Rudder Grange/Chapter 16
IN WHICH AN OLD FRIEND APPEARS, AND THE BRIDAL TRIP TAKES A FRESH START
"Gone?" cried Euphemia, who, with myself, had been listening most intently to Pomona's story.
"Yes," continued Pomona; "she was gone. I gave one jump out of bed and felt the gases, but they was all right. But she was gone, an' her clothes was gone. I dressed, as pale as death, I do expect, an' hurried to Jone's room, an' he an' me an' the big man was all ready in no time to go an' look for her. General Tom Thumb didn't seem very anxious, but we made him hurry up an' come along with us. We couldn't afford to leave him nowheres. The clerk downstairs—a different one from the chap who was there the night before—said that a middle-aged, elderly lady came down about an hour before, an' asked him to tell her the way to the United States Bank, an' when he told her he didn't know of any such bank, she jus' stared at him, an' wanted to know what he was put there for. So he didn't have no more to say to her, an' she went out, an' he didn't take no notice which way she went. We had the same opinion about him that Mrs. Jackson had, but we didn't stop to tell him so. We hunted up an' down the streets for an hour or more; we asked every policeman we met if he'd seen her; we went to a police-station; we did everything we could think of, but no Mrs. Jackson turned up. Then we was so tired an' hungry that we went into some place or other an' got our breakfast. When we started out ag'in we kep' on up one street an' down another, an' askin' everybody who looked as if they had two grains of sense—which most of 'em didn't look as if they had mor'n one, an' that was in use to get 'em to where they was goin'. At last, a little ways down a small street, we see'd a crowd, an' the minute we see it, Jone an' me both said in our inside hearts: 'There she is!' An' sure enough, when we got there, who should we see, with a ring of street-loafers an' boys around her, but Mrs. Andrew Jackson, with her little straw hat an' her green carpet slippers, a-dancin' some kind of a skippin' fandango, an' a-holdin' out her skirts with the tips of her fingers. I was jus' a-goin' to rush in an' grab her when a man walks quick into the ring and touches her on the shoulder. The minute I see'd him I knowed him. It was our old boarder!"
"It was?" exclaimed Euphemia.
"Yes, it was truly him, an' I didn't want him to see me there in such company, an' he most likely knowin' I was on my bridal trip, an' so I made a dive at my bonnet to see if I had a veil on; an' findin' one, I hauled it down.
"'Madam,' says the boarder, very respectful, to Mrs. Jackson, 'where do you live? Can't I take you home?' 'No, sir,' says she, 'at least, not now. If you have a carriage, you may come for me after a while. I am waiting for the Bank of the United States to open, an' until which time I must support myself on the light fantastic toe,' an' then she tuck up her skirts an' begun to dance ag'in. But she didn't make more'n two skips before I rushed in, an' takin' her by the arm, hauled her out o' the ring. An' then up comes the big man with his face as red as fire. 'Look here!' says he to her, as if he was ready to eat her up. 'Did you draw every cent of that money?' 'Not yet, not yet,' says she. 'You did, you purse-proud cantalope,' says he. 'You know very well you did, an' now I'd like to know where my ox-money is to come from.' But Jone an' me didn't intend to wait for no sich talk as this, an' he tuk' the man by the arm, an' I tuk' the old woman, an' we jus' walked 'em off. The boarder he told the loafers to get out an' go home, an' none of 'em follered us, for the know'd if they did he'd 'a' batted 'em over the head. But he comes up alongside o' me, as I was a-walkin' behind with Mrs. Jackson, an' says he: 'How d'ye do, Pomona?' I must say I felt as if I could slip in between two flagstones, but as I couldn't get away, I said I was pretty well. 'I heared you was on your bridal trip,' says he ag'in; 'is this it?' It was jus' like him to know that, an' as there was no help for it, I said it was. 'Is that your husband?' says he, pointin' to Jone. 'Yes,' says I. 'It was very good in him to come along,' says he. 'Is these two your groomsman and bridesmaid?' 'No, sir,' says I; 'They're crazy.' 'No wonder,' says he 'It's enough to drive 'em so, to see you two,' an' then he went ahead an' shook hands with Jone, an' told him he'd know'd me a long time; but he didn't say nuthin' about havin' h'isted me out of a winder, for which I was obliged to him. An' then he came back to me an' says he: 'Good mornin', I must go to the office. I hope you'll have a good time for the rest of your trip. If you happen to run short o' lunertics, jus' let me know, and I'll furnish you with another pair.' 'All right!' says I; 'but you mustn't bring your little girl along.'
