A Pleasure Exertion by Marietta Holley

This humorous sketch is taken from a work entitled "My Opinions and Betsey Bobbet's."


THEY have been havin' pleasure exertions all summer here to Jonesville. Every week a'most they would go off on a exertion after pleasure, and Josiah was all up in end to go too.

That man is a well-principled man as I ever see; but if he had his head he would be worse than any young man I ever see to foller up pic-nics, and 4th of Julys, and camp meetin's, and all pleasure exertions.  But I don't encourage him in it. I have said to him, time and agin, "There is a time for everything, Josiah Allen, and after anybody has lost all their teeth, and every mite of hair on the top of their head, it is time for 'em to stop goin' to pleasure exertions."

But, good land! I might jest as well talk to the wind. If that man should get to be as old as Mr. Methusler, and be a goin' a thousand years old, he would prick up his ears if he should hear of an exertion. All summer long that man has beset me to go to 'em, for he wouldn't go without me. Old Bunker Hill himself hain't any sounder in principle than Josiah Allen, and I have had to work head-work to make excuses, and quell him down. But, last week, the old folks was goin' to have one out on the lake, on an island, and that man sot his foot down that go he would.

We was to the breakfast-table, a talkin' it over, and says I, "I shan't go, for I am afraid of big water any way."

Says Josiah, "You are jest as liable to be killed in one place as another."

Says I, with a almost frigid air, as I passed him his coffee, "Mebby I shall be drownded on dry land, Josiah Allen; but I don't believe it."

Says he, in a complainin' tone, "I can't get you started onto a exertion for pleasure any way."

Says I, in a almost eloquent way, "I don't believe in makin' such exertions after pleasure. I don't believe in chasin' of her up." Says I, "Let her come of her own free will." Says I, "You can't catch her by chasin' of her up, no more than you can fetch a shower up, in a drewth, by goin' out doors, and running after a cloud up in the heavens above you. Sit down, and be patient; and when it gets ready, the refreshin' rain-drops will begin to fall without none of your help. And it is jest so with pleasure, Josiah  Allen; you may chase her up over all the ocians and big mountains of the earth, and she will keep ahead of you all the time; but set down, and not fatigue yourself a thinkin' about her, and like as not she will come right into your house, unbeknown to you."

"Wal," says he, "I guess I'll have another griddlecake, Samantha." And as he took it, and poured the maple syrup over it, he added, gently but firmly, "I shall go, Samantha, to this exertion, and I should be glad to have you present at it, because it seems jest, to me, as if I should fall overboard durin' the day."

Men are deep. Now that man knew that no amount of religious preachin' could stir me up like that one speech. For though I hain't no hand to coo, and don't encourage him in bein' spoony at all, he knows that I am wrapped almost completely up in him. I went.

We had got to start about the middle of the night, for the lake was fifteen miles from Jonesville, and the old horse bein' so slow, we had got to start a hour or two ahead of the rest. I told Josiah that I had jest as lives set up all night, as to be routed out at two o'clock. But he was so animated and happy at the idee of goin' that he looked on the bright side of everything, and he said that we would go to bed before dark, and get as much sleep as we commonly did! So we went to bed, the sun an hour high. But we hadn't more'n got settled down into the bed, when we heard a buggy and a single wagon stop to the gate, and I got up and peeked through the window, and I see it was visitors come to spend the evenin'—Elder Wesley Minkly and his family, and Deacon Dobbins' folks. Josiah vowed that he wouldn't stir one step out of that bed that night. But I argued with him pretty sharp, while I was throwin' on my  clothes, and I finally got him started up. I hain't deceitful, but I thought, if I got my clothes all on before they came in, I wouldn't tell 'em that I had been to bed that time of day. And I did get all dressed up, even to my handkerchief pin. And I guess they had been there as much as ten minutes before I thought that I hadn't took my night-cap off. They looked dretful curious at me, and I felt awful meachin'. But I jest ketched it off, and never said nothin'. But when Josiah came out of the bedroom, with what little hair he has got standin' out in every direction, no two hairs a layin' the same way, I up and told 'em. I thought mebby they wouldn't stay long. But Deacon Dobbins' folks seemed to be all waked up on the subject of religion, and they proposed we should turn it into a kind of a conference meetin'; so they never went home till after ten o'clock.

