The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
A Pleasure Exertion
By Marietta Holley (18361926)
From My Wayward Pardner
WAL, the very next mornin Josiah got up with a new idee in his head; and he broached it to me to the breakfast table. They have been havin sights of pleasure exertions here to Jonesville lately. Every week amost they would go off on a exertion after pleasure, and Josiah was all up on end to go too.
That man is a well-principled man as I ever see, but if he had his head he would be worse than any young man I ever see to foller up picnics and 4th of Julys and camp-meetins and all pleasure exertions. But I dont encourage him in it. I have said to him time and again: There is a time for everything, Josiah Allen, and after anybody has lost all their teeth, and every mite of hair on the top of their head, it is time for em to stop goin to pleasure exertions.
But, good land! I might jest as well talk to the wind! If that man should get to be as old as Mr. Methusler, and be goin on a thousand years old, he would prick up his ears if he should hear of a exertion. All summer long that man has beset me to go to em, for he wouldnt go without me. Old Bunker Hill himself haint any sounder in principle than Josiah Allen, and I have had to work head-work to make excuses and quell him down. But last week they was goin to have one out on the lake, on a island, and that man sot his foot down that go he would.
Says I, in a almost eloquent way: I dont believe in makin such exertions after pleasure. As I have told you time and agin, I dont believe in chasin of her up. Let her come of her own free will. You cant ketch her by chasin after her, no more than you can fetch up a shower in a drowth by goin outdoors and runnin after a cloud up in the heavens above you. Set down and be patient, and when it gets ready the refreshin raindrops will begin to fall without none of your help. And it is jest so with pleasure, Josiah Allen; you may chase her up over all the oceans and big mountains of the earth, and she will keep ahead of you all the time; but set down and not fatigue yourself a-thinkin about her, and like as not she will come right into your house unbeknown to you.
Men are deep. Now that man knew that no amount of religious preachin could stir me up like that one speech. For though I haint no hand to coo, and dont encourage him in bein spoony at all, he knows that I am wrapped almost completely up in him. I went.
Why, says he, how would the rest of the wimmen round Jonesville feel if I should pick out one woman and wait on her? Says he bitterly: I haint perfect, but I haint such a cold-blooded rascal as not to have any regard for wimmens feelins. I haint no heart to spile all the comfort of the day for ten or a dozen wimmen.
No, says he, their hearts. All the girls have probable had more or less hopes that I would invite emmake a choice of em. But when the blow was struck, when I had passed em by and invited some other, some happier woman, how would them slighted ones feel? How do you spose they would enjoy the day, seein me with another woman, and they droopin round without me? That is the reason, Josiah Allens wife, that I dassent go. It haint the keepin of my horse through the day that stops me; for I could carry a quart of oats and a little jag of hay in the bottom of the buggy. If I had concluded to pick out a girl and go, I had got it all fixed out in my mind how I would manage. I had thought it over while I was ondecided and duty was a-strugglin with me. But I was made to see where the right way for me lay, and I am goin to foller it. Joe Purday is goin to have my horse, and give me seven shillins for the use of it and its keepin. He come to hire it jest before I made up my mind that I hadnt ort to go.
Of course it is a cross to me. But I am willin to bear crosses for the fair sect. Why, says he, a-comin out in a open, generous way, I would be willin, if necessary for the general good of the fair sectI would be willin to sacrifice ten cents for em, or pretty nigh that, I wish so well to em. I haint that enemy to em that they think I am. I cant marry em all, Heaven knows I cant, but I wish em well.
And he took the hint and started off. I see it wouldnt do no good to argue with him that wimmen didnt worship him. For when a feller once gets it into his head that female wimmen are all after him you might jest as well dispute the wind as argue with him. You cant convince him nor the windneither of emso whats the use of wastin breath on em? And I didnt want to spend a extra breath that day anyway, knowin I had such a hard days work in front of me, a-finishin cookin up provisions for the exertion, and gettin things done up in the house so I could leave em for all day.
