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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Betsey and I are Out

By Will Carleton (1845–1912)

[Born in Hudson, Lenawee Co., Mich., 1845. Died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 1912. Farm Ballads. 1873.]

DRAW up the papers, lawyer, and make ’em good and stout;

For things at home are crossways, and Betsey and I are out.

We, who have worked together so long as man and wife,

Must pull in single harness for the rest of our nat’ral life.

“What is the matter?” say you. I swan it’s hard to tell!

Most of the years behind us we’ve passed by very well;

I have no other woman, she has no other man—

Only we’ve lived together as long as we ever can.

So I have talked with Betsey, and Betsey has talked with me,

And so we’ve agreed together that we can’t never agree;

Not that we’ve catched each other in any terrible crime;

We’ve been a-gathering this for years, a little at a time.

There was a stock of temper we both had for a start,

Although we never suspected ’twould take us two apart;

I had my various failings, bred in the flesh and bone;

And Betsey, like all good women, had a temper of her own.

The first thing I remember whereon we disagreed

Was something concerning heaven—a difference in our creed;

We arg’ed the thing at breakfast, we arg’ed the thing at tea,

And the more we arg’ed the question the more we didn’t agree.

And the next that I remember was when we lost a cow;

She had kicked the bucket for certain, the question was only—How?

I held my own opinion, and Betsey another had;

And when we were done a-talkin’, we both of us was mad.

And the next that I remember, it started in a joke;

But full for a week it lasted, and neither of us spoke.

And the next was when I scolded because she broke a bowl;

And she said I was mean and stingy, and hadn’t any soul.

And so that bowl kept pourin’ dissensions in our cup;

And so that blamed cow-critter was always a-comin’ up;

And so that heaven we arg’ed no nearer to us got,

But it gave us a taste of somethin’ a thousand times as hot.

And so the thing kept workin’, and all the self-same way;

Always somethin’ to arg’e, and somethin’ sharp to say;

And down on us came the neighbors, a couple dozen strong,

And lent their kindest sarvice for to help the thing along.

And there has been days together—and many a weary week—

We was both of us cross and spunky, and both too proud to speak;

And I have been thinkin’ and thinkin’, the whole of the winter and fall,

If I can’t live kind with a woman, why, then, I won’t at all.

And so I have talked with Betsey, and Betsey has talked with me,

And we have agreed together that we can’t never agree;

And what is hers shall be hers, and what is mine shall be mine;

And I’ll put it in the agreement, and take it to her to sign.

Write on the paper, lawyer—the very first paragraph—

Of all the farm and live-stock that she shall have her half;

For she has helped to earn it, through many a weary day,

And it’s nothing more than justice that Betsey has her pay.

Give her the house and homestead—a man can thrive and roam;

But women are skeery critters, unless they have a home;

And I have always determined, and never failed to say,

That Betsey never should want a home if I was taken away.

There is a little hard money that’s drawin’ tol’rable pay:

A couple of hundred dollars laid by for a rainy day;

Safe in the hands of good men, and easy to get at;

Put in another clause there, and give her half of that.

Yes, I see you smile, sir, at my givin’ her so much;

Yes, divorce is cheap, sir, but I take no stock in such!

True and fair I married her, when she was blithe and young;

And Betsey was al’ays good to me, exceptin’ with her tongue.

Once when I was young as you, and not so smart, perhaps,

For me she mittened a lawyer, and several other chaps;

And all of them was flustered, and fairly taken down,

And I for a time was counted the luckiest man in town.

Once when I had a fever—I won’t forget it soon—

I was hot as a basted turkey and crazy as a loon;

Never an hour went by me when she was out of sight—

She nursed me true and tender, and stuck to me day and night.

And if ever a house was tidy, and ever a kitchen clean,

Her house and kitchen was tidy as any I ever seen;

And I don’t complain of Betsey, or any of her acts,

Exceptin’ when we’ve quarrelled, and told each other facts.

So draw up the paper, lawyer, and I’ll go home to-night,

And read the agreement to her, and see if it’s all right;

And then in the mornin’, I’ll sell to a tradin’ man I know,

And kiss the child that was left to us, and out in the world I’ll go.

And one thing put in the paper, that first to me didn’t occur:

That when I am dead at last she’ll bring me back to her;

And lay me under the maples I planted years ago,

When she and I was happy before we quarrelled so.

And when she dies I wish that she would be laid by me,

And, lyin’ together in silence, perhaps we will agree;

And, if ever we meet in heaven, I wouldn’t think it queer

If we loved each other the better because we quarrelled here.