Both old people looked at me with disapproval.
"I'm so sorry. I was brought up in the city," I said with embarrassment.
"That explains it then. Anyway, my Momma said, But Jeremias, what a stupid idea! Why not a goat or a donkey instead? What would you do with a wife? I says, Well, Momma, what any other fellow would, I reckon, and then I thought too that she could help me pull that cart. It would go more than half again as easily if someone helped me, and in between trips she could work in the garden and help gather them eggs, which ain't no goat or donkey can do. She said But Jeremias, do you think you could find a girl who could help you pull the cart and do the other things a wife has to do? And I said Well, Momma, there's a girl who's already helped me pull the cart, and she could work out fine in other ways, too. But I don't know whether she'd marry me. I ain't asked her. I thought I should talk to you first."
"Why, you rascal! Who would have thought it!" said the old woman.
"No, really. My Momma said, I don't know what the world is coming to. So that's what you've turned out to be, is it? I never would have believed this, even if God himself had told me. A girl has been helping you pull the cart and you asked her and arranged it all? My God, I'll never trust another soul as long as I live."
"You should have met Momma," said Esther to me.
"At that I told her the whole story, how we had met by chance and how she was a girl just right for me, as punctual as a clock, not vain or wasteful, and I'd wager she could pull as well as a mid-sized ox." He accepted another loving slap from his wife, then continued. "I hadn't talked to Mrs. Jefferson about it, see, but I thought she wasn't altogether against me in the matter."
"And that was that?"
"Well, Mrs. Jefferson had tried to convince me that she was in no special hurry to marry but that if she could marry and be better off than she was, then she wouldn't resist, since that would give her a real purpose in life. Her younger brothers and sisters were growing up, and she knew how that went, namely that the younger ones are always favored over the older ones, and the older ones are never thanked for having taken care of their younger brothers and sisters."
"You didn't know that for sure," said Esther.
"Well, that's what I told my Momma and she wadn't surprised by it none and after she got over the unexpectedness of it all and thought it over, the better she liked the idea. She sent after word about this gal and heard nothing bad about her."
Esther cleared her throat. "In fact, folks let her know that I helped my parents quite a bit around the house. They also said, however, that a fellow wouldn't get rich marrying into my family."
"Momma said that your poorness was so much the better. That way you wouldn't have no reason to look down on us for being poor. While I was loading my cart the next Tuesday, Momma said, Well, go ahead and ask the girl! If it's all right with her, it's all right with me, but don't go begging her. Tell her to come over on Sunday so I can meet her and we can talk. If she keeps her wits, then it might just turn out okay. I guess it was bound to happen sometime. I told her, Listen, Momma, this ain't something that's got to be. If you're agin it, we can just forget about the whole affair. She said Don't talk bunkum. Just get goin' and tell the gal that if she will think of me as her momma, she'll be welcome here. So I left and found this here gal, and as I pushed them handles and the gal pulled on that rope she brought, I said..." Jeremias looked at his wife. "What was it I said?"