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Oh! you 're lookin' for a wash-dish, a' n't ye !' and forthwith put some water into a little iron skillet, and carried it out to a bench which stood under the eaves, where I performed my very limited ablutions al fresco, not at all pleased with this part of country habits.
“I bethought me of a story I had heard before we crossed the line, of a gentleman travelling in Michigan, who, instead of a 'wash-dish,' was directed to the spring, and when he requested a towel received for answer ; Why, I should think you had a hankercher !'
“ After breakfast, I expressed a wish to accompany Mr. Clavers to the village tract'; but he thought a very bad marsh would make the ride unpleasant.
"Lord bless ye !' said Mr. Danforth, that mash has got a real handsome bridge over it since you was here last.'
“So we set out in the buggy, and rode several miles through an alternation of open glades, with fine walnut trees scattered over them, and 'bosky dells,' fragrant as 'Araby the blest,' at that delicious hour, when the dews filled the air with the scent of the bursting leaves.
“By and by, we came to the 'beautiful bridge,' a newlylaid causeway of large round logs, with a Slough of Despond to be crossed, in order to reach it. I would not consent to turn back, however, and in we went, the buggy standing it most commendably. When we reached the first log, our poor Rozinante stopped in utter despair, and some persuasion was necessary to induce him to rear high enough to place his fore feet upon the bridge, and when he accomplished this feat, and after a rest essayed to make the buggy rear too, it was neck or nothing. Yet up we went, and then came the severe part of the achievement, a ' beautiful bridge' half a mile long !
“Half a rod was enough for me, I cried for quarter, and was permitted to pick my way over its slippery eminences, to the utter annihilation of a pair of Lane's shoes.”.
The following passage is to us a new chapter in the history of habits in the West.
“When Angeline left me, which she did after a few days, I was obliged to employ Mrs. Jennings to 'chore round,' to borrow her own expression ; and, as Mr. Clavers was absent much of the time, I had the full enjoyment of her delectable society with that of her husband and two children, who often came to meals very sociably, and made themselves at home with small urgency on my part. The good lady's habits required strong green tea at least three times a day ; and between these three times she drank the remains of the tea from
-pp. 16 – 20.
the spout of the tea-pot, saying, “It tasted better so.' 'If she had n't it,' she said, she had the 'sterics so that she was n't able to do a chore.' And her habits were equally imperious in the matter of dipping with her own spoon or knife into every dish on the table. She would have made out nobly on kibaubs, for even that unwieldy morsel, a boiled ham, she grasped by the hock, and cut off in mouthfuls with her knife, declining all aid from the carver, and saying coolly, that she made out very well. It was in vain any one offered her any thing, she replied invariably with a dignified nod ; 'I 'll help myself, I thank ye. I never want no waitin' on.' And this reply is the universal one on such occasions, as I have since had vexatious occasion to observe.
“Let no one read with an incredulous shake of the head, but rather l'ét my sketch of these peculiar habits of my neighbours be considered as a mere beginning, a shadow of what might be told. I might
'amaze, indeed, The very faculty of eyes and ears,' but I forbear.
“If 'grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,' -- thinking it would be far better to starve than to eat under such circumstances, I can only say, such was not my hungry view of the case ; and that I often found rather amusing exercise for my ingenuity in contriving excuses and plans to get the old lady to enjoy her meals alone. To have offered her outright a separate table, though the board should groan with all the delicacies of the city, would have been to secure myself the unenviable privilege of doing my own 'chores,' at least till I could procure a 'help' from some distance beyond the reach of my friend Mrs. Jennings's tongue.
“ It did not require a very long residence in Michigan, to convince me, that it is unwise to attempt to stem directly the current of society, even in the wilderness; but I have since learned many ways of wearing round, which give me the opportunity of living very much after my own fashion, without offending, very seriously, anybody's prejudices.” — pp. 87, 88.
Further on is related an incident in a young lady's experience, which is not very common in the less heroic circles of the older setilements.
“I had the pleasure of receiving, early in the month of September, a visit from a young city friend, a charming, lively girl, who unaffectedly enjoyed the pleasures of the country, and whose taste for long walks and rides was insatiable. 'I curtained off, with the unfailing cotton sheets, a snow-white bower for her in the loft, and spread a piece of carpeting, a relic of former magnificence, over the loose boards that served for a floor. The foot square window was shaded by a pink curtain, and a bed-side chair and a candle-stand completed a sleeping-apartment, which she declared was perfectly delightful.
“So smoothly flowed our days during that charming visit, that I had begun to fear my fair guest would be obliged to return to - without a single adventure worth telling, when one morning, as we sat sewing, Arthur ran in with a prodigious snake-story, to which, though we were at first disposed to pay no attention, we were at length obliged to listen.
"A most beautiful snake,' he declared, ‘was coming up to the back door.'
"To the back door we ran ; and there, to be sure, was a large rattle-snake, or massasauga, lazily winding its course towards the house, Alice standing still to admire it, too ignorant to fear.
“My young friend snatched up a long switch, whose ordinary office was to warn the chickens from the dinner-table, and struck at the reptile, which was not three feet from the door. It reared its head at once, made several attempts to strike, or spring, as it is called here, though it never really springs. Fanny continued to strike ; and at length the snake turned for flight, not, however, without a battle of at least two minutes.
