Wall, it wuz on the very next day - on a Thursday as I remember well, for I wuz a-thinkin' why didn't Lodema's letter come the next day - Fridays bein' considered onlucky - and it being a day for punishments, hangin's, and so forth.
But it didn't, it came on a Thursday. And my companion had been to Jonesville and brung me back two letters; he brung 'em in, leavin' the old mair standin' at the gate, and handed me the letters, ten pounds of granulated sugar, a pound of tea, and the request I should have supper on the table by the time that he got back from Deacon Henzy's.
(On that old buzz-saw business agin, so I spozed, but wouldn't ask.)
Wall, I told him supper wuz begun any way, and he had better hurry back. But he wuz belated by reason of Deacon Henzy's bein' away, so I set there for some time alone.
Wall, I wuz goin' to have some scolloped oysters for supper, so the first thing I did wuz to put 'em into the oven - they wuz all ready, I had scolloped 'em before Josiah come, and got 'em all ready for the oven - and then I set down and read my letters.
Wall, the first one I opened wuz from Lodema Trumble, Josiah's cousin on his own side. And her letter brought the sad and harrowin' intelligence that she was a-comin' to make us a good long visit. The letter had been delayed. She was a-comin' that very night, or the next day. Wall, I sithed deep. I love company dearly, but - oh my soul, is there not a difference, a difference in visitors?
Wall, suffice it to say, I sithed deep, and opened the other letter, thinkin' it would kind o' take my mind off.
And for all the world! I couldn't hardly believe my eyes. But it wuz! It wuz from Serena Fogg. It wuz from the Authoress of "Wedlock's Peaceful Repose."
I hadn't heard a word from her for upwards of four years. And the letter brung me startlin' intelligence.
It opened with the unexpected information that she wuz married. She had been married three years and a half to a butcher out to the Ohio.
And I declare my first thought wuz as I read it, "Wall, she has wrote dretful flowery on wedlock, and its perfect, onbroken calm, and peaceful repose, and now she has had a realizin' sense of what it really is."
But when I read a little further, I see what the letter wuz writ for. I see why, at this late day, she had started up and writ me a letter. I see it wuz writ on duty.
She said she had found out that I wuz in the right on't and she wuzn't. She said that when in the past she had disputed me right up and down, and insisted that wedlock wuz a state of perfect serenity, never broken in upon by any cares or vexations whatsomever, she wuz in the wrong on't.
She said she had insisted that when anybody had moored their barks into that haven of wedded life, that they wuz forever safe from any rude buffetin's from the world's waves; that they wuz exempt from any toil, any danger, any sorrow, any trials whatsomever. And she had found she was mistook.
She said I told her it wuz a first-rate state, and a satisfactory one for wimmen; but still it had its trials, and she had found it so. She said that I insisted its serenity wuz sometimes broken in upon, and she had found it so. The last day at my house had tottled her faith, and her own married experience had finished the work. Her husband wuz a worthy man, and she almost worshipped him. But he had a temper, and he raved round considerable when meals wuzn't ready on time, and she havin' had two pairs of twins durin' her union (she comes from a family on her mother's side, so I had hearn before, where twins wuz contagious), she couldn't always be on the exact minute. She had to work awful hard; this broke in on her serenity.
Her husband devotedly loved her, so she said; but still, she said, his bootjack had been throwed voyalent where corns wuz hit onexpected.
[Illustration: "FOUR TWINS BROKE IN ALSO ON HER WAVELESS CALM."]
Their souls wuz mated firm as they could be in deathless ties of affection and confidence, yet doors had been slammed and oaths emitted, when clothin' rent and buttons tarried not with him. Strange actions and demeanors had been displayed in hours of high-headedness and impatience, which had skaired her almost to death before gettin' accustomed to 'em.
The four twins broke in also on her waveless calm. They wuz lovely cherubs, and the four apples of her eyes. But they did yell at times, they kicked, they tore round and acted; they made work - lots of work. And one out of each pair snored. It broke up each span, as you may say. The snorin' filled each room devoted to 'em.
He snored, loud. A good man and a noble man he wuz, so she repeated it, but she found out too late - too late, that he snored. The house wuz small; she could not escape from snores, turn she where she would. She got tired out with her work days, and couldn't rest nights. Her husband, as he wuz doin' such a flourishin' business, had opened a cattle-yard near the house. She wuz proud of his growin' trade, but the bellerin' of the cattle disturbed her fearfully. Also the calves bleating and the lambs callin' on their dams.
It wuz a long letter, filled with words like these, and it ended up by saying that for years now she had wanted to write and tell me that I had been in the right on't and she in the wrong. I had been megum and she hadn't. And she ended by sayin', "God bless me and adoo."
