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"Mrs. Dugan's Husbands" from Sunset Magazine

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Sunset Magazine
Mrs. Dugan's Husbands
by Ellis Parker Butler

Day before yisterday Oi was afther sittin' in me parlor, an' th' weather that rainy it made me downhearted, thinkin' av me first husbind. Many's th' toime Oi said t' him, "Mike, dear, put off dyin' 'til th' weather's a bit settled," an' him that careless he wint an' died whin th' street was all muddy, an' me new Brussels carpet all tracked up wid th' mud at th' funeral, an' him wid no life insurance at all; but a hod-carrier all his loife, an' an ixpinsive mahogany-trimmed funeral, whin he moight as well hev been a soldier an' been kilt away from home, t' say nawthin' av th' pension, an' th' papers predictin' a change av weather in no toime at all. Oi was that downhearted thinkin' av him Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' black bottle.

Wid that th' tears run down me face, for nawthin' reminds me av me second husbind loike th' black bottle does, an' him so fond av it, but that kind excipt whin he was droonk. 'Twas a kind hearrt he had, me second husbind, but foriver beatin' me whin he was droonk, an' him droonk from wan ind av th' year 'til th' next, so 'twas no wonder Oi got me divorce. Ah! 'twas a sad day whin th' joodge said, "Go awn, Mrs. Dugan, 'tis free ye are, an' may th' Lord have mercy awn yer soul!" Th' thought av 't made me so downhearted Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' black bottle. 'Tis a sad thing t' hev three husbinds an' none av thim awn th' job, though Oi do not blame me first, him bein' dead; nor me second, him bein' sent away; but th' third! Arrah, th' third! 'Twu'd hev been a good thing had Oi had me third wan first, fer then Oi wu'd niver hev had me other two! 'Twas him run away wid another lady. But they be all alike -- dyin' wan day, an' bein' divorced th' nixt, an' runnin' away th' day afther! An me sittin' there wid a letther from me third, sayin' wu'd Oi tek him back an' all wu'd be forgiven. Wurra, Oi was so downhearted Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' black bottle, an' th' photygraft av me first lookin' at me reproachful from th' cinter table ivry toime Oi laid eyes awn th' letther av me last.

Whilst Oi was sittin' there, day before yisterday, in come me husbind before last, loike 'twas a reunion av me husbinds an' only him needed t' complate th' happy family. "How are ye fixed fer husbinds this afthernoon?" says he. "Oi'm out av thim, thanks be," says Oi. "Oi was thinkin' mebby ye wu'd tek me back, an' all will be forgiven," says he. "Oi hed not thought av it," says Oi, "fer Oi was thinkin' av takin' back me last." Wid that he took a chair an' crossed his knees in th' ould way. "Turn about is fair play," says he, "Ye had th' last wan last, 'tis only fair t' have th' wan before th' last next. They shu'd tek turns," says he. Th' worrds was such a shock t' me Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' black bottle.

So, whilst Oi was sittin' there, day before yisterday, wid me husbind before last, me eye fell awn the photygraft av me first. Says Oi t' me husbind before last, "Do ye believe in spirits?" "Well," says he, "Oi don't mind if Oi have a drop now an' agin"; an' wid that he reached his hand fer th' black bottle an' took a wee sup out av it, an' not t' be unhospittable, Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' black bottle mesilf.

"Oi was not referrin' t' th' black bottle," says Oi t' me husbind before last wid dignity, "Oi was referrin' t' me first husbind. Wud ye be willin' t' lave th' sittlemint av th' question av shu'd Oi tek back me last or me husbind before last t' th' arbitration av me first?" "Sure," says me husbind before last, "anny ould thing t' plaze th' ladies!" Wid that Oi tuk th' photygraft av me first in me hands. "Heads or tails?" Oi says, with more dignity. "Oi'll thank ye fer heads," says he, wid pride in his tone, "Yer welcome," says Oi, as dignified as possible, "an' may Oi thank ye t' hev a wee sup out av th' black bottle first?" So we did.

So day before yisterday, as Oi said before, Oi tuk th' photygraft av me first in me hand to toss t' see shu'd Oi tek back me last or me husbind before last, takin' at th' same toime a sup out av th' black bottle. "'Tis fer luck," Oi says, wid dignity. "Toss th' photygraft," says he, wid pride.

Oi say, 'twas day before yisterday whin Oi tuk th' black bottle in me hand t' toss t' see shud Oi tek back me photygraft or tek a wee sup out av th' toss before last.

