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Life was very hard for the Whipples. It was hard to feed all the hungry mouths, it was hard to keep the children in flannels during the winter, short as it was: “God knows what would become of us if we lived north,” they would say: keeping them decently clean was hard. “It looks like our luck won’t never let up on us,” said Mr. Whipple, but Mrs. Whipple was all for taking what was sent and calling it good, anyhow when the neighbors were in earshot. “Don’t ever let a soul hear us complain,” she kept saying to her husband. She couldn’t stand to be pitied. “No, not if it comes to it that we have to live in a wagon and pick cotton around the country,” she said, “nobody’s going to get a chance to look down on us. “

Mrs. Whipple loved her second son, the simple-minded one, better than she loved the other two children put together. She was forever saying so, and when she talked with certain of her neighbors, she would even throw in her husband and her mother for good measure.

“You needn’t keep on saying it around,” said Mr. Whipple, “you’ll make people think nobody else has any feelings about Him but you. “

“It’s natural for a mother,” Mrs. Whipple would remind him. “You know yourself it’s more natural for a mother to be that way. People don’t expect so much of fathers, some way. “

This didn’t keep the neighbors from talking plainly among themselves. “A Lord’s pure mercy if He should die,” they said. “It’s the sins of the fathers,” they agreed among themselves. “There’s bad blood and bad doings somewhere, you can bet on that. ” This behind the Whipples’ back. To their faces everybody said, “He’s not so bad off. He’ll be all right yet. Look how He grows!”

Mrs. Whipple hated to talk about it, she tried to keep her mind off it, but every time anybody set foot in the house, the subject always came up, and she had to talk about Him first, before she could get on to anything else. It seemed to ease her mind. “I wouldn’t have anything happen to Him for all the world, but it just looks like I can’t keep Him out of mischief. He’s so strong and active, He’s always into everything; He was like that since He could walk. It’s actually funny sometimes, the way He can do anything; it’s laughable to see Him up to His tricks. Emly has more accidents; I’m forever tying up her bruises, and Adna can’t fall a foot without cracking a bone. But He can do anything and not get a scratch. The preacher said such a nice thing once when he was here. He said, and I’ll remember it to my dying day, The innocent walk with God—that’s why He don’t get hurt. ‘” Whenever Mrs. Whipple repeated these words, she always felt a warm pool spread in her breast, and the tears would fill her eyes, and then she could talk about something else.

He did grow and He never got hurt. A plank blew off the chicken house and struck Him on the head and He never seemed to know it. He had learned a few words, and after this He forgot them. He didn’t whine for food as the other children did, but waited until it was given Him; He ate squatting in the corner, smacking and mumbling. Rolls of fat covered Him like an overcoat, and He could carry twice as much wood and water as Adna. Emly had a cold in the head most of the time—”she takes that after me,” said Mrs. Whipple—so in bad weather they gave her the extra blanket off His cot. He never seemed to mind the cold.

Just the same, Mrs. Whipple’s life was a torment for fear something might happen to Him. He climbed the peach trees much better than Adna and went skittering along the branches like a monkey, just a regular monkey.