Read CHAPTER VI - MAX AND THE ASAFETIDA SPOON of The Tinder-Box, free online book, by Maria Thompson Daviess, on ReadCentral.com.

I do wish the great man who is discovering how to put people into some sort of metaphysical pickle that will suspend their animations until he gets ready to wake them up, would hurry up with his investigations, so he can catch Sallie before she begins to fade or wilt.  Sallie, just as she is, brought to life about five generations from now, would cause a sensation.

Some women are so feminine that they are sticky, unless well spiced with deviltry.  Sallie’s loveliness hasn’t much seasoning.  Still, I do love her dearly, and I am just as much her slave as are any of the others.  I can’t get out of it.

“Do you suppose we will ever get all of the clothes done for the twins?” Nell sighed gently as we sat on my porch whipping yards of lace upon white ruffles and whipping up our own spirits at the same time.  Everybody in Glendale sews for Sallie’s children and it takes her all her time to think up the clothes.

“Never,” I answered.

“She’s coming, and I do believe she has got more of this ruffling.  I see it floating down her skirt,” Nell fairly groaned.

Nell ought to like to sew.  She isn’t emancipated enough to hate a needle as I do.  But the leaven is working and she’s rising slowly.  It might be well for some man to work the dough down a little before she runs over the pan.  That’s a primitively feminine wish and not at all in accordance with my own advanced ideas.

I was becoming slightly snarled with my thread, and I was glad when Sallie and her sweetness seated itself in the best rocker in the softest breeze, which Nell had vacated for her.

“Children are the greatest happiness in life and also the greatest responsibility, girls,” she said, in her lovely rich voice that always melts me to a solution of sympathy whenever she uses it pensively on me.  “Of course, I should be desolate without mine, but what could I do with them, if I didn’t have all of you dear people to help me with them?”

Her wistful dependence had charm.

I looked at the twin with the yellow fuzz on the top of its head that has hall-marked it as the Kitten in my mind, seated on Sallie’s lap with her head on Sallie’s shoulder looking like a baby bud folded against the full rose, and I couldn’t help laughing.  Kit had been undressed three times after her bath this morning while Cousin Martha, Cousin Jasmine and Mrs. Hargrove argued with each other whether she should or shouldn’t have a scrap of flannel put on over her fat little stomach.  Henrietta finally decided the matter by being impudent and sensible to them all about the temperature.

“Don’t you all ’spose God made the sun some to heat up Kit’s stomach?” she demanded scornfully, as she grabbed the little roly-poly bone of contention and marched off with her to finish dressing her on the front porch in the direct rays of her instituted heater.

The household at large at Widegables can never agree on the clothing of the twins and Henrietta often has to finish their toilets thus, by force.  Aunt Dilsie being reduced by her phthisic to a position that is almost entirely ornamental, Henrietta’s strength of character is the only thing that has made the existence of the twins bearable to themselves or other people.

As I have said before, I do wish that some day in the future you will come under the direct rays of Henrietta’s influence, Jane, dear!

“Yes, Sallie, I should call them a responsibility,” I answered her with a laugh, as I reached up my arms for the Kitten.  Then, as the little yellow head snuggled in the hollow that was instituted in the beginning between a woman’s breast and arm for the purpose of just such nestlings, I whispered as I laid my lips against her little ear, “and a happiness, too, darling.”

And as Sallie rocked and recuperated her breath Nell eyed the ruffle apprehensively.

“Are you going to let us make another dress for the kiddies, Sallie, dear?” she finally was forced by her uneasiness to ask, though with the deepest sweetness and consideration in her voice.

If I am ever a widow with young children I hope they will burn us all up with the deceased rather than keep me wrapped in a cotton-wool of sympathy, as all of us do Sallie.

