« 前へ次へ »
surrounded with clustering eglantine and clematis, and inhabited by goodness, grace, and beauty. These materials are denied me ; but yet I must try to describe something of Michigan cottage life, taking care to avail myself of such delicate periphrasis as may best veil the true homeliness of my subject.
Moonlight and the ague are, however, the same every where. At least I meet with no description in any of the poets of my acquaintance which might not be applied, without reservation, to Michigan moonlight; and as for the ague, did not great Caesar shake “when the fit was on him '''
T is true, this god did shake :
And in this important particular poor Lorenzo Titmouse was just like the inventor of the laurel crown. We— Mrs. Rivers and I-went to his father's, at his urgent request, on just such a night as is usually chosen for romantic walks by a certain class of lovers. We waited not for escort, although the night had already fallen, and there was a narrow strip of forest to pass in our way; but leaving word whither we had gone, we accompanied the poor shivering boy, each carrying what we could. And what does the gentle reader think we carried ? A custard or a glass of jelly each, perhaps ; and a nice sponge-cake, or something equally delicate, and likely to tempt the faint appetite of the invalid. No such thing. We had learned better than to offer such nick-nacks to people who “a” n’t us’d to sweetnin’.” My companion was “doubly arm'd :” a small tin pail of cranberry sauce in one hand, a bottle of
vinegar in the other. I carried a modicum of “hop 'east,” and a little bag of crackers; a scrap of Hyson, and a box of quinine pills. Odd enough ; but we had been at such places before.
We had a delicious walk; though poor Lorenzo, who had a bag of flour on his shoulders, was fain to rest often. This was his “well day,” to be sure; but he had had some eight or ten fits of ague, enough to wither any body’s pith and marrow, as those will say who, have tried it. That innate politeness which young rustics, out of books as well as in them, are apt to exhibit when they are in good humour, made Lorenzo decline, most vehemently, our offers of assistance. But we at length fairly took his bag from him, and passing a stick through the string, carried it between us ; while the boy disposed of our various small articles by the aid of his capacious pockets. And a short half mile from the bridge brought us to his father's.
It was an ordinary log house, but quite old and dilapidated : the great open chimney occupying most of one end of the single apartment, and two doublebeds with a trundle-bed, the other. In one of the large beds lay the father and the eldest son ; in the other, the mother and two little daughters, all ill with ague, and all sad and silent, save my friend Mrs. Titmouse, whose untameable tongue was too much even for the ague. Mrs. Titmouse is one of those fortunate beings who can talk all day without saying any thing. She is the only person whom I have met in these regions who appears to have paid her devoirs at Castle Blarney.
“How d'ye do, ladies, how d'ye do? Bless my soul if ever I thought to be catch'd in sitch a condition, and by sich grand ladies too ! Not a chair for you to sit down on. I often tell Titmouse that we live jist like the pigs; but he ha’n’t no ambition. I’m sure I’m under a thousand compliments to ye for coming to see me. We’re expecting a mother of his’n to come and stay with us, but she ha’n’t come yet — and I in sitch a condition; can’t show ye no civility. Do sit down, ladies, if you can sit upon a chest—ladies like you. I’m sure I’m under a thousand compliments ” and so the poor soul ran on till she was fairly out of breath, in spite of our efforts to out-talk her with our assurances that we could accommodate ourselves very well, and could stay but a few minutes.
“And now, Mrs. Titmouse,” said Mrs. Rivers, in her sweet, pleasant voice, “tell us what we can do for you.”
“Do for me! Oh, massy " Oh, nothing, I thank ye. There a'n't nothing that ladies like you can do for me. We make out very well, and 32
“What do you say so for " growled her husband from the other bed. “You know we ha’n’t tasted a mouthful since morning, nor had n’t it, and I sent Lorenzo myself—”
“Well, I never !” responded his help-mate; “you’re always doing just so : troubling people. You never had no ambition, Titmouse; you know I always said so. To be sure, we ha’n’t had no tea this good while, and tea does taste dreadful good when a body's got the agur; and my bread is gone, and I ha’n’t been able to set no emptins ; but 25
Here we told what we had brought, and prepared at once to make some bread; but Mrs. Titmouse seemed quite horrified, and insisted upon getting out of bed, though she staggered, and would have fallen if we had not supported her to a seat. “Now tell me where the water is, and I will get it myself,” said Mrs. Rivers, “ and do you sit still and see how soon I will make a loaf.” “Water s” said the poor soul; “I'm afraid we have not water enough to make a loaf. Mr. Grimes brought us a barrel day before yesterday, and we’ve been dreadful careful of it, but the agur is so dreadful thirsty—I’m afraid there a n’t none.” “Have you no spring '" “No, ma'am ; but we have always got plenty of water down by the mash till this dry summer.” “I should think that was enough to give you the ague. Don't you think the marsh water unwholesome 7” “Well, I don’t know but it is; but you see he was always a-going to dig a well; but he ha’n’t no ambition, nor never had, and I always told him so. And as to the agur, if you’ve got to have it, why you can’t get clear of it.” There was, fortunately, water enough left in the barrel to set the bread and half-fill the tea-kettle ; and we soon made a little blaze with sticks, which served to boil the kettle to make that luxury of the woods, a cup of green tea. Mrs. Titmouse did not need the tea to help her talking powers, for she was an independent talker, whose gush of words knew no ebb nor exhaustion.
Alike to her was tide or time,
Her few remaining teeth chattered no faster when she had the ague than at any other time. The stream flowed on
In one weak, washy, everlasting flood.
When we had done what little we could, and were about to depart, glad to escape her overwhelming protestations of eternal gratitude, her husband reminded her that the cow had not been milked since the evening before, when “Miss Grimes” had been there. Here was a dilemma . How we regretted our defective education, which prevented our rendering so simple yet so necessary a service to the sick poor.
We remembered the gentleman who did not know whether he could read Greek, as he had never tried; and set ourselves resolutely at work to ascertain our powers in the milking line.
But alas ! the “milky mother of the herd” had small respect for timid and useless town ladies.
In vain did Mrs. Rivers hold the pail with both hands, while I essayed the arduous task. So sure as I succeeded in bringing ever so tiny a stream, the ill-mannered beast would almost put out my eyes with her tail, and oblige us both to jump up and run away; and after a protracted struggle, the cow gained the victory,