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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSamantha At The World's Fair - Chapter 2
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Samantha At The World's Fair - Chapter 2 Post by :oukhanova Category :Long Stories Author :Marietta Holley Date :May 2012 Read :2470

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Samantha At The World's Fair - Chapter 2

CHAPTER II

Wall, we all enjoyed havin' Christopher there the best that ever wuz. For he wuz very agreeable, as well as oncommon smart, which two qualities don't always go together, as has often been observed by others, and I have seen for myself.

Wall, it wuzn't more than a week or so after Krit arrived and got there, that another relation made his appearance in Jonesville.

It wuz of 'em on his side this time--not like Krit, half hisen and half mine, but clear hisen. Clear Allen, with no Smith at all in the admixture.

Proud enough wuz my pardner of him, and of himself too for bein' born his cousin. (Though that wuz onbeknown to him at the time, and he ort not to have gloried in it.)

But tickled wuz he when word come that Elnathan Allen, Esquire, of Menlo Park, California, wuz a-comin' to Jonesville to visit his old friends.

(Illustration: Tickled wuz he when word come.)

That man had begun life poor--poor as a snipe; sometimes I used to handle that very word "Snipe" a-describin' Elnathan Allen's former circumstances to Josiah, when he got too overbearin' about him.

For he had boasted to me about him for years, and years, and a woman can't stand only jest about so much aggravatin' and treadin' on before she will turn like a worm.

That is Bible about "The Worm," and must be believed.

What used to mad me the worst wuz when he would git to comparin' Elnathan with one of 'em on my side who wuz shiftless. Good land! 'Zekiel Smith hain't the only man on earth who is ornary and no account. Every pardner has 'em, more or less, on his side and on hern; let not one pardner boast themselves over the other one; both have their drawbacks.

But Elnathan had done well; I admitted it only when I wuz too much put upon.

He had gone fur West, got rich, invested his capital first rate, some on it in a big Eastern city, and had got to be a millionare.

He wuz a widower with one child, The Little Maid, as he called her; he jest idolized her, and thought she wuz perfect.

And I spoze she wuz oncommon, not from what her Pa said--no, I didn't take all his talk about her for Gospel; I know too much.

But Barzelia Ann Allen (a old maid up to date) had seen her, had been out to California on a excursion train, and had staid some time with 'em.

And she said that she wuz the smartest child this side of Heaven. With eyes of violet blue, big luminous eyes, that draw the hearts and souls of folks right out of their bodies when they looked into 'em, so full of radiant joy and heavenly sweetness wuz they.

And hair of waving gold, and lips and cheeks as pink as the hearts of the roses that climbed all Winter round her winder--and the sweetest, daintiest ways--and so good to everybody, them that wuz poor and sufferin' most of all.

Barzeel wuz always most too enthusiastick to suit me, but I got the idee from what she said that she wuz a oncommon lovely child.

Good land! Elnathan couldn't talk about anything else--like little babblin' brooks runnin' towards the sea, all his talk, every anecdote he told, and every idee he sot forth, jest led up to and ended with that child. Jest like creeks.

He worshipped her.

And he himself told me so many stories about her bein' so good to the poor, and sacrificin' her little comforts for 'em--at her age, too--that I thought to myself, I wonder why you don't take some of them object lessons to heart--why you don't set down at her feet, and learn of her--and I wonder too where she took her sweet charity from, but spoze it wuz from her mother. Her mother had been a beautiful woman, so I had been told. She wuz a Devereaux--nobody that I ever knew, or Josiah. Celeste Devereaux.

The little girl wuz named for her mother. But they always called her The Little Maid.

Wall, to resoom, and to hitch my horse in front of the wagon agin. (Allegory.)

Elnathan had left The Little Maid and her nurse in that Eastern city where he owned so much property, and had come on to pay a flyin' visit to Jonesville, not forgittin' Loontown, you may be sure, where a deceased Aunt had jest died and left her property to him.

He wuz close.

He had left The Little Maid in the finest hotel in the city, so he said. He had looked over more'n a dozen, so I hearn, before he could git one he thought wuz healthy enough and splendid enough for her. At last he selected one, standin' on a considerable rise of ground, with big, high, gorgeous rooms, and prices higher than the very topmost cupalo, and loftiest chimbly pot.

Here he got two big rooms for The Little Maid, and one for the nurse. He got the two rooms for the child so's the air could circulate through 'em.