“It’s lovely of you, Nell, to want to do more for the babies after all the beautiful things you and Evelina have made them, and I may be able to get another white dress apiece for them after I give Cousin James the bills, that are awful already, but this is some ruffling that I just forced Mamie Hall to let me bring up to you girls to do for her baby.  The poor little dear is two months old and Mamie is just beginning on his little dress for him.  He has been wearing the plainest little slips.  Mamie says Ned remarked on the fact that the baby was hardly presentable when you girls stopped in with him to see it the other day, Nell.  I urged her to get right to work fixing him up.  It is wrong for children not to be kept as daintily as their father likes to see them.”

How any woman that is as spiritually-minded as I am, and who has so much love for the whole world in her heart, and such a deep purpose always to offer it to her fellowmen according to their need of it, can have the vile temper I possess I cannot see.

“And the sight that would please me better than anything else I have even thought up to want to see,” I found myself saying when I became conscious I hope I didn’t use any of the oaths of my forefathers which must have been tempting my refined foremothers for generations and which I secretly admire Henrietta for indulging in on occasions of impatience with Sallie “would be Ned Hall left entirely alone with that squirming baby, that looks exactly like him, when it is having a terrible spell of colic and Ned is in the midst of a sick headache, with all the other children cold, hungry, and cross, the cook gone to a funeral, and the nurse in a grouch because she couldn’t go and and he knowing that Mamie was attired in a lovely, cool muslin dress, sitting up here on the porch with us sipping a mint julep and smoking a ten-cent cigar, resting and getting up an appetite for supper.  I want him to have about five years of such days and then he would deserve the joys of parenthood that he now does not appreciate.”

“Oh, Mamie wouldn’t smoke a cigar!” was the exclamation that showed how much Sallie got of the motif of my eruption.

“Glorious!” exclaimed Nell, with shining eyes.

I must be careful about Nell, she is going this new gait too fast for one so young.  Women must learn to fletcherize freedom if it is not to give them indigestion of purpose.

“Still Ned provides everything in the world he can think of to help Mamie,” said Caroline, who had come up the walk just in time to fan the flame in me by her sweet wistfulness, with a soft judiciousness in her voice and eyes.  “And Mamie adores the children and him.”

If one man is unattainable to a woman all the other creatures take on the hue of being valuable from the reflection.  Caroline is pathetic!

“It would be robbing a woman of a privilege not to let her trot the colic out of her own baby,” Sallie got near enough in sight of the discussion to shout softly from the rear.

I have often seen Cousin Martha on one side of the fire trotting the Pup, and Cousin Jasmine on the other ministrating likewise to the Kit. so Sallie could take a good nap, which she didn’t at all need, on the long sofa in the living-room at Widegables.

“Ned is a delightful man and, of course, Mamie adores him.”  Nell agreed with an attitude of mind like to the attitude of a body sustained on the top rail of a shaky fence.

“He doubtless would be just as delightful to Mamie standing by dropping asafetida into a spoon to administer to the baby, as he is dancing with you at the Assembly, Nell,” I said, still frothy around the temper.

“He’ll never do it again,” was the prompt result I got from my shot.

“The trouble with you, Evelina,” said Sallie, with ruminative reflectiveness in her eyes, “is that you have never been married and do not understand how noble a man can be under ”

“Yes, I should say that you had hit Evelina’s trouble exactly on the head, Sallie,” came in Polk’s drawl as he came over the rose hedge from the side street and seated himself beside Caroline on the steps.

“Well, if I ever have a husband he’ll prove his nobility by being competent to make the correct connection between the asafetida spoon and his own baby,” was the answer that came with so much force that I couldn’t stop it after I fully realized Folk’s presence and sex.

“Help!” exclaimed Polk, weakly, while Nell blushed into the fold of her ruffle, Caroline looked slightly shocked and Sallie wholly scandalized at my lack of delicacy.

I felt that the place had been reached, the audience provided, and the time ripe for the first gun in my general revolution planned for Glendale.  I spoke calmly in a perfect panic of fear.

