Wall, lots of folks had assembled to the school-house when we got there, about 3 o'clock P.M. - afternoon. Believers, and world's people, all a-settin' round on seats and stumps, for the school-house wuz small and warm, and it wuz pleasanter out-doors.
We had only been there a few minutes when Mother Charnick and Jenette walked in. Joe had been there for sometime, and he and the Widder Pool wuz a-settin' together readin' a him out of one book. Jenette looked kinder mauger, and Trueman's wife looked haughtily at her, from over the top of the him book.
Mother Charnick had a woosted work-bag on her arm. There might have been a night gown in it, and there might not. It wuz big enough to hold one, and it looked sort o' bulgy. But it wuz never known - Miss Charnick is a smart woman. It never wuz known what she had in the bag.
Wall, the believers struck up a him, and sung it through - as mournful, skairful sort of a him as I ever hearn in my hull life; and it swelled out and riz up over the pine trees in a wailin', melancholy sort of a way, and wierd - dretful wierd.
And then a sort of a lurid, wild-looking chap, a minister, got up and preached the wildest and luridest discourse I ever hearn in my hull days. It wuz enough to scare a snipe. The very strongest and toughest men there turned pale, and wimmen cried and wept on every side of me, and wept and cried.
I, myself, didn't weep. But I drawed nearer to my companion, and kinder leaned up against him, and looked off on the calm blue heavens, the serene landscape, and the shinin' blue lake fur away, and thought - jest as true as I live and breathe, I thought that I didn't care much, if God willed it to be so, that my Josiah and I should go side by side, that very day and minute, out of the certainties of this life into the mysteries of the other, out of the mysteries of this life into the certainties of the other.
[Illustration: "A SORT OF A LURID, WILD-LOOKING CHAP."]
For, thinks I to myself, we have got to go into that other world pretty soon, Josiah and me have. And if we went in the usual way, we had got to go alone, each on us. Terrible thought! We who had been together under shine and shade, in joy and sorrow. Our two hands that had joined at the alter, and had clung so clost together ever sence, had got to leggo of each other down there in front of the dark gateway. Solemn gateway! So big that the hull world must pass through it - and yet so small that the hull world has got to go through it alone, one at a time.
My Josiah would have to stand outside and let me go down under the dark, mysterious arches, alone - and he knows jest how I hate to go anywhere alone, or else I would have to stop at the gate and bid him good-by. And no matter how much we knocked at the gate, or how many tears we shed onto it, we couldn't get through till our time come, we had got to be parted.
And now if we went on this clear June day through the crystal gateway of the bendin' heavens - we two would be together for weal or for woe. And on whatever new, strange landscape we would have to look on, or wander through, he would be right by me. Whatever strange inhabitants the celestial country held, he would face 'em with me. Close, close by my side, he would go with me through that blue, lovely gateway of the soft June skies into the City of the King. And it wuz a sweet thought to me.
Not that I really wanted the world to come to a end that day. No, I kinder wanted to live along for some time, for several reasons: My pardner, the babe, the children, etc.; and then I kinder like to live for the sake of livin'. I enjoy it.
But I can say, and say with truth, and solemnity, that the idee didn't scare me none. And as my companion looked down in my face as the time approached, I could see the same thoughts that wuz writ in my eyes a-shinin' in his'n.
Wall, as the pinter approached the hour, the excitement grew nearly, if not quite rampant. The believers threw their white robes on over their dresses and coats, and as the pinter slowly moved round from half-past three to quarter to 4 - and so on - they shouted, they sung, they prayed, they shook each other's hands - they wuz fairly crazed with excitement and fervor, which they called religion - for they wuz in earnest, nobody could dispute that.
Joe and Miss Pool kinder hung together all this time - though I ketched him givin' several wistful looks at Jenette, as much as to say, "Oh, how I hate to leave you, Jenette!"
But Miss Pool would roust him up agin, and he would shout and sing with the frienziedest and most zealousest of 'em.
Mother Charnick stood with her bag in her hand, and the other hand on the puckerin' string. I don't say what she had in the bag, but I do say this, that she had it fixed so's she could have ondone it in a secont's time. And her eyes wuz intent on the heavens overhead. But they kep calm and serene and cloudless, nothin' to be seen there - no sign, no change - and Ma Charnick kep still and didn't draw the puckerin' string.
But oh, how excitement reined and grew rampant around that school-house! Miss Pool and Joe seemin' to outdo all the rest (she always did try to), till at last, jest as the pinter swung round to the very minute, Joe, more than half by the side of himself, with the excitement he had been in for a week, and bein' urged onto it by Miss Pool, as he sez to this day, he jumped up onto the tall stump he had been a standin' by, and stood there in his long white robe, lookin' like a spook, if anybody had been calm enough to notice it, and he sung out in a clear voice - his voice always did have a good honest ring to it:
And jest as the clock struck, and they all shouted and screamed, he waved his arms, with their two great white wings a-flutterin', and sprung upwards, expectin' the hull world, livin' and dead, would foller him - and go right up into the heavens.
And Trueman's wife bein' right by the stump, waved her wings and jumped too - jest the same direction es he jumped. But she only stood on a camp chair, and when she fell, she didn't crack no bones, it only jarred her dretfully, and hurt her across the small of her back, to that extent that I kep bread and milk poultices on day and night for three weeks, and lobelia and catnip, half and half; she a-arguin' at me every single poultice I put on that it wuzn't her way of makin' poultices, nor her way of applyin' of 'em.
