True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen.
By Will M. Carleton
Draw up the papers, lawyer, and make 'em good and stout;
For things at home are cross-ways, and Betsey and I are out.
We who have worked together so long as man and wife,
Must pull in single harness the rest of our nat'ral life.
"What is the matter?" say you. I vow! It's hard to tell:
Most of the years behind us we've passed by very well.;
I have no other woman - she has no other man,
Only we've lived together as long as ever we can.
So I've talked with Betsey, and Betsey has talked with me;
And we've agreed together that we can't never agree;
Not that we've catched each other in any terrible crime;
We've been a gatherin' this for years, a little at a time.
There was a stock of temper we both had for a start;
Although we ne'er suspected 'twould take us two apart.
I had my various failings, bred in the flesh and bone,
And Betsey, like all good women, had a temper of her own.
The first thing I remember whereon we disagreed,
Was somethin' concerning heaven - a difference in our creed.
We arg'ed the thing at breakfast - we arg'ed the thing at tea -
And the more we arg'ed the question, the more we didn't agree.
And the next that I remember was when we lost a cow;
She kicked the bucket, certain - the question was only - How?
I held my own opinion, and Betsey another had;
And when we were done a talkin', we both of us was mad.
And the next that I remember, it started in a joke;
But full for a week it lasted, and neither of us spoke.
And the next was when I scolded because she broke a bowl;
And she said I was mean and stingy, and hadn't any soul.
And so that bowl kept pouring dissentions in our cup;
And so that blasted cow-critter was always comin' up;
And so that heaven we arg'ed no nearer to us got;
But it gave us a taste of somethin' a thousand times as hot.
And so the thing kept workin' and all the self-same way;
Always somethin' to arg'e, and somethin' sharp to say.
And down on us come the neighbors, a couple dozen strong,
And lent their kindest service for to help the thing along.
And there has been days together - and many a weary week,
We was both of us cross and spunky, and both too proud to speak,
And I have been thinkin' and thinkin' the whole of the winter and fall,
If I can't live kind with a woman, why, then I won't at all.
And so I have talked with Betsey, and Betsey has talked with me,
And we've agreed together that we can't never agree;
And what is hers shall be hers, and what is mine shall be mine;
And I'll put it in the agreement, and take it to her to sign.
Write on the paper, lawyer - the very first paragraph-
Of all the farm and live stock, that she shall have her half;
For she has helped to earn it, through many a dreary day,
And it's nothing more than justice that Betsey has her pay.
Give her the house and homestead; a man can thrive and roam,
But women are skeery critters, unless they have a home.
And I always have determined, and never failed to say,
That Betsey should never want a home, if I was taken away.
There's a little hard money that's drawin' tol'rable pay;
A couple hundred of dollars laid by for a rainy day;
Safe in the hands of good men, and easy to get at;
Put in another clause, and give her half of that;
Yes, I see you smile sir, at my givin' her so much;
Yes, divorce is cheap, sir, but I take no stock in such.
True and fair I married her, when she was blithe and young;
And Betsey was al'ays good to me, except with her tongue.
Once, when I was young as you, and not so smart, perhaps,
For me she mittened a lawyer, and several other chaps;
And all of 'em was flustered and fairly taken down,
And I for a time was counted the luckiest man in town.
Once, when I had a fever - I won't forget it soon -
I was hot as a basted turkey and crazy as a loon -
Never an hour went by when she was out of sight;
She nursed me true and tender, and stuck to me day and night.
And if ever a house was tidy, and ever a kitchen clean,
Her house and kitchen was as tidy as any I ever seen;
And I don't complain of Betsey or any of her acts,
Exceptin' when we've quarrelled and told each other facts.
So draw up the paper, lawyer; and I'll go home to-night,
And read the agreement to her and see if it's all right.
And then in the mornin' I'll sell to a tradin' man I know-
And kiss the child that was left to us, and out in the world I'll go.
And one thing put in the paper, that first to me didn't occur-
That when I'm dead at last, she shall bring me back to her;
And lay me under the maples I planted years ago,
When she and I was happy, before we quarrelled so.
