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Christmas. Jeremy displays himself to great advantage among his country relations, who all think him a prodigy, and often stand astounded, in “ gaping wonderment,” at his natural philosophy. He lately frightened a simple old uncle almost out of his wits, by giving it as his opinion that the earth would one day be scorched to ashes by the eccentric gambols of the famous comet, so much talked of; and positively asserted that this world revolved round the sun, and that the moon was certainly inhabited.
The family mansion bears equal marks of antiquity with its inhabitants. As the Cocklofts are remarkable for their attachment to every thing that has remained long in the family, they are bigoted towards their old edifice, and I dare say would sooner have it crumble about their ears than abandon it. The consequence is, it has been so patched up and repaired, that it has become as full of whims and oddities as its tenants; requires to be nursed and humoured like a gouty old codger of an alderman; and reminds one of the famous ship in which a certain admiral circumnavigated the globe, which was so patched and timbered, in order to preserve so great a curiosity, that at length not a particle of the original remained. Whenever the wind blows, the old mansion makes a most perilous groaning; and every storm is sure to make a day's work for the carpenter, who attends upon it as regularly as the family physician. This predilection for every thing that has been long in the family shows itself in every particular. The domestics are all grown gray in the service of our house. We have a little, old, crusty, gray-headed negro, who has lived through two or three generations of the Cocklofts, and, of course, has become a personage of no little importance in the household. He calls all the family by their Christian names; tells long stories about how he dandled them on his knee when they were children: and is a complete Cockloft chronicle for the last seventy years. The family carriage was made
in the last French war, and the old horses were most indubitably foaled in Noah's ark-resembling marvellously, in gravity of demeanour, those sober animals which may be seen any day of the year in the streets of Philadelphia, walking their snail's pace, a dozen in a row, and harmoniously jingling their bells. Whim-whams are the inheritance of the Cocklofts, and every member of the household is a humorist sui generis,
from the master down to the footman. The
very cats and dogs are humorists; and we have a little runty scoundrel of a cur, who, whenever the church bells ring, will run to the street door, turn up his nose in the wind and how most.piteously. Je. remy insists that this is owing to a peculiar delicacy in the organization of his ears, and supports his position by many learned arguments which nobody can understand: but I am of opinion that it is a mere Cockloft whim-wham, which the little cur indulges, being descended from a race of dogs which has flourished in the family ever since the time of my grandfather. A propensity to save every thing that bears the stamp of family antiquity has accumulated an abundance of trumpery and rubbish with which the house is encumbered, from the cellar to the garret; and every room, and closet, and corner, is crammed with three-legged chairs, clocks without hands, swords without scabbards, cocked hats, broken candlesticks, and looking glasses with frames carved into fantastic shapes, of feathered sheep, woolly birds, and other animals that have no name except in books
of heraldry. The ponderous mahogany chairs in • the parlour are of such unwieldy proportions, that
it is quite a serious undertaking to gallant one of them across the room; and sometimes make a most equivocal noise when you sit down in a hurry: the mantel-piece is decorated with little lacquered earthen shepherdesses—some of which are without toes, and others without noses; and the fire-place is garnished out with Dutch tiles, exhibiting a great variety of Scripture-pieces, which my good old soul of a cousin takes infinite delight in explaining. Poor Jeremy hates them as he does poison; for while a younker, he was obliged by his mother to learn the history of a tile every Sunday morning before she would permit him to join his playmates: this was a terrible affair for Jeremy, who by the time he had learned the last had forgotten the first, and was obliged to begin again. He assured me the other day, with a round college oath, that if the old house stood out till he inherited it, he would have these tiles taken out, and ground into powder, for the perfect hatred he bore them.
