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1. I.

I HAD walked through the train, carpet-bag in hand,
without finding an eligible seat. So I walked back
again, looking very hard at all the non-paying bandboxes,
bundles, and babies that monopolized the cushions and
kept gentlemen standing with tickets in their hatbands.
Not a child was moved, however, by my silent appeal for
justice. Not a bandbox flinched before my stern, reproving
gaze. Only one proprietress of such encumbrances
deigned to take the least notice of me.

“There is a seat, sir!” she said, in a tone extremely
mortifying to my self-respect, while her overfed carpet-bag
appeared choking with merriment at my expense.

A lady in black filled the designated seat with widespread
mourning apparel and an atmosphere of gloom.
Everybody seemed by a natural instinct to avoid intruding
upon her melancholy privacy. The place seemed sacred
to sorrow. But as she of the babies and bundles spoke,
she of the voluminous ebon skirts gathered up their folds,
with a mournfully civil gesture inviting me to sit down.
I sat down accordingly, awed and chilled by the funereal
presence. Her bonnet was of black crape, a black veil
eclipsed her face, and she wore a mourning-ring over the
finger of a black glove.


Page 275

“Will you have the kindness to open this window, sir?”
she said to me, in a voice which also appeared clad in
mourning, — so sombre, so soft, so suggestive of lost

I opened it.

“Thank you,” she said, and, putting aside the woven
midnight of her veil, revealed the most perfect mourning
countenance I ever beheld, — black hair, black eyes, and
long, black eyelashes. It was a youthful face, however,
and rather plump and smooth, I thought, for such stunning

“Will you have the shade raised, madam?”

“O no, thank you.” And out of the cloud of her countenance
shone a smile, a very misty, tender, pensive smile.

I remarked, with appropriate solemnity, that the weather
was fine.

“O yes!” she sighed, “it is too beautiful for one that
a'n't happy.”

The lady in black soon grew communicative, and told
me her story. She was the widow of a physician in one
of the Western States, who, besides his regular practice,
had purchased lands which had increased in value, and,
dying suddenly, had left her a widow with twenty thousand
dollars. She was going, she added, to visit her uncle, in

“In Shoemake!” I repeated, with a start of interest.
For I must mention here that I was going to Shoemake.
My errand was to woo, and of course win, Miss Susie
Thornton of that place, solely on the recommendation of
my friend Jones, whose praises of his country cousin, whom
I had never seen, had induced me to venture upon the
rather unusual procedure.

“Is Shoemake a pleasant place?” I inquired.

“O yes!” with another sigh, and another of those


Page 276
smiles, so very attractive that they would have charmed
even me, had I not considered myself already engaged.

“Do you know the Thornton family?” I asked, carelessly.

“What!” said she, “do you know the Thorntons?”

“Not at all; only a relation of theirs has intrusted me
with a package for them.”

“Susie Thornton is a very pretty girl.”

“Indeed!” said I, gratified to hear my wife commended.

“At least, she was five years ago. But five years make
such dreadful changes!”

“How far are the Thorntons from the village?”

“O, not far! A nice little farm down the river. A
charming situation.”

2. II.

That afternoon, having dressed, dined, and finished my
cigar, I sallied forth from the “Shoemake Hotel” to call
on my future bride.

I found the cottage; a neat little cream-colored house
on a bank of the river; doors and windows festooned with
prairie roses; an orchard behind, and maple-trees in front;
and an atmosphere of rural beauty and quietude over all.

I opened the little wooden gate. It clicked cheerily behind
me, and the sound summoned from the orchard a
laboring man in rolled-up shirt-sleeves, who approached
as I was lifting the brass knocker under the festoons
of roses.

“How de do, sir? Want anything o' Mr. Thornton's

I looked at him. He might have been a porter (at


Page 277
least, he was a brown stout fellow); not above five feet
five, and rather familiar for such a short acquaintance.

“I should like to see Mr. Thornton,” I said, talking
down at him from my six-foot dignity on the doorstep.

“O, wal! walk right in! We 're all in the orchard jest
now, gitting a hive of bees.”

“Be so kind then, my good fellow,” said I, producing
Jones's letter, “as to hand this to Mr. Thornton.”

He received the letter in his great, brown, horny hands,
stared at the superscription, stared at me, said, “Oh!
Jones!” and opened it. “I am Mr. Thornton,” he informed
me, before beginning to read.

When the letter was read he looked up again, smilingly.

“This is Mr. Blazay, then!” he said.

“Delighted to meet you, Mr. Thornton,” I said.

He reached up, I reached down. He got hold of my
hand as if it had been a bell-rope, and wrung it cordially.
I knew he was glad to see me, as well as if he had told me.

“Will you step into the house or into the orchard?”
said Mr. Thornton.

House or orchard, I felt my foot was in it, and it made
little difference which way I stepped.

“Wal,” said he, as he was taking me to see the bees;
“so you 've come up here, thinking mabby you 'd like to
marry our Susie?”

I stopped aghast.

“I — I was n't aware, sir, that Jones had written anything
to that effect!”

“A private letter I got from him yis'd'y,” said Mr. Thornton;
“he seemed to think 's best to kinder explain things
'fore you got along. I think about so myself. He gives
you a tolerable fair character, and, fur 's I 'm concerned,
if you and Susie can make a bargain, I sha' n't raise no


Page 278

“Have you,” I gasped, “mentioned it to Susie?”

“O, sartin!” said Mr. Thornton. “Mother and I
thought best to talk the matter over with her, so 's to
have everything open and aboveboard, and save misunderstandings
in the futur'.”

“And, may I ask, how did Susie regard a — such a —
very singular arrangement?”

“Singular? How so? Mother and I looked upon it as
very sensible. You come and git acquainted and marry
her, if agreeable; or if not, not. That 's what I call

“Straightfor'a'd? O yes, to be sure!' I said, and essayed
to laugh, with very indifferent, if not with quite
ghastly, success.

A little too straightforward, was n't it? It was well
enough, of course, for a couple of hardened wretches like
Jones and myself to talk over a matrimonial project in
business fashion, and for me to come up and look at the
article of a bride he recommended, to see if she suited;
but to know that the affair had been coolly discussed by
the other party to the proposed bargain made it as awkward
and unromantic as possible. I even suspected that
I was the victim of a hoax, and that Jones was at that
moment chuckling over my stupendous gullibility.

3. III.

That there 's my darter, and them 's the bees,” said
Mr. Thornton.

“What! that thing in the tree?” said I, using my eye-glass.
“It looks like a shocking bad hat!


Page 279

“That 's the swarm stuck on to the limb,” said Mr.
Thornton. “We 'll have Susie to thank if we save 'em.
She heard 'em flying over, and run out with the dinner-bell
and called 'em.”

“Called 'em to dinner?” I said, absent-mindedly.

“Ringing the bell called 'em down, till bimeby they lit
on that tree. A swarm 'll gen'ly come to such noises.
And Susie 's a master-hand to look arter bees.”

