A New Year’s Time At Willards’s by James Whitcomb Riley
The Hired Man Talks
There’s old man Willards; an’ his wife;
An’ Marg’et– S’repty’s sister–; an’
There’s me– an’ I’m the hired man;
An’ Tomps McClure, you better yer life!
Well now, old Willards hain’t so bad,
Considerin’ the chance he’s had.
Of course, he’s rich, an’ sleeps an’ eats
Whenever he’s a mind to: Takes
An’ leans back in the Amen-seats
An’ thanks the Lord fer all he makes–.
That’s purty much all folks has got
Ag’inst the old man, like as not!
But there’s his woman– jes the turn
Of them-air two wild girls o’ hern–
Marg’et an’ S’repty– allus in
Fer any cuttin’-up concern–
Church festibals, and foolishin’
Round Christmas-trees, an’ New Year’s sprees–
Set up to watch the Old Year go
An’ New Year come– sich things as these;
An’ turkey-dinners, don’t you know!
S’repty’s younger, an’ more gay,
An’ purtier, an’ finer dressed
Than Marg’et is– but, lawzy-day!
She hain’t the independentest!
“Take care!” old Willards used to say,
“Take care–! Let Marg’et have her way,
An’ S’repty, you go off an’ play
On your melodeum–!” But, best
Of all, comes Tomps! An’ I’ll be bound,
Ef he hain’t jes the beatin’est
Young chap in all the country round!
Ef you knowed Tomps you’d like him, shore!
They hain’t no man on top o’ ground
Walks into my affections more–!
An’ all the Settlement’ll say
That Tomps was liked jes thataway
By ever’body, till he tuk
A shine to S’repty Willards–. Then
You’d ort’o see the old man buck
An’ h’ist hisse’f, an’ paw the dirt,
An’ hint that “common workin’-men
That didn’t want their feelin’s hurt
‘Ud better hunt fer ‘comp’ny’ where
The folks was pore an’ didn’t care–!”
The pine-blank facts is–, the old man,
Last Christmas was a year ago,
Found out some presents Tomps had got
Fer S’repty, an’ hit made him hot–
Set down an’ tuk his pen in hand
An’ writ to Tomps an’ told him so
On legal cap, in white an’ black,
An’ give him jes to understand
“No Christmas-gifts o’ ‘lily-white’
An’ bear’s-ile could fix matters right,”
An’ wropped ’em up an’ sent ’em back!
Well, S’repty cried an’ snuffled round
Consid’able. But Marg’et she
Toed out another sock, an’ wound
Her knittin’ up, an’ drawed the tea,
An’ then set on the supper-things,
An’ went up in the loft an’ dressed–
An’ through it all you’d never guessed
What she was up to! An’ she brings
Her best hat with her an her shawl,
An’ gloves, an’ redicule, an’ all,
An’ injirubbers, an’ comes down
An’ tells ’em she’s a-goin’ to town
To he’p the Christmas goin’s-on
Her Church got up. An’ go she does–
The best hosswoman ever was!
“An” what’ll We do while you’re gone?”
The old man says, a-tryin’ to be
Agreeable. “Oh! You?” says she–,
“You kin jaw S’repty, like you did,
An’ slander Tomps!” An’ off she rid!
Now, this is all I’m goin’ to tell
Of this-here story– that is, I
Have done my very level best
As fur as this, an’ here I “dwell,”
As auctioneers says, winkin’ sly:
Hit’s old man Willards tells the rest.
The Old Man Talks
Adzackly jes one year ago,
This New Year’s day, Tomps comes to me–
In my own house, an’ whilse the folks
Was gittin’ dinner–, an’ he pokes
His nose right in, an’ says, says he:
“I got yer note– an’ read it slow!
You don’t like me, ner I don’t you,”
He says–, “we’re even there, you know!
But you’ve said, furder that no gal
Of yourn kin marry me, er shall,
An’ I’d best shet off comin’, too!”