(Illustration: Here he got two big rooms.)

He wuz very particular about her havin' air of the very purest and best kind there wuz made, and the same with vittles and clothes, etc., etc., etc.

Wall, while he wuz a-goin' on so about pure air and the values and necessities of it, I couldn't help thinkin' of what Barzelia had told me about that big property of hisen in the Eastern city where he had left The Little Maid.

Here, in the very lowest part of the city, he owned hull streets of tenement housen, miserable old rotten affairs, down in stiflin' alleys, and courts, breeders of disease, and crime, and death.

At first some on 'em fell into his hands by a exchange of property, and he found they paid so well, that he directed his agent to buy up a lot of 'em.

Barzelia had told me all about 'em, she was jest as enthusiastick about what she didn't like as what she did; she said the money got in that way, by housin' the poor in such horrible pestilental places, seemed jest like makin' a bargain with Death. Rentin' housen to him to make carnival in.

And while he wuz talkin' to such great length, and with such a satisfied and comfortable look onto his face, about the vital necessities of pure air and beautiful surroundin's, in order to make children well and happy, my thoughts kept a-roamin', and I couldn't help it. Down from the lovely spot where The Little Maid wuz, down, down, into the dretful places that Barzelia had told me about. Where squalor, and crime, and disease, and death walked hand in hand, gatherin' new victims at every step, and where the children wuz a-droppin' down in the poisinous air like dead leaves in a swamp.

I kep a-thinkin' of this, and finally I tackled Elnathan about it, and he laughed, Elnathan did, and begun to talk about the swarms and herds of useless and criminal humanity a-cumberin' the ground, and he threw a lot of statisticks at me. But they didn't hit me. Good land! I wuzn't afraid on 'em, nor I didn't care anything about 'em, and I gin him to understand that I didn't.

And in the cause of duty I kep on a-tacklin' him about them housen of hisen, and advisin' him to tear 'em down, and build wholesome ones, and in the place of the worst ones, to help make some little open breathin' places for the poor creeters down there, with a green tree now and then.

And then agin he brung up the utter worthlessness, and shiftlessness, and viciousness of the class I wuz a-talkin' about.

And then I sez--"How is anybody a-goin' to live pattern lives, when they are a-starvin' to death? And how is anybody a-goin' to enjoy religion when they are a-chokin'?"

And then he threw some more statisticks at me, dry and hard ones too; and agin he see they didn't hit me, and then he kinder laughed agin, and assumed something of a jokelar air--such as men will when they are a-talkin' to wimmen--dretful exasperatin', too--and sez he--

"You are a Philosopher, Cousin Samantha, and you must know such housen as you are a-talkin' about are advantageous in one way, if in no other--they help to reduce the surplus population. If it wuzn't for such places, and for the electric wires, and bomb cranks, and accidents, etc., the world would git too full to stand up in."

"Help to reduce the surplus population!" sez I, and my voice shook with indignation as I said it. Sez I--

"Elnathan Allen, you had better stop a-pilin' up your statisticks, for a spell, and come down onto the level of humanity and human brotherhood."

Sez I, "Spozen you should take it to yourself for a spell, imagine how it would be with you if you had been born there onbeknown to yourself." Sez I, "If you wuz a-livin' down there in them horrible pits of disease and death--if you wuz a-standin' over the dyin' bed of wife or mother, or other dear one, and felt that if you could bring one fresh, sweet breath of air to the dear one, dyin' for the want of it, you would almost barter your hopes of eternity--

"If you stood there in that black, chokin' atmosphere, reekin' with all pestilental and moral death, and see the one you loved best a-slippin' away from you--borne out of your sight, borne away into the onknown, on them dead waves of poisinous, deathly air--I guess you wouldn't talk about reducin' the Surplus Population."

I had been real eloquent, and I knew it, for I felt deeply what I said.

But Elnathan looked cheerful under all my talk. It didn't impress him a mite, I could see.

He felt safe. He wuz sure the squalor and sufferin' never would or could touch him. He thought, in the words of the Him slightly changed, that: "He could read his title clear to Mansions with all the modern improvements."

He and The Little Maid wuz safe. The world looked further off to him, the woes, and wants, and crimes of our poor humanity seemed quite a considerable distance away from him.

Onclouded prosperity had hardened Elnathan's heart--it will sometimes--hard as Pharo's.

