" or "past." These words seemed to have for her higher and tenderer meanings than are placed on them by the sorrowful heart of humanity.
But the moments were passing, and one could not dwell too long on any quilt, however well beloved. Aunt Jane rose briskly, folded up the one that lay across her knees, and whisked out another from the huge pile in an old splint-bottomed chair.
"Here's a piece o' one o' Sally Ann's purple caliker dresses. Sally Ann always thought a heap o' purple caliker. Here's one o' Milly Amos' ginghams—that pink-and-white one. And that piece o' white with the rosebuds in it, that's Miss Penelope's. She give it to me the summer before she died. Bless her soul! That dress jest matched her face exactly. Somehow her and her clothes always looked alike, and her voice matched her face, too. One o' the things I'm lookin' forward to, child, is seein' Miss Penelope agin and hearin' her sing. Voices and faces is alike; there's some that you can't remember, and there's some you can't forgit. I've seen a heap o' people and heard a heap o' voices, but Miss Penelope's face was different from all the rest, and so was her voice. Why, if she said 'Good mornin'' to you, you'd hear that 'Good mornin' all day, and her singin'—I know there never was anything like it in this world. My grandchildren all laugh at me for thinkin' so much o' Miss Penelope's singin', but then they never heard her, and I have: that's the difference. My grandchild Henrietta was down here three or four years ago, and says she, 'Grandma, don't you want to go up to Louisville with me and hear Patti sing?' And says I, 'Patty who, child?' Says I, 'If it was to hear Miss Penelope sing, I'd carry these old bones o' mine clear from here to New York. But there ain't anybody else I want to hear sing bad enough to go up to Louisville or anywhere else. And some o' these days,' says I, 'I'm goin' to hear Miss Penelope sing.'"
Aunt Jane laughed blithely, and it was impossible not to laugh with her.
"Honey," she said, in the next breath, lowering her voice and laying her finger on the rosebud piece, "honey, there's one thing I can't git over. Here's a piece o' Miss Penelope's dress, but where's Miss Penelope? Ain't it strange that a piece o' caliker'll outlast you and me? Don't it look like folks ought 'o hold on to their bodies as long as other folks holds on to a piece o' the dresses they used to wear?"
Questions as old as the human heart and its human grief! Here is the glove, but where is the hand it held but yesterday? Here the jewel that she wore, but where is she?
"Where is the Pompadour now? This was the Pompadour's fan!"
Strange that such things as gloves, jewels, fans, and dresses can outlast a woman's form.
"Behold! I show you a mystery"—the mystery of mortality. And an eery feeling came over me as I entered into the old woman's mood and thought of the strong, vital bodies that had clothed themselves in those fabrics of purple and pink and white, and that now were dust and ashes lying in sad, neglected graves on farm and lonely roadside. There lay the quilt on our knees, and the gay scraps of calico seemed to mock us with their vivid colors. Aunt Jane's cheerful voice called me back from the tombs.
"Here's a piece o' one o' my dresses," she said; "brown ground with a red ring in it. Abram picked it out. And here's another one, that light yeller ground with the vine runnin' through it. I never had so many caliker dresses that I didn't want one more, for in my day folks used to think a caliker dress was good enough to wear anywhere. Abram knew my failin', and two or three times a year he'd bring me a dress when he come from town. And the dresses he'd pick out always suited me better'n the ones I picked."
"I ricollect I finished this quilt the summer before Mary Frances was born, and Sally Ann and Milly Amos and Maria Petty come over and give me a lift on the quiltin'. Here's Milly's work, here's Sally Ann's, and here's Maria's."
I looked, but my inexperienced eye could see no difference in the handiwork of the three women. Aunt Jane saw my look of incredulity.
"Now, child," she said, earnestly, "you think I'm foolin' you, but, la! there's jest as much difference in folks' sewin' as there is in their handwritin'. Milly made a fine stitch, but she couldn't keep on the line to save her life; Maria never could make a reg'lar stitch, some'd be long and some short, and Sally Ann's was reg'lar, but all of 'em coarse. I can see 'em now stoopin' over the quiltin' frames—Milly talkin' as hard as she sewed, Sally Ann throwin' in a word now and then, and Maria never openin' her mouth except to ask for the thread or the chalk. I ricollect they come over after dinner, and we got the quilt out o' the frames long before sundown, and the next day I begun bindin' it, and I got the premium on it that year at the Fair.
