Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
A Proposal of Marriage
By William Tappan Thompson (1812–1882)
 
[Born in Ravenna, Ohio, 1812. Died in Savannah, Ga., 1882. Major Jones’s Courtship. 1844.—Enlarged Edition. 1872.]

PINEVILLE, December 27, 1842.    
TO MR. THOMPSON:  Dear Sir—Crismus is over, and the thing is done did! You know I told you in my last letter I was gwine to bring Miss Mary up to the chalk on Crismus. Well, I done it, slick as a whistle, though it come mighty nigh bein a serious bisness. But I’ll tell you all about the whole circumstance.
  1
  The fact is, I’s made my mind up more ’n twenty times to jest go and come right out with the whole bisness; but whenever I got whar she was, and whenever she looked at me with her witchin eyes, and kind o’ blushed at me, I always felt sort o’ skeered and fainty, and all what I made up to tell her was forgot, so I couldn’t think of it to save me. But you’s a married man, Mr. Thompson, so I couldn’t tell you nothin about popin the question, as they call it. It’s a mighty grate favor to ax of a pretty gall; and to people what ain’t used to it, it goes monstrous hard, don’t it? They say widders don’t mind it no more ’n nothin. But I’m makin a transgression, as the preacher ses.  2
  Crismus eve I put on my new suit, and shaved my face as slick as a smoothin iron, and after tea went over to old Miss Stallinses. As soon as I went into the parler whar they was all settin round the fire, Miss Carline and Miss Kesiah both laughed right out.  3
  “There! there!” ses they, “I told you so! I know’d it would be Joseph.”  4
  “What’s I done, Miss Carline?” ses I.  5
  “You come under little sister’s chicken bone, and I do believe she know’d you was comin when she put it over the dore.”  6
  “No, I didn’t,—I didn’t no such thing, now,” ses Miss Mary, and her face blushed red all over.  7
  “Oh, you needn’t deny it,” ses Miss Kesiah; “you belong to Joseph now, jest as sure as ther’s any charm in chicken bones.”  8
  I know’d that was a first-rate chance to say somethin, but the dear little creeter looked so sorry and kep blushin so, I couldn’t say nothin zactly to the pint! So I tuck a chair, and reached up and tuck down the bone and put it in my pocket.  9
  “What are you gwine to do with that old chicken bone now, Majer?” ses Miss Mary.  10
  “I’m gwine to keep it as long as I live,” ses I, “as a Crismus present from the handsomest gall in Georgia.”  11
  When I sed that, she blushed worse and worse.  12
  “Ain’t you shamed, Majer?” ses she.  13
  “Now you ought to give her a Crismus gift, Joseph, to keep all her life,” sed Miss Carline.  14
  “Ah,” ses old Miss Stallins, “when I was a gall we used to hang up our stockins——”  15
  “Why, mother!” ses all of ’em, “to say stockins right before——”  16
  Then I felt a little streaked, too, cause they was all blushin as hard as they could.  17
  “Highty-tity!” ses the old lady—“what monstrous ’finement, to be shore! I’d like to know what harm ther is in stockins. People nowadays is gittin so mealy-mouthed they can’t call nothin by its right name, and I don’t see as they’s any better than the old-time people was. When I was a gall like you, child, I use to hang up my stockins and git ’em full of presents.”  18
  The galls kep laughin and blushin.  19
  “Never mind,” ses Miss Mary, “Majer’s got to give me a Crismus gift,—won’t you, Majer?”  20
  “Oh, yes,” ses I; “you know I promised you one.”  21
  “But I didn’t mean that,” ses she.  22
  “I’ve got one for you, what I want you to keep all your life, but it would take a two-bushel bag to hold it,” ses I.  23
  “Oh, that’s the kind,” ses she.  24
  “But will you promise to keep it as long as you live?” ses I.  25
  “Certainly I will, Majer.”  26
  “Monstrous ’finement nowadays,—old people don’t know nothin about perliteness,” said old Miss Stallins, jest gwine to sleep with her nittin in her lap.  27
  “Now you hear that, Miss Carline,” ses I. “She ses she’ll keep it all her life.”  28
  “Yes, I will,” ses Miss Mary; “but what is it?”  29
  “Never mind,” ses I; “you hang up a bag big enough to hold it, and you’ll find out what it is, when you see it in the mornin.”  30
  Miss Carline winked at Miss Kesiah, and then whispered to her; then they both laughed and looked at me as mischievous as they could. They ’spicioned something.  31
  “You’ll be shore to give it to me now, if I hang up a bag?” ses Miss Mary.  32
  “And promise to keep it,” ses I.  33
  “Well, I will, cause I know that you wouldn’t give me nothin that wasn’t worth keepin.”  34
  They all agreed they would hang up a bag for me to put Miss Mary’s Crismus present in, on the back porch; and about ten o’clock I told ’em good evenin and went home.  35
