But truly the labors that descended onto my shoulders immegiately after Lodema's departure wuz hard enough to fill up my hull mind, and tax every one of my energies.
Yes, my labors and the labors of the other female Jonesvillians wuz deep and arjuous in the extreme (of which more and anon bimeby).
I had been the female appinted in a private and becomin' female way, to go to Loontown to see the meetin' house there that we heard they had fixed over in a cheap but commojous way. And for reasons (of which more and anon) we wanted to inquire into the expense, the looks on't, etc., etc.
So I persuaded Josiah Allen to take me over to Loontown on this pressin' business, and he gin his consent to go on the condition that we should stop for a visit to Cephas Bodley'ses. Josiah sets store by 'em. You see they are relations of ourn and have been for some time, entirely unbeknown to us, and they'd come more'n a year ago a huntin' of us up. They said they "thought relations ought to be hunted up and hanged together." They said "the idea of huntin' us up had come to 'em after readin' my books." They told me so, and I said, "Wall!" I didn't add nor diminish to that one "wall," for I didn't want to act too backward, nor too forward. I jest kep' kinder neutral, and said, "Wall!"
You see Cephas'ses father's sister-in-law wuz stepmother to my aunt's second cousin on my father's side. And Cephas said that "he had felt more and more, as years went by, that it wuz a burnin' shame for relations to not know and love each other." He said "he felt that he loved Josiah and me dearly."
I didn't say right out whether it wuz reciprokated or not I kinder said, "Wall!" agin.
And I told Josiah, in perfect confidence and the wood-house chamber, "that I had seen nearer relations than Mr. Bodley'ses folks wuz to us,"
[Illustration: "CEPHAS SAID IT WUZ A BURNIN' SHAME FOR RELATIONS TO NOT KNOW AND LOVE EACH OTHER."]
Howsumever, I done well by 'em. Josiah killed a fat turkey, and I baked it, and done other things for their comfort, and we had quite a good time. Cephas wuz ruther flowery and enthusiastick, and his mouth and voice wuz ruther large, but he meant well, I should judge, and we had quite a good time.
She wuz very freckled, and a second-day Baptist by perswasion, and wuz piecin' up a crazy bedquilt. She went a-visitin' a good deal, and got pieces of the women's dresses where she visited for blocks. So it wuz quite a savin' bedquilt, and very good-lookin', considerin'.
But to resoom and continue on. Cephas'ses folks made us promise on our two sacred honors, Josiah's honor and mine, that we would pay back the visit, for, as Cephas said, "for relatives to live so clost to each other, and not to visit back and forth, wuz a burnin' shame and a disgrace." And Josiah promised that we would go right away after sugerin'.
We wouldn't promise on the New Testament, as Cephas wanted us to (he is dretful enthusiastick); but we gin good plain promises that we would go, and laid out to keep our two words.
Wall, we got there onexpected, as they had come onto us. And we found 'em plunged into trouble. Their only child, a girl, who had married a young lawyer of Loontown, had jest lost her husband with the typus, and they wuz a-makin' preparations for the funeral when we got there. She and her husband had come on a visit, and he wuz took down bed-sick there and died.
I told 'em I felt like death to think I had descended down onto 'em at such a time.
But Cephas said he wuz jest dispatchin' a messenger for us when we arrove, for, he said, "in a time of trouble, then wuz the time, if ever, that a man wanted his near relations clost to him."
And he said "we had took a load offen him by appearin' jest as we did, for there would have been some delay in gettin' us there, if the messenger had been dispatched."
He said "that mornin' he had felt so bad that he wanted to die - it seemed as if there wuzn't nothin' left for him to live for; but now he felt that he had sunthin' to live for, now his relatives wuz gathered round him."
Josiah shed tears to hear Cephas go on. I myself didn't weep none, but I wuz glad if we could be any comfort to 'em, and told 'em so.
