LURANA W. SHELDON
"I RECKON I had orter git married an'
settle down, Maria," Sam Stebbins said
suddenly, but with an air of great conviction.
Maria looked up from the peas she was
shelling, while a merry twinkle lit her big
" Be yew so wild an' flighty, Sam, that yew
need tew be tied tew a woman's apron
strings?" she asked, mischievously.
Sam looked a trifle offended, but he soon
recovered his even temper. He had lived on
the little homestead some thirty-five years,
was a stalwart pillar of the church, and had
led the village "singin' school" for nearly a
dozen years. It was no wonder Maria smiled
at his expressed intention of settling down.
The idea of his marrying was not so strange
to her. for the simple reason that she had often
thought about it and wondered, in a sort of
disconsolate.way, how it would affect her own
position in the family if Sam were to bring
a wife into the home.
And she had always ended these reflections
with a few salt tears, for some way Sam was
very dear to her—as an adopted brother, of
course; but now—
Sam interrupted her meditations by saying,
"The woman I'd marry wouldn't wear no
apron strings nor aprons neither, Maria!
She'd have tew be a lady, an' learn the pianner, an' there'd be servants tew dew the work.
That's the way tew dew when yew git married," he finished, with a, flourish.
Maria dropped a handful of pods into the
wrong pan and gazed earnestly into her
adopted brother's face.
Was it possible that Sam intended to hurt
her feelings, or had he suddenly taken leave
of his senses? There was not a married woman in Joshuatown that played the piano and
had servants to do her work. Sam must be
raving mad. She twirled the corner of her
own gingham apron and waited anxiously for
the next developments.
"Yes, Maria: them's my ideas of matrimony.
I don't want no wife of mine soilin' her pretty
fingers a tryin' out lard or—or a shellin'
peas," he ended, sternly.
Maria felt the earth slipping from beneath
her feet at this last explosion, but in another
moment Sam had stalked away, and now she
had time to think it over.
She had worn aprons and shelled peas in
the Stebbins kitchen for many years, but Sam
had never objected to her labors in any way,
or even noticed that she was the possessor of
fingers, so far as she knew.
And yet it seemed that he really was observant even to the extent of objecting to these
things, and then a flash of anger ended her
She had it now; it was Delia Brown who
had put these notions into Sam's cranium.
Delia was a stranger in the village, with
money enough to pay her board at Widow
Jones' and not have to worry her head or
lift her finger in the bitter struggle for existence.
The tears that were running now were, perhaps. the bitterest that Maria had ever shed.
for with this first touch of a woman's jealousy
there had come the first realization of a.
Oh, how she loved him! The. kind, considerate brother she had found in the days of her
Sam said nothing when he entered the.
kitchen again. Maria had nearly finished the
peas, and when he looked at her she blushed
furiously. She wondered if he noticed that
she had been crying.
That night Delia Brown came over to see
her—at least, that was the ostensible object
of the visit. Of course, Sam had to "see her
home," and Maria had to take herself severely
to task to keep from thinking that this was
the real object of the visit.
It was late when Sam returned, but Maria
was still sitting by the kitchen fire. Mrs.
Stebbins worked hard all day, and had retired
early, so Maria was alone when Sam came
"Did yew see her safe home, Sam?" she
asked, and in spite of herself, there was a
shade of anger in her voice.
Sam glanced at her sharply, and the
roguish twinkle shone in his eyes now for
nearly a moment before he answered.
"Of course," he .replied finally, and then,
with a movement that was bashful and yet
determined, he took his chair from the opposite side of the fireplace and carried it
around to where Maria was sitting.
"Don't yew really think that a woman looks
better without an apron, Maria?" lie questioned. rather sheepishly. "They're more
togged up, more—more genteel an' ladylike."
Maria felt instinctively what was coming,
but at last she had gotten control of her
wicked heart, so she smiled bravely as she
"Yes. Sam. A woman does look better
without an apron, but if she has work to do
she must wear one, I suppose."
"That's jest it," Sam said, gently. "Wimmin' have tew work tew much—at least, the
wimmin in Joshuatown do, anyway; but Delia
" What does Delia Brown say, Sam?"
Maria asked the question almost in desperation, for the tears were coming nearer
and nearer, and it did not seem as if she could
keep them back much longer.
"She says," Sam answered, slowly, "that if
a man really loves a woman he won't let
her work so hard, 'an' wear aprons an' soil her
fingers, an' I—1 agree with Delia Brown," he
added, with astonishing emphasis.
Maria glanced down at her fingers involuntarily. They were soft and tapering naturally, but the nails were stained and the skin
roughened by hard work; they did not look at
all like Delia's. She closed one hand quickly
and tried to hold it in a fold of her dress,
but with a sudden movement Sam bent forward and covered it completely with his own.
"Yew have such pretty hands, Maria," he
said. softly. ''It's a pity yew have tew work
so hard an' stain your soft little fingers."
Maria did not look up for the tears had
reached her lashes now, and she was feeling
a little bit bewildered.
''Dew yew know how much money I've got,
Maria?" said Sam, suddenly. "Waal, I'll tell
yew'" he went on, without allowing her to
"When father died he left everything tew
ma except that old pastur' down by the river;
that was mine—an' now that the railroad
wants my property I've agreed tew let 'em
have it fer ten thousand dollars!"
His eyes twinkled brighter than ever as he
put one arm boldly around her.
"That'll be enough tew pay servants an'
buy manicures or whatever them things be
that Delia Brown uses on her fingers; won't
it, Maria? An' yew know yew always did
want to learn the pianner."
The tears fell like rain just now, but it was
only an April shower, through which the sun
of Maria's happiness was shining brightly.
"When—when will all this be, Sam?" she
"Just as soon as you will marry me, little
sister—an' yew will marry me, won't yew,
For a moment Maria hesitated, but the
hand Sam was holding only grasped his own
a little tighter.
"Yes, Sam," she whispered, softly. "That
is. if yew think yew really orter marry an'
settle down," she added, slyly.
--Penny Magazine, June 1897
Penny Magazine material appears courtesy of Edward T. LeBlanc.
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