Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall
I. SALLY ANN'S
II. THE NEW
III. AUNT JANE'S
IV. “SWEET DAY
V. MILLY BAKER'S
VII. HOW SAM
AMOS RODE IN THE
IX. THE GARDENS
BY ELIZA CALVERT HALL
Author of The Land of Long Ago.
WITH FRONTISPIECE AND PAGE DECORATIONS
BY BEULAH STRONG
A. L. BURT COMPANY
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1898, 1899, 1900,
BY JOHN BRISBANE WALKER.
BY COSMOPOLITAN PUBLISHING COMPANY.
BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
* * * * *
MY MOTHER AND FATHER
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
* * * * *
* * * * *
There is not an existence about us but at first seems
colorless, dreary, lethargic: what can our soul have in
common with that of an elderly spinster, a slow-witted
plowman, a miser who worships his gold?... But ... the
emotion that lived and died in an old-fashioned country
parlor shall as mightily stir our heart, shall as unerringly
find its way to the deepest sources of life as the majestic
passion that ruled the life of a king and shed its
triumphant luster from the dazzling height of a
* * * * *
I. SALLY ANN'S EXPERIENCE
Come right in and set down. I was jest wishin' I had somebody to
talk to. Take that chair right by the door so's you can get the
And Aunt Jane beamed at me over her silver-rimmed spectacles and
hitched her own chair a little to one side, in order to give me the
full benefit of the wind that was blowing softly through the
white-curtained window, and carrying into the room the heavenliest
odors from a field of clover that lay in full bloom just across the
road. For it was June in Kentucky, and clover and blue-grass were
running sweet riot over the face of the earth.
Aunt Jane and her room together always carried me back to a dead and
gone generation. There was a rag carpet on the floor, of the
hit-or-miss pattern; the chairs were ancient Shaker rockers, some
with homely shuck bottoms, and each had a tidy of snowy thread or
crochet cotton fastened primly over the back. The high bed and bureau
and a shining mahogany table suggested an era of plain living far,
far remote from the day of Turkish rugs and Japanese bric-a-brac, and
Aunt Jane was in perfect correspondence with her environment. She wore
a purple calico dress, rather short and scant; a gingham apron, with a
capacious pocket, in which she always carried knitting or some other
handy work; a white handkerchief was laid primly around the wrinkled
throat and fastened with a pin containing a lock of gray hair; her cap
was of black lace and lutestring ribbon, not one of the butterfly
affairs that perch on the top of the puffs and frizzes of the modern
old lady, but a substantial structure that covered her whole head and
was tied securely under her chin. She talked in a sweet old treble with
a little lisp, caused by the absence of teeth, and her laugh was as
clear and joyous as a young girl's.
Yes, I'm a-piecin' quilts again, she said, snipping away at the
bits of calico in her lap. I did say I was done with that sort o'
work; but this mornin' I was rummagin' around up in the garret, and I
come across this bundle of pieces, and thinks I, 'I reckon it's
intended for me to piece one more quilt before I die;' I must 'a' put
'em there thirty years ago and clean forgot 'em, and I've been settin'
here all the evenin' cuttin' 'em and thinkin' about old times.
Jest feel o' that, she continued, tossing some scraps into my lap.
There ain't any such caliker nowadays. This ain't your five-cent stuff
that fades in the first washin' and wears out in the second. A caliker
dress was somethin' worth buyin' and worth makin' up in them days. That
blue-flowered piece was a dress I got the spring before Abram died.
When I put on mournin' it was as good as new, and I give it to sister
Mary. That one with the green ground and white figger was my niece
Rebecca's. She wore it for the first time to the County Fair the year I
took the premium on my salt-risin' bread and sponge cake. This
black-an'-white piece Sally Ann Flint give me. I ricollect 'twas in
blackberry time, and I'd been out in the big pasture pickin' some for
supper, and I stopped in at Sally Ann's for a drink o' water on my way
back. She was cuttin' out this dress.
Aunt Jane broke off with a little soprano laugh.
Did I ever tell you about Sally Ann's experience? she said, as she
laid two three-cornered pieces together and began to sew with her
slender, nervous old fingers.
To find Aunt Jane alone and in a reminiscent mood! This was
Do tell me, I said.
Aunt Jane was silent for a few moments. She always made this pause
before beginning a story, and there was something impressive about it.
I used to think she was making an invocation to the goddess of Memory.
'Twas forty years ago, she began musingly, and the way of it was
this. Our church was considerably out o' fix. It needed a new roof.
Some o' the winder lights was out, and the floor was as bare as your
hand, and always had been. The men folks managed to git the roof
shingled and the winders fixed, and us women in the Mite Society
concluded we'd git a cyarpet. We'd been savin' up our money for some
time, and we had about twelve dollars. I ricollect what a argument we
had, for some of us wanted the cyarpet, and some wanted to give it to
furrin missions, as we'd set out to do at first. Sally Ann was the one
that settled it. She says at lastSally Ann was in favor of the
cyarpetshe says, 'Well, if any of the heathen fails to hear the
gospel on account of our gittin' this cyarpet, they'll be saved anyhow,
so Parson Page says. And if we send the money and they do hear the
gospel, like as not they won't repent, and then they're certain to be
damned. And it seems to me as long as we ain't sure what they'll do, we
might as well keep the money and git the cyarpet. I never did see much
sense anyhow,' says she, 'in givin' people a chance to damn
Well, we decided to take Sally Ann's advice, and we was talkin'
about app'intin' a committee to go to town the follerin' Monday and
pick out the cyarpet, when all at once 'Lizabeth Taylorshe was our
treasurershe spoke up, and says she, 'There ain't any use app'intin'
that committee. The money's gone,' she says, sort o' short and quick.
'I kept it in my top bureau drawer, and when I went for it yesterday,
it was gone. I'll pay it back if I'm ever able, but I ain't able now.'
And with that she got up and walked out o' the room, before any one
could say a word, and we seen her goin' down the road lookin' straight
before her and walkin' right fast.
And wewe set there and stared at each other in a sort o' dazed
way. I could see that everybody was thinkin' the same thing, but nobody
said a word, till our minister's wifeshe was as good a woman as ever
livedshe says, 'Judge not.'
Them two words was jest like a sermon to us. Then Sally Ann spoke
up and says: 'For the Lord's sake, don't let the men folks know
anything about this. They're always sayin' that women ain't fit to
handle money, and I for one don't want to give 'em any more ground to
stand on than they've already got.'
So we agreed to say nothin' about it, and all of us kept our
promise except Milly Amos. She had mighty little sense to begin with,
and havin' been married only about two months, she'd about lost that
little. So next mornin' I happened to meet Sam Amos, and he says to me,
'Aunt Jane, how much money have you women got to'rds the new cyarpet
for the church?' I looked him square in the face, and I says, 'Are you
a member of the Ladies' Mite Society of Goshen church, Sam Amos? For if
you are, you already know how much money we've got, and if you ain't,
you've got no business knowin'. And, furthermore,' says I, 'there's
some women that can't keep a secret and a promise, and some that can,
and I can.' And that settled him.
Well, 'Lizabeth never showed her face outside her door for more'n a
month afterwards, and a more pitiful-lookin' creatur' you never saw
than she was when she come out to prayer-meetin' the night Sally Ann
give her experience. She set 'way back in the church, and she was as
pale and peaked as if she had been through a siege of typhoid. I
ricollect it all as if it had been yesterday. We sung 'Sweet Hour of
Prayer,' and Parson Page prayed, and then called on the brethren to say
anything they might feel called on to say concernin' their experience
in the past week. Old Uncle Jim Matthews begun to clear his throat, and
I knew, as well as I knew my name, he was fixin' to git up and tell how
precious the Lord had been to his soul, jest like he'd been doin' every
Wednesday night for twenty years. But before he got started, here come
'Lizabeth walkin' down the side aisle and stopped right in front o' the
'I've somethin' to say,' she says. 'It's been on my mind till I
can't stand it any longer. I've got to tell it, or I'll go crazy. It
was me that took that cyarpet money. I only meant to borrow it. I
thought sure I'd be able to pay it back before it was wanted. But
things went wrong, and I ain't known a peaceful minute since, and never
shall again, I reckon. I took it to pay my way up to Louisville, the
time I got the news that Mary was dyin'.'
Mary was her daughter by her first husband, you see. 'I begged
Jacob to give me the money to go on,' says she, 'and he wouldn't do it.
I tried to give up and stay, but I jest couldn't. Mary was all I had in
the world; and maybe you that has children can put yourself in my
place, and know what it would be to hear your only child callin' to you
from her death-bed, and you not able to go to her. I asked Jacob three
times for the money,' she says, 'and when I found he wouldn't give it
to me, I said to myself, I'm goin' anyhow. I got down on my knees,'
says she, 'and asked the Lord to show me a way, and I felt sure he
would. As soon as Jacob had eat his breakfast and gone out on the farm,
I dressed myself, and as I opened the top bureau drawer to get out my
best collar, I saw the missionary money. It come right into my head,'
says she, 'that maybe this was the answer to my prayer; maybe I could
borrow this money, and pay it back some way or other before it was
called for. I tried to put it out o' my head, but the thought kept
comin' back; and when I went down into the sittin'-room to get Jacob's
cyarpetbag to carry a few things in, I happened to look up at the
mantelpiece and saw the brass candlesticks with prisms all 'round 'em
that used to belong to my mother; and all at once I seemed to see jest
what the Lord intended for me to do.
'You know,' she says, 'I had a boarder summer before lastthat
lady from Louisvilleand she wanted them candlesticks the worst kind,
and offered me fifteen dollars for 'em. I wouldn't part with 'em then,
but she said if ever I wanted to sell 'em, to let her know, and she
left her name and address on a cyard. I went to the big Bible and got
out the cyard, and I packed the candlesticks in the cyarpetbag, and put
on my bonnet. When I opened the door I looked up the road, and the
first thing I saw was Dave Crawford comin' along in his new buggy. I
went out to the gate, and he drew up and asked me if I was goin' to
town, and said he'd take me. It looked like the Lord was leadin' me all
the time,' says she, 'but the way things turned out it must 'a' been
Satan. I got to Mary just two hours before she died, and she looked up
in my face and says, Mother, I knew God wouldn't let me die till I'd
seen you once more.'
Here Aunt Jane took off her glasses and wiped her eyes.
I can't tell this without cryin' to save my life, said she; but
'Lizabeth never shed a tear. She looked like she'd got past cryin', and
she talked straight on as if she'd made up her mind to say jest so
much, and she'd die if she didn't git to say it.
'As soon as the funeral was over,' says she, 'I set out to find the
lady that wanted the candlesticks. She wasn't at home, but her niece
was there, and said she'd heard her aunt speak of the candlesticks
often; and she'd be home in a few days and would send me the money
right off. I come home thinkin' it was all right, and I kept expectin'
the money every day, but it never come till day before yesterday. I
wrote three times about it, but I never got a word from her till
Monday. She had just got home, she said, and hoped I hadn't been
inconvenienced by the delay. She wrote a nice, polite letter and sent
me a check for fifteen dollars, and here it is. I wanted to confess it
all that day at the Mite Society, but somehow I couldn't till I had the
money right in my hand to pay back. If the lady had only come back when
her niece said she was comin', it would all have turned out right, but
I reckon it's a judgment on me for meddling with the Lord's money. God
only knows what I've suffered,' says she, 'but if I had to do it over
again, I believe I'd do it. Mary was all the child I had in the world,
and I had to see her once more before she died. I've been a member of
this church for twenty years,' says she, 'but I reckon you'll have to
turn me out now.'
The pore thing stood there tremblin' and holdin' out the check as
if she expected somebody to come and take it. Old Silas Petty was
glowerin' at her from under his eyebrows, and it put me in mind of the
Pharisees and the woman they wanted to stone, and I ricollect thinkin',
'Oh, if the Lord Jesus would jest come in and take her part!' And while
we all set there like a passel o' mutes, Sally Ann got up and marched
down the middle aisle and stood right by 'Lizabeth. You know what funny
thoughts people will have sometimes.
Well, I felt so relieved. It popped into my head all at once that
we didn't need the Lord after all, Sally Ann would do jest as well. It
seemed sort o' like sacrilege, but I couldn't help it.
Well, Sally Ann looked all around as composed as you please, and
says she, 'I reckon if anybody's turned out o' this church on account
o' that miserable little money, it'll be Jacob and not 'Lizabeth. A man
that won't give his wife money to go to her dyin' child is too mean to
stay in a Christian church anyhow; and I'd like to know how it is that
a woman, that had eight hundred dollars when she married, has to go to
her husband and git down on her knees and beg for what's her own.
Where's that money 'Lizabeth had when she married you?' says she,
turnin' round and lookin' Jacob in the face. 'Down in that ten-acre
medder lot, ain't it?and in that new barn you built last spring. A
pretty elder you are, ain't you? Elders don't seem to have improved
much since Susannah's times. If there ain't one sort o' meanness in 'em
it's another,' says she.
Goodness knows what she would 'a' said, but jest here old Deacon
Petty rose up. And says he, 'Brethren,'and he spread his arms out and
waved 'em up and down like he was goin' to pray,'brethren, this is
awful! If this woman wants to give her religious experience, why,' says
he, very kind and condescendin', 'of course she can do so. But when it
comes to a woman standin' up in the house of the Lord and
revilin' an elder as this woman is doin', why, I tremble,' says he,
'for the church of Christ. For don't the Apostle Paul say, Let your
women keep silence in the church?'
As soon as he named the 'Postle Paul, Sally Ann give a kind of
snort. Sally Ann was terrible free-spoken. And when Deacon Petty said
that, she jest squared herself like she intended to stand there till
judgment day, and says she, 'The 'Postle Paul has been dead ruther too
long for me to be afraid of him. And I never heard of him app'intin'
Deacon Petty to represent him in this church. If the 'Postle Paul don't
like what I'm sayin', let him rise up from his grave in Corinthians or
Ephesians, or wherever he's buried, and say so. I've got a message from
the Lord to the men folks of this church, and I'm goin' to deliver it,
Paul or no Paul,' says she. 'And as for you, Silas Petty, I ain't
forgot the time I dropped in to see Maria one Saturday night and found
her washin' out her flannel petticoat and dryin' it before the fire.
And every time I've had to hear you lead in prayer since then I've said
to myself, Lord, how high can a man's prayers rise toward heaven when
his wife ain't got but one flannel skirt to her name? No higher than
the back of his pew, if you'll let me tell it. I knew jest how it
was,' said Sally Ann, 'as well as if Maria'd told me. She'd been havin'
the milk and butter money from the old roan cow she'd raised from a
little heifer, and jest because feed was scarce, you'd sold her off
before Maria had money enough to buy her winter flannels. I can give my
experience, can I? Well, that's jest what I'm a-doin',' says she; 'and
while I'm about it,' says she, 'I'll give in some experience for
'Lizabeth and Maria and the rest of the women who, betwixt their
husbands an' the 'Postle Paul, have about lost all the gumption and
grit that the Lord started them out with. If the 'Postle Paul,' says
she, 'has got anything to say about a woman workin' like a slave for
twenty-five years and then havin' to set up an' wash out her clothes
Saturday night, so's she can go to church clean Sunday mornin', I'd
like to hear it. But don't you dare to say anything to me about keepin'
silence in the church. There was times when Paul says he didn't know
whether he had the Spirit of God or not, and I'm certain that when he
wrote that text he wasn't any more inspired than you are, Silas Petty,
when you tell Maria to shut her mouth.'
Job Taylor was settin' right in front of Deacon Petty, and I reckon
he thought his time was comin' next; so he gets up, easy-like, with his
red bandanna to his mouth, and starts out. But Sally Ann headed him off
before he'd gone six steps, and says she, 'There ain't anything the
matter with you, Job Taylor; you set right down and hear what I've got
to say. I've knelt and stood through enough o' your long-winded
prayers, and now it's my time to talk and yours to listen.'
And bless your life, if Job didn't set down as meek as Moses, and
Sally Ann lit right into him. And says she, 'I reckon you're afraid
I'll tell some o' your meanness, ain't you? And the only thing that
stands in my way is that there's so much to tell I don't know where to
begin. There ain't a woman in this church,' says she, 'that don't know
how Marthy scrimped and worked and saved to buy her a new set o'
furniture, and how you took the money with you when you went to
Cincinnata, the spring before she died, and come back without the
furniture. And when she asked you for the money, you told her that she
and everything she had belonged to you, and that your mother's old
furniture was good enough for anybody. It's my belief,' says she,
'that's what killed Marthy. Women are dyin' every day, and the doctors
will tell you it's some new-fangled disease or other, when, if the
truth was known, it's nothin' but wantin' somethin' they can't git, and
hopin' and waitin' for somethin' that never comes. I've watched 'em,
and I know. The night before Marthy died she says to me, Sally Ann,
says she, I could die a heap peacefuler if I jest knew the front room
was fixed up right with a new set of furniture for the funeral.' And
Sally Ann p'inted her finger right at Job and says she, 'I said it
then, and I say it now to your face, Job Taylor, you killed Marthy the
same as if you'd taken her by the throat and choked the life out of
Mary Embry, Job's sister-in-law, was settin' right behind me, and I
heard her say, 'Amen!' as fervent as if somebody had been prayin'. Job
set there, lookin' like a sheep-killin' dog, and Sally Ann went right
on. 'I know,' says she, 'the law gives you the right to your wives'
earnin's and everything they've got, down to the clothes on their
backs; and I've always said there was some Kentucky law that was made
for the express purpose of encouragin' men in their natural
meanness,a p'int in which the Lord knows they don't need no
encouragin'. There's some men,' says she, 'that'll sneak behind the
'Postle Paul when they're plannin' any meanness against their wives,
and some that runs to the law, and you're one of the law kind. But mark
my words,' says she, 'one of these days, you men who've been stealin'
your wives' property and defraudin' 'em, and cheatin' 'em out o' their
just dues, you'll have to stand before a Judge that cares mighty little
for Kentucky law; and all the law and all the Scripture you can bring
up won't save you from goin' where the rich man went.'
I can see Sally Ann right now, and Aunt Jane pushed her glasses up
on her forehead, and looked with a dreamy, retrospective gaze through
the doorway and beyond, where swaying elms and maples were whispering
softly to each other as the breeze touched them. She had on her old
black poke-bonnet and some black yarn mitts, and she didn't come nigh
up to Job's shoulder, but Job set and listened as if he jest had to. I heard Dave Crawford shufflin' his feet and clearin' his throat while
Sally Ann was talkin' to Job. Dave's farm j'ined Sally Ann's, and they
had a lawsuit once about the way a fence ought to run, and Sally Ann
beat him. He always despised Sally Ann after that, and used to call her
a 'he-woman.' Sally Ann heard the shufflin', and as soon as she got
through with Job, she turned around to Dave, and says she: 'Do you
think your hemmin' and scrapin' is goin' to stop me, Dave Crawford?
You're one o' the men that makes me think that it's better to be a
Kentucky horse than a Kentucky woman. Many's the time,' says she, 'I've
seen pore July with her head tied up, crawlin' around tryin' to cook
for sixteen harvest hands, and you out in the stable cossetin' up a
sick mare, and rubbin' down your three-year-olds to get 'em in trim for
the fair. Of all the things that's hard to understand,' says she, 'the
hardest is a man that has more mercy on his horse than he has on his
wife. July's found rest at last,' says she, 'out in the graveyard; and
every time I pass your house I thank the Lord that you've got to pay a
good price for your cookin' now, as there ain't a woman in the country
fool enough to step into July's shoes.'
But, la! said Aunt Jane, breaking off with her happy laugh,the
laugh of one who revels in rich memories,what's the use of me
tellin' all this stuff? The long and the short of it is, that Sally Ann
had her say about nearly every man in the church. She told how Mary
Embry had to cut up her weddin' skirts to make clothes for her first
baby; and how John Martin stopped Hannah one day when she was carryin'
her mother a pound of butter, and made her go back and put the butter
down in the cellar; and how Lije Davison used to make Ann pay him for
every bit of chicken feed, and then take half the egg money because the
chickens got into his garden; and how Abner Page give his wife
twenty-five cents for spendin' money the time she went to visit her
Sally Ann always was a masterful sort of woman, and that night it
seemed like she was possessed. The way she talked made me think of the
Day of Pentecost and the gift of tongues. And finally she got to the
minister! I'd been wonderin' all along if she was goin' to let him off.
She turned around to where he was settin' under the pulpit, and says
she, 'Brother Page, you're a good man, but you ain't so good you
couldn't be better. It was jest last week,' says she, 'that the women
come around beggin' money to buy you a new suit of clothes to go to
Presbytery in; and I told 'em if it was to get Mis' Page a new dress, I
was ready to give; but not a dime was I goin' to give towards puttin'
finery on a man's back. I'm tired o' seein' the ministers walk up into
the pulpit in their slick black broadcloths, and their wives settin'
down in the pew in an old black silk that's been turned upside down,
wrong side out, and hind part before, and sponged, and pressed, and
made over till you can't tell whether it's silk, or caliker, or what.'
Well, I reckon there was some o' the women that expected the roof
to fall down on us when Sally Ann said that right to the minister. But
it didn't fall, and Sally Ann went straight on. 'And when it comes to
the perseverance of the saints and the decrees of God,' says she,
'there ain't many can preach a better sermon; but there's some of your
sermons,' says she, 'that ain't fit for much but kindlin' fires.
There's that one you preached last Sunday on the twenty-fourth verse of
the fifth chapter of Ephesians. I reckon I've heard about a hundred and
fifty sermons on that text, and I reckon I'll keep on hearin' 'em as
long as there ain't anybody but men to do the preachin'. Anybody would
think,' says she, 'that you preachers was struck blind every time you
git through with the twenty-fourth verse, for I never heard a sermon on
the twenty-fifth verse. I believe there's men in this church that
thinks the fifth chapter of Ephesians hasn't got but twenty-four
verses, and I'm goin' to read the rest of it to 'em for once anyhow.'
And if Sally Ann didn't walk right up into the pulpit same as if
she'd been ordained, and read what Paul said about men lovin' their
wives as Christ loved the church, and as they loved their own bodies.
'Now,' says she, 'if Brother Page can reconcile these texts with
what Paul says about women submittin' and bein' subject, he's welcome
to do it. But,' says she, 'if I had the preachin' to do, I wouldn't
waste time reconcilin'. I'd jest say that when Paul told women to be
subject to their husbands in everything, he wasn't inspired; and when
he told men to love their wives as their own bodies, he was inspired;
and I'd like to see the Presbytery that could silence me from preachin'
as long as I wanted to preach. As for turnin' out o' the church,' says
she, 'I'd like to know who's to do the turnin' out. When the disciples
brought that woman to Christ there wasn't a man in the crowd fit to
cast a stone at her; and if there's any man nowadays good enough to set
in judgment on a woman, his name ain't on the rolls of Goshen church.
If 'Lizabeth,' says she, 'had as much common sense as she's got
conscience, she'd know that the matter o' that money didn't concern
nobody but our Mite Society, and we women can settle it without any
help from you deacons and elders.'
Well, I reckon Parson Page thought if he didn't head Sally Ann off
some way or other she'd go on all night; so when she kind o' stopped
for breath and shut up the big Bible, he grabbed a hymn-book and says:
'Let us sing Blest be the Tie that Binds.'
He struck up the tune himself; and about the middle of the first
verse Mis' Page got up and went over to where 'Lizabeth was standin',
and give her the right hand of fellowship, and then Mis' Petty did the
same; and first thing we knew we was all around her shakin' hands and
huggin' her and cryin' over her. 'Twas a reg'lar love-feast; and we
went home feelin' like we'd been through a big protracted meetin' and
got religion over again.
'Twasn't more'n a week till 'Lizabeth was down with slow
fevernervous collapse, old Dr. Pendleton called it. We took turns
nursin' her, and one day she looked up in my face and says, 'Jane, I
know now what the mercy of the Lord is.'
Here Aunt Jane paused, and began to cut three-cornered pieces out of
a time-stained square of flowered chintz. The quilt was to be of the
wild-goose pattern. There was a drowsy hum from the bee-hive near the
window, and the shadows were lengthening as sunset approached.
One queer thing about it, she resumed, was that while Sally Ann
was talkin', not one of us felt like laughin'. We set there as solemn
as if parson was preachin' to us on 'lection and predestination. But
whenever I think about it now, I laugh fit to kill. And I've thought
many a time that Sally Ann's plain talk to them men done more good than
all the sermons us women had had preached to us about bein'
'shame-faced' and 'submittin'' ourselves to our husbands, for every one
o' them women come out in new clothes that spring, and such a change as
it made in some of 'em! I wouldn't be surprised if she did have a
message to deliver, jest as she said. The Bible says an ass spoke up
once and reproved a man, and I reckon if an ass can reprove a man, so
can a woman. And it looks to me like men stand in need of reprovin' now
as much as they did in Balaam's days.
Jacob died the follerin' fall, and 'Lizabeth got shed of her
troubles. The triflin' scamp never married her for anything but her
Things is different from what they used to be, she went on, as she
folded her pieces into a compact bundle and tied it with a piece of
gray yarn. My son-in-law was tellin' me last summer how a passel o'
women kept goin' up to Frankfort and so pesterin' the Legislatur', that
they had to change the laws to git rid of 'em. So married women now has
all the property rights they want, and more'n some of 'em has sense to
use, I reckon.
How about you and Uncle Abram? I suggested. Didn't Sally Ann say
anything about you in her experience?
Aunt Jane's black eyes snapped with some of the fire of her
long-past youth. La! no, child, she said. Abram never was that kind
of a man, and I never was that kind of a woman. I ricollect as we was
walkin' home that night Abram says, sort o' humble-like: 'Jane, hadn't
you better git that brown merino you was lookin' at last County Court
And I says, 'Don't you worry about that brown merino, Abram. It's
a-lyin' in my bottom drawer right now. I told the storekeeper to cut it
off jest as soon as your back was turned, and Mis' Simpson is goin' to
make it next week.' And Abram he jest laughed, and says, 'Well, Jane, I
never saw your beat.' You see, I never was any hand at 'submittin''
myself to my husband, like some women. I've often wondered if Abram
wouldn't 'a' been jest like Silas Petty if I'd been like Maria. I've
noticed that whenever a woman's willin' to be imposed upon, there's
always a man standin' 'round ready to do the imposin'. I never went to
a law-book to find out what my rights was. I did my duty faithful to
Abram, and when I wanted anything I went and got it, and Abram paid for
it, and I can't see but what we got on jest as well as we'd 'a' done if
I'd a-'submitted' myself.
Longer and longer grew the shadows, and the faint tinkle of bells
came in through the windows. The cows were beginning to come home. The
spell of Aunt Jane's dramatic art was upon me. I began to feel that my
own personality had somehow slipped away from me, and those dead
people, evoked from their graves by an old woman's histrionism, seemed
more real to me than my living, breathing self.
There now, I've talked you clean to death, she said with a happy
laugh, as I rose to go. But we've had a real nice time, and I'm glad
The sun was almost down as I walked slowly away. When I looked back,
at the turn of the road, Aunt Jane was standing on the door-step,
shading her eyes and peering across the level fields. I knew what it
meant. Beyond the fields was a bit of woodland, and in one corner of
that you might, if your eyesight was good, discern here and there a
glimpse of white. It was the old burying-ground of Goshen church; and I
knew by the strained attitude and intent gaze of the watcher in the
door that somewhere in the sunlit space between Aunt Jane's door-step
and the little country graveyard, the souls of the living and the dead
were keeping a silent tryst.
II. THE NEW ORGAN
Gittin' a new organ is a mighty different thing nowadays from what
it was when I was young, said Aunt Jane judicially, as she lifted a
panful of yellow harvest apples from the table and began to peel them
Potatoes, peas, and asparagus were bubbling on the stove, and the
dumplings were in honor of the invited guest, who had begged the
privilege of staying in the kitchen awhile. Aunt Jane was one of those
rare housekeepers whose kitchens are more attractive than the parlors
of other people.
And gittin' religion is different, too, she continued, propping
her feet on the round of a chair for the greater comfort and
convenience of her old knees. Both of 'em is a heap easier than they
used to be, and the organs is a heap better. I don't know whether the
religion's any better or not. You know I went up to my daughter Mary
Frances' last week, and the folks up there was havin' a big meetin' in
the Tabernicle, and that's how come me to be thinkin' about organs.
The preacher was an evangelist, as they call him, Sam Joynes, from
'way down South. In my day he'd 'a' been called the Rev. Samuel Joynes.
Folks didn't call their preachers Tom, Dick, and Harry, and Jim and
Sam, like they do now. I'd like to 'a' seen anybody callin' Parson Page
'Lem Page.' He was the Rev. Lemuel Page, and don't you forgit it. But
things is different, as I said awhile ago, and even the little boys
says 'Sam Joynes,' jest like he played marbles with 'em every day. I
went to the Tabernicle three or four times; and of all the preachers
that ever I heard, he certainly is the beatenest. Why, I ain't laughed
so much since me and Abram went to Barnum's circus, the year before the
war. He was preachin' one day about cleanliness bein' next to
godliness, which it certainly is, and he says, 'You old skunk, you!'
But, la! the worse names he called 'em the better they 'peared to like
it, and sinners was converted wholesale every time he preached. But
there wasn't no goin' to the mourners' bench and mournin' for your sins
and havin' people prayin' and cryin' over you. They jest set and
laughed and grinned while he was gittin' off his jokes, and then they'd
go up and shake hands with him, and there they was all saved and ready
to be baptized and taken into the church.
Just here the old yellow rooster fluttered up to the door-step and
gave a hoarse, ominous crow.
There, now! You hear that? said Aunt Jane, as she tossed him a
golden peeling from her pan. There's some folks that gives right up
and looks for sickness or death or bad news every time a rooster crows
in the door. But I never let such things bother me. The Bible says that
nobody knows what a day may bring forth, and if I don't know, it ain't
likely my old yeller rooster does.
What was I talkin' about? Oh, yesthe big meetin'. Well, I never
was any hand to say that old ways is best, and I don't say so now. If
you can convert a man by callin' him a polecat, why, call him one, of
course. And mournin' ain't always a sign o' true repentance. They used
to tell how Silas Petty mourned for forty days, and, as Sally Ann said,
he had about as much religion as old Dan Tucker's Derby ram.
However, it was the organ I set out to tell about. It's jest like
me to wander away from the p'int. Abram always said a text would have
to be made like a postage stamp for me to stick to it. You see, they'd
jest got a fine new organ at Mary Frances' church, and she was tellin'
me how they paid for it. One man give five hundred dollars, and another
give three hundred; then they collected four or five hundred amongst
the other members, and give a lawn party and a strawberry festival and
raised another hundred. It set me to thinkin' o' the time us women got
the organ for Goshen church. It wasn't any light matter, for, besides
the money it took us nearly three years to raise, there was the
opposition. Come to think of it, we raised more opposition than we did
And Aunt Jane laughed a blithe laugh and tossed another peeling to
the yellow rooster, who had dropped the rôle of harbinger of evil and
was posing as a humble suppliant.
An organ in them days, honey, was jest a wedge to split the church
half in two. It was the new cyarpet that brought on the organ. You know
how it is with yourself; you git a new dress, and then you've got to
have a new bonnet, and then you can't wear your old shoes and gloves
with a new dress and a new bonnet, and the first thing you know you've
spent five times as much as you set out to spend. That's the way it was
with us about the cyarpet and the organ and the pulpit chairs and the
Most o' the men folks was against the organ from the start, and
Silas Petty was the foremost. Silas made a p'int of goin' against
everything that women favored. Sally Ann used to say that if a woman
was to come up to him and say, 'Le's go to heaven,' Silas would start
off towards the other place right at once; he was jest that mulish and
contrairy. He met Sally Ann one day, and says he, 'Jest give you women
rope enough and you'll turn the house o' the Lord into a reg'lar
toy-shop.' And Sally Ann she says, 'You'd better go home, Silas, and
read the book of Exodus. If the Lord told Moses how to build the
Tabernicle with the goats' skins and rams' skins and blue and purple
and scarlet and fine linen and candlesticks with six branches, I reckon
he won't object to a few yards o' cyarpetin' and a little organ in
Sally Ann always had an answer ready, and I used to think she knew
more about the Bible than Parson Page did himself.
Of course Uncle Jim Matthews didn't want the organ; he was afraid
it might interfere with his singin'. Job Taylor always stood up for
Silas, so he didn't want it; and Parson Page never opened his mouth one
way or the other. He was one o' those men that tries to set on both
sides o' the fence at once, and he'd set that way so long he was a
mighty good hand at balancin' himself.
Us women didn't say much, but we made up our minds to have the
organ. So we went to work in the Mite Society, and in less'n three
years we had enough money to git it. I've often wondered how many
pounds o' butter and how many baskets of eggs it took to raise that
money. I reckon if they'd 'a' been piled up on top of each other they'd
'a' reached to the top o' the steeple. The women of Israel brought
their ear-rings and bracelets to help build the Tabernicle, but we had
jest our egg and butter money, and the second year, when the chicken
cholery was so bad, our prospects looked mighty blue.
When I saw that big organ up at Danville, I couldn't help thinkin'
about the little thing we worked so hard to git. 'Twasn't much bigger'n
a washstand, and I reckon if I was to hear it now, I'd think it was
mighty feeble and squeaky. But it sounded fine enough to us in them
days, and, little as it was, it raised a disturbance for miles around.
