The Loves of Habakkuk Bull wrinkle, Gentleman

by Anonymous

About six-and-twenty years ago, a middle-aged North-country attorney, somewhat above five feet eight inches in height, but immeasurably corpulent, with an old-fashioned calf, mottled eyes, and a handsome nose, settled in a large and uncivilized village in the West of England. The manners of the inhabitants were rude and outrageous; their names, customs, frolics, and language, were such as Habakkuk Bull wrinkle had never before been accustomed unto. They cracked many a heart-piercing joke on his portly person; laughed at his ineffectual attempts to compete with the veriest youngsters in the village, at wrestling, or cudgel-playing; rejoiced heartily when he suffered a cracked pate, or an unexpected back-fall; and never employed him in the way of his profession. He could have borne all his misfortunes with decency but the last;—that irked him beyond measure; and he did not scruple to upbraid those who deigned to drink out of his cup, with their folly and villanous prejudice, in measuring a man's wit by his skill at gymnastics, and exclusively patronizing a couple of rascally pettifoggers in the vicinity, whose only merit consisted in their hard pates, and dexterity in breaking the skulls of their clients. The villagers waited with patience until Habakkuk's lecture and strong drink were finished, promised to reform, heartily wished him success in his trade, fell to loggerheads on their way home, and the next morning went for redress to the aforesaid pettifoggers, who fleeced them to their hearts' content for several lingering months, and then mutually advised their employers to settle the matter over a goodly feast.

Habakkuk Bullwrinkle inwardly moaned at the luck of his fellow-priests of the syren, but lost none of his flesh. His affairs, at length, grew desperate. He had been skipping over the land, after the fickle jade Fortune, for many a weary year; but the coy creature continually evaded his eager clutch. What was to be done?—His finances were drooping, his spirits jaded, his temper soured, and his appetite for the good things of this world, as keen and clamorous as ever. He had tried every plan his imagination could devise to win over the rustics, but without effect He was just about to decamp clandestinely, and in despair, when, all at once, he recollected that he was a bachelor! His hopes rose at the thought "How strange it is!" said he, unconsciously snapping his fingers with delight, "that the idea of marrying one of these charming rosy-skinned lasses, who are continually flitting about me, should never have entered my caput before! The whole village is one immense family,—a batch of uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, and relations of every intermediate degree, from one to a hundred. If I can but weave myself into this web of consanguinity, my future ease and fortune are certain. They will stand by one of their own kin, let him he ever so distantly related, to the very last. By the laws! it's an excellent project!—I've a warm heart, a winning way, and great choice; so I'll even cast my eye about for a convenient helpmate; eat, drink, and be merry again."

Reader, these were my thoughts, at the latter end of the year 1803; for I am the identical Habakkuk Bull wrinkle above-mentioned. Pursuant to my resolution, I began to wheedle myself into the good graces of the girls. I often met with a very tolerable reception, considering all things, and had many times nearly compassed the object of my hopes, when the demon disappointment, in the semblance of a clod-hopper,'yclept Andrew Skelpie,—walked in to dash the cup of happiness from my lips. I never attempted to kiss a lass behind a hay-mow, or an old tree, but what this fellow would thrust his ugly phiz between me and the sweet pair of lips I was longing to salute! If ever I made an appointment to meet a farmer's daughter, and prattle away an hour or two with her, unseen by all, Skelpie and she were generally linked lovingly, arm in arm together, on my arrival.

