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Title: Susan Clegg and a Man in the House
Author: Warner, Anne, 1869-1913
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Susan Clegg and a Man in the House" ***

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[Illustration: "'He _is_ a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop.'" FRONTISPIECE(_See
page 21._)]



                      Susan Clegg
                 And a Man in the House


                          BY
                      ANNE WARNER


  Author of "Susan Clegg and her Friend Mrs. Lathrop,"
       "A Woman's Will," "The Rejuvenation of
             Aunt Mary," "Seeing France
                with Uncle John," etc.


          _Illustrated from Drawings by_
                 ALICE BARBER STEPHENS


                       Boston
             Little, Brown, and Company
                        1907

_Copyright, 1906_,
By Katharine N. Birdsall

_Copyright, 1907_,
By The Butterick Company, Ltd.

_Copyright, 1907_,
By Little, Brown, and Company

_All rights reserved_


Published October, 1907

GRIFFITH-STILLINGS PRESS, BOSTON, MASS., U.S.A.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                     PAGE

I. Man's Proposal                              1

II. Elijah Doxey and His Locked Box           20

III. The First Issue of the Newspaper         32

IV. Settling down after the Honeymoon         43

V. Susan Clegg's Full Day                     64

VI. The Editor's Advice Column                85

VII. Mrs. Macy and the Convention             98

VIII. The Biennial                           113

IX. The Far Eastern Tropics                  128

X. The Evils of Delayed Decease              142

XI. The Democratic Party                     156

XII. The Trials of Mrs. Macy                 168

XIII. Monotony of Ministerial Monologues     200

XIV. Advisability of Newspaper Exposures     212

XV. The Trial of a Sick Man in the
House                                        223

XVI. The Beginning of the End                235

XVII. An Old-fashioned Fourth                251

XVIII. Celebrating Independence Day          261

XIX. Exit the Man out of Susan Clegg's
House                                        273



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"'He _is_ a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop.'" _Frontispiece_

                                            PAGE

"'A lady come up, looked at my flag,
an' asked me if I was a delegate
or an alternative'"                          119

"'Mrs. Macy was just about plum
paralyzed at _that_'"                        179

"'The bottom come out an' the duck
flew down the car'"                          188



Susan Clegg And a Man in the House



CHAPTER I

MAN'S PROPOSAL


Susan Clegg had dwelt alone ever since her father's death. She had not
been unhappy in dwelling alone, although she had been a good daughter as
long as she had a parent to live with. When the parent departed, and
indeed some few days before his going, there had arisen a kind of a
question as to the possibility of a life-companion for the daughter who
must inevitably be left orphaned and lonely before long. The question
had arisen in a way highly characteristic of Miss Clegg and had been
disposed of in the same manner.[A] The fact is that Miss Clegg had
herself proposed to four men and been refused four times. Then her
father had died, and, upon the discovery that he was better endowed with
worldly wealth than folks had generally supposed, all four had hastened
to bring a return suit at once. But Miss Clegg had also had her mind
altered by the new discovery and refused them all. From that time to
this period of which I am about to write there had never been any
further question in her mind as to the non-advisability of having a man
in the house.

[A] See "Susan Clegg and her Friend Mrs. Lathrop."

"As far as I can see," she said confidentially to her friend, Mrs.
Lathrop, who lived next door, "men are not what they are cracked up to
be. There ain't but one woman as looks happy in this whole community and
that's Mrs. Sperrit, an' she looks so happy that at first glance she
looks full as much like a fool as anythin'. The minister's wife don't
look happy,--she looks a deal more like somethin' a cat finds an' lugs
home for you to brush up,--an' goodness knows Mrs. Fisher don't look
happy an' she ain't happy neither, for she told me herself yesterday as
since Mr. Fisher had got this new idea of developin' his chest with
Japanese Jimmy Jig-songs, an' takin' a cold plunge in the slop jar every
mornin', that life hadn't been worth livin' for the wall paper in her
room. She ain't got no sympathy with chest developin' an' Japanese
jiggin' an' she says only to think how proud she was to marry the prize
boy at school an' look at what's come of it. She asked me if I hear
about his goin' to town the other day an' buyin' a book on how to make
your hair grow by pullin' it out as fast as it comes in, an' then
gettin' on the train, an' gettin' to readin' on to how to make your
eyebrows grow by pullin' them out, too, an' not noticin' that they'd
unhooked his car an' left it behind, until it got too dark to read any
further--"

"Why, what--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, who was the best of listeners, and
never interjectional except under the highest possible pressure of
curiosity.

"There was n't nothin' for him to do except to put his thumb in at the
place where the eyebrows was, an' get down out of the car, an' then she
told me, would you believe that with her an' John Bunyan in their second
hour of chasin' around like a pair of crazy cockroaches because he was
n't on the city train when he said he'd come, he very calmly went up to
a hotel an' took a room for the night? An' she says that ain't the worst
of it whatever you may think, for he was so interested in the book that
he wanted to keep right on readin', an' as the light was too high an' he
had n't no way to lower it, he just highered himself by puttin' a
rockin'-chair (yes, Mrs. Lathrop, a rockin'-chair!) on the center table,
an' there he sit rockin' an' readin' until he felt to go to bed. She
says, would n't that drive a good wife right out beside her own mind? To
think of a man like Mr. Fisher rockin' away all night on top of a table
an' never even gettin' a scare. Why, she says you know an' I know that
if he'd been the husband of a poor widow or the only father of a
deserving family, of course he'd have rocked off an' goodness knows
what, but bein' as he was _her_ husband with a nice life insurance an'
John Bunyan wild to go to college, he needs must strike the one rocker
in the world as is hung true, an' land safe an' sound in her sorrowin'
arms the next mornin'! Oh my, but she says, the shock she got! They was
so sure that somethin' had happened to him that she an' John had planned
a little picnic trip to the city to leave word with the police first an'
visit the Zoölogical Gardens after. Well, she says, maybe you can judge
of their feelin's when they was waitin' all smiles an' sunshine for
their train, with a nice lunch done up under John's arm, an' he got down
from the other train without no preparation a _tall_. She said she done
all she could under the circumstances, for she burst out cryin' in spite
of herself, an' cryin' is somethin' as always fits in handy anywhere,
an' then she says they had nothin' in the wide world to do but to go
home an' explain away the hard-boiled eggs for dinner the best they
could. She says she hopes the Lord'll forgive her for He knows better
than she ever will what she ever done to have Mr. Fisher awarded to her
as her just and lawful punishment these last five and twenty years; an',
she says, will you only think how awful easy, as long as he got on the
table of his own free will an' without her even puttin' him up to it, it
would have been for him to of rocked off an' goodness knows what. She
says she is a Christian, an' she don't wish even her husband any ill
wind, but she did frighten me, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I wanted to speak out
frank an' open to you about it because a man in the house _is_ a man in
the house, an' I want to take men into very careful consideration before
I go a step further towards lettin one have the right to darken my doors
whenever he comes home to bed an' board--"

Mrs. Lathrop quite jumped in her chair at this startling finale to her
neighbor's talk and her little black eyes gleamed brightly.

"Bed and bo--" she cried.

"He'll have father's room, if I take him, of course," said Susan, "but I
ain't sure yet that I'll take him. You know all I stood with father,
Mrs. Lathrop, an' I don't really know as I can stand any more sad
memories connected with that room. You know how it was with Jathrop
yourself, too, an' how happy and peaceful life has been since he lit
out, an' I ain't sure that--My heavens alive! I forgot to tell you that
Mr. Dill thought he saw Jathrop in the city when he was up there
yesterday!"

"Saw Ja--" screamed Mrs. Lathrop. Jathrop was her son who had fled from
the town some years before, his departure being marked by peculiarly
harrowing circumstances, and of whom or from whom she had never heard
one word since.

"Mr. Dill was n't sure," said Susan; "he said the more he thought about
it the more sure he was that he was n 't sure a _tall_. He saw the man
in a seed-office where he went to buy some seed, an' he said if it _was_
Jathrop he's took another name because another name was on the office
door. He said what made him think as it was Jathrop was he jumped so
when he see Mr. Dill. Mr. Dill said he was helpin' himself out of a box
of cigars an' his own idea was as he jumped because they was n't his
cigars. Jathrop give Mr. Dill one cigar an' when he thanked him he said,
'Don't mention it,' an' to my order of thinkin' that proves as they was
n't his cigars, for if they was his cigars why under heaven should he
have minded Mr. Dill's mentionin' it? Mr. Dill said another reason as
made him think as it was Jathrop was as he never asked about you,--but
then if he was n't Jathrop he naturally would n't have asked about you
either. Mr. Dill said he was n't sure, Mr. Dill said he was n't a bit
sure, Mr. Dill said it was really all a mystery to him, but two things
he _could_ swear to, an' one of those was as this man is a full head
taller than Jathrop an' the other was as he's a Swede, so I guess it's
pretty safe not to be him."

Mrs. Lathrop collapsed limply. Susan went on with her tale as calmly as
ever.

"You see, Mrs. Lathrop, it's like this. I told Mr. Kimball I'd think it
over an' consult you before I give him any answer a _tall_. I could see
he did n't want to give me time to think it over or to consult you for
fear I'd change my mind, but when you ain't made up your mind, changin'
it is easy, an' I never was one to hurry myself an' I won't begin now.
Hurryin' leads to swallowin' fish-bones an' tearin' yourself on nails
an' a many other things as makes me mad, an' I won't hurry now an' I
won't hurry never. I shall take my own time, an' take my own time about
takin' it, too, an' Mr. Kimball nor no other man need n't think he can
ask me things as is more likely to change my whole life than not to
change it, an' suppose I'm goin' to answer him like it was n't no
greater matter than a sparrow hoppin' his tail around on a fence. I
ain't no sparrow nor no spring chicken neither an' I don't intend to
decide my affairs jumpin' about in a hurry, no, not even if you was
advisin' me the same as Mr. Kimball, Mrs. Lathrop, an' you know how much
I think of your advice even if you have yet to give me the first piece
as I can see my way to usin', for I will say this for your advice, Mrs.
Lathrop, an' that is that advice as is easier left untook than yours is,
never yet was given."

Mrs. Lathrop opened her mouth in a feeble attempt to rally her forces,
but long before they were rallied Susan was off again:

"I don't know, I'm sure, whether what I said to Mr. Kimball in the end
was wise or not. I did n't say right out as I would, but I said I would
maybe for a little while. I thought a little while would give me the
inside track of what a long while would be pretty sure to mean. I don't
know as it was a good thing to do but it's done now, so help me Heaven;
an' if I can't stand him I always stand by my word, so he'll get three
months' board anyhow an' I'll learn a little of what it would mean to
have a man in the house."

"A man in--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, recovering herself sufficiently to
illustrate her mental attitude by what in her case always answered the
purposes of a start.

"That's what I said," said Susan, "an' havin' said it Mr. Kimball can
rely on Elijah Doxey's bein' sure to get it now."

"Eli--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, again upheaved.

"Elijah Doxey," repeated Susan. "That's his name. I ain't surprised over
your bein' surprised, Mrs. Lathrop, 'cause I was all dumb did up myself
at first. I never was more dumb or more did up since I was a baby, but
after the way as Mr. Kimball sprung shock after shock on me last night I
got so paralyzed in the end that his name cut very little figger beside
our havin' a newspaper of our own, right here in our midst, an' me
havin' the editor to board an' him bein' Mr. Kimball's nephew, an' Mr.
Kimball havin' a nephew as was a editor, an' Mr. Kimball's never havin'
seen fit to mention the fact to any of us in all these many years as
we've been friends on an' off an' us always buyin' from him whenever we
was n't more friends with Mr. Dill."

"I nev--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, nor no one else ever heard of him neither. The first of it all was
when he came up last night to see would I board him, an' of course when
I understood as it was me as was goin' to have to take him in I never
rested till I knowed hide an' hair of who I was to take in down to the
last button on Job's coat."

"And wh--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I'll tell you all I found out myself; an' I tell you I worked
hard findin' it out too, for Mr. Kimball is no windmill to pump when it
comes to where he gets relations from. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as he had a
sister though as married a Doxey an' that's the why of Elijah Doxey.
Seems Elijah is so smart that he'll be offered a place on one of the
biggest city papers in a little while, but in the mean time he's just
lost the place that he did have on one of the smallest ones an', as a
consequence, his mother thought he'd better spend this summer in the
country an' so sent him up to Mr. Kimball. Mr. Kimball said he really
did n't sense all it meant at first when Elijah arrived at noon
yesterday but he said he had n't talked with him long afore he see as
this was our big chance 'cause the paper as Elijah was on paid him off
with a old printin' press, an' Mr. Kimball says, if we back him up, we
can begin right now to have a paper of our own an' easy get to be what
they call a 'state issue.' It's easy seen as Mr. Kimball is all ready to
be a state issue; he says the printin' press is a four horse-power an'
he's sure as he can arrange for Hiram Mullins to work the wringer the
day he goes to press. Mr. Kimball says he's positive that Hiram 'll
regard it as nothin' but child's play to wring off his grocery bill that
way. I don't know what Gran'ma Mullins will say to that--or Lucy either
for that matter--but Mr. Kimball's so sure that he knows best that I see
it was n't no time to pull Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy in by the ears. Mr.
Kimball says he's been turnin' it over in his mind's eye ever since
yesterday when he first see Elijah. He says Elijah is just mad with
ideas an' says he 's willin' to make us known far an' wide if we'll only
give him a chance. Mr. Kimball says we all ought to feel ready to admit
that it's time we was more than a quarter of a column a week in the
_Meadville Mixture_. He says the _Meadville Mixture_ ain't never been
fair to us an' Judge Fitch says it ain't got right views as to its
foreign policy. Mr. Kimball says that after Elijah went back to town
yesterday afternoon he went up to Judge Fitch's office an' Judge Fitch
said if we had a paper of our own he'd be more than willin' to write a
editorial occasionally himself, a editorial as would open the
president's eyes to the true hiddenness of things, an' set the German
emperor to thinkin', an' give the czar some insight into what America
knows about _him_.

"Mr. Kimball says this is the day of consolidation an' if we had a paper
the Cherry Ponders an' all the Clightville people'd naturally join in
an' take it too. He says he's figured that if he can start out with a
hundred paid-up subscribers of a dollar each he can make a go of it. He
says Elijah says set him up the press an' _he_ don't ask no better fun
than to live on bread an' water while he jumps from peak to peak of
fame, but Mr. Kimball says Elijah's young an' limber an' he shall want
the paid-up subscriptions himself afore he begins to transport a
printin' press around the country.

"I told him he could count on you an' me takin' one between us before I
knowed what was really the main object of his visit, an' then when he
come out with what _was_ the main object of his visit, an' when I sensed
what he was after I must say I considered as he should have made that
his first word an' give me my paper for nothin',--seein' as the whole of
the thing is got to rest right on me, for I don't know what _is_ the
bottom of a newspaper if it ain't the woman as boards the editor. Yes,
Mrs. Lathrop, that's my view in a nutshell, the more so as Mr. Kimball
openly says as Elijah Doxey says he's a genius an' can't live in any
house where there's other folks or any noise but his own. Mr. Kimball
said it seemed as if a good angel had made me for the town to turn to in
its bitter need an' that it was on me as the new newspaper would have to
build its reputation in its first sore strait; an' he said too as he
would in confidence remark as my influence on Elijah's ideas would be
what he should be really lookin' to to make the paper a success, for he
says as Elijah is very young an' will be wax in my hands an' I can mold
him an' public opinion right along together. He said he really did n't
look for him to be any great trouble to feed because he'd be out pickin'
up items most of the time, an' then too, he says he can always give him
a handful of his new brand of dried apples as is advertised to be most
puffin' an' fillin'; why, do you know, Mrs. Lathrop, he told me as he'd
developed the process now to where if you eat two small pieces you feel
like you never wanted another Thanksgivin' dinner as long as you live."

"And so--" asked Mrs. Lathrop eagerly, Susan pausing an instant for
breath just here.

"Well, in the end I said I would, for three months. I don't know as I
was wise, but I thought it was maybe my duty for three months. I'm tired
of seein' the Clightville folks called 'Glimpses' an' us called 'Dabs'
in that _Meadville Mixture_, an' last week you remember how they spelt
it wrong an' called us 'Dubs,' which is far from my idea of politeness.
It was being mad over that as much as anythin' that made me up an' tell
Mr. Kimball as I'd take Elijah an' take care of him an' look to do what
I could to make the paper a success for three months. I told him as it
was trustin' in the dark, for Elijah was a unknown quantity to me an' I
never did like the idea of a man around my nice, clean house, but I said
if he'd name the Meadville items the 'Mud Spatters' an' so get even for
our feelin's last week I'd do my part by feedin' him an' makin' up his
bed mornin's. Mr. Kimball said I showed as my heart an' my brains was
both in the right place, an' then he got up an' shook hands an' told me
as he would in confidence remark as he expected to make a very good
thing all round for he was gettin' the printin' press awful cheap and
Elijah likewise."

"When--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Next Wednesday. Elijah's comin' up freight with the printin' press.
Mr. Kimball says he suggested that himself. He says it cuts two birds
with one knife for it makes it look as if the printin' press was extra
fine instead of second-hand, an' it gets Elijah here for nothin'."

"Dear--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I would, too," said Miss Clegg, "only you see I have n't got time. I
ought not to be here now. I ought to be over gettin' his room ready an'
takin' out the little comforts. As far as my order of thinkin' goes,
little comforts is lost on men, Mrs. Lathrop, they always trip over them
an' smash them in the dark."



CHAPTER II

ELIJAH DOXEY AND HIS LOCKED BOX


"Well," suggested Mrs. Lathrop one pleasant Saturday morning, a few days
later, when she and her friend met at the fence. Miss Clegg looked
slightly fretted and more than slightly warm, for she had been giving
her garden an uncommonly vigorous weeding on account of an uncommonly
vigorous shower which had fallen the afternoon before. The weeding had
been so strenuous that Miss Clegg was quite disposed to stop and rest,
and as she joined her neighbor and read the keen interest that never
failed to glow in the latter's eyes, her own expression softened
slightly and she took up her end of the conversation with her customary
capability at giving forth.

"I don't know," she began, "an' Mr. Kimball don't know either. Elijah
was tellin' me all about it last night. He _is_ a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop,
but I don't know but what it pays to have a man around when you can have
them to talk to like I have him. Of course a new broom sweeps clean an'
I've no intention of supposin' that Elijah will ever keep on coverin'
his soap an' scrapin' his feet long, but so far so good, an' last night
it was real pleasant to hear the rain an' him together tellin' how much
trouble they're havin', owin' to Hiram's bein' too energetic wringin'
the handle of the printin' press an' then to think as when he was all
done talkin' it would be him an' not me as in common decency would have
to go out in the wet to padlock the chickens. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as
they're really havin' no end o' trouble over the new paper an' Elijah's
real put out. He says Hiram had a idea as the more the speed the better
the paper an' was just wringin' for dear life, an' the first thing he
knew the first issue begin to slide a little cornerways an' slid off
into a crank as Elijah never knowed was there, an' him an' Mr. Kimball
spent the whole of yesterday runnin' around like mad an' no way to fix
it. As a consequence Elijah's very much afraid as there'll be no paper
this week an' it's too bad, for every one is in town spendin' the day
an' waitin' to take it home with them. Young Dr. Brown is goin' to feel
just awful 'cause he'd bought twenty-five papers to mail to all his
college class. There was goin' to be a item about him, an' Mrs. Brown
says it was goin' to be a good one for she fed Elijah mince pie while he
made his notes for it an' had Amelia play on her guitar, too."

"What do you--?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I can't say as I really know _what_ to think of him just yet. I
never see such a young man afore. He has some very curious ways, Mrs.
Lathrop, ways as make me feel that I can't tell you positively what I
do think. Now yesterday was the first day as I knowed he'd be gone for
long, so I took it to go through all his things, an' do you know, away
down at the bottom of one of his trunks I found a box as was locked an'
no key anywhere. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I hunted, an' I hunted, an' I
hunted, an' I couldn't find that key a _tall_. I never had any thin' of
that kind in my house afore an' of course I ain't goin' to give up
without a good deal more lookin', but if I can't find that key it'll
prove beyond a shadow of a doubt as Elijah Doxey ain't of a trustin'
nature an' if that's true I don't know how I ever _will_ be able to get
along with him. A trustin' nature is one thing to have around an' a
distrustin' nature is another thing, an' I can tell you that there's
somethin' about feelin' as you ain't trusted as makes me take my hands
right out of my bread dough an' go straight upstairs to begin lookin'
for that key again. The more I hunt the wilder I get, for it's a very
small box for a man to keep locked, an' it ain't his money or jewelry
for it don't rattle when you shake it. It's too bad for me to feel so
because in most other ways he's a very nice young man, although I will
say as sunset is midnight compared to his hair."

"Do--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Then too, he said yesterday," Miss Clegg continued, "as he wanted it
distinctly understood as his things was never to be touched by no one
an' I told him as he could freely an' frankly rely on me. Now that's
goin' to make it a great deal more work to hunt for that key from now
on. An' I don't like to have it made any harder work to find a thing, as
I have n't found yet a _tall_."

"Wh--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Not me," said Miss Clegg; "I ain't got any give-up in me. I'll keep on
until I find it if I have to board Elijah Doxey till he dies or till I
drop dead in my huntin' tracks. But I can see that my feelin' towards
him is n't goin' to be what it might of been if he'd been frank an'
open with me as I am with him an' every one else. He seems so frank an'
open, too--in other ways than that box. He read his editorial aloud
night afore last an' I must say it showed a real good disposition for he
even wished the president well although he said as he knowed he was
sometimes goin' to be obliged to maybe be a little bit hard on him. He
said as plain speakin' an' to the purpose 'd be the very breath an'
blast of the _Megaphone_ an' he should found it on truth, honor an' the
great American people, an' carry Judge Fitch to congress on them lines.
I thought as Judge Fitch would object to goin' to congress on any lines
after all he's said about what he thought of congress in public, but
Elijah says a new paper must have a standard, an' he asked Judge Fitch
if he minded being nailed to ours, an' the judge said he did n't mind
nothin' these degenerate days, so Elijah just up with him."

"Did you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"See Mrs. Macy?--yes, I see her in the square yesterday noon. She was
just back from Meadville. She says the editor of the _Meadville Mixture_
is awful bitter over our havin' a paper of our own, an' says he'll cross
tinfoils with Elijah any day. I told Elijah what she said last night,
but Elijah did n't mind. I hoped tellin' him'd take his appetite away,
but he ate eleven biscuits just the same. That reminds me as he's comin'
home to dinner to-day, an' I ought to be goin' in."

"Goo--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

--"But I'll come over after he goes an' tell you how the paper's comin'
out," Susan added, as she turned from the fence; and as she was always
true to her promises she did come over to Mrs. Lathrop's kitchen after
dinner, wearing a clean apron and a new expression--an expression of
mixed doubt and displeasure.

Mrs. Lathrop hurried to give her a chair and make her welcome, and then
took a chair herself and sat at attention.

Susan began at once.

"Well," she said, "it's a good thing as the Fishers are thinkin' some of
sendin' John Bunyan to college, for he's surely a sight too smart for
this town."

Mrs. Lathrop opened her eyes in wide surprise, as it was certainly not
about John Bunyan that she had expected to hear tales.

"Elijah says as John Bunyan made them all feel pretty cheap down at the
printin' press this mornin'," Miss Clegg went on: "seems the whole
community was squeezin' into the back of Mr. Kimball's store to see what
under the sun could be done to get the first paper out of the press,
when all of a sudden John Bunyan spoke up an' asked why they did n't
turn the handle backward an' empty the whole muss out that way. Well,
every one see the sense of what he said right off, an' so they began,
an' as soon as they began to turn the crank backward the paper began to
come out backward, tore, of course, but as nice as pie.

"Well, Elijah says he most thought his uncle was goin' to take his job
as editor away and give it to John Bunyan right off, he was so pleased.
But Mr. Kimball ain't the sort of uncle as Elijah so far supposes
himself to of got, an' he only give John Bunyan fifty cents' worth of
soda water tickets, an' they're to work to-night (if Lucy'll let Hiram),
an' have the paper ready for church to-morrow. The Jilkins an' Sperrits
was a little disapp'inted 'cause they was n't comin' in to church,
countin' on stayin' home an' readin' the paper all day instead, but
Elijah's goin' to put in a late column of late news an' give 'em their
money's worth that way. Mr. Kimball had arranged to have one whole
column of Ks to draw attention to his dried apples, an' he's goin' to
give it up for the occasion an' let Elijah write a Extra about the cause
of the delay, for that's really all the late news there is. Then, too,
Elijah's goin' to have a joke about the paper's comin' in among us like
a man goes into politics, kind of slidin' an' turnin' this way an'
that, an' I must say I begin to find some of Elijah's ideas pretty
bright. But my mind's taken a new turn on his subjeck from what he said
at dinner, an' I will admit, Mrs. Lathrop, as I see now as I misjudged
him in one way, for he come an' asked me while I was washin' up if I
knowed any way to open a locked box without a key, for he could n't find
the key to his flute box nowhere, an' when he was a little nervous
nights he always wore it off practisin' on his flute. Well, Mrs.
Lathrop, you can maybe imagine as learnin' as there was a flute in that
box an' the key lost, an' him in the habit of playin' that flute nights,
altered my views more 'n a little, an' I can tell you that I had to
think pretty fast afore answerin' him. While I was thinkin' he said he
had n't played since he was here, an' he was gettin' so wild to play he
thought the best way would be to maybe pry the lock open. I see then as
I'd got to come out firm an' I said I'd never consent to no young man
in my house, spoilin' a good box like that an' maybe a fine flute too,
just because he had n't got a little patience. He said I was right about
its being a fine flute, an' he was just achin' to hear it an' blow it. I
told him to let me hunt an' maybe I'd find the key, an' so he went off
some soothed, an' now the Lord have mercy on you an' me, for Elijah
Doxey never will from this day on. Will you only think of him bein'
nervous an' playin' nights! It'll be worse than a tree-toad an' you know
what a tree-toad is, Mrs. Lathrop,--I declare to goodness if Elijah acts
like a tree-toad he'll drive me stark, ravin' mad."

"Ca--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't see how I can," said Miss Clegg, dubiously. "I shall do my
best, but, oh my, a young man as is a editor an' has red hair an' a
flute is awful uncertain to count on. I almost wish I had n't took him."

"Why--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I can't now," said Miss Clegg, "the arrangements of this world is
dreadful hard on women. It's very easy to take a man into your house but
once a woman has done it an' the man's settled, nobody but a undertaker
can get him out in any way as is respectable accordin' to my order of
thinkin'."

"But you--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop, comfortingly.

"I know, but even three months is a long time," said Miss Clegg, "an'
he's begun to leave his soap uncovered already, an' oh my heavens alive,
how am I ever goin' to stand that flute!"



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST ISSUE OF THE NEWSPAPER


"I'll tell you what, Mrs. Lathrop," said Miss Clegg the next Monday
afternoon, "I ain't goin' to stay here so late but what I go home in
time to make Elijah something hot an' comfortin' for supper to-night. I
ain't any one to take sides, but I will say that my heart has gone out
to that poor young man ever since I was down in the square this mornin'.
I felt to be real glad as he'd took to-day to go up to the city, for I
must say I'd of felt more'n a little sorry for him if he'd heard folks
expressin' their opinion about his first paper."

"Did he--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, he went to-day," said Miss Clegg. "He went on the early train an'
one of the joys of havin' a man in the house was as I had to be up
bright an' early to get him his breakfast. I must say I never thought
about his wantin' early breakfast when I agreed to take him, but I'm not
one to refuse to feed even a editor, so I cooked him cakes just the same
as I would any one else."

"Why--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I guess maybe he heard things yesterday as made him feel as it'd
be just as well to let folks have time to sizzle down some afore they
looked on his bright an' shinin' face again. I tell you what, Mrs.
Lathrop, I can see as runnin' a newspaper ain't an easy thing an' the
town is really so up in arms to-day, that I really would of made waffles
for Elijah to eat instead of just plain cakes, if I'd knowed when he got
up how mad every one was at him. I can see since I've been down town
to-day as the square was n't likely to have been no bed of roses for him
yesterday. The whole community is mad as hornets over the paper. Why, I
never see folks so mad over nothin' before. Nobody likes his puttin' his
own name right under the paper's, an' Dr. Brown says the editor belongs
on the inside, anyhow. Dr. Brown's most _awful_ mad 'cause Elijah's put
his item right in with the advertisement of Lydia Finkham, an' he says
he ain't nothin' as pretends to cure anythin' or everybody. He says he's
a regular doctor as you have to take regular chances with an' he feels
like suin' Elijah for slander. Gran'ma Mullins is mad, too, 'cause she
was put in the personals an' Elijah went an' called her the 'Nestor of
the crick,' without never so much as askin' by her leave. She says she
ain't never done nothin' with the crick, an' if she ever nested anywhere
it was in her own owned an' mortgaged house. Hiram says he'll punch
Elijah if he ever refers to his mother's nestin' again, an' I guess
Hiram feels kind of sore over Elijah's talkin' of his mother's nestin'
when all the town knows how much he wishes as Lucy'd settle down and
nest awhile instead of keepin' 'em all so everlastin'ly churned up. Mrs.
Macy told me this mornin' as Lucy's whitewashin' the garret this week;
she see the brush goin' 'round an' 'round the window on her side--she
says it makes her bones ache just to live next door to Lucy's ways. She
says they're so different from Gran'ma Mullins' ways. Gran'ma Mullins
had n't had no whitewashin' done in twenty years--not since she rented
the cottage of father. That's true an' I know it's true too because
she's been askin' an' askin' me to have it done an' I said not by no
means--so she's left off."