“What 's she doing up on the ladder there?”

“She 's cutting off the limb. It 's curi's,” said Mr.
Thornton, with fatherly pride, “bees never tech her,
though she goes right in among 'em. Sting me, though;
so I keep a little back. Susie's mother, Mr. Blazay!”

At that a freckled, good-natured woman, who stood at a
little distance from the tree, with her arms rolled up in a
calico apron, took them out to shake hands with me, and
rolled them up again.

“What are these little negro boys doing?” I inquired.

“Nigger boys! Ho! ho! ho!” laughed the paternal

“Them 's our little boys, sir,” said the maternal Thornton,
with an amused smile. “What you see is veils tied
over their faces to keep the bees from stinging on 'em.
That 's George Washington holding the ladder for Susie;
and that 's Andrew Jackson tending the clo'es-line.”

“This is the second swarm Susie has stopped this
season,” said Mr. Thornton. “Both wild swarms from
the woods, prob'bly. We consider it quite a prize.”

“Hive of bees in May, wuth a ton of hay; hive of bees
in June, wuth a silver spoon; hive of bees in July, not
wuth a fly. That 's the old adage,” smiled Mrs. Thornton.

“But Susie has good luck with her bees, let 'em swarm
when they will,” said Mr. Thornton.


Page 280

“Look out down there!” cried a clear, shrill, feminine
voice from the tree.

The fibres of the bough began to crack; and somewhat
to my alarm I saw the great, black, hat-like mass swing
down, as if about to fall to the ground. But I soon perceived
that it was secured by the rope, which was passed
over a limb above, and then down to Andrew Jackson's
hand, who stood looking up through his veil, waiting for
orders. Susie severed the bark and splinters that still
held the branch, then dropped her little handsaw on the

“Now, Jackson!” Slowly the boy payed out the line,
and slowly the bough descended with its burden. “Hold
on, Georgie!” Georgie held on, and down the ladder came

Animated, agile, red as a rose, she ran to her bees, I
regarding her meanwhile with anxious interest. Taking
hold of the bough where it hung, she ordered Andrew
Jackson to “let it come,” lowered it almost to the
ground and shook it. The bees fell off in great bunches
and clusters, which burst into buzzing, crumbling,
crawling multitudes on the grass, — wave on wave dark
surging. George Washington stood ready with a bee-hive,
which he clapped over the living heap. And the job was

“There, father!” cried Susie, merrily, “what are you
going to give me for that? Hive of bees in June —”

She stopped, seeing me.

“You shall have your silver spoon,” said Mr. Thornton.
“This is Mr. Blazay, Susie.”

Determined to perform my part with becoming gallantry,
I advanced. Unluckily, I am tall. My bow was lofty;
the bough of the tree was low. Before I could take off
my hat it was taken off for me. Attempting to catch it,


Page 281
I knocked it like a ball straight at Susie's head. She
dodged it, and it fell by the bee-hive. At that the Father
of his Country rushed to the rescue, and brought it back
to me with the air of a youngster who expects a penny for
his services.

I was finishing my bow to Susie, when I observed a
number of swift, zigzag, darting insects circling about us.

“Stand still and they won't hurt ye,” said George Washington,
handing me my hat. “Make 'em think you 're a

I assumed the rôle accordingly, — rooted myself to the
spot, — held my tall trunk erect, — kept my limbs rigid, —
and, I am confident, appeared verdant enough to deceive even
a bee. In that interesting attitude I looked as unconcerned
as possible, grimaced at Susie, said what a delightful
orchard it was, and felt a whizzing, winnowing sensation
in my foliage, otherwise called hair.

“There 's a bee!” screamed Andrew Jackson.

The General was right, — there was a bee. I began to

“Don't ye stir!” shouted Washington. “That 'll only
make him mad! Keep jest as still!”

It was easy for the First President to stand there, with
his face veiled, and promulgate that theory. But I was n't
up to it. I found myself stirring my stumps involuntarily.
I dropped my hat and stepped in it. The bee whizzed
and winnowed; I flirted and brushed. Then came a
poignant thrill! The assassin had his poisoned dagger
in me.

The sublime Washington continued to shout, “Keep
still, keep jest as still!” But already my movements had
quite dispelled the illusion that I was a tree, and the darting
and dinning about my ears became terrific. I endeavored
to smile calmly at Susie, and talk as became a man


Page 282
of my politeness and dignity. But it was no use. Panic
seized me. I stamped, I swung my crushed hat, I took to
my heels. I ran like a Mohawk; and I should never,
probably, have stopped running until I reached a railroad
train, had not the same destiny that brought me to Shoemake
conspired to keep me there by casting a dead branch
in my way. In giving my head a brush I neglected the
brush at my feet. They became entangled in it, and I
sprawled my six feet of manly dignity ingloriously on the

4. IV.

The first thing I heard, on recovering my faculties and
sitting up, was laughter. George Washington and Andrew
Jackson were rolling and keeling over with laughter. Mrs.
Thornton was eating her calico apron. Mr. Thornton
was suffering from an excruciating attack of colic, while
Susie indulged without restraint her very ill-timed merriment.

As I got upon my feet the whole family came forward
to see if I was hurt.

“Children! Susie!” I could hear Mr. Thornton saying;
“hush! don't ye know no better 'n to laugh? Did you,
sir, git stung?”

“I — I thought the bees were coming rather near” I
remarked, cheerfully, pressing my hat into shape, “so I
concluded to stand back a little.”

“Sartin, sartin!” said Mr. Thornton.

“Susie!” giggled George Washington, “he thought
he 'd stan' back a little! he, he, he!”


Page 283

“Did n't his arms and legs fly for about a minute,
though!” snickered Andrew Jackson.

“Shall we go and examine the operations of the bees?
I feel a lively interest in bees.” And I put on my hat,
pulling it gayly over the aching eyebrow.

“I 'm afraid,” said Mr. Thornton, “the bees have been
so kind o' shook up 't won't be very safe to go near 'em
right away.”

“Ah! you think so? A sting is nothing — a — nothing
dangerous, is it?”

“O no; but it 's sometimes plaguy uncomf'table,” said
Mr. Thornton, “that 's all.”

“That all?” said I, glad to hear it. “I 'm sure that 's
nothing so very dreadful. However, if you think we 'd
better wait until the bees get a little quiet, I can restrain
my curiosity.”

Susie had found an excuse to go back to the hive. I
should have been glad of any excuse to return at the same
instant to the hotel. I had seen enough of her, and certainly
had heard enough. My interest in the Thorntons
was satiated. I had made up my mind that I did n't want
to marry. The country was not so charming as I had anticipated.
I very much preferred the town.

“Wal, may as well go into the house, I guess,” said
Mr. Thornton, leading the way.

So we went in. The door of a close, gloomy little parlor
was thrown open, and I was requested to enter and
make myself at home.

“You must go in and entertain him while I help Susie
slick up a little,” I heard Mrs. Thornton whisper at the door.