“I am glad Polk is here to speak for the masculine side of the question,” I said, looking all the three astonished women straight in the face.  “Polk, do you or do you not think that a man with a wife and seven children ought to assume at least some of the domestic strain resulting therefrom, like dropping the asafetida in the spoon for her while she is wrestling with the youngest-born’s colic?”

“Do I have to answer?” pleaded Polk, with desperation.

“Yes!”

“Then, under the circumstances I think the man ought to say:  ’To hell with the spoon,’ grab a gun, go out and shoot up a bear and a couple of wild turkeys for breakfast, throttle some coin out of some nearby business corporation, send two to five trained nurses back to the wigwam, stay down town to lunch and then go home with a tender little kiss for the madame who meets him fluffy and smiling at the door.  That’s my idea of true connubial bliss.  Applications considered in the order of their reception.  Nell, you are sweet enough to eat in that blue muslin.  I’m glad I asked you to get one just that shade!”

And the inane chorus of pleased laughs that followed Polk Hayes’s brainless disposal of the important question in hand made me ashamed of being a woman though it was funny.  Still I bided my time and Polk saw the biding, I could tell by the expression in the corners of his eyes that he kept turned away from me.

And in less than a half-hour he was left to my mercies, anything but tender.  Sallie took Nell and Caroline over home to help her decide how wide a band of white it would be decorous for her to sew in the neck of her new black meteor crepe.  I see it coming that we will all have to unite in getting Sallie out of mourning and into the trappings of frivolity soon and I dread it.  It takes so many opinions on any given subject to satisfy Sallie that she ought to keep a tabulated advice-book.

“Evelina,” said Polk, experimentally, after he had seen them safely across the street, and he moved along the steps until he sat against my skirts, “are your family subject to colic?”

“No, they have strong brains instead,” I answered icily.

“Said brains subject to colic, though,” he mused in an impudent undertone.

I laughed:  I couldn’t help it.  One of the dangerous things about Polk is that he gets you comfortable and warm of heart whenever he gets near you.  It wouldn’t matter at all to him if you should freeze later for lack of his warmth, just so he doesn’t know about it.

“Polk,” I began to say in a lovely serious tone of voice, looking him square in the eyes and determined that as we were now on the subject of basic things, like infantile colic, I would have it out with him along all lines, “there is an awful shock coming to you when you realize that ”

“That in the heat of this erudite and revolutionary discussion, which an evil fate led me to drop in on, I have forgotten to give you this telegram that came for you while I was down at the station shipping some lumber.  Be as easy as you can with me, Evelina, and remember that I am your childhood’s companion when you decide between us.”  With which he handed me a blue telegram.

I opened it hastily and found that it was from Richard: 

     Am coming down to Bolivar with C. & G. Commission.  Be deciding
     about what I wrote you.  Must.

     Richard.

I sat perfectly still for several seconds because I felt that a good strong hand had reached out of the distance and gently grabbed me.  Dickie had bossed me strenuously through two years of the time before I had awakened to the fact that, for his good, I must take the direction of the affairs of him and his kind on my and my kind’s shoulders.

I suppose a great many years of emancipation will have to pass over the heads of women before they lose the gourd kind of feeling at the sight of a particularly broad, strong pair of shoulders.  My heart sparkled at the idea of seeing Dickie again and being browbeaten in a good old, methodical, tender way.  I suppose the sparkle in my heart showed in my eyes, for Polk sat up quickly and took notice of it very decidedly.

“Wire especially impassioned?” he asked, with a smolder in his eyes.

“Not especially.”  I answered serenely, “One of my friend’s father is a director in the C. & G. and he is coming down with him for the conference over at Bolivar between the two roads next week.”

“Good,” answered Polk, heartily, as the flare died out of his eyes.

I was glad he didn’t have to see the wire for I wanted to use Polk’s brain a while if I could get his emotions to sleep in my presence.  It is very exasperating for a woman to be offered flirtation when she is in need of common sense from a man.  There are so many times she needs the one rather than the other, but the dear creatures refuse to realize it, if she’s under forty.

