Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

6

was paid. And beside, the baby's cried so, I've had to 'tend him the whole forenoon, and could n't go out.'

• Then you a' n't a-goin' to give us any dinner, are you?' said Jerry, with a reproachful tone and look. I pity the man that has a helpless, shiftless wife; he has a hard row to hoe. What's become of that fish I brought in yesterday?'

Why, Mr. Guttridge,' said his wife, with tears in her eyes, you and the children ate that fish for your supper last night. I never tasted a morsel of it, and have n't tasted any thing but potatoes these two days; and I'm so faint now, I can hardly stand.'

Always a-grumblin',' said Jerry; 'I can't never come into the house, but what I must hear a fuss about something or other. What's this boy snivelling about ? he continued, turning to little Bobby, his oldest boy, a little ragged, dirty-faced, sickly-looking thing, about six years old; at the same time giving the child a box on the ear, which laid him his length on the floor. Now shet up!' said Jerry,' or I 'll learn you to be crying about all day for nothing.'

• The tears rolled afresh down the cheeks of Mrs. Guttridge; she sighed heavily, as she raised the child from the floor, and seated him on a bench, on the opposite side of the room. • What is Bob crying about ?' said Jerry, fretfully.

Why, Mr. Guttridge,' said his wife, sinking upon the bench beside her little boy, and wiping his tears with her apron, 'the poor child has been crying for a piece of bread these two hours. He's ate nothin' to-day, but one potato, and I s'pose the poor thing is half starved.'

At this moment their neighbor, Mr. Nat. Frier, a substantial farmer, and a worthy man, made his appearance at the door; and as it was wide open, he walked in, and took a seat. He knew the destitute condition of Guttridge's family, and had often relieved their distresses. His visit at the present time was partly an errand of charity; for, being in want of some extra labor in his haying.field that afternoon, and knowing that Jerry was doing nothing, while his family was starving, he thought he would endeavor to get him to work for him, and pay him in provisions.

Jerry seated himself rather sullenly on a broken-backed chair, the only sound one in the house being occupied by Mr. Frier, toward whom he cast sundry gruff looks and surly glances. The truth was, Jerry had not received the visits of his neighbors, of late years, with a very gracious welcome. He regarded them rather as spies, who came to search out the nakedness of the land, than as neighborly visitors, calling to exchange friendly salutations. He said not a word; and the first address of Mr. Frier was to little Bobby.

• What is the matter with little Bobby?' said he, in a gentle tone; *come, my little fellow, come here and tell me what is the matter.'

“Go, run, Bobby; go and see Mr. Frier,' said the mother, slightly pushing him forward with her hand.

The boy, with one finger in his mouth, and the tears still rolling over his dirty face, edged along side-ways up to Mr. Frier, who took him in his lap, and asked him again what was the matter.

* I want a piece of bread!' said Bobby. * And wont your mother give you some ?' said Mr. Frier, tenderly.

6

go

“She ha' n't got none,' replied Bobby, ‘nor 'taters too.' Mrs. Guttridge's tears told the rest of the story. The worthy farmer knew they were entirely out of provisions again, and he forebore to ask any farther questions; but told Bobby if he would go over to his house, he would give him something to eat. Then turning to Jerry, said he :

Neighbor Guttridge, I've got four tons of hay down, that needs to go in this afternoon, for it looks as if we should have rain by tomorrow; and I 've come over to see if I can get you to to go and help me. If you '11 this afternoon, and assist me to get it in, I'll give you a bushel of meal, or a half bushel of meal and a bushel of potatoes, and two pounds of pork.'

* I can't go,' said Jerry; I've got something else to do.' O, well," said Mr. Frier, ‘if you've got any thing else to do, that will be more profitable, I 'm glad of it, for there's enough hands that I can get; only I thought you might like to go, bein' you was scant of provisions.'

Do pray go, Mr. Guttridge!' said his wife, with a beseeching look, • for you are only going over to the shop to ride them horses, and that wont do no good; you 'll only spend all the afternoon for nothin', and then we shall have to go to bed without our supper, again. Do pray go, Mr. Guttridge, do!'

I wish you would hold your everlasting clack !' said Jerry; you are always full of complainings. It's got to be a fine time of day, if the women are a-goin' to rule the roast. I shall go over and ride them horses, and it's no business to you nor nobody else ; and if you are too lazy to get your own supper, you may go without it; that 's all I 've got to say.'

With that he aimed for the door, when Mr. Frier addressed him as follows :

Now I must say, neighbor Guttridge, if you are going to spend the afternoon over to the shop, to ride horses for them jockeys, and leave your family without provisions, when you have a good chance to ’arn enough this afternoon to last them nigh about a week, I must say, neighbor Guttridge, that I think you are not in the way of your duty'

Upon this, Jerry whirled round, and looked Mr. Frier full in the face,' grinning horribly a ghastly smile,' and said he :

You old, miserable, dirty, meddling vagabond ! you are a scoun. drel, and a scape-gallows, and an infernal small piece of a man, I think! I've as good a mind to kick you out of doors, as ever I had to eat! Who made you a master over me, to be telling me what's my duty? You better go home, and take care of your own brats, and let your neighbors' alone !'

Mr. Frier sat and looked Jerry calmly in the face, without uttering a syllable; while he, having blown his blast, marched out of doors, and steered directly for the grog-shop, leaving his wife to pick up something,' if she could, to keep herself and children from absolute starvation.'

Mr. Frier was a benevolent man, and a christian, and in the true spirit of christianity he always sought to relieve distress, wherever he found it. He was ondowed, too, with a good share of plain com

[ocr errors]

mon sense, and knew something of human nature ; and as he was well aware that Mrs. Guttridge really loved her husband, notwithstanding his idle habits, and cold, brutal treatment to his family, he forbore to remark upon the scene which had just past; but telling the afflicted woman he would send her something to eat, he took little Bobby by the hand, and led him home. A plate of victuals was set before the child, who devoured it with a greediness that was piteous to behold.

Poor cre'tur !' said Mrs. Frier; why, he's half starved! Betsey, bring him a dish of bread-and-milk; that will set the best on his poor, empty, starved stomach.'

Betsey ran and got the bowl of bread-and-milk, and little Bobby's hand soon began to move from the dish to his mouth, with a motion as steady and rapid as the pendulum of a clock. The whole family stood and looked on, with pity and surprise, until he had finished his meal, or rather until he had eaten as much as they dared allow him to eat at once; for although he had devoured a large plate of meat and vegetables, and two dishes of bread-and-milk, his appetite seemed as ravenous as when he first began; and he still, like the memorable Oliver Twist, 'asked for more.'

While Bobby had been eating, Mr. Frier had been relating to his family the events which had occurred at Guttridge's house, and the starving condition of the inmates ; and it was at once agreed, that something should be sent over immediately; for they all said Mrs. Guttridge was a clever woman, and it was a shame that she should be left to suffer so.'

Accordingly, a basket was filled with bread, a jug of milk, and some meat and vegetables, ready cooked, which had been left from their dinner; and Betsey ran and brought a pie, made from their last year's dried pumpkins, and asked her mother if she might not put that in, so the poor starving cre’turs might have a little taste of something that was good.'

• Yes,' said her mother, “and put in a bit of cheese with it; I do n't think we shall be

any
the
poorer

for he that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord.'

Yes, yes,' said Mr. Frier, “and I guess you may as well put in a little dried pumpkin ; she can stew it up for the little ones, and it 'll be good for 'em. We've got a plenty of rgreen stuff a-growin,' to last till pumpkins come again.' So a quantity of dried pumpkin was also packed into the basket, and the pie laid on top, and George was despatched, in company with little Bobby, to carry

it over. Mr. Frier's benevolent feelings had become highly excited. He forgot his four tons of hay, and sat down to consult with his wife about what could be done for the Guttridge family. Something must be done soon; he was not able to support them all the time; and if they were left alone much longer, they would starve. He told his wife he had a good mind to go and enter a complaint to the grand jury ag'in' Jerry, for a lazy, idle person, that did n't provide for his family. The court sets at Saco to-morrow, and do n't you think, wife, I had better go and do it ?'

His wife thought he had better go over first and talk with Mrs. Guttridge about it; and if she was willing, he had better do it. Mr.

for it;

[ocr errors]

Frier said, he could go over and talk with her, but he did n't think it would be the least use, for she loved Jerry, ugly as he was, and he did n't believe she would be willing to have him punished by the court.'

However, after due consultation, he concluded to go over and have a talk with Mrs. Guttridge about the matter. Accordingly he took his hat, and walked over. He found the door open, as usual, and walked in without ceremony. Here he beheld the whole family, including Jerry himself, seated at their little pine table, doing ample justice to the basket of provisions which he had just before sent them. He observed the pie had been cut into two pieces, and one half of it, and he thought rather the largest half, was laid on Jerry's plate, the rest being cut up into small bits, and divided among the children. Mrs. Guttridge had reserved none to herself, except a small spoonful of the soft part, with which she was trying to feed the baby. The other eatables seemed to be distributed very much in the same proportion.

