He looked at me with an odd look on his face, a mischievous glint in his eye.
"Well, I never," he said as if gravely disappointed. "You feed a woman regular and let her sit right out here on the front porch and all, then they start to think they is as good as a you are."
Her brows rose as she looked down on him. He began to slowly stand with loud moans of mock agony. She put her hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into the chair, then headed toward the broken screen door.
"Could I come inside with you? I need some privacy," I said as I stood.
"She's got to pee is what she's got to do. Show her where the outhouse is at," said Jeremias, who with a swish of his hand hurried his wife along.
Inside the ancient kitchen, as Esther pored the wine from a mason jar, I asked, "Does he always drink like this?"
"Well, when he figured he had passed 80 years or so, he told me that he was old enough to do whatever it was that he wanted to do to make his last days pleasant and what he wanted to do was drink a little elderberry wine from time to time. I can't begrudge him of it. Old people got every right to do what they want in their twilight."
"What is it that you want to do, Mrs. Jefferson?"
"Why, take him elderberry wine, of course."
We both smiled.
"I've never heard of a man and wife calling themselves Mr. and Mrs. before."
"Well, that happened on our honeymoon night. When we sat on that bed, the first thing he said was Mrs. Jefferson, I want to thank you for marryin' me. And I said Mr. Jefferson, the pleasure is all mine."
"That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard," I said as my eyes moistened, then regretted that the tape recorder was on the front porch. Then I realized that the poignancy of the avowal was not likely to be omitted from my recollections of the day.
"He is the sweetest man in the whole world. Oh, I know he acts like he does in front of people to show he's a man and all, but it started on that same night. He was the most gentle, caring of lovers and would stroke me and for 75 years two things have happened. We have never slept apart for more than a day or two and when we had to for some reason or other, he always brought me a little gift, kinda like he was apologizing. And not one day has gone by that he hasn't told me how much he loved me at least once."
Back on the porch, I asked Jeremias, "How long did you work side by side with Esther?"
"Not all that long. Once that baby come, he had to be nursed and all."
"Zacharias was a real lively one, and Jeremias bragged that he would grow up fast and then he could help out and even pull the cart himself in no time. I soon wanted to help out with the cart again. If we hurried back, I figured, the baby would be all right. Momma said she could feed him while we was away."
"But the little one had other ideas on the matter and pretty soon he brung us around to his way of thinkin'."
"We had hurried on home that first day we left him with Momma, but when we was still more than half an mile away I yelled out, My God, what's that I hear?"
"It sounded like a young piglet being butchered, is what it did," said Jeremias.