When it come down from Louisville, Abram went to town with his
two-horse wagon and brought it out and set it up in our parlor. My Jane
had been takin' lessons in town all winter, so's to be able to play on
We had a right good choir for them days; the only trouble was that
everybody wanted to be leader. That's a common failin' with church
choirs, I've noticed. Milly Amos sung soprano, and my Jane was the
alto; John Petty sung bass, and young Sam Crawford tenor; and as for
Uncle Jim Matthews, he sung everything, and a plenty of it, too. Milly
Amos used to say he was worse'n a flea. He'd start out on the bass, and
first thing you knew he'd be singin' tenor with Sam Crawford; and by
the time Sam was good and mad, he'd be off onto the alto or the
soprano. He was one o' these meddlesome old creeturs that thinks the
world never moved till they got into it, and they've got to help
everybody out with whatever they happen to be doin'. You've heard o'
children bein' born kickin'. Well, Uncle Jim must 'a' been born
singin'. I've seen people that said they didn't like the idea o' goin'
to heaven and standin' around a throne and singin' hymns for ever and
ever; but you couldn't 'a' pleased Uncle Jim better than to set him
down in jest that sort o' heaven. Wherever there was a chance to get in
some singin', there you'd be sure to find Uncle Jim. Folks used to say
he enjoyed a funeral a heap better than he did a weddin', 'cause he
could sing at the funeral, and he couldn't at the weddin'; and Sam
Crawford said he believed if Gabriel was to come down and blow his
trumpet, Uncle Jim would git up and begin to sing.
It wouldn't 'a' been so bad if he'd had any sort of a voice; but
he'd been singin' all his life and hollerin' at protracted meetin's
ever since he got religion, till he'd sung and hollered all the music
out of his voice, and there wasn't much left but the old creaky
machinery. It used to make me think of an old rickety house with the
blinds flappin' in the wind. It mortified us terrible to have any of
the Methodists or Babtists come to our church. We was sort o' used to
the old man's capers, but people that wasn't couldn't keep a straight
face when the singin' begun, and it took more grace than any of us had
to keep from gittin' mad when we seen people from another church
laughin' at our choir.
The Babtists had a powerful protracted meetin' one winter. Uncle
Jim was there to help with the singin', as a matter of course, and he
begun to git mightily interested in Babtist doctrines. Used to go home
with 'em after church and talk about Greek and Hebrew words till the
clock struck twelve. And one communion Sunday he got up solemn as a owl
and marched out o' church jest before the bread and wine was passed.
Made out like he warn't sure he'd been rightly babtized. The choir was
mightily tickled at the idea o' gittin' shed o' the old pest, and Sam
Crawford went to him and told him he was on the right track and to go
ahead, for the Babtists was undoubtedly correct, and if it wasn't for
displeasin' his father and mother he'd jine 'em himself. And thenSam
never could let well enough alonethen he went to Bush Elrod, the
Babtist tenor, and says he, 'I hear you're goin' to have a new member
in your choir.' And Bush says, 'Well, if the old idiot ever jines this
church, we'll hold his head under the water so long that he won't be
able to spile good music agin.' And then he give Uncle Jim a hint o'
how things was; and when Uncle Jim heard that the Presbyterians was
anxious to git shed of him, he found out right away that all them Greek
and Hebrew words meant sprinklin' and infant babtism. So he settled
down to stay where he was, and hollered louder'n ever the next Sunday.
The old man was a good enough Christian, I reckon; but when it come
to singin', he was a stumblin'-block and rock of offense to the whole
church, and especially to the choir. The first thing Sally Ann said
when she looked at the new organ was, 'Well, Jane, how do you reckon
it's goin' to sound with Uncle Jim's voice?' and I laughed till I had
to set down in a cheer.
Well, when the men folks found out that our organ had come, they
begun to wake up. Abram had brought it out Tuesday, and Wednesday
night, as soon as prayer-meetin' broke, Parson Page says, says he:
'Brethren, there is a little business to be transacted. Please remain a
few minutes longer.' And then, when we had set down again, he went on
to say that the sisters had raised money and bought an organ, and there
was some division of opinion among the brethren about usin' it, so he
would like to have the matter discussed. He used a lot o' big words and
talked mighty smooth, and I knew there was trouble ahead for us women.
Uncle Jim was the first one to speak. He was so anxious to begin,
he could hardly wait for Parson Page to stop; and anybody would 'a'
thought that he'd been up to heaven and talked with the Father and the
Son and the Holy Ghost and all the angels, to hear him tell about the
sort o' music there was in heaven, and the sort there ought to be on
earth. 'Why, brethren,' says he, 'when John saw the heavens opened
there wasn't no organs up there. God don't keer nothin',' says he,
'about such new-fangled, worldly instruments. But when a lot o' sweet
human voices git to praisin' him, why, the very angels stop singin' to
Milly Amos was right behind me, and she leaned over and says,
'Well, if the angels'd rather hear Uncle Jim's singin' than our organ,
they've got mighty pore taste, that's all I've got to say.'
Silas Petty was the next one to git up, and says he: 'I never was
in favor o' doin' things half-way, brethren; and if we've got to have
the organ, why, we might as well have a monkey, too, and be done with
it. For my part,' says he, 'I want to worship in the good old way my
fathers and grandfathers worshiped in, and, unless my feelin's change
very considerable, I shall have to withdraw from this church if any
such Satan's music-box is set up in this holy place.'
And Sally Ann turned around and whispered to me, 'We ought to 'a'
got that organ long ago, Jane.' I like to 'a' laughed right out, and I
leaned over, and says I, 'Why don't you git up and talk for us, Sally
Ann?' and she says: 'The spirit ain't moved me, Jane. I reckon it's too
busy movin' Uncle Jim and Silas Petty.'
Jest then I looked around, and there was Abram standin' up. Well,
you could 'a' knocked me over with a feather. Abram always was one o'
those close-mouthed men. Never spoke if he could git around it any way
whatever. Parson Page used to git after him every protracted meetin'
about not leadin' in prayer and havin' family worship; but the spirit
moved him that time sure, and there he was talkin' as glib as old Uncle
Jim. And says he: 'Brethren, I'm not carin' much one way or another
about this organ. I don't know how the angels feel about it, not havin'
so much acquaintance with 'em as Uncle Jim has; but I do know enough
about women to know that there ain't any use tryin' to stop 'em when
they git their heads set on a thing, and I'm goin' to haul that organ
over to-morrow mornin' and set it up for the choir to practise by
Friday night. If I don't haul it over, Sally Ann and Jane'll tote it
over between 'em, and if they can't put it into the church by the door,
they'll hist a window and put it in that way. I reckon,' says he, 'I've
got all the men against me in this matter, but then, I've got all the
women on my side, and I reckon all the women and one man makes a pretty
good majority, and so I'm goin' to haul the organ over to-morrow
I declare I felt real proud of Abram, and I told him so that night
when we was goin' home together. Then Parson Page he says, 'It seems to
me there is sound sense in what Brother Parish says, and I suggest that
we allow the sisters to have their way and give the organ a trial; and
if we find that it is hurtful to the interests of the church, it will
be an easy matter to remove it.' And Milly Amos says to me, 'I see 'em
gittin' that organ out if we once git it in.'
When the choir met Friday night, Milly come in all in a flurry, and
says she: 'I hear Brother Gardner has gone to the 'Sociation down in
Russellville, and all the Babtists are comin' to our church Sunday; and
I want to show 'em what good music is this once, anyhow. Uncle Jim
Matthews is laid up with rheumatism,' says she, 'and if that ain't a
special providence I never saw one.' And Sam Crawford slapped his knee,
and says he, 'Well, if the old man's rheumatism jest holds out over
Sunday, them Babtists'll hear music sure.'
Then Milly went on to tell that she'd been up to Squire Elrod's,
and Miss Penelope, the squire's niece from Louisville, had promised to
sing a voluntary Sunday.
'Voluntary? What's that?' says Sam.
'Why,' says Milly, 'it's a hymn that the choir, or somebody in it,
sings of their own accord, without the preacher givin' it out; just
like your tomatoes come up in the spring, voluntary, without you
plantin' the seed. That's the way they do in the city churches,' says
she, 'and we are goin' to put on city style Sunday.'
Then they went to work and practised some new tunes for the hymns
Parson Page had give 'em, so if Uncle Jim's rheumatism didn't hold out,
he'd still have to hold his peace.
Well, Sunday come; but special providence was on Uncle Jim's side
that time, and there he was as smilin' as a basket o' chips if he did
have to walk with a cane. We'd had the church cleaned up as neat as a
new pin. My Jane had put a bunch of honeysuckles and pinks on the
organ, and everybody was dressed in their best. Miss Penelope was
settin' at the organ with a bunch of roses in her hand, and the windows
was all open, and you could see the trees wavin' in the wind and hear
the birds singin' outside. I always did think that was the best part o'
Sundaythat time jest before church begins.
Aunt Jane's voice dropped. Her words came slowly; and into the story
fell one of those flashes of silence to which she was as little given
as the great historian. The pan of dumplings waited for the sprinkling
of spice and sugar, while she stood motionless, looking afar off,
though her gaze apparently stopped on the vacant whitewashed wall
before her. No mind reader's art was needed to tell what scene her
faded eyes beheld. There was the old church, with its battered
furniture and high pulpit. For one brief moment the grave had yielded
up its dead, and the old familiar faces looked out from every pew. We
were very near together, Aunt Jane and I; but the breeze that fanned
her brow was not the breeze I felt as I sat by her kitchen window. For
her a wind was blowing across the plains of memory; and the honeysuckle
odor it carried was not from the bush in the yard. It came, weighted
with dreams, from the blossoms that her Jane had placed on the organ
twenty-five years ago. A bob-white was calling in the meadow across the
dusty road, and the echoes of the second bell had just died away. She
and Abram were side by side in their accustomed place, and life lay
like a watered garden in the peaceful stillness of the time jest
before church begins.
The asparagus on the stove boiled over with a great spluttering, and
Aunt Jane came back to the eternal now.
Sakes alive! she exclaimed, as she lifted the saucepan; I must be
gittin' old, to let things boil over this way while I'm studyin' about
old times. I declare, I believe I've clean forgot what I was sayin'.
You were at church, I suggested, and the singing was about to
Sure enough! Well, all at once Miss Penelope laid her hands on the
keys and begun to play and sing 'Nearer, My God, to Thee.' We'd heard
that hymn all our lives at church and protracted meetin's and
prayer-meetin's, but we didn't know how it could sound till Miss
Penelope sung it all by herself that day with our new organ. I
ricollect jest how she looked, pretty little thing that she was; and
sometimes I can hear her voice jest as plain as I hear that robin out
yonder in the ellum tree. Every word was jest like a bright new piece
o' silver, and every note was jest like gold; and she was lookin' up
through the winder at the trees and the sky like she was singin' to
somebody we couldn't see. We clean forgot about the new organ and the
Baptists; and I really believe we was feelin' nearer to God than we'd
ever felt before. When she got through with the first verse, she played
somethin' soft and sweet and begun again; and right in the middle of
the first lineI declare, it's twenty-five years ago, but I git mad
now when I think about itright in the middle of the first line Uncle
Jim jined in like an old squawkin' jay-bird, and sung like he was
tryin' to drown out Miss Penelope and the new organ, too.
Everybody give a jump when he first started, and he'd got nearly
through the verse before we took in what was happenin'. Even the
Babtists jest looked surprised like the rest of us. But when Miss
Penelope begun the third time and Uncle Jim jined in with his
hollerin', I saw Bush Elrod grin, and that grin spread all over the
Babtist crowd in no time. The Presbyterian young folks was gigglin'
behind their fans, and Bush got to laughin' till he had to git up and
leave the church. They said he went up the road to Sam Amos' pasture
and laid down on the ground and rolled over and over and laughed till
he couldn't laugh any more.
I was so mad I started to git up, though goodness knows what I
could 'a' done. Abram he grabbed my dress and says, 'Steady, Jane!'
jest like he was talkin' to the old mare. The thing that made me
maddest was Silas Petty a-leanin' back in his pew and smilin' as
satisfied as if he'd seen the salvation of the Lord. I didn't mind the
Babtists half as much as I did Silas.
The only person in the church that wasn't the least bit flustered
was Miss Penelope. She was a Marshall on her mother's side, and I
always said that nobody but a born lady could 'a' acted as she did. She
sung right on as if everything was goin' exactly right and she'd been
singin' hymns with Uncle Jim all her life. Two or three times when the
old man kind o' lagged behind, it looked like she waited for him to
ketch up, and when she got through and Uncle Jim was lumberin' on the
last note, she folded her hands and set there lookin' out the winder
where the sun was shinin' on the silver poplar trees, jest as peaceful
as a angel, and the rest of us as mad as hornets. Milly Amos set back
of Uncle Jim, and his red bandanna handkerchief was lyin' over his
shoulders where he'd been shooin' the flies away. She told me the next
day it was all she could do to keep from reachin' over and chokin' the
old man off while Miss Penelope was singin'.
I said Miss Penelope was the only one that wasn't flustered. I
ought to 'a' said Miss Penelope and Uncle Jim. The old creetur was jest
that simple-minded he didn't know he'd done anything out o' the way,
and he set there lookin' as pleased as a child, and thinkin', I reckon,
how smart he'd been to help Miss Penelope out with the singin'.
The rest o' the hymns went off all right, and it did me good to see
Uncle Jim's face when they struck up the new tunes. He tried to jine
in, but he had to give it up and wait for the doxology.
Parson Page preached a powerful good sermon, but I don't reckon it
did some of us much good, we was so put out about Uncle Jim spilin' our
After meetin' broke and we was goin' home, me and Abram had to pass
by Silas Petty's wagon. He was helpin' Maria in, and I don't know what
she'd been sayin', but he says, 'It's a righteous judgment on you
women, Maria, for profanin' the Lord's house with that there organ.'
And, mad as I was, I had to laugh when I thought of old Uncle Jim
Matthews executin' a judgment of the Lord. Uncle Jim never made more'n
a half-way livin' at the carpenter's trade, and I reckon if the Lord
had wanted anybody to help him execute a judgment, Uncle Jim would 'a'
been the last man he'd 'a' thought of.
Of course the choir was madder'n ever at Uncle Jim; and when Milly
Amos had fever that summer, she called Sam to her the day she was at
her worst, and pulled his head down and whispered as feeble as a baby:
'Don't let Uncle Jim sing at my funeral, Sam. I'll rise up out of my
coffin if he does.' And Sam broke out a-laughin' and a-cryin' at the
same timehe thought a heap o' Millyand says he, 'Well, Milly, if
it'll have that effect, Uncle Jim shall sing at the funeral, sure.' And
Milly got to laughin', weak as she was, and in a few minutes she
dropped off to sleep, and when she woke up the fever was gone, and she
begun to git well from that day. I always believed that laugh was the
turnin'-p'int. Instead of Uncle Jim singin' at her funeral, she sung at
Uncle Jim's, and broke down and cried like a child for all the mean
things she'd said about the pore old creetur's voice.
The asparagus had been transferred to a china dish, and the browned
butter was ready to pour over it. The potatoes were steaming themselves
into mealy delicacy, and Aunt Jane peered into the stove where the
dumplings were taking on a golden brown. Her story-telling evidently
did not interfere with her culinary skill, and I said so.
La, child, she replied, dashing a pinch of seasonin into the
peas, when I git so old I can't do but one thing at a time, I'll try
to die as soon as possible.
III. AUNT JANE'S ALBUM
They were a bizarre mass of color on the sweet spring landscape,
those patchwork quilts, swaying in a long line under the elms and
maples. The old orchard made a blossoming background for them, and
farther off on the horizon rose the beauty of fresh verdure and purple
mist on those low hills, or knobs, that are to the heart of the
Kentuckian as the Alps to the Swiss or the sea to the sailor.
I opened the gate softly and paused for a moment between the
blossoming lilacs that grew on each side of the path. The fragrance of
the white and the purple blooms was like a resurrection-call over the
graves of many a dead spring; and as I stood, shaken with thoughts as
the flowers are with the winds, Aunt Jane came around from the back of
the house, her black silk cape fluttering from her shoulders, and a
calico sunbonnet hiding her features in its cavernous depth. She walked
briskly to the clothes-line and began patting and smoothing the quilts
where the breeze had disarranged them.
Aunt Jane, I called out, are you having a fair all by yourself?
She turned quickly, pushing back the sunbonnet from her eyes.
Why, child, she said, with a happy laugh, you come pretty nigh
skeerin' me. No, I ain't havin' any fair; I'm jest givin' my quilts
their spring airin'. Twice a year I put 'em out in the sun and wind;
and this mornin' the air smelt so sweet, I thought it was a good chance
to freshen 'em up for the summer. It's about time to take 'em in now.
She began to fold the quilts and lay them over her arm, and I did
the same. Back and forth we went from the clothes-line to the house,
and from the house to the clothes-line, until the quilts were safely
housed from the coming dewfall and piled on every available chair in
the front room. I looked at them in sheer amazement. There seemed to be
every pattern that the ingenuity of woman could devise and the industry
of woman put together,four-patches, nine-patches, log-cabins,
wild-goose chases, rising suns, hexagons, diamonds, and only Aunt
Jane knows what else. As for color, a Sandwich Islander would have
danced with joy at the sight of those reds, purples, yellows, and
Did you really make all these quilts, Aunt Jane? I asked
Aunt Jane's eyes sparkled with pride.
Every stitch of 'em, child, she said, except the quiltin'. The
neighbors used to come in and help some with that. I've heard folks say
that piecin' quilts was nothin' but a waste o' time, but that ain't
always so. They used to say that Sarah Jane Mitchell would set down
right after breakfast and piece till it was time to git dinner, and
then set and piece till she had to git supper, and then piece by
candle-light till she fell asleep in her cheer.
I ricollect goin' over there one day, and Sarah Jane was gittin'
dinner in a big hurry, for Sam had to go to town with some cattle, and
there was a big basket o' quilt pieces in the middle o' the kitchen
floor, and the house lookin' like a pigpen, and the children runnin'
around half naked. And Sam he laughed, and says he, 'Aunt Jane, if we
could wear quilts and eat quilts we'd be the richest people in the
country.' Sam was the best-natured man that ever was, or he couldn't
'a' put up with Sarah Jane's shiftless ways. Hannah Crawford said she
sent Sarah Jane a bundle o' caliker once by Sam, and Sam always
declared he lost it. But Uncle Jim Matthews said he was ridin' along
the road jest behind Sam, and he saw Sam throw it into the creek jest
as he got on the bridge. I never blamed Sam a bit if he did.
But there never was any time wasted on my quilts, child. I can look
at every one of 'em with a clear conscience. I did my work faithful;
and then, when I might 'a' set and held my hands, I'd make a block or
two o' patchwork, and before long I'd have enough to put together in a
quilt. I went to piecin' as soon as I was old enough to hold a needle
and a piece o' cloth, and one o' the first things I can remember was
settin' on the back door-step sewin' my quilt pieces, and mother
praisin' my stitches. Nowadays folks don't have to sew unless they want
to, but when I was a child there warn't any sewin'-machines, and it was
about as needful for folks to know how to sew as it was for 'em to know
how to eat; and every child that was well raised could hem and run and
backstitch and gether and overhand by the time she was nine years old.
Why, I'd pieced four quilts by the time I was nineteen years old, and
when me and Abram set up housekeepin' I had bedclothes enough for three
I've had a heap o' comfort all my life makin' quilts, and now in my
old age I wouldn't take a fortune for 'em. Set down here, child, where
you can see out o' the winder and smell the lilacs, and we'll look at
'em all. You see, some folks has albums to put folks' pictures in to
remember 'em by, and some folks has a book and writes down the things
that happen every day so they won't forgit 'em; but, honey, these
quilts is my albums and my di'ries, and whenever the weather's bad and
I can't git out to see folks, I jest spread out my quilts and look at
'em and study over 'em, and it's jest like goin' back fifty or sixty
years and livin' my life over agin.
There ain't nothin' like a piece o' caliker for bringin' back old
times, child, unless it's a flower or a bunch o' thyme or a piece o'
pennyroy'lanything that smells sweet. Why, I can go out yonder in the
yard and gether a bunch o' that purple lilac and jest shut my eyes and
see faces I ain't seen for fifty years, and somethin' goes through me
like a flash o' lightnin', and it seems like I'm young agin jest for
Aunt Jane's hands were stroking lovingly a nine-patch that
resembled the coat of many colors.
Now this quilt, honey, she said, I made out o' the pieces o' my
children's clothes, their little dresses and waists and aprons. Some of
'em's dead, and some of 'em's grown and married and a long way off from
me, further off than the ones that's dead, I sometimes think. But when
I set down and look at this quilt and think over the pieces, it seems
like they all come back, and I can see 'em playin' around the floors
and goin' in and out, and hear 'em cryin' and laughin' and callin' me
jest like they used to do before they grew up to men and women, and
before there was any little graves o' mine out in the old
buryin'-ground over yonder.
Wonderful imagination of motherhood that can bring childhood back
from the dust of the grave and banish the wrinkles and gray hairs of
age with no other talisman than a scrap of faded calico!
The old woman's hands were moving tremulously over the surface of
the quilt as if they touched the golden curls of the little dream
children who had vanished from her hearth so many years ago. But there
were no tears either in her eyes or in her voice. I had long noticed
that Aunt Jane always smiled when she spoke of the people whom the
world calls dead, or the things it calls lost or past. These
words seemed to have for her higher and tenderer meanings than are
placed on them by the sorrowful heart of humanity.
But the moments were passing, and one could not dwell too long on
any quilt, however well beloved. Aunt Jane rose briskly, folded up the
one that lay across her knees, and whisked out another from the huge
pile in an old splint-bottomed chair.
Here's a piece o' one o' Sally Ann's purple caliker dresses. Sally
Ann always thought a heap o' purple caliker. Here's one o' Milly Amos'
ginghamsthat pink-and-white one. And that piece o' white with the
rosebuds in it, that's Miss Penelope's. She give it to me the summer
before she died. Bless her soul! That dress jest matched her face
exactly. Somehow her and her clothes always looked alike, and her voice
matched her face, too. One o' the things I'm lookin' forward to, child,
is seein' Miss Penelope agin and hearin' her sing. Voices and faces is
alike; there's some that you can't remember, and there's some you can't
forgit. I've seen a heap o' people and heard a heap o' voices, but Miss
Penelope's face was different from all the rest, and so was her voice.
Why, if she said 'Good mornin'' to you, you'd hear that 'Good mornin'
all day, and her singin'I know there never was anything like it in
this world. My grandchildren all laugh at me for thinkin' so much o'
Miss Penelope's singin', but then they never heard her, and I have:
that's the difference. My grandchild Henrietta was down here three or
four years ago, and says she, 'Grandma, don't you want to go up to
Louisville with me and hear Patti sing?' And says I, 'Patty who,
child?' Says I, 'If it was to hear Miss Penelope sing, I'd carry these
old bones o' mine clear from here to New York. But there ain't anybody
else I want to hear sing bad enough to go up to Louisville or anywhere
else. And some o' these days,' says I, 'I'm goin' to hear Miss Penelope
Aunt Jane laughed blithely, and it was impossible not to laugh with
Honey, she said, in the next breath, lowering her voice and laying
her finger on the rosebud piece, honey, there's one thing I can't git
over. Here's a piece o' Miss Penelope's dress, but where's Miss
Penelope? Ain't it strange that a piece o' caliker'll outlast you
and me? Don't it look like folks ought 'o hold on to their bodies as
long as other folks holds on to a piece o' the dresses they used to
Questions as old as the human heart and its human grief! Here is the
glove, but where is the hand it held but yesterday? Here the jewel that
she wore, but where is she?
Where is the Pompadour now?
This was the Pompadour's fan!
Strange that such things as gloves, jewels, fans, and dresses can
outlast a woman's form.
Behold! I show you a mysterythe mystery of mortality. And an
eery feeling came over me as I entered into the old woman's mood and
thought of the strong, vital bodies that had clothed themselves in
those fabrics of purple and pink and white, and that now were dust and
ashes lying in sad, neglected graves on farm and lonely roadside. There
lay the quilt on our knees, and the gay scraps of calico seemed to mock
us with their vivid colors. Aunt Jane's cheerful voice called me back
from the tombs.
Here's a piece o' one o' my dresses, she said; brown ground with
a red ring in it. Abram picked it out. And here's another one, that
light yeller ground with the vine runnin' through it. I never had so
many caliker dresses that I didn't want one more, for in my day folks
used to think a caliker dress was good enough to wear anywhere. Abram
knew my failin', and two or three times a year he'd bring me a dress
when he come from town. And the dresses he'd pick out always suited me
better'n the ones I picked.
I ricollect I finished this quilt the summer before Mary Frances
was born, and Sally Ann and Milly Amos and Maria Petty come over and
give me a lift on the quiltin'. Here's Milly's work, here's Sally
Ann's, and here's Maria's.
I looked, but my inexperienced eye could see no difference in the
handiwork of the three women. Aunt Jane saw my look of incredulity.
Now, child, she said, earnestly, you think I'm foolin' you, but,
la! there's jest as much difference in folks' sewin' as there is in
their handwritin'. Milly made a fine stitch, but she couldn't keep on
the line to save her life; Maria never could make a reg'lar stitch,
some'd be long and some short, and Sally Ann's was reg'lar, but all of
'em coarse. I can see 'em now stoopin' over the quiltin' framesMilly
talkin' as hard as she sewed, Sally Ann throwin' in a word now and
then, and Maria never openin' her mouth except to ask for the thread or
the chalk. I ricollect they come over after dinner, and we got the
quilt out o' the frames long before sundown, and the next day I begun
bindin' it, and I got the premium on it that year at the Fair.
I hardly ever showed a quilt at the Fair that I didn't take the
premium, but here's one quilt that Sarah Jane Mitchell beat me on.
And Aunt Jane dragged out a ponderous, red-lined affair, the very
antithesis of the silken, down-filled comfortable that rests so lightly
on the couch of the modern dame.
It makes me laugh jest to think o' that time, and how happy Sarah
Jane was. It was way back yonder in the fifties. I ricollect we had a
mighty fine Fair that year. The crops was all fine that season, and
such apples and pears and grapes you never did see. The Floral Hall was
full o' things, and the whole county turned out to go to the Fair.
Abram and me got there the first day bright and early, and we was
walkin' around the amp'itheater and lookin' at the townfolks and the
sights, and we met Sally Ann. She stopped us, and says she, 'Sarah Jane
Mitchell's got a quilt in the Floral Hall in competition with yours and
Milly Amos'.' Says I, 'Is that all the competition there is?' And Sally
Ann says, 'All that amounts to anything. There's one more, but it's
about as bad a piece o' sewin' as Sarah Jane's, and that looks like
it'd hardly hold together till the Fair's over. And,' says she, 'I
don't believe there'll be any more. It looks like this was an off year
on that particular kind o' quilt. I didn't get mine done,' says she,
'and neither did Maria Petty, and maybe it's a good thing after all.'
Well, I saw in a minute what Sally Ann was aimin' at. And I says to
Abram, 'Abram, haven't you got somethin' to do with app'intin' the
judges for the women's things?' And he says, 'Yes.' And I says, 'Well,
you see to it that Sally Ann gits app'inted to help judge the caliker
quilts.' And bless your soul, Abram got me and Sally Ann both
app'inted. The other judge was Mis' Doctor Brigham, one o' the town
ladies. We told her all about what we wanted to do, and she jest
laughed and says, 'Well, if that ain't the kindest, nicest thing! Of
course we'll do it.'
Seein' that I had a quilt there, I hadn't a bit o' business bein' a
judge; but the first thing I did was to fold my quilt up and hide it
under Maria Petty's big worsted quilt, and then we pinned the blue
ribbon on Sarah Jane's and the red on Milly's. I'd fixed it all up with
Milly, and she was jest as willin' as I was for Sarah Jane to have the
premium. There was jest one thing I was afraid of: Milly was a
good-hearted woman, but she never had much control over her tongue. And
I says to her, says I: 'Milly, it's mighty good of you to give up your
chance for the premium, but if Sarah Jane ever finds it out, that'll
spoil everything. For,' says I, 'there ain't any kindness in doin' a
person a favor and then tellin' everybody about it.' And Milly laughed,
and says she: 'I know what you mean, Aunt Jane. It's mighty hard for me
to keep from tellin' everything I know and some things I don't know,
but,' says she, 'I'm never goin' to tell this, even to Sam.' And she
kept her word, too. Every once in a while she'd come up to me and
whisper, 'I ain't told it yet, Aunt Jane,' jest to see me laugh.
As soon as the doors was open, after we'd all got through judgin'
and puttin' on the ribbons, Milly went and hunted Sarah Jane up and
told her that her quilt had the blue ribbon. They said the pore thing
like to 'a' fainted for joy. She turned right white, and had to lean up
against the post for a while before she could git to the Floral Hall. I
never shall forgit her face. It was worth a dozen premiums to me, and
Milly, too. She jest stood lookin' at that quilt and the blue ribbon on
it, and her eyes was full o' tears and her lips quiverin', and then she
started off and brought the children in to look at 'Mammy's quilt.' She
met Sam on the way out, and says she: 'Sam, what do you reckon? My
quilt took the premium.' And I believe in my soul Sam was as much
pleased as Sarah Jane. He came saunterin' up, tryin' to look
unconcerned, but anybody could see he was mighty well satisfied. It
does a husband and wife a heap o' good to be proud of each other, and I
reckon that was the first time Sam ever had cause to be proud o' pore
Sarah Jane. It's my belief that he thought more o' Sarah Jane all the
rest o' her life jest on account o' that premium. Me and Sally Ann
helped her pick it out. She had her choice betwixt a butter-dish and a
cup, and she took the cup. Folks used to laugh and say that that cup
was the only thing in Sarah Jane's house that was kept clean and
bright, and if it hadn't 'a' been solid silver, she'd 'a' wore it all
out rubbin' it up. Sarah Jane died o' pneumonia about three or four
years after that, and the folks that nursed her said she wouldn't take
a drink o' water or a dose o' medicine out o' any cup but that. There's
some folks, child, that don't have to do anything but walk along and
hold out their hands, and the premiums jest naturally fall into 'em;
and there's others that work and strive the best they know how, and
nothin' ever seems to come to 'em; and I reckon nobody but the Lord and
Sarah Jane knows how much happiness she got out o' that cup. I'm
thankful she had that much pleasure before she died.
There was a quilt hanging over the foot of the bed that had about it
a certain air of distinction. It was a solid mass of patchwork,
composed of squares, parallelograms, and hexagons. The squares were of
dark gray and red-brown, the hexagons were white, the parallelograms
black and light gray. I felt sure that it had a history that set it
apart from its ordinary fellows.
Where did you get the pattern, Aunt Jane? I asked. I never saw
anything like it.
The old lady's eyes sparkled, and she laughed with pure pleasure.
That's what everybody says, she exclaimed, jumping up and
spreading the favored quilt over two laden chairs, where its merits
became more apparent and striking. There ain't another quilt like this
in the State o' Kentucky, or the world, for that matter. My
granddaughter Henrietta, Mary Frances' youngest child, brought me this
pattern from Europe.
She spoke the words as one might say, from Paradise, or from
Olympus, or from the Lost Atlantis. Europe was evidently a name to
conjure with, a country of mystery and romance unspeakable. I had seen
many things from many lands beyond the sea, but a quilt pattern from
Europe! Here at last was something new under the sun. In what shop of
London or Paris were quilt patterns kept on sale for the American
You see, said Aunt Jane, Henrietta married a mighty rich man, and
jest as good as he's rich, too, and they went to Europe on their bridal
trip. When she come home she brought me the prettiest shawl you ever
saw. She made me stand up and shut my eyes, and she put it on my
shoulders and made me look in the lookin'-glass, and then she says, 'I
brought you a new quilt pattern, too, grandma, and I want you to piece
one quilt by it and leave it to me when you die.' And then she told me
about goin' to a town over yonder they call Florence, and how she went
into a big church that was built hundreds o' years before I was born.
And she said the floor was made o' little pieces o' colored stone, all
laid together in a pattern, and they called it mosaic. And says I,
'Honey, has it got anything to do with Moses and his law?' You know the
Commandments was called the Mosaic Law, and was all on tables o' stone.
And Henrietta jest laughed, and says she: 'No, grandma; I don't believe
it has. But,' says she, 'the minute I stepped on that pavement I
thought about you, and I drew this pattern off on a piece o' paper and
brought it all the way to Kentucky for you to make a quilt by.'
Henrietta bought the worsted for me, for she said it had to be jest the
colors o' that pavement over yonder, and I made it that very winter.
Aunt Jane was regarding the quilt with worshipful eyes, and it
really was an effective combination of color and form.
Many a time while I was piecin' that, she said, I thought about
the man that laid the pavement in that old church, and wondered what
his name was, and how he looked, and what he'd think if he knew there
was a old woman down here in Kentucky usin' his patterns to make a
It was indeed a far cry from the Florentine artisan of centuries ago
to this humble worker in calico and worsted, but between the two
stretched a cord of sympathy that made them onethe eternal aspiration
Honey, said Aunt Jane, suddenly, did I ever show you my
And then, with pleasant excitement in her manner, she arose, fumbled
in her deep pocket for an ancient bunch of keys, and unlocked a
cupboard on one side of the fireplace. One by one she drew them out,
unrolled the soft yellow tissue-paper that enfolded them, and ranged
them in a stately line on the old cherry center-tablenineteen
sterling silver cups and goblets. Abram took some of 'em on his fine
stock, and I took some of 'em on my quilts and salt-risin' bread and
cakes, she said, impressively.