So Mr. Thornton came in, sat down in his rolled-up
shirt-sleeves, put one leg over the other, hung his hat on
his knee, and entertained me.

Of the entertainment, however, the most I remember is,


Page 284
that I not only experienced an ever-increasing anguish in
the part which had been stung, but discovered, to my consternation,
that it was swelling rapidly.

“I knowed a man once got stung on the head,” remarked
Mr. Thornton, bees being the topic of conversation,
“and he was blind for three days arter it, and his head
swelled up as big as half a barrel.”

Having entertained me with this extraordinary fact, the
worthy man withdrew. I sprang to my feet and looked in
the glass over the mantel-piece. Appalling spectacle!
My organ of locality was growing, — it had already attained
the size of a walnut, — and was fast swelling to the
dimensions of an egg. I caught up my hat and pitched it
recklessly on my forehead. As I was drawing on my
gloves I heard whispers.

“I can't go in! I shall laugh, I know I shall!” followed
by a suppressed giggle.

“Why, Susie, don't be so foolish!” said Mrs. Thornton.
“Come! I 'll go in with you!”

More whispers, a little fluttering, and in came Mrs. and
Miss Thornton, catching me with my hat and one glove
on. Retreat being thus cut off, I sat down again in the
obscurest corner, with the unstung hemisphere of my
phrenology in the light and the other in shadow.

Susie seated herself opposite, with her eyes downcast,
looking rigid, red, and as utterly unattractive as possible.
She never once opened her mouth to speak, but now and
then appeared seized by an almost ungovernable impulse
to giggle, after which she became more astonishingly rigid
and red than before.

Mrs. Thornton and I were discussing the weather, with
now and then an awful interval of silence, when Susie,
who, to conceal her embarrassment, had turned her eyes
out of the window, suddenly started back.


Page 285

“Mother, there comes Peleg!”

And almost immediately I saw standing in the door a
young man in light summer clothes, with ruddy-brown
cheeks, a long nose, and a droll expression of countenance,
nodding and winking like a harlequin.

5. V.

Come in, Peleg,” said Mrs. Thornton. “Mr. Blazay,
this is our neighbor, Mr. Green.”

Mr. Green made an extravagant flourish, shook my
hand very hard, bowed extremely low, and remarked,
through his nose, that he was most happy.

“Did n't know, though, ye had company,” he said apologetically.
He looked around for a seat, and finally, parting
his coat-tails, sat down near Susie. “Fine weather
now we 're having, Mr. Blazaway.”

“Mrs. Thornton and I were just remarking that the
weather was fine,” I answered, dryly.

Mrs. Thornton looked disconcerted by the neighbor's
appearance, and after fidgeting a minute left the room.

“Grand good weather for hay,” said Mr. Green. “Brings
out the rakes — hem!”

Susie looked slyly at him, as if to see whether he meant
that for a hit at me. I was n't sure about it, so I kept still.

“Smashing good crop o' hay this season; beats everything!”
said Mr. Green, lifting his left foot and holding
it with his hand over the instep across his right knee.
“Grass look well where you 've been, Mr. Blazaway? or
don't you notice much about grass?”


Page 286

I replied that, wherever I had taken the pains to observe,
everything looked to me exceedingly Green, keeping
my eyes fixed steadily on him as I spoke.

“Sho!” said Mr. Green, looking at me steadily in return,
and scratching his chin. Then he turned and said
in a hoarse whisper to Susie, “What an all-fired wen that
gentleman has got over his left eye! ye noticed it?”

A wen? that was the bee-sting! All-fired? it was all-fired!
Had Susie noticed it? In turning my face in
order to stare down the insolent intruder who called me
Mr. Blazaway, I had exposed the swelling, and Susie, who
stole a glance at me just then, must also have seen it.

Mr. Green reached deep into a pocket of his light summer
trousers, brought out a jack-knife, and commenced
honing it on his shoe.

“Traded horses agin, Susie.”

“What a hand you are to swap horses, Peleg!” she
said, thawing into conversation under his genial influence.

“Put off the colt; got a four-year-old chestnut; nice,
tell yeou! Bring him round and let ye ride after him to-morrer.”

“Who did you trade with?” said Miss Thornton.

“Stranger. Do'no' his name. Stumped him in the road.
Says I, `I got the mate to that beast you 're drivin', friend,'
says I. `Hev ye?' says he. `Better hitch,' says I, `and
jest step over in the lot here and see,' says I. He said he
did n't object if I had anything to show; so he tied to the
fence, — mighty slick critter that of hisn! `Yes,' says I,
`either you want my animil, or I want yourn, do'no' which
till we talk,' says I. Wa'al, we made a dicker,” added Peleg
Green, shutting his knife with a loud click, and winking

He was going on to expatiate on the merits of the four-year-old


Page 287
chestnut, when, to my great relief, Mr. Thornton
came to the door and called him out.

“I 'd like to speak with you a minute, Peleg.” And
Peleg, though with visible reluctance, withdrew.

I arose, walked straight to Susie, and frankly took her
hand. She looked up with a frightened, inquiring glance,
afraid, as I afterward learned, that I was going to propose
to her on the spot.

“I am very glad,” I said, “to have formed your acquaintance.
I shall always remember you with interest,
and if I ever come this way again I shall certainly do myself
the pleasure of visiting you.”

She appeared quite bewildered a moment, then a gleam
of intelligence brightened her face.

“Are you going, sir?” And, as I was hurt to observe,
the gleam became a gleam of delight.

“I have a call to make,” said I; “and after what is
past we may as well be frank with each other. I think it
is quite evident to us both that —”

“That you don't like me,” she said, while I was stammering.
“That 's it; and you need n't take the trouble
of putting it in some more polite way.”

She laughed as she spoke; all her embarrassment had
vanished; she looked radiant, even charming; and altogether
such a change had come over her that I was astonished.

“Rather say that you have not fallen in love with me,
I answered.

“That 's true, I have n't!” she confessed, with refreshing
naïveté. “And do you blame me? I was almost
frightened to death when I heard you were coming. And
it was so odd, — just as Peleg would go and look at a colt
he thought of buying!”

I sincerely entreated her pardon for the affront.


Page 288

“O, no affront. I don't care now, since you don't want
to marry me.” And she appeared quite joyous.

“You are glad of that. Peleg will be glad too,” I
could not help saying.

“Yes, I suppose he will,” she confessed, gayly.

“You like Mr. Green?”

“O yes; he amuses me ever so much. You don't know
how funny he can be. But you must n't go now, sir,” she
cried, taking my hat from me. “Stay to tea, won't you?”

I hardly know how it was; but she had her way, and I

“You must forgive me for laughing,” said Susie, only
half penitently; “but you can't guess how glad I was
that you got stung. Don't you think it was a judgment
upon you?”

“You knew it?” I said, putting my hand to my egg; for
the swelling had about reached that size.

