Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[graphic]

"Massachu.s

mon, deuced common, for a State talked up so," observed young Mr. Blood to Mr. Thrall, as the two gentlemen ensconced themselves on the top of the Northampton and Amherst stage.

"Before I knew the people I had the same opinion," answered Mr. Thrall, who was an antiquarian in his way, being a member of a very respectable portion of the world who look habitually at what has been, greatly to the neglect of what is to be. "And my creed was once pretty well covered by this exuberant opinion of an Englishman visiting this country, 'New England his- g lory is a rope of two strands—cultured commonness and sanctified superiority.'"

"Yes, and she hung herself on that rope years ago."

"Hung herself by detachments, perhaps, Mr. Blood" (Blood had red hair, and could speak French), "and in a remote sense has hurt her usefulness."

«« And she's been slinging her carcass over the

of the earth ever since." •• Xu*, tut; you do not know her." Vol. XV.—i

Northampton.

"They look down on a fellow on principle down East. Pull a drowning Yankee out of a millpond, and, my word for it, before he thanks you, he will spin a fearful yarn about how resuscitation is done at Cambridge. Talk? I never was on an ocean steamer that I didn't want to hide my head at the raff of boastful Yankees. Their stone fences are better than other people's stone fences, and their pancake beats the world."

"That is a charge general against Americans. We are a boastful nation."

"If a man out in Indian Territory distinguishes himself in agood cause, Concord sublimely calls the attention of Christendom to the fact that his great grandmother lived in New England; but let him fall on a man's throat, and his Puritanism of blood is not mentioned. What do you think, old boy ?''

"I think you can't argue a man out of a position he never was argued into; consequently I won't dispute you, for you are ignorant of your subject. I say, Blood, stop over at Hadley for a week with me and learn something"—

"About pork and bean, breakfasts at candlelight, and tobacco suckering?"

"No; the tobacco business is dying out here."

"On the great moral,"social, politico-religious fact that the Connecticut broad-leaf has gone down in the market?"

"Before the war, the Connecticut tobaccogrower," said Thrall, as he removed his cigarette, "made money. He sold the old farm horses and enstabled fine draught animals in roomy stalls, and added to his church subscription. The strong tobacco plant ate up the richnes of his lands, the draught animals and blooded cattle ate up the fodder, and expensive families ate up his money margin, and everybody borrowed of his neighbor; so when tobacco came down, the first brick that toppled knocked over the whole row. Stay with me a week, and see for yourself."

"Catechismal grannies?"

"More than that."

"Deacon Wrinklepates who pull stumps in the fields, but leave them in their gums to keep the tobacco from slipping out?"

"Better than that."

"Maidens of seventy?"

"Younger and fairer."

"A good deal younger?"

"Twenty years and under. Students of New England history, too."

"The deuce on New England history; can they flirt?"

"Now, Blood, don't! There are ninety thousand maidens of mature years in this State, so it is said"—

But the stage had stopped before the old Hadey post-office, and Blood concluded to alight with his friend—stranger friend, for they had been introduced that morning at Northampton. Thrall promised him entertainment among things strictly quaint and pleasant, it being distinctly understood that no member of the army of ninety thousand could be in any sense quaint or pleasant in Mr. Blood's eyes. When the latter had paid his "two shillings," as he called his twenty-five cent piece, forgetting that the York shilling did not reign over the whole earth, he made inquiries about a hotel, a

commodity which he found to his digust not among the possessions of the rural town of Hadley.

Mr. Blood has thus far in life failed to discover his mission, and, what is sadder, had very little curiosity on the subject. The only son of a doting and leisurely widower, young Blood was trained to satin-lined sofas and embroidered smoking-caps. Doomed to a competence, he travelled, theatred, loafed; and seldom did he retire any wiser than when he sipped his morning coffee. He had twirled his cane on board a Nile steamer, and watched his guide build a campfire in the Black Hills. The fellow-tourist who bothered him about the characteristics of the tribes and peoples he was among, he had a sharp opinion of, and he was knee-deep in the fashionable stream of religious skepticism. It would be difficult to find another being so thoroughly touristified who had not picked up some ambition in his wandering, entertained a business or literary project, planned a brickyard or a book, read, or done something worthy of table talk. His quickness of perception made this indolence the more marked. He was familiar with the blush of ignorant popular notions, especially if they were contrary, as his remarks on New England showed, and his wit and sign-board information made him not an unpleasant companion for a few days' travel at least, provided he felt agreeable.

"How do you fancy the place opposite?" asked Thrall.

"The white house with low gable roof and tumble-down elm?"

"Yes; built in Queen Ann's time."

"And stocked with Queen Ann rats?"

"This belongs to the old Turpord estate, one of the oldest in the village. The original Turpord came up from Connecticut in 1659 and built on that very spot, and it has never been out of the family."

"Interesting," Blood blandly remarked; "consequently they give good board?" • "We can find out by trying."

"Has the Turpord estate a daughter?"

"It has—aged thirty-one years."

"Let's try another place."

"The daughter has a cousin of more tender years."

"'Twill do no harm to ask for rooms, you know," said Blood, solemnly.