"Did--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"The Jilkinses is real mad over the paper, too," Susan continued. "Seems
as Elijah went an' called 'em the 'Chirpy Cherry Ponders,' an' Mrs.
Jilkins says where he got the idea as either of 'em ever chirped in
their lives she cannot conceive, for Mr. Jilkins ain't so much as peeped
a good part of the time since they were married an' she says as for
being chirpy, _she_ looks upon the word as city slang. But Judge Fitch
is about the maddest of all! I did n't read what Elijah said about him
but every one else did, an' he says he was willin' to run for congress
for the good of his country, but to put him up in a editorial as says
he'll be proud to come back from Washington as poor as he goes there, is
a very poor way to put heart into any man's contest. He says if he's got
to come back from Washington as poor as he goes he can't see no good an'
sufficient reason for goin' a _tall_, for he won't gain nothin' an' will
be out his car fare there an' back. He says he never heard of no one
comin' back from Washington as poor as they went before, an' it was a
thing as he supposed could n't be done till he found Elijah had booked
him to do it. He says if that's what he's to up an' teach his country,
he don't thank Elijah for advertisin' him as any such novelty an' he
says he won't go to congress on any such terms--not while he knows
himself. Mr. Kimball told me as he spoke to Elijah about it yesterday,
an' Elijah said to him as it would be a strong plank for Judge Fitch to
stand on in the middle of his platform, but Judge Fitch told Mr. Kimball
as he could just tell his nephew frank an' open as that one plank in his
platform had better be weak an' he'd take care to remember to step over
it every time. He said he was just waitin' for a good chance to tell
Elijah his opinion of him right to his face, an' he said as he should
give him to understand as after this he must submit all other planks to
_him_ afore he printed 'em. Mr. Kimball says that Judge Fitch said good
gracious him, there would n't be no knowin' what he'd have to live up to
next, if Elijah was n't reined in tighter. Judge Fitch says the old way
is good enough for him when he goes to Washington.

"But that ain't all the trouble there is. Mr. Fisher feels very much
hurt at Elijah's writin' any editorial without consultin' him first. He
says he told him as he could have give him a motto out of Shakespeare
about layin' on an' dammin' as would have put life in the campaign right
off at the beginnin'; an' then there's Mrs. Macy as thinks he was awful
mean to call her one as carries weight anywhere; I'm sure I wish Elijah
had let Mrs. Macy alone for she's worse than hornets over that remark of
his. She says maybe Elijah'll go over two hundred an' fifty hisself some
day, an' if he does he'll know as it's no joke. She bu'st her rocker
last night when she read what he said about her, an' she says bu'stin' a
rocker ought to show better than any words how mad it made her. My, she
says, but she was mad! I told Elijah when he was gettin' up the paper as
he'd better never say nothin' about nobody in it, but Elijah can't help
being a man an' very like all men in consequence, an' he said as a paper
was n't nothin' without personal items, an' he thought folks would
enjoy being dished up tart an' spicy. I told him my views was altogether
different. 'Elijah Doxey,' I says, 'you dish Meadville up tart an' spicy
an' we'll all feel to enjoy, but you leave folks here alone.' But he
didn't mind me an' now he's got a lesson as will maybe teach him to
leave the armchairs of folks as is payin' for his paper unbu'sted
henceforth."

"Now--?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, we get along pretty well," said Susan; "a man's a man, an' of
course any house always is pleasanter without one in it, but I guess if
you have to have one around Elijah's about as little bother as you could
ask. I'm teachin' him to be real orderly in a hurry just by puttin' his
things where he couldn't possibly find 'em if he leaves 'em layin'
around. You always can manage pleasantly if you're smart, an' I'm smart.
If he don't empty his basin, I don't fill his pitcher; if he's late to
meals, I eat up all as is hot;--oh! there's lots of ways of gettin'
along, an' I try 'em all turn an' turn about. If one don't work another
is sure to, an' if he ever does have a wife it won't be my fault--I know
that.

"Mr. Kimball asked me this mornin' what I thought of him anyhow. Mr.
Kimball says as Elijah says as he personally thinks this year is sent to
fit him for suthin' demandin' backbone, an' so he'd ought to be resigned
to anythin'. That didn't sound just polite to me to my order of thinkin'
an' Gran'ma Mullins come back just then an' broke in an' said if Elijah
was resigned she wasn't, an' she hoped he'd never come her way any more
when he was out pickin' up items."

"Is any one--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't know," said Miss Clegg, "I don't believe so. Even the minister
is mad; I met him comin' home an' I couldn't see what he had to complain
of, for I didn't remember there bein' a single word about him in the
whole paper. Come to find out he was all used up 'cause there _wasn't_
nothin' about him in it. He told me in confidence as he never got such
a shock in all his life. He says he read the paper over nine times afore
he was able to sense it, an' he says his last sermon was on hidin' your
light under a bushel basket an' he had a copy all ready if Elijah had
only come for it. He says he shall preach next Sunday on cryin' out unto
you to get up, an' he shall take a copy to Elijah himself. I cheered him
up all I could. I told him as a sermon preached on Sunday was n't likely
to be no great novelty to no one on the Saturday after, but I'd see that
he got it back all safe if Elijah throwed it into his scrap-basket. That
seems to be the big part of bein' a editor--the throwin' things in his
scrap-basket. Elijah's scrap-basket is far from bein' the joy of my life
for he tears everythin' just the same way an' it makes it a long, hard
job to piece 'em together again. Some days I don't get time an' then I
_do_ get so aggravated."

"Have you ever--" asked Mrs. Lathrop with real interest.

"Not yet, but he ain't got really started yet. It's when the paper gets
to Meadville an' Meadville begins to write him back what they think
about what he thinks of them, that that scrap-basket will be
interestin'! I guess I'll go home now an' make biscuits for supper. He
was comin' back on the five-o'clock train. Poor Elijah, he'll have a
hard day to-morrow but it'll do him good. Men never have to clean house,
so the Lord has to discipline their souls any way he can, I suppose, an'
to my order o' thinkin' this runnin' a newspaper is goin' to send Elijah
a long ways upwards on his heavenly journey."

"Does--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, rising heavily to bid her friend good-bye.

"Most likely," said Susan; "at any rate if he does n't have any
appetite. I like 'em myself."



CHAPTER IV

SETTLING DOWN AFTER THE HONEYMOON


Miss Clegg and Mrs. Lathrop were sitting on the latter's steps about
five o'clock one Sunday afternoon when Elijah Doxey came out of the
former's house and walked away down town.

"I wond--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't believe it," said Miss Clegg; "I know the way you look at it,
Mrs. Lathrop, but _I_ don't believe it. All the girls is after him but
that ain't surprisin' for girls are made to be after somethin' at that
age an' there's almost nothin' for them to run down in this community.
We're very short of men to marry, Mrs. Lathrop, an' what men we have got
ain't tall enough yet to do it, but still, it ain't no reason why Elijah
should be in love just because 'Liza Em'ly and all the other girls is
in love with him. To my order o' thinkin' two sets of people have got to
love to make a marriage, an' 'Liza Em'ly ain't but one. An' I don't know
as I want Elijah to be in love, anyhow--not while he lives in my house.
It might lead to his eatin' less but it would surely lead to his playin'
the flute more, an' that flute is all I can stand now. He won't marry if
I can help it, I know _that_, an' I keep his eagerness down by talkin'
to him about Hiram Mullins all I can, an' surely Hiram is enough to keep
any man from soarin' into marriage if he can just manage to hop along
single an' in peace."

"Have you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, interestedly.

"Well, I should say I had--an' it's fresh on my mind, too. It was
yesterday an' I see 'em both. Lucy come in the mornin' an' Gran'ma
Mullins in the afternoon. I'd like to of had Hiram come in the evenin'
an' tell his end, but Hiram don't dare say a word to no man nowadays.
As far as my observation's extended a man as lives steady with two women
gets very meek as to even men. Hiram's learned as his long suit is to
keep still an' saw wood when he ain't choppin' it."

"What did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Lucy come up right after market an' she said the reason she come
was because she'd just got to talk or bu'st, an' she was n't anxious to
bu'st yet awhile."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, just the usual tale as any one could o' foreseen if they went an'
married Hiram Mullins. Any one might of easy knowed as Lucy Dill could
n't no more enjoy Hiram Mullins than a cat could enjoy swimmin' lessons,
but she _would_ have him, an' she _had_ to have him, an' now she's got
him--so help her eternity to come."

"Did she--" questioned Mrs. Lathrop.

"No," said Miss Clegg, "she ain't been married quite long enough for
that yet; she's only been married long enough to come out strong an'
bitter as to blamin' Gran'ma Mullins. I will say this for Lucy, Mrs.
Lathrop, an' that is that a fairer thing than blamin' Gran'ma Mullins
for Hiram could n't be expected of whoever married Hiram, for it stands
to reason as no one as had brains could marry Hiram an' not want to
begin blamin' his mother five minutes after. Gran'ma Mullins never did
seem able to look at Hiram with a impartial eye, an' Lucy says as it
beats all kind of eyes the way she looks at him since he's got married.
Why, Lucy says it's most made her lose faith in her Bible--the way she
feels about Gran'ma Mullins. She says she's got a feelin' towards
Gran'ma Mullins as she never knowed could be in a woman. She says she's
come to where she just cannot see what Ruth ever stuck to Naomi for when
the husband was dead an' Naomi disposed to leave, too. She says if
anythin' was to happen to Hiram she'd never be fool enough to hang onto
Gran'ma Mullins. She sat down an' told me all about their goin' to town
last week. She says she nigh to went mad. They started to go to the city
just for a day's shoppin' an' she says it was up by the alarm clock at
four an' breakfast at six for fear of missin' the nine-o'clock train an'
then if Gran'ma Mullins did n't lose her little black bead bag with her
weddin' ring an' the size of Hiram's foot an' eighty-five cents in it,
so they could n't get him no bargain socks after all! All they could do
was to buy the safety razor, an' when they got home with that there was
n't no blade in it, an' they had to go way back to town next day. Come
to find out the blade was in the box all the time, done up in the
directions, only Hiram never read the directions, 'cause he said as it's
a well-known fact as you can't cut yourself with a safety razor whatever
you do.

"Well, Lucy says it's for that sort of doin's as she left her happy home
an' her razor-stroppin' father, an' she says the billin' an' cooin' of
Gran'ma Mullins over Hiram is enough to make a wedded wife sick. She
says she would n't say it to no one but me, an' I promised her never to
breathe it along any further, but she says she's beginnin' to question
as to how long she's goin' to be able to stand it all. She says will you
believe that nights Gran'ma Mullins is comin' in softly at all hours to
tuck up Hiram's feet, an' Lucy's forever thinkin' she's either a rat or
a robber or else hittin' at her for Hiram himself. She says as it's
Heaven's own truth as Gran'ma Mullins is warmin' his flannels every
Saturday to this day, an' that the tears stand in her very eyes when
Lucy won't help him off with his boots."

"I never--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, nor no one else. It's all Gran'ma Mullins' foolishness. She begun
to be foolish when Hiram begun to know things. I can remember when he
used to run everywhere behind her with a little whip, 'cause he liked to
play horse, an' although she used to pretend that she let him 'cause it
kept the moths out of her clothes, still every one knowed as it was just
her spoilin' of him. Now he's growed up spoiled an' poor Lucy Dill's got
the consequences to suffer.

"An' Lucy surely is sufferin'! She says she ain't exactly discouraged,
but it's swimmin' up Niagara Falls to try an' break either of 'em of
their bad habits. She says she has to look on at kisses until the very
thought of one makes her seasick, an' she says to see Gran'ma Mullins
listenin' to Hiram singin' is enough to make any one blush down to the
very ground.

"I cheered her all I could. I told her as you can't make no sort of a
purse out of ears like Hiram's, an' that what can't be cured has always
got to be lived with unless you're a man. She cried some, poor thing,
an' said her mother always used to say as Hiram was cut out to make some
girl wish he was dead, but she said she always thought as her mother
was prejudiced. She said Hiram had a sort of way with him before he was
married as was so hopeful, an' he used to look at her an' sigh till it
just went all through her how happy they'd be if they could only be
together all they wanted to be together. Well, you c'n believe me or
not, just as you please, Mrs. Lathrop, but she says he ain't sighed
once--not once--since they was married, an' as for bein'
happy--well--she says she's about give up hope. She don't want folks to
know, 'cause she says she's got some pride, but she says there's no
tellin' how soon it'll run out if Gran'ma Mullins keeps on huggin'
Hiram, an' tellin' her how perfect he is over his own head."

"I don't--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should say not," said Susan; "but Hiram Mullins always was his
mother's white goose, an' the whole town is a witness. My idea if I was
Lucy would be to shut right down solid on the whole thing. I'd put a
bolt on my door an' keep Gran'ma Mullins an' her tuckin' tendencies on
the other side, an' if Hiram Mullins did n't come to time I'd bolt him
out, too, an' if he was n't nice about it I'd get out of the window an'
go home to my father. I guess Mr. Dill would be very glad to have Lucy
home again, for they say 'Liza Em'ly's no great success keepin' house
for him. Some one told me as Mr. Dill was in mortal fear as he was
practically feedin' the minister's whole family every time she went
home, an' that would be enough to make any man, as had only his own self
to feed, want his own daughter back, I should think.

"There's Mrs. Macy as would be glad to keep house for him if he 'd marry
her first, of course, but to my order of thinkin' Mr. Dill don't want to
marry Mrs. Macy near as much as Mrs. Macy wants to marry Mr. Dill. Mrs.
Macy says he's pesterin' her to death, an' Mr. Dill says if it's
pesterin' to speak when you're spoken to, he must buy a new dictionary
an' learn the new meanin' of the words by heart. Between ourselves, I
guess Mr. Dill is learnin' the lesson of wedded bliss from lookin' at
Lucy an' rememberin' her mother. Lucy ain't very happy an' you know as
well as I do what Mrs. Dill was. Her husband won't marry again in a
hurry, an' he's smart if he don't, for if Lucy ain't home in less 'n a
year I'll make you a tea cake."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, you ain't Lucy Dill," said her friend. "If you was you'd be
different. Lucy says this being waked up by havin' a hot flatiron slid
in among your feet most any time for no better reason than 'cause his
mother thought she heard Hiram sneeze, is a game as can be played once
too often. I see her temper was on the rise so I struck in, an' give her
a little advice of my own, an' as a result she says she's goin' to take
a strong upper hand to 'em both an' there won't be no velvet glove on it
neither. She says she can see as it's do or die for her now, an' she
don't mean to be done nor to die neither. She drank some tea as I made
strong on purpose, an' shook her head hard an' went home, an' God help
Hiram if he hummed last night; an' as for Gran'ma Mullins, Lucy said if
she come stealin' in to feel if Hiram was breathin' reg'lar, she was
going to get slapped for a mosquito in a way as she'd long remember."

"Dear me--" commented Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I did n't blame her," said Miss Clegg. "Of course I did n't know
as I was going to hear the other side afore night fell, but hearin' her
side stirred me up so that I give her my advice, an' my advice was to
put the bootjack under her pillow. There ain't no sense in women
sufferin' any more, to my idea of thinkin'. It's a good deal easier to
go to bed with a bootjack, an' I look to see Lucy really happy or Hiram
smashed flat soon in consequence."

"But you--" said Mrs. Lathrop, wide-eyed.

"I know, an' that did change my ideas. Of course when I was talkin' to
Lucy I was n't expectin' to see Gran'ma Mullins so soon, but I won't say
but what I was glad to see Gran'ma Mullins, too. It's a most curious
feelin', I d'n know as I ever feel a curiouser than to hear both sides
of anythin' from the both sides themselves right one after the other in
the same day. O' course I learned long ago to never take any sides
myself unless one of 'em was mine; but I will say as I don't believe no
one could feel for others more 'n I do when I hear folks shakin' their
heads over what as a general thing a person with brains like mine knows
is their own fault, an' knowed was goin' to be their own fault afore
they ever even began to think of doin' it.

"Now there was Lucy Dill yesterday forenoon mournin' 'cause Hiram is
Hiram an' his mother is his mother, an' then after dinner there comes
Gran'ma Mullins with her bonnet strings an' her tears all streamin'
together, an' wants my sympathy 'cause Lucy herself is Lucy herself.
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I can't but feel proud o' being able to hold the
reins so hard on my own bit that I never up an' told either on 'em the
plain truth, which is as they was all fools together to of ever looked
for the weddin' service to have changed any on 'em."

"What did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't know as I'm prepared to say what I think. To hear Lucy you'd
think _she_ was surely the martyr, but to hear Gran'ma Mullins you would
n't be sure after all. Gran'ma Mullins says after the honeymoon is over
every one expects to settle down as a matter of course, an' she would
n't say a word against it only it's Lucy is doin' all the settlin' an'
poor Hiram as is doin' all the down. She says it's heartbreakin' to be a
only mother an' watch the way as Hiram is being everlastin'ly downed.
She says as we all remember that bright an' happy weddin' day[B] an' how
she downed her own feelin's an' waved rice after 'em just like
everybody else when they started off weddin'-trippin', each with their
own bag in his own hand. But, oh, she says, the way they come back! She
says they come back with Hiram carryin' both bags, an' her heart sunk
when she see 'em for she says when she was married it was _her_ as come
home carryin' both bags an' she says it's one of the saddest straws as
ever blows a bride out. She says she never expected much of her marriage
'cause she was engaged on a April Fool's Day in Leap Year, an' he give
her an imitation opal for a ring, but she says Hiram give Lucy a real
green emerald with a 18 an' a K inside it an' he looked to be happy even
with his mother's tears mildewin' his pillow every night that whole
summer. She says no one will ever know how hard she did try to get sense
into Hiram that summer afore it was too late. She says she used to sit
up in tears an' wait for him to come home from seein' Lucy, an' weep on
his neck with her arms tight round him for two or three hours
afterwards every night, but she says he never used to appreciate it. An'
she says what he needed to marry for, anyway, Heaven only knows, with
his whole life laid pleasantly out to suit him, an' a strong an'
able-bodied mother ready an' smilin' to hand him whatever he wanted just
as quick as he wanted it. An' she says she never asked him to do nothin'
as she could possibly do herself an' the way Lucy orders him
about!--well, she says it's beyond all belief. An' oh, but she says it
goes through her like a chained-up bolt of lightnin' the voice Lucy
speaks to him in, an' she said she would n't have no one know it for
worlds but she says as near as she can figger she hit him over the head
with a hairbrush night before last."

[B] See "Susan Clegg and her Neighbors' Affairs."

"With a--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, aghast.

"She says she ain't absolutely positive, but they was a-chasin' a June
bug in their room together, an' she heard the smash an' the next mornin'
when she went in to make Hiram's side of the bed after Lucy (she says
Lucy is a most sing'lar bed-maker) she see the nick on the brush, an'
she says when she see the nick an' remembered how hollow it rung, she
knew as it could n't possibly have been nothin' in that room except
Hiram's head. She says if Lucy's begun on Hiram with a hairbrush now,
Heaven only knows what she'll be after him with in a year, for Gran'ma
Mullins' own husband went from a cake of soap to a whole cheese in a
fortnight an' she says it's a well-known fact as when a married man is
once set a-goin' he lands things faster an' faster. She says she thinks
about the andirons there, ready to Lucy's hand, until she's scared
white, an' yet she's afraid to take 'em for fear it'd attract her to the
water pitcher."

"Did Mr.--" began Mrs. Lathrop, hurriedly, after several attempts to
slide a question-quoit in among Susan's game of words.

"Oh, he did n't throw 'em at her. I could n't understand what he did do
with them an' so I asked, but it seems it was just as awful for he
grated the whole cake o' that soap on her front teeth to teach her not
to never refer to the deacon again, an' he dropped the cheese square on
her head when he was up on a step-ladder an' she was in a little
cupboard underneath leanin' over for a plate, an' then he tried to make
out as it was an accident. She says it was n't no accident though. She
says a woman as gets a cheese on the back of her head from a husband as
is on a step-ladder over her, ain't to be fooled with no accident story;
she says that cheese like to of hurt her for life an' was the greatest
of the consolations she had when he died. She says she never will forget
it as long as she's alive an' he's dead, no sir, so help her heaven she
won't; she says when the cemetery committee come to her an' want her to
subscribe for keepin' him trimmed with a lawn mower an' a little flag on
Decoration Day, she always thinks of that cheese an' says no, thank
you, they can just mow him regularly right along with the rest.

"But oh, she says it's awful bitter an' cold to see Hiram settin' out
along that stony, bony, thorny road, as she's learned every pin in from
first to last. She says if Lucy 'd only be a little patient with him,
but no, to bed he must go feelin' as bright as a button, an' in the
mornin', oh my, but she says it's heartrendin' to hear him wake up, for
Lucy washes his face so sudden with cold water that he gives one howl
before he remembers he's married, an' five minutes after she hangs every
last one of the bedclothes square out of the window.

"I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, it was a pretty sad tale first an' last, an'
Gran'ma Mullins says Hiram is as meek as a sheep being led to its
halter, but she says she can't feel as meekness pays women much. She
says she was meek an' Hiram's meek, an' she did n't get no reward but
soap an' that cheese, an' all Hiram's got so far is the hairbrush, an'
the water pitcher loomin'.

"I told her my own feelin's was as marriage was n't enough took into
consideration nowadays, an' that it was too easy at the start, an' too
hard at the finish. You know yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, as there ain't a
mite o' doubt but what if the honeymoon come just afore the funeral
there'd be a deal more sincere mournin' than there is as it is now, an'
to _my_ order of thinkin', if the grandchildren come afore the children,
folks would raise their families wiser. I told Gran'ma Mullins just that
very thing but it did n't seem to give her much comfort. She give a
little yell an' said oh, Heaven preserve her from havin' to sit by an'
watch Lucy Dill raise Hiram's children, for she was sure as she'd never
be able to give 'em enough pie on the sly to keep 'em happy an' any one
with half an eye could see they'd be washed an' brushed half to death.
She says Lucy won't wash a dish without rinsin' it afterwards or sweep
a room without carryin' all the furniture out into the yard; oh my, she
says her ways is most awful an' I expect that, to Gran'ma Mullins, they
are.

"I cheered her all I could. I told her she'd better make the best o'
things now, 'cause o' course as Lucy got older Hiram'd make her madder
an' madder, an' they'll all soon be lookin' back to this happy first
year as their one glimpse of paradise. I did n't tell her what Lucy told
me o' course, 'cause she'd go an' tell Hiram, an' Hiram must love Lucy
or he'd never stand being hit for a June bug or woke with a wash-cloth.
But I did kind of wonder how long it would last. If I was Lucy it would
n't last long, I know _that_. If I'd ever married a man I don't know how
long he'd of stood it or how long I'd of stood him, but I know one
thing, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I know that from my heels to my hairpins--an' I
said it to Elijah last night, an' I'm goin' to say it to you now--an'
that is that if I could n't of stood him I would n't of stood him, for
this is the age when women as read the papers don't stand nothin' they
don't want to--an' I would n't neither."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, you ain't me," said Miss Clegg, "you ain't me an' you ain't
Elijah neither. I talk very kind to Elijah, but there's no livin' in the
house with any man as supposes livin' in the house with any other woman
is goin' to be pleasanter than livin' in the house with the woman as
he's then an' there livin' in the house with. The main thing in life is
to keep men down to a low opinion of every woman's cookin' but yours an'
keep yourself down to a low opinion of the man. You don't want to marry
him then an' he don't want to live with any one else. An' to my order of
thinkin' that's about the only way that a woman can take any comfort
with a man in the house."



CHAPTER V

SUSAN CLEGG'S FULL DAY


"Well," said Miss Clegg, with strong emphasis, as she mounted Mrs.
Lathrop's steps, "I don't know, I'm sure, what I've come over here for
this night, for I never felt more like goin' right straight off to bed
in all my life before." Then she sat down on the top step and sighed
heavily.

"It's been a full day," she went on presently; "an' I can't deny as I
was nothin' but glad to remember as Elijah was n't comin' home to
supper, for as a consequence I sha'n't have it to get. A woman as has
had a day like mine to-day don't want no supper anyhow, an' it stands to
reason as if I don't feel lively in the first place, I ain't goin' to be
made any more so by comin' to see you, for I will remark, Mrs. Lathrop,
that seein' you always makes me wonder more'n ever why I come to see you
so often when I might just as well stay home an' go to bed. If I was in
my bed this blessed minute I'd be very comfortable, which I'm very far
from bein' here with this mosquito aimin' just over my slap each time;
an' then, too, I'd be alone, an' no matter how hard I may try to make
myself look upon bein' with you as the same thing as bein' alone, it is
n't the same thing an' you can't in conscience deny _that_, no matter
how hard you may sit without movin'."

Mrs. Lathrop made no reply to this frank comment on her liveliness, and
after a short pause, Miss Clegg sighed heavily a second time, and
continued:

"It's been a full day, a awful full day. In the first place the rooster
was woke by accident last night an' he up an' woke me. He must of woke
me about three o'clock as near as I can figure it out now, but I
supposed when I was woke as of course it was five so I got right up an'
went in an' woke Elijah. Elijah told me last week as he did n't believe
he'd ever seen the sun rise an' I was just enough out of sorts to think
as to-day would be a good time for him to begin to turn over a new leaf
as far as the sunrise was concerned. I must say he was n't very spry
about the leaf, for all he did was to turn himself over at first, but I
opened his window an' banged the blinds three or four times an' in the
end he got woke up without really knowin' just what had woke him. We had
breakfast with a candle, an' then Elijah was so tired lookin' out for
the sunrise that he looked in at his watch an' see as it was only
quarter to four then. He was real put out at that at first 'cause he
wrote till half past two last night, an' in the end he went back to bed
an' it certainly was a relief to see the last of him, for I may in
confidence remark as I never see him look quite so stupid afore. After
he was gone back to bed I washed up the breakfast dishes an' then I
went out in the wood shed in the dark an' there I got another surprise,
for I thought I'd look over the rags I was savin' for the next rag rug
an' when I poured 'em out in my lap, what do you think, Mrs. Lathrop,
what _do_ you think poured out along with 'em?--Why, a nest of young
mice an' two old ones!

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe imagine my feelin's at four in the
mornin' with Elijah gone back to bed an' my own lap full of mice, but
whatever I yelled did n't disturb him any an' I just made two jumps for
the lamp in the kitchen, leavin' the mice wherever they hit to rearrange
their family to suit themselves. Well, the second jump must needs land
me right square on top of the cistern lid, an' it up an' went in, takin'
my left leg along with it as far as it would go. Well, Mrs. Lathrop,
talk of girls as can open an' shut, like scissors, in a circus--I was
scissored to that degree that for a little I could n't think which
would be wisest, to try an' get myself together again in the kitchen or
to just give up altogether in the cistern. In the end I hauled the leg
as had gone in out again, an' then I see where all the trouble come
from, for the cistern lid was caught to my garter an' what I'd thought
was a real injury was only it swingin' around an' around my leg. I put
the lid back on the cistern an' felt to sit with my legs crossed for
quite a while, thinkin' pleasant thoughts of the rooster as woke me, an'
by that time it was half past four, an' I could hear all the other
chickens stirrin' so I got up an' began to stir again myself. I opened
the front door an' looked out an' that did n't bring me no good luck
either, for as I looked out a bat flew in an' just as the bat flew in he
managed to hook himself right in my hair. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I tell you
I _was_ mad then. I don't know as I ever was madder than I was then. I
was so mad that I can't tell you how mad I was. The bat held on by
diggin' in like he thought I wanted to get him off, an' I pulled at him
so hard that I can't in conscience be surprised much over his takin'
that view of it. Well, in the end I had to take all my hairpins out
first an' then sort of skin him out of my hair lengthways, which,
whatever you may think about it, Mrs. Lathrop, is far from bein' funny
along afore dawn on a day as you 've begun at three thinkin' as it was
five."

"Susan!" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop; "don't--"

"No, I'll have some when I get home. I like mine better than yours
anyway. Now you've made me forget where I was in my story."

