"JOSIAH ALLEN'S WIFE"
THE SAD-EYED MOTHERS,
WHO, LIKE CICELY,
ARE LOOKING ACROSS THE CRADLE OF THEIR
BOYS INTO THE GREAT WORLD OF
TEMPTATION AND DANGER,
This Book is Dedicated.
Josiah and me got to talkin' it over. He said it wuzn't right to think more of one child than you did of another.
And I says, "That is so, Josiah."
And he says, "Then, why did you say yesterday, that you loved sweet Cicely better than any of the rest of your thought-children? You said you loved 'em all, and was kinder sorry for the hull on 'em, but you loved her the best: what made you say it?"
Says I, "I said it, to tell the truth."
"Wall, what did you do it for?" he kep' on, determined to get a reason.
"I did it," says I, a comin' out still plainer,—"I did it to keep from lyin'."
"Wall, when you say it hain't right to feel so, what makes you?"
"I don't know, Josiah," says I, lookin' at him, and beyend him, way into the depths of emotions and feelin's we can't understand nor help,—
"I don't know why, but I know I do."
And he drawed on his boots, and went out to the barn.
It was somewhere about the middle of winter, along in the forenoon, that Josiah Allen was telegrafted to, unexpected. His niece Cicely and her little boy was goin' to pass through Jonesville the next day on her way to visit her aunt Mary (aunt on her mother's side), and she would stop off, and make us a short visit if convenient.
We wuz both tickled, highly tickled; and Josiah, before he had read the telegraf ten minutes, was out killin' a hen. The plumpest one in the flock was the order I give; and I wus a beginnin' to make a fuss, and cook up for her.
We loved her jest about as well as we did Tirzah Ann. Sweet Cicely was what we used to call her when she was a girl. Sweet Cicely is a plant that has a pretty white posy. And our niece Cicely was prettier and purer and sweeter than any posy that ever grew: so we thought then, and so we think still.
Her mother was my companion's sister,—one of a pair of twins, Mary and Maria, that thought the world of each other, as twins will. Their mother died when they wus both of 'em babies; and they wus adopted by a rich aunt, who brought 'em up elegant, and likely too: that I will say for her, if she wus a 'Piscopal, and I a Methodist. I am both liberal and truthful —very.
Maria wus Cicely's ma, and she wus left a widow when she wus a young woman; and Cicely wus her only child. And the two wus bound up in each other as I never see a mother and daughter in my life before or sense.
The third year after Josiah and me wus married, Maria wusn't well, and the doctor ordered her out into the country for her health; and she and little Cicely spent the hull of that summer with us. Cicely wus about ten; and how we did love that girl! Her mother couldn't bear to have her out of her sight; and I declare, we all of us wus jest about as bad. And from that time they used to spend most all of their summers in Jonesville. The air agreed with 'em, and so did I: we never had a word of trouble. And we used to visit them quite a good deal in the winter season: they lived in the city.
Wall, as Cicely got to be a young girl, I used often to set and look at her, and wonder if the Lord could have made a prettier, sweeter girl if he had tried to. She looked to me jest perfect, and so she did to Josiah.
And she knew so much, too, and wus so womanly and quiet and deep. I s'pose it wus bein' always with her mother that made her seem older and more thoughtful than girls usially are. It seemed as if her great dark eyes wus full of wisdom beyend—fur beyend—her years, and sweetness too. Never wus there any sweeter eyes under the heavens than those of our niece Cicely.
She wus very fair and pale, you would think at first; but, when you would come to look closer, you would see there was nothing sickly in her complexion, only it was very white and smooth,—a good deal like the pure white leaves of the posy Sweet Cicely. She had a gentle, tender mouth, rose-pink; and her cheeks wuz, when she would get rousted up and excited about any thing; and then it would all sort o' die out again into that pure white. And over all her face, as sweet and womanly as it was, there was a look of power, somehow, a look of strength, as if she would venture much, dare much, for them she loved. She had the gift, not always a happy one, of loving,—a strength of devotion that always has for its companion- trait a gift of endurance, of martyrdom if necessary.
She would give all, dare all, endure all, for them she loved. You could see that in her face before you had been with her long enough to see it in her life.
Her hair wus a soft, pretty brown, about the color of her eyes. And she wus a little body, slender, and sort o' plump too; and her arms and hands and neck wus soft and white as snow almost.
Yes, we loved Cicely: and no one could blame us, or wonder at us for callin' her after the posy Sweet Cicely; for she wus prettier than any posy that ever blew, enough sight.
Wall, she had always said she couldn't live if her mother died.
But she did, poor little creeter! she did.
Maria died when Cicely wus about eighteen. She had always been delicate, and couldn't live no longer: so she died. And Josiah and me went right after the poor child, and brought her home with us.
She lived, Cicely did, because she wus young, and couldn't die. And Josiah and me wus dretful good to her; and many's the nights that I have gone into her room when I'd hear her cryin' way along in the night; many's the times I have gone in, and took her in my arms, and held her there, and cried with her, and soothed her, and got her to sleep, and held her in my arms like a baby till mornin'. Wall, she lived with us most a year that time; and it wus about two years after, while she wus to some of her father's folks'es (they wus very rich), that she met the young man she married,—Paul Slide.
He wus a handsome young man, well-behaved, only he would drink a little once in a while: he'd got into the habit at college, where his mate wus wild, and had his turns. But he wus very pretty in his manners, Paul was, —polite, good-natured, generous-dispositioned,—and very rich.
And as to his looks, there wuzn't no earthly fault to find with him, only jest his chin. And I told Josiah, that how Cicely could marry a man with such a chin wus a mystery to me.
And Josiah said, "What is the matter with his chin?"
And I says, "Why, it jest sets right back from his mouth: he hain't got no chin at all hardly," says I. "The place where his chin ort to be is nothin' but a holler place all filled up with irresolution and weakness. And I believe Cicely will see trouble with that chin."
And then—I well remember it, for it was the very first time after marriage, and so, of course, the very first time in our two lives—Josiah called me a fool, a "dumb fool," or jest the same as called me so. He says, "I wouldn't be a dumb fool if I was in your place."
I felt worked up. But, like warriors on a battle-field, I grew stronger for the fray; and the fray didn't scare me none.
But I says, "You'll see if you live, Josiah Allen"; and he did.
But, as I said, I didn't see how Cicely ever fell in love with a man with such a chin. But, as I learned afterwards, she fell in love with him under a fur collar. It wus on a slay-ride. And he wuz very handsome from his mouth up, very: his mouth wuz ruther weak. It wus a case of love at first sight, which I believe in considerable; and she couldn't help lovin' him, women are so queer.
I had always said that when Cicely did love, it would go hard with her. Many's the offers she'd had, but didn't care for 'em. But I knew, with her temperament and nater, that love, if it did come to her, would come to stay, and it would come hard and voyalent. And so it did.
She worshipped him, as I said at first, under a fur collar. And then, when a woman once gets to lovin' a man as she did, why, she can't help herself, chin or no chin. When a woman has once throwed herself in front of her idol, it hain't so much matter whether it is stuffed full of gold, or holler: it hain't so much matter what they be, I think. Curius, hain't it?
It hain't the easiest thing in the world for such a woman as Cicely to love, but it is a good deal easier for her than to unlove, as she found out afterwards. For twice before her marriage she saw him out of his head with liquor; and it wus my advice to her, to give him up.
And she tried to unlove him, tried to give him up.
But, good land! she might jest as well have took a piece of her own heart out, as to take out of it her love for him: it had become a part of her. And he told her she could save him, her influence could redeem him, and it wus the only thing that could save him.
And Cicely couldn't stand such talk, of course; and she believed him— believed that she could love him so well, throw her influence so around him, as to hold him back from any evil course.
It is a beautiful hope, the very beautifulest and divinest piece of folly a woman can commit. Beautiful enough in the sublime martyrdom of the idee, to make angels smile; and vain enough, and foolish enough in its utter uselessness, to make sinners weep. It can't be done—not in 98 cases out of a 100 at least.
Why, if a man hain't got love enough for a woman when he is tryin' to win her affection,—when he is on probation, as you may say,—to stop and turn round in his downward course, how can she expect he will after he has got her, and has let down his watch, so to speak?
But she loved him. And when I warned her with tears in my eyes, warned her that mebby it wus more than her own safety and happiness that wus imperilled, I could see by the look in her eyes, though she didn't say much, that it wusn't no use for me to talk; for she wus one of the constant natures that can't wobble round. And though I don't like wobblin', still I do honestly believe that the wobblers are happier than them that can't wobble.
I could see jest how it wuz, and I couldn't bear to have her blamed. And I would tell folks,—some of the relations on her mother's side,—when they would say, "What a fool she wus to have him!"—I'd say to 'em, "Wall, when a woman sees the man she loves goin' down to ruination, and tries to unlove him, she'll find out jest how much harder it is to unlove him than to love him in the first place: they'll find out it is a tough job to tackle."
I said this to blamers of Cicely (relatives, the best blamers you can find anywhere). But, at the same time, it would have been my way, when he had come a courtin' me so far gone with liquor that he could hardly stand up— why, I should have told him plain, that I wouldn't try to set myself up as a rival to alcohol, and he might pay to that his attentions exclusively hereafter.
But she didn't. And he promised sacred to abstain, and could, and did, for most a year; and she married him.
But, jest before the marriage, I got so rousted up a thinkin' about what I had heard of him at college,—and I studied on his picture, which she had sent me, took sideways too, and I could see plain (why, he hadn't no chin at all, as you may say; and his lips was weak and waverin' as ever lips was, though sort o' amiable and fascinating),—and I got to forebodin' so about that chin, and my love for her wus a hunchin' me up so all the time, that I went to see her on a short tower, to beset her on the subject. But, good land! I might have saved my breath, I might have saved my tower.