But he wuz a visitor and one of the relations on his side, and I done well by him, killed a duck and made quite a fuss.

The business of settlin' the estate took quite a spell, but he didn't hurry any.

He said "the nurse wuz good as gold, she would take good care of The Little Maid. She wrote to him every day;" and so she did, the hussy, all through that dretful time to come.

Oh dear me! oh dear suz!

The nurse, Jean, had a sister who had come over from England with a cargo of trouble and children--after Jean had come on to California.

And Elnathan, good-natured when he wuz a mind to be, had listened to Jean's story of her sister's woes, with poverty, hungery children, and a drunken husband, and had given this sister two small rooms in one of his tenement housen, and asked so little for them, that they wuz livin' quite comfortable, if anybody could live comfortable, in such a stiflin', nasty spot.

Their rooms wuz on top of the house, and wuz kept clean, and so high up that they could get a breath of air now and then.

But the way up to 'em led over a crazy pair of stairs, so broken and rotten that even the Agent wuz disgusted with 'em and had wrote a letter to Elnathan asking for new stairs, and new sanitary arrangements, as the deaths wuz so frequent in that particular tenement, that the Agent wuz frightened, for fear they would be complained of by the City Fathers--though them old fathers can stand a good deal without complainin'.

Wall, the Agent wrote, but Elnathan wuz at that time buildin' a new orchid house (he had more'n a dozen of 'em before) for The Little Maid; she loved these half-human blossoms.

And he wuz buildin' a high palm house, and a new fountain, and a veranda covered with carved lattice-work around The Little Maid's apartments. And a stained-glass gallery, leading from the conservatory to the greenhouses, and these other houses I have mentioned, so that The Little Maid could walk out to 'em on too sunny days, or when it misted some.

And so he wrote back to his Agent, that "he couldn't possibly spend any money on stairs or plumbin' in a tenement house, for the repairs he wuz making on his own place at Menlo Park would cost more than a hundred thousand dollars--and he felt that he couldn't fix them stairs, and he thought anyway it wuzn't best to listen to the complaints of complaining tenants." And he ended in that jokelar way of hisen--

"That if you listened to 'em, and done one thing for 'em, the next thing they would want would be velvet-lined carriages to ride out in."

And the Agent, havin' jest seen the tenth funeral a-wendin' out of that very house that week, and bein' a man of some sense, though hampered, wrote back and said--"Carriages wouldn't be the next thing that they would all want, but coffins."

He said sence he had wrote to Elnathan more than a dozen had been wanted there in that very house, and the tenants had been borne out in 'em.

(And laid in fur cleaner dirt than they wuz accustomed to there;) he didn't write this last--that is my own eppisodin'.

And agin the Agent mentioned the stairs, and agin he mentioned the plumbin'.

But Elnathan wuz so interested then and took up in tryin' to decide whether he would have a stained-glass angel or some stained-glass cherubs a-hoverin' over the gallery in front of The Little Maid's room, that he hadn't a mite of time to argue any further on the subject--so he telegrafted--

"No repairs allowed. Elnathan Allen."

(Illustration: "No repairs allowed.")

Wall, Elnathan had got the repairs all made, and the place looked magnificent.

Good land! it ort to; the hull place cost more than a million dollars, so I have hearn; I don't say that I am postive knowin' to it. But Barzelia gits things pretty straight; it come to me through her.

The Little Maid enjoyed it all, and Elnathan enjoyed it twice over, once and first in her, and then of course in his own self.

But The Little Maid looked sort o' pimpin, and her little appetite didn't seem to be very good, and the doctor said that a journey East would do her good.

And jest at this time the dowery in Loontown fell onto Elnathan, so that they all come East.

Elnathan had forgot all about Jean havin' any relation in the big Eastern city where they stopped first--good land! their little idees and images had got all overlaid and covered up with glass angels, orchids, bank stock, some mines, palm-houses, political yearnin's, social distinction, carved lattice-work, some religious idees, and yots, and club-houses, etc., etc., etc.

But when he decided to leave The Little Maid in the city and not bring her to Jonesville--(and I believe in my soul, and I always shall believe it, that he wuz in doubt whether we had things good enough for her. The idee! He said he thought it would be too much for her to go round to all the relatives--wall, mebby it wuz that! But I shall always have my thoughts.)

But anyway, when he made up his mind to leave her, he gin the nurse strict orders to not go down into the city below a certain street, which wuz a good high one, and not let The Little Maid out of her sight night or day.

