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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSweet Cicely; Or, Josiah Allen As A Politician - Chapter 3
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Sweet Cicely; Or, Josiah Allen As A Politician - Chapter 3 Post by :terirhodes Category :Long Stories Author :Marietta Holley Date :May 2012 Read :2930

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Sweet Cicely; Or, Josiah Allen As A Politician - Chapter 3

CHAPTER III

The next evenin' follerin' after the exodus of Elburtus Gansey, Josiah and I, thinkin' that we needed a relaxation to relax our two minds, rode into Jonesville. We went in the Democrat, at my request; for I wus in hopes Cicely would come home with us.

And she did. We had a good ride. I sot in front with Josiah at his request; and what made it pleasanter wuz, the boy stood up in the Democrat behind me a good deal of the way, with his arms round my neck, a kissin' me.

And when I waked up in the mornin', I wus glad to think they wus there. Though Cicely wuzn't well: I could see she wuzn't. I felt sad at the breakfast-table to see how her fresh young beauty wus bein' blowed away by the sharp breath of sorrow's gale.

But she wus sweet and gentle as ever the posy wus we had named her after. No Sweet Cicely blow wus ever sweeter and purer than she wuz. After I got my work all done up below,--she offerin' to help me, and a not lettin' her lift her finger,--I went up into her room, where there wus a bright fire on the hearth, and every thing looked cozy and snug.

The boy, havin' wore himself out a harrowin' his uncle Josiah and Ury with questions, had laid down on the crimson rug in front of the fire, and wus fast asleep, gettin' strength for new labors.

And Cicely sot in a little low rockin'-chair by the side of him. She had on a white flannel mornin'-dress, and a thin white zephyr worsted shawl round her; and her silky brown hair hung down her back, for she had been a brushin' it out; and she looked sweet and pretty enough to kiss; and I kissed her right there, before I sot down, or any thing.

And then, thinks'es I as I sot down, we will have a good, quiet visit, and talk some about other wimmen. (No runnin' 'em: I'd scorn it, and so would she.)

But I thought I'd love to talk it over with her, about what good housekeepers Tirzah Ann and Maggie wuz. And I wanted to hear what she thought about the babe, and if she could say in cander that she ever see a little girl equal her in graces of mind and body.

And I wanted to hear all about her aunt Mary and her aunt Melissa (on her father's side). I knew she had had letters from 'em. And I wanted to hear how she that was Jane Smith wuz, that lived neighbor to her aunt Mary's oldest daughter, and how that oldest daughter wuz, who wus s'posed to be a runnin' down. And I wanted to hear about Susan Ann Grimshaw, who had married her aunt Melissy's youngest son. There wus lots of news that I felt fairly sufferin' for, and lots of news that I felt like disseminatin' to her.

But, if you'll believe it, jest as I had begun to inquire, and take comfort, she branched right off, a lady-like branch, and a courteous one, but still a branch, and begun to talk about "what should she do--what could she do--for the boy."

And she looked down on him as he lay there, with such a boundless love, and a awful dread in her eyes, that it was pitiful in the extreme to see her; and says she,--

"What will become of him in the future, aunt Samantha, with the laws as they are now?"

(Illustration: THE BABY.)

And with such a chin and mouth as he has got, says I to myself, lookin' down on him; but I didn't say it out loud. I am too well bread.

"It must be we can get the laws changed before he grows up. I dare not trust him in a world that has such temptations, such snares set ready for him. Why," says she--And she fairly trembled as she said it. She would always throw her whole soul into any thing she undertook; and in this she had throwed her hull heart, too, and her hull life--or so it seemed to me, to look at her pale face, and her big, glowin' eyes, full of sadness, full of resolve too.

"Why, just think of it! How he will be coaxed into those drinking-saloons! how, with his easy, generous, good-natured ways,--and I know he will have such ways, and be popular,--a bright, handsome young man, and with plenty of money. Just think of it! how, with those open saloons on every side of him, when he can't walk down the street without those gilded bars shining on every hand; and the friends he will make, gay, rich, thoughtless young men like himself--they will laugh at him if he refuses to do as they do; and with my boy's inherited tastes and temperament, his easiness to be led by those he loves, what will hinder him from going to ruin as his poor father did? What will keep him, aunt Samantha?"