I cried, and she cried too. And I says to her before I thought,—
"He'll be the ruin of you, Cicely."
And she says, "I would rather be beaten by his hand, than to be crowned by another. Why, I love him, aunt Samantha."
You see, that meant a awful sight to her. And as she looked at me so earnest and solemn, with tears in them pretty brown eyes, there wus in her look all that that word could possibly mean to any soul.
But I cried into my white linen handkerchief, and couldn't help it, and couldn't help sayin', as I see that look,—
"Cicely, I am afraid he will break your heart—kill you"—
"Why, I am not afraid to die when I am with him. I am afraid of nothing— of life, or death, or eternity."
Well, I see my talk was no use. I see she'd have him, chin or no chin. If I could have taken her up in my arms, and run away with her then and there, how much misery I could have saved her from! But I couldn't: I had the rheumatiz. And I had to give up, and go home disappointed, but carryin' this thought home with me on my tower,—that I had done my duty by our sweet Cicely, and could do no more.
As I said, he promised firm to give up drinking. But, good land! what could you expect from that chin? That chin couldn't stand temptation if it came in his way. At the same time, his love for Cicely was such, and his good heart and his natural gentlemanly intuitions was such, that, if he could have been kep' out of the way of temptation, he would have been all right.
If there hadn't been drinking-saloons right in front of that chin, if it could have walked along the road without runnin' right into 'em, it would have got along. That chin, and them waverin'-lookin', amiable lips, wouldn't have stirred a step out of their ways to get ruined and disgraced: they wouldn't have took the trouble to.
And for a year or so he and the chin kep' out of the way of temptation, or ruther temptation kep' out of their way; and Cicely was happy,—radiently happy, as only such a nature as hern can be. Her face looked like a mornin' in June, it wus so bright, and glowing with joy and happy love.
I visited her, stayed 3 days and 2 nights with her; and I almost forgot to forebode about the lower part of his face, I found 'em so happy and prosperous and likely.
Paul wus very rich. He wus the only child: and his pa left 2 thirds of his property to him, and the other third to his ma, which wus more than she could ever use while she wus alive; and at her death it wus to go to Paul and his heirs.
They owned most all of the village they lived in. His pa had owned the township the village was built on, and had built most all the village himself, and rented the buildings. He owned a big manufactory there, and the buildings rented high.
Wall, it wus in the second year of their marriage that that old college chumb—(and I wish he had been chumbed by a pole, before he had ever gone there). He had lost his property, and come down in the world, and had to work for a livin'; moved into that village, and opened a drinking-saloon and billiard-room.
He had been Paul's most intimate friend at college, and his evil genius, so his mother said. But he was bright, witty, generous in a way, unprincipled, dissipated. And he wanted Paul's company, and he wanted Paul's money; and he had a chin himself, and knew how to manage them that hadn't any.
Wall, Cicely and his mother tried to keep Paul from that bad influence. But he said it would look shabby to not take any notice of a man because he wus down in the world. He wouldn't have much to do with him, but it wouldn't do to not notice him at all. How curius, that out of good comes bad, and out of bad, good. That was a good-natured idee of Paul's if he had had a chin that could have held up his principle; but he didn't.
So he gradually fell under the old influence again. He didn't mean to. He hadn't no idee of doin' so when he begun. It was the chin.
He begun to drink hard, spent his nights in the saloon, gambled,—slipped right down the old, smooth track worn by millions of jest such weak feet, towards ruin. And Cicely couldn't hold him back after he had got to slippin': her arms wuzn't strong enough.
She went to the saloon-keeper, and cried, and begged of him not to sell her husband any more liquor. He was very polite to her, very courteous: everybody was to Cicely. But in a polite way he told her that Paul wus his best customer, and he shouldn't offend him by refusing to sell him liquor. She knelt at his feet, I hearn,—her little, tender limbs on that rough floor before that evil man,—and wept, and said,—
"For the sake of her boy, wouldn't he have mercy on the boy's father."
But in a gentle way he gave her to understand that he shouldn't make no change.
And he told her, speakin' in a dretful courteous way, "that he had the law on his side: he had a license, and he should keep right on as he was doing."
And so what could Cicely do? And time went on, carryin' Paul further and further down the road that has but one ending. Lower and lower he sunk, carryin' her heart, her happiness, her life, down with him.
And they said one cold night Paul didn't come home at all, and Cicely and his mother wus half crazy; and they wus too proud, to the last, to tell the servants more than they could help: so, when it got to be most mornin', them two delicate women started out through the deep snow, to try to find him, tremblin' at every little heap of snow that wus tumbled up in the path in front of 'em; tremblin' and sick at heart with the agony and dread that wus rackin' their souls, as they would look over the cold fields of snow stretching on each side of the road, and thinkin' how that face would look if it wus lying there staring with lifeless eyes up towards the cold moonlight,—the face they had kissed, the face they had loved,—and thinkin', too, that the change that had come to it—was comin' to it all the time—was more cruel and hopeless than the change of death.
So they went on, clear to the saloon; and there they found him,—there he lay, perfectly stupid, and dead with liquor.
And they both, the broken-hearted mother and the broken-hearted wife, with the tears running down their white cheeks, besought the saloon-keeper to let him alone from that night.
The mother says, "Paul is so good, that if you did not tempt him, entice him here, he would, out of pity to us, stop his evil ways."
And the saloon-keeper was jest as polite as any man wus ever seen to be,— took his hat off while he told 'em, so I hearn, "that he couldn't go against his own interests: if Paul chose to spend his money there, he should take it."
"Will you break our hearts?" cried the mother.
"Will you ruin my husband, the father of my boy?" sobbed out Cicely, her big, sorrowful eyes lookin' right through his soul—if he had a soul.
And then the man, in a pleasant tone, reminded 'em,—
"That it wuzn't him that wus a doin' this. It wus the law: if they wanted things changed, they must look further than him. He had a license. The great Government of the United States had sold him, for a few dollars, the right to do just what he was doing. The law, and all the respectability that the laws of our great and glorious Republic can give, bore him out in all his acts. The law was responsible for all the consequenses of his acts: the men were responsible who voted for license—it was not him."
"But you can do what we ask if you will, out of pity to Paul, pity to us who love him so, and who are forced to stand by powerless, and see him going to ruin—we who would die for him willingly if it would do any good. You can do this."
He was a little bit intoxicated, or he wouldn't have gid 'em the cruel sneer he did at the last,—though he sneeren polite,—a holdin' his hat in his hand.
"As I said, my dear madam, it is not I, it is the law; and I see no other way for you ladies who feel so about it, only to vote, and change the laws."
"Would to God I could!" said the old white-haired mother, with her solemn eyes lifted to the heavens, in which was her only hope.
"Would to God I could!" repeated my sweet Cicely, with her eyes fastened on the face of him who had promised to cherish her, and comfort her, and protect her, layin' there at her feet, a mark for jeers and sneers, unable to speak a word, or lift his hand, if his wife and mother had been killed before him.
But they couldn't do any thing. They would have lain their lives down for him at any time, but that wouldn't do any good. The lowest, most ignorant laborer in their employ had power in this matter, but they had none. They had intellectual power enough, which, added to their utter helplessness, only made their burden more unendurable; for they comprehended to the full the knowledge of what was past, and what must come in the future unless help came quickly. They had the strength of devotion, the strength of unselfish love.
They had the will, but they hadn't nothin' to tackle it onto him with, to draw him back. For their prayers, their midnight watches, their tears, did not avail, as I said: they went jest so far; they touched him, but they lacked the tacklin'-power that was wanted to grip holt of him, and draw him back. What they needed was the justice of the law to tackle the injustice; and they hadn't got it, and couldn't get holt of it: so they had to set with hands folded, or lifted to the heavens in wild appeal,— either way didn't help Paul any,—and see him a sinkin' and a sinkin', slippin' further and further down; and they had to let him go.
He drunk harder and harder, neglected his business, got quarrelsome. And one night, when the heavens was curtained with blackness, like a pall let down to cover the accursed scene, he left Cicely with her pretty baby asleep on her bosom, went down to the saloon, got into a quarrel with that very friend of hisen, the saloon-keeper, over a game of billiards,—they was both intoxicated,—and then and there Paul committed murder, and would have been hung for it if he hadn't died in State's prison the night before he got his sentence.
Awful deed! Dreadful fate! But no worse, as I told Josiah when he wus a groanin' over it; no worse, I told the children when they was a cryin' over it; no worse, I told my own heart when the tears wus a runnin' down my face like rain-water,—no worse because Cicely happened to be our relation, and we loved her as we did our own eyes.
And our broad land is full of jest such sufferin's, jest such crimes, jest such disgrace, caused by the same cause;—as I told Josiah, suffering, disgrace, and crime made legal and protected by the law.
And Josiah squirmed as I said it; and I see him squirm, for he believed in it: he believed in licensing this shame and disgrace and woe; he believed in makin' it respectable, and wrappin' round it the mantilly of the law, to keep it in a warm, healthy, flourishin' condition. Why, he had helped do it himself; he had helped the United States lift up the mantilly; he had voted for it.
He squirmed, but turned it off by usin' his bandana hard, and sayin', in a voice all choked down with grief,—
"Oh, poor Cicely! poor girl!"
"Yes," says I, "'poor girl!' and the law you uphold has made her; 'poor girl'—has killed her; for she won't live through it, and you and the United States will see that she won't."
He squirmed hard; and my feelin's for him are such that I can't bear to see him squirm voyalently, as much as I blamed him and the United States, and as mad as I was at both on 'em.
So I went to cryin' agin silently under my linen handkerchief, and he cried into his bandana. It wus a awful blow to both on us.