We had got to start about the middle of the night; for the lake was fifteen miles from Jonesville, and the old mares bein so slow, we had got to start an hour or two ahead of the rest. I told Josiah in the first ont, that I had just as lives set up all night as to be routed out at two oclock. But he was so animated and happy at the idee of goin that he looked on the bright side of everything, and he said that we would go to bed before dark, and get as much sleep as we commonly did. So we went to bed the sun an hour high. And I was truly tired enough to lay down, for I had worked dretful hard that dayalmost beyond my strength. But we hadnt moren got settled down into the bed, when we heard a buggy and a single wagon stop at the gate, and I got up and peeked through the window, and I see it was visitors come to spend the evenin. Elder Bamber and his family, and Deacon Dobbinss folks.
Josiah vowed that he wouldnt stir one step out of bed that night. But I argued with him pretty sharp while I was throwin on my clothes, and I finally got him started up. I haint deceitful, but I thought if I got my clothes all on before they came in I wouldnt tell em that I had been to bed that time of day. And I did get all dressed up, even to my handkerchief pin. And I guess they had been there as much as ten minutes before I thought that I hadnt took my nightcap off. They looked dreadful curious at me, and I felt awful meachin; but I jest ketched it off and never said nothin. But when Josiah come out of the bedroom with what little hair he has got standin out in every direction, no two hairs a-layin the same way, and one of his galluses a-hangin most to the floor under his best coat, I up and told em. I thought mebbe they wouldnt stay long. But Deacon Dobbinss folks seemed to be all waked up on the subject of religion, and they proposed we should turn it into a kind of a conference meetin; so they never went home till after ten oclock.
It was most eleven when Josiah and me got to bed agin. And then, jest as I was gettin into a drowse, I heered the cat in the buttery, and I got up to let her out. And that roused Josiah up, and he thought he heered the cattle in the garden, and he got up and went out. And there we was a-marchin round most all night.
And if we would get into a nap, Josiah would think it was mornin and he would start up and go out to look at the clock. He seemed so afraid we would be belated and not get to that exertion in time. And there we was on our feet most all night. I lost myself once, for I dreampt that Josiah was a-drowndin, and Deacon Dobbins was on the shore a-prayin for him. It started me so that I jest ketched hold of Josiah and hollered. It skairt him awfully, and says he, What does ail you, Samantha? I haint been asleep before to-night, and now you have rousted me up for good. I wonder what time it is?
And then he got out of bed again and went and looked at the clock. It was half past one, and he said he didnt believe we had better go to sleep again, for fear we would be too late for the exertion, and he wouldnt miss that for nothin.
But as bad and wore out as Josiah felt bodily, he was all animated in his mind about what a good time he was a-goin to have. He acted foolish, and I told him so. I wanted to wear my brown-and-black gingham and a shaker, but Josiah insisted that I should wear a new lawn dress that he had brought me home as a present and I had jest got made up. So, jest to please him, I put it on, and my best bonnet.
And that man, all I could do and say, would put on a pair of pantaloons I had been a-makin for Thomas Jefferson. They was gettin up a milatary company to Jonesville, and these pantaloons was blue, with a red stripe down the sidesa kind of uniform. Josiah took a awful fancy to em, and says he:
I didnt contend with him. Thinks I: We are makin fools of ourselves by goin at all, and if he wants to make a little bigger fool of himself by wearin them blue pantaloons, I wont stand in his light. And then I had got some machine oil onto em, so I felt that I had got to wash em, anyway, before Thomas J. took em to wear. So he put em on.
I had good vittles, and a sight of em. The basket wouldnt hold em all, so Josiah had to put a bottle of red rossberry jell into the pocket of his dress-coat, and lots of other little things, such as spoons and knives and forks, in his pantaloons and breast pockets. He looked like Captain Kidd armed up to the teeth, and I told him so. But, good land! he would have carried a knife in his mouth if I had asked him to, he felt so neat about goin, and boasted so on what a splendid exertion it was goin to be.