“Of course I did; and that was the reason I could n't
look at you. But I am very sorry now, — indeed I am,”
she added, compassionately, seeing how bad a sting it was.
“And to think Peleg took it for a wen!”

At that she had to laugh again. But, on the whole,
she manifested a good deal of true womanly sympathy for
my suffering, and went out to prepare some salt and vinegar,
which she said was her mother's remedy for stings.

She did not return. But presently Mrs. Thornton came
in, bringing a saucer with some liquid and a rag in it,
dressed my brow, and took me out to tea.


Page 289

6. VI.

We found Mr. Thornton and the little Thorntons waiting,
— the distinguished urchins eying the table ravenously,
as if they did not see cake every day.

Then Susie and Peleg came out of the kitchen together,
looking supremely satisfied with each other, and amazingly

Mr. Thornton then let slip those dogs of war, the juniors,
whose ardor he had with difficulty restrained, and with a
rattle and a clatter and a rush they flew to the table,
storming the bread and butter, scaling the salt-fish, carrying
the breast-works of cold chicken, and assaulting the

In the mean time the lovers managed to get me into
the seat designed for Peleg, while the chair intended for
me, next to Susie, was coolly usurped by that gentleman.
Peleg kept the youngsters in a constant roar of laughter
with his jokes and queer contortions of face, which I was
chagrined to see were greatly enjoyed by Susie.

“O Peleg!” she exclaimed at last, “you 'll certainly
kill me with your ridiculous stories.”

“Wa'al, then, I won't tell any more,” said Peleg.
“Fact, I 'm a melancholeric man myself, nat'rally. Studied
to be a minister once: this is the way I looked,” — sleeking
down his hair with a meek and droll expression. “That
was when I was Presbyterian. Then I turned Methodist,
and looked so,” — and out of the tearful seriousness of a
broad, unctuous countenance broke a sympathetic, hopeful
smile. “After that I thought of turning Baptist, and got
as far as this,” — a sapient, hollow-cheeked visage, with a


Page 290
one-sided pucker; “when I switched off on the Universalist
track, as thus,” — changing instantly to the aspect of
a fat and jolly parson. “From that to swapping horses is
the easiest thing in natur'. Then I looked so,” — putting
his tongue in his cheek for a quid, and inclining his head
sidewise, with the honestest smooth face, — “and talked
this way: That's a dreadful kind beast, my friend; true
and sound in every way!
” — spoken with a good-natured
drawl that convulsed the youngsters.

I sympathized with Mrs. Thornton, who gravely reproved
Mr. Green for his levity in taking off the different denominations.

“Call hoss-jockeying one of the denominations? Wa'al,
we have our backsliders too,” said Peleg, — “from the backs
of unbroke colts. Speaking of my being a melancholeric
man, Susie, I was put in mind to-day how choleric I got
when my melons was stole last summer. Met one o' them

“Did you? O, you must tell Mr. Blazay that story,

And Peleg told it for my especial edification.

“Ye see, Mr. Blazay, there 's a tribe over the mountain
we call Shanghays, — gre't slab-sided lummoxes, — legs so
long they hev to go down sullar to tie their shoes; and
feet so big they hev to use the forks of the road for a boot-jack.
Wa'al, a set of 'em come over to our pond a-fishing
last summer, and as fish would n't bite they concluded
watermillions would (that 's what they call 'em), and went
over to my patch, a couple of 'em, to hook some; when I
happened along and ketched 'em at it.

“`Wa'al,' says I, `how ye gitting on? Don't be in a
hurry,' says I, as they dropped the melons and started to
run. `Better take some with ye,' says I. `Plenty of 'em.
Fust-rate, too. Here, I can git ye some a good deal better


Page 291
than these.' They felt awful cheap; but I made 'em
hold their arms, and loaded 'em up with the best I could
find. `There,' says I, `you see I know a great deal better
than you do how to pick, so next time you want any, s'posing
you come and ask me. It looks as if I was mean
about my melons, when folks hev to come and steal 'em,'
says I.

“So I let 'em go. But I thought I 'd like to hear what
sort of a story they 'd tell the others; so I cut around
through the edge of the woods and got behind a stump by
the pond, where I could see what was going on, though I
could n't hear much. They left their fishing and ripped
open the melons, and appeared to be heving a glorious
good time over 'em, when a dog they had along with 'em
got hold of a rind, choked, and keeled over. They thought
he was dead; and then you should have seen the old
scratch that was to pay! `Pizon! pizon!' I could hear
'em spluttering. They thought I had plugged the melons
and put arsenic into 'em; which accounted for my picking
out such partic'lar nice ones. They dropped their slices,
and spit out what they 'd been eating, and made a stampede
for the village, to the doctor's; and about half an hour
after they might have been seen going over the mountain,
sick as death with epicac, for the doctor had give each on
'em a rousing good dose. This is the way they looked,”
And Peleg illustrated, while everybody laughed but me.

I had had enough of that sort of thing. I arose to go,
pleading an engagement. “A lady I met in the cars,
Mrs.” — referring to the widow's card — Mrs. Pellet.”

“Sho!” said Peleg. “Not Mrs. Dr. Pellet, — Laury
Scranton that was?”

“The very same; and a very interesting young widow,
with twenty thousand dollars.”

“Widow!” gasped P. Green, with nobody's face but his


Page 292
own this time; and a very astonished face it was. “See
here, ye don't say! Dr. Pellet, he a'n't dead, is he?”

I assured him that the excellent doctor was deceased.

“I take it he was a dear friend of yours, Mr. Green.”

“Yaas! no! I mean — S 'pose ye wait a minute; guess
I 'll walk along with ye; got my colts to look after; seen
my hat, Susie?”

While Mr. Green, in his agitation, was hunting for his
hat, I shook hands with the family, and accepted, because
I could not refuse, an earnest invitation to a farmer's dinner
the next day. I then departed, pursued wildly out of
the house by Peleg, pulling on his hat.

7. VII.

Think o' going to see Laury — Mrs. Pellet — to-night?”
said Peleg.

“I have promised to call on her,” I answered, evasively.

“I 'd no idee of her being a widow,” said Mr. Green, with
an aguish shake in his voice. “Got much acquainted
with her? Could n't, though, I s'pose, jest seeing her in
the cars. Seem to take the doctor's death perty hard,
or could n't you judge as to that?”

“Not so hard but that she may be consoled, I should

“Consoled! yaas!” said Peleg, sardonically. “Maybe
you 'd like to hev the privilege of consoling her. Would
n't you like now to hev me go and show ye where the
house is?”

“O no, I would n't have you put yourself to that
trouble, Mr. Green.”