Mr. Frier was a cool, considerate man, whose passions were always under the most perfect control; but he always confessed, for years afterward, that for a minute or two, he thought he felt a little something like anger rising up in his stomach !'

He sat and looked on, until they had finished their meal, and Jerry had eaten bread, and meat, and vegetables, enough for two common men's dinners, and swallowed his half of the pie, and a large slice of cheese, by way of dessert; and then rose, took his hat, and, without saying a word, marched deliberately out of the house, directing his course again to the grog-shop.

Mr. Frier now broached the subject of his errand to Mrs. Guttridge. He told her the neighbors could not afford to support her family much longer, and unless her husband went to work, he did n't see but they would have to starve.

Mrs. Guttridge began to cry. She said she did n't know what they should do; she had talked as long as talking would do any good; but somehow, Mr. Guttridge did n't seem to love to work. She believed it was n't his natur' to work.'

•Well, Mrs. Guttridge, do you believe the scriptures ?' said Mr. Frier, solemnly.

'I'm sure I do,' said Mrs. Guttridge ; . I believe all there is in the Bible.',

* And do n't you know,' said Mr. Frier, the Bible says, “ He that will not work, neither shall he eat ?'

I know there's something in the Bible like that,' said Mrs. Guttridge, with a very serious look.

• Then do you think it right,' added Mr. Frier, 'when your neighbors send you in a basket of provisions, do you think it right, that Mr. Guttridge, who wont work and ’arn a mouthful himself, should sit down and eat more than all the rest of you, and pick out the best part of it, too ?

Well, I do n't s'pose it's right,' said Mrs. Guttridge, thoughtfully; but somehow, Mr. Guttridge is so hearty, it seems as if he would faint away, if he did n't have more than the rest of us to eat.'

Well, are you willing to go on in this way,' continued Mr. Frier, in

[ocr errors]

open violation of the scriptures, and keep yourself and children every day in danger of starving ?'

• What can I do, Mr. Frier ?' said Mrs. Guttridge, bursting into a flood of tears; I've talked, and talked, and it 's no use ; Mr. Guttridge wont work; it do n't seem to be in him. May be if you should talk to him, Mr. Frier, he might do better.'

• No, that would be no use,' said Mr. Frier. When I was over here before, you see how he took it, jest because I spoke to him about going over to the shop, when he ought to be to work, to get something for his family to eat; you see how mad he was, and how provoking he talked to me. It 's no use for me to say any thing to him; but I think, Mrs. Guttridge, if somebody should complain to the grand jury about him, the court would make him go to work. And if you are willing for it, I think I should feel it my duty to go and complain of him.'

· Well, I do n't know but it would be best,' said Mrs. Guttridge, ‘and if you think it would make him go to work, I 'm willing you should. When will the court set ?'

• To-morrow,' said Mr. Frier; 'and I 'll give up all other business, and go

and attend to it.' • But what will the court do to him, Mr. Frier ?' said Mrs. Guttridge.

* Well, I do n't know,' said Mr. Frier .but I expect they 'll punish him; and I know they 'll make him go to work.'

* Punish him!' exclaimed Mrs. Guttridge, with a troubled air. Seems to me I do n't want to have him punished. But do you think, Mr. Frier, they will hurt him any ?'

· Well, I think it's likely,' said Mr. Frier, 'they will hurt him some ; but you must remember, Mrs. Guttridge, it is better once to smart than always to ache. Remember, too, you 'll be out of provisions again by to-morrow. Your neighbors can't support your family all the time; and if your husband don't go to work, you 'll be starving again. Still, if you do n't feel willing, and do n't think it 's best, I wont go near the grand jury, nor do nothin' about it.'

*Oh dear ! — well, I do n't know !' said Mrs. Guttridge, with tears in her

eyes. You may do jest as you think best about it, Mr. Frier; that is, if you do n't think they ’ll hurt him much.'

Mr. Frier returned home; but the afternoon was so far spent, that he was able to get in only one ton of his hay, leaving the other three tons out, to take the chance of the weather. He and his wife spent the evening in discussing what course it was best to pursue with regard to the complaint against Mr. Guttridge; but notwithstanding his wife was decidedly in favor of his going the next morning and entering the complaint, since Mrs. Guttridge had consented, yet Mr. Frier was undecided. He did not like to do it ; Mr. Guttridge was a neighbor, and it was an unpleasant business. But when he arose the next morning, looked out, and beheld his three tons of hay drenched with a heavy rain, and a prospect of a continued storm, he was not long in making up his mind.

• Here,' said he, 'I spent a good part of the day, yesterday, in looking after Guttridge's family, to keep them from starving; and now,

55

VOL. XIII.

« AnteriorContinuar »