“I wonder how she stands him!” was my thought

The first time that I saw them: she so quick

In every way and wit, and he . . . so . . . slow.

She so slight, so full of charm, so prim,

He so toad-like, taciturn, an oaf;

She all sparkle, like a babbling stream,

He unkempt and fetid, like a swamp.


I know some people claim that looks don’t matter,

That only fools can judge by first impressions,

But honestly, you can often pretty well tag

A person’s density or clarity of wit

At first glance by the way he looks and acts.


This guy looked dull. And act —he almost didn’t.

She, by contrast, was all looks and action.

A stimulating piece, if I must say.


They arrived or, foot (I watched them from the wall)

She striding sprite-like up the path, alert;

He plodding after at some distance, slouched.

She seemed to move as fast as he did slow,

Yet he kept up. The clod! As they arrived

She was all out of breath. He scarcely breathed.

She grasped my hand and greeted me profusely,

He simply nodded, his face expressionless,

His big sombrero bending his big ears.

She told me, blushing, that they were man and wife,

Parried two years and still no children . . . but then

At least he farmed. “And- well!” she added sweetly.

She apologized for his not saying much.

(He had said nothing) “It’s not that he’s unfriendly,

He’s just shy. And a little . . . well, you know . . .”


She smiled gently, willing to allow

For human weakness, even in a husband.

Then she added, so as not to slight him,

“But he works hard. Plows well.” The hulking oaf

Didn’t so much as blink before such praise.


Tactfully she thought to change the subject:

“Let’s talk about something pleasant.

Goodness me, What a beautiful place you have here,” arid

“Oh my, I just now noticed the roses.

Simply lovely! But don’t you get bored. living here alone?”

“No,” I said, “Quite to the contrary, I . . .”

She interrupted (perhaps it was as well):

“Just one thing bothers me: aren’t you afraid

This big old pine so close beside the cabin

Will blow over on top of you?”

I was going to say It leaned the other way —but she went on:

“Just look how it drops its needles on the roof!

My, what a nuisance! It looks nice and all that,

But one mustn’t go by looks. I’d cut it down.

Wouldn’t you, boy?” The query was to her husband.


He didn’t hear . . . or perhaps he didn’t want to.

He apparently had his mind on one small wasp

That had fallen somehow into the water trough

And was paddling as best it could with oarless legs

But getting nowhere. The big man stooped

And stuck a heavy finger in the water;


He held it there until the half-drowned bug

Caught hold of it and hauled itself to rescue.

“Ooooh!” cried his wife as the big man raised his finger.

“Get rid of it, boy! Do you know what it is?

It is a wasp!” she gasped. “They sting, you know!”

“His skin’s so tough I doubt it can get through it,”

I said to calm her down.


He looked at us

And smiling harmlessly he slowly said:

“They don’t sting when they’re wet.” (These were the first

And last words that I ever heard him speak.)


“You’ll have to forgive him,” said. his wife,

Embarrassed. “He’s still just a boy at heart.

But he works hard!” At this she turned on him

With a good-natured joke: “I hope it stings you!

It would serve you right! I wish it would!”

The “boy” didn’t hear. Instead he raised

His heavyy finger toward the sun, and stood there

Watching the wet wasp preen its soggy wings,

A look of care upon his big dull face.

I marveled at his power of affection

For anything so small-. “I think,” I said,

“He may be right: They can’t sting when they’re wet.”


“You can’t tell by appearances,” she chimed.

“Let me tell you about the time my Uncle Baldo—

Who thinks himself the world’s best weather profit—

Said, one night when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky

That because the cuckoo cried ‘coo-coo’ at dusk

That it was going to rain. He was so sure! . . .

But do you think it rained?” “No,” I answered,

“Or you wouldn’t have remembered.” “Wrong!” she whooped.

“It rained so hard and long that all the corn

Rotted on its stalks. That goes to show

How little you can tell . . .” And she went on . . .

And on and on and on. The lucky wasp

By now had dried its wings and flown away.


We watched it go, the “boy” and I, perhaps

With some small envy; who can say?

He wasn’t such a bad chap, after all;

A little slow, perhaps, but does that matter?

(The sun moves slowly, doesn’t it? Or does it?

I guess one shouldn’t judge by first impressions,

Even if . . . well, sometimes … let it be.)


For all, I didn’t weep to see them go.

I watched them down the trail. She led the way,

She with her pert, swift pace, he with his trudge.

Yet he kept up. I watched them out of sight,

Shaking my head to remember my first thought:

“I wonder how he stands her!” Was that it?