Two Stay-at-Homes

“If wantin’ to was doin’ an’ they weren’t no weemen, I’d ’a’ ben in
Sandyago long ago,” said the G. A. R. Man. He rolled a nail-keg close to
the stove, seated himself upon it, dipped a handful of crushed tobacco
leaves from his coat pocket into his pipe and lighted the odorous weed
with a sulphur match. Then he wagged his beard at the assembled company
and repeated, “Yes, sir, I’d ben in Sandyago long ago.”

“Weemen ain’t much on fightin’ away from home,” observed the Chronic
Loafer, biting a cubic inch out of a plug of Agriculturist’s Charm which
he had borrowed from the man who was sitting next him on the counter. The
charm had passed half way around the circle and the remaining cubic inch
of it had been restored to its owner, when the veteran, not catching the
full intent of the remark, replied: “Yas. They’s a heap o’ truth in that
there. Weemen is sot agin furrin wars. Leastways my weemen is. Now—-”

“Do they prefer the domestic kind?” asked the School Teacher.

“Not at all–not at all,” said the old soldier. “Ye see, my missus passed
th’oo sech terrible times back in ’60, ’hen I was bangin’ away at the
rebels down in the Wilterness, that ’hen this here Spaynish war broke out
she sais to me, sais she, ‘Ye jest sha’n’t go.’

“‘Marthy,’ sais I, ‘I’m a weteran. The Governor o’ Pennsylwany hes call
fer ten thousand men, an’ he don’t name me, but he means me jest the
same. Be every moral an’ jest right, I bein’ a weteran am included in
that ten thousand.’

“With that I puts on me blues, an’ gits down me musket, an’ kisses the
little ones all ’round, an’ starts fer the door. Well, sir, you uns never
seen sech a time ez was raised ’hen they see I was off to fight the
Spaynyards. Mary Alice, the eldest, jest th’owed her arms ’round my neck
an’ bust out with tears. The seven others begin to cry, ‘Pap, Pap, you’ll
git shooted.’

“‘Children,’ I sais, sais I, ‘your pap’s a weteran an’ a experienced
soldier. Duty calls an’ he obeys.’

“The missus didn’t see things that way. She jest gits me be the collar
an’ sets me down in an arm-chair, draws me boots, walks off with them an’
me musket an’ hides ’em. She weren’t goin’ to hev no foolin’ ’round the
shanty, she sayd.

“Marthy seemed to think that that there settled it, but she didn’t know
me, fer all the evenin’, ez I set there be the fire so meek-like, I was
a-thinkin’. Scenes wasn’t to my likin’, so I concided I’d jest let on
like I hed give up all idee o’ fightin’ Spaynyards, wait tell the family
was asleep an’ then vanish.

“At midnight I sets up in bed. The moon was shinin’ th’oo the winder,
jest half-lightin’ the room, so I could move ’round without trippin’
over the furnitur’. The missus was a-snorin’ gentle like, an’ overhead
in the attic I could hear a soft snifflin’ jest ez a thrasher engine
goes ’hen the men has shet down fer dinner. It was the childern asleep.
I climbs out over the footboard an’ looks ’round fer me boots. There
they was, stickin’ out under the missus’s pillow. Knowin’ I couldn’t git
’em without wakin’ her, I concided to vanish barefoot. But they was one
thing agin this, an’ that was that the door was locked an’ some un hed
took the key. I tried the winder, but that hed ben nailed shet. Then I
gits mad–that there kind o’ quiet-like mad ’hen ye boils up inside an’
hes to keep yer mouth shet. It’s the meanest kind o’ mad, too. It seemed
like they was a smile playin’ ’round the missus’s face, an’ that made me
sourer than ever, an’ kind o’ spurred me on.

“Well, sirs, ez I stood there in the middle o’ the room thinkin’ what I’d
do next an’ wonderin’ whether I hedn’t better jest slip back to bed, me
eye ketched sight o’ an ole comf’table that filled a hole in the wall
where the daubin’ hed fell out from atween the lawgs. That put me in mind
o’ a scheme that I wasn’t long in kerryin’ out, fer the hole was pretty
good sized an’ I’m a small man an’ wiry. In less’n no time the comf’table
was outen that hole an’ I was in it. I stayed in it, too, fer jest ez me
head an’ arms an’ shoulders got out o’ doors I felt a sharp prickin’ in
me side. I pushed back an’ a great big splinter jagged me. I tried to
go on for’a’d, an’ it jagged me agin so bad I ’most yelled. So I stayed
right there–one-half outen the house an’ the other half een. Seemed like
time begin to move awful slow then, an’ it ’peared a whole day ’fore
the moon went from the top o’ the old lone pine tree into Grandaddy’s
chestnut, which is jest twenty feet. Then me feet an’ legs was bakin’
over the stove, an’ the cold Apryl winds was a-whistlin’ down me neck.