And I told Sally Ann, that wuz Cephas'ses wife, that I would do anything I could to help 'em. And she said everything wuz a-bein' done that wuz necessary. She didn't know of but one thing that wuz likely to be overlooked and neglected, and that wuz the crazy bedquilt. She said "she would love to have that finished to throw over a lounge in the settin'-room, that wuz frayed out on the edges, and if I felt like it, it would be a great relief to her to have me take it right offen her hands and finish it."
So I took out my thimble and needle (I always carry such necessaries with me, in a huzzy made expressly for that purpose), and I sot down and went to piecin' up. There wuz seventeen blocks to piece up, each one crazy as a loon to look at, and it wuz all to set together.
She had the pieces, for she had been off on a visitin' tower the week before, and collected of 'em.
So I sot in quiet and the big chair in the settin'-room, and pieced up, and see the preparations goin' on round us.
I found that Cephas'ses folks lived in a house big and showy-lookin', but not so solid and firm as I had seen.
It wuz one of the houses, outside and inside, where more pains had been took with the porticos and ornaments than with the underpinnin'.
It had a showy and kind of a shaky look. And I found that that extended to Cephas'ses business arrangements. Amongst the other ornaments of his buildin's wuz mortgages, quite a lot of'em, and of almost every variety. He had gin his only child, S. Annie (she wuz named after her mother, Sally Ann, but spelt it this way), he had gin S. Annie a showy education, a showy weddin', and a showy settin'-out. But she had had the good luck to marry a sensible man, though poor.
[Illustration: "So I SOT IN QUIET AND THE BIG CHAIR."]
He took S. Annie and the brackets, the piano and hangin' lamps and baskets and crystal bead lambrequins, her father had gin her, moved 'em all into a good, sensible, small house, and went to work to get a practice and a livin'. He was a lawyer by perswasion.
Wall, he worked hard, day and night, for three little children come to 'em pretty fast, and S. Annie consumed a good deal in trimmin's and cheap lace to ornament 'em; she wuz her father's own girl for ornament. But he worked so hard, and had so many irons in the fire, and kep' 'em all so hot, that he got a good livin' for 'em, and begun to lay up money towards buyin' 'em a house - a home.
He talked a sight, so folks said that knew him well, about his consumin' desire and aim to get his wife and children into a little home of their own, into a safe little haven, where they could live if he wuz called away. They say that that wuz on his mind day and night, and wuz what nerved his hand so in the fray, and made him so successful. Wall, he had laid up about nine hundred dollars towards a home, every dollar on it earned by hard work and consecrated by this deathless hope and affection. The house he had got his mind on only cost about a thousand dollars. Loontown property is cheap.
Wall, he had laid up nine hundred, and wuz a-beginnin' to save on the last hundred, for he wouldn't run in debt a cent any way, when he wuz took voyalent sick there to Cephas'ses; he and S. Annie had come home for a visit of a day or two, and he bein' so run down, and weak with his hard day work and his night work, that he suckumbed to his sickness, and passed away the day before I got there.
Wall, S. Annie wuz jest overcome with grief the day I got there, but the day follerin' she begun to take some interest and help her father in makin' preparations for the funeral.
The body wuz embalmed, accordin' to Cephas'ses and S. Annie's wish, and the funeral wuz to be on the Sunday follerin', and on that Cephas and S. Annie now bent their energies.
To begin with, S. Annie had a hull suit of clear crape made for herself, with a veil that touched the ground; she also had three other suits commenced, for more common wear, trimmed heavy with crape, one of which she ordered for sure the next week, for she said, "she couldn't stir out of the house in any other color but black."
I knew jest how dear crape wuz, and I tackled her on the subject, and sez I -
"Do you know, S. Annie, these dresses of your'n will cost a sight?"
"Cost?" sez she, a-bustin' out a-cryin'. "What do I care about cost? I will do everything I can to respect his memory. I do it in remembrance of him."
