Seven Wives and Seven Prisons; Or, Experiences in the Life of a Matrimonial Monomaniac



It was Saturday morning, and after an early breakfast I was on the road with Boston Yankee's fast horse; towards Easton. On my arrival there I had no difficulty in finding Mary Smith, who recognized me at once, and was very glad to see me. She knew I had come there to learn something about Sarah; she had seen her only a week ago; she was well again, and the girls had talked together about me. This was pleasant to hear, and I at once proposed to Mary to go to Scheimer's and tell Sarah that I was there; I would give her ten dollars if she would go. "O! she would gladly serve us both for nothing."

So she made herself ready, got into the buggy, and we started for Scheimer's. When we were well on the road I said to her:

"Now, Mary, attend carefully to what I say: you will need to be very cautious in breaking the news to Sarah that I am here; she has already suffered a great deal on my account, and may be very timid about my being in the neighborhood; but if she still loves me as you say she does, she will run any risk to see me, and, if I know her, she will be glad to go away with me. Now, this is what you must do; you must see her alone and tell her my plan; here, take this diamond ring; she knows it well; manage to let her see it on your finger; then tell her that if she is willing to leave home and marry me, I will be in the woods half a mile above her house to-morrow afternoon at 5 o'clock, with a horse and buggy ready to carry her to Belvidere. If she will not, or dare not come, give her the ring, and tell her we part, good friends, forever."

It was a beautiful afternoon as we drove along the road. We talked about Sarah and old times, and I made her repeat my instructions over and over again and she promised to convey every word to Sarah. We neared Scheimer's house about six o'clock, and when we were a little way from there I told Mary to get out, so as to excite no suspicions as to who I was; she did so, and I waited till I saw her go into the house, and then drove rapidly by towards the Belvidere bridge, and was safely at Oxford by nightfall. I told my friend, the landlord, what I had done, and he said that everything was well planned. He also promised to go with me next day to assist me if necessary, and, said he:

"If everything is all right, do you carry off the girl and I'll walk up to Belvidere; but don't bring Sarah this way—head toward Water Gap. When you're married fast and sure, you can come back here as leisurely as you're a mind to, and nobody can lay a hand upon you or her."

We arranged some other minor details of our expedition and I went to bed.

The next afternoon at four o'clock I was at the appointed place, and Boston Yankee was with me. I did not look for Sarah before five o'clock, so we tied our horse and kept a good watch upon the road. An hour went by and no Sarah appeared. I told Boston Yankee I did not believe she would come.

"Don't be impatient; wait a little longer," said my friend.

In twenty minutes we saw emerge, not from Scheimer's house, but from his eldest son's house, which was still nearer to the place where we were waiting, three women, two of whom I recognized as Sarah and Mary, and the third I did not know, nor could I imagine why she was with the other two; but as I saw them, leaving Boston Yankee in the woods, I drove the horse down into the road. As Sarah drew near she kissed her hand to me and came up to the wagon. "Are you ready to go with me?" I asked. "I am, indeed," was her reply, and I put out my hand to help her into the buggy. But the third woman caught hold of her dress, tried to prevent her from getting in, and began to scream so as to attract attention at Sarah's brother's house. I told the woman to let her go, and threatened her with my whip. "Get away," shouted Boston Yankee, who had come upon the scene. "Drive as fast as you can; never mind if you kill the horse."

We started; the woman still shouting for help, and I drove on as rapidly as the horse would go. When we had gone on a mile or two, I asked Sarah what all this meant? She told me that the woman was her brother's servant; that Mary and herself left her father's house a little after four o'clock to go over and call at her brother's; that just before five, when she was to meet me, she and Mary proposed to go out for a walk; that the whole family watched her constantly, and so her brother's wife told the servant woman to get on her things and go with them. "You, may be sure," she, added, "that the woman will arouse the whole neighborhood, and that they will all be after us." I needed no further hint to push on. We were going toward Water Gap, as Boston Yankee had advised, and when we were about eight miles on the way, I deemed it prudent to drive into the woods and to wait till night before going on. We drove in just off the road, and tied our horse. We were effectually concealed; our pursuers, if there were any, would be sure to go by us, and meantime we could talk over our plans for the future. Sarah told me that when Mary came to the house the night before, she was not at all surprised to see her, as she occasionally came up from Easton to make them a little visit, and to stay all night; that she went to the summer-house with Mary to sit down and talk, and almost immediately saw the ring on Mary's finger; that when she saw it she at once recognized it, and asked her: "O! Mary, where did you get that ring?" "Keep quiet," said Mary: "don't talk loud, or some one may hear you; don't be agitated; your lover is near, and has sent me to tell you." It was joyful news to Sarah, and how readily she had acquiesced in my plan for an elopement was manifest in the fact that she was then by my side.

