The Romance of Jedediah by Lucy Maud
Jedediah was not a name that savoured of romance. His last name was
Crane, which is little better. And it would be no use to call this
story "Mattie Adams's Romance" because Mattie Adams is not a romantic
name either. But names have really nothing to do with romance. The
most exciting and tragic affair I ever knew was between a man named
Silas Putdammer and a woman named Kezia Cullen—which has nothing to
do with the present story.
Jedediah, to all outward seeming, did not appear to be any more
romantic than his name. He looked distinctly commonplace as he rode
comfortably along the winding country road that was dreaming in the
haze and sunshine of a midsummer afternoon. He was perched on the
seat of a bright red pedlar's wagon, above and behind a dusty,
ambling, red pony of that peculiar gait and appearance pertaining to
the ponies of country pedlars—a certain placid, unhasting leanness,
as of a nag that has encountered troubles of his own and has lived
them down by sheer patience and staying power. From the bright red
wagon proceeded a certain metallic rumbling and clinking as it bowled
along, and two or three nests of tin pans on its flat rope-encircled
top flashed back the light so dazzlingly that Jedediah seemed the
beaming sun of a little planetary system all his own. A new broom
sticking up aggressively at each of the four corners gave the wagon a
resemblance to a triumphal chariot.
Jedediah himself had not been in the tin-peddling business long enough
to acquire the apologetic, out-at-elbows appearance which
distinguishes a tin pedlar from other kinds of pedlars. In fact, this
was his maiden venture in this line; hence he still looked plump and
self-respecting. He had a round red face under his plug hat, twinkling
blue eyes, and a little pursed-up mouth, the shape of which was partly
due to nature and partly to much whistling. Jedediah's pudgy body was
clothed in a suit of large, light checks, and he wore a bright pink
necktie and an amethyst pin. Will I still be believed when I assert
that, in spite of all this, Jedediah was full of, and bubbling over
Romance cares not for appearances and apparently delights in
contradictions. The homely shambling man you pass unnoticed on the
street may have, tucked away in his past, a story more exciting and
thrilling than anything you have ever read in fiction. So it was, in a
measure, with Jedediah; poor, unknown to fame, afflicted with a double
chin and bald spot, reduced to driving a tin-wagon for a living, he
yet had his romance and he was still romantic.
As Jedediah rode through Amberley he looked about him with interest.
He knew it well, although it was fifteen years since he had seen it.
He had been born and brought up in Amberley; he had left it at the age
of twenty-five to make his fortune. But Amberley was Amberley still.
Jedediah found it hard to believe that it or himself was fifteen years
"There's the Stanton place," he said. "Charlie has painted the house
yellow—it used to be white; and Bob Hollman has cut the trees down
behind the blacksmith forge. Bob never had any poetry in his soul—no
romance, as you might say. He was what you might call a plodder—you
might call him that. Get up, my nag, get up. There's the old Harkness
place—seems to be spruced up considerable. Folks used to say if ye
wanted to see how the world looked the morning after the flood just go
into George Harkness's barn-yard on a rainy day. The pond and the old
hills ain't changed any. Get up, my nag, get up. There's the Adams
homestead. Do I really behold it again?"
Jedediah thought the moment deliciously romantic. He revelled in it
and, to match his exhilarated mood, he touched the pony with his whip
and went clinking and glittering down the hill under the poplars at a
dashing rate. He had not intended to offer his wares in Amberley that
day. He meant to break the ice in Occidental, the village beyond. But
he could not pass the Adams place. When he came to the open gate he
turned in under the willows and drove down the wide, shady lane, girt
on both sides with a trim white paling smothered in lavish sweetbriar
bushes that were gay with bloom. Jedediah's heart was beating
furiously under his checks.
"What a fool you are, Jed Crane," he told himself. "You used to be a
young fool, and now you're an old one. Sad, that! Get up, my nag, get
up. It's a poor lookout for a man of your years, Jed. Don't get
excited. It ain't the least likely that Mattie Adams is here yet.
She's married and gone years ago, no doubt. It's probable there's no
Adamses here at all now. But it's romantic, yes, it's romantic. It's
splendid. Get up, my nag, get up."
The Adams place itself was not unromantic. The house was a large,
old-fashioned white one, with green shutters and a front porch with
Grecian columns. These were thought very elegant in Amberley. Mrs.
