Images de page

Yet my father, with all his expedients, was a very unpopular man. Though he was always angling for public favor, he never had skill enough the bait so as to conceal the hook, even to the gudgeons that floated in our shallow streams. There was a broken bridge near our habitation, and one year he was plotting and expecting to be surveyor of the highways, that he might mend it for the public convenience, at the public expense. He was disappointed; and old Mr. Slider, his rival and enemy, was put in the office, who suffered the bridge to remain unrepaired, with the ungenerous sarcasm, that a man who lived in such a shattered house, might well endure to ride over a rotten bridge. There was a militia company, and my father was expecting to be chosen captain, especially as he had been in the revolutionary army, and had actually spoken to Gen. Washington. But, at the age of forty-one, they chose him orderly-sergeant; which office my father refused, declaring, with much spitting and sputtering, that he would never serve his ungrateful country again. Thus closed his military honors; he was reduced to the necessity of finding the post of virtue in a private station.

I have heard that the only way to cure ambition, is to starve it to death; and all the world seemed to combine, to remove my father's favorite passion by that unwelcome medicine. Once we had determined to have a large party at our house, and we desired to

get it up in our very best style. We had invited all the grandees of Bundleborough, esquire Wilson, and his daughter; Mrs. Butterfly, a retired milliner; Mrs. Redrose, a jolly widow; Mr. Wallflower, a broken merchant; and captain Casket, supposed to be a pensioner on the king of Great Britain. We had raked and scraped, and twisted and turned, to procure all the money we could; my mother had sold pickled mangoes; I was sent to pick up mushrooms, in the great pasture; my father disposed of about two tons of old salt hay, the remaining wheel of an old ox-cart, all his pumpkins and turnips, and of about half his indian corn, to make up the sum of fifteen dollars, thirty-seven and a half cents, with which we were to shine out for one evening at least, in all the peacock-feathers with which ingenious poverty could cover over its hide-bound, frost-bitten, hungerwasted frame. We sent for all the china and glass we could beg or borrow; and Mr. Planewell, the carpenter, was summoned to repair our front-gate, set up the fence, and new lay the step before the front-door; but, as there was very little prospect of his ever being paid, he could not come. Two of the legs of our dining-table were broken, and I was ordered to glue them; but, failing in that, I remember I tied them together with a piece of fish-line, which was to be concealed by the depending table-cloth. The tablecloth itself, was of the finest and nicest damask; but, unluckily, there was a thin spot in the middle of it,

almost verging to a hole; but this we could conceal, by the mat on which we laid the great dish in the centre. My mother had spent the previous week in preparation-keeping the whole house in confusion, washing, scouring, cleaning, adjusting the best chamber, where the ladies were to take off their bonnets, mending the carpet, and polishing the shovel and tongs; and, I must confess, considering her means, she put things in tolerable order. An old half-blind negro woman, by the name of Joice, who had formerly waited on parties, but was now nearly superannuated, was to come and assist us; and it was stipulated that she should have the fragments of the feast, for her pay. The evening came, the company assembled; our old barn-lantern, with one broken and three cracked glasses, was hung up in the entry for an introductory light; our turkey, our chickens, our jellies, and our cards were prepared. Joice was busy, my mother was directing, and all were happy. But let no man hereafter pronounce an evening blessed, before the hour of supper has closed. Joice had complained already, that she wanted things to do with; and on the narrow table in the kitchen, she had overturned a lamp, and oiled the bottom of the great dish, on which the turkey was to be presented on the supper table. It became slippery, her fingers were slippery, and she was half blind; as she came waddling into the supper room, with the treasures of her cookery, she stumbled, struck the poor spliced legs

of our dining-table; my patchwork gave way, down went the table, dishes and sauces, on the ladies' gowns, down went poor Joice in the midst of them; my fish-line was revealed, the torn place in the tablecloth was seen, torn still more disastrously; my father looked aghast, my mother was in tears, and the whole company were in confusion. My father, however, tried to jump out of his condition, like a cat out of a corner. "Plague take Mr. Hardwood, our cabinetmaker; I had just ordered a new table, but he never sends home his work in time." In saying this, I can bear witness, that my honored father did not tell a lie; he told just half the truth. He had ordered a new table; and Mr. Hardwood had not sent it to us in time; but then he distinctly told my father the reason; and that was, he should not send it, until he settled off the old score.


"O poverty, poverty," says Cervantes, a man must have a great share of the grace of God, who can bring himself to be contented with thee. Why dost thou choose to pinch gentlemen?" Yes, I must allow, poverty is bad enough; but not so terrible when it comes alone. It may then bring peace and resignation by its side, and even lead contentment and virtue in its train. In such cases, it is probation, instruction, wisdom, improvement, religion. The great and good, in all ages, have submitted to it; and suffering heroes have sometimes made it their boast and glory. But Heaven defend me, and the

souls of all my tribe, from the mingled horrors of pride and poverty, when they come upon us together! In the language of our own Wigglesworth, I may

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PrécédentContinuer »