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The Hired Man And Floretty
by [?]

The Hired Man’s supper, which he sat before,
In near reach of the wood-box, the stove-door
And one leaf of the kitchen-table, was
Somewhat belated, and in lifted pause
His dextrous knife was balancing a bit
Of fried mush near the port awaiting it.

At the glad children’s advent–gladder still
To find him there–“Jest tickled fit to kill
To see ye all!” he said, with unctious cheer.–
“I’m tryin’-like to he’p Floretty here
To git things cleared away and give ye room
Accordin’ to yer stren’th. But I p’sume
It’s a pore boarder, as the poet says,
That quarrels with his victuals, so I guess
I’ll take another wedge o’ that-air cake,
Florett’, that you’re a-learnin‘ how to bake.”
He winked and feigned to swallow painfully.–

“Jest ‘fore ye all come in, Floretty she
Was boastin’ ’bout her biscuits–and they air
As good–sometimes–as you’ll find anywhere.–
But, women gits to braggin’ on their bread,
I’m s’picious ’bout their pie–as Danty said.”
This raillery Floretty strangely seemed
To take as compliment, and fairly beamed
With pleasure at it all.

–“Speakin’ o’ bread
When she come here to live,” The Hired Man said,–
“Never ben out o’ Freeport ‘fore she come
Up here,–of course she needed ‘sperience some.–
So, one day, when yer Ma was goin’ to set
The risin’ fer some bread, she sent Florett
To borry leaven, ‘crost at Ryans’–So,
She went and asked fer twelve.–She didn’t know,
But thought, whatever ‘twuz, that she could keep
One fer herse’f, she said. O she wuz deep!”

Some little evidence of favor hailed
The Hired Man’s humor; but it wholly failed
To touch the serious Susan Loehr, whose air
And thought rebuked them all to listening there
To her brief history of the city-man
And his pale wife–“A sweeter woman than
She ever saw!”–So Susan testified,–
And so attested all the Loehrs beside.–
So entertaining was the history, that
The Hired Man, in the corner where he sat
In quiet sequestration, shelling corn,
Ceased wholly, listening, with a face forlorn
As Sorrow’s own, while Susan, John and Jake
Told of these strangers who had come to make
Some weeks’ stay in the town, in hopes to gain
Once more the health the wife had sought in vain:
Their doctor, in the city, used to know
The Loehrs–Dan and Rachel–years ago,–
And so had sent a letter and request
For them to take a kindly interest
In favoring the couple all they could–
To find some home-place for them, if they would,
Among their friends in town. He ended by
A dozen further lines, explaining why
His patient must have change of scene and air–
New faces, and the simple friendships there
With them, which might, in time, make her forget
A grief that kept her ever brooding yet
And wholly melancholy and depressed,–
Nor yet could she find sleep by night nor rest
By day, for thinking–thinking–thinking still
Upon a grief beyond the doctor’s skill,–
The death of her one little girl.

“Pore thing!”
Floretty sighed, and with the turkey-wing
Brushed off the stove-hearth softly, and peered in
The kettle of molasses, with her thin
Voice wandering into song unconsciously–
In purest, if most witless, sympathy.–

"'Then sleep no more:
Around thy heart
Some ten-der dream may i-dlee play.
But mid-night song,
With mad-jick art,
Will chase that dree muh-way!'"

“That-air besetment of Floretty’s,” said
The Hired Man,–“singin–she inhairited,–
Her father wuz addicted–same as her–
To singin’–yes, and played the dulcimer!
But–gittin’ back,–I s’pose yer talkin’ ’bout
Them Hammondses. Well, Hammond he gits out
Pattents on things–inventions-like, I’m told–
And’s got more money’n a house could hold!
And yit he can’t git up no pattent-right
To do away with dyin’.–And he might
Be worth a million, but he couldn’t find
Nobody sellin’ health of any kind!…
But they’s no thing onhandier fer me
To use than other people’s misery.–
Floretty, hand me that-air skillet there
And lem me git ‘er het up, so’s them-air
Childern kin have their popcorn.”