And she busted out a cryin'.

I says, "Hush, Cicely," layin' my hand on hern. It wus little and soft, and trembled like a leaf. Some folks would have called her nervous and excitable; but I didn't, thinkin' what she had went through with the boy's father.

Says I, "There is One who is able to save him. And, instead of gettin' yourself all worked up over what may never be, I think it would be better to ask Him to save the boy."

"I do ask Him, every day, every hour," says she, sobbin' quieter like.

"Wall, then, hush up, Cicely."

And sometimes she would hush up, and sometimes she wouldn't.

But how she would talk about what she wanted to do for him! I heard her talkin' to her uncle Josiah one day.

You see, she worried about the boy to that extent, and loved him so, that she would have been willin' to have had her head took right off, if that would have helped him, if it would have insured him a safe and happy future; but it wouldn't: and so she was willin' to do any other hard job if there wus any prospect of its helpin' the boy.

She wus willin' to vote on the temperance question.

But Josiah wus more sot than usial that mornin' aginst wimmen's votin'; and he had begun himself on the subject to Cicely; had talked powerful aginst it, but gentle: he loved Cicely as he did his eyes.

He had been to a lecture the night before, to Toad Holler, a little place between Jonesville and Loontown. He and uncle Nate Burpy went up to hear a speech aginst wimmen's suffrage, in a Democrat.

Josiah said it wus a powerful speech. He said uncle Nate said, "The feller that delivered it ort to be President of the United States:" he said, "That mind ort to be in the chair."

And I said I persumed, from what I had heard of it, that his mind wuz tired, and ort to set down and rest.

I spoke light, because Josiah Allen acted so high-headed about it. But I do s'pose it wus a powerful effort, from what I hearn.

He talked dretful smart, they say, and used big words.

(Illustration: A GREAT EFFORT.)

The young feller that gin the lecture, and his sister, oldest, and she set her eyes by him. She had took care of the old folks, supported 'em and lifted 'em round herself; took all the care of 'em in every way till they died: and then this boy didn't seem to have much faculty for gettin' along; so she educated him, sewed for tailors' shops, and got money, and sent him to school and college, so he could talk big.

And it was such a comfort to that sister, to sort o' rest off for an evenin' from makin' vests and pantaloons, cheap, to furnish him money!--it was so sort o' restful to her to set and hear him talk large aginst wimmen's suffrage and the weakness and ineficiency of wimmen!

He said, the young chap did, and proved it right out, so they said, "that the franchise was too tuckerin' a job for wimmen to tackle, and that wimmen hadn't the earnestness and persistency and deep forethought to make her valuable as a franchiser--or safe."

You see, he had his hull strength, the young chap did; for his sister had clothed him, as well as boarded him, and educated him: so he could talk powerful. He could use up quantities of wind, and not miss it, havin' all his strength.

His speech made a deep impression on men and wimmen. His sister bein' so wore out, workin' so hard, wept for joy, it was so beautiful, and affected her so powerful. And she said "she never realized till that minute how weak and useless wimmen really was, and how strong and powerful men was."

It wus a great effort. And she got a extra good supper for him that night, I heard, wantin' to repair the waste in his system, caused by eloquence. She wus supportin' him till he got a client: he wus a studyin' law.

Wall, Josiah wus jest full of his arguments; and he talked 'em over to Cicely that mornin'.

But she said, after hearin' 'em all, "that she wus willin' to vote on the temperance question. She had thought it all over," she said. "Thought how the nation lay under the curse of African slavery until that race of slaves were freed. And she believed, that when women who were now in legal bondage, were free to act as their heart and reason dictated, that they, who suffered most from intemperance, would be the ones to strike the blow that would free the land from the curse."

Curius that she should feel so, but you couldn't get the idee out of her head. She had pondered over it day and night, she said,--pondered over it, and prayed over it.