“I took to countin’ jest to pass time, an’ I ’low I must ’a’ counted
fifteen million afore I heard footsteps up the road. A man come outen the
woods an’ inter the moonlit clearin’, where I could see he was ole Hen
Bingle. I whistled. He stopped an’ looked. I whistled agin an’ called
soft like to him. He sneaked up to the gate an’ looked agin.

“‘Hen, help,’ I whispers.

“‘Who in the heck is you a-growin’ outen the side o’ that shanty?’ he
calls, kind o’ hoarse an’ scared. With that he pints a musket at me wery
threatenin’.

“‘Hen Bingle!’ sais I. ‘Don’t you dast shoot. It’s me an’ I want you to
pull me out. I’m goin’ to war.’

“Then it dawned on him what was up, an’ he come over an’ looks at me. I
seen he hed on his blues, too, an’ I knowd ez he hed give his woman the
sneak an’ was off to fight Spaynyards. He wanted to laugh, but I told him
it were no time fer sech foolin’, but jest to break off that splinter an’
pull me loose.

“Now, Hen’s an obligin’, patriotic kind o’ a feller, an’ tho’, ez he
sayd, he hedn’t much time to waste, ez his woman was likely to wake up
any minute an’ find him gone, he reached up an’ broke off the splinter.
But I fit the hole so tight I couldn’t budge, an’ he sayd he’d pull me
out. So he gits up on the wall o’ the well which was jest below me, an’
grabs me be both hands an’ drawed. I’d moved about an inch, ’hen he
kicked out wild like an’ hung to me like a ton o’ hay, an’ gasped an’
groaned. I thought that yank hed disj’inted me all over, an’ yells, ‘Let
go!’

“‘Don’t you dast let go!’ he sayd, lookin’ up at me kind o’ agonizin’.

“Then I see that neither me nor Hen Bingle was ever goin’ to fight
Spaynyards, fer he’d stepped off the wall an’ was hangin’ down inter the
well.

“Splinters! Why, I’d ’a’ ruther hed a splinter stickin’ in every inch
o’ my body then ole Hen Bingle’s two hundred pound a-drawin’ me from my
nat’ral height o’ five feet six inter a man o’ six feet five. That’s what
it seemed like. He ast how deep me well was, an’ ’hen I answered forty
foot with fifteen foot o’ wotter at the bottom, he sayd he’d never speak
to me agin if I let go my holt on him. I sayd I guesst he wouldn’t, an’
he let out a whoop that brought the missus an’ the little ones a-tumblin’
outen the house.

“Marthy stared at us a minute. Then she sais, ‘Where was you a-goin’?’

“‘To fight Spaynyards,’ sais I, sheepish like.

“‘An’ you, Hen Bingle?’ she asts.

“‘Same,’ gasps Hen.

“‘Does your wife know you’re out?’ sais the missus, stern ez a jedge.

“‘No,’ sais Hen.

“‘Then I’ve a mind to go over to your placet an’ git her,’ sais Marthy.

“‘It’s two miled,’ Hen groaned, ‘an’ I’ll be drownded agin you git back.
Lemme up now an’ I’ll go home an’ stay there.’

“Marthy turns around quiet like, walks inter the house an’ comes out with
the family Bible.

“‘Hen Bingle,’ she sais solemn-like, holdin’ the book to his mouth, ‘does
you promise to tell the whole truth an’ nothin’ but the truth, an’ not to
go to war?’

“Hen didn’t waste no time in kissin’ that book so loud I could hear an
echo of it over along the ridge. I kissed it pretty loud meself, to be
sure. The missus lifted Hen outen the well an’ he snuck off home. His
woman never knowd nawthin’ about the trouble tell she met my missus two
weeks later, at protracted meetin’ over to Pine Swamp church. Ez fer me,
but fer that splinter I’d be in Sandyago now.”