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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Will Carleton (1845–1912)

How Betsey and I Made Up

From ‘Farm Ballads’

GIVE us your hand, Mr. Lawyer: how do you do to-day?

You drew up that paper—I s’pose you want your pay:

Don’t cut down your figures,—make it an X or a 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 have 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’d turned that just to a quarrel led,

When I ought to have 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 these things flashed all through me, as you know things sometimes will

When a feller’s alone in the darkness, 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’d see it through,

When I come in sight o’ the house ’twas some’at in the night,

And just as I turned a hilltop I see the kitchen light;

Which often a han’some pictur’ to a hungry person makes,

But it don’t interest a feller much 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 in 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 her 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 to her without a word, for she knowed what ’twas about;

And then I hummed a little tune, but now and then a note

Was bu’sted by some animal that hopped up in my throat.

Then Betsey she got her specs from off the mantel-shelf,

And 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 give 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 we’d bury the hatchet alongside of the cow;

And we struck an agreement never to 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 broken all to smash;

And she said, in regards to heaven, we’d try and learn 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.