It was most eleven o'clock when Josiah and me got to bed agin. And then jest as I was gettin' into a drowse, I heard the cat in the buttery, and I got up to let her out. And that rousted Josiah up, and he thought he heard the cattle in the garden, and he got up and went out. And there we was a marchin' round most all night. And if we would get into a nap, Josiah would think it was mornin', and he would start up and go out to look at the clock. I lost myself once, for I dreampt that Josiah was a droundin', and Deacon Dobbins was on the shore a prayin' for him. It started me so, that I jest ketched hold of Josiah and hollered. It skairt him awfully, and says he, "What does ail you, Samantha? I hain't been asleep before to-night, and now you have rousted me up for good. I wonder what time it is?" And then he got out of bed again, and went out and looked at the clock. It was half-past one, and he said "he didn't believe we had better go to sleep  again for fear we would be too late for the exertion, and he wouldn't miss that for nothin'."

"Exertion," says I, in a awful cold tone; "I should think we had had exertion enough for one spell."

But I got up at 2 o'clock, and made a cup of tea as strong as I could, for we both felt beat out, worse than if we had watched in sickness.

But, as bad and wore out as Josiah felt bodily, he was all animated in his mind about what a good time he was a goin' to have. He acted foolish, and I told him so. I wanted to wear my brown and black gingham, and a shaker; but Josiah insisted that I should wear a new lawn dress that he had brought me home as a present, and I had got just made up. So, jest to please him, I put it on, and my best bonnet. And that man, all I could do and say, would wear a pair of pantaloons I had been a makin' for Thomas Jefferson. They was gettin' up a military company in Thomas J.'s school, and these pantaloons was white with a blue stripe down the sides, a kind of uniform. Josiah took a awful fancy to 'em; and, says he,

"I will wear 'em, Samantha; they look so dressy."

Says I, "They hain't hardly done. I was goin' to stitch that blue stripe on the left leg on again. They haint finished as they ought to be, and I would not wear 'em. It looks vain in you."

Says he, "I will wear 'em, Samantha. I will be dressed up for once."

I didn't contend with him. Thinks I, we are makin' fools of ourselves by goin' at all, and if he wants to make a little bigger fool of himself, I won't stand in his light. And then I had got some machine oil onto 'em, so I felt that I had got to wash 'em any way, before Thomas J. took 'em to school. So he put 'em on.

I had good vittles, and a sight of 'em. The basket wouldn't hold 'em all. So Josiah had to put a bottle of red rhaspberry jell into the pocket of his dress coat, and lots of other little things, such as spoons, and knives, and forks, in his pantaloons and breast pockets. He looked like Captain Kidd, armed up to the teeth, and I told him so. But, good land, he would have carried a knife in his mouth if I had asked him, he felt so neat about goin', and boasted so, on what a splendid exertion it was going to be.

We got to the lake about eight o'clock, being about the first ones there; but they kep' a comin', and before 10 o'clock we all got there. There was about 20 old fools of us, when we got all collected together. And about 10 o'clock we sot sail for the island. Josiah havin' felt so animated and tickled about the exertion, was worked up awfully when, just after we had got well out onto the lake, the wind took his hat off and blew it away. He had made up his mind to look so pretty that day, and be so dressed up, that it worked him up awfully. And then the sun beat down onto him: and if he had had any hair onto his head it would have seemed more shady. But I did the best I could by him; I stood by him, and pinned on his red bandanna handkerchief onto his head. But as I was a fixin' it on, I see there was something more than mortification that ailed him. The lake was rough, and the boat rocked, and I see he was beginning to be awful sick. He looked deathly. Pretty soon I felt bad too. Oh, the wretchedness of that time! I have enjoyed poor health considerable in my life, but never did I enjoy so much sickness, in so short a time, as I did on that pleasure exertion to the island. I suppose our bein' up all night a'most made it worse. When we reached the island we was both weak as cats.