The first time I ever beheld this destroyer of my peace, was at a village revel. I shall never forget the manner in which he rose from the grass on which he had been drowsily lolloping, and looked out through his half-closed eyelids, at the efforts of the backsword players on the sward. He was called upon to enter the ring with a fellow about his own height, but more fleshy and comely-looking by half,—being precisely what middle-aged good-wives term "a portly figure of a man," and very much to my liking. Skelpie got up from the cool turf, one joint at a time, and made his way into the circle, by one of the most extravagant and ludicrous paces I ever beheld: it was between the ungainly toddle of an ox, and the loose-jointed motion of a drunken, staggering stripling. The portly fellow was a stranger from a neighbouring county, who valued himself on his prowess at single-stick; he had already peeled the bark off a brace of noses, and the greyheaded rustics, who encompassed the scene of action and glory, trembled for the honour of their native village. An immense shout of applause greeted Skelpie's appearance; for, in him, it was well known, the champion of Wedmore himself would find a redoubtable opponent. He surveyed his adversary with a confident and most provoking glance, accompanied with an upturning of the higher lip, and a smack of his horny fingers, that sounded like the crack of a waggoner's whip. He coolly selected a stick, screwed it into his hand-guard, padded his elbows, gave one stentorian 'hem!' and then—I never beheld such a mutation in my life!—his eyes flew open, his lips clenched, every muscle in his body was instantly awakened, every limb was in active and most turbulent motion: he hit at his opponent's head, with a velocity that, to me, seemed supernatural; I heard a continual and most merry peal of blows rattling about the sconce of the portly stranger, but I could scarcely detect a single motion of the stick. The skin was tough—particularly tough? and, for some time, defied Skelpie's sturdy thwacks. At the close of the vigorous bout he looked amazed, muttered a curse on his ineffective weapon, and was just about to begin again, when, observing something suspicious about the closed mouth of his adversary, he put forth his hand, and parted the swollen lips of the stranger, from whose mouth a stream of blood immediately gushed. The comely man afterwards acknowledged, that he had received a cut under his lip at the beginning of the play, but had sedulously sucked in the blood, and swallowed it, hoping to crack Skelpie's pate before it would be discovered. At this fine old English sport, he who draws from his adversary's head sufficient blood to stain muslin, is proclaimed the victor. Skelpie afterwards threw half-a-dozen sturdy fellows at wrestling, and bore off the prizes at the village games, as he had frequently done on previous occasions. He was by no means handsome in face, fairly spoken, well-made, or merry;—the simple wenches idolized the dog for his prowess. He was capricious and false, but they seemed to like him the better. Each, in her turn, hoped to fix the rover, excite the envy of her predecessors in his affections, and bear off the palm, where they had ingloriously failed. He took no trouble to gain their love, and they unanimously doated on him. I often longed to see him get a good thrashing, and many times felt strongly impelled to fall on him myself; but a whole flood of fears and forebodings, invariably drowned the few sparks of courage and vigour in my breast, and I laudably forebore.

My love-suits were innumerable; but although they usually began and went on auspiciously, Skelpie never failed to beat me off the field in the end. The dog seemed to be unconscious of the mischief he made, and that irritated my spirit in a tenfold degree. He seemed to bear no malice against me, and many times rendered me an essential piece of service. I shall never forget the night when he clutched me by the cheek, and pulled me out of a flood-swollen brook, when I was at my last gasp, and then abused and threatened to bethwack me for being such a fool, and giving him the trouble of wading chin-deep to save me. My intellect, on this occasion, was befogged with the fumes of stout October, and I knew not where I went.

It would be tedious to narrate the whole of my adventures during the year which I spent in seeking out a wife; I shall content myself with particularizing what befel me in the pursuit of the four last objects of my love. And, first, let me introduce Ruth,—Ruth Grobstock, the daughter of a rough miller, who resided on a hill about a mile to the left of the village. I secretly wooed her about a month, undisturbed by any mortal; I thought I was sure of her, and began to concert measures for obtaining a dignified introduction to her daddy, the miller.