And, come to think it over, I don't know as it wus so curius after all, when I thought how Paul had ruined himself, and broke her heart, and how her money wus bein' used now to keep grog-shops open, four of her buildin's rented to liquor-dealers, and she couldn't help herself.

Cicely owned lots of other landed property in the village where she lived; and so, of course, her property wus all taxed accordin' to its worth. And its bein' the biggest property there, of course it helped more than any thing else did to keep the streets smooth and even before the saloon- doors, so drunkards could get there easy; and to get new street-lamps in front of the saloons and billiard-rooms, so as to make a real bright light to draw 'em in and ruin 'em.

There wus a few--the doctor, who knew how rum ruined men's bodies; and the minister, he knew how it ruined men's souls--they two, and a few others, worked awful hard to get the saloons shut up.

But the executor, who wanted the town to go license, so's he could make money, and thinkin' it would be for her interest in the end, hired votes with her money. Her money used to hire liquor-votes! So she heard, and believed. The idee!

So her money, and his influence, and the influence of low appetites, carried the day; and the liquor-traffic won. The men who rented her houses, voted for license to a man. Her property used agin to spread the evil! She labored with these men with tears in her eyes. And they liked her. She was dretful good to 'em. (As I say, she held the things of this world with a loose grip.)

They listened to her respectful, stood with their hats in their' hands, answerin' her soft, and went soft out of her presence--and voted license to a man. You see, they wus all willin' to give her love and courtesy and kindness, but not the right to do as her heaven-learnt sense of right and wrong wanted her to. She had a fine mind, a pure heart: she had been through the highest schools of the land, and that higher, heavenly school of sufferin', where God is the teacher, and had graduated from 'em with her lofty purposes refined and made luminous with some thin' like the light of Heaven.

But those men--many of 'em who did not know a letter of the alphabet, whose naturally dull minds had become more stupified by habitual vice-- those men, who wus her inferiors, and her servants in every thing else, wus each one of 'em her king here, and she his slave: and they compelled her to obey thier lower wills.

Wall, Cicely didn't think it wus right. Curius she should think so, some folks thought, but she did.

But all this that wore on her wus as nothin' to what she felt about the boy,--her fears for his future. "What could she do--what _could she do for the boy, to make it safer for him in the future?"

And I had jest this one answer, that I'd say over and over agin to her,--

"Cicely, you can pray! That is all that wimmen can do. And try to influence him right now. God can take care of the boy."

"But I can't keep him with me always; and other influences will come, and beat mine down. And I have prayed, but God don't hear my prayer."

And I'd say, calm and soothin', "How do you know, Cicely?"

And she says, "Why, how I prayed for help when my poor Paul went down to ruin, through the open door of a grog-shop! If the women of the land had it in their power to do what their hearts dictate,--what the poorest, lowest _man has the right to do,--every saloon, every low grog-shop, would be closed."

She said this to Josiah the mornin' after the lecture I speak of. He sot there, seemin'ly perusin' the almanac; but he spoke up then, and says,--

"You can't shet up human nater, Cicely: that will jump out any way. As the poet says, 'Nater will caper.'"

But Cicely went right on, with her eyes a shinin', and a red spot in her white cheeks that I didn't like to see.

"A thousand temptations that surround my boy now, could be removed, a thousand low influences changed into better, helpful ones. There are drunkards who long, who pray, to have temptations removed out of their way,--those who are trying to reform, and who dare not pass the door of a saloon, the very smell of the liquor crazing them with the desire for drink. They want help, they pray to be saved; and we who are praying to help them are powerless. What if, in the future, my boy should be like one of them,--weak, tempted, longing for help, and getting nothing but help towards vice and ruin? Haven't mothers a right to help those they love in _every way,--by prayer, by influence, by legal right and might?"

"It would be a dangerous experiment, Cicely," says Josiah, crossin' his right leg over his left, and turnin' the almanac to another month. "It seems to me sunthin' unwomanly, sunthin' aginst nater. It is turnin' the laws of nater right round. It is perilous to the domestic nature of wimmen."

