Project Gutenberg's Susan Clegg and a Man in the House, by Anne Warner

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Title: Susan Clegg and a Man in the House

Author: Anne Warner

Illustrator: Alice Barber Stephens

Release Date: October 3, 2007 [EBook #22872]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Book Spine   Book Cover

"'He is a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop.'" Frontispiece (See page 21.) "'He is a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop.'" Frontispiece (See page 21.)

[Pg i]

Susan Clegg

And a Man in the House



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

Illustrated from Drawings by ALICE BARBER STEPHENS

Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1907

[Pg ii] Copyright, 1906, By Katharine N. Birdsall

Copyright, 1907, By The Butterick Company, Ltd.

Copyright, 1907, By Little, Brown, and Company

All rights reserved

Published October, 1907



I. Man's Proposal 1
II. Elijah Doxey and His Locked Box 20
III. The First Issue of the Newspaper 32
IV. Settling down after the Honeymoon 43
V. Susan Clegg's Full Day 64
VI. The Editor's Advice Column 85
VII. Mrs. Macy and the Convention 98
VIII. The Biennial 113
IX. The Far Eastern Tropics 128
X. The Evils of Delayed Decease 142
XI. The Democratic Party 156
XII. The Trials of Mrs. Macy 168
XIII. Monotony of Ministerial Monologues 200
XIV. Advisability of Newspaper Exposures 212
XV. The Trial of a Sick Man in the House 223
XVI. The Beginning of the End 235
XVII. An Old-fashioned Fourth 251
XVIII. Celebrating Independence Day 261
XIX. Exit the Man out of Susan Clegg's House 273

[Pg iv] [Pg v]


"'He is a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop,'" Frontispiece
"'A lady come up, looked at my flag, an' asked me if I was a delegate or an alternative'" 119
"'Mrs. Macy was just about plum paralyzed at that'" 179
"'The bottom come out an' the duck flew down the car'" 188

[Pg 1][Pg vi]

Susan Clegg

And a Man in the House



Susan Clegg had dwelt alone ever since her father's death. She had not been unhappy in dwelling alone, although she had been a good daughter as long as she had a parent to live with. When the parent departed, and indeed some few days before his going, there had arisen a kind of a question as to the possibility of a life-companion for the daughter who must inevitably be left orphaned and lonely before long. The question had arisen in a way highly characteristic of Miss Clegg and had been disposed of in the same manner.[A] [Pg 2]The fact is that Miss Clegg had herself proposed to four men and been refused four times. Then her father had died, and, upon the discovery that he was better endowed with worldly wealth than folks had generally supposed, all four had hastened to bring a return suit at once. But Miss Clegg had also had her mind altered by the new discovery and refused them all. From that time to this period of which I am about to write there had never been any further question in her mind as to the non-advisability of having a man in the house.

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

"As far as I can see," she said confidentially to her friend, Mrs. Lathrop, who lived next door, "men are not what they are cracked up to be. There ain't but one woman as looks happy in this whole community and that's Mrs. Sperrit, an' she looks so happy that at first glance she looks full as much like a fool as anythin'. The minister's wife don't look happy,—she looks a deal more like somethin' a cat finds an' lugs home for you to brush up,—an' goodness knows Mrs. Fisher don't look[Pg 3] happy an' she ain't happy neither, for she told me herself yesterday as since Mr. Fisher had got this new idea of developin' his chest with Japanese Jimmy Jig-songs, an' takin' a cold plunge in the slop jar every mornin', that life hadn't been worth livin' for the wall paper in her room. She ain't got no sympathy with chest developin' an' Japanese jiggin' an' she says only to think how proud she was to marry the prize boy at school an' look at what's come of it. She asked me if I hear about his goin' to town the other day an' buyin' a book on how to make your hair grow by pullin' it out as fast as it comes in, an' then gettin' on the train, an' gettin' to readin' on to how to make your eyebrows grow by pullin' them out, too, an' not noticin' that they'd unhooked his car an' left it behind, until it got too dark to read any further—"

"Why, what—" cried Mrs. Lathrop, who was the best of listeners, and never interjectional except under the highest possible pressure of curiosity.[Pg 4]

"There was n't nothin' for him to do except to put his thumb in at the place where the eyebrows was, an' get down out of the car, an' then she told me, would you believe that with her an' John Bunyan in their second hour of chasin' around like a pair of crazy cockroaches because he was n't on the city train when he said he'd come, he very calmly went up to a hotel an' took a room for the night? An' she says that ain't the worst of it whatever you may think, for he was so interested in the book that he wanted to keep right on readin', an' as the light was too high an' he had n't no way to lower it, he just highered himself by puttin' a rockin'-chair (yes, Mrs. Lathrop, a rockin'-chair!) on the center table, an' there he sit rockin' an' readin' until he felt to go to bed. She says, would n't that drive a good wife right out beside her own mind? To think of a man like Mr. Fisher rockin' away all night on top of a table an' never even gettin' a scare. Why, she says you know an' I know[Pg 5] that if he'd been the husband of a poor widow or the only father of a deserving family, of course he'd have rocked off an' goodness knows what, but bein' as he was her husband with a nice life insurance an' John Bunyan wild to go to college, he needs must strike the one rocker in the world as is hung true, an' land safe an' sound in her sorrowin' arms the next mornin'! Oh my, but she says, the shock she got! They was so sure that somethin' had happened to him that she an' John had planned a little picnic trip to the city to leave word with the police first an' visit the Zoölogical Gardens after. Well, she says, maybe you can judge of their feelin's when they was waitin' all smiles an' sunshine for their train, with a nice lunch done up under John's arm, an' he got down from the other train without no preparation a tall. She said she done all she could under the circumstances, for she burst out cryin' in spite of herself, an' cryin' is somethin' as always fits in handy anywhere, an' then[Pg 6] she says they had nothin' in the wide world to do but to go home an' explain away the hard-boiled eggs for dinner the best they could. She says she hopes the Lord'll forgive her for He knows better than she ever will what she ever done to have Mr. Fisher awarded to her as her just and lawful punishment these last five and twenty years; an', she says, will you only think how awful easy, as long as he got on the table of his own free will an' without her even puttin' him up to it, it would have been for him to of rocked off an' goodness knows what. She says she is a Christian, an' she don't wish even her husband any ill wind, but she did frighten me, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I wanted to speak out frank an' open to you about it because a man in the house is a man in the house, an' I want to take men into very careful consideration before I go a step further towards lettin one have the right to darken my doors whenever he comes home to bed an' board—"[Pg 7]

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

"Bed and bo—" she cried.

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

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

"Mr. Dill was n't sure," said Susan; "he[Pg 8] said the more he thought about it the more sure he was that he was n 't sure a tall. He saw the man in a seed-office where he went to buy some seed, an' he said if it was Jathrop he's took another name because another name was on the office door. He said what made him think as it was Jathrop was he jumped so when he see Mr. Dill. Mr. Dill said he was helpin' himself out of a box of cigars an' his own idea was as he jumped because they was n't his cigars. Jathrop give Mr. Dill one cigar an' when he thanked him he said, 'Don't mention it,' an' to my order of thinkin' that proves as they was n't his cigars, for if they was his cigars why under heaven should he have minded Mr. Dill's mentionin' it? Mr. Dill said another reason as made him think as it was Jathrop was as he never asked about you,—but then if he was n't Jathrop he naturally would n't have asked about you either. Mr. Dill said he was n't sure, Mr. Dill said he was n't a bit sure, Mr. Dill said it was really all a mystery to him, but[Pg 9] two things he could swear to, an' one of those was as this man is a full head taller than Jathrop an' the other was as he's a Swede, so I guess it's pretty safe not to be him."

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

"You see, Mrs. Lathrop, it's like this. I told Mr. Kimball I'd think it over an' consult you before I give him any answer a tall. I could see he did n't want to give me time to think it over or to consult you for fear I'd change my mind, but when you ain't made up your mind, changin' it is easy, an' I never was one to hurry myself an' I won't begin now. Hurryin' leads to swallowin' fish-bones an' tearin' yourself on nails an' a many other things as makes me mad, an' I won't hurry now an' I won't hurry never. I shall take my own time, an' take my own time about takin' it, too, an' Mr. Kimball nor no other man need n't think he can ask me things as is more likely to change my whole life than not to change[Pg 10] it, an' suppose I'm goin' to answer him like it was n't no greater matter than a sparrow hoppin' his tail around on a fence. I ain't no sparrow nor no spring chicken neither an' I don't intend to decide my affairs jumpin' about in a hurry, no, not even if you was advisin' me the same as Mr. Kimball, Mrs. Lathrop, an' you know how much I think of your advice even if you have yet to give me the first piece as I can see my way to usin', for I will say this for your advice, Mrs. Lathrop, an' that is that advice as is easier left untook than yours is, never yet was given."

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

"I don't know, I'm sure, whether what I said to Mr. Kimball in the end was wise or not. I did n't say right out as I would, but I said I would maybe for a little while. I thought a little while would give me the inside track of what a long while would be[Pg 11] pretty sure to mean. I don't know as it was a good thing to do but it's done now, so help me Heaven; an' if I can't stand him I always stand by my word, so he'll get three months' board anyhow an' I'll learn a little of what it would mean to have a man in the house."

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

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

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

"Elijah Doxey," repeated Susan. "That's his name. I ain't surprised over your bein' surprised, Mrs. Lathrop, 'cause I was all dumb did up myself at first. I never was more dumb or more did up since I was a baby, but after the way as Mr. Kimball sprung shock after shock on me last night I got so paralyzed in the end that his name cut very little figger beside[Pg 12] our havin' a newspaper of our own, right here in our midst, an' me havin' the editor to board an' him bein' Mr. Kimball's nephew, an' Mr. Kimball havin' a nephew as was a editor, an' Mr. Kimball's never havin' seen fit to mention the fact to any of us in all these many years as we've been friends on an' off an' us always buyin' from him whenever we was n't more friends with Mr. Dill."

"I nev—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"And wh—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I'll tell you all I found out myself; an' I tell you I worked hard findin' it out too, for Mr. Kimball is no windmill to pump when it comes to where he gets[Pg 13] relations from. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as he had a sister though as married a Doxey an' that's the why of Elijah Doxey. Seems Elijah is so smart that he'll be offered a place on one of the biggest city papers in a little while, but in the mean time he's just lost the place that he did have on one of the smallest ones an', as a consequence, his mother thought he'd better spend this summer in the country an' so sent him up to Mr. Kimball. Mr. Kimball said he really did n't sense all it meant at first when Elijah arrived at noon yesterday but he said he had n't talked with him long afore he see as this was our big chance 'cause the paper as Elijah was on paid him off with a old printin' press, an' Mr. Kimball says, if we back him up, we can begin right now to have a paper of our own an' easy get to be what they call a 'state issue.' It's easy seen as Mr. Kimball is all ready to be a state issue; he says the printin' press is a four horse-power an' he's sure as he can arrange for Hiram Mullins to work the[Pg 14] wringer the day he goes to press. Mr. Kimball says he's positive that Hiram 'll regard it as nothin' but child's play to wring off his grocery bill that way. I don't know what Gran'ma Mullins will say to that—or Lucy either for that matter—but Mr. Kimball's so sure that he knows best that I see it was n't no time to pull Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy in by the ears. Mr. Kimball says he's been turnin' it over in his mind's eye ever since yesterday when he first see Elijah. He says Elijah is just mad with ideas an' says he 's willin' to make us known far an' wide if we'll only give him a chance. Mr. Kimball says we all ought to feel ready to admit that it's time we was more than a quarter of a column a week in the Meadville Mixture. He says the Meadville Mixture ain't never been fair to us an' Judge Fitch says it ain't got right views as to its foreign policy. Mr. Kimball says that after Elijah went back to town yesterday afternoon he went up to Judge Fitch's office an' Judge Fitch[Pg 15] said if we had a paper of our own he'd be more than willin' to write a editorial occasionally himself, a editorial as would open the president's eyes to the true hiddenness of things, an' set the German emperor to thinkin', an' give the czar some insight into what America knows about him.

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

"I told him he could count on you an' me takin' one between us before I knowed[Pg 16] what was really the main object of his visit, an' then when he come out with what was the main object of his visit, an' when I sensed what he was after I must say I considered as he should have made that his first word an' give me my paper for nothin',—seein' as the whole of the thing is got to rest right on me, for I don't know what is the bottom of a newspaper if it ain't the woman as boards the editor. Yes, Mrs. Lathrop, that's my view in a nutshell, the more so as Mr. Kimball openly says as Elijah Doxey says he's a genius an' can't live in any house where there's other folks or any noise but his own. Mr. Kimball said it seemed as if a good angel had made me for the town to turn to in its bitter need an' that it was on me as the new newspaper would have to build its reputation in its first sore strait; an' he said too as he would in confidence remark as my influence on Elijah's ideas would be what he should be really lookin' to to make the paper a success, for[Pg 17] he says as Elijah is very young an' will be wax in my hands an' I can mold him an' public opinion right along together. He said he really did n't look for him to be any great trouble to feed because he'd be out pickin' up items most of the time, an' then too, he says he can always give him a handful of his new brand of dried apples as is advertised to be most puffin' an' fillin'; why, do you know, Mrs. Lathrop, he told me as he'd developed the process now to where if you eat two small pieces you feel like you never wanted another Thanksgivin' dinner as long as you live."

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

"Well, in the end I said I would, for three months. I don't know as I was wise, but I thought it was maybe my duty for three months. I'm tired of seein' the Clightville folks called 'Glimpses' an' us called 'Dabs' in that Meadville Mixture, an' last week you remember how they[Pg 18] spelt it wrong an' called us 'Dubs,' which is far from my idea of politeness. It was being mad over that as much as anythin' that made me up an' tell Mr. Kimball as I'd take Elijah an' take care of him an' look to do what I could to make the paper a success for three months. I told him as it was trustin' in the dark, for Elijah was a unknown quantity to me an' I never did like the idea of a man around my nice, clean house, but I said if he'd name the Meadville items the 'Mud Spatters' an' so get even for our feelin's last week I'd do my part by feedin' him an' makin' up his bed mornin's. Mr. Kimball said I showed as my heart an' my brains was both in the right place, an' then he got up an' shook hands an' told me as he would in confidence remark as he expected to make a very good thing all round for he was gettin' the printin' press awful cheap and Elijah likewise."

"When—?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Next Wednesday. Elijah's comin' up[Pg 19] freight with the printin' press. Mr. Kimball says he suggested that himself. He says it cuts two birds with one knife for it makes it look as if the printin' press was extra fine instead of second-hand, an' it gets Elijah here for nothin'."

"Dear—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I would, too," said Miss Clegg, "only you see I have n't got time. I ought not to be here now. I ought to be over gettin' his room ready an' takin' out the little comforts. As far as my order of thinkin' goes, little comforts is lost on men, Mrs. Lathrop, they always trip over them an' smash them in the dark."[Pg 20]



"Well," suggested Mrs. Lathrop one pleasant Saturday morning, a few days later, when she and her friend met at the fence. Miss Clegg looked slightly fretted and more than slightly warm, for she had been giving her garden an uncommonly vigorous weeding on account of an uncommonly vigorous shower which had fallen the afternoon before. The weeding had been so strenuous that Miss Clegg was quite disposed to stop and rest, and as she joined her neighbor and read the keen interest that never failed to glow in the latter's eyes, her own expression softened slightly and she took up her end of the conversation with her customary capability at giving forth.[Pg 21]

"I don't know," she began, "an' Mr. Kimball don't know either. Elijah was tellin' me all about it last night. He is a trouble, Mrs. Lathrop, but I don't know but what it pays to have a man around when you can have them to talk to like I have him. Of course a new broom sweeps clean an' I've no intention of supposin' that Elijah will ever keep on coverin' his soap an' scrapin' his feet long, but so far so good, an' last night it was real pleasant to hear the rain an' him together tellin' how much trouble they're havin', owin' to Hiram's bein' too energetic wringin' the handle of the printin' press an' then to think as when he was all done talkin' it would be him an' not me as in common decency would have to go out in the wet to padlock the chickens. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as they're really havin' no end o' trouble over the new paper an' Elijah's real put out. He says Hiram had a idea as the more the speed the better the paper an' was just wringin' for dear[Pg 22] life, an' the first thing he knew the first issue begin to slide a little cornerways an' slid off into a crank as Elijah never knowed was there, an' him an' Mr. Kimball spent the whole of yesterday runnin' around like mad an' no way to fix it. As a consequence Elijah's very much afraid as there'll be no paper this week an' it's too bad, for every one is in town spendin' the day an' waitin' to take it home with them. Young Dr. Brown is goin' to feel just awful 'cause he'd bought twenty-five papers to mail to all his college class. There was goin' to be a item about him, an' Mrs. Brown says it was goin' to be a good one for she fed Elijah mince pie while he made his notes for it an' had Amelia play on her guitar, too."

"What do you—?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I can't say as I really know what to think of him just yet. I never see such a young man afore. He has some very curious ways, Mrs. Lathrop, ways as make me feel that I can't tell you positively[Pg 23] what I do think. Now yesterday was the first day as I knowed he'd be gone for long, so I took it to go through all his things, an' do you know, away down at the bottom of one of his trunks I found a box as was locked an' no key anywhere. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I hunted, an' I hunted, an' I hunted, an' I couldn't find that key a tall. I never had any thin' of that kind in my house afore an' of course I ain't goin' to give up without a good deal more lookin', but if I can't find that key it'll prove beyond a shadow of a doubt as Elijah Doxey ain't of a trustin' nature an' if that's true I don't know how I ever will be able to get along with him. A trustin' nature is one thing to have around an' a distrustin' nature is another thing, an' I can tell you that there's somethin' about feelin' as you ain't trusted as makes me take my hands right out of my bread dough an' go straight upstairs to begin lookin' for that key again. The more I hunt the wilder I get, for it's a very small[Pg 24] box for a man to keep locked, an' it ain't his money or jewelry for it don't rattle when you shake it. It's too bad for me to feel so because in most other ways he's a very nice young man, although I will say as sunset is midnight compared to his hair."

"Do—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Wh—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Not me," said Miss Clegg; "I ain't got any give-up in me. I'll keep on until I find it if I have to board Elijah Doxey till he dies or till I drop dead in my huntin' tracks. But I can see that my feelin' towards him is n't goin' to be what it[Pg 25] might of been if he'd been frank an' open with me as I am with him an' every one else. He seems so frank an' open, too—in other ways than that box. He read his editorial aloud night afore last an' I must say it showed a real good disposition for he even wished the president well although he said as he knowed he was sometimes goin' to be obliged to maybe be a little bit hard on him. He said as plain speakin' an' to the purpose 'd be the very breath an' blast of the Megaphone an' he should found it on truth, honor an' the great American people, an' carry Judge Fitch to congress on them lines. I thought as Judge Fitch would object to goin' to congress on any lines after all he's said about what he thought of congress in public, but Elijah says a new paper must have a standard, an' he asked Judge Fitch if he minded being nailed to ours, an' the judge said he did n't mind nothin' these degenerate days, so Elijah just up with him."

"Did you—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.[Pg 26]

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

"Goo—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

Mrs. Lathrop hurried to give her a chair and make her welcome, and then took a chair herself and sat at attention.[Pg 27]

Susan began at once.

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

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

"Elijah says as John Bunyan made them all feel pretty cheap down at the printin' press this mornin'," Miss Clegg went on: "seems the whole community was squeezin' into the back of Mr. Kimball's store to see what under the sun could be done to get the first paper out of the press, when all of a sudden John Bunyan spoke up an' asked why they did n't turn the handle backward an' empty the whole muss out that way. Well, every one see the sense of what he said right off, an' so they began, an' as soon as they began to turn the crank backward the paper began to come out backward, tore, of course, but as nice as pie.[Pg 28]

"Well, Elijah says he most thought his uncle was goin' to take his job as editor away and give it to John Bunyan right off, he was so pleased. But Mr. Kimball ain't the sort of uncle as Elijah so far supposes himself to of got, an' he only give John Bunyan fifty cents' worth of soda water tickets, an' they're to work to-night (if Lucy'll let Hiram), an' have the paper ready for church to-morrow. The Jilkins an' Sperrits was a little disapp'inted 'cause they was n't comin' in to church, countin' on stayin' home an' readin' the paper all day instead, but Elijah's goin' to put in a late column of late news an' give 'em their money's worth that way. Mr. Kimball had arranged to have one whole column of Ks to draw attention to his dried apples, an' he's goin' to give it up for the occasion an' let Elijah write a Extra about the cause of the delay, for that's really all the late news there is. Then, too, Elijah's goin' to have a joke about the paper's comin' in among us like a man goes into politics,[Pg 29] kind of slidin' an' turnin' this way an' that, an' I must say I begin to find some of Elijah's ideas pretty bright. But my mind's taken a new turn on his subjeck from what he said at dinner, an' I will admit, Mrs. Lathrop, as I see now as I misjudged him in one way, for he come an' asked me while I was washin' up if I knowed any way to open a locked box without a key, for he could n't find the key to his flute box nowhere, an' when he was a little nervous nights he always wore it off practisin' on his flute. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe imagine as learnin' as there was a flute in that box an' the key lost, an' him in the habit of playin' that flute nights, altered my views more 'n a little, an' I can tell you that I had to think pretty fast afore answerin' him. While I was thinkin' he said he had n't played since he was here, an' he was gettin' so wild to play he thought the best way would be to maybe pry the lock open. I see then as I'd got to come out firm an'[Pg 30] I said I'd never consent to no young man in my house, spoilin' a good box like that an' maybe a fine flute too, just because he had n't got a little patience. He said I was right about its being a fine flute, an' he was just achin' to hear it an' blow it. I told him to let me hunt an' maybe I'd find the key, an' so he went off some soothed, an' now the Lord have mercy on you an' me, for Elijah Doxey never will from this day on. Will you only think of him bein' nervous an' playin' nights! It'll be worse than a tree-toad an' you know what a tree-toad is, Mrs. Lathrop,—I declare to goodness if Elijah acts like a tree-toad he'll drive me stark, ravin' mad."

"Ca—" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Why—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.[Pg 31]

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

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

"I know, but even three months is a long time," said Miss Clegg, "an' he's begun to leave his soap uncovered already, an' oh my heavens alive, how am I ever goin' to stand that flute!"[Pg 32]



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

"Did he—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, he went to-day," said Miss Clegg. "He went on the early train an' one of the[Pg 33] joys of havin' a man in the house was as I had to be up bright an' early to get him his breakfast. I must say I never thought about his wantin' early breakfast when I agreed to take him, but I'm not one to refuse to feed even a editor, so I cooked him cakes just the same as I would any one else."

"Why—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I guess maybe he heard things yesterday as made him feel as it'd be just as well to let folks have time to sizzle down some afore they looked on his bright an' shinin' face again. I tell you what, Mrs. Lathrop, I can see as runnin' a newspaper ain't an easy thing an' the town is really so up in arms to-day, that I really would of made waffles for Elijah to eat instead of just plain cakes, if I'd knowed when he got up how mad every one was at him. I can see since I've been down town to-day as the square was n't likely to have been no bed of roses for him yesterday. The whole community is mad as hornets over the[Pg 34] paper. Why, I never see folks so mad over nothin' before. Nobody likes his puttin' his own name right under the paper's, an' Dr. Brown says the editor belongs on the inside, anyhow. Dr. Brown's most awful mad 'cause Elijah's put his item right in with the advertisement of Lydia Finkham, an' he says he ain't nothin' as pretends to cure anythin' or everybody. He says he's a regular doctor as you have to take regular chances with an' he feels like suin' Elijah for slander. Gran'ma Mullins is mad, too, 'cause she was put in the personals an' Elijah went an' called her the 'Nestor of the crick,' without never so much as askin' by her leave. She says she ain't never done nothin' with the crick, an' if she ever nested anywhere it was in her own owned an' mortgaged house. Hiram says he'll punch Elijah if he ever refers to his mother's nestin' again, an' I guess Hiram feels kind of sore over Elijah's talkin' of his mother's nestin' when all the town knows how much he wishes[Pg 35] as Lucy'd settle down and nest awhile instead of keepin' 'em all so everlastin'ly churned up. Mrs. Macy told me this mornin' as Lucy's whitewashin' the garret this week; she see the brush goin' 'round an' 'round the window on her side—she says it makes her bones ache just to live next door to Lucy's ways. She says they're so different from Gran'ma Mullins' ways. Gran'ma Mullins had n't had no whitewashin' done in twenty years—not since she rented the cottage of father. That's true an' I know it's true too because she's been askin' an' askin' me to have it done an' I said not by no means—so she's left off."

"Did—?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"The Jilkinses is real mad over the paper, too," Susan continued. "Seems as Elijah went an' called 'em the 'Chirpy Cherry Ponders,' an' Mrs. Jilkins says where he got the idea as either of 'em ever chirped in their lives she cannot conceive, for Mr. Jilkins ain't so much as peeped a good[Pg 36] part of the time since they were married an' she says as for being chirpy, she looks upon the word as city slang. But Judge Fitch is about the maddest of all! I did n't read what Elijah said about him but every one else did, an' he says he was willin' to run for congress for the good of his country, but to put him up in a editorial as says he'll be proud to come back from Washington as poor as he goes there, is a very poor way to put heart into any man's contest. He says if he's got to come back from Washington as poor as he goes he can't see no good an' sufficient reason for goin' a tall, for he won't gain nothin' an' will be out his car fare there an' back. He says he never heard of no one comin' back from Washington as poor as they went before, an' it was a thing as he supposed could n't be done till he found Elijah had booked him to do it. He says if that's what he's to up an' teach his country, he don't thank Elijah for advertisin' him as any such novelty an' he says he won't go[Pg 37] to congress on any such terms—not while he knows himself. Mr. Kimball told me as he spoke to Elijah about it yesterday, an' Elijah said to him as it would be a strong plank for Judge Fitch to stand on in the middle of his platform, but Judge Fitch told Mr. Kimball as he could just tell his nephew frank an' open as that one plank in his platform had better be weak an' he'd take care to remember to step over it every time. He said he was just waitin' for a good chance to tell Elijah his opinion of him right to his face, an' he said as he should give him to understand as after this he must submit all other planks to him afore he printed 'em. Mr. Kimball says that Judge Fitch said good gracious him, there would n't be no knowin' what he'd have to live up to next, if Elijah was n't reined in tighter. Judge Fitch says the old way is good enough for him when he goes to Washington.

"But that ain't all the trouble there is. Mr. Fisher feels very much hurt at Elijah's[Pg 38] writin' any editorial without consultin' him first. He says he told him as he could have give him a motto out of Shakespeare about layin' on an' dammin' as would have put life in the campaign right off at the beginnin'; an' then there's Mrs. Macy as thinks he was awful mean to call her one as carries weight anywhere; I'm sure I wish Elijah had let Mrs. Macy alone for she's worse than hornets over that remark of his. She says maybe Elijah'll go over two hundred an' fifty hisself some day, an' if he does he'll know as it's no joke. She bu'st her rocker last night when she read what he said about her, an' she says bu'stin' a rocker ought to show better than any words how mad it made her. My, she says, but she was mad! I told Elijah when he was gettin' up the paper as he'd better never say nothin' about nobody in it, but Elijah can't help being a man an' very like all men in consequence, an' he said as a paper was n't nothin' without personal items, an' he thought folks would[Pg 39] enjoy being dished up tart an' spicy. I told him my views was altogether different. 'Elijah Doxey,' I says, 'you dish Meadville up tart an' spicy an' we'll all feel to enjoy, but you leave folks here alone.' But he didn't mind me an' now he's got a lesson as will maybe teach him to leave the armchairs of folks as is payin' for his paper unbu'sted henceforth."

"Now—?" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, we get along pretty well," said Susan; "a man's a man, an' of course any house always is pleasanter without one in it, but I guess if you have to have one around Elijah's about as little bother as you could ask. I'm teachin' him to be real orderly in a hurry just by puttin' his things where he couldn't possibly find 'em if he leaves 'em layin' around. You always can manage pleasantly if you're smart, an' I'm smart. If he don't empty his basin, I don't fill his pitcher; if he's late to meals, I eat up all as is hot;—oh! there's lots of ways of gettin' along, an' I try 'em all[Pg 40] turn an' turn about. If one don't work another is sure to, an' if he ever does have a wife it won't be my fault—I know that.

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

"Is any one—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't know," said Miss Clegg, "I don't believe so. Even the minister is mad; I met him comin' home an' I couldn't see what he had to complain of, for I didn't remember there bein' a single word about him in the whole paper. Come to find out he was all used up 'cause there wasn't nothin' about him in it. He told[Pg 41] me in confidence as he never got such a shock in all his life. He says he read the paper over nine times afore he was able to sense it, an' he says his last sermon was on hidin' your light under a bushel basket an' he had a copy all ready if Elijah had only come for it. He says he shall preach next Sunday on cryin' out unto you to get up, an' he shall take a copy to Elijah himself. I cheered him up all I could. I told him as a sermon preached on Sunday was n't likely to be no great novelty to no one on the Saturday after, but I'd see that he got it back all safe if Elijah throwed it into his scrap-basket. That seems to be the big part of bein' a editor—the throwin' things in his scrap-basket. Elijah's scrap-basket is far from bein' the joy of my life for he tears everythin' just the same way an' it makes it a long, hard job to piece 'em together again. Some days I don't get time an' then I do get so aggravated."

"Have you ever—" asked Mrs. Lathrop with real interest.[Pg 42]

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

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

"Most likely," said Susan; "at any rate if he does n't have any appetite. I like 'em myself."[Pg 43]



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

"I wond—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't believe it," said Miss Clegg; "I know the way you look at it, Mrs. Lathrop, but I don't believe it. All the girls is after him but that ain't surprisin' for girls are made to be after somethin' at that age an' there's almost nothin' for them to run down in this community. We're very short of men to marry, Mrs. Lathrop, an' what men we have got ain't tall enough yet to do it, but still, it ain't no reason why Elijah should be in love[Pg 44] just because 'Liza Em'ly and all the other girls is in love with him. To my order o' thinkin' two sets of people have got to love to make a marriage, an' 'Liza Em'ly ain't but one. An' I don't know as I want Elijah to be in love, anyhow—not while he lives in my house. It might lead to his eatin' less but it would surely lead to his playin' the flute more, an' that flute is all I can stand now. He won't marry if I can help it, I know that, an' I keep his eagerness down by talkin' to him about Hiram Mullins all I can, an' surely Hiram is enough to keep any man from soarin' into marriage if he can just manage to hop along single an' in peace."

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

"Well, I should say I had—an' it's fresh on my mind, too. It was yesterday an' I see 'em both. Lucy come in the mornin' an' Gran'ma Mullins in the afternoon. I'd like to of had Hiram come in the evenin' an' tell his end, but Hiram[Pg 45] don't dare say a word to no man nowadays. As far as my observation's extended a man as lives steady with two women gets very meek as to even men. Hiram's learned as his long suit is to keep still an' saw wood when he ain't choppin' it."

"What did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Did she—" questioned Mrs. Lathrop.

"No," said Miss Clegg, "she ain't been married quite long enough for that yet;[Pg 46] she's only been married long enough to come out strong an' bitter as to blamin' Gran'ma Mullins. I will say this for Lucy, Mrs. Lathrop, an' that is that a fairer thing than blamin' Gran'ma Mullins for Hiram could n't be expected of whoever married Hiram, for it stands to reason as no one as had brains could marry Hiram an' not want to begin blamin' his mother five minutes after. Gran'ma Mullins never did seem able to look at Hiram with a impartial eye, an' Lucy says as it beats all kind of eyes the way she looks at him since he's got married. Why, Lucy says it's most made her lose faith in her Bible—the way she feels about Gran'ma Mullins. She says she's got a feelin' towards Gran'ma Mullins as she never knowed could be in a woman. She says she's come to where she just cannot see what Ruth ever stuck to Naomi for when the husband was dead an' Naomi disposed to leave, too. She says if anythin' was to happen to Hiram she'd never be fool enough to hang onto Gran'ma[Pg 47] Mullins. She sat down an' told me all about their goin' to town last week. She says she nigh to went mad. They started to go to the city just for a day's shoppin' an' she says it was up by the alarm clock at four an' breakfast at six for fear of missin' the nine-o'clock train an' then if Gran'ma Mullins did n't lose her little black bead bag with her weddin' ring an' the size of Hiram's foot an' eighty-five cents in it, so they could n't get him no bargain socks after all! All they could do was to buy the safety razor, an' when they got home with that there was n't no blade in it, an' they had to go way back to town next day. Come to find out the blade was in the box all the time, done up in the directions, only Hiram never read the directions, 'cause he said as it's a well-known fact as you can't cut yourself with a safety razor whatever you do.

"Well, Lucy says it's for that sort of doin's as she left her happy home an' her razor-stroppin' father, an' she says the[Pg 48] billin' an' cooin' of Gran'ma Mullins over Hiram is enough to make a wedded wife sick. She says she would n't say it to no one but me, an' I promised her never to breathe it along any further, but she says she's beginnin' to question as to how long she's goin' to be able to stand it all. She says will you believe that nights Gran'ma Mullins is comin' in softly at all hours to tuck up Hiram's feet, an' Lucy's forever thinkin' she's either a rat or a robber or else hittin' at her for Hiram himself. She says as it's Heaven's own truth as Gran'ma Mullins is warmin' his flannels every Saturday to this day, an' that the tears stand in her very eyes when Lucy won't help him off with his boots."

"I never—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, nor no one else. It's all Gran'ma Mullins' foolishness. She begun to be foolish when Hiram begun to know things. I can remember when he used to run everywhere behind her with a little whip, 'cause he liked to play horse, an' although she[Pg 49] used to pretend that she let him 'cause it kept the moths out of her clothes, still every one knowed as it was just her spoilin' of him. Now he's growed up spoiled an' poor Lucy Dill's got the consequences to suffer.

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

"I cheered her all I could. I told her as you can't make no sort of a purse out of ears like Hiram's, an' that what can't be cured has always got to be lived with unless you're a man. She cried some, poor thing, an' said her mother always used to say as Hiram was cut out to make some girl wish he was dead, but she said she [Pg 50]always thought as her mother was prejudiced. She said Hiram had a sort of way with him before he was married as was so hopeful, an' he used to look at her an' sigh till it just went all through her how happy they'd be if they could only be together all they wanted to be together. Well, you c'n believe me or not, just as you please, Mrs. Lathrop, but she says he ain't sighed once—not once—since they was married, an' as for bein' happy—well—she says she's about give up hope. She don't want folks to know, 'cause she says she's got some pride, but she says there's no tellin' how soon it'll run out if Gran'ma Mullins keeps on huggin' Hiram, an' tellin' her how perfect he is over his own head."

"I don't—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should say not," said Susan; "but Hiram Mullins always was his mother's white goose, an' the whole town is a witness. My idea if I was Lucy would be to shut right down solid on the whole thing. I'd put a bolt on my door an' keep [Pg 51]Gran'ma Mullins an' her tuckin' tendencies on the other side, an' if Hiram Mullins did n't come to time I'd bolt him out, too, an' if he was n't nice about it I'd get out of the window an' go home to my father. I guess Mr. Dill would be very glad to have Lucy home again, for they say 'Liza Em'ly's no great success keepin' house for him. Some one told me as Mr. Dill was in mortal fear as he was practically feedin' the minister's whole family every time she went home, an' that would be enough to make any man, as had only his own self to feed, want his own daughter back, I should think.

"There's Mrs. Macy as would be glad to keep house for him if he 'd marry her first, of course, but to my order of thinkin' Mr. Dill don't want to marry Mrs. Macy near as much as Mrs. Macy wants to marry Mr. Dill. Mrs. Macy says he's pesterin' her to death, an' Mr. Dill says if it's pesterin' to speak when you're spoken to, he must buy a new dictionary an' learn the new meanin' of the words by heart. Between ourselves,[Pg 52] I guess Mr. Dill is learnin' the lesson of wedded bliss from lookin' at Lucy an' rememberin' her mother. Lucy ain't very happy an' you know as well as I do what Mrs. Dill was. Her husband won't marry again in a hurry, an' he's smart if he don't, for if Lucy ain't home in less 'n a year I'll make you a tea cake."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, you ain't Lucy Dill," said her friend. "If you was you'd be different. Lucy says this being waked up by havin' a hot flatiron slid in among your feet most any time for no better reason than 'cause his mother thought she heard Hiram sneeze, is a game as can be played once too often. I see her temper was on the rise so I struck in, an' give her a little advice of my own, an' as a result she says she's goin' to take a strong upper hand to 'em both an' there won't be no velvet glove on it neither. She says she can see as it's do or die for her now, an' she don't mean to be done nor to die neither. She drank some tea as I[Pg 53] made strong on purpose, an' shook her head hard an' went home, an' God help Hiram if he hummed last night; an' as for Gran'ma Mullins, Lucy said if she come stealin' in to feel if Hiram was breathin' reg'lar, she was going to get slapped for a mosquito in a way as she'd long remember."

"Dear me—" commented Mrs. Lathrop.

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

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

"I know, an' that did change my ideas.[Pg 54] Of course when I was talkin' to Lucy I was n't expectin' to see Gran'ma Mullins so soon, but I won't say but what I was glad to see Gran'ma Mullins, too. It's a most curious feelin', I d'n know as I ever feel a curiouser than to hear both sides of anythin' from the both sides themselves right one after the other in the same day. O' course I learned long ago to never take any sides myself unless one of 'em was mine; but I will say as I don't believe no one could feel for others more 'n I do when I hear folks shakin' their heads over what as a general thing a person with brains like mine knows is their own fault, an' knowed was goin' to be their own fault afore they ever even began to think of doin' it.

"Now there was Lucy Dill yesterday forenoon mournin' 'cause Hiram is Hiram an' his mother is his mother, an' then after dinner there comes Gran'ma Mullins with her bonnet strings an' her tears all streamin' together, an' wants my sympathy 'cause[Pg 55] Lucy herself is Lucy herself. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I can't but feel proud o' being able to hold the reins so hard on my own bit that I never up an' told either on 'em the plain truth, which is as they was all fools together to of ever looked for the weddin' service to have changed any on 'em."

"What did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I don't know as I'm prepared to say what I think. To hear Lucy you'd think she was surely the martyr, but to hear Gran'ma Mullins you would n't be sure after all. Gran'ma Mullins says after the honeymoon is over every one expects to settle down as a matter of course, an' she would n't say a word against it only it's Lucy is doin' all the settlin' an' poor Hiram as is doin' all the down. She says it's heartbreakin' to be a only mother an' watch the way as Hiram is being everlastin'ly downed. She says as we all remember that bright an' happy weddin' day[B] an' how she downed her own feelin's[Pg 56] an' waved rice after 'em just like everybody else when they started off weddin'-trippin', each with their own bag in his own hand. But, oh, she says, the way they come back! She says they come back with Hiram carryin' both bags, an' her heart sunk when she see 'em for she says when she was married it was her as come home carryin' both bags an' she says it's one of the saddest straws as ever blows a bride out. She says she never expected much of her marriage 'cause she was engaged on a April Fool's Day in Leap Year, an' he give her an imitation opal for a ring, but she says Hiram give Lucy a real green emerald with a 18 an' a K inside it an' he looked to be happy even with his mother's tears mildewin' his pillow every night that whole summer. She says no one will ever know how hard she did try to get sense into Hiram that summer afore it was too late. She says she used to sit up in tears an' wait for him to come home from seein' Lucy, an' weep on his neck[Pg 57] with her arms tight round him for two or three hours afterwards every night, but she says he never used to appreciate it. An' she says what he needed to marry for, anyway, Heaven only knows, with his whole life laid pleasantly out to suit him, an' a strong an' able-bodied mother ready an' smilin' to hand him whatever he wanted just as quick as he wanted it. An' she says she never asked him to do nothin' as she could possibly do herself an' the way Lucy orders him about!—well, she says it's beyond all belief. An' oh, but she says it goes through her like a chained-up bolt of lightnin' the voice Lucy speaks to him in, an' she said she would n't have no one know it for worlds but she says as near as she can figger she hit him over the head with a hairbrush night before last."

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

"With a—" cried Mrs. Lathrop, aghast.

"She says she ain't absolutely positive, but they was a-chasin' a June bug in their room together, an' she heard the smash an' the next mornin' when she went in to[Pg 58] make Hiram's side of the bed after Lucy (she says Lucy is a most sing'lar bed-maker) she see the nick on the brush, an' she says when she see the nick an' remembered how hollow it rung, she knew as it could n't possibly have been nothin' in that room except Hiram's head. She says if Lucy's begun on Hiram with a hairbrush now, Heaven only knows what she'll be after him with in a year, for Gran'ma Mullins' own husband went from a cake of soap to a whole cheese in a fortnight an' she says it's a well-known fact as when a married man is once set a-goin' he lands things faster an' faster. She says she thinks about the andirons there, ready to Lucy's hand, until she's scared white, an' yet she's afraid to take 'em for fear it'd attract her to the water pitcher."

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

"Oh, he did n't throw 'em at her. I[Pg 59] could n't understand what he did do with them an' so I asked, but it seems it was just as awful for he grated the whole cake o' that soap on her front teeth to teach her not to never refer to the deacon again, an' he dropped the cheese square on her head when he was up on a step-ladder an' she was in a little cupboard underneath leanin' over for a plate, an' then he tried to make out as it was an accident. She says it was n't no accident though. She says a woman as gets a cheese on the back of her head from a husband as is on a step-ladder over her, ain't to be fooled with no accident story; she says that cheese like to of hurt her for life an' was the greatest of the consolations she had when he died. She says she never will forget it as long as she's alive an' he's dead, no sir, so help her heaven she won't; she says when the cemetery committee come to her an' want her to subscribe for keepin' him trimmed with a lawn mower an' a little flag on Decoration Day, she always thinks of that cheese[Pg 60] an' says no, thank you, they can just mow him regularly right along with the rest.

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

"I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, it was a pretty sad tale first an' last, an' Gran'ma Mullins says Hiram is as meek as a sheep being led to its halter, but she says she can't feel as meekness pays women much. She says she was meek an' Hiram's meek, an' she did n't get no reward but soap an' that cheese, an' all Hiram's got so far[Pg 61] is the hairbrush, an' the water pitcher loomin'.

"I told her my own feelin's was as marriage was n't enough took into consideration nowadays, an' that it was too easy at the start, an' too hard at the finish. You know yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, as there ain't a mite o' doubt but what if the honeymoon come just afore the funeral there'd be a deal more sincere mournin' than there is as it is now, an' to my order of thinkin', if the grandchildren come afore the children, folks would raise their families wiser. I told Gran'ma Mullins just that very thing but it did n't seem to give her much comfort. She give a little yell an' said oh, Heaven preserve her from havin' to sit by an' watch Lucy Dill raise Hiram's children, for she was sure as she'd never be able to give 'em enough pie on the sly to keep 'em happy an' any one with half an eye could see they'd be washed an' brushed half to death. She says Lucy [Pg 62]won't wash a dish without rinsin' it afterwards or sweep a room without carryin' all the furniture out into the yard; oh my, she says her ways is most awful an' I expect that, to Gran'ma Mullins, they are.

"I cheered her all I could. I told her she'd better make the best o' things now, 'cause o' course as Lucy got older Hiram'd make her madder an' madder, an' they'll all soon be lookin' back to this happy first year as their one glimpse of paradise. I did n't tell her what Lucy told me o' course, 'cause she'd go an' tell Hiram, an' Hiram must love Lucy or he'd never stand being hit for a June bug or woke with a wash-cloth. But I did kind of wonder how long it would last. If I was Lucy it would n't last long, I know that. If I'd ever married a man I don't know how long he'd of stood it or how long I'd of stood him, but I know one thing, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I know that from my heels to my hairpins—an' I said it to Elijah last night, an' I'm goin' to say it to you now—an' that is that if I could n't[Pg 63] of stood him I would n't of stood him, for this is the age when women as read the papers don't stand nothin' they don't want to—an' I would n't neither."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, you ain't me," said Miss Clegg, "you ain't me an' you ain't Elijah neither. I talk very kind to Elijah, but there's no livin' in the house with any man as supposes livin' in the house with any other woman is goin' to be pleasanter than livin' in the house with the woman as he's then an' there livin' in the house with. The main thing in life is to keep men down to a low opinion of every woman's cookin' but yours an' keep yourself down to a low opinion of the man. You don't want to marry him then an' he don't want to live with any one else. An' to my order of thinkin' that's about the only way that a woman can take any comfort with a man in the house."[Pg 64]



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

"It's been a full day," she went on presently; "an' I can't deny as I was nothin' but glad to remember as Elijah was n't comin' home to supper, for as a consequence I sha'n't have it to get. A woman as has had a day like mine to-day don't want no supper anyhow, an' it stands to reason as if I don't feel lively in the first place, I ain't goin' to be made[Pg 65] any more so by comin' to see you, for I will remark, Mrs. Lathrop, that seein' you always makes me wonder more'n ever why I come to see you so often when I might just as well stay home an' go to bed. If I was in my bed this blessed minute I'd be very comfortable, which I'm very far from bein' here with this mosquito aimin' just over my slap each time; an' then, too, I'd be alone, an' no matter how hard I may try to make myself look upon bein' with you as the same thing as bein' alone, it is n't the same thing an' you can't in conscience deny that, no matter how hard you may sit without movin'."

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

"It's been a full day, a awful full day. In the first place the rooster was woke by accident last night an' he up an' woke me. He must of woke me about three o'clock as near as I can figure it out now, but I[Pg 66] supposed when I was woke as of course it was five so I got right up an' went in an' woke Elijah. Elijah told me last week as he did n't believe he'd ever seen the sun rise an' I was just enough out of sorts to think as to-day would be a good time for him to begin to turn over a new leaf as far as the sunrise was concerned. I must say he was n't very spry about the leaf, for all he did was to turn himself over at first, but I opened his window an' banged the blinds three or four times an' in the end he got woke up without really knowin' just what had woke him. We had breakfast with a candle, an' then Elijah was so tired lookin' out for the sunrise that he looked in at his watch an' see as it was only quarter to four then. He was real put out at that at first 'cause he wrote till half past two last night, an' in the end he went back to bed an' it certainly was a relief to see the last of him, for I may in confidence remark as I never see him look quite so stupid afore. After he was gone back to[Pg 67] bed I washed up the breakfast dishes an' then I went out in the wood shed in the dark an' there I got another surprise, for I thought I'd look over the rags I was savin' for the next rag rug an' when I poured 'em out in my lap, what do you think, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think poured out along with 'em?—Why, a nest of young mice an' two old ones!

