WATCH YOURSELF GO BY
A BOOK BY AL. G. FIELD
Copyrighted by Al. G. Field, 1912
Illustrated by Ben W. Warden
WATCH YOURSELF GO BY
Just stand aside and watch yourself go by; Think of yourself as "he" instead of "I." Note closely, as in other men you note, The bag-kneed trousers and the seedy coat. Pick the flaws; find fault; forget the man is you, And strive to make your estimate ring true; Confront yourself and look you in the eye— Just stand aside and watch yourself go by.
Interpret all your motives just as though You looked on one whose aims you did not know. Let undisguised contempt surge through you when You see you shirk, O commonest of men! Despise your cowardice; condemn whate'er You note of falseness in you anywhere. Defend not one defect that shames your eye— Just stand aside and watch yourself go by.
And then, with eyes unveiled to what you loathe— To sins that with sweet charity you'd clothe— Back to your self-walled tenements you'll go With tolerance for all who dwell below. The faults of others then will dwarf and shrink, Love's chain grow stronger by one mighty link— When you, with "he" as substitute for "I," Have stood aside and watched yourself go by.
S. W. GILLILAND, in Penberthy Engineer.
"To whom will you dedicate your book?" inquired George Spahr.
Well, I hinted to my wife and Pearl that I desired to bestow that honor upon them. They did not exactly demur, but both intimated that I had best dedicate it to some friend in the far distance who would probably never read it, or to some dear friend who had passed away and had no relatives living.
Several others approached did not seem to crave the honor, therefore I herewith dedicate this book to Court; not that he is the best and truest friend I ever possessed, but for the reason that should the book not be received with favor he will respect me just the same. He will hunt for me, he will watch for me, he will love me all the more devotedly, serve me all the more faithfully, though the book were discredited. The more I see of dogs, the better I like dogs.
It is claimed there is a kind of physiognomy in the title of a book by which a skilful observer will know as well what to expect from its contents as one does reading the lines. I flatter myself this claim will be disproved in this book.
I am proud of the book, not that it contains much of literary merit, not that I ever hope it will be a "best seller," but for the reason it has afforded me days of enjoyment. In the writing of it I have communed with those whom I love.
If those who peruse this book extract half the pleasure from reading its pages that has come to me while writing them, I will be satisfied.
AL. G. FIELD.
Maple Villa Farm, July 4, 1912.
WATCH YOURSELF GO BY
Trust no prayer or promise, Words are grains of sand; To keep your heart unbroken Hold your child in hand.
"Al-f-u-r-d!" "Al-f-u-r-d!!" "Al-f-u-r-d!!!"
The last syllable, drawn out the length of an expiring breath, was the first sound recorded on the memory of the First Born. Indeed, constant repetition of the word, day to day, so filled his brain cells with "Al-f-u-r-d" that it was years after he realized his given patronymic was Alfred.
"Al-f-u-r-d!" "Al-f-u-r-d!"—A woman's voice, strong and penetrating, strengthened by years of voice culture in calling cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and other farm-yard companions. The voice came in swelling waves, growing in menace, from around the corner of as quaint an old farm-house as ever sheltered a happy family. In the wake of the voice followed a round, rosy woman of blood and brawn, with muscular arms and sturdy limbs that carried her over grass and gravel at a pace that soon brought her within reach of the prey pursued—a boy of four years, in flapping pantalets and gingham frock.
The "boy" was headed for the family well as fast as his toddling legs could carry him. Forbidden, punished, guarded, the child lost no opportunity to climb to the top of the square enclosure and wonderingly peer down into the depths of the well. To prevent his falling headlong to his death—a calamity frequently predicted—was the principal concern of all the family.
As the women folks were more often in the big kitchen than elsewhere, it became, as a matter of convenience, the daily prison of the First Born. The board, across the open doorway, and the eternal vigilance of his guards, did not prevent his starting several times daily on a pilgrimage towards the old well. The turning of a head, the absence of the guards from the kitchen for a moment, were the looked-for opportunities—crawling under or over the wooden bar, and starting in childish glee for the old well.
Previous to the time of this narrative, the race invariably resulted in the capture of "young hopeful" ere the well was reached. The shrill cry: "Al-f-u-r-d!" "Al-f-u-r-d!" always closely followed by the young woman who did the scouting for the other guards, brought him to a halt. He was lifted bodily, thrown high into the air, caught in strong, loving arms as he came down, roughly hugged and good-naturedly spanked, and carried triumphantly back to his prison—the kitchen. Here, seated upon the floor, he was roundly lectured by three women, who in turn charged one another with his escape. It was never his fault. Someone had turned a head to look at the clock, or the browning bread in the oven, turning to look at the cause of the controversy, not infrequently he was found astride the prison bar, or scampering down the path.
That old well, or its counterpart, was surely the inspiration of "The Old Oaken Bucket." However, their author was never imbued with fascination as alluring as that which influenced the First Born in his desire to solve the, to him, mystery of the old well.
The more his elders coaxed, bribed and threatened, the more vividly they depicted its dangers, the more determined he became to explore its darkened depths. The old well became a part of the child's life. He talked of it by day and dreamed of it by night. The big windlass, with its coil of seemingly never-ending chain, winding and unwinding, lowering and raising the old, oaken bucket green with age, full and flowing; the cooling water oozing between the age-warped staves, nurturing the green grasses growing about the box-like enclosure. How cooling the grass was to his feet as on tip-toes peeking over the top of the enclosure down into that which seemed to his childish imagination a fathomless abyss, so deep that ray of sun or glint of moon never penetrated to the surface of the water. The clanging of the chain, the grinding of the heavy bucket bumping against the walled circle as it descended, and the splash as it struck the water, were uncanny sounds to the boy's ears. The desire to look down, down into the old well's hidden secrets became to him almost a frenzy. The echoes coming up from its shadowy depths were as those of a haunted glen.
He reasoned that all men and women were created to guard the well and that it was his only duty in life to thwart them.
Balmy spring, with its song birds, buzzing bees and sweet-smelling blossoms, coaxed every living thing out of doors; everything, except the First Born and his guards.
Such was the situation when the bees swarmed. The guards "pricked up their ears," then, with eyes looking heavenward, and snatching up tin pans which they beat with spoons, sleigh-bells and other objects, they rushed from the kitchen to work the usual charm of the country folk in settling the swarming bees.
Thus unguarded, the little prisoner, carrying a three-legged stool that aided him in surmounting the bar across the kitchen door, trekked for the old well. Planting the stool at one side of the square enclosure, he looked down into the cavernous depths; leaning far over, reached for the chain, with the intention of lowering the bucket, as he had often seen his elders do.
And the sound of hurrying feet only urged the boy on. He had caught hold of the bucket and was leaning far over the dark opening when he felt a heavy hand upon his shoulders, and himself lifted from his high perch, only to be dropped sprawling on the ground with a shower of tin pans rattling about his devoted head. Then the women, half fainting from fright, fell upon him, each in a desperate effort to first embrace him in thankfulness over his rescue from falling into the well.
When the women recovered their "shock" the First Born was lustily yelling for papa. Mamma had him across her knee and was administering the first full-fledged, unalloyed spanking of his childish existence. He scarcely understood at first, then the full meaning of the threats the guards had used to cure him of his one absorbing mania began sifting into his brain through another part of his anatomy. He promised never, never again to peep into the old well. The guards believed him and for days thereafter he lived blissfully on their praises, while everyone, directly or indirectly interested, conceded that mamma's "spanks" had finally broken the charm of the old well for the boy.
However, the little prisoner was removed to another cell—the big, front room upstairs—the door securely locked. A large, open window looked out upon the front yard and below the window near the house was the old well.
One evening the men, returning from the field, halted to slake their thirst at the well, the up-coming of the old oaken bucket brought from its depths a half-knit woolen sock and a ball of yarn. A strand of yarn reaching to the window above told the story.
Later, a turkey wing, used as a fan in summer and to furnish wind for an obdurate wood fire in winter, was found limply swimming in the bucket. Indeed, for days thereafter, divers articles, missed from the big, front room, accompanied the bucket on its return trips. When one of grandpap's well-worn Sunday boots was brought to the surface, it was believed that the last of the missing articles from the big room had been recovered. However, the disappearance of grandma's little mantelpiece clock was never explained.
Uncle Joe and Aunt Betsy stopped their old mare in front of the house and in chorus shouted "Hello!" as was the custom of neighbors passing on their way to or from town. The whole family, including "Al-f-u-r-d," betook themselves to the roadside to gossip. "Al-f-u-r-d," busy as usual, clambered up over the muddy wheels into the vehicle. He was praised by uncle and aunt for his obedience, and promised candy when they returned from town. Clambering down he missed his footing and narrowly escaped being trampled upon by the old mare who was vigorously stamping and swishing her tail to keep off the flies.
Dragged from under the buggy he was soon out of the minds of the gossiping group, curiosity drew him to the old well. Circling it at a respectful distance, he said:
"Naughty ole well, don't thry to coax me 'caus I won't play with you, nor look down in you never no more. There!"
Passing to the side farthest from the unsuspecting guards, the handle of the windlass was within his reach. Instinctively the desire seized him to lower the bucket, pulling out the ratchet that held it, the old oaken bucket began its unimpeded descent. Slowly at first, gaining momentum with each revolution of the windlass, down it fell, bumping against the sides of the well, chain clanging and windlass whirring. It struck the bottom with a splash that re-echoed, followed by a woman's scream so piercing that the old mare started forward.
It flashed on the minds of all that at last their predictions were verified. It was all up with "Al-f-u-r-d." They pictured him falling, falling—down, down—his bruised, bleeding body sinking to the bottomless depths of the old well.
Uncle Joe's feet caught in the handle of a market basket as he leaped from the buggy and the greater number of his dozens of fresh eggs reached the roadside a scrambled mass. The women guards gave vent to a series of screams that brought the men hurrying from the fields.