Carmody said they gave a house such a classical air. In this instance
the classical effect was somewhat smothered in honeysuckle, which
rioted over the whole porch and hung in pale yellow, fragrant
festoons over the rows of potted scarlet geraniums that flanked the
green steps. Beyond the house a low-boughed orchard covered the slope
between it and the main road, and behind it there was a revel of
colour betokening a flower garden.
Jedediah climbed down from his lofty seat and walked dubiously to a
side door that looked more friendly, despite its prim screen, than the
classical front porch. As he drew near he saw a woman sitting behind
the screen—a woman who rose as he approached and opened the door.
Jedediah's heart had been beating a wild tattoo as he crossed the
yard. It now stopped altogether—at least he declared in later years
The woman was Mattie Adams—Mattie Adams fifteen years older than when
he had seen her last, plumper, rosier, somewhat broader-faced, but
still unmistakably Mattie Adams. Jedediah felt that the situation was
"Mattie," he said, holding out his hand.
"Why, Jed, how are you?" said Mattie, as if they had parted the week
before. It had always taken a great deal to disturb Mattie. Whatever
happened she was calm. Even an old lover, and the only one she had
ever possessed at that, dropping, so to speak, from the skies, after
fifteen years' disappearance, did not ruffle her placidity.
"I didn't suppose you'd know me, Mattie," said Jedediah, still holding
her hand foolishly.
"I knew you the minute I set eyes on you," returned Mattie. "You're
some fatter and older—like myself—but you're Jed still. Where have
you been all these years?"
"Pretty near everywhere, Mattie—pretty near everywhere. And ye see
what it's come to—here I be driving a tin-wagon for Boone Brothers.
Business is business—don't you want to buy some new tinware?"
To himself, Jed thought it was romantic, asking a woman whom he had
loved all his life to buy tins on the occasion of their first meeting
after fifteen years' separation.
"I don't know but I do want a quart measure," said Mattie, in her
sweet, unchanged voice, "but all in good time. You must stay and have
tea with me, Jed. I'm all alone now—Mother and Father have gone.
Unhitch your horse and put him in the third stall in the stable."
"I ought to be getting on, I s'pose," he said wistfully. "I hain't
done much today—"
"You must stay to tea," interrupted Mattie. "Why, Jed, there's ever so
much to tell and ask. And we can't stand here in the yard and talk.
Look at Selena. There she is, watching us from the kitchen window.
She'll watch as long as we stand here."
Jed swung himself around. Over the little valley below the Adams
homestead was a steep, treeless hill, and on its crest was perched a
bare farmhouse with windows stuck lavishly all over it. At one of them
a long, pale face was visible.
"Has Selena been pasted up at that window ever since the last time we
stood here and talked, Mattie?" asked Jed, half resentfully, half
amusedly. It was characteristic of Mattie to laugh first at the
question, and then blush over the memory it revived.
"Most of the time, I guess," she said shortly. "But come—come in. I
never could talk under Selena's eyes, even if they were four hundred
Jed went in and stayed to tea. The old Adams pantry had not failed,
nor apparently the Adams skill in cooking. After tea Jed hung around
till sunset and drove away with a warm invitation from Mattie to call
every time his rounds took him through Amberley. As he went, Selena's
face appeared at the window of the house over the valley.
When he had gone Mattie went around to the classical porch and sat
herself down under the honeysuckle festoons that dangled above her
smooth braids of fawn-coloured hair. She knew Selena would be down
posthaste presently, agog with curiosity to find out who the pedlar
was whom Mattie had delighted to honour with an invitation to tea.
Mattie preferred to meet Selena out of doors. It was easier to thrust
and parry there. Meanwhile, she wanted to think over things.
Fifteen years before Jedediah Crane had been Mattie Adams's beau.
Jedediah was romantic even then, but, as he was a slim young fellow at
the time, with an abundance of fair, curly hair and innocent blue
eyes, his romance was rather an attraction than not. At least the then
young and pretty Mattie had found it so.
The Adamses looked with no favour on the match. They were a thrifty,
well-to-do folk. As for the Cranes—well, they were lazy and
shiftless, for the most part. It would be a mésalliance for an Adams
to marry a Crane. Still, it would doubtless have happened—for Mattie,
though a meek-looking damsel, had a mind of her own—had it not been
for Selena Ford, Mattie's older sister.
Selena, people said, had married James Ford for no other reason than
that his house commanded a view of nearly every dooryard in Amberley.
This may or may not have been sheer malice. Certainly nothing that
went on in the Adams yard escaped Selena.
