University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Gender and Women's Studies Collection

Page View

The ladies' home journal
Vol. XX, No. 7 (June, 1903)

Portor, Laura Spencer
Betty Maria's guard,   pp. 9-10 PDF (1.9 MB)

Page 9

By Laura Spencer Portor, Author of"
ISS LIZE looked about approvingly. " Yon
are more settled, aren't you ? I hope you
will like B--. It's a nice little place and
we are a right good sort of people after all, I
reckon. Besides, I always have said this old Chenault house is the
prettiest one in town."
" You know it well, of course," said Mrs. Worrall. "The Chenaults
were close friends of yours."
Oh, yes, mighty close. Betty Maria was almost like my own."
I've heard of her often over in Woodford. She must have been very
Miss Lize cast her eyes up and raised her fat hands. " You just ask
any of the Guard what she was like."
Mrs. Worrall raised her brows. " Do you know you spoke of that when
you were here before ? -Whatever might the Guard be ? "
Miss Lize sat back and folded her hands fatly. " Well, I must say!
It's a lot you've heard about Betty Maria if you haven't heard about the
Guard !"  Then she came forward again: " Well, the Guard was.made up
of six boys that were hers to command. The Governor came in to see me
one day after he'd been wastin' his valuable time (a man like him, too!)
watchin' a circus parade. When I faced him down with it he just laughed
and said he reckoned he was in good company. ' What do you call good
company ?' said I. ' Well,' he said, ' there was Betty Maria just next me,
eatin' popcorn, and attended by the whole Guard to a man-all six of
'em.' Somehow it stuck after that."
"Won't you tell me about her- and about the Guard?" said Mrs.
Miss Lize settled a little. " Well, you see, she hadn't any mother or
father-only old Aunt Nancy Chenault. Aunt Nancy was a kind of
floatin'-island syllabub sort of woman-sweet and good, you know, but
kind of floatin' and slippin' whichever way the dish tipped ; and Betty
Maria was what you might say-the dish. Not a bit spoiled, though; I
never saw anybody less so. You see I knew Betty Maria from the time
she was a baby, and even then she was as full of character as most people
ain't. As to the men-there were four of them-Tommie and Steve and
Clay and Hunt-that she'd known since she wore socks and sunbonnets.
I've seen them playin', many's the time, back here in the gyarden
by that old cherry tree-there was a swing there then. I was here
spendin- the day with Aunt Nancy, when Clay first came over to make
friends, and kicked his copper-toed shoes on the fence, and called
out : ' Say, little girl ! What do you call your goat?' And she called
back: ' Well, I'll tell you what I call him '-just as though she'd got
some strikin' new name for him-' I call him Billy.'
Well, those four grew up just naturally outdoin' each other to please
her. The other tw6-Dick and Preston-she knew from the time she
was about thirteen. They went away to college, most of 'em, when she
was wearin' her hair down her back. When they came home-not havin'
learned, most of 'em, what to do with their hands and feet, Betty Maria
had got her hair twisted up in a loop on top of her head. She hadn't been
studyin'-bless your soul, no. She had been swingin' her heels in a
hammock, makin' rickrack for her underclothes, beatin' up Aunt Nancy's
pillows, tellin' fairy stories to the neighbors' children, helpin' poor dear
old Mr. Kennedy with his church fairs and tableaus, and makin' red flan-
nels for the mission, or maybe entertainin' a man like the Governor just
as easy and at home as she'd talk to a boy her own age. That was Betty
Maria for you.
" Those first four fell in love with her by turns. I reckon a boy has got
to have a gyurl to work and live for, to dream about and keep from goin'
to the devil for. I always have said that if a fine boy don't fall in love
at the right time he's in danger of goin' into the ministry. There comes
a time when a fine man's got to be good for somebody-and if there
isn't a gyurl around for him to be good for it's like as not to be the Lord.
Maria's Guard
"A Gentleman of the Blue Grass," " Those Days in Old Virginia," etc.
