By Wm. L. McClintock
After my sleighride, last winter, and the slippery
trick I was served by Patty Bean, nobody would suspect
me of hankering after the women again in a hurry.
To hear me curse and swear and rail out against the
whole feminine gender, you would have taken it for
granted that I should never so much as look at one
again, to all eternity—O, but I was wicked. "Darn
and blast their eyes"—says I.—"Blame their skins—torment
their hearts and darn them to darnation." Finally
I took an oath and swore that if I ever meddled
or had any dealings with them again (in the sparking
line I mean) I wish I might be hung and choked.
But swearing off from women, and then going into a
meeting house chock full of gals, all shining and glistening
in their Sunday clothes and clean faces, is like
swearing off from liquor and going into a grog shop.
It's all smoke.
I held out and kept firm to my oath for three whole
Sundays. Forenoons, a'ternoons and intermissions complete.
On the fourth, there were strong symptoms of
a change of weather. A chap, about my size was
seen on the way to the meeting house, with a new patent
hat on; his head hung by the ears upon a shirt
collar; his cravat had a pudding in it and branched
out in front, into a double bow knot. He carried a
straight back and a stiff neck, as a man ought to, when
he has his best clothes on; and every time he spit, he
sprung his body forward, like a jack-knife, in order to
shoot clear of the ruffles.
Squire Jones' pew is next but two to mine; and
when I stand up to prayers and take my coat tail under
my arm, and turn my back to the minister, I naturally
look right straight at Sally Jones. Now Sally has got
a face not to be grinned at, in a fog. Indeed, as regards
beauty, some folks think she can pull an even
yoke with Patty Bean. For my part, I think there is
not much boot between them. Any how, they are so
nigh matched that they have hated and despised each
other, like rank poison, ever since they were school-girls.
Squire Jones had got his evening fire on, and set
himself down to reading the great bible, when he heard
a rap at his door. "Walk in.—Well, John, how der
do? Git out, Pompey."—"Pretty well, I thank ye, Squire,
and how do you do?"—"Why, so as to be crawling—ye
ugly beast, will ye hold yer yop—haul up a chair and
set down, John."
"How do you do, Mrs. Jones?" "O, middlin', how's
yer marm? Don't forget the mat, there, Mr. Beedle."
This put me in mind that I had been off soundings
several times, in the long muddy lane; and my boots
were in a sweet pickle.
It was now old Captain Jones' turn, the grandfather.
Being roused from a doze, by the bustle and racket, he
opened both his eyes, at first with wonder and astonishment.
At last he began to halloo so loud that you
might hear him a mile; for he takes it for granted
that every body is just exactly as deaf as he is.
"Who is it? I say, who in the world is it?" Mrs.
Jones going close to his ear, screamed out, "it's Johnny
Beedle."—"Ho—Johnny Beedle. I remember, he
was one summer at the siege of Boston."—"No, no,
father, bless your heart, that was his grandfather, that's
been dead and gone this twenty year."—"Ho,—But
where does he come from?"—"Daown taown."—"Ho.—And
what does he follow for a livin'?"—And he did
not stop asking questions, after this sort, till all the
particulars of the Beedle family were published and
proclaimed in Mrs. Jones' last screech. He then sunk
back into his doze again.
The dog stretched himself before one andiron; the
cat squat down before the other. Silence came on by
degrees, like a calm snow storm, till nothing was heard
but a cricket under the hearth, keeping tune with a
sappy yellow birch forestick. Sally sat up prim, as if
she were pinned to the chair-back; her hands crossed
genteelly upon her lap, and her eyes looking straight
into the fire. Mammy Jones tried to straighten herself
too, and laid her hands across in her lap. But they
would not lay still. It was full twenty-four hours since
they had done any work, and they were out of all
patience with keeping Sunday.—Do what she would to
keep them quiet, they would bounce up, now and then,
and go through the motions, in spite of the fourth commandment.
For my part I sat looking very much
like a fool. The more I tried to say something the
more my tongue stuck fast. I put my right leg over
the left and said "hem." Then I changed, and put
the left leg over the right. It was no use; the silence
kept coming on thicker and thicker. The drops of
sweat began to crawl all over me. I got my eye upon
my hat, hanging on a peg, on the road to the door;
and then I eyed the door. At this moment, the old
Captain, all at once sung out "Johnny Beedle!" It
sounded like a clap of thunder, and I started right up
"Johnny Beedle, you'll never handle sich a drumstick
as your father did, if yer live to the age of Methusaler.