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe imagine my feelin's at four in the mornin' with Elijah gone back to bed an' my own lap full of mice, but whatever I yelled did n't disturb him any an' I just made two jumps for the lamp in the kitchen, leavin' the mice wherever they hit to rearrange their family to suit themselves. Well, the second jump must needs land me right square on top of the cistern lid, an' it up an' went in, takin' my left leg along with it as far as it would go. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, talk of girls as can open an' shut, like scissors, in a circus—I was scissored to that degree that for a little I could n't[Pg 68] think which would be wisest, to try an' get myself together again in the kitchen or to just give up altogether in the cistern. In the end I hauled the leg as had gone in out again, an' then I see where all the trouble come from, for the cistern lid was caught to my garter an' what I'd thought was a real injury was only it swingin' around an' around my leg. I put the lid back on the cistern an' felt to sit with my legs crossed for quite a while, thinkin' pleasant thoughts of the rooster as woke me, an' by that time it was half past four, an' I could hear all the other chickens stirrin' so I got up an' began to stir again myself. I opened the front door an' looked out an' that did n't bring me no good luck either, for as I looked out a bat flew in an' just as the bat flew in he managed to hook himself right in my hair. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I tell you I was mad then. I don't know as I ever was madder than I was then. I was so mad that I can't tell you how mad I was. The bat held on by[Pg 69] diggin' in like he thought I wanted to get him off, an' I pulled at him so hard that I can't in conscience be surprised much over his takin' that view of it. Well, in the end I had to take all my hairpins out first an' then sort of skin him out of my hair lengthways, which, whatever you may think about it, Mrs. Lathrop, is far from bein' funny along afore dawn on a day as you 've begun at three thinkin' as it was five."

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

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

"You—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh yes, I remember now. Well, I was too put out at first to notice what the bat did after I got him out o' my head, but when I went upstairs I found him circlin' everywhere in a way as took every bit of home feelin' out of the house an' I[Pg 70] just saw that I'd have no peace till I could be alone with Elijah again. So I got up an' got a broom an' went a battin' for all I was worth. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can believe me or not just as you please, but for one solid hour I run freely an' gayly up an' down an' over an' under my own house after that bat. I never see nothin' like that bat before or behind. He just sort of sailed here an' there an' everywhere, an' wherever he sailed smoothly an' easily there was me runnin' after him with the broom, whackin' at him every chance I got. We was upstairs, we was downstairs, we was in the wood shed an' out of the wood shed, we was under the kitchen table, we was over father's picture on the mantel—we was everywhere, me an' that bat. Then all of a sudden he disappeared completely an' I sit down in the rockin'-chair to puff an' rest. Elijah slept till most eight an' I was so tired I let him sleep although I never was one to approve of any man's sleepin', but before he woke[Pg 71] something worse than a bat come down on me, an' that was Mrs. Sweet's cousin, Jerusha Dodd. You know Jerusha Dodd, Mrs. Lathrop, an' so do I, an' so does everybody an' as far as my observation 's extended bats is wise men bringin' their gifts from afar to visit you compared to Jerusha Dodd when she arrives in the early mornin'. I would n't never have gone to the door only she stepped up on the drain-pipe first an' looked in an' saw me there in the rockin'-chair afore she knocked. I tell you I was good an' mad when I see her an' see as she see me an' I made no bones of it when I opened the door. I says to her frank an' open—I says, 'Good gracious, Jerusha, I hope you ain't lookin' to see me pleased at seein' as it's you.' But laws, you could n't smash Jerusha Dodd not if you was a elephant an' she was his sat-down-upon fly, so I had her sittin' in the kitchen an' sighin' in less'n no time. She was full of her woes an' the country's woes as usual. Congress[Pg 72] was goin' to ruin us next year sure, an' she had a hole in her back fence anyway; she did n't approve of Mr. Rockefeller's prices on oil, an' there was a skunk in her cellar, an' she said she could n't seem to learn to enjoy livin' the simple life as she'd had to live it since her father died, a tall. She said that accordin' to her views life for single women nowadays was too simple an' she said she really only lacked bein' buried to be dead. She says as all a simple life is, is havin' no rights except them as your neighbors don't want. She says for her part she's been more took into the heart of creation than she's ever cared about. I do hate to have to listen to the way she goes on an' no one can say as I ever was one to encourage her in them views. I don't think it's right to encourage no one in their own views 'cause their views is never mine an' mine is always the right ones. This mornin' I stood it as long as I could from Jerusha an' then I just let out at her an' I says to her, I says,[Pg 73] 'Jerusha Dodd, you really are a fool an' Heaven help them as ever makes more of a fool of you, by tellin' you as you ain't.' You know Jerusha Dodd, Mrs. Lathrop; she began to cry hard an' rock harder right off, said she knowed she was a fool, but it was nature's fault an' not hers for she was born so an' could n't seem to get the better of it. I told her my view of the matter would be for her to stay home an' patch up that hole in her fence an' pull up some o' that choice garden full of weeds as she's growin', an' brush the dust off the crown of her bonnet, an' do a few other of them wholesome little trifles as is a good deal nearer the most of us than Mr. Rockefeller an' what congress in its infinite wisdom is goin' to see fit to deal out in the daily papers next year.

"But she only kept on cryin' an' rockin' an' finally I got so tired listenin' to her creak an' sob that I went out an' had a real bright idea. I got the little sink scratcher an' tied a wet piece of rag to the[Pg 74] handle an' went around behind her an' hung it suddenly in her back hair. She put up her hand an' felt it, an' give a yell that woke Elijah. You know how Jerusha Dodd acts when she's upset! She spun around so the sink scratcher fell right out but she did n't have sense enough left in her to know it. She yelled, 'What was it? what was it?' an' I yelled, 'It was a bat, it was a bat;' an' at that I see the last of Jerusha Dodd, for she was out of my kitchen an' out of my sight afore Elijah could get to the top of the stairs to begin yellin', 'What was it? what was it?' on his own hook. I had to tell him all about it then an' he wanted it for a item right off. He said he'd have a dash for Jerusha an' a star for me, an' the idea took him like most of his ideas do, an' he laughed till he coughed the coffee as I'd saved for him all the wrong way, an' dropped a soft boiled egg as I'd boiled for him into the water pitcher, an', oh my, I thought misfortunes never would come to a end or[Pg 75] even to a turnin'. But after he'd fished out the egg an' eat it, he went off down to his uncle's an' he was n't more'n gone when in come Mrs. Sweet to see if Jerusha left her breastpin, 'cause in her quick breathin' it had fallen somewhere an' Jerusha was havin' hysterics over losin' that now. While I was talkin' to Mrs. Sweet at the gate I smelt somethin' burnin' an' there my whole bakin' of bread was burnt up in the oven owin' to Jerusha Dodd's breathin' her breastpin out over a bat. I felt to be some tempered then, an' Mrs. Sweet saw it an' turned around an' left me, an' after she was gone I went into the house an' pulled down the shades an' locked the door an' went to sleep. I slept till Elijah come home to dinner an' of course there was n't no dinner ready an' that put Elijah out. Elijah's got a good deal of a temper, I find, an' the only thing in the world to do with a man in a temper, when he is in a temper, is to make him so mad that he goes right off in a huff an'[Pg 76] leaves you to peace again. So I just made one or two remarks about my opinion of things as he feels very strong about, an' he said he guessed he'd get supper down town an' sleep at the store to-night. So he took himself off an' he was hardly out of the way when Mrs. Macy come to tell me about Judy Lupey's divorce."

"Is—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Two—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Mrs. Macy says," continued Susan,[Pg 77] "as Mrs. Lupey ain't much better pleased than Mrs. Kitts over it all, an', although she did n't say it in so many words, she hinted pretty plain as it seemed hard as the only one of the girls to get married should be the same one as is gettin' divorced. Mrs. Macy said she see her point of view, but to her order of thinkin' the world don't begin to be where old maids need consider divorces yet awhile. She says she stayed in the house with 'em all three days an' she says she cheered Mrs. Lupey all she could; she says she told her to her best ear as no one but a mother would ever have dreamed of dreamin' of Faith or Maria's ever marryin' under any circumstances. She said Mrs. Lupey said it was the quickness of Judy's gettin' tired of Mr. Drake as had frightened her most. Why, she says as before the first baby was through teethin' in her day, Judy was all up an' through an' completely done with Mr. Drake. All done with him an' home again, an' the family not even countin' to consider.[Pg 78]

"Mrs. Macy says as she's learned a awful lot about divorce as she did n't know before. She said she could n't help being surprised over how much a divorce is like a marriage, for Busby Bell was there every night an' Judy an' the whole family is hard at work gettin' her clothes ready. But Mrs. Macy says them as suppose the real gettin' of the divorce itself is simple had ought to go an' stay at the Lupeys awhile. Why, she says the way the Lupeys is complicated an' tied up by Judy an' Mr. Drake is somethin' beyond all belief. To begin with, Judy decided to be deserted because she thought it'd really be the simplest an' easiest in the end an' she hated to bother with bein' black an' blue for witnesses an' all that kind of business. But it seems being deserted, when you live in the same town with a husband who rides a bicycle an' don't care where he meets you, is just enough to drive a woman nigh to madness itself. Why, Mrs. Macy says that Judy Lupey actually can't go out to walk a tall,[Pg 79] not 'nless Faith walk a block ahead of her an' Maria a block behind, an' even then Mr. Drake's liable to come coastin' down on 'em any minute. She says it's awful tryin', an' Judy gets so mad over it all that it just seems as if they could not stand it.

"But that ain't the only trouble neither, Mrs. Macy says. Seems Judy got Solomon Drake for her lawyer 'cause he knowed the whole story, through eatin' dinner at the Drakes every Sunday while they was stayin' married. She thought havin' Solomon Drake would save such a lot of explainin' 'cause Mr. Drake is so hard to explain to any one as has just seen him ridin' his bicycle an' not really been his wife. Well, seems as Judy never calculated on Solomon's keepin' right on takin' Sunday dinner with Mr. Drake, after he became her lawyer, but he does, an' none of the Lupeys think it looks well, an' Judy finds it most tryin' because all she an' Solomon talk over about the divorce he tells Mr. Drake on Sunday out of gratitude for his dinner an' because[Pg 80] it's a subject as seems to really interest Mr. Drake. Seems Mr. Drake is a hard man to interest. Judy says he was yawnin' afore they got to the station on their honeymoon.

"But Mrs. Macy says that ain't all, neither, whatever you may think, for she says what do you think of Mr. Drake's goin' an' gettin' Busby Bell of all the men in Meadville for his lawyer, when the whole town knows as it's Busby as Judy's goin' to marry next. Mrs. Lupey says as Judy would have took Busby for her own lawyer only they was so afraid of hurtin' each other's reputations, an' now really it's terrible, 'cause Busby says as he don't well see what's to be done about their reputations if the worst comes to the worst, for he's explained as very likely Judy's goin' to need one more man than a husband to get her her divorce. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says as Busby said as if he had n't been Mr. Drake's lawyer he'd have been more than ready to be the other man, but[Pg 81] as Mr. Drake's lawyer he can't help Judy no more'n if he was Mr. Drake himself. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey cried, an' she told her as she knowed as there was any number of quiet elderly men as any one could depend on right here in our own community as'd be nothin' but glad to go over to Meadville an' help anyway they could, but Mrs. Lupey asked Judy about it, an' Judy asked Busby, an' Busby said men as you could depend on anywhere was n't no use in divorce suits a tall. It's quite another kind, it seems. Mrs. Macy says she's really very sorry for them all, for it really seems awful to think how the Lupeys need a man an' the only man they've got Judy's busy gettin' rid of as hard as she can.

"Mrs. Macy says it's all most upsettin'. She says she never lived through nothin' like it afore. Judy's cross 'cause she can't go out an' meet Busby without runnin' the risk of meetin' Mr. Drake an' losin' all the time she's put in so far bein' deserted.[Pg 82] An' then there's a many things as a outsider never would know about or even guess at unless they've lived right in the house with a real live divorce. Mrs. Macy says as Martha Hack, as does the washin' for 'em all, is forever forgettin' an' sendin' Judy's wash home with Mr. Drake's just as if they was still completely married. That would n't be so bad only Mr. Drake waits for Solomon to get 'em Sunday, an' Solomon's kind-hearted an' gives 'em to Busby so as to give him a excuse to make two calls in one day. Well, Mrs. Macy says the come out of it all is as when Judy wants to take a bath just about all Meadville has to turn out to see where under heaven her clean clothes is.

"I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, tellin' it all to you does n't matter so much, but to hear Mrs. Macy tell it makes you wonder if it's worth while to try an' leave a man as you can't live with. Seems to me it'd be easier to live with him. Mrs. Macy says as she met Mr. Drake several times[Pg 83] herself on his bicycle an' he looked most bloomin'. No one need be sorry for him, an' not many is sorry for Judy. But Mrs. Macy says there's only one person as all Meadville's sorry for, an' that's Busby Bell."

Mrs. Lathrop started to speak.

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

Susan rose just here and descended the steps. "I must go," she said, "I don't seem to take no particular interest in what you might be goin' to tell me, Mrs. Lathrop, even if there was any chance of your ever gettin' around to tellin' it, an' I've told you all I know, an' I'm very tired talkin'. As I said before, it's been a full day an' I'm pretty well beat out. I forgot to tell you as after Mrs. Macy was gone I found as it was n't the bread I smelt in[Pg 84] the oven—it was the bat. I suppose when I see Mr. Kimball he'll make one of his jokes over bread-dough an' bats an' batter, but I'll be too wore out to care. Did I say as Elijah said he'd sleep at the store to-night?"

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

"Why, of course," said Susan, "it did n't hurt either loaf a mite. I'd be as much of a fool as Jerusha Dodd if I let a little thing like a bat spoil a whole bakin' of bread for me, Mrs. Lathrop. As for Elijah, he did n't know nothin' about it an' I sha'n't tell him, you may be sure, for he's the one as eats all the bread—I never touch it myself, as you well know."[Pg 85]



"I'm a good deal worried over Elijah," Miss Clegg said to Mrs. Lathrop, one day when the new paper was about three weeks old, and when the town had begun to take both it and its editor with reasonable calm; "he does have so many ideas. Some of his ideas are all right as far as I can see, but he has 'em so thick an' fast that it worries me more'n a little. It ain't natural to have new ideas all the time an' no one in this community ever does it. He's forever tellin' me of some new way he's thought of for branchin' out somewhere an' his branches make me more'n a little nervous. The old ways is good enough for us an' I try to hold him down to that idea, but first he wants me to get[Pg 86] a new kind of flatirons as takes off while you heat it, an' next he wants me to fix the paper all over new.

"I brought over somethin' as he wrote last night to read you, an' show you how curious his brains do mix up things. He brought it down this mornin' an' read it to me, an' I asked him to give it to me to read to you. I was goin' to bring it to you anyway, but then he said as I could too, so it's all right either way. It's some of his new ideas an' he said he'd be nothin' but glad to have you hear 'em 'cause he says the more he lives with me the more respect he's got for your hearin' an' judgment. He asked me what I thought of it first, an' I told him frank an' open as I did n't know what under the sun to think of it. I meant that, too, for I certainly never heard nothin' like it in my life afore, so he said we could both read it to-day an' I could tell him what we thought to-night, when he come home.[Pg 87]

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

"Well, seems he's been thinkin' as it's time to begin to show us how up-to-date he looks on life, he says, an' as a consequence he's openin' up what he calls the field of the future. He says he's goin' to have a editorial this week on beginnin' from now on to make every issue of the Megaphone just twice as good as the one afore. I told him if he really meant what he said it could n't possibly be worth no dollar a year now, but he said wait an' see an' time would tell an' virtue be her own reward. He says he's goin' to make arrangements with a woman in the city for a beauty column, an' arrangements with some other woman as is a practical preserver, an' have a piece each time on how to be your own dressmaker once you get cut out; I thought that these things was about enough for one paper, but oh my! he went on with a string more, as long as your arm. He's goin' to begin to have a[Pg 88] advice column too, right off, an' that's this I've brought over to read you; he says lots of folks want advice an' don't want to tell no one nor pay nothin' an' they can all write him an' get their answers on anythin' in the wide world when the paper comes out Saturday. I could n't but open my eyes a little at that, for I know a many as need advice as I should n't consider Elijah knew enough to give, but Elijah's a man an' in consequence don't know anythin' about how little he does know, so I did n't say nothin' more on that subject. He's full of hope an' says he's soon goin' to show big city papers what genius can do single-handed with a second-hand printin' press, an' he talked an' talked till I really had to tell him that if he did n't want his breakfast he'd have to go back to bed or else down town."

"Is the—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, this is it. He done it last night an' he give it to me this mornin' to read to you. It's to be called 'The Advice Column'[Pg 89] an' he's goin' to head it 'Come to My Bosom' an' sign it 'Aunt Abby' 'cause of course if he signed it himself he'd be liable for breach of promise from any girl as read the headin' an' chose to think he meant her."

"But who—?" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Why, nobody the first week, of course. He had to make 'em up himself—an' the answers too, an' that's what makes it all seem so silly to me. But he did work over it,—he says no one knows the work of gettin' people stirred up to enthusiasm in a small town like this, an' he says he'd ought to have a martyr's crown of thorns, he thinks, for even thinkin' of gettin' a advice column started when most of his energies is still got to go tryin' to get our fund for the famine big enough to make it pay to register the letter when the cheque goes. He says the trouble with the fund is no one has no relations there an' a good many thought as it was mostly Chinamen as is starvin' anyhow. Elijah says the[Pg 90] world is most dreadful hard-hearted about Chinamen—they don't seem to consider them as of any use a tall. He says it's mighty hard to get up a interest in anythin' here anyhow, Lord knows—for he says that San Francisco fund an' what become of it has certainly been a pill an' no mistake. The nearest he come to that was gettin' a letter as Phœbe White wrote the deacon about how the government relief train run right through the town she's in, but Elijah says after all his efforts he has n't swelled the famine fund thirty-five cents this week. He says Clightville has give nine dollars an' Meadville has give fifteen dollars an' two barrels an' a mattress, if anybody wants it C. O. D., an' here we are stuck hard at six dollars an' a quarter an' two pennies as the minister's twins brought just after they choked on them licorish marbles."

"Did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I did n't. I tell you what, Mrs. Lathrop, I keep a learnin'; in regard to[Pg 91] givin' to funds I've learned a very good trick from Rockefeller an' Carnegie in the papers; they come to me about that San Francisco one an' I said right out frank an' open that if the town would give five hundred dollars I'd give fifty. That shut up every one's mouth an' set every one to thinkin' how much I was willin' to give an' as a matter of fact I did n't give nothin' a tall."

"But about—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes," said Susan, opening the paper which she had in her hand, "I was just thinkin' of it, too. I'll read it to you right off now an' you see if you don't think about as I do. I think myself as Elijah's made some pretty close cuts at people, only of course every one will guess as he must of made 'em up 'cause they don't really fit to no one. Still, it's a risky business an' I wish he'd let it alone for he lives in my house an' I know lots of folks as is mean enough to say that these things was like enough said to him by me—a view as is[Pg 92] far from likely to make my friends any more friendly."

"Do—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

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

"My heavens ali—"

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

Mrs. Lathrop opened her eyes.

"I don't—" she protested.

"No, I did n't think as it was very sensible myself," responded Susan, "but[Pg 93] do you know, Elijah laughed out loud over it. That's what's funny about Elijah to my order of thinkin'—he's so amused at himself. He thinks that's one of the best things he's done as a editor, he says, an' I'm sure I can't see nothin' funny in it any more than you can. An' you don't see nothin' funny in it, do you?"

"No," said Mrs. Lathrop, "I—"

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

"What under the—" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Just what I said," said Susan. "I could n't make head or tail out of it myself[Pg 94] an' I'm afraid it'll make Deacon White mad 'cause Polly's his second wife—yes, an' the minister's got two wives, too. I tried to make Elijah see that but he just said to read the answer."

"What is—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

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

"I told Elijah that myself. I said that the minister was bound to feel hurt over the second wife part, but with twins in the answer he's sure to feel it means him an' I expect he'll maybe stop takin' the paper an' join Mrs. Macy's club. Mrs. Macy got real mad at somethin' Mr. Kimball sold her last week an' as a consequence she went an' made what she calls her Newspaper Club, she rents her paper for a cent a day now an' she made four cents last week. She says if Elijah Doxey ever[Pg 95] says anythin' in the paper about her again she'll take three papers an' rent 'em at two mills a day an' supply the whole town an' wreck him so flat he'll have to hire out to pick hops. I told Elijah what she said an' he said for the Lord's sake to tell Mrs. Macy as her toes was hereafter perfectly safe from all his treads. I told her, but she says he need n't think quotin' from poets is goin' to inspire faith in him in her very soon again. She says over in Meadville it's town talk as Elijah Doxey is havin' just a box of monkeys' fun with us."

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

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

"Go—" said the neighbor.

"No, I won't till I've done. The next one is this one an' it says, 'How long ought any one to wait to get married? I have[Pg 96] waited several years an' there is nothin' against the man except he's eighty-two an' paralyzed. I am seventy-nine. Pa an' Ma oppose the match an' are the oldest couple in the country,' an' Elijah has signed it 'Lovin'ly, Rosy'—of all the silly things!"

"He must be—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, indeed," said Susan, folding up the paper, "I felt it an' I said it, an' I knew you'd feel to agree. I like Elijah, but I must say as I don't like his Advice Column, an' I'd never be one to advise no one to write to it for advice. His answers don't seem to tell you nothin', to my order of thinkin', an' that one about the pickles struck me just like a slap in my face."[Pg 97]

"I'd never—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"And I—" said Mrs. Lathrop warmly.

"I know you would," said her friend, "whatever faults you've got, Mrs. Lathrop, I'd always feel that about you."[Pg 98]



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

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

Mrs. Lathrop forthwith ceased to gaze fondly and absent-mindedly over her half-acre of domain, and advanced to the fence. Miss Clegg also advanced to the fence, and[Pg 99] upon its opposite sides the following conversation took place.

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

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

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

"Oh," said Mrs. Lathrop—"you mean—"[Pg 100]

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

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop, submissively.

"She says," Miss Clegg went on, "that we all know (an' that's true, too, 'cause I told you that before) as she was never much took with the idea even in the first of it. She says as she thinks as Elijah's ideas is gettin' most too progressive an' if he ain't checked we'll very soon find ourselves bein' run over by some of his ideas instead of pushed forward. She says woman's clubs is very nice things an' Mrs. Lupey takes a deal of pleasure with the one in Meadville (whenever they don't meet at her house)—but Mrs. Macy says our sewin' society ain't no club an' never was no club, an' she considers as it was[Pg 101] overdrawin' on Elijah's part to start the question of its sendin' a delegate to any federation of any kind of woman's clubs. She says she can't see—an' she said at the meetin' as elected her, that she couldn't see—what our sewin' society could possibly get out of any convention, for you can buy all the patterns by mail now just as well as if you have 'em all to look over. An' then she says, too, as no one on the face of kingdom come could ever be crazy enough to suppose as any convention could ever get anythin' out of our delegates, so what was the use of us an' them ever tryin' to get together a tall. I thought she was very sensible yesterday, an' I thought she was very sensible at the meetin' as elected her, an' I tried to talk to Elijah, but Elijah's so dead set on our bein' up to time with every Tom, Dick an' Harry as comes along with any kind of a new plan, that I can't seem to get him to understand as no one in this town wants to be up to time—we're a great deal[Pg 102] better suited takin' our own time like we always did until he come among us. Mrs. Macy says as we all know as no one wanted to be a delegate to the federation to begin with, an' you know that yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, for I was there an' Elijah's idea resulted in the first place in every one's stayin' away from that meetin' for fear as they'd be asked to go. They had to set another day for the sewin' society an' even then a good many cleaned house instead for a excuse, an' Mrs. Sweet said right out as she did n't believe as any of us knowed enough to go to a convention an' so we'd better all stay home. I had to speak up at that an' say as Elijah had told me as things was fixed now so folks as did n't know anythin' could go to a convention just as well as any one else, but Mrs. Jilkins said in that case she should feel as if she was wastin' her time along with a lot of fools, an' what she said made such a impression that in the end the only one as they could possibly get to go was[Pg 103] Mrs. Macy, so they elected her. Mrs. Macy was n't enthusiastic about bein' elected, a tall, but Mrs. Lupey is her cousin an' Mrs. Lupey was the Meadville delegate, an' she says she thought as they could sit together, an' Mrs. Lupey wanted to go to the city anyway about reducin' her flesh, an' Mrs. Macy said that was sure to be interestin' for the one as Mrs. Lupey likes best is the one as you run chains of marbles up an' down your back alone by yourself, an' Mrs. Macy wanted to see them givin' Mrs. Lupey full directions for nothin'—she thought it would be so amusin'—an' so in the end she said she'd go.

