JOSIAH AND SAMANTHA TAKE A LONG WALK.
Wall, we hadn't been to Saratoga long before Aunt Polly Pixley came over to see us, for Aunt Polly had been as good as her word and had come to Saratoga, to her 2d cousins, the Mr. Pixley'ses, where Ardelia wuz a stopping. Ardelia herself is a distant relation to Aunt Polly, quite distant, about 40 or 50 miles distant when they are both to home.
Wall, the change in Aunt Polly is wonderful, perfectly wonderful. She don't look like the same woman.
She took her knittin' work and come in the forenoon, for a all day's visit, jest as she wuz used to in the country, good old soul - and I took her right to my room and done well by her, and we talked considerable about other wimmen, not runnin' talk, but good plain talk.
She thinks a sight of the Saratoga water, and well she may, if that is what has brung her up, for she wuz always sick in Jonesville, kinder bedrid. And when she sot out for Saratoga she had to have a piller to put on the seat behind her to sort a prop her up (hen's feather).
And now, she told me she got up early every mornin' and walked down to the spring for a drink of the water - walked afoot. And she sez, "It is astonishin' how much good that water is a doin' me; for," sez she, "when I am to home I don't stir out of the house from one day's end to the other; and here," sez she, "I set out doors all day a'most, a listenin' to the music in the park mornin' and evenin' I hear every strain on't."
Aunt Polly is the greatest one for music I ever see, or hearn on. And I sez to her, "Don't you believe that one great thing that is helpin' you, is bein' where you are kep' gay and cheerful, - by music and good company; and bein' out so much in the sunshine and pure air." (Better air than Saratoga has got never wuz made; that is my opinion and Josiah's too.) And sez I, "I lay a good deal to that air."
"No," she said, "it wuz the water."
Sez I, "The water is good, I don't make no doubts on't." But I continued calmly - for though I never dispute, I do most always maintain my opinion - and I sez again calmly, "There has been a great change in you for the better, sense you come here, Miss Pixley. But some on't I lay to your bein' where things are so much more cheerful and happyfyin'. You say you haint heerd a strain of music except a base viol for over 14 years before you come here. And though base viols if played right may be melodious, yet Sam Pixley's base viol wuz a old one, and sort a cracked and grumbly in tone, and he wuzn't much of a player anyway, and to me, base viols always sounded kinder base anyway."
And sez I, "Don't you believe a gettin' out of your little low dark rooms, shaded by Pollard willers and grave stuns, and gettin' out onto a place where you can heer sweet music from mornin' till night, a liftin' you up and makin' you happier - don't you believe that has sunthin' to do with your feelin' so much better - that and the pure sweet air of the mountains comin' down and bein' softened and enriched by the breath of the valley, and the minerals, makin' a balmy atmosphere most full of balm - I lay a good deal to that."
"Oh no," sez she, "it is the water."
"Yes," sez I, in a very polite way, - I will be polite, "the water is good, first rate."
But at that very minute, word come to her that she had company, and she sot sail homewards immegetly, and to once.
And now I don't care anything for the last word, some wimmen do, but I don't. But I sez to her, as I watched her a goin' down the stairway, steppin' out like a girl almost, sez I, "How well you do seem, Aunt Polly; and I lay a good deal on't to that air."
Now who would have thought she would speak out from the bottom of the stairway and say, "No, it is the water?"
Wall, the water is good, there haint no doubt, and anyway, through the water and the air, and bein' took out of her home cares, and old surroundin's onto a brght happy place, the change in Polly Pixley is sunthin' to be wondered at.
Yes, the water is good. And it is dretful smart, knowin' water too. Why, wouldn't anybody think that when it all comes from the same place, or pretty nigh the same place anyway, that they would get kinder flustrated and mixed up once in a while?
But they don't. These hundreds and thousands of years, and I don't know how much longer, they have kep' themselves separate from each other, livin' nigh neighbors there down under the ground, but never neighborin' with each other, or intermarryin' in each other's families. No, they have kep' themselves apart, livin' exclosive down below and bubblin' up exclosive.
They know how to make each other keep their proper distance, and I s'pose through all the centuries to come they will bubble up, right side by side, entirely different from each other.
