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MY AUNT CHARITY.
My aunt Charity departed this life in the fiftyninth year of her age, though she never grew older after twenty-five. In her teens she was, according to her own account, a celebrated beauty,—though I never could meet with anybody that remembered when she was handsome. On the contrary, Evergreen's father, who used to gallant her in her youth, says she was as knotty a little piece of humanity as he ever saw; and that, if she had been possessed of the least sensibility, she would, like poor old Acco, have most certainly run mad at her own figure and face, the first time she contemplated herself in a looking-glass. In the good old times that saw my aunt in the hey-day of youth, a fine lady was a most formidable animal, and required to be approached with the same awe and devotion that a Tartar feels in the presence of his grand Lama. If a gentleman offered to take her hand except to help her into a carriage, or lead her into a drawing-room, such frowns ! such a rustling of brocade and taffeta! Her very paste shoebuckles sparkled with indignation, and for a moment assumed the brilliancy of diamonds! In those days the person of a belle was sacred—it was unprofaned by the sacrilegious grasp of a stranger;—simple souls !they had not the waltz among them yet!
My good aunt prided herself on keeping up this buckram delicacy; and if she happened to be playing at the old-fashioned game of forfeits, and
was fined a kiss, it was always more trouble to get it than it was worth; for she made a most gallant defence, and never surrendered until she saw her adversary inclined to give over his attack. Evergreen's father says he remembers once to have been on a sleighing party with her, and when they came to Kissing-bridge, it fell to his lot to levy contributions on Miss Charity Cockloft, who after squalling at a hideous rate; at length jumped out of the sleigh plump into a snow-bank, where she stuck fast like an icicle, until he came to her rescue. This Latonian feat cost her a rheumatism, which she never thoroughly recovered.
It is rather singular that my aunt, though a great beauty, and an heiress withal, never got married. The reason she alleged was, that she never met with a lover who resembled Sir Charles Grandison, the hero of her nightly dreams and waking fancy; but I am privately of opinion that it was owing to her never having had an offer. This much is certain, that for many years previous to her decease she declined all attentions from the gentlemen, and contented herself with watching over the welfare of her fellow-creatures. She was, indeed, observed to take a considerable lean towards Methodism, was frequent in her attendance at love-feasts, read Whitefield and Wesley, and even went so far as once to travel the distance of five-and-twenty miles to be present at a campmeeting. This gave great offence to my cousin Christopher, and his good lady, who, as I have already mentioned, are rigidi orthodox :-and had not my aunt Charity been of a most pacific disposition, her religious whim-wham would have occasioned many a family altercation. She was indeed—as the Cockloft family ever boasted—a lady of unbounded loving-kindness, which extended to man, woman, and child; many
of whom she alınost killed with good nature. Was any acquaintance sick ?-in vain did the wind whistle and the storm beat-my aunt would waddle through mud and mire, over the whole town, but she would visit them. She would sit by them for hours together with the most persevering patience: and tell a thousand melancholy stories of human misery, to keep up their spirits. The whole catalogue of yerb teas was at her fingers' ends, from formidable wormwood down to gentle balm; and she would descant by the hour on the healing qualities of hoarhound, catnip, and penny-royal. Woe be to the patient that
came under the benevolent hand of my aunt Charity! he was sure, willy nilly, to be drenched with a deluge of decoctions; and full many a time has my cousin Christopher borne a twinge of pain in silence, through fear of being condemned to suffer the martyrdom of her materia medica. My good aunt had, moreover, considerable skill in astronomy; for she could tell when the sun rose and set every day in the year;—and no woman in the whole world was able to pronounce, with more certainty, at what precise minute the moon changed. She held the story of the moon's being made of green cheese as an abominable slander on her favourite planet; and she had made several valuable dis