Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
A Proposal of Marriage
By William Tappan Thompson (18121882)
[Born in Ravenna, Ohio, 1812. Died in Savannah, Ga., 1882. Major Joness Courtship. 1844.Enlarged Edition. 1872.]
PINEVILLE, December 27, 1842.
TO MR. THOMPSON: Dear SirCrismus 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 Ill tell you all about the whole circumstance.
The fact is, Is 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 couldnt think of it to save me. But yous a married man, Mr. Thompson, so I couldnt tell you nothin about popin the question, as they call it. Its a mighty grate favor to ax of a pretty gall; and to people what aint used to it, it goes monstrous hard, dont it? They say widders dont mind it no more n nothin. But Im makin a transgression, as the preacher ses.
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.
I knowd that was a first-rate chance to say somethin, but the dear little creeter looked so sorry and kep blushin so, I couldnt 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.
Highty-tity! ses the old ladywhat monstrous finement, to be shore! Id like to know what harm ther is in stockins. People nowadays is gittin so mealy-mouthed they cant call nothin by its right name, and I dont see as theys 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.
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 didnt 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 scroochd down in the bag and didnt breathe louder nor a kitten, for fear hed find me out, and after a while he quit barkin.
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 didnt love Miss Mary so powerful I would froze to death; for my heart was the only spot that felt warm, and it didnt 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 hed treed somethin.
Bow! wow! wow! ses he. Then hed 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 hed nip me, and what made it worse, I didnt know wharabouts hed take hold. Bow! wow! wow! Then I tried coaxinCome here, good feller, ses I, and whistled a little to him, but it wasnt no use. Thar he stood and kep up his everlastin whinin and barkin, all night I couldnt tell when daylight was breakin, only by the chickens crowin, and I was monstrous glad to hear em, for if Id had to stay thar one hour more, I dont believe Id ever got out of that bag alive.
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 Marybless her bright eyes!she blushed as beautiful as a mornin-glory, and sed shed stick to her word. She was right out of bed, and her hair wasnt komed, and her dress wasnt fixd 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.
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 dont 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 wasnt alive to see ther children married.
Its all settled now, cept we haint sot the weddin-day. Id 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 mustnt call her Miss Mary now) has been a good deal of trouble and botheration to me; but if you could see her you wouldnt think I ought to grudge a little sufferin to git sich a sweet little wife.