"Al-f-r-u-d" was found, limp and apparently lifeless, his head tucked under his body, clothes over his head, exposing the larger part of his anatomy—a pitiable lump, lying in the sandy path twenty feet from the well. The handle of the windlass had caught him across the shoulders, sending him flying through the air. For days thereafter "Al-f-u-r-d" was swathed in bandages and bathed with liniments; for a time, at least, the family was free from the cares of guarding the old well.
The old well has given way to a modern pump, the old house has been remodeled, but the impressions herein recorded are as clear to the memory of the man today as they were to the child of that long ago.
Trouble comes night and day, In this world unheedin', But there's light to find the way— That is all we're needin'.
"Al-f-u-r-d-!" "Al-f-u-r-d!" Al-f-u-r-d!"
Town life had not diminished the volume of Malinda Linn's voice. It was far-reaching as ever. Malinda was familiarly called "Lin"—in print the name looks unnatural and Chinese-like. Lin Linn was about the whole works in the family. Her duties were calling, seeking and changing the apparel of "Al-f-u-r-d", duties she discharged with a mixture of scoldings and caresses.
When the family moved to town to live, Lin became impressed with the propriety of bestowing the full baptismal name upon the First Born, and to his open-eyed wonderment, he was addressed as "Alfred Griffith." But when Lin called him from afar—and she usually had to call him, and then go after him—it was always "Al-f-u-r-d!"
A bunch of misery, pale and limp, was lying in the family garden between two rows of tomato vines, the earth about him disturbed from his intermittent spasms. A big, greenish, yellowish worm was crawling over his head, his tow-like hair whiter by contrast; upon his forehead great drops of perspiration.
He heard Lin's calls but could not answer. He half opened his eyes as she approached him. Berating him roundly for hiding from her, bending over him, the pallor of his face frightened her. Her screams would have abashed a Camanche Indian. Tenderly taking up the almost unconscious boy, she hastened toward the house, frightened members of the family and several nearby neighbors attracted by her screams.
Crowded around "Al-f-u-r-d" all busied themselves in assisting in placing him in bed. His hands were rubbed, his brow bathed, the air about agitated with a big palm-leaf fan while the doctor was summoned.
When the family doctor arrived "Al-f-u-r-d's" shirt-waist was opened in front and a big, greenish, yellowish worm fell to the floor. This, and that sickening smell of green tomato vines, assisted the good doctor in his diagnosis. To know the disease is the beginning of the cure. Hot water and mustard administered in copious draughts, the little rebellious stomach, made more so by this treatment, began sending up returns. Thus was relieved "the worst case of tomato poisoning that had, up to that time, come under the doctor's observation."
At that time the tomato had not long been an edible. Indeed many persons refused to consider them as such, growing them for merely ornamental purposes, displaying them on mantels and window sills. Tomatoes were commonly called "Jerusalem" or "Love Apples." On this occasion the doctor dilated at length on its past bad reputation and the lurking poison contained in vine and fruit.
The blinds were lowered and Alfred slept. The nurses tiptoed from the room, to return, tip-toeing to the bed to see how he was resting, then returning to the kitchen to advise the anxious ones there that he was resting easy.
Poor Lin was "near distracted" no sooner was it announced that "Al-f-u-r-d" was out of danger than she began gathering the "green tomattisus" lying in irregular rows on various window sills to ripen in the sun, giving vent to her pent-up "feelings" thus:
"Huh! Tomattisus! Never was made to eat. They ain't no good, no-way. Pap's right. They're called Jerusalem apples 'caus they wuz first planted by the Jews, who knowed their enemies would eat 'em an' git pizened an' die of cancers, an' Lord knows what else."
She carried the offending fruit to the family swill barrel, where the leavings of the table were deposited. As she raised one big tomato to drop it into the barrel, her hand paused, as she soliloquized:
"No, If tomattisus will pizen pee-pul, they'll pizen hogs. They ain't fit for hogs nohow. They ain't fit fer nuthin' but heathens an' sich like, as oughter be pizened."
Turning to one of several neighbors, whose looks denoted disapproval of wilful waste, she benevolently emptied the tomatoes into the woman's upheld apron, remarking:
"Lordy. Yer welcome to 'em if yer folks like 'em an' ain't carin' much when they die. Take 'em. Ye kin have 'em an' welcome."
While the father was yanking the noxious tomato plants out by the roots and sprinkling the ground with lime, "Al-f-u-r-d" began showing symptoms of returning life. After the nurses had tiptoed from the room, supposedly leaving him in deep slumber, he threw back the linen sheets and slid from the bed on the side farthest from the open door leading to the kitchen. Cautiously creeping to where lay his trousers—inserting a hand in the deep pocket, which had been put in by Lin by special request—he drew out two long, dark, worm-like objects, holding them at arm's length gagging anew at even the sight of them. Staggering to the cupboard dropping them into a box half filled with similar worm-like objects, he staggered back to bed as quickly as his weakened condition would permit, suppressing another upheaval of his stomach with greatest effort.
Notwithstanding the objects mentioned were Ed. Hurd's best three-for-a-cent stogies, and "Al-f-u-r-d" had smoked less than four of the six inches of one of the big, black cigars, the stub of which he had buried near the spot where Lin found him, it was several days before he took kindly to food, or, as was generally supposed, had wholly thrown off the baneful effects of the tomato poisoning.
While convalescing, afternoon walks were taken near home, circling the Episcopal Church, back through the old, green graveyard, or a little lower down the hill where the village boys could be seen and heard swimming and splashing in the river. To take part in this sport, to get to the river, to plunge into its cooling depths, "Al-f-u-r-d" had a soul-yearning, even more powerful than that of the old well. But he had been sworn, bribed, placed upon his honor and threatened with dire tortures, should he even venture nearer the river than the top of the hill.
The yearning would not down. It grew in intensity. He would stand on the front rail of his trundle bed, night and morning, with arms extended above him, palms together, to dive, to split the imaginary water, take a header into the soft, downy tick; then thresh his arms about in swimming fashion as he had seen the big boys cavort in the river.
Nearer and nearer to the river his newest allurement carried him, until one day he found himself on a strange path leading into a large yard in which stood a neat, white house, with green blinds. Purling at his feet, bubbling from an invisible source, was a brook of clear, cold water. Very cold it felt to his bare feet as he waded up and down over it's sandy, pebbly bed, the water reaching barely to his ankles. Wading nearer to the fountain head, the depth gradually increased. Here was young hopeful's long-sought-for opportunity to dive, swim and otherwise disport himself as did the big boys. Off came pantalets, waist and undercoverings, through the pure, cold water he waded. With teeth chattering and flesh quivering, holding his hands above his head, under he went.
He was having the time of his life, and so busy was he at it that his attention was not attracted by the opening of a door in the nearby white house and the sudden appearance of an elderly, grim-looking woman behind a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles; brandishing a long, swinging buggy whip, with broad, bright bands here and there along its length. Rushing toward the boy, she angrily shouted:
"You little scamp, I'll skin ye alive!"
"Al-f-u-r-d," with a cry, bounded from the water, grabbed for his clothes, missed them, and started on a race at a pace that left no doubt as to the winner. A big dog and another elderly woman—the counterpart of her-behind-the-spectacles—joined in the chase, the dog's deep bays greatly accelerating the already beat-all-record-time of the terrified "Al-f-u-r-d."
As he neared the parental roof, he let out a series of yells with "Mother!" "Lin!" "Help!" "Murder!" sandwiched between. The nearer he drew, the louder the yelps, for he knew he would need sympathy, even though the gold-rimmed glasses and the other elderly pursuer had been distanced by many lengths.
Lin said when she first heard the screams, she "thought it was only the old crazy woman under the hill havin' another spell. But when they come gittin' nearer an' nearer, she knew it was "Al-f-u-r-d" an' somethin' turrible had happened." It was then Lin, mother and several neighboring females rushed to the front door as "Al-f-u-r-d" flew in at the gate, up the path and into his mother's outstretched arms, endeavoring to pull her apron about his nudity.
"Where's your clothes?" demanded the frightened mother. "Where are they?" "Who took them off you?"
"She did! She did!" howled "Al-f-u-r-d," jerking his head toward the gate, just as the elderly woman behind the spectacles entered. Trembling with fear she began to explain and apologize to Lin and the mother, frequently turning to "Al-f-u-r-d" to entreat him to come to her, assuring him that he need not fear her. But the big buggy whip, with the silver bands, dangled above his head and the more she entreated the louder his yells and the further he forced himself into his mother's garments.
Lin grabbed his clothes from the spectacled lady berating both soundly, giving them but little opportunity to explain. Others joined in the wordy attack, much to the elderly woman's confusion and shame. The fact that they were old maids, living alone and associating with but few of their neighbors, lent bitterness to the invectives hurled at them, the climax was reached with a parting shot from Lin:
"Drat ye!" she exclaimed, "if ye had yungins of yer own—which is lucky for 'em that ye haven't—ye'd have some hearts in yer withered old frames."
The spectacled maiden, apparently more frightened than the other, began to feel what a monster she was, what an awful crime she had committed, following an embarrassing pause, the effect of Lin's final shot, mother again demanded the cause of "Al-f-u-r-d's" nudity.
"I s'pose I ought to have pulled down the blinds," she began apologetically, "and let him have his swim out. Likely it wouldn't have hurt the spring much. Still a body doesn't like to drink water out of a spring that a boy's been swimmin' in, no matter if his folks are clean about their house-keeping."
She was certainly sorry and so anxious to caress "Al-f-u-r-d" that she and the mother made it up, then and there, and many an afternoon thereafter did the two spend together bemoaning the evil spirit that had prompted the boy to make a swimming hole of the family spring.
