In which is proved the truth of the proverb, "when your own house is made of glass, you never should be the first to throw stones"
One evening, when I went to the shop of the widow St. Felix to purchase some tobacco for my father, she said, "Why don't your father come himself, Jack? I want to make his acquaintance, and see how he looks without his pigtail."
"Why, you never saw him when he had it on," replied I.
"No, that's the truth; but still I wish to have a sight of him: the fact is, I want to laugh at him."
"Very well, I'll bring him here; but, recollect, it's a very sore subject with him," replied I, "and that you may have a sharp answer."
"That I'll take my chance of, Jack," replied the widow, laughing.
In consequence of this intimation, one evening when my father was walking in the hospital, I persuaded him to call at the shop.
"This is my father, Mrs. St. Felix," said I.
"Most happy to see him. What shall I have the pleasure of assisting you to, Mr. Saunders?" said the widow.
"My sarvice to you, marm—if you please, to two penn'orth of pigtail and a paper of shorts."
"Much obliged to you, Mr. Saunders," replied she. "Sure we're much indebted to Admiral Lord Nelson for sending us such fine-looking pensioners. I shouldn't wonder if I were to choose a husband out of the hospital yet."
"I'm afeard we're all too mauled, marm, to suit a pretty young woman like you," replied my father, very gallantly.
"Thank you for that, Mr. Saunders; but you're mistaken entirely. I don't consider the loss of a leg, for instance, as anything; I never look at men's legs, and therefore care little whether they are made of wood or not, provided they don't tread on my corns."
"Well, marm, I'm glad that you don't consider a timber toe as any obstacle to matrimony; but, I fear, having a wife already may be considered by you a sort of objection."
"Why, sure, I must have the whole of my husband; I couldn't afford to share him, especially when one limb is gone already. That puts me in mind of my want of manners. I hope Mrs. Saunders is quite well. I hear from Jack that you have a separate maintenance—that's very genteel."
"Why, yes, marm," replied my father; "the King maintains me, and my wife maintains herself; so, as you say, we have a separate maintenance."
"Well, that's the best way when married people don't agree. What are you laughing at, Mr. Jack? did I hint that your father and mother ever had any little matrimonial differences? I certainly did hear that there was a trifling dispute when they last parted; but when they bring me such tales I always cut them short. Here's your pigtail, Mr. Saunders," continued the widow, laughing, as she put the tobacco on the counter.
I looked at my father, who did not seem to relish the hint, but he answered very frankly, "If you cut them as short as my wife cut mine, why, then you won't be troubled with them any more. I see, marm, you know all about it, and you may have your laugh if it pleases you; but I can tell you that my tail has done me better sarvice since it was off than when it hung down my back."
"Become useful, instead of ornamental, I presume, Mr. Saunders."
"Just made this difference—when it was on it made my wife's tongue to go; now it is off, it has stopped it."
"An extraordinary powerful instrument, to stop a woman's tongue!"
"Well, you've only to ax Mistress Saunders, she'll tell you all its virtues."
"Well, Mr. Saunders, I don't know whether you have any idea of taking another wife some future day. If so, say nothing about it, or you'll never get one."
"Well, marm—I don't know whether you ever think of taking another husband; but if so, I think it would be kind on my part to lend it to him. Can you tell me why widows' tongues run so much faster than other women's?"
"Mercy! what put that idea in your head, Mr. Saunders?"
"You, and half a dozen more that I happen to know. May I make so bold as to ask you, marm, how long you may have been a widow?" continued my father.
"Bless me! so long that I quite forget all about it," replied Mrs. St. Felix, turning away from the counter to the jars behind.
I gave my father a wink to let him know that it was his turn now: he understood me, hitched up his waistband and nodded.
"How did you lose your first husband, marm? What did he die of?"
The widow colored, and my father perceiving it, followed up his question.
"Did he die of a fever, marm?"
"I'm not exactly sure," replied she, hurriedly.
"May I ask how long it is since he died?" continued my father.
"Oh! Mr. Saunders," replied the widow, confusedly, "I really don't recollect just now. It's very painful to answer such questions."
"Not if you've been a widow so long that you forget all about it; that's all sham and nonsense. So you ain't sure what he died of, nor when it was that he died? Are you quite sure, marm, that your husband is dead?"
Mrs. St. Felix started, turned very red, and then very pale.
"My sarvice to you for the present, marm," said my father, after a pause, taking off his hat. "I suspect that I've found a way to stop your tongue as well as my wife's. Broadside for broadside, that's fair play."
So saying, my father stumped away out of the shop door. Mrs. St. Felix put her apron up to her eyes, with her elbows resting on the counter. I waited a little, and then I said, "What is the matter, Mrs. St. Felix?"
She started at my voice.
"You here, Jack? I thought you had gone out with your father. Well," continued she, wiping her eyes, "it serves me right. I forgot that in amusing myself I annoyed him. Jack, don't you mention anything about this. Do you think your father will?"
"I don't think he will, for he cannot do so without talking about having his pigtail cut off, and I know he cannot bear to think of it."
"Well, then, pray don't you, that's a good boy."
"I never will, I promise you."
"Then, good-night, Jack; you must leave me now, I don't feel quite well."
I wished the widow good-night, and went back to my mother's house. My father was there, but he never hinted at the conversation which had taken place, neither at that time nor afterward.