[Illustration: THE LECTURE.]
The fire crackled softly on the clean hearth. The teakettle sung a song of welcome and cheer. The oysters sent out an agreeable atmosphere. The snowy table, set out in pretty china and glassware, looked invitin', and I set there comfortable and happy and so peaceful in my frame, that the events of the past, in which Serena Fogg had flourished, seemed but as yesterday.
I thought it all over, that pleasant evenin' in the past, when Josiah Allen had come in unexpected, and brung the intelligence to me that there wuz goin' to be a lectur' give that evenin' by a young female at the Jonesville school-house, and beset me to go.
And I give my consent. Then my mind travelled down that pleasant road, moongilded, to the school-house. It stopped on the door-step while Josiah hitched the mair.
We found the school-house crowded full, fur a female lecturer wuz a rarity, and she wuz a pretty girl, as pretty a girl as I ever see in my life.
And it wuz a pretty lecture, too, dretful pretty. The name of the lecture wuz, "Wedlock's Peaceful and Perfect Repose."
A pretty name, I think, and it wuz a beautiful lecture, very, and extremely flowery. It affected some of the hearers awfully; they wuz all carried away with it. Josiah Allen wept like a child durin' the rehearsin' of it. I myself didn't weep, but I enjoyed it, some of it, first rate.
I can't begin to tell it all as she did, 'specially after this length of time, in such a lovely, flowery way, but I can probably give a few of the heads of it.
It hain't no ways likely that I can give the heads half the stylish, eloquent look that she did as she held 'em up, but I can jest give the bare heads.
She said that there had been a effort made in some directions to try to speak against the holy state of matrimony. The papers had been full of the subject, "Is Marriage a Failure, or is it not?"
She had even read these dreadful words - "Marriage is a Failure." She hated these words, she despised 'em. And while some wicked people spoke against this holy institution, she felt it to be her duty, as well as privilege, to speak in its praise.
I liked it first rate, I can tell you, when she went on like that. For no living soul can uphold marriage with a better grace that can she whose name vuz once Smith.
I love Josiah Allen, I am glad that I married him. But at the same time, my almost devoted love doesn't make me blind. I can see on every side of a subject, and although, as I said heretofore, and prior, I love Josiah Allen, I also love megumness, and I could not fully agree with every word she said.
But she went on perfectly beautiful - I didn't wonder it brought the school-house down - about the holy calm and perfect rest of marriage, and how that calm wuz never invaded by any rude cares.
How man watched over the woman he loved; how he shielded her from every rude care; kept labor and sorrow far, far from her; how woman's life wuz like a oneasy, roarin', rushin' river, that swept along discontented and onsatisfied, moanin' and lonesome, until it swept into the calm sea of Repose - melted into union with the grand ocian of Rest, marriage.
And then, oh! how calm and holy and sheltered wuz that state! How peaceful, how onruffled by any rude changes! Happiness, Peace, Calm! Oh, how sweet, how deep wuz the ocian of True Love in which happy, united souls bathed in blissful repose!
[Illustration: "HE HAD ON A NEW VEST."]
It was dretful pretty talk, and middlin' affectin'. There wasn't a dry eye in Josiah Allen's head, and I didn't make no objection to his givin' vent to his feelin's, only when I see him bust out a-weepin' I jest slipped my pocket-handkerchief 'round his neck and pinned it behind. (His handkerchief wuz in constant use, a cryin' and weepin' as he wuz.) And I knew that salt water spots black satin awfully. He had on a new vest.
Submit Tewksbury cried and wept, and wept and cried, caused by remembrances, it wuz spozed. Of which, more anon, and bimeby.
And Drusilly Sypher, Deacon Sypherses wife, almost had a spazzum, caused by admiration and bein' so highly tickled.
I myself didn't shed any tears, as I have said heretofore. And what kep' me calmer wuz, I knew, I knew from the bottom of my heart, that she went too fur, she wuzn't megum enough.
And then she went on to draw up metafors, and haul in illustrations, comparin' married life and single - jest as likely metafors as I ever see, and as good illustrations as wuz ever brung up, only they every one of 'em had this fault - when she got to drawin' 'em, she drawed 'em too fur. And though she brought the school-house down, she didn't convince me.
[Illustration: "I MYSELF DIDN'T SHED ANY TEARS."]