To the artist his medals, to the soldier his cross of the Legion of
Honor, and to Aunt Jane her silver cups. All the triumph of a humble
life was symbolized in these shining things. They were simple and
genuine as the days in which they were made. A few of them boasted a
beaded edge or a golden lining, but no engraving or embossing marred
their silver purity. On the bottom of each was the stamp: John B.
Akin, Danville, Ky. There they stood,
Filled to the brim with precious memories,
memories of the time when she and Abram had worked together in field
or garden or home, and the County Fair brought to all a yearly
opportunity to stand on the height of achievement and know somewhat the
taste of Fame's enchanted cup.
There's one for every child and every grandchild, she said,
quietly, as she began wrapping them in the silky paper, and storing
them carefully away in the cupboard, there to rest until the day when
children and grandchildren would claim their own, and the treasures of
the dead would come forth from the darkness to stand as heirlooms on
fashionable sideboards and damask-covered tables.
Did you ever think, child, she said, presently, how much piecin'
a quilt's like livin' a life? And as for sermons, why, they ain't no
better sermon to me than a patchwork quilt, and the doctrines is right
there a heap plainer'n they are in the catechism. Many a time I've set
and listened to Parson Page preachin' about predestination and
free-will, and I've said to myself, 'Well, I ain't never been through
Centre College up at Danville, but if I could jest git up in the pulpit
with one of my quilts, I could make it a heap plainer to folks than
parson's makin' it with all his big words.' You see, you start out with
jest so much caliker; you don't go to the store and pick it out and buy
it, but the neighbors will give you a piece here and a piece there, and
you'll have a piece left every time you cut out a dress, and you take
jest what happens to come. And that's like predestination. But when it
comes to the cuttin' out, why, you're free to choose your own pattern.
You can give the same kind o' pieces to two persons, and one'll make a
'nine-patch' and one'll make a 'wild-goose chase,' and there'll be two
quilts made out o' the same kind o' pieces, and jest as different as
they can be. And that is jest the way with livin'. The Lord sends us
the pieces, but we can cut 'em out and put 'em together pretty much to
suit ourselves, and there's a heap more in the cuttin' out and the
sewin' than there is in the caliker. The same sort o' things comes into
all lives, jest as the Apostle says, 'There hath no trouble taken you
but is common to all men.'
The same trouble'll come into two people's lives, and one'll take
it and make one thing out of it, and the other'll make somethin'
entirely different. There was Mary Harris and Mandy Crawford. They both
lost their husbands the same year; and Mandy set down and cried and
worried and wondered what on earth she was goin' to do, and the farm
went to wrack and the children turned out bad, and she had to live with
her son-in-law in her old age. But Mary, she got up and went to work,
and made everybody about her work, too; and she managed the farm
better'n it ever had been managed before, and the boys all come up
steady, hard-workin' men, and there wasn't a woman in the county better
fixed up than Mary Harris. Things is predestined to come to us, honey,
but we're jest as free as air to make what we please out of 'em. And
when it comes to puttin' the pieces together, there's another time when
we're free. You don't trust to luck for the caliker to put your quilt
together with; you go to the store and pick it out yourself, any color
you like. There's folks that always looks on the bright side and makes
the best of everything, and that's like puttin' your quilt together
with blue or pink or white or some other pretty color; and there's
folks that never see anything but the dark side, and always lookin' for
trouble, and treasurin' it up after they git it, and they're puttin'
their lives together with black, jest like you would put a quilt
together with some dark, ugly color. You can spoil the prettiest quilt
pieces that ever was made jest by puttin' 'em together with the wrong
color, and the best sort o' life is miserable if you don't look at
things right and think about 'em right.
Then there's another thing. I've seen folks piece and piece, but
when it come to puttin' the blocks together and quiltin' and linin' it,
they'd give out; and that's like folks that do a little here and a
little there, but their lives ain't of much use after all, any more'n a
lot o' loose pieces o' patchwork. And then while you're livin' your
life, it looks pretty much like a jumble o' quilt pieces before they're
put together; but when you git through with it, or pretty nigh through,
as I am now, you'll see the use and the purpose of everything in it.
Everything'll be in its right place jest like the squares in this
'four-patch,' and one piece may be pretty and another one ugly, but it
all looks right when you see it finished and joined together.
Did I say that every pattern was represented? No, there was one
notable omission. Not a single crazy quilt was there in the
collection. I called Aunt Jane's attention to this lack.
Child, she said, I used to say there wasn't anything I couldn't
do if I made up my mind to it. But I hadn't seen a 'crazy quilt' then.
The first one I ever seen was up at Danville at Mary Frances', and
Henrietta says, 'Now, grandma, you've got to make a crazy quilt; you've
made every other sort that ever was heard of.' And she brought me the
pieces and showed me how to baste 'em on the square, and said she'd
work the fancy stitches around 'em for me. Well, I set there all the
mornin' tryin' to fix up that square, and the more I tried, the uglier
and crookeder the thing looked. And finally I says: 'Here, child, take
your pieces. If I was to make this the way you want me to, they'd be a
crazy quilt and a crazy woman, too.'
Aunt Jane was laying the folded quilts in neat piles here and there
about the room. There was a look of unspeakable satisfaction on her
facethe look of the creator who sees his completed work and
pronounces it good.
I've been a hard worker all my life, she said, seating herself and
folding her hands restfully, but 'most all my work has been the kind
that 'perishes with the usin',' as the Bible says. That's the
discouragin' thing about a woman's work. Milly Amos used to say that if
a woman was to see all the dishes that she had to wash before she died,
piled up before her in one pile, she'd lie down and die right then and
there. I've always had the name o' bein' a good housekeeper, but when
I'm dead and gone there ain't anybody goin' to think o' the floors I've
swept, and the tables I've scrubbed, and the old clothes I've patched,
and the stockin's I've darned. Abram might 'a' remembered it, but he
ain't here. But when one o' my grandchildren or great-grandchildren
sees one o' these quilts, they'll think about Aunt Jane, and, wherever
I am then, I'll know I ain't forgotten.
I reckon everybody wants to leave somethin' behind that'll last
after they're dead and gone. It don't look like it's worth while to
live unless you can do that. The Bible says folks 'rest from their
labors, and their works do follow them,' but that ain't so. They go,
and maybe they do rest, but their works stay right here, unless they're
the sort that don't outlast the usin'. Now, some folks has money to
build monuments withgreat, tall, marble pillars, with angels on top
of 'em, like you see in Cave Hill and them big city buryin'-grounds.
And some folks can build churches and schools and hospitals to keep
folks in mind of 'em, but all the work I've got to leave behind me is
jest these quilts, and sometimes, when I'm settin' here, workin' with
my caliker and gingham pieces, I'll finish off a block, and I laugh and
say to myself, 'Well, here's another stone for the monument.'
I reckon you think, child, that a caliker or a worsted quilt is a
curious sort of a monument'bout as perishable as the sweepin' and
scrubbin' and mendin'. But if folks values things rightly, and knows
how to take care of 'em, there ain't many things that'll last longer'n
a quilt. Why, I've got a blue and white counterpane that my mother's
mother spun and wove, and there ain't a sign o' givin' out in it yet.
I'm goin' to will that to my granddaughter that lives in Danville, Mary
Frances' oldest child. She was down here last summer, and I was lookin'
over my things and packin' 'em away, and she happened to see that
counterpane, and says she, 'Grandma, I want you to will me that.' And
says I: 'What do you want with that old thing, honey? You know you
wouldn't sleep under such a counterpane as that.' And says she, 'No,
but I'd hang it up over my parlor door for a
Portière? I suggested, as Aunt Jane hesitated for the unaccustomed
That's it, child. Somehow I can't ricollect these new-fangled
words, any more'n I can understand these new-fangled ways. Who'd ever
'a' thought that folks'd go to stringin' up bed-coverin's in their
doors? And says I to Janie, 'You can hang your great-grandmother's
counterpane up in your parlor door if you want to, but,' says I, 'don't
you ever make a door-curtain out o' one o' my quilts.' But la! the way
things turn around, if I was to come back fifty years from now, like as
not I'd find 'em usin' my quilts for window-curtains or door-mats.
We both laughed, and there rose in my mind a picture of a
twentieth-century house decorated with Aunt Jane's nine-patches and
rising suns. How could the dear old woman know that the same esthetic
sense that had drawn from their obscurity the white and blue
counterpanes of colonial days would forever protect her loved quilts
from such a desecration as she feared? As she lifted a pair of quilts
from a chair near by, I caught sight of a pure white spread in striking
contrast with the many-hued patchwork.
Where did you get that Marseilles spread, Aunt Jane? I asked,
pointing to it. Aunt Jane lifted it and laid it on my lap without a
word. Evidently she thought that here was something that could speak
for itself. It was two layers of snowy cotton cloth thinly lined with
cotton, and elaborately quilted into a perfect imitation of a
Marseilles counterpane. The pattern was a tracery of roses, buds, and
leaves, very much conventionalized, but still recognizable for the
things they were. The stitches were fairylike, and altogether it might
have covered the bed of a queen.
I made every stitch o' that spread the year before me and Abram was
married, she said. I put it on my bed when we went to housekeepin';
it was on the bed when Abram died, and when I die I want 'em to cover
me with it. There was a life-history in the simple words. I thought of
Desdemona and her bridal sheets, and I did not offer to help Aunt Jane
as she folded this quilt.
I reckon you think, she resumed presently, that I'm a mean,
stingy old creetur not to give Janie the counterpane now, instead o'
hoardin' it up, and all these quilts too, and keepin' folks waitin' for
'em till I die. But, honey, it ain't all selfishness. I'd give away my
best dress or my best bonnet or an acre o' ground to anybody that
needed 'em more'n I did; but these quiltsWhy, it looks like my whole
life was sewed up in 'em, and I ain't goin' to part with 'em while life
There was a ring of passionate eagerness in the old voice, and she
fell to putting away her treasures as if the suggestion of losing them
had made her fearful of their safety.
I looked again at the heap of quilts. An hour ago they had been
patchwork, and nothing more. But now! The old woman's words had wrought
a transformation in the homely mass of calico and silk and worsted.
Patchwork? Ah, no! It was memory, imagination, history, biography, joy,
sorrow, philosophy, religion, romance, realism, life, love, and death;
and over all, like a halo, the love of the artist for his work and the
soul's longing for earthly immortality.
No wonder the wrinkled fingers smoothed them as reverently as we
handle the garments of the dead.
IV. SWEET DAY OF REST
I walked slowly down the big road that Sunday afternoonslowly,
as befitted the scene and the season; for who would hurry over the path
that summer has prepared for the feet of earth's tired pilgrims? It was
the middle of June, and Nature lay a vision of beauty in her vesture of
flowers, leaves, and blossoming grasses. The sandy road was a pleasant
walking-place; and if one tired of that, the short, thick grass on
either side held a fairy path fragrant with pennyroyal, that most
virtuous of herbs. A tall hedge of Osage orange bordered each side of
the road, shading the traveler from the heat of the sun, and furnishing
a nesting-place for numberless small birds that twittered and chirped
their joy in life and love and June. Occasionally a gap in the foliage
revealed the placid beauty of corn, oats, and clover, stretching in
broad expanse to the distant purple woods, with here and there a field
of the cloth of goldthe fast-ripening wheat that waited the hand of
the mower. Not only is it the traveler's manifest duty to walk slowly
in the midst of such surroundings, but he will do well if now and then
he sits down and dreams.
As I made the turn in the road and drew near Aunt Jane's house, I
heard her voice, a high, sweet, quavering treble, like the notes of an
ancient harpsichord. She was singing a hymn that suited the day and the
Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise,
Welcome to this reviving breast,
And these rejoicing eyes.
Mingling with the song I could hear the creak of her old
splint-bottomed chair as she rocked gently to and fro. Song and creak
ceased at once when she caught sight of me, and before I had opened the
gate she was hospitably placing another chair on the porch and smiling
Come in, child, and set down, she exclaimed, moving the rocker so
that I might have a good view of the bit of landscape that she knew I
loved to look at.
Pennyroy'l! Now, child, how did you know I love to smell that? She
crushed the bunch in her withered hands, buried her face in it and sat
for a moment with closed eyes. Lord! Lord! she exclaimed, with
deep-drawn breath, if I could jest tell how that makes me feel! I been
smellin' pennyroy'l all my life, and now, when I get hold of a piece of
it, sometimes it makes me feel like a little child, and then again it
brings up the time when I was a gyirl, and if I was to keep on settin'
here and rubbin' this pennyroy'l in my hands, I believe my whole life'd
come back to me. Honey-suckles and pinks and roses ain't any sweeter to
me. Me and old Uncle Harvey Dean was jest alike about pennyroy'l. Many
a time I've seen Uncle Harvey searchin' around in the fence corners in
the early part o' May to see if the pennyroy'l was up yet, and in
pennyroy'l time you never saw the old man that he didn't have a bunch
of it somewheres about him. Aunt Maria Dean used to say there was dried
pennyroy'l in every pocket of his coat, and he used to put a big bunch
of it on his piller at night. Sundays it looked like Uncle Harvey
couldn't enjoy the preachin' and the singin' unless he had a sprig of
it in his hand, and I ricollect once seein' him git up durin' the first
prayer and tiptoe out o' church and come back with a handful o'
pennyroy'l that he'd gethered across the road, and he'd set and smell
it and look as pleased as a child with a piece o' candy.
Piercing sweet the breath of the crushed wayside herb rose on the
air. I had a distinct vision of Uncle Harvey Dean, and wondered if the
fields of asphodel might not yield him some small harvest of his
much-loved earthly plant, or if he might not be drawn earthward in
I was jest settin' here restin', resumed Aunt Jane, and thinkin'
about Milly Amos. I reckon you heard me singin' fit to scare the crows
as you come along. We used to call that Milly Amos' hymn, and I never
can hear it without thinkin' o' Milly.
Why was it Milly Amos' hymn? I asked.
Aunt Jane laughed blithely.
La, child! she said, don't you ever git tired o' my yarns? Here
it is Sunday, and you tryin' to git me started talkin'; and when I git
started you know there ain't any tellin' when I'll stop. Come on and
le's look at the gyarden; that's more fittin' for Sunday evenin' than
So together we went into the garden and marveled happily over the
growth of the tasseling corn, the extraordinarily long runners on the
young strawberry plants, the size of the green tomatoes, and all the
rest of the miracles that sunshine and rain had wrought since my last
The first man and the first woman were gardeners, and there is
something wrong in any descendant of theirs who does not love a garden.
He is lacking in a primal instinct. But Aunt Jane was in this respect a
true daughter of Eve, a faithful co-worker with the sunshine, the
winds, the rain, and all other forces of nature.
What do you reckon folks'd do, she inquired, if it wasn't for
plantin'-time and growin'-time and harvest-time? I've heard folks say
they was tired o' livin', but as long as there's a gyarden to be
planted and looked after there's somethin' to live for. And unless
there's gyardens in heaven I'm pretty certain I ain't goin' to be
But the charms of the garden could not divert me from the main
theme, and when we were seated again on the front porch I returned to
Milly Amos and her hymn.
You know, I said, that there isn't any more harm in talking about
a thing on Sunday than there is in thinking about it. And Aunt Jane
yielded to the force of my logic.
I reckon you've heard me tell many a time about our choir, she
began, smoothing out her black silk apron with fingers that evidently
felt the need of knitting or some other form of familiar work. John
Petty was the bass, Sam Crawford the tenor, my Jane was the alto, and
Milly Amos sung soprano. I reckon Milly might 'a' been called the
leader of the choir; she was the sort o' woman that generally leads
wherever she happens to be, and she had the strongest, finest voice in
the whole congregation. All the parts appeared to depend on her, and it
seemed like her voice jest carried the rest o' the voices along like
one big river that takes up all the little rivers and carries 'em down
to the ocean. I used to think about the difference between her voice
and Miss Penelope's. Milly's was jest as clear and true as Miss
Penelope's, and four or five times as strong, but I'd ruther hear one
note o' Miss Penelope's than a whole song o' Milly's. Milly's was jest
a voice, and Miss Penelope's was a voice and somethin' else besides,
but what that somethin' was I never could say. However, Milly was the
very one for a choir; she kind o' kept 'em all together and led 'em
along, and we was mighty proud of our choir in them days. We always had
a voluntary after we got our new organ, and I used to look forward to
Sunday on account o' that voluntary. It used to sound so pretty to hear
'em begin singin' when everything was still and solemn, and I can never
forgit the hymns they sung thenSam and Milly and John and my Jane.
But there was one Sunday when Milly didn't sing. Her and Sam come
in late, and I knew the minute I set eyes on Milly that somethin' was
the matter. Generally she was smilin' and bowin' to people all around,
but this time she walked in and set the children down, and then set
down herself without even lookin' at anybody, to say nothin' o' smilin'
or speakin'. Well, when half-past ten come, my Jane began to play
'Welcome, sweet day of rest,' and all of 'em begun singin' except
Milly. She set there with her mouth tight shut, and let the bass and
tenor and alto have it all their own way. I thought maybe she was out
o' breath from comin' in late and in a hurry, and I looked for her to
jine in, but she jest set there, lookin' straight ahead of her; and
when Sam passed her a hymn-book, she took hold of it and shut it up and
let it drop in her lap. And there was the tenor and the bass and the
alto doin' their best, and everybody laughin', or tryin' to keep from
laughin'. I reckon if Uncle Jim Matthews had 'a' been there, he'd 'a'
took Milly's place and helped 'em out, but Uncle Jim'd been in his
grave more'n two years. Sam looked like he'd go through the floor, he
was so mortified, and he kept lookin' around at Milly as much as to
say, 'Why don't you sing? Please sing, Milly,' but Milly never opened
I'd about concluded Milly must have the sore throat or somethin'
like that, but when the first hymn was give out, Milly started in and
sung as loud as anybody; and when the doxology come around, Milly was
on hand again, and everybody was settin' there wonderin' why on earth
Milly hadn't sung in the voluntary. When church was out, I heard Sam
invitin' Brother Hendricks to go home and take dinner with himBrother
Hendricks'd preached for us that dayand they all drove off together
before I'd had time to speak to Milly.
But that week, when the Mite Society met, Milly was there bright
and early; and when we'd all got fairly started with our sewin', and
everybody was in a good-humor, Sally Ann says, says she: 'Milly, I want
to know why you didn't sing in that voluntary Sunday. I reckon
everybody here wants to know,' says she, 'but nobody but me's got the
courage to ask you.'
And Milly's face got as red as a beet, and she burst out laughin',
and says she: 'I declare, I'm ashamed to tell you all. I reckon Satan
himself must 'a' been in me last Sunday. You know,' says she,'there's
some days when everything goes wrong with a woman, and last Sunday was
one o' them days. I got up early,' says she, 'and dressed the children
and fed my chickens and strained the milk and washed up the milk things
and got breakfast and washed the dishes and cleaned up the house and
gethered the vegetables for dinner and washed the children's hands and
faces and put their Sunday clothes on 'em, and jest as I was startin'
to git myself ready for church,' says she, 'I happened to think that I
hadn't skimmed the milk for the next day's churnin'. So I went down to
the spring-house and did the skimmin', and jest as I picked up the
cream-jar to put it up on that shelf Sam built for me, my foot
slipped,' says she, 'and down I come and skinned my elbow on the rock
step, and broke the jar all to smash and spilled the cream all over
creation, and there I wasfour pounds o' butter and a fifty-cent jar
gone, and my spring-house in such a mess that I ain't through cleanin'
it yet, and my right arm as stiff as a poker ever since.'
We all had to laugh at the way Milly told it; and Sally Ann says,
'Well, that was enough to make a saint mad.' 'Yes,' says Milly, 'and
you all know I'm far from bein' a saint. However,' says she, 'I picked
up the pieces and washed up the worst o' the cream, and then I went to
the house to git myself ready for church, and before I could git there,
I heard Sam hollerin' for me to come and sew a button on his shirt; one
of 'em had come off while he was tryin' to button it. And when I got
out my work-basket, the children had been playin' with it, and there
wasn't a needle in it, and my thimble was gone, and I had to hunt up
the apron I was makin' for little Sam and git a needle off that, and I
run the needle into my finger, not havin' any thimble, and got a blood
spot on the bosom o' the shirt. Then,' says she, 'before I could git my
dress over my head, here come little Sam with his clothes all dirty
where he'd fell down in the mud, and there I had him to dress again,
and that made me madder still; and then, when I finally got out to the
wagon,' says she, 'I rubbed my clean dress against the wheel, and that
made me mad again; and the nearer we got to the church, the madder I
was; and now,' says she, 'do you reckon after all I'd been through that
mornin', and dinner ahead of me to git, and the children to look after
all the evenin', do you reckon that I felt like settin' up there and
singin' Welcome, sweet day o' rest?' Says she, 'I ain't seen any day
o' rest since the day I married Sam, and I don't expect to see any till
the day I die; and if Parson Page wants that hymn sung, let him git up
a choir of old maids and old bachelors, for they're the only people
that ever see any rest Sunday or any other day.'
We all laughed, and said we didn't blame Milly a bit for not
singin' that hymn; and then Milly said: 'I reckon I might as well tell
you all the whole story. By the time church was over,' says she, 'I'd
kind o' cooled off, but when I heard Sam askin' Brother Hendricks to go
home and take dinner with him, that made me mad again; for I knew that
meant a big dinner for me to cook, and I made up my mind then and there
that I wouldn't cook a blessed thing, company or no company. Sam'd
killed chickens the night before,' says she, 'and they was all dressed
and ready, down in the spring-house; and the vegetables was right there
on the back porch, but I never touched 'em,' says she. 'I happened to
have some cold ham and cold mutton on handnot much of either oneand
I sliced 'em and put the ham in one end o' the big meat-dish and the
mutton in the other, with a big bare place between, so's everybody
could see that there wasn't enough of either one to go 'round; and
then,' says she, 'I sliced up a loaf o' my salt-risin' bread and got
out a bowl o' honey and a dish o' damson preserves, and then I went out
on the porch and told Sam that dinner was ready.'
I never shall forgit how we all laughed when Milly was tellin' it.
'You know, Aunt Jane,' says she, 'how quick a man gits up when you tell
him dinner's ready. Well, Sam he jumps up, and says he, Why, you're
mighty smart to-day, Milly; I don't believe there's another woman in
the county that could git a Sunday dinner this quick. And says he,
Walk out, Brother Hendricks, walk right out.'
Here Aunt Jane paused to laugh again at the long-past scene that her
words called up.
Milly used to say that Sam's face changed quicker'n a flash o'
lightnin' when he saw the table, and he dropped down in his cheer and
forgot to ask Brother Hendricks to say grace. 'Why, Milly,' says he,
'where's the dinner? Where's them chickens I killed last night, and the
potatoes and corn and butter-beans?' And Milly jest looked him square
in the face, and says she, 'The chickens are in the spring-house and
the vegetables out on the back porch, and,' says she, 'do you suppose
I'm goin' to cook a hot dinner for you all on this sweet day o'
Aunt Jane stopped again to laugh.
That wasn't a polite way for anybody to talk at their own table,
she resumed, and some of us asked Milly what Brother Hendricks said.
And Milly's face got as red as a beet again, and she says: 'Why, he
behaved so nice, he made me feel right ashamed o' myself for actin' so
mean. He jest reached over and helped himself to everything he could
reach, and says he, This dinner may not suit you, Brother Amos, but
it's plenty good for me, and jest the kind I'm used to at home. Says
he, I'd rather eat a cold dinner any time than have a woman toilin'
over a hot stove for me.' And when he said that, Milly up and told him
why it was she didn't feel like gittin' a hot dinner, and why she
didn't sing in the voluntary; and when she'd got through, he says,
'Well, Sister Amos, if I'd been through all you have this mornin' and
then had to git up and give out such a hymn as Welcome, sweet day o'
rest, I believe I'd be mad enough to pitch the hymn-book and the Bible
at the deacons and the elders.' And then he turns around to Sam, and
says he, 'Did you ever think, Brother Amos, that there ain't a pleasure
men enjoy that women don't have to suffer for it?' And Milly said that
made her feel meaner'n ever; and when supper-time come, she lit the
fire and got the best hot supper she couldfried chicken and waffles
and hot soda-biscuits and coffee and goodness knows what else. Now
wasn't that jest like a woman, to give in after she'd had her own way
for a while and could 'a' kept on havin' it? Abram used to say that
women and runaway horses was jest alike; the best way to manage 'em
both was to give 'em the rein and let 'em go till they got tired, and
they'll always stop before they do any mischief. Milly said that supper
tickled Sam pretty near to death. Sam was always mighty proud o'
So that's how we come to call that hymn Milly Amos' hymn, and as
long as Milly lived folks'd look at her and laugh whenever the preacher
give out 'Welcome, sweet day o' rest.'
The story was over. Aunt Jane folded her hands, and we both
surrendered ourselves to happy silence. All the faint, sweet sounds
that break the stillness of a Sunday in the country came to our ears in
gentle symphony,the lisp of the leaves, the chirp of young chickens
lost in the mazes of billowy grass, and the rustle of the silver poplar
that turned into a mass of molten silver whenever the breeze touched
When you've lived as long as I have, child, said Aunt Jane
presently, you'll feel that you've lived in two worlds. A short life
don't see many changes, but in eighty years you can see old things
passin' away and new ones comin' on to take their place, and when I
look back at the way Sunday used to be kept and the way it's kept now,
it's jest like bein' in another world. I hear folks talkin' about how
wicked the world's growin' and wishin' they could go back to the old
times, but it looks like to me there's jest as much kindness and
goodness in folks nowadays as there was when I was young; and as for
keepin' Sunday, why, I've noticed all my life that the folks that's
strictest about that ain't always the best Christians, and I reckon
there's been more foolishness preached and talked about keepin' the
Sabbath day holy than about any other one thing.
I ricollect some fifty-odd years ago the town folks got to keepin'
Sunday mighty strict. They hadn't had a preacher for a long time, and
the church'd been takin' things easy, and finally they got a new
preacher from down in Tennessee, and the first thing he did was to draw
the lines around 'em close and tight about keepin' Sunday. Some o' the
members had been in the habit o' havin' their wood chopped on Sunday.
Well, as soon as the new preacher come, he said that Sunday
wood-choppin' had to cease amongst his church-members or he'd have 'em
up before the session. I ricollect old Judge Morgan swore he'd have his
wood chopped any day that suited him. And he had a load o' wood carried
down cellar, and the nigger man chopped all day long down in the
cellar, and nobody ever would 'a' found it out, but pretty soon they
got up a big revival that lasted three months and spread 'way out into
the country, and bless your life, old Judge Morgan was one o' the first
to be converted; and when he give in his experience, he told about the
wood-choppin', and how he hoped to be forgiven for breakin' the Sabbath
Well, of course us people out in the country wouldn't be outdone by
the town folks, so Parson Page got up and preached on the Fourth
Commandment and all about that pore man that was stoned to death for
pickin' up a few sticks on the seventh day. And Sam Amos, he says after
meetin' broke, says he, 'It's my opinion that that man was a
industrious, enterprisin' feller that was probably pickin' up
kindlin'-wood to make his wife a fire, and,' says he, 'if they wanted
to stone anybody to death they better 'a' picked out some lazy,
triflin' feller that didn't have energy enough to work Sunday or any
other day.' Sam always would have his say, and nothin' pleased him
better'n to talk back to the preachers and git the better of 'em in a
argument. I ricollect us women talked that sermon over at the Mite
Society, and Maria Petty says: 'I don't know but what it's a wrong
thing to say, but it looks to me like that Commandment wasn't intended
for anybody but them Israelites. It was mighty easy for them to keep
the Sabbath day holy, but,' says she, 'the Lord don't rain down manna
in my yard. And,' says she, 'men can stop plowin' and plantin' on
Sunday, but they don't stop eatin', and as long as men have to eat on
Sunday, women'll have to work.'
And Sally Ann, she spoke up, and says she, 'That's so; and these
very preachers that talk so much about keepin' the Sabbath day holy,
they'll walk down out o' their pulpits and set down at some woman's
table and eat fried chicken and hot biscuits and corn bread and five or
six kinds o' vegetables, and never think about the work it took to git
the dinner, to say nothin' o' the dish-washin' to come after.'
There's one thing, child, that I never told to anybody but Abram; I
reckon it was wicked, and I ought to be ashamed to own it, buthere
her voice fell to a confessional keyI never did like Sunday till I
begun to git old. And the way Sunday used to be kept, it looks to me
like nobody could 'a' been expected to like it but old folks and lazy
folks. You see, I never was one o' these folks that's born tired. I
loved to work. I never had need of any more rest than I got every night
when I slept, and I woke up every mornin' ready for the day's work. I
hear folks prayin' for rest and wishin' for rest, but, honey, all my
prayer was, 'Lord, give me work, and strength enough to do it.' And
when a person looks at all the things there is to be done in this
world, they won't feel like restin' when they ain't tired.
Abram used to say he believed I tried to make work for myself
Sunday and every other day; and I ricollect I used to be right glad
when any o' the neighbors'd git sick on Sunday and send for me to help
nurse 'em. Nursing the sick was a work o' necessity, and mercy, too.
And then, child, the Lord don't ever rest. The Bible says He rested on
the seventh day when He got through makin' the world, and I reckon that
was rest enough for Him. For, jest look; everything goes on Sundays
jest the same as week-days. The grass grows, and the sun shines, and
the wind blows, and He does it all.
'For still the Lord is Lord of might;
In deeds, in deeds He takes delight,'
That's it, said Aunt Jane, delightedly. There ain't any religion
in restin' unless you're tired, and work's jest as holy in his sight as
Our faces were turned toward the western sky, where the sun was
sinking behind the amethystine hills. The swallows were darting and
twittering over our heads, a somber flock of blackbirds rose from a
huge oak tree in the meadow across the road, and darkened the sky for a
moment in their flight to the cedars that were their nightly resting
place. Gradually the mist changed from amethyst to rose, and the
poorest object shared in the transfiguration of the sunset hour.
Is it unmeaning chance that sets man's days, his dusty, common days,
between the glories of the rising and the setting sun, and his life,
his dusty, common life, between the two solemnities of birth and death?
Bounded by the splendors of the morning and evening skies, what glory
of thought and deed should each day hold! What celestial dreams and
vitalizing sleep should fill our nights! For why should day be more
magnificent than life?
As we watched in understanding silence, the enchantment slowly
faded. The day of rest was over, a night of rest was at hand; and in
the shadowy hour between the two hovered the benediction of that peace
which passeth all understanding.
V. MILLY BAKER'S BOY
It was the last Monday in May, and a steady stream of wagons,
carriages, and horseback riders had been pouring into town over the
smooth, graveled pike.
Aunt Jane stood on her front porch, looking around and above with
evident delight. This was her gala Monday; and if any thoughts of the
County Court days of happier years were in her mind, they were not
permitted to mar her enjoyment of the present. There were no waters of
Marah near her spring of remembrance.
Clear as a whistle! she exclaimed, peering through the tendrils of
a Virginia creeper at the sea of blue ether where fleecy white clouds
were floating, driven eastward by the fresh spring wind. Folks'll come
home dry to-night; last time they was as wet as drowned rats. Yonder
comes the Crawfords, and there's Jim Amos on horseback in front of 'em.
How d'ye, Jim! And yonder comes Richard Elrod in his new carriage. Jest
look at him! I do believe he grows younger and handsomer every day of
A sweet-faced woman sat beside him, and two pretty girls were in the
seat behind them. Bowing courteously to the old woman on the door-step,
Richard Elrod looked every inch a king of the soil and a perfect
specimen of the gentleman farmer of Kentucky.
The richest man in the county, said Aunt Jane exultingly, as she
followed the vanishing carriage with her keen gaze. He went to the
legislatur' last winter; the 'Hon. Richard Elrod' they call him now.
And I can remember the time when he was jest Milly Baker's boy, and
nothin' honorable about it, either.
There was a suggestion of a story in the words and in the look in
Aunt Jane's eyes. What wonder that the tides of thought flowed back
into the channel of old times on a day like this, when every passing
face was a challenge to memory? It needed but a hint to bring forth the
recollections that the sight of Richard Elrod had stirred to life. The
high-back rocker and the basket of knitting were transferred to the
porch; and with the beauty and the music of a spring morning around us
I listened to the story of Milly Baker's boy.
I hardly know jest where to begin, said Aunt Jane, wrinkling her
forehead meditatively and adjusting her needles. Tellin' a story is
somethin' like windin' off a skein o' yarn. There's jest two ends to
the skein, though, and if you can git hold o' the right one it's easy
work. But there's so many ways o' beginning a story, and you never know
which one leads straightest to the p'int. I wonder many a time how
folks ever finds out where to begin when they set out to write a book.