Kindly invitations nor the promise of sponge cake ever induced "Al-f-u-r-d" to again visit the grounds, or the white house with green blinds, a buggy whip with silver bands on it, a big dog and two old maids who, according to Lin, "didn't know nuthin' 'bout children."
In the heydey of youth He was awfully green, As verdant in truth As you have ever seen; But he soon learned to know beans So it seems.
"There's shorely sumthin' 'bout water that bewitches that boy," often remarked Lin. "I never seen the like of it. I'll bet anything he'll be a Baptis' preacher some day, jes' like Billy Hickman."
There never was a boy reared in Brownsville whose heart does not beat a little faster, whose breath does not come a little quicker, whose cheeks do not turn a little redder when his mind goes back to the old swimming place near Johnson's saw-mill, where the big rafts of lumber were moored seemingly for the pleasure and convenience of every boy in town. The big boys had their spring-boards for diving on the outside where the current was swifter, the water deeper, the little ones their mud slides and boards to paddle about and float on in the shallow, still water between the rafts and the bank.
There may have been factions and social distinctions as between the inhabitants of the little town when garbed and groomed, but in the nudity of the old swimming place there was a common level, and all met on an equal footing.
James G. Blaine, Philander C. Knox, Professor John Brashear and many others, who have climbed the ladder of Fame, were boys among boys in this old swimming hole. It was here they were given their first lessons in courage and self-reliance.
A balmy afternoon in late June the boys of the town were in swimming; "Al-f-u-r-d" could plainly hear their shouts of glee as he sat in the front yard at home. How he longed to participate in their sports. What wouldn't he give to be free like other boys? Was there ever a boy who did not feel that he was imposed upon, who did not imagine he was abused above all others? Such was the feeling of "Al-f-u-r-d".
He had been subjected to a scrubbing. Lin had unmercifully bored into his ears with a towel shaped like a gimlet at one corner, assuring his mother he was "dirtier 'an the dirtiest coal digger in town." He was arrayed in a clean gingham suit, topped with an emaculate white shirt, flowing collar and straw hat. Lin spent a long time in curling his hair despite protests. Those curls were "Al-f-u-r-d's" abomination. The more he abominated them the longer they grew. They reached down to the middle of his back. Arranged in a semi-circle, extending from temple to temple, they made his head appear so abnormally large his slender body seemed scarcely able to support it. He seemed top-heavy with his long curls.
"Al-f-u-r-d" was to go alone to grandfather's and escort him home to dinner. There was to be company, and Lin was determined that "Al-f-u-r-d" and his curls should appear at their best.
The road of life starts the same for all of God's children. The innocent babe, fresh fallen from heaven to blossom on earth, sees nothing but the beautiful at the beginning of the journey. The road is strewn with flowers and it is only when the prick of the thorn is felt that one realizes one is on the wrong road.
For just one short block "Al-f-u-r-d," on the occasion referred to, traversed the right road. There the right road turned abruptly to the left. There was no road "straight ahead," but the river was there. The sound of boys' voices shouting in high glee came floating up from the old swimming place. School had let out and every boy in town was in swimming. "Al-f-u-r-d" blazed a new trail to the river. Climbing over the paling fence surrounding the burying ground, through back yards, descending the steep hill, he found himself standing on the bank of the river gazing at a spectacle that stirred his young blood—half a hundred nude boys diving, splashing, swimming and shouting were in the river below.
His appearance was greeted with yells and laughter. He was a "new boy" in town. "Al-f-u-r-d" was abashed by the reception accorded him. Of all the howling horde in the water below there was but one familiar face, that of Cousin Charley.
"Take off your curls and come on in, Sissy," shouted one of the swimmers. A dozen of them assured "Al-f-u-r-d" the water was "jest bully." Entreaties of "Come on in," came from dozens of boys. Advice of all kinds came from others.
The reference to the curls made "Al-f-u-r-d" wince. He had long felt that those curls were the one great impediment in his life—the one something that made him the butt of the jokes and gibes of other boys. He hated those curls. His first swimming experience doubly intensified his hatred for curls.
Evening was drawing near. The big yellow sun had dropped behind Krepp's Knob, the shadows of the hills almost reached across the ruffled surface of the river. The river bottoms at the base of the hills, with their waving grasses and tassled corn, extending beyond the bend in the river opposite Albany, the old wooden bridge farther up the river, the high hills behind him, presented a scene of beauty all of which was lost upon "Al-f-u-r-d." The boys in the river held him entranced. He was absorbed in the scene, and, for the moment, he even forgot his curls.
Writers frequently refer to the Monongahela River as "murky"—but where's the boy who ever basked in its cooling waves who will not qualify the statement that its waters are the clearest, its depths the most delightful, its ripples the softest and its shores the smoothest?
Jimmy Edmiston intimated to the writer that the Monongahela was only clear during a "Cheat River Rise." (Cheat is the name of a small stream of Virginia emptying into the Monongahela above Brownsville. Its waters are never muddy, no matter how heavy or protracted the rains along its course. When the Cheat River pours its transparent flood into the Monongahela the latter rises without riling. Hence the expression: "Cheat River rise.")
Jimmy has so long lived away from Brownsville that his memory is defective. Associated with the muddy Missouri he labors under the delusion that all rivers are muddy—even the Monongahela.
"Al-f-u-r-d" was rudely caught from behind by several boys, undressed in less time than it took Lin to hang the hat on his curls. Nor had he barely been reduced to a state of nudity when some unregenerate in the river below let fly a lump of soft, mushy mud, large as a gourd. The mud landed squarely on the broader part of his slight anatomy. With a yelp he wiggled loose from his captors and bounded up the hill. His slender legs and body, topped with the large crop of atmospherically agitated curls, made him a figure so ludicrous that the boys yelled in ecstacy at the sight.
"Al-f-u-r-d" was recaptured by two stout-armed boys, one on either side. They carried him to the top of the "mudslide." "Slick 'er up," came the cry from all sides. This had reference to the slide upon which fell a veritable cloudburst of water splashed up from the river by the hands of a dozen devilish youngsters.
"Al-f-u-r-d" was elevated to the height of the heads of his tormentors. In chorus from the mob at the words, "One, two, three," he was dropped to the slide, striking its soft, slick surface in an angular attitude, with feet and legs waving a strenuous protest above his head. The fall gave him a momentum that sent him over the slippery surface at a speed that rushed him into the river with eyes and mouth wide open. With a splash, under he went, forcing great gulps of water down his throat. Strangling and choking, he came to the surface, spouting like a whale calf.
What a shout of merriment went up from his tormentors. Barely had he taken in a full breath than a bad boy—they were all bad, at least "Al-f-u-r-d" so informed Lin afterwards—again forced his head under water.
"Duck 'im agin!" someone shouted as his curls floated on the surface of the water above his hidden body.
For the third time "Al-f-u-r-d" ducked—or rather, was ducked, swallowing another quart or two of Monongahela. Coming up cork-like, he tried to make his escape. Up the bank he ran choking and crying. Unfortunately, he took the track of the slide. Half way up his feet flew from under him, landing him upon his stomach. Back he slid, feet first, his nose plowing up the soft mud, his mouth filling with the same substance. Terrified beyond expression, under the water he went, choking, strangling, struggling. He felt that his time had come.
Popping to the surface, one of the older boys stood him upon his feet, washed the mud from his mouth and nose and, by sundry "shakes," partially emptied him.
Fearing they had gone too far with their hazing, some of the larger boys led him further into the stream, handling him as tenderly as they had roughly, assuring him of perfect safety. He was caused to lie on his stomach and, with Cousin Charley holding his broad, calloused palm against his chest, "Al-f-u-r-d" was given his first lesson in swimming. One boy declared, even before "Al-f-u-r-d" had moved a muscle, that he had already learned to swim.
It was the consensus of opinion that the only thing that prevented his swimming was his curls. To overcome this handicap his hair was braided, tied and cross-tied and his top-heaviness reduced to a dozen scattered knobs and knots—knots pulled so tight they glaringly exposed the white scalp between, and the tying of which brought tears to his eyes.
Even this rearrangement did not prevent his sinking time and again as the lesson progressed and finally, the mischievousness of his instructors appeased, he was led, half-dead, out of the water, up the steep bank to where he had been disrobed. As he stooped to gather up his rumpled garments a most welcome sound came to his ears:
Contrary to his usual custom, the second syllable was not off the lips of Lin until, in his loudest tone, he shouted: "Yes,'m!"
When he called for Lin to "come and get me," all the boys took a header into the river, only their faces and hair-covered heads appearing above the surface; they treaded water, or swayed around on the bottom. As "Al-f-u-r-d" looked back on them they seemed like so many decapitated heads floating in space, a sight that dwelt in his memory long afterwards.
When "Al-f-u-r-d" gathered his garments into his arms, endeavoring to hide his nudity, and started toward the voice, a laugh went up that made the valley echo. Lin declared: "If the tarnel critters had been dressed, she'd have thrown every last devil of 'em off the raft into the river."
Owing to conditions she hid behind Mrs. Hubbard's house and not until "Al-f-u-r-d," in his unrecognizable appearance rounded it, did he come face to face with his rescuer. Crying and sobbing he fell into Lin's arms. Firing a volley of imprecations upon the horde that had wrought the wreck before her, Lin kept up a continuous tirade against the boys in the river; and addressing herself to "Al-f-u-r-d" between speeches, she said:
"Fur gracious, goodness sake, ef you don't look like Granny Gadd with yer hair braided over yer head like this; hyar ye air trapesin' through town agin, mos' naked like ye did las' week. The hull town'll be talkin' about ye. Ye'll give us all a bad name. Why didn't ye put on yer clothes?"
