« AnteriorContinuar »
Stockton. A dead pause.—At length, for all late sittings, whether in Congress or parlours, will have an end, our guest departed.
I usually visited the kitchen before retiring, to observe whether all were safe. For several evenings I found the ashes raked up in a symmetrical mound, the hearth swept clean, the boiler filled and placed upon the trammels, and the dough in its white trough, with its whiter towel, set at a safe distance to rise. "
After Mr. Stockton's departure I went as usual to inspect the premises, leaving the parlour-door open to light the passage. Every thing was quiet, but I fancied that the settle, the back of which was towards me, was too near the fire. In the act of removing it I caught hold of a head of well-greased hair, and heard, though too late, a warning hem!
I screamed, and Edward ran with a light. Lyddy and a young man who sat beside her rose in some confusion, but the maiden soon recovered, and said with great composure,
“I forgot to tell you, ma'am, that I had a
spark. This is Nathan Osgood, Mr. Hill the tailor's 'prentice, a very reputable person.”
I apologized in my turn, and left Mr. Osgood to “smooth his raven darkness.”
There is a tacit agreement in New-England, allowing this midnight intercourse in the best regulated families; families who would raise their hands and eyes at every breach of decorum ; I therefore retired, and left Nathan and Lyddy in undisturbed possession of the settle.
It so chanced, that Lyddy having as little to say in the kitchen as Mr. Stockton in the parlour, the happy couple fell asleep. In the mean time the elements, which pay regard neither to Leanders nor Nathans, were brewing a quiet but potent snow-storm. They formed a regular and sure barricade of snow-flakes through the silent hours of night; a drifting wind bore them against our doors and windows, and settling into a biting northeaster cemented them there ; and when Nathan, stiff from his sitting posture and chilled with cold, awoke at the mechanic's early
hour, he found himself imprisoned by these Alpine banks.
He awoke Lyddy, and called a council of love. The snow-banks reached to the second story over the kitchen. He might have gone out at the front door, but was he a man to leave his Lyddy struggling with the powers of frost ? Not he. With shovel in hand he commenced operations, and in an hour she was able to follow him with a broom, sweeping away the lighter particles, under an arch of snow, to the woodhouse; and in half an hour more he cleared his way to the street, claimed a lover's reward, went home, mounted his week-day clothes, and for six days was as faithful a tailor as he had been lover on the seventh.
I arose at eight, and found snow-patches in every crevice of my windows, a tracery of frostwork on the panes of glass, and the water in the ewer a mass of ice. With chattering teeth and purple fingers I descended to the parlour. It was in perfect order; a cheerful fire blazed on the hearth, and Edward's boots, polished to
the highest, were warming by the fender. The scene in the kitchen was equally auspicious. Lyddy, with as grave a look as though she had never felt la belle passion, stood at the wash-tub (in which she had made far advances), watching the baking cakes. Polly had Fred between her knees, wrapped up in a flannel gown, his scorched face looking like a full moon. She was dexterously keeping her sewing from his mischievous grasp, and persevering in spite of him in her industry. What could rival the comfort of such a home, when, to complete the luxury, Polly with her smiling face brought to the breakfast-table the hot coffee, which, as the poet sings of something else, was
"deep, yet clear,
And all this with the thermometer below zero!
I have not yet mentioned that Lyddy was excessively deaf. Polly used to say “she was as deaf as a haddock." I have sometimes speculated about this New-England phrase, but have not been able to trace its origin, and I do not find that naturalists refer to any peculiar organization of the species which authorizes it.
It was not the fault of my lungs if our neighbours did not know the items of our daily food. I often forgot that others were not deaf, and caught Edward smiling at my trumpet-tongued style. One day in particular, when a stranger was dining with us, I had been unusually occupied in preparing for dinner in the kitchen, and had pitched my voice very high. Quite unconsciously I turned to our guest, and his politeness could scarcely prevent his starting when I screamed, “Allow me to give you a piece of ham, sir."
" Clarissa," said Mr. Packard, greatly amused, si Mr. Stevens is not deaf.”
I was sadly disconcerted, and it was some time before our courteous visiter could bow and smile me into self-possession.
One of the accidents which Lyddy's infirmity caused was particularly provoking, and occurred in the following manner at a fruit-party,