"That's a fact," said Jeremias. "When I showed her the money, she didn't act like I had reckoned she would of."
I looked at Esther questioningly.
"I told him that now that he was rich, he'd get tired of me and want to marry somebody else. I told him that I had done all I could, but that now I was nothing but a old hag. I wanted to die right then to spare me the shame."
"That's exactly what she said, alright," the old man said nodding his respect for her recollection.
"What did you say to that?" I asked.
"He began to mimic his own voice, all the while waging a finger toward his wife. "I said, Listen, woman, you know that we've lived together in peace now for almost thirty years. Whatever one of us wanted the other wanted too. I've never beat you up, and we can count on the fingers of one hand the number of spats we had. So now, woman, don't start makin' a ruckus and worryin' about things changin'. Just let everything stay just the same between us. This money ain't mine and it ain't yours, it's God's, which he sent for both us and the young'uns. I'll tell you this, and you can believe it as if I had my hand on a stack of Bibles, if you start up on this again, either with or without your howling, I'll take a switch to you so hard that they'll hear you hollerin' over in Trustville." He winked at the young woman. "Then I added for good measure, That's the way it is, just so you know for the future."
"That sounded pretty definite to me," said Esther. "I knew what to expect, cause I knew Jeremias. I didn't bring up the topic again and things remained the same between us. We pulled together on our cart, so to speak, and the cart rolled along very easily what with both of us pullin' in the same direction."
"What did you do with the money?"
"I bought Noah Washington's farm right over that rise yonder, so that there'd be enough work and enough to eat for my young'uns."
I glanced around at the decrepit house, the barn that was falling apart and wondered what Noah's house must have looked like for them to choose to remain here. I could imagine it with newspaper stuck on the bare wood walls to keep out the wind. This place at least had an outhouse. I wondered if Noah Washington's house even had that. I admit it depressed me.
"But before he quit bein' the Egg Man, he did one last good turn. He took all his customers a dozen eggs for free. He's said many a time, and usually with a tear in his eye, that it was a day he ain't likely to forget."
"That's a fact. I never would have believed that them people cared so much for me."
"As a farmer he worked just as hard and lived the same simple life as before, praying and workin' just the same. Mr. Jefferson had long ago had his notions on how a farm should be run and he kept them in mind in runnin' his own place."
Jeremias stood. "Enough with the past. I'm gonna go look for my pushcart."
He walked to the barn again.
Esther looked at me. "He passed his way of life down to his young'uns and that was maybe the hardest thing of all. He knew that they should be better dressed now than they was as the Egg Man's young'uns, but it was not altogether easy to find just the right way to go about it, to satisfy them young'uns and other folks too, so that they wouldn't say he had stingy or to wasteful either. We had the young'uns wear good clothes, but they was durable, mostly homemade. Jeremias wouldn't let them wear anythin' too flashy."