“Just so,” said Uncle Ike, “but I can get over that difficulty. The State of Massachusetts has led in a great many social reforms. Let it take the first step forward in this one; let it declare by law that all marriages on and after a certain day shall terminate five years from the date of marriage unless the couples wish to renew the bonds. Then let everybody laugh at everybody else if they want to.”
“Well, how about those couples that were married before that day?”
“That’s easy,” was Uncle Ike’s reply. “Give them all a chance five years after the law to dissolve by mutual consent, if they want to. Don’t forget, Mr. Sawyer, that with such a law there would be no need of divorce courts, and if any man insulted a woman, imprisonment for life and even the gallows wouldn’t be any too good for him. Will you stay to lunch, Mr. Sawyer? My chicken is about done.”
Quincy arose and politely declined the invitation, saying he had been so much interested he had remained much longer than he had intended, but he would be pleased to call again some day if Mr. Pettengill were willing.
“Oh, yes, come any time,” said Uncle Ike, “you’re a good listener, and I always like a man that allows me to do most of the talking. By the way, we didn’t get a chance to say much this time about shooting, fishing, or football.”
Quincy went down the steps, and Uncle Ike stood at the door, as he did before he entered. Swiss looked at Quincy with an expression that seemed to say, “You have made a pretty long call.” Quincy patted him on the head, called him “good dog,” and walked briskly down the path towards the road. When he was about fifty feet from the house, Uncle Ike called out sharply, “Mr. Sawyer!” Quincy turned on his heel quickly and looked towards the speaker. Uncle Ike’s voice, still sharp, spoke these farewell words:
“I forgot to tell you, Mr. Sawyer, that I always chloroform my chickens before I cut their heads off.”
He stepped back into the house. Swiss, with a bound, was in the room beside him, and when Quincy again turned his steps towards the road the closed door had shut them both from view.
“That city feller.”
As usual, the next morning Hiram was down to the Pettengill house between nine and ten o’clock. He opened the kitchen door unobserved by Mandy and looked in at her. She was standing at the sink washing dishes and singing to herself. Suddenly Hiram gave a jump into the room and cried out in a loud voice, “How are you, Mandy?”
She dropped a tin pan that she was wiping, which fell with a clatter, breaking a plate that happened to be in the sink.
“I’m much worse, thank you,” she retorted, “and none the better for seeing you. What do you mean by coming into the house and yelling like a wild Injin? I shall expect you to pay for that plate anyway.”