(Illustration: He gin the nurse strict orders.)

Wall, the nurse knew it wuz wrong--she knew it, but she did it. Jest as Cain did, and jest as David did, when he killed Ury, and Joseph's brother and Pharo, and you and I, and the relations on his side and on yourn.

She knew she hadn't ort to. But bein' out a-walkin' with The Little Maid one day, a home-sick feelin' come over her all of a sudden. She wanted to see her sister--wanted to, like a dog.

So, as the day wuz very fair, she thought mebby it wouldn't do any hurt.

The sky was so blue between the green boughs of the Park! There had been a rain, and the glistenin' green made her think of the hedgerows of old England, where she and Katy used to find birds' nests, and the blue wuz jest the shade of the sweet old English violets. How she and Katy used to love them! And the blue too wuz jest the color of Katy's eyes when she last see them, full of tears at partin' from her.

She thought of Elnathan's sharp orders not to go down into the city, and not to let The Little Maid out of her sight.

Wall, she thought it over, and thought that mebby if she kep one of her promises good, she would be forgive the other.

Jest as the Israelites did about the manny, and jest as You did when you told your wife you would bring her home a present, and come home early--and you bore her home a bracelet, at four o'clock in the mornin'.

And jest as I did when I said, under the influence of a stirring sermon, that I wouldn't forgit it, and I would live up to it--wall, I hain't forgot it.

But tenny rate, the upshot of the matter wuz that the nurse thought she would keep half of the Master's orders--she wouldn't let The Little Maid out of her sight.

So she hired a cab--she had plenty of money, Elnathan didn't stent her on wages. He had his good qualities, Elnathan did.

And she and The Little Maid rolled away, down through the broad, beautiful streets, lined with stately housen and filled with a throng of gay, handsome, elegantly clothed men, wimmen, and children.

Down into narrower business streets, with lofty warehouses on each side, and full of a well-dressed, hurrying crowd of business men--down, down, down into the dretful street she had sot out to find.

With crazy, slantin' old housen on either side--forms of misery filling the narrow, filthy street, wearing the semblance of manhood and womanhood. And worst of all, embruted, and haggard, and aged childhood.

Filth of all sorts cumbering the broken old walks, and hoverin' over all a dretful sicknin' odor, full of disease and death.

Wall, when they got there, The Little Maid (she had a tender heart), she wuz pale as death, and the big tears wuz a-rollin' down her cheeks, at the horrible sights and sounds she see all about her.

Wall, Jean hurried her up the rickety old staircase into her sister's room, where Jean and Kate fell into each other's arms, and forgot the world while they mingled their tears and their laughter, and half crazy words of love and bewildered joy.

The Little Maid sot silently lookin' out into the dirty, dretful court-yard, swarmin' with ragged children in every form of dirt and discomfort, squalor and vice.

She had never seen anything of the kind before in her guarded, love-watched life.

She didn't know that there wuz such things in the world.

Her lips wuz quiverin'--her big, earnest eyes full of tears, as she started to go down the broken old stairs.

And her heart full of desires to help 'em, so we spoze.

But her tears blinded her.

Half way down she stumbled and fell.

The nurse jumped down to help her. She wuz hefty--two hundred wuz her weight; the stairs, jest hangin' together by links of planked rotteness, fell under 'em--down, down they went, down into the depths below.

The nurse was stunted--not hurt, only stunted.

But The Little Maid, they thought she wuz dead, as they lifted her out. Ivory white wuz the perfect little face, with the long golden hair hangin' back from it, ivory white the little hand and arm hangin' limp at her side.

She wuz carried into Katy's room, a doctor wuz soon called. Her arm wuz broken, but he said, after she roused from her faintin' fit, and her arm wuz set--he said she would git well, but she mustn't be moved for several days.

Jean, wild with fright and remorse, thought she would conceal her sin, and git her back to the hotel before she telegrafted to her father.

Jest as you thought when you eat cloves the other night, and jest as I thought when I laid the Bible over the hole in the table-cover, when I see the minister a-comin'.

Wall, the little arm got along all right, or would, if that had been all, but the poisonous air wuz what killed the little creeter.

For five days she lay, not sufferin' so much in body, but stifled, choked with the putrid air, and each day the red in her cheeks deepened, and the little pulse beat faster and faster.

And on the fifth day she got delerious, and she talked wild.

