Samantha at Saratoga
Table of Contents
Chapter I


When Josiah read my dedication he said "it wuz a shame to dedicate a book that it had took most a hull bottle of ink to write, to a lot of creeters that he wouldn't have in the back door yard."

But I explained it to him, that I didn't mean tramps with broken hats, variegated pantaloons, ventilated shirt-sleeves, and barefooted. But I meant tramps with diamond ear-rings, and cuff-buttons, and Saratoga trunks, and big accounts at their bankers.

And he said, "Oh, shaw!"

But I went on nobly, onmindful of that shaw, as female pardners have to be, if they accomplish all the talkin' they want to.

And sez I, "It duz seem sort o' pitiful, don't it, to think how sort o' homeless the Americans are a gettin'? How the posys that blow under the winders of Home are left to waste their sweet breaths amongst the weeds, while them that used to love 'em are a climbin' mountain tops after strange nosegays."

The smoke that curled up from the chimbleys, a wreathin' its way up to the heavens -- all dead and gone. The bright light that shone out of the winder through the dark a tellin' everybody that there wuz a Home, and some one a waitin' for somebody -- all dark and lonesome.

Yes, the waiter and the waited for are all a rushin' round somewhere, on the cars, mebby, or a yot, a chasin' Pleasure, that like as not settled right down on the eves of the old house they left, and stayed there.

I wonder if they will find her there when they go back again. Mebby they will, and then agin, mebby they won't. For Happiness haint one to set round and lame herself a waitin' for folks to make up their minds.

Sometimes she looks folks full in the face, sort o' solemn like and heart-searchin', and gives 'em a fair chance what they will chuse. And then if they chuse wrong, shee'll turn her back to 'em, for always. I've hearn of jest such cases.

But it duz seem sort o' solemn to think -- how the sweet restful felin's that clings like ivy round the old familier door steps -- where old 4 fathers feet stopped, and stayed there, and baby feet touched and then went away -- I declare for't, it almost brings tears, to think how that sweet clingin' vine of affection, and domestic repose, and content -- how soon that vine gets tore up nowadays.

It is a sort of a runnin' vine anyway, and folks use it as sech, they run with it. Jest as it puts its tendrils out to cling round some fence post, or lilock bush, they pull it up, and start off with it. And then its roots get dry, and it is some time before it will begin to put out little shoots and clingin' leaves agin round some petickular mountain top, or bureau or human bein'. And then it is yanked up agin, poor little runnin' vine, and run with -- and so on -- and so on -- and so on.

Why sometimes it makes me fairly heart-sick to think on't. And I fairly envy our old 4 fathers, who used to set down for several hundred years in one spot. They used to get real rested, it must be they did.

Jacob now, settin' right by that well of his'n for pretty nigh two hundred years. How much store he must have set by it during the last hundred years of 'em! How attached he must have been to it!

Good land! Where is there a well that one of our rich old American patriarks will set down by for two years, leavin' off the orts. There haint none, there haint no such a well. Our patriarks haint fond of well water, anyway.

And old Miss Abraham now, and Miss Isaac -- what stay to home wimmen they wuz, and equinomical!

What a good contented creeter Sarah Abraham wuz. How settled down, and stiddy, stayin' right to home for hundreds of years. Not gettin' rampent for a wider spear, not a coaxin' old Mr. Abraham nights to take her to summer resorts, and winter hants of fashion.

No, old Mr. Abraham went to bed, and went to sleep for all of her.

And when they did once in a hundred years, or so, make up their minds to move on a mile or so, how easy they traveled. Mr. Abraham didn't have to lug off ten or twelve wagon loads of furniture to the Safe Deposit Company, and spend weeks and weeks a settlin' his bisness, in Western lands, and Northern mines, Southern railroads, and Eastern wildcat stocks, to get ready to go. And Miss Abraham didn't have to have a dozen dress-makers in the house for a month or two, and messenger boys, and dry goods clerks, and have to stand and be fitted for basks and polenays, and back drapery, and front drapery, and tea gowns, and dinner gowns, and drivin' gowns, and mornin' gowns, and evenin' gowns, and etectery, etcetery, etcetery.

No, all the preperations she had to make wuz to wrop her mantilly a little closter round her, and all Mr. Abraham had to do wuz to gird up his lions. That is what it sez. And I don't believe it would take much time to gird up a few lions, it don't seem to me as if it would.

And when these few simple preperations had been made, they jest histed up their tent and laid it acrost a camel, and moved on a mild or two, walkin' afoot.

Why jest imagine if Miss Abraham had to travel with eight or ten big Saratoga trunks, how could they have been got up onto that camel? It couldn't lave been done. The camel would have died, and old Mr. Abraham would also have expired a tryin' to lift 'em up. No, it was all for the best.

And jest think on't, for all of these simple, stay to home ways, they called themselves Pilgrims and Sojourners. Good land! What would they have thought nowadays to see folks make nothin' of settin' off for China, or Japan or Jerusalem before breakfast.