The young folks made up their minds they would stay and eat their dinner in a grove on the mainland. But the majority of the old folks thought it was best to go and set our tables where we laid out to in the first place. Josiah seemed to be the most rampant of any of the company about goin. He said he shouldnt eat a mouthful if he didnt eat on that island. He said what was the use of goin to a pleasure exertion at all if you didnt try to take all the pleasure you could? So about twenty old fools of us sot sail for the island.
I had made up my mind from the first ont to face trouble, so it didnt put me out so much when Deacon Dobbins, in gettin into the boat, stepped onto my new lawn dress and tore a hole in it as big as my two hands, and ripped it half offen the waist. But Josiah havin felt so animated and tickled about the exertion, it worked him up awfully when, jest after we had got well out onto the lake, the wind took his hat off and blew it away out onto the lake. He had made up his mind to look so pretty that day that it worked him up awfully. And then the sun beat down onto him; and if he had had any hair onto his head it would have seemed more shady.
But I did the best I could by him. I stood by him and pinned on his red bandanna handkerchief onto his head. But as I was a-fixin it on, I see there was suthin more than mortification ailded him. The lake was rough and the boat rocked, and I see he was beginning to be awful sick. He looked deathly. Pretty soon I felt bad, too. Oh, the wretchedness of that time! I have enjoyed poor health considerable in my life, but never did I enjoy so much sickness in so short a time as I did on that pleasure exertion to that island. I spose our bein up all night amost made it worse. When we reached the island we was both weak as cats.
I sot right down on a stun and held my head for a spell, for it did seem as if it would split open. After awhile I staggered up onto my feet, and finally I got so I could walk straight and sense things a little; though it was tejus work to walk anyway, for we had landed on a sand-bar, and the sand was so deep it was all we could do to wade through it, and it was as hot as hot ashes ever was.
Then I began to take the things out of my dinner-basket. The butter had all melted, so we had to dip it out with a spoon. And a lot of water had washed over the side of the boat, so my pies and tarts and delicate cakes and cookies looked awful mixed up; but no worse than the rest of the companys did.
But we did the best we could, and the chicken and cold meats bein more solid, had held together quite well, so there was some pieces of it consideable hull, though it was all very wet and soppy. But we separated em out as well as we could, and begun to make preparations to eat. We didnt feel so animated about eatin as we should if we hadnt been so sick to our stomachs. But we felt as if we must hurry, for the man that owned the boat said he knew it would rain before night by the way the sun scalded.
There wasnt a man or a woman there but what the presperation and sweat jest poured down their faces. We was a haggard and melancholy lookin set. There was a piece of woods a little ways off, but it was up quite a rise of ground, and there wasnt one of us but what had the rheumatiz more or less. We made up a fire on the sand, though it seemed as if it was hot enough to steep tea and coffee as it was.
Wal, I guess I had set there ten minutes or more, when all of a sudden I thought, Where is Josiah? I hadnt seen him since we had got there. I riz up and asked the company, almost wildly, if they had seen my companion, Josiah.
Had the sufferins he had undergone made him delerious? says I to myself; and then I started off on the run toward the woods, and old Miss Bobbet, and Miss Gowdy, and Sister Bamber, and Deacon Dobbinses wife, all rushed after me.
Oh, the agony of them two or three minutes! my mind so distracted with fourbodins, and the presperation and sweat a-pourin down. But all of a sudden, on the edge of the woods, we found him. Miss Gowdy, weighin a little less than me, mebbe one hundred pounds or so, had got a little ahead of me. He sot backed up against a tree in a awful cramped position, with his left leg under him. He looked dretful uncomfortable. But when Miss Gowdy hollered out: Oh, here you be! We have been skairt about you. What is the matter? he smiled a dretful sick smile, and says he: Oh, I thought I would come out here and meditate a spell. It was always a real treat to me to meditate.
Just then I come up a-pantin for breath, and as the wimmen all turned to face me, Josiah scowled at me and shook his fist at them four wimmen, and made the most mysterious motions of his hands toward em. But the minute they turned round he smiled in a sickish way, and pretended to go to whistlin.
