« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
her very paste shoe-buckles sparkled with indignation and for a moment assumed the brilliancy of diamonds : in those days the person of a belle was sacred; it was unprofaned by the sacrilegious grasp of a stranger :- simple souls !--they had not the waltz among them yet!
My good aunt prided herself on keeping up this buckram delicacy; and if she happened to be playing at the old-fashioned game of forfeits, and was fined a kiss, it was always more trouble to get it than it was worth; for she made a most gallant defence, and never surrendered until she saw her adversary inclined to give over his attack. Evergreen's father says he remembers once to have been on a sleighing party with her, and when they came to Kissing-bridge, it fell to his lot to levy contributions on miss Charity Cockloft; who, af- .' ter squalling at a hideous rate, at length jumped out of the sleigh plump into a snow-bank; where she stuck fast like an icicle, until he came to her rescue. This latonian feat cost her a rheumatism, which she never thoroughly recovered.
It is rather singular that my aunt, though a great beauty, and an heiress withal, never got married.
The reason she alleged was, that she never met with a lover who resembled sir Charles Grandison ; the hero of her nightly dreams and waking fancy :
but I am privately of opinion that it was owing to her never having had an offer. This much is certain, that for many years previous to her decease, she declined all attentions from the gentlemen, and contented herself with watching over the welfare of her fellow-creatures. She was, indeed, observed to take a considerable lean towards methodism, was frequent in her attendance at love feasts, read Whitfield and Westley, and even went so far as once to travel the distance of five and twenty miles to be present at a camp meeting. This gave great offence to my cousin Christopher, and his good lady, who, as I have already mentioned, are rigidly orthodox; and had not my aunt Charity been of a most pacific disposition, her religious whim-wham would have occasioned many a family altercation. She was, indeed, as good a soul as the Cockloft family ever boasted; a lady of unbounded loving kindness, which extended to man, woman, and child ; many of whom she almost killed with good-nature. Was any acquaintance sick ? in vain did the wind whistle and the storm beat; my aunt would waddle through mud and mire, over the whole town, but what she would visit them. She would sit by them for bours together with the most persevering patience ; and tell a thousand melancholy stories of human misa ery, to keep up their spirits. The whole catadogue of yerb teas was at her finger's ends, from formidable wormwood down to gentle balm; and she would descant by the hour on the healing qualities of hoar-hound, catnip, and penny-royal. Wo be to the patient that came under the benevolent hand of my aunt Charity; he was sure, willy willy, to be drenched with a deluge of decoctions ; and full many a time has my cousin Cnristopher borne a twinge of pain in silence, through fear of being condemned to suffer the martyrdom of her materia-medica. My good aunt had, moreover, considerable skill in astronomy; for she could tell when the sun rose and set every day in the year ; and no woman in the whole world was able to pronounce, with more certainty, at what precise minute the moon changed. She held the story of the moon's being made of green cheese, as an abominable slander on her favorite planet ; and she had made several valuable discoveries in solar eclipses, by means of a bit of burnt glass, which entitled her at least to an honorary admission in the American-philosophical-society. Hutching's improved was her favorite book; and I shrewdly suspect that it was from this valuable work she drew most of her sovereign remedies for colds, coughs, coros and consumptions.
But the truth must be told ; with all her good qualities my aunt Charity was afflicted with one fault, extremely rare among her gentle sex ;-it was curiosity. How she came by it, I am at a loss to imagine, but it played the very vengeance with her and destroyed the comfort of her life. Having an invincible desire to know every body's character, business, and mode of living, she was forever prying into the affairs of her neighbors ; and got a great deal of ill will from people towards whom she had the kindest disposition possible.-If any family on the opposite side of the street gave a dinner ; my aunt would moant her specta cles, and sit at the window until the company were all housed ; merely that she might know who they were. If she heard a story about any of her acquaintance she would, forthwith, set off full sait and never rest until, to use her usual expression, she had got “ to the bottom of it;" which meant nothing more than telling it to every body she knew.
I remember one night my aunt Charity happened to hear a most precious story about one of her good friends, but unfortunately too late to give it immediate circulation. It made her absolutely miserable; and she hardly slept a wink all night, for fear her bocom-friend, inrs. SIPkips, should
get the start of her in the morning and blow the whole affair. You must know there was always at contest between these two ladies, who should first give currency to the good-natured things said about every body; and this unfortunate rivalship at length proved fatal to their long and ardent friendship. My aunt got up full too hours that morning before her usual time; put on her pompadour taffeta gown, and sallied forth to lament the misfortuñe of her dear friend. Would you believe it! wherever she went mrs. Sipkins had anticipated her; and, instead of being listened to with uplifted hands and open-mouthed wonder, my unhappy aunt was obliged to sit down quietly and listen to the whole affair, with numerous additions, alterations and amendments !-now this was too bad; it would almost have provoked Patient Grizzle or a saint:--it was too much for my aunt, who kept her bed for three days afterwards, with a cold, as she pretended : but I have no doubt it was owing to this affair of mrs. Sipkins, to whom she never would be reconciled.
But I pass over the rest of my aunt Charity's lite, checquered with the various calamities and misfortunes and mortifications, incident to those worthy old gentlewomen who have the domestic cares of the whole cominunity upon their minds ;