I set right down on a stun, and held my head for a  spell, for it did seem as if it would split open. After awhile I staggered up onto my feet, and finally I got so I could walk straight, and sense things a little. Then I began to take the things out of my dinner basket. The butter had all melted, so we had to dip it out with a spoon. And a lot of water had swashed over the side of the boat, so my pies, and tarts, and delicate cake, and cookies, looked awful mixed up, but no worse than the rest of the company's did. But we did the best we could, and begun to make preparations to eat, for the man that owned the boat said he knew it would rain before night, by the way the sun scalded. There wasn't a man or a woman there but what the perspiration jest poured down their faces. We was a haggered and melancholy lookin' set. There was a piece of woods a little ways off, but it was up quite a rise of ground, and there wasn't one of us but what had the rheumatiz, more or less. We made up a fire on the sand, though it seemed as if it was hot enough to steep the tea and coffee as it was.

After we got the fire started, I histed a umberell, and sat down under it, and fanned myself hard, for I was afraid of a sunstroke.

Wal, I guess I had sat there ten minutes or more, when all of a sudden I thought, Where is Josiah? I hadn't seen him since we had got there. I riz right up and asked the company, almost wildly, "If they had seen my companion, Josiah?" They said "No, they hadn't." But Celestine Wilkins' little girl, who had come with her grandpa and grandma Gowdey, spoke up, and says she, "I seen him a goin' off towards the woods; he acted dreadfully strange, too, he seemed to be a walkin' off sideways."

"Had the sufferin's we had undergone made him delirious?" says I to myself; and then I started off on the run towards the woods, and old Miss Bobbet,  and Miss Gowdey, and Sister Minkley, and Deacon Dobbins' wife, all rushed after me. Oh, the agony of them 2 or 3 minutes, my mind so distracted with forebodin's, and the perspiration a pourin' down. But, all of a sudden, on the edge of the woods we found him. Miss Gowdey weighed 100 pounds less than me; had got a little ahead of me. He sat backed up against a tree in a awful cramped position, with his left leg under him. He looked dretful uncomfortable, but when Miss Gowdey hollered out: "Oh, here you be; we have been skairt about you; what is the matter?" he smiled a dretful sick smile, and says he: "Oh, I thought I would come out here and meditate a spell. It was always a real treat to me to meditate."

Jest then I came up, a pantin' for breath, and as the women all turned to face me, Josiah scowled at me, and shook his fist at them 4 wimmen, and made the most mysterious motions with his hands towards 'em. But the minute they turned 'round he smiled in a sickish way, and pretended to go to whistlin'.

Says I, "What is the matter, Josiah Allen? What are you off here for?"

"I am a meditatin', Samantha."

The wimmen happened to be a lookin' the other way for a minute, and he looked at me as if he would take my head off, and made the strangest motions towards 'em; but the minute they looked at him he would pretend to smile that deathly smile.

Says I, "Come, Josiah Allen, we're goin' to have dinner right away, for we are afraid it will rain."

"Oh, wal," says he, "a little rain, more or less, hain't a goin' to hinder a man from meditatin'."

I was wore out, and says I: "Do you stop meditatin' this minute, Josiah Allen."

Says he: "I won't stop, Samantha. I let you have your way a good deal of the time; but when I  take it into my head to meditate, you hain't a goin' to break it up."

Says I: "Josiah Allen, come to dinner."

"Oh, I hain't hungry," says he. "The table will probably be full. I had jest as leves wait."

"Table full!" says I. "You know jest as well as I do that we are eatin' on the ground. Do you come and eat your dinner this minute."

"Yes, do come," says Miss Bobbet.