Wall, she lived, Cicely did, which was more than we any one of us thought she could do. I went right there, and stayed six weeks with her, hangin' right over her bed, night and day; and so did his mother,—she a brokenhearted woman too. Her heart broke, too, by the United States; and so I told Josiah, that little villain that got killed was only one of his agents. Yes, her heart was broke; but she bore up for Cicely's sake and the boy's. For it seemed as if she felt remorsful, and as if it was for them that belonged to him who had ruined her life, to help her all they could.
Wall, after about three weeks Cicely begun to live. And so I wrote to Josiah that I guessed she would keep on a livin' now, for the sake of the boy.
And so she did. And she got up from that bed a shadow,—a faint, pale shadow of the girl that used to brighten up our home for us. She was our sweet Cicely still. But she looked like that posy after the frost has withered it, and with the cold moonlight layin' on it.
Good and patient she wuz, and easy to get along with; for she seemed to hold earthly things with a dretful loose grip, easy to leggo of 'em. And it didn't seem as if she had any interest at all in life, or care for any thing that was a goin' on in the world, till the boy wus about four years old; and then she begun to get all rousted up about him and his future. "She must live," she said: "she had got to live, to do something to help him in the future.
"She couldn't die," she told me, "and leave him in a world that was so hard for boys, where temptations and danger stood all round her boy's pathway. Not only hidden perils, concealed from sight, so he might possibly escape them, but open temptations, open dangers, made as alluring as private avarice could make them, and made as respectable as dignified legal enactments could make them,—all to draw her boy down the pathway his poor father descended." For one of the curius things about Cicely wuz, she didn't seem to blame Paul hardly a mite, nor not so very much the one that enticed him to drink. She went back further than them: she laid the blame onto our laws; she laid the responsibility onto the ones that made 'em, directly and indirectly, the legislators and the voters.
Curius that Cicely should feel so, when most everybody said that he could have stopped drinking if he had wanted to. But then, I don't know as I could blame her for feelin' so when I thought of Paul's chin and lips. Why, anybody that had them on 'em, and was made up inside and outside accordin', as folks be that have them looks; why, unless they was specially guarded by good influences, and fenced off from bad ones,—why, they could not exert any self-denial and control and firmness.
Why, I jest followed that chin and that mouth right back through seven generations of the Slide family. Paul's father wus a good man, had a good face; took it from his mother: but his father, Paul's grandfather, died a drunkard. They have got a oil-portrait of him at Paul's old home: I stopped there on my way home from Cicely's one time. And for all the world he looked most exactly like Paul,—the same sort of a irresolute, handsome, weak, fascinating look to him. And all through them portraits I could trace that chin and them lips. They would disappear in some of 'em, but crop out agin further back. And I asked the housekeeper, who had always lived in the family, and wus proud of it, but honest; and she knew the story of the hull Slide race.
And she said that every one of 'em that had that face had traits accordin'; and most every one of 'em got into trouble of some kind.
One or two of 'em, specially guarded, I s'pose, by good influences, got along with no further trouble than the loss of the chin, and the feelin' they must have had inside of 'em, that they wuz liable to crumple right down any minute.
And as they wus made with jest them looks, and jest them traits, born so, entirely unbeknown to them, I don't know as I can blame Cicely for feelin' as she did. If temptation hadn't stood right in the road in front of him, why, he'd have got along, and lived happy. That's Cicely's idee. And I don't know but she's in the right ont.
But as I said, when her child wus about four years old, Cicely took a turn, and begun to get all worked up and excited by turns a worryin' about the boy. She'd talk about it a sight to me, and I hearn it from others.
She rousted up out of her deathly weakness and heartbroken, stunted calm, —for such it seemed to be for the first two or three years after her husband's death. She seemed to make an effort almost like that of a dead man throwin' off the icy stupor of death, and risin' up with numbed limbs, and shakin' off the death-robes, and livin' agin. She rousted up with jest such a effort, so it seemed, for the boy's sake.
She must live for the boy; she must work for the boy; she must try to throw some safeguards around his future. What could she do to help him? That wus the question that was a hantin' her soul.
It wus jest like death for her to face the curius gaze of the world again; for, like a wounded animal, she had wanted to crawl away, and hide her cruel woe and disgrace in some sheltered spot, away from the sharp-sot eyes of the babblin' world.
But she endured it. She came out of her quiet home, where her heart had bled in secret; she came out into society again; and she did every thing she could, in her gentle, quiet way. She joined temperance societies,— helped push 'em forward with her money and her influence. With other white-souled wimmen, gentle and refined as she was, she went into rough bar-rooms, and knelt on their floors, and prayed what her sad heart wus full of,—for pity and mercy for her boy, and other mothers' boys,—prayed with that fellowship of suffering that made her sweet voice as pathetic as tears, and patheticker, so I have been told.
But one thing hurt her influence dretfully, and almost broke her own heart. Paul had left a very large property, but it wus all in the hands of an executor until the boy wus of age. He wus to give Cicely a liberal, a very liberal, sum every year, but wus to manage the property jest as he thought best.
He wus a good business man, and one that meant to do middlin' near right, but wus close for a bargain, and sot, awful sot. And though he wus dretful polite, and made a stiddy practice right along of callin' wimmen "angels," still he would not brook a woman's interference.
Wall, he could get such big rents for drinkin'-saloons, that four of Cicely's buildings wus rented for that purpose; and there wus one billiard-room. And what made it worse for Cicely seemin'ly, it wus her own property, that she brought to Paul when she wus married, that wus invested in these buildings. At that time they wus rented for dry-goods stores, and groceries. But the business of the manufactories had increased greatly; and there wus three times the population now there wus when she went there to live, and more saloons wus needed; and these buildings wus handy; and the executer had big prices offered to him, and he would rent 'em as he wanted to. And then, he wus something of a statesman; and he felt, as many business men did, that they wus fairly sufferin' for more saloons to enrich the government.
Why, out of every hundred dollars that them poor laboring-men had earned so hardly, and paid into the saloons for that which, of course, wus ruinous to themselves and families, and, of course, rendered them incapable of all labor for a great deal of the time,—why, out of that hundred dollars, as many as 2 cents would go to the government to enrich it.
Of course, the government had to use them 2 cents right off towards buyin' tight-jackets to confine the madmen the whiskey had made, and poorhouse- doors for the idiots it had breeded, to lean up aginst, and buryin' the paupers, and buyin' ropes to hang the murderers it had created.
But still, in some strange way, too deep, fur too deep, for a woman's mind to comprehend, it wus dretful profitable to the government.
Now, if them poor laborin'-men had paid that 2 cents of theirn to the government themselves, in the first place, in direct taxation, why, that wouldn't have been statesmanship. That is a deep study, and has a great many curius performances, and it has to perform.
Cicely tried her very best to get the executor to change in this one matter; but she couldn't move him the width of a horse-hair, and he a smilin' all the time at her, and polite. He liked Cicely: nobody could help likin' the gentle, saintly-souled little woman. But he wus sot: he wus makin' money fast by it, and she had to give up.
And rough men and women would sometimes twit her of it,—of her property bein' used to advance the liquor-traffic, and ruin men and wimmen; and she a feelin' like death about it, and her hands tied up, and powerless. No wonder that her face got whiter and whiter, and her eyes bigger and mournfuller-lookin'.
Wall, she kep' on, tryin' to do all she could: she joined the Woman's Temperance Union; she spent her money free as water, where she thought it would do any good, and brought up the boy jest as near right as she could possibly bring him up; and she prayed, and wept right when she wus a bringin' of him, a thinkin' that her property wus a bein' used every day and every hour in ruinin' other mothers' boys. And the boy's face almost breakin' her heart every time she looked at it; for, though he wus jest as pretty as a child could be, the pretty rosy lips had the same good-tempered, irresolute curve to 'em that the boy inherited honestly. And he had the same weak, waverin' chin. It was white and rosy now, with a dimple right in the centre, sweet enough to kiss. But the chin wus there, right under the rosy snow and the dimple; and I foreboded, too, and couldn't blame Cicely a mite for her forebodin', and her agony of sole.
I noticed them lips and that chin the very minute Josiah brought him into the settin'-room, and set him down; and my eyes looked dubersome at him through my specks. Cicely see it, see that dubersome look, though I tried to turn it off by kissin' him jest as hearty as I could after I had took the little black-robed figure of his mother, and hugged her close to my heart, and kissed her time and time agin.
She always dressed in the deepest of mournin', and always would. I knew that.
Wall, we wus awful glad to see Cicely. I had had the old fireplace fixed in the front spare room, and a crib put in there for the boy; and I went right up to her room with her. And when we had got there, I took her right in my arms agin, as I used to, and told her how glad I wus, and how thankful I wus, to have her and the boy with us.
The fire sparkled up on the old brass handirons as warm as my welcome. Her bed and the boy's bed looked white and cozy aginst the dark red of the carpet and the cream-colored paper. And after I had lowered the pretty ruffled muslin curtains (with red ones under 'em), and pulled a stand forward, and lit a lamp,—it wus sundown,—the room looked cheerful enough for anybody, and it seemed as if Cicely looked a little less white and brokenhearted. She wus glad to be with me, and said she wuz. But right there—before supper; and we could smell the roast chicken and coffee, havin' left the stair-door open—right there, before we had visited hardly any, or talked a mite about other wimmen, she begun on what she wanted to do, and what she must do, for the boy.
I had told her how the boy had grown, and that sot her off. And from that night, every minute of her time almost, when she could without bein' impolite and troublesome (Cicely wus a perfect lady, inside and out), she would talk to me about what she wanted to do for the boy, to have the laws changed before he grew up; she didn't dare to let him go out into the world with the laws as they was now, with temptation on every side of him.
"You know, aunt Samantha," she says to me, "that I wanted to die when my husband died; but I want to live now. Why, I must live; I cannot die, I dare not die until my boy is safer. I will work, I will die if necessary, for him."