"I hardly ever showed a quilt at the Fair that I didn't take the premium, but here's one quilt that Sarah Jane Mitchell beat me on."
And Aunt Jane dragged out a ponderous, red-lined affair, the very antithesis of the silken, down-filled comfortable that rests so lightly on the couch of the modern dame.
"It makes me laugh jest to think o' that time, and how happy Sarah Jane was. It was way back yonder in the fifties. I ricollect we had a mighty fine Fair that year. The crops was all fine that season, and such apples and pears and grapes you never did see. The Floral Hall was full o' things, and the whole county turned out to go to the Fair. Abram and me got there the first day bright and early, and we was walkin' around the amp'itheater and lookin' at the townfolks and the sights, and we met Sally Ann. She stopped us, and says she, 'Sarah Jane Mitchell's got a quilt in the Floral Hall in competition with yours and Milly Amos'.' Says I, 'Is that all the competition there is?' And Sally Ann says, 'All that amounts to anything. There's one more, but it's about as bad a piece o' sewin' as Sarah Jane's, and that looks like it'd hardly hold together till the Fair's over. And,' says she, 'I don't believe there'll be any more. It looks like this was an off year on that particular kind o' quilt. I didn't get mine done,' says she, 'and neither did Maria Petty, and maybe it's a good thing after all.'
"Well, I saw in a minute what Sally Ann was aimin' at. And I says to Abram, 'Abram, haven't you got somethin' to do with app'intin' the judges for the women's things?' And he says, 'Yes.' And I says, 'Well, you see to it that Sally Ann gits app'inted to help judge the caliker quilts.' And bless your soul, Abram got me and Sally Ann both app'inted. The other judge was Mis' Doctor Brigham, one o' the town ladies. We told her all about what we wanted to do, and she jest laughed and says, 'Well, if that ain't the kindest, nicest thing! Of course we'll do it.'
"Seein' that I had a quilt there, I hadn't a bit o' business bein' a judge; but the first thing I did was to fold my quilt up and hide it under Maria Petty's big worsted quilt, and then we pinned the blue ribbon on Sarah Jane's and the red on Milly's. I'd fixed it all up with Milly, and she was jest as willin' as I was for Sarah Jane to have the premium. There was jest one thing I was afraid of: Milly was a good-hearted woman, but she never had much control over her tongue. And I says to her, says I: 'Milly, it's mighty good of you to give up your chance for the premium, but if Sarah Jane ever finds it out, that'll spoil everything. For,' says I, 'there ain't any kindness in doin' a person a favor and then tellin' everybody about it.' And Milly laughed, and says she: 'I know what you mean, Aunt Jane. It's mighty hard for me to keep from tellin' everything I know and some things I don't know, but,' says she, 'I'm never goin' to tell this, even to Sam.' And she kept her word, too. Every once in a while she'd come up to me and whisper, 'I ain't told it yet, Aunt Jane,' jest to see me laugh.
"As soon as the doors was open, after we'd all got through judgin' and puttin' on the ribbons, Milly went and hunted Sarah Jane up and told her that her quilt had the blue ribbon. They said the pore thing like to 'a' fainted for joy. She turned right white, and had to lean up against the post for a while before she could git to the Floral Hall. I never shall forgit her face. It was worth a dozen premiums to me, and Milly, too. She jest stood lookin' at that quilt and the blue ribbon on it, and her eyes was full o' tears and her lips quiverin', and then she started off and brought the children in to look at 'Mammy's quilt.' She met Sam on the way out, and says she: 'Sam, what do you reckon? My quilt took the premium.' And I believe in my soul Sam was as much pleased as Sarah Jane. He came saunterin' up, tryin' to look unconcerned, but anybody could see he was mighty well satisfied. It does a husband and wife a heap o' good to be proud of each other, and I reckon that was the first time Sam ever had cause to be proud o' pore Sarah Jane. It's my belief that he thought more o' Sarah Jane all the rest o' her life jest on account o' that premium. Me and Sally Ann helped her pick it out. She had her choice betwixt a butter-dish and a cup, and she took the cup. Folks used to laugh and say that that cup was the only thing in Sarah Jane's house that was kept clean and bright, and if it hadn't 'a' been solid silver, she'd 'a' wore it all out rubbin' it up. Sarah Jane died o' pneumonia about three or four years after that, and the folks that nursed her said she wouldn't take a drink o' water or a dose o' medicine out o' any cup but that. There's some folks, child, that don't have to do anything but walk along and hold out their hands, and the premiums jest naturally fall into 'em; and there's others that work and strive the best they know how, and nothin' ever seems to come to 'em; and I reckon nobody but the Lord and Sarah Jane knows how much happiness she got out o' that cup. I'm thankful she had that much pleasure before she died."