One evening, after having ruminated for many hours on Ruth's attractions, I determined to roam up to the mill, which I had never before visited,—having hitherto carried on my love-suit with Ruth away from her home, at meetings which were too frequent to be altogether accidental. While I loitered about the mill, pondering on the best mode of drawing out Ruth,—for she had no reason to expect me,—the moon suddenly gleamed full upon me, through an opening in the oak tree which stretched its huge boughs over the white cottage in which the miller dwelt; and methought there was something similar to the malicious smile of an arch woman, when intent upon a prank, gleaming on her sparkling face; her unnecessary glances, as she seemed to peep through the tree, for the express purpose of betraying me to observation, threw me into a panic. I had heard of old Grobstock's moods and manners, and I feared him. I felt sure of a kind and endearing reception from Ruth, although 1 came altogether uninvited and unawares; but I fancied for a moment that I heard her father's flails whistling about my ears, and felt the teeth of his tykes rioting in my fat My pulse throbbed audibly; and I was on the point of again making my way into the wood that clothed the hill-side, when a multitude of clouds, which had been gradually hemming in the light of the moon, suddenly stretched over her face, and relieved my terrors by screening me from her afflicting glances. I rejoiced, and waxed courageous and young in heart again. The curtains of the best room in the little cottage were negligently drawn, and I had the satisfaction, after sundry leaps, of getting a glimpse of Ruth's little and exquisite foot, as it danced up and down before the blaze of a chirruping fire, which sparkled on the broad hearth. A gentle tap at the window set her on her legs in a moment, and before I could reach the door, she was there with an outstretched hand, and a pair of warm, ripe, ruddy lips, pouting forth to greet me. This was delicious!—The friendly clouds were still sheltering me from the moon's eye; Ruth stepped forth, and we stood close at the foot of the old oak, in the most impervious and delightful darkness imaginable. I was mute with delight, but my happy-hearted, loving little damsel's speech, after a few moments of silence, gradually began to thaw, and at length, overwhelmed me with a torrent of words:—"Oh! I am so glad you are come," quoth she; "if you had not, we should not have had a moment's talk together for the week. Daddy's gone out; but to-morrow evening, and the next, he means to stop at home, and get drunk; and, although his over-night's promises in other affairs melt like mists in the morning sun, and are quite forgotten by mid-day, yet, when he says he shall get drunk, he always backs it wi' an oath, and then makes it a matter of conscience religiously to keep his word; so that, you see, my dear Skelpie—"

I was struck all of a heap!—The purport of her subsequent discourse palpably proved, that she had mistaken me, in the dark, for the eternal and never-failing Skelpie. Her lips once more approached mine; I was foaming with rage and disappointment; my hand had shrunk from her grasp, as from the touch of an adder, the instant the detested name of Skelpie escaped from her lips; I had already taken in a mighty draught of breath, intending to shower a whole volley of curses on her and Skelpie, together,—when I suddenly experienced a shock, that deprived me of all sort of sensation in an instant. How long I lay in a death-like state I cannot conceive; but I remember well enough, that when I awoke from my lethargy, trance, fit, or whatever it was, I found myself most painfully compressed in an aperture of the oak tree, through which the children were wont to enter into its hollow trunk. The moon was out in all her glory again, and her light fell upon the white brow of Ruth, and the grey jacket of the lean, and, by me, abhorred Skelpie. Yes, there he was, twining endearingly round the sylph-like form of the false maid, who seemed to feel a pleasure in his embraces, which, to me, appeared altogether unaccountable. It was plain, from their talk, that they did not conceive I was within hearing. I would fain have persuaded myself that I was dreaming, but my endeavours were ineffectual; the rugged edges of the aperture insinuated themselves into my sides, and pained me dreadfully. Did Skelpie strike me? thought I; and does he imagine that I rolled down the declivity, from the force of the blow, and am now weltering in the ditch at its foot?—Truly, it was a most tremendous assault; and his conclusion of the effect, judging from the force of the cause, would be far from unreasonable. My case was forlorn in the extreme: my head, and one of my arms, were in the trunk of the tree; I was fixed in a most uneasy, slanting position; and my feet were so placed on the outside, that the moon threatened every minute to reveal them. I would have given the world to be even floundering in the mire of the ditch, or anywhere else, out of the reach of Skelpie's fist I was almost suffocated, and did not dare to breathe louder than a listening roe: a sigh or groan would in some degree have eased my pangs; but the sight of Skelpie, prevented me from indulging in the consolation of the most wretched.