"Well, she says foreign folks before they come to this country is wise compared to her! She was tellin' me all about it this afternoon. I never hear such a tale—not even from Gran'ma Mullins. She says Elijah sent in her name an' they filed her next day an' she says they've never quit sendin' her the filin's ever since. I told [Pg 104]you as I heard in the square she was gettin' a good deal of mail but I never mistrusted how much until she showed me her box for kindlin' fires next winter. Why, she says it's beyond all belief! The right end of the box has got the papers as was n't worth nothin' an' the left end has got them as is really valuable. Well, after I'd looked at the box we set down an' she told me the hide an' hair of the whole thing. She says at first she got letters from everybody under the sun askin' her her opinions an' views, some about things as she never heard of before an' others as to things as she considers a downright insult to consider as she might know about. But she says views an' insults don't really matter much, after you reach her age, so she let those all go into the box together an' thought she'd think no more about it. She says there was only just one as she really minded an' that was the one about her switch. Seems she was n't decided about even wearin' her switch to the convention, for she says it's very hard to get[Pg 105] both ends of a switch fastened in at the same do-up an' one end looks about as funny as the other, stickin' out, but she says you can maybe imagine her feelin's when a man as she would n't know from Adam wrote her a letter beginnin', 'Hello, hello, why don't you have that dyed?' an' a picture of him lookin' at a picture of her very own switch with a microscope! She says she never was so took aback in all her life. There was another picture on the envelope of the man at a telephone an' he'd got all the other delegates' switches done an' hangin' up to dry for 'em an' she says she will say as the law against sendin' such things through the mail had certainly ought to be applied to that man right then an' there. She says it's years since she's got red from anythin' but bein' mad, but she was red from both kinds of woman's feelin's then an' don't you forget it. But laws, she says switches is child's play to what another man wrote her about [Pg 106]his garters. Not her garters but his garters, mind you, Mrs. Lathrop. Would you believe that that other man had the face to ask her point-blank if, while she was in town, she'd be so kind as to give five minutes to comin' an' lookin' at his garters!—at his garters! He said they hooked onto his shoulders an' he just wanted a chance to tell her how comfortable they was. Well, she says the idea of any man's garters bein' of any interest to a widow was surely most new to her, an' it was all she could do to keep from writin' an' tellin' him so. She says she never hear the beat of such impertinence in all her life. Why, she says when she had a husband she never took no special interest in his garters as she recollects. She says she remembers as he used to pull up when he first got up in the mornin' an' then calmly wrinkle down all day, but she says if her lawful husband's garters' wrinkles did n't interest her, it ain't in reason as any other man's not wrinklin' is [Pg 107]goin' to. But she says that ain't all whatever I may think (or you either, Mrs. Lathrop), for although the rest ain't maybe so bad, still it's bad enough an' you 'll both agree to that when you hear it, I know. She says more men wrote her, an' more, an' more, an' the things they said was about all she could stand, so help her Heaven! One asked her if she knowed she needed a new carpet an' he happened to keep carpets, an' another told her her house needed paintin' an' he happened to keep paint, an' another just come out flat as a flounder an' said if she knowed how old her stove was, she'd come straight to him the first thing, an' he happened to keep stoves. An' she says they need n't suppose as she was n't sharp enough to see as every last one of them letters was really writ to sound unselfish, but with the meanin' underneath of maybe gettin' her to buy somethin'.

"An' then she says there come a new kind as really frightened her by gettin' most too intimate on postal cards."[Pg 108]

"On postal—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Wh—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Then on Monday last still another new kind begin an' they've been comin' more an' more each mail. They was the convention itself beginnin' on her. An' she says she don't know whether they was a improvement or worse to come. One wrote an' told her if she was temperance to[Pg 109] report to them the first thing, an' then stand shoulder to shoulder from then on straight through the whole week. Well, Mrs. Macy says she could n't consider goin' anywhere an' standin' up through a whole week so she wrote 'em she was for the Family Entrance, where everybody can sit down, an' she feels bad because she's a great believer in temperance, but she says she can't help it, she's got to have a chair anywhere where she's to stay for a week. So temperance loses Mrs. Macy. Then woman's sufferige did n't wait to ask her what she was, but sent her a button an' told her to sew it right on right then an' there. She says she was feelin' so bad over the temperance that she was only too glad to be agreeable about the button so she done it, but it's hard to button over on a'count of bein' a star with the usual spikes an' the only place where she needed a button was on her placket hole, an' a spiked button in the back of your petticoat is far from bein' amusin' although she[Pg 110] says she can't but think as it's a very good badge for sufferige whenever she steps on it in steppin' out of her clothes at night. Then next she got a letter askin' her if she'd join the grand battalion to rally around the flag, an' she says it was right then an' there as she begin to fill the kindlin' box.

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

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

"First was a badge with a very good safety pin as she can always use; she says she did n't mind the badge. Then there was paper tellin' her as she was M. 1206 an' not to let it slip her mind an' to mark everythin' she owned with it an' sew it in her hat an' umbrella. Then there was a map of the city with blue lines an' pink[Pg 111] squares an' a sun without any sense shinin' square in the middle. Then there was a paper as she must fill out an' return by the next mail if she was meanin' to eat or sleep durin' the week. Then there was four labels all to be writ with her name an' her number an' one was for her trunk if it weighed over a hundred pounds, an' one was for her trunk if it weighed under a hundred pounds, an' one was for her trunk if it was a suit case, an' one was for her trunk if it was n't.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says you can maybe imagine how her head was swimmin' by this time an' the more she read how she was to be looked out for, the more scared she got over what might possibly happen to her. She says it was just shock after shock. There was a letter offerin' to pray with her any time she'd telephone first, an' a letter tellin' her not to overpay the hack, an' a letter sayin' as it's always darkest afore dawn, an' if she'd got any money saved up to bring it along with her an'[Pg 112] invest it by the careful advice of him as had the letter printed at his own expense. Why, she says she didn't know which way to turn or what to do next she was that mixed up.

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

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

"No," said Susan, "she isn't goin'. She ain't got the courage an' it's cruel to force her. I told her to give me the ticket an' I'd go in her place."[Pg 113]



On the day that the Convention of Women's Clubs opened, Mrs. Lathrop, having seen her friend depart, composed herself for a period of unmitigated repose which might possibly last, she thought, for several days. Susan had awakened her very early that morning to receive her back door key and minute instructions regarding Elijah and the chickens. Elijah had undertaken to look after the chickens, but Miss Clegg stated frankly that she should feel better during her absence if her friend kept a sharp eye on him during the process. "Elijah's got a good heart," said the delegate, "but that don't alter his bein' a man an' as a consequence very poor to depend upon as to all[Pg 114] things about the house. I don't say as I lay it up against him for if he was like Deacon White, an' had ideas of his own as to starchin' an' butterin' griddles, he'd drive me mad in no time, but still I shall take it as a personal favor of you, Mrs. Lathrop, if you'll ask him whenever you see him if he's remembered all I told him, an' don't let him forget the hen as is thinkin' some of settin' in the wood shed, for if she does it, she'll need food just as much as if she does n't do it."

Then Miss Clegg departed, with her valise, her bonnet in a box, and some lunch in another box. She went early, for the simple reason that the train did the same thing, and as soon as she was gone Mrs. Lathrop, as I before remarked, went straight back to bed and to sleep again. She had a feeling that for a while at least no demand upon her energies could possibly be made, and it was therefore quite a shock to her when some hours later she heard a vigorous pounding on her back door.[Pg 115]

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

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

"I did, an' I've got through an' I've come home." Miss Clegg advanced into the kitchen as she spoke and abruptly deposited her belongings upon the table and herself upon a chair. "I've been to the convention," she said; then, "I've been to the convention, an' I've got through with that, too, an' I've got home from that, too."[Pg 116]

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

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

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

"In the first place," said Susan, speaking in the highly uplifted key which we are all apt to adopt under the stress of great excitement mixed with great fatigue; "in the first place, Mrs. Lathrop, you know as Mrs. Macy insisted on keepin' the badge[Pg 117] 'cause she said she wanted to work it into that pillow she's makin', so I had to get along with the card as had her number on it. As a consequence I naturally had a very hard time, for I could n't find Mrs. Lupey an' had to fiddle my own canoe from the start clear through to the finish. I can tell you I've had a hard day an' no one need n't ever say Woman's Rights to me never again. I'm too full of Women's Wrongs for my own comfort from now on, an' the way I've been treated this day makes me willin' to be a turkey in a harem before I'd ever be a delegate to nothin' run by women again.

"In the first place when I got to the train it was full an' while I was packin' myself into the two little angles left by a very fat man, a woman come through an' stuck a little flag in my bonnet without my ever noticin' what she done an' that little flag pretty near did me up right in the start. Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as goin' [Pg 118]to a Woman's Convention makes you everybody's business but your own from the beginnin', an' that little flag as that woman stuck in my bonnet was a sign to every one as I was a delegate.

"I set with a very nice lady as asked me as soon as she see the little flag if I knowed how to tell a ham as has got consumption from one as has n't. I told her I did n't an' she talked about that till we got to town, which made the journey far from interestin' an' is goin' to make it very hard for me to eat ham all the rest of my life. Then we got out an' I got rid of her, but that did n't help me much, for I got two others as see the little flag right off an' they never got off nor let up on me. I was took to a table as they had settin' in the station handy, put in their own private census an' then give two books an' a map an' seven programs an' a newspaper an' a rose, all to carry along with my own things, an' then a little woman with a little black bag as had noticed the little flag too took me away, an' said I need n't bother[Pg 119] about a thing for I could go with her an' welcome.

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

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

"We come to the convention hall after a good long walk an' I was quite hot two ways by that time, for I was mad an' awful tired too. The little woman left me then an' a lady come up, looked at my flag, an' asked me if I was a delegate or an alternative 'cause it was important to[Pg 120] know right off in the beginnin'. I told her I was for Mrs. Macy an' she got out a book an' looked in it very carefully to see for sure whether to believe me or not an' then she told me to go on in. There was a door as squeaked an' they pushed me through it an' I found myself, bag, flag an' all, in the convention.

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

"I walked up as far towards the front as I could an' then I sat down. I can't say as I was very comfortable nor much impressed[Pg 121] an' the folks further back was very restless an' kept sayin' they could n't hear what was goin' on on the platform. There was a lady on the platform hammerin' a table for dear life an' to my order of thinkin' anybody must have been deaf as could n't have heard her hammerin', but she looked happy an' that was maybe the main thing, for a woman behind me whispered as the spirit of her with the hammer just filled the room. Well, I stood it as long as I could an' then I got up an' remarked frank an' open as if every one would keep still every one could easy hear. They all clapped at that, but the lady with the hammer could n't seem to even hear me an' hammered worse than ever all the while they was clappin'.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, to make a long story short it was n't very interestin'—I will even in confidence remark as I found it pretty dull. I read all my seven programs an' made out as the first day was give to greetin' an' the next to meetin'. The next was on trees an' the one after that[Pg 122] they was all goin' to drive. An' so on, an' so on. Then I smelt my rose some, an' a thorn stuck into my nose some an' the hammerin' made me very tired an' finally a woman come in an' said I had her seat so I give it to her with a glad heart an' come out, an' I never was happier to do anythin' in my whole life before. But I was hardly out when a lady as I had n't seen yet see my little flag an' pounced on me an' said was I Miss Clegg? an' I did n't see nothin' to be gained by sayin' I was n't so I said Yes, I was.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, that was pretty near to bein' the beginnin' of my end. That woman hustled me into a carriage, give my valise to the driver an' told him to be quick. I was too dumb did up by her actions to be able to think of anythin' to say so I just sit still, an' she pinned a purple ribbon onto me an' told me she'd read two of my books an' died laughin' only to look at me. I was more than afraid as she was crazy but she talked so[Pg 123] fast I could n't even see a chance to open my mouth so I did n't try.

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

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I'm sure I never had no idea of needin' a bath that bad when I set off for the city to-day, an' you'll maybe be surprised at me bein' so wax about[Pg 124] extra washin' in her hands, but I was so wild to get away from her an' her steady talk by that time, that I give her the key an' went into the bathroom an' made up my mind as I'd try a bath all over at once for the first time in my life, seein' as there did n't seem to be nothin' else to do, an' the tub was handy.

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

"If I tried to wash anywhere as was at[Pg 125] all difficult I lost my grip on the hole an' the water went out with a swish as made Niagara look like a cow's tail afore I could possibly get in position again. I was n't more 'n halfway down my washin' when the awfulest noise begin outside an' the convention itself was babes sleepin' in soothin' syrup compared to whatever was goin' on in that next room.

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you may believe me or not just as you please, but it was another lady with another delegate with another purple ribbon an' another little flag. The ladies was very mad an' the other delegate was bitin' her lips an' lookin' out the window. In the end the ladies was so mad they went down to the telephone an' left the delegate an' me alone in the room together.[Pg 126]

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, the long an' short of it was as I felt that no matter how kind she was I would n't never be able to be happy anywhere where I had to be around with a woman who talked all the time, an' sleep in a bed with another Susan Clegg, an' wash in a tub as you have to stop up with some of yourself, so I just took my things an' come home by the noon train an' I'll stay here one while now, too, I guess."[Pg 127]

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"It's—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"You—" said Mrs. Lathrop, mildly.

"I ain't sure," said Miss Clegg. "Elijah strikes me as more thorns than roses this night. I never was one to feel a longin' for new experiences, an' I've had too many to-day, as he'll very soon learn to his sorrow when he comes home to-night."[Pg 128]



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

"Well, I am," confessed Susan, unrolling her ball and drawing a long breath; "I may tell you in confidence, Mrs. Lathrop, as I really never was more so. What with havin' to look after Elijah's washin' an' his mendin' an' his cookin' an' his room, an' what with holdin' down his new ideas an' explainin' to people as he did n't mean what it sounds like when I ain't been able to hold 'em down, I do get pretty well wore out. I can see as Mr. Kimball sees how Elijah is wearin' on me for he gives me a chair whenever I go in there now an' that[Pg 129] just shows how anxious he is for me to rest when I can, but it really ain't altogether Elijah's fault for the way my back aches to-day, for I got this ache in a way as you could n't possibly understand, Mrs. Lathrop, for I got it from sittin' up readin' a book last night as you or any ordinary person would of gone to sleep on the second page of an' slept clear through to the index; but I was built different from you an' ordinary persons, Mrs. Lathrop, an' if I'd thanked the Lord as much as I'd ought to for that I'd never have had time to do nothin' else in this world."

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

"It was a book," said her friend, beginning to knit assiduously—"a book as a boy he went to school with sent Mr. Fisher with a postal card, sayin' as every American man 'd ought to read it thoughtfully. Mrs. Fisher took it out of the post office an' read the postal card, an' she said right off as she did n't approve of Mr. Fisher's reading[Pg 130] books as every man ought to know, so she let me have it to bring home an' read till she gets through makin' over her carpets. I brought the book home done up to look like it was a pie, an' I will frankly state, Mrs. Lathrop, as you could have dropped me dead out of any balloon when I found out what it was about. It was n't the kind of book the postal card would have led you to suppose a tall—it was about Asia, Mrs. Lathrop, the far side or the near side, just accordin' to the way you face to get the light while you read, an' so far from its bein' only intended for men it's all right for any one at all to read as has got the time. Now that I'm done it an' know I have n't never got to do it again, I don't mind telling you in confidence that for a book as could n't possibly have been meant to be interestin' it was about as agreeable readin' as I ever struck in my life. There was lots in it as was new to me, for it's a thick book, an' all I knowed about that part of the world before was as Java coffee comes[Pg 131] from Java an' the Philippines from Spain. But I know it all now, an' Judge Fitch himself can't tell me nothin' from this day on that the man who wrote that book ain't told me first. I'll bet I know more about what that book 's about than any one in this community does, an' now that I know it I see why the man said what he did on the postal card for it is a book as every man ought to read, an' I read in the paper the other day as the main trouble with the men in America was as they knowed all about what they did n't know nothin' about, an' did n't know nothin' a tall about the rest."

"What—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"But I don't see how the man that wrote it is ever goin' to make any money out of it," pursued her friend, "for it's pretty plain as it's every bit written about things that Americans don't want to really learn an' what the rest of the world learned long ago. If I was very patriotic I don't believe I'd have read it clear through to the end[Pg 132] myself, but I ain't never felt any call to be patriotic since the boys throwed that firecracker into my henhouse last Fourth of July. I will say this for the hen, Mrs. Lathrop, an' that is that she took the firecracker a good deal calmer'n I could, for I was awful mad, an' any one as seed me ought to of felt what a good American was spoiled then an' there, for all I asked was to hit somethin', whether it was him as throwed the cracker or not an' that's what Judge Fitch always calls the real American spirit when he makes them band-stand speeches of his in the square. Oh my, though, but I wish you had n't reminded me of that hen, Mrs. Lathrop, her tail never will come in straight again I don't believe, an' she's forever hoppin' off her eggs to look out of the window since she had that scare."

Mrs. Lathrop frowned and looked very sympathetic.

"But about this book," Susan went on [Pg 133]after a second of slightly saddened reflection. "I'm goin' to tell you all about it. Elijah 's goin' to write a editorial about it, too. Elijah says this business of downtreadin' our only colony has got to be stopped short right now as soon as he can call the government's attention to how to do it.

"Well, the book begins very mild an' pleasant with Hongkong an' it ends with the Philippine accounts. Seems Hongkong ain't Chinese for all it's named that an' growed there—it's English—an' as for the Philippines there's eight millions of 'em, not countin' the wild ones as they can't catch to count an' ask questions. In between Hongkong an' the Philippines the man who wrote the book runs around that part of the world pretty lively an' tells who owns it an' what kind of roads they've got an' who'd better govern 'em an' all like that. You might think from hearin' me as he sort of put on airs over knowin' so much himself, but it don't sound that way a tall in the book. It's when he finally got to[Pg 134] the Philippines as any one can see as he really did begin to enjoy himself. He enjoyed himself so much that he really made me enjoy myself, too, although I can't in reason deny as I felt as I might not of been quite so happy only for that firecracker. The kind of things he says about our doin's in those countries is all what you don't get in the papers nor no other way, an' if the United States really feels they're in the right as to how they're actin' all they need to do is to read how wrong they are in that book where a man as really knows what he's talkin' about has got it all set down in black an' white. I don't believe it's generally knowed here in America as Dewey took Aguinaldo an' his guns over to Manila an' give him his first start at fightin' an' called him 'general' for a long time after they'd decided in Washington as how he was n't nothin' but a rebel after all. I never knowed anythin' about that, an' I will remark as I think there's many others as don't know it, neither, an' I may[Pg 135] in confidence remark to you, Mrs. Lathrop, as that book leads me to think as the main trouble with the Philippines is as they are bein' run by folks as don't know anythin' about the place they're runnin' an' don't know nothin' about runnin' for anythin' but places. The man in the book says the Philippines ain't very well off being pacified, an' that the Americans ain't no great success pacifyin' 'em, for it seems as they made five thousand expeditions after 'em in one year, an' only got hold of five thousand natives in all. That's a expedition to a man, an' I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as it's small wonder we're taxed an' they're taxed, with some of our new fellow citizens as hard to grab as that. To my order of thinkin' it'd be wisest to let 'em chase each other for ten or twenty years first an' then when they was pretty well thinned out we could step in an' settle with the survivors; but accordin' to the man who wrote the book you can't never tell a American nothin', an' I must say that my[Pg 136] own experience in this community has proved as he knows what he's sayin' all straight enough. He says the Philippines is in a very bad way, an' so is their roads, but he says that all the folks in this country is so dead satisfied with their way an' poor roads that they ain't goin' to do nothin' to help either along any."

"Did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"He says," continued Susan, "that the United States is just so happy sittin' back an' observin' the Philippines, an' the Philippines is so far off that if they die of starvation while being observed no one'll ever be the wiser. He says the United States is payin' for the army, an' the Philippines is tryin' to live with it, an' seein' as they don't work much an' the Chinese is forbidden to work for 'em, he don't see no help nowhere. What he said about the Chinese was very interestin', for I never see one close to, an' it seems they're a clean race only for likin' to raise pigs in their garrets. It seems, too, as if[Pg 137] you let 'em into any country they'll work very hard an' live very cheap an' pay most of the taxes with the duty on opium as they've got to eat, an' games as they've got to play."

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

"Well, I should, too," said Susan, "but accordin' to the book the Philippines ain't to be allowed any such luxury as havin' the Chinese to develop their country an' pay their taxes. No sir, they've all got to go to school an' learn English first, an' although he says right out plain that the Philippines needs Chinese an' good roads a deal worse 'n they need the army an' the schools, still it's the army an' the schools as America is going to give them, an' they can get along without the roads an' the Chinese as best they can. They certainly must be gettin' a good deal of schoolin', but the man says all the teachers teach is English, an' as none of the children can speak English they don't get much learned.[Pg 138] I thought I could sort of see that he thought we 'd ought to of straightened out the South of our own country afore we begun on any other part of the world, an' it is the other half of the world, too, Mrs. Lathrop, for I looked it up on a map an' it begins right under Japan an' then twists off in a direction as makes you wonder how under the sun we come to own it anyway, an' if we did accidentally get it hooked on to us by Dewey's having too much steam up to be able to stop himself afore he'd run over the other fleet, we'd ought anyway to be willin' to give it away like you do the kittens you ain't got time to drown. The whole back of the book is full of figures to prove as it's the truth as has been told in front, but the man who wrote it didn't think much of even the figures in the Philippines for he says they put down some of what they spend in Mexican money an' some in American an' don't tell what they spend the most of it for in either case. He says he met some very nice men there an'[Pg 139] they was workin' the best they knew how but they did n't think things were goin' well themselves an' it's plain to be seen that he spoke of 'em just like you give a child a cooky after a spankin'. What interested me most was there's a Malay country over there as the English began on twenty-five years ago an' have got railroaded an' telegraphed an' altogether civilized now, an' we've had the Philippines ten years an' ain't even got the live ones quieted down yet."

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

"Oh," said her friend, "I ain't never had no ideas on the Philippine question since Judge Fitch got his brother made a captain in the war just because he was tired supportin' him. Mr. Kimball said then as all wars was just got up to use up the folks as respectable people did n't want to have around no longer an' I must say as I believe him. Mr. Weskin told me as it's been quietly knowed around for hundreds[Pg 140] of years as the crusades was a great success as far as gettin' 'em off was concerned just for that very reason, an' I guess we're hangin' on to the Philippines because it's a place a good long ways off to send poor relations after good salaries. The man who wrote the book said a man did n't need to know hardly anythin' to go there an' I must say from what I see of the few who have come back they don't look like they spent much spare time studyin' up while they was in the country."