However, I reckon if I start with Dick Elrod I'll git through somehow
You asked me jest now who Richard Elrod was. He was the son o' Dick
Elrod, and Dick was the son of Richard Elrod, the old Squire. It's
curious how you'll name two boys Richard, and one of 'em will always be
called Richard and the other'll be called Dick. Nobody ever would 'a'
thought o' callin' Squire Elrod 'Dick,' he was Richard from the day he
was born till the day he died. But his son was nothin' but Dick all his
life; Richard didn't seem to fit him somehow. And I've noticed that you
can tell what sort of a man a boy's goin' to make jest by knowin'
whether folks calls him Richard or Dick. I ain't sayin' that every
Richard is a good man and every Dick a bad one. All I mean is that
there's as much difference betwixt a 'Dick' and a 'Richard' as there is
betwixt a roastin' ear and a peck o' corn meal. Both of 'em's corn, and
both of 'em may be good, but they ain't the same thing by a long jump.
There's been a Richard in the Elrod family as far back as you could
track 'em; all of 'em good, steady, God-fearin' men till Dick come
along. He was an only child, and of course that made a bad matter
There's some men that's born to git women into trouble, and Dick
was one of 'em. Jest as handsome as a picture, and two years ahead o'
his age when it come to size, and a way about him, from the time he put
on pants, that showed jest what kind of a man he was cut out for. If
the children was playin' 'Jinny, Put the Kittle on,' Dick would git
kissed ten times to any other boy's once; and if it was 'Drop the
Handkerchief,' every little gyirl in the ring'd be droppin' it behind
Dick to git him to run after her, and that was the only time Dick ever
did any runnin'. All he had to do was jest to sit still, and the gyirls
did the runnin'. It was that way all his life; and folks used to say
there was jest one woman in the world that Dick couldn't make a fool
of, and that was his cousin Penelope, the old Squire's brother's child.
She used to come down to the Squire's pretty near every summer, and
when Dick saw how high and mighty she was, he begun to lay himself out
to make her come down jest where the other women was, not because he
keered anything for her,such men never keer for anybody but
theirselves,he jest couldn't stand it to have a woman around unless
she was throwin' herself at his head or at his feet. But he couldn't do
anything with his cousin Penelope. She naturally despised him, and he
hated her. Next to Miss Penelope, the only girl that appeared to be
anything like a match for Dick was Annie Crawford, Old Man Bob
Crawford's daughter. Old Man Bob was one o' the kind that thinks that
the more children they've got the bigger men they are. Always made me
think of Abraham and the rest o' the old patriarchs to see him come
walkin' into church with them nine young ones at his heels, makin' so
much racket you couldn't hear the sermon. He was mighty proud of his
sons; but after Bob was born he wanted a daughter; and when they all
kept turnin' out boys, he got crazier and crazier for a gyirl. Annie
wasn't born till he was past sixty, and he like to 'a' lost his senses
with joy. It was harvestin' time, and he jest stopped work and set on
his front porch, and every time anybody passed by he'd holler, 'Well;
neighbor, it's a gal this time!' If I'd 'a' been in Ann 'Liza's place,
I'd 'a' gagged him. But la! she thought everything he did was all
right. It got to be a reg'lar joke with the neighbors to ask Old Man
Bob how many children he had, and he'd give a big laugh and say, 'Ten,
neighbor, and all of 'em gals but nine.'
Well, of course Annie was bound to be spoiled, especially as her
mother died when she was jest four years old. How Ann 'Liza ever stood
Old Man Bob and them nine boys as long as she did was a mystery to
everybody. Ann 'Liza had done her best to manage Annie, with Old Man
Bob pullin' against her all the time, but after she died Annie took the
place and everything and everybody on it. Old Man Bob had raised all
his boys on spare-the-rod-and-spile-the-child principle, but when Annie
come, he turned his back on Solomon and give out that Annie mustn't be
crossed by anybody. Sam Amos asked him once how he come to change his
mind so about raisin' children, and Old Man Bob said he was of the
opinion that that text ought to read, 'Spare the rod and spile the
boy'; that Solomon had too much regyard for women to want to whip a gal
child. If ever there was an old idiot he was one; I mean Old Man Bob,
not Solomon; though Solomon wasn't as wise as he might 'a' been in some
Well, Annie was a headstrong, high-tempered child to begin with;
and havin' nobody to control her, she got to be the worst young one, I
reckon, in the State o' Kentucky. I used to feel right sorry for her
little brothers. They couldn't keep a top or a ball or marble or any
plaything to save their lives. Annie would cry for 'em jest for pure
meanness, and whatever it was that Annie cried for they had to give it
up or git a whippin'. She'd break up their rabbit-traps and their
bird-cages and the little wheelbarrers and wagons they'd make, and they
didn't have any peace at home, pore little motherless things. I
ricollect one day little Jim come runnin' over to my house draggin' his
wagon loaded up with all his playthings, his little saw and hammer and
some nails the cyarpenters had give him when Old Man Bob had his new
stable built, and says he, 'Aunt Jane, please let me keep my tools over
here. Annie says she's goin' to throw 'em in the well, and pappy'll
make me give 'em to her if she cries for 'em.' Them tools stayed at my
house till Jim outgrowed 'em, and he and Henry, the other little one,
used to come and stay by the hour playin' with my Abram.
It was all Old Man Bob could do to git a housekeeper to stay with
him when Annie got older. One spring she broke up all the hen nests and
turkey nests on the farm, and they had to buy chickens all summer and
turkeys all next winter. They used to tell how she stood and hollered
for two hours one day because the housekeeper wouldn't let her put her
hand into a kittle o' boilin' lye soap. It's my belief that she was all
that kept Old Man Bob from marryin' again in less'n a year after Ann
'Liza died. He courted three or four widders and old maids round the
neighborhood, but there wasn't one of 'em that anxious to marry that
she'd take Old Man Bob with Annie thrown in. As soon as she got old
enough, Old Man Bob carried her with him wherever he went. County Court
days you'd see him goin' along on his big gray mare with Annie behind
him, holdin' on to the sides of his coat with her little fat hands, her
sunbonnet fallin' off and her curls blowin' all around her face,like
as not she hadn't had 'em combed for a week,and in the evenin' about
sunset here they'd come, Annie in front fast asleep, and Old Man Bob
holdin' her on one arm and guidin' his horse with the other. Harvestin'
times Annie'd be out in the field settin' on a shock o' wheat and
orderin' the hands around same as if she was the overseer; and Old Man
Bob'd jest stand back and shake his sides laughin' and say: 'That's
right, honey. Make 'em move lively. If it wasn't for you, pappy
couldn't git his harvestin' done.'
Every fall and spring he'd go to town to buy clothes for her, and
people used to say the storekeepers laid in a extry stock jest for Old
Man Bob, and charged him two or three prices for everything he bought.
He'd walk into Tom Baker's store with his saddle-bags on his arm and
holler out, 'Well, what you got to-day? Trot out your silks and your
satins, and remember that the best ain't good enough for my little
When Annie was twelve years old he took her off to Bardstown to git
her education. When he come to say good-bye to her, he cried and she
cried, and it ended with him settin' down and stayin' three weeks in
Bardstown, waitin' for Annie to git over her homesickness. Folks never
did git through plaguin' him about goin' off to boardin' school, and as
soon as Sam Crawford seen him he says, 'Well, Uncle Bob, when do you
reckon you'll git your diploma?'
I never shall forgit the first time Annie come home to spend her
Christmas. The neighbors didn't have any peace o' their lives for Old
Man Bob tellin' 'em how Annie had growed, and how there wasn't a gal in
the state that could hold a candle to her. And Sunday he come walkin'
in church with Annie hangin' on to his arm jest as proud and happy as
if he'd got a new wife.
Annie had improved wonderful. It wasn't jest her looks, for she
always was as pretty as a picture, but she was as nice-mannered,
well-behaved a gyirl as you'd want to see. There was jest as much
difference betwixt her then and what she used to be as there is betwixt
a tame fox and a wild one. Of course the wildness is all there, but
it's kind o' covered up under a lot o' cute little tricks and ways; and
that's the way it was with Annie. Squire Elrod's pew was jest across
the aisle from Old Man Bob's, and I could see Dick watchin' her durin'
church time. But Annie never looked one way nor the other. She set
there with her hands folded and her eyes straight before her, and
nobody ever would 'a' thought that she'd been ridin' horses bare-back
and climbin' eight-rail fences ever since she could walk, mighty near.
When she come back from school in June it was the same thing over
again, Old Man Bob braggin' on her and everybody sayin' how sweet and
pretty she was. Dick began to wait on her right away, and before long
folks was sayin' that they was made for each other, especially as their
farms jined. That's a fool notion, but you can't git it out o' some
Things went on this way for two or three years, Annie goin' and
comin' and gittin' prettier all the time, and Dick waitin' on her
whenever she was at home and carryin' on between times with every gyirl
in the neighborhood. At last she come home for good, and Dick dropped
all the others in a hurry and set out in earnest to git Annie. Folks
said he was mightily in love, but accordin' to my way o' thinkin' there
wasn't any love about it. The long and the short of it was that Annie
knew how to manage him, and the other gyirls didn't. They was always
right there in the neighborhood, and it don't help a woman to be always
under a man's nose. But Annie was here and there and everywhere,
visitin' in town and in Louisville and bringin' the town folks and the
city folks home with her, and havin' dances and picnics, and doin' all
she could to make Dick jealous. And then I always believed that Annie
was jest as crazy about Dick as the rest o' the gyirls, but she had
sense enough not to let him know it. It's human nature, you know, to
want things that's hard to git. Why, if fleas and mosquitoes was
sceerce, folks would go to huntin' 'em and makin' a big fuss over 'em.
Annie made herself hard to git, and that's why Dick wanted her instead
o' Harriet Amos, that was jest as good lookin' and better in every
other way than Annie was. Everybody was sayin' what a blessed thing it
was, and now Dick would give up his wild ways and settle down and be a
comfort to the Squire in his old age.
Well, along in the spring, a year after Annie got through with
school, Sally Ann come to me, and says she, 'Jane, I saw somethin' last
night and it's been botherin' me ever since;' and she went on to say
how she was goin' home about dusk, and how she'd seen Dick Elrod and
little Milly Baker at the turn o' the lane that used to lead up to
Milly's house. 'They was standin' under the wild cherry tree in the
fence corner,' says she, 'and the elderberry bushes was so thick that I
could jest see Dick's head and shoulders and the top of Milly's head,
but they looked to be mighty close together, and Dick was stoopin' over
and whisperin' somethin' to her.'
Well, that set me to thinkin', and I ricollected seein' Dick comin'
down the lane one evenin' about sunset and at the same time I'd caught
sight o' Milly walkin' away in the opposite direction. Our Mite Society
met that day, and Sally Ann and me had it up, and we all talked it
over. It come out that every woman there had seen the same things we'd
been seein', but nobody said anything about it as long as they wasn't
certain. 'Somethin' ought to be done,' says Sally Ann; 'it'd be a shame
to let that pore child go to destruction right before our eyes when a
word might save her. She's fatherless, and pretty near motherless,
too,' says she.
You see, the Bakers was tenants of old Squire Elrod's, and after
Milly's father died o' consumption the old Squire jest let 'em live on
the same as before. Mis' Elrod give 'em quiltin' and sewin' to do, and
they had their little gyarden, and managed to git along well enough.
Some folks called 'em pore white trash. They was pore enough, goodness
knows, but they was clean and hard-workin', and that's two things that
'trash' never is. I used to hear that Milly's mother come of a good
family, but she'd married beneath herself and got down in the world
like folks always do when they're cast off by their own people. Milly
had come up like a wild rose in a fence corner, and she was jest the
kind of a girl to be fooled by a man like Dick, handsome and smooth
talkin', with all the ways and manners that take women in. Em'ly
Crawford used to say it made her feel like a queen jest to see Dick
take his hat off to her. If men's manners matched their hearts, honey,
this'd be a heap easier world for women. But whenever you see a man
that's got good manners and a bad heart, you may know there's trouble
ahead for some woman.
Well, us women talked it over till dark come; and I reckon if we
had app'inted a committee to look after Milly and Dick, somethin' might
have been done. But everybody's business is nobody's business, and I
thought Sally Ann would go to Milly and give her a word o' warnin', and
Sally Ann thought I'd do it, and so it went, and nothin' was said or
done at last; and before long it was all over the neighborhood that
pore little Milly was in trouble.
Aunt Jane paused, took off her glasses and wiped them carefully on a
corner of her gingham apron.
Many's the time, she said slowly, that I've laid awake till the
chickens crowed, blamin' myself and wonderin' how far I was responsible
for Milly's mishap. I've lived a long time since then, and I don't
worry any more about such things. There's some things that's got to be;
and when a person is all wore out tryin' to find out why this thing
happened and why that thing didn't happen, he can jest throw himself
back on the eternal decrees, and it's like layin' down on a good soft
feather bed after you've done a hard day's work. The preachers'll tell
you that every man is his brother's keeper, but 'tain't so. I ain't my
brother's keeper, nor my sister's, neither. There's jest one person
I've got to keep, and that's myself.
The Bible says, 'A word spoken in due season, how good it is!' But
when folks is in love there ain't any due season for speakin' warnin'
words to 'em. There was Emmeline Amos: her father told her if she
married Hal, he'd cut her name out o' the family Bible and leave her
clear out o' his will. But that didn't hinder her. She went right on
and married him, and lived to rue the day she did it. No, child,
there's mighty little salvation by words for folks that's in love. I
reckon if a word from me would 'a' saved Milly, the word would 'a' been
given to me, and the season too, and as they wasn't, why I hadn't any
call to blame myself.
Abram and Sam Crawford did try to talk to Old Man Bob; but, la! you
might as well 'a' talked to the east wind. All he said was, 'If Annie
wants Dick Elrod, Annie shall have him.' That's what he'd been sayin'
ever since Annie was born. Nobody said anything to Annie, for she was
the sort o' girl who didn't care whose feelin's was tramped on, if she
jest had her own way.
So it went on, and the weddin' day was set, and nothin' was talked
about but Annie's first-day dress and Annie's second-day dress, and how
many ruffles she had on her petticoats, and what the lace on her
nightgowns cost; and all the time there was pore Milly Baker cryin' her
eyes out night and day, and us women gittin' up all our old baby
clothes for Dick Elrod's unborn child.
Aunt Jane dropped her knitting in her lap, and gazed across the
fields as if she were seeking in the sunlit ether the faces of those
who moved and spoke in her story. A farm wagon came lumbering through
the stillness, and she gathered up the double thread of story and
knitting and went on.
Annie always said she was goin' to have such a weddin' as the
county never had seen, and she kept her word. Old Man Bob had the house
fixed up inside and out. They sent up to Louisville for the cakes and
things, and the weddin' cake was three feet high. There was a solid
gold ring in it, and the bridesmaids cut for it; and every gyirl there
had a slice o' the bride's cake to carry home to dream on that night.
Annie's weddin' dress was white satin so heavy it stood alone, so they
said. And Old Man Bob had the whole neighborhood laughin', tellin' how
many heifers and steers it took to pay for the lace around the neck of
Annie and Dick was married in October about the time the leaves
fell, and Milly's boy was born the last o' November. Lord! Lord! what a
world this is! Old Man Bob wouldn't hear to Annie's leavin' him, so
they stayed right on in the old home place. In them days folks didn't
go a-lopin' all over creation as soon as they got married; they settled
down to housekeepin' like sensible folks ought to do. Old Lady Elrod
was as foolish over Dick as Old Man Bob was over Annie, and it was laid
down beforehand that they was to spend half the time at Old Man Bob's
and half the time at the Squire's, 'bout the worst thing they could 'a'
done. The further a young couple can git from the old folks on both
sides the better for everybody concerned. And besides, Annie wasn't the
kind of a gyirl to git along with Dick's mother. A gyirl with the kind
o' raisin' Annie'd had wasn't any fit daughter-in-law for a particular,
high-steppin' woman like Old Lady Elrod.
There was some people that expected a heap o' Dick after he
married, but I never did. If a man can't be faithful to a woman before
he marries her, he ain't likely to be faithful after he marries her.
And shore enough the shine wasn't off o' Annie's weddin' clothes before
Dick was back to his old ways, drinkin' and carryin' on with the women
same as ever, and the first thing we knew, him and Annie had a big
quarrel, and Old Man Bob had ordered him off the place. However, they
made it up and went over to the old Squire's to live, and things went
on well enough till Annie's baby was born. Dick had set his heart on
havin' a boy, but it turned out a girl, and as soon as they told him,
he never even asked how Annie was, but jest went out to the stable and
saddled his horse and galloped off, and nobody seen him for two days.
He needn't 'a' took on so, for the pore little thing didn't live but a
week. Annie had convulsions over Dick's leavin' her that way, and the
doctor said that was what killed the child. Annie never was the same
after this. She grieved for her child and lost her good looks, and when
she lost them, she lost Dick. It wasn't long before Dick was livin'
with his father, and she with hers. At last he went out West; and in
less than three years Annie died; and a good thing she did, for a more
soured, disappointed woman couldn't 'a' been found anywhere.
Well, all this time Milly Baker's baby was growin' in grace, you
might say. And a finer child never was born. Milly had named him
Richard, and nature had wrote his father's name all over him. He was
the livin' image of Dick, all but the look in his eyes; that was
Milly's. Milly worshiped him, and there was few children raised any
carefuler and better than Milly Baker's boy; that was what we always
called him. Milly was nothin' but a child herself when he was born, but
all at once she appeared to turn to a woman; acted like one and looked
like one. It ain't time, honey, that makes people old; it's experience.
Some folks never git over bein' children, and some never has any
childhood; and pore little Milly's was cut short by trouble. If she
felt ashamed of herself or the child, nobody ever knew it. I never
could tell whether it was lack of sense, or whether she jest looked at
things different from the rest of us; but to see her walk in church
holding little Richard by the hand, nobody ever would 'a' thought but
what she was a lawful wife. No woman could 'a' behaved better'n she
did, I'm bound to say. She got better lookin' all the time, but she was
as steady and sober as if she'd been sixty years old. Parson Page said
once that Milly Baker had more dignity than any woman, young or old,
that he'd ever seen. It seems right queer to talk about dignity in a
pore gyirl who'd made the misstep she'd made, but I reckon it was jest
that that made us all come to treat her as if she was as good as
anybody. People can set their own price on 'emselves, I've noticed; and
if they keep it set, folks'll come up to it. Milly didn't seem to think
that she had done anything wrong; and when she brought little Richard
up for baptism there wasn't a dry eye in the church; and when she
joined the church herself there wasn't anybody mean enough to say a
word against it, not even Silas Petty.
Squire Elrod give her the cottage rent free after her mother died,
and betwixt nursin' and doin' fine needlework she made a good livin'
for herself and the boy.
Little Richard was a child worth workin' for from the start. Tall
and straight as a saplin', and carried himself like he owned the earth,
even when he was a little feller. It looked like all the good blood on
both sides had come out in him, and there wasn't a smarter, handsomer
boy in the county. The old Squire thought a heap of him, and nothin'
but his pride kept him from ownin' the child outright and treatin' him
like he was his own flesh and blood. Richard had an old head on young
shoulders, though he was as full o' life as any boy; and by the time he
was grown the old Squire trusted him with everything on the place and
looked to him the same as if he'd been a settled man. After Old Lady
Elrod died, he broke terrible fast, and folks used to say it was a
pitiful sight to see him when he'd be watchin' Richard overseein' the
hands and tendin' to things about the place. He'd lean on the fence,
his hands tremblin' and his face workin', thinkin' about Dick and
grievin' over him and wishin', I reckon, that Dick had been such a man
as Milly's boy was.
All these years nobody ever heard from Dick. Once in a while
somebody'd come from town and say they'd seen somebody that had seen
somebody else, and that somebody had seen Dick way out in California or
Lord knows where, and that was all the news that ever come back. We'd
all jest about made up our minds that he was dead, when one mornin',
along in corn-plantin' time, the news was brought and spread over the
neighborhood in no time that Dick Elrod had come home and was lyin' at
the p'int of death. I remembered hearin' a hack go by on the pike the
night before, and wondered to myself what was up. I thought, maybe, it
was a runaway couple or some such matter, but it was pore Dick comin'
back to his father's house, like the Prodigal Son, after twenty years.
It takes some folks a long time, child, to git tired of the swine and
Well, of course, it made a big commotion, and before we'd hardly
taken it in, we heard that he'd sent for Milly, and her and Richard had
gone together up to the big house.
Jane Ann Petty was keepin' house for the old Squire, and she told
us afterwards how it all come about.
We had a young probationer preachin' for us that summer, and as
soon as he heard about Dick, he goes up to the big house without bein'
sent for to talk to him about his soul. I reckon he thought it'd be a
feather in his cap if he could convert a hardened sinner like Dick.
Jane Ann said they took him into Dick's room, and he set down by
the bed and begun to lay off the plan o' salvation jest like he was
preachin' from the pulpit, and Dick listened and never took his eyes
off his face. When he got through Dick says, says he:
'Do you mean to say that all I've got to do to keep out of hell and
get into heaven is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?' And Brother
Jonas, he says:
'Yes, my dear brother, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou
shalt be saved. The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from
And they said Dick jest laughed a curious sort o' laugh and says
'It's a pretty God that'll make such a bargain as that!' And says
he, 'I was born bad, I've lived bad, and I'm dyin' bad; but I ain't a
coward nor a sneak, and I'm goin' to hell for my sins like a man. Like
a man, do you hear me?'
Jane Ann said the look in his eyes was awful; and the preacher
turned white as a sheet. It was curious talk for a death-bed; but, when
you come to think about it, it's reasonable enough. When a man's got
hell in his heart, what good is it goin' to do him to git into heaven?
What, indeed? I echoed, thinking how delightful it was that Aunt
Jane and Omar Khayyam should be of one mind on this subject.
When Dick said this the young preacher got up to go, but Dick
called him back, and says he, 'I don't want any of your preachin' or
prayin', but you stay here; there's another sort of a job for you to
do.' And then he turned around to the old Squire and says, 'Send for
When we all heard that Milly'd been sent for, the first thing we
thought was, 'How on earth is Milly goin' to tell Richard all he's got
to know?' I never used to think we was anything over and above the
ordinary out in our neighborhood, but when I ricollect that Richard
Elrod come up from a boy to a man without knowin' who his father was,
it seems like we must 'a' known how to hold our tongues anyhow. There
wasn't man, woman, or child that ever hinted to Milly Baker's boy that
he wasn't like other children, and so it was natural for us to wonder
how Milly was goin' to tell him. Well, it wasn't any of our business,
and we never found out. All we ever did know was that Milly and Richard
walked over to the big house together, and Richard held his head as
high as ever.
They said that Dick give a start when Milly come into the room. I
reckon he expected to see the same little girl he'd fooled twenty years
back, and when she come walkin' in it jest took him by surprise.
'Why, Milly,' says he, 'is this you?'
And he held out his hand, and she walked over to the bed and laid
her hand in his. Folks that was there say it was a strange sight for
any one that remembered what them two used to be. Her so gentle and
sweet-lookin', and him all wore out with bad livin' and wasted to a
shadder of what he used to be.
I've seen the same thing, child, over and over again. Two people'll
start out together, and after a while they'll git separated, or, maybe,
they'll live together a lifetime, and when they git to the end o'
fifteen or twenty or twenty-five years, one'll be jest where he was
when they set out, and the other'll be 'way up and 'way on, and they're
jest nothin' but strangers after all. That's the way it was with Milly
and Dick. They'd been sweethearts, and there was the child; but the
father'd gone his way and the mother'd gone hers, and now there was
somethin' between 'em like that 'great gulf' the Bible tells about.
Well, they said Dick looked up at Milly like a hungry man looks at
bread, and at last he says:
'I'm goin' to make an honest woman of you, Milly.'
And Milly looked him in the eyes and said as gentle and easy as if
she'd been talkin' to a sick child: 'I've always been an honest woman,
This kind o' took him back again, but he says, right earnest and
pitiful, 'I want to marry you, Milly; don't refuse me. I want to do one
decent thing before I die. I've come all the way from California just
for this. Surely you'll feel better if you are my lawful wife.'
And they said Milly thought a minute and then she says: 'I don't
believe it makes any difference with me, Dick. I've been through the
worst, and I'm used to it. But if it'll make it any easier for you,
I'll marry you. And then there's my boy; maybe it will be better for
'Where's the boy?' says Dick; 'I want to see him.'
So Milly went and called Richard in. And as soon as Dick saw him he
raised up on his elbow, weak as he was, and hollered out so you could
hear him in the next room.
'Why,' says he, 'it's myself! It's myself! Stand off there where I
can see you, boy! Why, you're the man I ought to have been and couldn't
be. These lyin' doctors,' says he, 'tell me that I haven't got a day to
live, but I'm goin' to live another lifetime in you!'
And then he fell back, gaspin' for breath, and young Richard stood
there in the middle o' the floor with his arms folded and his face
lookin' like it was made of stone.
As soon as Dick could speak, they said he pulled Milly down and
whispered something to her, and she went over to the chair where his
clothes was hangin' and felt in the pocket of the vest and got a little
pearl ring out. They said she shook like a leaf when she saw it. And
Dick says: 'I took it away from you, Milly, twenty years ago, for fear
you'd use it for evidence against mescoundrel that I was; and now I'm
goin' to put it on your finger again, and the parson shall marry us
fair and square. I've got the license here under my pillow.' And Milly
leaned over and lifted him and propped him up with the pillows, and the
young parson said the ceremony over 'em, with Jane Ann and the old
Squire for witnesses.
As soon as the parson got through, Dick says: 'Boy, won't you shake
hands with your father? I wouldn't ask you before.' But Richard never
stirred. And Milly got up and went to him and laid her hand on his arm
and says: 'My son, come and speak to your father.' And he walked up and
took Dick's pore wasted hand in his strong one, and the old Squire set
there and sobbed like a child. Jane Ann said he held on to Richard's
hand and looked at him for a long time, and then he reached under the
pillow and brought out a paper, and says he: 'It's my will; open it
after I'm gone. I've squandered a lot o' money out West, but there's a
plenty left, and that minin' stock'll make you a rich man. It's all
yours and your mother's. I wish it was more,' says he, 'for you're a
son that a king'd be proud of.'
Them was about the last words he said. Dr. Pendleton said he
wouldn't live through the night, and sure enough he begun to sink as
soon as the young parson left, and he died the next mornin' about
daybreak. Jane Ann said jest before he died he opened his eyes and
mumbled somethin', and Milly seemed to know what he wanted, for she
reached over and put Richard's hand on hers and Dick's, and he breathed
his last jest that way.
Milly wouldn't let a soul touch the corpse, but her and Richard.
She was a mighty good hand at layin' out the dead, and them two washed
and shrouded the body and laid it in the coffin, and the next day at
the funeral Milly walked on one side o' the old Squire and Richard on
the other, and the old man leaned on Richard like he'd found a prop for
his last days.
I ain't much of a hand to believe in signs, but there was one thing
the day of the buryin' that I shall always ricollect. It had been
rainin' off and on all day,a soft, misty sort o' rain that's good for
growin' things,but while they were fillin' up the grave and smoothin'
it off, the sun broke out over in the west, and when we turned around
to leave the grave there was the brightest, prettiest rainbow you ever
saw; and when Milly and Richard got into the old Squire's carriage and
rode home with him, that rainbow was right in front of 'em all the way
home. It didn't mean much for Milly and the Squire, but I couldn't help
thinkin' it was a promise o' better things for Richard, and maybe a
hope for pore Dick.
Milly didn't live long after this. They found her dead in her bed
one mornin'. The doctor said it was heart disease; but it's my belief
that she jest died because she thought she could do Richard a better
turn by dyin' than livin'. She'd lived for him twenty years and seen
him come into his rights, and I reckon she thought her work was done.
Dyin' for people is a heap easier'n livin' for 'em, anyhow.
The old Squire didn't outlive Milly many years, and when he died
Richard come into all the Elrod property. You've seen the Elrod place,
ain't you, child? That white house with big pillars and porches in
front of it. It's three miles further on the pike, and folks'll drive
out there jest to look at it. I've heard 'em call it a 'colonial
mansion,' or some such name as that. It was all run down when Richard
come into possession of it, but now it's one o' the finest places in
the whole state. That's the way it is with families: one generation'll
tear down and another generation'll build up. Richard's buildin' up all
that his father tore down, and I'm in hopes his work'll last for many a
Aunt Jane's voice ceased, and there was a long silence. The full
harvest of the story-telling was over; but sometimes there was an
aftermath to Aunt Jane's tale, and for this I waited. I looked at the
field opposite where the long, verdant rows gave promise of the autumn
reaping, and my thoughts were busy tracing backward every link in the
chain of circumstance that stretched between Milly Baker's boy of forty
years ago and the handsome, prosperous man I had seen that morning. Ah,
a goodly tale and a goodly ending! Aunt Jane spoke at last, and her
words were an echo of my thought.
There's lots of satisfactory things in this world, child, she
said, beaming at me over her spectacles with the smile of the optimist
who is born, not made. There's a satisfaction in roundin' off the toe
of a stockin', like I'm doin' now, and knowin' that your work's goin'
to keep somebody's feet warm next winter. There's a satisfaction in
bakin' a nice, light batch o' bread for the children to eat up. There's
a satisfaction in settin' on the porch in the cool o' the evenin' and
thinkin' o' the good day's work behind you, and another good day that's
comin' to-morrow. This world ain't a vale o' tears unless you make it
so on purpose. But of all the satisfactions I ever experienced, the
most satisfyin' is to see people git their just deserts right here in
this world. I don't blame David for bein' out o' patience when he saw
the wicked flourishin' like a green bay tree.
I never was any hand for puttin' things off, whether it's work or
punishment; and I've never got my own consent to this way o' skeerin'
people with a hell and wheedlin' 'em with a heaven way off yonder in
the next world. I ain't as old as Methuselah, but I've lived long
enough to find out a few things; and one of 'em is that if people don't
die before their time, they'll git their heaven and their hell right
here in this world. And whenever I feel like doubtin' the justice o'
the Lord, I think o' Milly Baker's boy, and how he got everything that
belonged to him, and he didn't have to die and go to heaven to git it
'Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds
I quoted the lines musingly, watching meanwhile their effect on Aunt
Jane. Her eyes sparkled as her quick brain took in the meaning of the
That's it! she exclaimed,that's it! I don't mind waitin' myself
and seein' other folks wait, too, a reasonable time, but I do like to
see everybody, sooner or later, git the grist that rightly belongs to
VI. THE BAPTIZING AT KITTLE CREEK
There's a heap o' reasons for folks marryin', said Aunt Jane,
reflectively. Some marries for love, some for money, some for a home;
some marries jest to spite somebody else, and some, it looks like,
marries for nothin' on earth but to have somebody always around to
quarrel with about religion. That's the way it was with Marthy and Amos
Matthews. I don't reckon you ever heard o' Marthy and Amos, did you,
child? It's been many a year since I thought of 'em myself. But last
Sunday evenin' I was over at Elnora Simpson's, and old Uncle Sam
Simpson was there visitin'. Uncle Sam used to live in the neighborhood
o' Goshen, but he moved up to Edmonson County way back yonder, I can't
tell when, and every now and then he comes back to see his
grandchildren. He's gittin' well on towards ninety, and I'm thinkin'
this is about the last trip the old man'll make till he goes on his
long journey. I was mighty glad to see him, and me and him set and
talked about old times till the sun went down. What he didn't remember
I did, and what I didn't remember he did; and when we got through
talkin', Elnorathat's his grandson's wifesays, 'Well, Uncle Sam, if
I could jest take down everything you and Aunt Jane said to-day, I'd
have a pretty good history of everybody that ever lived in this
Uncle Sam was the one that started the talk about Marthy and Amos.
He'd been leanin' on his cane lookin' out o' the door at Elnora's twins
playin' on the grass, and all at once he says, says he, 'Jane, do you
ricollect the time they had the big babtizin' down at Kittle Creek?'
And he got to laughin', and I got to laughin', and we set there and
cackled like a pair o' old fools, and nobody but us two seein' anything
funny about it.
Aunt Jane's ready laugh began again at the mere remembrance of her
former mirth. I kept discreetly silent, fearing to break the flow of
reminiscence by some ill-timed question.
Nobody ever could see, she continued, how it was that Amos
Matthews and Marthy Crawford ever come to marry, unless it was jest as
I said, to have somebody always handy to quarrel with about their
religion; and I used to think sometimes that Marthy and Amos got more
pleasure that way than most folks git out o' prayin' and singin' and
listenin' to preachin'. Amos was the strictest sort of a Presbyterian,
and Marthy was a Babtist, and to hear them two jawin' and arguin' and
bringin' up Scripture texts about predestination and infant babtism and
close communion and immersion was enough to make a person wish there
wasn't such a thing as churches and doctrines. Brother Rice asked Sam
Amos once if Marthy and Amos Matthews was Christians. Brother Rice had
come to help Parson Page carry on a meetin', and he was tryin' to find
out who was the sinners and who was the Christians. And Sam says, 'No;
my Lord! It takes all o' Marthy's time to be a Babtist and all o' Amos'
to be a Presbyterian. They ain't got time to be Christians.'
