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a way they have, the universal Yankee nation, of being everywhere; and, in truth, they may generally be said to be the salt of the earth. But this small detachment proved a great inconvenience and mortification to my worthy friend, as I shall presently have occasion to show. What induced the Pecks to leave Bridgeport,
improve” a farm at New-Rochelle, after the death of old Epenetus Peck, I am not Yankee enough to guess. I have heard of a slander suit, which Zephaniah Cobb talked of bringing against old Mrs. Peck, if she did not “clear out" of the “ Borough.” But this may be scandal; as the vicinity is famous for its domestic manufacture of that article, of which I believe most attornies think the encouragement a part of the great “ American system."
However this may be, it is certain that the widow Peck, her daughter Miss Peck a young lady of a most uncertain age, and her nephew, Plutarch Peck, kept house together, and took boarders at the place I have designated. The defunct Epenetus, after many years of ingenious but unsuccessful enterprise, in all arts, trades, and occupations, regular and irregular, towards the end of a life whose experience had made him knowing in all the ways of man, had received, from certain monied corporations, some honorary
gratuitous pecuniary compliments, for his disinterested services in the purlieus of certain legislative assemblies. This sum he had invested in stock, in the names of his consort and the first pledge of her affection, the fair Abishag; soon after which he died insolvent. Plutarch's father was lost at sea. Plutarch said of himself, that he “had been to college:” and he unquestionably had been at the Norwalk Academy. He was studying law, teaching school, and keeping accounts for a Dutch grocer; besides editing one of the county papers, entitled the “ Cataract of Freedom," and at leisure intervals superintending the agricultural and pecuniary interests of the family. He was an aspiring young man; and betrayed a pruriency to cut a dash, wherever he thought an opportunity offered. Of him I need say no more at present. Nor is it my purpose to enter into any details of the character and private history of old Aunt Peck, as Plutarch used to call her. They are uninteresting, and the family is litigious. Of Abishag or Miss Peck, last presented to my mind, and now painted at full length upon the retina of my mental eye, it may be essential to mention a few characteristics. In respect of matrimony, and rumours of matrimony, she strongly resembled the illustrious Betsey of England ; and deserved as little as
that “ imperial votress,” the imputation of passing through life,
" In maiden meditation, fancy free."
She had remained, as I have hinted, for an unascertainable time, mistress of herself, unincumbered with a husband. Whether she really thought the poet wrong, who says
that “ earthlier happier is the rose distilled,” etc. may admit of a doubt. She had long had a fondness, nay, it may be termed a rage, for making people believe, (and herself, too, among the rest,) that she was constantly solicited to become a bride. In sober truth, shrewd, sagacious, and matter-of-fact as she was in all things else, touching this affair of marriage, she was subject to strange hallucinations. Her imagination was (if we may speak poetically,) redolent of matrimony. The ideal husbands which filled her mind were indeed not exactly such as haply may sometimes flit across the day-dreams of youthful beauty, brave, and young, and handsome-all glowing with the purple light of love, and breathing truth and fervent constancy. Hers were sober and comfortable visions of snug establishments, sprucely painted two-story houses, with well-papered parlours and nice kitchens-huge stores of house
hold linen-men servants and maid servantsone-horse chaises or trim Jersey-built waggons, and, by way of necessary appendage, some respectable helpmate, with a good thriving business, or a round and regularly paid salary. Thus it happened that from time to time the whole neighbourhood was informed, of what she more than half believed herself, that offers had been made for her hand, now by a medical doctor at Mamaroneck-now by a reverend professor at New-Haven-now by a rich widower apothecary in the Bowery-now by an old Dutch dominie, on the North River-and now by young Mr. Rubric, fresh from the Episcopal Seminary, at New-York, whose first clerical bands her own fingers had hemmed. The said reverend and medical doctors, the dominie, the apothecary, and young Mr. Rubric, meanwhile, remaining not only innocent of all amorous intention, but utterly ignorant of all rumours thereof.
Of her personal charms it is best not to say much. Could she have been preserved for ever, as she had been for so many years, she would have supplied the desideratum of a standard of long measure, and saved a learned secretary of state, professors of colleges, and revisers of laws, many a long report, as she was perfectly straight, and exactly five feet, eleven inches, and eleven
lines high, when unhosed, unbuskined, and unbonneted. Time had not rubbed off nor rounded the acute angularity of her features, or the distinct rigidity of her articulation. There was an irresistibly extortionate air in her countenance, when she wanted to get all the facts out of every body; and it exhibited an arithmetical precision, when she was in a contemplative mood, which showed that she had added up her ideas, and carried nine. Her defunct papa, among his innumerable avocations, had been an agent for selling Pomeroy's Universal Patent Catholicon. From him she inherited a great taste for quackery; or, as her mama called it, a genius for medicine ; and she preferred giving away, not only her recipes, but her nostrums, to letting her hand get out of practice.
Gentle Reader! If these outlines are coarse, they are graphic. If the portrait is vulgar, the original is one of God's creatures, and none of mine. I know, and I love, nay, where it is unaffected, I adore, the fastidiousness of this exquisite age. But if we are to paint only beautiful forms, I wish the Harrisburgh Convention would contrive some protection against time and the elements, and the perpetuation of those ugly family likenesses, which do so play the mischief with the line of beauty.