There was a quilt hanging over the foot of the bed that had about it a certain air of distinction. It was a solid mass of patchwork, composed of squares, parallelograms, and hexagons. The squares were of dark gray and red-brown, the hexagons were white, the parallelograms black and light gray. I felt sure that it had a history that set it apart from its ordinary fellows.
"Where did you get the pattern, Aunt Jane?" I asked. "I never saw anything like it."
The old lady's eyes sparkled, and she laughed with pure pleasure.
"That's what everybody says," she exclaimed, jumping up and spreading the favored quilt over two laden chairs, where its merits became more apparent and striking. "There ain't another quilt like this in the State o' Kentucky, or the world, for that matter. My granddaughter Henrietta, Mary Frances' youngest child, brought me this pattern from Europe."
She spoke the words as one might say, "from Paradise," or "from Olympus," or "from the Lost Atlantis." "Europe" was evidently a name to conjure with, a country of mystery and romance unspeakable. I had seen many things from many lands beyond the sea, but a quilt pattern from Europe! Here at last was something new under the sun. In what shop of London or Paris were quilt patterns kept on sale for the American tourist?
"You see," said Aunt Jane, "Henrietta married a mighty rich man, and jest as good as he's rich, too, and they went to Europe on their bridal trip. When she come home she brought me the prettiest shawl you ever saw. She made me stand up and shut my eyes, and she put it on my shoulders and made me look in the lookin'-glass, and then she says, 'I brought you a new quilt pattern, too, grandma, and I want you to piece one quilt by it and leave it to me when you die.' And then she told me about goin' to a town over yonder they call Florence, and how she went into a big church that was built hundreds o' years before I was born. And she said the floor was made o' little pieces o' colored stone, all laid together in a pattern, and they called it mosaic. And says I, 'Honey, has it got anything to do with Moses and his law?' You know the Commandments was called the Mosaic Law, and was all on tables o' stone. And Henrietta jest laughed, and says she: 'No, grandma; I don't believe it has. But,' says she, 'the minute I stepped on that pavement I thought about you, and I drew this pattern off on a piece o' paper and brought it all the way to Kentucky for you to make a quilt by.' Henrietta bought the worsted for me, for she said it had to be jest the colors o' that pavement over yonder, and I made it that very winter."
Aunt Jane was regarding the quilt with worshipful eyes, and it really was an effective combination of color and form.
"Many a time while I was piecin' that," she said, "I thought about the man that laid the pavement in that old church, and wondered what his name was, and how he looked, and what he'd think if he knew there was a old woman down here in Kentucky usin' his patterns to make a bedquilt."
It was indeed a far cry from the Florentine artisan of centuries ago to this humble worker in calico and worsted, but between the two stretched a cord of sympathy that made them one—the eternal aspiration after beauty.
"Honey," said Aunt Jane, suddenly, "did I ever show you my premiums?"
And then, with pleasant excitement in her manner, she arose, fumbled in her deep pocket for an ancient bunch of keys, and unlocked a cupboard on one side of the fireplace. One by one she drew them out, unrolled the soft yellow tissue-paper that enfolded them, and ranged them in a stately line on the old cherry center-table—nineteen sterling silver cups and goblets. "Abram took some of 'em on his fine stock, and I took some of 'em on my quilts and salt-risin' bread and cakes," she said, impressively.
To the artist his medals, to the soldier his cross of the Legion of Honor, and to Aunt Jane her silver cups. All the triumph of a humble life was symbolized in these shining things. They were simple and genuine as the days in which they were made. A few of them boasted a beaded edge or a golden lining, but no engraving or embossing marred their silver purity. On the bottom of each was the stamp: "John B. Akin, Danville, Ky." There they stood,
"Filled to the brim with precious memories,"—
memories of the time when she and Abram had worked together in field or garden or home, and the County Fair brought to all a yearly opportunity to stand on the height of achievement and know somewhat the taste of Fame's enchanted cup.