“Polk, do you see any logical, honest or dishonest way to get that Road to take the Glendale bluff line?” I asked, with trepidation, for that was the first time I had ever even begun to discuss anything intelligently with Polk.

“None in the world, Evelina,” he answered with a nice, straight, intellectuality showing over his whole face and even his lazy, posing figure.  “I remonstrated with James and Henry Carruthers both when they used their influence to have the bonds voted and I told James it was madness to invest in all that field and swamp property with just a chance of the shops.  The trouble was that James had always left all his business to Henry, along with the firm’s business, for a man can’t be the kind of lawyer James is, and carry the details of the handling of filthy lucre in the same mind that can make a speech like the one he made down in Nashville last April, on the exchange of the Judiciary.  James can be the Governor of this good State any time he wants to, or could, if Henry hadn’t turned toes and left him such a bag to hold no reference to Sallie’s figure intended, which is all to the good if you like that kind of curves!”

I took a moment to choose my words.

“The C. & G. is going to take that bluff route,” I answered calmly from somewhere inside me that I had never used to speak from before.

“Do you know anything of the character of Mrs. Joshua?” asked Polk, admiringly, but slipping down from his intellectual attitude of mind and body and edging an inch nearer.  “Bet she had a strong mind or Joshua never could have pulled off that sun and moon stunt.”

“Do you know, Polk, there is one woman in the world who could could handle you?” I said, as a sudden vision of what Jane would do, if Polk sat on her skirts as he did on mine, flashed across my troubled brain.

“I’d be mighty particular as to who handles me,” he answered impudently, “Want to try?” And with the greatest audacity he laid his head gently against my knee.  I let it rest there a second and then tipped it back against the arm of the rocker.

“It does hurt me to see a man like Cousin James fairly throttled by women as he is being,” I said as I looked across the street and noted that the porch of Widegables was full to overflowing with the household of women.

“Evelina,” said Polk, as he stood up suddenly in front of me, “that old Mossback is the finest man in this commonwealth, but from his situation nobody can extract him, unless it is a woman with the wiliness of the devil himself.  Poison the whole bunch and I’ll back you.  But we’ll have to plot it later on.  I see his reverence coming tripping along with a tract in his hand for you and I’ll be considerate enough to sneak through the kitchen, get a hot muffin-cake that has been tantalizing my nose all this time you have been sentimentalizing over me, and return anon when I can have you all to myself in the melting moonlight in the small hours after all religious folk are in bed.  Until then!” And as he went back through the front hall Mr. Haley came down the front walk.

“My dear Miss Shelby, how fortunate I am to find you alone,” he exclaimed with such genuine delight beaming from his nice, good, friendly, gray eyes that I beamed up myself a bit out of pure responsiveness.

“I am so glad to see you, Mr. Haley.  Hasn’t it been a lovely day?” I answered, as I offered him the large rocker Sallie had vacated.

“It has, indeed, and I don’t know when I have been as deeply happy.  This hour with you will be the very climax of the day’s perfections, I feel sure.”

I smiled.

To follow you, Jane, I “let a man look freely into my heart and thus encouraged he opened his to mine” and behold, I found Sallie and the twins and Henrietta all squatting in the Dominie’s cardiac regions, just as comfortably as they do it at Widegables.

“My sympathies have become so enlisted in the struggle which Mrs. Carruthers is having to curb the eccentricities of her oldest daughter that I feel I must lay definite plans to help her.  It is very difficult for a young and naturally yielding woman like Mrs. Carruthers to discipline alone even so young a child as Henrietta.  I know you will help me all you can to help her.  Believe me, my dear friend, even in the short time you have been in Glendale you have become a tower of strength to me.  I feel that I can take my most difficult and sacred perplexities to you.”

Now, what do you think of that, Jane?  Be sure and rub this situation in on all the waiting Five disciples.  I defy any of them to do so well in less than three months.  This getting on a plane of common citizenship with a fellow-man is easy.  That is, with some men.