  I sot up till midnight, and when they was all gone to bed I went softly into the back gate, and went up to the porch, and thar, shore enough, was a great big meal-bag hangin to the jice. It was monstrous unhandy to git to it, but I was termined not to back out. So I sot some chairs on top of a bench, and got hold of the rope, and let myself down into the bag; but jest as I was gittin in, it swung agin the chairs, and down they went with a terrible racket; but nobody didn’t wake up but Miss Stallinses old cur dog, and here he come rippin and tearin through the yard like rath, and round and round he went, tryin to find what was the matter. I scrooch’d down in the bag and didn’t breathe louder nor a kitten, for fear he’d find me out, and after a while he quit barkin.  36
  The wind begun to blow bominable cold, and the old bag kep turnin round and swingin so it made me seasick as the mischief. I was afraid to move for fear the rope would break and let me fall, and thar I sot with my teeth rattlin like I had a ager. It seemed like it would never come daylight, and I do believe if I didn’t love Miss Mary so powerful I would froze to death; for my heart was the only spot that felt warm, and it didn’t beat more ’n two licks a minit, only when I thought how she would be supprised in the mornin, and then it went in a canter. Bimeby the cussed old dog come up on the porch and begun to smell about the bag, and then he barked like he thought he’d treed somethin.  37
  “Bow! wow! wow!” ses he. Then he’d smell agin, and try to git up to the bag. “Git out!” ses I, very low, for fear the galls mought hear me. “Bow! wow!” ses he. “Be gone! you bominable fool!” ses I, and I felt all over in spots, for I spected every minit he’d nip me, and what made it worse, I didn’t know wharabouts he’d take hold. “Bow! wow! wow!” Then I tried coaxin—“Come here, good feller,” ses I, and whistled a little to him, but it wasn’t no use. Thar he stood and kep up his everlastin whinin and barkin, all night I couldn’t tell when daylight was breakin, only by the chickens crowin, and I was monstrous glad to hear ’em, for if I’d had to stay thar one hour more, I don’t believe I’d ever got out of that bag alive.  38
  Old Miss Stallins come out fust, and as soon as she seed the bag, ses she:  39
  “What upon yeath has Joseph went and put in that bag for Mary? I’ll lay it’s a yearlin or some live animal, or Bruin wouldn’t bark at it so.”  40
  She went in to call the galls, and I sot thar, shiverin all over so I couldn’t hardly speak if I tried to,—but I didn’t say nothin. Bimeby they all come runnin out on the porch.  41
  “My goodness! what is it?” ses Miss Mary.  42
  “Oh, it’s alive!” ses Miss Kesiah. “I seed it move.”  43
  “Call Cato, and make him cut the rope,” ses Miss Carline, “and let’s see what it is. Come here, Cato, and git this bag down.”  44
  “Don’t hurt it for the world,” ses Miss Mary.  45
  Cato untied the rope that was round the jice, and let the bag down easy on the floor, and I tumbled out, all covered with corn-meal from head to foot.  46
  “Goodness gracious!” ses Miss Mary, “if it ain’t the Majer himself!”  47
  “Yes,” ses I, “and you know you promised to keep my Crismus present as long as you lived.”  48
  The galls laughed themselves almost to death, and went to brushin off the meal as fast as they could, sayin they was gwine to hang that bag up every Crismus till they got husbands too. Miss Mary—bless her bright eyes!—she blushed as beautiful as a mornin-glory, and sed she’d stick to her word. She was right out of bed, and her hair wasn’t komed, and her dress wasn’t fix’d at all, but the way she looked pretty was real distractin. I do believe if I was froze stiff, one look at her sweet face, as she stood thar lookin down to the floor with her roguish eyes, and her bright curls fallin all over her snowy neck, would have fetched me too. I tell you what, it was worth hangin in a meal bag from one Crismus to another to feel as happy as I have ever sense.  49
  I went home after we had the laugh out, and sot by the fire till I got thawed. In the forenoon all the Stallinses come over to our house, and we had one of the greatest Crismus dinners that ever was seed in Georgia, and I don’t believe a happier company ever sot down to the same table. Old Miss Stallins and mother settled the match, and talked over everything that ever happened in ther families, and laughed at me and Mary, and cried about ther dead husbands, cause they wasn’t alive to see ther children married.  50
  It’s all settled now, ’cept we hain’t sot the weddin-day. I’d like to have it all over at once, but young galls always like to be engaged a while, you know, so I spose I must wait a month or so. Mary (she ses I mustn’t call her Miss Mary now) has been a good deal of trouble and botheration to me; but if you could see her you wouldn’t think I ought to grudge a little sufferin to git sich a sweet little wife.  51
  You must come to the weddin if you possibly kin. I’ll let you know when. No more from
Your friend, till death,
JOS. JONES.    
  52
 
 
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