"You--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh yes, I remember now. Well, I was too put out at first to notice what
the bat did after I got him out o' my head, but when I went upstairs I
found him circlin' everywhere in a way as took every bit of home feelin'
out of the house an' I just saw that I'd have no peace till I could be
alone with Elijah again. So I got up an' got a broom an' went a battin'
for all I was worth. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can believe me or not just
as you please, but for one solid hour I run freely an' gayly up an' down
an' over an' under my own house after that bat. I never see nothin' like
that bat before or behind. He just sort of sailed here an' there an'
everywhere, an' wherever he sailed smoothly an' easily there was me
runnin' after him with the broom, whackin' at him every chance I got. We
was upstairs, we was downstairs, we was in the wood shed an' out of the
wood shed, we was under the kitchen table, we was over father's picture
on the mantel--we was everywhere, me an' that bat. Then all of a sudden
he disappeared completely an' I sit down in the rockin'-chair to puff
an' rest. Elijah slept till most eight an' I was so tired I let him
sleep although I never was one to approve of any man's sleepin', but
before he woke something worse than a bat come down on me, an' that was
Mrs. Sweet's cousin, Jerusha Dodd. You know Jerusha Dodd, Mrs. Lathrop,
an' so do I, an' so does everybody an' as far as my observation 's
extended bats is wise men bringin' their gifts from afar to visit you
compared to Jerusha Dodd when she arrives in the early mornin'. I would
n't never have gone to the door only she stepped up on the drain-pipe
first an' looked in an' saw me there in the rockin'-chair afore she
knocked. I tell you I was good an' mad when I see her an' see as she see
me an' I made no bones of it when I opened the door. I says to her frank
an' open--I says, 'Good gracious, Jerusha, I hope you ain't lookin' to
see me pleased at seein' as it's you.' But laws, you could n't smash
Jerusha Dodd not if you was a elephant an' she was his sat-down-upon
fly, so I had her sittin' in the kitchen an' sighin' in less'n no time.
She was full of her woes an' the country's woes as usual. Congress was
goin' to ruin us next year sure, an' she had a hole in her back fence
anyway; she did n't approve of Mr. Rockefeller's prices on oil, an'
there was a skunk in her cellar, an' she said she could n't seem to
learn to enjoy livin' the simple life as she'd had to live it since her
father died, a _tall_. She said that accordin' to her views life for
single women nowadays was too simple an' she said she really only lacked
bein' buried to be dead. She says as all a simple life is, is havin' no
rights except them as your neighbors don't want. She says for her part
she's been more took into the heart of creation than she's ever cared
about. I do hate to have to listen to the way she goes on an' no one can
say as I ever was one to encourage her in them views. I don't think it's
right to encourage no one in their own views 'cause their views is never
mine an' mine is always the right ones. This mornin' I stood it as long
as I could from Jerusha an' then I just let out at her an' I says to
her, I says, 'Jerusha Dodd, you really are a fool an' Heaven help them
as ever makes more of a fool of you, by tellin' you as you ain't.' You
know Jerusha Dodd, Mrs. Lathrop; she began to cry hard an' rock harder
right off, said she knowed she was a fool, but it was nature's fault an'
not hers for she was born so an' could n't seem to get the better of it.
I told her my view of the matter would be for her to stay home an' patch
up that hole in her fence an' pull up some o' that choice garden full of
weeds as she's growin', an' brush the dust off the crown of her bonnet,
an' do a few other of them wholesome little trifles as is a good deal
nearer the most of us than Mr. Rockefeller] an' what congress in its
infinite wisdom is goin' to see fit to deal out in the daily papers next
year.

"But she only kept on cryin' an' rockin' an' finally I got so tired
listenin' to her creak an' sob that I went out an' had a real bright
idea. I got the little sink scratcher an' tied a wet piece of rag to
the handle an' went around behind her an' hung it suddenly in her back
hair. She put up her hand an' felt it, an' give a yell that woke Elijah.
You know how Jerusha Dodd acts when she's upset! She spun around so the
sink scratcher fell right out but she did n't have sense enough left in
her to know it. She yelled, 'What was it? what was it?' an' I yelled,
'It was a bat, it was a bat;' an' at that I see the last of Jerusha
Dodd, for she was out of my kitchen an' out of my sight afore Elijah
could get to the top of the stairs to begin yellin', 'What was it? what
was it?' on his own hook. I had to tell him all about it then an' he
wanted it for a item right off. He said he'd have a dash for Jerusha an'
a star for me, an' the idea took him like most of his ideas do, an' he
laughed till he coughed the coffee as I'd saved for him all the wrong
way, an' dropped a soft boiled egg as I'd boiled for him into the water
pitcher, an', oh my, I thought misfortunes never would come to a end or
even to a turnin'. But after he'd fished out the egg an' eat it, he went
off down to his uncle's an' he was n't more'n gone when in come Mrs.
Sweet to see if Jerusha left her breastpin, 'cause in her quick
breathin' it had fallen somewhere an' Jerusha was havin' hysterics over
losin' that now. While I was talkin' to Mrs. Sweet at the gate I smelt
somethin' burnin' an' there my whole bakin' of bread was burnt up in the
oven owin' to Jerusha Dodd's breathin' her breastpin out over a bat. I
felt to be some tempered then, an' Mrs. Sweet saw it an' turned around
an' left me, an' after she was gone I went into the house an' pulled
down the shades an' locked the door an' went to sleep. I slept till
Elijah come home to dinner an' of course there was n't no dinner ready
an' that put Elijah out. Elijah's got a good deal of a temper, I find,
an' the only thing in the world to do with a man in a temper, when he is
in a temper, is to make him so mad that he goes right off in a huff an'
leaves you to peace again. So I just made one or two remarks about my
opinion of things as he feels very strong about, an' he said he guessed
he'd get supper down town an' sleep at the store to-night. So he took
himself off an' he was hardly out of the way when Mrs. Macy come to tell
me about Judy Lupey's divorce."

"Is--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Not yet, but she soon will be," said Miss Clegg. "Mrs. Macy's just back
from Meadville an' she says all Meadville is churned up over it. They
ain't never had a divorce there afore, an' every one is so interested to
know just how to do it, an' I will say this much for Mrs. Macy, an' that
is that she was nothin' but glad to tell me all about it. Seems as the
Lupeys is most awful upset over it though an' Mrs. Kitts says she ain't
sure as she won't change her will sooner than leave money to a woman
with two husbands."

"Two--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Macy says," continued Susan, "as Mrs. Lupey ain't much better
pleased than Mrs. Kitts over it all, an', although she did n't say it in
so many words, she hinted pretty plain as it seemed hard as the only one
of the girls to get married should be the same one as is gettin'
divorced. Mrs. Macy said she see her point of view, but to her order of
thinkin' the world don't begin to be where old maids need consider
divorces yet awhile. She says she stayed in the house with 'em all three
days an' she says she cheered Mrs. Lupey all she could; she says she
told her to her best ear as no one but a mother would ever have dreamed
of dreamin' of Faith or Maria's ever marryin' under any circumstances.
She said Mrs. Lupey said it was the quickness of Judy's gettin' tired of
Mr. Drake as had frightened her most. Why, she says as before the first
baby was through teethin' in her day, Judy was all up an' through an'
completely done with Mr. Drake. All done with him an' home again, an'
the family not even countin' to consider.

"Mrs. Macy says as she's learned a awful lot about divorce as she did
n't know before. She said she could n't help being surprised over how
much a divorce is like a marriage, for Busby Bell was there every night
an' Judy an' the whole family is hard at work gettin' her clothes ready.
But Mrs. Macy says them as suppose the real gettin' of the divorce
itself is simple had ought to go an' stay at the Lupeys awhile. Why, she
says the way the Lupeys is complicated an' tied up by Judy an' Mr. Drake
is somethin' beyond all belief. To begin with, Judy decided to be
deserted because she thought it'd really be the simplest an' easiest in
the end an' she hated to bother with bein' black an' blue for witnesses
an' all that kind of business. But it seems being deserted, when you
live in the same town with a husband who rides a bicycle an' don't care
where he meets you, is just enough to drive a woman nigh to madness
itself. Why, Mrs. Macy says that Judy Lupey actually can't go out to
walk a _tall_, not 'nless Faith walk a block ahead of her an' Maria a
block behind, an' even then Mr. Drake's liable to come coastin' down on
'em any minute. She says it's awful tryin', an' Judy gets so mad over it
all that it just seems as if they could _not_ stand it.

"But that ain't the only trouble neither, Mrs. Macy says. Seems Judy got
Solomon Drake for her lawyer 'cause he knowed the whole story, through
eatin' dinner at the Drakes every Sunday while they was stayin' married.
She thought havin' Solomon Drake would save such a lot of explainin'
'cause Mr. Drake is so hard to explain to any one as has just seen him
ridin' his bicycle an' not really been his wife. Well, seems as Judy
never calculated on Solomon's keepin' right on takin' Sunday dinner with
Mr. Drake, after he became her lawyer, but he does, an' none of the
Lupeys think it looks well, an' Judy finds it most tryin' because all
she an' Solomon talk over about the divorce he tells Mr. Drake on Sunday
out of gratitude for his dinner an' because it's a subject as seems to
really interest Mr. Drake. Seems Mr. Drake is a hard man to interest.
Judy says he was yawnin' afore they got to the station on their
honeymoon.

"But Mrs. Macy says that ain't all, neither, whatever you may think, for
she says what do you think of Mr. Drake's goin' an' gettin' Busby Bell
of all the men in Meadville for _his_ lawyer, when the whole town knows
as it's Busby as Judy's goin' to marry next. Mrs. Lupey says as Judy
would have took Busby for her own lawyer only they was so afraid of
hurtin' each other's reputations, an' now really it's terrible, 'cause
Busby says as he don't well see what's to be done about their
reputations if the worst comes to the worst, for he's explained as very
likely Judy's goin' to need one more man than a husband to get her her
divorce. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says as Busby said as if he had n't
been Mr. Drake's lawyer he'd have been more than ready to be the other
man, but as Mr. Drake's lawyer he can't help Judy no more'n if he was
Mr. Drake himself. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey cried, an' she told her as
she knowed as there was any number of quiet elderly men as any one could
depend on right here in our own community as'd be nothin' but glad to go
over to Meadville an' help anyway they could, but Mrs. Lupey asked Judy
about it, an' Judy asked Busby, an' Busby said men as you could depend
on anywhere was n't no use in divorce suits a _tall_. It's quite another
kind, it seems. Mrs. Macy says she's really very sorry for them all, for
it really seems awful to think how the Lupeys need a man an' the only
man they've got Judy's busy gettin' rid of as hard as she can.

"Mrs. Macy says it's all most upsettin'. She says she never lived
through nothin' like it afore. Judy's cross 'cause she can't go out an'
meet Busby without runnin' the risk of meetin' Mr. Drake an' losin' all
the time she's put in so far bein' deserted. An' then there's a many
things as a outsider never would know about or even guess at unless
they've lived right in the house with a real live divorce. Mrs. Macy
says as Martha Hack, as does the washin' for 'em all, is forever
forgettin' an' sendin' Judy's wash home with Mr. Drake's just as if they
was still completely married. That would n't be so bad only Mr. Drake
waits for Solomon to get 'em Sunday, an' Solomon's kind-hearted an'
gives 'em to Busby so as to give him a excuse to make two calls in one
day. Well, Mrs. Macy says the come out of it all is as when Judy wants
to take a bath just about all Meadville has to turn out to see where
under heaven her clean clothes is.

"I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, tellin' it all to you does n't matter so
much, but to hear Mrs. Macy tell it makes you wonder if it's worth while
to try an' leave a man as you can't live with. Seems to me it'd be
easier to live with him. Mrs. Macy says as she met Mr. Drake several
times herself on his bicycle an' he looked most bloomin'. No one need
be sorry for him, an' not many is sorry for Judy. But Mrs. Macy says
there's only one person as all Meadville's sorry for, an' that's Busby
Bell."

Mrs. Lathrop started to speak.

"Yes," Susan went on hurriedly. "Elijah said just that same thing the
other day when he was talkin' about the Marlboroughs. He thinks as
divorces is all a mistake, but then you're a widow an' Elijah ain't
married so you're both pretty safe in airin' your views."

Susan rose just here and descended the steps. "I must go," she said, "I
don't seem to take no particular interest in what you might be goin' to
tell me, Mrs. Lathrop, even if there was any chance of your ever gettin'
around to tellin' it, an' I've told you all I know, an' I'm very tired
talkin'. As I said before, it's been a full day an' I'm pretty well beat
out. I forgot to tell you as after Mrs. Macy was gone I found as it was
n't the bread I smelt in the oven--it was the bat. I suppose when I see
Mr. Kimball he'll make one of his jokes over bread-dough an' bats an'
batter, but I'll be too wore out to care. Did I say as Elijah said he'd
sleep at the store to-night?"

"Will--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, all of a sudden.

"Why, of course," said Susan, "it did n't hurt either loaf a mite. I'd
be as much of a fool as Jerusha Dodd if I let a little thing like a bat
spoil a whole bakin' of bread for me, Mrs. Lathrop. As for Elijah, he
did n't know nothin' about it an' I sha'n't tell him, you may be sure,
for he's the one as eats all the bread--I never touch it myself, as you
well know."



CHAPTER VI

THE EDITOR'S ADVICE COLUMN


"I'm a good deal worried over Elijah," Miss Clegg said to Mrs. Lathrop,
one day when the new paper was about three weeks old, and when the town
had begun to take both it and its editor with reasonable calm; "he does
have so many ideas. Some of his ideas are all right as far as I can see,
but he has 'em so thick an' fast that it worries me more'n a little. It
ain't natural to have new ideas all the time an' no one in this
community ever does it. He's forever tellin' me of some new way he's
thought of for branchin' out somewhere an' his branches make me more'n a
little nervous. The old ways is good enough for us an' I try to hold him
down to that idea, but first he wants me to get a new kind of flatirons
as takes off while you heat it, an' next he wants me to fix the paper
all over new.

"I brought over somethin' as he wrote last night to read you, an' show
you how curious his brains do mix up things. He brought it down this
mornin' an' read it to me, an' I asked him to give it to me to read to
you. I was goin' to bring it to you anyway, but then he said as I could
too, so it's all right either way. It's some of his new ideas an' he
said he'd be nothin' but glad to have you hear 'em 'cause he says the
more he lives with me the more respect he's got for your hearin' an'
judgment. He asked me what I thought of it first, an' I told him frank
an' open as I did n't know what under the sun to think of it. I meant
that, too, for I certainly never heard nothin' like it in my life afore,
so he said we could both read it to-day an' I could tell him what we
thought to-night, when he come home.

"Wh--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, with real interest.

"Well, seems he's been thinkin' as it's time to begin to show us how
up-to-date he looks on life, he says, an' as a consequence he's openin'
up what he calls the field of the future. He says he's goin' to have a
editorial this week on beginnin' from now on to make every issue of the
_Megaphone_ just twice as good as the one afore. I told him if he really
meant what he said it could n't possibly be worth no dollar a year now,
but he said wait an' see an' time would tell an' virtue be her own
reward. He says he's goin' to make arrangements with a woman in the city
for a beauty column, an' arrangements with some other woman as is a
practical preserver, an' have a piece each time on how to be your own
dressmaker once you get cut out; I thought that these things was about
enough for one paper, but oh my! he went on with a string more, as long
as your arm. He's goin' to begin to have a advice column too, right
off, an' that's this I've brought over to read you; he says lots of
folks want advice an' don't want to tell no one nor pay nothin' an' they
can all write him an' get their answers on anythin' in the wide world
when the paper comes out Saturday. I could n't but open my eyes a little
at that, for I know a many as need advice as I should n't consider
Elijah knew enough to give, but Elijah's a man an' in consequence don't
know anythin' about how little he does know, so I did n't say nothin'
more on that subject. He's full of hope an' says he's soon goin' to show
big city papers what genius can do single-handed with a second-hand
printin' press, an' he talked an' talked till I really had to tell him
that if he did n't want his breakfast he'd have to go back to bed or
else down town."

"Is the--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, this is it. He done it last night an' he give it to me this
mornin' to read to you. It's to be called 'The Advice Column' an' he's
goin' to head it 'Come to My Bosom' an' sign it 'Aunt Abby' 'cause of
course if he signed it himself he'd be liable for breach of promise from
any girl as read the headin' an' chose to think he meant her."

"But who--?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Why, nobody the first week, of course. He had to make 'em up
himself--an' the answers too, an' that's what makes it all seem so silly
to me. But he did work over it,--he says no one knows the work of
gettin' people stirred up to enthusiasm in a small town like this, an'
he says he'd ought to have a martyr's crown of thorns, he thinks, for
even thinkin' of gettin' a advice column started when most of his
energies is still got to go tryin' to get our fund for the famine big
enough to make it pay to register the letter when the cheque goes. He
says the trouble with the fund is no one has no relations there an' a
good many thought as it was mostly Chinamen as is starvin' anyhow.
Elijah says the world is most dreadful hard-hearted about
Chinamen--they don't seem to consider them as of any use a _tall_. He
says it's mighty hard to get up a interest in anythin' here anyhow, Lord
knows--for he says that San Francisco fund an' what become of it has
certainly been a pill an' no mistake. The nearest he come to that was
gettin' a letter as Phoebe White wrote the deacon about how the
government relief train run right through the town she's in, but Elijah
says after all his efforts he has n't swelled the famine fund
thirty-five cents this week. He says Clightville has give nine dollars
an' Meadville has give fifteen dollars an' two barrels an' a mattress,
if anybody wants it C. O. D., an' here we are stuck hard at six dollars
an' a quarter an' two pennies as the minister's twins brought just after
they choked on them licorish marbles."

"Did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I did n't. I tell you what, Mrs. Lathrop, I keep a learnin'; in
regard to givin' to funds I've learned a very good trick from
Rockefeller an' Carnegie in the papers; they come to me about that San
Francisco one an' I said right out frank an' open that if the town would
give five hundred dollars I'd give fifty. That shut up every one's mouth
an' set every one to thinkin' how much I was willin' to give an' as a
matter of fact I did n't give nothin' a _tall_."

"But about--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes," said Susan, opening the paper which she had in her hand, "I was
just thinkin' of it, too. I'll read it to you right off now an' you see
if you don't think about as I do. I think myself as Elijah's made some
pretty close cuts at people, only of course every one will guess as he
must of made 'em up 'cause they don't really fit to no one. Still, it's
a risky business an' I wish he'd let it alone for he lives in my house
an' I know lots of folks as is mean enough to say that these things was
like enough said to him by me--a view as is far from likely to make my
friends any more friendly."

"Do--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I'm goin' to." Then Miss Clegg drew a long breath and re-began
thus:

"Well, now, the first is, 'How can you put pickles up so they'll keep
the year 'round?'" She paused there and looked expectantly at the placid
Mrs. Lathrop as if she was asking a riddle or conducting an examination
for the benefit of her friend. Mrs. Lathrop, however, had turned and was
looking the other way so it was only when the length of the pause
brought her to herself with a violent start, that she answered:

"My heavens ali--"

"The answer is," said Susan promptly, "'Put 'em up so high that nobody
can reach them.'"

Mrs. Lathrop opened her eyes.

"I don't--" she protested.

"No, I did n't think as it was very sensible myself," responded Susan,
"but do you know, Elijah laughed out loud over it. That's what's funny
about Elijah to my order of thinkin'--he's so amused at himself. He
thinks that's one of the best things he's done as a editor, he says, an'
I'm sure I can't see nothin' funny in it any more than you can. An' you
don't see nothin' funny in it, do you?"

"No," said Mrs. Lathrop, "I--"

"Nor me neither," said Susan, "an' now the next one is sillier yet, to
my order of thinkin'. It's a letter an' begins, 'Dear Aunt Abby;' then
it says, 'Do you think it is possible to be happy with a young man with
freckles? My husband says Yes, but my mother says No. He's my husband's
son by his first wife. I have twins myself. I want the boy sent to a
home of some sort. What do you think? Yours affectionately--Ada.'"

"What under the--" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Just what I said," said Susan. "I could n't make head or tail out of it
myself an' I'm afraid it'll make Deacon White mad 'cause Polly's his
second wife--yes, an' the minister's got two wives, too. I tried to make
Elijah see that but he just said to read the answer."

"What is--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, the answer's just as dumbfounderin' as the question, I think. The
answer says, 'Hang on to the boy. If you get the twin habit he'll prove
invaluable.'"

"Well, I--" said Mrs. Lathrop, disgustedly.

"I told Elijah that myself. I said that the minister was bound to feel
hurt over the second wife part, but with twins in the answer he's sure
to feel it means him an' I expect he'll maybe stop takin' the paper an'
join Mrs. Macy's club. Mrs. Macy got real mad at somethin' Mr. Kimball
sold her last week an' as a consequence she went an' made what she calls
her Newspaper Club, she rents her paper for a cent a day now an' she
made four cents last week. She says if Elijah Doxey ever says anythin'
in the paper about her again she'll take three papers an' rent 'em at
two mills a day an' supply the whole town an' wreck him so flat he'll
have to hire out to pick hops. I told Elijah what she said an' he said
for the Lord's sake to tell Mrs. Macy as her toes was hereafter
perfectly safe from all his treads. I told her, but she says he need n't
think quotin' from poets is goin' to inspire faith in him in her very
soon again. She says over in Meadville it's town talk as Elijah Doxey is
havin' just a box of monkeys' fun with us."

"Do you--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, open-eyed.

"No, I don't, for I asked him an' he crossed his heart to the contrary.
But really, Mrs. Lathrop, you must let me read the rest of this for I've
got to be gettin' home to get supper."

"Go--" said the neighbor.

"No, I won't till I've done. The next one is this one an' it says, 'How
long ought any one to wait to get married? I have waited several years
an' there is nothin' against the man except he's eighty-two an'
paralyzed. I am seventy-nine. Pa an' Ma oppose the match an' are the
oldest couple in the country,' an' Elijah has signed it 'Lovin'ly,
Rosy'--of all the silly things!"

"He must be--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"I should think so," said Susan; "why, he was rollin' all over the sofa
laughin' over that. The answer is, 'I would wait a little longer--you
can lose nothin' by patience.' I call that pretty silly, too."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, indeed," said Susan, folding up the paper, "I felt it an' I said
it, an' I knew you'd feel to agree. I like Elijah, but I must say as I
don't like his Advice Column, an' I'd never be one to advise no one to
write to it for advice. His answers don't seem to tell you nothin', to
my order of thinkin', an' that one about the pickles struck me just like
a slap in my face."

"I'd never--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Nor me neither. If I want to know I come to you."

"And I--" said Mrs. Lathrop warmly.

"I know you would," said her friend, "whatever faults you've got, Mrs.
Lathrop, I'd always feel that about you."



CHAPTER VII

MRS. MACY AND THE CONVENTION


Mrs. Lathrop was out in the garden, pottering around in an aimless sort
of way which she herself designated as "looking after things," but which
her friend and neighbor called "wastin' time an' strength on nothin'."
Whenever Miss Clegg perceived Mrs. Lathrop thus engaged she always
interrupted her occupation as speedily as possible. On the occasion of
which I write, she emerged from her own kitchen door at once, and
called:

"Oh, Mrs. Lathrop, come here, I've got a surprise for you."

Mrs. Lathrop forthwith ceased to gaze fondly and absent-mindedly over
her half-acre of domain, and advanced to the fence. Miss Clegg also
advanced to the fence, and upon its opposite sides the following
conversation took place.

"I went to see Mrs. Macy yesterday afternoon," Miss Clegg began, "an' I
saw her an' that's what the surprise come from."

"She isn't--" asked Mrs. Lathrop anxiously.

"Oh, no, she's all right--that is, she's pretty nearly all right, but I
may remark as the sight an' hearin' of her this day is a everlastin'
lesson on lettin' women be women an' allowin' men to keep on bein' men
for some years to come yet. Mrs. Macy says for her part she's felt that
way all along but every one said it was her duty an' she says she always
makes a point of doin' her duty, an' this time it was goin' to give her
a free trip to town, too, so the hand of Providence seemed to her to be
even more'n unusually plainly stuck out at her."

"Oh," said Mrs. Lathrop--"you mean--"

"Of course I do," said Susan, "but wait till I tell you how it come out.
It's come out now, an' all different from how you know."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, you wait an' listen," said the friend,--"you wait an' listen an'
then you'll know, too."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop, submissively.

"She says," Miss Clegg went on, "that we all know (an' that's true, too,
'cause I told you that before) as she was never much took with the idea
even in the first of it. She says as she thinks as Elijah's ideas is
gettin' most too progressive an' if he ain't checked we'll very soon
find ourselves bein' run over by some of his ideas instead of pushed
forward. She says woman's clubs is very nice things an' Mrs. Lupey takes
a deal of pleasure with the one in Meadville (whenever they don't meet
at her house)--but Mrs. Macy says our sewin' society ain't no club an'
never was no club, an' she considers as it was overdrawin' on Elijah's
part to start the question of its sendin' a delegate to any federation
of any kind of woman's clubs. She says she can't see--an' she said at
the meetin' as elected her, that she couldn't see--what our sewin'
society could possibly get out of any convention, for you can buy all
the patterns by mail now just as well as if you have 'em all to look
over. An' then she says, too, as no one on the face of kingdom come
could ever be crazy enough to suppose as any convention could ever get
anythin' out of our delegates, so what was the use of us an' them ever
tryin' to get together a _tall_. I thought she was very sensible
yesterday, an' I thought she was very sensible at the meetin' as elected
her, an' I tried to talk to Elijah, but Elijah's so dead set on our
bein' up to time with every Tom, Dick an' Harry as comes along with any
kind of a new plan, that I can't seem to get him to understand as no one
in this town wants to be up to time--we're a great deal better suited
takin' our own time like we always did until he come among us. Mrs. Macy
says as we all know as no one wanted to be a delegate to the federation
to begin with, an' you know that yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, for I was there
an' Elijah's idea resulted in the first place in every one's stayin'
away from that meetin' for fear as they'd be asked to go. They had to
set another day for the sewin' society an' even then a good many cleaned
house instead for a excuse, an' Mrs. Sweet said right out as she did n't
believe as any of us knowed enough to go to a convention an' so we'd
better all stay home. I had to speak up at that an' say as Elijah had
told me as things was fixed now so folks as did n't know anythin' could
go to a convention just as well as any one else, but Mrs. Jilkins said
in that case she should feel as if she was wastin' her time along with a
lot of fools, an' what she said made such a impression that in the end
the only one as they could possibly get to go was Mrs. Macy, so they
elected her. Mrs. Macy was n't enthusiastic about bein' elected, a
_tall_, but Mrs. Lupey is her cousin an' Mrs. Lupey was the Meadville
delegate, an' she says she thought as they could sit together, an' Mrs.
Lupey wanted to go to the city anyway about reducin' her flesh, an' Mrs.
Macy said that was sure to be interestin' for the one as Mrs. Lupey
likes best is the one as you run chains of marbles up an' down your back
alone by yourself, an' Mrs. Macy wanted to see them givin' Mrs. Lupey
full directions for nothin'--she thought it would be so amusin'--an' so
in the end she said she'd go.

"Well, she says foreign folks before they come to this country is wise
compared to her! She was tellin' me all about it this afternoon. I never
hear such a tale--not even from Gran'ma Mullins. She says Elijah sent in
her name an' they filed her next day an' she says they've never quit
sendin' her the filin's ever since. I told you as I heard in the square
she was gettin' a good deal of mail but I never mistrusted how much
until she showed me her box for kindlin' fires next winter. Why, she
says it's beyond all belief! The right end of the box has got the papers
as was n't worth nothin' an' the left end has got them as is really
valuable. Well, after I'd looked at the box we set down an' she told me
the hide an' hair of the whole thing. She says at first she got letters
from everybody under the sun askin' her her opinions an' views, some
about things as she never heard of before an' others as to things as she
considers a downright insult to consider as she might know about. But
she says views an' insults don't really matter much, after you reach her
age, so she let those all go into the box together an' thought she'd
think no more about it. She says there was only just one as she really
minded an' that was the one about her switch. Seems she was n't decided
about even wearin' her switch to the convention, for she says it's very
hard to get both ends of a switch fastened in at the same do-up an' one
end looks about as funny as the other, stickin' out, but she says you
can maybe imagine her feelin's when a man as she would n't know from
Adam wrote her a letter beginnin', 'Hello, hello, why don't you have
that dyed?' an' a picture of him lookin' at a picture of her very own
switch with a microscope! She says she never was so took aback in all
her life. There was another picture on the envelope of the man at a
telephone an' he'd got all the other delegates' switches done an'
hangin' up to dry for 'em an' she says she will say as the law against
sendin' such things through the mail had certainly ought to be applied
to that man right then an' there. She says it's years since she's got
red from anythin' but bein' mad, but she was red from both kinds of
woman's feelin's then an' don't you forget it. But laws, she says
switches is child's play to what another man wrote her about his
garters. Not her garters but his garters, mind you, Mrs. Lathrop. Would
you believe that that other man had the face to ask her point-blank if,
while she was in town, she'd be so kind as to give five minutes to
comin' an' lookin' at his garters!--at _his garters_! He said they
hooked onto his shoulders an' he just wanted a chance to tell her how
comfortable they was. Well, she says the idea of any man's garters bein'
of any interest to a widow was surely most new to her, an' it was all
she could do to keep from writin' an' tellin' him so. She says she never
hear the beat of such impertinence in all her life. Why, she says when
she had a husband she never took no special interest in his garters as
she recollects. She says she remembers as he used to pull up when he
first got up in the mornin' an' then calmly wrinkle down all day, but
she says if her lawful husband's garters' wrinkles did n't interest her,
it ain't in reason as any other man's not wrinklin' is goin' to. But
she says that ain't all whatever I may think (or you either, Mrs.
Lathrop), for although the rest ain't maybe so bad, still it's bad
enough an' you 'll both agree to that when you hear it, I know. She says
more men wrote her, an' more, an' more, an' the things they said was
about all she could stand, so help her Heaven! One asked her if she
knowed she needed a new carpet an' he happened to keep carpets, an'
another told her her house needed paintin' an' he happened to keep
paint, an' another just come out flat as a flounder an' said if she
knowed how old her stove was, she'd come straight to him the first
thing, an' he happened to keep stoves. An' she says they need n't
suppose as she was n't sharp enough to see as every last one of them
letters was really writ to sound unselfish, but with the meanin'
underneath of maybe gettin' her to buy somethin'.