And what did they know of the hardships of civilization? Now to sposen the case, sposen Miss Abraham had to live in New York winters, and go to two or three big receptions every day, and to dinner parties, and theatre parties, and operas and such like, evenin's, and receive and return about three thousand calls, and be on more 'n a dozen charitable boards (hard boards they be too, some on 'em) and lots of other projects and enterprizes -- be on the go the hull winter, with a dress so tight she couldn't breathe instead of her good loose robes, and instead of her good comfortable sandals have her feet upon high-heeled shoes pinchin' her corns almost unto distraction. And then to Washington to go all through it agin, and more too, and Florida, and Cuba; and then to the sea-shore and have it all over agin with sea bathin' added.

And then to the mountains, and all over agin with climbin' round added. Then to Europe, with seas sickness, picture galleries, etc., added. And so on home agin in the fall to begin it all over agin.

Why Miss Abraham would be so tuckered out before she went half through with one season, that she would be a dead 4 mother.

And Mr. Abraham -- why one half hour down at the stock exchange would have been too much for that good old creeter. The yells and cries, and distracted movements of the crowd of Luker Gatherers there, would have skairt him to death. He never would have lived to follow Miss Abraham round from pillow to post through summer and winter seasons -- he wouldn't have lived to waltz, or toboggen, or suffer other civilized agonies. No, he would have been a dead patriark. And better off so, I almost think.

Not but what I realize that civilization has its advantages. Not but what I know that if Mr. Abraham wanted Miss Abraham to part his hair straight, or clean off his phylackrity when she happened to be out a pickin' up manny, he couldn't stand on one side of his tent and telephone to bring her back, but had to yell at her.

And I realize fully that if one of his herd got strayed off into another county, they hadn't no telegraf to head it off, but the old man had to poke off through rain or sun, and hunt it up himself. And he couldn't set down cross-legged in front of his tent in the mornin', and read what happened on the other side of the world, the evenin' before.

And I know that if he wanted to set down some news, they had to kill a sheep, and spend several years a dressin' off the hide into parchment -- and kill a goose, or chase it up till they wuz beat out, for a goose-quill.

And then after about 20 years or so, they could put it down that Miss Isaac had got a boy -- the boy, probably bein' a married man himself and a father when the news of his birth wuz set down.

I realize this, and also the great fundimental fact that underlies all philosophies, that you can't set down and stand up at the same time -- and that no man, however pure and lofty his motives may be, can't lean up against a barn door, and walk off simultanious. And if he don't walk off, then the great question comes in, How will he get there? And he feels lots of times that he must stand up so's to bring his head up above the mullien and burdock stalks, amongst which he is a settin', and get a wider view-a broader horizeon. And he feels lots of time, that he must get there.

This is a sort of a curius world, and it makes me feel curius a good deal of the time as we go through it. But we have to make allowances for it, for the old world is on a tramp, too. It can't seem to stop a minute to oil up its old axeltrys -- it moves on, and takes us with it. It seems to be in a hurry.

Everything seems to be in a hurry here below. And some say Heaven is a place of continual sailin' round and goin' up and up all the time. But while risin' up and soarin' is a sweet thought to me, still sometimes I love to think that Heaven is a place where I can set down, and set for some time.

I told Josiah so (waked him up, for he wuz asleep), and he said he sot more store on the golden streets, and the wavin' palms, and the procession of angels. (And then he went to sleep agin.)

But I don't feel so. I'd love, as I say, to jest set down for quite a spell, and set there, to be kinder settled down and to home with them whose presence makes a home anywhere. I wouldn't give a cent to sail round unless I wuz made to know it wuz my duty to sail. Josiah wants to.

But, as I say, everybody is in a hurry. Husbands can't hardly find time to keep up a acquaintance with their wives. Fathers don't have no time to get up a intimate acquaintance with their children. Mothers are in such a hurry -- babys are in such a hurry -- that they can't scarcely find time to be born. And I declare for't, it seems sometimes as if folks don't want to take time to die.

The old folks at home wait with faithful, tired old eyes for the letter that don't come, for the busy son or daughter hasn't time to write it -- no, they are too busy a tearin' up the running vine of affection and home love, and a runnin' with it.

Yes, the hull nation is in a hurry to get somewhere else, to go on, it can't wait. It is a trampin' on over the Western slopes, a trampin' over red men, and black men, and some white men a hurryin' on to the West -- hurryin' on to the sea. And what then?

Is there a tide of restfulness a layin' before it? Some cool waters of repose where it will bathe its tired forward, and its stun-bruised feet, and set there for some time?

I don't s'pose so. I don't s'pose it is in its nater to. I s'pose it will look off longingly onto the far off somewhere that lays over the waters -- beyend the sunset.

NEW YORK, June, 1887.

Table of Contents
Chapter I