Once she compared single life to a lonely goose travellin' alone acrost the country, 'cross lots, lonesome and despairin', travellin' along over a thorny way, and desolate, weighed down by melancholy and gloomy forebodin's, and takin' a occasional rest by standin' up on one cold foot and puttin' its weery head under its wing, with one round eye lookin' out for dangers that menaced it, and lookin', also, perhaps, for a possible mate, for the comin' gander - restless, wobblin', oneasy, miserable.
Why, she brought the school-house down, and got the audience all wrought up with pity, and sympathy. Oh, how Submit Tewksbury did weep; she wept aloud (she had been disappointed, but of this more bimeby).
And then she went on and compared that lonesome voyager to two blissful wedded ones. A pair of white swans floatin' down the waveless calm, bathed in silvery light, floatin' down a shinin' stream that wuz never broken by rough waves, bathed in a sunshine that wuz never darkened by a cloud.
And then she went on to bring up lots of other things to compare the two states to - flowery things and sweet, and eloquent.
She compared single life to quantities of things, strange, weird, melancholy things, and curius. Why, they wuz so powerful that every one of 'em brought the school-house down.
And then she compared married life to two apple blossoms hangin' together on one leafy bough on the perfumed June air, floatin' back and forth under the peaceful benediction of summer skies.
And she compared it to two white lambs gambolin' on the velvety hill-side. To two strains of music meltin' into one dulcet harmony, perfect, divine harmony, with no discordant notes.
Josiah hunched me, he wanted me to cry there, at that place, but I wouldn't. He did, he cried like an infant babe, and I looked close and searchin' to see if my handkerchief covered up all his vest.
He didn't seem to take no notice of his clothes at all, he wuz a-weepin' so - why, the whole schoolhouse wept, wept like a babe.
But I didn't. I see it wuz a eloquent and powerful effort. I see it was beautiful as anything could be, but it lacked that one thing I have mentioned prior and before this time. It lacked megumness.
I knew they wuz all impressive and beautful illustrations, I couldn't deny it, and I didn't want to deny it. But I knew in my heart that the lonely goose that she had talked so eloquent about, I knew that though its path might be tegus the most of the time, yet occasionally it stepped upon velvet grass and blossomin' daisies. And though the happy wedded swans floated considerable easy a good deal of the time, yet occasionally they had their wings rumpled by storms, thunder storms, sudden squalls, and et cetery, et cetery.
And I knew the divine harmony of wedded love, though it is the sweetest that earth affords, I knew that, and my Josiah knew it - the very sweetest and happiest strains that earthly lips can sing.
Yet I knew that it wuz both heavenly sweet, and divinely sad, blended discord and harmony. I knew there wuz minor chords in it, as well as major, I knew that we must await love's full harmony in heaven. There shall we sing it with the pure melody of the immortals, my Josiah and me. But I am a eppisodin', and to continue and resoom.
Wall, we wuz invited to meet the young female after the lecture wuz over, to be introduced to her and talk it over.
She wuz the Methodist minister's wive's cousin, and the minister's wife told me she wuz dretful anxious to get my opinion on the lecture. I spoze she wanted to get the opinion of one of the first wimmen of the day. For though I am fur from bein' the one that ort to mention it, I have heard of such things bein' said about me all round Jonesville, and as far as Loontown and Shackville. And so, I spoze, she wanted to get hold of my opinion.
Wall, I wuz introduced to her, and I shook hands with her, and kissed her on both cheeks, for she is a sweet girl and I liked her looks.
I could see that she was very, VERY sentimental, but she had a sweet, confidin', innocent look to her, and I give her a good kissin' and I meant it. When I like a person, I do like 'em, and visy-versey.
But at the same time my likin' for a person mustn't be strong enough to overthrow my principles. And when she asked me in her sweet axents, "How I liked her lecture, and if I could see any faults in it?" I leaned up against Duty, and told her, "I liked it first-rate, but I couldn't agree with every word of it."
Here Josiah Allen give me a look sharp enough to take my head clear off, if looks could behead anybody. But they can't.
And I kept right on, calm and serene, and sez I, "It wuz very full of beautiful idees, as full of 'em as a rose-bush is full of sweetness in June, but," says I, "if I speak at all I must tell the truth, and I must say that while your lecture is as sweet and beautiful a effort as I ever see tackled, full of beautiful thoughts, and eloquence, still I must say that in my opinion it lacked one thing, it wuzn't mean enough."
"Mean enough?" sez she. "What do you mean?"
"Why," sez I, "I mean, mean temperature, you know, middleinness, megumness, and whatever you may call it; you go too fur."
She said with a modest look "that she guessed she didn't, she guessed she didn't go too far."
And Josiah Allen spoke up, cross as a bear, and, sez he, "I know she didn't. She didn't say a word that wuzn't gospel truth."
