Never knew a word about the threshin' machine a-comin' till about half an hour before. Josiah Allen wuzn't to blame. It come just as onexpected onto him as it did onto me.
Solomon Gowdey wuz a-goin' to have 'em first, which would have left me ample time to cook up for 'em. But he wuz took down bed sick, so they had to come right onto us with no warnin' previous and beforehand.
They wuz a drivin' up just as Josiah got the stove-pipe up. They had to go right by the side of the house, right by the parlor winders, to get to the side of the barn where they wanted to thresh; and just as they wuz a-goin' by one of the horses got down, and of all the yellin' I ever heard that was the cap sheaf.
Steve Yerden is rough on his horses, dretful rough. He yells at 'em enough to raise the ruff. His threshin' machine is one of the kind where the horses walk up and look over the top. It is kinder skairful any way, and it made it as bad agin when you expected to see the horse fall out every minute.
Wall, that very horse fell out of the machine three times that day. It wuz a sick horse, I believe, and hadn't ort to have been worked. But three times it fell, and each time the yellin' wuz such that it skairt the author of "Peaceful Repose," and me, almost to death.
The machine wuz in plain sight of the house, and every time we see the horse's head come a mountin' up on top of the machine, we expected that over it would go. But though it didn't fall out only three times, as I said, it kep' us all nerved up and uneasy the hull of the time expectin' it. And Steve Yerden kep' a-yellin' at his horses all the time; there wuzn't no comfort to be took within a mile of him.
I wuz awful sorry it happened so, on her account.
[Illustration: "IT DIDN'T FALL OUT ONLY THREE TIMES."]
Wall, I had to get dinner for nine men, and cook if all from the very beginnin'. If you'll believe it, I had to begin back to bread. I hadn't any bread in the house, but I had it a-risin', and I got two loaves out by dinner time. But I had to stir round lively, I can tell you, to make pies and cookies and fried cakes, and cook meat, and vegetables of all kinds.
The author of "Wedlock's Peaceful Repose" came out into the kitchen. I told her she might, if she wanted to, for I see I wuzn't goin' to have a minute's time to go into the parlor and visit with her.
She looked pretty sober and thoughtful, and I didn't know as she liked it, to think I couldn't do as I promised to do, accordin' to agreement, to hear her lecture, and lift my hand up when I differed from her.
But, good land! I couldn't help it. I couldn't get a minute's time to lift my hand up. I could have heard the lecture, but I couldn't spare my hands.
And then Josiah would come a-rushin' in after one thing and another, actin' as was natural, accordin' to the nater of man, more like a wild man than a Christian Methodist. For he was so wrought up and excited by havin' so much on his hands to do, and the onexpectedness of it, that he couldn't help actin' jest as he did act. I don't believe he could. And then Steve Yerden is enough to distract a leather-man, any way.
[Illustration: "TO FIND A PIECE OF OLD ROPE TO TIE UP THE HARNESS."]
Twice I had to drop everything and find cloths to do up the horse's legs, where it had grazed 'em a-fallin' out of the machine. And once I took my hands out of the pie-crust to find a piece of old rope to tie up the harness. It seemed as if I left off every five minutes to wait on Josiah Allen, to find somethin' that he wanted and couldn't find, or else to do somethin' for him that he couldn't do.
Truly, it was a wild and harrowin' time, and tegus. But I kept a firm holt of my principles, and didn't groan - not when anybody could hear me. I won't deny that I did, out in the buttery by myself, give vent to a groan or two, and a few sithes. But immegiately, or a very little after, I was calm again.
Wall, worse things wuz a-comin' onto me, though I didn't know it. I owed a tin peddler; had been owin' him for four weeks. I owed him twenty-five pounds of paper rags, for a new strainer. I had been expectin' him for over three weeks every day. But in all the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year, there wuzn't another day that would satisfy him; he had got to come on jest that day, jest as I wuz fryin' my nut cakes for dinner.