"There's one for every child and every grandchild," she said, quietly, as she began wrapping them in the silky paper, and storing them carefully away in the cupboard, there to rest until the day when children and grandchildren would claim their own, and the treasures of the dead would come forth from the darkness to stand as heirlooms on fashionable sideboards and damask-covered tables.
"Did you ever think, child," she said, presently, "how much piecin' a quilt's like livin' a life? And as for sermons, why, they ain't no better sermon to me than a patchwork quilt, and the doctrines is right there a heap plainer'n they are in the catechism. Many a time I've set and listened to Parson Page preachin' about predestination and free-will, and I've said to myself, 'Well, I ain't never been through Centre College up at Danville, but if I could jest git up in the pulpit with one of my quilts, I could make it a heap plainer to folks than parson's makin' it with all his big words.' You see, you start out with jest so much caliker; you don't go to the store and pick it out and buy it, but the neighbors will give you a piece here and a piece there, and you'll have a piece left every time you cut out a dress, and you take jest what happens to come. And that's like predestination. But when it comes to the cuttin' out, why, you're free to choose your own pattern. You can give the same kind o' pieces to two persons, and one'll make a 'nine-patch' and one'll make a 'wild-goose chase,' and there'll be two quilts made out o' the same kind o' pieces, and jest as different as they can be. And that is jest the way with livin'. The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut 'em out and put 'em together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there's a heap more in the cuttin' out and the sewin' than there is in the caliker. The same sort o' things comes into all lives, jest as the Apostle says, 'There hath no trouble taken you but is common to all men.'
"The same trouble'll come into two people's lives, and one'll take it and make one thing out of it, and the other'll make somethin' entirely different. There was Mary Harris and Mandy Crawford. They both lost their husbands the same year; and Mandy set down and cried and worried and wondered what on earth she was goin' to do, and the farm went to wrack and the children turned out bad, and she had to live with her son-in-law in her old age. But Mary, she got up and went to work, and made everybody about her work, too; and she managed the farm better'n it ever had been managed before, and the boys all come up steady, hard-workin' men, and there wasn't a woman in the county better fixed up than Mary Harris. Things is predestined to come to us, honey, but we're jest as free as air to make what we please out of 'em. And when it comes to puttin' the pieces together, there's another time when we're free. You don't trust to luck for the caliker to put your quilt together with; you go to the store and pick it out yourself, any color you like. There's folks that always looks on the bright side and makes the best of everything, and that's like puttin' your quilt together with blue or pink or white or some other pretty color; and there's folks that never see anything but the dark side, and always lookin' for trouble, and treasurin' it up after they git it, and they're puttin' their lives together with black, jest like you would put a quilt together with some dark, ugly color. You can spoil the prettiest quilt pieces that ever was made jest by puttin' 'em together with the wrong color, and the best sort o' life is miserable if you don't look at things right and think about 'em right.
"Then there's another thing. I've seen folks piece and piece, but when it come to puttin' the blocks together and quiltin' and linin' it, they'd give out; and that's like folks that do a little here and a little there, but their lives ain't of much use after all, any more'n a lot o' loose pieces o' patchwork. And then while you're livin' your life, it looks pretty much like a jumble o' quilt pieces before they're put together; but when you git through with it, or pretty nigh through, as I am now, you'll see the use and the purpose of everything in it. Everything'll be in its right place jest like the squares in this 'four-patch,' and one piece may be pretty and another one ugly, but it all looks right when you see it finished and joined together."
Did I say that every pattern was represented? No, there was one notable omission. Not a single "crazy quilt" was there in the collection. I called Aunt Jane's attention to this lack.
"Child," she said, "I used to say there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I made up my mind to it. But I hadn't seen a 'crazy quilt' then. The first one I ever seen was up at Danville at Mary Frances', and Henrietta says, 'Now, grandma, you've got to make a crazy quilt; you've made every other sort that ever was heard of.' And she brought me the pieces and showed me how to baste 'em on the square, and said she'd work the fancy stitches around 'em for me. Well, I set there all the mornin' tryin' to fix up that square, and the more I tried, the uglier and crookeder the thing looked. And finally I says: 'Here, child, take your pieces. If I was to make this the way you want me to, they'd be a crazy quilt and a crazy woman, too.'"