It wus the same old Cicely, I see, not carin' for herself, but carin' only for them she loved. Lovin' little creeter, good little creeter, she always wuz, and always would be. And so I told Josiah.
Wall, we had the boy set between us to the supper-table, Josiah and me did, in Thomas Jefferson's little high-chair. I had new covered it on purpose for him with bright copperplate calico.
And that night at supper, and after supper, I judged, and judged calmly,— we made the estimate after we went to bed, Josiah and me did,—that the boy asked 3 thousand and 85 questions about every thing under the sun and moon, and things over 'em, and outside of 'em, and inside.
Why, I panted for breath, but wouldn't give in. I was determined to use Cicely first-rate, and we loved the boy too. But, oh! it was a weary love, and a short-winded love, and a hoarse one.
We went to bed tuckered completely out, but good-natured: our love for 'em held us up. And when we made the estimate, it wuzn't in a cross tone, but amiable, and almost winnin'. Josiah thought they went up into the trillions. But I am one that never likes to set such things too high; and I said calmly, 3,000 and 85. And finally he gin in that mebby it wuzn't no more than that.
Cicely told me she couldn't stay with us very long now; for her aunt Mary wuz expectin' to go away to the Michigan pretty soon, to see a daughter who wus out of health,—had been out of it for some time,—and she wanted a visit from her neice Cicely before she went. But she promised to come back, and make a good visit on her way home.
And so it was planned. The next day was Sunday, and Cicely wus too tired with her journey to go to meetin'. But the boy went. He sot up, lookin' beautiful, by the side of me on the back seat of the Democrat; his uncle Josiah sot in front; and Ury drove. Ury Henzy, he's our hired man, and a tolerable good one, as hired men go. His name is Urias; but we always call him Ury,—spelt U-r-y, Ury,—with the emphasis on the U.
Wall, that day Elder Minkly preached. It wus a powerful sermon, about the creation of the world, and how man was made, and the fall of Adam, and about Noah and the ark, and how the wicked wus destroyed. It wus a middlin' powerful sermon; and the boy sot up between Josiah and me, and we wus proud enough of him. He had on a little green velvet suit and a deep linen collar; and he sot considerable still for him, with his eyes on Elder Minkly's face, a thinkin', I guess, how he would put us through our catechism on the way home. And, oh! didn't he, didn't he do it? I s'pose things seem strange to children, and they can't help askin' about 'em.
But 4,000 wus the estimate Josiah and me calculated on our pillows that night wus the number of questions the boy asked on our way home, about the creation, how the world wus made, and the ark—oh, how he harressed my poor companion about the animals! "Did they drive 2 of all the animals in the world in that house, uncle Josiah?"
"Yes," says Josiah.
"2 elfants, and rinosterhorses, and snakes, and snakes, and bears, and tigers, and cows, and camels, and hens?"
"And flies, uncle Josiah?—did they drive in two flies? and mud-turkles? and bumble-bees? and muskeeters? Say, uncle Josiah, did they drive in muskeeters?"
"I s'pose so."
"How could they drive in two muskeeters?"
"Oh! less stop talkin' for a spell—shet up your little mouth," says Josiah in a winnin' tone, pattin' him on his head.
"I can shut up my mouth, uncle Josiah, but I can't shut up my thinker."
Josiah sithed; and, right while he wus a sithin', the boy commenced agin on a new tack.
"What for a lookin' place was paradise?" And then follered 800 questions about paradise. Josiah sweat, and offered to let the boy come back, and set with me. He had insisted, when we started from the meetin'-house, on havin' the boy set on the front seat between him and Ury.
But I demurred about any change, and leaned back, and eat a sweet apple. I don't think it is wrong Sundays to eat a sweet apple. And the boy kep' on.
"What did Adam fall off of? Did he fall out of the apple-tree?"
"No, no! he fell because he sinned."
But the boy went right on, in a tone of calm conviction,—
"No big man would be apt to fall a walking right along. He fell out of the apple-tree."
And then he says, after a minute's still thought,—
"I believe, if I had been there, and had a string round Adam's leg, I could kep' him from fallin' off;—and say, where was the Lord? Couldn't He have kept him? say, couldn't He?"
"Yes: He can do any thing."
"Wall, then, why didn't He?"
Josiah groaned, low.
"If Adam hadn't fell, I wouldn't have fell, would I?—nor you—nor Ury— nor anybody?"
"No: I s'pose not."
"Wall, wouldn't it have paid to kept Adam up? Say, uncle Josiah, say!"
"Oh! less talk about sunthin' else," says my poor Josiah. "Don't you want a sweet apple?"
"Yes; and say! what kind of a apple was it that Adam eat? Was it a sweet apple, or a greening, or a sick-no-further? And say, was it right for all of us to fall down because Adam did? And how did I sin just because a man eat an apple, and fell out of an apple-tree, when I never saw the apple, or poked him offen the tree, or joggled him, or any thing— when I wasn't there? Say, how was it wrong, uncle Josiah? When I wasn't there!"
My poor companion, I guess to sort o' pacify him, broke out kinder a singin' in a tone full of fag, "'In Adam's fall, we sinned all.'" Josiah is sound.
"And be I a sinning now, uncle Josiah? and a falling? And is everybody a sinning and a falling jest because that one man eat one apple, and fell out of an apple-tree? Say, is it right, uncle Josiah, for you and me, and everybody that is on the earth, to keep a falling, and keep a falling, and bein' blamed, and every thing, when we hadn't done any thing, and wasn't there? And say, will folks always keep a falling?"
"Yes, if they hain't good."
"How can they keep a falling? If Adam fell out of the apple-tree, wouldn't he have struck on the ground, and got up agin? And if anybody falls, why, why, mustn't they come to the bottom sometime? If there is something to fall off of, mustn't there be something to hit against? And say"—
Here the boy's eyes looked dreamier than they had looked, and further off.
"Was I made out of dirt, uncle Josiah?"
"Yes: we are all made out of dust."
"And did God breathe our souls into us? Was it His own self, His own life, that was breathed into us?"
"Yes," says Josiah, in a more fagged voice than he had used durin' the intervue, and more hopelesser.
"Wall, if God is in us, how can He lose us again? Wouldn't it be a losing His own self? And how could God lose Himself? And what did He find us for, in the first place, if He wus going to lose us again?"
Here Josiah got right up in the Democrat, and lifted the boy, and sot him over on the seat with me, and took the lines out of Ury's hands, and drove the old mair at a rate that I told him wus shameful on Sunday, for a perfessor.
Wall, Cicely and the boy staid till Tuesday night. Tuesday afternoon the children wus all to home on a invitation. (I had a chicken-pie, and done well by 'em.)
And nothin' to do but what Cicely and the boy must go home with 'em: they jest think their eyes of Cicely. And I couldn't blame 'em for wantin' her, though I hated to give her up.
She laid out to stay a few days, and then come back to our house for a day or two, and then go on to her aunt Mary's. But, as it turned out, the children urged her so, she stayed most two weeks.
And the very next day but one after Cicely went to the children's—And don't it beat all how, if visitors get to comin', they'll keep a comin'? jest as it is if you begin to have trials, you'll have lots of 'em, or broken dishes, or any thing.
Wall, it wus the very next mornin' but one after Cicely had gone, and my voice had actually begun to sound natural agin (the boy had kep' me hoarse as a frog answerin' questions). I wus whitewashin' the kitchen, havin' put it off while Cicely wus there; and there wus a man to work a patchin' up the wall in one of the chambers,—and right there and then, Elburtus Smith Gansey come. And truly, we found him as clever a critter as ever walked the earth.
It wus jest before korkuss; and he wus kinder visatin' round amongst his relations, and makin' himself agreable. He is my 5th cousin,—5th or 6th. I can't reely tell which, and I don't know as I care much; for I think, that, after you get by the 5th, it hain't much matter anyway. I sort o' pile 'em all in promiscous. Jest as it is after anybody gets to be 70 years old, it hain't much matter how much older they be: they are what you may call old, anyway.
But I think, as I said prior and beforehand, that he wus a 5th. His mother wus a Butrick, and her mother wus a Smith. So he come to make us a visit, and sort o' ellectioneer round. He wanted to get put in county judge; and so, the korkuss bein' held in Jonesville, I s'pose he thought he'd come down, and endear himself to us, as they all do.
I am one that likes company first-rate, and I always try to do well by 'em; but I tell Josiah, that somehow city folks (Elburtus wus brought up in a city) are a sort of a bother. They require so much, and give you the feelin', that, when you are a doin' your very best for 'em, they hain't satisfied. You see, some folks'es best hain't nigh so good as other folks'es 3d or 4th.
But this feller—why! I liked him from the first minute I sot my eyes on him. I hadn't seen him before sence I wus a child, and so didn't feel so awful well acquainted with him; or, that is, I didn't, as it were, feel intimate. You know, when you don't see anybody from the time you are babies till you are married, and have lost a good many teeth, and considerable hair, you can't feel over and above intimate with 'em at first sight.
But I liked him, he wus so unassuming and friendly, and took every thing so peaceable and pleasant. And he deserved better things than what happened to him.
You see, I wus a cleanin' house when he come, cleanin' the kitchen at that out-of-the-way time of year on account of Cicely's visit, and on account of repairin' that had promised to be done by Josiah Allen, and delayed from week to week, and month to month, as is the way with men. But finally he had got it done, and I wus ready to the minute with my brush and scourin'-cloth.
I wus a whitewashin' when he come, and my pail of whitewash wus hung up over the kitchen-door; and I stood up on a table, a whitewashin' the ceilin, when I heard a buggy drive up to the door, and stop. And I stood still, and listened; and then I heard a awful katouse and rumpus, and then I heard hollerin'; and then I heard Josiah's voice, and somebody else's voice, a talkin' back and forth, sort o' quick and excited.