"Al-f-u-r-d" sobbingly informed Lin of the cruelties heaped upon him in which Cousin Charley had taken part. Lin's anger increased as the boy talked. When he told of them throwing him down in the water times without number, Lin's indignation burst all bonds. Shaking "Al-f-u-r-d" violently she fairly yelled as she demanded to know what he was doing while they were throwing him down. "Al-f-u-r-d" between sobs, answered:
"I wasn't doin' nuthin'; I was gettin' up all the time."
Lin's answer was a jerk that lifted the boy off the earth. As she smacked her palms together, she defiantly hissed:
"Ef ye had my spunk, ye'd hev knocked hell's delight out of some of 'em."
The defiance of Lin, the thoughts of the cruelties practiced upon him, or some other force, changed the boy's manner instantly from sobbing and supplicating. He became screamingly aggressive. Flying to the roadbed, which had a plentiful supply of loose stone on it, he began a fusillade on the enemy below that drove the whole horde from the raft into the river.
"Al-f-u-r-d" had practiced stone throwing since he wore clothes and, like all boys of that period, his aim was most accurate, as several of those in the old swimming hole on that eventful day will testify. A rain of stones fell on the raft; one boy, more venturesome than the others, started up the hill but "Al-f-u-r-d's" fire repulsed him.
Lin, hidden behind the house, had changed her manner and was now pleading with "Al-f-u-r-d" to desist.
"Ye might crack some of their skulls and then they'd git out a warrant and Rease Lynch (referring to the town constable), would be after ye."
"Al-f-u-r-d" left the line of battle only when exhausted. That first swimming lesson and the fusillade of rocks that followed engendered animosities that involved "Al-f-u-r-d" in many rough and tumble encounters afterwards.
Lin, catching up the clothes the boy had dropped upon the ground, soon discovered why he had not put them on. The sleeves of the waist were dripping wet and tied in knots as tight as two big, strong boys could pull them. The pantalets were first unraveled, reversed, pulled over the sand-covered limbs of the boy, the waist wrapped about his shoulders, (the knots in the sleeves could not be untied), his hat pushed down on his head owing to the arrangement of his hair until it rested on his ears.
The procession started homeward, up alleys, through back yards to prevent being seen by the neighbors, until Lin hoisted the boy over the fence at the lower end of the garden. The whole family had congregated in the back yard, all greatly disturbed over "Al-f-u-r-d's" absence. As he dropped into the garden from the top of the fence he began crying, as was his wont, to create sympathy.
As he wended his way up the garden walk, the mother shouted:
"Lin, where on earth has he been?"
"In the river over his head. It's a wonder he wern't drowned to death."
The mother breathed a silent prayer that he had been preserved to them. Father deftly slid his hand into his left side trouser's pocket and, pulling forth a keen-bladed knife, cut a slender, but tough, sprout from the black-heart cherry tree. Tenderly taking the boy by the arm, he slowly led him to the cellar and introduced another innovation into the fast unfolding life of the First Born.
The pilgrimages of father and son to the recesses of that dark, damp cellar became frequent. The innovations of town life were so many, "Al-f-u-r-d's" unknowing feet fell into so many pitfalls, the father, affectionate, even indulgent, felt he was in duty bound to use the rod.
In fact, the old cellar, the rod, the boy and the father, were a cause of comment among those familiar with the family. Uncle Jake said:
"John never asked what 'Al-f-u-r-d' had done when he returned home, but simply asked, 'Where is he?' escorting him to the cellar and chastizing him on general principles."
Lin said: "Habits will grow on peepul, and even when 'Al-f-u-r-d' does nothin', he jes' goes to the cellar and waits to be whipped."
From the sweet-smelling Maryland meadows it crawled, Through the forest primeval, o'er hills granite-walled; On and up, up and on, till it conquered the crest Of the mountains—and wound away into the West. 'Twas the Highway of Hope! And the pilgrims who trod It were Lords of the Woodland and Sons of the Sod; And the hope of their hearts was to win an abode At the end—the far end of the National Road.
Do you not know where it is located? Do not ask any human being who ever lived in Brownsville as to its location on the map—that is, if you value his friendship. Your ignorance of geography will be exposed and you will be plainly informed: "We do not want anything to do with a person who does not know where Brownsville is located."
Strange as it may seem, though many excellent histories have been written, there is none extant that has given any full and adequate description of Brownsville's early days and people—quaint, curious, serious, humorous, wise and otherwise—good people all.
Brownsville was the most important town on that "Modern Appian Way," the National Road, or pike, extending from Baltimore, Maryland, to the Ohio River, and lengthened beyond, in after years, to Cincinnati and Richmond, Indiana.
Brownsville was founded soon after this country gained its independence, although it had been an established frontier post long before known as Red Stone Old Fort. It was the center of the Whiskey Insurrection, during which George Washington gained his first military experience in the West, experience that would have saved Braddock's defeat and death, had he taken Washington's advice, and might have changed the entire history of this nation. But that England should control the American colonies is but repeating history.
England is the only country in the world that has successfully colonized her foreign possessions. Therefore, Brownsville was founded, and mostly settled, by the English, and to this day her foremost citizens are Englishmen. This statement of facts does not detract from the estimable qualities of the Low Dutch who have drifted in from Bedford and Somerset Counties.
Brownsville outputs—"Monongahela Rye Whiskey" and Chattland's crackers are world-famous food essentials.
Brownsville was at the head of navigation on the Monongahela River in the palmy days of the old "pike."
Unlike the Appian Way, of which there is no connected history but only glimpses of it in the Bible, the old "pike" is embalmed in history, in poem and prose. It commemorates an epoch in history as fascinating as any recorded. A highway so important, so largely instrumental in the country's early greatness and development that it strengthened the ties between the states and their peoples. Its legends so numerous, its incidents so exciting that their chronicles read like fiction.
Brownsville grew and prospered while the old "pike" was at the height of its greatness. It was here the travellers from the East or the West either embarked or disembarked from the river steamers or the overland stage coach.
In the year 1868 the writer spent four days and parts of as many nights in a stage coach journey from Wheeling, West Virginia, to Baltimore, Maryland, over the National Road. In August, 1910, the same distance was covered in an automobile in a little over a day and a night, with many stops and visits to historical spots marked by recollections of the old days and nights of this King's Highway.
Brownsville, in the halcyon days of the National Pike, was of greater commercial importance than Pittsburg, her banks ranking higher and her manufactories more numerous. This supremacy was maintained from 1818 to 1852.
When the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was opened to the West, the glories of the old "pike" began to fade. The mechanical establishments, especially the boat-building and marine engine shops, among the biggest interests of Brownsville, kept in the lead until well into the days of the Civil War.
Now, reader, will you not be a bit abashed to ask: "Where is Brownsville?"
To Henry Clay belongs the credit of first urging Congress to appropriate funds to build the National Road, but to Albert Gallatin, who was from the Brownsville section and achieved great distinction while Treasurer of the United States, belongs the honor of its conception. He was the first to advocate the great benefits that would accrue to the country if such a road were constructed.
Washington, when a mere youth, sent to England a report urging the advisability of a military road from the coast to the Ohio River. He suggested the Indian trail across the Allegheny Mountains. This trail was afterwards named Braddock's Road. It should have been called Washington's Road, as he, at the head of a detachment of Virginia troops, traversed it one year before Braddock's disastrous invasion of the West.
All roads led to Brownsville in those days.
Did you ever hear of Workman's Hotel in Brownsville? It stands today as it did one hundred years ago, at the head of Market Street. It has housed Jackson, Harrison, Clay, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, James K. Polk, Shelly, Lafayette, Winfield Scott, Pickens, John C. Calhoun, and hundreds of others of less note.
James Workman, the landlord of this old house of entertainment, was noted for his hospitality and punctuality. When "Old Hickory" Jackson, on his way to Washington to be inaugurated President—for be it remembered the old "pike" was the only highway between the East and West—was Workman's guest, the citizens of Brownsville tendered the newly elected President a public reception. The Presbyterian Church was crowded, the exercises long drawn out. During their progress, Jimmy Workman stalked down the middle aisle. Facing about, after passing the pew in which General Jackson sat, he said, in a voice plainly heard all over the church:
"General Jackson, dinner is ready and if you do not come soon it won't be fit to eat."
So great was Workman's devotion to his guests that he imagined the dinner was more essential than speeches or prayers, and such was the respect for the famous landlord that the services were curtailed.
Brownsville and Bridgeport were boroughs separated by Dunlap's Creek, spanned by the first iron bridge built in America. It is standing today as solid as the reputation of the old burgs it joins together. Brownsville had the first bridge that spanned the Monongahela River. In fact Brownsville had a bridge long before Pittsburgh. While Bill Brown and his progenitors were ferrying Pittsburgh inhabitants across the river in a skiff, Brownsville folks were crossing on a "kivered" bridge. And were it not for further humiliating Bill Brown, the discoverer of Pittsburgh, still greater glories could be recalled for Brownsville.
James G. Blaine was born on the west bank of the Monongahela River. The land on which the Blaine house stood was the property of an Indian, Peter by name. He sold the land to Blaine's grandfather, Neil Gellispie, the price agreed upon being forty shillings an acre, payable in installments of money, iron and one negro man, a slave. Ye gods! How did the "Plumed Knight's" detractors in the "Rum-Romanism-and-Rebellion" campaign overlook the fact that the Blaines once bought and sold slaves?
Philander C. Knox was born on the hill on the east side of the river. Professor John Brashear was born on the western edge of the town.
Elisha Gray, the original inventor of the telephone, was from Brownsville; as were John Herbertson, builder of the first iron bridge in the United States; John Snowden, builder of two iron gunboats for the Civil War, and Bishop Arnett, of Ohio.
Brownsville first promulgated a word of slang that has greatly beautified the English language.