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

"I've got to go home," she said. "I've just remembered as I forgot to fill the tea-kettle. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, we've had a nice talk about our foreign possessions an' all I can say in the end is as that whole book made me feel just like we'd all ought to get to feel as quick as we can. Lots of things in this world might be better only the people that could change 'em don't often feel inclined that way, an' the people[Pg 141] who'd like to have a change ain't the ones as have got any say. If I was a Philippine I'd want a Chinaman to do my work an' I'd feel pretty mad that folks as had so many niggers an' Italians that they did n't need Chinamen should say I could n't have 'em neither. I'd feel as if I knowed what was best for me an' I would n't thank a lot of men in another part of the world for sittin' down on my ideas. However, there's one thing that comforted me very much in the book. All the countries around is run, an' pretty well run too, by other countries an' if the Philippines get too awful tired of being badly run by us all those of 'em as know anythin' can easy paddle across to some of them well run countries in the front half of the book to live, an' as for the rest—"

Susan stopped short. Mrs. Lathrop was sound asleep![Pg 142]



"I ain't been doin' my duty by Mrs. Macy lately," said Susan Clegg to Mrs. Lathrop; "I declare to goodness I've been so did up with the garden an' Elijah an' house cleanin' this last two weeks that I don't believe I've even thought of the other side of the crick since I begun. I ain't seen Mrs. Macy either an' maybe that's one reason why I ain't done nothin' about her, but it ain't surprisin' as I ain't seen her for she ain't been here—she's been over in Meadville stayin' with the Lupeys, an' I must say I'm right put out with Elijah for not puttin' it in the paper so I'd of knowed it afore. The idea of Mrs. Macy bein' in Meadville for over a week an' me not hearin' of it is a thing as[Pg 143] makes me feel as maybe when Gabriel blows his horn I'll just merely sit up an' say, 'Did you call?' But anyway she's been away an' she's got back, an' when I heard it in the square to-day I did n't mince up no matters none but I just set my legs in her direction an' walked out there as fast as I could. It does beat all how many changes can come about in two weeks!—four more pickets has been knocked off the minister's fence an' most every one has hatched out their chickens since I was that way last, but I was n't out picketin' or chickenin'; I was out after Mrs. Macy an' I just kept a-goin' till I got to her."

"Was she—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, she was," replied Susan, "an' thank the most kind an' merciful Heavens, there was n't no one else there, so she an' I could just sit down together, an' it was n't nothin' but joy for her to tell me hide an' hair an' inside out of her whole visit. She got back day before yesterday an' she had n't even unpacked her trunk yet she[Pg 144] was that wore out; you can judge from that how wore out she really is, for you know yourself, Mrs. Lathrop, as when Mrs. Macy is too wore out to dive head over heels into things, whether her own or other folks', she's been pretty well beat down to the ground. She was mighty glad to see me, though, even if she did n't come to the door, but only hollered from a chair, an' I don't know as I ever had a nicer call on her, for she went over everythin' inside out an' hind side before, an' it was nothin' but a joy for me to listen, for it seems she had a pretty sad visit first an' last what with being specially invited to sit up an' watch nights with Mrs. Kitts an' then stay to the funeral—"

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

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

"Oh!" said Mrs. Lathrop, terminating the whole of a remark, for once.[Pg 145]

"No," said Susan, "an' every one else feels the same as you do about it, too, but it seems as it was n't to be this time. Mrs. Macy says as she never went through nothin' to equal these ten days dead or alive, an' she hopes so help her heaven to never sit up with anybody as has got anythin' but heart disease or the third fit of apoplexy hereafter. Why, she says Mr. Dill's eleven months with Mrs. Dill flat on her back was a child playin' with a cat an' a string in comparison to what the Lupeys an' her have been goin' through with Mrs. Kitts these ten days. She says all Meadville is witness to the way she's skinned 'em down to the bone. Mrs. Dill was give up by a doctor like a Christian, an' after the eleven months she did die, but Mrs. Kitts has been give up over an' over by doctor after doctor till there ain't one in the whole place as ain't mad at her about it; an' there she is livin' yet! Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey is so wore out she can't talk of nothin' else. Mrs. Lupey feels very[Pg 146] bitter over it; she says it's all of six years now since they turned the X-rays through her (an' Mrs. Macy says as Mrs. Lupey says she could sit right down an' cry to think how much them X-rays cost an' how little good they done), an' she says it's three years come April Fool's since old Dr. Carter tried her lungs with his new kinetoscope an' found 'em full of air an' nothin' else. Mrs. Lupey says she's always had so much faith in old Dr. Carter an' she had faith in him then, an' was so sweet an' trustin' when he come with the machine, an' after he was done she fully believed his word of honor as to everythin', an' that was why they went an' bought her that bell an' oh heavens alive, Mrs. Lathrop, I only wish you could hear Mrs. Macy on Mrs. Kitts' bell! It seems that kind of bell is a new invention an' as soon as any one is give up for good the doctor as gives 'em up sends a postal to the man as keeps 'em, an' then the man sends it for three days on trial an' then the family buy it, because it[Pg 147] lets 'em all sleep easy. Well, Mrs. Macy says it's the quietest lookin' small thing you ever see, but she says Great Scott, Holy Moses, an' ginger tea, the way it works! You only need to put your hand on it an' just stir it an' it unhooks inside like one of them new patent mouse traps as catch you ten times to every once they catch a mouse, an' then it begins to ring like a fire alarm an' bang like the Fourth of July, an' it don't never stop itself again until some one as is perfectly healthy comes tearin' barefoot from somewhere to turn it over an' hook it up an' get Mrs. Kitts whatever she wants."

"I should—" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"I guess they would, too," said Susan; "I guess they'd be only too glad to. Why, Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says as it was all they could do to live in the house with her mother when she did n't have nothin' but a stick to pound on the floor with, but she says since she's got that bell—! Well! Mrs. Macy says as they're all four[Pg 148] worn into just frazzles with it, an' Judy is got so nervous with it going off sudden when Busby an' she is thinkin' about other things that she begins twitchin' the minute the bell begins ringin' an' they've had to hire a electric battery to soothe her with while Faith an' Maria is racin' for the bell. Mrs. Macy says it's somethin' just awful first, last, an' forever, an' Mrs. Lupey told her in confidence as it was Heaven's own truth as they had n't none of them woke of their own accords once since it was bought."

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Mrs. Macy says she's a pretty good judge of sick folks an' she judged Mrs. Kitts for all she was worth, an' she could n't feel as she ought in politeness to say anythin' 'cause the Lupeys sent her the round-trip ticket to go an' come back with. But she says just between her an' me an' not to let it go any further, that to her order of thinkin' (an' she'll take her Bible oath to it anywhere) Mrs. Kitts[Pg 149] looks like one of those oldest survivor kinds as they print in the city Sunday papers every week. She says she ain't got the quiet, give-up manner of a person as is really quiet an' really givin' up—she's got the spry air of a person as likes to keep the whole family jumpin' quick whenever they speak. She says Mrs. Lupey says as she really does get awful low just often enough to keep their courage up, but Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey is easy fooled because them's the sort as outlives all their families in the end always. But seems as her gettin' low an' then raisin' up again ain't the only tough part for it seems as she was so low last fall that they really felt safe to send Maria up to the city to buy their mournin' at a bargain sale for there's four of 'em an' they want the veils thick so they'll look sorry from the outside anyhow. And Maria did go, an'— Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I will say as to hear about it all does go through one even if it ain't my personal crape! Seems as the clerk asked Maria[Pg 150] if it was for a deep family mournin' or just a light friendly mournin', an' Maria told him it was goin' to be for her grandmother. Seems he was n't very polite about it, coughed a good deal behind his hand an' such doin's, until Maria got real vexed an' so mad over thinkin' as maybe it was n't all coughin' as he was keepin' his hand over that she lost her wits an' went to work an' bought most twice the crape she needed just to show him as she was n't tryin' to save nothin' on her grandmother, whatever he might think. So now Mrs. Macy says, added to Mrs. Kitts an' the bell they've got the care of all that crape on their hands, an' the damp gathers in it just awful on rainy days, an' of course no Christian can sun twenty yards of crape on their clothesline when the dead person ain't died yet, so they're wild over that, too. They've made their skirts themselves, an' they wanted to do their waists, only what with the way sleeves is puffin' out an' slimmin' up an' fronts is first[Pg 151] hangin' over an' then hookin' down, the back it just does seem out of the question. They've worried a lot over the veils since they was bought 'cause they wanted to get into 'em last winter so as to get out of 'em by last spring, an' then even when Mrs. Kitts rallied from her Christmas dinner, they thought maybe they could still be out of 'em by the Fourth of July; but now—Heavens! Mrs. Macy says they don't ask to get out of 'em any more; all they ask is to get into 'em, an' goodness knows when that is ever goin' to happen. She says Mrs. Lupey says what with Judy's divorce an' Mrs. Kitts livin' right along she's going to get moths into her things for the first time in her life, she just knows she is. It's a pretty hard case any one can see, an' of course seein' Mrs. Kitts live like that may get Busby Bell all out of the notion of marryin' Judy, for of course no man ain't goin' to like to look forward to Mrs. Lupey's livin' like that too, maybe—or maybe Judy 'll live herself—you never[Pg 152] can tell. Mrs. Macy says Mrs. Lupey says she never guessed as sorrow could come so near to breakin' your back as losin' a grandmother is breakin' theirs. She says when she's really lost it won't be so bad 'cause they can all put on their crape veils an' go straight to bed an' to sleep, but she says this long drawn out losin' of her with that bell throwed into the bargain is somethin' calculated to make a saint out of a Chinaman, an' nothin' more nor less."

"Why—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I tell you, they can't," said Susan; "they want to bad enough, but they can't do it. Mrs. Kitts is too smart for that. She keeps her eagle eye on it awake, an' her whole hand on the little string when she's asleep, an' drums 'em up to know if the clock is really right, or if she feels anyways disposed to smell of cologne. Some nights she rolls on the string in her sleep, an' then the bell wakes her along with the rest of 'em, which Mrs. Macy says is a-doin' more aggravatin' to the Lupeys[Pg 153] than any words can do justice to. Mrs. Macy says as she really does believe that if Mrs. Kitts took a fancy to oysters in August she'd be fully equal to ringin' that bell for 'em till September came an' they could get 'em for her. She says it would be just like her, she does declare. Mrs. Macy says she sit with Mrs. Kitts considerable an' Mrs. Kitts was very pleasant to her, an' give her two pair of black lace mitts an' a pin, but she found out afterwards as the mitts was Mrs. Lupey's an' the pin was Maria's, so after that she see just how the family felt about her an' her ways. Mrs. Macy says the whole thing is a tragedy right out of Shakespeare an' the only pleasant thing about her whole visit was as it did n't cost her nothin'."

"Did she—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about that. She see him four times. I don't know as she wants it generally known, but I wanted to know about it so I got it out of her. It does beat all, Mrs. Lathrop, how a woman[Pg 154] of Mrs. Macy's sense, with a income that's only a little too small to get along on, can want to marry any man again. But she seems kind of crazy on the idea, an' if it ain't Mr. Dill, it's goin' to be Dr. Carter, or bu'st, with her. She says she went to his office just to let him know she was in Meadville, an' then she see him on the street, an' then she went to his office again to ask him his real opinion of Mrs. Kitts, an' then just before she left she went to his office again to let him know as she was goin' to come back here. So she see him four times in all."

"What did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"What do—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I saw there was nothin' else as Mrs. Macy could talk about just now so I come home an' then I come over here. I declare though, Mrs. Lathrop, I can't help[Pg 155] bein' a little blue to-night. Of course I ain't any real relation to you, but we've been neighbors so long that I can't help feelin' a little bit uneasy over thinkin' of Mrs. Kitts an' wonderin' how long you may be goin' to live in the end."[Pg 156]



"Well, Mrs. Lathrop," said Susan Clegg one pleasant May evening, as she and her devoted listener leaned their elbows on the top rail of the fence, "I can't but thank Heaven as these boards is the only thing as you ever take opposite sides from me on. I don't say as your never disagreein' ain't sometimes wearin', but there are days as I feel I'd enjoy a little discussion an' then Elijah an' I discuss on those days till it seems like I can't live to get to you an' do it all alone by myself. Elijah's a very young man but he's a man after all an' there's somethin' about a man as makes him not able to see any side of anythin' except his own side. Now it don't make any difference what we talk[Pg 157] about I always take the other side, an' I will in confidence remark as the South fightin' Grant had a easy job compared to me tryin' to get Elijah to see any side but his own. Elijah's a very pig-headed young man an' I declare I don't know I'm sure what ailed him last night—seemed as if he was up a tree about somethin' as made him just wild over the Democratic party. I must say—an' I said it to his face, too—as to my order of thinkin' takin' sides about the Democrats nowadays is like takin' sides with Pharaoh after the Red Sea had swallowed him an' all his chariots up forever, but Elijah never gives up to no man, an' he said, not so, the Democrats was still ready to be the salvation of the country if only Bryan would give 'em a chance. He says they 've been handicapped so far an' it's very tryin' for any party to have to choose between a donkey an' a tiger for its picture of itself, for no sensible person likes to have to ride on either, an' no politics could ever make a success of a[Pg 158] donkey for a mascot, whether you judge him from his ears or his heels. I had it in my mind to say somethin' then about turnin' around an' takin' a fresh start with a fresh animal as a sensible person would find it nothin' but a joy to ride, but Elijah, like all newspapers, rips a thing up the back an' then shows you how you can't do better than to sew up the tear an' go on wearin' it again, so after he'd skinned the donkey an' the tiger both alive, so to speak, he went on to say as never's a long game an' him laughs best who keeps sober longest an' altogether his own feelin' was as America 'll soon perceive her only hope lays in electin' a new Democratic party. I just broke in then an' told him it looked to me as if the natural run of mankind would n't let Grover Cleveland skip eight years an' then try it again more 'n six times more, an' that if the Republicans keep it up as they have awhile longer no money won't be able to get 'em out 'cause they'll have all the money there is in the[Pg 159] country right in with them, but by that time Elijah'd got his breath, an' he just shook his head an' asked me if I remembered what a lot of fuss the first billion dollar congress made an' if I'd observed how calm they was took now? I told him I had an' then we went at it hammer an' tongs, Elijah for the Democrats an' me against 'em, although I must say I wished he'd give me the other side, for in spite of their actin' so silly I must say I always have a feelin' as the most of the Democrats is tryin' to be honest which is somethin' as even their best friend couldn't say of the most of the Republicans as a general thing."

"Did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I did, an' I don't know but we'd be talkin' yet only Mr. Dill come in on us to ask me if I would n't consider takin' Gran'ma Mullins to board for a month or two, just to see how Hiram an' Lucy would get along if they had the house all alone to themselves."[Pg 160]

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I told him I'd think about it," said Miss Clegg. "I don't know I'm sure why I should bed an' board Gran'ma Mullins to help Lucy an' Hiram to try to get along any better. They 're a good deal more interestin' to talk about the way they're gettin' along now. I never see Mrs. Macy but what she has somethin' amusin' to tell me about Hiram an' Lucy an' Gran'ma Mullins, an' I like to hear it. She says the other night they was all three runnin' round the house one after another for a hour an' she said she most died laughin' to watch 'em. Seems Lucy got mad an' started to run after Hiram to pull his hair, an' Gran'ma Mullins was so scared for fear she would pull his hair that she run after Lucy to ask her not to do it. Hiram run so much faster than Lucy that finally he caught up with Gran'ma Mullins an' then they all went to bed. Mrs. Macy says that's the way they act all the time, an' she certainly would n't see any more than[Pg 161] I should why I should break up the family. I'm sure I never cooked up that marriage an' I told Mr. Dill so. I asked him why he did n't take Gran'ma Mullins to board with him, if he was so wild to get her away from Lucy, but he said he did n't think it'd be proper, an' I said I did n't say nothin' about bed—I just spoke about board, an' if there was anythin' as was n't proper about boardin' Gran'ma Mullins he'd ought not to of mentioned the subject to me."

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, there was n't nothin' left for him to say then, of course; but law! I did n't see no use mooley-cowin' around Mr. Dill; what I wanted was for him to go so Elijah an' me could go on discussin'. Elijah thinks our paper ought to come out strong now that we've got one an' he said he would in confidence remark to me as he intended to say some very pointed things soon. He says all the editors in the country know as the plans an' the parties is all fixed up beforehand nowadays; the Republicans[Pg 162] say how many they'll have in each state an' then they never fail to have 'em an' that's a national disgrace for nobody ought to know beforehand how a election is goin' to pan out for it would n't be possible if folks was anyways honest. He says for a carefully planned an' worked up thing a Republican victory is about the tamest surprise as this country ever gets nowadays, an' yet we keep on gettin' them an' openin' our eyes over 'em every four years like they was somethin' new.

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

"At the—" cried Mrs. Lathrop, opening her eyes.[Pg 163]

"Yes, the bomb was meant for him, but he held the clerk in front of him so the clerk caught it all. That's what they call presence of mind, an' as far as my observation 's extended, Mrs. Lathrop, the Republicans have got full as much of it—they must have, for they both make money right straight along an' I've observed myself as they always step out when a crash comes an' let the Democrats in to do the economizin' till there's enough money saved up to make it worth while for them to take hold again which comes to much the same thing in the end. I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, I see after a little as it was n't no use talkin' to Elijah so I just had to listen to him an' he really did kind of frighten me in the end. Livin' with an editor an' readin' that book of Mr. Fisher's has opened my eyes to a many new ideas. I've lived in a small town all my life but I've got brains an' there's no use denyin' as a woman with brains can apply 'em to the president just as easy as to the minister,[Pg 164] once she gets to thinkin' on the subject. This country is in a very bad way an' it's all owin' to our bein' satisfied with what's told us an' not lookin' into nothin' for ourselves. We've got the Philippines now an' we've got Hawaii an' we've got the niggers an' we've got ever so many other things. We've got the Mormons down to one wife as a general thing an' the Italians comin' in by the thousands an' more old soldiers bein' born every year an' the fifth generation of Revolutionary orphans out filin' their pensions—an' we owe 'em all to the Republicans. Elijah says we owe 'em a lot else, too, but I think that's enough in all conscience. Elijah says too it costs a third more to live than it did ten years ago an' he knows that for a fact, an' you an' I know that, too, Mrs. Lathrop. Coal's gone up an' everythin' else. I tell you I got kind of blue, thinkin' about it after I went to bed last night an' it took me a long time to remember as Elijah was maybe more upset over not[Pg 165] bein' able to go an' see 'Liza Em'ly on account of the rain, than anythin' else; but then too, Mr. Shores is very much cast down over the country, only I must admit as it's more 'n likely as he ain't really half as mournful over the Democrats as he is over his wife; an' then there's Judge Fitch as is always mad over politics an' we all know that that's just 'cause he's always been called 'judge' ever since he was born, an' nobody ain't never made him judge of nothin' bigger 'n us yet. I guess if he was sure as our paper could get him elected to congress he'd cheer up pretty quick, but he told me yesterday as Elijah did n't know how to conduct a campaign to his order of thinkin'. He don't like that cut of Elijah's being David to the city papers bein' Goliath. He says a cut to do him any good had ought to have him in it somewhere an' I don't know but what he's right.

"But, Mrs. Lathrop, we are mighty bad off an' that's a fact, but still I will say this[Pg 166] much an' that is that as far as my observation 's extended folks as complains openly of anythin' is always findin' fault with the thing because there's some secret thing as they can't find fault openly with, like Elijah an' the rain, an' Mr. Shores an' his wife. The world's great for takin' its private miseries out publicly in some other direction, an' my own feelin' is as the Democrats is a great comfort to every one as the Republicans can't very conveniently give nothin' to these days. If the president was to suddenly make Sam Duruy a minister to somewhere there'd be a great change of opinion as to politics in this town, you'd see. It would n't give Sam any more brains, but every one 'd be pleased an' the Democrats would n't cut no figure no more."

"But—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"That's just it," said Susan, "that's just the trouble. We're like most of the rest of America an' the whole of Cuba an' the Philippines, too little an' too far off[Pg 167] to make the big folks really care whether we like the way they do or not. I don't have no idea of carin' whether potato bugs mind bein' picked or not, an' no matter what they said about me before or after their pickin' it 'd be all one to me. An' that's just about the way our government feels about us. An' I guess most other governments is much the same. Which is probably the reason why potato bugs is gettin' worse an' thicker all the time."[Pg 168]



As Susan set the basket down it began to squawk.

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

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

"Let it squawk," Susan repeated; "I guess it's made trouble enough for others so that I may in all confidence feel to set a little while without troublin' about it myself. I look upon it that I was very kind to take it anyhow, not havin' no idea how it'll agree with the chickens when it comes to eatin' with them or with me when it comes to me eatin' it, for you know as I never was one as cared for 'em, Mrs.[Pg 169] Lathrop, but still a friend is a friend, an' in Mrs. Macy's state to-night the least her friends could do was for Gran'ma Mullins to stay with her an' for me to take the duck. Gran'ma Mullins was willing to sit up with a under-the-weather neighbor, but she said she could not take a duck on her mind too, an' a spoiled duck at that, for I will in confidence remark, Mrs. Lathrop, as you only need to be in the room with that duck two minutes to see as the Prodigal Son was fully an' freely whipped in comparison to the way as he's been dealt with."

"I really—" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Where under the—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"It's really quite a long story," returned[Pg 170] her friend; "but I come in just to tell you, anyhow. It's Mrs. Macy's story an' it begun when she went in town yesterday mornin', an' it's a story of her trials, an' I will say this for Mrs. Macy, as more trials right along one after another I never hear of an' to see her sittin' there now in her carpet slippers with a capsicum plaster to her back an' Gran'ma Mullins makin' her tea every minute she ain't makin' her toast is enough to make any one as is as soft an' tender-hearted as I am take any duck whether it's spoiled or not. An' so I took this duck."

"Well, I—" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.

"You think not now," said Susan, "but you soon will when I tell you, for as I said before, I come over just to tell you, an' I'm goin' to begin right off. It's a long story an' one as 'll take time to tell, but you know me an' you know as I always take time to tell you everythin' so you can rely on gettin' the whole hide an' hair of this; an' you'll get it fresh from the spout too,[Pg 171] for I'm just fresh from Mrs. Macy an' Mrs. Macy's so fresh from her trials that they was still holdin' the plaster on to her when I left."

"But—" expostulated the listener.

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

"Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as yesterday mornin' Mrs. Macy set out to go to town to buy her some shoes. Seems as she was goin' to take lunch with Busby Bell's cousin Luther Stott's wife as she met at the Lupeys' in Meadville, 'cause they only live three-quarters of an hour from town on two changes of the electric, an' Mrs. Stott told Mrs. Lupey as any time she or[Pg 172] her relations got tired of shoppin' she'd be nothin' but happy to have 'em drop in on her to rest 'cause she kept a girl an' her husband's sister, too, so company was n't no work for her herself. Well, Mrs. Macy was goin' to the city an' so she looked up the address an' made up her mind to go there to lunch, an' so she wrote the address on one side of the piece of paper as she had in her black bag an' she wrote her shoes on the other side, for she says they're a new kind of shoes as is warranted not to pinch you in the back, by every magazine an' newspaper—an' you know what Mrs. Macy is on bein' pinched; why, she says she give up belts an' took to carpet slippers just for the very reason as she could not stand bein' pinched nowhere.

"Well, seems as the shoes was Kulosis shoes an' Mrs. Macy says how any one could remember 'em off of paper she can't see anyhow, an' Luther Stott's wife lives 2164 Eleventh Avenue S.W., an' that was very important too, for there's seven other[Pg 173] Eleventh Avenues in the city besides eight Eleventh Streets; seems as the new part of the city is laid out that way so as to make it simple to them as knows where they live anyhow.