"An' then she says there come a new kind as really frightened her by
gettin' most too intimate on postal cards."

"On postal--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes--on postal cards. One wrote as she could get her husband back if
she'd only follow his direction, an' she says the last thing she wants
is to get her husband back, even if he is only just simply dead; an'
another told her if she'd go through his exercises she could get fat or
thin just as she pleased, an' the exercises was done in black without no
clothes on around the edge of the card, an' Mrs. Macy says when Johnny
handed her the card at the post office she like to of died then an'
there. Why, she says they was too bad to put in a book, even--they was
too bad to even send Mrs. Lupey!"

"Wh--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Then on Monday last still another new kind begin an' they've been
comin' more an' more each mail. They was the convention itself beginnin'
on her. An' she says she don't know whether they was a improvement or
worse to come. One wrote an' told her if she was temperance to report
to them the first thing, an' then stand shoulder to shoulder from then
on straight through the whole week. Well, Mrs. Macy says she could n't
consider goin' anywhere an' standin' up through a whole week so she
wrote 'em she was for the Family Entrance, where everybody can sit down,
an' she feels bad because she's a great believer in temperance, but she
says she can't help it, she's got to have a chair anywhere where she's
to stay for a week. So temperance loses Mrs. Macy. Then woman's
sufferige did n't wait to ask her what she was, but sent her a button
an' told her to sew it right on right then an' there. She says she was
feelin' so bad over the temperance that she was only too glad to be
agreeable about the button so she done it, but it's hard to button over
on a'count of bein' a star with the usual spikes an' the only place
where she needed a button was on her placket hole, an' a spiked button
in the back of your petticoat is far from bein' amusin' although she
says she can't but think as it's a very good badge for sufferige
whenever she steps on it in steppin' out of her clothes at night. Then
next she got a letter askin' her if she'd join the grand battalion to
rally around the flag, an' she says it was right then an' there as she
begin to fill the kindlin' box.

"Well, she says she'd got the box half full when to-day she got the
final slam in her face!

"There came this mornin' her directions for goin' an' she says when she
see for the first time just the whole width of what she was let in to
she most fell over backward then an' there.

"First was a badge with a very good safety pin as she can always use;
she says she did n't mind the badge. Then there was paper tellin' her as
she was M. 1206 an' not to let it slip her mind an' to mark everythin'
she owned with it an' sew it in her hat an' umbrella. Then there was a
map of the city with blue lines an' pink squares an' a sun without any
sense shinin' square in the middle. Then there was a paper as she must
fill out an' return by the next mail if she was meanin' to eat or sleep
durin' the week. Then there was four labels all to be writ with her name
an' her number an' one was for her trunk if it weighed over a hundred
pounds, an' one was for her trunk if it weighed under a hundred pounds,
an' one was for her trunk if it was a suit case, an' one was for her
trunk if it was n't.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says you can maybe imagine how her head was swimmin' by
this time an' the more she read how she was to be looked out for, the
more scared she got over what might possibly happen to her. She says it
was just shock after shock. There was a letter offerin' to pray with her
any time she'd telephone first, an' a letter tellin' her not to overpay
the hack, an' a letter sayin' as it's always darkest afore dawn, an' if
she'd got any money saved up to bring it along with her an' invest it
by the careful advice of him as had the letter printed at his own
expense. Why, she says she didn't know which way to turn or what to do
next she was that mixed up.

"An' then yesterday mornin' come the final bang as bu'sted Mrs. Macy!
She got a letter from a man as said he'd meet her in the station an'
tattoo her name right on her in the ladies' waitin'-room, so as her
friends could easy find her an' know her body at the morgue. Well, she
said that ended her. She says she never was one to take to bein' stuck
an' so she just up an' wrote to Mrs. Lupey as she would n't go for love
or money--"

"Why," cried Mrs. Lathrop, "then she isn't--"

"No," said Susan, "she isn't goin'. She ain't got the courage an' it's
cruel to force her. I told her to give me the ticket an' I'd go in her
place."



CHAPTER VIII

THE BIENNIAL


On the day that the Convention of Women's Clubs opened, Mrs. Lathrop,
having seen her friend depart, composed herself for a period of
unmitigated repose which might possibly last, she thought, for several
days. Susan had awakened her very early that morning to receive her back
door key and minute instructions regarding Elijah and the chickens.
Elijah had undertaken to look after the chickens, but Miss Clegg stated
frankly that she should feel better during her absence if her friend
kept a sharp eye on him during the process. "Elijah's got a good heart,"
said the delegate, "but that don't alter his bein' a man an' as a
consequence very poor to depend upon as to all things about the house.
I don't say as I lay it up against him for if he was like Deacon White,
an' had ideas of his own as to starchin' an' butterin' griddles, he'd
drive me mad in no time, but still I shall take it as a personal favor
of you, Mrs. Lathrop, if you'll ask him whenever you see him if he's
remembered all I told him, an' _don't_ let him forget the hen as is
thinkin' some of settin' in the wood shed, for if she does it, she'll
need food just as much as if she does n't do it."

Then Miss Clegg departed, with her valise, her bonnet in a box, and some
lunch in another box. She went early, for the simple reason that the
train did the same thing, and as soon as she was gone Mrs. Lathrop, as I
before remarked, went straight back to bed and to sleep again. She had a
feeling that for a while at least no demand upon her energies could
possibly be made, and it was therefore quite a shock to her when some
hours later she heard a vigorous pounding on her back door.

Stunned dizzy by the heavy slumber of a hot July day, Mrs. Lathrop was
some minutes in getting to the door, and when she got there, was some
seconds in fumbling at the lock with her dream-benumbed fingers; but in
the end she got it open, and then was freshly paralyzed by the sight of
her friend, standing without, with her valise, her bonnet-box, her lunch
in the other box, and the general appearance of a weary soldier who has
fought but not exactly won.

"Why, Susan, I thought you--" began Mrs. Lathrop, her mouth and eyes
both popping widely open.

"I did, an' I've got through an' I've come home." Miss Clegg advanced
into the kitchen as she spoke and abruptly deposited her belongings upon
the table and herself upon a chair. "I've been to the convention," she
said; then, "I've been to the convention, an' I've got through with
that, too, an' I've got home from that, too."

"Why--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, advancing into a more advanced stage of
perplexity, as she came more fully to herself, noted more fully her
friend's exceedingly battered appearance, and folding what she had
slipped on well about her, sought her rocker.

"I don't know, I'm sure," said Susan, "it beats me what anybody else
does it for, either. But you must n't ask me questions, Mrs. Lathrop,
partly because I'm too tired to answer them, an' partly because I've
come over to tell you anyhow an' I can always talk faster when you don't
try to talk at the same time."

Mrs. Lathrop took a fresh wind-about of her overgarment, and prepared to
hold her tongue more tightly than ever.

"In the first place," said Susan, speaking in the highly uplifted key
which we are all apt to adopt under the stress of great excitement mixed
with great fatigue; "in the first place, Mrs. Lathrop, you know as Mrs.
Macy insisted on keepin' the badge 'cause she said she wanted to work
it into that pillow she's makin', so I had to get along with the card as
had her number on it. As a consequence I naturally had a very hard time,
for I could n't find Mrs. Lupey an' had to fiddle my own canoe from the
start clear through to the finish. I can tell you I've had a hard day
an' no one need n't ever say Woman's Rights to me never again. I'm too
full of Women's Wrongs for my own comfort from now on, an' the way I've
been treated this day makes me willin' to be a turkey in a harem before
I'd ever be a delegate to nothin' run by women again.

"In the first place when I got to the train it was full an' while I was
packin' myself into the two little angles left by a very fat man, a
woman come through an' stuck a little flag in my bonnet without my ever
noticin' what she done an' that little flag pretty near did me up right
in the start. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as goin' to a Woman's Convention
makes you everybody's business but your own from the beginnin', an' that
little flag as that woman stuck in my bonnet was a sign to every one as
I was a delegate.

"I set with a very nice lady as asked me as soon as she see the little
flag if I knowed how to tell a ham as has got consumption from one as
has n't. I told her I did n't an' she talked about that till we got to
town, which made the journey far from interestin' an' is goin' to make
it very hard for me to eat ham all the rest of my life. Then we got out
an' I got rid of her, but that did n't help me much, for I got two
others as see the little flag right off an' they never got off nor let
up on me. I was took to a table as they had settin' in the station
handy, put in their own private census an' then give two books an' a map
an' seven programs an' a newspaper an' a rose, all to carry along with
my own things, an' then a little woman with a little black bag as had
noticed the little flag too took me away, an' said I need n't bother
about a thing for I could go with her an' welcome.

[Illustration: "'A lady come up, looked at my flag, an' asked me if I
was a delegate or an alternative.'" _Page_ 119]

"I did n't want to go with her, welcome or not, but they all seemed
pleased with the arrangement, so I went with her, an' I was more'n a
little mad for every time I dropped the rose or a program, tryin' to get
rid of them, she'd see it an' pick it up an' give it back to me. We
walked a little ways in that pleasant way an' then she asked me how I
was raisin' my children, an' I said I did n't have none. She said, 'Oh
my, what would Mr. Roosevelt say to that?' and I said it was n't his
affair nor no other man's. I may in confidence remark as by this time I
was gettin' a little warm, Mrs. Lathrop.

"We come to the convention hall after a good long walk an' I was quite
hot two ways by that time, for I was mad an' awful tired too. The little
woman left me then an' a lady come up, looked at my flag, an' asked me
if I was a delegate or an alternative 'cause it was important to know
right off in the beginnin'. I told her I was for Mrs. Macy an' she got
out a book an' looked in it very carefully to see for sure whether to
believe me or not an' then she told me to go on in. There was a door as
squeaked an' they pushed me through it an' I found myself, bag, flag an'
all, in the convention.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I never see the beat of that place in all my life.
They'd done what they could to make it cheerful an' homelike by paintin'
it green at one end but it was plain to be seen as the paint soon give
out an' towards the top the man as was paintin' must of give out too,
for he just finished up by doing a few circles here an' there an' then
left it mainly plain. Below was all chairs an' they'd started to
decorate with banners but they'd given out on banners even quicker than
on paint an' the most of the hall was most simple.

"I walked up as far towards the front as I could an' then I sat down. I
can't say as I was very comfortable nor much impressed an' the folks
further back was very restless an' kept sayin' they could n't hear what
was goin' on on the platform. There was a lady on the platform hammerin'
a table for dear life an' to my order of thinkin' anybody must have been
deaf as could n't have heard her hammerin', but she looked happy an'
that was maybe the main thing, for a woman behind me whispered as the
spirit of her with the hammer just filled the room. Well, I stood it as
long as I could an' then I got up an' remarked frank an' open as if
every one would keep still every one could easy hear. They all clapped
at that, but the lady with the hammer could n't seem to even hear me an'
hammered worse than ever all the while they was clappin'.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, to make a long story short it was n't very
interestin'--I will even in confidence remark as I found it pretty dull.
I read all my seven programs an' made out as the first day was give to
greetin' an' the next to meetin'. The next was on trees an' the one
after that they was all goin' to drive. An' so on, an' so on. Then I
smelt my rose some, an' a thorn stuck into my nose some an' the
hammerin' made me very tired an' finally a woman come in an' said I had
her seat so I give it to her with a glad heart an' come out, an' I never
was happier to do anythin' in my whole life before. But I was hardly out
when a lady as I had n't seen yet see my little flag an' pounced on me
an' said was I Miss Clegg? an' I did n't see nothin' to be gained by
sayin' I was n't so I said Yes, I was.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, that was pretty near to bein' the beginnin' of my
end. That woman hustled me into a carriage, give my valise to the driver
an' told him to be quick. I was too dumb did up by her actions to be
able to think of anythin' to say so I just sit still, an' she pinned a
purple ribbon onto me an' told me she'd read two of my books an' died
laughin' only to look at me. I was more than afraid as she was crazy but
she talked so fast I could n't even see a chance to open my mouth so I
did n't try.

"She said when they was gettin' ready for the convention an' dividin' up
celebrities among themselves that she just took me right off. She said
as she was goin' to give a lunch for me an' a dinner for me an' I don't
know what all. She was still talkin' when the carriage stopped at a
hotel.

"She said I must n't mind a hotel much 'cause her husband minded company
more, an' I did n't see any sort of meanin' to her remark, but David in
the lions' den was a roarin' lion himself compared to me that minute, so
I just walked behind her an' she took me in an' up in a elevator an'
into a room with a bathroom an' a bouquet an' there she told me to give
her the key of the valise an' she'd unpack while I was in the bath tub.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I'm sure I never had no idea of needin' a bath that
bad when I set off for the city to-day, an' you'll maybe be surprised at
me bein' so wax about extra washin' in her hands, but I was so wild to
get away from her an' her steady talk by that time, that I give her the
key an' went into the bathroom an' made up my mind as I'd try a bath all
over at once for the first time in my life, seein' as there did n't seem
to be nothin' else to do, an' the tub was handy.

"So I undressed an' when I was undressed I begin to look where I was to
leap. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you never see such a tub as that tub in all
your life before! There was a hole in the middle of the bottom an' the
more water run in the more water run out. At first I could n't see how I
was goin' to manage but after a while I figured it out an' see as there
was nothin' for me to do but to sit on that hole an' paddle like I was
paid for it with both hands at once to keep from being scalded while the
tub filled from two steady spurts one boilin' an' one of ice water.
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I never felt nothin' like that kind of a bath
before!

"If I tried to wash anywhere as was at all difficult I lost my grip on
the hole an' the water went out with a swish as made Niagara look like a
cow's tail afore I could possibly get in position again. I was n't more
'n halfway down my washin' when the awfulest noise begin outside an' the
convention itself was babes sleepin' in soothin' syrup compared to
whatever was goin' on in that next room.

"I tell you I got out of that tub in a hurry an' rubbed off as best I
could with a very thick towel marked 'Bath' as was laid on the floor all
ready, an' got into my clothes an' went out.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you may believe me or not just as you please, but
it was _another_ lady with _another_ delegate with _another_ purple
ribbon an' _another_ little flag. The ladies was very mad an' the other
delegate was bitin' her lips an' lookin' out the window. In the end the
ladies was so mad they went down to the telephone an' left the delegate
an' me alone in the room together.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can believe me or not just as you please, but
that other delegate asked me my name an' when I told her she said it was
her name, too. Then she laughed until she cried an' said she never hear
anythin' to beat us. She said it was all as clear as day to her an' that
she should write a story about it. She said about all she got out of
life was writin' stories about it an' she never lost a chance to make a
good one. She said she wished I'd stay with her an' I could have half
the bed an' half of that same tub as long as I like.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, the long an' short of it was as I felt that no
matter how kind she was I would n't never be able to be happy anywhere
where I had to be around with a woman who talked all the time, an' sleep
in a bed with another Susan Clegg, an' wash in a tub as you have to stop
up with some of yourself, so I just took my things an' come home by the
noon train an' I'll stay here one while now, too, I guess."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I was just going to ask you where you put it," said Miss Clegg, "I
shall need it to get in the back door."

"It's--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I can get it myself," said her friend, rising. "Well, good-bye. I won't
deny as I'm mad for my lunch won't be any the better for ridin' to town
an' back this hot day, but the Lord fits the back to the burden, so I
guess Elijah will be able to eat it, leastways if he don't he won't get
nothin' else,--I know _that_, for it was him as got up the fine idea of
sending a delegate from the sewin' society to the convention an' I don't
thank him none for it, I know _that_."

"You--" said Mrs. Lathrop, mildly.

"I ain't sure," said Miss Clegg. "Elijah strikes me as more thorns than
roses this night. I never was one to feel a longin' for new experiences,
an' I've had too many to-day, as he'll very soon learn to his sorrow
when he comes home to-night."



CHAPTER IX

THE FAR EASTERN TROPICS


"You look--" said Mrs. Lathrop, solicitously, one afternoon, when Susan
Clegg had come around by the gate to enjoy a spell of mutual sitting and
knitting.

"Well, I am," confessed Susan, unrolling her ball and drawing a long
breath; "I may tell you in confidence, Mrs. Lathrop, as I really never
was more so. What with havin' to look after Elijah's washin' an' his
mendin' an' his cookin' an' his room, an' what with holdin' down his new
ideas an' explainin' to people as he did n't mean what it sounds like
when I ain't been able to hold 'em down, I do get pretty well wore out.
I can see as Mr. Kimball sees how Elijah is wearin' on me for he gives
me a chair whenever I go in there now an' that just shows how anxious
he is for me to rest when I can, but it really ain't altogether Elijah's
fault for the way my back aches to-day, for I got this ache in a way as
you could n't possibly understand, Mrs. Lathrop, for I got it from
sittin' up readin' a book last night as you or any ordinary person would
of gone to sleep on the second page of an' slept clear through to the
index; but I was built different from you an' ordinary persons, Mrs.
Lathrop, an' if I'd thanked the Lord as much as I'd ought to for that
I'd never have had time to do nothin' else in _this_ world."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, with interest.

"It was a book," said her friend, beginning to knit assiduously--"a book
as a boy he went to school with sent Mr. Fisher with a postal card,
sayin' as every American man 'd ought to read it thoughtfully. Mrs.
Fisher took it out of the post office an' read the postal card, an' she
said right off as she did n't approve of Mr. Fisher's reading books as
every man ought to know, so she let me have it to bring home an' read
till she gets through makin' over her carpets. I brought the book home
done up to look like it was a pie, an' I will frankly state, Mrs.
Lathrop, as you could have dropped me dead out of any balloon when I
found out what it was about. It was n't the kind of book the postal card
would have led you to suppose a _tall_--it was about Asia, Mrs. Lathrop,
the far side or the near side, just accordin' to the way you face to get
the light while you read, an' so far from its bein' only intended for
men it's all right for any one at all to read as has got the time. Now
that I'm done it an' know I have n't never got to do it again, I don't
mind telling you in confidence that for a book as could n't possibly
have been meant to be interestin' it was about as agreeable readin' as I
ever struck in my life. There was lots in it as was new to me, for it's
a thick book, an' all I knowed about that part of the world before was
as Java coffee comes from Java an' the Philippines from Spain. But I
know it all now, an' Judge Fitch himself can't tell me nothin' from this
day on that the man who wrote that book ain't told me first. I'll bet I
know more about what that book 's about than any one in this community
does, an' now that I know it I see why the man said what he did on the
postal card for it _is_ a book as every man ought to read, an' I read in
the paper the other day as the main trouble with the men in America was
as they knowed all about what they did n't know nothin' about, an' did
n't know nothin' a _tall_ about the rest."

"What--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"But I don't see how the man that wrote it is ever goin' to make any
money out of it," pursued her friend, "for it's pretty plain as it's
every bit written about things that Americans don't want to really learn
an' what the rest of the world learned long ago. If I was very patriotic
I don't believe I'd have read it clear through to the end myself, but I
ain't never felt any call to be patriotic since the boys throwed that
firecracker into my henhouse last Fourth of July. I will say this for
the hen, Mrs. Lathrop, an' that is that she took the firecracker a good
deal calmer'n I could, for I was awful mad, an' any one as seed me ought
to of felt what a good American was spoiled then an' there, for all I
asked was to hit somethin', whether it was him as throwed the cracker or
not an' that's what Judge Fitch always calls the real American spirit
when he makes them band-stand speeches of his in the square. Oh my,
though, but I wish you had n't reminded me of that hen, Mrs. Lathrop,
her tail never will come in straight again I don't believe, an' she's
forever hoppin' off her eggs to look out of the window since she had
that scare."

Mrs. Lathrop frowned and looked very sympathetic.

"But about this book," Susan went on after a second of slightly
saddened reflection. "I'm goin' to tell you all about it. Elijah 's
goin' to write a editorial about it, too. Elijah says this business of
downtreadin' our only colony has got to be stopped short right now as
soon as he can call the government's attention to how to do it.

"Well, the book begins very mild an' pleasant with Hongkong an' it ends
with the Philippine accounts. Seems Hongkong ain't Chinese for all it's
named that an' growed there--it's English--an' as for the Philippines
there's eight millions of 'em, not countin' the wild ones as they can't
catch to count an' ask questions. In between Hongkong an' the
Philippines the man who wrote the book runs around that part of the
world pretty lively an' tells who owns it an' what kind of roads they've
got an' who'd better govern 'em an' all like that. You might think from
hearin' me as he sort of put on airs over knowin' so much himself, but
it don't sound that way a _tall_ in the book. It's when he finally got
to the Philippines as any one can see as he really did begin to enjoy
himself. He enjoyed himself so much that he really made me enjoy myself,
too, although I can't in reason deny as I felt as I might not of been
quite so happy only for that firecracker. The kind of things he says
about our doin's in those countries is all what you don't get in the
papers nor no other way, an' if the United States really feels they're
in the right as to how they're actin' all they need to do is to read how
wrong they are in that book where a man as really knows what he's
talkin' about has got it all set down in black an' white. I don't
believe it's generally knowed here in America as Dewey took Aguinaldo
an' his guns over to Manila an' give him his first start at fightin' an'
called him 'general' for a long time after they'd decided in Washington
as how he was n't nothin' but a rebel after all. I never knowed anythin'
about that, an' I will remark as I think there's many others as don't
know it, neither, an' I may in confidence remark to you, Mrs. Lathrop,
as that book leads me to think as the main trouble with the Philippines
is as they are bein' run by folks as don't know anythin' about the place
they're runnin' an' don't know nothin' about runnin' for anythin' but
places. The man in the book says the Philippines ain't very well off
being pacified, an' that the Americans ain't no great success pacifyin'
'em, for it seems as they made five thousand expeditions after 'em in
one year, an' only got hold of five thousand natives in all. That's a
expedition to a man, an' I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as it's small wonder
we're taxed an' they're taxed, with some of our new fellow citizens as
hard to grab as that. To my order of thinkin' it'd be wisest to let 'em
chase each other for ten or twenty years first an' then when they was
pretty well thinned out we could step in an' settle with the survivors;
but accordin' to the man who wrote the book you can't never tell a
American nothin', an' I must say that my own experience in this
community has proved as he knows what he's sayin' all straight enough.
He says the Philippines is in a very bad way, an' so is their roads, but
he says that all the folks in this country is so dead satisfied with
their way an' poor roads that they ain't goin' to do nothin' to help
either along any."

"Did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"He says," continued Susan, "that the United States is just so happy
sittin' back an' observin' the Philippines, an' the Philippines is so
far off that if they die of starvation while being observed no one'll
ever be the wiser. He says the United States is payin' for the army, an'
the Philippines is tryin' to live with it, an' seein' as they don't work
much an' the Chinese is forbidden to work for 'em, he don't see no help
nowhere. What he said about the Chinese was very interestin', for I
never see one close to, an' it seems they're a clean race only for
likin' to raise pigs in their garrets. It seems, too, as if you let 'em
into any country they'll work very hard an' live very cheap an' pay most
of the taxes with the duty on opium as they've got to eat, an' games as
they've got to play."

"I sh'd think--" said Mrs. Lathrop, looking startled.

"Well, I should, too," said Susan, "but accordin' to the book the
Philippines ain't to be allowed any such luxury as havin' the Chinese to
develop their country an' pay their taxes. No sir, they've all got to go
to school an' learn English first, an' although he says right out plain
that the Philippines needs Chinese an' good roads a deal worse 'n they
need the army an' the schools, still it's the army an' the schools as
America is going to give them, an' they can get along without the roads
an' the Chinese as best they can. They certainly must be gettin' a good
deal of schoolin', but the man says all the teachers teach is English,
an' as none of the children can speak English they don't get much
learned. I thought I could sort of see that he thought we 'd ought to
of straightened out the South of our own country afore we begun on any
other part of the world, an' it _is_ the other half of the world, too,
Mrs. Lathrop, for I looked it up on a map an' it begins right under
Japan an' then twists off in a direction as makes you wonder how under
the sun we come to own it anyway, an' if we did accidentally get it
hooked on to us by Dewey's having too much steam up to be able to stop
himself afore he'd run over the other fleet, we'd ought anyway to be
willin' to give it away like you do the kittens you ain't got time to
drown. The whole back of the book is full of figures to prove as it's
the truth as has been told in front, but the man who wrote it didn't
think much of even the figures in the Philippines for he says they put
down some of what they spend in Mexican money an' some in American an'
don't tell what they spend the most of it for in either case. He says he
met some very nice men there an' they was workin' the best they knew
how but they did n't think things were goin' well themselves an' it's
plain to be seen that he spoke of 'em just like you give a child a cooky
after a spankin'. What interested me most was there's a Malay country
over there as the English began on twenty-five years ago an' have got
railroaded an' telegraphed an' altogether civilized now, an' we've had
the Philippines ten years an' ain't even got the live ones quieted down
yet."

"What do you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, earnestly.

"Oh," said her friend, "I ain't never had no ideas on the Philippine
question since Judge Fitch got his brother made a captain in the war
just because he was tired supportin' him. Mr. Kimball said then as all
wars was just got up to use up the folks as respectable people did n't
want to have around no longer an' I must say as I believe him. Mr.
Weskin told me as it's been quietly knowed around for hundreds of years
as the crusades was a great success as far as gettin' 'em off was
concerned just for that very reason, an' I guess we're hangin' on to the
Philippines because it's a place a good long ways off to send poor
relations after good salaries. The man who wrote the book said a man did
n't need to know hardly anythin' to go there an' I must say from what I
see of the few who have come back they don't look like they spent much
spare time studyin' up while they was in the country."

Susan stopped knitting suddenly and stuck her needles into the ball.

"I've got to go home," she said. "I've just remembered as I forgot to
fill the tea-kettle. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, we've had a nice talk about our
foreign possessions an' all I can say in the end is as that whole book
made me feel just like we'd all ought to get to feel as quick as we can.
Lots of things in this world might be better only the people that could
change 'em don't often feel inclined that way, an' the people who'd
like to have a change ain't the ones as have got any say. If I was a
Philippine I'd want a Chinaman to do my work an' I'd feel pretty mad
that folks as had so many niggers an' Italians that they did n't need
Chinamen should say I could n't have 'em neither. I'd feel as if I
knowed what was best for me an' I would n't thank a lot of men in
another part of the world for sittin' down on my ideas. However, there's
one thing that comforted me very much in the book. All the countries
around _is_ run, an' pretty well run too, by other countries an' if the
Philippines get too awful tired of being badly run by us all those of
'em as know anythin' can easy paddle across to some of them well run
countries in the front half of the book to live, an' as for the rest--"

Susan stopped short. Mrs. Lathrop was sound asleep!



CHAPTER X

THE EVILS OF DELAYED DECEASE


"I ain't been doin' my duty by Mrs. Macy lately," said Susan Clegg to
Mrs. Lathrop; "I declare to goodness I've been so did up with the garden
an' Elijah an' house cleanin' this last two weeks that I don't believe
I've even thought of the other side of the crick since I begun. I ain't
seen Mrs. Macy either an' maybe that's one reason why I ain't done
nothin' about her, but it ain't surprisin' as I ain't seen her for she
ain't been here--she's been over in Meadville stayin' with the Lupeys,
an' I must say I'm right put out with Elijah for not puttin' it in the
paper so I'd of knowed it afore. The idea of Mrs. Macy bein' in
Meadville for over a week an' me not hearin' of it is a thing as makes
me feel as maybe when Gabriel blows his horn I'll just merely sit up an'
say, 'Did you call?' But anyway she's been away an' she's got back, an'
when I heard it in the square to-day I did n't mince up no matters none
but I just set my legs in her direction an' walked out there as fast as
I could. It does beat all how many changes can come about in two
weeks!--four more pickets has been knocked off the minister's fence an'
most every one has hatched out their chickens since I was that way last,
but I was n't out picketin' or chickenin'; I was out after Mrs. Macy an'
I just kept a-goin' till I got to her."

