Volume 7, Number 40, December 2004/January 2005
In The Bag?
By Pat Agar
This story is based on an event that
actually happened to my parents shortly after their marriage,
in July, 1924.
Nell, a bride of only two weeks, looked about her new
home, and a sweet feeling of pride filled her. True, it
was built of logs, with only two rooms, white-washed mud
walls and a plain board floor, but it was their own, hers
and Vics, and within its four walls love and gaiety
abounded. Bright flowered curtains hung at the windows,
a brown and green jug, wedding gift from a special sister,
sat in splendor on the sideboard. In the tiny bedroom
white eyelet embroidered pillow cases from her mother
graced the bed. The drawers of the sideboard held spanking
new sheets, more pillow cases, tea towels and a gleaming
white linen tablecloth and serviettes, a gift from Vics
aunt. Her heart swelled again at all this richness.
She was just about to begin a household chore when she
realized that one necessary item was still missing from
her kitchen supplies. Ah well, one item we have
in abundance here, she reflected, is plenty
of laughter. Vics Irish sense of humour saw
Just the day before she had been busy in the kitchen making
up a batch of rhubarb and strawberry jam, when the screen
door creaked and Vics head appeared around the door
Company coming, Nell, the head announced,
then disappeared. Nell made a quick assessment of her
little domain. What a clutter! Dinner dishes still unwashed,
floor unswept, and all her jam paraphernalia still in
every stage of preparation. Oh, please God, dont
let it be my mother-in-law, she breathed.
The screen door creaked again. Nell turned a not-too-eager
face of greeting, then gaped, as in waddled - a large,
fat, white duck - another of her husbands tricks
- probably from a neighbour in payment for some fencing
Vic had done.
Just wait, Victor, Nell said to herself. Ill
get my revenge yet.
A few evenings later, as they were walking home from a
visit to their neighbours, the Wilsons, Vic noticed that
his wife was carrying a brown paper bag under one arm.
Whats in the bag? he asked, his mind
immediately busy with visions of little jars of jam or
jelly, or maybe a piece of Mrs. Wilsons light
as a feather angel cake, or perhaps a dozen of her
special ginger cookies. So he missed the twinkle, caught
by a beam of moonlight, in one corner of his beloveds
Oh, she replied, with a saucy tone, nothing.
But Vic had a determined streak, coupled with an insatiable
curiosity. Come on, Nell, why all the secrecy? If
theres nothing in it, why are you hanging onto it
like it was a piece of crystal?
But Nell just smiled and gave the bag a little caress.
Is it a wedding gift then? Whats yours is
The Wilsons already gave us a wedding gift. The
cast iron frying pan. The same one your supper was cooked
The remainder of the walk was undertaken in complete silence.
Let him wonder a little longer, Nell chuckled
to herself as soon as she was back in her kitchen. Vic
was paying a last trip to the barn to check on their lone
cow and calf so in his absence she slipped her treasure
into a safe refuge.
Then she bustled about, putting the finishing touches
to her days work; sprinkling tomorrows ironing
and wrapping it carefully in a towel; carrying the butter
and milk down to the screened-in cupboard in the cellar,
and giving her wood stove a final rub down with a piece
of old newspaper. But she couldnt resist smiling
slyly to herself as Vic, upon his return, wandered around
the two rooms, muttering about a lost screwdriver. Cupboard
doors were opened, drawers pulled out, window sills scrutinized,
even the bread box searched.
Now what would your screwdriver be doing in there,
No response. Just more furtive searching. Every corner
was probed, the wood box rummaged, even the bed and pillows
came in for an inspection. The muttering became louder
and more impatient as his curiosity peaked. But still
no paper bag appeared. Finally in disgust, the frustrated
spouse sat down, pulled on his boots and went out the
door. A few minutes later Nell heard the sounds of axe
hitting wood, as Vic prepared the next mornings
kindling. Even the whack, whack of the axe seemed to be
registering his irritation.
Vic hates to be thwarted, Nell reflected as
she settled down to finish the continued story in the
Free Press Prairie Farmer. She was soon caught up in the
entanglements of her story and momentarily forgot her
Ha ha! sounded a triumphant voice from beside
the cookstove. Thought you had me on a leash there,
didnt you Nellie, my dear.
With triumphant glee, Vic hauled out from its hiding place,
and held aloft, the brown paper bag. Hed discovered
it while placing the kindling into the oven to dry before
morning. In two steps, hed reached the table. Eager
fingers untied the string, and ripped open the bag. Out
onto the wooden table top tumbled three old shirt tails,
a pair of threadbare towels, an underwear leg with a gaping
knee, a faded apron and a piece of worn flannelette sheet-
cleaning rags for Nells spanking new kitchen.
The mingled expression of surprise, embarrassment, and
disgust on her husbands face was priceless. Take
your pick of the lot, Vic, Nell said generously.
You certainly earned it.