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

"Well, she says of course you might know as it would be the minister as done[Pg 174] her up first on this day of misery, an' it was the minister! She says after that donation party to fix him out with new shirts last week she surely looked to be spared any further inflictions from him for one while; she says the idea as the congregation is expected to shirt the minister was surely most new to her, an' she was dead set against it at first, but she says she come to the fore an' was one to help make him the six when she see as it was expected to be her duty as a Christian, but she says she surely hoped when she hemmed the tail of the last one as she'd seen the last of him for a good breathin' spell.

"But no, Mrs. Lathrop, seems it was n't to be, an' so she learned to her keen an' pinchin' sorrow yesterday mornin', for she was n't more 'n fairly on her way to town when she run square up to him on the bridge an' as a result was just in time to be the first for him to try his new memory system on, an' she told Gran'ma Mullins an' me with tears in her eyes an' her felt[Pg 175] slippers solemnly crossed on top of each other, as she can not see why it had to be her of all people an' her shoes of all things, for she says—an' I certainly felt to agree, Mrs. Lathrop—as if there's anythin' on the wide earth as you don't want to apply a memory system to it's your shoes, for shoes is somethin' as is happiest forgot.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, seems as this new memory system of the minister's is a thing as he got out of a Sunday School magazine in reward for workin' out a puzzle. Seems you guess big cities till their capital letters spell 'Memory,' an' then you send the answers to the magazine an' a dollar for postage an' packin' an' then they send you the memory system complete in one book for nothin' a tall. Or you can add in a two-cent stamp an' not guess nothin', but the minister guessed 'cause he felt as in his circumstances he had n't ought to waste even two cents! Seems as they had a most awful time afore they found Ypsilanti for the 'Y,' an' for a while they was most[Pg 176] afraid they'd have to be reckless with two cents, but they got it in the end an' sent 'em all off, an' the book come back with a injunction forbiddin' it to be lent to no one stamped on every page. Seems it come back day before yesterday an' the minister sat up most of the night commemoratin' the theory, an' then Mrs. Macy says he just got it into him in time for Fate to let him go an' be flung at her right on the bridge! She says she was n't no more mistrustin' trouble than any one does when they meet a loose minister out walkin' an' she says she can't well see how any woman meetin' a man across a bridge can be blamed for not knowin' as he's just grasped a new principle an' is dyin' to apply it to the first thing handy.

"She says he asked her where she was goin' an' she told him frank an' open as she was goin' to the city to buy some shoes as was warranted not to pinch. She says he asked her what kind of shoes they was an' she opened her little bag an' got out[Pg 177] the paper an' read him as they was Kulosis shoes. He asked her why she had it wrote down an' she told him as she had it wrote down so as not to forget the kind an' maybe get pinched again.

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can believe me or not just as you please, but the first thing he did was to ask her what Kulosis reminded[Pg 178] her of, which struck her as most strange in the start out. But she told him as it did n't remind her of nothin' but shoes an' let it go at that, an' she says it was plain as then he had to think of somethin' as it could remind somebody of, an' she says he certainly did have to think a long while an' when he said finally as it reminded him of four noses.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, Mrs. Macy says she never heard the beat of that in all her born days, an' her mind went back to her childhood days an' a uncle she had, an' the Lord 'll surely forgive her for thinkin' as he'd surely been drinkin'; she says she was so took aback that he see it in her face an' told her right then an' there as it was a memory system. Seems as the key to the whole is as you must reduce everythin' to Mother Goose so as not to need the brains as you've growed since, an' the minister told Mrs. Macy as she'd find it most simple to apply. He went on to ask her what did four noses remind her of, an' she says she[Pg 179] thought she see the whole game at that an' told him as quick as scat that they reminded her of Kulosis, but oh, my, seems that ain't the way it goes a tall, an' he begin an' explained it all over again, an' where he come out in the end was as four noses would just naturally remind any one as had more brains'n Mrs. Macy of 'Two legs sat upon three legs.' You know the rhyme in Mother Goose where the dog is four legs an' gets the mutton as is one leg in the man's lap?

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe understand as Mrs. Macy was just about plum paralyzed at that! Her story is as she just stood afore him with her mouth open like a Jack-o'-lantern's, wonderin' what under the sun she was goin' to be asked to remember next, an' when he said that was all, an' for her just to simply tear up the paper, she forgot all about Luther Stott's wife on the back an' tore up the paper. He said for her to go right along to town fully an' freely relyin' on 'Two[Pg 180] legs sat upon three legs' to get her her shoes, an' she says what with bein' so dumbfoundered, an' what with him bein' the minister into the bargain, she went along to the station thinkin' as maybe she'd be able to do it.

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

"In the first place talkin' so long for the minister made her have to run for the train, an' you know what Mrs. Macy is on a run. She said she got so hot, as she was not only on a run but mostly on a pour all the way to town. Why, she says it was most terrible an' she says nothin' ever give her such a idea as she was a born fool afore, for with it all she had to keep on sayin' 'Two legs sat upon three legs' as regular as a clock, an' she was so afraid she'd forget it that she did n't dare even take her usual little nap on the way an' so had no choice but to land all wore out.[Pg 181]

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I only wish you'd of been there to hear! She says nobody ever did afore! She says she went up one street an' down another like a lost soul, lookin' for a policeman. She says she felt she did n't know where to find nothin'. She could n't look for Luther in the directory 'cause he's long dead an' only his wife lives there, an' as for her shoes she was clean beside herself. She says she was so mad at the minister as she'd have throwed away her baptism an' her marriage then an' there just because it was ministers[Pg 182] as done 'em both to her, if there'd been anyway to get 'em off. Finally she just put her pride into her pocket, went into a shoe store an' asked 'em openly if 'Two legs sat upon three legs' reminded 'em of anythin' in the way of shoes. She says the man looked at her in a way as passed all belief an' said it reminded him more of pants than shoes.

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

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you know Drusilla Cobb! You know what she was afore she left here, an' Mrs. Macy says ten years ain't altered her a tall. Whenever Drusilla was glad to see any one she always had a reason, an' Mrs. Macy says it speaks loud for how clean used up she was over her shoes that she never remembered that way of Drusilla's. Drusilla never saw no one on the street unless she had a reason, an' if she[Pg 183] had a reason it was Heaven help them as Drusilla saw on the street.

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

Susan paused and drew a long breath.

Mrs. Lathrop adjusted herself in a new position.

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

"Is—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.[Pg 184]

"Yes," said Miss Clegg, "it's the same one. An' this is its why as told by Mrs. Macy to Gran'ma Mullins an' me." She paused and drew a still longer breath. "Seems, Mrs. Lathrop, as Drusilla's husband had got a friend as goes huntin' with a doctor. Seems he found four little red-headed things in a nest of reeds an' took one an' asked the doctor what it was. Seems the doctor said as he thought as it was a golden-headed oriole but the friend thought as it was a mud hen. So he give it to Drusilla's youngest boy to raise in a flat for his birthday. Well, Mrs. Macy says bein' raised in a flat was surely most new to the animal as very soon turned out to be a duck. Seems it snapped at all the black spots in the carpets for bugs an' when they put it in the bath-tub to swim it would n't swim but just kept diving for the hole in the bottom. Seems they had a most lively time with it an' it run after 'em everywhere an' snapped at their shoe-buttons an' squawked nights, an' when[Pg 185] Drusilla see Mrs. Macy she thought right off as she could give her the duck to take home with her 'cause she lived in the country. So that was how Mrs. Macy come to be asked to take dinner at Drusilla's so dreadful pleasant.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, Mrs. Macy says as she no more mistrusted what travelin' with a duck is than anythin', so although she could n't say as she really relishes any duck afore he's cooked, she thought as it could swim in the crick, an' maybe grow to be a comfort, so she let them put it in a basket, an' give her a envelope of dead flies for it to lunch on, an' she set off for home. She had to wait a long time for a car an' the duck was so restless it eat eight flies an' bit her twice waitin', but finally the car come along an' she an' the duck got on. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, she says you never hear nothin' like that duck when it felt itself on a electric car! The conductor heard it an' come runnin' an' stopped the car an' put 'em both off afore she realized[Pg 186] as she was gettin' off for her duck instead of her depot.

"So there was Mrs. Macy stranded high an' dry in a strange part of the city alone with a duck out of the goodness of her heart. You can maybe believe as she was very far from feelin' friendly to Drusilla Cobb when she realized as she couldn't take no car with no duck an' didn't know Drusilla's number to take her back her duck, neither. Mrs. Macy says as she felt herself slowly growin' mad an' she went into a store near by an' asked 'em if they had a telephone. They said they had, an' she says she never will know what possessed her but she just looked that telephone square in the eye an' told it to get her the president of the car company without a second's delay. She says it was astonishin' how quick it got her somebody an' as soon as they'd each said 'Hello' polite enough, she just up an' asked him to please tell her the difference between a duck an' a canary-bird. Well, she says he did n't say nothin' for a minute an'[Pg 187] then he said 'Wh-a-t?' in a most feeble manner, an' she asked him it right over again. Then she said he was more nervous an' made very queer noises an' finally asked her what in Noah's ark she wanted to know for. She says she could n't but think that very ill-bred, considerin' her age, but she was in a situation where she had to overlook anythin', so she told him as she knowed an' he knowed, too, as any one could take a canary-bird an' travel anywhere an' never know what it was to be put off for nothin'. She said he shook the wire a little more an' then asked her if she was meanin' to lead him to infer that she had been injected from a car with a duck. She says his tone was so disrespectful that she felt her own beginnin' to rise an' she told him so far from bein' injected she'd been put out an' off a car an' she had the duck right with her to prove it. He told her as he would advise her to try to do the duck up in a derby hat an' smuggle him through that way, an' then without a word more he hung up.[Pg 188]

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

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

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

[Pg 189]

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you can maybe guess as that was most tryin' both to Mrs. Macy an' Dr. Carter as well, as is both fat an' was both wedged in one seat expectin' to enjoy all they could of each other to the Junction. Dr. Carter was obliged to unwedge himself an' catchin' the duck was a most awful business an' Dr. Carter had to get off just about as soon as it was done. Well, Mrs. Macy says helpin' to catch your duck seems to make every one feel as free as air, an' a man come right off an' sat with her right off an' asked her right off whether it was a duck or a drake. Why, she says she never did—not in all her life—an' he told her she could easy tell by catchin' a spider an' givin' it to the duck an' if he took it it was a drake an' if she took it it was a duck. He asked her if it was n't so an' she said she could n't deny it, an' then he went back to his own seat an' she rode the rest of the way tryin' to figure on where the hitch was in what he said, for she says as she certainly feels there's a hitch an' yet[Pg 190] you can't deny that it's all straight about the spider an' the he and the she.

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

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

"Oh—" exclaimed Mrs. Lathrop.[Pg 191]

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

"But what—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I'm goin' to tell you if you'll just keep still a little longer an' let me get through to[Pg 192] the end," said her friend. "I got this part all back an' forth an' upside down from Mrs. Sweet while I was takin' her home by the other arm. Oh, my, but it's awful about her, for she was preservin' an' wanted a extra cullender an' lost her right arm in consequence. I hope her experience 'll be a lesson to you, Mrs. Lathrop, for it's been such a lesson to me that I may mention right here an' now 't if I ever hear you hollerin' I shall put for the opposite direction as quick as I can for I would n't never take no chances at gettin' dislocated like Mrs. Sweet is—not if I knew it. Young Dr. Brown says she's decapitated the angular connection between her collar bone an' somewhere else, an' she says she can well believe it judgin' from the way her ear keeps shootin' into her wrist an' back again."

"But—" interrupted Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, you know how Mrs. Macy always was forever given to economizin'. I don't say as economizin' is any[Pg 193] sin, but I will say as Mrs. Macy's ways of economizin' is sometimes most singular an' to-day's a example of that. Economy's all right as long as you economize out of yourself, but when it takes in Mrs. Sweet an' bumps young Dr. Brown I've no patience—no more 'n Mrs. Sweet an' young Dr. Brown has. Young Dr. Brown says it looks awful to have a black eye an' no reason for it except fallin' over a carpet. He says when he explains as Mrs. Macy was under the carpet no one is goin' to think it any thin' but funny, an' he says a doctor must n't be hurt funny ways. Mrs. Sweet don't feel to blame herself none for her arm 'cause she jerked like she does everythin' else, with her whole heart, an' she says she did so want to set her up that she tried harder an' harder every jerk.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, to go 'way back to the beginnin', seems as Mrs. Macy set out last night, as I said before, to make over her carpet. Seems as she wanted to turn it all around so's it'd fade away under the[Pg 194] stove an' fray out in the corner where it don't show. I don't say as the idea was n't a good one—although it's come pretty hard on Mrs. Sweet—but anyhow, good or no good, she dug up the tacks last night an' ripped the widths an' set down to sew this mornin'. Her story is as she turned the duck out to pasture right after breakfast an' then went to work an' sewed away as happy as a bean until about ten o'clock. Then she felt most awful tired from the rippin' an' yesterday an' all, so she thought she'd rest a little. Seems as her legs was all done up in the carpet an' gettin' out was hard so she thought she'd just lay back on the floor. Seems she lay back suddener than she really intended an' as she hit the floor, she was took.

"She give a yell an' she says she kept on givin' yells for one solid hour, an' no one come. She says as no words can ever tell how awful it was, for every yell sent a pain like barbed wire lightnin' forkin' an' knifin' all ways through her. No one[Pg 195] heard her, for the blacksmith was shoein' a mule on one side of her an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy was discussin' Hiram on the other. You know what a mule is to shoe, Mrs. Lathrop, an' you know what Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy is when they take to discussin' Hiram. I'll take my Bible oath as when Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy gets to discussin' Hiram they couldn't hear no steam penelope out of a circus, not if it was settin' full tilt right on their very own door-mat. So poor Mrs. Macy laid there an' hollered till Mrs. Sweet came for the cullender.

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

"She says she thought at first as Mrs. Macy was tryin' to take up her carpet by crawlin' under it an' makin' the tacks come out that way. But then she see as her face was up an' of course no Christian'd ever crawl under no carpet with her face[Pg 196] up. So she asked her what was the matter, an' Mrs. Macy told her frank an' open as she did n't know what was the matter. Then Mrs. Sweet went to work an' tried to set her up. An' she says the way she yelled!

"She says she jerked her by the arms, an' by the legs, an' even by the head, an' her howls only grew awfuler an' awfuler. Mrs. Macy says as her agonies was terrible every time she slid a little along, an' she just begged an' prayed for her to go an' get young Dr. Brown. So finally Mrs. Sweet ran next door an' separated Lucy an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Lucy went for young Dr. Brown an' Gran'ma Mullins an' Mrs. Sweet went for Mrs. Macy. Oh, my, but their story is as they jerked hard then, for they wanted her to be respectable in bed afore he came, but it was no use an' he bounced in an' fell over Mrs. Macy an' the carpet afore his eyes got used to where he was. They had to help him up an' then he had to go in the kitchen an' disinfect his bump afore he could take a look[Pg 197] at Mrs. Macy. But seems he got around to her at last an' felt her pulse an' then as he'd forgot his kinetoscope he just pounded her softly all over with the tack-hammer, but he did n't find out nothin' that way for she yelled wherever he hit her. He said then as he'd like to turn X-rays through her, only as there is n't no cellar under her house just there there'd be no way to get a picture of the other side of what was the matter with her.

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

"An' what do you think, Mrs. Lathrop? What do you think? There was a tack stickin' square in the middle of her back![Pg 198]

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

"What—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"I shall fat him an' eat him."

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

"Oh, I forgot to tell you that: Mrs. Macy hunted up the magazine an' looked[Pg 199] 'em up an' for a fact it was Kulosis after all. As soon as she see it she remembered the four noses an' all, but she says she was too done up to go any further at the minister just then."

"Is—" asked Mrs. Lathrop, finally.

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

So saying Susan rose, sought her duck, and departed.[Pg 200]



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

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

So Susan went alone week after week, just as she had been going alone for years and years and years. She always wore a black dress to church, her mother's cashmere shawl, and a bonnet of peculiar shape which had no strings and fitted closely around her head. She always took about an hour and a half to get home from church,[Pg 201] although it was barely ten minutes' walk, and she always went in Mrs. Lathrop's gate instead of her own when she did get home. Mrs. Lathrop knew almost to the minute when to expect her and was invariably seated ready and waiting.

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

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

"No," said Susan, "I should say not." Then she unpinned her hat and ran the pin through the crown with a vicious directness that bore out her words to the full.[Pg 202]

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

"Well, I can't help it if you are," said Miss Clegg, "you don't have to go Sunday after Sunday an' listen like I do. If you did, an' if you had what you ain't got an' that's some spirit, Mrs. Lathrop, you'd be rammin' around with a hat-pin yourself an' understand my feelin's when I say as there ain't a spot in the Bible as I ain't been over fully as often as the minister nor a place where he can open it that I can't tell just what he'll say about it afore he's done settlin' his tie an' clearin' his throat. I'm so tired of that tie-settlin' an' throat-clearin' business I don't know what to do an' then to-day it was the Sermon on the Mount an' he said as he had a new thought to develop out of the mount for us an' the new thought was as life was a mount with us all climbin' up it an' sure to come out on top with the Sermon if our legs held out. It's this new idea of new thoughts as he's got hold of as puts me so out of all patience[Pg 203] I don't know what to do; if they was really new I'd revel to listen to 'em, but they're as old as the hills an' I feel like I was offered somethin' to cut my teeth on whenever I hear him beginnin' with a fresh old one. The other day I met him down in the square an' he stopped me short an' told me to my face as the world was gettin' full o' new thoughts, an' that a star as he see the night afore had given him one as he was intendin' to work up for Christmas. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think that particular new thought was? What do you think? It was as God was back o' the stars! My lands, I felt like givin' him a punch with my parasol an' I'd of done it too only I'd left my parasol at home an' had n't nothin' with me but a basket o' currants. I told him though as the idea o' God an' the stars bein' anyways new was surely most new to me, an' then I went on to say as Rachel Rebecca had said she'd come an' pick [Pg 204]berries for me Monday an' seein' as Tuesday was lettin' its sun down pretty fast I could only hope as some other new thought had n't run off with her, too.

"It's this way, Mrs. Lathrop, I don't get much fun out o' church anyway, for I'm on red-hot porcupines the whole time I'm there thinkin' what I could be doin' at home if I was at home, an' wonderin' whether Elijah is in bed or whether he's up an' about. I don't know a more awful feelin' than the feelin' that you're chained helpless in a church while the man in your house is up an' about your house. Men were n't meant to be about houses an' I always liked father because he never was about, but Elijah is of a inquirin' disposition an' he inquires more Sundays than any other time. The idea as he's wanderin' around just carelessly lookin' into everythin' as ain't locked upsets me for listenin' to the minister anyway, but lately my patience has been up on its hind legs in church clawin' an' yowlin' more 'n ever, for it seems as if the minister gets tamer[Pg 205] an' tamer faster an' faster as time rolls on, an' between not likin' to hear him an' bein' half mad to get back to Elijah I'm beginnin' to wish as God in His infinite mercy had let me be somethin' besides a Christian. I don't know what I'd be if I was n't a Christian, but my own view o' this idea o' free-trade in religion as is takin' so many folks nowadays is as it all comes from most anybody with common sense jus' naturally knowin' more than any minister as always has his house an' his potatoes for nothin' ever can possibly get a chance to learn; an' when folks realize as they know more than the minister they ain't apt to like to waste the time as they might be learnin' more yet, sittin' an' listenin' to him tag along behind what they know already. A minister is kind o' like a horse in blinders or a cow as wears a yoke to keep her from jumpin', anyway—he feels as he can't launch out even if he wants to an' so he never does, but my idea would be to give 'em a little rope an' let 'em be a little more[Pg 206] interestin'. Here's two hours a week as we sit still an' might be learnin' things much more useful than as Job was patient an' Joseph was n't. I'm tired of Job an' Joseph anyhow. I've heard about 'em both ever since I was old enough to know about either, an' long afore I was old enough to know about Joseph. I was talkin' about this at the sewin' society yesterday an' they all agreed with me. Mrs. Macy said as her feelin' was as she'd been wantin' to go to sleep in church for the last five years, an' she was beginnin' to have it so strong as she did n't care who knowed it.

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

"No, 'cause Brunhilde Susan thought a moth ball was a lemon drop an' dealt with it a'cordin', an' she was too used up by the bein' up all night to even so much as overcast a plain seam; but the rest was there an' we all aired ourselves inside out, I can assure you, an' was more 'n glad as she was n't there, so we could do it, too.[Pg 207]

"The general talk was as the minister 'd do well to quit talkin' about Heaven for a while an' come down to earth. We all know about Heaven, 'cause if you don't all you have to do is to tip back your head an' there it is day an' night for you to look at as long as your neck don't ache, but what we don't know about is a lot of what's right around us. Mrs. Macy says as her view would be to take the Bible for the motto an' then apply it right to us here to-day, an' tell us how to understand what's goin' on in the world by its light. She says David an' Goliath could of been Japan an' Russia with Admiral Togo for the sling shot, an' we all felt to agree as there was a idea as no minister ought to mind ownin', for Mrs. Sweet told me comin' home as she never would of give Mrs. Macy credit for thinkin' nothin' out so closely as that. Every one was interested right off an' you ought to of been there to see how the idea took! Gran'ma Mullins said as she'd always wanted to know what a soft-nosed bullet[Pg 208] looked like an' how their other features felt, an' a sermon like that could n't but give us all a new understandin' of a war. Then they all got to thinkin' out the thing, an' Mrs. Sweet said as Jezabel bein' throwed to the dogs could apply to that new rule in the city as makes you have to go around with your dog's nose in a lattice an' yourself tied to the dog; she said when she went up there the other day she felt like nothin' but a fool out with her brother an' him bein' jerked here an' there a'cordin' as the dog's feelin's moved him, an' the dog's lattice half the time over one of his two ears so he looked more drunk than sober all day. Of course we ain't got no such rules about dogs' noses here, but no one set down on Mrs. Sweet, because it showed she took an interest; Mrs. Brown said when she was done as she should think as the sun standin' still on Absalom three days could be worked up into havin' our streets lit all night, for she says when young Dr. Brown is out late, Amelia's so[Pg 209] awful nervous she has to sit by her an' hold her hand, an' young Dr. Brown always says it takes him a good hour longer than it ought to gettin' home, on a'count o' bein' so afraid o' runnin' into trees in the dark."

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

"Yes, but you could n't make his mother believe it," said Susan; "she thinks he eats peppermint comin' home nights just because he likes to eat peppermint comin' home nights. Mothers is all like that. You know yourself how you was with Jathrop. That'd make another nice talk, about how all sons was n't prodigals, some bein' obliged by fate to be the calf instead. I must say, Mrs. Lathrop, as the more I think of this new idea the more took I am with it. The Bible would be most like a new book if we took it that way an' Sunday would be a day to look forward to all the week long, just to see what the minister was goin' to say about what next. The[Pg 210] sewin' society was all in favor of the idea an' now if the square only takes it up with a real mother's heart I don't see why we should n't get some profit out o' keepin' a minister yet. My notion is as the minister might just as well learn to be a lesson to us as to be so dead satisfied with only bein' a trial to us. We've got trials enough, Lord knows, an' just now what with the weather an' the cleanin' house no one wants to go to church to hear about things as they all know anyhow."

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

"No, I would n't look for that," said Susan; "every one has their limits an' I would n't expect no man to jump over his own outside. I should n't ever look for the minister to be really equal to workin' up somethin' real spicy as would fill the house out o' Uriah the Hittite or Abigail hangin' upside down to the tree, but I can't well see why he could n't teach us whether well water's healthy or not by[Pg 211] quotin' from Rebecca, an' when the time comes he could surely get a real nice Thanksgivin' text out o' John the Baptist's head on the platter."

"Well—" said Mrs. Lathrop, slowly.

