Between the two women, the feud began in this way: When Ann Pease divorced her handsome but profligate spouse, William, Nancy Rogers had, with reprehensible haste, taken him for better or for worse. Of course, it proved for worse, but Ann Pease had never forgiven her.
“‘Pears lak to me,” she said, “dat she was des a-waitin’ fu’ to step inter my shoes, no mattah how I got outen ’em, whethah I died or divo’ced.”
It was in the hey-day of Nancy Rogers’ youth, and she was still hot-tempered, so she retorted that “Ann Pease sut’ny did unmind huh’ o’ de dawg in de mangah.” The friends of the two women took sides, and a war began which waged hotly between them–a war which for the first few weeks threatened the unity of Mt. Pisgah Church.
But the church in all times has been something of a selfish institution and has known how to take care of itself. Now, Mt. Pisgah, of necessity, must recognise divorce, and of equal necessity, re-marriage. So when the Rev. Isaiah Johnson had been appealed to, he had spread his fat hands, closed his eyes and said solemnly, “Whom God hath j’ined, let no man put asundah;” peace, or at best, apparent peace, settled upon the troubled waters.
The solidity of Mt. Pisgah was assured, the two factions again spoke to each other, both gave collections on the same Sunday; but between the two principals there was no abatement of their relentless animosity.
Ann Pease as it happened was a “puffessor,” while the new Mrs. Pease was out of the fold; a gay, frivolous person who had never sought or found grace. She laughed when a black wag said of the two that “they might bofe be ‘peas,’ but dey wasn’t out o’ de same pod.” But on its being repeated to Sister Pease, she resented it with Christian indignation, sniffed and remarked that “Ef Wi’yum choosed to pick out one o’ de onregenerate an’ hang huh ez a millstone erroun’ his neck, it wasn’t none o’ huh bus’ness what happened to him w’en dey pulled up de tares f’om de wheat.”
There were some ultra-malicious ones who said that Sister Pease, seeing her former husband in the possession of another, had begun to regret her step, for the unregenerate William was good-looking after all, and the “times” that he and his equally sinful wife had together were the wonder and disgust, the envy and horror of the whole community, who watched them with varying moods of eagerness.
Sister Ann Pease went her way apparently undisturbed. Religion has an arrogance of its own, and when at the end of the year the good widow remained unmarried she could toss her head, go her way, and look down from a far height upon the “po’ sinnahs”; indeed, she had rather the better of her frailer sister in the sympathies of the people.
As one sister feelingly remarked, “Dat ooman des baihin’ dat man in huh prayahs, an’ I ‘low she’ll mou’n him into glory yit.”
One year of married life disillusions, and defiant gaiety cannot live upon itself when admiration fails. There is no reward in being daring when courage becomes commonplace. The year darkened to winter, and bloomed to spring again. The willows feathered along the river banks, and the horse-chestnuts budded and burst into beautiful life. Then came summer, rejoicing, with arms full of flowers, and autumn with lap full of apples and grain, then winter again, and all through the days Nancy danced and was gay, but there was a wistfulness in her eyes, and the tug of the baby no longer drew her heart. She had come to be “Wi’yum’s Nancy,” while the other, that other was still “Sister Pease,” who sat above her in the high places of the people’s hearts.
And then, oh, blessedness of the winter, the revival came; and both she and William, strangely stricken together with the realisation of their sins, fell at the mercy seat.