Page 293

“No trouble at all, Mr. Blazay. Fact is, I — I ruther
think 't would be neighborly, if I sh'd drop in on her

“But, I beg of you, don't go out of your way on my

“O no! O no!” said Peleg, keeping close at my side.
If I walked fast, he walked fast; if I walked slow, he
walked slow. “As a friend, Mr. Blazay,” he said, confidentially,
“allow me to say to you that that bunch over your
eye looks bad. Seems to me I should n't want to be making
calls on the ladies if I hed it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Green, for your very kind suggestion.
But I hardly think one so afflicted as Mrs. Pellet will look
much at externals. I can now find the house very well
without your assistance. Good night.” And I turned the
street corner.

“On the hull, guess I may as well go along too,” observed
Peleg; “me and Laury being old friends so.”

I reminded him of his excuse for abruptly leaving the
Thorntons, and expressed concern lest his colts should suffer
from neglect.

“Waal, I guess the colts can take care o' themselves for
an hour or so,” said Mr. Green.

We reached the house, and rang.

“Hello!” said Green, “a'n't you going in?”

“Not at this present moment,” I answered, walking off.

“Waal!” said the astonished Peleg, “if I 'd known —
Why did n't you say, and not fool a fellow this way?”

At that moment the door opened, and I left him to call
alone on the widow.

Two hours later, strolling toward the house, I saw a
person in light summer clothes come out; heard a voice
which I recognized as P. Green's, and another which I distinguished
as the mourning voice of the young widow.


Page 294
They separated, and the light summer clothes came toward
me at a fast walk, with an air of hurry and abstraction.

“Good evening, Mr. Green,” I said, pleasantly.

“Hello! that you, Mr. Blazay?” said Peleg. “Where
ye bound now?”

“Enjoying a little stroll,” I replied, leisurely. “It 's a
charming evening.”

“It is so,” exclaimed Peleg, with returning agitation,
“but ruther cool.”

“It is,” said I, “chilly. I should think you would suffer
in those thin garments, Mr. Green.”

“Waal, my clo'es be ruther thin,” Peleg admitted.

“And, allow me to say, it seems to me your only safety
is in a rapid continuation of your walk. I will not detain
you an instant.”

“See here!” said Peleg; “ye a'n't going in there to-night,
air ye? After nine o'clock!”

“After nine?” said I. “Gentlemen seldom make calls
before that hour, do they?”

I left him standing in his airy attire, gazing jealously
after me. I returned to the door he had just quitted, and
entered, admitted by the charming Mrs. Pellet herself.

She received me with her sweetest subdued smile; and,
seated quietly at her side in her uncle's parlor, after apologizing
for my unpresentable eyebrow, I had the pleasure of
hearing from her own lips the full particulars of my business
in Shoemake; Susie having communicated them to
P. Green, and P. Green to the widow.

“I little thought, when I praised her to you,” she said
with gentle reproach, “that I was praising your future

“Unfortunately for my hopes,” I said, “Susie's affections
seem to be already engaged.”

“Indeed! who is the happy man?”


Page 295

“Our friend who just went from here, — Mr. Peleg

The mourning eyelashes were raised with an expression
of mild and sorrowful surprise.

“But Peleg — I am sure,” she said, “he does n't care
for her.”

“Madam, he is her devoted admirer. You should have
seen him fly to the rescue the moment he heard of my
arrival. Indeed, so well satisfied am I of their mutual
attachment, that I have quite abandoned my foolish project.”

Mrs. Pellet heaved a sigh.

8. VIII.

The next day I dined with the Thorntons.

Susie improved on acquaintance. After dinner she
showed me her cheeses, and took me into the garden, and
was gathering a bouquet for me; and, as I may as well
confess, a very delightful familiarity was growing up between
us, when — in rushed Mr. Green.

Again, in the evening, I went to pay my respects to the
widow, and was enjoying a very quiet and pleasing conversation
with that charming lady, when — in popped Peleg.
Which of the two fair ones did he fancy? or had he an
Oriental preference for both?

Day after day, as I lingered in the place, without well
knowing why, the fellow seemed to have given up his
ordinary pursuits in order to devote himself exclusively to
their guardianship. He followed me pertinaciously, from


Page 296
village to farm, and from farm to village, as if the great
business of existence with him was to prevent any confidential
communication between me and either of the
aforesaid young women.

Shrewd, energetic, good-looking, not half so illiterate as
he appeared, making fun wherever he went, he was, I
found, a very general favorite. But my original prejudice
against him, instead of diminishing, increased, and became
very violent when I observed that Susie, who had soon
learned to entertain me with a simple grace, a bird-like
joyousness, when we were alone together, invariably grew
reserved toward me the moment he appeared.

So two or three (I don't know but four) weeks passed.
And still some fascination kept me in Shoemake. And still
Mr. Green followed me with that suspicious nose of his,
which I observed with satisfaction was long, and offered
excellent conveniences for tweaking, until one afternoon
found us four embarked in a sail boat on Shoemake Creek.
I had invited Susie and Mrs. Pellet, and Peleg had invited
himself, joining us just as we were getting into the boat.

“Hello!” said he, appearing very much astonished.
“Jest in the nick o' time, a'n't I? Seems to be plenty o'
room in yer canoe; guess I may as well jump in.”

And jump in he did accordingly, before I could push off.

The water sets back a mile or more from the dam, and
raises Shoemake Creek to the dignity of a river. Through
green meadows it winds placidly between banks fringed
with alders, willows, and elms, festooned with woodbines
and wild grapes.

The wind failed us as we were returning, and I made
Peleg work his passage. He rested on the oars, and we
floated down the current, which was calm and glassy under
the evening sky, and Susie sang a song that made me feel
unusually sentimental, and the widow sigh, “How sweet!”


Page 297

“Waal, it is some sweet,” Peleg admitted, as we drifted
around a bend of the stream, and came upon an exquisitely
tranquil picture of cool green water embowered in
cool green foliage overhanging the bank.

“Gals, I 'm a going to show ye the mill-dam,” said Peleg,
rowing down stream. “Did you ever see it, Mr. Blazay? I
come perty nigh going over the dam thing once.”

“Peleg,” said the melancholy Laura, “please don't be
profane, will you?”

“No, I won't,” said Peleg, solemnly. “I mean the
mill-d—m. Can't guess how I saved myself, Mr. Blazay?”

“By using your nose for a setting-pole?” I suggested.

“Mr. Blazay,” said Peleg, “I owe you one! But my
nose a'n't quite so long as that man's was who always had
to take two steps forward to touch the end on 't. He was
brother to the man that was so tall” (measuring me from
head to foot) “he had to go up a ladder to comb his hair.
And he could run so — 'specially if a bee was after him —
that, give him a fair chance, he could come out several
rods ahead of his own shadow. He ran around an apple-tree
once so fast that he 'most ketched up with himself,
and could see his own coat-tails jest ahead of him.”

So much I got for descending to the vulgarity of a personal
allusion. Even Laura was forced to smile, and Susie
fairly screamed.

“Everybody laughs at those jokes; I always do,” said
I, “whenever I hear them. I can remember laughing at
them as long ago as when I was a small boy.”