"I don't think so," says I. "Don't you remember, Josiah Allen, how you worried about them hens that we carried to the fair? They wus so handsome, and such good layers, that I really wanted the influence of them hens to spread abroad. I wanted otherfolks to know about 'em, so's to have some like 'em. But you worried awfully. You wus so afraid that carryin' the hens into the turmoil of public life would have a tendency to keep 'em from wantin' to make nests and hatch chickens! But it didn't. Good land! one of 'em made a nest right there, in the coop to the fair, with the crowd a shoutin' round 'em, and laid two eggs. You can't break up nature's laws; _they are laid too deep and strong for any hammer we can get holt of to touch 'em; all the nations and empires of the world can't move 'em round a notch.

"A true woman's deepest love and desire are for her home and her loved ones, and planted right in by the side of these two loves of hern is a deathless instinct and desire to protect and save them from danger.

(Illustration: SAMANTHA'S HENS.)

"Good land! I never heard a old hen called out of her spear, and unhenly, because she would fly out at a hawk, and cackle loud, and cluck, and try to lead her chickens off into safety. And while the rooster is a steppin' high, and struttin' round, and lookin' surprised and injured, it is the old hen that saves the chickens, nine times out of ten.

"It is against the evil hawks,--men-hawks,--that are ready to settle down, and tear the young and innocent out of the home nest, that wimmen are tryin' to defend thier children from. And men may talk about wimmen's gettin' too excited and zealous; but they don't cluck and cackle half so loud as the old hen does, or flutter round half so earnest and fierce.

"And the chicken-hawk hain't to be compared for danger to the men-hawks Cicely is tryin' to save her boy from. And I say it is domestic love in her to want to protect him, and tenderness, and nature, and grace, and-- and--every thing."

I wus wrought up, and felt deeply, and couldn't express half what I felt, and didn't much care if I couldn't. I wus so rousted up, I felt fairly reckless about carin' whether Josiah or anybody understood me or not. I knew the Lord understood me, and I knew what I felt in my own mind, and I didn't much care for any thing else. Wimmen do have such spells. They get fairly wore out a tryin' to express what they feel in thier souls to a gain-sayin' world, and have that world yell out at 'em, "Unwomanly! unwomanly!" I say, Cicely wuzn't unwomanly. I say, that, from the very depths of her lovin' little soul, she wus pure womanly, affectionate, earnest, tender-hearted, good; and, if anybody tells me she wuzn't, I'll know the reason why.

But, while I wus a reveryin' this, my Josiah spoke out agin', and says,--

"Influence the world through your child, Cicely! influence him, and let him influence the world. Let him make the world better and purer by your influencein' it through him."

"Why not use that influence _now, myself_? I have it here right in my heart, all that I could hope to teach to my boy, at the best. And why wait, and set my hopes of influencing the world through him, when a thousand things may happen to weaken that influence, and death and change may destroy it? Why, my one great fear and dread is, that my boy will be led away by other, stronger influences than mine,--the temptations that have overthrown so many other children of prayer--how dare I hope that my boy will withstand them? And death may claim him before he could bear my influence to the world. Why not use it now, myself, to help him, and other mothers' boys? If it is, as you say, an experiment, why not let mothers try it? It could not do any harm; and it would ease our poor, anxious hearts some, to make the effort, even if it proved useless. No one can have a deeper interest in the children's welfare than their mothers. Would they be apt to do any thing to harm them?"

And then I spoke up, entirely unbeknown to myself, and says,--

"Selfishness has had its way for years and years in politics, and now why not let unselfishness have it for a change? For, Josiah Allen," says I firmly, "you know, and I know, that, if there is any unselfishness in this selfish world, it is in the heart of a mother."

"It would be apt to be dangerous," says Josiah, crossin' his left leg over his right one, and turnin' to a new month in the almanac. "It would most likely be apt to be."

"_Why_?" says Cicely. "Why is it dangerous? Why is it wrong for a women to try to help them she would die for? Yes," says she solemnly, "I would die for Paul any time if I knew it would smooth his pathway, make it easier for him to be a good man."