Some folks wondered how they ever got time to do any courtin', they
was so busy wranglin' over babtism and election. And after Marthy had
her weddin' clothes all made they come to a dead stop. Amos said he
wouldn't feel like they was rightly married if they didn't have a
Presbyterian minister to marry 'em, and Marthy said it wouldn't be
marryin' to her if they didn't have a Babtist. I was over at Hannah
Crawford's one day, and she says, says she, 'Jane, I've been savin' up
my eggs and butter for a month to make Marthy's weddin' cake, and if
her and Amos don't come to an understandin' soon, it'll all be a dead
loss.' And Marthy says, 'Well, mother, I may not have any cake at my
weddin', and I may not have any weddin', but one thing is certain: I'm
not goin' to give up my principles.'
And Hannah sort o' groanedshe hadn't had any easy time with Miles
Crawfordand says she, 'You pore foolish child! Principles ain't the
only thing a woman has to give up when she gits married.'
I don't know whether they ever would 'a' come to an agreement if it
hadn't been for Brother Morris. He was the Presidin' Elder from town,
and a powerful hand for jokin' with folks. He happened to meet Amos one
day about this time, and says he, 'Amos, I hear you and Miss Marthy
can't decide betwixt Brother Page and Brother Gyardner. It'd be a
pity,' says he, 'to have a good match sp'iled for such a little matter,
and s'pose you compromise and have me to marry you.'
And Amos says, 'I don't know but what that's the best thing that
could be done. I'll see Marthy and let you know.' And, bless your life,
they was married a week from that day. I went over and helped Hannah
with the cake, and Brother Morris said as pretty a ceremony over 'em as
any Presbyterian or Babtist could 'a' said.
Well, the next Sunday everybody was on the lookout to see which
church the bride and groom'd go to. Bush Elrod bet a dollar that
Marthy'd have her way, and Sam Amos bet a dollar that they'd be at the
Presbyterian church. Sam won the bet, and we was all right glad that
Marthy'd had the grace to give up that one time, anyhow. Amos was
powerful pleased havin' Marthy with him, and they sung out of the same
hymn-book and looked real happy. It looked like they was startin' out
right, and I thought to myself, 'Well, here's a good beginnin',
anyhow.' But it happened to be communion Sunday, and of all the unlucky
things that could 'a' happened for Marthy and Amos, that was about the
unluckiest. I said then that if Parson Page had been a woman, he'd 'a'
postponed that communion. But a man couldn't be expected to have much
sense about such matters, so he goes ahead and gives out the hymn,
''Twas on that dark and dreadful day;'
and everybody in church was lookin' at Amos and Marthy and watchin'
to see what she was goin' to do. While they was singin' the hymn the
church-members got up and went forward to the front seats, and Amos
went with 'em. That left Marthy all alone in the pew, and I couldn't
help feelin' sorry for her. She tried to look unconcerned, but anybody
could see she felt sort o' forsaken and left out, and folks all
lookin', and some of 'em whisperin' and nudgin' each other. I knew jest
exactly how Marthy felt. Abram said to me when we was on the way home
that day, 'Jane, if I'd 'a' been in Amos' place, I believe I'd 'a' set
still with Marthy. Marthy'd come with him and it looks like he ought to
'a' stayed with her.' I reckon, though, that Amos thought he was doin'
right, and maybe it's foolish in women to care about things like that.
Sam Amos used to say that nobody but God Almighty, that made her, ever
could tell what a woman wanted and what she didn't want; and I've
thought many a time that since He made women, it's a pity He couldn't
'a' made men with a better understandin' o' women's ways.
Maybe if Amos'd set still that day, things would 'a' been different
with him and Marthy all their lives, and then again, maybe it didn't
make any difference. It's hard to tell jest what makes things go wrong
in this world and what makes 'em go right. It's a mighty little thing
for a man to git up and leave his wife settin' alone in a pew for a few
minutes, but then there's mighty few things in this life that ain't
little, till you git to follerin' 'em up and seein' what they come to.
I thought of Pippa's song:
Say not a small event! Why 'small'?
Costs it more pain that this, ye call
A great event, should come to pass,
Than that? Untwine me from the mass
Of deeds which make up life, one deed
Power shall fall short in or exceed!
And Aunt Jane went serenely on:
Anyhow, it wasn't long till Amos was goin' to his church and Marthy
to hers, and they kept that up the rest of their lives. Still, they
might 'a' got along well enough this way, for married folks don't have
to think alike about everything, but they was eternally arguin' about
their church doctrines. If Amos grumbled about the weather, Marthy'd
say, 'Ain't everything predestined? Warn't this drought app'inted
before the foundation of the world? What's the sense in grumblin' over
the decrees of God?' And it got so that if Amos wanted to grumble over
anything, he had to git away from home first, and that must 'a' been
mighty wearin' on him; for, as a rule, a man never does any grumblin'
except at home; but pore Amos didn't have that privilege. Sam Amos used
to saySam wasn't a church-member himselfthat there was some
advantages about bein' a Babtist after all; you did have to go under
the water, but then you had the right to grumble. But if a man believed
that everything was predestined before the foundations of the world,
there wasn't any sense or reason in findin' fault with anything that
happened. And he believed that he'd ruther jine the Babtist church than
the Presbyterian, for he didn't see how he could carry on his farm
without complainin' about the weather and the crops and things in
If Marthy and Amos'd been divided on anything but their churches,
the children might 'a' brought 'em together; but every time a child was
born matters got worse. Amos, of course, wanted 'em all babtized in
infancy, and Marthy wanted 'em immersed when they j'ined the church,
and so it went. Amos had his way about the first one, and I never shall
forgit the day it was born. I went over to help wait on Marthy and the
baby, and as soon as I got the little thing dressed, we called Amos in
to see it. Now, Amos always took his religion mighty hard. It didn't
seem to bring him any comfort or peace o' mind. I've heard people say
they didn't see how Presbyterians ever could be happy; but la, child,
it's jest as easy to be happy in one church as in another. It all
depends on what doctrines you think the most about. Now you take
election and justification and sanctification, and you can git plenty
o' comfort out o' them. But Amos never seemed to think of anything but
reprobation and eternal damnation. Them doctrines jest seemed to weigh
on him night and day. He used to say many a time that he didn't know
whether he had made his callin' and election sure or not, and I don't
believe he thought that anybody else had made theirs sure, either.
Abram used to say that Amos looked like he was carryin' the sins o' the
world on his shoulders.
That day the baby was born I thought to myself, 'Well, here's
somethin' that'll make Amos forgit about his callin' and election for
once, anyhow;' and I wrapped the little feller up in his blanket and
held him to the light, so his father could see him; and Amos looked at
him like he was skeered, for a minute, and then he says, 'O Lord! I
hope it ain't a reprobate.'
Now jest think of a man lookin' down into a little new-born baby's
face and talkin' about reprobates!
Marthy heard what he said, and says she, 'Amos, are you goin' to
have him babtized in infancy?'
'Why, yes,' says Amos, 'of course I am.'
And Marthy says, 'Well, hadn't you better wait until you find out
whether he's a reprobate or not? If he's a reprobate, babtizin' ain't
goin' to do him any good, and if he's elected he don't need to be
And I says, 'For goodness' sake, Marthy, you and Amos let the
doctrines alone, or you'll throw yourself into a fever.' And I pushed a
rockin'-chair up by the bed and I says, 'Here, Amos, you set here by
your wife, and both of you thank the Lord for givin' you such a fine
child;' and I laid the baby in Amos' arms, and went out in the gyarden
to look around and git some fresh air. I gethered a bunch o'
honeysuckles to put on Marthy's table, and when I got back, Marthy and
the baby was both asleep, and Amos looked as if he was beginnin' to
have some little hopes of the child's salvation.
Marthy named him John; and Sam Amos said he reckoned it was for
John the Babtist. But it wasn't; it was for Marthy's twin brother that
died when he was jest three months old. Twins run in the Crawford
family. Amos had him babtized in infancy jest like he said he would,
and such a hollerin' and squallin' never was heard in Goshen church.
The next day Sally Ann says to me, says she, 'That child must 'a' been
a Babtist, Jane; for he didn't appear to favor infant babtism.'
Well, Marthy had her say-so about the next childthat one was a
boy, too, and they named him Amos for his fatherand young Amos wasn't
babtized in infancy; he was 'laid aside for immersion,' as Sam Amos
said. Then it was Amos' time to have his way, and so they went on till
young Amos was about fifteen years old and Marthy got him converted and
ready to be immersed. The Babtists had a big meetin' that spring, and
there was a dozen or more converts to be babtized when it was over.
We'd been havin' mighty pleasant weather that March; I ricollect me and
Abram planted our potatoes the first week in March, and I would put in
some peas. Abram said it was too early, and sure enough the frost got
'em when they was about two inches high. It turned off real cold about
the last o' March; and when the day for the babtizin' come, there was a
pretty keen east wind, and Kittle Creek was mighty high and muddy,
owin' to the rains they'd had further up. There was some talk o'
puttin' off the babtizin' till better weather, but Brother Gyardner, he
says: 'The colder the water, the warmer your faith, brethren; Christ
never put off any babtizin' on account of the weather.'
Sam Amos asked him if he didn't reckon there was some difference
between the climate o' Kentucky and the climate o' Palestine. Sam was
always a great hand to joke with the preachers. But the way things went
that day the weather didn't make much difference anyhow to young Sam.
The whole neighborhood turned out Sunday evenin' and went over to
Kittle Creek to see the big babtizin'. Marthy and Amos and all the
children was there, and Marthy looked like she'd had a big streak o'
good luck. Sam Amos says to me, 'Well, Aunt Jane, Marthy's waited a
long time, but she'll have her innin's now.'
Bush Elrod was the first one to go under the water; and when two or
three more had been babtized, it was young Amos' time. I saw Marthy
pushin' him forward and beckonin' to Brother Gyardner like she couldn't
wait any longer.
Nobody never did know exactly how it happened. Some folks said that
young Amos wasn't overly anxious to go under the water that cold day,
and he kind o' slipped behind his father when he saw Brother Gyardner
comin' towards him; and some went so fur as to say that Brother
Gyardner was in the habit o' takin' a little spirits after a babtizin'
to keep from takin' cold, and that time he'd taken it beforehand, and
didn't know exactly what he was about. Anyhow, the first thing we knew
Brother Gyardner had hold o' Amos himself, leadin' him towards the
water. Amos was a timid sort o' man, easy flustered, and it looked like
he lost his wits and his tongue too. He was kind o' pullin' back and
lookin' round in a skeered way, and Brother Gyardner he hollered out,
'Come right along, brother! I know jest how it is myself; the spirit is
willin', but the flesh is weak.' The Babtists was shoutin' 'Glory
Hallelujah' and Uncle Jim Matthews begun to sing, 'On Jordan's stormy
banks I stand,' and pretty near everybody j'ined in till you couldn't
hear your ears. The rest of us was about as flustered as Amos. We knew
in reason that Brother Gyardner was makin' a big mistake, but we jest
stood there and let things go on, and no tellin' what might 'a'
happened if it hadn't been for Sam Amos. Sam was a cool-headed man, and
nothin' ever flustered him. As soon as he saw how things was goin' he
set down on the bank and pulled off his boots; and jest as Brother
Gyardner got into the middle o' the creek, here come Sam wadin' up
behind 'em, and grabbed Amos by the shoulder and hollered out, 'You got
the wrong man, parson! Here, Amos, take hold o' me.' And he give Amos a
jerk that nearly made Brother Gyardner lose his footin', and him and
Amos waded up to the shore and left Brother Gyardner standin' there in
the middle o' the creek lookin' like he'd lost his job.
Well, that put a stop to the singin' and the shoutin', and the way
folks laughed was scandalous. They had to walk Amos home in a hurry to
git his wet clothes off, and Uncle Jim Matthews and Old Man Bob
Crawford went with him to rub him down. Amos was subject to bronchitis,
anyhow. Marthy went on ahead of 'em in the wagon to have hot water and
blankets ready. I'll give Marthy that credit; she appeared to forgit
all about the babtizin' when Amos come up so wet and shiverin'. Sam
couldn't git his boots on over his wet socks, and as he'd walked over
to the creek, Silas Petty had to take him home in his spring wagon.
Brother Gyardner all this time was lookin' round for young Amos, but he
wasn't to be found high nor low, and that set folks to laughin' again,
and so many havin' to leave, the babtizin' was clean broke up. Milly
come up jest as Sam was gittin' into Old Man Bob's wagon, and says she,
'Well, Sam, you've ruined your Sunday pants this time.' And Sam says,
'Pants nothin'. The rest o' you all can save your Sunday pants if you
want to, but this here's a free country, and I ain't goin' to stand by
and see a man babtized against his will while I'm able to save him.'
And if Sam'd saved Amos' life, instead o' jest savin' him from babtism,
Amos couldn't 'a' been gratefuler. When Sam broke his arm the follerin'
summer, Amos went over and set up with him at night, and let his own
wheat stand while he harvested Sam's.
Well, the next time the 'Sociation met, the Babtists had somethin'
new to talk about. Old Brother Gyardner got up, and says he, 'Brethren,
there's a question that's been botherin' me for some time, and I'd like
to hear it discussed and git it settled, if possible;' and says he, 'If
a man should be babtized accidentally, and against his will, would he
be a Babtist? or would he not?' And they begun to argue it, and they
had it up and down, and some was of one opinion and some of another.
Brother Gyardner said he was inclined to think that babtism made a man
a Babtist, but old Brother Bascom said if a man wasn't a Babtist in his
heart, all the water in the sea wouldn't make him one. And Brother
Gyardner said that was knockin' the props clean from under the Babtist
faith. 'For,' says he, 'if bein' a Babtist in the heart makes a man a
Babtist, then babtism ain't necessary to salvation, and if babtism
ain't necessary, what becomes o' the Babtist church?'
Somebody told Amos about the dispute they was havin' over his case,
and Amos says, 'If them fool Babtists want that question settled, let
'em come to me.' Says he, 'My father and mother was Presbyterians, and
my grandfather and grandmother and great-grandfather and
great-grandmother on both sides; I was sprinkled in infancy, and I
j'ined the Presbyterian church as soon as I come to the age of
accountability, and if you was to carry me over to Jerusalem and
babtize me in the river Jordan itself, I'd still be a Presbyterian.'
Here Aunt Jane paused to laugh again. There's some things, child,
she said, as she wiped her glasses, that people'll laugh over and then
forgit; and there's some things they never git over laughin' about. The
Kittle Creek babtizin' was one o' that kind. Old Man Bob Crawford used
to say he wouldn't 'a' took five hundred dollars for that babtizin'.
Old Man Bob was the biggest laugher in the country; you could hear him
for pretty near half a mile when he got in a laughin' way; and he used
to say that whenever he felt like havin' a good laugh, all he had to do
was to think of Amos and how he looked with Brother Gyardner leadin'
him into the water, and the Babtists a-singin' over him. Bush Elrod was
another one that never got over it. Every time he'd see Amos he'd begin
to sing, 'On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,' and Amos couldn't git out
o' the way quick enough.
Well, that's what made me and old Uncle Sam Simpson laugh so last
Sunday. I don't reckon there's anything funny in it to folks that never
seen it; but when old people git together and call up old times, they
can see jest how folks looked and acted, and it's like livin' it all
I don't believe you can see it any plainer than I do, Aunt Jane, I
hastened to assure her. It is all as clear to me as any picture I ever
saw. It was in March, you say, and the wind was cool, but the sun was
warm; and if you sat in a sheltered place you might almost think it was
the last of April.
That's so, child. I remember me and Abram set under the bank on a
rock that kind o' cut off the north wind, and it was real pleasant.
Then there must have been a purple haze on the hills; and, while
the trees were still bare, there was a look about them as if the coming
leaves were casting their shadows before. There were heaps of brown
leaves from last year's autumn in the fence corners, and as you and
Uncle Abram walked home, you looked under them to see if the violets
were coming up, and found some tiny wood ferns.
Aunt Jane dropped her knitting and leaned back in the high
Why, child, she said in an awe-struck tone, are you a
Not at all, Aunt Jane, I said, laughing at the dear old lady's
consternation. I am only a good guesser; and I wanted you to know that
I not only see the things that you see and tell me, but some of the
things that you see and don't tell me. Did Marthy ever get young Amos
baptized? I asked.
La, yes, laughed Aunt Jane. They finished up the babtizin' two
weeks after that. It was a nice, pleasant day, and young Amos went
under the water all right; but mighty little good it did him after all.
For as soon as he come of age, he married Matildy Harris (Matildy was a
Methodist), and he got to goin' to church with his wife, and that was
the last of his Babtist raisin'.
Then we both were silent for a while, and I watched the gathering
thunder-clouds in the west. A low rumble of thunder broke the stillness
of the August afternoon. Aunt Jane looked up apprehensively.
There's goin' to be a storm betwixt now and sundown, she said,
but I reckon them young turkeys'll be safe under their mother's wings
by that time.
Don't you think a wife ought to join her husband's church, Aunt
Jane? I asked with idle irrelevance to her remark.
Sometimes she ought and sometimes she oughtn't, replied Aunt Jane
oracularly. There ain't any rule about it. Everybody's got to be their
own judge about such matters. If I'd 'a' been in Marthy's place, I
wouldn't 'a' j'ined Amos' church, and if I'd been in Amos' place I
wouldn't 'a' j'ined Marthy's church. So there it is.
But didn't you join Uncle Abram's church? I asked, in a laudable
endeavor to get at the root of the matter.
Yes, I did, said Aunt Jane stoutly; but that's a mighty different
thing. Of course, I went with Abram, and if I had it to do over again,
I'd do it. You see the way of it was this: my folks was Campbellites,
or Christians they'd ruther be called. It's curious how they don't like
to be called Campbellites. Methodists don't mind bein' called
Wesleyans, and Presbyterians don't git mad if you call 'em Calvinists,
and I reckon Alexander Campbell was jest as good a man as Wesley and a
sight better'n Calvin, but you can't make a Campbellite madder than to
call him a Campbellite. However, as I was sayin', Alexander Campbell
himself babtized my father and mother out here in Drake's Creek, and I
was brought up to think that my church was the Christian church,
sure enough. But when me and Abram married, neither one of us was
thinkin' much about churches. I used to tell Marthy that if a man'd
come talkin' church to me, when he ought to been courtin' me, I'd 'a'
told him to go on and marry a hymn-book or a catechism. I believe in
religion jest as much as anybody, but a man that can't forgit his
religion while he's courtin' a woman ain't worth havin'. That's my
opinion. But as I was sayin', me and Abram had the church question to
settle after we was married, and I don't believe either one of us
thought about it till Sunday mornin' come. I ricollect it jest like it
was yesterday. We was married in June, and you know how things always
look about then. I've thought many a day, when I've been out in the
gyarden workin' with my vegetables and getherin' my honeysuckles and
roses, that if folks could jest live on and never git old and it'd stay
June forever, that this world'd be heaven enough for anybody. And
that's the way it was that Sunday mornin'. I ricollect I had on my
'second-day' dress, the prettiest sort of a changeable silk, kind 'o
dove color and pink, and I had a leghorn bonnet on with pink roses
inside the brim, and black lace mitts on my hands. I stood up before
the glass jest before I went out to the gate where Abram was, waitin'
for me, and I looked as pretty as a pink, if I do say it. 'Self-praise
goes but a little ways,' my mother used to tell me, when I was a gyirl;
but I reckon there ain't any harm in an old woman like me tellin' how
she looked when she was a bride more'n sixty years ago.
And a faint color came into the wrinkled cheeks, while her clear,
high laugh rang out. The outward symbols of youth and beauty were gone,
but their unquenchable spirit lay warm under the ashes of nearly eight
Well, I went out, and Abram helped me into the buggy and, instead
o' goin' straight on to Goshen church, he turned around and drove out
to my church. When we walked in I could see folks nudgin' each other
and laughin', and when meetin' broke and we was fixin' to go home, Aunt
Maria Taylor grabbed hold o' me and pulled me off to one side and says
she, 'That's right, Jane, you're beginnin' in time. Jest break a man in
at the start, and you won't have no trouble afterwards.' And I jest
laughed in her face and went on to where Abram was waitin' for me. I
was too happy to git mad that day. Well, the next Sunday, when we got
into the buggy and Abram started to turn round, I took hold o' the
reins and says I, 'It's my time to drive, Abram; you had your way last
Sunday, and now I'm goin' to have mine.' And I snapped the whip over
old Nell's back and drove right on to Goshen, and Abram jest set back
and laughed fit to kill.
We went on that way for two or three months, folks sayin' that
Abram and Jane Parrish couldn't go to the same church two Sundays
straight along to save their lives, and everybody wonderin' which of
us'd have their way in the long run. And me and Abram jest laughed in
our sleeves and paid no attention to 'em; for there never was but one
way for us, anyhow, and that wasn't Abram's way nor my way; it was jest
our way. There's lots of married folks, honey, and one of 'em's
here and one of 'em's gone over yonder, and there's a long, deep grave
between 'em; but they're a heap nearer to each other than two livin'
people that stay in the same house, and eat at the same table, and
sleep in the same bed, and all the time there's two great thick church
walls between 'em and growin' thicker and higher every day. Sam Amos
used to say that if religion made folks act like Marthy and Amos did,
he believed he'd ruther have less religion or none at all. But, honey,
when you see married folks quarrelin' over their churches, it ain't too
much religion that's the cause o' the trouble, it's too little love.
Jest ricollect that; if folks love each other right, religion ain't
goin' to come between 'em.
Well, as soon as cold weather set in they started up a big revival
at Goshen church. After the meetin' had been goin' on for three or four
weeks, Parson Page give out one Sunday that the session would meet on
the follerin' Thursday to examine all that had experienced a change o'
heart and wanted to unite with the church. I never said a word to
Abram, but Thursday evenin' while he was out on the farm mendin' some
fences that the cattle had broke down, I harnessed old Nell to the
buggy and drove out to Goshen. All the converts was there, and the
session was questionin' and examinin' when I got in. When it come my
turn, Parson Page begun askin' me if I'd made my callin' and election
sure, and I come right out, and says I, 'I don't know much about
callin' and election, Brother Page; I reckon I'm a Christian,' says I,
'for I've been tryin' to do right by everybody ever since I was old
enough to know the difference betwixt right and wrong; but, if the
plain truth was told, I'm j'inin' this church jest because it's Abram's
church, and I want to please him. And that's all the testimony I've got
to give.' And Parson Page put his hand over his mouth to keep from
laughin'he was a young man then and hadn't been married long
himselfand says he, 'That'll do, Sister Parrish; brethren, we'll pass
on to the next candidate.' I left 'em examinin' Sam Crawford about his
callin' and election, and I got home before Abram come to the house,
and the next day when I walked up with the rest of 'em Abram was the
only person in the church that was surprised. When they'd got through
givin' us the right hand o' fellowship, and I went back to our pew,
Abram took hold o' my hand and held on to it like he never would let
go, and I knew I'd done the right thing and I never would regret it.
There was a light on the old woman's face that made me turn my eyes
away. Here was a personal revelation that should have satisfied the
most exacting, but my vulgar curiosity cried out for further light on
What would you have done, I asked, if Uncle Abram hadn't turned
the horse that Sunday morningif he had gone straight on to Goshen?
Aunt Jane regarded me for a moment with a look of pitying allowance,
such as one bestows on a child who doesn't know any better than to ask
Shuh, child, she said with careless brevity, Abram couldn't 'a'
done such a thing as that.
VII. HOW SAM AMOS RODE IN THE
There's one thing I'd like mighty well to see again before I die,
said Aunt Jane, and that is a good, old-fashioned fair. The apostle
says we must 'press forward, forgetting the things that are behind,'
but there's some things I've left behind that I can't never forget, and
the fairs we had in my day is one of 'em.
It was the quietest hour of an August afternoonthat time when one
seems to have reached the land where it is always afternoonand Aunt
Jane and I were sitting on the back porch, shelling butter-beans for
the next day's market. Before us lay the garden in the splendid fulness
of late summer. Concord and Catawba grapes loaded the vines on the
rickety old arbor; tomatoes were ripening in reckless plenty, to be
given to the neighbors, or to lie in tempting rows on the window-sill
of the kitchen and the shelves of the back porch; the second planting
of cucumber vines ran in flowery luxuriance over the space allotted to
them, and even encroached on the territory of the squashes and melons.
Damsons hung purpling over the eaves of the house, and wasps and bees
kept up a lively buzzing as they feasted on the windfalls of the old
yellow peach tree near the garden gate. Nature had distributed her
sunshine and showers with wise generosity that year, and neither in
field nor in garden was there lack of any good thing. Perhaps it was
this gracious abundance, presaging fine exhibits at the coming fair,
that turned Aunt Jane's thoughts towards the fairs of her youth.
Folks nowadays don't seem to think much about fairs, she
continued; but when I was young a fair was something that the grown
folks looked forward to jest like children look for Christmas. The
women and the men, too, was gittin' ready for the fair all the year
round, the women piecin' quilts and knittin' socks and weavin' carpets
and puttin' up preserves and pickles, and the men raisin' fine stock;
and when the fair come, it was worth goin' to, child, and worth
rememberin' after you'd gone to it.
I hear folks talkin' about the fair every year, and I laugh to
myself and I say, 'You folks don't know what a fair is.' And I set out
there on my porch fair week and watch the buggies and wagons goin' by
in the mornin' and comin' home at night, and I git right happy,
thinkin' about the time when me and Abram and the children used to go
over the same road to the fair, but a mighty different sort of fair
from what they have nowadays. One thing is, honey, they have the fairs
too soon. It never was intended for folks to go to fairs in hot
weather, and here they've got to havin' 'em the first week in
September, about the hottest, driest, dustiest time of the whole year.
Nothin' looks pretty then, and it always makes me think o' folks when
they've been wearin' their summer clothes for three months, and
everything's all faded and dusty and drabbled. That's the way it
generally is in September. But jest wait till two or three good rains
come, and everything's washed clean and sweet, and the trees look like
they'd got a new set o' leaves, and the grass comes out green and fresh
like it does in the spring, and the nights and the mornin's feel cool,
though it's hot enough in the middle o' the day; and maybe there'll
come a touch of early frost, jest enough to turn the top leaves on the
sugar maples. That's October, child, and that's the time for a fair.
Lord, the good times I've seen in them days! Startin' early and
comin' home late, with the sun settin' in front of you, and by and by
the moon comin' up behind you, and the wind blowin' cool out o' the
woods on the side o' the road; the baby fast asleep in my arms, and the
other children talkin' with each other about what they'd seen, and
Abram drivin' slow over the rough places, and lookin' back every once
in a while to see if we was all there. It's a curious thing, honey; I
liked fairs as well as anybody, and I reckon I saw all there was to be
seen, and heard everything there was to be heard every time I went to
one. But now, when I git to callin' 'em up, it appears to me that the
best part of it all, and the part I ricollect the plainest, was jest
the goin' there and the comin' back home.
Abram knew I liked to stay till everything was over, and he'd git
somebody to water and feed the stock, and then I never had any hot
suppers to git while the fair lasted; so there wasn't anything to hurry
me and Abram. I ricollect Maria Petty come up one day about five
o'clock, jest as we was lookin' at the last race, and says she, 'I'm
about to drop, Jane; but I believe I'd ruther stay here and sleep on
the floor o' the amp'itheater than to go home and cook a hot supper.'
And I says, 'Don't cook a hot supper, then.' And says she, 'Why, Silas
wouldn't eat a piece o' cold bread at home to save his life or mine
There's a heap o' women to be pitied, child, said Aunt Jane,
dropping a handful of shelled beans into my pan with a cheerful
clatter, but, of all things, deliver me from livin' with a man that
has to have hot bread three times a day. Milly Amos used to say that
when she died she wanted a hot biscuit carved on her tombstone; and
that if it wasn't for hot biscuits, there'd be a mighty small crop of
widowers. Sam, you see, was another man that couldn't eat cold bread.
But Sam had a right to his hot biscuits; for if Milly didn't feel like
goin' into the kitchen, Sam'd go out and mix up his biscuits and bake
'em himself. Sam's soda biscuits was as good as mine; and when it come
to beaten biscuits, why nobody could equal Sam. Milly'd make up the
dough as stiff as she could handle it, and Sam'd beat it till it was
soft enough to roll out; and such biscuits I never expect to eat
againwhite and light as snow inside, and crisp as a cracker outside.
Folks nowadays makes beaten biscuits by machinery, but they don't taste
like the old-fashioned kind that was beat by hand.
And talkin' about biscuits, child, reminds me of the cookin' I used
to do for the fairs. I don't reckon many women likes to remember the
cookin' they've done. When folks git to rememberin', it looks like the
only thing they want to call up is the pleasure they've had, the
picnics and the weddin's and the tea-parties. But somehow the work I've
done in my day is jest as precious to me as the play I've had. I hear
young folks complainin' about havin' to work so hard, and I say to 'em,
'Child, when you git to be as old as I am, and can't work all you want
to, you'll know there ain't any pleasure like good hard work.'
There's one thing that bothers me, child, and Aunt Jane's voice
sank to a confidential key: I've had a plenty o' fears in my life, but
they've all passed over me; and now there's jest one thing I'm afraid
of: that I'll live to be too old to work. It appears to me like I could
stand anything but that. And if the time ever comes when I can't help
myself, nor other folks either, I trust the Lord'll see fit to call me
hence and give me a new body, and start me to work again right away.
But, as I was sayin', I always enjoyed cookin', and it's a pleasure
to me to set and think about the hams I've b'iled and the salt-risin'
bread I've baked and the old-fashioned pound-cake and sponge-cake and
all the rest o' the things I used to take to the fair. Abram was always
mighty proud o' my cookin', and we generally had a half a dozen or more
o' the town folks to eat dinner with us every day o' the fair. Old
Judge Grace and Dr. Brigham never failed to eat with us. The old
judge'd say something about my salt-risin' bread every time I'd meet
him in town. The first year my bread took the premium, Abram sent the
premium loaf to him with the blue ribbon tied around it. After Abram
died I stopped goin' to the fairs, and I don't know how many years it'd
been since I set foot on the grounds. I hadn't an idea how things'd
changed since my day till, year before last, Henrietta and her husband
come down here from Danville. He'd come to show some blooded stock, and
she come along with him to see me. And says she, 'Grandma, you've got
to go to the fair with me one day, anyhow;' and I went more to please
her than to please myself.
I'm always contendin', child, that this world's growin' better and
better all the time; but, Lord! Lord! that fair come pretty near
upsettin' my faith. Why, in my day folks could take their children to
the fair and turn 'em loose; and, if they had sense enough to keep from
under the horses' feet, they was jest as safe at the fair as they was
at a May meetin'. But, la! the sights I saw that day Henrietta took me
to the fair! Every which way you'd look there was some sort of a trap
for temptin' boys and leadin' 'em astray. Whisky and beer and all sorts
o' gamblin' machines and pool sellin', and little boys no higher'n that
smokin' little white cigyars, and offerin' to bet with each other on
the races. And I says to Henrietta, 'Child, I don't call this a fair;
why, it's jest nothin' but a gamblin' den and a whisky saloon. And,'
says I, 'I know now what old Uncle Henry Matthews meant.' I'd asked the
old man if he was goin' to show anything at the fair that year, and he
said, 'No, Jane. Unless you've got somethin' for the town folks to bet
on, it ain't worth while.'
But there was one thing I did enjoy that day, and that was the
races. There's some folks thinks that racin' horses is a terrible sin;
but I don't. It's the bettin' and the swearin' that goes with the
racin' that's the sin. If folks'd behave as well as the horses behaves,
a race'd be jest as religious as a Sunday-school picnic. There ain't a
finer sight to me than a blooded horse goin' at a two-forty gait round
a smooth track, and the sun a-shinin' and the flags a-wavin' and the
wind blowin' and the folks cheerin' and hollerin'. So, when Henrietta
said the races was goin' to begin, I says, says I, 'Here, child, take
hold o' my arm and help me down these steps; I'm goin' to see one more
race before I die.' And Henrietta helped me down, and we went over to
the grand stand and got a good seat where I could see the horses when
they come to the finish. I tell you, honey, it made me feel young again
jest to see them horses coverin' the ground like they did. My father
used to raise fine horses, and Abram used to say that when it come to
knowin' a horse's p'ints, he'd back me against any man in Kentucky.
I'll have to be a heap older'n I am now before I see the day when I
wouldn't turn around and walk a good piece to look at a fine horse.
And the old lady gave a laugh at this confession of weakness.
It was like old times to see the way them horses run. And when they
come to the finish I was laughin' and hollerin' as much as anybody. And
jest then somebody right behind me give a yell, and says he:
'Hurrah for old Kentucky! When it comes to fine horses and fine
whisky and fine women, she can't be beat.'
Everybody begun to laugh, and a man right in front o' me says,
'It's that young feller from Lexin'ton. His father's one o' the biggest
horsemen in the state. That's his horse that's jest won the race.' And
I turned around to see, and there was a boy about the size o' my
youngest grandchild up at Danville. His hat was set on the back of his
head, and his hair was combed down over his eyes till he looked like
he'd come out of a feeble-minded school. He had a little white cigyar
in his mouth, and you could tell by his breath that he'd been drinkin'.
Now I ain't much of a hand for meddlin' with other folks' business,
but I'd been readin' about the Salvation Army, and how they preach on
the street; and it come into my head that here was a time for some
Salvation work. And I says to him, says I, 'Son, there's another thing
that Kentucky used to be hard to beat on, and that was fine men. But,'
says I, 'betwixt the fine horses and the fine women and the fine
whisky, some o' the men has got to be a mighty common lot.' Says I,
'Holler as much as you please for that horse out there; he's worth
hollerin' for. But,' says I, 'when a state's got to raisin' a better
breed o' horses than she raises men, it ain't no time to be hollerin'
hurrah for her.' Says I, 'You're your father's son, and yonder's your
father's horse; now which do you reckon your father's proudest of
to-day, his horse or his son?'