“Them jokes? What very old bachelors they must be,
then!” said the impudent fellow. “They must be bald
enough by this time! How many years ago did you

“We all admire your wit, Mr. Green,” I replied, sternly.


Page 298
“But I would advise you just now to bestow your chief
attention upon the management of the boat, for you are
getting us into a dangerous position.”

Peleg grinned as he turned the boat in the current, letting
the stern swing around toward the dam. The swift,
smooth water shot beneath us dark and strong, breaking
into a silver curve almost within reach of my cane, then
plunging with thunder and foam down into an agitated
and vapory basin. Mr. Green suffered us to drift almost
to the brink. I was in the stern, and could look straight
over the falls. The girls screamed.

“Don't be the least mite scared, gals,” said the facetious
Peleg, keeping the boat on the verge with easy strokes of
the oars. “Even if she should go over I could ketch her
'fore Mr. Blazay's coat-tails touched the water, and row
her right up over the dam again.”

“Mr. Green,” I cried, seriously, “take care! An oar
may break, then over we go, — nothing could prevent it.”

“All but Laury,” said Peleg; “she can't git over a dam,
ye know!”

“By Heaven,” said I, alarmed, “we are going!”

“Yes, Blazay first,” chuckled Peleg. “He likes to be
first in everything.”

“I see,” said I, now much excited, “I am destined to
give that fellow a thrashing.”

“Sho!” said Mr. Green, “I want to know. This is a
leetle more fun than I bargained fur. I 'xpected the gals
would be a trifle skittish, but I did n't think Blazay would
kick in the traces.”

We were right over the smoking chasm, where a single
false stroke of an oar might precipitate us into it. Susie,
with a pale, frightened face, instinctively shrank to my
side and clasped my arm. I felt a thrill, which made me
for a moment forget the danger. The spray wet us, thunder


Page 299
and mist filled the air, the whirlpool foamed and
boiled below, and I was happy.

“O dear, dear Peleg!” pleaded Laura, her rich mellow
tones heard even above the roar of the falls, “if you
have any regard for me, don't.”

“I can't help it,” said Peleg, pretending to lose his
power over the boat, and actually letting the stern project
over the dam.

I threw my arm around Susie, and she nestled tremblingly
to my heart. At the sight that wretch Peleg
missed a stroke. The boat shot forward, — we hung upon
the brink! He struck the blades again, just in time to
check our progress, and, putting forth all his strength,
might have saved us, had not Laura, beside herself with
terror, sprung up in the bow of the boat.

“Mercy!” she shrieked, and, flinging abroad her lovely
arms, threw herself headlong upon Peleg.

Of course that settled the business. The boat swept
sheer over the dam with all on board, filling and capsizing

9. IX.

A piercing shriek went up as we went down. It was
the voice of Laura, which had cast off its mourning for the
wet occasion. Susie uttered not a word, nor was Peleg
able to make any remark, facetious or otherwise, with the
widow clinging to his back, hugging and choking him

I remember a brief tumult in the water, arms tossing,
crinoline floating, the boat keel upward, the eddies rolling


Page 300
and sucking us. Then I was trying to swim with a
precious burden, raising the dripping head above water,
sinking inevitably, going down with the current, touching
gravel at last, and thanking my stars that I was

Wading, I emerged, bearing Susie in my arms, and
carried her to the bank.

“Thank Heaven!” said I, “you are safe.”

She brushed her dripping hair from her eyes, strangled
a little, and looked up.

I was bending over her, kneeling. It was very romantic.
I expected nothing less than that she would call me
her preserver, and betray at once her gratitude and her
love. She moved her lips, — her lovely but wet lips. I
listened for their faintest murmur. And this is what she
said, —

“Where 's Peleg?”

“What 's Peleg to us?” I exclaimed, sentimentally.

“He 's a good deal to us, — to me, at any rate!” she
declared; and I was obliged to tell her that Mr. Green had
got the widow on the keel of the boat, which he was hauling
to the opposite bank.

“Nobody drowned?”

“All safe, dearest!”

“You need n't call me dearest!” said Miss Thornton.
And she actually struggled from my arms.

“Susie! dearest Susie!” etc.

I don't remember the rest of my speech, and probably
should not repeat it if I could. The truth is just this: I
had fallen in love with this same Susie Thornton, and in
the excitement of the moment I was betrayed into a rather
ill-timed declaration.

“Mr. Blazay!” she exclaimed, in a strange tone, and
with a strange look, in which were expressed, as I fondly


Page 301
believed, astonishment, rapture, alarm. “How can you!
— you must not! — Peleg!”

I protested. She was very much agitated. She shivered
in her drenched clothes. She laughed nervously. She ran
down the stream and fished out my hat, which had floated

“Now we are even,” she said, with unnatural gayety.
“You have saved my life; I have saved your hat: and
one is of about as much consequence as the other! Why
did n't you let me drown? You might as well!”

“All right!” shouted Peleg, having got Laura on the
rocks. “Accidents will happen, ye know, in the best reg'lated

Susie and I set out, climbing the banks. The thunder
of the dam grew faint behind us, and, looking back, I saw
the cascade gleaming white in the twilight.

“Why, Susie, child! where have you been?” exclaimed
Mrs. Thornton, as we entered the house.

“O, we only just went over the dam, that 's all,” said

“Over the dam!” cried mamma.

“The dam!” echoed papa.

“Dam! — dam!” clamored little brothers, eagerly running
to hear their sister's narrative of the shipwreck.

I turned to go. Mr. Thornton grasped my hand.

“No, sir!” he said, with tears in his eyes, and with a
squeeze that brought tears into mine. “You don't leave
this house to-night! You have saved our darter's life,
and d' ye s'pose we 'll see you go off in your wet clo'es?
Not 's long 's my name 's Thornton!”

I fear I was only too willing to stay. I wanted one word
of hope from Susie; and although she appeared indifferent
to my going, I did not go.

“Give him some o' my clo'es to put on, can't we, mother?”


Page 302
said Mr. Thornton. “This way, Mr. Blazay; I can fit ye,
I know!”

He introduced me to the spare bedroom, and soon
brought me my outfit. I beheld with dismay the old-fashioned
garments. But the antique style was their least
objectionable feature. The dress-coat was of ample breadth,
the waistcoat of voluptuous dimensions, the pantaloons
baggy. But all were alike longitudinally scanty. They
had been cut for a very much shorter and stumpier man.
The ends of the sleeves reached a little below my elbows.
The trousers-legs barely covered my knees, and appeared decidedly
averse to making the acquaintance of the socks,
whose position in the world was so much beneath them.
Between waistbands and waistcoat I displayed a broad zone
of borrowed linen. The collar of the coat rode my back
like a horse-collar.

Mr. Thornton rubbed his hands, and appeared hugely
tickled at his success in clothing his guest. He held the
candle for me at the mirror. I looked aghast at myself as
I thought of meeting Susie. How could I think of pressing
my suit in a suit that so needed stretching?