"Wall, you see, Cicely," says Josiah in a soft tone,--his love for her softenin' and smoothin' out his axent till it sounded almost foolish and meachin',--"you see, it would be dangerous for wimmen to vote, because votin' would be apt to lower wimmen in the opinion of us men and the public generally. In fact, it would be apt to lower wimmen down to mingle in a lower class. And it would gaul me dretfully," says Josiah, turnin' to me, "to have our sweet Cicely lower herself into a lower grade of society: it would cut me like a knife."

And then I spoke right up, for I can't stand too much foolishness at one time from man or woman; and I says,--

"I'd love to have you speak up, Josiah Allen, and tell me how wimmen would go to work to get any lower in the opinion of men; how they could get into any lower grade of society than they are minglin' with now. They are ranked now by the laws of the United States, and the will of men, with idiots, lunatics, and criminals. And how pretty it looks for you men to try to scare us, and make us think there is a lower class we could get into! _There hain't any lower class that we can get into than the ones we are in now; and you know it, Josiah Allen. And you sha'n't scare Cicely by tryin' to make her think there is."

He quailed. He knew there wuzn't. He knew he had said it to scare us, Cicely and me, and he felt considerable meachin' to think he had got found out in it. But he went on in ruther of a meek tone,--

"It would be apt to make talk, Cicely."

"What do I care for talk?" says she. "What do I care for honor, or praise, or blame? I only want to try to save my boy."

(Illustration: CICELY AND HER PEERS.)

And she kep' right on with her tender, earnest voice, and her eyes a shinin' like stars,--

"Have I not a right to help him? Is he not _my child? Did not God give me a _right to him, when I went down into the darkness with God alone, and a soul was given into my hands? Did I not suffer for him? Have I not been blessed in him? Why, his little hands held me back from the gates of death. By all the rights of heavenliest joy and deepest agony--is he not _mine_? Have I not a _right to help him in his future?

"Now I hold him in my arms, my flesh, my blood, my life. I hold him on my heart now: he is _mine_. I can shield him from danger: if he should fall into the flames, I could reach in after him, and die with him, or save him. God and man give me that right now: I do not have to ask for it.

"But in a few years he will go out from me, carrying my own life with him, my heart will go with him, to joy or to death. He will go out into dangers a thousand-fold worse than death,--dangers made respectable and legal,-- and I can't help him.

"_I his mother, who would die for him any hour--I must stand with my eyes open, but my hands bound, and see him rushing headlong into flames tenfold hotter than fire; see him on the brink of earthly and eternal ruin, and can't reach out my hand to hold him back. My _boy! My _own! Is it right? Is it just?"

And she got up, and walked the room back and forth, and says,--

"How can I bear the thought of it? How can I live and endure it? And how can I die, and leave the boy?"

And her eyes looked so big and bright, and that spot of red would look so bright on her white cheeks, that I would get skairt. And I'd try to sooth her down, and talk gentle to her. And I says,--

"All things are possible with God, and you must wait and hope."

But she says, "What will hope do for me when my boy is lost? I want to save him now."

It did beat all, as I told Josiah, out to one side, to see such hefty principles and emotions in such a little body. Why, she didn't weigh much over 90, if she did any.

And Josiah whispered back, "All women hain't like Cicely."

And I says in the same low, deep tones, "All men hain't like George Washington! Now get me a pail of water."

And he went out. But it did beat all, how that little thing, when she stood ready, seemin'ly, to tackle the nation--I've seen her jump up in a chair, afraid of a mice. The idee of anybody bein' afraid of a mice, and ready to tackle the Constitution!

And she'd blush up red as a rosy if a stranger would speak to her. But she would fight the hull nation for her boy.