"He kinder laughed at this, as we walked away, an' then he turned around an' come back, and says he: 'Have you been to any the-ay-ters, or anything, since you've been in town?' 'No,' says I, 'not one.' 'Well,' says he, 'you ought to go. Which do you like best, the the-ay-ter, the cir-cus, or wild beasts?' I did really like the the-ay-ter best, havin' thought of bein' a play-actor, as you know, but I considered I'd better let that kind o' thing slide jus' now, as bein' a little too romantic, right after the asylum, an' so I says; 'I've been once to a circus, an' once to a wild-beast garden, an' I like 'em both. I hardly know which I like best—the roarin' beasts, a prancin' about in their cages, with the smell of blood an' hay, an' the towerin' elephants; or the horses, an' the music, an' the gauzy figgers at the circus, an' the splendid knights in armour an' flashin' pennants, all on fiery steeds, a-plungin' ag'in the sides of the ring, wth their flags a-flyin' in the grand entry,' says I, real excited with what I remembered about these shows.
"'Well,' says he, 'I don't wonder at your feelin's. An' now, here's two tickets for to-night, which you and your husband can have, if you like, for I can't go. They're to a meetin' of the Hudson County Enter-mo-logical Society, over to Hoboken, at eight o'clock.'
"'Over to Hoboken!' says I; 'that's a long way.'
"'Oh, no, it isn't,' says he. 'An' it won't cost you a cent but the ferry. They couldn't have them shows in the city, for if the creatures was to get loose, there's no knowin' what might happen. So take 'em, an' have as much fun as you can for the rest of your trip. Good-bye!' An' off he went.
"Well, we kep' straight on to the doctor's, an' glad we was when we got there, an' mad he was when we lef' Mrs. Jackson an' the General on his hands, for we wouldn't have no more to do with 'em, an' he couldn't help undertakin' to see that they got back to the asylum. I thought at first he wouldn't lift a finger to get us our trunk; but he cooled down after a bit an' said he hoped we'd try some different kind of institution for the rest of our trip, which we said we thought we would.
"That afternoon we gawked around, a-lookin' at all the outside shows, for Jone said he'd have to be pretty careful of his money now, an' he was glad when I told him I had two free tickets in my pocket for a show in the evenin'.
"As we was a-walkin' down to the ferry after supper, says he:
"'Suppose you let me have a look at them tickets?'
"So I hands 'em to him. He reads one of 'em, and then he reads the other, which he needn't 'a' done, for they was both alike, an' then he turns to me, an' says he:
"'What kind of a man is your boarder-as-was?'
"It wasn't the easiest thing in the world to say jus' what he was, but I give Jone the idea, in a general sort of way, that he was pretty lively.
"'So I should think,' says he. 'He's been tryin' a trick on us an' sendin' us to the wrong place. It's rather late in the season for a show of the kind, but the place we ought to go to is a potato-field.'
"'What on earth are you talkin' about?' says I, dumbfoundered.
"'Well,' says he, 'it's a trick he's been playin'. He thought a bridal trip like ours ought to have some sort of a outlandish wind-up, an' so he sent us to this place, which is a meetin' of chaps who are a-goin' to talk about insec's—principally potato-bugs, I expec'—an' anything stupider than that I s'pose your boarder-as-was couldn't think of without havin' a good deal o' time to consider.'
"'It's jus' like him,' says I. 'Let's turn round and go back,' which we did, prompt.
"We gave the tickets to a little boy who was sellin' papers; but I don't believe he went.
"'Now, then,' says Jone, after he'd been thinkin' a while, 'there'll be no more foolin' on this trip. I've blocked out the whole of the rest of it, an' we'll wind up a sight better than that boarder-as-was has an' idea of. To-morrow we'll go to father's, an' if the old gentleman has got any money on the crops, which I expec' he has by this time, I'll take up a part o' my share, an' we'll have a trip to Washington, an' see the President, an Congress, an' the White House, an' the lamp always a-burnin' before the Supreme Court, an'—'
"'Don't say no more,' says I, 'it's splendid!'
"So early the nex' day we goes off jus' as fast as trains would take us to his father's, an' we hadn't been there mor'n ten minutes before Jone found he had been summoned on a jury.
"'When must you go?' says I, when he come, lookin' a kind o' pale, to tell me this.