Well, folks begun to laugh again, and the boy looked like he wanted
to say somethin' sassy, but he couldn't git his wits together enough to
think up anything. And I says, says I, 'That horse never touched whisky
or tobacco in his life; he's clean-blooded and clean-lived, and he'll
live to a good old age; and, maybe, when he dies they'll bury him like
a Christian, and put a monument up over him like they did over Ten
Broeck. But you, why, you ain't hardly out o' your short pants, and
you're fifty years old if you're a day. You'll bring your father's gray
hairs in sorrow to the grave, and you'll go to your own grave a heap
sooner'n you ought to, and nobody'll ever build a monument over you.'
There was three or four boys along with the Lexin'ton boy, and one
of 'em that appeared to have less whisky in him than the rest, he says,
'Well, grandma, I reckon you're about right; we're a pretty bad lot.'
And says he, 'Come on, boys, and let's git out o' this.' And off they
went; and whether my preachin' ever did 'em any good I don't know, but
I couldn't help sayin' what I did, and that's the last time I ever went
to these new-fashioned fairs they're havin' nowadays. Fair time used to
mean a heap to me, but now it don't mean anything but jest to put me in
mind o' old times.
Just then there was a sound of galloping hoofs on the pike, and loud
whoas from a rider in distress. We started up with the eagerness of
those whose lives have flowed too long in the channels of stillness and
peace. Here was a possibility of adventure not to be lost for any
consideration. Aunt Jane dropped her pan with a sharp clang; I gathered
up my skirt with its measure of unshelled beans, and together we rushed
to the front of the house.
It was a solitary horseman, wholly and ludicrously at the mercy of
his steed, a mischievous young horse that had never felt the bridle and
bit of a trainer.
It's that red-headed boy of Joe Crofton's, chuckled Aunt Jane.
Nobody'd ever think he was born in Kentucky; now, would they? Old Man
Bob Crawford used to say that every country boy in this state was a
sort o' half-brother to a horse. But that boy yonder ain't no kin to
the filly he's tryin' to ride. There's good blood in that filly as
sure's you're born. I can tell by the way she throws her head and uses
her feet. She'll make a fine saddle-mare, if her master ever gets hold
of her. Jest look yonder, will you?
The horse had come to a stand; she gave a sudden backward leap,
raised herself on her hind legs, came down on all fours with a great
clatter of hoofs, and began a circular dance over the smooth road.
Round she went, stepping as daintily as a maiden at a May-day dance,
while the rider clung to the reins, dug his bare heels into the glossy
sides of his steed, and yelled whoa, as if his salvation lay in that
word. Then, as if just awakened to a sense of duty, the filly ceased
her antics, tossed her head with a determined air, and broke into a
brisk, clean gallop that would have delighted a skilled rider, but
seemed to bring only fresh dismay to the soul of Joe Crofton's boy. His
arms flapped dismally and hopelessly up and down; a gust of wind seized
his ragged cap and tossed it impishly on one of the topmost boughs of
the Osage-orange hedge; his protesting whoa voiced the hopelessness
of one who resigns himself to the power of a dire fate, and he
disappeared ingloriously in a cloud of summer dust. Whereupon we
returned to the prosaic work of bean-shelling, with the feeling of
those who have watched the curtain go down on the last scene of the
I declare to goodness, sighed Aunt Jane breathlessly, as she
stooped to recover her pan, I ain't laughed so much in I don't know
when. It reminds me o' the time Sam Amos rode in the t'u'nament. And
she began laughing again at some recollection in which I had no part.
Now, that's right curious, ain't it? When I set here talkin' about
fairs, that boy comes by and makes me think o' how Sam rode at the fair
that year they had the t'u'nament. I don't know how long it's been
since I thought o' that ride, and maybe I never would 'a' thought of it
again if that boy of Joe Crofton's hadn't put me in mind of it.
I dropped my butter-beans for a moment and assumed a listening
attitude, and without any further solicitation, and in the natural
course of events, the story began.
You see the town folks was always gittin' up somethin' new for the
fair, and that year I'm talkin' about it was a t'u'nament. All the
Goshen folks that went to town the last County Court day before the
fair come back with the news that there was goin' to be a t'u'nament
the third day o' the fair. Everybody was sayin', 'What's that?' and
nobody could answer 'em till Sam Crawford went to town one Saturday
jest before the fair, and come back with the whole thing at his
tongue's end. Sam heard that they was practisin' for the t'u'nament
that evenin', and as he passed the fair grounds on his way home, he
made a p'int of goin' in and seein' what they was about. He said there
was twelve young men, and they was called knights; and they had a lot
o' iron rings hung from the posts of the amp'itheater, and they'd tear
around the ring like mad and try to stick a pole through every ring and
carry it off with 'em, and the one that got the most rings got the blue
ribbon. Sam said it took a good eye and a steady arm and a good seat to
manage the thing, and he enjoyed watchin' 'em. 'But,' says he, 'why
they call the thing a t'u'nament is more'n I could make out. I stayed
there a plumb hour, and I couldn't hear nor see anything that sounded
or looked like a tune.'
Well, the third day o' the fair come, and we was all on hand to see
the t'u'nament. It went off jest like Sam said. There was twelve
knights, all dressed in black velvet, with gold and silver spangles,
and they galloped around and tried to take off the rings on their long
poles. When they got through with that, the knights they rode up to the
judges with a wreath o' flowers on the ends o' their poleslances,
they called 'emand every knight called out the name o' the lady that
he thought the most of; and she come up to the stand, and they put the
wreath on her head, and there was twelve pretty gyirls with flowers on
their heads, and they was 'Queens of Love and Beauty.' It was a mighty
pretty sight, I tell you; and the band was playin' 'Old Kentucky Home,'
and everybody was hollerin' and throwin' up their hats. Then the
knights galloped around the ring once and went out at the big gate, and
come up and promenaded around the amp'itheater with the gyirls they had
crowned. The knight that got the blue ribbon took off ten rings out o'
the fifteen. He rode a mighty fine horse, and Sam Amos, he says, 'I
believe in my soul if I'd 'a' been on that horse I could 'a' taken off
every one o' them rings.' Sam was a mighty good rider, and Milly used
to say that the only thing that'd make Sam enjoy ridin' more'n he did
was for somebody to put up lookin'-glasses so he could see himself all
along the road.
Well, the next thing on the program was the gentleman riders' ring.
The premium was five dollars in gold for the best gentleman rider. We
was waitin' for that to commence, when Uncle Jim Matthews come up, and
says he, 'Sam, there's only one entry in this ring, and it's about to
You see they had made a rule that year that there shouldn't be any
premiums given unless there was some competition. And Uncle Jim says,
'There's a young feller from Simpson County out there mighty anxious to
ride. He come up here on purpose to git that premium. Suppose you ride
ag'inst him and show him that Simpson can't beat Warren.' Sam laughed
like he was mightily pleased, and says he, 'I don't care a rap for the
premium, Uncle Jim, but, jest to oblige the man from Simpson, I'll
ride. But,' says he, 'I ought to 'a' known it this mornin' so I could
'a' put on my Sunday clothes.' And Uncle Jim says, 'Never mind that;
you set your horse straight and carry yourself jest so, and the judges
won't look at your clothes.' 'How about the horse?' says Sam. 'Why,'
says Uncle Jim, 'there's a dozen or more good-lookin' saddle-horses out
yonder outside the big gate, and you can have your pick.' So Sam
started off, and the next thing him and the man from Simpson was
trottin' around the ring. Us Goshen people kind o' kept together when
we set down in the amp'itheater. Every time Sam'd go past us, we'd all
holler 'hurrah!' for him. The Simpson man appeared to have a lot o'
friends on the other side o' the amp'itheater, and they'd holler for
him, and the town folks was divided up about even.
Both o' the men rode mighty well. They put their horses through all
the gaits, rackin' and pacin' and lopin', and it looked like it was
goin' to be a tie, when all at once the band struck up 'Dixie,' and
Sam's horse broke into a gallop. Sam didn't mind that; he jest pushed
his hat down on his head and took a firm seat, and seemed to enjoy it
as much as anybody. But after he'd galloped around the ring two or
three times, he tried to rein the horse in and get him down to a nice
steady trot like the Simpson man was doin'. But, no, sir. That horse
hadn't any idea of stoppin'. The harder the band played the faster he
galloped; and Uncle Jim Matthews says, 'I reckon Sam's horse thinks
it's another t'u'nament.' And Abram says, 'Goes like he'd been paid to
gallop jest that way; don't he, Uncle Jim?'
But horses has a heap o' sense, child; and it looked to me like the
horse knew he had Sam Amos, one o' the best riders in the county, on
his back and he was jest playin' a little joke on him.
Well, of course when the judges seen that Sam'd lost control of his
horse, they called the Simpson man up and tied the blue ribbon on him.
And he took off his hat and waved it around, and then he trotted around
the ring, and the Simpson folks hollered and threw up their hats. And
all that time Sam's horse was tearin' around the ring jest as hard as
he could go. Sam's hat was off, and I ricollect jest how his hair
looked, blowin' back in the windMilly hadn't trimmed it for some
timeand him gittin' madder and madder every minute. Of course us
Goshen folks was mad, too, because Sam didn't git the blue ribbon; but
we had to laugh, and the town folks and the Simpson folks they looked
like they'd split their sides. Old Man Bob Crawford jest laid back on
the benches and hollered and laughed till he got right purple in the
face. And says he, 'This beats the Kittle Creek babtizin' all to
Well, nobody knows how long that horse would 'a' kept on gallopin',
for Sam couldn't stop him; but finally two o' the judges they stepped
out and headed him off and took hold o' the bridle and led him out o'
the ring. And Uncle Jim Matthews he jumps up, and says he, 'Let me out
o' here. I want to see Sam when he gits off o' that horse.' Milly was
settin' on the top seat considerably higher'n I was. And says she, 'I
wouldn't care if I didn't see Sam for a week to come. Sam don't git mad
often,' says she, 'but when he does, folks'd better keep out o' his
Well, Uncle Jim started off, and the rest of us set still and
waited; and pretty soon here come Sam lookin' mad enough to fight all
creation, sure enough. Everybody was still laughin', but nobody said
anything to Sam till up comes Old Man Bob Crawford with about two yards
o' blue ribbon. He'd jumped over into the ring and got it from the
judges as soon as he could quit laughin'. And says he, 'Sam, I have
seen gracefuler riders, and riders that had more control over their
horses, but,' says he, 'I never seen one yet that stuck on a horse
faithfuler'n you did in that little t'u'nament o' yours jest now; and
I'm goin' to tie this ribbon on you jest as a premium for stickin' on,
when you might jest as easy 'a' fell off.' Well, everybody looked for
Sam to double up his fist and knock Old Man Bob down, and he might 'a'
done it, but Milly saw how things was goin', and she come hurryin' up.
Milly was a mighty pretty woman, and always dressed herself neat and
trim, but she'd been goin' around with little Sam in her arms, and her
hair was fallin' down, and she looked like any woman'd look that'd
carried a heavy baby all day and dragged her dress over a dusty floor.
She come up, and says she, 'Well, Sam, ain't you goin' to crown me
Queen o' Love and Beauty?' Folks used to say that Sam never was so
mad that Milly couldn't make him laugh, and says he, 'You look like a
queen o' love and beauty, don't you?' Of course that turned the laugh
on Milly, and then Sam come around all right. And says he, 'Well,
neighbors, I've made a fool o' myself, and no mistake; and you all can
laugh as much as you want to;' and he took Old Man Bob's blue ribbon
and tied it on little Sam's arm, and him and Milly walked off together
as pleasant as you please. And that's how Sam Amos rode in the
t'u'nament, said Aunt Jane conclusively, as she arose from her chair
and shook a lapful of bean pods into a willow basket near by.
Is Sam Amos living yet? I asked, in the hope of prolonging an
o'er-short tale. A softened look came over Aunt Jane's face.
No, child, she said quietly, Sam's oldest son is livin' yet, and
his three daughters. They all moved out o' the Goshen neighborhood long
ago. But Sam's been in his grave twenty years or more, and here I set
laughin' about that ride o' his. Somehow or other I've outlived nearly
all of 'em. And now when I git to callin' up old times, no matter where
I start out, I'm pretty certain to end over in the old buryin'-ground
yonder. But then, and she smiled brightly, there's a plenty more to
be told over on the other side.
VIII. MARY ANDREWS' DINNER-PARTY
Well! exclaimed Aunt Jane, as she surveyed her dinner-table,
looks like Mary Andrews' dinner-party, don't it? However, there's a
plenty of it such as it is, and good enough what there is of it, as the
old man said; so set down, child, and help yourself.
A loaf of Aunt Jane's salt-rising bread, a plate of golden butter, a
pitcher of Jersey milk, and a bowl of honey in the comb,who would ask
for more? And as I sat down I blessed the friendly rain that had kept
me from going home.
But who was Mary Andrews? and what about her dinner-party? I
asked, as I buttered my bread.
Eat your dinner, child, and then we'll talk about Mary Andrews,
laughed Aunt Jane. If I'd 'a' thought before I spoke, which I hardly
ever do, I wouldn't 'a' mentioned Mary Andrews, for I know you won't
let me see any rest till you know all about her.
And Aunt Jane was quite right. A summer rain, and a story, too!
I reckon there's mighty few livin' that ricollect about Mary
Andrews and her dinner-party, she said meditatively an hour later,
when the dishes had been washed and we were seated in the old-fashioned
Mary Andrews' maiden name was Crawford. A first cousin of Sam
Crawford she was. Her father was Jerry Crawford, a brother of Old Man
Bob, and her mother was a Simpson. People used to say that the
Crawfords and the Simpsons was like two mud-puddles with a ditch
between, always runnin' together. I ricollect one year three Crawford
sisters married three Simpson brothers. Mary was about my age, and she
married Harvey Andrews a little over a year after me and Abram married,
and there's few women I ever knew better and liked more than I did Mary
I ricollect her weddin' nearly as well as I do my own. My Jane was
jest a month old, and I had to ask mother to come over and stay with
the baby while I went to the weddin'. I hadn't thought much about what
I'd wearI'd been so taken up with the babyand I ricollect I went to
the big chest o' drawers in the spare room and jerked out my weddin'
dress, and says I to mother, 'There'll be two brides at the weddin'!'
But, bless your life, when I tried to make it meet around my waist,
why, it lacked four or five inches of comin' together; and mother set
and laughed fit to kill, and, says she, 'Jane, that dress was made for
a young girl, and you'll never be a young girl again!' And I says,
'Well, I may never fasten this dress around my waist again, but I don't
know what's to hinder me from bein' a young girl all my life.'
I wish to goodness, she went on, that I could ricollect what I
wore to Mary Andrews' weddin'. I know I didn't wear my weddin' dress,
and I know I went, but to save my life I can't call up the dress I had
on. It ain't like me to forgit the clothes I used to wear, but I can't
call it up. However, what I wore to Mary Andrews' weddin' ain't got
anything to do with Mary Andrews' dinner-party.
Aunt Jane paused and scratched her head reflectively with a knitting
needle. Evidently she was loath to go on with her story till the memory
of that wedding garment should return to her.
I was readin' the other day, she continued, about somethin'
they've got off yonder in Washington, some sort of bureau that tells
folks what the weather'll be, and warns the ships about settin' off on
a voyage when there's a storm ahead. And says I to myself, 'Do you
reckon they'll ever git so smart that they can tell what sort o'
weather there is ahead o' two people jest married and settin' out on
the voyage that won't end till death parts 'em? and what sort o'
weather they're goin' to have six months from the weddin' day?' The
world's gittin' wiser every day, child, but there ain't nobody wise
enough to tell what sort of a husband a man's goin' to make, nor what
sort of a wife a woman's goin' to make, nor how a weddin' is goin' to
turn out. I've watched folks marryin' for more'n seventy years, and I
don't know much more about it than I did when I was a ten-year-old
child. I've seen folks marry when it looked like certain destruction
for both of 'em, and all at once they'd take a turn that'd surprise
everybody, and things would come out all right with 'em. There was Wick
Harris and Virginia Matthews. Wick was jest such a boy as Dick Elrod,
and Virginia was another Annie Crawford. She'd never done a stitch o'
sewin' nor cooked a meal o' victuals in her life, and I ricollect her
mother sayin' she didn't know which she felt sorriest for, Wick or
Virginia, and she wished to goodness there was a law to keep such folks
from marryin'. But, bless your life! instead o' comin' to shipwreck
like Dick and Annie, they settled down as steady as any old married
couple you ever saw. Wick quit his drinkin' and gamblin', and Virginia,
why, there wasn't a better housekeeper in the state nor a better
mother'n she got to be.
And then I've seen 'em marry when everything looked bright ahead
and everybody was certain it was a good thing for both of 'em, and it
turned out that everybody was wrong. That's the way it was with Mary
Andrews and Harvey. Nobody had a misgivin' about it. Mary was as happy
as a lark, and Harvey looked like he couldn't wait for the weddin' day,
and everybody said they was made for each other. To be sure, Harvey was
'most a stranger in the neighborhood, havin' moved in about a year and
a half before, and we couldn't know him like we did the Goshen boys
that'd been born and brought up there. But nobody could say a word
against him. His family down in Tennessee, jest beyond the state line,
was as good people as ever lived, and Harvey himself was industrious
and steady, and as fine lookin' a man as you'd see in a week's journey.
Everybody said they never saw a handsomer couple than Harvey and Mary
Mary was a tall, proud-lookin' girl, always carried herself like a
queen, and hadn't a favor to ask of anybody; and Harvey was half a head
taller, and jest her opposite in color. She was dark and he was light.
They was a fine sight standin' up before the preacher that day, and
everybody was wishin' 'em good luck, though it looked like they had
enough already; both of 'em young and healthy and happy and
good-lookin', and Harvey didn't owe a cent on his farm, and Mary's
father had furnished the house complete for her. The weddin' come off
at four o'clock in the evenin', and we all stayed to supper, and after
supper Harvey and Mary drove over to their new home. I ricollect how
Mary looked back over her shoulder and laughed at us standin' on the
steps and wavin' at her and hollerin' 'good-bye.'
It was the fashion in that day for all the neighbors to entertain a
newly married couple. Some would invite 'em to dinner, and some to
supper, and then the bride and groom would have to do the same for the
neighbors, and then the honeymoon'd be over, and they'd settle down and
go to work like ordinary folks. We had Harvey and Mary over to dinner,
and they asked us to supper. I ricollect how nice the table looked with
Mary's new blue and white china and some o' the old-fashioned silver
that'd been in the family for generations. And the supper matched the
table, for Mary wasn't the kind that expects company to satisfy their
hunger by lookin' at china and silver. She was a fine cook like her
mother before her. Amos and Marthy Matthews had been invited, too, and
we had a real pleasant time laughin' and jokin' like folks always do
about young married people. After supper we all went out on the porch,
and Mary whispered to me and Marthy to come and see her china closet
and pantry. You know how proud a young housekeeper is of such things.
She showed us all through the back part o' the house, and we praised
everything and told her it looked like old experienced housekeepin'
instead of a bride's.
Well, when we went back to the dinin'-room on our way to the porch,
if there wasn't Harvey bendin' over the table countin' the silver
teaspoons! A man always looks out o' place doin' such things, and I saw
Mary's face turn red to the roots of her hair. But nobody said
anything, and we passed on through and left Harvey still countin'. It
was a little thing, but I couldn't help thinkin' how queer it was for a
man that hadn't been married two weeks to leave his company and go back
to the table to count spoons, and I asked myself how I'd 'a' felt if
I'd found Abram countin' spoons durin' the honeymoon.
Did you ever take a walk, child, some cloudy night when
everything's covered up by the darkness, and all at once there'll be a
flash o' lightnin' showin' up everything jest for a second? Well,
that's the way it is with people's lives. Near as Harvey and Mary lived
to me, and friendly as we were, I couldn't tell what was happenin'
between 'em. But every now and then, as the months went by, and the
years, I'd see or hear somethin' that was like a flash of light in a
dark place. Sometimes it was jest a look, but there's mighty little a
look can't tell; and as for actions, you know they speak louder than
words. I ricollect one Sunday Harvey and Mary was walkin' ahead o' me
and Abram. There was a rough piece o' road jest in front of the church,
and I heard Harvey say: 'Don't walk there, come over on the side where
I reckon Mary thought that Harvey was thinkin' of her feet, for she
stepped over to the side of the road right at once and says he, 'Don't
you know them stones'll wear out your shoes quicker'n anything?' And,
bless your life, if Mary didn't go right back to the middle of the
road, and she took particular pains to walk on the stones as far as
they went. It was a little thing, to be sure, but it showed that Harvey
was thinkin' more of his wife's shoes than he was of her feet, and that
ain't a little thing to a woman.
Then, again, there was the time when me and Abram was passin'
Harvey's place one evenin', and a storm was comin' up, and we stopped
in to keep from gittin' wet. Mary had been to town that day, and she
had on her best dress. She was a woman that looked well in anything she
put on. Plain clothes couldn't make her look plain, and she set off
fine clothes as much as they set her off. Me and Abram took seats on
the porch, and Mary went into the hall to git another chair. I heard
the back hall door open and somebody come in, and then I heard Harvey's
voice. Says he, 'Go up-stairs and take off that dress.' Says he,
'What's the use of wearin' out your best clothes here at home?' But
before he got the last words out, Mary was on the porch with the chair
in her hand, talkin' to us about her trip to town, and lookin' as
unconcerned as if she hadn't heard or seen Harvey. That night I says to
Abram, says I, 'Abram, did you ever have any cause to think that Harvey
Andrews was a close man?'
Abram thought a minute, and, says he, 'Why, no; I can't say I ever
did. What put such a notion into your head, Jane? Harvey looks after
his own interests in a trade, but he's as liberal a giver as there is
in Goshen church. Besides,' says Abram, 'who ever heard of a tall,
personable man like Harvey bein' close? Stingy people's always dried up
and shriveled lookin'.'
But I'd made up my mind what the trouble was between Harvey and
Mary, and nothin' that Abram said could change it. I don't reckon any
man knows how women feel about stinginess and closeness in their
husbands. I believe most women'd rather live with a man that'd killed
somebody than one that was stingy. And then Mary never was used to
anything of that kind, for her father, old man Jerry Crawford, was one
o' the freest-handed men in the county. It was 'Come in and make
yourself at home' with everybody that darkened his door, and for a
woman, raised like Mary was, havin' to live with a man like Harvey was
about the hardest thing that could 'a' happened to her. However, she
had the Crawford pride, and she carried her head high and laughed and
smiled as much as ever; but there's a look that tells plain enough
whether a woman's married to a man or whether she's jest tied to him
and stayin' with him because she can't get free; and when Mary wasn't
laughin' or smilin' I could tell by her face that she wasn't as happy
as we all thought she was goin' to be the day she married Harvey.
Aunt Jane paused a moment to pick up a dropped stitch.
It's a good thing you had your dinner, honey, before I started this
yarn, she said, looking at me quizzically over her glasses, for I'll
be a long time bringin' you to the dinner-party. But I've got to tell
you all this rigmarole first, so you'll understand what's comin'. If I
was to tell you about the dinner-party first you'd get a wrong idea
about Mary. That's how folks misjudges one another. They see people
doin' things that ain't right, and they up and conclude they're bad
people, when if they only knew somethin' about their lives, they'd
understand how to make allowance for 'em. You've got to know a heap
about people's lives, child, before you can judge 'em.
Well, along about this time, somewhere in the '60's, I reckon it
must 'a' been, there was a big excitement about politics. I can't
somehow ricollect what it was all about, but they had speakin's
everywhere, and the men couldn't talk about anything but politics from
mornin' till night. Abram was goin' in to town every week to some
meetin' or speakin'; and finally they had a big rally and a barbecue at
Goshen. One of the speakers was Judge McGowan, from Tennessee, and he
was a cousin of Harvey Andrews on his mother's side.
Here Aunt Jane paused again.
I wish I could ricollect what it was all about, she said musingly.
Must 'a' been something mighty important, but it's slipped my memory,
sure. I do ricollect, though, hearin' Sam Amos say to old Squire
Bentham, 'What's the matter, anyhow? Ain't Kentucky politicians got
enough gift o' gab, without sendin' down to Tennessee to git somebody
to help you out?'
And the old Squire laughed fit to kill; and says he, 'It's all on
your account, Sam. We heard you was against us, and we knew there
wasn't an orator in Kentucky that could make you change your mind. So
we've sent down to Tennessee for Judge McGowan, and we're relyin' on
him to bring you over to our side.' And that like to 'a' tickled Sam to
Well, when Harvey heard his cousin was to be one o' the big men at
the speakin', he was mighty proud, as anybody would 'a' been, and
nothin' would do but he must have Judge McGowan to eat dinner at his
Some of the men objected to this, and said the speakers ought to
eat at the barbecue. But Harvey said that blood was thicker than water
with him, and no cousin o' his could come to Goshen and go away without
eatin' a meal at his house. So it was fixed up that everybody else was
to eat at the barbecue, and Harvey was to take Judge McGowan over to
his house to a family dinner-party.
I dropped in to see Mary two or three days before the speakin', and
when I was leavin', I said, 'Mary, if there's anything I can do to help
you about your dinner-party, jest let me know.' And she said, 'There
ain't a thing to do; Harvey's been to town and bought everything he
could think of in the way of groceries, and Jane Ann's comin' over to
cook the dinner; but thank you, all the same.'
I thought Mary looked pleased and satisfied, and I says, 'Well,
with everything to cook and Jane Ann to cook it, there won't be
anything lackin' about that dinner.' And Mary laughed, and says she,
'You know I'm my father's own child.'
Old Jerry used to say, ''Tain't no visit unless you waller a bed
and empty a plate.' They used tell it that Aunt Maria, the cook, never
had a chance to clean up the kitchen between meals, and the neighbors
all called Jerry's house the free tavern. I've heard folks laugh many a
time over the children recitin' the Ten Commandments Sunday evenin's,
and Jerry would holler at 'em when they got through and say:
'The 'leventh commandment for Kentuckians is, Be not forgetful to
entertain strangers, and never mind about 'em turnin' out to be
angels. Plain folks is good enough for me.'
Here I am strayin' off from the dinner, jest like I always do when
I set out to tell anything or go anywhere. Abram used to say that if I
started to the spring-house, I'd go by way o' the front porch and the
front yard and the back porch and the back yard and the flower gyarden
and the vegetable gyarden to git there.
Well, the day come, and Judge McGowan made a fine speech, and
Harvey carried him off in his new buggy, as proud as a peacock. I
ricollect when I set down to my table that day I said to myself: 'I
know Judge McGowan's havin' a dinner to-day that'll make him remember
Kentucky as long as he lives.' And it wasn't till years afterwards that
I heard the truth about that dinner. Jane Ann herself told me, and I
don't believe she ever told anybody else. Jane Ann was crippled for a
year or more before she died, and the neighbors had to do a good deal
of nursin' and waitin' on her. I was makin' her a cup o' tea one day,
and the kittle was bubblin' and singin', and she begun to laugh, and
says she, 'Jane, do you hear that sparrer chirpin' in the peach tree
there by the window?' Says she, 'I never hear a sparrer chirpin' and a
kittle b'ilin', that I don't think o' the dinner Mary Andrews had the
day Judge McGowan spoke at the big barbecue.' Says she, 'Mary's dead,
and Harvey's dead, and I reckon there ain't any harm in speakin' of it
now.' And then she told me the story I'm tellin' you.
She said she went over that mornin' bright and early, and there was
Mary sittin' on the back porch, sewin'. The house was all cleaned up,
and there was a big panful o' greens on the kitchen table, but not a
sign of a company dinner anywhere in sight. Jane Ann said Mary spoke up
as bright and pleasant as possible, and told her to set down and rest
herself, and she went on sewin', and they talked about this and that
for a while, and finally Jane Ann rolled up her sleeves, and says she,
'I'm a pretty fast worker, Mis' Andrews, but a company dinner ain't any
small matter; don't you think it's time to begin work?'
And Mary jest smiled and said in her easy way, 'No, Jane Ann,
there's not much to do. It won't take long for the greens to cook, and
I want you to make some of your good corn bread to go with 'em.' And
then she went on sewin' and talkin', and all Jane Ann could do was to
set there and listen and wonder what it all meant.
Finally the clock struck eleven, and Mary rolled up her work, and
says she, 'You'd better make up your fire now, Jane Ann, and I'll set
the table. Harvey likes an early dinner.'
Jane Ann said she expected to see Mary get out the best china and
silver and the finest tablecloth and napkins she had, but instead o'
that she put on jest plain, everyday things. Everything was clean and
nice, but it wasn't the way to set the table for a company dinner, and
nobody knew that better than Mary Andrews.
Jane Ann said she saw a ham and plenty o' vegetables and eggs in
the pantry, and she could hardly keep her hands off 'em, and she did
smuggle some potatoes into the stove after she got her greens washed
and her meal scalded. She said she knew somethin' was wrong, but all
she could do was to hold her tongue and do her work. That was Jane
Ann's way. When Mary got through settin' the table, she went up-stairs
and put on her best dress. Trouble hadn't pulled her down a bit; and,
if anything, she was handsomer than she was the day she married. I
reckon it was her spirit that kept her from breakin' and growin' old
before her time. Jane Ann said she come down-stairs, her eyes sparklin'
like a girl's and a bright color in her cheeks, and she had on a
flowered muslin dress, white ground with sprigs o' lilac all over it,
and lace in the neck, and angel sleeves that showed off her arms, and
her hair was twisted high up on her head, and a big tortoise-shell comb
in it. Jane Ann said she looked as pretty as a picture; and jest as she
come down the stairs, Harvey drove up with Judge McGowan, and Mary
walked out to give him a welcome, while Harvey put away the buggy.
Nobody had pleasanter ways than Mary Andrews. She always had somethin'
to say, and it was always the right thing to be said, and in a minute
her and the old judge was laughin' like they'd known each other all
their lives, and he had the children on his knees trottin' 'em and
tellin' 'em about his little girl and boy at home.
Jane Ann said her greens was about done and she started to put on
the corn bread, but somethin' held her back. She knew corn bread and
greens wasn't a fit dinner for a stranger that had been invited there,
but of course she couldn't do anything without orders, and she was
standin' over the stove waitin' and wonderin', when Harvey, man-like,
walked in to see how dinner was gettin' on. Jane Ann said he looked at
the pot o' greens and the pan of corn bread batter, and he went into
the dinin'-room and saw the table all clean, but nothin' on it beyond
the ordinary, and his face looked like a thunder-cloud. And jest then
Mary come in all smilin', and the prettiest color in her cheeks, and
Harvey wheeled around and says he, 'What does this mean? Where's the
ham I told you to cook and all the rest o' the things I bought for this
Jane Ann said the way he spoke and the look in his eyes would 'a'
frightened most any woman but Mary; she wasn't the kind to be
frightened. Jane Ann said she stood up straight, with her head thrown
back and still smilin', and her voice was as clear and sweet as if
she'd been sayin' somethin' pleasant. And she looked Harvey straight in
the eyes, and says she, 'It means, Harvey, that what's good enough for
us is good enough for your kin.' Jane Ann said that Harvey looked at
her a second as if he didn't understand, and then he give a start as if
he ricollected somethin', and it looked like all the blood in his body
rushed to his face, and he lifted one hand and opened his mouth like he
was goin' to speak. There they stood, lookin' at each other, and Jane
Ann said she never saw such a look pass between husband and wife before
or since. If either of 'em had dropped dead, she said, it wouldn't 'a'
Honey, I read a story once about two men that had quarreled, and
one of 'em picked up a little rock and put it in his pocket, and for
eight years he carried that rock, and once a year he'd turn it over.
And at last, one day he met the man he hated, and he took out the rock
he'd been carryin' so long, and threw it at him, and it struck him
dead. Now I know as well as if Mary Andrews had told me, that Harvey
had said them very same words to her years before, and she'd carried
'em in her heart, jest like the man carried the stone in his pocket,
waitin' till she could throw 'em back at him and hurt him as much as he
hurt her. It wasn't right nor Christian. But knowin' Mary Andrews as I
did, I never had a word o' blame for her. There never was a
better-hearted woman than Mary, and I always thought she must 'a' gone
through a heap to make her say such a thing to Harvey.
Jane Ann said that when she worked at a place she always tried to
be blind and deaf so far as family matters was concerned, and she knew
that she had no business seein' or hearin' anything that went on
between Harvey and Mary, but there they stood, facin' each other, and
she could hear a sparrer chirpin' outside, and the tea-kittle b'ilin'
on the stove, while she stood watchin' 'em, feelin' like she was
charmed by a snake. She said the look in Mary's eyes and the way she
smiled made her blood run cold. And Harvey couldn't stand it. He had to
Jane Ann said his hand dropped, and he turned and walked out o' the
house and down towards the barn. Mary watched him till he was out o'
sight, and then she went back to the front porch, and the next minute
she was laughin' and talkin' with Harvey's cousin as if nothin' had
Well, for the next half hour Jane Ann said she made her two hands
do the work of four, and when she put the dinner on the table it was
nothin' to be ashamed of. She sliced some ham and fried it, and made
coffee and soda biscuits, and poached some eggs; and when they set down
to the table, and the old judge'd said grace, he looked around, and,
says he: 'How did you know, cousin, that jowl and greens was my
favorite dish?' And while they was eatin' the first course, Jane Ann
made up pie-crust and had a blackberry pie ready by the time they was
ready to eat it. The old judge was a plain man and a hearty eater, and
everything pleased him.