"I'm goin' home to Elijah now," said Susan, "an' I shall talk the matter up with him. Elijah's awful funny, Mrs. Lathrop. However much he roams around while I'm in church he always hops back in bed an' manages to be sound asleep when it's time for me to come home. An' I will say this for him, an' that is as with all his pryin' an' meddlin' he's clever enough to get things back so I can never see no traces of what he's been at. If I was n't no sharper than most others, I'd think as he never had stirred out of bed while I was gone—but I am sharper than others an' it'll take a sharper young man than Elijah to make me suppose as all is gold that glitters or that a man left all alone in a house don't take that time to find out what he's alone in the midst of."[Pg 212]



"Well, I don't know I'm sure what I am goin' to do with Elijah," said Susan Clegg to her friend one evening. "He's just as restless in his ideas as he is in bed, an' he's not content in bed without untuckin' everythin' at the foot. I hate a bed as is kicked out at the foot an' I hate a man as makes a woman have to put the whole bed together again new every mornin'. I'm sure I don't see no good to come of kickin' nights an' I've talked to Elijah about layin' still till I should think he could n't but see how right I am an' how wrong he is, but still he goes right on kickin', an' now he's got it into his head as he's got to turn the town topsy-turvy by findin' out suthin' wrong as we'd[Pg 213] rather not know, an' makin' us very uncomfortable by knowin' it, an' knowin' as now we know it we've got to do suthin' about it, an' that seems to make him kick more than ever."

"Dear—" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"He set on the porch for an hour with me last night," Susan went on, "tryin' to think o' suthin' as he could expose in the paper. He says a paper ain't nothin' nowadays without it's exposin' suthin, an' a town ain't fit to have a paper if it ain't got nothin' to expose in it. He says no closet without some skeleton, an' he should think we'd have ours, an' in the end he talked so much that I could n't but feel for a little as maybe he was right an' as we was behind the times, for when you come to think it over, Mrs. Lathrop, nothin' ever does happen here as had n't ought to happen—not since Mr. Shores' wife run off with his clerk, an' that wa'n't no great happenin', for they could n't stand sittin' on the piazza much longer—every one[Pg 214] could see that—an' Mrs. Shores wasn't one to have any man but her own husband comin' in an' out o' the house at all hours, an' so if she'd got to the point where she wanted a man as wasn't her own husband comin' in an' out, she just had to up an' run away with him, an' I never have been one to say no ill of her, for I look on Mr. Shores with a cool an' even eye, an' lookin' on Mr. Shores with a cool an' even eye leads me to fully an' freely approve of every thin' as his wife ever done."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Yes, I know it, an' that's why I speak as I do. But Elijah seems to think as suthin' else ought to of happened since then, an' he asked me if I didn't know of nothin' as was bein' tried to be covered up as he could uncover, an' I really did try to think of suthin' but nobody ever covers up nothin' here. Nobody could if they wanted to. Everybody knows everythin' about everybody. We all know about Lucy an' Hiram, 'cause Gran'ma Mullins is always[Pg 215] tellin' her side an' Hiram's side, an' Lucy is always tellin' her side an' Hiram's other side. Gran'ma Mullins says when she sees a man like Hiram havin' to devote his strength an' his Sundays to catchin' water-bugs, she most feels she's been a mother in vain, an' Lucy says when she realizes as she's married a man as can't be put to no better use Sundays than catchin' water-bugs, she ain't got no doubt at all as to what she's married. Lucy's gettin' very bitter about marriage; she says when she thinks as she may be picked out for a golden weddin' she feels like tyin' balloons to her feet an' goin' out an' standin' on her head in the crick. Elijah asked me if maybe she was n't in love with some one else as he could just notice in general kind o' terms, but I told him he did n't know what Lucy Dill was on men now as Hiram has got her eyes open. Why, Lucy don't believe no more in love a tall. Lucy says if she was rid of men an' left on a desert island alone, with one cow, so she could[Pg 216] have eggs an' milk toast regular, she'd never watch for no ship, an' if a ship heaved up anywhere near, she'd heave down so quick that if any one on the ship had seen her they'd think they imagined her afore they'd get ready to go to her rescue. Elijah shook his head then, an' trailed off to Polly Allen; he said there must be thirty-five years between Polly an' the deacon, an' could n't suthin' be hinted at about them. That set me to wonderin', an' it's really very strange when you come to think of it, Mrs. Lathrop, how contented Polly is. I don't believe they've ever had a word. He does the cookin' an' washin' the same as he always did, an' lets her do anythin' else she pleases, an' they say she's always very obligin' about doin' it.

"So then Elijah crossed his legs the other way, an' asked if there was n't anythin' bigger as could be looked into, but every one knows Hiram is the biggest man anywhere around here, so that was no use. [Pg 217]He asked then if we did n't have a poorhouse or a insane asylum or a slaughter-house or suthin' as he could show up in red ink. He said somebody must be doin' suthin' as they had n't ought to be doin' somewhere, an' it was both his virtue an' his business to print all about it. He says exposin' is the very life o' the newspaper business, an' you can't be nothin' nowadays without you expose. He seemed to feel very much put out about us not bein' able to be exposed, an' I could n't help a kind o' hurt feelin' as it was really so.

"But what can I do, Mrs. Lathrop, I did n't know of nothin'? We ain't got no place to do anythin' except in the square an' nobody never does nothin' without everybody knows that day or the next mornin' at the latest. I don't believe as anybody could have a secret with anybody in this town 'cause you'd know very well as if you did n't get 'round pretty quick an' tell it first the other one would be gettin' ahead o' you an' tellin' it before you. Of course I could see Elijah's drift[Pg 218] all right. Them city papers has turned his head completely just as they do everybody else's when they first get a new idea. Elijah wants us to be eatin' bluing for blueberries an' cats for calves jus' so he can be the first to tell us about it, but there ain't a cat in town as ain't too well known for anybody to eat without knowin' it, an' as for bluing, if anybody can feed it to me for blueberries it's me as is the fool an' them as is n't, an' that's my views.

"I'll tell you what it is, Mrs. Lathrop, I ain't got no great sympathy with this new idea o' keepin' us all stirred up over how awful things is. I won't say as I approved when that man in Chicago made sausage out o' his wife 'cause he was tired o' her, but I will say as if Lucy see her chance at Hiram that way I ain't sure as she could restrain herself. Hiram's perfectly healthy an' could be depended upon not to disagree with no one in sausage to anythin' like the extent Lucy disagrees with him, an' Gran'ma Mullins is so tired of hearin' 'em quarrel[Pg 219] that I ain't prepared to say as she'd rebel at anythin' as sent Lucy back to her father.

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

"That's the advantage the rest of the country has over us when it comes to exposin'. They can expose an' expose, an' all the folks who read about it forget an' forget, but here in this community it's different an' you can't count on our forgettin' things a tall, an' if Elijah was turned loose I'll venture to say every last[Pg 220] one o' them papers would be saved until doomsday. I know that an' knowin' that I very carefully restrain him. There's a many as knows as Mr. Kimball's dried apples is often very under rate, an' a many others as knows whose dead cat that was as Mrs. Sweet had to bury after vowin' she would n't till she smelt as she'd got to. Every last one of us knows what Dr. Brown gets at the drug store when he asks for what he usually gets an' there's a good many as thinks as Mrs. Macy goes to Meadville more on a'count o' Dr. Carter than to see her cousin, Mrs. Lupey. But I was n't goin' to set Elijah swimmin' in any such deep water. Elijah is a young man an' the age to go wrong easy, an' when that age see how easy it is to go wrong they're nothin' but foolish if they waste another second goin' right, so if Elijah wants to go to exposin' he'll have to get his stuff from some one else beside me."

"You—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I don't say that," said Miss Clegg,[Pg 221] "I'm only human after all an' I can't in conscience deny as I should like to see them as I don't like showed up just as much as any other man as is makin' a business of showin' up his neighbors, likes it. But I know I've got to live here an' it'd be very poor livin' for me after I'd aired myself by way of Elijah. There's a great difference between knowin' things all by yourself an' readin' 'em in the paper, an' I know as that dead cat would cause a great deal o' hard feelin' in print, while buried by Mrs. Sweet it only helps her garden grow. So I shall keep on talkin' as usual, but I shall hold Elijah out o' print an' so keep the country safe."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, the paper'll do just as well," said Susan; "he's goin' to print one sheet as comes all printed from the city every week an' he says that'll put new zest in the thing. It'll be a great deal better to get the zest that way than to get it exposin'. Zest is suthin' as is always safest a good ways off.[Pg 222] Elijah saw that, too, afore he got done last night, for in his hitchin' about he hitched over the edge o' the piazza in the end."

"Did—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, no," said Miss Clegg. "But he tore a lot of things an' smashed a rose bush, but I did n't care about that. I just told him to leave 'em on a chair this mornin' an' I'd sew 'em all up again, an' I done it, an' as to the rose bush, I'll have him get another an' give it to me for a present the next time I go to the city to pick it out myself."[Pg 223]



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

Miss Clegg dropped into a chair.

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

"Eli—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"—Jah," finished Susan. "Yes, Mrs. Lathrop, Elijah's sick! He was sick all night an' all this mornin', an' I may in confidence remark as I hope this'll be a lesson to him to never do it again, for I've got a feelin' in my legs as 'll bear me out in lettin' him or any one else die afore I'll ever work again like I've worked to-day an' last night."[Pg 224]

"Why, what—"

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

"No, I—"

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

"Is—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, he is n't. That is, he was n't when I come out, but he had his pen an' said he was goin' to write a editorial sittin' up in bed. He can't get out of bed on a'count of the sheet, but 'Liza Em'ly's there if he wants anythin' so it don't matter if I do leave for a little while. She come an' offered an' I don't see why she should n't[Pg 225] have a chance to get married the same as any other girl, so I set her in the next room an' told her not to go near him on no a'count, an' naturally there ain't nothin' as'll make 'em wilder to talk than for Elijah to feel he'd ought to be workin' on his editorial an' for 'Liza Em'ly to feel as he had n't ought to be spoke to. I don't say as I consider Elijah any great catch, but if 'Liza Em'ly can find any joy jumpin' at him with her mouth open I ain't one to deprive her of the hop. Elijah's a very fair young man as young men go, an' I think any girl as is willin' to do her nine-tenths can have a time tryin' to be happy with him. If she ain't happy long it won't be Elijah's fault for he's just as sure his wife 'll be happy as any other man is."

"But about—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"On both—"[Pg 226]

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

"But, no sir, Elijah had no idea o' lettin' me sleep while he set up alone with his own two sides. There's suthin' about a man, Mrs. Lathrop, as 'll never let him suffer in silence if there's any woman to be woke up. A man can't be a hero unless a woman stands by barefooted with a candle, an' he feels a good deal easier groanin' if he can hear her sneezin' between times. So back come Elijah right off to say as I must be up an' doin' or he'd be[Pg 227] dead afore dawn. I was so sound asleep I told him to set a mouse trap two times afore my senses come to me an' then when they did I was mad. I tell you I was good an' mad too. I put on my slippers an' father's duster as I always keep hangin' to my bedpost to slip on or dust with just as I feel to need it on or dustin', an' I went to Elijah. He was back layin' in bed done up in a sort o' ring o' rosy, groanin' an' takin' on an' openin' an' shuttin' his eyes like he thought he could make me feel pleased at bein' woke up. But I was n't goin' to feel pleased. I tell you, Mrs. Lathrop, a stitch in time saves nine, an' I hadn't no idea of encouragin' Elijah to wake me like that, not while there's maybe a chance of me havin' him to board more 'n the three months I promised. I saw as I was gettin' into the duster as all my comfort depended on how I acted right then an' there an' I was decided to be firm. I stood by the bed an' looked at him hard an' then I says to him, I says, 'Well, what did you[Pg 228] wake me up for?' 'No one ever felt nothin' like this,' he says; 'I've got two appendixes an' I can feel another comin' in my back.' 'Elijah,' I said, 'don't talk nonsense. You've been an' woke me up an' now I'm woke up what do you want me to do?' I leaned over him as I said it an' let a little hot candle grease drip on his neck an' he give a yowl an' straightened out an' then give another yowl an' shut up again. 'I'll make you some ginger tea,' I says, 'an' put a mustard plaster wherever you like best,' I says, 'an' then I shall look to be let alone,' I says, an' so I went downstairs an' set to work. Well, Mrs. Lathrop, I made that tea an' I bet I made it strong; I put some red pepper in it, too, an' poured a little mucilage into the plaster, for I may in confidence remark as I didn't intend as Elijah should ever look forward to wakin' me up in the night again. Then I went upstairs an' he sit up an' took the whole of the cup at one gulp! You never see no one so satisfied with nothin' in all your life![Pg 229] He fell back like he was shot an' said, 'Scott, Scott, Scott,' until really I thought as he was ravin'. Then I said, 'Where do you want the plaster, Elijah?' an' he said, 'On my throat, I guess.' I says, 'No, Elijah, you've waked me up an' wakin' me up is nothin' to joke over. You put this plaster on an' go to sleep an' don't wake me up again unless you feel for more tea.' I spoke kind, but he could see as I felt firm an' I set the candle down an' went back to bed.

"Well, Mrs. Lathrop, what do you think,—what do you think? Seems as Elijah was so afraid o' burnin' himself in another place that he went an' put the sheet between him an' the plaster an' glued himself all together. This mornin' when he awoke up there he was with the sheet stuck firm to him an' I must say I was very far from pleased when he hollered to me an' I went in an' found him lookin' more like a kite than anythin' else an' not able to dress 'cause he could n't take off his sheet. 'Well,[Pg 230] Elijah, you have done it now, I guess,' I says; 'I never see nothin' the beat o' this. If I have to send for young Dr. Brown to take that sheet off you, you'll be in the papers from the earthquake to Russia an' back again.' Well, that was all there was to do an' when 'Liza Em'ly come with the milk I had to ask her to go up to young Dr. Brown's an' ask him to kindly come as soon as he could an' amputate Elijah out o' bed. He come right after breakfast an' he had a time, I tell you! We worked with water an' we worked with hot water, we tried loosenin' the edges by jerkin' quick when Elijah was n't expectin', but it was all no use. Dr. Brown said he never see such a plaster, he said it'd be a fortune for mendin' china. Then we got the dish-pan an' tried layin' Elijah face down across it an' pilin' books on his back to keep the right place in front soakin', but even that didn't help. Dr. Brown said in the end as he thought the only way maybe would be to do all the corners of the sheet up in[Pg 231] a paper an' let Elijah carry it hugged tight to him an' wear father's duster down to the crick an' sit in it till he just slowly come loose. But Elijah did n't want to go bathin' in a duster an' I had a feelin' myself as if Meadville heard of it we'd surely be very much talked about, so finally Dr. Brown said he thought as he'd go home an' study up the case, an' I let him go for I had my own ideas as to how much he knew about what was makin' the trouble. So he went an' then I got dinner an' took some up to Elijah an' told him jus' what I thought of the whole performance. I talked kind but I talked firm an' I done a lot of good, for he said he did n't know but it would be better if he arranged to live with the Whites after the Fourth of July 'cause he had a feelin' as maybe he was a good deal of trouble to me. I told him I hadn't a mite of doubt as he was a good deal of trouble to me an' then Mrs. Macy come. I had to stop talkin' to him an' go down an' tell her what was the matter. She said[Pg 232] right off as her idea would be to shut the windows, build a big fire an' make Elijah jus' work himself loose from the inside out. I told her about the mucilage though an' then she changed her views an' said I'd best fold the sheet neatly an' let him wear it till he wore it off next time he growed a new skin. Mrs. Macy says she's been told we keep sheddin' our skins the same as snakes an' that that's really what makes our clothes need washin' so often. She said the moral was plain as by the time the sheet'd need washin' Elijah would shed it anyhow. I see the p'int o' what she said an' I felt to agree, but while we was talkin' Mrs. Sweet come in an' her view was all different. She said as Elijah would find that sheet a most awful drag on him an' to her order o' thinkin' he'd ought to go down to where Mr. Kimball makes his dried apples an' steam loose in the vat. She says he can steam out very fast an' Mr. Kimball bein' his uncle 'll naturally let him sit in the vat for nothin'."[Pg 233]

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop again.

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

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

"My—" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan sprang to her feet and ran to the door; as she opened it Eliza Emily was seen flying down the Clegg steps.[Pg 234]

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

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

"Did he tear the sheet any?"

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

Miss Clegg began to walk rapidly towards her own house.

"You can see I've got to go," she called back to her friend over her shoulder; "this is what it is to have a man livin' in your house, Mrs. Lathrop."[Pg 235]



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

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

"I don't care if he is," she replied, "it says in the Bible as a man is a man for all that an' I never was one to go against the Bible even if I ain't never felt in conscience called to say where Cain an' Abel got married, or what it was as the Jews lit out from Egypt on a'count of. I tell you what it is, Mrs. Lathrop, you've forgotten what it is to have a man around your house. There's somethin' just about the way a[Pg 236] man eats an' sleeps as gets very aggravatin' to any woman after the new's off. I begin to see what men invented gettin' married for,—it was so they could kite around an' always be sure they had one woman safe chained up at home to do their cookin' an' washin'. Why, I ain't married to Elijah a tall, an' yet just havin' him in the house is gettin' me more an' more under his thumb every day that he stays with me. I feel to stay in the square an' I find myself hurryin' home 'cause he likes hot biscuits, an' I feel to turn his washstand around an' I leave it where it is for no better reason than as he likes it where it is. It's awful the way a man gets the upper hand of a woman! Lord knows I've no love for Elijah an' yet I'm caperin' upstairs an' downstairs when he ain't in a hurry an' tearin' my legs off scamperin' when he is, until I declare I feel mad at myself—I certainly do.

"An' now, there he is fallin' in love with 'Liza Em'ly, the last girl in the world as[Pg 237] he'd ought to even dream of marryin', an' I talk to him an' talk to him, an' tell him so, an' tell him so, an' it don't make no more impression than when you rub a cat behind her ear."

"Why, a cat—" protested Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"I see the minister down in the square to-day an' I told him my opinion of it all right to his face. But the minister didn't have no heart for 'Liza Em'ly—he's too used up discussin' what under the sun is to be done with Henry Ward Beecher. He says it's suthin' just awful about Henry Ward Beecher's feelin' for Emma Sweet, an' he told me frank an' open as personally it's been so terrible easy for him to get himself married an' get consequences that he can't find nothin' to point his index finger into Henry Ward Beecher with[Pg 238] about this unrequited affection of his for Emma. He says as he never knowed as a man could have unrequited affection afore an' he really seems to feel more'n a little hurt over it. He says he can't well see how to restrain Henry Ward Beecher an' it's town talk as Henry Ward Beecher is far past restrainin' himself. I see Polly White afterward an' she says it's gospel truth as he's took indelible ink an' tattoed Emma all over himself, even places where he had to do it by guess or a mirror."

"My heavens!" ejaculated Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, I should say so," said Susan, "an' will you only consider, Mrs. Lathrop, what Emma Sweet is to be tattoed all over any man like that! I like all the Sweets an' I like Emma, but it's only in reason as I should regard her with a impartial eye, an' no impartial eye lookin' her way could ever in reason deny as she don't appear likely to set no rivers afire. Emma's a nice girl, an' if her toes turned out an' her teeth turned in I don't say but what she[Pg 239] might go along without bein' noticed in a crowd, but with them teeth an' toes all you can call her is good-hearted an' you know as well as I do as bein' called good-hearted is about the meanest thing as anybody can ever call anybody else. Folks in this world never call any one good-hearted unless they can't find nothin' else good to say of 'em, for it stands to reason as any sensible person'd rather have anythin' else about 'em good before their heart, for it's way inside an' largely guesswork what it is anyhow.

"They say as Mrs. Sweet says as even though Emma's her own child, still she can't see no reason for Henry Ward Beecher's March-haredness. She says Emma's best p'ints is her gettin' up early an' the way she puts her whole soul into washin' an' bread-kneadin', but she says Henry Ward Beecher ain't sensible enough to appreciate good p'ints like those. She says she's talked to Emma an' any one with half a eye can see as it ain't Emma as needs the[Pg 240] talkin' to. She says Emma says as the way he hangs onto her goin' home from choir practice is enough to pull her patience all out of proportion. She says Emma says she'd as soon have a garter-snake seein' her home, an' doin' itself up in rings around her all the while, an' Mrs. Sweet says any one as has ever seen Emma seein' a garter-snake would consider Henry Ward Beecher's chances as very slim after a remark like that.

"Mr. Kimball says he wishes he had n't took him into his store just now; he says no young man ain't got a call to the grocery trade when he's in a state of heart as won't let him hear the call o' the man as owns the business, an' Mr. Kimball says when he fell into the vat where he was stirrin' up his dried apples, Henry Ward Beecher never heard one single holler as he gave—not one single solitary holler did that boy hear, an' Mr. Kimball 'most had a real city Turkish bath as a result. Why, he told me as he was in the vat for nigh on to[Pg 241] a hour afore Elijah heard him from the other side, an' he says as a consequence he ain't very much took with havin' a clerk as is in love. He says too as only to see Henry Ward Beecher tryin' to pour through a funnel when any member o' the Sweet family is walkin' by on the other side of the square is enough to make him as owns what's bein' spilt wish as Henry Ward Beecher's father had gone unrequited too. Mrs. Macy come in while we was talkin' an' she said it was too bad as Emma wasn't smarter, 'cause if Emma was smarter Henry Ward Beecher'd jus' suit her. Mrs. Macy says the trouble is as Emma's too smart to be willin' to marry a fool an' not quite smart enough to be willin' to. Mrs. Macy says as Mr. Fisher was just such another an' Mrs. Fisher jumped for him like a duck at a bug."

"Did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop, interestedly.

"No," said Susan, "but Gran'ma Mullins did. Gran'ma Mullins is always nothin'[Pg 242] but glad to have a chance to shake her head an' wipe her eyes over any one's love-makin'. She come in to wait a little 'cause Lucy wanted to dust an' she says she ain't got no strength to stay in the house while Lucy dusts; she says it lays Hiram out on the sofa every time regular an' sometimes it gives him the toothache. She says she an' Hiram never know when they 're dirty a'cordin' to Lucy's way o' thinkin' but, Heaven help 'em, they always know when they're clean a'cordin' to Lucy's idea of bein' clean. She says Lucy is that kind as takes one of her hairpins an' goes down on her knees an' scratches out the last bit of dirt as the Lord hath mercifully seen fit to allow to settle in His cracks. You can see as Gran'ma Mullins has suffered! She says it's a hard thing to bear, but Hiram grins an' she bears an' their pride helps 'em out.

"While we was talkin' Emma come by for the mail an' we see Henry Ward Beecher's [Pg 243]face just hoverin' madly over the breakfast-food display in Mr. Kimball's window. Mr. Jilkins was in town buyin' a rake an' he waited to see what would happen. Judge Fitch was there too an' Polly White. We all had our eyes fixed on Henry Ward Beecher an' I will say, Mrs. Lathrop, as I never got so tired waitin' for nothin'."

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"Oh—" cried Mrs. Lathrop, impulsively.

