But along about the middle of the fifth week I see a change. Lodema had been uncommon exasperatin', and I expected she would set Josiah to goin', and I groaned in spirit, to think what a job wuz ahead of me, to part their two tongues - when all of a sudden I see a curius change come over my pardner's face.
I remember jest the date that the change in his mean wuz visible, and made known to me - for it wuz the very mornin' that we got the invitation to old Mr. and Miss Pressley's silver weddin'. And that wuz the fifteenth day of the month along about the middle of the forenoon.
And it wuz not half an hour after Elnathen Pressley came to the door and give us the invitations, that I see the change in his mean.
And when I asked him about it afterwards, what that strange and curius look meant, he never hung back a mite from tellin' me, but sez right out plain:
"Mebby, Samantha, I hain't done exactly as I ort to by cousin Lodema, and I have made up my mind to make her a happy surprise before she goes away."
"Wall," sez I, "so do."
I thought he wuz goin' to get her a new dress. She had been a-hintin' to him dretful strong to that effect. She wanted a parmetty, or a balzereen, or a circassien, which wuz in voge in her young days. But I wuz in hopes he would get her a cashmere, and told him so, plain.
But I couldn't get him to tell what the surprise wuz. He only sez, sez he:
"I am goin' to make her a happy surprise."
And the thought that he wuz a-goin' to branch out and make a change, wuz considerable of a comfort to me. And I needed comfort - yes, indeed I did - I needed it bad. For not one single thing did I do for her that I done right, though I tried my best to do well by her.
But she found fault with my vittles from mornin' till night, though I am called a excellent cook all over Jonesville, and all round the adjoining country, out as far as Loontown, and Zoar. It has come straight back to me by them that wouldn't lie. But it hain't made me vain.
But I never cooked a thing that suited Lodema, not a single thing. Most of my vittles wuz too fresh, and then if I braced up and salted 'em extra so as to be sure to please her, why then they wuz briny, and hurt her mouth.
Why, if you'll believe it, I give her a shawl, made her a present of it; it had even checks black and white, jest as many threads in the black stripes as there wuz in the white, for I counted 'em.
And she told me, after she had looked it all over and said it wuz kinder thin and slazy, and checkered shawls had gone out of fashion, and the black looked some as if it would fade with washin', and the white wuzn't over clear, and the colors wuzn't no ways becomin' to her complexion, and etcetery, etcetery.
"But," sez she, after she had got all through with the rest of her complaints - "if the white stripes wuz where the black wuz, and the black where the white wuz, she should like it quite well." And there it wuz, even check, two and two. Wall, that wuz a sample of her doin's. If anybody had a Roman nose she wanted a Greecy one.
[Illustration: "IF THE WHITE STRIPES WUZ WHERE THE BLACK WUZ."]
And if the nose wuz Greece, why then she wanted Rome.
Why, Josiah sez to me along about the third week, he said (to ourselves, in private), "that if Lodema went to Heaven she would be dissatisfied with it, and think it wuz livelier, and more goin' on down to the other place." And he said she would get the angels all stirred up a findin' fault with their feathers.
I told him "I would not hear such talk."
"Wall," sez he, "don't you believe it?"
And I kinder turned him off, and wouldn't tell, and told him it wuz wicked to talk so.
"Wall," sez Josiah, "you dassent say she wouldn't."
And I dassent, though I wouldn't own it up to him, I dassent.
And if she kinder got out of other occupations for a minute durin' them first weeks she would be a quarrelin' with Josiah Allen about age.
I s'pose she and Josiah wuzn't far from the same age, for they wuz children together. But she wanted to make out she wuz young.
And she would tell Josiah that "he seemed jest like a father to her, and always had." And sometimes when she felt the most curius, she would call him "Father," and "Pa," and "Papa." And it would mad Josiah Allen so that I would have all I could do to quell him down.
Now I didn't feel so, I didn't mind it so much. Why, there would be days, when she felt the curiusest, that she would call me "Mother," and "Ma," and foller me round with foot-stools and things, when I went to set down, and would kinder worry over my fallin' off the back step, and would offer to help me up the suller stairs, and so forth, and watchin' over what I et, and tellin' me folks of my age ort to be careful, and not over-eat.
And Josiah asked me to ask her "How she felt about that time?" For she wuz from three to four years older than I wuz.
But I wouldn't contend with her, and the footstools come kinder handy, I had jest as lieve have 'em under my feet as not, and ruther. And as for rich vittles not agreein' with me, and my not over-eatin', I broke that tip by fallin' right in with her, and not cookin' such good things - that quelled her down, and gaulded Josiah too.
But, as I said, it riled Josiah the worst of anything to have Lodema call him father, for he wants to make out that he is kinder young himself.
And sez he to her one day, about the third week, when she was a-goin' on about how good and fatherly he looked, and how much he seemed like a parent to her, and always had, sez he: "I wonder if I seemed like a father to you when we wuz a-kickin' at each other in the same cradle?" Sez he: "We both used to nuss out of the same bottle, any way, for I have heard my mother say so lots of times. There wuzn't ten days' difference in our ages. You wuz ten days the oldest as I have always made out."
She screamed right out, "Why, Josiah Allen, where is your conscience to talk in that way - and your heart?"
"In here, where everybody's is," sez Josiah, strikin' himself with his right hand - he meant to strike against his left breast, but struck too low, kinder on his stomach.
And sez I, "That is what I have always thought, Josiah Allen. I have always had better luck reachin' your conscience through your stomach than in any other way. And now," sez I coldly, "do you go out and bring in a pail of water."
I used to get beat out and sick of their scufflin's and disagreein's, and broke 'em up whenever I could.
But oh! oh! how she did quarrel with Josiah Allen and that buzz saw scheme of his'n. How light she made of that enterprise, how she demeaned the buzz, and run the saws - till I felt that bad as I hated the enterprise myself, I felt that a variety of loud buzz saws would be a welcome relief from her tongue - from their two tongues; for as fur down as she would run them buzz saws, jest so fur would Josiah Allen praise 'em up.
[Illustration: LODEMA AND JOSIAH IN YOUTH.]
She never agreed with Josiah Allen but in jest one thing while she was under his ruff. I happened to mention one day how extremely anxious I wuz to have females set on the Conference; and then, wantin' to dispute me, and also bein' set on that side, she run down the project, and called it all to nort - and when too late she see that she had got over on Josiah Allen's side of the fence.
But it had one good effect. When that man see she wuz there, he waded off, way out of sight of the project, and wouldn't mention it - it madded him so to be on the same side of the fence she wuz - so that it seemed to happen all for the best.
Why, I took her as a dispensation from the first, and drawed all sorts of morels from her, and sights of 'em - sights.
But oh, it wuz tuff on me, fearful tuff.
And when she calculated and laid out to make out her visit and go, wuz more than we could tell.