Curius, hain't it? Dretful smart, knowin' waters they be, fairly sparklin' and flashin' with light and brightness, and intelligence. They are for the healin' and refreshin' of ,the nations, and the nations are all here this summer, a bein' healed by 'em. But still I lay a good deal to that air.
Amongst the things that Aunt Polly told me about wimmen that day, wuz this, that Ardelia Tutt had got a new Bo, Bial Flamburg, by name.
She said Mr. Flamburg had asked Ardelia's 3d cousin to introduce him to her, and from that time his attentions to her had been unremittent, voyalent, and close. She said that to all human appearance he wuz in love with her from his hat band down to his boots and she didn't know what the result would be, though she felt that the situation wuz dangerus, and more'n probable Abram Gee had more trouble ahead on him. (Aunt Polly jest worships Abram Gee, jest as everybody duz that gets to know him well.) And I too, felt that the situation wuz dubersome. For Ardelia I knew wuz one of the soft little wimmen that has got to have men a trailin' round after 'em; and her bein' so uncommon tender hearted, and Mr. Flamburg so deep in love, I feared the result.
Wall, I wuz jest a thinkin' of this that day after dinner when Josiah proposed a walk, so we sot out. He proposed we should walk through the park, so we did. The air wuz heavenly sweet and that park is one of the most restful and beautiful places this side of Heaven, or so it seemed to us that pleasant afternoon. The music was very soft and sweet that day, sweet with a undertone of sadness, some like a great sorrowful soul in a beautiful body.
The balmy south wind whispered through the branches of the bendin' trees on the hill where we sot. The light was a shinin' and a siftin' down through the green leaves, in a soft golden haze, and the music seemed to go right up into them shadowy, shinin' pathways of golden misty light, a climbin' up on them shadowy steps of mist and gold, and amber, up, up into the soft depths of the blue overhead - up to the abode of melody and love.
Down the hill in the beautiful little valley, all amongst the fountains and windin' walks and white statutes, and green, green, grass, little children wuz a playin'. Sweet little toddlers, jest able to walk about, and bolder spirits, though small, a trudgin' about with little canes, and jumpin' round, and havin' a good time.
Little boys and little girls (beautiful creeters, the hull on 'em), for if their faces, every one on 'em, wuzn't jest perfect! They all had the beauty of childhood and happiness. And crowds of older folks wuz there. And some happy young couples, youths and maidens, wuz a settin' round, and a wanderin' off by themselves, and amongst them we see the form of Ardelia, and a young man by her side.
She wuz a leanin' on the stun railin' that fences in the trout pond. She wuz evidently a lookin' down pensively at the shinin' dartin' figures of the trout, a movin' round down in the cool waters.
I wuzn't nigh enough to 'em to see really how her companion looked, but even at that distance I recognized a certain air and atmosphere a surroundin' Ardelia that I knew meant poetry.
And Josiah recognized it too, and he sez to me, "We may as well go round the hill and out to the road that way," sez he, (a pointin' to the way furthest from Ardelia) "and we may as well be a goin'."
That man abhors poetry.
Wall, we wandered down into the high way and havin' most the hull afternoon before us, we kinder sauntered round amongst the stores that wuz pretty nigh to where we wuz. There is some likely good lookin' stores kep' by the natives, as they call the stiddy dwellers in Saratoga. Good lookin' respectable stores full of comfort and consolation, for the outer or inner man or woman. (I speak it in a mortal sense).
But with the hundred thousand summer dwellers, who flock here with the summer birds, and go out before the swallers go south, there comes lots of summer stores, and summer shops, and picture studios, etc., etc. Like big summer bird's-nests, all full and a runnin' over with summer wealth, to be blowed down by the autumn winds. These shops are full of everything elegant and beautiful and useful. The most gorgeous vases and plaks and chiner ware of every description and color, and books, and jewelry, and rugs, and fans, and parasols, and embroideries, and laces, and etc., etc., etc.
And one shop seemed to be jest full of drops of light, light and sunshine, crystalized in golden, clear, tinted amber. There wuz a young female statute a standin' up in the winder of that store with her hands outstretched and jest a drippin' with the great glowin' amber drops. Some wuz a hangin' over her wings for she was a young flyin' female. And I thought to myself it must be she would fly better with all that golden light a drippin' about her.