Now, some wimmen would have been skairt, and acted skairt; but I didn't. I jest stood up on that table, cool and calm as a statue of Repose sculped out of marble, and most as white (I wus all covered with whitewash), with my brush held easy and firm in my right hand, and my left ear a listenin'.
Pretty soon the door opened right by the side of the table, and in come Josiah Allen and a strange man. He introduced him to me as Elburtus Gansey, my 4th cousin; and I made a handsome curchy. I s'pose, bein' up on the table, the curchy showed off to better advantage than it would if I had been on the floor: it looked well. But I felt that I ort to shake hands with him; and, as I went to step down into a chair to get down (entirely unbeknown to me), my brush hit against that pail, and down come that pail of whitewash right onto his back. (If it had been his head, it would have broke it.)
I felt as if I should sink. But he took it the best that ever wus. He said, when Josiah and me wus a sweepin' him off, and a rubbin' him off with wet towels, that "it wusn't no matter at all." And he spoke up so polite and courteous, that "it seemed to be first-rate whitewash: he never see better, whiter lime in his life, than that seemed to be." And then he sort o' felt of it between his thumb and finger, and asked Josiah "where did he get that lime, and if they had any more of it. He didn't believe they could get such lime outside of Jonesville." He acted like a perfect gentleman.
And he told me, in that same polite, pleasant tone, how Josiah's old sheep had knocked him over 3 times while he wus a comin' into the house. He said, with that calm, gentle smile, "that no sooner would he get up, than he would stand off a little, and then rush at him with his head down, and push him right over."
Says I, "It is a perfect shame and a disgrace," says I. "And I have told you, Josiah Allen, that some stranger would get killed by that old creeter; and I should think you would get rid of it."
"Wall, I lay out to, the first chance I get," says he.
Elburtus said "it would almost seem to be a pity, it was so strong and healthy a sheep." He said he never met a sheep under any circumstances that seemed to have a sounder, stronger constitution. He said of course the sheep and he hadn't met under the pleasantest of circumstances, and it wusn't over and above pleasant to be knocked down by it three or four times; but he had found that he couldn't have every thing as he wanted it in this world, and the only way to enjoy ourselves wus to take things as they come.
Says I, "I s'pose that wus the way you took the sheep;" and he said, "It was."
And then he went on to say in that amiable way of hisen, "that it probably made it a little harder for him jest at that time, as he wus struck by lightnin' that mornin'." (There had been a awful thunder-storm.)
Says Josiah, all excitement, "Did it strike you sensible?"
Says I, "You mean senseless, Josiah Allen."
"Wall, I said so, didn't I? Did it strike you senseless, Mr. Gansey?"
"No," he said: it only stunted him. And then he went on a praisin' up our Jonesville lightnin'. He said it wus about the cleanest, quickest lightnin' he ever see. He said he believed we had the smartest lightnin' in our county that you could find in the nation.
So good he acted about every thing. It beat all. Why, he hadn't been in the house half an hour when he offered to help me whitewash. I told him I wouldn't let him, for it would spile his clothes, and he hadn't ever been there a visitin' before, and I didn't want to put him to work. But he hung on, and nothin' to do but what he had got to take hold and whitewash. And I had to give up and let him; for I thought it wus better manners to put a visiter to work, than it wus to dispute and quarrel with 'em: and, of course, he wasn't used to it, and he filled one eye most full of lime. It wus dretful painful, dretful.
But I swabbed it out with viniger, and it got easier about the middle of the afternoon. It bein' work that he never done before, the whitewashin' looked like fury; but I done it all over after him, and so I got along with it, though it belated me. But his offerin' to do it showed his good will, anyway.
I shouldn't have done any more at all after Elburtus had come, only I had got into the job, and had to finish it; for I always think it is better manners, when visitors come unexpected, and ketch you in some mean job, to go on and finish it as quick as you can, ruther than to set down in the dirt, and let them, ditto, and the same.
And Josiah was ketched jest as I wus, for he had a piece of winter wheat that wus spilin' to be cut; and he had got the most of it down, and had to finish it: it wus lodged so he had to cut it by hand,—the machine wouldn't work on it. And jest as quick as Elburtus had got so he could see out of that eye, nothin' to do but what he had got to go out and help Josiah cut that wheat. He hadn't touched a scythe for years and years, and it wasn't ten minutes before his hands wus blistered on the inside. But he would keep at it till the blisters broke, and then he had to stop anyway.
He got along quite well after that: only the lot where Josiah wus to work run along by old Bobbet'ses, and he had carried a jug of sweetened water and viniger and ginger out into the lot, and Elburtus had talked so polite and cordial to him, a conversin' on politics, that he got attached to him, and treated him to the sweetened water.
And Elburtus, not wantin' to hurt his feelin's, drinked about 3 quarts. It made him deathly sick, for it went aginst his stomach from the first: he never loved it. And Miss Bobbet duz fix it dretful sickish,—sweetens it with sale mollasses for one thing.
Oh, how sick that feller wus when he come in to supper! had to lay right down on the lounge.
Says I, "Elburtus, what made you drink it, when it went aginst your stomach?" says I.
"Why," says he in a faint voice, and pale round his lips as any thing, "I didn't want to hurt his feelin's by refusin'."
Says I, out to one side, "Did you ever, Josiah Allen, see such goodness in your life?"
"I never see such dumb foolishness," says he. "I'd love to have anybody ketch me a drinkin' three or four quarts of such stuff out of politeness."
"No," says I coldly: "you hain't good enough."
Wall, that night his bed got a fire. It seemed as if every thing under the sun wus a goin' to happen to that man while he wus here. You see, the house wus all tore up a repairing and I had to put him up-stairs: and the bed had been moved out by carpenters, to plaster a spot behind the bed; and, unbeknown to me, they had set it too near the stove-pipe. And the hot pipe run right up by the side of it, right by the bed-clothes. It took fire from the piller-case.
We smelt a dretful smudge, and Josiah run right up-stairs: it had only jest ketched a fire, and Elburtus was sound asleep; and Josiah, the minute he see what wus the matter, he jest ketched up the water-pitcher, and throwed the water over him; and bein' skairt and tremblin', the pitcher flew out of his hand, and went too, and hit Elburtus on the end of his nose, and took a piece of skin right off.
He waked up sudden; and there he wus, all drownded out, and a piece gone off of his nose.
Now, most any other man would have acted mad. Josiah would have acted mad as a mad dog, and madder. But you ort to see how good Elburtus took it, jest as quick as he got his senses back. Josiah said he could almost take his oath that he swore out as cross a oath as he ever heard swore the first minute before he got his eyes opened, but I believe he wus mistaken. But anyway, the minute his senses come back, and he see where he wuz, you ort to see how he behaved. Never, never did I hear of such manners in all my born days! Josiah told me all about it.
There Elburtus stood, with his nose a bleedin', and his whiskers singed, and a drippin' like a mushrat. But, instead of jawin' or complainin', the first thing he said wuz, "What a splendid draft our stove must have, or else the stove-pipe wouldn't be so hot!" (I had done some cookin' late in the evenin', and left a fire in the stove.)
And he said our stove-wood must be of the very best quality; and he asked Josiah where he got it, and if he had to pay any thing extra for that kind. He said he'd give any thing if he could get holt of a cord of such wood as that!
Josiah said he felt fairly stunted to see such manners; and he went to apologisin' about how awful bad it was for him to get his whiskers singed so, and how it wus a pure axident his lettin' the pitcher slip out of his hand, and he wouldn't have done it for nothin' if he could have helped it, and he wus afraid it had hurt him more than he thought for.
And such manners as that clever critter showed then! He said he was a calculatin' to get his whiskers cut that very day, and it was all for the best; he persumed they wus singed off in jest the shape he wanted 'em: and as for his nose, he wus always ashamed of it; it wus always too long, and he should be glad if there wus a piece gone off of it: Josiah had done him a favor to help him get rid of a piece of it.
Why, when Josiah told it all over to me after he come down, I told him "I believed sunthin' would happen to that man before long. I believed he wus too good for earth."
Josiah can't bear to hear me praise up any mortal man only himself, and he muttered sunthin' about "he bet he wouldn't be so tarnel good after 'lection."
But I wouldn't hear 110 such talk; and says I,—
"If there wus ever a saint on earth, it is Elburtus Smith Gansey;" and says I, "If you try to vote for anybody else, I'll know the reason why."
"Wall, wall! who said I wus a goin' to? I shall probable vote in the family; but he hain't no more saint than I be."
I gin him a witherin' look; but, as it wus dark as pitch in the room, he didn't act withered any. And I spoke out agin, and says I, in a low, deep voice,—
"If it wus one of the relations on your side, Josiah Allen, you would say he acted dretful good."
And he says, "There is such a thing, Samantha, as bein' too good— too dumb good."
I didn't multiply any more words with him, and we went to sleep.
Wall, that is jest the way that feller acted for the next five days. Why, the neighbors all got to lovin' him so, why, they jest about worshipped him. And Josiah said that there wuzn't no use a talkin', Elburtus would get the nomination unanimous; for everybody that had seen him appear (and he had been all over the town appearing to 'em, and endearin' himself to 'em, cleer out beyond Jonesville as far as Spoon Settlement and Loontown), why, they jest thought their eyes of him, he wus so thoughtful and urbane and helpful. Why, there hain't no tellin' how much helpfuler he wuz than common folks, and urbaner.
