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coveries in solar eclipses, by means of a bit of burnt glass, which entitled her at least to an honorary admission in the American Philosophical Society. “Hutching's Improved ” was her favourite book; and I shrewdly suspect that it was from this valuable work she drew most of her sovereign remedies for colds, coughs, corns, and consumptions.
But the truth must be told: with all her good qualities, my aunt Charity was afflicted with one fault, extremely rare among her gentle sex-it was curiosity. How she came by it, I am at a loss to imagine, but it played the very vengeance with her, and destroyed the comfort of her life. Having an invincible desire to know everybody's character, business, and mode of living, she was for ever prying into the affairs of her neighbours; and got a great deal of ill-will from people towards whom she had the kindest disposition possible. If any family on the opposite side of the street gave a dinner, my aunt would mount her spectacles, and sit at the window until the company were all housed, merely that she might know who they were. If she heard a story about any of her acquaintance, she would forthwith set off full sail, and never rest, until, to use her usual expression, she had got “ to the bottom of it;” which meant nothing more than telling it to everybody she knew.
I remember one night my aunt Charity happened to hear a most precious story about one of her good friends, but unfortunately too late to give it immediate circulation. It made her absolutely
miserable; and she hardly slept a wink all night, for fear her bosom-friend, Mrs. Sipkins, should get the start of her in the morning, and blow the whole affair. You must know there was always a contest between these two ladies, who should first give currency to the good-natured things said about everybody; and this unfortunate rivalship at length proved fatal to their long and ardent friendship. My aunt got up full two hours that morning before her usual time; put on her pompadour taffeta gown, and sallied forth to lament the misfortune of her dear friend.-Would you believe it !—wherever she went, Mrs. Sipkins had anticipated her; and instead of being listened to with uplifted hands and open-mouthed wonder, my unhappy aunt was obliged to sit down quietly and listen to the whole affair, with numerous additions, alterations, and amendments! Now this was too bad ; it would almost have provoked Patient Grizzle or a saint; it was too much for my aunt, who kept her bed three days afterwards, with a cold as she pretended; but I have no doubt it was owing to this affair of Mrs. Sipkins, to whom she never would be reconciled.
But I pass over the rest of my aunt Charity's life, chequered with the various calamities and misfortunes and mortifications, incident to those worthy old gentlewomen who have the domestic cares of the whole community upon their minds ; and I hasten to relate the melancholy incident that hurried her out of existence in the full bloom of antiquated virginity.
In their frolicsome malice the fates had ordered
that a French boarding-school, or Pension Française, as it was called, should be established directly opposite my aunt's residence. Cruel event! unhappy aunt Charity !-it threw her into that alarming disorder denominated the fidgets : she did nothing but watch at the window day after day, but without becoming one whit the wiser at the end of a fortnight than she was at the beginning; she thought that neighbour Pension had a monstrous large family, and somehow or other they were all men! She could not imagine what business neighbour Pension followed to support 80 numerous a household; and wondered why there was always such a scraping of fiddles in the parlour, and such a smell of onions from neighbour Pension's kitchen; in short, neighbour Pension was continually uppermost in her thoughts, and incessantly on the outer edge of her tongue. This was, I believe, the very first time she had ever failed “to get at the bottom of a thing;” and the disappointment cost her many a sleepless night, I warrant you. I have little doubt, however, that my aunt would have ferreted neighbour Pension out, could she have spoken or understood French ; but in those times people in general could make themselves understood in plain English ; and it was always a standing rule in the Cockloft family, which exists to this day, that not one of the females should learn French.
My aunt Charity had lived at her window, for some time, in vain; when one day, as she was keeping her usual look-out, and suffering all the pangs of unsatisfied curiosity, she beheld a little
meagre, weazel-faced Frenchman, of the most forlorn, diminutive, and pitiful proportions, arrive at neighbour Pension's door. He was dressed in white, with a little pinched-up cocked hat; he seemed to shake in the wind, and every blast that went over him whistled through his bones, and threatened instant annihilation. This em: bodied spirit of famine was followed by three carts, lumbered with crazy trunks, chests, bandboxes, bidets, medicine-chests, parrots, and monkeys; and at his heels ran a yelping pack of little black-nosed pug-dogs. This was the one thing wanting to fill up the measure of my aunt Charity's afflictions; she could not conceive, for the soul of her, who this mysterious little apparition could be that made so great a display ;what he could possibly do with so much baggage, and particularly with his parrots and monkeys; or how so small a carcass could have occasion for so many trunks of clothes. Honest soul! she had never had a peep into a Frenchman's ward. rube—that depot of old coats, hats, and breeches ; of the growth of every fashion he has followed in his life.
From the time of this fatal arrival my poor aunt was in a quandary ;-all her inquiries were fruitless; no one could expound the history of this mysterious stranger: she never held up her head afterwards,-drooped daily, took to her bed in a fortnight, and in “one little month” I saw her quietly deposited in the family vaultbeing the seventh Cockloft that had died of a whim-wham!