"Was she--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, she was," replied Susan, "an' thank the most kind an' merciful
Heavens, there was n't no one else there, so she an' I could just sit
down together, an' it was n't nothin' but joy for her to tell me hide
an' hair an' inside out of her whole visit. She got back day before
yesterday an' she had n't even unpacked her trunk yet she was that wore
out; you can judge from that how wore out she really is, for you know
yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, as when Mrs. Macy is too wore out to dive head
over heels into things, whether her own or other folks', she's been
pretty well beat down to the ground. She was mighty glad to see me,
though, even if she did n't come to the door, but only hollered from a
chair, an' I don't know as I ever had a nicer call on her, for she went
over everythin' inside out an' hind side before, an' it was nothin' but
a joy for me to listen, for it seems she had a pretty sad visit first
an' last what with being specially invited to sit up an' watch nights
with Mrs. Kitts an' then stay to the funeral--"

"Funeral!" cried Mrs. Lathrop,--"I nev--"

"For after bein' specially invited to help lay her out an' go to the
funeral," Susan repeated calmly, "Mrs. Kitts did n't die a _tall_."

"Oh!" said Mrs. Lathrop, terminating the whole of a remark, for once.

"No," said Susan, "an' every one else feels the same as you do about it,
too, but it seems as it was n't to be this time. Mrs. Macy says as she
never went through nothin' to equal these ten days dead or alive, an'
she hopes so help her heaven to never sit up with anybody as has got
anythin' but heart disease or the third fit of apoplexy hereafter. Why,
she says Mr. Dill's eleven months with Mrs. Dill flat on her back was a
child playin' with a cat an' a string in comparison to what the Lupeys
an' her have been goin' through with Mrs. Kitts these ten days. She says
all Meadville is witness to the way she's skinned 'em down to the bone.
Mrs. Dill was give up by a doctor like a Christian, an' after the eleven
months she _did_ die, but Mrs. Kitts has been give up over an' over by
doctor after doctor till there ain't one in the whole place as ain't mad
at her about it; an' there she is livin' yet! Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey
is so wore out she can't talk of nothin' else. Mrs. Lupey feels very
bitter over it; she says it's all of six years now since they turned the
X-rays through her (an' Mrs. Macy says as Mrs. Lupey says she could sit
right down an' cry to think how much them X-rays cost an' how little
good they done), an' she says it's three years come April Fool's since
old Dr. Carter tried her lungs with his new kinetoscope an' found 'em
full of air an' nothin' else. Mrs. Lupey says she's always had so much
faith in old Dr. Carter an' she had faith in him then, an' was so sweet
an' trustin' when he come with the machine, an' after he was done she
fully believed his word of honor as to everythin', an' that was why they
went an' bought her that bell an' oh heavens alive, Mrs. Lathrop, I only
wish you _could_ hear Mrs. Macy on Mrs. Kitts' bell! It seems that kind
of bell is a new invention an' as soon as any one is give up for good
the doctor as gives 'em up sends a postal to the man as keeps 'em, an'
then the man sends it for three days on trial an' then the family buy
it, because it lets 'em all sleep easy. Well, Mrs. Macy says it's the
quietest lookin' small thing you ever see, but she says Great Scott,
Holy Moses, an' ginger tea, the way it works! You only need to put your
hand on it an' just stir it an' it unhooks inside like one of them new
patent mouse traps as catch you ten times to every once they catch a
mouse, an' then it begins to ring like a fire alarm an' bang like the
Fourth of July, an' it don't never stop itself again until some one as
is perfectly healthy comes tearin' barefoot from somewhere to turn it
over an' hook it up an' get Mrs. Kitts whatever she wants."

"I should--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"I guess they would, too," said Susan; "I guess they'd be only too glad
to. Why, Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says as it was all they could do to
live in the house with her mother when she did n't have nothin' but a
stick to pound on the floor with, but she says since she's got that
bell--! Well! Mrs. Macy says as they're all four worn into just
frazzles with it, an' Judy is got so nervous with it going off sudden
when Busby an' she is thinkin' about other things that she begins
twitchin' the minute the bell begins ringin' an' they've had to hire a
electric battery to soothe her with while Faith an' Maria is racin' for
the bell. Mrs. Macy says it's somethin' just awful first, last, an'
forever, an' Mrs. Lupey told her in confidence as it was Heaven's own
truth as they had n't none of them woke of their own accords once since
it was bought."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says she's a pretty good judge of sick folks an' she
judged Mrs. Kitts for all she was worth, an' she could n't feel as she
ought in politeness to say anythin' 'cause the Lupeys sent her the
round-trip ticket to go an' come back with. But she says just between
her an' me an' not to let it go any further, that to _her_ order of
thinkin' (an' she'll take her Bible oath to it anywhere) Mrs. Kitts
looks like one of those oldest survivor kinds as they print in the city
Sunday papers every week. She says she ain't got the quiet, give-up
manner of a person as is really quiet an' really givin' up--she's got
the spry air of a person as likes to keep the whole family jumpin' quick
whenever they speak. She says Mrs. Lupey says as she really does get
awful low just often enough to keep their courage up, but Mrs. Macy says
Mrs. Lupey is easy fooled because them's the sort as outlives all their
families in the end always. But seems as her gettin' low an' then
raisin' up again ain't the only tough part for it seems as she was so
low last fall that they really felt safe to send Maria up to the city to
buy their mournin' at a bargain sale for there's four of 'em an' they
want the veils thick so they'll look sorry from the outside anyhow. And
Maria did go, an'-- Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I will say as to hear about it
all does go through one even if it ain't my personal crape! Seems as the
clerk asked Maria if it was for a deep family mournin' or just a light
friendly mournin', an' Maria told him it was _goin'_ to be for her
grandmother. Seems he was n't very polite about it, coughed a good deal
behind his hand an' such doin's, until Maria got real vexed an' so mad
over thinkin' as maybe it was n't all coughin' as he was keepin' his
hand over that she lost her wits an' went to work an' bought most twice
the crape she needed just to show him as she was n't tryin' to save
nothin' on her grandmother, whatever _he_ might think. So now Mrs. Macy
says, added to Mrs. Kitts an' the bell they've got the care of all that
crape on their hands, an' the damp gathers in it just awful on rainy
days, an' of course no Christian can sun twenty yards of crape on their
clothesline when the dead person ain't died yet, so they're wild over
that, too. They've made their skirts themselves, an' they wanted to do
their waists, only what with the way sleeves is puffin' out an' slimmin'
up an' fronts is first hangin' over an' then hookin' down, the back it
just does seem out of the question. They've worried a lot over the veils
since they was bought 'cause they wanted to get into 'em last winter so
as to get out of 'em by last spring, an' then even when Mrs. Kitts
rallied from her Christmas dinner, they thought maybe they could still
be out of 'em by the Fourth of July; but now--Heavens! Mrs. Macy says
they don't ask to get out of 'em any more; all they ask is to get _into_
'em, an' goodness knows when that is _ever_ goin' to happen. She says
Mrs. Lupey says what with Judy's divorce an' Mrs. Kitts livin' right
along she's going to get moths into her things for the first time in her
life, she just knows she is. It's a pretty hard case any one can see,
an' of course seein' Mrs. Kitts live like that may get Busby Bell all
out of the notion of marryin' Judy, for of course no man ain't goin' to
like to look forward to Mrs. Lupey's livin' like that too, maybe--or
maybe Judy 'll live herself--you never can tell. Mrs. Macy says Mrs.
Lupey says she never guessed as sorrow could come so near to breakin'
your back as losin' a grandmother is breakin' theirs. She says when
she's really lost it won't be so bad 'cause they can all put on their
crape veils an' go straight to bed an' to sleep, but she says this long
drawn out losin' of her with that bell throwed into the bargain is
somethin' calculated to make a saint out of a Chinaman, an' nothin' more
nor less."

"Why--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I tell you, they _can't_," said Susan; "they want to bad enough, but
they can't do it. Mrs. Kitts is too smart for that. She keeps her eagle
eye on it awake, an' her whole hand on the little string when she's
asleep, an' drums 'em up to know if the clock is really right, or if she
feels anyways disposed to smell of cologne. Some nights she rolls on the
string in her sleep, an' then the bell wakes her along with the rest of
'em, which Mrs. Macy says is a-doin' more aggravatin' to the Lupeys
than any words can do justice to. Mrs. Macy says as she really does
believe that if Mrs. Kitts took a fancy to oysters in August she'd be
fully equal to ringin' that bell for 'em till September came an' they
could get 'em for her. She says it would be just like her, she does
declare. Mrs. Macy says she sit with Mrs. Kitts considerable an' Mrs.
Kitts was very pleasant to her, an' give her two pair of black lace
mitts an' a pin, but she found out afterwards as the mitts was Mrs.
Lupey's an' the pin was Maria's, so after that she see just how the
family felt about her an' her ways. Mrs. Macy says the whole thing is a
tragedy right out of Shakespeare an' the only pleasant thing about her
whole visit was as it did n't cost her nothin'."

"Did she--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about that. She see him four times. I
don't know as she wants it generally known, but I wanted to know about
it so I got it out of her. It does beat all, Mrs. Lathrop, how a woman
of Mrs. Macy's sense, with a income that's only a little too small to
get along on, can want to marry any man again. But she seems kind of
crazy on the idea, an' if it ain't Mr. Dill, it's goin' to be Dr.
Carter, or bu'st, with her. She says she went to his office just to let
him know she was in Meadville, an' then she see him on the street, an'
then she went to his office again to ask him his real opinion of Mrs.
Kitts, an' then just before she left she went to his office again to let
him know as she was goin' to come back here. So she see him four times
in all."

"What did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, he told her as he would n't be surprised if any of 'em died any
day. That is, any of 'em except Mrs. Kitts. He did n't seem to think as
Mrs. Kitts would ever die."

"What do--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I saw there was nothin' else as Mrs. Macy could talk about just now
so I come home an' then I come over here. I declare though, Mrs.
Lathrop, I can't help bein' a little blue to-night. Of course I ain't
any real relation to you, but we've been neighbors so long that I can't
help feelin' a little bit uneasy over thinkin' of Mrs. Kitts an'
wonderin' how long you may be goin' to live in the end."



CHAPTER XI

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY


"Well, Mrs. Lathrop," said Susan Clegg one pleasant May evening, as she
and her devoted listener leaned their elbows on the top rail of the
fence, "I can't but thank Heaven as these boards is the only thing as
you ever take opposite sides from me on. I don't say as your never
disagreein' ain't sometimes wearin', but there _are_ days as I feel I'd
enjoy a little discussion an' then Elijah an' I discuss on those days
till it seems like I can't live to get to you an' do it all alone by
myself. Elijah's a very young man but he's a man after all an' there's
somethin' about a man as makes him not able to see any side of anythin'
except his own side. Now it don't make any difference what we talk
about I _always_ take the other side, an' I will in confidence remark as
the South fightin' Grant had a easy job compared to me tryin' to get
Elijah to see any side but his own. Elijah's a very pig-headed young man
an' I declare I don't know I'm sure what ailed him last night--seemed as
if he was up a tree about somethin' as made him just wild over the
Democratic party. I must say--an' I said it to his face, too--as to my
order of thinkin' takin' sides about the Democrats nowadays is like
takin' sides with Pharaoh after the Red Sea had swallowed him an' all
his chariots up forever, but Elijah never gives up to no man, an' he
said, not so, the Democrats was still ready to be the salvation of the
country if only Bryan would give 'em a chance. He says they 've been
handicapped so far an' it's very tryin' for any party to have to choose
between a donkey an' a tiger for its picture of itself, for no sensible
person likes to have to ride on either, an' no politics could _ever_
make a success of a donkey for a mascot, whether you judge him from his
ears or his heels. I had it in my mind to say somethin' then about
turnin' around an' takin' a fresh start with a fresh animal as a
sensible person would find it nothin' but a joy to ride, but Elijah,
like all newspapers, rips a thing up the back an' then shows you how you
can't do better than to sew up the tear an' go on wearin' it again, so
after he'd skinned the donkey an' the tiger both alive, so to speak, he
went on to say as never's a long game an' him laughs best who keeps
sober longest an' altogether his own feelin' was as America 'll soon
perceive her only hope lays in electin' a new Democratic party. I just
broke in then an' told him it looked to me as if the natural run of
mankind would n't let Grover Cleveland skip eight years an' then try it
again more 'n six times more, an' that if the Republicans keep it up as
they have awhile longer no money won't be able to get 'em out 'cause
they'll have all the money there is in the country right in with them,
but by that time Elijah'd got his breath, an' he just shook his head an'
asked me if I remembered what a lot of fuss the first billion dollar
congress made an' if I'd observed how calm they was took now? I told him
I had an' then we went at it hammer an' tongs, Elijah for the Democrats
an' me against 'em, although I must say I wished he'd give me the other
side, for in spite of their actin' so silly I must say I always have a
feelin' as the most of the Democrats is tryin' to be honest which is
somethin' as even their best friend couldn't say of the most of the
Republicans as a general thing."

"Did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I did, an' I don't know but we'd be talkin' yet only Mr. Dill come
in on us to ask me if I would n't consider takin' Gran'ma Mullins to
board for a month or two, just to see how Hiram an' Lucy would get along
if they had the house all alone to themselves."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I told him I'd think about it," said Miss Clegg. "I don't know
I'm sure why I should bed an' board Gran'ma Mullins to help Lucy an'
Hiram to try to get along any better. They 're a good deal more
interestin' to talk about the way they're gettin' along now. I never see
Mrs. Macy but what she has somethin' amusin' to tell me about Hiram an'
Lucy an' Gran'ma Mullins, an' I like to hear it. She says the other
night they was all three runnin' round the house one after another for a
hour an' she said she most died laughin' to watch 'em. Seems Lucy got
mad an' started to run after Hiram to pull his hair, an' Gran'ma Mullins
was so scared for fear she _would_ pull his hair that she run after Lucy
to ask her not to do it. Hiram run so much faster than Lucy that finally
he caught up with Gran'ma Mullins an' then they all went to bed. Mrs.
Macy says that's the way they act all the time, an' she certainly would
n't see any more than I should why I should break up the family. I'm
sure I never cooked up that marriage an' I told Mr. Dill so. I asked him
why he did n't take Gran'ma Mullins to board with him, if he was so wild
to get her away from Lucy, but he said he did n't think it'd be proper,
an' I said I did n't say nothin' about _bed_--I just spoke about board,
an' if there was anythin' as was n't proper about boardin' Gran'ma
Mullins he'd ought not to of mentioned the subject to me."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, there was n't nothin' left for him to say then, of course; but law!
I did n't see no use mooley-cowin' around Mr. Dill; what I wanted was
for him to go so Elijah an' me could go on discussin'. Elijah thinks our
paper ought to come out strong now that we've got one an' he said he
would in confidence remark to me as he intended to say some very pointed
things soon. He says all the editors in the country know as the plans
an' the parties is all fixed up beforehand nowadays; the Republicans
say how many they'll have in each state an' then they never fail to have
'em an' that's a national disgrace for nobody ought to know beforehand
how a election is goin' to pan out for it would n't be possible if folks
was anyways honest. He says for a carefully planned an' worked up thing
a Republican victory is about the tamest surprise as this country ever
gets nowadays, an' yet we keep on gettin' them an' openin' our eyes over
'em every four years like they was somethin' new.

"I bu'st in then an' said as there was sure to come a change afore long
with prices goin' up like they is an' a reaction bound to drop in the
end. Elijah laughed then an' said he knowed well enough as when the
deluge come the Republicans would grab the Democrats an' hold 'em just
like that rich man who grabbed the clerk an' held him in front of him,
when they throwed that bomb at him in his office."

"At the--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, opening her eyes.

"Yes, the bomb was meant for him, but he held the clerk in front of him
so the clerk caught it all. That's what they call presence of mind, an'
as far as my observation 's extended, Mrs. Lathrop, the Republicans have
got full as much of it--they must have, for they both make money right
straight along an' I've observed myself as they always step out when a
crash comes an' let the Democrats in to do the economizin' till there's
enough money saved up to make it worth while for them to take hold again
which comes to much the same thing in the end. I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop,
I see after a little as it was n't no use talkin' to Elijah so I just
had to listen to him an' he really did kind of frighten me in the end.
Livin' with an editor an' readin' that book of Mr. Fisher's has opened
my eyes to a many new ideas. I've lived in a small town all my life but
I've got brains an' there's no use denyin' as a woman with brains can
apply 'em to the president just as easy as to the minister, once she
gets to thinkin' on the subject. This country is in a very bad way an'
it's all owin' to our bein' satisfied with what's told us an' not
lookin' into nothin' for ourselves. We've got the Philippines now an'
we've got Hawaii an' we've got the niggers an' we've got ever so many
other things. We've got the Mormons down to one wife as a general thing
an' the Italians comin' in by the thousands an' more old soldiers bein'
born every year an' the fifth generation of Revolutionary orphans out
filin' their pensions--an' we owe 'em all to the Republicans. Elijah
says we owe 'em a lot else, too, but I think that's enough in all
conscience. Elijah says too it costs a third more to live than it did
ten years ago an' he knows that for a fact, an' you an' I know that,
too, Mrs. Lathrop. Coal's gone up an' everythin' else. I tell you I got
kind of blue, thinkin' about it after I went to bed last night an' it
took me a long time to remember as Elijah was maybe more upset over not
bein' able to go an' see 'Liza Em'ly on account of the rain, than
anythin' else; but then too, Mr. Shores is very much cast down over the
country, only I must admit as it's more 'n likely as he ain't really
half as mournful over the Democrats as he is over his wife; an' then
there's Judge Fitch as is always mad over politics an' we all know that
that's just 'cause he's always been called 'judge' ever since he was
born, an' nobody ain't never made him judge of nothin' bigger 'n us yet.
I guess if he was sure as our paper could get him elected to congress
he'd cheer up pretty quick, but he told me yesterday as Elijah did n't
know how to conduct a campaign to his order of thinkin'. He don't like
that cut of Elijah's being David to the city papers bein' Goliath. He
says a cut to do him any good had ought to have him in it somewhere an'
I don't know but what he's right.

"But, Mrs. Lathrop, we are mighty bad off an' that's a fact, but still I
will say this much an' that is that as far as my observation 's
extended folks as complains openly of anythin' is always findin' fault
with the thing because there's some secret thing as they can't find
fault openly with, like Elijah an' the rain, an' Mr. Shores an' his
wife. The world's great for takin' its private miseries out publicly in
some other direction, an' my own feelin' is as the Democrats is a great
comfort to every one as the Republicans can't very conveniently give
nothin' to these days. If the president was to suddenly make Sam Duruy a
minister to somewhere there'd be a great change of opinion as to
politics in this town, you'd see. It would n't give Sam any more brains,
but every one 'd be pleased an' the Democrats would n't cut no figure no
more."

"But--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"That's just it," said Susan, "that's just the trouble. We're like most
of the rest of America an' the whole of Cuba an' the Philippines, too
little an' too far off to make the big folks really care whether we
like the way they do or not. I don't have no idea of carin' whether
potato bugs mind bein' picked or not, an' no matter what they said about
me before or after their pickin' it 'd be all one to me. An' that's just
about the way our government feels about us. An' I guess most other
governments is much the same. Which is probably the reason why potato
bugs is gettin' worse an' thicker all the time."



CHAPTER XII

THE TRIALS OF MRS. MACY


As Susan set the basket down it began to squawk.

"I don't care," she said, "let it squawk!"

"But what--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, in whose kitchen Susan had set the
basket down and in whose kitchen chair Susan was now sitting herself
down.

"Let it squawk," Susan repeated; "I guess it's made trouble enough for
others so that I may in all confidence feel to set a little while
without troublin' about it myself. I look upon it that I was very kind
to take it anyhow, not havin' no idea how it'll agree with the chickens
when it comes to eatin' with them or with me when it comes to me eatin'
it, for you know as I never was one as cared for 'em, Mrs. Lathrop, but
still a friend is a friend, an' in Mrs. Macy's state to-night the least
her friends could do was for Gran'ma Mullins to stay with her an' for me
to take the duck. Gran'ma Mullins was willing to sit up with a
under-the-weather neighbor, but she said she could _not_ take a duck on
her mind too, an' a spoiled duck at that, for I will in confidence
remark, Mrs. Lathrop, as you only need to be in the room with that duck
two minutes to see as the Prodigal Son was fully an' freely whipped in
comparison to the way as he's been dealt with."

"I really--" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I don't know but it _will_ be savin' of breath in the end," said
Miss Clegg, and thereupon she arose, laid hold of the squawking basket,
bore it into the next room, and coming out, shut the connecting door
firmly behind her.

"Where under the--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"It's really quite a long story," returned her friend; "but I come in
just to tell you, anyhow. It's Mrs. Macy's story an' it begun when she
went in town yesterday mornin', an' it's a story of her trials, an' I
will say this for Mrs. Macy, as more trials right along one after
another I never hear of an' to see her sittin' there now in her carpet
slippers with a capsicum plaster to her back an' Gran'ma Mullins makin'
her tea every minute she ain't makin' her toast is enough to make any
one as is as soft an' tender-hearted as I am take any duck whether it's
spoiled or not. An' so I took this duck."

"Well, I--" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.

"You think not now," said Susan, "but you soon will when I tell you, for
as I said before, I come over just to tell you, an' I'm goin' to begin
right off. It's a long story an' one as 'll take time to tell, but you
know me an' you know as I always take time to tell you everythin' so you
can rely on gettin' the whole hide an' hair of this; an' you'll get it
fresh from the spout too, for I'm just fresh from Mrs. Macy an' Mrs.
Macy's so fresh from her trials that they was still holdin' the plaster
on to her when I left."

"But--" expostulated the listener.

"Well, now this is how it was," said Miss Clegg; "an' I'll begin 'way
back in the beginnin' so you 'll have it all straight, for it's very
needful to have it straight so as to understand just why she is so nigh
to half mad. For Mrs. Macy is n't one as gets mad easy, an' so it's well
for us as has got to live in the same town with her to well an' clearly
learn just how much it takes to use her up.

"Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as yesterday mornin' Mrs. Macy set out to go to
town to buy her some shoes. Seems as she was goin' to take lunch with
Busby Bell's cousin Luther Stott's wife as she met at the Lupeys' in
Meadville, 'cause they only live three-quarters of an hour from town on
two changes of the electric, an' Mrs. Stott told Mrs. Lupey as any time
she or her relations got tired of shoppin' she'd be nothin' but happy
to have 'em drop in on her to rest 'cause she kept a girl an' her
husband's sister, too, so company was n't no work for her herself. Well,
Mrs. Macy was goin' to the city an' so she looked up the address an'
made up her mind to go there to lunch, an' so she wrote the address on
one side of the piece of paper as she had in her black bag an' she wrote
her shoes on the other side, for she says they're a new kind of shoes as
is warranted not to pinch you in the back, by every magazine an'
newspaper--an' _you_ know what Mrs. Macy is on bein' pinched; why, she
says she give up belts an' took to carpet slippers just for the very
reason as she could _not_ stand bein' pinched nowhere.

"Well, seems as the shoes was Kulosis shoes an' Mrs. Macy says how any
one could remember 'em off of paper _she_ can't see anyhow, an' Luther
Stott's wife lives 2164 Eleventh Avenue S.W., an' that was very
important too, for there's seven other Eleventh Avenues in the city
besides eight Eleventh Streets; seems as the new part of the city is
laid out that way so as to make it simple to them as knows where they
live anyhow.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says she put on her bonnet as happy as any one looks to
be afore they know they're goin' to be the first to have a new invention
tried on 'em an' then she locked up her house an' set off. She says she
never was great on new inventions for she's lived under a lightnin' rod
for pretty near forty years an' never come anywhere nigh to be struck
once yet, but she says she has now learned to her sorrow as bein' fooled
by a lightnin' rod man forty years ago ain't nothin' to bein' fooled by
a minister for forty years ahead, for she says she'll lose her guess if
this last foolin' don't last forty years or even longer if she lives
that long, an' make her wear her felt slippers all the forty years too.

"Well, she says of course you might know as it would be the minister as
done her up first on this day of misery, an' it _was_ the minister! She
says after that donation party to fix him out with new shirts last week
she surely looked to be spared any further inflictions from him for one
while; she says the idea as the congregation is expected to shirt the
minister was surely most new to her, an' she was dead set against it at
first, but she says she come to the fore an' was one to help make him
the six when she see as it was expected to be her duty as a Christian,
but she says she surely hoped when she hemmed the tail of the last one
as she'd seen the last of him for a good breathin' spell.

"But no, Mrs. Lathrop, seems it was n't to be, an' so she learned to her
keen an' pinchin' sorrow yesterday mornin', for she was n't more 'n
fairly on her way to town when she run square up to him on the bridge
an' as a result was just in time to be the first for him to try his new
memory system on, an' she told Gran'ma Mullins an' me with tears in her
eyes an' her felt slippers solemnly crossed on top of each other, as
she can not see why it had to be her of all people an' her shoes of all
things, for she says--an' I certainly felt to agree, Mrs. Lathrop--as if
there's anythin' on the wide earth as you _don't_ want to apply a memory
system to it's your shoes, for shoes is somethin' as is happiest forgot.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, seems as this new memory system of the minister's
is a thing as he got out of a Sunday School magazine in reward for
workin' out a puzzle. Seems you guess big cities till their capital
letters spell 'Memory,' an' then you send the answers to the magazine
an' a dollar for postage an' packin' an' then they send you the memory
system complete in one book for nothin' a _tall_. Or you can add in a
two-cent stamp an' not guess nothin', but the minister guessed 'cause he
felt as in his circumstances he had n't ought to waste even two cents!
Seems as they had a most awful time afore they found Ypsilanti for the
'Y,' an' for a while they was most afraid they'd have to be reckless
with two cents, but they got it in the end an' sent 'em all off, an' the
book come back with a injunction forbiddin' it to be lent to no one
stamped on every page. Seems it come back day before yesterday an' the
minister sat up most of the night commemoratin' the theory, an' then
Mrs. Macy says he just got it into him in time for Fate to let him go
an' be flung at her right on the bridge! She says she was n't no more
mistrustin' trouble than any one does when they meet a loose minister
out walkin' an' she says she can't well see how any woman meetin' a man
across a bridge can be blamed for not knowin' as he's just grasped a new
principle an' is dyin' to apply it to the first thing handy.

"She says he asked her where she was goin' an' she told him frank an'
open as she was goin' to the city to buy some shoes as was warranted not
to pinch. She says he asked her what kind of shoes they was an' she
opened her little bag an' got out the paper an' read him as they was
Kulosis shoes. He asked her why she had it wrote down an' she told him
as she had it wrote down so as not to forget the kind an' maybe get
pinched again.

"Well, she says she was standin' sideways an' was n't watchin'
particular, so she was n't in no state to suspect nothin' when he told
her as she could easy throw that piece of paper away an' go to town
without it. She says she told him as she knowed that she could easy
throw the piece of paper away an' go to town without it, but how was she
to remember her shoes which was the reason why she was takin' the piece
of paper along with her? Then she says as he said as he'd show her how
to remember her shoes an' welcome an' she says as she thought as long as
it was welcome she might as well stand still, so she did.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can believe me or not just as you please, but
the first thing he did was to ask her what Kulosis reminded her of,
which struck her as most strange in the start out. But she told him as
it did n't remind her of nothin' but shoes an' let it go at that, an'
she says it was plain as then he had to think of somethin' as it _could_
remind somebody of, an' she says he certainly did have to think a long
while an' when he said finally as it reminded _him_ of four noses.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, Mrs. Macy says she never heard the beat of that in
all her born days, an' her mind went back to her childhood days an' a
uncle she had, an' the Lord 'll surely forgive her for thinkin' as he'd
surely been drinkin'; she says she was so took aback that he see it in
her face an' told her right then an' there as it was a memory system.
Seems as the key to the whole is as you must reduce everythin' to Mother
Goose so as not to need the brains as you've growed since, an' the
minister told Mrs. Macy as she'd find it most simple to apply. He went
on to ask her what did four noses remind her of, an' she says she
thought she see the whole game at that an' told him as quick as scat
that they reminded her of Kulosis, but oh, my, seems that ain't the way
it goes a _tall_, an' he begin an' explained it all over again, an'
where he come out in the end was as four noses would just naturally
remind any one as had more brains'n Mrs. Macy of 'Two legs sat upon
three legs.' You know the rhyme in Mother Goose where the dog is four
legs an' gets the mutton as is one leg in the man's lap?