Sez I, gently, "S. Annie, you wouldn't forget him if you wuz dressed in white. And as for respect, such a life as his, from all I hear of it, don't need crape to throw respect on it; it commands respect, and gets it from everybody."
"But," sez Cephas, "it would look dretful odd to the neighbors if she didn't dress in black." Sez he in a skairful tone, and in his intense way -
[Illustration: "WHAT IS LIFE WORTH WHEN FOLKS TALK?"]
"I would ruther resk my life than to have her fail in duty in this way; it would make talk. And." sez he, "what is life worth when folks talk?" I turned around the crazed block and tackled it in a new place (more luny than ever it seemed to me), and sez I, mekanickly -
"It is pretty hard work to keep folks from talkin'; to keep 'em from sayin' somethin'."
But I see from their looks it wouldn't do to say anything more, so I had to set still and see it go on.
At that time of year flowers wuz dretful high, but S. Annie and Cephas had made up their minds that they must have several flower-pieces from the city nighest to Loontown.
One wuz a-goin' to be a gate ajar, and one wuz to be a gate wide open, and one wuz to be a big book. Cephas asked what book I thought would be preferable to represent. And I mentioned the Bible.
But Cephas sez, "No, he didn't think he would have a Bible; he didn't think it would be appropriate, seein' the deceased wuz a lawyer." He said "he hadn't quite made up his mind what book to have. But anyway it wuz to be in flowers - beautiful flowers." Another piece wuz to be his name in white flowers on a purple background of pansies. His name wuz Wellington Napoleon Bonaparte Hardiman. And I sez to Cephas - "To save expense, you will probable have the moneygram W.N.B.H.?"
"Oh, no," sez he.
Sez I, "hen the initials of his given names, and the last name in full."
"Oh, no," he said; "it wuz S. Annie's wish, and hisen, that the hull name should be put on. They thought it would show more respect."
I sez, "Where Wellington is now, that hain't a goin' to make any difference, and," sez I, "Cephas, flowers are dretful high this time of year, and it is a long name."
But Cephas said agin that he didn't care for expense, so long as respect wuz done to the memory of the deceased. He said that he and S. Annie both felt that it wuz their wish to have the funeral go ahead of any other that had ever took place in Loontown or Jonesville. He said that S. Annie felt that it wuz all that wuz left her now in life, the memory of such a funeral as he deserved.
Sez I, "There is his children left for her to live for," sez I - "three little bits of his own life, for her to nourish, and cherish, and look out for."
"Yes," sez Cephas, "and she will do that nobly, and I will help her. They are all goin' to the funeral, too, in deep-black dresses." He said "they wuz too little to realize it now, but in later and maturer years it would be a comfort to 'em to know they had took part in such a funeral as that wuz goin' to be, and wuz dressed in black."
"Wall," sez I (in a quiet, onassumin' way I would gin little hints of my mind on the subject), "I am afraid that will be about all the comforts of life the poor little children will ever have," sez I. "It will be if you buy many more flower-pieces and crape dresses."
Cephas said "it wouldn't take much crape for the children's dresses, they wuz so little, only the baby's; that would have to be long."
Sez I, "The baby would look better in white, and it will take sights of crape for a long baby dress."
"Yes, but S. Annie can use it afterwards for veils. She is very economical; she takes it from me. And she feels jest as I do, that the baby must wear it in respect to her father's memory."
Sez I, "The baby don't know crape from a clothes-pin."
"No," sez Cephas, "but in after years the thought of the respect she showed will sustain her."
"Wall," sez I, "I guess she won't have much besides thoughts to live on, if things go on in this way."
I would give little hints in this way, but they wuzn't took. Things went right on as if I hadn't spoke. And I couldn't contend, for truly, as a bad little boy said once on a similar occasion, "it wuzn't my funeral," so I had to set and work on that insane bedquilt and see it go on. But I sithed constant and frequent, and when I wuz all alone in the room I indulged in a few low groans.