Zekle's Courtin'

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), The Courtin'
Vol. 42, pp. 1376-1379

Huldy, the rustic belle, sat alone peeling apples. She was bashful in her consciousness that Zekle would come soon. When he did, she merely blushed and timidly said: "Ma's sprinklin' clo'es," and then -

GOD makes sech nights, all white an’ still
  Fur ’z you can look or listen,
Moonshine an’ snow on field an’ hill,
  All silence an’ all glisten.

Zekle crep’ up quite unbeknown
  An’ peeked in thru’ the winder,
An’ there sot Huldy all alone,
  ’ith no one nigh to hender.

A fireplace filled the room’s one side
  With half a cord o’ wood in—
There war n’t no stoves (tell comfort died)
  To bake ye to a puddin’.

The wa’nut logs shot sparkles out
  Towards the pootiest, bless her,
An’ leetle flames danced all about
  The chiny on the dresser.

Agin the chimbley crook-necks hung,
  An’ in amongst ’em rusted
The ole queen’s-arm the gran’ther Young
  Fetched back f’om Concord busted.

The very room, coz she was in,
  Seemed warm f’om floor to ceilin’,
An’ she looked full ez rosy agin
  Ez the apples she was peelin’.

’Twas kin’ o’ kingdom-come to look
  On sech a blessed cretur,
A dogrose blushin’ to a brook
  Ain’t modester nor sweeter.

He was six foot o’ man, A I,
  Clear grit an’ human natur’,
None couldn’t quicker pitch a ton
  Nor dror a furrer straighter.

He’d sparked it with full twenty gals,
  Hed squired ’em, danced ’em, druv ’em,
Fust this one, an’ then thet, by spells—
  All is, he couldn’t love ’em.

But long o’ her his veins ’ould run
  All crinkly like curled maple,
The side she breshed felt full o’ sun
  Ez a south slope in Ap’il.

She thought no v’ice hed sech a swing
  Ez hisn in the choir;
My! when he made Ole Hunderd ring,
  She knowed the Lord was nigher.

An’ she’d blush scarlit, right in prayer,
  When her new meetin’-bunnet
Felt somehow thru’ its crown a pair
  O’ blue eyes sot upun it.

Thet night, I tell ye, she looked some!
  She seemed to ’ve gut a new soul,
For she felt sartin-sure he’d come,
  Down to her very shoe-sole.

She heered a foot, an’ knowed it tu,
  A-raspin’ on the scraper,—
All ways to once her feelins flew
  Like sparks in burnt-up paper.

He kin’ o’ l’itered on the mat,
  Some doubtfle o’ the sekle,
His heart kep’ goin’ pity-pat,
  But hern went pity Zekle.

An’ yit she gin her cheer a jerk
  Ez though she wished him furder,
An’ on her apples kep’ to work,
  Parin’ away like murder.

‘You want to see my Pa, I s’pose?’
  ‘Wal … no … I come dasignin”—
‘To see my Ma? She’s sprinklin’ clo’es
  Agin to-morror’s i’nin’.’

To say why gals acts so or so,
  Or don’t, ’ould be persumin’;
Mebby to mean yes an’ say no
  Comes nateral to women.

He stood a spell on one foot fust,
  Then stood a spell on t’other,
An’ on which one he felt the wust
  He couldn’t ha’ told ye nuther.

Says he, ‘I’d better call agin;’
  Says she, ‘Think likely, Mister:’
Thet last word pricked him like a pin,
  An’ … Wal, he up an’ kist her.

When Ma bimeby upon ’em slips,
  Huldy sot pale ez ashes,
All kin’ o’ smily roun’ the lips
  An’ teary roun’ the lashes.

For she was jes’ the quiet kind
  Whose naturs never vary,
Like streams that keep a summer mind
  Snowhid in Jenooary.

The blood clost roun’ her heart felt glued
  Too tight for all expressin’,
Tell mother see how metters stood,
  An’ gin ’em both her blessin’.

Then her red come back like the tide
  Down to the Bay o’ Fundy,
An’ all I know is they was cried
  In meetin’ come nex’ Sunday.


 

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