[Illustration: "'Mrs. Macy was just about plum paralyzed at _that_.'"
_Page_ 179.]

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe understand as Mrs. Macy was just
about plum paralyzed at _that_! Her story is as she just stood afore him
with her mouth open like a Jack-o'-lantern's, wonderin' what under the
sun she was goin' to be asked to remember next, an' when he said that
was all, an' for her just to simply tear up the paper, she forgot all
about Luther Stott's wife on the back an' tore up the paper. He said for
her to go right along to town fully an' freely relyin' on 'Two legs sat
upon three legs' to get her her shoes, an' she says what with bein' so
dumbfoundered, an' what with him bein' the minister into the bargain,
she went along to the station thinkin' as maybe she'd be able to do it.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I wish you could hear Mrs. Macy for that ain't
nothin' but the beginnin', whatever you may think, an' the rest gets
awfuller an' awfuller!

"In the first place talkin' so long for the minister made her have to
run for the train, an' _you_ know what Mrs. Macy is on a run. She said
she got so hot, as she was not only on a run but mostly on a pour all
the way to town. Why, she says it was most terrible an' she says nothin'
ever give her such a idea as she was a born fool afore, for with it all
she had to keep on sayin' 'Two legs sat upon three legs' as regular as a
clock, an' she was so afraid she'd forget it that she did n't dare even
take her usual little nap on the way an' so had no choice but to land
all wore out.

"Well, as soon as she was landed she remembered about Luther Stott's
wife bein' on the back of the piece of paper an' consequently tore up
along with her shoes, an' she says the start she got over rememberin'
havin' torn up Luther Stott's wife drove what 'Two legs sat upon three
legs' was to remind her of clean out of her head, not to speak of havin'
long since lost track of the way to get any connection between that an'
her shoes.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I only wish you'd of been there to hear! She says
nobody ever did afore! She says she went up one street an' down another
like a lost soul, lookin' for a policeman. She says she felt she did n't
know where to find nothin'. She could n't look for Luther in the
directory 'cause he's long dead an' only his wife lives there, an' as
for her shoes she was clean beside herself. She says she was so mad at
the minister as she'd have throwed away her baptism an' her marriage
then an' there just because it was ministers as done 'em both to her,
if there'd been anyway to get 'em off. Finally she just put her pride
into her pocket, went into a shoe store an' asked 'em openly if 'Two
legs sat upon three legs' reminded 'em of anythin' in the way of shoes.
She says the man looked at her in a way as passed all belief an' said it
reminded him more of pants than shoes.

"Well, she says she went out into the street at that an' her heart was
too low for any use; but the end was n't yet, for as she was wanderin'
along who should she meet but Drusilla Cobb?

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you know Drusilla Cobb! You know what she was afore
she left here, an' Mrs. Macy says ten years ain't altered her a _tall_.
Whenever Drusilla was glad to see any one she always had a reason, an'
Mrs. Macy says it speaks loud for how clean used up she was over her
shoes that she never remembered that way of Drusilla's. Drusilla never
saw no one on the street unless she had a reason, an' if she had a
reason it was Heaven help them as Drusilla saw on the street.

"So now she saw Mrs. Macy an' asked her right home to lunch with her,
an' Mrs. Macy very gladly went. She says no words can tell how lively
an' pleasant Drusilla was, an' she felt to be glad she met her all the
way home. She says Drusilla has a very nice home an' a thin husband an'
three very thin boys. She says Drusilla is the only fat one in the
family."

Susan paused and drew a long breath.

Mrs. Lathrop adjusted herself in a new position.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, now's where the duck comes in. The duck was
Drusilla's reason, an' Mrs. Macy's next trial. Mrs. Macy says if any one
had told her as she was to go to town for shoes an' bring back a duck,
or be did in one day first by the minister an' next by Drusilla Cobb,
she'd take her Bible oath as whoever said it was lyin', but so it was."

"Is--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes," said Miss Clegg, "it's the same one. An' this is its why as told
by Mrs. Macy to Gran'ma Mullins an' me." She paused and drew a still
longer breath. "Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as Drusilla's husband had got a
friend as goes huntin' with a doctor. Seems he found four little
red-headed things in a nest of reeds an' took one an' asked the doctor
what it was. Seems the doctor said as he thought as it was a
golden-headed oriole but the friend thought as it was a mud hen. So he
give it to Drusilla's youngest boy to raise in a flat for his birthday.
Well, Mrs. Macy says bein' raised in a flat was surely most new to the
animal as very soon turned out to be a duck. Seems it snapped at all the
black spots in the carpets for bugs an' when they put it in the bath-tub
to swim it would n't swim but just kept diving for the hole in the
bottom. Seems they had a most lively time with it an' it run after 'em
everywhere an' snapped at their shoe-buttons an' squawked nights, an'
when Drusilla see Mrs. Macy she thought right off as she could give her
the duck to take home with her 'cause she lived in the country. So that
was how Mrs. Macy come to be asked to take dinner at Drusilla's so
dreadful pleasant.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, Mrs. Macy says as she no more mistrusted what
travelin' with a duck is than anythin', so although she could n't say as
she really relishes any duck afore he's cooked, she thought as it could
swim in the crick, an' maybe grow to be a comfort, so she let them put
it in a basket, an' give her a envelope of dead flies for it to lunch
on, an' she set off for home. She had to wait a long time for a car an'
the duck was so restless it eat eight flies an' bit her twice waitin',
but finally the car come along an' she an' the duck got on. Well, Mrs.
Lathrop, she says you never hear nothin' like that duck when it felt
itself on a electric car! The conductor heard it an' come runnin' an'
stopped the car an' put 'em both off afore she realized as she was
gettin' off for her duck instead of her depot.

"So there was Mrs. Macy stranded high an' dry in a strange part of the
city alone with a duck out of the goodness of her heart. You can maybe
believe as she was very far from feelin' friendly to Drusilla Cobb when
she realized as she couldn't take no car with no duck an' didn't know
Drusilla's number to take her back her duck, neither. Mrs. Macy says as
she felt herself slowly growin' mad an' she went into a store near by
an' asked 'em if they had a telephone. They said they had, an' she says
she never will know what possessed her but she just looked that
telephone square in the eye an' told it to get her the president of the
car company without a second's delay. She says it was astonishin' how
quick it got her somebody an' as soon as they'd each said 'Hello' polite
enough, she just up an' asked him to please tell her the difference
between a duck an' a canary-bird. Well, she says he did n't say nothin'
for a minute an' then he said 'Wh-a-t?' in a most feeble manner, an'
she asked him it right over again. Then she said he was more nervous an'
made very queer noises an' finally asked her what in Noah's ark she
wanted to know for. She says she could n't but think that very ill-bred,
considerin' her age, but she was in a situation where she had to
overlook anythin', so she told him as she knowed an' he knowed, too, as
any one could take a canary-bird an' travel anywhere an' never know what
it was to be put off for nothin'. She said he shook the wire a little
more an' then asked her if she was meanin' to lead him to infer that she
had been injected from a car with a duck. She says his tone was so
disrespectful that she felt her own beginnin' to rise an' she told him
so far from bein' injected she'd been put out an' off a car an' she had
the duck right with her to prove it. He told her as he would advise her
to try to do the duck up in a derby hat an' smuggle him through that
way, an' then without a word more he hung up.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says she just about never was so mad afore. She says
when she turned around all the men in the store was laughin' an' that
made her madder yet, but there was one on 'em as said he felt for her
'cause he owned a pair of ducks himself, an' he went in the back of the
store an' found a old hat-box as was pretty large an' he went to work
an' took the duck out of the basket an' put him into the box an' give
Mrs. Macy 'em both to carry an' put her on another car an' she set off
again.

"Well, that time she got to the depot all safe, an' if there was n't old
Dr. Carter from Meadville an' it goes without sayin' as old Dr. Carter
from Meadville could drive any duck clean out of Mrs. Macy's head, so
she an' he set out to be real happy to the Junction, an' the first thing
he asked her was if she'd been buyin' a new bonnet in town an' she
laughed an' give the box a little heave an' the bottom come out an' the
duck flew down the car.

[Illustration: "'The bottom come out an' the duck flew down the car.'"
_Page_ 188.]

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe guess as that was most tryin' both to
Mrs. Macy an' Dr. Carter as well, as is both fat an' was both wedged in
one seat expectin' to enjoy all they could of each other to the
Junction. Dr. Carter was obliged to unwedge himself an' catchin' the
duck was a most awful business an' Dr. Carter had to get off just about
as soon as it was done. Well, Mrs. Macy says helpin' to catch your duck
seems to make every one feel as free as air, an' a man come right off
an' sat with her right off an' asked her right off whether it was a duck
or a drake. Why, she says she never did--not in all her life--an' he
told her she could easy tell by catchin' a spider an' givin' it to the
duck an' if he took it it was a drake an' if she took it it was a duck.
He asked her if it was n't so an' she said she could n't deny it, an'
then he went back to his own seat an' she rode the rest of the way
tryin' to figure on where the hitch was in what he said, for she says as
she certainly feels there's a hitch an' yet you can't deny that it's
all straight about the spider an' the he and the she.

"Well, so she got home an' went right up to her house, put the duck in
the rat trap, an' went over to ask the minister about her shoes, an'
what do you think, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think! The minister had
clean forgot himself! He was sittin' there on his piazza advisin' Mrs.
Brown to make her pound-cake by sayin' 'One, two, three, Mother caught a
flea,' the flea bein' the butter, an' Mrs. Macy says it was plain to be
seen as he was n't a bit pleased at her comin' in that way to have his
memory system applied to her backward.

"She says after that she went home to the duck madder 'n ever an' put on
her felt slippers an' made up her mind as she'd make up for her lost day
by rippin' up her old carpets, an' that was the crownin' pyramid in her
Egyptian darkness, for it's the carpet as has ended her."

"Oh--" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, she's alive," said Susan, "but she ain't much more 'n alive, an'
it's a wonder that she's that, an' it would be very bad for her if she
was n't, for young Dr. Brown says she can die fifty times before he'll
ever go near her again. He's awful mad an' he's got a bad bump on his
nose too where he fell over her, an' Mrs. Sweet's got to stay in bed
three days too for her arm where she dislocated it jerkin'--although
goodness knows what she tried jerkin' for--for I'd as soon think of
tryin' to jerk a elephant from under a whale as to try to jerk Mrs. Macy
from under a carpet. An' even with it all they could n't get her up an'
had to get the blacksmith's crowbar an' pry, an' Mrs. Sweet says if any
one doubts as pryin' is painful they'd ought to of been there to hear
Mrs. Macy an' see Hiram an' the blacksmith."

"But what--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I'm goin' to tell you if you'll just keep still a little longer an' let
me get through to the end," said her friend. "I got this part all back
an' forth an' upside down from Mrs. Sweet while I was takin' her home by
the other arm. Oh, my, but it's awful about her, for she was preservin'
an' wanted a extra cullender an' lost her right arm in consequence. I
hope her experience 'll be a lesson to you, Mrs. Lathrop, for it's been
such a lesson to me that I may mention right here an' now 't if I ever
hear you hollerin' I shall put for the opposite direction as quick as I
can for I would n't never take no chances at gettin' dislocated like
Mrs. Sweet is--not if I knew it. Young Dr. Brown says she's decapitated
the angular connection between her collar bone an' somewhere else, an'
she says she can well believe it judgin' from the way her ear keeps
shootin' into her wrist an' back again."

"But--" interrupted Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you know how Mrs. Macy always was forever given to
economizin'. I don't say as economizin' is any sin, but I will say as
Mrs. Macy's ways of economizin' is sometimes most singular an' to-day's
a example of that. Economy's all right as long as you economize out of
yourself, but when it takes in Mrs. Sweet an' bumps young Dr. Brown I've
no patience--no more 'n Mrs. Sweet an' young Dr. Brown has. Young Dr.
Brown says it looks awful to have a black eye an' no reason for it
except fallin' over a carpet. He says when he explains as Mrs. Macy was
under the carpet no one is goin' to think it any thin' but funny, an' he
says a doctor must n't be hurt funny ways. Mrs. Sweet don't feel to
blame herself none for her arm 'cause she jerked like she does
everythin' else, with her whole heart, an' she says she did so want to
set her up that she tried harder an' harder every jerk.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, to go 'way back to the beginnin', seems as Mrs.
Macy set out last night, as I said before, to make over her carpet.
Seems as she wanted to turn it all around so's it'd fade away under the
stove an' fray out in the corner where it don't show. I don't say as the
idea was n't a good one--although it's come pretty hard on Mrs.
Sweet--but anyhow, good or no good, she dug up the tacks last night an'
ripped the widths an' set down to sew this mornin'. Her story is as she
turned the duck out to pasture right after breakfast an' then went to
work an' sewed away as happy as a bean until about ten o'clock. Then she
felt most awful tired from the rippin' an' yesterday an' all, so she
thought she'd rest a little. Seems as her legs was all done up in the
carpet an' gettin' out was hard so she thought she'd just lay back on
the floor. Seems she lay back suddener than she really intended an' as
she hit the floor, she was _took_.

"She give a yell an' she says she kept on givin' yells for one solid
hour, an' no one come. She says as no words can ever tell how awful it
was, for every yell sent a pain like barbed wire lightnin' forkin' an'
knifin' all ways through her. No one heard her, for the blacksmith was
shoein' a mule on one side of her an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy was
discussin' Hiram on the other. You know what a mule is to shoe, Mrs.
Lathrop, an' you know what Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy is when they take to
discussin' Hiram. I'll take my Bible oath as when Gran'ma Mullins an'
Lucy gets to discussin' Hiram they couldn't hear no steam penelope out
of a circus, not if it was settin' full tilt right on their very own
door-mat. So poor Mrs. Macy laid there an' hollered till Mrs. Sweet came
for the cullender.

"Mrs. Sweet says, _the_ shock she got when she opened the door an' see
Mrs. Macy with the carpet on her was enough to upset anybody.

"She says she thought at first as Mrs. Macy was tryin' to take up her
carpet by crawlin' under it an' makin' the tacks come out that way. But
then she see as her face was up an' of course no Christian'd ever crawl
under no carpet with her face up. So she asked her what was the matter,
an' Mrs. Macy told her frank an' open as she did n't know what was the
matter. Then Mrs. Sweet went to work an' tried to set her up. An' she
says the way she yelled!

"She says she jerked her by the arms, an' by the legs, an' even by the
head, an' her howls only grew awfuler an' awfuler. Mrs. Macy says as her
agonies was terrible every time she slid a little along, an' she just
begged an' prayed for her to go an' get young Dr. Brown. So finally Mrs.
Sweet ran next door an' separated Lucy an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy went
for young Dr. Brown an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Mrs. Sweet went for Mrs.
Macy. Oh, my, but their story is as they jerked hard then, for they
wanted her to be respectable in bed afore he came, but it was no use an'
he bounced in an' fell over Mrs. Macy an' the carpet afore his eyes got
used to where he was. They had to help him up an' then he had to go in
the kitchen an' disinfect his bump afore he could take a look at Mrs.
Macy. But seems he got around to her at last an' felt her pulse an' then
as he'd forgot his kinetoscope he just pounded her softly all over with
the tack-hammer, but he did n't find out nothin' that way for she yelled
wherever he hit her. He said then as he'd like to turn X-rays through
her, only as there is n't no cellar under her house just there there'd
be no way to get a picture of the other side of what was the matter with
her.

"So he said she _must_ be got up, an' although she howled as she could
n't be, he had Lucy an' Hiram an' the blacksmith's crowbar an' the
blacksmith, an' it was plain as she'd have to come whether nor no. Mrs.
Sweet says it was surely a sight to see. They put the crowbar across a
footstool, an' Hiram jerked on the other side at the same time, an' with
a yell like Judgment Day they sat her up.

"An' what do you think, Mrs. Lathrop? What _do_ you think? There was a
tack stickin' square in the middle of her back!

"Oh, my, but young Dr. Brown was awful mad! Mr. Kimball says he guesses
he's got suthin' out of somebody now as he won't care to preserve in
alcohol for a ornament to his mantelpiece. Hiram is mad, too, for he was
goin' over to Meadville to fan a baseball team this afternoon an' he
says Mrs. Macy has used up all his fannin' muscle. An' Lucy's mad 'cause
she says she was way ahead of Gran'ma Mullins in what they were talkin'
about an' now she's forgotten what that was. But Gran'ma Mullins was
maddest of all when she found out about the duck, 'cause it seems as
Drusilla Cobb's husband was a relation of hers an' as a consequence she
never could bear Drusilla, so I said I'd take the duck."

"What--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I shall fat him an' eat him."

"An' what--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, further.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you that: Mrs. Macy hunted up the magazine an'
looked 'em up an' for a fact it was Kulosis after all. As soon as she
see it she remembered the four noses an' all, but she says she was too
done up to go any further at the minister just then."

"Is--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, finally.

"I don't know, an' I don't care anyhow, an' I ain't goin' to catch no
spider for the sake of findin' out. He'll eat just as well as she will,
I reckon, an' if I have any doubts, my ways of settlin' 'em 'll be by
parboilin' instead of spiders."

So saying Susan rose, sought her duck, and departed.



CHAPTER XIII

MONOTONY OF MINISTERIAL MONOLOGUES


Mrs. Lathrop never went to church. She had relinquished church when she
had given up all other social joys that called for motive power beyond
the limits of her own fence.

Elijah rarely ever went to church. The getting the paper out Friday for
Saturday delivery wore on him so that he nearly always slept until noon
on Sunday.

So Susan went alone week after week, just as she had been going alone
for years and years and years. She always wore a black dress to church,
her mother's cashmere shawl, and a bonnet of peculiar shape which had no
strings and fitted closely around her head. She always took about an
hour and a half to get home from church, although it was barely ten
minutes' walk, and she always went in Mrs. Lathrop's gate instead of her
own when she did get home. Mrs. Lathrop knew almost to the minute when
to expect her and was invariably seated ready and waiting.

One late May day when Susan returned from church she followed her usual
course of Sunday observances by going straight to her neighbor's and
sitting down hard on one of the latter's kitchen chairs, but she
differed from her usual course by her expression, which--usually bland
and fairly contented with the world in general--was this morning most
bitterly set and firmly assured in displeasure.

"Well," said Mrs. Lathrop, somewhat alarmed but attempting to speak
pleasantly, "was--"

"No," said Susan, "I should say not." Then she unpinned her hat and ran
the pin through the crown with a vicious directness that bore out her
words to the full.

"Susan!" said Mrs. Lathrop, appalled, "why--"

"Well, I can't help it if you are," said Miss Clegg, "you don't have to
go Sunday after Sunday an' listen like I do. If you did, an' if you had
what you ain't got an' that's some spirit, Mrs. Lathrop, you'd be
rammin' around with a hat-pin yourself an' understand my feelin's when I
say as there ain't a spot in the Bible as I ain't been over fully as
often as the minister nor a place where he can open it that I can't tell
just what he'll say about it afore he's done settlin' his tie an'
clearin' his throat. I'm so tired of that tie-settlin' an'
throat-clearin' business I don't know what to do an' then to-day it was
the Sermon on the Mount an' he said as he had a new thought to develop
out of the mount for us an' the new thought was as life was a mount with
us all climbin' up it an' sure to come out on top with the Sermon if our
legs held out. It's this new idea of new thoughts as he's got hold of as
puts me so out of all patience I don't know what to do; if they was
really new I'd revel to listen to 'em, but they're as old as the hills
an' I feel like I was offered somethin' to cut my teeth on whenever I
hear him beginnin' with a fresh old one. The other day I met him down in
the square an' he stopped me short an' told me to my face as the world
was gettin' full o' new thoughts, an' that a star as he see the night
afore had given him one as he was intendin' to work up for Christmas.
Well, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think that particular new thought was?
What _do_ you think? It was as God was back o' the stars! My lands, I
felt like givin' him a punch with my parasol an' I'd of done it too only
I'd left my parasol at home an' had n't nothin' with me but a basket o'
currants. I told him though as the idea o' God an' the stars bein'
anyways new was surely _most_ new to me, an' then I went on to say as
Rachel Rebecca had said she'd come an' pick berries for me Monday an'
seein' as Tuesday was lettin' its sun down pretty fast I could only hope
as some other new thought had n't run off with her, too.

"It's this way, Mrs. Lathrop, I don't get much fun out o' church anyway,
for I'm on red-hot porcupines the whole time I'm there thinkin' what I
could be doin' at home if I _was_ at home, an' wonderin' whether Elijah
is in bed or whether he's up an' about. I don't know a more awful
feelin' than the feelin' that you're chained helpless in a church while
the man in your house is up an' about your house. Men were n't meant to
be about houses an' I always liked father because he never was about,
but Elijah is of a inquirin' disposition an' he inquires more Sundays
than any other time. The idea as he's wanderin' around just carelessly
lookin' into everythin' as ain't locked upsets me for listenin' to the
minister anyway, but lately my patience has been up on its hind legs in
church clawin' an' yowlin' more 'n ever, for it seems as if the minister
gets tamer an' tamer faster an' faster as time rolls on, an' between
not likin' to hear him an' bein' half mad to get back to Elijah I'm
beginnin' to wish as God in His infinite mercy had let me be somethin'
besides a Christian. I don't know what I'd be if I was n't a Christian,
but my own view o' this idea o' free-trade in religion as is takin' so
many folks nowadays is as it all comes from most anybody with common
sense jus' naturally knowin' more than any minister as always has his
house an' his potatoes for nothin' ever can possibly get a chance to
learn; an' when folks realize as they know more than the minister they
ain't apt to like to waste the time as they might be learnin' more yet,
sittin' an' listenin' to him tag along behind what they know already. A
minister is kind o' like a horse in blinders or a cow as wears a yoke to
keep her from jumpin', anyway--he feels as he can't launch out even if
he wants to an' so he never does, but my idea would be to give 'em a
little rope an' let 'em be a little more interestin'. Here's two hours
a week as we sit still an' might be learnin' things much more useful
than as Job was patient an' Joseph was n't. I'm tired of Job an' Joseph
anyhow. I've heard about 'em both ever since I was old enough to know
about either, an' long afore I was old enough to know about Joseph. I
was talkin' about this at the sewin' society yesterday an' they all
agreed with me. Mrs. Macy said as her feelin' was as she'd been wantin'
to go to sleep in church for the last five years, an' she was beginnin'
to have it so strong as she did n't care who knowed it.

"Was the minister's--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, with vivid curiosity.

"No, 'cause Brunhilde Susan thought a moth ball was a lemon drop an'
dealt with it a'cordin', an' she was too used up by the bein' up all
night to even so much as overcast a plain seam; but the rest was there
an' we all aired ourselves inside out, I can assure you, an' was more 'n
glad as she was n't there, so we could do it, too.

"The general talk was as the minister 'd do well to quit talkin' about
Heaven for a while an' come down to earth. We all know about Heaven,
'cause if you don't all you have to do is to tip back your head an'
there it is day an' night for you to look at as long as your neck don't
ache, but what we don't know about is a lot of what's right around us.
Mrs. Macy says as her view would be to take the Bible for the motto an'
then apply it right to us here to-day, an' tell us how to understand
what's goin' on in the world by its light. She says David an' Goliath
could of been Japan an' Russia with Admiral Togo for the sling shot, an'
we all felt to agree as _there_ was a idea as _no_ minister ought to
mind ownin', for Mrs. Sweet told me comin' home as she never would of
give Mrs. Macy credit for thinkin' nothin' out so closely as that. Every
one was interested right off an' you ought to of been there to see how
the idea took! Gran'ma Mullins said as she'd _always_ wanted to know
what a soft-nosed bullet looked like an' how their other features felt,
an' a sermon like that could n't but give us all a new understandin' of
a war. Then they all got to thinkin' out the thing, an' Mrs. Sweet said
as Jezabel bein' throwed to the dogs could apply to that new rule in the
city as makes you have to go around with your dog's nose in a lattice
an' yourself tied to the dog; she said when she went up there the other
day she felt like nothin' but a fool out with her brother an' him bein'
jerked here an' there a'cordin' as the dog's feelin's moved him, an' the
dog's lattice half the time over one of his two ears so he looked more
drunk than sober all day. Of course we ain't got no such rules about
dogs' noses here, but no one set down on Mrs. Sweet, because it showed
she took an interest; Mrs. Brown said when she was done as she should
think as the sun standin' still on Absalom three days could be worked up
into havin' our streets lit all night, for she says when young Dr. Brown
is out late, Amelia's so awful nervous she has to sit by her an' hold
her hand, an' young Dr. Brown always says it takes him a good hour
longer than it ought to gettin' home, on a'count o' bein' so afraid o'
runnin' into trees in the dark."

"They say--" said Mrs. Lathrop, thoughtfully.

"Yes, but you could n't make his mother believe it," said Susan; "she
thinks he eats peppermint comin' home nights just because he likes to
eat peppermint comin' home nights. Mothers is all like that. You know
yourself how you was with Jathrop. That'd make another nice talk, about
how all sons was n't prodigals, some bein' obliged by fate to be the
calf instead. I must say, Mrs. Lathrop, as the more I think of this new
idea the more took I am with it. The Bible would be most like a new book
if we took it that way an' Sunday would be a day to look forward to all
the week long, just to see what the minister was goin' to say about what
next. The sewin' society was all in favor of the idea an' now if the
square only takes it up with a real mother's heart I don't see why we
should n't get some profit out o' keepin' a minister yet. My notion is
as the minister might just as well learn to be a lesson to us as to be
so dead satisfied with only bein' a trial to us. We've got trials
enough, Lord knows, an' just now what with the weather an' the cleanin'
house no one wants to go to church to hear about things as they all know
anyhow."

"I wonder--" said Mrs. Lathrop, thoughtfully.

"No, I would n't look for that," said Susan; "every one has their limits
an' I would n't expect no man to jump over his own outside. I should n't
ever look for the minister to be really equal to workin' up somethin'
real spicy as would fill the house out o' Uriah the Hittite or Abigail
hangin' upside down to the tree, but I can't well see why he could n't
teach us whether well water's healthy or not by quotin' from Rebecca,
an' when the time comes he could surely get a real nice Thanksgivin'
text out o' John the Baptist's head on the platter."

"Well--" said Mrs. Lathrop, slowly.

"I'm goin' home to Elijah now," said Susan, "an' I shall talk the matter
up with him. Elijah's awful funny, Mrs. Lathrop. However much he roams
around while I'm in church he always hops back in bed an' manages to be
sound asleep when it's time for me to come home. An' I will say this for
him, an' that is as with all his pryin' an' meddlin' he's clever enough
to get things back so I can never see no traces of what he's been at. If
I was n't no sharper than most others, I'd think as he never had stirred
out of bed while I was gone--but I am sharper than others an' it'll take
a sharper young man than Elijah to make me suppose as all is gold that
glitters or that a man left all alone in a house don't take that time to
find out what he's alone in the midst of."



CHAPTER XIV

ADVISABILITY OF NEWSPAPER EXPOSURES


"Well, I don't know I'm sure what I _am_ goin' to do with Elijah," said
Susan Clegg to her friend one evening. "He's just as restless in his
ideas as he is in bed, an' he's not content in bed without untuckin'
everythin' at the foot. I hate a bed as is kicked out at the foot an' I
hate a man as makes a woman have to put the whole bed together again new
every mornin'. I'm sure I don't see no good to come of kickin' nights
an' I've talked to Elijah about layin' still till I should think he
could n't but see how right I am an' how wrong he is, but still he goes
right on kickin', an' now he's got it into his head as he's got to turn
the town topsy-turvy by findin' out suthin' wrong as we'd rather not
know, an' makin' us very uncomfortable by knowin' it, an' knowin' as now
we know it we've got to do suthin' about it, an' that seems to make him
kick more than ever."

