« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
til she saw her adversary inclined to give over bis at. tack. 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 Cockluft, who after squalling at a hideous rate, at length jumped out of the sleigh plump into a snow-bank, where she stuck fast like an icicle, uptil 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 opinon that it was owing to her never having bad 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 Wesley, 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 ri. gidly orthodox;- and had not my aunt Charity been of a most pacific disposition ier religious whim-wham would have occasioned many a family altercation. Sbe was indeed, 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 hours together with the most preserving patience; and tell a thousand melancholy stories of human misery, to keep up their spirits. The whole catalogue of yerb teas was at her fingers' 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.
Woe be to the patient that came under the benevolent hand of my aunt Charity; he was sure, willy nilly, to be drenched with
deluge of decotions; and full many a time has my cousin Christopher 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 favourite 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 favourite book; and I shrewdly suspect that it was from this valuable work she drew most of her sovereign remedies for colds, coughs, corns, 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 for ever prying into the affairs of her neighbours; 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 mount her spectacles, 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 sail, 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 bosom-friend, Mrs. Sipkins, should get the start of her in the morning, and blow the whole affair. - You must know there was always a contest between these two ladies, who should first give currency to the good-natured things said about every body; and this unfortunate rivalship at gth proved fatal to their long and ardent friendship. My aunt got up full two hours that morning before her usual time; put on her pompadour taffeta gown, and sailed forth to lament the misfortune 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 openmouthed 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 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 life chequered with the various calamities and misfortunes and mortifications, incident to those worthy old gentlewomen who have the domestic cares of the whole community upon their minds; and I hasten to relate the melancholy incident that hurried her out of existence in the full bloom of antiquated virginity.
In their frolicsome malice the fates had ordered that a French boarding-house, or Pension Francaise, as it was called, should be established directly opposite my aunt's residence. Cruel event! unhappy aunt Charity!--it threw her into that alarming disorder denominated the fidgets: she did nothing but watch at the window day after day, but without becoming one whit the wiser at the end of a fortnight than she was at the beginning ; she thought that neighbour Pension had a monstrous large fa
mily, and somehow or other they were all men! She could not imagine what business neighbour Pension followed to support so numerous a household; and wondered why there was always such a scraping of fiddles in the parlour, and such a smell of onions from neighbour Pension's kitchen: in short, neighbour Pension was continually uppermost in her thoughts, and incessantly on the outer edge of ber tongue. This was, I believe, the very first time she had ever failed “ to get at the bottom of a thing; and the disappointment cost her many a sleepless night, I warrant you. I have little doubt, however, that my aunt would have ferreted neighbour Pension out, could she have spoken or understood French; but in those times people in general could make themselves understood in plain English; and it was always a standing rule in the Cockloft family, which exists to this day, that not one of the females should learn French.
My aunt Charity had lived at her window, for some time in vain; when one day she was keeping her usual look-out, and suffering all the pangs of unsatisfied curiosity, she beheld a little meagre, weazel-faced Frenchmen, of the most forlorn, diminutive, and pitiful proportions, arrive at neighbour Pension's door. He was dressed in white, with a little pinch-up cocked hat; he seemed to shake in the wind, and every blast that went over him whistled through his bones, and threatened instant annihilation. This embodied spirit of famine was followed by three carts, lumbered with crazy trunks, chests, bandboxes, bidets, medicine-chests, parrots, and monkeys; and at his heels ran a yelping pack of little black-nosed pug-dogs. This was the one thing wanting to fill up the measure of my aunt Charity's afflictions; she could not conceive, for the soul of her, who this mysterious little apparition could be that made so great a display;—what he could possibly do with so much baggage, and particularly with his parrots and monkeys; or how so small a carcass could have occasion for so many trunks of clothes. Honest soul! she had never had a peep into a Frenchman's wardrobe-that depot of old coats, hats, and breeches: of the growth of every fashion he has followed in his life.
From the time of this fatal arrival my poor aunt was in a quandary;--all her inquiries were fruitless; no one could expound the history of this mysterious stranger: she never held up her head afterwards-drooped daily, took to her bed in a fortnight, and in “one little month” I saw her quietly deposited in the family vault-being the seventh Cockloft that has died of a whim-wham!
Take warning, my fair countrywomen! and you, O! ye excellent ladies, whether married or single, who pry into other people's affairs and neglect those of your own household; who are so busily employed in observing the faults of others that you have no time to correct your own; remember the fate of my dear aunt Charity and eschew the evil spirit of curiosity.
I was not a little surprised the other morning at a request from Will Wizard that I would accompany him that evening to Mrs. 's ball. The request was simple enough in itself, it was only singular as coming from Will;-of all my acquaintance, Wizard is the least calculated and disposed for the society of ladies-not that he dislikes their company; on the contrary, like every man of pith and marrow, he is a professed admirer of the sex; and had he been born a poet, would undoubtedly have bespattered and be-rhymed some hard named goddess, until she became as famous as Petrarch's Laura, or Waller's Sachrissa; but Will is such a confounded bungler at a bow, has so many odd bachelor habits, and finds it so troublesome to be gallant, that he generally prefers smoking his cigar and telling his story among cronies of his own gender:--and thundering long stories they are, let me tell you: set Will once a-going about China or Crim Tartary, or the Hottentots, and heaven help the poor victim who has to endure his prolixity; he might better be tied to the tail of a jack-o'lanthern. In one word Will talks like a traveller. Being