/ ~
"'As for Betty Maria, she loved every one of  &J
them so that she couldn't tell which she loved
best-she's told me that herself many a time. There's no use
belittlin' that kind of thing and callin' it flirtin'- for it wasn't. She
was a champion for the whole lot. Nobody dared say a word against
any of the Guard to Betty Maria. There are all kinds of champions in this
world - but for a real champion there's nothin' on earth like a fine-minded
gyurl in her teens.
" Well, by-and-by Lester Scoville came here to live with his aunt, his
mother and father bein' dead; and he fell in love with Betty Maria, too!
He was a kind of odd number. The boys never did count he belonged to
the Guard. Lester was tall and slender and brainy-and better-lookin'
than any of the Guard exceptin' Tommie. That wasn't it, of course-but
somehow Lester went in to win or die-the whole endurin' Guard to the
contrary. I reckon it was that that carried Betty Maria off her feet. It
don't often fail with gyurls.
" The Guard objected to Lester, of course, and went through the natural
frettin' that men in love mostly go through. Tommie and Clay came over
here grumpy one evenin' and sat down on my top step.
"' Well, I'd like to know why you've come over to see me?' I said.
'And a full moon to-night, too. Why aren't you over at Betty Maria's ?'
" Tommie spun his hat around and said nothing, and Clay spoke up
Oh, there are enough there already. I'll tell you, Miss Lize, we don't
mind the rest-we've all been raised together; but I don't like the new
man in town. We've been here all our lives.'
Tut ! fiddlesticks !' I said. ' You don't suppose the whole Guard is
goin' to marry Betty Maria, do you? Like as not she'll go off some day and
leave the whole lot of you for somebody you've never seen or heard of!'
" Tommie, he just kept twirlin' his hat and lookin' otit at nothin'. By-
and-by he let out. That's Tommie's way. ' Well,' he said, ' I just wish I
were the blue grass there on her lawn, so that she could walk over me.'
" ' Bless my soul,' I said, ' I reckon it ain't necessary for you to get down
and be blue grass, if bein' walked over by Betty Maria is all you want.'
" ' No,' said Clay, kind of grim, ' and like as not he'd be'walkin' over
you, too-this very minute.'
" Tommie, he got up and drew his handkerchief in a wad across his
forehead-just the way the Governor does. (T'ommie's caught lots of
ways from  the Governor. He studied law in his office, you know.)
Well,' he said, ' the rest of the Guard may do as they please, but I'll stand
''guard " to her up to the last button on Gabe's coat.'
" Like most gyurls, Betty Maria was in love a good while before she knew
it. I could have told her! You see she'd had the whip-hand so long
there's no wonder she wouldn't think of acknowledgin' it even to herself.
By-and-by, though, I noticed she began to take up a different way with the
Guard. She kind of trimmed them all to the wind -all but Toimie, and
even Tommie she kind of steadied somehow so's he wouldn't capsize.
Why, she even managed to get one or two of 'em facin' round toward other
gyurls, and before I knew it here was Betty Maria runnin' in to tell me a
great secret-the secret bein' that Clay was goin' to be in love with Patty
Castleman. Oh, she knew it ! She could tell
" Well, by-and-by things went on from one thing to another, and then
one day she told me her own big love affair. 11er eyes got full like poor
dear old 'Mr. Kennedy's when he's preachin' sometimes. She sat there as
light and airy-lookin' as any big butterfly you ever saw-just beamin', and
the tears rollin' down her cheeks. She was like that-all April ! She told
me that she and Lester were not engaged exactly-that is, they hadn't set
the day and nobody was to know. Then she flung her arms around my
neck and kissed me. I remember exactly what she said: ' Miss Lize,
what have I ever done to deserve such great good thing.s in my life?'
'' So far as I can make out the world is pretty generally bottom-
side up, so I was glad enough to see it for once the way it ought to
01     be, with the happiness on top.

Go up to Top of Page