Chapter 15

It may not be amiss, at this stage of our history, to mention that the governor had not yet been a married man; and it was not the death of his lady that propelled him to enter on an unsettled and rambling way of life, as was the case with Sir Thomas Graham, who, to relieve his grief for the loss of a beloved wife, sallied out with a regiment of English troops against the French, to kill all that he could. It was not the loss of a dear woman, that had made the captain half mad when he set out with the bog-trotter,

"In romantic method."

But it was a cause that had some relation to it; disappointment in love. These had happened to him frequently, and from an early period. His first attachment that took a strong hold of him was about the twenty-eighth year of his age. He had taken it for granted that it was a thing of course for the mead to affect coyness, and to be won with great difficulty. And hence it was that he persevered too much and too long; and when repulsed he bore it the more hardly, because he had not expected it. The effect also was produced that in his advances to a future mistress, a very small matter discouraged him; in the same manner as a steed in a curricle, once baulked, will stick at a small impediment, and refuse to draw. For falling in love with another beauty, and learning that poetry was essentially necessary in a matter of love to a young person, he wrote verses and presented them. The lady wishing to bring him to the point, affected to consider his madrigals as a burlesque, returned them to him, telling him that she had not expected such ridicule from a gentleman of his good breeding. The poor captain, in the honesty of his heart, took her to be in earnest, and never went to see her more.

The third that he addressed; for a lapse of a long time intervened before he could muster resolution to pay his respects to any one; the third, I say, that he addressed, or rather purposed to address, was a blue-eyed beauty, with black hair and a white skin, whom he took by the hand, which trembled so that he let it go, and gave up his pretensions. The truth is, it was sensibility, and her joy in the good fortune that she had to be addressed by one whom she prized so much. He mistook it for a feeling of horror at her situation. His next campaign was with one whom his heart loved, but his reason disapproved, for she was as handsome as an angel, but as ill tempered as Jezebel. He would have married her; but he was relieved by a richer wooer, who made a present of a bread tray, and chicken coop to the mother; and having her good wishes, succeeded with the daughter so far at least as to gain her consent to matrimony.

His last attack, to speak in a military phrase, was on the heart of a young widow, who would have yielded incontinently had he pressed his advances, but her little boy calling a gentleman pappy, who gave him sweetmeats, he took it that the child had the hint from the mother, and that the other was the favoured lover. Considering the matter all over, he resolved, not as the English novelists say, upon a trip to the continent, but a journey on the continent to dissipate his ennui, and recover himself from the softer affections which had obtained the ascendant. For a change of objects diverts the mind; and going to watering places cures love, as it does the rheumatism; not that it has any other primary effect, than cheating the imagination of its reveries.

The people of the settlement had built the governor a house. The mansion of his excellency was spacious, and furnished with several large tables, and some long benches, but was deficient in one particular, a lady of the castle who might attend to household affairs, and receive company. His senate thought that he ought to marry. Having weighty reasons to oppose, he did not all at once accede to the proposition. The truth is, as we have seen he was apprehensive of a repulse.

For he had laid it down from his own experience, that as some attract women, so others repel; and there is no contending against nature. But though of great candour, he did not wish to acknowledge, or profess the real motives which led him to hesitate; but rather to evade, and raise difficulties.

The setting an example of matrimony for the sake of peopleing a new country, was suggested as an obligation upon every good citizen: and that it behooved every good man to see to it that he multiplied himself. To this he replied, that he was not so sure of the truth of that proposition. That when we saw nature using means to put people out of the world by pestilence, and earthquakes, we could not be certain that it was the will of Providence there should be more brought into it. And as it is of no consequence to such as have not yet come into life, whether they ever come at all, he did not see that those who did not come had reason to complain of those who were but the negative causes of the non-existence.

There was a subtilty in this reasoning which the people could not answer; yet they were not satisfied. It came to this at last, that he was under the necessity of explaining to them the delicacy of his situation, that it did not become him, the governor of a republic, to compel matrimony in his own case, or indeed in that of any other; and that he had no reason to suppose that in any other way, he could obtain the hand of the inamorata that he might pitch upon.