But let it be recorded to the old town's credit, the evil was propagated without malice aforethought. Brownsville's borough limits show its shape to be somewhat like that of a hot-air balloon—a big body with a neck; and the narrow strip of land between the river and Dunlap's Creek stretching toward Bridgeport from time out of mind has been designated by the inhabitants of either side of the creek as the "neck."
Brownsville had a temperance revival. Strict observance of the liquor laws was being enforced. Jack Beckley was haled to court on a dray, too oblivious of everything to answer any charge. The burgess, before committing him to the lock-up, questioned the watchman, Jim Bench, as to where Jack got his liquor.
"Did he get it on the hill?"
The officer truthfully answered:
"No, he got it in the neck."
The town took up the phrase and thereafter any person who met with any sort of mishap "got it in the neck."
No wonder Cain went to the bad And left no cause to praise him; No neighbors, who had ever had Boys of their own, came telling Ad And Eve how they should raise him.
"Al-f-u-r-d" learned with his first swimming lesson that kinship does not lend immunity; in fact, Lin asserted that Cousin Charley's kinship was only a cloak of deception. However, the more Cousin Charley teased the younger boy the greater "Al-f-u-r-d's" admiration and yearning for his companionship.
Lin cautioned "Al-f-u-r-d" to shun Cousin Charley as he would a "wiper." Lin could never pronounce her v's. When she went to the grocery and asked for "winegar," the young clerk laughed outright. The next visit Lin simply said:
"Smell the jug and gin me a quart."
When the mother admitted she feared Cousin Charley would ruin "Al-f-u-r-d's" disposition, Lin followed with the declaration that Cousin Charley "layed awake nights makin' up lies about "Al-f-u-r-d" to git his pap to whup him."
Lin said: "Why, he don't do a thing all the live-long day but git 'Al-f-u-r-d' in scrapes and muss his curls."
After the swimming hole experience "Al-f-u-r-d's" parent forbade Cousin Charley the house. Uncle Bill, who was responsible for Cousin Charley's being, also ordered Cousin Charley to seek a home elsewhere, enforcing the order by advising Cousin Charley that he had done all that he intended to do for him.
In forceful words Cousin Charley was told that he must "dig for himself," that "he could not stay anywhere no matter how good the job, that he always got into some kind of a scrape and his father was tired of it."
"Go out in the world and dig for yourself like I did. Then you'll hold a job when you get one."
Cousin Charley took genuine delight in being thus exiled. He endeavored to work on the sympathies of all with whom he conversed, reporting that Uncle John and Aunt Mary had driven him from their house and that his father had driven him from home, advising him to dig for himself.
Charley dwelt so upon the phrase "dig for yourself" that it became a sort of cant saying.
Cousin Charley called at "Al-f-u-r-d's" home to gather his essential personal effects. His woe-begone looks so touched "Al-f-u-r-d" that tears more than once filled his eyes as the elder boy continued his preparations to leave. "Al-f-u-r-d's" sorrow so touched the mother that she began to relent.
But Cousin Charley, like many other persons who have injured their family when taken to task, felt a sort of pride in doing something he imagined would cause them further pain. Cousin Charley was obdurate to any overtures towards a reconciliation, or at least pretended to be. Go he would. He had poor "Al-f-u-r-d" entirely miserable as he listened to the recitation of the many wrongs he declared he had suffered.
"I've worked harder than any boy in Brownsville. I never knowed anything but work. Pap lets Jim and George do as they durn please. If I crook my fingers I ketch the devil. I kin go out and dig fer myself and they'll be sorry for the way they have treated me."
"Al-f-u-r-d" clung to the bigger boy, begging him not to leave. The sight affected both Lin and the mother, and the latter ventured the prediction that she might prevail upon Pap to allow Cousin Charley to remain if he would solemnly promise to be a better boy. Cousin Charley was not to be mollified. He thanked the mother for her kindly interest in him but added that he could not remain under Uncle Johns' roof after the cruel manner in which he had been treated. (As a matter of fact his treatment had always been of the kindest). Cousin Charley knew this full well but he knew also that he had the sympathy of the two women excited and he chose to work it to his evil nature's content.
Continuing, he added insinuatingly:
"You'll see. Wait 'til 'Al-f-u-r-d's' a little older. Uncle will keep on whaling him in the cellar and some day you'll find him missing, curls and all."
This reference to curls touched Lin's sympathy. The reference to "Al-f-u-r-d" leaving home also touched the mother as the tantalizer intended it should, and she further argued with the boy to remain at home with his family.
"No I can't. I've made up my mind to dig fer myself. I'm goin' West. You've always treated me right and I'll write you often and let you know how I'm gettin' along and maybe if 'Al-f-u-r-d' is driven from home like I've been I'll have a place fer him."
The mother turned a trifle resentful as she said spiritedly:
"Charley, you have not been driven from home. Your father has become tired of your conduct and it would be better if you apologize for your behavior and promise to become a better boy."
Cousin Charley hinted at some deep and dark wrong that would ever prevent his approaching his father and he prepared to leave. Both women entreated him to linger yet another day. But Cousin Charley began bidding them good-bye, the crocodile tears coursing down his cheeks as he sobbed:
"I'll never fergit you two. You've always been good to me." (As a matter of fact, Lin threatened to scald him that morning.) "I know I may be half starved to death before I git work but I'll stand it. And durn them all, I'll show them I'm somebody afore they see me agin."
At the reference to starving, Lin rushed to the big kitchen cupboard. The larger part of a roasted chicken, a dozen doughnuts, pickles, rusks, enough to feed an ordinary man several times, was done up in a neat package and handed to Charley by Lin as she pityingly remarked:
"Ef the bakin' was done I'd gin ye more fer I'll warrant it'll be a long time 'fore ye'll eat cooking like ye've hed here. Fer vagrants never know what they're eatin'."
Charley's leave-taking was most affecting. "Al-f-u-r-d" begged to be permitted to accompany him a little ways on his journey. Five minutes the boys walked hand in hand.
Into Sammy Steele's deserted tannery, through a long, dark room with dust and rubbish covering the floor, into a smaller room, more dismal if imaginable than the larger room but much cleaner.
Three boxes, the larger used as a table, the two smaller ones as seats, made up the furniture in the room. A small blaze of fire in the old-fashioned soft coal grate gave a faint light. Cousin Charley whistled a time or two, and Lint Dutton, the son of the leading dry goods merchant of the town; and Tod Livingston, the son of the dry goods man's head clerk, put in an appearance.
It was not long until "Al-f-u-r-d's" sympathetic heart was touched with the wrongs of the three exiles. It seemed the trio had all been driven from home and were going out into the world to dig for themselves. Charley explained there were many things to adjust ere the exiles departed and the room in the old tannery would be their retreat until they left the town for good.
To impress "Al-f-u-r-d" with the fact that provisions were the one thing necessary, Lin's contribution was spread out on the larger box and all proceeded to devour the viands. Even "Al-f-u-r-d" enjoyed the repast.
"Al-f-u-r-d" was sworn to secrecy as to the retreat of the exiles and adjured to bring all the eatables he could secure. The sight of Cousin Charley consuming a dried apple pie such as were made in those days, plenty of lemon peel and cider to juice the apples; Charley holding the pie in his hands, the juice running down his cheeks as he expatiated on the wrongs that had been heaped upon him in general and by "Al-f-u-r-d's" and his own father in particular, so worked on "Al-f-u-r-d's" sympathy that nothing cooked or uncooked that was eatable, that he could smuggle to the exiles, was too good for them.
For the first time since Lin came into the family the mother suspected her of dishonest practices. A coldness sprang up between the women. This unpleasantness almost drove the boy to confession, but the fear of the exiles kept him from exposing them.
The father set a watch on "Al-f-u-r-d." He was seen to fill his pockets and a small basket, hide the basket in the coal shed until the shadows of dusk. The father followed the smuggler to the exiles' camp. Several other boys who had learned of the pies, pickles, preserves, doughnuts, and other good things that "Al-f-u-r-d" carried to the old tannery, had gone into exile and were always conveniently near when "Al-f-u-r-d" appeared with his food contributions.
The father was close onto "Al-f-u-r-d" when he entered the larger room of the old tan house. "Al-f-u-r-d" set the basket with the coarser food in it on the box that served as a table while he began issuing the more dainty contributions from his pockets. Handing Cousin Charley a doughnut from one pocket he was in the act of pulling a handful of pickles from another when the irate parent rushed into the little room. The exiles' camp was broken up, and the exiles driven out into the cold world. "Al-f-u-r-d" was escorted home then to the cellar where the seance was a trifle more animated than usual, at least "Al-f-u-r-d's" cries so denoted.
Lin's denunciations of those who had devastated her pantry of the coarse as well as her daintiest cooking, was of the strongest. Lin was very proud of her skill as a cook. When the truth came out and she learned that "Al-f-u-r-d" was the culprit, she immediately began making excuses for the boy, and when his screams from the cellar penetrated the kitchen, Lin's sympathy was fully aroused. With the rolling pin in one hand, flour to her elbows on her bare, muscular arms, she rushed into the cellar, with flushed face and confronted the parent:
"Hold on yer, hold on! Ye've whipped that boy enough and you're whippin' him fer nothin'. Ef it hadn't bin fer them low, lazy skunks "Al-f-u-r-d" a-never teched a thing in this house. They never had nothin' to eat at home. Their folks is too lazy to fry a doughnut or put up pickles. "Al-f-u-r-d" jes pitied 'em, that's why he took things to 'em to eat."
This reasoning mollified the parent, besides Lin had a gleam in her eyes that intimidated him. Lin had threatened to skedaddle, as she put it, several times of late, and one like her was not often found.
Therefore Lin's reasoning decided the father to wreak vengeance on those who, through "Al-f-r-u-d's" generosity, had depleted the pickle barrel. Grabbing his heaviest cane he stalked toward the door, vowing he would wear out every last one of the boys who had made him so far forget himself as to punish one whose age and inexperience made him their dupe.
