[We do not know the author of the following sketch, yet, like the dough-nuts, which it celebrates, it is far too palatable to be floating around without a name. We should be lad to give the writer credit for his or her amusing story, as also to give the authorship of that which follows it.]
“WELL, you’ve got back, hev you? S’pose you and that Lancaster feller hed a fine time out a-ridin’, didn’t you?”
“Yes, indeed, Aunt Patience! It’s so lovely out of doors, and it has been such a perfect day! Don’t you think so?”
“Well, yes, I dunno but it hez,” acknowledged Aunt Patience, reluctantly; “but, as I was a-tellin’ your ma jest now, it’s a weather-breeder, ’nd I shouldnt’ be a mite surprised if we hed a regular northeaster in a day or two, — mebbe a freshet. ’Twas jest sich weather before we had thet dreadful freshet twenty years ago this fall, jest after the equinoxal, — awful storm! Jonas was laid up with a sore toe. Dear me! what a time I hed with thet man. Ef any little thing ailed him, there wa’n’t no livin’ with him. Then the freshet came on, ’nd carried off bridges, ’nd washed the roads, ’nd I was shet up with thet man fur two mortal weeks. But then they’re ’bout all alike: they can’t bear nothin’, none of ’em.”113
“You don’t think much of he men, do you, Aunt Patience?” asked Bessie, smiling.
“Lor’ sakes! no! I don’t take no stock in ’em. It’s always ben a wonderment to me what they was made for; but, like musketoes ’nd lice, I s’pose ’twas for some good purpose. Yes, I’ve often thought was a peaceable time we should hev of it, if ’twa’n’t for the men.”
“Why, Aunt Patience,” laughed Bessie. “I am sure I don’t see what we could do without them. I think they are just splendid! But what did induce you to marry, if you hate the men so?”
“I never should, child, ef I hedn’t ben so tender-hearted. It always was my worse fault. I hed beaux a plenty when I was your age, jest because I was so sarsy ’nd aggravatin’; but I wouldn’t hev none of ’em; ’nd when I got nigh on to thirty they give it up.”
“What a relief it must have been, aunt!”
“Yes, ’twas. I calculated then I could hev a little peace; but, law sakes! it didn’t last long, for jest about thet time who should buy the Deacon Sikes place, and move inter the neighborhood, but Jonas Pettybone!”
“Did he fall in love at first sight?” laughed saucy Bessie.
“Goodness, no! I reckon he didn’t know much about love. I never thought he was over and above smart, ’nd he was dredful shif’less. But there was one thing that he was a master-hand at, ’nd that was eatin’. You hain’t no idee what a sight of victuals it took to do him. Why, I’ve seen him set down ’nd eat a hull panful of dough-nuts, ’nd a half a pie besides, for lunch, ’nd then git up ’nd say he felt as holler as a punkin.”
“How did you happen to marry him, Aunt Patience? Do tell me about it,” persisted Bessie.
“’Tain’t no use to revive that old story; it’s too redikilous; besides, you hain’t ready to die, are you?”114
“What do you mean, Aunt Patience,” asked Bessie.
“You might die laughin’ ef I should tell you; I didn’t but just survive it, ’nd besides, the poor man’s dead ’nd gone, ’nd long’s I don’t ev to provide fur him I hadn’t ought to grudge him the pleasure he got out o’ my dough-nuts. No, I hain’t a-goin’ to bring up anything ag’in’ him now; ’tain’t right; you needn’t ask me.”
“Oh, please do tell me why you married him, Aunt Patience, that’s a daring,” urged Bessie.
“He was a dreadful moderate man,” resumed Aunt Patience. “I used to tell him an earthquake wouldn’t start him. I never seed him in a hurry but once. Oh, dear! ’twas enough to kill anybody, — the way he shot round thet kitchen.
“Please tell me ——” began Bessie.
“Well, well, do wait till I get to it,” interrupted Aunt Patience, impatiently. “I ain’t so talker, an’ it takes some time to git ready to begin. But I’m comin’ to the main point right away. You see, he come in one day to borrow somethin,’ — them Pettybones was allus a-borrowin’, shif’less set, — ’nd I was a-fryin’ dough-nuts, ’nd he got a taste of ’em. Of course I hed to offer him one, when he sot there lookin’ so wishful like. But I wish, for the land’s sake, I hedn’t, fur it created a handerin’ for ’em which lasted as long as he lived. And I hain’t no idee but what ’twas them that carried him off at last.”
“Dough-nuts? Aunt Patience, how could they?” asked Bessie.