My cousin Christopher enjoys unlimited authority in the mansion of his forefathers; he is truly what may be termed a hearty old blade-has a forid, sunshiny countenance, and, if you will only praise his wine, and laugh at his long stories, himself and his house are heartily at your service. The first condition is, indeed, easily complied with, for, to tell the truth, his wine is excellent; but his stories being not of the best, and often repeated, are apt to create a disposition to yawn, being, in addition to their other qualities, most unreasonably long. His prolixity is the more afflicting to me, since I have all his stories by heart; and when he enters, upon one, it reminds me of Newark causeway, where the traveller sees the end at the distance of several miles. To the great misfortune of all his acquaintance, cousin Cockloft is blessed with a most provoking retentive memory, and can give day and date, and name and age and circumstance, with the most unfeeling precision. These, however, are but trivial foibles, forgotten, or remembered only with a kind of tender respectful pity, by those who know with what a rich redundant harvest of kindness and generosity his heart is stored. It would delight you to see with what social gladness he welcomes à visiter into his house; and the poorest man that enters his door never leaves it without a cordial invitation to sit down and drink a glass of wine. By the honest farmers round his country seat, he is looked up to with love and reverence; they never pass him by without his inquiring after the welfare of their families, and receiving a cordial shake of his liberal hand. There are but two classes of people who are thrown out of the reach of his hospitality-and these are Frenchmen and Democrats. The old gentleman considers it treason against the majesty of good breeding to speak to any visiter with his hat on; but the moment a Democrat enters his door, he forthwith bids his man Pompey bring his hat, puts it on his head, and salutes him, with an appalling “Well, sir, what do you want with me?".
He has a profound contempt for Frenchmen, and firmly believes that they eat nothing but frogs and soup-maigre in their own country. This unlucky prejudice is partly owing to my great aunt Pamelia having been, many years ago, run away with by a French Count, who turned out to be the son of a generation of barbers; and partly to a little vivid spark of toryism, which burns in a secret corner of his heart. He was a loyal subject of the crown; has hardly yet recovered the shock of independence; and though he does not care to own it, always does honour to his majesty's birth-day, by inviting a few cavaliers, like himself, to dinner; and gracing his table with more than ordinary festivity.
lf by chance the revolution is mentioned before him, my cousin shakes his head; and you may see, if you take good note, a lurking smile of contempt in the corner of his eye, which marks a decided disappro. bation of the sound. He once, in the fulness of his heart, observed to me that green peas were a month later than they were under the old government. But the most eccentric manifestation of loyalty he ever gave was making a voyage to Halifax for no other reason under heaven but to hear his majesty prayed for in church, as he used to be here formerly. This he never could be brought fairly to acknowledge, but it is a certain fact, I assure you. It is not
a little singular, that a person so much given to long „story-telling as my cousin, should take a liking to another of the same character; but so it is with the old gentleman-his prime favourite and companion is Will Wizard, who is almost a member of the family, and will sit before the fire, with his feet on the massy andirons, and smoke his cigar, and screw his phiz, and spin away tremendous long stories of his travels, for a whole evening, to the great delight of · the old gentleman and lady, and especially of the young ladies, who, like Desdemona, do “ seriously incline,” and listen to him with innumerable dears," " Is it possibles,” “Good graciouses,” and look upon him as a second Sinbad the sailor.
The Miss Cocklofts, whose pardon I crave for not having particularly introduced them before, are a pair of delectable damsels; who having purloined and locked up the family-bible, pass for just what age they please to plead guilty to. Barbara, the eldest, has long since resigned the character of a belle, and adopted that staid, sober, demure, snufftaking air, becoming her years and discretion. She is a good-natured soul, whom I never saw in a passion but once; and that was occasioned by seeing an old favourite beau of hers kiss the hand of a pretty blooming girl; and, in truth, she only got angry because, as she very properly said, it would spoil the child. Her sister Margery, or Maggie, as she is familiarly termed, seemed disposed to maintain her post as a belle, until a few months since; when accidentally hearing a gentleman observe that she broke very fast, she suddenly left off going to the assembly, took a cat into high favour, and began to rail at the forward pertness of young misses. From that moment I set her down for an old maid; and so she is, “ by the hand of my body.” The young ladies are still visited by some half dozen of veteran beaux, who
grew and flourished in the haut ton, when the Miss Cocklofts were quite children, but have been brushed rather rudely by the hand of time, who, to