She watched Mattie and Jed in the moonlight one night. She saw Jed
kiss Mattie. It was the first time he had ever done so—and the last,
poor fellow. For Selena swooped down on her parents the next day. Such
a storm did she brew up that Mattie was forbidden to speak to Jed
again. Selena herself gave Jed a piece of her mind. Jed usually was
not afflicted with undue sensitiveness. But he had some slumbering
pride at the basis of his character and it was very stubborn when
roused. Selena roused it. Jed vowed he would never creep and crawl at
the feet of the Adamses, and he went west forthwith, determined, as
aforesaid, to make his fortune and hurl Selena's scorn back in her
And now he had come home, driving a tin-wagon. Mattie smiled to think
of it. She bore Jed no ill will for his failure. She felt sorry for
him and inclined to think that fate had used him hardly—fate and
Selena together. Mattie had never had another beau. People thought she
was engaged to Jed Crane until her time for beaus went by. Mattie did
not mind; she had never liked anybody so well as Jed. To be sure, she
had not thought of him for years. It was strange he should come back
like this—"romantic," as he said himself.
Mattie's reverie was interrupted by Selena. Angular, pale-eyed Mrs.
Ford was as unlike the plump, rosy Mattie as a sister could be.
Perhaps her chronic curiosity, which would not let her rest, was
accountable for her excessive leanness.
"Who was that pedlar that was here this afternoon, Mattie?" she
demanded as soon as she arrived.
Mattie smiled. "Jed Crane," she said. "He's home from the West and
driving a tin-wagon for the Boones."
Selena gave a little gasp. She sat down on the lowest step and untied
her bonnet strings.
"Mattie Adams! And you kept him hanging about the whole afternoon."
"Why not?" said Mattie wickedly. She liked to alarm Selena. "Jed and I
were always beaus, you know."
"Mattie Adams! You don't mean to say you're going to make a fool of
yourself over Jed Crane again? A woman of your age!"
"Don't get excited, Selena," implored Mattie. In the old days Selena
could cow her, but that time was past. "I never saw the like of you
for getting stirred up over nothing."
"I'm not excited. I'm perfectly calm. But I might well be excited over
your folly, Mattie Adams. The idea of your taking up again with old
"He's fifteen years younger than Jim," said Mattie, giving thrust for
When Selena had come over Mattie had not the slightest idea of
resuming her former relationship with the romantic Jedediah. She had
merely shown him kindness for old friendship's sake. But so well did
the unconscious Selena work in Jed's behalf that when she flounced off
home in a pet Mattie was resolved that she would take Jed back if he
wanted to come. She wasn't going to put up with Selena's everlasting
interference. She would show her that she was independent.
When a week had passed Jed came again. He sold Mattie a stew-pan and
he would not go in to tea this time, but they stood and talked in the
yard for the best part of an hour, while Selena glared at them from
her kitchen window. Their conversation was most innocent and harmless,
being mainly gossip about what had come and gone during Jed's exile.
But Mattie knew that Selena thought that she and Jed were making love
to each other in this shameless, public fashion. When Jed went,
Mattie, more for Selena's benefit than his, broke off some sprays of
honeysuckle and pinned them on his coat. The fragrance went with
Jedediah as he drove through Amberley, and pleasant thoughts were born
"It's romantic," he told the pony. "Blessed if it ain't romantic! Not
that Mattie cares anything about me now. I know she don't. But it's
just her kind way. She wants to cheer me up and let me know I've a
friend still. Get up, my nag, get up. I ain't one to persoom on her
kindness neither; I know my place. But still, say what you will, it's
romantic—this sitooation. This is it. Here I be, loving the ground
she walks on, as I've always done, and I can't let on that I do
because I'm a poor ne'er-do-well as ain't fit to look at her, an
independent woman with property. And she's a-showing kindness to me
for old times' sake, and piercing my heart all the time, not knowing.
Why, it's romance with a vengeance, that's what it is. Get up, my nag,
Thereafter Jed called at the Adams place every week. Generally he
stayed to tea. Mattie always bought something of him to colour an
excuse. Her kitchen fairly glittered with new tinware. She gave Selena
the overflow by way of heaping coals of fire.
After every visit Jedediah held stern counsel with himself and decided
that he must not call to see Mattie again—at least, not for a long
time; then he must not stay to tea. He would struggle with himself all
the way down the poplar hill—not without a comforting sense of the
romance of the struggle—but it always ended the same way. He turned
in under the willows and clinked musically into Mattie's yard. At
least, the rattle of the tin-wagon sounded musically to Mattie.
