In three months seven men had asked her to marry them. Of the seven, one only had the means or the prospect of means to support her. He was a grass-widower with five grown children. Anderson took occasion to warn her against widowers.
“Why,” he said, “they’re jest like widders. You know Dave Smith that runs the tavern down street, don’t you? Well, doggone ef he didn’t turn in an’ marry a widder with seven childern an’ a husband, an’ he’s led a dog’s life ever sence.”
“Seven children and a husband? Daddy Crow!”
“Yep. Her derned husband wouldn’t stay divorced when he found out Dave could support a fambly as big as that. He figgered it would be jest as easy to take keer of eight as seven, so he perlitely attached hisself to Dave’s kitchen an’ started in to eat hisself to death. Dave was goin’ to have his wife apply fer another divorce an’ leave the name blank, so’s he could put in either husband ef it came to a pinch, but I coaxed him out of it. He finally got rid of the feller by askin’ him one day to sweep out the office. He could eat all right, but it wasn’t natural fer him to work, so he skipped out. Next I heerd of him he had married a widder who was gittin’ a pension because her first husband fit fer his country. The Government shet off the pension jest as soon as she got married ag’in, and then that blamed cuss took in washin’ fer her. He stayed away from home on wash-days, but as every day was wash-day with her, he didn’t see her by daylight fer three years. She died, an’ now he’s back at Dave’s ag’in. He calls Dave his husband-in-law.”
It required all of Anderson’s social and official diplomacy to forestall an indignation meeting when it was announced that a stranger, Miss Banks, had been selected to teach school No. 5. There was some talk of mobbing the township trustee and Board of County Commissioners, but Anderson secured the names of the more virulent talkers and threatened to “jail” them for conspiracy.
“Why, Anderson,” almost wailed George Ray, “that girl’s from the city. What does she know about grammar an’ history an’ all that? They don’t teach anything but French an’ Italian in the cities an’ you know it.”
“Pshaw!” sniffed Anderson. “I hate grammar an’ always did. I c’n talk better Italian than grammar right now, an’ I hope Miss Banks will teach every child in the district how to talk French. You’d orter hear Rosalie talk it. Besides, Rosie says she’s a nice girl an’—an’ needs the job.” Anderson lied bravely, but he swallowed twice in doing it.
[Illustration: “September brought elsie banks”]