Why, Josiah and me drove into Jonesville one day towards night; and Elburtus had been there all day. Josiah had some cross-gut saws that he wanted to get filed, and had happened to mention it before Elburtus; and nothin' to do but he must go and carry 'em to the man in Jonesville that wus goin' to do it, and help him file 'em. Josiah told him we wus goin' over towards night with the team, and could carry 'em as well as not; and he hadn't better try to help, filin' saws wus such a sort of a raspin' undertakin'. But Elburtus said "he should probably go through more raspin' jobs before he died, or got the nomination; and Josiah could have 'em to bring home that night." So he sot out with 'em walkin' a foot.
Wall, when we drove in, I see Elburtus a liftin' and a luggin', a loadin' a big barrell into a double wagon for a farmer; and I says,—
"What under the sun is Elburtus Gansey a doin'?"
And Josiah says, in a gay tone,—
"He is a electionerin', Samantha: see him sweat," says he. "Salt is heavy, and political life is wearin', when anybody goes into it deep, and tackles it in the way Elburtus tackles it."
He seemed to think it wus a joke; but I says,—
"He is jest a killin' himself, Josiah Allen; and you would set here, and see him."
"I hain't a runnin'," says he in a calm tone.
"No," says I: "you wouldn't run a step to help anybody. And see there," says I. "How good, how good that man is!"
Elburtus had finished loadin' the salt, and now he wus a holdin' the horses for the man to load some spring-beds. And the horses wus skairt by 'em, and wuz jest a liftin' Elburtus right up offen his feet. Why, they pranced, and tore, and lifted him up, and switched him round, and then they'd set him down with a crash, and whinner.
But that man smiled all the time, and took off his hat, and bowed to me: we went by when he wus a swingin' right up in the air. I never see the beat of his goodness. Why, we found out afterwards, that, besides filin' them saws, he had loaded seven barrells of salt that day, besides other heavy truck. That night he wus perfectly beat out—but good.
Josiah said that Philander Dagget'ses wive's brother wouldn't have no chance at all. He wanted the nomination awful, and Philander had been a workin' for him all he could; and if Elburtus hadn't come down to Jonesville, and showed off such a beautiful demeanor and actions, why, we all thought that Philander's wive's brother would have got it. And I couldn't help feelin' kind o' sorry for him, though highly tickled for Elburtus. We both of us, Josiah and me, felt very pleased and extremely tickled to think that Elburtus wus so sure of it; for there wus a good deal of money in the office, besides honor, sights of honor.
Wall, when the mornin' of town-meetin' came, that critter wus so awful clever that nothin' to do but what he must help Josiah do the chores.
And amongst other chores Josiah had to do that mornin', wus to carry home a plow that belonged to old Dagget. And old Dagget wanted Josiah, when he had got through with it, to carry it to his son Philander's: and Philander had left word that he wanted it that mornin'; and he wanted it carried down to his lower barn, that stood in a meadow a mile away from any house. Philander'ses land run in such a way that he had to build it there to store his fodder.
Wall, time run along, and it got time to start for town-meetin', and Elburtus couldn't be found. I hollered to him from the back stoop, and Josiah went out to the barn and hollered; but nothin' could be seen of him. And Josiah got all ready, and waited, and waited; and I told him that Elburtus had probable got in such a hurry to get there, that he had started on a foot, and he had better drive on, and he would overtake him. So finally he did; and he drove along clear to Jonesville, expectin' to overtake him every minute, and didn't. And the hull day passed off, and no Elburtus. And nobody had seen him. And everybody thought it looked so curius in him, a disapearin' as he did, when they all knew that he had come down to our part of the county a purpose to get the nomination. Why, his disapearin' as he did looked so awful strange, that they didn't know what to make of it.
And the opposition side, Philander Daggets'es wive's brother's friends, started the story that he wus arrested for stealin' a sheep, and wus dragged off to jail that mornin'.
Of course Josiah tried to dispute it; but, as he wus as much in the dark as any of 'em as to where he wuz, his disputin' of it didn't amount to any thing. And then, Josiah's feelin' so strange about Elburtus made his eyes look kinder glassy and strange when they wus talkin' to him about it; and they got up the story, so I hearn, that Josiah helped him off with the sheep, and wus feelin' like death to have him found out.
And the friends of Philander Daggets'es wive's brother had it all thier own way, and he wus elected almost unanimous. Wall, Josiah come home early, he wus so worried about Elburtus. He thought mebby he had come back home after he had got away, and wus took sick sudden. And his first words to me wuz,—
"Where is Elburtus? Have you seen Elburtus?"
And then wus my time to be smit and horrow-struck. And the more we got to thinkin' about it, the more wonderful did it seem to us, that that man had dissapeared right in broad daylight, jest as sudden and mysterious as if the ground had opened, and swallowed him down, or as if he had spread a pair of wings, and flown up into the sky.
Not that I really thought he had. I couldn't hardly associate the idee of heaven and endless repose with a short frock-coat and boots, and a blue necktie and a stiff shirt-collar. But, oh! how strange and mysterious it did seem to be! We talked it over and over, and we could not think of any thing that could happen to him. He knew enough to keep out of the creek; and there wasn't no woods nigh where he could get lost, and he wus too old to be stole. And so we thought and thought, and racked our 2 brains.
And finally I says, "Wall! it hain't happened for several thousand years, but I don't know what to think. We read of folks bein' translated up to heaven when they get too good for earth, and you know I have told you several times that he wus too clever for earth. I have thought he wus not of the earth, earthy."
"And I have thought," says he, sort o' snappish, "that he wus of politics, politicky."
Says I, "Josiah Allen, I should be afraid, if I wus in your place, to talk in that way in such a time as this," says I. "I have felt, when I see his actions when he wus knocked over by that sheep, and covered with lime, and sot fire to, I have felt as if we wus entertainin' a angel unawares."
"Yes," says he, "it wuz unawares, entirely unawares to me."
His axent wus dry. dry as chaff, and as full of ironry as a oven-door or flat-iron.
"Wall," says I, "mebby you will see the time, before the sun rises on your bald head again, that you will be sorry for such talk." Says I, "If it wus one of the relation on your side, mebby you would talk different about him." That touched him; and he snapped out,—
"What do you s'pose I care which side he wus on? And I should think it wus time to have a little sunthin' to eat: it must be three o'clock if it is a minute."
Says I, "Can you eat, Josiah Allen, in such a time as this?"
"I could if I could get any thing to eat," says he; "but there don't seem to be much prospect of it."
Says I, "The best thing you can do, Josiah Allen, is to foller his tracks. The ground is kinder soft and spongy, and you can do it," says I. "Where did he go to last from here?"
"Down to Philander Daggets'es, to carry home his plow."
"That angel man!" says I.
"That angel fool!" says Josiah. "Who asked him to go?"
Says I, "When a man gets too good for earth, there is other ways to translate him besides chariots of fire. Who knows but what he has fell down in a fit! And do you go this minute, Josiah Allen, and foller his tracks!"
"I sha'n't foller nobody's tracks, Samantha Allen, till I have sunthin' to eat."
I knew there wuzn't no use of reasonin' no further with him then; for when he said Samantha Allen in that axent, I knew he wus as sot as a hemlock post, and as hard to move as one. And so my common sense bein' so firm and solid, even in such a time as this, I reasoned it right out, he wouldn't stir till he had sunthin' to eat, and so the sooner I got his supper, the sooner he would go and foller Elburtus'es tracks. So I didn't spend no more strength a arguin', but kep' it to hurry up; and my reason is such, strong and vigorous and fur-seein', that I knew the better supper he had, the more animated would be his search. So I got a splendid supper, but quick.
But, oh! all the time I wus a gettin' it, this solemn and awful question wus a hantin' me,—What had become of Elburtus Smith Gansey? What had become of the relation on my side? Oh, the feelin's I felt! Oh, the emotions I carried round with me, from buttery to teakettle, and from teapot to table!
But finally, after eatin' longer than it seemed to me he ever eat before (such wus my feelin's), Josiah started off acrost the lot, towards Daggets'es barn. And I stood in the west door, with my hand over my eyes, a watchin' him most every minute he wus gone. And when that man come back, he come a laughin'. And I wus that madded, to have him look in that sort of a scorfin' way, that I wouldn't say a word to him; and he come into the house a laughin', and sot down and crossed his legs a laughin', and says he,—
"What do you s'pose has become of the relation on your side?" And says he, snickerin' agin,—
"You wus in the right on it, Samantha,—he did asscend: he went up!" And agin he snickered loud. And says I coldly, cold as ice almost,—
"If I wuzn't a perfect luny, or idiot, I'd talk as if I knew sunthin'. You know I said that, as one who allegores. If you have found Elburtus Gansey, I'd say so, and done with it."
"Wall," says he, "you wuz in the right of it, and that is what tickles me. He got locked up in Dagget's barn. He asscended, jest as I told you. He went up the ladder over the hay, to throw down fodder, and got locked up axidental." And, as he said "axidental," he snickered worse than ever.
And I says, "It is a mean, miserable, good for nothin', low-lived caper! And Philander Dagget done it a purpose to keep Elburtus from the town- meetin', so his wive's brother would get the election. And, if I wus Elburtus Gansey, I'd sue him, and serve a summons on him, and prosicute him."
"Why," says Josiah, in the same hilarious axent, and the same scorfin' look onto him, "Philander says he never felt so worked up about any thing in his life, as he did when he unlocked the barn-door to-night, and found Elburtus there. He said he felt as if he should sink, for he wus so afraid that some evil-minded person might say he done it a purpose. And he said what made him feel the worst about it wuz to think that he should have shut him up axidental when he wus a helpin' so good."
Says I, "The mean, impudent creeter! As good as Elburtus wuz!"
"Wall," says Josiah, "you know what I told you,—there is such a thing as bein' too good."
I wouldn't multiply no more words on the subject, I wus that wrought up and excited and mad; and I wouldn't give in a mite to Josiah Allen, and wouldn't want it repeated now so he could hear it, but I do s'pose that wus the great trouble with Elburtus,—he wus a leetle too good.