I took courage, however, exhibited myself at the tea-table,
and joined in the merriment my ridiculous plight

A delightful evening ensued. Susie was in high spirits;
vivacious and as sweet as Hebe, after her bath. And,
further, my presence in the cottage did not prove a signal
for Peleg to rush in.

The heroes were sent to bed. The old folks shook hands
with me affectionately, called me their darter's preserver,
and bade me good night.

The moment I was left alone with Susie, her vivacity
subsided: she became serious and silent. I placed myself
at her side. The fragrant, dear little hand that lay idle on


Page 303
her lap, I could not resist the impulse to seize and kiss.
She firmly and gently withdrew it.

Then I talked; telling her of my previous languid, artificial
life; confessing my self-conceit and my prejudices;
avowing my infinite indebtedness to her for curing me of
that folly, for inspiring me with new life, with hopes, with
happiness, and all that sort of thing.

“Mr. Blazay,” she exclaimed, shivering anew with agitation,
“why do you tell me this now?”

“Why not now?”

“It is too late!”

“Too late? It is not too late, Susie, if you love me.”

“Sir,” she cried, almost angrily, “you must not, I tell
you you shall not, speak to me of love! You have
saved my life to-night; I am grateful; but —” She hesitated.

“Say it! Say the worst!”

She lifted her face, — tearful, white, inexorable, — and
fixed her eyes upon me with a look I shall never forget.

“Mr. Blazay, I am engaged.”

This she said with that chilling resoluteness of tone
which falls upon a lover's heart like death.

I began to rave foolishly of perfidy, of the trap that
was laid for me when I came to pay my addresses to one
who was already secretly betrothed.

“Oh! but I was not when you came!”

“What!” I exclaimed, “you have engaged yourself

“I have,” said Susie.

“When? To whom?”

“The evening after you arrived, to Peleg.”

I leaped to my feet. Wrath and disgust almost stifled
love. It was the last shock to my egotism to know that
she had accepted Peleg after she had seen me! I would


Page 304
have rushed from the house, but I saw Susie laughing. Distressed
as she was, she could not but laugh to see me striding
thus to and fro; and then I remembered whose garments
were drying by the kitchen fire, and whose I had on
in their place.

It was but a fitful, nervous laugh, however, and it changed
suddenly to crying. That brought me to her feet. I
claimed her; I vowed that she loved me; I knew it, and I
would not give her up; and more to the same effect.

Susie cut me short, arose in her dignity, and pointed to
the candle.

“The light is at your service, sir, whenever you wish to

I took it, and, without bidding her good night, went, not
to bed, but to the kitchen where my clothes were drying,
carried them to my room, put them on again, returned to
the entry, placed the candle on the table, and was going.

Susie, who had been sitting in the dark, came out of the
parlor and stood before me with a face like death.

“Are you going?”

“I am going.”

“Never to come again?”

“Never to come again.”

“Good by!” she whispered, just audibly, offering me
her hand. I pressed it, I kissed it.

“Susie,” I pleaded, “say that you will not marry that

“I have pledged myself; I shall marry him,” she replied,
in a voice that smote my heart like stone.

I regarded her a moment, — so fair, so inexorable; another's,
and not mine, — then hurried from the house.


Page 305

10. X.

Out of doors all was hushed and quiet. How well I remember
that night! A dewy, midsummer night. And
there, standing beneath the moon and the dim stars, I had
a feeling to which the gayest may sometimes be brought,
— a piercing sense of loneliness, as if I alone of all the
world was without a home; an alien in the beautiful,
calm universe of God.

I heard the throbbing murmur of the dam. I wandered
toward it, saw its misty whiteness glitter in the moon,
stood on the bank where I had first held Susie in my arms,
and tortured myself with vain regrets. After I had done
that long enough I walked back again, saw the light extinguished
in the farm-house, and knew Susie had gone to
bed. To sleep, perhaps to dream — of Peleg. I grinned
bitterly at the thought; and bidding her farewell in my
heart, and taking my last look at her window, I returned
to the tavern.

I packed my traps, then threw myself down, and rolled
and tossed in the long, dark hours, as it were in black
sweltering waves, the miserablest of men; heard the birds
chirp, and saw the first gray glimmer of dawn; then sank
into a feverish sleep and dreamed that Peleg took us all to
ride on the river in the handle of his jack-knife, with the
blade hoisted for a sail.

Awakened by Peleg's shutting the blade, I found it was
broad day. I arose and dressed with care. I breakfasted
as usual. Then I had my luggage brought down stairs, to
be in readiness for the early train. Then I paid my bill.
Then the landlady came and told me there was a person


Page 306
waiting to see me in the parlor. Then I went into the
parlor; and there, sitting with her bonnet on, and with a
little can of honey in her lap, was Susie Thornton.

My heart gave a great bound at sight of her. But I
saw at once that it was not an occasion to afford me the
least ground of hope. Unwillingly she had come, sent by
her parents, who did not guess, and to whom she did not
confess, her reason for not wishing to come.

“Mother promised you some honey, you remember.
And when I told her you were going, she blamed me for
not giving it to you, and made me come and bring it, with
her best wishes, — and father's.”

She got through her errand very prettily. I took the
can, thanking her. But O, it was a sweeter honey than
that my soul hungered for. I took her hand. She burst
into tears. She stayed only to dry them, and was going,
when a loud, blatant voice at the door startled us.

“Seen Mr. Blazay anywheres around this morning, any
on ye?”

“Peleg!” gasped Susie.

“He 'll be gone in a minute; wait here,” I said, flinging
the long damask window-curtain over her.

Enter Peleg.

11. XI.

Hello! how do ye find yerself after that rather damp
time, Mr. Blazay, hey?”

“Ah, good morning, sir! I feel, for one, as if I had
had about enough of Shoemake and the kind of jokes
you practise here.”


Page 307

“Sho! a'n't going off huffy, be ye? See a trunk and
carpet-bag in the entry here, H. Blazay marked on 'em;
sorry you 're going.” And Mr. Green sat down.

“Have you any business with me?” I demanded. “For
my time is occupied.”

“Waal, no, yaas, not exac'ly; do'n' know but I hev,
and don't know as I hev. Truth is, you 've got me into
the all-firedest scrape, Mr. Blazay.”

“I have got you into a — Explain yourself!”

“Yaas, you hev! an awful scrape!” And Peleg opened
and shut his jack-knife vivaciously. “An' now, seems to
me, Mr. Blazay, 't a'n't exac'ly the fair thing for you to
scoot off so and leave me in the lurch.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Waal, to come to the pint, it 's jest this: I 'd got
the idee into my head you was coming up here to marry
Susie, and, ye see, that 's what upset all my ca'c'lations.
Fact is, may as well own up, I had a sneakin' notion after
Susie myself; and so, ye see, when I heard a dandified
sort o' chap had come to town, and marched up to Neighbor
Thornton's as if he owned all this part of creation and
had come to collect his rents, I allow it did give me the
all firedest stirring up ever I had in my life! I was n't
long gitting into some clean clo'es, you better believe, and
making tracks that way myself, — about the time you was
making a bee-line from the orchard, ye rec'lect!”