Josiah liked her looks first rate. And he liked the looks of some of the pictures extremely. There wuz lots of places all full of pictures. A big collection of water colors, though as Josiah said and well said, How they could get so many colors out of water wuz a mystery to him.
But my choice out of all the pictures I see, wuz a little one called "The Sands of Dee." It wuz "Mary a callin' the cattle home." The cruel treacherus water wuz a risin' about her round bare ankles as she stood there amongst the rushes with her little milk-bucket on her arm.
Her pretty innocent face wuz a lookin' off into the shadows, and the last ray of sunset was a fallin' on her. Maybe it wuz the pity on't that struck so hard as I looked at it, to know that the "cruel, crawli'n foam" wuz so soon to creep over the sweet young face and round limbs. And there seemed to be a shadow of the comin' fate, a sweepin' in on the gray mist behind her.
I stood for some time, and I don't know but longer, a lookin' at it, my Josiah a standin' placidly behind me, a lookin' over my shoulder and enjoyin' of it too, till the price wuz mentioned. But at that fearful moment, my pardner seized me by the arm, and walked me so voyalently out of that store and down the walk that I did not find and recover myself till we stood at the entrance to Philey street.
And I wuz so out of breath, by his powerful speed, that she didn't look nateral to me, I hardly recognized Philey. But Josiah hurried me down Philey and wanted to get my mind offen Mary Dee I knew, for he says as we come under a sign hangin' down over the road, "Horse Exchange," sez he, "What do you say, Samantha, do you spose I could change off the old mair, for a camel or sunthin'? How would you like a camel to ride?"
I looked at him in speechless witherin' silence, and he went on hurridly, "It would make a great show in Jonesville, wouldn't it, to see us comin' to meetin' on a camel, or to see us ridin' in a cutter drawed by one. I guess I'll see about it, some other time."
And he went on hurridly, and almost incoherently as we see another sign, over the road - oh! how vollubly he did talk - "Quick, Livery."
"I hate to see folks so dumb conceeted! Now I don't spose that man has got any hosses much faster than the old mair."
"'Wing's!' Shaw! I don't believe no such thing - a livery on wings. I don't believe a word on't. And you wouldn't ketch me on one on 'em, if they had!"
"'Yet Sing!"' sez he, a lookin' accost the street into a laundry house. "What do I care if you do sing? 'Taint of much account if you do any way. I sing sometimes, I yet sing," says he.
"Sing," sez I in neerly witherin' tone. "I'd love to hear you sing, I haint yet and I've lived with you agoin' on 30 years."
"Wall, if you haint heerd me, it is because you are deef," sez he.
But that is jest the way he kep' on, a hurryin' me along, and a talkin' fast to try to get the price of that picture out of my head. Anon, and sometimes oftener, we would come to the word in big letters on signs, or on the fence, or the sides of barns, "Pray." And sometimes it would read, "Pray for my wife!" And Josiah every time he came to the words would stop and reflect on 'em.
"`Pray!' What business is it of yourn, whether I pray or not? `Pray for my wife!' That haint none of your business."
Sez he, a shakin' his fist at the fence, "'Taint likely I should have a wife without prayin' for her. She needs it bad enough," sez he once, as he stood lookin' at it.
I gin him a strange look, and he sez, "You wouldn't like it, would you, if I didn't pray for you?"
"No," sez I, "and truly as you say, the woman who is your wife needs prayer, she needs help, morn half the time she duz."
He looked kinder dissatisfied at the way I turned it, but he sez, "'Plumbin' done here!'"
"I'd love to know where they are goin' to plum. I don't see no sign of plum trees, nor no stick to knock 'em off with." And agin he sez, "You would make a great 'fuss, Samantha, if I should say what is painted up right there on that cross piece. You would say I wuz a swearin'."
Sez I coldly, (or as cold as I could with my blood heated by the voyalence and rapidity of the walk he had been a leadin' me,) "There is a Van in front of it. Van Dam haint swearin'."
"You would say it wuz if I used it," sez he reproachfully. "If I should fall down on the ice, or stub my toe, and trip up on the meetin' house steps, and I should happen to mention the name of that street about the same time, you would say I wuz a swearin'."
