« PrécédentContinuer »
when Mr. Crane came, as usual, to fulfil the duties of an accepted lover. I saw nothing peculiar on his brow; but impelled by that curiosity which destroyed our mother Eve, but has delighted all her posterity, I resolved to know the utmost of the affair, There stood in my grandfather's kitchen, a long wooden seat, with a high back, called a settle, which supplied the place of a modern sofa. When the family retired, I, pretending at first to go to bed, slipped softly behind this piece of antique furniture, and, covered by an old saddle cloth, resolved for once to play the listener, and partake of a dish of sentimental conversation.
Reader, behold this scene! The firebrands are wasted, flickering to decay. That old butter-boat iron lamp, that hangs from the mantelpiece, gives a very dim and imperfect light. It is late-the gloomy hours drawn on by the dragons of the night. On that settle sits two lovers in the most profound retirement, just seven feet apart, about to commence their most intimate conversation. The flame of the expiring hearth casts a gleam, fitfully, as the poets say, on the great beam and joists which adorn the top of the room, on the well-scoured pewter, on that dresser, and on the gentle tabby cat which sleeps on a soft holder, in yonder corner; while behind the ancient sofa or settle, lies my carcass, curled up in an old saddle cloth, hardly daring to breathe, descending to the disgraceful station of an eaves-dropper for thy ad
vantage; expecting pleasure from an action for which I ought to have expected a whipping.
The retired lovers sit so long mute, that I began to imagine that courting was like a quaker meeting. At last the gentleman broke the ice; and the following dialogue ensued, which I shall faithfully record.
Robert Crane. Fine weather for fishing.
Aunt Hannah. It is a pity, Sir, you had not improved it for that purpose.
C. I never go a fishing in weeding time. We must finish hoeing the six-acre lot, and then for a sail six leagues below the lighthouse.
Pray, Sir, what do you bait your hooks with? C. Clams, to be sure; sometimes with a piece of red baize; red baize is best for mackerel.
H. And suppose you wanted to catch a lady's heart, what would be your bait?
C. I would come to see her every Tuesday night, and sit with her until the cock crew in the morning. H. And what would you talk about during these precious interviews?
C. Talk! why talk as I have talked to you.
H. Mr. Crane, don't you think there ought to be a sympathy of hearts before one ventures on the indissoluble union?
C. Miss Hannah, what has got into you lately; you talk in such a high-blown style, I cannot follow you. I should think you had swallowed a dictionary.
H. Alas, Mr. Crane, I am afraid I shall never find in you a Grandison.
C. Find in me a grandson! No-nor a grandfather neither. I am just ten years older than you; and you, Miss, are old enough to come to years of discretion. But if you are hinting at any thing, I am willing to be published to-morrow.
H. O odious! hateful! Do you impute such motives to me? No, Sir, I do not think I shall conquer my scruples for these ten years.
C. Ten years!
Ha, ha, ha.
H. Tell me seriously, what led you first to pay your devoirs to me?
H. What led you to solicit my hand?
C. Your hand! I never took your hand in my life.
H. Well, if I must speak plain, what led you to make love to me?
C. Do you mean to ask why I asked you to set up with me?
H. Yes, if we must use such terms.
C. Because mother was dead, and father was growing old, and the cows wanted milking, and the cream wanted churning, and I wanted a wife.
H. O! I am the most wretched creature under heaven. Death or poverty would be infinitely preferable to such an union.
C. What's the matter, Miss Oldbug; does your head ache?
H. No-my heart bleeds.
C. I see the difficulty; it is that foppish stranger that walked home from meeting with you last Sunday. H. Well, Mr. Crane, you and I shall never agree, and perhaps
C. Look ye, Miss Hannah, if so be you are off, I'm off. And- -but-however
Here he started up-took his hat-twisted it for ten minutes in his hand-strided towards the door— kept his hand ten minutes on the latch; and finally tost his hat over his eyes-went out, shutting the door with a clap, just half way between violence and moderation. 'Twas the last time that Robert Crane darkened the door of Hannah Oldbug. Six weeks after he was married to the widow Fowler, whose six children soon became six stout lads to work on his farm.
I have reason to think that my aunt was really sorry when she found her lover actually gone. I heard her say to be sure, good riddance to you, Sir," after he had shut the door; but the speech was followed by a sigh too deep to come from any place but some angle in the heart. For several days after, she was seen to be occasionally in tears; but whether they were drawn from her by Robert Crane or Charles Grandison, was a secret I never knew. Soon after