“Mr. Green,” said I, stripping back my cuffs, “I have
long owed that nose of yours a wrench, and I perceive that
you have brought it here to afford me a gratification.”

“Yaas, I guess not!” said Peleg, coolly. “Excuse me,
Mr. Blazay!” And he stuck up the blade of his knife in
a manner that rather discouraged my advances. “I remember
what you said last night about giving me a
thrashing; but thrashing goes against my grain, as the


Page 308
barley said to the flail. Hed n't ye better wait and hear
what I 've got to say?”

“Go on,” I said, mastering my indignation.

“Waal, as I was going to remark, you hurried up my
pop-corn, Mr. Blazay, a leetle faster 'n I meant to hev it.”

“Pop-corn, sir! what do you mean?”

“O, you a'n't acquainted with that kind o' confectionery?
Plain English, then, I watched my chance, and, that
very night, 'fore supper, popped — you know what — the
question. And she took me right up, as I knew of course
she would.” And Peleg felt the edge of his knife complacently.
“That 's what you made me do, Mr. Blazay;
and now I 'm bothered if I would n't give boot if the thing
was unpopped. Come!” crossing his legs and talking very
much as if he had been trading horses, “what do you say
to a bargain now?”

The curtain was trembling. To prevent Mr. Green's
observing it I rushed upon him, towered over him, and
exclaimed, “You knave! you have not even been willing that
I should speak with Susie; but you have driven the wedge
of that nose of yours between us on every occasion; and
now —”

Peleg quietly stroked the said nose, and smiled.

“Lemme explain, Mr. Blazay. Ye see, all along, I
was n't quite sure o' the widow. Laury 's an old flame o'
mine, ye know. Offered myself to her six years ago; as
it happened, jest after she had accepted Dr. Pellet, so, of
course, I give her up. And, a'n't it curi's, I never heard
of Pellet's death till the very evening I 'd engaged myself
to Susie! Do be so obliging as to keep your hands off 'm
me, Mr. Blazay, and I 'll tell ye. Then, of course, the old
feelings for Laury kind o' come up again, and I can't say
that the twenty thousan' Pellet left her discouraged me in
the least. Now, I was afraid you was after the widow,


Page 309
and I wanted the widow. I had a suspicion you was after
Susie; and, if I could n't git the widow, I wanted Susie.
So there I was on the fence. Keep yer temper, keep yer
temper, Mr. Blazay, and I 'll continue. Want to know the
reason why I did n't propose right off to Laury? I 'd
already got one bird, and what should I do with two?
But I might 'a' give you a chance with Susie, mabby you
think? But 't a'n't in natur', is it, 't I sh'd give the cat a
bird in the hand, and take my chance for one in the bush?
That 's jest the case, Mr. Blazay.”

“Well, sir!”

“Waal, sir,” resumed Peleg, “last night, after the ducking,
you know, I took Laury home. And in the excitement
I kind o' forgot myself. I may as well own, I popped
the question to her too. She accepted me, of course;
might 'a' known she would. That 's the scrape, Mr. Blazay.
Engaged to two gals to once!” And he put his head
shrewdly on one side, as if studying some smart plan of
extricating himself.

“Well, sir! well, sir! what can I do for you?”

“Waal,” drawled the jockey, “did n't know but you 'd
like to take one on 'em off my hands. Good respectable
girls, both on 'em; kind o' hate to break any hearts, or
git into a breach-o'-promise scrape; but I can't marry
both, you know, without emigrating to Utah.”

“Well, Mr. Green, of which of these deluded young women
do you desire to be relieved?”

“I s'pose,” said Peleg, “as I come first, knowed both of
them, and kinder got my feelings engaged afore you did,
it 's only fair I sh'd hev the first pick. Now lemme see
which I 'll take. Now there 's Susie — awful nice gal —
handy about the house, you know — make a first-rate wife;
not bad off either. S'pose old Thornton could give her a
couple o' thousand now, and mabby three thousand more


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when he dies. Not bad, if a feller can't do better. But
then there 's Laury 's got twenty thousand right in hand;
that 'ud kinder set a feller up at once, — no waitin' for dead
men's shoes; an' besides, she took a shine to me 'fore
Susie ever did, — that ought to be taken into the account;
and I somehow think she 'd take the disappintment o'
losing me harder 'n Susie will; and then you come here,
you know, to court Susie, and not Laury. So, on the
hull, if it 's the same thing to you, 'pears to me it 's 'bout
the fair thing for me to take Laury, and let you have —”

At this instant the curtain was flung aside. Peleg
stopped, Peleg stared, Peleg grimaced and whistled.

“Phew! Who 'd 'a' thought it! Susie!”

12. XII.

There she stood, in an attitude that might have done
credit to Rachel, her eyes, her face, her whole form, so to
speak, scintillant and quivering with intensified scorn.

Peleg stretched himself up, plunged his hands deep into
his pockets, screwed up first one side of his face and then
the other, and repeated his astonished whistle.

“Whew! Told ye so!” squinting at me. “Awful
scrape! perfectly awful!”

“Mr. Green,” said I, “the lady desires to be rid of your
society. I am waiting to see her very reasonable wishes
complied with.”

“Don't be rolling up yer sleeves on my account! don't
spread yerself so like a cat a falling jest for me! Ruther
guess I 'm in a bad fix, and had better back right straight

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out. Ye see, Susie, no mortal man could 'a' ca'c'lated on
Laury's turning up a widow jest as I had hooked myself to
you. Now I ha'n't the least thing agin you in the world;
and I did n't mean to flunk out when I made the bargain.
But my old attachment to Laury, ye know; and here 's
Mr. Blazay, a perfect gentleman, got property, likes you;
and if you are satisfied with the swap —”

She stamped her foot again, her eyes darting fire.

“Shall I hasten his departure?” I suggested. “Door or
window, which would you prefer to see him pass out of?”

“Don't trouble yourself, I beg of ye!” said Peleg.
“You seem to understand each other, and I 'm glad on 't,”
scratching his chin. “We 'll consider it settled, if you 've
no objections. Hope the trade 'll prove satisfactory all
around. Ruther dull morning, Mr. Blazay. Look 's
though 't might clear up and be fine bimeby, — 'bout ten
o'clock, I guess. And allow me to say, Mr. Blazay, if I 've
got a colt, or any animil you happen to want, I shall be
most happy to talk. Waal, any time, ye know. Good

Exit Peleg.

Susie arranged her bonnet-strings with agitated hands,
and was hurrying away in haste to hide her anger and her
shame, when I held out my arms to prevent her escape,
and —

“Come! come!” says Mrs. Blazay, looking over my
shoulder, “you 've written quite enough about that foolish
affair! Besides, I want you to take the baby.”

Susie's word is law. So I leave my story here.