He would toss up his drumstick, and while
it was whirlin' in the air, take off a gill er rum, and
then ketch it as it come down, without losin' a stroke
in the tune. What d'ye think of that, ha? But scull
your chair round, close along side er me, so yer can
hear.—Now, what have you come a'ter?"—"I—a'ter?
O, jest takin' a walk. Pleasant walkin' I guess. I
mean jest to see how ye all do." "Ho.—That's another
lie. You've come a courtin', Johnny Beedle; you're
a'ter our Sal. Say now, d'ye want to marry, or only
This is what I call a choker. Poor Sally made but
one jump and landed in the middle of the kitchen; and
then she skulked in the dark corner, till the old man,
after laughing himself into a whooping cough, was put
Then came apples and cider; and, the ice being
broke, plenty chat with mammy Jones about the minister
and the 'sarmon.' I agreed with her to a nicety,
upon all the points of doctrine; but I had forgot the
text and all the heads of the discourse, but six. Then
she teazed and tormented me to tell who I accounted
the best singer in the gallery, that day. But, mum—there
was no getting that out of me. "Praise to the
face is often disgrace" says I, throwing a sly squint
At last, Mrs. Jones lighted t'other candle; and after
charging Sally to look well to the fire, she led the way
to bed, and the Squire gathered up his shoes and stockings
Sally and I were left sitting a good yard apart, honest
measure. For fear of getting tongue-tied again, I
set right in, with a steady stream of talk. I told her
all the particulars about the weather that was past,
and also made some pretty cute guesses at what it was
like to be in future. At first, I gave a hitch up with
my chair at every full stop. Then growing saucy, I
repeated it at every comma, and semicolon; and at
last, it was hitch, hitch, hitch, and I planted myself fast
by the side of her.
"I swow, Sally, you looked so plaguy handsome to
day, that I wanted to eat you up."—"Pshaw, get along
you," says she. My hand had crept along, somehow,
upon its fingers, and begun to scrape acquaintance with
hers. She sent it home again, with a desperate jerk.
"Try it agin"—no better luck. "Why, Miss Jones
you're gettin' upstropulous, a little old madish, I guess."
"Hands off is fair play, Mr. Beedle."
It is a good sign to find a girl sulkey. I knew
where the shoe pinched. It was that are Patty Bean
business. So I went to work to persuade her that I
had never had any notion after Patty, and to prove it I
fell to running her down at a great rate. Sally could
not help chiming in with me, and I rather guess Miss
Patty suffered a few. I, now, not only got hold of her
hand without opposition, but managed to slip an arm
round her waist. But there was no satisfying me; so
I must go to poking out my lips after a buss. I guess
I rued it. She fetched me a slap in the face that made
me see stars, and my ears rung like a brass kettle for
a quarter of an hour. I was forced to laugh at the
joke, tho' out of the wrong side of my mouth, which
gave my face something the look of a gridiron. The
battle now began in the regular way. "Ah, Sally,
give me a kiss, and ha' done with it, now."—"I won't, so
there, nor tech to."—"I'll take it, whether or no."—"Do it,
if you dare."—And at it we went, rough and tumble.
An odd destruction of starch now commenced. The
bow of my cravat was squat up in half a shake. At
the next bout, smash went shirt collar, and, at the same
time, some of the head fastenings gave way, and down
came Sally's hair in a flood, like a mill dam broke
loose,—carrying away half a dozen combs. One dig
of Sally's elbow, and my blooming ruffles wilted down
to a dish-cloth. But she had no time to boast. Soon
her neck tackling began to shiver. It parted at the
throat, and, whorah, came a whole school of blue and
white beads, scampering and running races every which
way, about the floor.
By the Hokey; if Sally Jones is'nt real grit, there's
no snakes. She fought fair, however, I must own, and
neither tried to bite nor scratch; and when she could
fight no longer, for want of breath, she yielded handsomely.
Her arms fell down by her sides, her head
back over her chair, her eyes closed and there lay her
little plump mouth, all in the air. Lord! did ye ever
see a hawk pounce upon a young robin? Or a bumblebee
upon a clover-top?—I say nothing.
Consarn it, how a buss will crack, of a still frosty
night. Mrs. Jones was about half way between asleep
and awake. "There goes my yeast bottle," says she to
herself—"burst into twenty hundred pieces, and my
bread is all dough agin."
The upshot of the matter is, I fell in love with Sally
Jones, head over ears. Every Sunday night, rain or
shine, finds me rapping at 'Squire Jones' door, and
twenty times have I been within a hair's breadth of
popping the question. But now I have made a final resolve;
and if I live till next Sunday night, and I don't
get choked in the trial, Sally Jones will hear thunder.