Meanwhile, Selena watched from her window and raged.
Amberley people shrugged their shoulders when gossip noised the matter
abroad. But, being good-humoured in the main, they forebore to do more
than say that Mattie Adams was free to make a goose of herself if it
pleased her, and that Jed Crane wasn't such a fool as he looked. The
Adams farm was one of the best in Amberley, and it had not grown any
poorer under Mattie's management.
"If Jed walks in there and hangs up his hat he'll have done well for
himself after all."
This was Selena's view of it also, barring the good nature. She was
furious at the whole affair, and she did her best to make Mattie's
life a burden to her with slurs and thrusts. But they all misjudged
Jed. He had no intention of "walking in and hanging up his hat"—or
trying to. Romantic as he was, it never occurred to him that Mattie
might be as romantic as himself. She did not care for him, and anyhow
he, Jed, had a little too much pride to ask her, a rich woman, to
marry him, a poor man who had lost all caste he ever possessed by
taking up tin-peddling. Jed was determined not to "persoom." And, oh,
how deliciously romantic it all was! He hugged himself with sorrowful
delight over it.
As the summer waned and the long yellow leaves began to fall thickly
from the willows in the Adams lane Jed began to talk of going out
west again. Tin-peddling was not possible in winter, and he didn't
think he would try it another summer. Mattie listened with dismay in
her heart. All summer she had made much of Jed, by way of tormenting
Selena. But now she realized what he really meant to her. The old love
had wakened to life in her heart; she could not let Jed go out of her
life again, leaving her to the old loneliness. If Jed went away
everything would be flat, stale, and unprofitable.
She knew him to be at heart the kindest, most gentle of human beings,
and the mere fact of his having been unsuccessful, even what some of
his old neighbours might call stupid, did not change her feelings
toward him in the least. He was Jed—that was sufficient for her, and
she had business capability enough for both, when it came to that.
Mattie began to drop hints. But Jed would not take them. True, once or
twice he thought that perhaps Mattie did care a little for him yet.
But it would not do for him to take advantage of that.
"No, I just couldn't do that," he told the pony. "I worship the ground
that woman treads on, but it ain't for the likes of me to tell her so,
not now. Get up, my nag, get up. This has been a mighty pleasant
summer with that visit to look forward to every week. But it's about
over now and you must tramp, Jed."
Jed sighed. He remembered that it was more romantic than ever, but all
at once this failed to comfort him. Romance up to a certain point was
food; beyond that it palled, so to speak. Jed's romance failed him
just when he needed it most.
Mattie, meanwhile, was forced to the dismal conclusion that her hints
were thrown away. Jed was plainly determined not to speak. Mattie felt
half angry with him. She did not choose to make a martyr of herself to
romance, and surely the man didn't expect her to ask him to marry her.
"I'm sure and certain he's as fond of me as ever he was," she mused.
"I suppose he's got some ridiculous notion about being too poor to
aspire to me. Jed always had more pride than a Crane could carry.
Well, I've done all I can—all I'm going to do. If Jed's determined to
go, he must go, I s'pose."
Mattie would not let herself cry, although she felt like it. She went
out and picked apples instead.
Mattie might have remained so and Jedediah's romance might never have
reached a better ending, if it had not been for Selena, who came over
just then to help Mattie pick the golden russets. Fate had evidently
destined her as Jed's best helper. All summer she had been fairly
goading Mattie into love with Jedediah and now she was moved to add
the last spur.
"Jed Crane's going away, I hear," she said maliciously. "Seems to me
you're bound to be jilted again, Mattie."
Mattie had no answer ready. Selena went on undauntedly.
"You've made a nice fool of yourself all summer, I vow. Throwing
yourself at Jed's head—and he doesn't want you, even with all your
"He does want me," said Mattie calmly. Her lips were very firm and her
cheeks scarlet. "He is not going away. We are to be married about
Christmas, and Jed will take charge of the farm for me."
"Matilda Adams!" said Selena. It was all she was capable of saying.
The rest of the golden russets were picked in a dead silence, Mattie
working with an unusually high colour in her cheeks, while Selena's
thin lips were pressed so closely together as to be little else than a
After Selena had gone home, sulking, Mattie picked on with a very
determined face. The die was cast; she could not bear Selena's slurs
and she would not. And she had not told a lie either. Her words were
true; she would make them true. All the Adams determination—and that
was not a little—was roused in her.