Aunt Jane was laying the folded quilts in neat piles here and there about the room. There was a look of unspeakable satisfaction on her face—the look of the creator who sees his completed work and pronounces it good.
"I've been a hard worker all my life," she said, seating herself and folding her hands restfully, "but 'most all my work has been the kind that 'perishes with the usin',' as the Bible says. That's the discouragin' thing about a woman's work. Milly Amos used to say that if a woman was to see all the dishes that she had to wash before she died, piled up before her in one pile, she'd lie down and die right then and there. I've always had the name o' bein' a good housekeeper, but when I'm dead and gone there ain't anybody goin' to think o' the floors I've swept, and the tables I've scrubbed, and the old clothes I've patched, and the stockin's I've darned. Abram might 'a' remembered it, but he ain't here. But when one o' my grandchildren or great-grandchildren sees one o' these quilts, they'll think about Aunt Jane, and, wherever I am then, I'll know I ain't forgotten.
"I reckon everybody wants to leave somethin' behind that'll last after they're dead and gone. It don't look like it's worth while to live unless you can do that. The Bible says folks 'rest from their labors, and their works do follow them,' but that ain't so. They go, and maybe they do rest, but their works stay right here, unless they're the sort that don't outlast the usin'. Now, some folks has money to build monuments with—great, tall, marble pillars, with angels on top of 'em, like you see in Cave Hill and them big city buryin'-grounds. And some folks can build churches and schools and hospitals to keep folks in mind of 'em, but all the work I've got to leave behind me is jest these quilts, and sometimes, when I'm settin' here, workin' with my caliker and gingham pieces, I'll finish off a block, and I laugh and say to myself, 'Well, here's another stone for the monument.'
"I reckon you think, child, that a caliker or a worsted quilt is a curious sort of a monument—'bout as perishable as the sweepin' and scrubbin' and mendin'. But if folks values things rightly, and knows how to take care of 'em, there ain't many things that'll last longer'n a quilt. Why, I've got a blue and white counterpane that my mother's mother spun and wove, and there ain't a sign o' givin' out in it yet. I'm goin' to will that to my granddaughter that lives in Danville, Mary Frances' oldest child. She was down here last summer, and I was lookin' over my things and packin' 'em away, and she happened to see that counterpane, and says she, 'Grandma, I want you to will me that.' And says I: 'What do you want with that old thing, honey? You know you wouldn't sleep under such a counterpane as that.' And says she, 'No, but I'd hang it up over my parlor door for a—"
"Portiere?" I suggested, as Aunt Jane hesitated for the unaccustomed word.
"That's it, child. Somehow I can't ricollect these new-fangled words, any more'n I can understand these new-fangled ways. Who'd ever 'a' thought that folks'd go to stringin' up bed-coverin's in their doors? And says I to Janie, 'You can hang your great-grandmother's counterpane up in your parlor door if you want to, but,' says I, 'don't you ever make a door-curtain out o' one o' my quilts.' But la! the way things turn around, if I was to come back fifty years from now, like as not I'd find 'em usin' my quilts for window-curtains or door-mats."
We both laughed, and there rose in my mind a picture of a twentieth-century house decorated with Aunt Jane's "nine-patches" and "rising suns." How could the dear old woman know that the same esthetic sense that had drawn from their obscurity the white and blue counterpanes of colonial days would forever protect her loved quilts from such a desecration as she feared? As she lifted a pair of quilts from a chair near by, I caught sight of a pure white spread in striking contrast with the many-hued patchwork.
"Where did you get that Marseilles spread, Aunt Jane?" I asked, pointing to it. Aunt Jane lifted it and laid it on my lap without a word. Evidently she thought that here was something that could speak for itself. It was two layers of snowy cotton cloth thinly lined with cotton, and elaborately quilted into a perfect imitation of a Marseilles counterpane. The pattern was a tracery of roses, buds, and leaves, very much conventionalized, but still recognizable for the things they were. The stitches were fairylike, and altogether it might have covered the bed of a queen.
"I made every stitch o' that spread the year before me and Abram was married," she said. "I put it on my bed when we went to housekeepin'; it was on the bed when Abram died, and when I die I want 'em to cover me with it." There was a life-history in the simple words. I thought of Desdemona and her bridal sheets, and I did not offer to help Aunt Jane as she folded this quilt.