When they first set down, Mary says, says she: 'You'll have to
excuse Harvey, Cousin Samuel; he had some farm-work to attend to and
won't be in for some little time.'
And the old judge bows and smiles across the table, and, says he,
'I hadn't missed Harvey, and ain't likely to miss him when I'm talkin'
to Harvey's wife.'
Jane Ann said she never saw a meal pass off better, and when she
looked at Mary jokin' and smilin' with the judge and waitin' on the
children so kind and thoughtful, she could hardly believe it was the
same woman that had stood there a few minutes before with that awful
smile on her face and looked her husband in the eyes till she looked
him down. She said she expected Harvey to step in any minute, and she
kept things hot while she was washin' up the dishes. But two o'clock
come and half-past two, and still no Harvey. And pretty soon here come
Mary out to the kitchen, and says she:
'I'm goin' to drive the judge to town, Jane Ann. And when you get
through cleanin' up, jest close the house, and your money's on the
mantelpiece in the dinin'-room.' Then she went out in the direction of
the stable, and in a few minutes come drivin' back in the buggy. Jane
Ann said the horse couldn't 'a' been unharnessed at all. Her and the
judge got in with the two children down in front, and they drove off to
catch the four-o'clock train.
Jane Ann said she straightened everything up in the kitchen and
dinin'-room, and shut up the house, and then she went out in the yard
and walked down in the direction of the stable, and there was Harvey,
standin' in the stable-yard. She said his face was turned away from
her, and she was glad it was, for it scared her jest to look at his
back. He was standin' as still as a statue, his arms hangin' down by
his sides and both hands clenched, and it looked like he'd made up his
mind to stand there till Judgment Day. Jane Ann said she wondered many
a time how long he stayed there, and whether he ever did come to the
I ricollect how everybody was talkin' about the speakin' that day.
Abram come home from the barbecue, and, says he, 'Jane, I haven't heard
such a speech as that since the days of old Humphrey Marshall; and as
for the barbecue, all it needed was Judge McGowan to set at the head o'
the table. But then,' says he, 'I reckon it was natural for Harvey to
want to take his cousin home with him.'
That was about four o'clock, and it wasn't more than two hours till
we heard a horse gallopin' way up the pike. I'd jest washed the supper
dishes, and me and Abram was out on the back porch, and I had the baby
in my arms. There was somethin' in the sound o' the horse's hoofs that
told me he was carryin' bad news, and I jumped up, and says I, 'Abram,
some awful thing has happened.' And he says, 'Jane, are you crazy?' I
could hear the sound o' the gallopin' comin' nearer and nearer, and I
rushed out to the front gate with Abram follerin' after me. We looked
up the road, and there was Sam Amos gallopin' like mad on that young
bay mare of his. The minute he saw us he hollered out to Abram: 'Git
ready as quick as you can, and go to town! Harvey Andrews has had an
apoplectic stroke, and I want you to bring the undertaker out here
I turned around to say, 'What did I tell you?' But before I could
git the words out, Abram was off to saddle and bridle old Moll. That
was always Abram's way. If there was anything to be done, he did it,
and the talkin' and questionin' come afterwards.
Sam stopped at the gate and got off a minute to give his horse a
breathin' spell. He said he was passin' Harvey's place about five
o'clock and he heard a child screamin'. 'At first,' says he, 'I didn't
pay any attention to it, I'm so used to hearin' children holler. But
after I got past the house I kept hearin' the child, and somethin' told
me to turn back and find out what was the matter. I went in,' said he,
'and follered the sound till I come to the stable-yard, and there was
Harvey, lyin' on the ground stone dead, and Mary standin' over him
lookin' like a crazy woman, and the children, pore little things,
screamin' and cryin' and scared half to death.'
The horse and buggy was standin' there, and Mary must 'a' found the
body when she come back from town.
'I got her and the children to the house,' says he; 'and then I
started out to get some person to help me move the body, and, as luck
would have it,' says he, 'I met the Crawford boys comin' from town, and
between us we managed to get the corpse up to the house and laid it on
the big settee in the front hall. And now,' says he, 'I'm goin' after
Uncle Jim Matthews; and me and him and the Crawford boys'll lay the
body out when the undertaker comes. And Marthy Matthews will have to
come over and stay all night.
Says I, 'Sam, how is Mary bearin' it?'
He shook his head, and says he, 'The worst way in the world. She
hasn't shed a tear nor spoke a word, and she don't seem to notice
anything, not even the children. But,' says he, 'I can't stand here
talkin'. There's a heap to be done yet, and Milly's lookin' for me
And with that he got on his horse and rode off, and I went into the
house to put the children to bed. Then I set down on the porch steps to
wait for Abram. The sun was down by this time, and there was a new moon
in the west, and it didn't seem like there could be any sorrow and
sufferin' in such a quiet, happy, peaceful-lookin' world. But there was
poor Mary not a mile away, and I set and grieved over her in her
trouble jest like it had been my own. I didn't know what had happened
that day between Harvey and Mary. But I knew that Harvey had been
struck down in the prime o' life, and that Mary had found his dead
body, and that was terrible enough. From what I'd seen o' their married
life I knew that Mary's loss wasn't what mine would 'a' been if Abram
had dropped dead that day instead o' Harvey, but a man and woman can't
live together as husband and wife and father and mother without growin'
to each other; and whatever Mary hadn't lost, she had lost the father
of her children, and I couldn't sleep much that night for thinkin' of
The day of the funeral I went over to help Mary and get her dressed
in her widow's clothes. She was actin' queer and dazed, and nothin'
seemed to make much impression on her. I was fastenin' her crape collar
on, and she says to me: 'I reckon you think it's strange I don't cry
and take on like women do when they lose their husbands. But,' says
she, 'you wouldn't blame me if you knew.'
And then she dropped her voice down to a whisper, and says she,
'You know I married Harvey Andrews. But after I married him, I found
that there wasn't any such man. I haven't got any cause to cry, for the
man I married ain't dead. He never was alive, and so, of course, he
can't be dead.'
And then she began to laugh; and says she, 'I don't know which is
the worst: to be sorry when you ought to be glad, or glad when you
ought to be sorry.'
And I says, 'Hush, Mary, don't talk about it. I know what you mean,
but other folks might not understand.'
Mary ain't the only one, child, that's married a man, and then
found out that there wasn't any such man. I've looked at many a
bride and groom standin' up before the preacher and makin' promises for
a lifetime, and I've thought to myself, 'You pore things, you! All you
know about each other is your names and your faces. You've got all the
rest to find out, and nobody knows what you'll find out nor what you'll
do when you find it out.'
Folks said it was the saddest funeral they ever went to. Harvey's
people all lived down in Tennessee. His father and mother had died long
ago, and he hadn't any near kin except a brother and a sister; and they
lived too far off to come to the funeral in time. Abram said to me
after we got home: 'Well, I never thought I'd help to lay a friend and
neighbor in the ground and not a tear shed over him.'
If Mary had 'a' cried, we could 'a' cried with her. But she set at
the head o' the coffin with her hands folded in her lap, and her mind
seemed to be away off from the things that was happenin' around her. I
don't believe she even heard the clods fallin' on the coffin; and when
we started away from the grave Marthy Matthews leaned over and
whispered to me: 'Jane, don't Mary remind you of somebody walkin' in
Mary's mother and sister hadn't been with her in her trouble, for
they happened to be down in Logan visitin' a great-uncle. So Marthy and
me settled it between us that she was to stay with Mary that night and
I was to come over the next mornin'. You know how much there is to be
done after a funeral. Well, bright and early I went over, and Marthy
met me at the gate. She was goin' out as I was comin' in. Says she, 'Go
right up-stairs; Mary's lookin' for you. She's more like herself this
mornin'; and I'm thankful for that.'
The minute I stepped in the door I heard Mary's voice. She'd seen
me comin' in the gate and called out to me to come up-stairs. She was
in the front room, her room and Harvey's, and the closet and the bureau
drawers was all open, and things scattered around every which way, and
Mary was down on her knees in front of an old trunk, foldin' up
Harvey's clothes and puttin' 'em away. Her hands was shakin', and there
was a red spot on each of her cheeks, and she had a strange look out of
I says to her, 'Why, Mary, you ain't fit to be doin' that work. You
ought to be in bed restin'.' And says she, 'I can't rest till I get
everything straightened out. Mother and sister Sally are comin',' says
she, 'and I want to get everything in order before they get here.' And
I says, 'Now, Mary, you lay down on the bed and I'll put these things
away. You can watch me and tell me what to do, and I'll do it; but
you've got to rest.' So I shook everything out and folded it up as nice
as I could and laid it away in the trunk, while she watched me. And
once she said, 'Don't have any wrinkles in 'em. Harvey was always
mighty particular about his clothes.'
Next to layin' the body in the ground, child, this foldin' up dead
folks' clothes and puttin' 'em away is one o' the hardest things people
ever has to do. It's jest like when you've finished a book and shut it
up and put it away on the shelf. I knew jest how Mary felt, when she
said she couldn't rest till everything was put away. The life she'd
lived with Harvey was over, and she was closin' up the book and puttin'
it out of sight forever. Pore child! Pore child!
Well, when I got all o' Harvey's clothes put away, I washed out the
empty drawers, lined 'em with clean paper and laid some o' little
Harvey's clothes in 'em, and that seemed to please Mary. The father was
gone, but there was his son to take his place. Then I shut it up tight,
and Mary raised herself up out o' bed and says she, 'Take hold, Jane,
I'm goin' to take this to the attic right now.' And take it we did,
though the trunk was heavy and the stairs so steep and narrer we had to
stop and rest on every step. We pushed the trunk way back under the
eaves, and it may be standin' there yet for all I know.
When we got down-stairs, Mary drew a long breath like she'd got a
big load off her mind, and says she, 'There's one more thing I want you
to help me about, and then you can go home, Jane, and I'll go to bed
and rest.' She took a key out of her pocket, and says she, 'Jane, this
is the key to the little cabin out in the back yard. Harvey used to
keep something in there, but what it was I never knew. As long as we
lived together, I never saw inside of that cabin, but I'm goin' to see
The children started to foller us when we went out on the back
porch, but Mary give 'em some playthings and told 'em to stay around in
the front yard till we come back. Then we went over to the far corner
of the back yard where the cabin was, under a big old sycamore tree. I
ricollect how the key creaked when Mary turned it, and how hard the
door was to open.
Mary started to go in first, and then she fell back, and says she,
in a whisper, 'You go in first, Jane; I'm afraid.' So I went in first
and Mary follered. For a minute we couldn't see a thing. There was two
windows to the cabin, but they'd been boarded up from the outside, and
there was jest one big crack at the top of one of the windows that let
in a long streak of light, and you could see the dust dancin' in it.
The door opened jest enough to let us in, and we both stood there
peerin' around and tryin' to see what sort of a place we'd got into.
The first thing I made out was a heap of old rusty iron. I started to
take a step, and my foot struck against it. There was old bolts and
screws and horseshoes and scraps of old cast iron and nails of every
size, all laid together in a big heap. The place seemed to be full of
somethin', but I couldn't see what it all was till my eyes got used to
the darkness. There was a row of nails goin' all round the wall, and
old clothes hangin' on every one of 'em. And down on the floor there
was piles of old clothes, folded smooth and laid one on top o' the
other jest like a washerwoman would fold 'em and pile 'em up. Harvey's
old clothes and Mary's and the children's, things that any right-minded
person would 'a' put in the rag-bag or given away to anybody that could
make use of 'em; there they was, all hoarded up in that old room jest
like they was of some value. And over in one corner was all the old
worn-out tin things that you could think of: buckets and pans and
milk-strainers and dippers and cups. And next to them was all the glass
and china that'd been broken in the years Mary and Harvey'd been
keepin' house. And there was a lot of old brooms, nothin' but stubs,
tied together jest like new brooms in the store. And there was all the
children's broken toys, dolls, and doll dresses, and even some glass
marbles that little Harvey used to play with. The dust was lyin' thick
and heavy over everything, and the spiderwebs looked like black strings
hangin' from the ceilin'; but things of the same sort was all lyin'
together jest like some woman had put the place in order.
You've heard tell of that bird, child, that gathers up all sorts o'
rubbish and carries it off to its nest and hides it? Well, I thought
about that bird; and the heap of old iron reminded me of a little boy's
pocket when you turn it wrong side out at night, and the china and
glass and doll-rags made me think of the playhouses I used to make
under the trees when I was a little girl. I've seen many curious
places, honey, but nothin' like that old cabin. The moldy smell
reminded me of the grave; and when I looked at all the dusty, old
plunder, the ragged clothes hangin' against the wall like so many
ghosts, and then thought of the dead man that had put 'em there, I tell
you it made my flesh creep.
Well, we stood there, me and Mary, strainin' our eyes tryin' to see
into the dark corners, and all at once the meanin' of it come over me
like a flash: Harvey was a miser!
Aunt Jane stopped, took off her glasses and polished them on the hem
of her gingham apron. I sat holding my breath; but, all regardless of
my suspense, she dropped the thread of the story and followed memory in
one of her capricious backward flights.
I ricollect a sermon I heard when I was a gyirl, she said. It
ain't often, I reckon, that a sermon makes much impression on a gyirl's
mind. But this wasn't any ordinary sermon or any ordinary preacher.
Presbytery met in town that year, and all the big preachers in the
state was there. Some of 'em come out and preached to the country
churches, and old Dr. Samuel Chalmers Morse preached at Goshen. He was
one o' the biggest men in the Presbytery, and I ricollect his looks as
plain as I ricollect his sermon. Some preachers look jest like other
men, and you can tell the minute you set eyes on 'em that they ain't
any wiser or any better than common folks. But Dr. Morse wasn't that
You know the Bible tells about people walkin' with God and talkin'
with God. It says Enoch walked with God, and Adam talked with Him. Some
folks might find that hard to believe, but it seems jest as natural to
me. Why many a time I've been in my gyarden when the sun's gone down,
and it ain't quite time for the moon to come up, and the dew's fallin'
and the flowers smellin' sweet, and I've set down in the summer-house
and looked up at the stars; and if I'd heard a voice from heaven it
wouldn't 'a' been a bit stranger to me than the blowin' of the wind.
The minute I saw Dr. Morse I thought about Adam and Enoch, and I
said to myself, 'He looks like a man that's walked with God and talked
I didn't look at the people's hats and bonnets that day half as
much as I usually did, and part of that sermon stayed by me all my
life. He preached about Nebuchadnezzar and the image he saw in his
dream with the head of gold and the feet of clay. And he said that
every human being was like that image; there was gold and there was
clay in every one of us. Part of us was human and part was divine. Part
of us was earthly like the clay, and part heavenly like the gold. And
he said that in some folks you couldn't see anything but the clay, but
that the gold was there, and if you looked long enough you'd find it.
And some folks, he said, looked like they was all gold, but somewhere
or other there was the clay, too, and nobody was so good but what he
had his secret sins and open faults. And he said sin was jest another
name for ignorance, and that Christ knew this when he prayed on the
cross, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' He said
everybody would do right, if they knew what was right to do, and that
the thing for us to do was to look for the gold and not the clay in
other folks. For the gold was the part that would never die, and the
clay was jest the mortal part that we dropped when this mortal shall
have put on immortality.
Child, that sermon's come home to me many a time when I've caught
myself weighin' people in the balance and findin' 'em wantin'. That's
what I'd been doin' all them years with pore Harvey. I'd seen things
every once in a while that let in a little light on his life and
Mary's, but the old cabin made it all plain as day, and it seemed like
every piece o' rubbish in it rose up in judgment against me. I never
felt like cryin' at Harvey's funeral, but when I stood there peerin'
around, the tears burnt my eyes, and I says to myself, 'Clay and gold!
Clay and gold!'
The same thought must 'a' struck Mary at the same minute it did me,
for she fell on her knees moanin' and wringin' her hands and cryin':
'God forgive me! God forgive me! I see it all now. He couldn't help
it, and I've been a hard woman, and God'll judge me as I judged
The look in her eyes and the sound of her voice skeered me, and I
saw that the quicker I got her out o' the old cabin the better. I put
my hand on her shoulder, and says I, 'Hush, Mary. Get up and come back
to the house; but don't let the children hear you takin' on so. You
might skeer little Harvey.'
She stopped a minute and stared at me, and then she caught hold o'
my hand, and says she: 'No! no! the children mustn't ever know anything
about it, and nobody must ever see the inside o' that awful place.
Come, quick!' says she; and she got up from her knees and pulled me
outside of the door and locked it and dropped the key in her apron
Little Harvey come runnin' up to her, and I was in hopes the sight
of the child would bring her to herself, but she walked on as if she
hadn't seen him; and as soon as she got up-stairs she fell down in a
heap on the floor and went to wringin' her hands and beatin' her breast
and cryin' without tears.
Honey, if you're done a wrong to a livin' person, you needn't set
down and grieve over it. You can go right to the person and make it
right or try to make it right. But when the one you've wronged is dead,
and the grave lies between you, that's the sort o' grief that breaks
hearts and makes people lose their minds. And that was what Mary
Andrews had to bear when she opened the door o' that old cabin and saw
into Harvey's nature, and felt that she had misjudged and condemned
I couldn't do anything for a long time, but jest sit by her and
listen while she called Harvey back from the dead, and called on God to
forgive her, and blamed herself for all that had ever gone wrong
between 'em. But at last she wore herself out and had to stop, and says
I, 'Mary, I don't know what's passed between you and Harvey' And she
broke in, and says she:
'No! no! you don't know, and nobody on this earth knows what I've
been through. I used to feel like I was in an iron cage that got
smaller and smaller every day, and I knew the day was comin' when it
would shut in on me and crush me. But I wouldn't give in to Harvey, I
wouldn't let him have his own way, and I fought him and hated him and
despised him; and now I see he couldn't help it, and I feel like I'd
been strikin' a crippled child.'
A crippled child! That was jest what pore Harvey was; but I knew it
wasn't right for Mary to take all the blame on herself, and says I:
'Mary, if Harvey could keep other people from knowin' what he was,
couldn't he have kept you from knowin' it, too? If he was free-handed
to other people, what was to hinder him from bein' the same way to
you?' Says I, 'If there's any blame in this matter it belongs as much
to Harvey as it does to you. When you look at that old cabin,' says I,
'you can't have any hard feelin's toward pore Harvey. You've forgiven
him, and now,' says I, 'there's jest one more person you've got to
forgive, and that's yourself,' says I. 'It's jest as wrong to be too
hard on yourself as it is to be too hard on other folks.'
I never had thought o' that before, child, but I've thought of it
many a time since and I know it's true. It ain't often you find a human
bein' that's too hard on himself. Most of us is jest the other way. But
Mary was one of that kind. I could see a change come over her face
while I was talkin', and I've always believed them words was put in my
mouth to give Mary the comfort and help she needed.
She grabbed hold o' my hand, and says she:
'Do you reckon I've got a right to forgive myself?' Says she, 'I
know I'm not a mean woman by nature, but Harvey's ways wasn't my ways.
He made me do things I didn't want to do and say things I didn't want
to say, and I never was myself as long as I lived with him. But God
knows I wouldn't 'a' been so hard on him if I'd only known,' says she.
'God may forgive me, but even if He does, it don't seem to me that I've
got a right to forgive myself.'
And says I, 'Mary, if you don't forgive yourself you won't be able
to keer for the children, and you haven't got any right to wrong the
livin' by worryin' over the dead. And now,' says I, 'you lie down on
this bed and shut your eyes and say to yourself, Harvey's forgiven me,
and God's forgiven me, and I forgive myself. Don't let another thought
come into your head. Jest say it over and over till you go to sleep,
and while you're sleepin', I'll look after the children.'
I didn't have much faith in my own remedy, but she minded me like a
child mindin' its mother; and, sure enough, when I tiptoed up-stairs an
hour or so after that, I found her fast asleep. Her mother and her
sister Sally come while she was still sleepin', and I left for home,
feelin' that she was in good hands.
That night about half-past nine o'clock I went outdoors and set
down on the porch steps in the dark, as I always do jest before
bedtime. That's been one o' my ways ever since I was a child. Abram
used to say he had known me to forgit my prayers many a night, but he
never knew me to forgit to go outdoors and look up at the sky. If there
was a moon, or if the stars was shinin', I'd stay out and wander around
in the gyarden till he'd come out after me; and if it was cloudy, I'd
set there and feel safe in the darkness as in the light. I always have
thought, honey, that we lose a heap by sleepin' all night. Well, I was
sittin' there lookin' up at the stars, and all at once I saw a bright
light over in the direction of Harvey Andrews' place. Our house was
built on risin' ground, and we could see for a good ways around the
country. I called Abram and asked him if he hadn't better saddle old
Moll and ride over and see if he couldn't help whoever was in trouble.
But he said it was most likely some o' the neighbors burnin' brush, and
whatever it was it would be out before he could git to it. So we set
there watchin' it and speculatin' about it till it died down, and then
we went to bed.
The next mornin' I was out in the yard weedin' out a bed o' clove
pinks, and Sam Amos come ridin' by on his big bay mare. I hollered to
him and asked him if he knew where the fire was the night before. And
says he, 'Yes, Aunt Jane; it was that old cabin on Harvey Andrews'
place.' He said that Amos Matthews happened to be goin' by at the time
and took down the fence-rails to keep it from spreadin', but that was
all he could do. Sam said Amos told him there was somethin' mysterious
about that fire. He said it must 'a' been started from the inside, for
the flames didn't burst through the windows and roof till after he got
there, and the whole inside was ablaze. But, when he tried to open the
door, it was locked fast and tight. He said Mary and her mother and
sister was all out in the yard, and Mary was standin' with her hands
folded in front of her, lookin' at the burnin' house jest as calm as if
it was her own fireplace. Amos asked her for the key to the cabin door,
and she went to the back porch and took one off a nail, but it wouldn't
fit the lock, and before she could get another to try, the roof was on
fire and cavin' in. Amos told Sam the cabin appeared to be full of old
plunder of all sorts, and you could smell burnt rags for a mile around.
Of course there was a good deal o' talk about the fire, and
everybody said how curious it was that it could catch on the inside
when the door was locked. I never said a word, not even to Abram, but I
knew well enough who set the old cabin afire, and why the key Mary gave
Amos wouldn't fit the lock. Harvey's clothes was packed away under the
old garret; the old cabin was burned, and the ashes and rubbish hauled
away, and there wasn't anything much left to remind Mary of the things
she was tryin' to forget. That's the best way to do. When a thing's
done and you can't undo it, there's no use in frettin' and worryin'
yourself. Jest put it out o' your mind, and go on your way and git
ready for the next trial that's comin' to you.
But Mary never seemed like herself after Harvey died, until little
Harvey was taken with fever. That seemed to rouse her and bring her
senses back, and she nursed him night and day. The little thing went
down to the very gates of death, and everybody give up hope except the
old doctor. He'd fight death off as long as there was breath in the
body. The night the turnin' point was to come I set up with Mary. The
child'd been moanin' and tossin', and his muscles was twitchin', and
the fever jest as high as it could be. But about three o'clock he got
quiet and about half-past three I leaned over and counted his breaths.
He was breathin' slow and regular, and I touched his forehead and found
it was wet, and the fever was goin' away. I went over to Mary, and says
I, 'You go in the other room and lie down, Mary, the fever's broke, and
Harvey's goin' to git well.' She stared at me like she couldn't take in
what I was sayin'. Then her face begun to work like a person's in a
convulsion, and she jumped up and rushed out o' the room, and the next
minute she give a cry that I can hear yet. Then she begun to sob, and I
knew she was cryin' tears at last, and I set by the child and cried
She wasn't able to be up for two or three days, and every little
while she'd burst out cryin'. Some folks said she was cryin' for joy
about the child gittin' well; and some said she was cryin' the tears
she ought to 'a' cried when Harvey was buried; but I knew she was
cryin' over all the sorrows of her married life. She told me afterwards
that she hadn't shed a tear for six or seven years. Says she, 'I used
to cry my eyes out nearly over the way things went, and one day
somethin' happened and I come near cryin'; but the children was around
and I didn't want them to see me; so I says to myself, I won't cry.
What's the use wastin' tears over such things? And from that day,'
says she, 'I got as hard as a stone, and it looks like I was jest
turnin' back to flesh and blood again.'
There's only two ways o' takin' trouble, child; you can laugh over
it or you can cry over it. But you've got to do one or the other. The
Lord made some folks that can laugh away their troubles, and he made
tears for them that can't laugh, and human bein's can't harden
themselves into stone.
I reckon, as Mary said, nobody on earth knew what she'd been
through, livin' with a man like Harvey. If he'd been an out-and-out
miser, it would 'a' been better for everybody concerned. But it looked
like Nature started out to make him a miser and then sp'iled the job,
so's he was neither one thing nor the other. The gold was there, and he
showed that to outsiders; and the clay was there, and he showed that to
Mary. And that's the strangest part of all to me. If he had enough
sense not to want his neighbors to know his meanness, it looks like he
ought to have had sense enough to hide it from his wife. A man ought to
want his wife to think well of him whether anybody else does or not.
You see, a woman can make out to live with a man and not love him, but
she can't live with him and despise him. She's jest got to respect him.
But there's some men that never have found that out. They think that
because a woman stands up before a preacher and promises to love and
honor him, that she's bound to do it, no matter what he does. And some
women do. They're like dogs; they'll stick to a man no matter what he
does. Some women never can see any faults in their husbands, and some
sees the faults and covers 'em up and hides 'em from outsiders. But
Mary wasn't that sort. She couldn't deceive herself, and nobody could
deceive her; and when she found out Harvey's meanness she couldn't help
despisin' him in her heart, jest like Michal despised David when she
saw him playin' and dancin' before the Lord.
There's something I never have understood, and one of 'em is why
such a woman as Mary should 'a' been permitted to marry a man like
Harvey Andrews. It kind o' shakes my faith in Providence every time I
think of it. But I reckon there was a reason for it, whether I can see
it or not.
Aunt Jane's voice ceased. She dropped her knitting in her lap and
leaned back in the old easy-chair. Apparently she was looking at the
dripping syringa bush near the window, but the look in her eyes told me
that she had reached a page in the story that was not for my eyes or my
ears, and I held inviolate the silence that had fallen between us.
A low, far-off roll of thunder, the last note of the storm-music,
roused her from her reverie.
Sakes alive, child! she exclaimed, starting bolt upright. Have I
been sleepin' and dreamin' and you settin' here? Well, I got through
with my story, anyhow, before I dropped off.
Surely that isn't all, I said, discontentedly. What became of
Mary Andrews after Harvey died?
Aunt Jane laughed blithely.
No, it ain't all. What's gittin' into me to leave off the endin' of
a story? Mary was married young; and when Harvey died she had the best
part of her life before her, and it was the best part, sure enough.
About a year after she was left a widow she went up to Christian County
to visit some of her cousins, and there she met the man she ought to
'a' married in the first place. I ain't any hand for second marriages.
'One man for one woman,' says I; but I've seen so many second marriages
that was happier than any first ones that I never say anything against
marryin' twice. Some folks are made for each other, but they make
mistakes in the road and git lost, and don't git found till they've
been through a heap o' tribulation, and, maybe, the biggest half o'
their life's gone. But then, they've got all eternity before 'em, and
there's time enough there to find all they've lost and more besides.
But Mary found her portion o' happiness before it was too late. Elbert
Madison was the man she married. He was an old bachelor, and a mighty
well-to-do man, and they said every old maid and widow in Christian
County had set her cap for him one time or another. But whenever folks
said anything to him about marryin', he'd say, 'I'm waitin' for the
Right Woman. She's somewhere in the world, and as soon as I find her
I'm goin' to marry.'
It got to be a standin' joke with the neighbors and the family, and
his brother used to say that Elbert believed in that 'Right Woman' the
same as he believed in God.
They used to tell how one Christmas, Elbert's nieces had a lot o'
young company from Louisville, and they had a big dance Christmas Eve.
Elbert was there, and the minute he come into the room the oldest
niece, she whispered, 'Here's Uncle Elbert; he's come to see if the
Right Woman's at the ball.' And with that all them gyirls rushed up to
Elbert and shook hands with him and pulled him into the middle o' the
room under a big bunch o' mistletoe, and the prettiest and sassiest one
of 'em, she took her dress between the tips of her fingers and spread
it out and made a low bow, and says she, lookin' up into Elbert's face,
'Mr. Madison, don't I look like the Right Woman?'
Everybody laughed and expected to see Elbert blush and act like he
wanted to go through the floor. But instead o' that he looked at her
serious and earnest, and at last he says: 'You do look a little like
her, but you ain't her. You've got the color of her eyes,' says he,
'but not the look of 'em. Her hair's dark like yours, but it don't curl
quite as much, and she's taller than you are, but not quite so slim.'
They said the gyirls stopped laughin' and jest looked at each
other, and one of 'em said:
'Well, did you ever?' And that was the last time they tried to
tease Elbert. But Elbert's brother he turns to somebody standin' near
him, and says he, 'Unless Elbert gets that right-woman foolishness
out of his head and marries and settles down like other men, I believe
he'll end his days in a lunatic asylum.'
But it all turned out the way Elbert said it would. The minute he
saw Mary Andrews, he whispered to his sister-in-law, and says he,
'Sister Mary, do you see that dark-eyed woman over there by the door?
Well, that's the woman I've been lookin' for all my life.'
He walked across the room and got introduced to her, and they said
when him and Mary shook hands they looked each other in the eyes and
laughed like two old friends that hadn't met for years.
Harvey hadn't been dead much over a year and Mary wanted to put off
the weddin'. But Elbert said, 'No; I've waited for you a lifetime and
I'm not goin' to wait any longer.' So they got married as soon as Mary
could have her weddin' clothes made, and a happier couple you never
saw. Elbert used to look at her and say:
'God made Eve for Adam, and he made you for me.'
And he didn't only love Mary, but he loved her children the same as
if they'd been his own. A woman that's been another man's wife can easy
enough find a man to love her, but to find one that'll love the other
man's children, that's a different matter.
One! two! three! four! chimed the old clock; and at the same moment
out came the sun, sending long rays across the room. The rain had
subsided to a gentle mist, and the clouds were rolling away before a
south-west wind that carried with it fragrance from wet flowers and
leaves and a world cleansed and renewed by a summer storm. We moved our
chairs out on the porch to enjoy the clearing-off. There were health
and strength in every breath of the cool, moist air, and for every
sense but one a pleasureodor, light, coolness, and the faint music of
falling water from the roof and from the trees that sent down miniature
showers whenever the wind stirred their branches.
Aunt Jane drew a deep breath of satisfaction, and looked upward at
the blue sky.
I don't mind how much it rains durin' the day, she said, if it'll
jest stop off before night and let the sun set clear. And that's the
way with life, child. If everything ends right, we can forget all about
the troubles we've had before. I reckon if Mary Andrews could 'a' seen
a few years ahead while she was havin' her trials with pore Harvey, she
would 'a' borne 'em all with a better grace. But lookin' ahead is
somethin' we ain't permitted to do. We've jest got to stand up under
the present and trust for the time we can't see. And whether we trust
or not, child, no matter how dark it is nor how long it stays dark, the
sun's goin' to come out some time, and it's all goin' to be right at
the last. You know what the Scripture says, 'At evening time it shall
Her faded eyes were turned reverently toward the glory of the
western sky, but the light on her face was not all of the setting sun.
At evening time it shall be light!
Not of the day but of human life were these words spoken, and with
Aunt Jane the prophecy had been fulfilled.
IX. THE GARDENS OF MEMORY
Each of us has his own way of classifying humanity. To me, as a
child, men and women fell naturally into two great divisions: those who
had gardens and those who had only houses.
Brick walls and pavements hemmed me in and robbed me of one of my
birthrights; and to the fancy of childhood a garden was a paradise, and
the people who had gardens were happy Adams and Eves walking in a
golden mist of sunshine and showers, with green leaves and blue sky
overhead, and blossoms springing at their feet; while those others,
dispossessed of life's springs, summers, and autumns, appeared darkly
entombed in shops and parlors where the year might as well have been a
As I grew older I learned that there was a small subclass composed
of people who not only possessed gardens, but whose gardens possessed
them, and it is the spots sown and tended by these that blossom
eternally in one's remembrance as veritable vailimasgardens of
In every one's mind there is a lonely space, almost abandoned of
consciousness, the time between infancy and childhood. It is like that
period when the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was
upon the face of the deep. Here, like lost stars floating in the
firmament of mind, will be found two or three faint memories, remote
and disconnected. With me one of these memories is of a garden. I was
riding with my father along a pleasant country road. There were
sunshine and a gentle wind, and white clouds in a blue sky. We stopped
at a gate. My father opened it, and I walked up a grassy path to the
ruins of a house. The chimney was still standing, but all the rest was
a heap of blackened, half-burned rubbish which spring and summer were
covering with wild vines and weeds, and around the ruins of the house
lay the ruins of the garden. The honeysuckle, bereft of its trellis,
wandered helplessly over the ground, and amid a rank growth of weeds
sprang a host of yellow snapdragons. I remember the feeling of rapture
that was mine at the thought that I had found a garden where flowers
could be gathered without asking permission of any one. And as long as
I live, the sight of a yellow snapdragon on a sunny day will bring back
my father from his grave and make me a little child again gathering
flowers in that deserted garden, which is seemingly in another world
A later memory than this is of a place that was scarcely more than a
paved court lying between high brick walls. But because we children
wanted a garden so much, we called it by that name; and here and there
a little of Mother Earth's bosom, left uncovered, gave us some warrant
for the misnomer. Yet the spot was not without its beauties, and a less
exacting child might have found content within its boundaries.
