Shelling Peas.

From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston



No, Tom, you may banter as much as you please;
But it’s all the result of the shellin’ them peas.
Why, I hadn’t the slightest idea, do you know,
That so serious a matter would out of it grow.
I tell you what, Tom, I do feel kind o’ scared.
I dreamed it, I hoped it, but never once dared
To breathe it to her. And besides, I must say
I always half fancied she fancied Jim Wray.
So I felt kind o’ stuffy and proud, and took care
To be out o’ the way when that feller was there
A danglin’ around; for thinks I, if it’s him
That Katy likes best, what’s the use lookin’ grim
At Katy or Jim,—for it’s all up with me;
And I’d better jest let ‘em alone, do you see?
But you wouldn’t have thought it; that girl never keered
The snap of a pea-pod for Jim’s bushy beard.
Well, here’s how it was. I was takin’ some berries
Across near her garden, to leave at Aunt Mary’s;
When, jest as I come to the old ellum-tree,
All alone in the shade, that June mornin’, was she
Shellin’ peas—setting there on a garden settee.
I swan, she was handsomer ‘n ever I seen,
Like a rose all alone in a moss-work o’ green.
Well, there wasn’t no use; so, says I, I’ll jest linger
And gaze at her here, hid behind a syringa.
But she heard me a movin’, and looked a bit frightened.
So I come and stood near her. I fancied she brightened
And seemed sort o’ pleased. So I hoped she was well;
And—would she allow me to help her to shell?
For she sot with a monstrous big dish full of peas
Jest fresh from the vines, which she held on her knees.
“May I help you, Miss Katy?” says I. “As you please,
Mr. Baxter,” says she. “But you’re busy, I guess”—
Glancin’ down at my berries, and then at her dress.
“Not the least. There’s no hurry. It ain’t very late;
And I’d rather be here, and Aunt Mary can wait.”
So I sot down beside her; an’ as nobody seen us,
I jest took the dish, and I held it between us.
And I thought to myself I must make an endeavor
To know which she likes, Jim or me, now or never!
But I couldn’t say nothin’. We sat there and held
That green pile between us. She shelled, and I shelled;
And pop went the pods; and I couldn’t help thinkin’
Of popping the question. A kind of a sinkin’
Come over my spirits; till at last I got out,
“Mister Wray’s an admirer of yours, I’ve no doubt
You see him quite often.” “Well, sometimes. But why
And what if I did?” “O, well, nothin’,” says I.
“Some folks says you’re goin’ to marry him, though.”
“Who says so?” says she; and she flared up like tow
When you throw in a match. “Well, some folks that I know.”
“‘T ain’t true, sir,” says she. And she snapped a big pod,
Till the peas, right and left, flew all over the sod.
Then I looked in her eyes, but she only looked down
With a blush that she tried to chase off with a frown.
“Then it’s somebody else you like better,” says I.
“No, it ain’t though,” says she; and I thought she would cry.
Then I tried to say somethin’; it stuck in my throat,
And all my ideas were upset and afloat.
But I said I knew somebody’d loved her so long
Though he never had told her—with feelin’s so strong
He was ready to die at her feet, if she chosed,
If she only could love him!—I hardly supposed
That she cared for him much, though. And so, Tom,—and so,—
For I thought that I saw how the matter would go,—
With my heart all a jumpin’ with rapture, I found
I had taken her hand, and my arm was around
Her waist ere I knew it, and she with her head
On my shoulder,—but no, I won’t tell what she said.
The birds sang above us; our secret was theirs;
The leaves whispered soft in the wandering airs.
I tell you the world was a new world to me.
I can talk of these things like a book now, you see.
But the peas? Ah, the peas in the pods were a mess
Rather bigger than those that we shelled, you may guess.
It’s risky to set with a girl shellin’ peas.
You may tease me now, Tom, just as much as you please.

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