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- Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch - 6/14 -
childern was comin' on the steam-car train, but ther' wasn't no way to git the hoss here, 'ceptin' fer somebody to ride him. Course Jim said he'd do it. Poor Jim, always ready to do the hard part!" She paused to wipe her eyes on her apron, and Miss Hazy wept in sympathy.
"Never min', Miss Wiggs; don't cry. Go on an' tell me what you done next."
"Well," said Mrs. Wiggs, swallowing the lump in her throat, "Jim said he'd go. He never had been to the city, an' he was jes' a little shaver, but I knowed I could trust him."
"I don't see how you could stand to risk it!" exclaimed Miss Hazy.
"Oh, I reckon whatever you got to do, you kin do. I didn't see no other way; so one mornin' I put a old fo-patch quilt over the hoss, tied a bucket of oats on behin' it an' fixed some vittles fer Jim, an' started 'em off. It was a forty-mile ride to the city, so I calkerlated to start Jim so's he'd git to Dr. White's 'bout nightfall."
"Dr. White was your old doctor, wasn't he?" prompted Miss Hazy.
"Yes'm. He used to tend Mr. Wiggs before we moved over into Bullitt County. You know Mr. Wiggs was a widow man when I married him. He had head trouble. Looked like all his inflictions gethered together in that head of hisn. He uster go into reg'lar transoms!"
Miss Hazy was awe-struck, but more dreadful revelations were to follow.
"I guess you knew I killed him," continued Mrs. Wiggs, calmly. "The doctor an' ever'body said so. He was jes' gitten over typhoid, an' I give him pork an' beans. He was a wonderful man! Kept his senses plumb to the end. I remember his very las' words. I was settin' by him, waitin' fer the doctor to git there, an' I kep' saying 'Oh, Mr. Wiggs! You don't think you are dying do you?' an' he answered up jes' as natural an' fretful-like, 'Good lan', Nancy! How do I know? I ain't never died before.' An' them was the very las' words he ever spoke."
"Was he a church member, Miss Wiggs?" inquired Miss Hazy.
"Well, no, not exactly," admitted Mrs. Wiggs, reluctantly. "But he was what you might say a well-wisher. But, as I was tellin' you, Dr. White was a old friend, an' I pinned a note on Jim's coat tellin' who he was an' where he was going an' knowed the doctor would have a eye on him when he got as fur as Smithville. As fer the rest of the trip, I wasn't so certain. The only person I knowed in the city was Pete Jenkins, an' if there was one man in the world I didn't have no use fer, it was Pete. But when I don't like folks I try to do somethin' nice fer 'em. Seems like that's the only way I kin weed out my meanness. So I jes' sez to Jim, 'You keep on astin' till you git to No. 6 Injun House, an' then you ast fer Pete Jenkins. You tell him,' sez I, 'you are Hiram Wiggs's boy, an' as long as he done so much harm to yer pa, mebbe he'd be glad to do a good turn by you, an' keep you an' the hoss fer the night, till yer ma comes fer you.' Well, Jim started off, lookin' mighty little settin' up on that big hoss, an' I waved my apron long as I could; then I hid behin' a tree to keep him from seein' me cry. He rode all that day, an' 'bout sundown he come to Dr. White's. Pore little feller, he was so tired an' stiff he couldn't hardly walk, but he tied the hoss to the post an' went 'round to the back door an' knocked real easy. Mrs. White come to the door an' sez, real cross, 'No, doctor ain't here,' an' slammed it shut agin. I ain't meanin' to blame her; mebbe her bread was in the oven, or her baby crying or somethin', but seems to me I couldn't have treated a dog that a-way!
"Pore Jim, he dragged out to the road agin, an' set there beside the hoss, not knowin' what to do nex'. Night was a-comin' on, he hadn't had no supper, an' he was dead beat. By an' by he went to sleep, an' didn't know nothin' till somebody shuck his shoulder an' sez, 'Git up from here! What you doin' sleepin' here in the road?' Then he went stumblin' 'long, with somebody holdin' his arm, an' he was took into a big, bright room, an' the doctor was lookin' at him an' astin' him questions. An' Jim said he never did know what he answered, but it must 'a' been right, fer the doctor grabbed holt of his hand, an' sez: 'Bless my soul! It's little Jimmy Wiggs, all the way from Curryville!'
"Then they give him his supper, an' Mrs. White sez: 'Where'll he sleep at, Doctor? There ain't no spare bed.' Then Jim sez the doctor frowned like ever'thin', an' sez: 'Sleep? Why, he'll sleep in the bed with my boys, an' they orter be proud to have sech a plucky bedfeller!'