Here was the Indian peach tree, whose pink blossoms told us that
spring had come. Its fruit in the late summer was like the pomegranate
in its rich color, blood-tinctured with a veined humanity; and its
friendly limbs held a swing in which we cleft the air like the birds.
Yet even now the sight of an Indian peach brings melancholy thoughts. A
yellow honeysuckle clambered over a wall. But this flower has no
perfume, and a honeysuckle without perfume is a base pretender, to be
cast out of the family of the real sweet-scented honeysuckle. There
were two roses of similar quality, one that detestable mockery known as
the burr-rose. I have for this flower the feeling of repulsion that one
has for certain disagreeable human beings,people with cold, clammy
hands, for instance. I hated its feeble pink color, its rough calyx,
and its odor always made me think of vast fields of snow, and icicles
hanging from snow-covered roofs under leaden wintry skies. Unhappy
mistake to call such a thing a rose, and plant it in a child's garden!
The only place where it might fitly grow is by the side of the road
that led Childe Roland to the Dark Tower: between the bit of stubbed
ground and the marsh near to the palsied oak, with its roots set in
the bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.
The other rose I recall with the same dislike, though it was
pleasing to the eye. The bush was tall, and had the nature of a
climber; for it drooped in a lackadaisical way, and had to be tied to a
stout post. I think it could have stood upright, had it chosen to do
so; and its drooping seemed only an ugly habit, without grace. The
cream-white flowers grew in clusters, and the buds were really
beautiful, but color and form are only the body of the rose; the soul,
the real self, is the rose odor, and no rose-soul was incarnated in its
petals. Again and again, deceived by its beauty, I would hold it close
to my face to breathe its fragrance, and always its faint
sickening-sweet odor brought me only disappointment and disgust. It was
a Lamia among roses. Another peculiarity was that it had very few
thorns, and those few were small and weak. Yet the thorn is as much a
part of the true rose as its sweetness; and lacking the rose thorn and
the rose perfume, what claim had it to the rose name? I never saw this
false rose elsewhere than in the false garden, and because it grew
there, and because it dishonored its royal family, I would not
willingly meet it face to face again.
We children cultivated sweet-scented geraniums in pots, but a flower
in a pot was to me like a bird in a cage, and the fragrant geraniums
gave me no more pleasure than did the scentless many-hued
lady's-slippers that we planted in tiny borders, and the purple
flowering beans and white blossoms of the madeira vines that grew on a
tall trellis by the cistern's grassy mound. There was nothing here to
satisfy my longing, and I turned hungrily to other gardens whose gates
were open to me in those early days. In one of these was a vast bed of
purple heartsease, flower of the beautiful name. Year after year they
had blossomed and gone to seed till the harvest of flowers in their
season was past gathering, and any child in the neighborhood was at
liberty to pluck them by handfuls, while the wicked ones played at
chicken fighting and littered the ground with decapitated bodies.
There is no heartsease nowadays, only the magnificent pansy of which it
was the modest forerunner. But one little cluster of dark, spicy blooms
like those I used to gather in that old garden would be more to me than
the most splendid pansy created by the florist's art.
The lily of the valley calls to mind a garden, almost in the heart
of town, where this flower went forth to possess the land and spread
itself in so reckless a growth that at intervals it had to be uprooted
to protect the landed rights of the rest of the community. Never were
there such beds of lilies! And when they pierced the black loam with
their long sheath-like leaves, and broke their alabaster boxes of
perfume on the feet of spring, the most careless passer-by was forced
to stay his steps for one ecstatic moment to look and to breathe, to
forget and to remember. The shadow of the owner's house lay on this
garden at the morning hour, and a tall brick building intercepted its
share of the afternoon sunshine; but the love and care of the wrinkled
old woman who tended it took the place of real sunshine, and everything
planted here grew with a luxuriance not seen in sunnier and more
favored spots. The mistress of the garden, when questioned as to this,
would say it was because she gave her flowers to all who asked, and the
God of gardens loved the cheerful giver and blessed her with an
abundance of bud and blossom. The highest philosophy of human life she
used in her management of this little plant world; for, burying the
weeds at the roots of the flowers, the evil was made to minister to the
good; and the nettle, the plantain and all their kind were transmuted
by nature's fine chemistry into pinks, lilies, and roses.
The purple splendor of the wisteria recalls the garden that I always
entered with a fearful joy, for here a French gardener reigned
absolute, and the flowers might be looked at, but not pulled. How
different from those wild gardens of the neighboring woods where we
children roamed at will, shouting rapturously over the finding of a bed
of scentless blue violets or delicate anemones that withered and were
thrown away before we reached home,an allegory, alas! of our later
There was one garden that I coveted in those days as Ahab coveted
his neighbor's vineyard. After many years, so many that my childish
longing was almost forgotten, I had it, I and my children. Together we
played under the bee-haunted lindens, and looked at the sunset through
the scarlet and yellow leaves of the sugar maples, and I learned that
every desire is the prophecy of its own fulfilment; and if the
fulfilment is long delayed, it is only that it may be richer and deeper
when it does come.
All these were gardens of the South; but before childhood was over I
watched the quick, luxuriant growth of flowers through the brief summer
of a northern clime. The Canterbury-bell, so like a prim, pretty
maiden, the dahlia, that stately dame always in court costume of
gorgeous velvet, remind me of those well-kept beds where not a leaf or
flower was allowed to grow awry; and in one ancient garden the
imagination of a child found wings for many an airy flight. The town
itself bore the name of the English nobleman, well known in
Revolutionary days. Not far away his mansion sturdily defied the touch
of time and decay, and admonished the men of a degenerate present to
remember their glorious past. The house that sheltered me that summer
was known in colonial days as the Black-Horse Tavern. Its walls had
echoed to the tread of patriot and tory, who gathered here to drink a
health to General Washington or to King George; and patriot, and tory,
too, had trod the paths of the garden and plucked its flowers and its
fruit in the times that tried men's souls. By the back gate grew a
strawberry apple tree, and every morning the dewy grass held a night's
windfall of the tiny red apples that were the reward of the child who
rose earliest. A wonderful grafted tree that bore two kinds of fruit
gave the place a touch of fairyland's magic, and no explanation of the
process of grafting ever diminished the awe I felt when I stood under
this tree and saw ripe spice apples growing on one limb and green
winter pearmains on all the others. The pound sweeting, the
spitzenberg, and many sister apples were there; and I stayed long
enough to see them ripen into perfection. While they ripened I gathered
the jewel-like clusters of red and white currants and a certain rare
English gooseberry which English hands had brought from beyond the seas
and planted here when the sign of the Black-Horse swung over the tavern
door. The ordinary gooseberry is a plebeian fruit, but this one was
more patrician than its name, and its name was the King George. Twice
as large as the common kind, translucent and yellowish white when fully
ripe, and of an incomparable sweetness and flavor, it could have graced
a king's table and held its own with the delicate strawberry or the
regal grape. And then, best of all, it was a forbidden fruit, whereof
we children ate by stealth, and solemnly declared that we had not
eaten. Could the Garden of the Hesperides have held more charms?
At the end of the long Dutch stoop I found the wands of the
snowberry, whose tiny flowers have the odor and color of the trailing
arbutus, and whose waxen berries reminded me of the crimson buckberry
of Southern fields. Fuchsias and dark-red clove pinks grew in a
peculiarly rich and sunny spot by the back fence, and over a pot of the
musk-plant I used to hang as Isabella hung over her pot of basil. I had
never seen it before, and have never seen it since, but by the witchery
of perfume one of its yellow flowers, one of its soft pale green leaves
could place me again in that garden of the old inn, a child walking
among the ghosts and memories of a past century.
In all these flowery closes there are rich aftermaths; but when
Memory goes a-gleaning, she dwells longest on the evenings and mornings
once spent in Aunt Jane's garden.
I don't reckon Solomon was thinkin' about flower gyardens when he
said there was a time for all things, Aunt Jane was wont to say, but
anyhow it's so. You know the Bible says that the Lord God walked in the
gyarden of Eden in 'the cool of the day,' and that's the best time for
seein' flowers,the cool of the mornin' and the cool of the evenin'.
There's jest as much difference between a flower with the dew on it at
sun-up and a flower in the middle o' the day as there is between a
woman when she's fresh from a good night's sleep and when she's cookin'
a twelve-o'clock dinner in a hot kitchen. You think them poppies are
mighty pretty with the sun shinin' on 'em, but the poppy ain't a sun
flower; it's a sunrise flower.
And so I found them when I saw them in the faint light of a summer
dawn, delicate and tremulous, like lovely apparitions of the night that
an hour of sun will dispel. With other flowers the miracle of
blossoming is performed so slowly that we have not time to watch its
every stage. There is no precise moment when the rose leaves become a
bud, or when the bud turns to a full-blown flower. But at dawn by a bed
of poppies you may watch the birth of a flower as it slips from the
calyx, casting it to the ground as a soul casts aside its outgrown
body, and smoothing the wrinkles from its silken petals, it faces the
day in serene beauty, though the night of death be but a few hours
And some evenin' when the moon's full and there's a dew fallin',
continued Aunt Jane, that's the time to see roses, and to smell roses,
too. And chrysanthemums, they're sundown flowers. You come into my
gyarden about the first o' next November, child, some evenin' when the
sun's goin' down, and you'll see the white ones lookin' like stars, and
the yeller ones shinin' like big gold lamps in the dusk; and when the
last light o' the sun strikes the red ones, they look like cups o'
wine, and some of 'em turn to colors that there ain't any names for.
Chrysanthemums jest match the red and yeller leaves on the trees, and
the colors you see in the sky after the first frosts when the cold
weather begins to set in. Yes, honey, there's a time and a season for
everything; flowers, too, jest as Solomon said.
An old garden is like an old life. Who plants from youth to age
writes a record of the years in leaf and blossom, and the spot becomes
as sacred as old wine, old books, and old friends. Here in the garden
of Aunt Jane's planting I found that flowers were also memories; that
reminiscences were folded in the petals of roses and lilies; that a
rose's perfume might be a voice from a vanished summer; and even the
snake gliding across our path might prove a messenger bearing a story
of other days. Aunt Jane made a pass at it with her hoe, and laughed as
the little creature disappeared on the other side of the fence.
I never see a striped snake, she said, that I don't think o' Sam
Amos and the time he saw snakes. It wasn't often we got a joke on Sam,
but his t'u'nament and his snake kept us laughin' for many a day.
Sam was one o' them big, blunderin' men, always givin' Milly
trouble, and havin' trouble himself, jest through pure keerlessness. He
meant well; and Milly used to say that if what Sam did was even half as
good as what Sam intended to do, there'd be one perfect man on God's
earth. One of his keerless ways was scatterin' his clothes all over the
house. Milly'd scold and fuss about it, but Sam got worse instead o'
better up to the day he saw the snake, and after that Milly said there
wasn't a more orderly man in the state. The way of it was this: Sam was
raisin' an embankment 'round one of his ponds, and Uncle Jim Matthews
and Amos Crawford was helpin' him. It was one Monday mornin', about the
first of April, and the weather was warm and sunny, jest the kind to
bring out snakes. I reckon there never was anybody hated a snake as
much as Sam did. He'd been skeered by one when he was a child, and
never got over it. He used to say there was jest two things he was
afraid of: Milly and a snake. That mornin' Uncle Jim and Amos got to
the pond before Sam did, and Uncle Jim hollered out, 'Well, Sam, we
beat you this time.' Uncle Jim never got tired tellin' what happened
next. He said Sam run up the embankment with his spade, and set it in
the ground and put his foot on it to push it down. The next minute he
give a yell that you could 'a' heard half a mile, slung the spade over
in the middle o' the pond, jumped three feet in the air, and run down
the embankment yellin' and kickin' and throwin' his arms about in every
direction, and at last he fell down on the ground a good distance from
Amos and Uncle Jim was so taken by surprise at first that they jest
stood still and looked. Amos says, says he: 'The man's gone crazy all
at once.' Uncle Jim says: 'He's havin' a spell. His father and
grandfather before him used to have them spells.'
They run up to him and found him shakin' like a leaf, the cold
sweat streamin' out of every pore, and gaspin' and sayin', 'Take it
away! Take it away!' and all the time he was throwin' out his left foot
in every direction. Finally Uncle Jim grabbed hold of his foot and
there was a red and black necktie stickin' out o' the leg of his pants.
He pulled it out and says he: 'Why, Sam, what's your Sunday necktie
doin' up your pants leg?'
They said Sam looked at it in a foolish sort o' way and then he
fell back laughin' and cryin' at the same time, jest like a woman, and
it was five minutes or more before they could stop him. Uncle Jim
brought water and put on his head, and Amos fanned him with his hat,
and at last they got him in such a fix that he could sit up and talk,
and says he:
'I took off my necktie last night and slung it down on a chair
where my everyday pants was layin'. When I put my foot in my pants this
mornin' I must 'a' carried the necktie inside, and by the time I got to
the pond it'd worked down, and I thought it was a black snake with red
He started to git up, but his ankle was sprained, and Uncle Jim
says: 'No wonder, Sam; you jumped about six feet when you saw that
snake crawlin' out o' your pants leg.'
And Sam says: 'Six feet? I know I jumped six hundred feet, Uncle
Well, they got him to the house and told Milly about it, and she
says: 'Well, Sam, I'm too sorry for you to laugh at you like Uncle Jim,
but I must say this wouldn't 'a' happened if you'd folded up that
necktie and put it away in the top drawer.'
Sam was settin' on the side of the bed rubbin' his ankle, and he
give a groan and says he: 'Things has come to a fine pass in Kentucky
when a sober, God-fearin' man like me has to put his necktie in the top
drawer to keep from seein' snakes.'
I declare to goodness! laughed Aunt Jane, as she laid down her
trowel and pushed back her calico sunbonnet, if I never heard anything
funny again in this world, I could keep on laughin' till I died jest
over things I ricollect. The trouble is there ain't always anybody
around to laugh with me. Sam Amos ain't nothin' but a name to you,
child, but to me he's jest as real as if he hadn't been dead these many
years, and I can laugh over the things he used to do the same as if
they happened yesterday.
Only a name! And I had read it on a lichen-covered stone in the old
burying-ground; but as I walked home through the twilight I would
hardly have been startled if Sam Amos, in the pride of life, had come
riding past me on his bay mare, or if Uncle Jim Matthews' voice of
cheerful discord had mingled with the spring song of the frogs sounding
from every marsh and pond.
It was Aunt Jane's motto that wherever a weed would grow a flower
would grow; and carrying out this principle of planting, her garden was
continually extending its boundaries; and denizens of the garden proper
were to be found in every nook and corner of her domain. In the spring
you looked for grass only; and lo! starting up at your feet, like the
unexpected joys of life, came the golden daffodil, the paler narcissus,
the purple iris, and the red and yellow tulip, flourishing as bravely
as in the soil of its native Holland; and for a few sunny weeks the
front yard would be a great flower garden. Then blossom and leaf would
fade, and you might walk all summer over the velvet grass, never
knowing how much beauty and fragrance lay hidden in the darkness of the
earth. But when I go back to Aunt Jane's garden, I pass through the
front yard and the back yard between rows of lilac, syringas,
calycanthus, and honeysuckle; I open the rickety gate, and find myself
in a genuine old-fashioned garden, the homely, inclusive spot that
welcomed all growing things to its hospitable bounds, type of the days
when there were no impassable barriers of gold and caste between man
and his brother man. In the middle of the garden stood a
summer-house, or arbor, whose crumbling timbers were knit together by
interlacing branches of honeysuckle and running roses. The summer-house
had four entrances, opening on four paths that divided the ground into
quarter-sections occupied by vegetables and small fruits, and around
these, like costly embroidery on the hem of a homespun garment, ran a
wide border of flowers that blossomed from early April to late
November, shifting from one beauty to another as each flower had its
There are flower-lovers who love some flowers and other
flower-lovers who love all flowers. Aunt Jane was of the latter class.
The commonest plant, striving in its own humble way to be sweet and
beautiful, was sure of a place here, and the haughtiest aristocrat who
sought admission had to lay aside all pride of place or birth and
acknowledge her kinship with common humanity. The Bourbon rose could
not hold aside her skirts from contact with the cabbage-rose; the
lavender could not disdain the companionship of sage and thyme. All
must live together in the concord of a perfect democracy. Then if the
great Gardener bestowed rain and sunshine when they were needed,
mid-summer days would show a glorious symphony of color around the gray
farmhouse, and through the enchantment of bloom and fragrance flitted
an old woman, whose dark eyes glowed with the joy of living, and the
joy of remembering all life's other summers.
To Aunt Jane every flower in the garden was a human thing with a
life story, and close to the summer-house grew one historic rose,
heroine of an old romance, to which I listened one day as we sat in the
arbor, where hundreds of honeysuckle blooms were trumpeting their
fragrance on the air.
Grandmother's rose, child, that's all the name it's got, she said,
in answer to my question. I reckon you think a fine-lookin' rose like
that ought to have a fine-soundin' name. But I never saw anybody yet
that knew enough about roses to tell what its right name is. Maybe when
I'm dead and gone somebody'll tack a French name on to it, but as long
as it grows in my gyarden it'll be jest grandmother's rose, and this is
how it come by the name:
My grandfather and grandmother was amongst the first settlers of
Kentucky. They come from the Old Dominion over the Wilderness Road way
back yonder, goodness knows when. Did you ever think, child, how
curious it was for them men to leave their homes and risk their own
lives and the lives of their little children and their wives jest to
git to a new country? It appears to me they must 'a' been led jest like
Columbus was when he crossed the big ocean in his little ships. I
reckon if the women and children had had their way about it, the bears
and wildcats and Indians would be here yet. But a man goes where he
pleases, and a woman's got to foller, and that's the way it was with
grandfather and grandmother. I've heard mother say that grandmother
cried for a week when she found she had to go, and every now and then
she'd sob out, 'I wouldn't mind it so much if I could take my gyarden.'
When they began packin' up their things, grandmother took up this rose
and put it in an iron kittle and laid plenty of good rich earth around
the roots. Grandfather said the load they had to carry was heavy enough
without puttin' in any useless things. But grandmother says, says she:
'If you leave this rose behind, you can leave me, too.' So the kittle
and the rose went. Four weeks they was on their way, and every time
they come to a creek or a river or a spring, grandmother'd water her
rose, and when they got to their journey's end, before they'd ever
chopped a tree or laid a stone or broke ground, she cut the sod with an
axe, and then she took grandfather's huntin' knife and dug a hole and
planted her rose. Grandfather cut some limbs off a beech tree and drove
'em into the ground all around it to keep it from bein' tramped down,
and when that was done, grandmother says: 'Now build the house so's
this rose'll stand on the right-hand side o' the front walk. Maybe I
won't die of homesickness if I can set on my front door-step and see
one flower from my old Virginia gyarden.'
Well, grandmother didn't die of homesickness, nor the rose either.
The transplantin' was good for both of 'em. She lived to be ninety
years old, and when she died the house wouldn't hold the children and
grandchildren and great-grandchildren that come to the funeral. And
here's her rose growin' and bloomin' yet, like there wasn't any such
things in the world as old age and death. And every spring I gether a
basketful o' these pink roses and lay 'em on her grave over yonder in
the old buryin'-ground.
Some folks has family china and family silver that they're mighty
proud of. Martha Crawford used to have a big blue and white bowl that
belonged to her great-grandmother, and she thought more o' that bowl
than she did of everything else in the house. Milly Amos had a set o'
spoons that'd been in her family for four generations and was too
precious to use; and I've got my family rose, and it's jest as dear to
me as china and silver are to other folks. I ricollect after father
died and the estate had to be divided up, and sister Mary and brother
Joe and the rest of 'em was layin' claim to the claw-footed mahogany
table and the old secretary and mother's cherry sideboard and such
things as that, and brother Joe turned around and says to me, says he:
'Is there anything you want, Jane? If there is, speak up and make
it known.' And I says: 'The rest of you can take what you want of the
furniture, and if there's anything left, that can be my part. If there
ain't anything left, there'll be no quarrelin'; for there's jest one
thing I want, and that's grandmother's rose.'
They all laughed, and sister Mary says, 'Ain't that jest like
Jane?' and brother Joe says, says he:
'You shall have it, Jane, and further than that, I'll see to the
That very evenin' he come over, and I showed him where I wanted the
rose to stand. He dug 'way down into the claythere's nothin' a rose
likes better, child, than good red clayand got a wheelbarrer load o'
soil from the woods, and we put that in first and set the roots in it
and packed 'em good and firm, first with woods' soil, then with clay,
waterin' it all the time. When we got through, I says: 'Now, you pretty
thing you, if you could come all the way from Virginia in a old iron
kittle, you surely won't mind bein' moved from father's place to mine.
Now you've got to live and bloom for me same as you did for mother.'
You needn't laugh, child. That rose knew jest what I said, and did
jest what I told it to do. It looked like everything favored us, for it
was early in the spring, things was beginnin' to put out leaves, and
the next day was cloudy and cool. Then it began to rain, and rained for
thirty-six hours right along. And when the sun come out, grandmother's
rose come out, too. Not a leaf on it ever withered, and me and my
children and my children's children have gethered flowers from it all
these years. Folks say I'm foolish about it, and I reckon I am. I've
outlived most o' the people I love, but I don't want to outlive this
rose. We've both weathered many a hard winter, and two or three times
it's been winter-killed clean to the ground, and I thought I'd lost it.
Honey, it was like losin' a child. But there's never been a winter yet
hard enough to kill the life in that rose's root, and I trust there
never will be while I live, for spring wouldn't be spring to me without
Tall, straight, and strong it stood, this oft transplanted pilgrim
rose; and whether in bloom or clothed only in its rich green foliage,
you saw at a glance that it was a flower of royal lineage. When spring
covered it with buds and full blown blossoms of pink, the true rose
color, it spoke of queens' gardens and kings' palaces, and every satiny
petal was a palimpsest of song and legend. Its perfume was the
attar-of-rose scent, like that of the roses of India. It satisfied and
satiated with its rich potency. And breathing this odor and gazing into
its deep wells of color, you had strange dreams of those other pilgrims
who left home and friends, and journeyed through the perils of a
trackless wilderness to plant still farther westward the rose of
To Aunt Jane there were three epochs in a garden's life, daffodil
time, rose time, and chrysanthemum time; and the blossoming of all
other flowers would be chronicled under one of these periods, just as
we say of historical events that they happened in the reign of this or
that queen or empress. But this garden had all seasons for its own, and
even in winter there was a deep pleasure in walking its paths and
noting how bravely life struggled against death in the frozen bosom of
I once asked her which flower she loved best. It was daffodil
time, and every gold cup held nepenthe for the nightmare dream of
winter. She glanced reprovingly at me over her spectacles.
It appears to me, child, you ought to know that without askin',
she said. Did you ever see as many daffydils in one place before? No;
and you never will. I've been plantin' that flower every spring for
sixty years, and I've never got too many of 'em yet. I used to call 'em
Johnny-jump-ups, till Henrietta told me that their right name was
daffydil. But Johnny-jump-up suits 'em best, for it kind o' tells how
they come up in the spring. The hyacinths and tulips, they hang back
till they know it'll be warm and comfortable outside, but these
daffydils don't wait for anything. Before the snow's gone you'll see
their leaves pushin' up through the cold ground, and the buds come
hurryin' along tryin' to keep up with the leaves, jest like they knew
that little children and old women like me was waitin' and longin' for
'em. Why, I've seen these flowers bloomin' and the snow fallin' over
'em in March, and they didn't mind it a bit. I got my start o'
daffydils from mother's gyarden, and every fall I'd divide the roots up
and scatter 'em out till I got the whole place pretty well sprinkled
with 'em, but the biggest part of 'em come from the old Harris farm,
three or four miles down the pike. Forty years ago that farm was sold,
and the man that bought it tore things up scandalous. He called it
remodelin', I ricollect, but it looked more like ruinin' to me. Old
Lady Harris was like myself; she couldn't git enough of these yeller
flowers. She had a double row of 'em all around her gyarden, and they'd
even gone through the fence and come up in the cornfield, and who ever
plowed that field had to be careful not to touch them daffydils.
Well, as soon as the new man got possession he begun plowin' up the
gyarden, and one evenin' the news come to me that he was throwin' away
Johnny-jump-ups by the wagon-load. I put on my sunbonnet and went out
where Abram was at work in the field, and says I, 'Abram, you've got to
stop plowin' and put the horse to the spring wagon and take me over to
the old Harris place.' And Abram says, says he, 'Why, Jane, I'd like
mighty well to finish this field before night, for it looks like it
might rain to-morrow. Is it anything particular you want to go for?'
Says I, 'Yes; I never was so particular about anything in my life
as I am about this. I hear they're plowin' up Old Lady Harris' gyarden
and throwin' the flowers away, and I want to go over and git a
wagon-load o' Johnny-jump-ups.'
Abram looked at me a minute like he thought I was losin' my senses,
and then he burst out laughin', and says he: 'Jane, who ever heard of a
farmer stoppin' plowin' to go after Johnny-jump-ups? And who ever heard
of a farmer's wife askin' him to do such a thing?'
I walked up to the plow and begun to unfasten the trace chains, and
says I: 'Business before pleasure, Abram. If it's goin' to rain
to-morrow that's all the more reason why I ought to have my
Johnny-jump-ups set out to-day. The plowin' can wait till we come
Of course Abram give in when he saw how I wanted the flowers. But
he broke out laughin' two or three times while he was hitchin' up and
says he: 'Don't tell any o' the neighbors, Jane, that I stopped plowin'
to go after a load of Johnny-jump-ups.'
When we got to the Harris place we found the Johnny-jump-ups lyin'
in a gully by the side o' the road, a pitiful sight to anybody that
loves flowers and understands their feelin's. We loaded up the wagon
with the pore things, and as soon as we got home, Abram took his hoe
and made a little trench all around the gyarden, and I set out the
Johnny-jump-ups while Abram finished his plowin', and the next day the
rain fell on Abram's cornfield and on my flowers.
Do you see that row o' daffydils over yonder by the front fence,
childall leaves and no blossoms?
I looked in the direction of her pointing finger and saw a long line
of flowerless plants, standing like sad and silent guests at the
festival of spring.
It's been six years since I set 'em out there, said Aunt Jane
impressively, and not a flower have they had in all that time. Some
folks say it's because I moved 'em at the wrong time o' the year. But
the same week I moved these I moved some from my yard to Elizabeth
Crawford's, and Elizabeth's bloom every year, so it can't be that. Some
folks said the place I had 'em in was too shady, and I put 'em right
out there where the sun strikes on 'em till it sets, and still they
won't bloom. It's my opinion, honey, that they're jest homesick. I
believe if I was to take them daffydils back to Aunt Matilda's and
plant 'em in the border where they used to grow, alongside o' the sage
and lavender and thyme, that they'd go to bloomin' again jest like they
used to. You know how the children of Israel pined and mourned when
they was carried into captivity. Well, every time I look at my
daffydils I think o' them homesick Israelites askin', 'How can we sing
the songs o' Zion in a strange land?'
You needn't laugh, child. A flower is jest as human as you and me.
Look at that vine yonder, takin' hold of everything that comes in its
way like a little child learnin' to walk. And calycanthus buds, see how
you've got to hold 'em in your hands and warm 'em before they'll give
out their sweetness, jest like children that you've got to love and
pet, before they'll let you git acquainted with 'em. You see that pink
rose over by the fence? pointing to a La France heavy with blossoms.
Well, that rose didn't do anything but put out leaves the first two
years I had it. A bud might come once in a while, but it would blast
before it was half open. And at last I says to it, says I, 'What is it
you want, honey? There's somethin' that don't please you, I know. Don't
you like the place you're planted in, and the hollyhocks and lilies for
neighbors?' And one day I took it up and set it between that white tea
and another La France, and it went to bloomin' right away. It didn't
like the neighborhood it was in, you see. And did you ever hear o'
people disappearin' from their homes and never bein' found any more?
Well, flowers can disappear the same way. The year before I was married
there was a big bed o' pink chrysanthemums growin' under the
dinin'-room windows at old Dr. Pendleton's. It wasn't a common magenta
pink, it was as clear, pretty a pink as that La France rose. Well, I
saw 'em that fall for the first time and the last. The next year there
wasn't any, and when I asked where they'd gone to, nobody could tell
anything about 'em. And ever since then I've been searchin' in every
old gyarden in the county, but I've never found 'em, and I don't reckon
I ever will.
And there's my roses! Just look at 'em! Every color a rose could
be, and pretty near every kind there is. Wouldn't you think I'd be
satisfied? But there's a rose I lost sixty years ago, and the
ricollection o' that rose keeps me from bein' satisfied with all I've
got. It grew in Old Lady Elrod's gyarden and nowhere else, and there
ain't a rose here except grandmother's that I wouldn't give up forever
if I could jest find that rose again.
I've tried many a time to tell folks about that rose, but I can't
somehow get hold of the words. I reckon an old woman like me, with
little or no learnin', couldn't be expected to tell how that rose
looked, any more'n she could be expected to draw it and paint it. I can
say it was yeller, but that word 'yeller' don't tell the color the rose
was. I've got all the shades of yeller in my garden, but nothin' like
the color o' that rose. It got deeper and deeper towards the middle,
and lookin' at one of them roses half-opened was like lookin' down into
a gold mine. The leaves crinkled and curled back towards the stem as
fast as it opened, and the more it opened the prettier it was, like
some women that grow better lookin' the older they grow,Mary Andrews
was one o'that kind,and when it comes to tellin' you how it smelt,
I'll jest have to stop. There never was anything like it for sweetness,
and it was a different sweetness from any other rose God ever made.
I ricollect seein' Miss Penelope come in church one Sunday, dressed
in white, with a black velvet gyirdle 'round her waist, and a bunch o'
these roses, buds and half-blown ones and full-blown ones, fastened in
the gyirdle, and that bunch o' yeller roses was song and sermon and
prayer to me that day. I couldn't take my eyes off 'em; and I thought
that if Christ had seen that rose growin' in the fields around
Palestine, he wouldn't 'a' mentioned lilies when he said Solomon in all
his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
I always intended to ask for a slip of it, but I waited too long.
It got lost one winter, and when I asked Old Lady Elrod about it she
said, 'Mistress Parrish, I cannot tell you whence it came nor whither
it went.' The old lady always used mighty pretty language.
Well, honey, them two lost flowers jest haunt me. They're like dead
children. You know a house may be full o' livin' children, but if
there's one dead, a mother'll see its face and hear its voice above all
the others, and that's the way with my lost flowers. No matter how many
roses and chrysanthemums I have, I keep seein' Old Lady Elrod's yeller
roses danglin' from Miss Penelope's gyirdle, and that bed o' pink
chrysanthemums under Dr. Pendleton's dinin'-room windows.
Each mortal has his Carcassonne! Here was Aunt Jane's, but it was
no matter for a tear or even a sigh. And I thought how the sting of
life would lose its venom, if for every soul the unattainable were
embodied in nothing more embittering than two exquisite lost flowers.
One afternoon in early June I stood with Aunt Jane in her garden. It
was the time of roses; and in the midst of their opulent bloom stood
the tall white lilies, handmaidens to the queen. Here and there over
the warm earth old-fashioned pinks spread their prayer-rugs, on which a
worshiper might kneel and offer thanks for life and spring; and
towering over all, rows of many-colored hollyhocks flamed and glowed in
the light of the setting sun like the stained glass windows of some old
Across the flowery expanse Aunt Jane looked wistfully toward the
evening skies, beyond whose stars and clouds we place that other world
I'm like my grandmother, child, she said presently. I know I've
got to leave this country some day soon, and journey to another one,
and the only thing I mind about it is givin' up my gyarden. When John
looked into heaven he saw gold streets and gates of pearl, but he don't
say anything about gyardens. I like what he says about no sorrer, nor
cryin', nor pain, and God wipin' away all tears from their eyes. That's
pure comfort. But if I could jest have Abram and the children again,
and my old home and my old gyarden, I'd be willin' to give up the gold
streets and glass sea and pearl gates.
The loves of earth and the homes of earth! No apocalyptic vision can
come between these and the earth-born human heart.
Life is said to have begun in a garden; and if here was our lost
paradise, may not the paradise we hope to gain through death be, to the
lover of nature, another garden in a new earth, girdled by four
soft-flowing rivers, and watered by mists that arise in the night to
fall on the face of the sleeping world, where all we plant shall grow
unblighted through winterless years, and they who inherit it go with
white garments and shining faces, and say at morn and noon and eve:
My soul is like a watered garden?