“He was took down in hayin’ time, you see — he hedn’t no more calc’lation than that — with a fever. If it hed ben me, I shouldn’t have minded nothin’ about it; but he was so lazy he’d give right up to any little thing ’nd think he was a-going to die; ’nd finally he did worry himself into a regular fever. Goodness! how I did work over that 115 man! I sweat him and give him arbs enough to cure a sick cow, ’nd after a while he begun to pick up. The first thing he begun to think about, of course, was eatin’. I made him gruel ’nd beef tea by the bucketful, but Jonas said they didn’t begin to make no impression on him. One day I was a-fryin’ dough-nuts, ’nd Jonas smelt ’em, ’nd says he, ‘Patience, I can’t stand this no longer; I’ve got to have some dough-nuts, whether or no.’ ‘Jonas Pettybone,’ says I, ‘be you crazy? You hain’t a-goin’ to hev no sign of no dough-nuts.’ Then I took my bonnet and went up in the garden to git some sass for dinner, ’nd when I came back the first thing I heard was Jonas a-groanin’. I sot down my sass and went into the pantry, and — what do you think? — out o’ that hull pan of dough-nuts that I’d fried, there wa’n’t one left.”
“You don’t mean ——” gasped Bessie.
“Yes, I see in a minute there wa’n’t no chance for him; but ’twa’n’t my way to keep throwin’ folks’ sins in their faces, and I thought to myself I would never say nothin’ ’bout it to Jones ef he didn’t to me; and he didn’t. But then I hain’t no kind of doubt but what ’twas them dough-nuts that killed the poor creeter.”
“Yu must have felt dreadfully, Aunt Patience,” said sympathizing Bessie.
“Yes; ’twas enough to make me down sick, fur, you see, I hed to go and make another batch of dough-nuts before dinner. It did seem as if thet man hedn’t no compassion on me.” And the dear woman laid down her knitting with a sigh.
“But, Aunt Patience, you haven’t told me why you married him,” broke in Bessie.
“I’m a-comin’ to it bimeby: you don’t give me no chance. Lemme see. I’ve dropped a stitch somewhere, — oh, here ’tis. Wall, as I was sayin’, ’twas in hayin’-time, ’nd we hed 116 a lot of men-folks, ’nd mother says to me, ‘Patience,” says she, ‘what air we goin’ to do? We hain’t but one pie in the house.’ And says I, ‘Never mind, ma: I’ll stir up a batch o’ my doughnuts. The men-folks ’drether hev ’em than pie any time.’ ‘Wall,’ says she, ‘I wish you would, and I’ll jest run over and carry Widder Spinney a bowl o’ my jell’: she don’t hev no appetite ’nd it may give her a start.’ So I sot on the kittle, — ’twas one o’ them big, round, shaller ones, — and I got a hull pan of cakes made ready to fry, when I happened to look out, and I saw Jonas’s shadder turnin’ the corner of the house, ’nd says I to myself, ‘Now, I hain’t a-goin’ to fry up a lot o’ dough-nuts this hot day for thet feller to gobble down, no such a thing.’ So I grabbed off the kittle of bilin’ fat ’nd set it down on an old stool I kep’ to set the stove-leds on when I was a-cookin’, ’nd I’d jest clapped a newspaper over the top as Jonas opened the door. ‘Good-mornin’,’ says I, quite cheerful like; I allus was blessed with a cheerful disposition by natur’. ‘Won’t you take a cheer?’ says I. ‘No, thank e,’ says he, ‘I can’t stop. I was jest a-goin’ by, en I thought I’d drop in a minnit and see how your folks all was.’ ”
“Did he propose, Aunt Patience?” asked irrepressible Bessie
“He ’peared dreadtul frustrated,” continued Aunt Patience, not heeding the interruption except by a severe look at Bessie, “’nd I knew in a minute he’d got somethin’ on his mind: so I kep’ a-talkin’ an’ he kep’ fidgitin’ round, till after a while he broke out sort of discouraged like. Says, he, —
“ ‘Patience, you hain’t no idea how lonesome ’tis over to our house with no wimmen-folks round to talk to: seems like livin’ in a tomb.’
“Hain’t your aunt Marandy a-keepin’ house for you?’ says I.
“ ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘but she’s so pesky cross a feller can’t take no comfort wit her. Besides, she dunno how to make dough-nuts; she can’t make no dough-nuts that wouldn’t give you the dyspepsy. There ain’t nobody that ken come up nigh to you,’ says he, ‘-makin’ them delicious compounds. They make my mouth water every time I think of ’em. Won’t you come over and make dough-nuts fore me? You hain’t no idea how much I set by ye, Patience. And, jest as he said that, he edged along and sot down square into the kittle of bilin’ fat!
“There hain’t no pen that could describe the look of despair and mortification that cam over his countenance as he popped up ag’in! It’s come across me, time and again, at funerals and sich-like solemn places, and I’ve had to stuff my handkerchief in my mouth and put my head down on the seat in front and shake all over to keep in from laughin’ right out. I’ve allus hoped mourners would think I was a-cryin’; but I dunno, I couldn’t a’ helped it if it hed save me from the gallus, any more’n I could at the time on’t.
“I laughed till there wa’nt no more strength in me than there is in skim-milk. I laughed till I cried; the ears was just a-streamin’ down my face; ’nd all the time he was a-tearin’ round thet kitchen ’nd cuttin’ up more antics tan you ever see a clown do at a circus. After all, I couldn’t help pityin’ him, — I allus was tender-hearted, — ’nd besides, I kinder blamed myself for gittin’ the poor creeter into such a fix. So, as soon as I could git myself together ’nd git breath enough, I says to him, says I, ‘For goodness’ sake, Jonas Pettybone! the neighbors will think that I’m murderin’ you. Ef you’ll hush up and go home peaceably, and not make no ore fuss, I dunno — mebbe I may in time be persuaded to marry ye. Mind, I don’t say sartin, says I, ‘but I’ll think about it.’118
“You ought to see what an effect it had on the feller! He stopped his prancin’ in a minute, ‘’nd quieted down as meek as a lamb, ’nd he even tried to smile, as he clapped on his hat ’nd sneaked out the door without another word. Pretty quick ma came I, ’nd she says to me, —
“ ‘What on arth is the matter, Patience? You look as if you’d been through a coffee-mill!’ Says I to her, ‘That’s just the way I feel.’ Then I told her about Jonas but, instid of goin’ inter convulsions of laughter as I expected, she sot down with a sigh, and says she, ‘Well, ’tis a pity, that’s a fact; but you’ve no need to cry your eyes out; tain’t a dead loss: we ken use it for soap-grease.”
“‘Oh,’ says I, ‘I haint a-goin’ to waste all thet fat, I can tell ye: I’m jest a-goin’ to fry them dough-nuts in it.’ Well, I never made no sich dough-nuts in all my born days, before or sence. They was light as a feather, and the men-folks praised ’em up, ’nd said I was the beateree for makin’ dough-nuts of anybody they ever see.”
“So you concluded to marry him, did you?” asked Bessie.
“Yes, I hed to,’ answered Aunt Patience, with a sigh, “Jonas said if I didn’t he’d sue me for damages. So I tell you, child, gittin’ married is all a humbug.”
“And, having freed her mind, Aunt Patience rolled up her knitting and betook herself to bed.
Philemon Hayes and Fanny Ray had been just three weeks married.
They sat at breakfast in their cosey dining-room one fine morning in summer, totally infatuated with each other. Never such happiness as theirs before! The felicity of Adam and his lady before they made he acquaintance o the serpent was not to be mentioned in the same breath.119
They kissed each other between every cup of coffee, and embraced twice — sometimes thrice — during every meal. Just now they were speaking of disagreements. Some friends of theirs had fallen out and refuse to fall in again.
“We will never disagree, will we, Phil, dear?” asked Mrs. Fanny.
“Disagree! will the heavens fall?” returned Phil.
“I sincerely hope not. It would be decidedly disagreeable,” laughed Fanny; “but if I thought we should ever quarrel and have harsh thoughts towards each other, I should be tempted to terminate my existence.”
“My precious Fanny!” cried Phil, springing up and upsetting the toast-plate on the carpet, of which he was perfectly oblivious in his eagerness to get his arms around Fanny. “My foolish little darling! as if we should ever be so absurd! [a kiss]. May I be quartered [another kiss] if I ever speak one word that shall cause a tear to fill the divine eyes of my dearest [a third explosion] Fanny!”
“Oh, how happy you make me, Phil! I shall try so hard to be just the faithful, loving wife you deserve. Now finish your breakfast, deary. The toast will be growing cold. And oh, Phil! did you notice Mrs. Smith’s horrid new bonnet last night? I declare, it destroyed all my pleasure in the music. I do wish people who wear such untasteful bonnets would stay at home from these delightful concerts!”
“So do I, Fanny. I noticed the ugly thing the moment we entered the hall. Blue flowers and pink ribbons, and she is as dark as a Creole!”
“No, my love, the flowers were green. Green and blue look so much alike by gas-light.”
“I know they do, but I noticed it so particularly that I could not be deceived. Blue — especially light blue — looks fearfully on a dark-complected woman.”120
“So it does, Phil; I quite agree with you, dear. But the flowers were not blue: they were green. I saw them at Mrs. Gray’s shop before they were purchased.”