"Dear--" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"He set on the porch for an hour with me last night," Susan went on,
"tryin' to think o' suthin' as he could expose in the paper. He says a
paper ain't nothin' nowadays without it's exposin' suthin, an' a town
ain't fit to have a paper if it ain't got nothin' to expose in it. He
says no closet without some skeleton, an' he should think we'd have
ours, an' in the end he talked so much that I could n't but feel for a
little as maybe he was right an' as we _was_ behind the times, for when
you come to think it over, Mrs. Lathrop, nothin' ever does happen here
as had n't ought to happen--not since Mr. Shores' wife run off with his
clerk, an' that wa'n't no great happenin', for they could n't stand
sittin' on the piazza much longer--every one could see that--an' Mrs.
Shores wasn't one to have any man but her own husband comin' in an' out
o' the house at all hours, an' so if she'd got to the point where she
wanted a man as wasn't her own husband comin' in an' out, she just had
to up an' run away with him, an' I never have been one to say no ill of
her, for I look on Mr. Shores with a cool an' even eye, an' lookin' on
Mr. Shores with a cool an' even eye leads me to fully an' freely approve
of every thin' as his wife ever done."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I know it, an' that's why I speak as I do. But Elijah seems to
think as suthin' else ought to of happened since then, an' he asked me
if I didn't know of nothin' as was bein' tried to be covered up as he
could uncover, an' I really did try to think of suthin' but nobody ever
covers up nothin' here. Nobody could if they wanted to. Everybody knows
everythin' about everybody. We all know about Lucy an' Hiram, 'cause
Gran'ma Mullins is always tellin' her side an' Hiram's side, an' Lucy
is always tellin' her side an' Hiram's other side. Gran'ma Mullins says
when she sees a man like Hiram havin' to devote his strength an' his
Sundays to catchin' water-bugs, she most feels she's been a mother in
vain, an' Lucy says when she realizes as she's married a man as can't be
put to no better use Sundays than catchin' water-bugs, she ain't got no
doubt at all as to what she's married. Lucy's gettin' very bitter about
marriage; she says when she thinks as she may be picked out for a golden
weddin' she feels like tyin' balloons to her feet an' goin' out an'
standin' on her head in the crick. Elijah asked me if maybe she was n't
in love with some one else as he could just notice in general kind o'
terms, but I told him he did n't know what Lucy Dill was on men now as
Hiram has got her eyes open. Why, Lucy don't believe no more in love a
_tall_. Lucy says if she was rid of men an' left on a desert island
alone, with one cow, so she could have eggs an' milk toast regular,
she'd never watch for no ship, an' if a ship heaved up anywhere near,
she'd heave down so quick that if any one on the ship had seen her
they'd think they imagined her afore they'd get ready to go to her
rescue. Elijah shook his head then, an' trailed off to Polly Allen; he
said there must be thirty-five years between Polly an' the deacon, an'
could n't suthin' be hinted at about them. That set me to wonderin', an'
it's really very strange when you come to think of it, Mrs. Lathrop, how
contented Polly is. I don't believe they've ever had a word. He does the
cookin' an' washin' the same as he always did, an' lets her do anythin'
else she pleases, an' they say she's always very obligin' about doin'
it.

"So then Elijah crossed his legs the other way, an' asked if there was
n't anythin' bigger as could be looked into, but every one knows Hiram
is the biggest man anywhere around here, so that was no use. He asked
then if we did n't have a poorhouse or a insane asylum or a
slaughter-house or suthin' as he could show up in red ink. He said
somebody must be doin' suthin' as they had n't ought to be doin'
somewhere, an' it was both his virtue an' his business to print all
about it. He says exposin' is the very life o' the newspaper business,
an' you can't be nothin' nowadays without you expose. He seemed to feel
very much put out about us not bein' able to be exposed, an' I could n't
help a kind o' hurt feelin' as it was really so.

"But what can I do, Mrs. Lathrop, I did n't know of nothin'? We ain't
got no place to do anythin' except in the square an' nobody never does
nothin' without everybody knows that day or the next mornin' at the
latest. I don't believe as anybody could have a secret with anybody in
this town 'cause you'd know very well as if you did n't get 'round
pretty quick an' tell it first the other one would be gettin' ahead o'
you an' tellin' it before you. Of course I could see Elijah's drift all
right. Them city papers has turned his head completely just as they do
everybody else's when they first get a new idea. Elijah wants us to be
eatin' bluing for blueberries an' cats for calves jus' so he can be the
first to tell us about it, but there ain't a cat in town as ain't too
well known for anybody to eat without knowin' it, an' as for bluing, if
anybody can feed it to me for blueberries it's me as is the fool an'
them as is n't, an' that's my views.

"I'll tell you what it is, Mrs. Lathrop, I ain't got no great sympathy
with this new idea o' keepin' us all stirred up over how awful things
is. I won't say as I approved when that man in Chicago made sausage out
o' his wife 'cause he was tired o' her, but I will say as if Lucy see
her chance at Hiram that way I ain't sure as she could restrain herself.
Hiram's perfectly healthy an' could be depended upon not to disagree
with no one in sausage to anythin' like the extent Lucy disagrees with
him, an' Gran'ma Mullins is so tired of hearin' 'em quarrel that I
ain't prepared to say as she'd rebel at anythin' as sent Lucy back to
her father.

"Elijah went on to tell me a lot about insurance an' railroads, but all
about insurance an' railroads is 'way beyond my interest an' 'way beyond
the understandin' of every one else here, an' nobody's goin' to remember
a thing about any of it a year from now anyhow. That's the trouble with
this country,--they don't remember nothin',--everybody forgets
everythin' before the month is out. Most of the people never thinks o'
San Francisco now, an' as for that fire they had in Baltimore, it's as
dead as Moses.

"That's the advantage the rest of the country has over us when it comes
to exposin'. They can expose an' expose, an' all the folks who read
about it forget an' forget, but here in this community it's different
an' you can't count on _our_ forgettin' things a _tall_, an' if Elijah
was turned loose I'll venture to say every last one o' them papers
would be saved until doomsday. I know that an' knowin' that I very
carefully restrain him. There's a many as knows as Mr. Kimball's dried
apples is often very under rate, an' a many others as knows whose dead
cat that was as Mrs. Sweet had to bury after vowin' she would n't till
she smelt as she'd got to. Every last one of us knows what Dr. Brown
gets at the drug store when he asks for what he usually gets an' there's
a good many as thinks as Mrs. Macy goes to Meadville more on a'count o'
Dr. Carter than to see her cousin, Mrs. Lupey. But I was n't goin' to
set Elijah swimmin' in any such deep water. Elijah is a young man an'
the age to go wrong easy, an' when that age see how easy it is to go
wrong they're nothin' but foolish if they waste another second goin'
right, so if Elijah wants to go to exposin' he'll have to get his stuff
from some one else beside me."

"You--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I don't say that," said Miss Clegg, "I'm only human after all an'
I can't in conscience deny as I should like to see them as I don't like
showed up just as much as any other man as is makin' a business of
showin' up his neighbors, likes it. But I know I've got to live here an'
it'd be very poor livin' for me after I'd aired myself by way of Elijah.
There's a great difference between knowin' things all by yourself an'
readin' 'em in the paper, an' I know as that dead cat would cause a
great deal o' hard feelin' in print, while buried by Mrs. Sweet it only
helps her garden grow. So I shall keep on talkin' as usual, but I shall
hold Elijah out o' print an' so keep the country safe."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, the paper'll do just as well," said Susan; "he's goin' to print one
sheet as comes all printed from the city every week an' he says that'll
put new zest in the thing. It'll be a great deal better to get the zest
that way than to get it exposin'. Zest is suthin' as is always safest a
good ways off. Elijah saw that, too, afore he got done last night, for
in his hitchin' about he hitched over the edge o' the piazza in the
end."

"Did--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, no," said Miss Clegg. "But he tore a lot of things an' smashed a
rose bush, but I did n't care about that. I just told him to leave 'em
on a chair this mornin' an' I'd sew 'em all up again, an' I done it, an'
as to the rose bush, I'll have him get another an' give it to me for a
present the next time I go to the city to pick it out myself."



CHAPTER XV

THE TRIAL OF A SICK MAN IN THE HOUSE


"Well, where--" began Mrs. Lathrop in a tone of real pleasure at seeing
Miss Clegg come into her kitchen one afternoon a few days after.

Miss Clegg dropped into a chair.

"Well, I _have_ got trouble now!" she announced abruptly, "Elijah's
sick!"

"Eli--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"--Jah," finished Susan. "Yes, Mrs. Lathrop, Elijah's sick! He was sick
all night an' all this mornin', an' I may in confidence remark as I hope
this'll be a lesson to him to never do it again, for I've got a feelin'
in my legs as 'll bear me out in lettin' him or any one else die afore
I'll ever work again like I've worked to-day an' last night."

"Why, what--"

"Did n't you see young Dr. Brown?"

"No, I--"

"Yes, I supposed so," said Susan, resignedly; "I know your ways, Mrs.
Lathrop, an' I never look for any other ways in you. It's good as I
don't, for if I did I'd be blind from lookin' an' not seein'. I know
you, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I know your ways, an' I realize to the full how
different they are from me an' my ways, but a friend is a friend an'
what can't be endured has got to be cured, so I come to tell you about
Elijah just the same as I do anythin' else as is easy heard."

"Is--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, he is n't. That is, he was n't when I come out, but he had his pen
an' said he was goin' to write a editorial sittin' up in bed. He can't
get out of bed on a'count of the sheet, but 'Liza Em'ly's there if he
wants anythin' so it don't matter if I do leave for a little while. She
come an' offered an' I don't see why she should n't have a chance to
get married the same as any other girl, so I set her in the next room
an' told her not to go near him on no a'count, an' naturally there ain't
nothin' as'll make 'em wilder to talk than for Elijah to feel he'd ought
to be workin' on his editorial an' for 'Liza Em'ly to feel as he had n't
ought to be spoke to. I don't say as I consider Elijah any great catch,
but if 'Liza Em'ly can find any joy jumpin' at him with her mouth open I
ain't one to deprive her of the hop. Elijah's a very fair young man as
young men go, an' I think any girl as is willin' to do her nine-tenths
can have a time tryin' to be happy with him. If she ain't happy long it
won't be Elijah's fault for he's just as sure his wife 'll be happy as
any other man is."

"But about--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, that's what I come to tell you. He woke me last night, tappin' on
my door, an' hollered as he had the appendicitis on both sides at once."

"On both--"

"That's what he said. Well, as soon as I got awake enough to know as I
was n't asleep, I knowed he was wrong somehow an' I sat up in bed an'
hollered back to him to take ten sips o' water, hold his breath while he
counted fifteen, an' go back to bed. I was n't calculatin' to get up
with no two-sided appendicitis in the middle o' no night if I could help
it, an' I knowed anyhow as it was only some of them dried apples o' Mr.
Kimball's as was maybe lodged here an' there in him an' no harm done if
he'd only let me sleep.

"But, no sir, Elijah had no idea o' lettin' me sleep while he set up
alone with his own two sides. There's suthin' about a man, Mrs. Lathrop,
as 'll never let him suffer in silence if there's any woman to be woke
up. A man can't be a hero unless a woman stands by barefooted with a
candle, an' he feels a good deal easier groanin' if he can hear her
sneezin' between times. So back come Elijah right off to say as I must
be up an' doin' or he'd be dead afore dawn. I was so sound asleep I
told him to set a mouse trap two times afore my senses come to me an'
then when they did I was mad. I tell you I was _good_ an' mad too. I put
on my slippers an' father's duster as I always keep hangin' to my
bedpost to slip on or dust with just as I feel to need it on or dustin',
an' I went to Elijah. He was back layin' in bed done up in a sort o'
ring o' rosy, groanin' an' takin' on an' openin' an' shuttin' his eyes
like he thought he could make me feel pleased at bein' woke up. But I
was n't goin' to feel pleased. I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, a stitch in
time saves nine, an' I hadn't no idea of encouragin' Elijah to wake me
like that, not while there's maybe a chance of me havin' him to board
more 'n the three months I promised. I saw as I was gettin' into the
duster as all my comfort depended on how I acted right then an' there
an' I was decided to be firm. I stood by the bed an' looked at him hard
an' then I says to him, I says, 'Well, what did you wake me up for?'
'No one ever felt nothin' like this,' he says; 'I've got two appendixes
an' I can feel another comin' in my back.' 'Elijah,' I said, 'don't talk
nonsense. You've been an' woke me up an' now I'm woke up what do you
want me to do?' I leaned over him as I said it an' let a little hot
candle grease drip on his neck an' he give a yowl an' straightened out
an' then give another yowl an' shut up again. 'I'll make you some ginger
tea,' I says, 'an' put a mustard plaster wherever you like best,' I
says, 'an' then I shall look to be let alone,' I says, an' so I went
downstairs an' set to work. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I made that tea an' I
bet I made it strong; I put some red pepper in it, too, an' poured a
little mucilage into the plaster, for I may in confidence remark as I
didn't intend as Elijah should ever look forward to wakin' me up in the
night again. Then I went upstairs an' he sit up an' took the whole of
the cup at one gulp! You never see no one so satisfied with nothin' in
all your life! He fell back like he was shot an' said, 'Scott, Scott,
Scott,' until really I thought as he was ravin'. Then I said, 'Where do
you want the plaster, Elijah?' an' he said, 'On my throat, I guess.' I
says, 'No, Elijah, you've waked me up an' wakin' me up is nothin' to
joke over. You put this plaster on an' go to sleep an' don't wake me up
again unless you feel for more tea.' I spoke kind, but he could see as I
felt firm an' I set the candle down an' went back to bed.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think,--what _do_ you think? Seems as
Elijah was so afraid o' burnin' himself in another place that he went
an' put the _sheet_ between him an' the plaster an' glued himself all
together. This mornin' when he awoke up there he was with the sheet
stuck firm to him an' I must say I was very far from pleased when he
hollered to me an' I went in an' found him lookin' more like a kite than
anythin' else an' not able to dress 'cause he could n't take off his
sheet. 'Well, Elijah, you _have_ done it now, I guess,' I says; 'I
never see nothin' the beat o' this. If I have to send for young Dr.
Brown to take that sheet off you, you'll be in the papers from the
earthquake to Russia an' back again.' Well, that was all there was to do
an' when 'Liza Em'ly come with the milk I had to ask her to go up to
young Dr. Brown's an' ask him to kindly come as soon as he could an'
amputate Elijah out o' bed. He come right after breakfast an' he had a
time, I tell you! We worked with water an' we worked with hot water, we
tried loosenin' the edges by jerkin' quick when Elijah was n't
expectin', but it was all no use. Dr. Brown said he never see such a
plaster, he said it'd be a fortune for mendin' china. Then we got the
dish-pan an' tried layin' Elijah face down across it an' pilin' books on
his back to keep the right place in front soakin', but even that didn't
help. Dr. Brown said in the end as he thought the only way maybe would
be to do all the corners of the sheet up in a paper an' let Elijah
carry it hugged tight to him an' wear father's duster down to the crick
an' sit in it till he just slowly come loose. But Elijah did n't want to
go bathin' in a duster an' I had a feelin' myself as if Meadville heard
of it we'd surely be very much talked about, so finally Dr. Brown said
he thought as he'd go home an' study up the case, an' I let him go for I
had my own ideas as to how much he knew about what was makin' the
trouble. So he went an' then I got dinner an' took some up to Elijah an'
told him jus' what I thought of the whole performance. I talked kind but
I talked firm an' I done a lot of good, for he said he did n't know but
it would be better if he arranged to live with the Whites after the
Fourth of July 'cause he had a feelin' as maybe he was a good deal of
trouble to me. I told him I hadn't a mite of doubt as he was a good deal
of trouble to me an' then Mrs. Macy come. I had to stop talkin' to him
an' go down an' tell her what was the matter. She said right off as her
idea would be to shut the windows, build a big fire an' make Elijah jus'
work himself loose from the inside out. I told her about the mucilage
though an' then she changed her views an' said I'd best fold the sheet
neatly an' let him wear it till he wore it off next time he growed a new
skin. Mrs. Macy says she's been told we keep sheddin' our skins the same
as snakes an' that that's really what makes our clothes need washin' so
often. She said the moral was plain as by the time the sheet'd need
washin' Elijah would shed it anyhow. I see the p'int o' what she said
an' I felt to agree, but while we was talkin' Mrs. Sweet come in an' her
view was all different. She said as Elijah would find that sheet a most
awful drag on him an' to her order o' thinkin' he'd ought to go down to
where Mr. Kimball makes his dried apples an' steam loose in the vat. She
says he can steam out very fast an' Mr. Kimball bein' his uncle 'll
naturally let him sit in the vat for nothin'."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I don't know," said Susan; "Lucy come in while we was sittin'
there an' she said her view'd be for me just to take a firm hold of the
sheet an' walk straight out of the room without a so much as 'by your
leave' to Elijah, but I'd be afraid of tearin' the sheet if I did that
way. An' then Gran'ma Mullins came an' her view was as I'd best sit an'
sop Elijah with a sponge, which just shows why Hiram is so tore in two
between such a mother an' such a wife's views."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop again.

"Well, Elijah was writin' a editorial when I left an' 'Liza Em'ly was
lookin' at him an' sighin' to talk an' I come over to tell you all about
it."

Just here a piercing scream was heard from across the way.

"My--" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan sprang to her feet and ran to the door; as she opened it Eliza
Emily was seen flying down the Clegg steps.

"What is it?" screamed Miss Clegg from Mrs. Lathrop's steps.

"Elijah dropped his pen," screamed Eliza Emily in reply, "an' when he
reached for it he fell out o' bed an' tore loose."

"Did he tear the sheet any?"

"No, but he thinks he's tore himself."

Miss Clegg began to walk rapidly towards her own house.

"You can see I've got to go," she called back to her friend over her
shoulder; "this is what it is to have a man livin' in your house, Mrs.
Lathrop."



CHAPTER XVI

THE BEGINNING OF THE END


As June wore on it became more and more apparent that Elijah wore on
Miss Clegg. She grew less and less mild towards his shortcomings and
more and more severe as to the same.

"He's only--" Mrs. Lathrop attempted to explain to her.

"I don't care if he is," she replied, "it says in the Bible as a man is
a man for all that an' I never was one to go against the Bible even if I
ain't never felt in conscience called to say where Cain an' Abel got
married, or what it was as the Jews lit out from Egypt on a'count of. I
tell you what it is, Mrs. Lathrop, you've forgotten what it is to have a
man around your house. There's somethin' just about the way a man eats
an' sleeps as gets very aggravatin' to any woman after the new's off. I
begin to see what men invented gettin' married for,--it was so they
could kite around an' always be sure they had one woman safe chained up
at home to do their cookin' an' washin'. Why, I ain't married to Elijah
a _tall_, an' yet just havin' him in the house is gettin' me more an'
more under his thumb every day that he stays with me. I feel to stay in
the square an' I find myself hurryin' home 'cause he likes hot biscuits,
an' I feel to turn his washstand around an' I leave it where it is for
no better reason than as he likes it where it is. It's awful the way a
man gets the upper hand of a woman! Lord knows I've no love for Elijah
an' yet I'm caperin' upstairs an' downstairs when he ain't in a hurry
an' tearin' my legs off scamperin' when he is, until I declare I feel
mad at myself--I certainly do.

"An' now, there he is fallin' in love with 'Liza Em'ly, the last girl in
the world as he'd ought to even dream of marryin', an' I talk to him
an' talk to him, an' tell him so, an' tell him so, an' it don't make no
more impression than when you rub a cat behind her ear."

"Why, a cat--" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, an' so does Elijah. It just tickles him half to death to hear
'Liza Em'ly's mere name, an' he don't care what any one says about her
just so long as it's about her.

"I see the minister down in the square to-day an' I told him my opinion
of it all right to his face. But the minister didn't have no heart for
'Liza Em'ly--he's too used up discussin' what under the sun is to be
done with Henry Ward Beecher. He says it's suthin' just awful about
Henry Ward Beecher's feelin' for Emma Sweet, an' he told me frank an'
open as personally it's been so terrible easy for him to get himself
married an' get consequences that he can't find nothin' to point his
index finger into Henry Ward Beecher with about this unrequited
affection of his for Emma. He says as he never knowed as a _man_ could
have unrequited affection afore an' he really seems to feel more'n a
little hurt over it. He says he can't well see how to restrain Henry
Ward Beecher an' it's town talk as Henry Ward Beecher is far past
restrainin' himself. I see Polly White afterward an' she says it's
gospel truth as he's took indelible ink an' tattoed Emma all over
himself, even places where he had to do it by guess or a mirror."

"My heavens!" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should say so," said Susan, "an' will you only consider, Mrs.
Lathrop, what Emma Sweet is to be tattoed all over any man like that! I
like all the Sweets an' I like Emma, but it's only in reason as I should
regard her with a impartial eye, an' no impartial eye lookin' her way
could ever in reason deny as she don't appear likely to set no rivers
afire. Emma's a nice girl, an' if her toes turned out an' her teeth
turned in I don't say but what she might go along without bein' noticed
in a crowd, but with them teeth an' toes all you can call her is
good-hearted an' you know as well as I do as bein' called good-hearted
is about the meanest thing as anybody can ever call anybody else. Folks
in this world never call any one good-hearted unless they can't find
nothin' else good to say of 'em, for it stands to reason as any sensible
person'd rather have anythin' else about 'em good before their heart,
for it's way inside an' largely guesswork what it is anyhow.

"They say as Mrs. Sweet says as even though Emma's her own child, still
she can't see no reason for Henry Ward Beecher's March-haredness. She
says Emma's best p'ints is her gettin' up early an' the way she puts her
whole soul into washin' an' bread-kneadin', but she says Henry Ward
Beecher ain't sensible enough to appreciate good p'ints like those. She
says she's talked to Emma an' any one with half a eye can see as it
ain't Emma as needs the talkin' to. She says Emma says as the way he
hangs onto her goin' home from choir practice is enough to pull her
patience all out of proportion. She says Emma says she'd as soon have a
garter-snake seein' her home, an' doin' itself up in rings around her
all the while, an' Mrs. Sweet says any one as has ever seen Emma seein'
a garter-snake would consider Henry Ward Beecher's chances as very slim
after a remark like that.

"Mr. Kimball says he wishes he had n't took him into his store just now;
he says no young man ain't got a call to the grocery trade when he's in
a state of heart as won't let him hear the call o' the man as owns the
business, an' Mr. Kimball says when he fell into the vat where he was
stirrin' up his dried apples, Henry Ward Beecher never heard one single
holler as he gave--not one single solitary holler did that boy hear, an'
Mr. Kimball 'most had a real city Turkish bath as a result. Why, he told
me as he was in the vat for nigh on to a hour afore Elijah heard him
from the other side, an' he says as a consequence he ain't very much
took with havin' a clerk as is in love. He says too as only to see Henry
Ward Beecher tryin' to pour through a funnel when any member o' the
Sweet family is walkin' by on the other side of the square is enough to
make him as owns what's bein' spilt wish as Henry Ward Beecher's father
had gone unrequited too. Mrs. Macy come in while we was talkin' an' she
said it was too bad as Emma wasn't smarter, 'cause if Emma was smarter
Henry Ward Beecher'd jus' suit her. Mrs. Macy says the trouble is as
Emma's too smart to be willin' to marry a fool an' not quite smart
enough to be willin' to. Mrs. Macy says as Mr. Fisher was just such
another an' Mrs. Fisher jumped for him like a duck at a bug."

"Did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, interestedly.

"No," said Susan, "but Gran'ma Mullins did. Gran'ma Mullins is always
nothin' but glad to have a chance to shake her head an' wipe her eyes
over any one's love-makin'. She come in to wait a little 'cause Lucy
wanted to dust an' she says she ain't got no strength to stay in the
house while Lucy dusts; she says it lays Hiram out on the sofa every
time regular an' sometimes it gives him the toothache. She says she an'
Hiram never know when they 're dirty a'cordin' to Lucy's way o' thinkin'
but, Heaven help 'em, they always know when they're clean a'cordin' to
Lucy's idea of bein' clean. She says Lucy is that kind as takes one of
her hairpins an' goes down on her knees an' scratches out the last bit
of dirt as the Lord hath mercifully seen fit to allow to settle in His
cracks. You can see as Gran'ma Mullins has suffered! She says it's a
hard thing to bear, but Hiram grins an' she bears an' their pride helps
'em out.

"While we was talkin' Emma come by for the mail an' we see Henry Ward
Beecher's face just hoverin' madly over the breakfast-food display in
Mr. Kimball's window. Mr. Jilkins was in town buyin' a rake an' he
waited to see what would happen. Judge Fitch was there too an' Polly
White. We all had our eyes fixed on Henry Ward Beecher an' I will say,
Mrs. Lathrop, as I never got so tired waitin' for nothin'."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Love affairs is terrible tame to lookers-on, I think. If they get over
it your time's wasted an' if they don't get over it the time's wasted
all around. My own opinion is as all love affairs is a very foolish kind
o' business, for you never find real sensible folks havin' anythin' to
do with 'em. But it was no use talkin' that to-day, so Henry Ward
Beecher hung up there on the breakfast foods, an' we sat an' watched him
like combination cats till long about five Johnny come by an' said as
Mr. Sperrit had took Emma home with them to tea."

"Oh--" cried Mrs. Lathrop, impulsively.

"I don't know why not," said Susan, "my own opinion is as he's a
idiot--"

"Mr. Sper--"

"No, Henry Ward Beecher. It's always struck me as a very strange thing
as we had n't got one single idiot in this community an' I guess the
real truth is as we've had one all the time an' did n't know him by
sight. There's a idiot most everywhere till he gets the idea into his
head to kill some one an' so gives others the idea as he's safer shut
up, an' so it ain't surprisin' our havin' one too. I see Mrs. Brown on
my way home an' I asked her if she did n't think as I was right. She
said she would n't be surprised if it was true, an' it was very odd as
she'd never thought o' it before, recollectin' her experience with him
years ago when she had him that time as the minister went to the
Sperrits' on his vacation. She went on to say then as to her order o'
thinkin' Mr. an' Mrs. Sperrit come pretty close to bein' idiots
themselves, for she says she don't know she's sure what ails 'em but
they've been married years now an' is still goin' round as beamin' as
two full moons. She says it ain't anythin' to talk of in public but
actually to see 'em drivin' back from market sometimes most makes her
wish as she was n't a widow, an' she says anythin' as'd make her sorry
she's a widow had n't ought to be goin' round loose in a Christian town.
She was very much in earnest an' Mrs. Fisher overtook us just then an'
she said it all over again to her an' she said more, too--she said as
the way she looks at him in church is all right an' really nothin' but a
joy to look on afore marriage, but she don't consider it hardly decent
afterwards for it's deludin' an' can't possibly be meant in earnest. She
says she was married, an' her son is married, an' her father was
married, too, an' you can't tell her that the way Mr. an' Mrs. Sperrit
go on isn't suthin' pretty close to idiocy even if it ain't the whole
thing."

"You--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Fisher said," continued Susan, "as she thought maybe she got used
to lookin' pleasant at him in all them years as she kept house for him
afore he made up his mind to get married to her, an' so the habit kind
of is on her an' what's dyed in the wool keeps on stickin' to Mr.
Sperrit. She said as they do say as he married her 'cause he wanted her
bedroom to hang up corn to dry in. She went on to say as for her part
she always enjoyed seein' the Sperrits so happy for it done any one good
to only look at 'em an' that she'd only be too happy to be a idiot
herself if it'd do any human bein' good to look at her an' Mr. Fisher
afterwards. She went on to say as she'd heard as the other night Mr.
Sperrit drove two miles back in the rain 'cause he'd forgot a cake o'
sapolio as she'd asked him to bring. I spoke up at that an' I said I did
n't see nothin' very surprisin' in that, for I know if I asked any man
as I was married to to bring home a cake o' sapolio I should most surely
look to see the cake when he come home."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I know; but you always spoiled him," said Susan. "Well, what was I
sayin'? Oh, yes, Mrs. Brown said as Mrs. Macy was tellin' her the other
day as they've got a idiot in Meadville--a real hereditary one; the
doctors have all studied him an' it's a clear case right down from his
great-grandfather."

"His great--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Grandfather," said Susan. "Yes, Mrs. Lathrop, that is how it was, an'
Mrs. Macy says it's really so, for she see the tombstones all but the
mother's--hers ain't done yet. Seems the idiocy come from the
great-grandfather's stoppin' on the train crossin' to pick up a frog
'cause he was runnin' for suthin' in connection with the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."

"The frog!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, the great-grandfather. Seems he never stopped to consider as what'd
kill a frog would be sure to hit him, an' Mrs. Macy says the doctors
said as that was one very strong piece o' evidence against the family
brains right at the start, but she says he really was smarter than they
thought, for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paid
for the funeral an' for the grandmother's, too."

"The grand--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"--Mother's," said Susan. "Yes, seems the railway track was their back
fence an' she'd always begged an' prayed him at the top o' her voice not
to go to town that way, but he would n't listen 'cause he was stone-deaf
an' then besides like all that kind he always pretended not to hear what
he did n't want to. But anyhow she was in the garden an' she see the
train an' she tried to get to him, an' whether she broke a blood vessel
yellin' or contracted heart disease hoppin' up an' down, anyway she fell
over right then an' there an' it would have been copied in all the
newspapers all over the country even if the mother--"

"The moth--" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Er," said Susan. "Yes, seems she heard the yell an' run to the window
so quick she knocked the stick out as held it up an' it come down on her
head. So, you see the idiocy come right straight down in the family of
the idiot for three generations afore him."

"I ain't sure," said Mrs. Lathrop, thoughtfully.

"I ain't either," said Susan; "Mrs. Macy says, she was n't either. No
one in Meadville never was."

