Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

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 aud 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 80 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 grey in the service of our house. We have a little, old, crusty, grey-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 hunourist sui generis, from the master down to the foot

The very cats and dogs are humourists; 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 howl most piteously. Jeremy 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 candles sticks, 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 mantle-piece is decorated with little lacquerod earthen shepher:Jesses—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 hịstory of a tile every Sunday morning. before she would permit him to join his play-mates : 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.

man.

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 florid, 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 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 a 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 found 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 soupmaigre 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, whó turned out to be the son of a generation of barbers; and partly to a little vivid spark of toryism, which burns in à 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 Joes 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. If 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 disapprobation of the sound. He once, in the fullness 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 loy. alty 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 member of the family, and will sit before the fire, with his feet on the massy handirons, 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 “O 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, snuff-taking 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 say the truth, can do almost any thing but make people young.. They are, notwithstanding, still warm candidates for female favour; look venerably tender, and repeat over and over the same honeyed speeches and sugared sentiments to the little belles that they poured so profusely into the ears of their mothers. 'I beg leave here to give notice, that by this sketch I mean no reflection on old bachelors; on the contrary, I hold, that next to a fine lady, the ne plus ultra, an old bachelor is the most charming being upon earth; inasmuch as by living in "single blessedness,” he of course does just as he pleases; and if he has any genius must acquire a plentiful stock of whims, and oddities, and whalebone habits: without which I esteem a man to be mere beef without mustard, good for nothing at all, but to run on errands for ladies, take boxes at the theatre, and act the part of a screen at tea-parties, or a walking stick in the streets. I merely speak of those old boys who infest public walks, pounce upon the ladies from every corner of the street, and worry and frisk and amble, and caper before, behind, and round about the fashionable belles, like old ponies in a pasture, striving to supply the absence of youthful whim and hilarity, by grimaces and grins, and artificial vivacity. I have sometimes seen one of these "reverend youths” endeavouring to elevate his wintry passions into something like love, by basking in the sunshine of beauty; and it did remind me of an old moth attempting to fly through a pane of glass towards a light without ever approaching near enough to warm itself, or scorch its wings.

Never I firmly believe, did there exist a family that went more by tangents than the Cocklofts.-Every thing is governed by whim; and if one member starts a new freak, away, all the rest follow like wild geese in a string. As the family, the servants, the horses, cats, and dogs, have all grown old together, they have accommodated themselves to each other's habits completely; and though every body of them is full of odd points, angles, rhoinboids, and ins and outs, yet somehow or other, they harmonize together like so many straight lines; and it is truly a grateful and refreshing sight to see them agree so well. Should one, however, get out of tune, it is like a cracked fiddle, the whole concert is ajar; you perceive a cloud over every brow in the house, and even the old chairs seem to creak affettuoso. If my cousin, as he is rather apt to do, betray any symptons of vexation or uneasiness no matter about what, he is worried to death with inquiries, which answer no other end but to demonstrate the good will of the inquirer, and put him in a passion; for every body knows how provoking it is to be cut short in a fit of the blues, by an impertinent question about "what is the matter ? when a man can't tell himself. I remember a few months ago the old gentleman came home in quite a squall; kicked poor Cæsar, the mastiff, out of his way

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »