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Told In The Poorhouse
by [?]

“Le’ me see,” said old Sally Flint, “was it fifty year ago, or was it on’y forty? Some’er’s betwixt 1825 an’ ’26 it must ha’ been when they were married, an’ ’twas in ’41 he died.”

The other old women in the Poorhouse sitting-room gathered about her. Old Mrs. Forbes, who dearly loved a story, unwound a length of yarn with peculiar satisfaction, and put her worn shoe up to the fire. Everybody knew when Sally Flint was disposed to open her unwritten book of folk-tales for the public entertainment; and to-day, having tied on a fresh apron and bound a new piece of red flannel about her wrist, she was, so to speak, in fighting trim. The other members of the Poorhouse had scanty faith in that red flannel. They were aware that Sally had broken her wrist, some twenty years before, and that the bandage was consequently donned on days when her “hand felt kind o’ cold,” or was “burnin’ like fire embers;” but there was an unspoken suspicion that it really served as token of her inability to work whenever she felt bored by the prescribed routine of knitting and sweeping. No one had dared presume on that theory, however, since the day when an untactful overseer had mentioned it, to be met by such a stream of unpleasant reminiscence concerning his immediate ancestry that he had retreated in dismay, and for a week after, had served extra pieces of pie to his justly offended charge.

“They were married in June,” continued Sally. “No, ‘twa’n’t; ’twas the last o’ May. May thirty-fust–no, May ‘ain’t but thirty days, has it?”

“‘Thirty days hath September,'” quoted Mrs. Giles, with importance. “That’s about all I’ve got left o’ my schoolin’, Miss Flint. May’s got thirty-one days, sure enough.”

“Call it the thirty-fust, then. It’s nigh enough, anyway. Well, Josh Marden an’ Lyddy Ann Crane was married, an’ for nine year they lived like two kittens. Old Sperry Dyer, that wanted to git Lyddy himself, used to call ’em cup an’ sasser, ‘There they be,’ he’d say, when he stood outside the meetin’-house door an’ they drove up; ‘there comes cup an’ sasser.’ Lyddy was a little mite of a thing, with great black eyes; an’ if Josh hadn’t been as tough as tripe, he’d ha’ got all wore out waitin’ on her. He even washed the potaters for her, made the fires, an’ lugged water. Scairt to death if she was sick! She used to have sick headaches, an’ one day he stopped choppin’ pine limbs near the house ’cause the noise hurt Lyddy Ann’s head. Another time, I recollect, she had erysipelas in her face, an’ I went in to carry some elder-blows, an’ found him readin’ the Bible. ‘Lord!’ says I, ‘Josh; that’s on’y Genesis! ‘twon’t do the erysipelas a mite o’ good for you to be settin’ there reading the be’gats! You better turn to Revelation.’ But ‘twa’n’t all on his side, nuther. ‘Twas give an’ take with them. It used to seem as if Lyddy Ann kind o’ worshipped him. ‘Josh’ we all called him; but she used to say ‘Joshuay,’ an’ look at him as if he was the Lord A’mighty.”

“My! Sally!” said timid Mrs. Spenser, under her breath; but Sally gave no heed, and swept on in the stream of her recollections.

“Well, it went on for fifteen year, an’ then ‘Mandy Knowles, Josh’s second cousin, come to help ’em with the work. ‘Mandy was a queer creatur’. I’ve studied a good deal over her, an’ I dunno’s I’ve quite got to the bottom of her yit. She was one o’ them sort o’ slow women, with a fat face, an’ she hadn’t got over dressin’ young, though Lyddy an’ the rest of us that was over thirty was wearin’ caps an’ talkin’ about false fronts. But she never’d had no beaux; an’ when Josh begun to praise her an’ say how nice ’twas to have her there, it tickled her e’en a’most to death. She’d lived alone with her mother an’ two old-maid aunts, an’ she didn’t know nothin’ about men-folks; I al’ays thought she felt they was different somehow,–kind o’ cherubim an’ seraphim,–an’ you’d got to mind ’em as if you was the Childern of Isr’el an’ they was Moses. Josh never meant a mite o’ harm, I’ll say that for him. He was jest man-like, that’s all. There’s lots o’ different kinds,–here, Mis’ Niles, you know; you’ve buried your third,–an’ Josh was the kind that can’t see more’n, one woman to a time. He looked at ‘Mandy, an’ he got over seein’ Lyddy Ann, that’s all. Things would ha’ come out all right–as right as they be for most married folks–if Lyddy Ann hadn’t been so high-sperited; but she set the world by Joshuay, an’ there ’twas. ‘Ain’t it nice to have her here?’ he kep’ on sayin’ over’n’ over to Lyddy, an’ she’d say ‘Yes;’ but byme-by, when she found he was al’ays on hand to bring a pail o’ water for ‘Mandy, or to throw away her suds, or even help hang out the clo’es–I see ’em hangin’ out clo’es one day when I was goin’ across their lot huckleberr’in’, an’ he did look like a great gump, an’ so did she–well, then, Lyddy Ann got to seemin’ kind o’ worried, an’ she had more sick headaches than ever. Twa’n’t a year afore that, I’d been in one day when she had a headache, an’ he says, as if he was perfessin’ his faith in meetin’, ‘By gum! I wish I could have them headaches for her!’ an’ I thought o’ speakin’ of it, about now, when I run in to borrer some saleratus, an’ he hollered into the bedroom: ‘Lyddy Ann, you got another headache? If I had such a head as that, I’d cut it off!’ An’ all the time ‘Mandy did act like the very Old Nick, jest as any old maid would that hadn’t set her mind on menfolks till she was thirty-five. She bought a red-plaid bow an’ pinned it on in front, an’ one day I ketched her at the lookin’-glass pullin’ out a gray hair.