"An' yet--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, as to that," said Susan, "that's altogether another kind o' idiot.
Henry Ward Beecher won't die of his love even if Emma won't have him,
an' they'll both always be the better an' happier for not havin' one
another, if they only knew it. It's mighty easy to love folks an' think
how happy you'd always be with 'em as long as you don't marry 'em. It's
marryin' 'em an' livin' in the house with 'em as shows you how hard it
is to be really married. I thank Heaven I'm only livin' in the house
with Elijah an' not married to him, so I can see my way ahead to gettin'
rid of him in a little while now. You don't know how I ache to draw the
curtains of his room an' pin up the bed an' pour the water out of his
pitcher an' set a mouse trap in there an' just know it is n't goin' to
be mussed up again."

Susan sighed deeply.

"How long--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I said three months," said Miss Clegg, "an' that takes it over the
Fourth of July. My heavens alive, seems some days as if I could n't but
just live, an' the meanest thing about a man is, he's so dead sure as he
makes you happy, bein' around the house."



CHAPTER XVII

AN OLD-FASHIONED FOURTH


"Well, Elijah seems to have hit the nail on its foot instead of its head
this time," said Miss Clegg to Mrs. Lathrop on the noon of the Sunday
before the Fourth of July; "that editorial of his in this week's paper
ain't suitin' any one a _tall_. I was down in the square yesterday an'
everybody as was there was talkin' about it, an' to-day after church
everybody was still talkin' about it, an' gettin' more mad all the
time."

"What--" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"The one about the celebration as he printed in this week's paper,"
replied her friend; "they was for discussin' nothin' else after church
to-day, an' one an' all is dead set against the way as Elijah says.
Them as has bought their fireworks ain't pleased, of course, an' Mr.
Kimball says as he considers that Elijah had ought to of consulted him
afore he printed such a article in the hind part of a uncle's store that
had just laid in a new supply of two pounds of punk alone. Mr. Kimball
says as he'd planned a window display o' cannon crackers pointin' all
ways out of a fort built o' his new dried apples an' now here's Elijah
comin' out in Saturday's paper for an old-fashioned Fourth o' July
without no firecrackers a _tall_. Mr. Kimball says he thinks Elijah
ought to remember whose nephew he is an' show some family feelin'; he
says punk is a thing as can never be worked off in no bargain lot of
odds an' ends, an' he says his own Fourth o' July is spoiled now anyway
just by the shock of the worry 'cause he can't be sure how folks is
goin' to be affected until the effect is over, an' the Fourth o' July'll
be over mighty quick this year. 'T ain't like they had most a week to
calm down from Elijah's new idea--they ain't got but just Monday to
decide an' buy their fireworks, too.

"Judge Fitch says he can't quite make out what Elijah meant by callin'
for patriotic speeches; he says he's willin' to make a speech any day,
but he says no one ever wants to stop poppin' long enough to listen to a
speech on the Fourth o' July. He says too as it's very hard to get a
still crowd that day 'cause people are afraid to get absorbed listenin'
for fear suthin' may go off under 'em while they ain't keepin' watch.
Mr. Dill said that was true, 'cause he had a personal experience that
way in his own dog; he says that dog would of made a fine hunter only
some one throwed a torpedo at him one Fourth o' July, when he was
lookin' under a sidewalk, an' after that that dog almost had a fit if a
sparrow chirped quick behind him. Mr. Dill said he tried to cure him by
stuffin' cotton in his ears an' keepin' a cloth tied neatly around his
head, but then he read in the paper about some deaf German as when he
played the piano always listened with his teeth, an' he said that just
made him empty the cotton right out of the dog an' give up.

"Mrs. Macy says what she wants to know is what's Elijah tryin' to get at
anyhow. She says she always thought a barbecue was a kind of cake an'
she did n't know white folks ever could lift their legs that high, even
if they felt to want to. She says the idea of its bein' suthin' to eat
in the woods is surely most new to her an' she ain't sure she wants to
eat in the woods anyhow. She says there's always flies an' mosquitoes in
the woods an' she's passed the age o' likin' to drop down anywhere, an'
jump up any time, years ago. As for cookin' in the woods she says that
part of Elijah's editorial is too much for every one. She says she never
hear of roastin' a ox whole in a pit in her life; she says how is the ox
to be got into the pit an' what's to cook him while he's in there an'
when he's cooked how's he to be got out again to eat? She says she
thinks Elijah has got a ox an' a clam mixed in his mind, an' a pit an' a
pile. She says she knows they cook clams in piles on the seashore,
'cause she's heard so from people as has been there, an' besides she
seen a picture of one once.

"Gran'ma Mullins came up an' she's most awful troubled over the ox, too.
She says Hiram is got such a name for bein' strong now that she just
knows as they'll expect him to put that ox into the pit when they're
ready to cook him, an' then lift him out again when he's done. She says
it's gettin' too terrible about Hiram, every time as somebody fat dies
anywhere or there's a piano to move or a barn to get up on jack-screws
they send right for Hiram to be one o' the pallbearers an' give him the
heaviest corner. Why, she says the other day when that refrigerator came
for Polly White they unloaded it right onto Hiram from the train, an'
not a soul dreamed as there was shot packed in both sides of it to save
rates, until poor Hiram set it down to put it on the other shoulder.
She says too, as she can't well see how a ox can be roasted whole
anyway; she says it'll be a awful job gettin' his hair singed off in the
first place, an' she just knows they'll expect Hiram to hold him an'
twirl him while he's singein'. Then, too, she says as the whole of a ox
don't want to be roasted anyhow. The tongue has to be boiled an' the
liver has to be sliced an' the calves' brains has to be breaded an'
dipped in egg, an' after he's roasted an' Hiram has got him out o' the
pit, who's to skin him then, she'd like to know, for you can't tell her
as anybody can eat rawhide, even if it is cooked.

"Deacon White come up, an' he said he an' Polly would bring their own
lunch an' their own pillow an' blanket an' hammock an' look on, 'cause
Polly wanted to see the fun an' they were n't intendin' to have any
fireworks anyhow. He said he was curious about the ox himself; he said
he wondered where they'd get the ox, an' the pit, too, for that matter.

"He said he wanted it distinctly understood as he an' Polly'd bring
their own lunch an' neither borrow nor lend. He said that rule would
apply to the pillow an' the blanket an' the hammock, the same as to the
lunch. There was some talk after he was gone on how terrible close he
an' Polly are both gettin'. Seems kind of funny, to be so savin' when
you ain't got nobody to save for, but the Whites an' Allens was always
funny an' what's bred in the flesh always sticks the bones out
somewhere, as we all know.

"The minister come up an' he said as it says in the Bible as when the ox
is in the pit every one must join in an' help him out, so he shall do
his part an' bring all his family with him. But he said he must remark
as to his order of thinkin' a ox struck him as a most singular way to
commemorate the day our forefathers fought an' bled over. He says he
should have thought a service o' song an' a much to be desired donation
towards cleanin' out his cistern would have been a more fittin' way to
spend the glorious Fourth in, than fixin' a ox in a pit an' tryin' to
bake him there. He says he don't think it can be done anyhow, he says a
ox ain't no chestnut to stick in the ashes till he bounces out cooked o'
his own accord.

"Mrs. Fisher says she sha'n't have nothin' to do with any of it; they're
all goin' to the city, an' Mr. Fisher is goin' to a lecture on that
Russian that his country wants to amalgamate for suthin' he's done; an'
she an' John Bunyan is goin' to the Hippodrome. They want to see the
girl turn upside down in the automobile an' Mrs. Fisher says she can
hear about the ox when she comes back.

"Mrs. Brown says they sha'n't go, 'cause young Dr. Brown's afraid o'
microbes in the woods. He's goin' to disinfect everythin' with that new
smell he's invented the day before the Fourth, an' then they're goin' to
have huckleberry biscuit an' watermelon an' just spend a quiet day
waitin' for any accidents as may maybe come along. Mrs. Brown says
young Dr. Brown is always hopin' for another railroad smash-up like that
one that came while he was away studyin'. She says it always seems too
bad it couldn't have come a year later, when he was just back with that
handsome brand new set of doctor's knives an' forks as he got for a
prize." Susan paused.

"Shall you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I sha'n't. I ain't interested in the Fourth o' July. I never had
nothin' to do with it in the beginnin' an' I ain't never had nothin' to
do with it since. My own idea's always been as the Boston people was
very foolish to go throwin' their tea overboard sooner'n buy stamps. We
all buy stamps now an' no one thinks o' fussin' over it, an' I guess we
do a lot other things as we'd never of had to do if we'd kept our tea
an' our mouths shut in the beginnin'. They say tea is very cheap in
England an' very good, too, an' heaven knows nothin' is cheap with us.
Elijah says if it wasn't for his uncle he'd take a strong stand on a
low tariff, but my goodness, it looks to me like he'd better not meddle
with the tariff--he's set the town by the ears enough with his ox. I had
a long talk with him last night about the whole thing. I don't know, I'm
sure, how Elijah ever is goin' to get on without me, for I certainly do
talk to him enough to keep him in ideas right straight along. I was very
kind last night--but I was firm, too. In the end I broke him down
completely an' he told me as he never meant it that way a _tall_. He
says he only drew a picture o' what the Fourth o' July was in olden
times. But this town ain't good on pictures, we take things right up by
the handle an' deal with 'em a'cordin'."

"But--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, of course not," said Susan, "but they can take him up by the tail
an' horns, can't they?"



CHAPTER XVIII

CELEBRATING INDEPENDENCE DAY


"Well," said Miss Clegg to her friend the Sunday after the Fourth, "I'm
thankful to say as the game is up to-morrow an' Elijah moves out of my
house. We never had no Fourth o' July like this afore an' every one is
prayin' as we'll never have such another again. It was really very
peaceful in church this mornin' an' the collection was thirty-two cents,
so that shows as folks is beginnin' to take heart again, but you could
see as they was all nervous an' even the minister kept lookin' anxiously
out of the window whenever he thought as he heard a noise. Mr. Weskin
says he thinks a house catchin' fire from bein' disinfected comes under
some head as lets the insurance get paid anyhow an' he says if not he'll
take the case for the Browns on even halves for his heart is full o'
sympathy for 'em. The Browns was in church themselves to-day, all but
Amelia, an' I had the story from them straight for the first time. Young
Dr. Brown says he can't understand any of it; he says the stuff must be
stirred in a barrel for two hours without stoppin' an' he says he'll let
any man breathe a suspicion as his mother stopped after he once set her
at it! Mrs. Brown says she did n't stop neither, she says when she could
n't move her arms any more for love or money, she stuck the broomstick
through her belt an' sat on the edge o' the barrel an' kept the stuff
stirrin' so. They poured in the acid right after breakfast, an' then Dr.
Brown wanted the test to be thorough, so they put a live fly in each
room, shut the doors between, shut all the windows, took the silver out
on the lawn, an' then threw a match into the barrel an' run out the coal
cellar door.

"Amelia is up at her father's an' ain't able to speak of it yet, but
Mrs. Brown says her own view of it will always be as it was a explosion.
She says as she can't see how you could call it anythin' else in the
world. She says they was all sittin' in the arbor an' Amelia was just
gettin' into the hammock an' Dr. Brown was just beginnin' on the King o'
Spain's honeymoon in the paper, with a picture of a bullfight to
illustrate it, when she heard such a noise as she never will forget
again in all her life to come. She says her first thought was as Amelia
had bu'st the hammock, for she says she tries to be kind to the bosom
wife of her chosen son, but Amelia is surely most awful hard on anythin'
as you get in an' out of, but then she heard the second noise, an' she
says to her dyin' day she won't be able to swear to nothin' but as she
thought it was San Francisco quakin' right in our very middle. Why, she
says, she never for one second doubted as it was a earthquake. The
canary-bird cage come sailin' out o' the dinin'-room window, all the
chimneys went down with a crash, an' Amelia give one yell an' fainted.
Mrs. Brown says she an' young Dr. Brown did n't really know which way to
turn for a minute. They could n't seem to think whether their first duty
was to shake Amelia or run around to the front of the house. The windows
was blowin' out as fast as they could an' the most awful smellin' smoke
you ever smelt was pourin' out after them! She said the smell was bad
enough when she was stirrin' the stuff in the barrel, but exploded, it
was just beyond all belief. In the end they left Amelia an' run 'round
behind the house an' if there was n't all the kitchen stove lids comin'
bangin' out at 'em an' all the feathers from the pillows just rainin'
down like snow! They run aroun' to the side an' there was Amelia's
sheets o' music all over the lawn an' jars o' pickles with the glass
lids gone, an' jelly tumblers an' weddin' gold-rimmed china, an' in
front an' on top of all else if the fire did n't bu'st out!

"Dr. Brown run for the fire engine then an' every one was at home
gettin' ready for the picnic an' there wa'n't no one down town a _tall_.
He was all of ten minutes findin' any one an' when he found him it was
only Mr. Shores, an' Mrs. Brown says as gettin' out a fire engine with
Mr. Shores an' your house burnin' is suthin' as she trusts will never be
her lot again. She says Mr. Shores would n't lay hold o' the engine till
after the cover was folded up neatly an' then he wanted to dust the
wheels afore runnin' it out. Then after it was run out an' got to the
house, if there wa'n't no hose, an' Dr. Brown had to run away back to
the engine house for the hose an' while he was runnin' he met John
Bunyan runnin' too an' John Bunyan told him as the hose was kept coiled
up in the part as sticks up behind the engine like a can. So they run
back together an' got it out an' run with it to the well an' Dr. Brown
was so excited he dropped the hose in the well. Mrs. Brown says she was
nigh too mad by this time with the house explodin' all over again every
few minutes an' things as you never have around comin' sailin' out o'
the windows right in people's faces when they was only there to be
neighborly an' look on. She was runnin' back an' forth an' explainin' as
it was n't for want o' stirrin', for she stirred it herself, when Sam
Duruy come runnin' an' seems there's always another hose tied up under
the engine an' he unhooked that an' John Bunyan built a fire in the hole
for fire while they fixed the new hose in the cistern, but oh my, the
house was too far gone to be saved by that time. So they pumped some on
Amelia just to try the hose, an' then they helped pick up the things as
was blowed out of the windows. Mrs. Brown says it was all most awful an'
she knows from her son's face as he thinks it was all because she
stopped stirrin' sometimes durin' the two hours an' she declares with
tears as she never stopped stirrin' once--not _once_.

"Mrs. Fisher says the way people is sick from the smell shows as all the
flies they put in the rooms must of surely been killed, so the
experiment's a success in one way at least. Mrs. Fisher walked part way
home with me an' we had a nice talk about the Browns. She says the
Browns is most amusin' always in the ways they use flies; she says when
young Dr. Brown was little, Mrs. Brown used to put a fly in the
sugar-box when she went down to the square for things so she could tell
when she come back whether he'd been at the sugar, an' so let the fly
out. She says young Dr. Brown cured her o' that happy thought by takin'
the fly out himself when she was down town one time an' puttin' a mad
bee in instead. She says she guesses Dr. Brown has given her many a
little lesson like that or he'd never be able to keep her stirrin'
anythin' as smells for two hours."

"Where--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, the Fitches took Amelia an' her husband of course an' Mrs. Brown
is goin' over to Meadville to-morrow. Mrs. Macy says maybe old Dr.
Carter will marry her now as she ain't got any house to be attached to.
I don't see why that would n't be a good end for Mrs. Brown, she can
step right into Mrs. Carter's shoes--an' her clothes, too, for that
matter, for he never give away a thing when she died. Yes, he did, too,
though, she wanted her nieces to have a souvenir an' he give one the
waist an' the other the skirt to the same dress, but Mrs. Fisher says
what he would n't give away to no man for love or money was all her
union underwear for winter. Seems she always wore the best an' finest,
an' when she died Dr. Carter said he'd keep all them union suits an'
wear 'em out himself."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, an' I would n't either," said Miss Clegg; "there would n't be no
comfort marryin' a man whose first wife could n't call even her union
suits her own after she died, not to my order of thinkin'."

"Was--" asked her friend.

"Oh, the picnic?" said Susan, "no, that was n't a success a _tall_. They
spread the tablecloth over a flyin' ant nest in the first place an' Mrs.
Macy says shad bones is nothin' to the pickin' out as they had to do
while eatin' as a consequence. She says they very soon found out as they
was under a wood-tick tree too, an' the children run into a burr-patch
after dinner. The minister tried to teach the twins to fish an' the bank
caved in with 'em all three, an' the minister had to go all the way home
that way. Gran'ma Mullins got a gnat in her eye an' Hiram walked way
back to town for a flaxseed to put in it to get the gnat out, an'
crossin' the bridge he sneezed an' the flaxseed just disappeared
completely, an' Lucy would n't let him go back again, so all she could
do was to keep a-rubbin' till finally she rubbed it out. Mr. Dill
climbed up a tree to show as he could still climb up a tree an' a branch
broke an' tore him so bad he had to walk home with the minister,--I
guess every one's glad the Fourth's over."

"How's--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Elijah? Oh, he went to town for the day. He says it's him for town when
there 's anythin' goin' on in the country. He come back lookin' like
he'd really enjoyed himself, but I was afraid he was goin' to have a
fever at first he talked so queer in his sleep that night an' began all
his sentences with 'Here's to--' an' then stopped in a most curious way.
I was very much relieved when I see him come downstairs the next
mornin', only his appetite ain't what it was yet."

"May--" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I don't think so. There ain't any one for him to be in love with
anyhow unless it's 'Liza Em'ly. He's really too smart for any girl in
this community an' he ain't got a single picture among his things nor a
letter as I don't know who wrote it. I thought at first as he used to
call 'Annie' in his sleep the nights after we have dumplin's, but it
ain't 'Annie' he says; it's 'Aunty,' an' heaven knows a aunt never broke
no man's heart yet."

Susan rose to go home.

"I'm glad the Fourth's over, anyway," she said as she took up her
parasol and mitts. "I think it's always a great strain on the country,
but even if no one never likes it nor enjoys it, I suppose we must keep
on havin' it with us year after year, for Elijah says as, as a nation,
we're so proud o' bein' ahead o' everythin' an' everybody, that we'll
die afore we'll go on one step further. He says what's one day o' terror
a year beside the idea as we're free to do as we please. Gran'ma Mullins
says all she can say is as she thanks God for every Fourth o' July as
leaves Hiram whole, for he's the only apple she's got for her eye an'
she'd go stark ravin' mad if anythin' was to tear him apart in the dream
of his youth."

"Did--" asked Mrs. Lathrop, solicitously.

"Well, I can't stop to see if I did or did n't now," said Miss Clegg;
"to-night's my last evenin' with Elijah an' I told him to be sure an' be
home early. We'll try an' part pleasantly even though I should be mighty
mad at him if I thought as he was half as glad to go as I am to get rid
of him. I don't like the ways of a man in the house, Mrs. Lathrop,--they
seem to act like they thought you enjoyed havin' 'em around. I can't see
where they ever got the idea in the first place, but it certainly does
seem to stick by 'em most wonderful."

"There--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan turned her head.

"Yes, that's him comin'," she said; "well, now I must go, Mrs. Lathrop.
I'll come over to-morrow an' tell you when I'm free of him, bag an'
baggage."

"Yes," said Mrs. Lathrop, "I--"

"Yes, I do, too," said Miss Clegg, "but you see I said for three months
an' the three months ain't up till to-morrow."



CHAPTER XIX

EXIT THE MAN OUT OF SUSAN CLEGG'S HOUSE


"Well, Mrs. Lathrop," said Miss Clegg, coming over the evening after,
weary but triumphant, "Elijah is gone an' I tell you I'll never be too
tender-hearted for my own good again. I won't say but what it was me an'
nobody else as brought him down on my own head, but I must fully an'
freely state as it's certainly been me an' no one else as has had to
hold my own head up under him. An' he _has_ been a load!

"Why, Mrs. Lathrop, do you know that man's stockin's alone has took me
about one mornin' a week, an' as to buttons--well, I never knew a editor
could bu'st 'em off so fast. An' as to puttin' away what he took off, or
foldin' back things into the drawer where they belongs, why, a monkey
swingin' upside down by his tail is busy carefully keepin' house
compared to Elijah Doxey.

"I never see such a man afore! If Hiram's anythin' like him I don't
blame Lucy for battin' him about as she does. I did n't suppose such
ways could be lived with in oneself. An' that table where he wrote!
Well! I tell you I've got it cleared off to-night an' my clean curtains
folded off on it, an' no man never sets foot on it again, I can tell you
_that_.

"I won't say as it wa'n't a little tryin' gettin' him off to-day an' I
did feel to feel real sober while I was hangin' his mattress back to the
rafters in the attic, but when I remembered as I'd never see them
bedclothes kicked out at the foot again I cheered up amazin'. Mrs. Brown
come in just afore supper an' she seemed to think it was some queer as I
was n't goin' to miss Elijah, but I told her she did n't know me. 'Mrs.
Brown,' I says, 'your son was a doctor an' you can't be expected to
know what it is to board a editor, so once bit, soonest mended. She's
mournin' over her burnt house yet, so she could n't really feel to
sympathize with me, but I had n't time to stop an' mourn with her,--I
was too busy packin' away Elijah's toilet set.

"He got a good deal of ink around the room, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I shall
make Mr. Kimball give me a bottle of ink-remover free, seein' as he's
his nephew; but I don't see as he done any other real damage. I looked
the room over pretty sharp an' I can't find nothin' wrong with it. I
shall burn a sulphur candle in there to-morrow an' then wash out the
bureau drawers an' I guess then as the taste of Elijah'll be pretty well
out of my mouth.

"I'm sure I don't know what we're comin' to as to men, Mrs. Lathrop, for
I must say they seem more extra in the world every day. Most everythin'
as they do the women is able to do better now, an' women is so willin'
to be pleasant about it, too. Not as Elijah was n't pleasant--I never
see a more pleasant young man, but he had a way of comin' in with muddy
boots an' a smile on his face as makes me nothin' but glad as he's left
my house an' gone to Polly White's."

"Won't you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I won't,--not if I know myself. I ain't never been lonesome afore
in my life an' I ain't goin' to begin now. Bein' lonesome is very fine
for them as keeps a girl to do their work, but I have to slave all day
long if there's anybody but me around the house, an' I don't like to
slave. I guess Elijah's expectin' to be lonesome though, for he asked me
if I'd mind his comin' up an' talkin' over the Personal column with me
sometimes. I could see as he was more'n a little worried over how under
the sun he was goin' to run the paper without me. As a matter of fact,
Mrs. Lathrop, I've been the main stay of that paper right from the
first. Not to speak o' boardin' the editor, I've supplied most o' the
brains as run it. You know as I never am much of a talker, but I did
try to keep Elijah posted as to how things was goin' on an' the feelin'
as no matter what I said, it was him an' not me as would be blamed if
there was trouble, always kept up my courage. There's a many nights as
I've kept him at his work an' a many others as I've held him down to it.
Elijah has n't been a easy young man to manage, I can tell you."

Susan stopped and sighed.

"I like to think how he's goin' to miss me now," she said, "I made him
awful comfortable. Polly'll never do all the little things as I did.
It's a great satisfaction when a man leaves your house, Mrs. Lathrop, to
know as he'll be bound to wish himself back there many an' many time."

"What--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I'll find plenty to do," said Susan Clegg, "it ain't made a mite of
difference in my life. I shall go on livin' just the same as ever.
Nothin's changed for me just because for three months I had a man in
the house. I ain't even altered my general views o' men any, for land
knows Elijah wa'n't so different from the rest of them that he could
teach me much as is new. I ain't never intended to get married anyway,
so he ain't destroyed my ideals none, an' I told Mr. Kimball when I took
him as I'd agree to keep him three months an' I would n't agree for love
or money to keep him any longer, an' I've kept him for three months an'
no love or money could of made me keep him a day longer."

"Did n't you--" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Why, yes, I liked him," said Susan, "there were spots durin' the time
when I felt to be real fond of him, but laws, that did n't make me want
to have him around any more than I had to. But you know as well as I do
that a woman can like a man very much an' still be happiest when she
ain't got him on her hands to fuss with. I was n't built to fuss, Mrs.
Lathrop, as you know to your cost, for if I had been I'd of been over
here two days a week tidyin' up out of pure friendship, for the last
twenty years. But no, I ain't like that--never was an' never will
be--an' I ain't one to go pitchin' my life hither an' yon an' dancin'
wildly first on one leg an' then the other from dawn to dusk for other
people. Elijah's come an' Elijah's gone an' his mattress is hung back to
the rafter in the attic an' his sulphur candle is all bought to burn
to-morrow an' when that's over an' the smell's over too I shall look to
settle down an' not have nothin' more to upset my days an' nights till
your time comes, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I hope to goodness as it won't come
in the night, for boardin' a editor has put me all at outs with night
work."

"I--" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, if you say so, I'll believe it," said Miss Clegg; "for I will say
this for you, Mrs. Lathrop, an' that is as with all your faults you've
never yet told me nothin' as I've found out from others afterwards was
n't true."



_A Masterpiece of Native Humor_

SUSAN CLEGG AND HER

FRIEND MRS. LATHROP


By ANNE WARNER

Author of "A Woman's Will," etc.


With Frontispiece. 227 pages. 12mo. $1.00.


It is seldom a book so full of delightful humor comes before the reader.
Anne Warner takes her place in the circle of American woman humorists,
who have achieved distinction so rapidly within recent years.--_Brooklyn
Eagle_.

Nothing better in the new homely philosophy style of fiction has been
written.--_San Francisco Bulletin_.

Anne Warner has given us the rare delight of a book that is extremely
funny. Hearty laughter is in store for every reader.--_Philadelphia
Public Ledger_.

Susan is a positive contribution to the American characters in
fiction.--_Brooklyn Times_.

Susan Clegg is a living creature, quite as amusing and even more
plausible than Mrs. Wiggs. Susan's human weaknesses are endearing, and
we find ourselves in sympathy with her.--_New York Evening Post_.

No more original or quaint person than she has ever lived in
fiction.--_Newark Advertiser_.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

_At all Booksellers'_



_Another Popular "Susan Clegg" Book_

SUSAN CLEGG AND

HER NEIGHBORS' AFFAIRS


_By_ ANNE WARNER

With frontispiece. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00


All the stories brim over with quaint humor, caustic sarcasm, and
concealed contempt for male folk and matrimonial chains.--_Philadelphia
Ledger_.

Anything more humorous than the "Susan Clegg" stories would be hard to
find.--Jeannette L. Gilder, Editor of _Putnam's Magazine_.

The best work that Anne Warner has published. Miss Clegg has become an
institution in the humor of America.--_Baltimore Sun_.

Her "Susan Clegg" stories, rich in pungent humor and extremely clever in
their portrayal of quaint and amusing character, deserve a place among
the choice specimens of American humorous literature--which means the
best humorous literature in the world.--_New York Times_.

Sure to be welcomed by that large class of readers who found in "Susan
Clegg and Her Friend Mrs. Lathrop" one of the most genuinely humorous
books ever written by a woman on this side of the Atlantic.--_St. Louis
Globe-Democrat_.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers

254 Washington Street. Boston



_A New Story by the Author of "Susan Clegg"_


THE REJUVENATION

OF AUNT MARY

By ANNE WARNER

Author of "Susan Clegg and Her Friend Mrs. Lathrop," "A Woman's Will,"
etc.

With four full page illustrations.

12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

This very clever and original story by the creator of "Susan Clegg" will
add materially to her reputation as a writer of popular fiction. "Aunt
Mary" and her adventures in New York are simply delicious; and her
nephew, Jack, and his college friends, who personally conduct her
through the metropolis, are brimful of brightness and humor. A pretty
love story runs through the book. "Aunt Mary's" magazine début delighted
thousands of readers, and the publication of the story in a more
permanent form, with new chapters, and scenes, will increase her
popularity.

Anne Warner takes her place in the circle of American woman humorists,
who have achieved distinction so rapidly within recent years.--_Brooklyn
Eagle_.

Anne Warner is not only a funmaker but adds to that the quality of
sympathy with her characters.--_Public Opinion_.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

_At all Booksellers'_



_An International Love Comedy_

A WOMAN'S WILL

By ANNE WARNER

Author of "Susan Clegg and Her Friend Mrs. Lathrop."

It is a relief to take up a volume so absolutely free from
stressfulness. The love-making is passionate, the humor of much of the
conversation is thoroughly delightful. The book is as refreshing a bit
of fiction as one often finds; there is not a dull page in
it.--_Providence Journal_.

It is bright, charming, and intense as it describes the wooing of a
young American widow on the European Continent by a German musical
genius.--_San Francisco Chronicle_.

A deliciously funny book.--_Chicago Tribune_.

There is a laugh on nearly every page.--_New York Times_.

Most decidedly an unusual story. The dialogue is nothing if not
original, and the characters are very unique. There is something
striking on every page of the book.--_Newark Advertiser_.

A more vivacious light novel could not be found.--_Chicago
Record-Herald_.

Illustrated by I. H. Caliga. 360 pages. 12mo.

Decorated cloth, $1.50.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

_At all Booksellers'_





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