The mother and Lin, thoroughly frightened at the anger displayed by the man, used their strength and arguments to prevent him doing something terrible. The mother pointed out the danger of the law and the disgrace attached to an arrest by the borough constable.
Lin reminded him that he might do something rash, that all the boys had papas and several men might jump on him if they caught him abusing their off-spring. The father swore he could lick the daddies of all the boys one at a time.
Meanwhile "Al-f-u-r-d" made his escape to the garret to ruminate upon the unreasonableness of parents in general and his father in particular.
Uncle Bill was even more obdurate than when he first declared Charley must "dig for himself." Cousin Charley was looking for work, fearing he would find it, and secretly hoping his father, under pressure of the mother, would soon open the door of home to him. But Cousin Charley was compelled to look the world in the face in a serious manner for the first time in his life.
Captain Lew Abrams, a retired steamboat man, big of frame, kind of heart and fond of a joke, informed the exile that he would give him an opportunity to follow his father's advice literally, namely, to dig for himself.
"I have a big potato patch, the crop is a heavy one and it don't seem my boys will ever get the potatoes dug. I will give you a job digging potatoes by the bushel or on shares."
The Captain did not care to hire by the day. Cousin Charley figured mentally that digging potatoes on shares, a custom prevalent in those days, would bring quicker returns.
Charley began to "dig for himself" the very next day. After a long, hard day's work, he presented himself at the back door of "Al-f-u-r-d's" home, sunburnt and hands blistered, clothing torn, full of beggars-lice and Spanish needles. He explained that the offer of Captain Abrams was temptingly profitable and that he would remain in the neighborhood for a few weeks longer digging potatoes on the shares.
Lin at first looked upon him with suspicion. But when she noted his sunburnt face and blistered hands and when Charley carefully laid on the table a half dozen big brown-colored potatoes with that peculiar purple around the eyes, a color so highly prized by growers and consumers, Lin, glancing sympathetically at Charley through the kitchen door as he ate as only a hungry boy can, whispered to the mother:
"His pap's too hard on him. He's not so ornery as he's cracked up to be. It's the devilish clique he runs with that's spiled him," and, with this, carried another helping of food to the boy.
Half in earnest, half in fun, Lin said: "Durn ye, ye can be good ef ye want to, but it jes' seems like ye don't want to. Ef ye ever do another thing to 'Al-f-u-r-d' I'll scald all the hair off yer freckled head."
Cousin Charley laughed and chided Lin into further good humor, confiding to her the interesting information that he was going to work from daylight to dark. This declaration captured Lin. She highly regarded anyone who labored.
Cousin Charley kept up a continual talk. Among other statements he said that after he dug Captain Abram's potatoes, if he could effect as advantageous arrangements with other farmers, he would soon be wealthy. He even insinuated that he had over-reached the Captain in his contract for digging potatoes but if the Captain showed any tendency to "back out" he would hold him to it.
"A bargain's a bargain," said Charley and Lin nodded approvingly. She never guessed that Cousin Charley possessed so much sense.
Charley picked up the largest of the potatoes he had deposited on the table and requested that Lin roast it in wood ashes for breakfast.
"It'll jes' bust open and is as dry as powder. Sech taters you never et, they melt in yer mouth."
It was then the mother was called in, Lin explaining it was a good chance to buy potatoes cheap. Cousin Charley explained that his share of the crop he was digging would be so big he would have to sell as he went along even if he didn't get full price for them. He assured the women that the samples were not culled: "Jes' took as they come."
The mother bought several bushels at much less than the retail price at Murphy's store. At the low price at which Cousin Charley sold potatoes he had taken several orders before reaching "Al-f-u-r-d's" home. When "Al-f-u-r-d's" mother purchased he suddenly concluded he'd better begin delivering right away.
When the mother reminded him that it was almost night Cousin Charley met her with the argument "Ef a feller wants to git along in this world he's got to hump night and day. That's the way old Jeffries got rich." Jeffries was the business competitor of "Al-f-u-r-d's" father.
Cousin Charley finally prevailed on the mother to loan him the horse and wagon to deliver his potatoes. The father was out of town for the night, and the mother consented reluctantly. Lin wanted the potatoes badly after Charley's description. "Al-f-u-r-d," as usual, cried to go with Cousin Charley. Cousin Charley's seeming industriousness had reinstated him in Lin's good graces. After the boys had driven off, following Lin's caution to the older boy to "Be keerful of 'Al-f-u-r-d'," she remarked to the mother, referring to Charley:
"He'll fool old Bill yet. Some peepul may want Charley to dig fer 'em 'fore the winter's over. I'd thought more of old Bill ef he'd lathered Charley good an' plenty stid of turnun' him out to dig fer himself. I do hope he'll sell plenty pertaters."
Meanwhile, Cousin Charley, his delivery wagon, "Al-f-u-r-d" and all, arrived at Captain Abram's house. The family were visiting a neighbor.
Cousin Charley was evidently an adept at loading potatoes as well as digging. It was surprising the quantity he claimed for his share of the day's digging.
"Al-f-u-r-d," Cousin Charley, and a load of potatoes soon arrived at "Al-f-u-r-d's" home. Several large sacks were quickly carried into the cellar, Lin assisting the boy. Lin took this excuse to inspect the goods as her confidence in Cousin Charley was not entirely free from suspicion. As Lin watched the boy carrying the heavy potato sacks she half hated herself for doubting him. This feeling prompted Lin to accept the potatoes.
"They're not zackly as big as the ones he fetched first but they're nice taters, better'n we git at the store an' besides a body feels better helpin' a poor devil that's workin' his head off to do right."
Jane McCune, Tommy Ryan and Jim Bench had bought potatoes while they were cheap. These deliveries were soon made and Cousin Charley had money to distribute. "Al-f-u-r-d" and Lin both came in for a nice piece of it. As Lin remarked:
"Cousin Charley was not close when he was doin' well."
The women invited Charley to remain all night but, showing the old exile spirit, he declined, adding:
"I like you and Lin, but I'll never stay under Uncle John's roof until he apologizes fer what he done to me. I'll dig fer myself. There's money in this potato business fer me, I'll show them who I am."
The boy jingled the big coppers and little dimes in his pocket until "Al-f-u-r-d's" eyes sparkled with admiration.
The next morning Captain Abrams clanged the big, old fashioned iron knocker on the front door. The father started up stairs to answer the knock, and "Al-f-u-r-d" and the other children whooped up the path beside the house to peep at the early caller.
The door opened. "Howdys" and hand shakes. The Captain, puckering up his funny little mouth, not unlike that of a sucker fish, addressing himself to the father, inquired:
"John, where's Bill's Charley?"
The "I don't know" answer surprised the Captain.
Looking at "Al-f-u-r-d" in a quizzical manner, he said:
"I thought he was staying with you all."
The father replied spiritedly, and he seemed to be addressing himself to "Al-f-u-r-d" as much as to the Captain:
"No, he ain't here any more. I wouldn't permit him to enter my house; he's so infernal ornery that his father had to drive him out. Bill jes' told him to go out and dig fer himself. We've washed our hands of that boy. His end will be the House of Refuge."
"But John," and the Captain looked serious, "who sent Alfred and Charley out on a foraging expedition last night with your old mare and wagon?"
Both men looked hard at "Al-f-u-r-d."
With a consciousness born of innocence, "Al-f-u-r-d" pulled himself up to his full height, running his thumbs under his first pair of elastic suspenders, a present from Cousin Charley, who had remarked as he adjusted them: "None of my relations will run around here with one gallus when I've got money."
"Yes, sir," chirped "Al-f-u-r-d," "we was out to your house but you weren't at home. Cousin Charley went after his pertaters. He wanted to bring mother hers and Jane McCune and Tommy Ryan."
The Captain was nodding his head approvingly at "Al-f-u-r-d," encouraging him to go on. The father was so confused he could not listen longer, and casting a look at "Al-f-u-r-d" that boded him no good, the mother and Lin were called into the room, and the Captain, in a half apologetic manner explained:
"Charley came to me with a long story about his father driving him from home and telling him he would have to go out and dig for himself. He used the phrase, 'dig for himself' so often that I, in a half joking way, arranged with Charley to dig potatoes on shares. He dug one day. I don't know how many potatoes he dug as me and my folks were visiting the Lenhearts. Afore we got home last night, Charley came out there with your horse and wagon and hauled away all the potatoes he dug during the day and all my boys had dug and sacked the past week. I don't know how many he took but old man Bedler at the toll gate said the boys had on a full load."
Then "Al-f-u-r-d" counting on his fingers, said: "Yes, mother got seven bushels, Tommy Ryan got eight bushels and he's to get two more bushels tomorrow night, and Jim Bench five bushels and will take all Cousin Charley kin bring him. And Jane McCune got five bushels and she didn't have the money. But Charley says if she don't pay him he'll steal her dog."
The Captain was laughing heartily but politely. The father and mother looked as if they had been convicted of larceny.
Lin jerked out: "Well, ef that don't beat the bugs. A-stealin' pertaters. I'd as soon be ketched stealin' sheep. I tell ye now, that Charley's headed fer the pinitentiary."
This speech seemed to crush the father and mother. They felt somehow as if they were implicated. But Captain Abrams apologized in every way for annoying them. They all seated themselves, the blinds pulled down and a solemn compact entered into that the matter never be referred to again. The father paid for the potatoes, taking "Al-f-u-r-d's" figures. "Al-f-u-r-d" was warned if he ever mentioned the affair outside of home that he would be sent to the House of Refuge.