"I don't know why not," said Susan, "my own opinion is as he's a idiot—"[Pg 244]

"Mr. Sper—"

"No, Henry Ward Beecher. It's always struck me as a very strange thing as we had n't got one single idiot in this community an' I guess the real truth is as we've had one all the time an' did n't know him by sight. There's a idiot most everywhere till he gets the idea into his head to kill some one an' so gives others the idea as he's safer shut up, an' so it ain't surprisin' our havin' one too. I see Mrs. Brown on my way home an' I asked her if she did n't think as I was right. She said she would n't be surprised if it was true, an' it was very odd as she'd never thought o' it before, recollectin' her experience with him years ago when she had him that time as the minister went to the Sperrits' on his vacation. She went on to say then as to her order o' thinkin' Mr. an' Mrs. Sperrit come pretty close to bein' idiots themselves, for she says she don't know she's sure what ails 'em but they've been married years now an' is[Pg 245] still goin' round as beamin' as two full moons. She says it ain't anythin' to talk of in public but actually to see 'em drivin' back from market sometimes most makes her wish as she was n't a widow, an' she says anythin' as'd make her sorry she's a widow had n't ought to be goin' round loose in a Christian town. She was very much in earnest an' Mrs. Fisher overtook us just then an' she said it all over again to her an' she said more, too—she said as the way she looks at him in church is all right an' really nothin' but a joy to look on afore marriage, but she don't consider it hardly decent afterwards for it's deludin' an' can't possibly be meant in earnest. She says she was married, an' her son is married, an' her father was married, too, an' you can't tell her that the way Mr. an' Mrs. Sperrit go on isn't suthin' pretty close to idiocy even if it ain't the whole thing."

"You—" said Mrs. Lathrop."

"Mrs. Fisher said," continued Susan, "as she thought maybe she got used to[Pg 246] lookin' pleasant at him in all them years as she kept house for him afore he made up his mind to get married to her, an' so the habit kind of is on her an' what's dyed in the wool keeps on stickin' to Mr. Sperrit. She said as they do say as he married her 'cause he wanted her bedroom to hang up corn to dry in. She went on to say as for her part she always enjoyed seein' the Sperrits so happy for it done any one good to only look at 'em an' that she'd only be too happy to be a idiot herself if it'd do any human bein' good to look at her an' Mr. Fisher afterwards. She went on to say as she'd heard as the other night Mr. Sperrit drove two miles back in the rain 'cause he'd forgot a cake o' sapolio as she'd asked him to bring. I spoke up at that an' I said I did n't see nothin' very surprisin' in that, for I know if I asked any man as I was married to to bring home a cake o' sapolio I should most surely look to see the cake when he come home."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.[Pg 247]

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

"His great—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"The frog!" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, the great-grandfather. Seems he never stopped to consider as what'd kill a frog would be sure to hit him, an' Mrs. Macy says the doctors said as that was[Pg 248] one very strong piece o' evidence against the family brains right at the start, but she says he really was smarter than they thought, for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paid for the funeral an' for the grandmother's, too."

"The grand—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"The moth—" cried Mrs. Lathrop.

"Er," said Susan. "Yes, seems she[Pg 249] heard the yell an' run to the window so quick she knocked the stick out as held it up an' it come down on her head. So, you see the idiocy come right straight down in the family of the idiot for three generations afore him."

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

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

"An' yet—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, as to that," said Susan, "that's altogether another kind o' idiot. Henry Ward Beecher won't die of his love even if Emma won't have him, an' they'll both always be the better an' happier for not havin' one another, if they only knew it. It's mighty easy to love folks an' think how happy you'd always be with 'em as long as you don't marry 'em. It's marryin' 'em an' livin' in the house with 'em as shows you how hard it is to be really married. I thank Heaven I'm only livin'[Pg 250] in the house with Elijah an' not married to him, so I can see my way ahead to gettin' rid of him in a little while now. You don't know how I ache to draw the curtains of his room an' pin up the bed an' pour the water out of his pitcher an' set a mouse trap in there an' just know it is n't goin' to be mussed up again."

Susan sighed deeply.

"How long—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"I said three months," said Miss Clegg, "an' that takes it over the Fourth of July. My heavens alive, seems some days as if I could n't but just live, an' the meanest thing about a man is, he's so dead sure as he makes you happy, bein' around the house."[Pg 251]



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

"What—" began Mrs. Lathrop.

"The one about the celebration as he printed in this week's paper," replied her friend; "they was for discussin' nothin' else after church to-day, an' one an' all is dead set against the way as Elijah says.[Pg 252] Them as has bought their fireworks ain't pleased, of course, an' Mr. Kimball says as he considers that Elijah had ought to of consulted him afore he printed such a article in the hind part of a uncle's store that had just laid in a new supply of two pounds of punk alone. Mr. Kimball says as he'd planned a window display o' cannon crackers pointin' all ways out of a fort built o' his new dried apples an' now here's Elijah comin' out in Saturday's paper for an old-fashioned Fourth o' July without no firecrackers a tall. Mr. Kimball says he thinks Elijah ought to remember whose nephew he is an' show some family feelin'; he says punk is a thing as can never be worked off in no bargain lot of odds an' ends, an' he says his own Fourth o' July is spoiled now anyway just by the shock of the worry 'cause he can't be sure how folks is goin' to be affected until the effect is over, an' the Fourth o' July'll be over mighty quick this year. 'T ain't like they had most a week to calm down from Elijah's[Pg 253] new idea—they ain't got but just Monday to decide an' buy their fireworks, too.

"Judge Fitch says he can't quite make out what Elijah meant by callin' for patriotic speeches; he says he's willin' to make a speech any day, but he says no one ever wants to stop poppin' long enough to listen to a speech on the Fourth o' July. He says too as it's very hard to get a still crowd that day 'cause people are afraid to get absorbed listenin' for fear suthin' may go off under 'em while they ain't keepin' watch. Mr. Dill said that was true, 'cause he had a personal experience that way in his own dog; he says that dog would of made a fine hunter only some one throwed a torpedo at him one Fourth o' July, when he was lookin' under a sidewalk, an' after that that dog almost had a fit if a sparrow chirped quick behind him. Mr. Dill said he tried to cure him by stuffin' cotton in his ears an' keepin' a cloth tied neatly around his head, but then he read in the paper about some deaf German as when[Pg 254] he played the piano always listened with his teeth, an' he said that just made him empty the cotton right out of the dog an' give up.

"Mrs. Macy says what she wants to know is what's Elijah tryin' to get at anyhow. She says she always thought a barbecue was a kind of cake an' she did n't know white folks ever could lift their legs that high, even if they felt to want to. She says the idea of its bein' suthin' to eat in the woods is surely most new to her an' she ain't sure she wants to eat in the woods anyhow. She says there's always flies an' mosquitoes in the woods an' she's passed the age o' likin' to drop down anywhere, an' jump up any time, years ago. As for cookin' in the woods she says that part of Elijah's editorial is too much for every one. She says she never hear of roastin' a ox whole in a pit in her life; she says how is the ox to be got into the pit an' what's to cook him while he's in there an' when he's cooked how's he to be got out again to eat?[Pg 255] She says she thinks Elijah has got a ox an' a clam mixed in his mind, an' a pit an' a pile. She says she knows they cook clams in piles on the seashore, 'cause she's heard so from people as has been there, an' besides she seen a picture of one once.

"Gran'ma Mullins came up an' she's most awful troubled over the ox, too. She says Hiram is got such a name for bein' strong now that she just knows as they'll expect him to put that ox into the pit when they're ready to cook him, an' then lift him out again when he's done. She says it's gettin' too terrible about Hiram, every time as somebody fat dies anywhere or there's a piano to move or a barn to get up on jack-screws they send right for Hiram to be one o' the pallbearers an' give him the heaviest corner. Why, she says the other day when that refrigerator came for Polly White they unloaded it right onto Hiram from the train, an' not a soul dreamed as there was shot packed in both sides of it to save rates, until poor Hiram set it down to put[Pg 256] it on the other shoulder. She says too, as she can't well see how a ox can be roasted whole anyway; she says it'll be a awful job gettin' his hair singed off in the first place, an' she just knows they'll expect Hiram to hold him an' twirl him while he's singein'. Then, too, she says as the whole of a ox don't want to be roasted anyhow. The tongue has to be boiled an' the liver has to be sliced an' the calves' brains has to be breaded an' dipped in egg, an' after he's roasted an' Hiram has got him out o' the pit, who's to skin him then, she'd like to know, for you can't tell her as anybody can eat rawhide, even if it is cooked.

"Deacon White come up, an' he said he an' Polly would bring their own lunch an' their own pillow an' blanket an' hammock an' look on, 'cause Polly wanted to see the fun an' they were n't intendin' to have any fireworks anyhow. He said he was curious about the ox himself; he said he wondered where they'd get the ox, an' the pit, too, for that matter.[Pg 257]

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

"The minister come up an' he said as it says in the Bible as when the ox is in the pit every one must join in an' help him out, so he shall do his part an' bring all his family with him. But he said he must remark as to his order of thinkin' a ox struck him as a most singular way to commemorate the day our forefathers fought an' bled over. He says he should have thought a service o' song an' a much to be desired donation towards cleainin' out his[Pg 258] cistern would have been a more fittin' way to spend the glorious Fourth in, than fixin' a ox in a pit an' tryin' to bake him there. He says he don't think it can be done anyhow, he says a ox ain't no chestnut to stick in the ashes till he bounces out cooked o' his own accord.

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

"Mrs. Brown says they sha'n't go, 'cause young Dr. Brown's afraid o' microbes in the woods. He's goin' to disinfect everythin' with that new smell he's invented the day before the Fourth, an' then they're goin' to have huckleberry biscuit an' watermelon an' just spend a quiet day waitin'[Pg 259] for any accidents as may maybe come along. Mrs. Brown says young Dr. Brown is always hopin' for another railroad smash-up like that one that came while he was away studyin'. She says it always seems too bad it couldn't have come a year later, when he was just back with that handsome brand new set of doctor's knives an' forks as he got for a prize." Susan paused.

"Shall you—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I sha'n't. I ain't interested in the Fourth o' July. I never had nothin' to do with it in the beginnin' an' I ain't never had nothin' to do with it since. My own idea's always been as the Boston people was very foolish to go throwin' their tea overboard sooner'n buy stamps. We all buy stamps now an' no one thinks o' fussin' over it, an' I guess we do a lot other things as we'd never of had to do if we'd kept our tea an' our mouths shut in the beginnin'. They say tea is very cheap in England an' very good, too, an' heaven knows nothin' is cheap with us. Elijah says if it wasn't[Pg 260] for his uncle he'd take a strong stand on a low tariff, but my goodness, it looks to me like he'd better not meddle with the tariff—he's set the town by the ears enough with his ox. I had a long talk with him last night about the whole thing. I don't know, I'm sure, how Elijah ever is goin' to get on without me, for I certainly do talk to him enough to keep him in ideas right straight along. I was very kind last night—but I was firm, too. In the end I broke him down completely an' he told me as he never meant it that way a tall. He says he only drew a picture o' what the Fourth o' July was in olden times. But this town ain't good on pictures, we take things right up by the handle an' deal with 'em a'cordin'."

"But—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, of course not," said Susan, "but they can take him up by the tail an' horns, can't they?"[Pg 261]



"Well," said Miss Clegg to her friend the Sunday after the Fourth, "I'm thankful to say as the game is up to-morrow an' Elijah moves out of my house. We never had no Fourth o' July like this afore an' every one is prayin' as we'll never have such another again. It was really very peaceful in church this mornin' an' the collection was thirty-two cents, so that shows as folks is beginnin' to take heart again, but you could see as they was all nervous an' even the minister kept lookin' anxiously out of the window whenever he thought as he heard a noise. Mr. Weskin says he thinks a house catchin' fire from bein' disinfected comes under some head as lets the insurance get paid anyhow an' he says if not he'll take[Pg 262] the case for the Browns on even halves for his heart is full o' sympathy for 'em. The Browns was in church themselves to-day, all but Amelia, an' I had the story from them straight for the first time. Young Dr. Brown says he can't understand any of it; he says the stuff must be stirred in a barrel for two hours without stoppin' an' he says he'll let any man breathe a suspicion as his mother stopped after he once set her at it! Mrs. Brown says she did n't stop neither, she says when she could n't move her arms any more for love or money, she stuck the broomstick through her belt an' sat on the edge o' the barrel an' kept the stuff stirrin' so. They poured in the acid right after breakfast, an' then Dr. Brown wanted the test to be thorough, so they put a live fly in each room, shut the doors between, shut all the windows, took the silver out on the lawn, an' then threw a match into the barrel an' run out the coal cellar door.

"Amelia is up at her father's an' ain't[Pg 263] able to speak of it yet, but Mrs. Brown says her own view of it will always be as it was a explosion. She says as she can't see how you could call it anythin' else in the world. She says they was all sittin' in the arbor an' Amelia was just gettin' into the hammock an' Dr. Brown was just beginnin' on the King o' Spain's honeymoon in the paper, with a picture of a bullfight to illustrate it, when she heard such a noise as she never will forget again in all her life to come. She says her first thought was as Amelia had bu'st the hammock, for she says she tries to be kind to the bosom wife of her chosen son, but Amelia is surely most awful hard on anythin' as you get in an' out of, but then she heard the second noise, an' she says to her dyin' day she won't be able to swear to nothin' but as she thought it was San Francisco quakin' right in our very middle. Why, she says, she never for one second doubted as it was a earthquake. The canary-bird cage come sailin' out o' the dinin'-room[Pg 264] window, all the chimneys went down with a crash, an' Amelia give one yell an' fainted. Mrs. Brown says she an' young Dr. Brown did n't really know which way to turn for a minute. They could n't seem to think whether their first duty was to shake Amelia or run around to the front of the house. The windows was blowin' out as fast as they could an' the most awful smellin' smoke you ever smelt was pourin' out after them! She said the smell was bad enough when she was stirrin' the stuff in the barrel, but exploded, it was just beyond all belief. In the end they left Amelia an' run 'round behind the house an' if there was n't all the kitchen stove lids comin' bangin' out at 'em an' all the feathers from the pillows just rainin' down like snow! They run aroun' to the side an' there was Amelia's sheets o' music all over the lawn an' jars o' pickles with the glass lids gone, an' jelly tumblers an' weddin' gold-rimmed china, an' in front an' on top of all else if the fire did n't bu'st out![Pg 265]

"Dr. Brown run for the fire engine then an' every one was at home gettin' ready for the picnic an' there wa'n't no one down town a tall. He was all of ten minutes findin' any one an' when he found him it was only Mr. Shores, an' Mrs. Brown says as gettin' out a fire engine with Mr. Shores an' your house burnin' is suthin' as she trusts will never be her lot again. She says Mr. Shores would n't lay hold o' the engine till after the cover was folded up neatly an' then he wanted to dust the wheels afore runnin' it out. Then after it was run out an' got to the house, if there wa'n't no hose, an' Dr. Brown had to run away back to the engine house for the hose an' while he was runnin' he met John Bunyan runnin' too an' John Bunyan told him as the hose was kept coiled up in the part as sticks up behind the engine like a can. So they run back together an' got it out an' run with it to the well an' Dr. Brown was so excited he dropped the hose in the well. Mrs. Brown says she was nigh too mad by this[Pg 266] time with the house explodin' all over again every few minutes an' things as you never have around comin' sailin' out o' the windows right in people's faces when they was only there to be neighborly an' look on. She was runnin' back an' forth an' explainin' as it was n't for want o' stirrin', for she stirred it herself, when Sam Duruy come runnin' an' seems there's always another hose tied up under the engine an' he unhooked that an' John Bunyan built a fire in the hole for fire while they fixed the new hose in the cistern, but oh my, the house was too far gone to be saved by that time. So they pumped some on Amelia just to try the hose, an' then they helped pick up the things as was blowed out of the windows. Mrs. Brown says it was all most awful an' she knows from her son's face as he thinks it was all because she stopped stirrin' sometimes durin' the two hours an' she declares with tears as she never stopped stirrin' once—not once.[Pg 267]

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

"Where—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Well, the Fitches took Amelia an' her[Pg 268] husband of course an' Mrs. Brown is goin' over to Meadville to-morrow. Mrs. Macy says maybe old Dr. Carter will marry her now as she ain't got any house to be attached to. I don't see why that would n't be a good end for Mrs. Brown, she can step right into Mrs. Carter's shoes—an' her clothes, too, for that matter, for he never give away a thing when she died. Yes, he did, too, though, she wanted her nieces to have a souvenir an' he give one the waist an' the other the skirt to the same dress, but Mrs. Fisher says what he would n't give away to no man for love or money was all her union underwear for winter. Seems she always wore the best an' finest, an' when she died Dr. Carter said he'd keep all them union suits an' wear 'em out himself."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, an' I would n't either," said Miss Clegg; "there would n't be no comfort marryin' a man whose first wife could n't call even her union suits her own after she died, not to my order of thinkin'."[Pg 269]

"Was—" asked her friend.

"Oh, the picnic?" said Susan, "no, that was n't a success a tall. They spread the tablecloth over a flyin' ant nest in the first place an' Mrs. Macy says shad bones is nothin' to the pickin' out as they had to do while eatin' as a consequence. She says they very soon found out as they was under a wood-tick tree too, an' the children run into a burr-patch after dinner. The minister tried to teach the twins to fish an' the bank caved in with 'em all three, an' the minister had to go all the way home that way. Gran'ma Mullins got a gnat in her eye an' Hiram walked way back to town for a flaxseed to put in it to get the gnat out, an' crossin' the bridge he sneezed an' the flaxseed just disappeared completely, an' Lucy would n't let him go back again, so all she could do was to keep a-rubbin' till finally she rubbed it out. Mr. Dill climbed up a tree to show as he could still climb up a tree an' a branch broke an' tore him so bad he had to walk home with[Pg 270] the minister,—I guess every one's glad the Fourth's over."

"How's—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

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

"May—" suggested Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I don't think so. There ain't any one for him to be in love with anyhow unless it's 'Liza Em'ly. He's really too smart for any girl in this community an' he ain't got a single picture among his things nor a letter as I don't know who wrote it. I thought at first as he used to call 'Annie' in his sleep the nights after[Pg 271] we have dumplin's, but it ain't 'Annie' he says; it's 'Aunty,' an' heaven knows a aunt never broke no man's heart yet."

Susan rose to go home.

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

"Did—" asked Mrs. Lathrop, solicitously.[Pg 272]

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

"There—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

Susan turned her head.

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

"Yes," said Mrs. Lathrop, "I—"

"Yes, I do, too," said Miss Clegg, "but you see I said for three months an' the three months ain't up till to-morrow."[Pg 273]



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

"Why, Mrs. Lathrop, do you know that man's stockin's alone has took me about one mornin' a week, an' as to buttons—well, I never knew a editor could bu'st 'em off so fast. An' as to puttin' away what he took off, or foldin' back things into the drawer[Pg 274] where they belongs, why, a monkey swingin' upside down by his tail is busy carefully keepin' house compared to Elijah Doxey.

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

"I won't say as it wa'n't a little tryin' gettin' him off to-day an' I did feel to feel real sober while I was hangin' his mattress back to the rafters in the attic, but when I remembered as I'd never see them bedclothes kicked out at the foot again I cheered up amazin'. Mrs. Brown come in just afore supper an' she seemed to think it was some queer as I was n't goin' to miss Elijah, but I told her she did n't know me. 'Mrs. Brown,' I says, 'your son was a doctor an' you can't be expected to[Pg 275] know what it is to board a editor, so once bit, soonest mended. She's mournin' over her burnt house yet, so she could n't really feel to sympathize with me, but I had n't time to stop an' mourn with her,—I was too busy packin' away Elijah's toilet set.

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

"I'm sure I don't know what we're comin' to as to men, Mrs. Lathrop, for I must say they seem more extra in the world every day. Most everythin' as they do the women is able to do better now, an' women is so willin' to be pleasant about it, too. Not as Elijah was n't pleasant—I[Pg 276] never see a more pleasant young man, but he had a way of comin' in with muddy boots an' a smile on his face as makes me nothin' but glad as he's left my house an' gone to Polly White's."

"Won't you—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"No, I won't,—not if I know myself. I ain't never been lonesome afore in my life an' I ain't goin' to begin now. Bein' lonesome is very fine for them as keeps a girl to do their work, but I have to slave all day long if there's anybody but me around the house, an' I don't like to slave. I guess Elijah's expectin' to be lonesome though, for he asked me if I'd mind his comin' up an' talkin' over the Personal column with me sometimes. I could see as he was more'n a little worried over how under the sun he was goin' to run the paper without me. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Lathrop, I've been the main stay of that paper right from the first. Not to speak o' boardin' the editor, I've supplied most o' the brains as run it. You know[Pg 277] as I never am much of a talker, but I did try to keep Elijah posted as to how things was goin' on an' the feelin' as no matter what I said, it was him an' not me as would be blamed if there was trouble, always kept up my courage. There's a many nights as I've kept him at his work an' a many others as I've held him down to it. Elijah has n't been a easy young man to manage, I can tell you."

Susan stopped and sighed.

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

"What—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Oh, I'll find plenty to do," said Susan Clegg, "it ain't made a mite of difference in my life. I shall go on livin' just the same as ever. Nothin's changed for me just because for three months I had a man[Pg 278] in the house. I ain't even altered my general views o' men any, for land knows Elijah wa'n't so different from the rest of them that he could teach me much as is new. I ain't never intended to get married anyway, so he ain't destroyed my ideals none, an' I told Mr. Kimball when I took him as I'd agree to keep him three months an' I would n't agree for love or money to keep him any longer, an' I've kept him for three months an' no love or money could of made me keep him a day longer."

"Did n't you—" asked Mrs. Lathrop.

"Why, yes, I liked him," said Susan, "there were spots durin' the time when I felt to be real fond of him, but laws, that did n't make me want to have him around any more than I had to. But you know as well as I do that a woman can like a man very much an' still be happiest when she ain't got him on her hands to fuss with. I was n't built to fuss, Mrs. Lathrop, as you know to your cost, for if I had been I'd of been over here two days a week[Pg 279] tidyin' up out of pure friendship, for the last twenty years. But no, I ain't like that—never was an' never will be—an' I ain't one to go pitchin' my life hither an' yon an' dancin' wildly first on one leg an' then the other from dawn to dusk for other people. Elijah's come an' Elijah's gone an' his mattress is hung back to the rafter in the attic an' his sulphur candle is all bought to burn to-morrow an' when that's over an' the smell's over too I shall look to settle down an' not have nothin' more to upset my days an' nights till your time comes, Mrs. Lathrop, an' I hope to goodness as it won't come in the night, for boardin' a editor has put me all at outs with night work."

"I—" said Mrs. Lathrop.

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

A Masterpiece of Native Humor



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

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

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

Nothing better in the new homely philosophy style of fiction has been written.—San Francisco Bulletin.

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

Susan is a positive contribution to the American characters in fiction.—Brooklyn Times.

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

No more original or quaint person than she has ever lived in fiction.—Newark Advertiser.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

At all Booksellers'

Another Popular "Susan Clegg" Book



With frontispiece. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00

All the stories brim over with quaint humor, caustic sarcasm, and concealed contempt for male folk and matrimonial chains.—Philadelphia Ledger.

Anything more humorous than the "Susan Clegg" stories would be hard to find.—Jeannette L. Gilder, Editor of Putnam's Magazine.

The best work that Anne Warner has published. Miss Clegg has become an institution in the humor of America.—Baltimore Sun.

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

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

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers

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A New Story by the Author of "Susan Clegg"



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12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

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

Anne Warner takes her place in the circle of American woman humorists, who have achieved distinction so rapidly within recent years.—Brooklyn Eagle.

Anne Warner is not only a funmaker but adds to that the quality of sympathy with her characters.—Public Opinion.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

At all Booksellers'

An International Love Comedy



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

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

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

A deliciously funny book.—Chicago Tribune.

There is a laugh on nearly every page.—New York Times.

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

A more vivacious light novel could not be found.—Chicago Record-Herald.

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

Decorated cloth, $1.50.

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers, BOSTON

At all Booksellers'

End of Project Gutenberg's Susan Clegg and a Man in the House, by Anne Warner


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