COURTSHIP

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 an eend.

"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 to court?"

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 to bed.

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 Sally.

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 and followed.

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.