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perished without a fellow being to sooth the last moments of existence, and close my dying eyes, had not the howlings of my faithful dog excited your attention.”.
He seemed deeply sensible of the kindness of my grandfather; and at one time as he looked up into his old benefactor's face, a solitary tear was observed to steal adown the parched furrows of his cheek.-Poor outcast ! -it was the last tear he shed; but I warrant it was not the first by millions! My grandfather watched by him all night. Towards morning he gradually declined; and as the rising sun gleamed through the windows, he begged to be raised in his bed, that he might look at it for the last time. He contemplated it for a moment with a kind of religious enthusiasm, and his lips moved as if engaged in prayer.
The strange conjecture concerning him rushed on my grandfather's mind. “He is an idolater!!! thought he, "and is worshipping the sun!" He listened a moment, and blushed at his own uncharitable suspicion; he was only engaged in the pious devotions of a Christian. His simple orison being finished, the little man in black withdrew his eyes from the east, and taking my grandfather's hand in one of his, and making a motion with the other towards the sun__“I love to contemplate it,” said he; “’tis an emblem of the universal benevolence of a true Christian;—and it is the most glorious work of him who is philanthropy itself!” My grandfather blushed still deeper at his ungenerous surmises; he had pitied the stranger at first, but now he revered him:-he turned once more to regard him, but his countenance had undergone a change; the holy enthusiasm that had lighted up each feature had given place to an expression of mysterious import :
:-a gleam of grandeur seemed to steal across his gothic visage, and he appeared full of some mighty secret which he hesitated to impart. He raised the tattered nightcap that had sunk almost over his eyes, and waving his withered hand with a slow and feeble expres sion of dignity—“In' me,” said he, with a laconic solemnity,—"In me you behold the last descendant of the renowned Linkum Fidelius!” My grandfather gazed at him with reverence; for though he had never heard of the illustrious personage thus pompously announced, yet there was a certain black-letter dignity in the name that peculiarly struck his fancy and commanded his respect.
"You have been kind to me,” continued the little man in black, after a momentary pause, “and richly will I
requite your kindness by making you heir to my treasures ! In yonder large deal box are the volumes of my illustrious ancestor, of which I alone am the fortunate possessor. Inherit them—ponder over them, and be wise !" He grew faint with the exertion he had made, and sunk back almost breathless on his pillow. His hand, which, inspired with the importance of his subject, he had raised to my grandfather's arm, slipped from its hold and fell over the side of the bed, and his faithful dog licked it; as if anxious to sooth the last moments of his master, and testify his gratitude to the hand that had so often cherished him. The untaught caresses of the faithful animal were not lost upon his dying master; he raised his languid eyes,--turned them on the dog, then on my grandfather; and having given this silent recommendation closed them for ever.
The remains of the little man in black, notwithstanding the objections of many pious people, were decently interred in the church-yard of the village; and his spirit, harmless as the body it once animated, has never been known to molest a living being. My grandfather complied as far as possible with his last request; he conveyed the volumes of Linkum Fidelius to his library ;-he pondered over them frequently; but whether he grew wiser, the family tradition doth not mention. This much is certain, that his kindness to the poor descendant of Fidelius was amply rewarded by the approbation of his own heart, and the devoted attachment of the old turnspit ; who, transferring his affection from his deceased master to his benefactor, became his constant attendant, and was father to a long tribe of runty curs that still flourish in the family. And thus was the Cockloft library enriched by the invaluable folios of the sage Linkum Fidelius.
MY AUNT CHARITY.
My aunt Charity departed this life in the fifty-ninth year of her age, though she never grew older after twenty-five. In her teens she was, according to her own account, a celebrated beauty,--though I never could meet with any body that remembered when she was handsome. On the contrary, Evergreen's father, who used to gallant her in his youth, says she was as kpotty a little piece of humanity as he ever saw; and that, if she had been possessed of the least sensibility, she would, like poor old Acco, have most certainly run mad at her own figure and face the first time she contemplated herself in a lookingglass. In the good old times that saw my aunt in the hey-day of youth, a fine lady was a most formidable animal
, and required to be approached with the same awe and devotion that a Tartar feels in the presence of his grand Lama. If a gentleman offered to take her hand, except to help her into a carriage, or lead her into a drawingroom, such frowns ! such a rustling of brocade and taffeta! 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 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, 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 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 tigidly orthodox ;-and had not my aunt Charity been of à most pacific disposition, her religious whim-wham would have occasioned many a family altercation. She 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 persevering 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. Wo be to the patient that came under the benevolent hand of my aunt Charity; he was sure, willy nilly, to be drenched with a deluge of decoctions; 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, consides rable 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 m than telling it to every one 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 curTency 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 two hours that morning before her usual time; put on her pompadour taffeta gown, and sallied 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 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 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 reconçiled
But I pass over the rest of my aunt Charity’s life che quered 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