[Another excerpt from When I Was Thirteen, the diary of a young girl in South-Western Ontario. The writer was Christina Young, but she used the pen-name of Mary McKenzie when the diary was published 20 years later in a weekly paper. As an incentive to keep writing in her diary, she had vowed to take castor oil if she ever forgot.]
June 15, 1897: It is queer how whenever you have to make a choice as to what you will do, you seem to be three people instead of one: yourself, and a jolly good friend who says, “Aw, take it easy and come on and have a good time,” and a sharp old scold who says, “Now don’t be a jelly fish again, be a real person for once and do what is right. Haven’t you any back bone?” And then if you do as a jolly friend says it seems to turn to a snake and stick out its tongue at you, and you hate it as it slithers away and leaves you feeling ashamed, and the sharp old scold seems your best friend, whose feelings you’ve badly hurt. But if you do as the old scold says, why she turns herself to a jolly good friend and you have a jolly good time in the end.
Sometimes as I’m walking along, I can feel one on each side as plainly as can be, and hear them lipping each other back, each trying to get me to go their way. Virginia says she can hear her two talking that way too, but they seem to be in her throat, instead of walking beside her.
It is queer how the jolly one can keep on fooling you though, if you sort of want to be fooled, though away down deep you are hating it all the time, knowing it will crawl away pretty soon not caring what happens to you after it’s got you into your trouble and the good time, that wasn’t a very good time after all, is past and gone and you are repenting in sackcloth and ashes.
But the scolding one stops scolding then and trudges along beside you feeling sad and hurt, yet still sticking to you and ready to put up a fight for you next time when the snake comes back as a jolly good friend and starts in to fool you again.
I expect they are really the spirit of goodness and the spirit of badness, striving to win your soul, and the bad one doesn’t really want your soul when he gets it, except just to laugh at your shame, but what he wants most is to hurt the spirit of goodness through spoiling something it loves.
August 2: I had to take castor oil last Monday as I forgot all about my diary on Saturday. I remembered it on Sunday just as I was eating a piece of apple pie, and I suppose I should have taken the oil right away, but I put it off though the thought of it spoiled my pie.
My bad one, which to myself I call Slop-Mouth, came popping up to my side and kept saying to put it off until Monday, as we were going to have a roasted rooster for supper, and I would not enjoy it if I took the oil then. I knew we were going to have the rooster because Ma had got it all ready on Saturday. For dinner on Sundays we just have lunch, but always have something extra for supper.
So I waited, not being sharp enough to see it was Slop-mouth talking to me. Then on Monday Slop-mouth said, how would it be to put off taking the oil till sometime I was sick and needed it anyway, as I hadn’t said in my vow just when I would take it. I was just deciding to do that when old Crusty, as I call my good one, who walks on my right, gave me one of her sharp digs and asked me if I didn’t know Slop-mouth yet when I saw him.
It is easy to get away from Slop-mouth, as soon as you let yourself see him, but it is queer how he can fool you into looking him straight in the face, and can get you to keep your eye off your good one at the same time.
As soon as Crusty said that, I jumped up and went to the pantry and got the oil bottle.
September 13: I always feel safer to let everyone know the worst things about me, and then I need never quake in my boots for fear they are going to find it out for themselves. And I notice that when you confess your sins yourself it takes away all the enjoyment anyone else might find in casting them up to you, if they happen to find out about them some other way. It is always safest, with nine in your family, to keep all your sins confessed up.
All the family knew about this anyway, because when I was the maddest I felt as though I must hear something smash, and I kicked a pane out of a window.
It wasn’t much to get mad at, and I knew I was in the wrong, which was what helped to make me so mad. I had left a little hair in the comb, and Jessie told me to go back and take it out. She said it in a rather bossy way, and I told her to do it herself. That was what started it, but it kept getting worse and worse, and when Ma made me take the hair out I was so mad that I walked up to the window and smashed the pane. And then I rushed upstairs and locked myself in my room and bawled.
I would have felt alright if Ma had given me a good licking, but nobody said a word. Pa put the pane in next day.
When I was mad like that old slopmouth didn’t seem like slopmouth at all, but like some powerful leaping snake that had suddenly somehow sprung into my body and was snapping and darting in every direction, and didn’t care where it bit. I hate putting it down in my diary, and I almost left it out, as I have been repenting ever since and don’t think I will ever lose my temper like that again, but I may have some descendants with very bad tempers, and this might be a lesson to them, supposing it does make them think less of me.
I will always be more afraid of slopmouth now, as I didn’t know he could act like that, and sort of take possession of me. I have changed his name to snake-eye. Writing it all down has made me feel so sort of dumpy that I don’t feel like writing anything else tonight.