At length, a loud halloo announced the approach of old Grobstock. Skelpie instantly intimated his intention of decamping, but the vile maid desired him to clamber up the oak, and hide amongst its branches, until her daddy went to bed. Here was a terrific request!—"I won't go into the hollow," quoth he; "'cause the zuzpicious ould jakes do always pry into there, avore a' do goa to bed." I took the cuff of my coat between my teeth, and resolutely prepared for the worst;—but Skelpie ascended the other side of the tree. He had scarcely broken off the prolonged salute of the kissing Ruth, when old Roger Grobstock, drunk, and growling, staggered up to the door. "Eh! what, lassie—wench! out and abroad at this time of night!" cried he, as Ruth tripped up towards him. "Ahey! what, vlaunting and trapesing about the whoam-stead wi' some vellow, I'll warrant! Odd! I'll verret un out; only bide a bit, I'll be about un. I be downcast vor want of a frolic to-night; so, ecod! lass, I'll duck the lad avore I goes to bed, just vor a bit of a joke like,—all in good vellowship,—but, icod! I'll duck un, if he's a friend; and if he is a stranger,—dost hear, wench?—I'll drash un wi' the flail, just like a whate-sheaf."

Every word of his speech was equal to a blow: I struggled to get free with all my might; I had succeeded so far as to raise myself upright, when the miller, who had entered the house at the conclusion of his threat, re-appeared at the door with a flaming brand from the hearth in one hand, and a tremendous dung-fork in the other. He staggered directly close up to the tree; but the sight of my out-jutting stomach, and alarmed visage, made him retreat a few paces. He thrust out the burning stick so near my face, that it scorched my cheek; and after surveying my disconsolate and rueful deportment for a minute or more, he grounded his weapon, and accosted me in these words: "Why, thee bee'st a purty vellur, beesen't?—And where did'st come vrom—and who bee'st? Art thee a thief, or—but, noa, it can't be,—thee bee'st never come to court our Ruth, bee'st?—speak, twoad, or I'll vork tha!"

There was Ruth, looking over her father's shoulder, evidently alarmed at my appearance; Skelpie's heels were dangling over my head; the pronged fork was close to my waistcoat; I stared in the face of the old man, unable to utter a word, but sweating like a baited bull, and plainly expressing my fears by my woebegone and pallid countenance. I expected some dire punishment for my silence; but old Grobstock, after surveying me for a minute, to my great surprise, burst into a loud laugh, seized my trembling hand, and, with one vigorous effort, pulled me out of my imprisonment. After dragging me, helpless as I was, into the house, and placing me in a chair by the fire-side, he thrust a mug of cider and brandy into my hand, chuckling out, "Why, zooks! chap, how vrighted thee looks!—drink!" Here was a change!

By degrees I summoned up courage: the miller made me drink stoutly of his good liquor; and, more than once, seized the dung-fork, and placing himself in a threatening attitude, thrust the points of it close to my breast, in order to make me look frightened again, and amuse him. I was twenty times on the point of revealing the whole affair, but a single look of Ruth's eloquent eye froze the words on my lips.

After an hour's laughter, interrupted only by gaspings for breath, and frequent applications to the jug, my old host gave me a broad hint to depart; and after civilly opening the door, and wishing me a hearty good night, gave me a most grievous kick, that sent me galloping down the hill, and betook himself to laughing as heartily as before. I never courted young Ruth of the mill again.

My next love was the pale, down-looking, modest Ally Budd, the niece of that boisterous old harridan, Hester Caddlefurrow; whose name was a hushing-word to the crying urchins for many miles around; they feared her more than Raw-head-and-bloody-bones, the wide-mouthed Bogle, or even the great Bullyboo himself. The lads of the village generally preferred the more hale and ruddy wenches in the vicinity; Ally was not roystering enough for them; she had no capacity to feel and enjoy their rude merriment, or rough frolics; and few suitors doffed the cap of courtship at old Hetty Caddlefurrow's threshold. But Ally was, indeed, a beauty. Her youthful companions and neighbours saw nothing extraordinary in her calm, dove-like eye; but to me, it looked like the surface of a smooth lake, in the still moonlight, with a delicious heaven of love smiling in its blue depths. I met her several times, at a distance from her home, and made her acquainted with my growing passion; but she always chilled my ardour by a ceremonious reference to her austere and masculine aunt. I laid these evasive receptions of my proffered affection to the credit of her modesty, and loved her the better for them. I used to hover about on the tops of the hills which overlooked her abode, watching for the moment when my young dove would glide forth from the thatched cot, that nestled among the trees beneath me, with a feverish anxiety that I never felt on any other occasion in my life. She neither seemed to shun or court my company; but came forth, smiling, and fearless of evil, like the white star of the evening, in the soft summer's gloaming. The presence of other women, with whom I have been in love, has usually thrown me into a turbulent fever; but Ally Budd's pale, beautiful face, soft eyes, and gentle voice, had a calm and soothing influence on my spirit Her words fell like oil, even on the stormy tide of her aunt's rough passions; whose ire she could quell at will, and oftentimes saved the offending clowns in the old woman's employ from an elaborate cuffing. In this exercise, Hester was said to excel any man in the parish: she had a violent predilection for thwacking, or, to use her own expression, lecturing, her domestics for every trivial offence; and nothing but the high wages which she gave, induced the rustic labourers to remain in her service. I was one evening sauntering round the summit of the hill which immediately looked down upon Hester's house, occasionally stealing a glance from the pathway into the wood towards the rich glories of the declining sun, when a rude hand clutched me by the collar behind, and, in a moment, pulled me backwards into an immense wheelbarrow. The gigantic villain who had performed this daring feat, directly placed himself between the handles of the vehicle, and vigorously trundled it down the hill. I was seated, or rather, self-wedged in the barrow, with my legs painfully dangling over the rim, on each side of the wheel: the velocity, with which we descended the steep and rugged declivity, deprived me of all power; the fellow panted and laughed, pushing on with increased vigour, until we came in sight of the wide-gaping door of old Hester's kitchen. His fellow-labourers, who were seated at the porch, immediately rose at the sight of our novel equipage.—Confound the rascal! he was a most experienced ploughman, and deemed this a fair opportunity of shewing his great rectilinear skill, and obtaining the applause of his fellows, by driving me at full speed through the door-way of the house. It stood exactly at the foot of the steepest part of the hill; and, from the tremendous rate at which we travelled, the downfall of the whole edifice seemed inevitable! My senses, which had partially taken leave of me in the course of the descent, returned just as we arrived within a few yards of our destination; I uttered one shriek, desperately closed my eyes, and gave myself up for a buried man.

The next moment I found my body, safe and unhurt, on the hearth of Dame Caddlefurrow's kitchen. There was the dame, seated in her bee-hive chair, staring with surprise, impatience, and anger, at my worship in the barrow. As soon as the clown recovered his lost breath, he proceeded to an explanation of the cause of his introducing such an unsightly and unknown personage as me to her goodly presence. "I ha; zeed the chap," quoth he, elevating the handles of his wheelbarrow to the top of his shoulders, so as to afford the dame a full view of my person; "I ha' zeed the chap scaures and scaures o' times, skulking about the hill, always and vor ever just about night-vall, when 1 do goa a-voddering the beasts; zo, thinks I, thic jockey bean't loitering about here zo often wi' any good plan in his noddle: moorauver, I ha' zeed un, coming athirt the vields ov a night, just avore harvest, treading down whole zheaves o' wheat at a voot-vall:—that nettled I more nor all; zo I looked out vor un to-night, zlipped un into the dung-barry, walked un down the hill-zide, and drove un through the ould porch ztraight as a vurrow:—zo here a' is, and let un gi'e a'count ov hi'zelf."