The family felt that they were everlastingly disgraced. The mother felt it most keenly. The father was half disposed to hold "Al-f-u-r-d" partly responsible and a trip to the cellar was strongly threatened. But Lin interfered by saying:
"Why, his mother and me is wus than 'Al-f-u-r-d'. Any grown body'd knowed Charley couldn't dig that many pertaters in a week, let alone a day."
Time wore on and the potato episode was seemingly forgotten. The family felt that the disgrace had been lived down and all were thankful the matter had not become the talk of the town.
Uncle Bill, Charley's father, was a good talker, fond of argument and usually the center of a group, particularly when political or religious subjects were under discussion. A long bench in front of Bill Isler's tin shop, ranged close up to the building. The town pump stood across the ten feet wide sidewalk opposite.
It was a pleasing sight to look upon this gathering of inequality of rank and property and equality of intellect discussing all questions, the affairs of their neighbors in particular.
There was a full bench: Joe Gibbons, Barney Barnhart, Jase Baker, Billy Graham, Birney Wilkins, and George Muckle Fee. Fee was a peculiar character, with an unusual deformity, since his neck was bent like a huge bow, not unlike a limb with the knee bent, his face looking to the ground. To look to either side he must turn his entire body. The only human being he ever thought kindly of was his wife, Susan. He always spoke of her respectfully. Some people he hated more intensely than others. Uncle Bill was an especial mark of his vituperation. When they passed on the street George would turn his body half way around to mutter and curse him—however, not that Uncle Bill could hear.
George's usual position at the gathering in the evening was back against the old pump facing those seated on the bench, with lowered face and upturned eyes, looking from one speaker to another, scowling or smiling as the remarks met with his approval or otherwise.
The subject under discussion was "boys." A number of boys of the town, almost grown men, had been apprehended stealing scrap iron.
Uncle Bill, as usual, had the center of the stage. He had about concluded a lengthy discourse as to the management of boys, bad boys in particular, and as usual concluded by relating for the hundredth time, how he managed his boys.
"I just called 'em up and says: 'Boys, I've raised you up to what you are and I've done for you all a parent could do. You're strong and able to do for yourselves and don't depend on me longer. Go out in the world and dig for yourselves.'"
Fee, squirting a flood of tobacco juice with the words, said: "Yes, and ef they'd all dig like Charley did, you'd had purtaters to last you a life time."
The roars of laughter that went up were convincing proof that there are no secrets sacred in a small town.
Blessings on thee, little man, Barefoot boy with cheek of tan; With thy turned-up pantaloons And thy merry, whistled tunes; With the sunshine on thy face Through thy torn brim's jaunty grace; Outward sunshine, inward joy, Blessings on thee, barefoot boy.
Alfred's parents concluded it would be good for the boy to send him to the country for a time, freeing him from the influence of town boys. Therefore they sent him to Uncle Joe's, a prosperous farmer, a little inclined to take too much hard cider or rye at sheep-washing or hog-killing time, fond of fox chasing and hunting and shooting at a mark.
Uncle Joe went to town at least once a week when Aunt Betsy accompanied him. He observed the proprieties and respected his good wife's wishes. Long had she labored to get him to join the church of which she was an exemplary pillar. Thus far she had not succeeded.
A neighboring farmer, the leading member of the church, was the barrier. Uncle Joe and this neighbor, "Old Bill Colvin," as Uncle Joe designated him, had been at logger-heads for years over line fences and other trifles that farmers find excuses to quarrel over.
Uncle Joe's prejudice was so strong that when questioned as to whether he did not want to go to heaven, he defiantly informed the minister, "Not if Old Bill Colvin is there."
If a cow strayed, hog died or turkey was lost, it was attributed to Old Bill Colvin. When the bees swarmed and Uncle Joe with the fiddle scraping out "Big John, Little John, Big John, Davy," Aunt Betsy beating a tin pan with a spoon, poor old granny, bent with age, following slowly jingling a string of sleigh bells, and in feeble, squeaky voice asked Uncle Joe if the bees were going off, although no swarm had ever left the place, Uncle Joe, vigorously scraping the fiddle, walking under the cloud of circling bees, not heeding granny's query, would say:
"Look at 'em, look at 'em, they're leaving; we can't get 'em to settle. There they go. Look at 'em, look at 'em. Dam 'em, headed for Old Bill Colvin's."
Uncle Joe was noted for his honey, watermelons, peaches, turkeys, maple-sugar and sweet potatoes and loud voice. He was the loudest voiced man in Red Stone township. Every living creature on the farm stood in fear of Uncle Joe's voice. If the stock jumped the fence into another field, Uncle Joe's voice awed them into jumping back again. Fence rails, hoes, rakes or anything that came handy had so often been wielded by his powerful arms on them that his voice was sufficient almost any time to frighten horse, cow or hog into seeking safety in flight when he shouted.
The day for Alfred's going to the country arrived. Aunt Betsy had the neuralgia and Uncle Joe came alone on horseback. Meeting former friends, he tarried long at the Tavern. When under the influence of stimulants he became even louder. John Rathmell, the town watchman, endeavored to quiet him. Finally, he ordered Uncle Joe to go home or he would arrest him.
Uncle Joe was riding Black Fan, his fox-hunting mare. She was seventeen hands high, mostly legs, a natural pacer. She could jump over anything under the moon. Her hind legs the longer,—they seemed to be the propelling power and appeared to move faster than her front legs. When at top speed she traveled sort of sideways. This seemed a wise provision of nature as it prevented her running over herself, or like a stern-wheel boat, with too much power going by the head.
Uncle Joe obeyed the order of the officer of the law. Tardily, leisurely and tantalizingly mounting Black Fan, taking Alfred up behind him, he headed the mare in the opposite direction from home. Alfred feared he was going down the hill into the "Neck" to get more liquor and he almost decided to get off and go back home.
At a pace as respectable as ever a funeral cortege traveled, Uncle Joe rode until opposite the old market house, there turning the mare around heading her homeward. Straightening her out in the middle of the road, rising in his stirrups to emphasize his contempt for the law in the person of the watchman, Uncle Joe gave vent to a yell that brought store-keepers to the doors, pedestrians to turn around and drivers to pull to the side of the street.
He gave the mare her head. At the sound of the voice nearer and consequently louder than ever before, she shot forward at a speed never equalled on that street. At every revolution of her hind legs her body under Alfred rose and fell like a toy boat on a ruffled bay. Uncle Joe rose and fell with the movement and at every rise he yelled even louder than before.
The minion of the law and several idlers, always seeking an opportunity to meddle, rushed to the middle of the street, but as well might they have attempted to arrest the wind. The shoes of Black Fan struck the flinty limestones on the pike, the sparks flew, and her trail was a veritable streak of fire. As the mare rounded the turn at Workman's Hotel, Uncle Joe, as a parting shot, yelled:
"You can all go to h—ll."
How Alfred maintained his hold he never knew nor did the mare slacken pace greatly until home was reached. Alfred is of the opinion to this day that Uncle Joe forgot he carried a handicap.
The corn-cob stopper in a large bottle which Uncle Joe, (as was the custom of farmers in those days), carried in his right hand overcoat pocket, came out, the contents splashed in Alfred's face and saturated his clothing. Alfred was almost stupefied with the fumes of the liquor and had the distance been further he surely would have fallen from his seat.
As the mare halted, Uncle Joe vigorously threw his leg over her back to dismount, sweeping Alfred from his seat as though he had been a rag-doll. Down he fell head first and no doubt sustained bodily injury had not Providence, or a kindly cow deposited a cushion as soft as velvet for his reception, and curls. His yells and calls brought the family to the rescue. Alfred was not received as courteously as on former visits; however, after a bath in a tub of not overly warm water, the family were a trifle less distant.
The wife was very much provoked over the husband's actions.
Reinforced by Billy Hickman, the preacher, and several church members, renewed her efforts to have Uncle Joe ally himself with the church. Uncle Joe assured one good brother that if sheep-washing time was over—it was then September and sheep are washed in May or June—he would join the church. He explained that he felt he must have a little "licker" sheep-washing time or he would "ketch the rheumatiz."
The District Fair was on, Black Fan was entered in the free-for-all pace. She was considered a joke by horsemen and the knowing ones. But Alfred would have bet all he had that Black Fan was the fastest goer in the world. Ike Bailey's Black Bess, John Krepps' Billy, John Patterson's Morgan Messenger, were the other entries, all under saddle except Morgan Messenger. Patterson drove him to a sulky, the only sulky in the county, the wheels higher than the head of the driver. It was the idea of the builder the larger the wheels the greater the speed.
Black Fan had much the worst of the get-away and it looked as if she would be left in the stretch. It was a half-mile track. Twice around completed the heats. The crowd laughed themselves hoarse at Uncle Joe's entry and rider.
The other riders leaning forward, holding their bridle reins close down to the bit, seemed to lift their horses as they sped away from Black Fan whose rider was leaning back holding the briddle reins at arm's length as if he feared she would go by the head.
There was no grandstand, the populace standing thick along the track, separated from it by a rough board fence.
As the horses neared the starting point on the first turn, Black Fan far in the rear, Uncle Joe was seen pushing through the crowd, towering above the multitude. He made his way to the side of the track, climbing up on the fence-board next to the top, he stood erect.
The leaders flew by and, as Black Fan got opposite, he raised his arms as if to throw a stone or club at her, at the same time, in stentorian tones, yelling: "Git up! Git up! Git! Git out of that, you Black B—— h! Git up Fan. Gin her her head! Don't hold her, dam her! Let her go! Scat!"
As the last yell left his lips over he went onto the dusty track head-first. Black Fan surely imagined Uncle Joe was after her, she shot forward, her hind legs going so fast she looked in danger of running over herself, taking up nearly the width of the course. John Patterson and his high-wheeled sulky were swept off the track. Black Bess jumped the fence, ran off with her rider and was disqualified. Only John Krepps kept his little horse on the track, but Black Fan had the race in hand.
