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Story-tell Lib by  Annie Trumbull Slosson

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III

[25]

A
MONG those who sometimes came to listen to little Lib's allegories was Mary Ann Sherman, a tall, dark, gloomy woman of whom I had heard much. She was the daughter of old Deacon Sherman, a native of the village, who had, some years before I came to Greenhills, died by his own hand, after suffering many years from a sort of religious melancholia. Whether the trouble was hereditary and his daughter was born with a tendency inherited from her father, or whether she was influenced by what she had heard of his life, and death, I do not know. But she was a dreary creature with never a smile or a hopeful look upon her dark [26] face. Nothing to her was right or good; this world was a desert, her friends had all left her, strangers looked coldly upon her. As for the future, there was nothing to look forward to in this world or the next. As Dave Moony, the village cynic, said, "Mary Ann wa' n't proud or set up about nothin' but bein' the darter of a man that had c'mitted the onpar'nable sin." Poor woman! her eyes were blinded to all the beauty and brightness of this world, to the hope and love and joy of the next. What wonder that one day, as she paused in passing the little group gathered around Lib, and the child began the little story I give below, I thought it well fitted to the gloomy woman's case!

The Horse That B'leeved he 'd Get There

[27] You 've seen them thrashin' machines they 're usin' round here. The sort, you know, where the horses keep steppin' up a board thing 's if they was climbin up-hill or goin' up a pair o' stairs, only they don't never get along a mite; they keep right in the same place all the time, steppin' and steppin', but never gittin on.

Well, I knew a horse once, that worked on one o' them things. His name was Jack, and he was a nice horse. First time they put him on to thrash, he did n't know what the machine was, and he walked along and up the boards quick and lively, and he did n't see why he did n't get on faster. There was a horse side of him named Billy, a [27] kind o' frettin', cross feller, and he see through it right off.

"Don't you go along," he says to Jack;  " 't ain't no use; you won't never get on, they 're foolin' us, and I won't give in to 'em." So Billy he hung back and shook his head, and tried to get away, and to kick, and the man whipped him, and hollered at him. But Jack, he went on quiet and quick and pleasant, steppin' away, and he says softly to Billy, "Come along," he says; "it's all right, we 'll be there bimeby. Don't you see how I 'm gittin' on a'ready?" And that was the ways things went every day.

Jack never gin up; he climbed and climbed, and walked and walked, jest 's if he see the place he was goin' to, and 's if it got nearer and nearer. And every night, when they took him off, he was as pleased with his day's journey [29] 's if he 'd gone twenty mile. "I 've done first-rate to-day," he says to cross, kickin' Billy. "The roads was good, and I never picked up a stone nor dropped a shoe, and I got on a long piece. I 'll be there pretty soon," says he. "Why," says Billy, "what a foolish fellow you be! You 've been in the same place all day, and ain't got on one mite. What do you mean by there?  Where is it you think you 're goin, anyway?"

"Well, I don't 'zackly know," says Jack, "but I 'm gittin' there real spry. I 'most see it one time to-day." He did n't mind Billy's laughin' at him, and tryin' to keep him from bein' sat'sfied. He jest went on tryin' and tryin' to get there, and hopin' and believin' he would after a spell. He was always peart and comfortable, took his work real easy, relished his victuals and drink, and slept first rate nights. But Billy he fretted [30] and scolded and kicked and bit, and that made him hot and tired, and got him whipped, and hollered at, and pulled, and yanked. You see, he had n't got anything in his mind to chirk him up, for he did n't believe anything good was comin', as Jack did; he 'most knowed it was n't, but Jack 'most knowed it was. And Jack took notice of things that Billy never see at all. He see the trees a-growin', and heered the birds a-singin', and Injun Brook a-gugglin' along over the stones, and he watched the butterflies a-flyin', and sometimes a big yeller 'n black one would light right on his back. Jack took notice of 'em all, and he 'd say, "I 'm gettin' along now, certin sure, for there 's birds and posies and flyin' things here I never see back along. I guess I 'm most there."  " 'There, there!' " Billy 'd say. "Where is it, [31] anyway? I ain't never seen any o' them posies and creaturs you talk about, and I 'm right side of you on these old boards the whole time."

And all the children round there liked Jack. They 'd watch the two horses workin', and they see Billy all cross and skittish, holdin' back and shakin' his head and tryin' to kick, never takin' no notice o' them nor anything. And, again, they see Jack steppin' along peart and spry, pleasant and willin', turnin' his head when they come up to him, and lookin' friendly at 'em out of his kind brown eyes, and they 'd say, the boys and girls would, "Good Jack! nice old Jack!" and they 'd pat him, and give him an apple, or a carrot, or suthin' good. But they did n't give Billy any. They did n't like his ways, and they was 'most afraid he 'd bite their fingers. And [32] Jack would say, come evenin', "It 's gittin' nicer and nicer we get further on the road,—ain't it? Folks is pleasanter speakin', and the victuals 'pears better flavored, and things is comfortabler every way, seems 's if, and I jedge by that we 're 'most there." But Billy 'd say, a-grumblin' away, "It 's worse 'n worse,—young ones a-botherin' my life out o' me, and the birds a-jabberin' and the posies a-smellin' till my head aches. Oh, deary me! I 'm 'most dead." So 't went on and kep' on. Jack had every mite as hard work as Billy, but he did n't mind it, he was so full o' what was comin' and how good 't would be to get there. And 'cause he was pleasant and willin' and worked so good, and 'cause he took notice o' all the nice things round him, and see new ones every day, he was treated real kind, and never got tired [33] and used up and low in his mind like Billy. Even the flies did n't pester him 's they done Billy, for he on'y said, when he felt 'em bitin' and crawlin', "Dog-days is come," says he, "for here 's the flies worse and worse. So the summer 's most over, and I 'll get there in a jiffy now."

What am I stoppin' for, do you say, 'Miry? 'Cause that 's all. You need n't make sech a fuss, child'en. It 's done, this story is, I tell ye. Leastways I don't know any more on it. I told you all about them two horses, and which had a good time and which did n't, and what 't was made the differ'nce 'twixt 'em. But you want to know whether Jack got there. Well, I don't know no more 'n the horses did what there  was, but in my own mind I b'leeve he got it. Mebbe 't was jest dyin' peaceful and quiet, and restin' after all that steppin' [34] and climbin'. He 'd a-liked that, partic'lar when he knowed the folks was sorry to have him go, and would allus rec'lect him. Mebbe 't was jest livin' on and on, int'rested and enjoyin', and liked by folks, and then bein' took away from the hard work and put out to pastur' for the rest o' his days. Mebbe 't was—Oh! I d' know. Might 'a' been lots o' things, but I feel pretty certin sure he got it, and he was glad he had n't gi'n up b'leevin' 't would come. For you 'member, all the time when Billy 'most knowed it was n't, Jack 'most knowed 't was.


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