And, come to think it over, I don't s'pose Philander had laid any plot to keep him away from 'lection; but he is a great case for fun, and he had laughed and tickled about Elburtus bein' so polite and helpful, and had made a good deel of fun of him. And then, he thinks a awful sight of his wive's brother, and wanted him to get the election.
And I s'pose the idee come to him after Elburtus had got down to the barn where he wus a fodderin' his sheep.
You see, if Elburtus had let well enough alone, and not been too good, every thing would have gone off right then, but he wouldn't. Nothin' to do but he must help Philander get down his fodder. And I s'pose then the idee come to him that he would shet him up, and keep him there till after 'lection wus over. For I don't believe a word about its bein' a axident. And I don't believe Josiah duz, though he pretends he duz. But every time he says that word "axident," he will laugh out so sort o' aggravatin'. That is what mads me to this day.
But, as Josiah says, who would have thought that Elburtus would have offered to carry that plow home, and throw down the fodder?
But, at any rate, Philander turned the key on him while he wus up over- head, and locked him in there for the day. A meaner, low-liveder, miserabler caper, I never see nor heard of.
But the way Philander gets out of it (he is a natural liar, and has had constant practice), he don't deny lockin' the door, but he says he wus to work on the outside of the barn, and he s'posed Elburtus had gone out, and gone home; and he locked the door, and went away.
He says (the mean, sneakin', hippocritical creeter!) that he feels like death about it, to think it happened so, and on that day too. And he says what makes him feel the meanest is, to think it was his wive's brother that wus up on the other side, and got the nomination. He says it leaves room for talk.
And there it is. You can't sue a man for lockin' his own barn-door. And Elburtus wouldn't want it brought into court, anyway; for folks would be a wonderin' so what under the sun he wus a prowlin' round for up overhead in Philander Daggets'es barn.
So he wus obliged to let the subject drop, and Philander has it all his own way. And they say his wive's brother give him ten silver dollars for his help. And that is pretty good pay for turnin' one lock, about 2 seconts' work.
Wall, anyway, that wus the last thing that happened to Elburtus in Jonesville; and whether he took it polite and easy, or not, I don't know. For that night, when Philander went down to the barn to fodder, jest before Josiah went there, and let him out (and acted perfectly suprised and horrified at findin' him there, Philander did, so I have been told), Elburtus started a bee-line for the depo, and never come back here at all; and he left a good new handkerchief, and a shirt, and 3 paper collars.
And whether he has kep' on a sufferin', or not, I don't know. Mebby he had his trials in one batch, as you may say, and is now havin' a spell of enjoyments. I am sure, I hope so; for a cleverer, good-natureder, polite- appearin'er creeter, I never see, nor don't expect to see agin in my life; and so I tell Josiah.
The next evenin' follerin' after the exodus of Elburtus Gansey, Josiah and I, thinkin' that we needed a relaxation to relax our two minds, rode into Jonesville. We went in the Democrat, at my request; for I wus in hopes Cicely would come home with us.
And she did. We had a good ride. I sot in front with Josiah at his request; and what made it pleasanter wuz, the boy stood up in the Democrat behind me a good deal of the way, with his arms round my neck, a kissin' me.
And when I waked up in the mornin', I wus glad to think they wus there. Though Cicely wuzn't well: I could see she wuzn't. I felt sad at the breakfast-table to see how her fresh young beauty wus bein' blowed away by the sharp breath of sorrow's gale.
But she wus sweet and gentle as ever the posy wus we had named her after. No Sweet Cicely blow wus ever sweeter and purer than she wuz. After I got my work all done up below,—she offerin' to help me, and a not lettin' her lift her finger,—I went up into her room, where there wus a bright fire on the hearth, and every thing looked cozy and snug.
The boy, havin' wore himself out a harrowin' his uncle Josiah and Ury with questions, had laid down on the crimson rug in front of the fire, and wus fast asleep, gettin' strength for new labors.
And Cicely sot in a little low rockin'-chair by the side of him. She had on a white flannel mornin'-dress, and a thin white zephyr worsted shawl round her; and her silky brown hair hung down her back, for she had been a brushin' it out; and she looked sweet and pretty enough to kiss; and I kissed her right there, before I sot down, or any thing.
And then, thinks'es I as I sot down, we will have a good, quiet visit, and talk some about other wimmen. (No runnin' 'em: I'd scorn it, and so would she.)
But I thought I'd love to talk it over with her, about what good housekeepers Tirzah Ann and Maggie wuz. And I wanted to hear what she thought about the babe, and if she could say in cander that she ever see a little girl equal her in graces of mind and body.
And I wanted to hear all about her aunt Mary and her aunt Melissa (on her father's side). I knew she had had letters from 'em. And I wanted to hear how she that was Jane Smith wuz, that lived neighbor to her aunt Mary's oldest daughter, and how that oldest daughter wuz, who wus s'posed to be a runnin' down. And I wanted to hear about Susan Ann Grimshaw, who had married her aunt Melissy's youngest son. There wus lots of news that I felt fairly sufferin' for, and lots of news that I felt like disseminatin' to her.
But, if you'll believe it, jest as I had begun to inquire, and take comfort, she branched right off, a lady-like branch, and a courteous one, but still a branch, and begun to talk about "what should she do—what could she do—for the boy."
And she looked down on him as he lay there, with such a boundless love, and a awful dread in her eyes, that it was pitiful in the extreme to see her; and says she,—
"What will become of him in the future, aunt Samantha, with the laws as they are now?"
And with such a chin and mouth as he has got, says I to myself, lookin' down on him; but I didn't say it out loud. I am too well bread.
"It must be we can get the laws changed before he grows up. I dare not trust him in a world that has such temptations, such snares set ready for him. Why," says she—And she fairly trembled as she said it. She would always throw her whole soul into any thing she undertook; and in this she had throwed her hull heart, too, and her hull life—or so it seemed to me, to look at her pale face, and her big, glowin' eyes, full of sadness, full of resolve too.
"Why, just think of it! How he will be coaxed into those drinking-saloons! how, with his easy, generous, good-natured ways,—and I know he will have such ways, and be popular,—a bright, handsome young man, and with plenty of money. Just think of it! how, with those open saloons on every side of him, when he can't walk down the street without those gilded bars shining on every hand; and the friends he will make, gay, rich, thoughtless young men like himself—they will laugh at him if he refuses to do as they do; and with my boy's inherited tastes and temperament, his easiness to be led by those he loves, what will hinder him from going to ruin as his poor father did? What will keep him, aunt Samantha?"
And she busted out a cryin'.
I says, "Hush, Cicely," layin' my hand on hern. It wus little and soft, and trembled like a leaf. Some folks would have called her nervous and excitable; but I didn't, thinkin' what she had went through with the boy's father.
Says I, "There is One who is able to save him. And, instead of gettin' yourself all worked up over what may never be, I think it would be better to ask Him to save the boy."
"I do ask Him, every day, every hour," says she, sobbin' quieter like.
"Wall, then, hush up, Cicely."
And sometimes she would hush up, and sometimes she wouldn't.
But how she would talk about what she wanted to do for him! I heard her talkin' to her uncle Josiah one day.
You see, she worried about the boy to that extent, and loved him so, that she would have been willin' to have had her head took right off, if that would have helped him, if it would have insured him a safe and happy future; but it wouldn't: and so she was willin' to do any other hard job if there wus any prospect of its helpin' the boy.
She wus willin' to vote on the temperance question.
But Josiah wus more sot than usial that mornin' aginst wimmen's votin'; and he had begun himself on the subject to Cicely; had talked powerful aginst it, but gentle: he loved Cicely as he did his eyes.
He had been to a lecture the night before, to Toad Holler, a little place between Jonesville and Loontown. He and uncle Nate Burpy went up to hear a speech aginst wimmen's suffrage, in a Democrat.
Josiah said it wus a powerful speech. He said uncle Nate said, "The feller that delivered it ort to be President of the United States:" he said, "That mind ort to be in the chair."
And I said I persumed, from what I had heard of it, that his mind wuz tired, and ort to set down and rest.
I spoke light, because Josiah Allen acted so high-headed about it. But I do s'pose it wus a powerful effort, from what I hearn.
He talked dretful smart, they say, and used big words.
The young feller that gin the lecture, and his sister, oldest, and she set her eyes by him. She had took care of the old folks, supported 'em and lifted 'em round herself; took all the care of 'em in every way till they died: and then this boy didn't seem to have much faculty for gettin' along; so she educated him, sewed for tailors' shops, and got money, and sent him to school and college, so he could talk big.
And it was such a comfort to that sister, to sort o' rest off for an evenin' from makin' vests and pantaloons, cheap, to furnish him money!—it was so sort o' restful to her to set and hear him talk large aginst wimmen's suffrage and the weakness and ineficiency of wimmen!
He said, the young chap did, and proved it right out, so they said, "that the franchise was too tuckerin' a job for wimmen to tackle, and that wimmen hadn't the earnestness and persistency and deep forethought to make her valuable as a franchiser—or safe."
You see, he had his hull strength, the young chap did; for his sister had clothed him, as well as boarded him, and educated him: so he could talk powerful. He could use up quantities of wind, and not miss it, havin' all his strength.
His speech made a deep impression on men and wimmen. His sister bein' so wore out, workin' so hard, wept for joy, it was so beautiful, and affected her so powerful. And she said "she never realized till that minute how weak and useless wimmen really was, and how strong and powerful men was."
It wus a great effort. And she got a extra good supper for him that night, I heard, wantin' to repair the waste in his system, caused by eloquence. She wus supportin' him till he got a client: he wus a studyin' law.
Wall, Josiah wus jest full of his arguments; and he talked 'em over to Cicely that mornin'.
