aude's recollection of the dreaded "belling"--the first incident of married life--was vivid. "It was exciting rather than terrifying," she recalled. There was a lot of noise--the beating of tin pans, loud shouts and desultory firing of shotguns. Looking out from their new home, Lee and Maude found the front yard overflowing with a hundred or more laughing men, women and children.
When the revelers broke into the house, they promptly separated bride and groom. Maude was taken aside by the women and, from their superior knowledge and experience, given instructions on how to cope with her new status. She was warned of possible arguments, the certain conflict of wills, the necessity of maintaining a low profile, a quiet temperament and a worry-free attitude.
Lee, by contrast, was subjected to an entirely different kind of ordeal by the men. Their comments were often crude. He was advised to see that his wife be taught to harness the horses, do some of the plowing, take over the twice daily milking chores, mow the lawn when needed and, in her spare time, cultivate a large garden, then do the canning, cooking and all household duties--meanwhile caring for the children!
The tormentors dallied with the idea of keeping bride and groom in separate places during that first night but were dissuaded by their wives who had learned that the bride was "in a delicate condition." Their first child was to arrive five months later.
It was rumored at the time that the pregnancy was intentional. Maude and Lee Williams were in love. She wanted to get away from her parents and three brothers (about to move to Toledo, Ohio), and he wanted to leave Ohio Wesleyan University.
Despite the fact that Lee's folks were Quakers and Maude's parents frowned on card playing and dancing because they felt these practices led to lewdness, there was no censure of the young couple at a time when out-of-wedlock pregnancies were frowned on--when babies born without benefit of the wedding ceremony were called bastards or woods colts.
It was 11 P.M. when the couple bade the last guest good-bye, decided they would let the cleaning-up process go to the next day and shuffled off to bed.
But, tired as she was, the belling wasn't over for Maude. She had no sooner closed her eyes than she felt the coverlet sliding toward the foot of the bed, exposing her to the chill of the unheated room. She kept pulling the blanket back in place until she was fully awake.
Practical-joking hubby broke into a guffaw. He had attached a cord to the top of the cover, passed the string through the brass bed rail at the foot and was pulling on his end of the string whenever Maude closed her eyes. She gave him a stiff poke in the shoulder and told him what she would do to him if he didn't quit his tomfoolery.
That was the end--or was it? The next confrontation, which almost broke up their marriage on their wedding night, came when she got up to use the chamber pot rather than brave the outside cold to use the outhouse a hundred feet away. She tumbled to the floor as a cord pulled the vessel out from under her. It was Lee's last effort to instill his own brand of humor in serious marriage. Hereafter, he would be a little more tactful about both the type of joke and the victim. No one was told what Maude said but it was effective.
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