The day she came we were planting corn,
The west eighty-acre field,-
These prairie farms are great for size,
And they're sometimes great for yield.
'The new school-ma'am is up to the house,'
The chore-boy called out to me;
I went in wishing anyone else
Had been put in chief trustee.
I was to question that girl, you see,
Of the things she ought to know;
As for these same things, I knew right well
I'd forgot them long ago.
I hadn't kept track of women's ways,
'Bout all I knew of the sex
Was that they were mighty hard to please,
And easy enough to vex.
My sister Mary, who ruled my house-
And me-with an iron hand,
Was all the woman I knew real well-
Her I didn't understand.
But I'd no call to grumble at fate,
Fifty, well off, and unwed;
Young as a lad in spite of the dust
Old Time had thrown on my head.
I engaged the school-ma'am on the spot,
And the reason, I surmise,
Was this, she didn't giggle or blush,
But looked me fair in the eyes.
The planting over, why, every lad
In a space of ten good mile
Was off for the school with a sudden zeal
That made all us old folks smile.
How she took to our wide prairie
After towns with narrow streets!
To watch that west eighty-acre field
Was one of her queer conceits.
'You planted that corn the day I came,'
She said, 'and I love to go
And watch the sun-mother kiss and coax
Each slim green stalk to grow.'
I called her 'Cornflower' when she took
To wearing 'em in her belt.
The young chaps were all in love with her-
And I knew just how they felt.
Oh, I tell you that was a summer,
Such sunshine, such dew, such rain;
Never saw crops grow so in my life-
Don't expect I will again.
To watch that west eighty-acre field,
When the fall came clear and cold,
Was something like a sermon to me-
Made me think of streets of gold.
But about that time the new school-ma'am
Had words with the first trustee;
A scholar had taken the fever
And she was for blaming me.
That schoolhouse should be raised from the ground-
Grave reason there for alarm;
A new coat of plaster be put on
That the children be kept warm.
A well-a good one-should take the place
Of the deathtrap that was there.
'This should all be done at once,' she said.
Cost five hundred dollars clear!
I told her I couldn't think of it,
But, when all my work was through,
If the taxes came in middling good,
I would see what I could do.
'Remember you're only the steward,'
She said, 'of your acres broad,
And that the cry of a little child
Goes straight to the ears of God.'
I remarked that it wasn't her place
To dictate to the trustee,
And Cornflower lifted her eyes of blue
And looked what she thought of me.
That night as we came up from the fields,
And talked of the threatened frost,
The chore-boy called out, half pleased, half scared:
'The school-ma'am's got herself lost.'
I turned me about and spoke no word;
I'd find her and let her see
I held no spite 'gainst a wayward girl
For lecturing a trustee.
For I knew before I found the knot
Of ribbon that she had worn,
That somehow Betty had lost her way
In the forest of ripened corn.
The sun went down and left the world
Beautiful, happy and good;
True, the girl and myself had quarrelled,
But when I found her and stood
With silver stars mistily shining
Through the deep blue of the skies,
Heard somebody sob like a baby,
Saw tears in somebody's eyes.
Why, I just whispered, 'Betty, Betty,'
Then whispered 'Betty' some more;
Not another word did I utter-
I'll stick to this o'er and o'er.
You needn't ask me to explain, friends,
I don't know how 'twas myself,
That first 'Betty' said I was ashamed
Of my greedy love of pelf.
The second one told her I'd be glad
To raise the old schoolhouse up,
And be in haste to put down a well,
With a pump and drinking cup.
The third 'Betty' told her I would act
A higher and nobler part;
The fourth 'Betty' told her I loved her-
Loved her with all my heart.
'Ah, well! there's no fool like an old fool,'
Was what sister Mary said;
'No fool in the world like an old fool,
You'll find that out, brother Ned.'
'Mary,' I said, 'there's a better thing
Than land, or dollar, or dime;
If being in love is being a fool
Here's one till the end of time.'
I should think so, I'm a married man
Four years come this Christmastide,
And autumn now is flinging her gold
O'er the fields on every side.
My wife called out as I drove the cows
To the pasture-field this morn,
'Ned, please go look for your son and heir,
He toddled off in the corn.'
And sister Mary must make a joke;
'Go find him at once,' said she,
'You know to get lost in a field of corn
Runs in that boy's family.'