But she said, after hearin' 'em all, "that she wus willin' to vote on the temperance question. She had thought it all over," she said. "Thought how the nation lay under the curse of African slavery until that race of slaves were freed. And she believed, that when women who were now in legal bondage, were free to act as their heart and reason dictated, that they, who suffered most from intemperance, would be the ones to strike the blow that would free the land from the curse."
Curius that she should feel so, but you couldn't get the idee out of her head. She had pondered over it day and night, she said,—pondered over it, and prayed over it.
And, come to think it over, I don't know as it wus so curius after all, when I thought how Paul had ruined himself, and broke her heart, and how her money wus bein' used now to keep grog-shops open, four of her buildin's rented to liquor-dealers, and she couldn't help herself.
Cicely owned lots of other landed property in the village where she lived; and so, of course, her property wus all taxed accordin' to its worth. And its bein' the biggest property there, of course it helped more than any thing else did to keep the streets smooth and even before the saloon- doors, so drunkards could get there easy; and to get new street-lamps in front of the saloons and billiard-rooms, so as to make a real bright light to draw 'em in and ruin 'em.
There wus a few—the doctor, who knew how rum ruined men's bodies; and the minister, he knew how it ruined men's souls—they two, and a few others, worked awful hard to get the saloons shut up.
But the executor, who wanted the town to go license, so's he could make money, and thinkin' it would be for her interest in the end, hired votes with her money. Her money used to hire liquor-votes! So she heard, and believed. The idee!
So her money, and his influence, and the influence of low appetites, carried the day; and the liquor-traffic won. The men who rented her houses, voted for license to a man. Her property used agin to spread the evil! She labored with these men with tears in her eyes. And they liked her. She was dretful good to 'em. (As I say, she held the things of this world with a loose grip.)
They listened to her respectful, stood with their hats in their' hands, answerin' her soft, and went soft out of her presence—and voted license to a man. You see, they wus all willin' to give her love and courtesy and kindness, but not the right to do as her heaven-learnt sense of right and wrong wanted her to. She had a fine mind, a pure heart: she had been through the highest schools of the land, and that higher, heavenly school of sufferin', where God is the teacher, and had graduated from 'em with her lofty purposes refined and made luminous with some thin' like the light of Heaven.
But those men—many of 'em who did not know a letter of the alphabet, whose naturally dull minds had become more stupified by habitual vice— those men, who wus her inferiors, and her servants in every thing else, wus each one of 'em her king here, and she his slave: and they compelled her to obey thier lower wills.
Wall, Cicely didn't think it wus right. Curius she should think so, some folks thought, but she did.
But all this that wore on her wus as nothin' to what she felt about the boy,—her fears for his future. "What could she do—what could she do for the boy, to make it safer for him in the future?"
And I had jest this one answer, that I'd say over and over agin to her,—
"Cicely, you can pray! That is all that wimmen can do. And try to influence him right now. God can take care of the boy."
"But I can't keep him with me always; and other influences will come, and beat mine down. And I have prayed, but God don't hear my prayer."
And I'd say, calm and soothin', "How do you know, Cicely?"
And she says, "Why, how I prayed for help when my poor Paul went down to ruin, through the open door of a grog-shop! If the women of the land had it in their power to do what their hearts dictate,—what the poorest, lowest man has the right to do,—every saloon, every low grog-shop, would be closed."
She said this to Josiah the mornin' after the lecture I speak of. He sot there, seemin'ly perusin' the almanac; but he spoke up then, and says,—
"You can't shet up human nater, Cicely: that will jump out any way. As the poet says, 'Nater will caper.'"
But Cicely went right on, with her eyes a shinin', and a red spot in her white cheeks that I didn't like to see.
"A thousand temptations that surround my boy now, could be removed, a thousand low influences changed into better, helpful ones. There are drunkards who long, who pray, to have temptations removed out of their way,—those who are trying to reform, and who dare not pass the door of a saloon, the very smell of the liquor crazing them with the desire for drink. They want help, they pray to be saved; and we who are praying to help them are powerless. What if, in the future, my boy should be like one of them,—weak, tempted, longing for help, and getting nothing but help towards vice and ruin? Haven't mothers a right to help those they love in every way,—by prayer, by influence, by legal right and might?"
"It would be a dangerous experiment, Cicely," says Josiah, crossin' his right leg over his left, and turnin' the almanac to another month. "It seems to me sunthin' unwomanly, sunthin' aginst nater. It is turnin' the laws of nater right round. It is perilous to the domestic nature of wimmen."
"I don't think so," says I. "Don't you remember, Josiah Allen, how you worried about them hens that we carried to the fair? They wus so handsome, and such good layers, that I really wanted the influence of them hens to spread abroad. I wanted otherfolks to know about 'em, so's to have some like 'em. But you worried awfully. You wus so afraid that carryin' the hens into the turmoil of public life would have a tendency to keep 'em from wantin' to make nests and hatch chickens! But it didn't. Good land! one of 'em made a nest right there, in the coop to the fair, with the crowd a shoutin' round 'em, and laid two eggs. You can't break up nature's laws; they are laid too deep and strong for any hammer we can get holt of to touch 'em; all the nations and empires of the world can't move 'em round a notch.
"A true woman's deepest love and desire are for her home and her loved ones, and planted right in by the side of these two loves of hern is a deathless instinct and desire to protect and save them from danger.
"Good land! I never heard a old hen called out of her spear, and unhenly, because she would fly out at a hawk, and cackle loud, and cluck, and try to lead her chickens off into safety. And while the rooster is a steppin' high, and struttin' round, and lookin' surprised and injured, it is the old hen that saves the chickens, nine times out of ten.
"It is against the evil hawks,—men-hawks,—that are ready to settle down, and tear the young and innocent out of the home nest, that wimmen are tryin' to defend thier children from. And men may talk about wimmen's gettin' too excited and zealous; but they don't cluck and cackle half so loud as the old hen does, or flutter round half so earnest and fierce.
"And the chicken-hawk hain't to be compared for danger to the men-hawks Cicely is tryin' to save her boy from. And I say it is domestic love in her to want to protect him, and tenderness, and nature, and grace, and— and—every thing."
I wus wrought up, and felt deeply, and couldn't express half what I felt, and didn't much care if I couldn't. I wus so rousted up, I felt fairly reckless about carin' whether Josiah or anybody understood me or not. I knew the Lord understood me, and I knew what I felt in my own mind, and I didn't much care for any thing else. Wimmen do have such spells. They get fairly wore out a tryin' to express what they feel in thier souls to a gain-sayin' world, and have that world yell out at 'em, "Unwomanly! unwomanly!" I say, Cicely wuzn't unwomanly. I say, that, from the very depths of her lovin' little soul, she wus pure womanly, affectionate, earnest, tender-hearted, good; and, if anybody tells me she wuzn't, I'll know the reason why.
But, while I wus a reveryin' this, my Josiah spoke out agin', and says,—
"Influence the world through your child, Cicely! influence him, and let him influence the world. Let him make the world better and purer by your influencein' it through him."
"Why not use that influence now, myself? I have it here right in my heart, all that I could hope to teach to my boy, at the best. And why wait, and set my hopes of influencing the world through him, when a thousand things may happen to weaken that influence, and death and change may destroy it? Why, my one great fear and dread is, that my boy will be led away by other, stronger influences than mine,—the temptations that have overthrown so many other children of prayer—how dare I hope that my boy will withstand them? And death may claim him before he could bear my influence to the world. Why not use it now, myself, to help him, and other mothers' boys? If it is, as you say, an experiment, why not let mothers try it? It could not do any harm; and it would ease our poor, anxious hearts some, to make the effort, even if it proved useless. No one can have a deeper interest in the children's welfare than their mothers. Would they be apt to do any thing to harm them?"
And then I spoke up, entirely unbeknown to myself, and says,—
"Selfishness has had its way for years and years in politics, and now why not let unselfishness have it for a change? For, Josiah Allen," says I firmly, "you know, and I know, that, if there is any unselfishness in this selfish world, it is in the heart of a mother."
"It would be apt to be dangerous," says Josiah, crossin' his left leg over his right one, and turnin' to a new month in the almanac. "It would most likely be apt to be."
"Why?" says Cicely. "Why is it dangerous? Why is it wrong for a women to try to help them she would die for? Yes," says she solemnly, "I would die for Paul any time if I knew it would smooth his pathway, make it easier for him to be a good man."
"Wall, you see, Cicely," says Josiah in a soft tone,—his love for her softenin' and smoothin' out his axent till it sounded almost foolish and meachin',—"you see, it would be dangerous for wimmen to vote, because votin' would be apt to lower wimmen in the opinion of us men and the public generally. In fact, it would be apt to lower wimmen down to mingle in a lower class. And it would gaul me dretfully," says Josiah, turnin' to me, "to have our sweet Cicely lower herself into a lower grade of society: it would cut me like a knife."
And then I spoke right up, for I can't stand too much foolishness at one time from man or woman; and I says,—
"I'd love to have you speak up, Josiah Allen, and tell me how wimmen would go to work to get any lower in the opinion of men; how they could get into any lower grade of society than they are minglin' with now. They are ranked now by the laws of the United States, and the will of men, with idiots, lunatics, and criminals. And how pretty it looks for you men to try to scare us, and make us think there is a lower class we could get into! There hain't any lower class that we can get into than the ones we are in now; and you know it, Josiah Allen. And you sha'n't scare Cicely by tryin' to make her think there is."
He quailed. He knew there wuzn't. He knew he had said it to scare us, Cicely and me, and he felt considerable meachin' to think he had got found out in it. But he went on in ruther of a meek tone,—
"It would be apt to make talk, Cicely."
"What do I care for talk?" says she. "What do I care for honor, or praise, or blame? I only want to try to save my boy."