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The Simple Lifers
by [?]

I

I suppose there is something in all of us that harks back to the soil. When you come to think of it, what are picnics but outcroppings of instinct? No one really enjoys them or expects to enjoy them, but with the first warm days some prehistoric instinct takes us out into the woods, to fry potatoes over a strangling wood fire and spend the next week getting grass stains out of our clothes. It must be instinct; every atom of intelligence warns us to stay at home near the refrigerator.

Tish is really a child of instinct. She is intelligent enough, but in a contest between instinct and brains, she always follows her instinct. Aggie under the same circumstances follows her heart. As for me, I generally follow Tish and Aggie, and they’ve led me into some curious places.

This is really a sort of apology, because, whereas usually Tish leads off and we follow her, in the adventure of the Simple Life we were all equally guilty. Tish made the suggestion, but we needed no urging. As you know, this summer two years ago was a fairly good one, as summers go,–plenty of fair weather, only two or three really hot spells, and not a great deal of rain. Charlie Sands, Tish’s nephew, went over to England in June to report the visit of the French President to London for his newspaper, and Tish’s automobile had been sent to the factory to be gone over. She had been teaching Aggie to drive it, and owing to Aggie’s thinking she had her foot on the brake when it was really on the gas, they had leaped a four-foot ditch and gone down into a deep ravine, from which both Tish and Aggie had had to be pulled up with ropes.

Well, with no machine and Charlie Sands away, we hardly knew how to plan the summer. Tish thought at first she would stay at home and learn to ride. She thought her liver needed stirring up. She used to ride, she said, and it was like sitting in a rocking-chair, only perhaps more so. Aggie and I went out to her first lesson; but when I found she had bought a divided skirt and was going to try a man’s saddle, I could not restrain my indignation.

“I’m going, Tish,” I said firmly, when she had come out of the dressing-room and I realized the situation. “I shan’t attempt to restrain you, but I shall not remain to witness your shame.”

Tish eyed me coldly. “When you wish to lecture me,” she snapped, “about revealing to the public that I have two legs, if I do wear a skirt, don’t stand in a sunny doorway in that linen dress of yours. I am going to ride; every woman should ride. It’s good for the liver.”

I think she rather wavered when they brought the horse, which looked larger than usual and had a Roman nose. The instructor handed Tish four lines and she grabbed them nervously in a bunch.

“Just a moment!” said the instructor, and slipped a line between each two of her fingers.

Tish looked rather startled. “When I used to ride–” she began with dignity.

But the instructor only smiled. “These two are for the curb,” he said–“if he bolts or anything like that, you know. Whoa, Viper! Still, old man!”

“Viper!” Tish repeated, clutching at the lines. “Is–is he–er–nasty?”

“Not a bit of it,” said the instructor, while he prepared to hoist her up. “He’s as gentle as a woman to the people he likes. His only fault is that he’s apt to take a little nip out of the stablemen now and then. He’s very fond of ladies.”

“Humph!” said Tish. “He’s looking at me rather strangely, don’t you think? Has he been fed lately?”

“Perhaps he sees that divided skirt,” I suggested.

Tish gave me one look and got on the horse. They walked round the ring at first and Tish seemed to like it. Then a stableman put a nickel into a player-piano and that seemed to be a signal for the thing to trot. Tish said afterward that she never hit the horse’s back twice in the same place. Once, she says, she came down on his neck, and several times she was back somewhere about his tail. Every time she landed, wherever it might be, he gave a heave and sent her up again. She tried to say “Whoa,” but it came out in pieces, so to speak, and the creature seemed to be encouraged by it and took to going faster. By that time, she said, she wasn’t coming down at all, but was in the air all the time, with the horse coming up at the rate of fifty revolutions a second. She had presence of mind enough to keep her mouth shut so she wouldn’t bite her tongue off.