Sez I, "Married life is the happiest life in my opinion; that is, when it is happy. Some hain't happy, but at the same time the happiest of 'em hain't all happiness."
"It is," sez Josiah (cross and surly), "it is, too."
[Illustration: "YOU GO TOO FUR."]
And Serena Fogg said, gently, that she thought I wuz mistaken, "she thought it wuz." And Josiah jined right in with her and said:
"He knew it wuz, and he would take his oath to it."
But I went right on, and, sez I, "Mebby it is in one sense the most peaceful; that is, when the affections are firm set and stabled it makes 'em more peaceful than when they are a-traipsin' round and a-wanderin'. But," sez I, "marriage hain't all peace."
Sez Josiah: "It is, and I'll swear to it."
Sez I, goin' right on, cool and serene, "The sunshine of true love gilds the pathway with the brightest radiance we know anything about, but it hain't all radiance."
"Yes, it is," sez Josiah, firmly, "it is, every mite of it."
And Serena Fogg sez, tenderly and amiably, "Yes, I think Mr. Allen is right; I think it is."
"Wall," sez I, in meanin' axcents, awful meanin', "when you are married you will change your opinion, you mark my word."
And she said, gently, but persistently, "That she guessed she shouldn't; she guessed she was in the right of it."
Sez I, "You think when anybody is married they have got beyend all earthly trials, and nothin' but perfect peace and rest remains?"
And she sez, gently, "Yes, mem!"
"Why," sez I, "I am married, and have been for upwards of twenty years, and I think I ought to know somethin' about it; and how can it be called a state of perfect rest, when some days I have to pass through as many changes as a comet, and each change a tegus one. I have to wabble round and be a little of everything, and change sudden, too.
"I have to be a cook, a step-mother, a housemaid, a church woman, a wet nurse (lots of times I have to wade out in the damp grass to take care of wet chickens and goslins). I have to be a tailoress, a dairy-maid, a literary soarer, a visitor, a fruit-canner, a adviser, a soother, a dressmaker, a hostess, a milliner, a gardener, a painter, a surgeon, a doctor, a carpenter, a woman, and more'n forty other things.
"Marriage is a first-rate state, and agreeable a good deal of the time; but it haint a state of perfect peace and rest, and you'll find out it haint if you are ever married."
But Miss Fogg said, mildly, "that she thought I wuz mistaken - she thought it wuz."
"You do?" sez I.
"Yes, mem," sez she.
I got up, and sez I, "Come, Josiah, I guess we had better be a-goin'." I thought it wouldn't do no good to argue any more with her, and Josiah started off after the mair. He had hitched it on the barn floor.
She didn't seem willin' to have me go; she seemed to cling to me. She seemed to be a good, affectionate little creetur. And she said she would give anything almost if she could rehearse the hull lecture over to me, and have me criticise it. Sez she:
"I have heard so much about you, and what a happy home you have."
"Yes," sez I, "it is as happy as the average of happy homes, any way."
And sez she, "I have heard that you and your husband wuz just devoted to each other." And I told her "that our love for each other wuz like two rocks that couldn't be moved."
And she said, "On these very accounts she fairly hankered after my advice and criticism. She said she hadn't never lived in any house where there wuz a livin' man, her father havin' died several months before she was born; and she hadn't had the experience that I had, and she presumed that I could give her several little idees that she hadn't thought on."
And I told her calmly "that I presumed I could."
It seemed that her father died two months after marriage, right in the midst of the mellow light of the honeymoon, before he had had time to drop the exstatic sweetness of courtship and newly-married bliss and come down into the ordinary, everyday, good and bad demeanors of men.
And she had always lived with her mother (who naturally worshipped and mentally knelt before the memory of her lost husband) and three sentimental maiden aunts. And they had drawed all their knowledge of manhood from Moore's poems and Solomon's Songs. So Serena Fogg's idees of men and married life wuz about as thin and as well suited to stand the wear and tear of actual experience as a gauze dress would be to face a Greenland winter in.
And so, after considerable urgin' on her part (for I kinder hung back and hated to tackle the job, but not knowin' but that it wuz duty's call), I finally consented, and it wuz arranged this way:
She wuz to come down to our house some day, early in the mornin', and stay all day, and she wuz to stand up in front of me and rehearse the lecture over to me, and I wuz to set and hear it, and when she came to a place where I didn't agree with her I wuz to lift up my right hand and she wuz to stop rehearsin', and we wuz to argue with each other back and forth and try to convince each other.
And when we got it all arranged Josiah and I set out for home, I calm in my frame, though dreadin' the job some.