The house in question was a white, old-fashioned typical New England mansion, with narrow clapboards and small window panes. The oaken frame had hardened with a century and a half of good usage, and would take off the edge of the keenest carpenter'sraetal. The venerable elms had shaded many a gentleman in small clothes, and many a negro slave hut. A well-turfed yard,ample and elm-shaded, will lend even tu an ordinary building an air of importance, almost sacredness, and when there are added veritable accounts of former opulent tenants, courtly guests, ceremonious banquets, large flip-mugs and small teacups, wigs with powder, pumps and p o m p adours, then we attain to one of the necessary features in a genuine his

ric New Eng

id homestead, where each gooseberry bush has individual importance, and where every stick rolling-stone possesses a distinct dignity.

[graphic]

"High-toned," said Blood, under his mustache, as a stately and somewhat aristocratic colored aunty responded to the sharp rap of the ancient knocker, and waited for the gentlemen to state their case.

[graphic]

"Is Miss Turpord in?" asked the modest Mr. Thrall, antiquarian.

"Yes," answered aunty, backing against the wall of the narrow hall, by way of African invitation to come in and be entertained. The gentlemen huddled themselves into the contracted hall and passed to the right into a parlor sitting-room, large, low and close. When Blood plunged his nose into the air of the unventilated room, he muttered to his friend, "Quaint; also stale."

Although not being given to running his legs off for information, he certainly had a hawk eye for things within his radius; and, observing the very anxious countenance of Mr. Thrall, he said, bluntly:

"Thrall, you're flirting."

"Believe me, I'm not," and he embarrassingly examined the huge fireplace, now boarded up and modernized with paint. In the southeast corner was a buffet cupboard filled with Stafford chinaware. There were on the walls an old oil-painting of a courtier in a wig and an engraving of a gentleman in a gig. Tall chairs, straight and square, a coat-of-arms indicating that the ancestral owner did bear a lion rampant, and cushions ornamented with ancient embroidery, were all witnesses of another age and different people.

When Miss Aggie Turpord appeared from the hall, Mr. Thrall arose and handed her a letter, remarking that it was a note of introduction from Major Simpson, and that he and his friend, Mr. Blood, were looking for rooms.

"You will allow us to apologize," he continued, "in asking for quarters in this house, but the major insisted that I should know you, since you took such an interest in antiquarian matters. I'm a bird of the same feather."

"Be seated, gentlemen," said Miss Turpord, easily. "You seek a teacher as well as a host."

Mr. Blood's mouth was lined with a smile. A New England maiden knew when she had been asked too much, at any rate.

"Well, yes," stammered Thrall, looking out of the window, "the major has brought this upon me."

"We do not keep boarders; we entertain."

This proud remark fell easily from her lips, as though it was accustomed to such tumbles. She not only had belief in her family, but she felt its

nobility. She was winningly distant and courteous. She never sought; her family had new sought. Miss Turpord's brilliant black h»irws made doubly black and glossy in contrast to het clear, light complexion; and, what is more remarkable, her mirror had not told her half the truth about her beauty, and she displayed her graces with masterly innocence.

Miss Turpord greatly lamented the sad decaydence of family and home feeling among the people of to-day. According to her notioni, democratic commonness was ruining the young men by destroying in them a due reverence for ancestry, blood, and household gods. When siiteen (and tolerably sweet she was at sixteen) she had received a proposal from a son of the soil; but she rejected him instanter, because, forsooth, his grandfather owed that sort of allegiance to England which comes from being born in Cork "It will never do," she is reported to have said to her lover. As time passed on, it became appi rent to the heiress of the Turpord estate thu suitors having good antecedents were not as Dimerous as rails in a New England fence, and that young men of unmixed blood were positive!/ scarce. This only confirmed her in the opinion that the world was fast going to smash, and that it was her duty to see that the Turpords remain faithful to the end. She had been heard to say, "When I give my hand I shall reach up, and not down." Whatever may have been the cause of her singleness, it is certain that during the next decade and more her hand was altogether too high to be reached from the ground by any local low.

Contrary to the expectation of the gentlemen applicants for rooms, an invitation was warmly extended to remain her guests for a week, and At afternoon and evening passed by uneventfully.

At seven in the morning the guests of the Twpords were not up; for what reason is there in playing the rooster and bantering the sun for »« rising until after daybreak?

"Oh, such a fearful bed!" groaned the «*4 headed Mr. Blood. "My word for it. it hasn't been made up for a hundred years."

"Old boy, these high-posted beds are hiitow. Washington died on one like this."

"Don't blame him! It's nearly killed at Deuced shame to ask a feller to sleep on a boirtl What sword is that on the wall? She called thfertt general's chamber, didn't she? General who?"

"Turpord."

"Now, Thrall, a man never turns such an unconcerned countenance on a girl as you did yesterday, and mean nothing. She ought not to be living for her grandfather at this time of life, and you know it, eh?"

Al did not answer; and Blood, while dressing, had his thoughts as he gazed at a couple of old colored prints, called "The Lovers' Quarrel" and "The Reconciliation." In picture No. i the feed lot were stretching up their loogitudinous necks in individual wrath, and were c u r 1 i n g their ample and wellrubicunded lips; while in No. 2, some years having elapsed, the situation was as follows: On his right was an eight-yearold, on his left a seven-year-old, on his lap a six-year-old, at his feet a five-yearold; four, three, and two-year-olds were hanging to their mo ther's skirts, while a baby was where it is proper for a baby to be.

"Moral," said Young Blood, combing his thin red locks over a somewhat blunted pate; "don't quarrel with your sweetheart toric?"

[graphic]

1 Early Risers Are Usually Systematic Boasters."

Is the picture his

"Perfectly so; I shall not quarrel with my sweetheart until I get one."

« AnteriorContinuar »