Oi say, 'twas th' husbind before last whin Oi tuk a wee sup out av th' day before yisterday t' see shu'd Oi bottle th' wee sup out av th' photygraft.

Oi mane, 'twas th' day before husbind whin Oi tuk a wee bottle out av the yisterday before last t' see shu'd Oi sup th' black photygraft.

Oi mane, 'twas th' bottle before last whin Oi tuk a wee photygraft out av th' husbind before yisterday t' see shu'd Oi blacken th' sup.

What Oi mane is, Oi supped the photygraft before yisterday t' see shu'd Oi bottle th' husbind before th' wee black.

Oi am sayin, Oi blacked th' wee husbind before --

Oi supped th' wee photygraft --

Oi photygraft th' --

Oi bottled --

Annyhow, Oi done it. Oi tossed wan av thim t' see shu'd Oi tek back wan av thim. There was th' husbind before last. An' there was th' black bottle. An' there was th' photygraft. An' there was th' last husbind. An' there was th' day before yisterday. An' there was th' wee sup. Wan av thim Oi tossed. "'Tis fer luck," says Oi, takin' a sup out av wan av thim. "Toss it," says he, meaning another av thim. So Oi done it.

"Fine!" says he, fer 'twas a fine toss I give it. An' wid that Oi tuk a seat awn th' floor t' wait till it come down. 'Twas a perplexication indade! Wan av them Oi hed tossed, but which wan 'twas harrd t' decide, fer th' room was full av thim be this toime, an' none av thim wu'd come down. Th' ceiling was crowded wid thim, loike a flock av pigeons, an' anny wan likely t' dhrop anny minute. 'Twas surprisin', th' toss Oi must hev give, fer whin Oi looked up th' air was full av six black bottles, an' eight wee sups, an' twinty-four photygrafts, an' t'irty-six day-before-yisterdays, an' forty-sivin husbinds-before-last, an' wan an' all revolvin' around an' around,

"Sthop!" Oi says t' thim wid dignity, but they wu'd not sthop, "Go awn, then!" Oi says, an' awn they wint. 'Twas not th' photygrafts Oi moinded, ner th' days-before-yisterday, but Oi hed me sinses wid me all th' toime, an' Oi was not wishin' fer anny av th' black bottles ner husbinds-before-last t' fall on th' head av me, so Oi crawled underneath th' sofy wid dignity.

Whin Oi hed remained there a few hours, Oi opened me eyes, an' th' atmosphere av th' room was sedate an' gintle wance more, ixcipt fer a few waves av th' sea that agitated th' floor, an' a slight rotary motion av th' walls, but by sittin' awn th' sofy an holdin' tight t' th' cinter table, Oi was able t' avoid fallin' overboard an' preserve me equal librium.

"Faith," Oi says t' me husbind before last, "'twas a terrible airthquake we've been havin'! Did th' toss come heads or tails?"

"Nayther," says he. "There was a slight misconception at th' momint ye tossed, an' 'twas th' black bottle ye thrun into th' air. Oi hev waited patiently," he says, "an' if ye are now ready, ye will be so kind as t' toss th' photygraft."

At thim words Oi stood up wid all me dignity, an' Oi looked him to th' eye,

"Much obliged t' ye," says Oi, scornful like, "but Oi hev tossed wance, an' Oi sint iverything that was not fastened down revolvin' over me head, an' 'twas but by me prisince av moind in gettin' beneath th' sofy Oi preserved me loife, Oi'll tek no more chances. Oi'll not toss nawthin', though it be a feather. An' as fer ye," Oi says t' me husbind before last, "'tis great assurance ye hev, standin' there, talkin' t' me! Oi'll not tek ye back awn anny terms! A nice form av a man ye be," Oi says, "t' stand idle whin a poor woman is in danger av her loife, wid th' air full av black bottles an' husbinds-before-last an' photygrafts an' days-before-yisterday an' you not raisin' a hand t' grab a single wan av thim! Go awn away from here! Oi'll hev no more husbinds at all, an' whin worst comes t' worst, Oi'll protect mesilf loike an honest woman an' crawl under me sofy!"

So me husbind before last wint away day-before-yisterday, an' yisterday Oi wrote "No" t' me last, an' today, Oi hev but me first, an' a good man he was afther all, but a mite thoughtless about dyin' in wet weather. But, wurra me! Oi ought not be complainin'. If he hed put it off 'til dhry weather he might be wid me yet, an' what Oi'd be doin' wid three husbinds, Oi dunno!



Saturday, October 07 at 1:20:21am USA Central
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