I tried to put him off till another day. But no! He said it wuz his last trip, and he must have his rags. And so I had to put by my work, and lug down my rag-bag. His steel-yards wuz broke, so he had to weigh 'em in the house. It wuz a tegus job, for he wuz one of the perticuler kind, and had to look 'em all over before he weighed 'em, and pick out every little piece of brown paper, or full cloth - everything, he said, that wouldn't make up into the nicest kind of writin' paper.
And my steel-yards wuz out of gear any way, so they wouldn't weigh but five pounds at a time, and he wuz dretful perticuler to have 'em just right by the notch.
And he would call on me to come and see just how the steel-yards stood every time. (He wuz as honest as the day; I hain't a doubt of it.)
But it wuz tegus, fearful tegus, and excitin'. Excitin', but not exhileratin', to have the floor all covered with rags of different shapes and sizes, no two of a kind. It wuz a curius time before he come, and a wild time, but what must have been the wildness, and the curosity when there wuz, to put a small estimate on it, nearly a billion of crazy lookin' rags scattered round on the floor.
[Illustration: "SHE LOOKED CURIUS, CURIUSER THAN THE FLOOR LOOKED."]
But I kep' calm; I have got giant self-control, and I used every mite of it, every atom of control I had by me, and kep' calm. I see I must - for I see that Miss Fogg looked bad; yes, I see that the author of "Wedlock's Peaceful Repose" wuz pretty much used up. She looked curius, curiuser than the floor looked, and that is goin' to the complete end of curosity, and metafor.
Wall, I tussled along and got dinner ready. The tin peddler had to stay to dinner, of course. I couldn't turn him out jest at dinner time. And sometimes I almost think that he delayed matters and touzled 'round amongst them rags jest a purpose to belate himself, so he would have to stay to dinner.
I am called a good cook. It is known 'way out beyend Loontown and Zoar - it is talked about, I spoze. Wall, he stayed to dinner. But he only made fourteen; there wuz only thirteen besides him, so I got along. And I had a good dinner and enough of it.
I had to wait on the table, of course - that is, the tea and coffee. And I felt that a cup of good, strong tea would be a paneky. I wuz that wore out and flustrated that I felt that I needed a paneky to soothe.
And I got the rest all waited on and wuz jest a liftin' my cup to my lips, the cup that cheers everybody but don't inebriate 'em - good, strong Japan tea with cream in it. Oh, how good it smelt. But I hadn't fairly got it to my mouth when I wuz called off sudden, before I had drinked a drop, for the case demanded help at once.
Miss Peedick had unexpected company come in, jest as they wuz a-settin' down to the dinner-table, and she hadn't hardly anything for dinner, and the company wuz very genteel - a minister and a Justice of the Peace - so she wanted to borrow a loaf of bread and a pie.
She is a good neighbor and is one that will put herself out for a neighborin' female, and I went into the buttery, almost on the run, to get 'em for her, for her girl said she wanted to get 'em into the house and onto the table before Mr. Peedick come in with 'em from the horse barn, for they knew that Mr. Peedick would lead 'em out to dinner the very second they got into the house, and Miss Peedick didn't want her husband to know that she had borrowed vittles, for he would be sure to let the cat out of the bag, right at the table, by speakin' about 'em and comparin' 'em with hern.
I see the necessity for urgent haste, and the trouble wuz that I hurried too much. In takin' down a pie in my awful hurry, I tipped over a pan of milk right onto my dress. It wuz up high and I wuz right under the shelf, so that about three tea-cupsful went down into my neck. But the most went onto my dress, about five quarts, I should judge besides that that wuz tricklin' down my backbone.
[Illustration: "I SEE THE NECESSITY FOR URGENT HASTE."]
Wall, I started Serintha Ann Peedick off with her ma's pie and bread, and then wiped up the floor as well as I could, and then I had to go and change my clothes. I had to change 'em clear through to my wrapper, for I wuz wet as sop - as wet as if I had been takin' a milk swim.