I did not reply to him; I wouldn't. And ag'in he hurried me on'ards by some good lookin' bildin's, and trees, and tavrens, and cottages, and etc., etc., and we come to Caroline street, and Jane, and Matilda, and lots of wimmen's names.
And Josiah sez, "I'll bet the man that named them streets wuz love sick!"
But he wuzn't no such thing. It was a father that owned the land, and laid out the streets, and named 'em for his daughters. Good old creeter! I wuzn't goin' to have him run at this late day, and run down his own streets too.
But ag'in Josiah hurried me on'ards. And bimeby we found ourselves a standin' in front of a kind of a lonesome lookin' house, big and square, with tall pillows in front. It wuz a standin' back as if it wuz a kinder a drawin' back from company, in a square yard all dark and shady with tall trees. And it all looked kinder dusky, and solemn like. And a bystander a standin' by told us that it wuz "ha'nted."
Josiah pawed at it, and shawed at the idee of a gost.
But I sez, "There! that is the only thing Saratoga lacked to make her perfectly interestin', and that is a gost!"
But agin Josiah pawed at the idee, and sez, "There never wuz such a thing as a gost! and never will be." And sez he, "what an extraordenary idiot anybody must be to believe in any sech thing." And ag'in he looked very skernful and high-headed, and once ag'in he shawed.
And I kep' pretty middlin' calm and serene and asked the bystander, when the gost ha'nted, and where?
And he said, it opened doors and blowed out lights mostly, and trampled up stairs.
"Openin', and blowin', and tramplin'," sez I dreamily.
"Yes," sez the man, "that's what it duz."
And agin Josiah shawed loud. And agin I kep' calm, and sez I, "I'd give a cent to see it." And sez I, "Do you suppose it would blow out and trample if we should go in?"
But Josiah grasped holt of my arm and sez, "'Taint safe! my dear Samantha! don't le's go near the house."
"Why? " sez I coldly, "you say there haint no sech thing as a gost, what are you afraid on?"
His teeth wuz fairly chatterin'. "Oh! there might be spiders there, or mice, it haint best to go."
I turned silently round and started on, for my companion's looks was pitiful in the extreme. But I merely observed this, as we wended onwards, "I have always noticed this, Josiah Allen, that them that shaw the most at sech things, are the ones whose teeth chatter when they come a nigh 'em, showin' plain that the shawers are really the ones that believe in 'em."
"My teeth chattered," sez he, "because my gooms ache."
"Well," sez I, "the leest said the soonest mended." And we went on fast ag'in by big houses and little, and boardin' houses, and boardin' houses, and boardin' houses, and tavrens, and tavrens, and he kept me a walkin' till my feet wuz most blistered.
I see what his aim wuz; I had recognized it all the hull time.
But as we went up the stairway into our room, perfectly tuckered out, both on us, I sez to him, in weary axents, "That picture wuz cheap enough, for the money, wuzn't it?"
He groaned aloud. And sech is my love for that man, that the minute I heard that groan I immegetly added, "Though I hadn't no idee of buyin' it, Josiah."
Immegetly he smiled warmly, and wuz very affectionate in his demeener to me for as much as two hours and a half. Sech is the might of human love.
His hurryin' me over them swelterin' and blisterin' streets, and showin' me all the beauty and glory of the world, and his conversation had no effect, skercely on my mind. But what them hours of frenzied effert could not accomplish, that one still, small groan did. I love that man. I almost worship him, and he me, vise versey, and the same.
We found that Ardelia Tutt had been to see us in our absence. She had been into our room I see, for she had dropped one of her mits there. And the chambermaid said she had been in and waited for us quite a spell - the young man a waitin' below on the piazza, so I s'posed.
I expect Ardelia wanted to show him off to us and I myself wuz quite anxus to see him, feelin' worried and oncomfertable about Abram Gee and wantin' to see if this young chap wuz anywhere nigh as good as Abram.
Well about a hour after we came back, Josiah missed his glasses he reads with. And we looked all over the house for 'em, and under the bed, and on the ceilin', and through our trunks and bandboxes, and all our pockets, and in the Bible, and Josiah's boots, and everywhere. And finely, after givin' 'em up as lost, the idee come to us that they might possibly have ketched on the fringe of Ardelia's shawl, and so rode home with her on it.