Still while you are getting on the plane somebody else gets the man.  What about that?  I didn’t want Mr. Haley, but what if I had?

“Yes, Henrietta is a handful, Mr. Haley,” I answered with enthusiasm, for even the mention of Henrietta enlivens me and somehow Mr. Haley’s getting in the game of “curbing” her stirred up my risibles.  “But but Sallie already has a good many people to help her with the children.  I have been trying to to influence Henrietta and she does not swear except on the most exasperating occasions now.”

“The dear little child created a slight consternation in her Sunday School class last week when they were being taught the great dramatic story of Jonah’s three days’ incarceration in the whale.  To quote her exactly, so that you may see how it must have affected the other children, she said:  ’I swallowed a live fly onct myself and I’m not damn fool enough to believe that whale kept Jonah down three days, alive and kicking, no matter who says so.’

“She then marched out of the class and has not returned these two succeeding Sabbaths.  It was to talk over the matter I called on Mrs. Carruthers this afternoon, and I have never had my sympathies so stirred.  We must help her, my dear friend!”

I never enjoyed anything more in my life than the hour I spent helping that dear, good, funny man plan first aids to the rearing of Sallie’s children.  Besides my cooeperation he has planned to enlist that of Aunt Augusta, and I was wicked enough to let him do it.  In a small village where the inhabitants have no chance at diversions like Wagnerian operas and collapsing skyscrapers I felt that I had no right to avert the spectacle of Aunt Augusta’s disciplining Henrietta.

I’ll write you all about it, Jane, in a special delivery letter.

Jasper whipped Petunia with great apparent severity day before yesterday, and we have been having the most heavenly waffles and broiled chicken ever since.  I dismissed Jasper for doing it, but Petunia came into my room and cried about it a half-hour, so I had to go out where he was rubbing the silver and forgive him and hire him over.

“When a woman gits her mouth stuck out at a man and the world in general three days hand running they ain’t nothing to cure it but a stick,” he answered with lofty scorn.

“Yes’m, dat’s so,” answered Petunia.  “I never come outen a spell so easy before.”  And her yellow face had a pink glow of happiness all over it as she smiled lovably on the black brute.

I went off into a corner and sat down for a quiet hour to think.  Nobody in the world knows everything.

“Supper’s on the table,” Jasper announced, after having seen Mr. Haley go down the front walk to-night.  Jasper has such great respect for the cloth that never in the world would he have asked Mr. Haley in to supper without having at least a day to prepare for him.  Any of my other friends he would have asked, regardless of whether or not I wanted them.

I somehow didn’t feel that I could eat alone to-night, but it was too late to go for Sallie or Cousin Jasmine, and besides it is weak-minded to feel that way.  Why shouldn’t I want to eat by myself?

This is a great big house for just one woman, and I don’t see why I have to be that one!  I never was intended to be single.  I seem to even think double.  Way down in me there is a place that all my life I have been laying things aside in to tell some day to somebody that will understand.  I don’t remember a single one of them now, but when the time comes somebody is going to ask me a question very softly and it is going to be the key that will unlock the treasures of all my life, and he will take them out one by one, and look at them and love them and smile over them and scold over them and be frightened even to swearing over them, perhaps weep over them, and then while I’m very close pray over them.  I could feel the tears getting tangled in my lashes, but I forced them back.

Now, I don’t see why I should have been sentimentalizing over myself like that.  Just such a longing, miserable, wait-until-he-comes and why-doesn’t-he-hurry-or-I’ll-take-the-wrong-man attitude of mind and sentiment in women in general is what I have taken a vow on my soul, and made a great big important wager to do away with.  There are millions of lovely men in the world and all I have to do is to go out and find the right one, be gentle with him until he understands my mode of attack to be a bit different from the usual crawfish one employed by women from prehistoric times until now, but not later:  and then domesticate him in any way that suits me.

Here I’ve been in Glendale almost three months and have let my time be occupied keeping house for nobody but myself and to entertain my friends, planting a flower garden that can’t be used at all for nourishment, and sewing on another woman’s baby clothes.

I’ve written millions of words in this book and there is as yet not one word that will help the Five in the serious and important task of proving that they have a right to choose their own mates, and certainly nothing to help them perform the ceremonial.

If I don’t do better than this Jane will withdraw her offer and there is no telling how many years the human race will be retarded by my lack of strength of character.

What do men do when they begin to see the gray hairs on their temples and when they have been best-man at twenty-three weddings, and are tired of being at christenings and buying rattles, and things at the club all taste exactly alike, and they have purchased ten different kinds of hair-tonic that it bores them to death to rub on the tops of their own heads?

I don’t want any man I know!  I might want Polk, if I let him have half a chance to make me, but that would be dishonorable.

I’ve got up so much nice warm sisterly love for Dickie and Mr. Haley that I couldn’t begin to love them in the right way now, I am afraid.  Still, I haven’t seen Dickie for three months and maybe my desperation will have the effect of enhancing his attractions.  I hope so.

Still I am disgusted deeply with myself.  I believe if I could experiment with mankind I could make some kind of creature that would be a lot better than a woman for all purposes, and I would

“Supper’s ready and company come,” Jasper came to the front door to announce for the third time, but this time with the unctuous voice of delight that a guest always inspires in him.  I promptly went in to welcome my materialized desire whoever it happened to be.

The Crag was standing by the window in the half light that came, partly from the candles in their tall old silver candlesticks that were Grandmother Shelby’s, and partly from the last glow of the sun down over the ridge.  That was what I needed!

“I was coming in from the fields across your back yard and I saw the table lighted and you on the front porch, star-gazing, and and I got Jasper to invite me.” he said as he came over and drew out my chair on one side of that wide square table, while Jasper stood waiting to seat him at the other, about a mile away.

“I wanted you,” I answered him stupidly, as I sank into my place and leaned my elbows on the table so I could drop my warm cheeks into my hands comfortably.  I didn’t see why I should be blushing.

“That’s the reason I came then,” he answered, as he looked at me across the bowl of musk roses that were sending out waves of sweetness to meet those that were coming in from the honeysuckle climbing over the window.  “If you were ever lonely and needed me, Evelina, you would tell me, wouldn’t you?” he asked, as he leaned towards me and regarded me still more closely.

And again those two treacherous tears rose and tangled themselves in my lashes, though I did shake them away quickly as a smile quivered its way to command of my mouth.  But I was not quick enough and he saw them.

And what he did was just what I wanted him to do!  He rose, picked up his chair and came around that huge old table and sat down at the corner just as near to my elbow as the steaming coffee pot would let him.

“If you wanted me any time, would you tell me, Evelina?” he insisted from this closer range.

“No, I wouldn’t,” I answered with a laugh.  “I would expect you to know it, and come just like you did to-night.”

“But but it was I that wanted you badly in this case,” he answered with an echo of the laugh.

But even under the laugh I saw signs of excitement in his deep eyes and his long, lean hands shook as they handed me his cup to pour the coffee.  Jasper had laid his silver and napkin in front of him and retired to admonish Petunia as to the exact crispness of her first waffle.

“What is it?” I asked breathlessly, as I moved the coffee pot from between us to the other side.

“Just a letter that came to me from the Democratic Headquarters in the City, that shook me up a bit and made me want to to tell you about it.  Nobody else can know I have been out on Old Harpeth all afternoon fighting that out, and telling you is the only thing I have allowed myself.”

“They want you to be the next Governor,” I said quickly.  “And you will be, too,” I added, again using that queer place in my brain that seems to know perfectly unknowable things and that only works in matters that concern him.

“No!”

“Yes, Your Excellency,” I hurled at him defiantly.

“You witch, you,” he answered me with a pleased, teasing whimsicality coming into his eyes.  “Of course, you guessed the letter and it was dear to have you do it, but we both know it is impossible.  Nobody must hear of it, and the telling you has been the best I could get out of it anyway.  Jasper, take my compliments to Petunia, this chicken is perfection!”

That eighth wonder of the world which got lost was something even more mysterious than the Sphinx.  It was a marvel that could have been used for women to compare men to.  That man sat right there at my side and ate four waffles, two large pieces of chicken and a liver-wing, drank two cups of coffee, and then devoured a huge bowl of peaches and cream, with three muffin-cakes, while enduring the tragedy of the realization of having to decline the Governorship of his State.

I watched him do it, first in awe and then with a dim understanding of something, I wasn’t sure what.  Most women, under the circumstances, would have gone to bed and cried it out or at least have refused food for hours.  We’ve got to get over those habits before we get to the point of having to refuse to be Governors of the States and railroad presidents and things like that.

And while he ate, there I sat not able to more than nibble because I was making up my mind to do something that scared me to death to think about.  That gaunt, craggy man in a shabby gray coat, cut ante-bellum wise, with a cravat that wound itself around his collar, snowy and dainty, but on the same lines as the coat and evidently of rural manufacture in the style favored by the flower and chivalry of the day of Henry Clay, had progressive me as completely overawed for several minutes as any painted redskin ever dominated a squaw or as Jasper did Petunia in my own kitchen.

But after we were left alone with the roses and the candles and his cigar, with only Jasper’s gratified voice mumbling over compliments to Petunia in the distance, I took my courage in my hands and plunged.

This can he used as data for the Five.

“James.”  I said, with such cool determination in my voice that it almost froze my own tongue, “I meant to tell you about it several weeks ago, I have decided to adopt Sallie and all the children.  I intend to legally adopt the children and just nominally adopt Sallie, but it will amount to the same thing.  I don’t have to have your consent but I think it is courteous to ask for it.”

“What!” he exclaimed, as he sat up and looked at me with the expression an alienist might use in an important examination.

“Yes,” I answered, gaining courage with time.  “You see, I was crying out here on the porch with loneliness when you found me.  I can’t stand this any longer.  I must have a family right away and Sallie’s just suits me.  I have to take a great deal of interest in them anyway and it would be easier if I had complete control of them.  It will leave you with enough family to keep you from being lonely and then we can all be happy together down into old age.”

“Have you said anything about this to Sallie?” he asked weakly as he dipped the end of his cigar into his glass of water and watched the sputter with the greatest interest.

“Not yet, but don’t you feel sure that she will consent?” I asked, with confidence in my plan at fever heat.  “Sallie is so generous and she can’t want to see me live lonely always, without any family at all.  Now, will she?”

“She would consent!” he answered slowly, and then he laid his head down on the table right against my arm and shook so that the candlesticks rattled against the candles.  “But I don’t,” he gasped, and for the life of me I couldn’t tell whether he was crying or laughing, until he sat up again.

“Eve,” he said, with his eyes fairly dancing into mine, “if women in general mean to walk over political difficulties as you are planning to walk away with this one of mine, I’m for feminine rule.  Don’t you dare say one word about such a thing to Sallie.  Of course, it is impossible as it is funny.”

It was a tragedy to have such a lovely scheme as I had thought up on the spur of the moment, knocked down suddenly by a half dozen positive words from a mere man, and for a moment my eyes fought with his in open rebellion.  Then I rose haughtily and walked out on the front porch.

“Dear,” he said, as he followed me and took my hand in his and drew me near him, “don’t you know that your wanting to put your shoulder under any burden I may be bearing lifts it completely?  There are things in this situation that you can’t understand.  If I seem to make sacrifices, they come from the depths of my heart and are not sacrifices.  Will you believe me?”

How can he help loving Sallie with her so emphatically there?

I answered him I suppose to his liking and he went on across the road to Widegables and left me alone in the cruel darkness.

Please, God, when things seem to be drowning me like this make me swim with head up.  Amen!