The wimmen happened to be a-lookin the other way for a minute, and he looked at me as if he would take my head off, and made the strangest motions toward em; but the minute they looked at him he would pretend to smilethat deathly smile.
Jest at that minute they called to me from the shore to come that minute to find some of my dishes. And we had to start off. But oh! the gloom of my mind that was added to the lameness of my body. Them strange motions and looks of Josiah wore on me. Had the sufferins of the night, added to the trials of the day, made him crazy? I thought moren as likely as not I had got a luny on my hands for the rest of my days.
And then, oh, how the sun did scald down onto me! and the wind took the smoke so into my face that there wasnt hardly a dry eye in my head. And then a perfect swarm of yellow wasps lit down onto our vittles as quick as we laid em down, so you couldnt touch a thing without runnin a chance to be stung. Oh, the agony of that time! the distress of that pleasure exertion! But I kep to work, and when we had got dinner most ready I went back to call Josiah again. Old Miss Bobbet said she would go with me, for she thought she see a wild turnip in the woods there, and her Shakespeare had a awful cold, and she would try to dig one to give him. So we started up the hill again. He sot in the same position, all huddled up, with his leg under him, as uncomfortable a lookin creeter as I ever see. But when we both stood in front of him he pretended to look careless and happy, and smiled that sick smile.
I begun to see daylight, and after Miss Bobbet had got her wild turnip and some spignut, I made some excuse to send her on ahead, and then Josiah told me all about why he had gone off by himself alone, and why he had been a-settin in such a curious position all the time since we had come in sight of him.
It seems he had sot down on that bottle of rossberry jell. That red stripe on the side wasnt hardly finished, as I said, and I hadnt fastened my thread properly, so when he got to pullin at em to try to wipe off the jell, the thread started, and bein sewed on a machine, that seam jest ripped from top to bottom. That was what he had walked off sideways toward the woods for. But Josiah Allens wife haint one to desert a companion in distress. I pinned em up as well as I could, and I didnt say a word to hurt his feelins, only I jest said this to him, as I was fixin emI fastened my gray eye firmly, and almost sternly onto him, and says I:
I fixed em as well as I could, but they looked pretty bad, and there they was all covered with jell, too. What to do I didnt know. But finally I told him I would put my shawl onto him. So I doubled it up corner-ways as big as I could, so it almost touched the ground behind, and he walked back to the table with me. I told him it was best to tell the company all about it, but he just put his foot down that he wouldnt, and I told him if he wouldnt that he must make his own excuses to the company about wearin the shawl. So he told em he always loved to wear summer shawls; he thought it made a man look so dressy.
But he looked as if he would sink all the time he was a-sayin it. They all looked dretful curious at him, and he looked as meachin as if he had stole sheepand meachinerand he never took a minutes comfort, nor I nuther. He was sick all the way back to the shore, and so was I. And jest as we got into our wagons and started for home, the rain began to pour down. The wind turned our old umberell inside out in no time. My lawn dress was most spilt before, and now I give up my bonnet. And I says to Josiah:
But it were on him. Oh, how the rain poured down! Josiah, havin nothin but a handkerchief on his head, felt it more than I did. I had took a apron to put on a-gettin dinner, and I tried to make him let me pin it on his head. But says he firmly:
I didnt say no more, but there we jest sot and suffered. The rain poured down; the wind howled at us; the old mare went slow; the rheumatiz laid holt of both of us; and the thought of the new bonnet and dress was a-wearin on Josiah, I knew.
There wasnt a house for the first seven miles, and after we got there I thought we wouldnt go in, for we had got to get home to milk anyway, and we was both as wet as we could be. After I had beset him about the apron, we didnt say hardly a word for as much as thirteen miles or so; but I did speak once, as he leaned forward, with the rain drippin offen his bandanna handkerchief onto his blue pantaloons. I says to him in stern tones: