from Century Magazine
The "Setting Out" at Big'Low's
by Ellis Parker Butler
"You don't mean to tell me you never beard tell of a I settin' out, do you? Well, it's plain to be seen as you don't belong in these here parts, then. Why, settin' out's a'most as common as courtin', an' everybody knows that's been common ever since Adam 'n' Eve.
"Settin' out is when two fellers is dead gone on the same gal. That does happen awful frequent, you know; an' most likely they happens to meet at her house some night, both makin' a courtin'. Well, then, neither of them two fellers will go fust. They both sits an' talks, an' talks an' sits, an' each tries to tire the other out. The fust one to git tired an' go home is sot out, an' he don't never show up after that at that gal's house. That's what settin' out is. An' a feller that comes foolin' round a gal after he's been sot out, he gits sot down on hard by the gal, I kin tell you.
"Ever bear of the settin' out at Big'low's? No? Well, I thought everybody in the State had heard tell o' that. Go ahead an' smoke, an' I'll tell it to you. I don't mind smoke; my old man nigh smokes me to death, an' I kind o' git used to it.
"You see, old Tom Big'low, that lives in the big house down acrost from Burr Oak school-house, he had a mighty purty gal. Her name was Em'line, an' she was the belle of these parts for sure. Lots of black hair, brown eyes, an' pinky skin, an' all that. An' a hustler, too. 'S fine a gal at a churn or at bakin' as I ever see. Everybody said Em'line would make a fine wife, an' all the young fellers was after her hard; but none of 'em was in it 'longside of Jim Doolan an' Hi' Morgan.
"It seemed mighty clear to all of us that them two held the inside track, an' it only needed a settin' out to see which one was to git Em'line.
"Course everybody knew Em'line rather favored a young feller down at the Corners, a story-writer or some sech thing as had come into these parts to look at us an' write us up into fool stories, which ought to be made shut of by law, goodness knows, they are so redic'lous, an' not a bit as we really are. But we all knew old Tom Big'low 'd never let Em'line throw herself away on no such trash; an' Em'line understood that pretty well, too. You see, old Tom Big'low is the richest man in the county, an' the meanest, an' he had swore by goodness gracious that Em'line shouldn't marry nobody but either Jim Doolan or Hi' Morgan.
"Well, that was in the winter of '75, an' I was takin' care of the Big'low house like, helpin' Em'line, Missus Big'low bein' laid up with rheumatiz in her back. So one night there comes a jingle of sleigh-bells in the yard, an' in comes Jim Doolan. Old Tom makes him to home, an' Jim sits down by the fire opposite Em'line, an' begins to talk about the huskin' at his house, which was set for the next Thursday.
"Almost before he gits started talkin', there comes some more bells in the yard, an' in comes Hi' Morgan, an' he looks at Jim kind o' cross like, an' he takes the other chair by the fire, an' Em'line moves over between them, so 's to be nice an' impartial; an' there them two fellers sits scowlin', while old Tom brings in some cider an' apples an' sets 'em on the table.
"Well, I sees it's goin' to be a settin' out, an' liable to last 'most till mornin'; so I takes up my knittin', an' says good night, an' goes up to my room, for I knew young folks don't like to have their courtin's spoiled by outsiders. An' in a little while I hear old Tom come up an' go into his room, an' I knew the settin' out had begun in earnest. An' so it had. Em'line told me all about it the next year.
"Fust, for a while Jim an' Hi' sot there an' just glared at each other like they saw a bull-snake, an' Em'line she sot there waitin' for one or the other to speak; but neither of them showed signs of beginnin', so at last Em'line ups an' says, 'Dad has put some cider on the table, boys; mebby you 'd like some.'
"Thanks, I would like some, they both says at once; so Em'line she pours out a glass an' hands it to Jim, hem' as he come fust. Then she fills it again an' gives it to Hi'; but he pushes it back, an' says as stiff as tacks, 'If you please, Miss Em'line, I'd rather not drink from his glass.'
"That makes Jim kind o' huffy, an' he says, 'Perhaps you think I poisoned it, Mr. Morgan.'
"'Well,' says Hi', 'I know as you'd like to, whether you done it or not; but I am a hit partic'ler who I drinks after.'
"Well, Em'line she sees they are goin' to quarrel all evenin', so she gits her sewin' (some fancy stuff, ~vhich I don't take no stock in, for my part), an' she starts to sewin'; an' them two fellers just sits quiet like an' scowls at each other, not either of 'em sayin' a word for fear the other would take him down.
"After about an hour this way Em'line begins to yawn pretty frequent, an' Jim says: 'Mr. Morgan, I think perhaps Miss Em'line means to hint that she an' I would rather be alone. Perhaps you are thinkin' of goin' home.'
"'Not at all,' says Hi'; 'on the contrary, I'm havin' a very nice time indeed, an' I mean to stay just as long as Miss Em'line will 'low me.' An' with that he settles himself back in his chair like he was goin' to stay all night, an' closes his eyes contented like; an' Jim puts a couple of sticks on the fire, an' then he fixes himself back in his chair an' closes his eyes like he was contented.
"Well, Em'line sits there sewin', 'n' them two fellers sits there waitin', an' the fire gits warm, an' the clock on the fire-mantel keeps up a steady tickin', an', fust thing they knows, both them fellers is sound asleep.
"That way it goes on till ten o'clock; an' 'leven o'clock, an' twelve o'clock, an' Jim an' Hi' both snorin' to beat all. 'Bout half after twelve there is a little noise on the shutter, like ascratchin', an' Em'line gits up an' puts down her sewin', an' goes over to Jim an' shakes him gentle like. Jim he wakes up right away, an' so does Hi'. 'Scuse me, says Em'line, (but I 'm afraid I heard the cat in the kitchen, an' I'll just go an' see. An' I want to git a warmer wrap to put on, as it's gittin' cool in here. You gentlemen just set still, an' I'll be back by and by.) Then she kind o' smiles at both to oncet, an' goes out.
"Well, Jim an' Hi' they sits there an' glares at each other, an' glares an' glares an' glares like they thought they could kill each other by ugly looks. An' there they sot, an' after while they hears the kitchen door open into the yard, an' Em'line sayin', (Scat, there! Git out, you cat!) An' then they sot an' sot an' sot, but Em'line did n't seem to be very anxious to come back, an' in a while they goes to sleep again, an snores like a dry axle goin' uphill.
"Well, there they sets until old Tom comes down to feed the stock; an' finds 'em there sleepin' like infants, So he wakes up Jim, an' Hi' he wakes up too, an' beth of 'em look round dazed like at the bright room an' the lamp burnin' yaller on the table, an' they don't hardly know where they are. Then old Tom ups an' says, 'Where 's Em'line?' An' Jim looks kind of foolish, an' says, (I guess we hain't been very entertainin', an' she must have gone to bed,) an' with that he gits up and gits his hat. 'Good mornin', Mr. Big'low,' he says; 'give Miss Em'line my regards, an' tell her I'll call again this evenin',' an' with that he goes.
"Then Hi' he gits up and says, (If you please, Mr. Big'low, give Miss Em'line my compliments, an' tell her I'll call this evenin', too,' an' he takes his hat an' goes.
"Well, about that time I comes down, an' old Tom he sends me up to wake up Em'line, an' I go up to her room, when, law sakes! her bed hain't been touched! Course there was old Ned to pay then! An' what d' you think? While them two fellers was a-snorin' like a cow tryin' to swaller a corn-cob, that story-writer had come with a sleigh, an' Em'line had eloped with him! Yes, sir, right under them two fellers' noses!
"That was the great settin' out at Big'low's. Everybody in the county knows all about it, an' Jim an' Hi' had to go over into Illinoy to git away from the chaff of the other fellers. They 'd 'a' been joked to death if they hadn't.
"Let me tell you one thing: when my old man was a-settin' out with me ag'in' Dick Haines, you 'd better believe he did n't do no snorin'; no, nor Dick either. If my old man had, he wouldn't 'a' been my old man now. Why, if he had, I actually believe I'd have been willin' to have run away with a story-writer myself, though I must say they is mostly poor-doin' critters, an' do misrepresent us country people most awful in their fool stories."