[Illustration: "FAREWELL MY FRIENDS, FAREWELL MY FOES."]
I told her I didn't know of any other way of applyin' 'em to her back, only to put 'em on it. But she insisted to the last that I didn't apply 'em right, and I didn't crumble the bread into the milk right, and the lobelia wuzn't picked right, nor the catnip.
Not one word did she ever speak about the end of the world - not a word - but a-naggin' about everything else.
Wall, I healed her after a time, and glad enough wuz I to see her healed, and started off.
But Joe Charnick suffered worse and longer. He broke his limb in two places and cracked his rib. The bones of his arm wuz a good while a-healin', and before they wuz healed he was wounded in a new place.
He jest fell over head and ears in love with Jenette Finster. For bein' shet up to home with his mother and her (his mother wouldn't hear to Jenette leavin' her for a minute) he jest seemed to come to a full realizin' sense of her sweet natur' and bright, obleegin' ways; and his old affection for her bloomed out into the deepest and most idolatrous love - Joe never could be megum.
Jenette, and good enough for him, held him off for quite a spell - but when he got cold and relapsted, and they thought he wuz goin' to die, then she owned up to him that she worshipped him - and always had.
And from that day he gained. Mother Charnick wuz tickled most to death at the idea of havin' Jenette for her own girl - she thinks her eyes on her, and so does Jenette of her. So it wuz agreeable as anything ever wuz all around, if not agreeabler.
Jest as quick as she got well enough to walk, and before he got out of his bed, Trueman's wife walked over to see Joe. And Joe's mother hatin' her so, wouldn't let her step her foot into the house. And Joe wuz glad on't, so they say.
Mother Charnick wuz out on the stoop in front of the house, when Trueman's wife got there, and told her that they had to keep the house still; that is, they say so, I don't know for certain, but they say that Ma Charnick offered to take Trueman's wife out to see her chickens, the ones she had brought up by hand, and Trueman's wife wantin' to please her, so's to get in, consented. And Miss Charnick showed her the hull 14 of 'em, all fat and flourishing - they wuz well took care of. And Miss Charnick looked down on 'em fondly, and sez:
"I lay out to have a good chicken pie the day that Joe and Jenette are married."
[Illustration: "I LAY OUT TO HAVE A GOOD CHICKEN PIE THE DAY THAT JOE AND JENETTE ARE MARRIED."]
"Married!" sez Trueman's wife, in faint and horrified axcents. "Yes, they are goin' to be married jest as soon as my son gets well enough. Jenette is fixin' a new dress for me to wear to the weddin' - with a bask," sez she with emphasis. And es she said it, they say she stooped down and gathered some sprigs of thoroughwert, a-mentionin' how much store she set by it for sickness.
But if she did, Trueman's wife didn't sense it, she wuz dumbfoundered and sot back by the news. And she left my home and board the week before the weddin'.
They had been married about a year, when Jenette wuz here a-visitin' - and she asked me in confidence (and it must be kep, it stands lo reason it must), "if I s'posed that book muslin robe would make two little dresses?"
And I told her, "Good land! yes, three on 'em," and it did.
She dresses the child beautiful, and I don't know whether she would want the neighbors to know jest what and when and where she gets the materials -
It looks some like her and some like Joe - and they both think their eyes on it - but old Miss Charnick worships it - Wall, though es I said (and I have eppisoded to a extent that is almost onprecidented and onheard on).
Though Josiah Allen made a excuse of borrowin' a plow (a plow, that time of night) to get away from my arguments on the Conference, and Submit's kinder skairt face, and so forth, and so on -
He resumed the conversation the next mornin' with more energy than ever. (He never said nuthin' about the plow, and I never see no sign on it, and don't believe he got it, or wanted it.)
He resumed the subject, and kep on a-resumin' of it from day to day and from hour to hour.
He would nearly exhaust the subject at home, and then he would tackle the wimmen on it at the Methodist Meetin' House, while we Methodist wimmen wuz to work.
After leavin' me to the meetin' house, Josiah would go on to the post-office for his daily World, and then he would stop on his way back to give us female wimmen the latest news from the Conference, and give us his idees on't.
[Illustration: "HE NEVER HAD TIME TO HELP."]
And sometimes he would fairly harrow us to the very bone, with his dretful imaginins and fears that wimmen would be allowed to overdo herself, and ruin her health, and strain her mind, by bein' permitted to set!
Why Submit Tewksbury, and some of the other weaker sisters, would look fairly wild-eyed for some time after he would go.
He never could stay long. Sometimes we would beset him to stay and do some little job for us, to help us along with our work, such as liftin' somethin' or movin' some bench, or the pulpit, or somethin'.
But he never had the time; he always had to hasten home to get to work. He wuz in a great hurry with his spring's work, and full of care about that buzz saw mill.
And that wuz how it wuz with every man in the meetin' house that wuz able to work any. They wuz all in a hurry with their spring's work, and their buzz saws, and their inventions, and their agencys, etc., etc., etc.
And that wuz the reason why we wimmen wuz havin' such a hard job on the meetin' house.