It seemed to the multitude a ridiculous idea that there could be any spinster in the colony who would refuse the hand of a man of station when offered to her. But that if there should be any one found so recreant, the voice of the people should compel an acquiescence: that the would send out through all their border, and find out a damsel for my lord, the governor, as in the case of king David, Ahasuerus, and others that are read of in the scripture times.

Appalled at all idea of constraint, he was disposed to try rather what might be accomplished by fair means. He had heard of the emigration of the Creoles from St. Domingo, which had happened about this time, being driven from their own country by the revolt of the negroes; some of these half mulattos themselves, or what are called mustachees, and not being of the fairest complexion, and pressed by great necessity, might wish to match themselves with any person for a livelihood. Or, as another expedient, he thought of sending by a trader a keg or two of whiskey to the Indian towns, to purchase a princess who could be reconciled, for a little calico, to relinquish her connections. But the people would hear of no Creole, nor savage, who would be running back like a pig that is brought from another settlement; or bringing her relations along with her, of foreign manners and attachments. They insisted on his issuing a proclamation to call in all the spinsters, and selecting one from the assembled; some Abisha, the Shinamite, or Esther; not for a concubine, for they would have no concubine; but to be the lady of his hall, in a decent manner, as became the magistrate of a Christian people.

His excellency could not reconcile it to himself to procure an assemblage of females by proclamation; as in that case one must be rejected, and another chosen, which could not but wound his own mind, as well as that of the unsuccessful candidate; and he could not marry them all, even were they so disposed; for a plurality of wives in modern times could not agree in one house, however it might have been in ancient, when women were better tempered than at present. Besides the accommodation of the country would not admit it. If he took two, some honest settler might be without one.

To obviate the delicacy of a selection, it was suggested, the procuring a number to be got together under the idea of a spinning match, a thing well known in the country, and let the best spinner take the prize; or to draw lots, as marriage is but a lottery, which would be a way of avoiding all idea of preference.

That may do, said the Governor, provided that my man, Teague O'Regan, is put out of the way, or fastened up; for if they once see him, the matter is at an end; I shall get none of them to take a chance for me.

But, all things considered, it was thought the most convenient course to do as others did; and without making any noise, to ride about the country a little to see the damsels in their hamlets and at their spinning wheels, in their virgin state and simple habiliments, with unadorned tresses.

In visiting the settlement, his excellency admired much the spinning wheel, a piece of machinery which he saw in almost every cabin. The attitude of the spinster is unquestionably finer than that of a lady, at the forte piano, or harpsichord; not altogether because it connects grace with industry, and charms imagination at the same time that it engages reason in its favour; but because the position of the body behind the instrument, and with a front view to the beholder, has a great advantage. The fact is, that a finely formed woman can be seen in no possible attitude to more advantage than at the spinning wheel. At the forte piano, at a side view, which is the best; for you cannot have a front view, but a side view only, the instrument being in front, you see but the profile of the face, and the person in an inclined posture, with the shoulder stooping, somewhat. Even the fingers, however lightly they touch the instrument, are not seen to more advantage, than those of the spinster when she draws the lint from the rock with one hand, and rests the other on her lap. I consider the Irish harp as but approaching the spinning wheel, in exhibiting the person to advantage; but independent of connecting the idea of utility, figure to yourself this simple piece of mechanism, combining the circle with the triangle in its form; the lever, the inclined plane, the axis in the principle of motion; the orders of architecture in the rounding of the pillars, from the turning loom; and white maple stained in concentric circles of bright yellow, or scarlet die; the yellow by the rind of the shumack, the scarlet by the pacoon root, gathered by the female hand from adjoining woods. The tripod of Apollo, made of ebony, may present a resemblance; but the trapezium, on which the foot rests, and puts in motion the machine, with the neat ankle and morocco slipper, is not so easily painted to the fancy. But when you raise your eye to the auburn, or golden, or hair of raven wing; with a skin milk white, and a brow of jet, and eyes of the crystal blue; when you add to this the finger of Hebe, disporting with the lint; the chest of Juno, thrown back from the position; the cincture and the smile of Venus, and the vivacity and sense of Mnemosyne, you may have an idea of what I have seen of beauty, and loveliness of the use of this instrument. A woman on horseback, presents her form to advantage; but much more at the spinning wheel.

"And still she turn'd her spinning wheel,"

is part of an old song; and if we ever hear of the Governor being married, it is ten to one but it will be to a spinster.