"Ay, let un give an account of himself," said the sturdy dame; "Who bee'st,'oesbert?"—To say that I was at the point of dissolution, were needless. I began to mutter a few incoherent sentences, when one of the fellows at the door cried out, "He's Habby Bullwrinkle, the devil's-bird, down in the village."

"A lawyer!" shouted Mistress Caddlefurrow, in a tone that doomed me, in perspective, to all the horrors of the horse-pond;—"Why, thou bloated raven! thou—"

"Zober—zober, mother," whispered a voice behind me; and a hand, at the same time, quietly put the enraged widow back towards her bee-hive; "bide a bit; only bide a bit; hearken to reason." I extricated myself from the barrow, and looked up to see who my protecting angel could possibly be; it was no other than Skelpie. "This gentleman's my vreind," continued he, looking drolly towards me; "he and I be main vond o' one another; I zeldom goes to chat wi' a lass, but what he is near at hand; zo—d'ye mind?—he often come wi' I to the top of the hill, and bided there, while I just stepped down to court little Ally vor an hour or zo; that's all:—I left un there to-night. I axed the mopus to come in, but he's modest, main modest, vor a chap of his years." So saying, he resumed his seat, and tendered me the cider-mug and a spare pipe in such a friendly and unsuspicious manner, that told me all was right in a moment. The clowns retired, and the old dame looked on me as kindly as her features would permit, under the impression that I was the chosen friend of her niece's intended husband; for such, I soon discovered, Skelpie was by her considered!—As soon as the storm in my veins had somewhat abated, I looked around for the mild goddess of my idolatry, the lady-like, modest, soft, silver-eyed Ally Budd.

She was drooping in a dark corner, with a check apron thrown over her folded arms, and snoring audibly!

I could not bear to think of the heartless creature for a year after; of course I never hovered over the abode of Dame Caddlefurrow again. Skelpie soon deserted the cold lass for another love; and, after being obliged to dance in her stocking-vamps, according to the custom of the country, at the marriages of her two younger sisters, Ally was wedded to an unlucky miser,—the most miserable character under the sun. But to resume:—after lighting my pipe, I sat for some minutes absorbed in reflections on my late adventure. I did not like Skelpie a whit the better for having shielded me from the wrath of the boisterous widow; a blow from his hand would have been much more acceptable than a favour: I imagined that he was rioting on the idea of having vexed me, by his act of apparent good-nature and kindness; and I construed his silence very much in favour of this vagary of my heated imagination. Presently I heard a noise behind old mother Caddlefurrow's chair, which resembled the faint and irregular chuckling of a woman's half-stifled laugh; and, anon, a tuft of hair, dark as the raven's wing, topped by a pheasant's plume, gleamed over the head of the chair; a white brow, and a pair of laughing black eyes, brim full of tears, followed; and in a few minutes, Kate Skelpie, the wicked, mischievous sister of my deliverer, tumbled out of the recess, which the dame's chair had effectually shaded. She was a round, dumpy lass, full of tricks as a frolicsome colt, with an impertinent cocked nose, and a pair of lips, that were continually in waggish and most alluring motion. I had seen her before at a farmer's merry-making, when she picked me out for a partner, and, notwithstanding my obesity, obliged me to dance down six-and-thirty couple of giggling girls, and roaring men;—keeping up, all the time, as grave a face as ever sat on the shoulders of an undertaker. I pitched and leaped about like a gambolling rhinoceros, to the infinite diversion of the company, and my own solitary grief and dismay. Kate and I were the only persons in the room who looked at all solid. I felt an inkling of affection for the lass, even then,—why, I know not; and the continual crossings I received from Skelpie, determined me to make love under his own roof, where I should, most probably, be sure of peace and quietness in my trysting; as Skelpie usually past the love time of the nights, about at the abodes of the different village toasts. Here was a glorious opportunity of improving my acquaintance with the twinkling-eyed Kate! She was not such a poetical-looking creature as the snoring Ally Budd, nor so tall and comely as the false daughter of Grobstock; nevertheless, Kate Skelpie was a jocund, pretty, and captivating young lass. I courted her, and prospered.

