"I told her that there was no need to worry about payment, since she pulled like a mule and I never asked how much I owed her." He laughed. "As if we had been doin' it all our lives, that gal handed over her sacks, and I hid them, and just like a plow mule she grabbed hold of one of them handles and worked as hard as me."
"I figured that day that we could use some rope to tie to the cart so I could be more of use don't you know and the next time I came I figured I would bring some."
"That day it turned out that we both left town at the same time and headed home together, as far as possible, but we was very clever not to let the police see us together."
"Did you...I mean, did ya'll, you know?"
"Did we what?" asked Esther.
"You know, kiss and stuff."
Both of the old people looked very embarrassed.
"Oh, no, my dear. Them was the old days," said Esther. "Good folk didn't think like that back then. Back then you didn't even court a man without your parents permission."
"So how did you do it?"
Jeremias spoke with confidence. "My Momma had become real pleased with me and what I was a doin'. I must of seemed to her to have gotten very cheerful, cause she told me that she noticed that I was whistlin' and singin' all the time and was always clean and nicely dressed."
"He actually had a coat made and he looked almost as fine as a mayor's boy."
"Momma didn't begrudge me them things neither, cause I was always good to her and nightly she prayed to the Good Lord for such a perfect son to be rewarded in heaven, and that's a fact."
Esther rolled her eyes.
"Well," began Jeremias in protest. "It wadn't like I spent all my money on my appearance. I had plenty left over. Momma thought for certain that if God granted me a long life and continued prosperity I'd rise so far as to own a cow."
While both of the old people quieted in reflection, there was a respectful silence. After a polite span of time, I felt the need to bring the two interviewees back on topic.
"So, how did the courtship progress?"
"Well, one day," he began, "I walked in the house and said Momma, I don't know whether the pushcart has gotten heavier or I've gotten weaker, but I can hardly seem to handle it by myself no more. It's gotten to be real hard on me, especially on that hill right outside of town. She said I believe it, but why do you keep taking more and more eggs every week? It makes me shudder to see it, because all that strain will bring you misery in your old age. But you can solve that problem easy enough, just load three or four dozen fewer. Then you can pull it as easily as before.''
"Smart lady," I said respectfully.
"Well, I said, But, Mother, I can't do that. I hardly take enough as it is and I don't have time to go twice a week. I don't want to give up Trustville, cause I got my best customers there. Well, Jeremias, she says, What about getting a little donkey? I've often heard what first-rate animals they are. They cost next to nothin', don't eat much and will eat just about anything, but they pull as well as a horse, and you can even use their milk, not that I'd want it, but so people say. I said right away, No, Momma, they are supposed to be so stubborn that you often can't get them to move. And what would I do with it the other five days? Then I just come out with it. I said, No, but I was thinking, Momma, of getting a wife. What do you say to that?"