“. Here's the axe, cousin Fanny,' said Arthur, don't let him run away!' and while poor I stood in silent terror, the brave girl followed, struck once ineffectually, and with another blow divided the snake, whose writhings turned to the sun as many hues as the windings of Broadway on a spring morning, - and Fanny was a heroine.
" It is my opinion, that, next to having a cougar spring at one, the absolute killing of a rattle-snake is peculiarly appropriate to constitute a Michigan heroine ; — and the cream of my snake-story is, that it might be sworn to chapter and verse, before the nearest justice. What cougar story can say as much ?
“But the nobler part of the snake ran away with far more celerity than it had displayed while it could a tail unfold,' and we exalted the coda to a high station on the logs at the corner of the house, - for fear none of the scornful sex would credit our prowess.
pp. 99 - 101. If our next extract is rather long, it is good enough to compensate for that fault.
“Mother wants your sister,' said Miss Ianthe Howard, a young lady of six years' standing, attired in a tattered calico, thickened with dirt ; her unkempt locks struggling from under that hideous substitute for a bonnet, so universal in the west ern country, a dirty cotton handkerchief, which is used, ad nauseam, for all sorts of purposes.
""Mother wants your sifter, and she says she guesses you can let her have some sugar and tea, 'cause you've got plenty.'
• This excellent reason, ''cause you ’ve got plenty,' is conclusive as to sharing with your neighbours. Whoever comes into Michigan with nothing, will be sure to better his condition ; but woe to him that brings with him any thing like an appearance of abundance, whether of money, or mere household conveniences. To have them, and not be willing to share them in some sort with the whole community, is an unpardonable crime. You must lend your best horse to qui que ce soit, to go ten miles over hill and marsh, in the darkest night, for a doctor; or your team to travel twenty after a 'gal'; your wheel-barrows, your shovels, your utensils of all sorts, belong, not to yourself, but to the public, who do not think it necessary even to ask a loan, but take it for granted. The two saddles and bridles of Montacute spend most of their time in travelling from house to house a-manback; and I have actually known a stray martingale to be traced to four dwellings two miles apart, having been lent from one to another, without a word to the original proprietor, who sat waiting, not very patiently, to commence a journey.
“Then, within doors, an inventory of your plenishing of all sorts would scarcely more than include the articles which you are solicited to lend. Not only are all kitchen utensils as much your neighbours' as your own, but bedsteads, beds, blankets, sheets, travel from house to house, a pleasant and effectual mode of securing the perpetuity of certain efflorescent peculiarities of the skin, for which Michigan is becoming almost as famous as the land • 'twixt Maidenkirk and John o' Groat's.' Sieves, smoothing-irons, and churns run about as if they had legs ; one brass kettle is enough for a whole neighbourhood ; and I could point to a cradle which has rocked half the babies in Montacute. For my own part, I have lent my broom, my thread, my tape, my spoons, my cat, my thimble, my scissors, my shawl, my shoes; and have been asked for my combs and brushes ; and my husband, for his shaving apparatus and his pantaloons.
“ But the cream of the joke lies in the manner of the thing. It is so straight-forward and honest, none of your hypocritical civility and servile gratitude! Your true republican, when he
finds that you possess any thing which would contribute to his convenience, walks in with,' Are you going to use your horses to-day?' if horses happen to be the thing he needs.
Yes, I shall probably want them.' "Oh, well ; if you want them, I was thinking to get 'em to go up north a piece.'
“ Or perhaps the desired article comes within the female department.
"Mother wants to get some butter ; that 'ere butter you bought of Miss Barton this mornin'.'
" And away goes your golden store, to be repaid, perhaps, with some cheesy, greasy stuff, brought in a dirty pail, with • Here's your butter.'
A girl came in to borrow a 'wash-dish,'' because we 've got company.' Presently she came back ; 'Mother says you ’ve forgot to send a towel.'
"The pen, and ink, and a sheet o' paper, and a wafer,' is no unusual request ; and when the pen is returned, you are generally informed, that you sent'an awful bad pen.'
“ I have been frequently reminded of one of Johnson's humorous sketches.
A man returning a broken wheel-barrow to a Quaker, with 'Here, I 've broke your rotten wheel-barrow, usin' on 't. I wish you 'd get it mended right off, 'cause I want to borrow it again this afternoon.' The Quaker is made to reply, ' Friend, it shall be done ;' and I wish I possessed more of his spirit.
“ But I did not intend to write a chapter on involuntary loans ; I have a story to tell.
“One of my best neighbours is Mr. Philo Doubleday, a long, awkward, honest, hard-working Maine-man, or Mainote, I suppose one might say ; so good-natured, that he might be mistaken for a simpleton ; but that must be by those that do not know him. He is quite an old settler, came in four years ago, bringing with him a wife, who is to him as vinegar-bottle to oil-cruet, or as mustard to the sugar, which is used to soften its biting qualities. Mrs. Doubleday has the sharpest eyes, the sharpest nose, the sharpest tongue, the sharpest elbows, and, above all, the sharpest voice, that ever penetrated the interior of Michigan. She has a tall, straight, bony figure, in contour somewhat resembling two hard-oak planks fastened together and stood on end ; and, strange to say! she was full five-and-thirty when her mature graces attracted the eye and won the affections of the worthy Philo. What eclipse had come over Mr. Doubleday's usual sagacity, when he made choice of his Polly, I am sure I never could guess ; but he is