"'Right off,' says he. 'The court meets this mornin'. If I don't hurry up, I'll have some of 'em after me. But I wouldn't cry about it. I don't believe the case'll last more'n a day.'
"The old man harnessed up an' took Jone to the court-house, an' I went too, for I might as well keep up the idea of a bridal trip as not, I went up into the gallery, and Jone, he was set among the other men in the jury-box.
"The case was about a man named Brown, who married the half-sister of a man named Adams, who afterward married Brown's mother, and sold Brown a house he had got from Brown's grandfather, in trade, for half a grist-mill, which the other half of was owned by Adams's half-sister's first husband, who left all his property to a soup society, in trust, till his son should become of age, which he never did, but left a will which give his half of the mill to Brown; and the suit was between Brown and Adams and Brown again, and Adams's half-sister, who was divorced from Brown, and a man named Ramsey, who had put up a new over-shot wheel to the grist-mill."
"Oh, my!" exclaimed Euphemia. "How could you remember all that?"
"I heard it so often, I couldn't help remembering it," replied Pomona. And she went on with her narrative.
"That case wasn't a easy one to understand, as you may see for yourselves, and it didn't get finished that day. They argyed over it a full week. When there wasn't no more witnesses to carve up, one lawyer made a speech, an' he set that crooked case so straight that you could see through it from the overshot wheel clean back to Brown's grandfather. Then another feller made a speech, an' he set the whole thing up another way. It was jus' as clear to look through, but it was another case altogether, no more like the other one than a apple-pie is like a mug o' cider. An' then they both took it up, an' they swung it around between them, till it was all twisted an' knotted an' wound up, an' tangled, worse than a skein o' yarn in a nest o' kittens, an' then they give it to the jury.
"Well, when them jurymen went out, there wasn't none of 'em, as Jone told me afterward, as knew whether it was Brown or Adams as was dead, or whether the mill was to grind soup or to be run by soup-power. Of course, they couldn't agree; three of 'em wanted to give a verdict for the boy that died, two of 'em was for Brown's grandfather, an' the rest was scattered, some goin' in for damages to the witnesses, who ought to get somethin' for havin' their char-ac-ters ruined. Jone he jus' held back, ready to jine the other eleven as soon as they'd agree. But they couldn't do it, an' they was locked up three days an' four nights. You'd better believe I got pretty wild about it, but I came to court every day an' waited, an' waited, bringin' something to eat in a baskit.
"One day at dinner-time, I seed the judge a-standin' at the court-room door, a-wipin' his forrid with a handkerchief, an' I went up to him an' said: 'Do you think, sir, they'll get through this thing soon?'
"'I can't say, indeed,' said he. 'Are you interested in this case?'
"'I should think I was,' said I; an' then I told him about Jone's bein' a juryman, an' how we was on our bridal trip.
"'You've got my sympathy, madam,' says he; 'but it's a difficult case to decide, an' I don't wonder it takes a good while.'
"'Nor I nuther,' says I, 'an' my opinion about these things is, that if you'd jus' have them lawyers shut up in another room, an' make 'em do their talkin' to theirselves, the jury could keep their minds clear, an' settle the cases in no time.'
"'There's some sense in that, madam,' says he, an' then he went into court ag'in.
"Jone never had no chance to jine in with the other fellers, for they couldn't agree, an' they were all discharged at last. So the whole thing went for nuthin'.
"When Jone came out he looked like he'd been drawn through a pump-log, an' he says to me, tired-like:
"'Has there been a frost?'
"'Yes,' says I, 'two of 'em.'
"'All right, then,' says he. 'I've had enough of bridal trips, with their dry falls, their lunertic asylums, an' their jury-boxes. Let's go home an' settle down. We needn't be afraid, now that there's been a frost.'"
"Oh, why will you live in such a dreadful place?" cried Euphemia. "You ought to go somewhere where you needn't be afraid of chills."
"That's jus' what I thought, ma'am," returned Pomona. "But Jone an' me got a disease-map of this country, an' we looked all over it careful, an' wherever there wasn't chills there was somethin' that seemed a good deal wuss to us. An', says Jone: 'If I'm to have anything the matter with me, give me somethin' I'm used to. It don't do for a man o' my time o' life to go changin' his diseases.'
"So home we went. An' there we is now. An' as this is the end of the bridal trip story, I'll go an' take a look at the cow an' the chickens an' the horse, if you don't mind."
Which we didn't—and we gladly went with her over the estate.