“My dearest Fanny, of course you think yourself fight, love, but I have a very good eye for color, and noticed those flowers with great attention. Blue anemones with yellow centres.”
“Green hibiscus with white centres, my dear Phil. Very pretty for a light-skinned woman, but horrid for a brunette.”
“Why, Fanny, how absurd! As if I could not determine a color, when I studied it half the evening!”
“But it was by gas-light, my love. It would look altogether different by daylight. It was such a pale green.”
“It was such a pale blue. I remember, if thought of the sky before a storm.”
“And I thought of the sea. It was nearly sea-green.”
“Why, Fanny, ridiculous! It was sky-blue.”
“How you do contradict me, my Philemon! It was a very light green.”
“And I insist it was blue.”
“Do you mean to tell me I lie?”
“I mean to tell you you were mistaken.”
“Which amounts to the same thing.”
“You make the application, Mrs. Fanny Hayes.”
“Mr. Philemon Hayes.”
“I say it was green, sir.”
“I say it was blue, so there!”
“You are a wretch, Phil, a real mean, heartless wretch!” And Fanny pushed back her plate angrily.
“And you are an opinionated, self-willed woman!” And Phil, in his agitation, upset the coffee, scalding the cat’s back and himself at the same time. “The deuce!” cried 121 he, rubbing his red hands with his handkerchief. “I wish I had never seen a woman!”
“What’s that, sir? You brute!” cried Mrs. Hayes, now thoroughly incensed; “take that.” And, seizing the plate of muffins, she took aim at Phil’s head, but, being a woman, her aim was not so accurate as it might have been, and the plate went through the window, smashing the tile of Fitz-James Jones, who was passing, and the muffins were scattered in wild confusion about the room.
Phil was indignant. He laid his hand on the poker.
“Oh, strike!” exclaimed Fanny. “It will be in place with your other conduct. Don’t let any notions of honor restrain you, because you never had any.”
“Fanny, beware: you try me too far.”
“I’ll go home to pa, that I will. You inhuman monster, you, I’ll be divorced from you this very day. So there!”
Just at that moment Phil’s uncle John, a shrewd old fellow, appeared on the scene. He surveyed the group with an anxious twinkle of the eye.
“What’s the matter, Fanny? Anything gone wrong?” he inquired.
“Gone wrong! Matter enough! Oh, Uncle John, he’s a wretch, and set out to strike me with a poker.”
“And se threw a plate of muffins and the ham at me.”
“He’s a monster, Uncle John. I’ll be divorced from him this very day. He is worse than a savage.”
“So he is,” cried Uncle John, entering warmly into the spirit of the thing, “so he is,” — stripping off his coat, — “and I’ll settle the matter at once. You stand back, Fanny; I’ll give him such a thrashing as he’ll be likely to remember. Striking his wife with a poker, indeed! I’ll rectify matters.” And Uncle John grasped the long-handled duster and flourished it threateningly around the head of his 122 nephew. “There, sir, take that! and that! and that!” exclaimed he, bringing down the feathers on the shoulders of the amazed Phil. “fanny, my dear, I’ll not leave a bone of him whole.”
Fanny’s round blue eyes had been growing larger and larger, and now her indignation broke.
“John Hayes,” she cried, “you’re a heathen and an old meddling vagabond! Let Phil alone! He’s my dear, dear husband, and you’ve not right to touch him. He’s an angel. He never intended to strike me. Be still striking him, or you’ll be sorry.” And Fanny seized the broom from behind the door, and prepared to do battle.
“Stand back!” cried Uncle John: “he’s a monster, and deserves death. The man who would threaten to strike a woman ought to be hung.”
Fanny’s eyes blazed. She flew at Uncle John with the spite of a tigress, and they way the trio went round the room was worth witnessing, — Uncle after Phil with the duster, and Fanny after Uncle John with the broom.
Phil made a spring for the window, but there was a whatnot in the way, and, getting his leg entangled in that, he brought the whole concern to the floor. Ambrotypes, books, vases, rare china, and a hundred cherished curiosities, all were involved in direst ruin.
Phil went down with the other thing, Uncle John stumbled over him, and Fanny only saved herself by seizing the bell-rope, which brought her two servants to the spot.
Of course they took Phil and Uncle John for housebreakers, and if Fanny’s explanation had not been enforced by sundry touches of her broomstick the consequences might have been serious.
The first moment of calm was seized upon by the young couple to embrace each other.123
“My good angel Fanny!”
“My precious Phil!”
And then followed an explanation like the bursting of beer-bottles.
Uncle John left the house during this interesting performance, still firmly of the opinion that the surest way of reconciling a wife to her husband is to get a third person to help abuse him.