She had no meddling parents to interfere with us; and Skelpie was, of course, absent from home five nights in the week. Many were the pranks which the dear jade played me; but I did not care;—they kept my flame alive, and her occasional kind looks and unsolicited salutes convinced me that I held a place in her heart. In the meantime, however, I carried on the war in another quarter. I had two nights in the week to spare, and these I spent at a farm-house about a mile from the village, with a slender young maiden, named Amaranth Saffem.

One Saturday evening, Skelpie overtook me as I was journeying towards Amaranth's dwelling. He accosted me civilly; and having some serious notions about his sister, I did not scruple to enter into conversation with him. He had not crossed me for above a month; and Kate had informed me, the night before, "that she should have a good bit of gold, if the old chap at the Lands' End would but take it into his head just to die a bit:" these were good reasons for my civility, and we discoursed on the most fashionable village topics with great urbanity and mildness. At length, however, we arrived at Amaranth's door; and then, for the first time, the truth flashed upon each of our minds. We were both evidently bent on a love-visit to the fair Saffern. Skelpie looked rather hurt, methought, and could not help heaving a short sigh. However, we both went in, and found Amaranth alone. It was market-day; and her crippled grandfather, with whom she dwelt, as we both well knew, was gone to, and in all probability would remain at, the next market-town until a late hour, according to his usual custom; otherwise, we should almost as soon have ventured into a tiger's den, to despoil the animal of a whelp, as pay a love-visit to the old man's granddaughter. The miller was a lamb, compared with dame Caddlefurrow; and that lady a dove in deportment, to old Jagger Saffern. But more of him anon.

Amaranth, it was plain, favoured me rather than Skelpie. Without vanity be it spoken, I was, at that time, barring my obesity, which rendered me somewhat unsightly in the eyes of the lean, rather a personable man, and not quite forty. I was by no means particularly solicitous to gain the young Saffem's affections, yet she clung to me in preference to Skelpie, who did all in his power to please her. He was evidently in love, and for the first time in his life, felt the pangs of jealousy in his heart. I was his successful rival!—I, even I, Habakkuk Bullwrinkle, the devil's bird, whom he had so long despised, had succeeded in warping the affections of his Amaranth!—He bit his lip, loured and smiled by fits, and, in vain endeavoured to conceal the state of his heart. Amaranth seemed to rejoice in his torments; she had always been tolerably liberal in her tokens of affection, but, on this occasion, she almost exceeded the bounds of probability. I did not much like it at last; for I began to think she was making a fool of me. We went on in this way for above an hour, when the old cripple's poney suddenly clattered into the court-yard. Skelpie started on his legs in evident alarm. There was no way of escape, but through a back door into a little yard, which was surrounded by a villanous high wall, so smooth, and well-built too, as to defy even Skelpie's clambering capabilities.