Great confusion reigned. Several fights started, Uncle Joe being in the midst of all of them. Everybody surrounded the judges, and the other horse owners protested the race. As the judges were all farmers with the usual fairness pervading decisions as between town folks and country ones, Black Fan was given the race.
Uncle Joe led the mare all over the fair grounds with Alfred mounted on her, and notwithstanding the boy was surfeited with ginger bread, cider and other District Fair delicacies, he importuned the uncle for more. Finally the uncle impatiently handed him two cents, "So there go eat ginger bread till you bust." Uncle Joe celebrated his victory all afternoon. When he advised Alfred that they would soon start home and that he could ride behind him on Black Fan, Alfred slid down and requested a neighboring farmer to permit him to ride home in his dead axe wagon.
Uncle Joe did not get home until very late, claiming that he did not know that Alfred had gone before and that he was searching the fair grounds for him. Alfred's aunt gently chided him and advised that when he went anywhere with his uncle thereafter he must remain until his uncle came, but to urge his uncle to come early.
Uncle Joe was very sick the next day. Aunt Betsy said it served him right. She hoped he'd "puke his innards out." Alfred was busy carrying the afflicted man water by the gourdful from the spring. Uncle Joe would not permit him to bring it in a pail: he wanted it cold and fresh.
"Dip her deep, son," he would say as he emptied the gourd and sent the boy for more.
The sufferer grew worse and finally Aunt Betsy's womanly sympathy impelled her to go to the sick man. She began by saying:
"I oughtn't to lift a hand to help you. Any man that will pour licker down his stomach until he throws it up is a hog and nothing else."
Catching a whiff of that which had come up, she turned up her nose and contemptuously continued:
"I don't see how any one can put that stuff down them."
She held her nose and turned her head in disgust. The sick man raised his head and feebly answered:
"Well, it don't taste that way going down. Go away and let me die in peace. I deserve to die alone; I don't want any of ye to pity me. Just bury me is all I ask."
The woman's sympathy entirely overcome her anger as the man well knew it would. She begged to be permitted to do something for him. He was obdurate. He was "not worthy of being saved"; all he desired was to "die alone and be forgotten."
She asked him if he were not afraid to die.
"No, no" he answered, "I'm not afraid to die but I'm ashamed to."
Feeling his heart was softening, she begged to do something to relieve him, a cold towel for his head or hot tea for his stomach. No, nothing could do him any good, so he declared.
"If you don't have something done for you, you might die."
"Let me die, but if I ever get over this one, it's the last for Joe. I hope every still house in Fayette County will burn down afore night and all the whiskey ever made destroyed."
The wife exulted greatly at these words and renewed her entreaties to do something for him.
"Well, if you insist on doing something for me", and he hesitated, "but I know it will do no good—go down to the kitchen, fill a big coffee cup half full of bilin' hot water, dissolve a lump of loaf sugar in it, drop in a little lump of butter 'bout as big as a robin's egg. Then reach up in the old cupboard in the hall, top shelf and way back in the corner, you'll find a big, black bottle. Pour quite a lot out of this bottle into the cup, fill it up. Grate a little nutmeg into it and fetch it up yar."
Then holding his hands to his head as if suffering great pain, dropping his voice to a faint whisper as if he were about to collapse, he said:
"Bring it up here and if I don't want to take it you jes' make me."
Not long afterwards the whole neighborhood was talking of the conversion of Uncle Joe and the day of his baptism marked an epoch in that section. The lion and the lamb were roaming together. Old Bill Colvin and Uncle Joe were making cider on the shares. Many were the strange tales told of how the conversion of Uncle Joe came about.
The day of baptism saw the largest gathering in the history of Red Stone meeting house. Alfred, Cousin Charley and all the country folks round about were there and many from town. Many were the conjectures made by the idle gossipers as to whether Joe would hold out. Tom Porter prophesied that the first time Joe got on a tear he would lick the preacher. Billy Hickman, the preacher, was a mite of a man, while Uncle Joe was a giant in comparison.
Uncle Joe had never been ducked or put under water but once, that the writer knows of. It was sheep-washing time. The sheep in a pen on the bank of the creek. Uncle Joe and another man in the creek up to their middles washing the sheep. Alfred and another boy in the pen catching the sheep dragging them to the bank as the workers called for another sheep. There was one old bell-wether that was too strong for the boys. After futile attempts to drag him to the creek Alfred decided to ride him. Jumping astride of the animal it made frantic efforts to free itself from the burden. Round the pen, bleating and panting it ran. It started for the creek and from a height of several feet it plunged, hitting Uncle Joe square between the shoulders.
Its weight and Alfred's sent the powerful man under the water. Where one sheep leads another will follow. As he attempted to rise, sheep after sheep hit him on head or back. Under he went again as often as he arose until the whole herd were out of the pen.
This experience probably accounted for Uncle Joe's actions the day of the baptism. Grouped on the banks of the creek, in fence corners, some lying on the grass under the red haw trees, were the rabble—all there out of curiosity.
Standing near the creek, chanting a familiar hymn as only an earnest congregation of good people can sing, were the church members. Walking slowly from the church was the preacher and Uncle Joe, the disparity in their size all the more marked as they waded into the water.
Uncle Joe seemed ill at ease and it appeared as though he was sort of holding back. By the time the minister was in up to his middle, the water only flowed about Uncle Joe's knees. The little preacher paused, folded Uncle Joe's hands across his breast. Uncle Joe looked behind him as much as to say:
"It's a long ways down to the water."
The minister began the solemn baptismal service. At the last word he attempted to lay Uncle Joe back, immersing him in the usual manner but Uncle Joe resisted. Alfred said afterwards he "knowed Uncle Joe was skeered, that Hickman couldn't rise him up after he got him under." Alfred explained that it was hard to keep from strangling when you went down backwards. "That's the way I nearly drowned. They ought to baptize 'em forward," was his conclusion.
The silence was oppressive. The minister sort of squirmed around and began the service over. At the last word he made another effort to immerse the sinner. Again his strength was insufficient, both men jostled around.
Sam Craft, who was watching the proceeding from a fence corner, at the failure of the second attempt to dip the penitent, drawled in a voice thick with hard cider:
Uncle Joe quickly took hold of his nose with thumb and finger; stooping, he put his face under water to his ears, left the preacher standing in the creek as he rushed out, not to the church members but to his old cronies, until led to his proper place among the congregation.
The conversion of Uncle Joe made Aunt Betsy happy. Alfred had liberties he never enjoyed previously. He rode Billy, the pony, when and where he chose. He ran rabbits, chased through the woods until the scant wardrobe he brought from home was in rags and tatters.
The great Civil War had just begun. All the country was marching mad—soldiers passing and repassing along the pike. Aunt Betsy and Lacy Hare, the hired girl, decided that Alfred should have a soldier's suit that would surprise the natives. Neither had ever been blessed with children, neither had ever attempted to make a garment such as they fashioned in their minds for Alfred.
The original that Alfred's suit was patterned after was a military uniform worn by John Stevenson in the War of 1848 between Mexico and the United States.
As the faded garment was brought from the garret and Alfred, with wood-ashes and vinegar brightened up the ornaments and medals, he thought John had been a mighty general, judging from the medals he wore. When he learned John was only a fifer his admiration for him greatly increased and often he coaxed John to play the old tunes that cheered the warriors on to victory in the many battles John graphically described not recorded in history.
Lacy with a pair of sheep shears cut out the coat, while Aunt Betsy held the pattern down on the heavy grey cloth. The goods were of the home-made quality, known as "linsey-woolsey," a material worn by farmers almost universally in those days. The household scissors were too dull to cut it, hence the sheep shears were pressed into service by Lacy.
The coat cut, Alfred had to stand out in the entry while the women used his nether garments to pattern by. The door a little ajar, Alfred impatiently watched the two women cut out the pants. Lacy remarked, after he had asked for his pants twice:
"Land sakes! Have a little patience. You climb trees, run through thickets, till you're rags and tatters, and I hope when we get these clothes done you'll settle down and save them to wear when you go anywhar."
The women decided, or rather endeavored, to make the suit after the cut of the uniforms worn by the soldiers. Lacy insisted that a blouse would not look well on Alfred and it was decided to make him a jacket at the bottom "close fittin'" as Lacy expressed it.
Nothing like this suit was ever seen before or after the war. Angles and folds were, where should have been smoothness; too short at the bottom, too high at the top, too tight where they should have been loose and vice versa. The jacket was short in the waist and high in the neck. Lacy remarked as they basted the thing that there seemed too much cloth in some parts but she thought it would take up in the sewing. The surplus cloth in the west side of the pants hung to the boy's calves, covering the limbs that far down. Therefore, it was difficult to decide at a distance where the jacket ended and the pants began. In fact, the boy, from a backside view at a little distance, seemed to be wearing a long-tailed coat.
Going from you, Alfred looked like a grown man; coming towards you he looked more natural. Wherever there appeared a bunch or angle that seemed out of place, Lacy endeavored to modify the over abundance by tacking on one of the ornaments taken from the old uniform of which a great number were used. The shoulders of the jacket seemed to fit to suit Lacy, therefore she used the epaulets from the shoulders of the old soldier's uniform elsewhere. The seat of the pants hanging so low, Lacy said looked too bare, whereupon she tacked the epaulets on that part of the pants, with the yellow and red fringe hanging down.
There was a very large lump resembling "Richard the Third's" hump; on this Lacy perched a brass eagle with wings spread as if about to fly off with the coat. Red and yellow stripes ran up and down the outside seam of the pants.
Lacy said they "looked so purty it was a shame the folds of the cloth kivered so much of the stripe"; she "allowed it was too bad that more of the folds had not found their way into the seat of the pants cos it wa'n't noticed there, the epaulets hid it."