She talked about cool, beautiful parks bein' made down in the stiflin', crowded, horrible courts and byways of the cities--

With great trees under which the children could play, and look up into the blue sky, and breathe the sweet air--she talked about fresh dewey grass on which they might lay their little hollow cheeks, and which would cool the fever in them.

She talked about a fountain of pure water down where now wuz filth too horrible to mention.

She talked _very wild--for she talked about them terrible slantin' old housen bein' torn down to make room for this Paradise of the future.

Had she been older, words might have fallen from her feverish lips of how the woes, and evils, and crimes of the lower classes always react upon the upper.

She might have pictured in her dreams the drama that is ever bein' enacted on the pages of history--of the sorely oppressed masses turnin' on the oppressors, and drivin' them, with themselves, out to ruin.

Pages smeared with blood might have passed before her, and she might have dreamed--for she wuz _very delerious--she might have dreamed of the time when our statesmen and lawgivers would pause awhile from their hard task of punishin' crime, and bend their energies upon avertin' it--

Helpin' the poor to better lives, helpin' them to justice. Takin' the small hands of the children, and leadin' them away from the overcrowded prisons and penitentaries toward better lives--

When Charity (a good creeter, too, Charity is) but when she would step aside and let Justice and True Wisdom go ahead for a spell--

When co-operative business would equalize wealth to a greater degree--when the government would control the great enterprises, needed by all, but addin' riches to but few--when comfort would nourish self-respect, and starved vice retreat before the dawnin' light of happiness.

Had she been older she might have babbled of all this as she lay there, a victim of wrong inflicted on the low--a martyr to the folly of the rich, and their injustice toward the poor.

But as it wuz, she talked only with her little fever-parched lips of the lovely, cool garden.

Oh, they wuz wild dreams, flittin', flittin', in little vague, tangled idees through the childish brain!

But the talk wuz always about the green, beautiful garden, and the crowds of little children walkin' there.

And on the seventh day (that wuz after Elnathan got there, and me and Josiah, bein' telegrafted to)--

On the seventh day she begun to talk about a Form she saw a-walkin' in the garden--a Presence beautiful and divine, we thought from her words. He smiled as he saw the happiness of the children. He smiled upon her, he wuz reachin' out his arms to her.

And about evenin' she looked up into her father's face and knew him--and she said somethin' about lovin' him so--and somethin' about the beautiful garden, and the happy children there, and then she looked away from us all with a smile, and I spozed, and I always shall spoze, that the Divine One a-walkin' in the cool of the evenin' in the garden, the benign Presence she saw there, happy in the children's happiness, drew nearer to her, and took her in his arms--for it says--

"He shall carry the lambs in His bosom."

That wuz two years ago. Elnathan Allen is a changed man, a changed man.

I hain't mentioned the word surplus population to him. No, I hadn't the heart to.

Poor creeter, I wuz good to him as I could be all through it, and so wuz Josiah.

His hair got white as a old man's in less than two months.

But with the same energy he brought to bear in makin' money he brought to bear on makin' The Little Maid's dream come true.

He said it wuz a vision.

And, poor creeter, a-doin' it all under a mournin' weed; and if ever a weed wuz deep, and if ever a man mourned deep, it is that man.

Yes, Elnathan has done well; I have writ to him to that effect.

He tore down them crazy, slantin', rotten old housen, and made a park of that filthy hole, a lovely little park, with fresh green grass, a fountain of pure water, where the birds come to slake their little thirsts.

He sot out big trees (money will move a four-foot ellum). There is green, rustlin' boughs for the birds to build their nests in. Cool green leaves to wave over the heads of the children.

They lay their pale faces on the grass, they throw their happy little hearts onto the kind, patient heart of their first mother, Nature, and she soothes the fever in their little breasts, and gives 'em new and saner idees.

They hold their little hands under the crystal water droppin' forever from the outspread wings of a dove. They find insensibly the grime washed away by these pure drops, their hands are less inclined to clasp round murderous weepons and turn them towards the lofty abodes of the rich.

They do not hate the rich so badly, for it is a rich man who has done all this for them.

The high walls of the prison that used to loom up so hugely and threatingly in front of the bare old tenement housen--the harsh glare of them walls seem further away, hidden from them by the gracious green of the blossoming trees.

The sunshine lays between them and its rough walls--they follow the glint of the sunbeams up into the Heavens.

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