We bad not been in the woods an hour when, as I anticipated, we heard our pursuers, we did not know how many there were, drive rapidly by. "Now we can go on, I suppose," said Sarah. "Oh no, my dear," I replied, "now is just the time to wait quietly here;" and wait we did till eight o'clock, when our pursuers, having gone on a few miles, and having seen or learned nothing of the fugitives, came by again "on the back track." They must have thought we had turned off into some other road. I waited a while longer to let our friend's get a little nearer home and further away from us, and then took the road again toward Water Gap.

We reached Water Gap at midnight, had some supper and fed the horse. We rested awhile, and then drove leisurely on nine miles further, where we waited till daylight and crossed the river. We were in no great hurry now; we were comparatively safe from pursuit. We soon came to a public house, where we stopped and put out the horse, intending to take breakfast. While I was inquiring of the landlord if there was a justice of the peace in the neighborhood, the landlord's wife had elicited from Sarah the fact of our elopement, who she was, who her folks were, and so on. The well-meaning landlady advised Sarah to go back home and get her parents consent before she married. Sarah suggested that the very impossibility of getting such consent was the reason for her running away; nor did it appear how she was to go back home alone even if she desired to. We saw that we could get no help there, so I countermanded my order for breakfast, offering at the same time to pay for it as if we had eaten it, ordered out my horse and drove on. After riding some ten miles we arrived at another public house on the road, and as the landlord come out to the door I immediately asked him where I could find a justice of the peace? He laughed, for he at once comprehended the whole situation, and said:

"Well, well! I am an old offender myself; I ran away with my wife; there is a justice of the peace two miles from here, and if you'll come in I'll have him here within an hour."

We had reached the right place at last, for while the landlady was getting breakfast for us, and doing her best to make us comfortable and happy, the Old Offender himself took his horse and carriage and went for the justice. By the time we had finished our breakfast he was back with him, and Sarah and I were married in "less than no time," the Old Offender and his wife singing the certificate as witnesses. I never paid a fee more gladly. We were married now, and all the Scheimers in Pennsylvania were welcome to come and see us if they pleased.

No Scheimers came that day; but the day following came a deputation from that family, some half dozen delegates, and with them a constable from Easton, with a warrant to arrest Sarah for something—I never knew what—but at any rate he was to take her home if necessary by force. The Old Offender declined to let these people into his house; Sarah told me to keep out of the way and she would see what was wanted. Whereupon she boldly went to the door and greeted those of her acquaintances who were in the party. The constable knew her, and told her he had come to take her home. "But what if I refuse to go?" "Well then, I have a warrant to take you; but if you are married, I have no power over you." Well married I am, said Sarah, and she produced the certificate, and the Old Offender and his wife came out and declared that they witnessed the ceremony.

What was to be done? evidently nothing; only the constable ordered a whole barrel of ale to treat his posse and any one about tire town who chose to drink, and the barrel was rolled out on the grass, tapped, and for a half hour there was a great jollification, which was not exactly in honor of our wedding, but which afforded the greatest gratification to the constable, his retainers, and those who happened to gather to see what was going on. This ended, and the bill paid, the Easton delegation got into their wagons and turned their horses heads towards home.

We passed three delightful days under the Old Offender's roof, and then thanking our host for his kindness to us, and paying our bill, we started on our return journey for Oxford. We arrived safely, and staid with Boston Yankee a fortnight. We were close by the Scheimer homestead, which was but a few miles away across the river; but we feared neither father nor brothers, nor even the woman who was so unwilling to let Sarah go with me. The constable, and the rest had carried home the news of our marriage, and the old folks made the best of it. Indeed, after they heard we had returned to Oxford, Sarah's mother sent a man over to tell her that if she would come home any day she could pack her clothes and other things, and take them away with her. The day after we received this invitation, Boston Yankee offered to take Sarah over home, and promised to bring her safely back. So she went, was treated tolerably well, at any rate, she secured her clothes and brought them home with her.

It was now time to bid farewell to our staunch friend, Boston Yankee. I had inducements to go to Goshen, Orange County, N. Y., where I had many acquaintances, and to Goshen we went. We found a good boarding place, and I began to practice medicine, After we had been there a while, Sarah wrote home to let her family know where she was, and that she was well and happy. Her father wrote in reply that we both might come there at any time, and that if she would come home he would do as well by her as he would by any of his children. This letter made Sarah uneasy. In spite of all the ill usage she had received from her parents and family, she was nevertheless homesick, and longed to get back again. I could see that this feeling grew upon her daily. We were pleasantly situated where we were; I had a good and growing practice, and we had made many friends; but this did not satisfy her; she had some property in her own right, but her father was trustee of it, and he had hitherto kept it away from her from spite at her love affair with me. But now she was to be taken into favor again, and she represented to me that we could go back and get her money, and that I could establish myself there as well as anywhere; we could live well and happily among her friends and old associations. These things were dinged in my ears day after day, till I was sick of the very sound. I could see that she was bound, or, as the Dutch doctor would have said, "bewitched" to go back, and at last, after five happy months in Goshen, in an evil hour I consented to go home with her.

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