"Jim never did fergit them words; they meant a good deal more to him than his supper.
"Early the nex' mornin' he started out agin, the doctor pointin' him on the way. He didn't git into the city till 'long 'bout four o'clock, an' he sez he never was so mixed in all his life. All my childern was green about town; it made ever' one of 'em sick when they first rode on the street-cars, an' Europena was skeered to death of the newsboys, 'cause she thought they called 'Babies,' 'stid of 'Papers.' Jim kep' right on the main road, like he was tole to, but things kep' a-happenin' 'round him so fast, he said he couldn't do no more 'n jes' keep out the way. All of a suddint a ice-wagon come rattlin' up behin' him. It was runnin' off, an' 'fore he knowed it a man hit it in the head an' veered it 'round towards him; Jim said his hoss turned a clean somerset, an' he was th'owed up in the air, an'--"
"Ma!" called a shrill voice from the Wiggses' porch, "Australia's in the rain-barrel!"
Mrs. Wiggs looked exasperated. "I never was havin' a good time in my life that one of my childern didn't git in that rain-barrel!"
"Well, go on an' finish," said Miss Hazy, to whom the story had lost nothing by repetition.
"Ther' ain't much more," said Mrs. Wiggs, picking up her bucket. "Our hoss had two legs an' his neck broke, but Jim never had a scratch. A policeman took him to No. 6 Injun House, an' Pete Jenkins jes' treated him like he'd been his own son. I was done cured then an' there fer my feelin' aginst Pete."
"Ma!" again came the warning cry across the yard.
"All right, I'm comin'! Good-by, Miss Hazy; you have a eye to Cuby till we git our shed ready. He ain't as sperited as he looks."
And, with a cordial hand-shake, Mrs. Wiggs went cheerfully away to administer chastisement to her erring offspring.
A THEATER PARTY
"The play, the play's the thing!"
BILLY'S foreign policy proved most satisfactory, and after the annexation of Cuba many additional dimes found their way into the tin box on top of the wardrobe. But it took them all, besides Mrs. Wiggs's earnings, to keep the family from the awful calamity of "pulling agin a debt."
One cold December day Billy came in and found his mother leaning wearily on the table. Her face brightened as he entered, but he caught the tired look in her eyes.
"What's the matter?" he asked.
"Ain't nothin' the matter, Billy," she said, trying to speak cheerfully; "I'm jes' wore out, that's all. It'll be with me like it was with Uncle Ned's ole ox, I reckon; he kep' a-goin' an' a-goin' till he died a-standin' up, an' even then they had to push him over."
She walked to the window, and stood gazing absently across the commons. "Do you know, Billy," she said suddenly, "I 've got the craziest notion in my head. I'd jes' give anythin' to see the show at the Opery House this week."
If she had expressed a wish for a diamond necklace, Billy could not have been more amazed, and his countenance expressed his state of mind. Mrs. Wiggs hastened to explain:
"Course, I ain't really thinkin' 'bout goin', but them show-bills started me to studyin' about it, an' I got to wishin' me an' you could go."
"I don't 'spect it's much when you git inside," said Billy, trying the effects of negative consolation.
"Yes, 't is, Billy Wiggs," answered his mother, impressively. "You ain't never been inside a theayter, an' I have. I was there twict, an' it was grand! You orter see the lights an' fixin's, an' all the fine ladies an' their beaus. First time I went they was a man in skin-tights a-walkin' on a rope h'isted 'way up over ever'body's head."
"What's skin-tights?" asked Billy, thrilled in spite of himself.
"It's spangles 'round yer waist, an' shoes without no heels to 'em. You see, the man couldn't wear many clothes, 'cause it would make him too heavy to stay up there in the air. The band plays all the time, an' folks sing an' speechify, an' ever'body laughs an' has a good time. It's jes' grand, I tell you!"
Billy's brows were puckered, and he sat unusually quiet for a while, looking at his mother. Finally he said: "You might take my snow-money from las' week."
Mrs. Wiggs was indignant. "Why, Billy Wiggs!" she exclaimed, "do you think I'd take an' go to a show, when Asia an' Australia ain't got a good shoe to their backs?"
Billy said no more about the theater, but that afternoon, when he was out with the kindling, he pondered the matter deeply. It was quite cold, and sometimes he had to put the reins between his knees and shove his hands deep into his pockets to get the stiffness out of them. It really seemed as if everybody had just laid in a supply of kindling, and the shadowy little plan he had been forming was growing more shadowy all the time.
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