"Oh," says he, with that ghastly smile, a pretendin' to joke; "I have got plenty to eat here, I can eat muskeeters."

The air was black with 'em; I couldn't deny it.

"The muskeeters will eat you, more likely," says I. "Look at your face and hands."

"Yes, they have eat considerable of a dinner out of me, but I don't begrech 'em. I hain't small enough, I hope, to begrech 'em one meal."

Miss Bobbet and the rest turned to go back, and the minute we were alone he said:

"Can't you bring 40 or 50 more wimmen up here? You couldn't come here a minute without a lot of other wimmen tied to your heels!"

I began to see daylight, and then Josiah told me.

It seems he had set down on that bottle of rhaspberry jell. That blue stripe on the side wasn't hardly finished, as I said, and I hadn't fastened my thread properly; so when he got to pullin' at 'em to try to wipe off the jell, the thread started, and bein' sewed on a machine, that seam jest ripped right open from top to bottom. That was what he had walked off sideways towards the woods for. Josiah Allen's wife hain't one to desert a companion in distress. I pinned 'em up as well as I could, and I didn't say a word to hurt his feelin's, only I jest said this to him, as I was a fixin' 'em: "Josiah Allen, is this  pleasure?" Says I: "You was determined to come."

"Throw that in my face again, will you? What if I wuz? There goes a pin into my leg. I should think I had suffered enough without your stabbin' of me with pins."

"Wal, then, stand still, and not be a caperin' round so. How do you suppose I can do anything with you a tousin' round so?"

"Wal, don't be so agrevatin', then."

I fixed 'em as well as I could, but they looked pretty bad, and then, there they was all covered with jell, too. What to do I didn't know. But finally I told him I would put my shawl onto him. So I doubled it up corner-ways, as big as I could, so it almost touched the ground behind, and he walked back to the table with me. I told him it was best to tell the company all about it, but he jest put his foot down that he wouldn't, and I told him if he wouldn't that he must make his own excuses to the company about wearin' the shawl. So he told 'em that he always loved to wear summer shawls; he thought it made a man look so dressy.

But he looked as if he would sink all the time he was a sayin' it. They all looked dretful curious at him, and he looked as meachin' as if he had stole a sheep, and he never took a minute's comfort, nor I nuther. He was sick all the way back to the shore, and so was I. And jest as we got into our wagons and started for home, the rain begun to pour down. The wind turned our old umberell inside out in no time. My lawn dress was most spilte before, and now I give up my bunnet. And I says to Josiah:

"This bunnet and dress are spilte, Josiah Allen, and I shall have to buy some new ones."

"Wal! wal! who said you wouldn't?" he snapped out.

But it wore on him. Oh, how the rain poured down. Josiah havin' nothin' but his handkerchief on his head felt it more than I did. I had took a apron to put on a gettin' dinner, and I tried to make him let me pin it on to his head. But says he, firmly:

"I hain't proud and haughty, Samantha, but I do feel above ridin' out with a pink apron on for a hat."

"Wal, then," says I, "get as wet as sop if you had ruther."

I didn't say no more, but there we jest sot and suffered. The rain poured down, the wind howled at us, the old horse went slow, the rheumatiz laid holt of both of us, and the thought of the new bunnet and dress was a wearin' on Josiah, I knew.

After I had beset him about the apron, we didn't say hardly a word for as much as 13 miles or so; but I did speak once, as he leaned forward with the rain a drippin' offen his bandanna handkerchief onto his white pantaloons. I says to him in stern tones:

"Is this pleasure, Josiah Allen?"

He gave the old mare a awful cut, and says he: "I'd like to know what you want to be so agrevatin' for?"

I didn't multiply any more words with him, only as we drove up to our door-step, and he helped me out into a mud puddle, I says to him:

"Mebby you'll hear to me another time, Josiah Allen?"

And I'll bet he will. I hain't afraid to bet a ten-cent bill that that man won't never open his mouth to me again about a Pleasure Exertion.