And I'd try to sooth her (for that red spot on her cheeks skairt me, and I foreboded about her). I said to her after Josiah went out, a holdin' her little hot hands in mine,--for sometimes her hands would be hot and feverish, and then, agin, like two snowflakes,--

"Cicely, women's voting on intemperance would, as your uncle Josiah says, be a experiment. I candidly think and believe that it would be a good thing,--a blessin' to the youth of the land, a comfort to the females, and no harm to the males. But, after all, we don't know what it would do"--

"I _know_" says she. And her eyes had such a far-off, prophetic look in 'em, that I declare for't, if I didn't almost think she _did know. I says to myself,--

"She's so sweet and unselfish and good, that I believe she's more than half-ways into heaven now. The Holy Scriptures, that I believe in, says, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' And it don't say where they shall see Him, or when. And it don't say that the light that fell from on high upon the blessed mother of our Lord, shall never fall again on other heart-broken mothers, on other pure souls beloved of Him."

And it is the honest truth, that it would not have surprised me much sometimes, as she wus settin' in the twilight with the boy in her arms, if I had seen a halo round her head; and so I told Josiah one night, after she had been a settin' there a holdin' the boy, and a singin' low to him,--


"'A charge to keep I have,--
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.'"


It wuzn't _her soul she wus a thinkin' of, I knew. She didn't think of herself: she never did.

And after she went to bed, I mentioned the halo. And Josiah asked what that was. And I told him it was "the inner glory that shines out from a pure soul, and crowns a holy life."

And he said "he s'posed it was some sort of a headdress. Wimmen was so full of new names, he thought it was some new kind of a crowfar."

I knew what he meant. He didn't mean crowfar, he meant _crowfure_. That is French. But I wouldn't hurt his feelin's by correctin' him; for I thought "fur" or "fure," it didn't make much of any difference.

(Illustration: "A CHARGE TO KEEP I HAVE.")

Wall, the very next day, when Josiah came from Jonesville,--he had been to mill,--he brought Cicely a letter from her aunt Mary. She wanted her to come on at once; for her daughter, who wus a runnin' down, wus supposed to be a runnin' faster than she had run. And her aunt Mary was goin' to start for the Michigan very soon,--as soon as she got well enough: she wasn't feelin' well when she wrote. And she wanted Cicely to come at once.

So she went the next day, but promised that jest as quick as she got through visitin' her aunt and her other relations there, she would come back here.

So she went; and I missed her dretfully, and should have missed her more if it hadn't been for the state my companion returned in after he had carried Cicely to the train.

He come home rampant with a new idee. All wrought up about goin' into politics. He broached the subject to me before he onharnessed, hitchin' the old mair for the purpose. He wanted to be United-States senator. He said he thought the nation needed him.

"Needs you for what?" says I coldly, cold as a ice suckle.

"Why, it needs somebody it can lean on, and it needs somebody that can lean. I am a popular man," says he. "And if I can help the nation, I will be glad to do it; and if the nation can help me, I am willin'. The change from Jonesville to Washington will be agreeable and relaxin', and I lay out to try it."

Says I, in sarkastick tones, "It is a pity you hain't got your free pass to go on:--you remember that incident, don't you, Josiah Allen?"

"What of it?" he snapped out. "What if I do?"

"Wall, I thought then, that, when you got high-headed and haughty on any subject agin, mebby you would remember that pass, and be more modest and unassuming."

He riz right up, and hollered at me,--

"Throw that pass in my face, will you, at this time of year?"

And he started for the barn, almost on the run.

But I didn't care. I wus bound to break up this idee of hisen at once. If I hadn't been, I shouldn't have mentioned the free pass to him. For it is a subject so gaulin' to him, that I never allude to it only in cases of extreme danger and peril, or uncommon high-headedness.

Now I have mentioned it, I don't know but it will be expected of me to tell about this pass of hisen. But, if I do, it mustn't go no further; for Josiah would be mad, mad as a hen, if he knew I told about it.

I will relate the history in another epistol.

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CHAPTER IIWall, Cicely and the boy staid till Tuesday night. Tuesday afternoon the children wus all to home on a invitation. (I had a chicken-pie, and done well by 'em.) And nothin' to do but what Cicely and the boy must go home with 'em: they jest think their eyes of Cicely. And I couldn't blame 'em for wantin' her, though I hated to give her up. She laid out to stay a few days, and then come back to our house for a day or two, and then go on to her aunt Mary's. But, as it turned out, the
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