An’ then he says–, “Well, them’s Your views–;
But havin’ talked with S’repty, we
Have both agreed to disagree
With your peculiar notions– some;
An’, that s the reason, I refuse
To quit a-comin’ here, but come–
Not fer to threat, ner raise no skeer
An’ spile yer turkey-dinner here–,
But jes fer S’repty’s sake, to sheer
Yer New Year’s. Shall I take a cheer?”
Well, blame-don! Ef I ever see
Sich impidence! I couldn’t say
Not nary word! But Mother she
Sot out a cheer fer Tomps, an’ they
Shuk hands an’ turnt their back on me.
Then I riz– mad as mad could be–!
But Marg’et says–, “Now, Pap! You set
Right where you’re settin’–! Don’t you fret!
An’ Tomps– you warm yer feet!” says she,
“An throw yer mitts an’ comfert on
The bed there! Where is S’repty gone!
The cabbage is a-scortchin’! Ma,
Stop cryin’ there an’ stir the slaw!”
Well–! What was Mother cryin’ fer–?
I half riz up– but Marg’et’s chin
Hit squared– an’ I set down ag’in–
I allus was afeard o’ her,
I was, by jucks! So there I set,
Betwixt a sinkin’-chill an’ sweat,
An’ scuffled with my wrath, an’ shet
My teeth to mighty tight, you bet!
An’ yit, fer all that I could do,
I eeched to jes git up an’ whet
The carvin’-knife a rasp er two
On Tomps’s ribs– an’ so would you–!
Fer he had riz an’ faced around,
An’ stood there, smilin’, as they brung
The turkey in, all stuffed an’ browned–
Too sweet fer nose, er tooth, er tongue!
With sniffs o’ sage, an’ p’r’aps a dash
Of old burnt brandy, steamin’-hot
Mixed kindo’ in with apple-mash
An’ mince-meat, an’ the Lord knows what!
Nobody was a-talkin’ then,
To ‘filiate any awk’ardness–
No noise o’ any kind but jes
The rattle o’ the dishes when
They’d fetch ’em in an’ set ’em down,
An’ fix an’ change ’em round an’ round,
Like women does– till Mother says–,
“Vittels is ready; Abner, call
Down S’repty– she’s up-stairs, I guess–.”
And Marg’et she says, “Ef you bawl
Like that, she’ll not come down at all!
Besides, we needn’t wait till she
Gits down! Here Temps, set down by me,
An’ Pap: say grace…!” Well, there I was–!
What could I do! I drapped my head
Behind my fists an’ groaned; an’ said–:
“Indulgent Parent! In Thy cause
We bow the head an’ bend the knee
An’ break the bread, an’ pour the wine,
Feelin’–” (The stair-door suddently
Went bang! An’ S’repty flounced by me–)
“Feelin’,” I says, “this feast is Thine–
This New Year’s feast–” an’ rap-rap-rap!
Went Marg’ets case-knife on her plate–
An’ next, I heerd a sasser drap–,
Then I looked up, an’ strange to state,
There S’repty set in Tomps lap–
An’ huggin’ him, as shore as fate!
An’ Mother kissin’ him k-slap!
An’ Marg’et– she chips in to drap
The ruther peert remark to me–:
“That ‘grace’ o’ yourn,” she says, “won’t ‘gee’–
This hain’t no ‘New Year’s feast,’” says she–,
“This is a’ Infair-Dinner, Pap!”
An’ so it was–! Be’n married fer
Purt’ nigh a week–! ‘Twas Marg’et planned
The whole thing fer ’em, through an’ through.
I’m rickonciled; an’ understand,
I take things jes as they occur–,
Ef Marg’et liked Tomps, Tomps ‘ud do–!
But I-says-I, a-holt his hand–,
“I’m glad you didn’t marry Her–
‘Cause Marg’et’s my guardeen– yes-sir–!
An’ S’repty’s good enough fer you!”