We had not been a moment outside the door, before the cripple entered the house. Skelpie was endeavouring with all his might to get over the wall: he clung like a cat to the bare bricks; but, before he had well reached half-way up, his foot slipped, and down he came. I was standing disconsolately underneath him; he fell so suddenly, that I had not time to get out of the way, and Skelpie's ponderous and hard skull struck me full in the pit of my stomach, and sent me staggering against the back door, which naturally gave way with the shock, and I was precipitated, on the broad of my back, in the very middle of the floor. Luckily, I came in contact with the table on which the candle stood, and extinguished the light in my fall. The embers were dying on the hearth, and Skelpie had hauled me by the legs, back into the yard, before the cripple (who waited to reach his loaded blunderbuss before he looked round) could catch more than a vague glimpse of my form and features. The door swung inward, and Skelpie easily held it fast enough to prevent the cripple from pulling it open;—at the same time carefully screening his body behind the wall of the house, from the cripple's bullets, which we expected to hear rattling through the door every moment. He growled like an incensed bear, and muttered curses by wholesale on poor Amaranth, whom we heard whining most piteously. At length, he seemed to take a sudden resolution, chuckled audibly, and proceeded to barricade the door with all the furniture in the room. Here was an end to all our hopes of enfranchisement and safety. But, oh! dear me! what were my feelings, when I heard the cripple hobbling up stairs, and trying to open a little window which commanded the yard! We were in a sad situation; our only choice of avoiding the lynx eyes of Jagger was by getting into two water-butts, which stood in the yard. The windows of the house looked into every corner, so that we could not possibly hope to conceal ourselves behind them. In we went together, but my ill luck still attended me; Skelpie crouched comfortably in the belly of a dry butt, but the one, into which I floundered, was half full of water. The chilling liquid rose to within a foot and a half of the brim, the moment I got in, so that it was impossible for me to crouch, being actually standing on tip-toe, neck high in water! It was a bleak night, but my fever saved my life.

The cripple's blunderbuss, of unprecedented calibre, was thrust out of the window, before I could well moderate my quick breathing. He looked into every corner of the yard, but, happily, did not perceive my miserable sconce, which was floating in the water-butt, immediately beneath him. He descended in a few minutes, and removed the furniture from the door, searched all round the yard, and, at length, discovering the marks of Skelpie's shoes in the wall, concluded that we had escaped, and went grumbling to bed. It was a long time before I would suffer Skelpie to help me out of my hiding-place: he effected the job with infinite difficulty, and led me, dripping like a watering-pot, through the house.

About a week after this adventure, I discovered that Kate and Amaranth, who were once bosom friends, had quarrelled about me, and were now as spiteful to each other as possible. They met, one evening, at old Hetty Caddlefurrow's, and, on comparing notes, found that I was playing a double game. Ally Budd was present, but she said nothing. After lavishing the usual abusive epithets on me, they began to look coldly upon each other: from cool looks, they proceeded to vituperative insinuations; and, before they parted, naturally came to an open rupture. Occasionally, I suffered a little from their pouting and touting; but, in the main, I was happy enough between them. Each tried all her arts to win me from her rival they sometimes met, grew great friends, vowed they would both turn their backs upon me for ever, kissed, cried, quarrelled again, and grew more rancorous to each other and loving to me, than before. Skelpie became an altered man. Amaranth flouted him, abused his sister to his face, and caressed me in his presence;—although, I believe, the hussy, if she knew her own heart, loved the fellow all the time. Skelpie dressed smartly, discontinued his visits to all other girls, neglected his games, and even his daily occupations, to court Amaranth. He won the heart of the old cripple Saffern; but the lass still turned a deaf ear to his vows:—she was trying to vex Kate Skelpie. I was completely happy; I felt—but wherefore should I dwell on this love contest?—Skelpie is looking over my shoulder, and does not seem to relish the protracted detail. Suffice it to say then, that the banns of marriage were at length published, between Habakkuk Bull wrinkle, gentleman, and Kate Skelpie, spinster;—that we were united in due season;—and that Skelpie, a short time afterwards, obtained the hand of Amaranth. The angry passions of the girls soon subsided, and they loved each other better than ever. Skelpie became my bosom friend; I prospered in business; and the two families have lived together for above twenty years, in concord and happiness. The roses have faded in Amaranth's cheek, and the fire of Kate's eye is somewhat quenched; but the relation of my own mishaps, Skelpie's adventures, and our strange courtships, never fails to draw back the youthful smiles of hilarity in both their matronly faces. Heaven bless them!