« 前へ次へ »
THE OLD WASH PLACE
JUDD MORTIMER LEWIS
Try to picture two men sitting in a room together. One of them, with a very thoughtful face, is telling the other a story of a cabin somewhere in the woods of Texas just before the Civil War of 1861–1865, and of the little family that lived in the cabin. There were in the family the young father, the little mother, — who was only a young girl herself — and the boy, about seven years old, his sister of four or five, and the baby.
Just back of the cabin was “the old wash place," or the place where the little mother did the family washing. The “old wash place” was not a building built for this purpose. It was only a place under the trees where there were the homely tubs, the soap gourd dipper and the old " battling stick” for stirring the clothes, and where a big iron kettle was hung on a pole resting on two forked stakes.
The little mother is doing the washing, the little boy is gathering sticks for the fire, while the little sister is playing with the baby in the pile of soiled clothes.
The little mother is singing, for she is very happy. She has picked from a dogwood tree near by a beautiful white blossom and stuck it into her hair. A redbird is singing in a tree near by.
The man who is telling this story of “the old wash place" was once the little boy who tried so hard and did so much to help his little mother there, and “the old wash place " is the thing that he remembers best of his boyhood days.
They are very happy. But one day the young husband and father has to go away to the war as a Confederate soldier. They see him march off in his uniform of gray, and the little girl mother and the babies are left alone in the cabin in the woods.
The little heartbroken mother no longer gathers dogwood blossoms for her hair, and she no longer hears the redbird, although he sings his heart out, for she can think only of her husband among the bursting shells and flying bullets.
One morning a message comes to the cabin that the young husband and father has been killed in battle. And now the little girl mother is left all alone in the cabin in the woods with her babies. She now has to take in washings to make a living for them. The last stanza tells what became of her.
After the little boy who lived in the cabin and did so much to help his little mother has grown to manhood and has become a very successful man, he one day hears a woman say sneeringly, “Huh! his mother did our washing, for my mother told me so," as if it were a disgrace. In the next to the last stanza, he tells what he thinks of this remark. "
As you read the last stanza, you will see that the little mother, also, died many years ago, leaving with her children memories so precious that they will “miss her as long as life shall last.”
In reading the story aloud, imagine that you are the man, telling the story to his friend. Do not just pronounce the words, but tell the story in his words.
Before you read “ The Old Wash Place,” be sure to learn the meanings of the following words:
absurdly young : very, very overdreary: more than weariyoung.
some. of yore : long ago.
heartstrings: feelings. the brood : the three children the morning's gleam: early in the story.
| morning, just as the sun comes the soap gourd (gõrd): the shell up.
of a gourd used as a dipper. Gethsemane (gěth-sěm'a-né): comprehend : understand. | the garden in Jerusalem where Jesus went alone to bear his from the children by pretendsorrow before his crucifixion. ing to sing a bit of a song. Here it means, - one's great- it was base : the act was mean est sorrow.
and despicable. she'd strive to coax her lips to by the look that overcast her
curve into a snatch of song : sweet face: by the look that she would try to hide her grief came upon her sweet face.
THE OLD WASH PLACE
She was such a little mother, so absurdly young, that
while Tears are trembling on my lashes at her memory, I
smile At the very youngness of her; just a little girl she seems, Smiling at me from the distance, singing to me in my
dreams 5 Lullabies we all remember; but I mostly see her face Smiling through the clouds of steam that almost hide
the old wash place.
Sometimes in my dreams a dogwood blossom glimmers
in her hair, And I hear a redbird whistle, and the dream is free from
care — Then a man comes in the picture in the dream, and goes
away, 10 Waving to the little mother from the ranks of men in
And from then the dogwood blossoms never glimmer
any more, And the redbird sings no longer 'round the wash place
as of yore.
Three of us — and just the little bit o' mother to the
brood! Singing while her heart was breaking, in the woodland
solitude, With the homely tubs and kettle and the soap gourd 5
and the stick — The old battling stick! the mem’ry catches at my throat
so quick That I scarce can choke the sob back, at the picture of
her face Smiling bravely from the distance through the steam
of the wash place.
Yes, I carried water for her, while the baby went to
sleep With the songs that sister sung her where the wash 10
lay in a heap, And I sought dry sticks and piled them 'neath the
kettle — all my joy In the dreams that come back to me is that I was born
And could help the little mother, and was glad to help
her, too, In the tasks about the wash place where there was so
much to do.
Can wee babies understand it — when a heart's about
to break? We were babies, but we seemed to know, somehow, for
mother's sake 5 We must help to bear a burden which we could not
comprehend, And our puny arms about her seemed to strengthen,
and to lend Her a strength no little bit o' mother could have got
elsewhere, As she toiled about the wash place with her heart bowed down with care.
6 Some day's tasks seemed overdreary, and the hours
seemed overlong — 10 But she'd catch our eyes fixed on her and would tremble
into song; But the world of heartbreak throbbing through the
counterfeited joy Somehow would play on the heartstrings of the little
girl and boy And the little baby sister, and we'd snuggle face to face, Heart to heart, her arms about us kneeling at the old