"If Jed jilts me, he'll do it to my face, clean and clever," she said
When Jed came again he was very solemn. He thought it would be his
last visit, but Mattie felt differently. She had dressed herself with
unusual care and crimped her hair. Her cheeks were scarlet and her
eyes bright. Jed thought she looked younger and prettier than ever.
The thought that this was the last time he would see her for many a
long day to come grew more and more unbearable, yet he firmly
determined he would let no presuming word pass his lips. Mattie had
been so kind to him. It was only honourable of him in return not to
let her throw herself away on a poor failure like himself.
"I suppose this is your last round with the wagon," she said. She had
taken him out into the garden to say it. The garden was out of view
from the Ford place. Propose she must, but she drew the line at
proposing under Selena's eyes.
Jed nodded dully. "Yes, and then I must toddle off and look for
something else to do. You see, I haven't much of a gift so to speak
for business, Mattie, and it takes me so long to get worked into an
understanding of a business or trade that I'm generally asked to quit
before you might say I've really commenced. It's been a mighty happy
summer for me, though I can't say I've done much in the selling line
except to you, Mattie. What with your kindness and these little visits
you've been good enough to let me make every week, I feel I may say
it's been the happiest summer of my life, and I'm never going to
forget it, but as I said, it's time for me to be moving on elsewhere
and finding something else to do."
"There is something for you to do right here—if you will do it," said
Mattie faintly. For a moment she felt as if she could not go on; Jed
and the garden and the scarf of late asters whirled around her
dizzily. She held by the sweet-pea trellis to steady herself.
"I—I said a terrible thing to Selena the other day. I—I don't know
what I'll do about it if—if—you don't help me out, Jed."
"I'll do anything I can," said Jed, with hearty sympathy. "You know
that, Mattie. What is the trouble?"
His kindly voice and the good will and affection beaming in his honest
blue eyes gave Mattie renewed courage to go on with her self-imposed
and most embarrassing task, although before she ended her voice shook
and dwindled away to such a low whisper that Jed had to bend his head
close to hers to hear what she was saying.
"I—I said—she goaded me into saying it, Jed—slighting and
slurring—jeering at me because you were going away. I just got mad,
Jed—and I told her you weren't going—that you and I—that we were to
"Mattie, did you mean that?" he cried. "If you did, I'm the happiest
man alive. I didn't dare persoom—I didn't s'pose you thought anything
of me. But if you do—and if you want me—here's all there is of me,
heart and soul and body, forever and ever, as I've been all my life."
Thinking over this speech afterwards Jed was dissatisfied with it. He
thought he might have made it much more eloquent and romantic than it
was. But it served the purpose very well. It was convincing—it came
straight from his honest, stupid heart, and Mattie knew it. She held
out her hands and Jed gathered her into his arms.
It was certainly a most fortunate circumstance that the garden was
well out of the range of Selena's vision, or the sight of her sister
and the remaining member of the despised Crane family repeating their
foolish performance, which many years previous had resulted in Jed's
long banishment, might have caused her to commit almost any unheard-of
act of spite as an outlet for her jealous anger. But only the few
remaining garden flowers were witness to the lovers' indiscretion, and
they kept their own counsel after the manner of flowers, so Selena's
feelings were mercifully spared this further outrage.
That evening Jed drove slowly away through the twilight, mounted for
the last time on the tin-wagon. He was so happy that he bore no grudge
against even Selena Ford. As the pony climbed the poplar hill Jed drew
a long breath and freed his mind to the surrounding landscape and to
his faithful and slow-plodding steed that had been one of the main
factors in this love affair, having patiently carried him to and from
the abode of his lady-love throughout the summer just passed. Jedediah
was as brimful of happiness as mortal man could be, and his rosy
thoughts flowed forth in a kind of triumphant chant which would have
driven Selena stark distracted had she been within hearing distance.
What he said too was but a poor expression of what he thought, but to
the trees and fields and pony he chanted,
"Well, this is romance. What else would you call it now? Me, poor,
scared to speak—and Mattie ups and does it for me, bless her. Yes,
I've been longing for romance all my life, and I've got it at last.
None of your commonplace courtships for me, I always said. Them was my
very words. And I guess this has been a little uncommon—I guess it
has. Anyhow, I'm uncommon happy. I never felt so romantic before. Get
up, my nag, get up."