And when she dies, I wish that she would be laid by me;
And lyin' together in silence, perhaps we will agree;
And if ever we meet in heaven, I wouldn't think it queer
If we loved each other the better because we quarrelled here.
How Betsey And I Made Up
Give us your hand, Mr. Lawyer; how do you do today?
You drew up that paper - I suppose you want your pay.
Don't cut down your figures; make it an X or V;
For that 'ere written agreement was just the makin' of me.
Goin' home that evenin' I tell you I was blue,
Thinkin' of all my troubles, and what I was goin' to do;
And if my hosses hadn't been the steadiest team alive,
They'd tipped me over, certain, for I couldn't see where to drive.
No - for I was laborin' under a heavy load;
No - for I was travelin' an entirely different road;
For I was a-tracin' over the path of our lives ag'in,
And seein' where we missed the way, and where we might have been.
And many a corner we've turned that just to quarrel led,
When I ought to've held my temper, and driven straight ahead;
And the more I thought it over the more these memories came,
And the more I struck the opinion that I was the most to blame.
And things I had long forgotten kept risin' in my mind,
Of little matters betwixt us, where Betsey was good and kind;
And those things flashed all through me, as you know things sometimes will
When a feller's alone in the darkeness, and everything is still.
"But," says I, "we're too far along to take another track,
And when I put my hand to the plow I do not oft turn back;
And tain't an uncommon thing now for couples to smash in two;"
And so I set my teeth together, and vowed I see it through.
When I come in sight of the house 'twas some'at in the night,
And just as I turned a hill-top I see the kitchen light;
Which often a han'some pictur' to a hungry person makes,
But it don't interest a feller that's goin' to pull up stakes.
And when I went in the house, the table was set for me-
As good a supper's I ever saw, or ever want to see;
And I crammed the agreement down my pocket as well as I could,
And fell to eatin' my victuals, which somehow didn't taste good.
And Betsey, she pretended to look about the house,
But she watched my side coat-pocket like a cat would watch a mouse;
And then she went to foolin' a little with a cup,
And intently readin' a newspaper, a-holdin' it wrong side up.
And when I'd done my supper, I drawed the agreement out,
And give it her without a word, for she knowed what 'twas about;
And then I hummed a little tune, but now and then a note
Was busted by some animal that hopped up in my throat.
Then Betsey, she got her specs from off the mantel-shelf,
Then read the article over quite softly to herself;
Read it by little and little, for her eyes is gettin' old,
And lawyers' writin' ain't no print, especially when it's cold.
And after she'd read a little, she gave my arm a touch,
And kindly said she was afraid I was 'lowin' her too much;
But when she was through she went for me, her face a-streamin' with tears,
And kissed me for the first time in over twenty years!
I don't know what you'll think, Sir - I didn't come to inquire-
But I picked up that agreement and stuffed it in the fire;
And I told her how we'd bury the hatchet alongside of the cow;
And we struck an agreement to never have another row.
And I told her in the future I wouldn't speak cross or rash
If half the crockery in the house was broekn all to smash;
And she said, in regards to heaven, we'd learn to try its worth
By startin' a branch establishment and runnin' it here on earth.
And so we sat a'talkin' three-quarters of the night,
And opened our hearts to each other until they both grew light;
And the days when I was winnin' her away from so many men
Was nothin' to that evenin' I courted her over again.
Next mornin' an ancient virgin took pains to call on us,
Her lamp all trimmed and a burnin' to kindle another fuss;
But when she went to pryin' and openin' of old sores,
My Betsey rose politely, and showed her out-of-doors.
Since then I don't deny but there's been a word or two;
But we've got our eyes wide open, and know just what to do;
When one speaks cross the other just meets it with a laugh,
And the first one's ready to give up considerable more than half.
Maybe you'll think me soft, Sir, a-talkin' in this style,
But somehow it does me lots of good to tell it once in a while;
And I do it for a compliment - 'tis so that you can see
That that there written agreement of yours was just the makin' of me.
So make out your bill, Mr. Lawyer; don't stop short of an X;
Make it more if you want to, for I have got the checks.
I'm richer than a National Bank, with all its treasures told,
For I've got a wife at home now that's worth her weight in gold.