So we sent one of the office-boys home with her mit and asked her if she had seen Josiah's glasses. And word come back by the boy that she hadn't seen 'em, and she sent word to me to look on my pardner's head for 'em, and sure enough there we found 'em, right on his foretop, to both of our surprises.
She sent also by the boy a poem she had wrote that afternoon, and sent word how sorry she wuz I wuzn't to home to see Mr. Flamburg. But I see him only a day or two after that, and I didn't like his looks a mite.
But he said, and stuck to it, that his father owned a large bank, that he wuz a banker, and a doin' a heavy business.
Wall, that raised him dretfully in Ardelia's eyes; she owned up to me that it did. She owned to me that she lead always thought she would love to be a Banker's Bride. She thought it sounded rich. She said, "banker sounded so different from baker."
I sez to her coolly, that "it wuz only a difference of one letter, and I never wuz much of a one to put the letter N above any of the others, or to be haughty on havin' it added to, or diminished from my name."
But she kep' on a goin' with him. She told me it wuz real romanticle the way he got aquanted with her. He see her onbeknown to her one day, when she wuz a writin' a poem on one of the benches in the park.
"A Poem on a Bench!"
She wuz a settin' on the bench, and a writin' about it, she was a writin' on the bench in two different ways. Curius, haint it?
But to resoom. He immegetly fell in love with her. And he got a feller who wuz a boardin' to his boardin' place to interduce him to Ardelia's relative, Mr. Pixley, and Mr. Pixley interduced him to Ardelia. He told Ardelia's relatives the same story - That his father wuz a banker, that he owned a bank and wuz doin' a heavy business.
Wall, I watched that young chap, and watched him close, and I see there wuz one thing about him that could be depended on, he wuz truthful.
He seemed almost morbid on the subject, and would dispute himself half a hour, to get a thing or a story he wuz tellin' jest exactly right. But he drinked; that I know for I know the symptoms. Coffee can't blind the eyes of her that waz once Smith, nor peppermint cast a mist before 'em. My nose could have took its oath, if noses wuz ever put onto a bar of Justice - my nose would have gin its firm testimony that Bial Flamburg drinked.
And there wuz that sort of a air about him, that I can't describe exactly - a sort of a half offish, half familier and wholly disagreeable mean, that can be onderstood but not described. No, you can't picture that liniment, but you can be affected by it. Wall, Bial had it.
And I kep' on a not likin' him, and kep' stiddy onwards a likin' Abram Gee. I couldn't help it, nor did'nt want to. And I looked out constant to ketch him in some big story that would break him right down in Ardelia's eyes, for I knew if she had been brought up on any one commandment more'n another, it wuz the one ag'inst lyin'. She hated lyin'.
She had been brought up on the hull of the commandments but on that one in particeler; she wuz brung up sharp but good. But not one lie could I ketch him in. And he stuck to it, that his father wuz a banker and doin' a heavy business.
Wall, it kep' on, she a goin' with him through ambition, for I see plain, by signs I knoo, that she didn't love him half as well as she did Abram. And I felt bad, dretful bad, to set still and see Ambition ondoin' of her. For oft and oft she would speak to me of Bial's father's bank and the heft of the business he wuz a doin'.
And I finally got so worked up in my mind that I gin a sly hint to Abram Gee, that if he ever wanted to get Ardelia Tutt, he had better make a summer trip to Saratoga. I never told Ardelia what I had done, but trusted to a overrulin' destiny, that seems to enrap babys, and lunatiks, and soft little wimmen, when their heads get kinder turned by a man, and to Abram's honest face when she should compare it with Bial Flamburg's, and to Abram's pure, sweet breath with that mixture of stale cigars, tobacco, beer, and peppermint.
But Abram wrote back to me that his mother wuz a lyin' at the p'int of death with a fever - that his sister Susan wuz sick a bed with the same fever and couldn't come a nigh her and he couldn't leave what might be his mother's death-bed. And he sez, if Ardelia had forgot him in so short a time, mebby it wuz the best thing he could do, to try and forget her. Anyway, he wouldn't leave his dying mother for anything or anybody.
That wuz Abram Gee all over, a doin' his duty every time by bread and humanity. But he added a postscript and it wuz wrote in a agitated hand - that jest as soon as his mother got so he could leave her, he should come to Saratoga.