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UNCLE BART DISCOURSES
UNCLE BART and Cephas were taking their nooning hour under the Nodhead apple tree as Waitstill passed the joiner's shop and went over the bridge.
"Uncle Bart might somehow guess where I am going," she thought, "but even if he did he would never tell any one."
"Where's Waitstill bound this afternoon, I wonder?" drawled Cephas, rising to his feet and looking after the departing team. "That reminds me, I'd better run up to Baxter's and see if any-thing's wanted before I open the store."
"If it makes any dif'rence," said his father dryly, as he filled his pipe, "Patty's over to Mis' Day's spendin' the afternoon. Don't s'pose you want to call on the pig, do you? He's the only one to home."
Cephas made no remark, but gave his trousers a hitch, picked up a chip, opened his jack-knife, and sitting down on the greensward began idly whittling the bit of wood into shape.
"I kind o' wish you'd let me make the new ell two-story, father; 't wouldn't be much work, take it in slack time after hayin'."
"Land o' Liberty! What do you want to do that for, Cephas? You 'bout pestered the life out o' me gittin' me to build the ell in the first place, when we didn't need it no more'n a toad does a pocketbook. Then nothin' would do but you must paint it, though I shan't be able to have the main house painted for another year, so the old wine an' the new bottle side by side looks like the Old Driver, an' makes us a laughin'-stock to the village;--and now you want to change the thing into a two-story! Never heerd such a crazy idee in my life."
"I want to settle down," insisted Cephas doggedly.
"Well, settle; I'm willin'! I told you that, afore you painted the ell. Ain't two rooms, fourteen by fourteen, enough for you to settle down in? If they ain't, I guess your mother'd give you one o' the chambers in the main part."
"She would if I married Phoebe Day, but I don't want to marry Phoebe," argued Cephas. "And mother's gone and made a summer kitchen for herself out in the ell, a'ready. I bet yer she'll never move out if I should want to move in on a 'sudden."
"I told you you was takin' that risk when you cut a door through from the main part," said his father genially. "If you hadn't done that, your mother would 'a' had to gone round outside to git int' the ell and mebbe she'd 'a' stayed to home when it stormed, anyhow. Now your wife'11 have her troopin' in an' out, in an' out, the whole 'durin' time."
"I only cut the door through to please so't she'd favor my gittin' married, but I guess 't won't do no good. You see, father, what I was thinkin' of is, a girl would mebbe jump at a two-story, four-roomed ell when she wouldn't look at a smaller place."
"Pends upon whether the girl's the jumpin' kind or not! Hadn't you better git everything fixed up with the one you've picked out, afore you take your good savin's and go to buildin' a bigger place for her?"
"I've asked her once a'ready," Cephas allowed, with a burning face. "I don't s'pose you know the one I mean?"
"No kind of an idee," responded his father, with a quizzical wink that was lost on the young man, as his eyes were fixed upon his whittling. "Does she belong to the village?"
"I ain't goin' to let folks know who I've picked out till I git a little mite forrarder," responded Cephas craftily. "Say, father, it's all right to ask a girl twice, ain't it?
"Certain it is, my son. I never heerd there was any special limit to the number o' times you could ask 'em, and their power o' sayin' 'No' is like the mercy of the Lord; it endureth forever. --You wouldn't consider a widder, Cephas? A widder'd be a good comp'ny-keeper for your mother."
"I hain't put my good savin's into an ell jest to marry a comp'ny-keeper for mother," responded Cephas huffily. "I want to be number one with my girl and start right in on trainin' her up to suit me."
"Well, if trainin' 's your object you'd better take my advice an' keep it dark before marriage, Cephas. It's astonishin' how the female sect despises bein' trained; it don't hardly seem to be in their nature to make any changes in 'emselves after they once gits started."
"How are you goin' to live with 'em, then?" Cephas inquired, looking up with interest coupled with some incredulity.
"Let them do the training responded his father, peacefully puffing out the words with his pipe between his lips. "Some of 'em's mild and gentle in discipline, like Parson Boone's wife or Mis' Timothy Grant, and others is strict and firm like your mother and Mis' Abel Day. If you happen to git the first kind, why, do as they tell you, and thank the Lord 't ain't any worse. If you git the second kind, jest let 'em put the blinders on you and trot as straight as you know how, without shying nor kickin' over the traces, nor bolting 'cause they've got control o' the bit and 't ain't no use fightin' ag'in' their superior strength.--So fur as you can judge, in the early stages o' the game, my son,--which ain't very fur,--which kind have you picked out?"
Cephas whittled on for some moments without a word, but finally, with a sigh drawn from the very toes of his boots, he responded gloomily,--
"She's awful spunky, the girl is, anybody can see that; but she's a young thing, and I thought bein' married would kind o' tame her down!"
"You can see how much marriage has tamed your mother down," observed Uncle Bart dispassionately; "howsomever, though your mother can't be called tame, she's got her good p'ints, for she's always to be counted on. The great thing in life, as I take it, Cephas, is to know exactly what to expect. Your mother's gen'ally credited with an onsartin temper, but folks does her great injustice in so thinking for in a long experience I've seldom come across a temper less onsartin than your mother's. You know exactly where to find her every mornin' at sun-up and every night at sundown. There ain't nothin' you can do to put her out o' temper, cause she's all out aforehand. You can jest go about your reg'lar business 'thout any fear of disturbin' her any further than she's disturbed a'ready, which is consid'rable. I don't mind it a mite nowadays, though, after forty years of it. It would kind o' gall me to keep a stiddy watch of a female's disposition day by day, wonderin' when she was goin' to have a tantrum. A tantrum once a year's an awful upsettin' kind of a thing in a family, my son, but a tantrum every twenty-four hours is jest part o' the day's work." There was a moment's silence during which Uncle Bart puffed his pipe and Cephas whittled, after which the old man continued: "Then, if you happen to marry a temper like your mother's, Cephas, look what a pow'ful worker you gen'ally get! Look at the way they sweep an' dust an' scrub an' clean! Watch 'em when they go at the dish-washin', an' how they whack the rollin'-pin, an' maul the eggs, an' heave the wood int' the stove, an' slat the flies out o' the house! The mild and gentle ones enough, will be settin' in the kitchen rocker read-in' the almanac when there ain't no wood in the kitchen box, no doughnuts in the crock, no pies on the swing shelf in the cellar, an' the young ones goin' round without a second shift to their backs!"
Cephas's mind was far away during this philosophical dissertation on the ways of women. He could see only a sunny head fairly rioting with curls; a pair of eyes that held his like magnets, although they never gave him a glance of love; a smile that lighted the world far better than the sun; a dimple into which his heart fell headlong whenever he looked at it!
"You're right, father; 'tain't no use kickin' ag'in 'em," he said as he rose to his feet preparatory to opening the Baxter store. "When I said that 'bout trainin' up a girl to suit me, I kind o' forgot the one I've picked out. I'm considerin' several, but the one I favor most-well, I believe she'd fire up at the first sight o' training and that's the gospel truth."
"Considerin' several, be you, Cephas?" laughed Uncle Bart. "Well, all I hope is, that the one you favor most--the girl you've asked once a'ready--is considerin' you!"
Cephas went to the pump, and wetting a large handkerchief put it in the crown of his straw hat and sauntered out into the burning heat of the open road between his father's shop and Deacon Baxter's store.
"I shan't ask her the next time till this hot spell's over," he thought, "and I won't do it in that dodgasted old store ag'in, neither; I ain't so tongue-tied outdoors an' I kind o' think I'd be more in the sperit of it after sundown, some night after supper!"
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