Farmer Whipple–Bachelor by James Whitcomb Riley
It’s a mystery to see me–a man o’ fifty-four,
Who’s lived a cross old bachelor fer thirty year’ and more–
A-lookin’ glad and smilin’! And they’s none o’ you can say
That you can guess the reason why I feel so good to-day!
I must tell you all about it! But I’ll have to deviate
A little in beginnin’, so’s to set the matter straight
As to how it comes to happen that I never took a wife–
Kind o’ “crawfish” from the Present to the Springtime of my life!
I was brought up in the country: Of a family of five–
Three brothers and a sister–I’m the only one alive,–
Fer they all died little babies; and ’twas one o’ Mother’s ways,
You know, to want a daughter; so she took a girl to raise.
The sweetest little thing she was, with rosy cheeks, and fat–
We was little chunks o’ shavers then about as high as that!
But someway we sort o’ suited-like! and Mother she’d declare
She never laid her eyes on a more lovin’ pair
Than we was! So we growed up side by side fer thirteen year’,
And every hour of it she growed to me more dear!–
W’y, even Father’s dyin’, as he did, I do believe
Warn’t more affectin’ to me than it was to see her grieve!
I was then a lad o’ twenty; and I felt a flash o’ pride
In thinkin’ all depended on me now to pervide
Fer Mother and fer Mary; and I went about the place
With sleeves rolled up–and workin’, with a mighty smilin’ face.–
Fer sompin’ else was workin’! but not a word I said
Of a certain sort o’ notion that was runnin’ through my head,–
“Someday I’d mayby marry, and a brother’s love was one
Thing–a lover’s was another!” was the way the notion run!
I remember onc’t in harvest, when the “cradle-in’” was done–
When the harvest of my summers mounted up to twenty-one
I was ridin’ home with Mary at the closin’ o’ the day–
A-chawin’ straws and thinkin’, in a lover’s lazy way!
And Mary’s cheeks was burnin’ like the sunset down the lane:
I noticed she was thinkin’, too, and ast her to explain.
Well–when she turned and kissed me, with her arms around me–law!
I’d a bigger load o’ heaven than I had a load o’ straw!
I don’t p’tend to learnin’, but I’ll tell you what’s a fact,
They’s a mighty truthful sayin’ somers in a’ almanack–
Er somers–’bout “puore happiness”–perhaps some folks’ll laugh
At the idy–“only lastin’ jest two seconds and a half.”–
But it’s jest as true as preachin’!–fer that was a sister’s kiss,
And a sister’s lovin’ confidence a-tellin’ to me this:–
“She was happy, bein’ promised to the son o’ farmer Brown.”–
And my feelin’s struck a pardnership with sunset and went down!
I don’t know how I acted–I don’t know what I said,
Fer my heart seemed jest a-turnin’ to an ice-cold lump o’ lead;
And the hosses kindo’ glimmered before me in the road.
And the lines fell from my fingers–and that was all I knowed–
Fer–well, I don’t know how long–They’s a dim rememberence
Of a sound o’ snortin’ hosses, and a stake-and-ridered fence
A-whizzin’ past, and wheat-sheaves a-dancin’ in the air,
And Mary screamin’ “Murder!” and a-runnin’ up to where
I was layin’ by the roadside, and the wagon upside down
A-leanin’ on the gate-post, with the wheels a whirlin’ round!
And I tried to raise and meet her, but I couldn’t, with a vague
Sorto’ notion comin’ to me that I had a broken leg.
Well, the women nussed me through it; but many a time I’d sigh
As I’d keep a-gittin’ better instid o’ goin’ to die,
And wonder what was left me worth livin’ fer below,
When the girl I loved was married to another, don’t you know!
And my thoughts was as rebellious as the folks was good and kind
When Brown and Mary married–Railly must a-been my mind
Was kindo’ out o’ kilter!–fer I hated Brown, you see,
Worse’n pizen–and the feller whittled crutches out fer me—
And done a thousand little ac’s o’ kindness and respect–
And me a-wishin’ all the time that I could break his neck!
My relief was like a mourner’s when the funeral is done
When they moved to Illinois in the Fall o’ Forty-one.
Then I went to work in airnest–I had nothin’ much in view
But to drown’d out rickollections–and it kep’ me busy, too!
But I slowly thrived and prospered, tel Mother used to say
She expected yit to see me a wealthy man some day.
Then I’d think how little money was, compared to happiness–
And who’d be left to use it when I died I couldn’t guess!
But I’ve still kep’ speculatin’ and a-gainin’ year by year,
Tel I’m pay-in’ half the taxes in the county, mighty near!
Well!–A year ago er better, a letter comes to hand
Astin’ how I’d like to dicker fer some Illinois land–
“The feller that had owned it,” it went ahead to state,
“Had jest deceased, insolvent, leavin’ chance to speculate,”–
And then it closed by sayin’ that I’d “better come and see.”–
I’d never been West, anyhow–a most too wild fer me
I’d allus had a notion; but a lawyer here in town
Said I’d find myself mistakened when I come to look around.
So I bids good-bye to Mother, and I jumps aboard the train,
A-thinkin’ what I’d bring her when I come back home again–
And ef she’d had an idy what the present was to be,
I think it’s more’n likely she’d a-went along with me!
Cars is awful tejus ridin’, fer all they go so fast!
But finally they called out my stoppin’-place at last;
And that night, at the tavern, I dreamp’ I was a train
O’ cars, and skeered at sompin’, runnin’ down a country lane!
Well, in the mornin’ airly–after huntin’ up the man–
The lawyer who was wantin’ to swap the piece o’ land–
We started fer the country; and I ast the history
Of the farm–its former owner–and so-forth, etcetery!
And–well–it was interestin’–I su-prised him, I suppose,
By the loud and frequent manner in which I blowed my nose!–
But his su-prise was greater, and it made him wonder more,
When I kissed and hugged the widder when she met us at the door!–
It was Mary: They’s a feelin’ a-hidin’ down in here–
Of course I can’t explain it, ner ever make it clear.–
It was with us in that meetin’, I don’t want you to fergit!
And it makes me kind o’ nervous when I think about it yit!
I bought that farm, and deeded it, afore I left the town,
With “title clear to mansions in the skies,” to Mary Brown!
And fu’thermore, I took her and the childern–fer, you see,
They’d never seed their Grandma–and I fetched ’em home with me.
So now you’ve got an idy why a man o’ fifty-four,
Who’s lived a cross old bachelor fer thirty year’ and more,
Is a-lookin’ glad and smilin’!–And I’ve jest come into town
To git a pair o’ license fer to marry Mary Brown.