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Francis James Child
Francis James Child, a-ponderin'


Child Book

Lessons learned while reading the ballad collection of Francis James Child.

by David Kessler

     Dear Francis,

     My woman has a good, feisty temper.  It's part of her charm really, but she's never been quite this angry before, so I'm turning to you for help.
     I suppose it all began the other year when I began bringing home friends that I made on the road.  Generally I invited them over after battling them, and, well, Marian often had to patch us up a bit or mend the slashes in our clothes.  She never complained much then, but I realize now that she resented it, because last week she let it all out:
     I had come home rather bloody and introduced her to the bold peddler I fought, explaining that he was my cousin, that he had nearly killed me in our duel, and that now we were going to crack a few bottles, most merrily.
     Like I said, she really lost it then and started listing all the times that had bothered her; Like when I came home sopping wet with John, or when I came home all bruised with the tinker.
     She says she wants to move away from here, to some place where customs are different.  I want her to be happy, but I'd like to stay within a bow-shot of the old neighborhood.
     I know she reads your column.  Please explain to her that it's perfectly acceptable and wholly natural for men to duel without introducing themselves, and that if they then become fast friends, or discover that they're related, why so much the better!
     I know you could explain it to her.  It always sounds a little silly when I try.

     Used to be merry

     Dear Used to be merry,

     Men are blessed with the innate ability to go from rampant belligerence to fast friendship with no middle ground save a few well-placed sword or quarterstaff thrusts.  Sadly, women do not possess this ability; if they hate someone, they will continue that hate regardless of battles fought.  Moreover, it is the rare woman who can appreciate this trait in a man.  Adding this to her concern for your well being accounts for your current situation.
     As you are obviously not ready to give up meeting new friends through spontaneous armed combat, I suggest you cushion the effects of this practice by not going directly home after your fights.  Taking time to clean your wounds before returning home should help.  While you're at it, why not away to a tavern for your celebratory drinking and only introduce her to your new friends after your blood and spirits have cooled somewhat from the meeting.

     Francis J. Child

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