« PreviousContinue »
TILE FOX AND THIE CROW.
A CRow, having stolen a piece of cheese from a cottage window, flew up into a high tree with it, in order to eat it; which the Fox observing, came and sat underneath, and began to compliment the Crow upon the subject of her beauty. “I protest,” said he, “I never observed it before, but your feathers are of a more delicate white than any that ever. I saw in my life! Ah ! what a fine shape and graceful turn of body is there ! And I dare say you have a beautiful voice. If it be but as fine as your complexion, I do not know a bird that can pretend to stand in competition with you.”
The Crow, tickled with this very civil language, wriggled about and hardly knew where she was; but thinking the Fox a little dubious as to the particular of her voice, and having a mind to set him right in that matter, she began to sing, and in the same instant, let the cheese fall out of her mouth. This being what the Fox wanted, he snapped it up in a moment; and trotted away, laughing to himself at the easy credulity of the Crow.
It is a maxim in the schools,
Blow, blow, thou wintry wind,
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
About four years ago, passing a few days with the highly educated daughters of some friends in this neighborhood, I found, domesticated in the family, a young lady, whom I shall call as they called her, Cousin Mary. She was about eighteen, not beautiful perhaps, but lovely certainly to the full extent of that loveliest word—as fresh as a rose; as fair as a lily; with lips like winter berries, dimpled, smiling lips; and eyes of which nobody could tell the color, they danced so incessantly in their own gay light. Her figure was tall, round, and slender; exquisitely well proportioned it must have been, for in all attitudes, (and in her innocent gaiety, she was scarcely ever two minutes in the same,) she was grace itself. She was, in short, the very picture of youth, health, and happiness. No one could see her without being prepossessed in her favor. I took a fancy to her the moment she entered the room ; and it increased every hour in spite of, or rather perhaps for, certain deficiencies, which caused poor Cousin Mary to be held exceedingly cheap by her accomplished relatives.
She was the youngest daughter of an officer of rank, dead long ago; and his sickly widow having lost by death, or that other death, marriage, all her children but this, could not, from very fondness, resolve to part with her darling for the purpose of acquiring the com
monest instruction. She talked of it, indeed, now and then, but she only talked; so that, in this age of universal education, Mary C. at eighteen exhibited the
extraordinary phenomenon of a young woman of high
family, whose acquirements were limited to reading, writing, needle-work, and the first rules of arithmetic.
The effect of this let-alone system, combined with a careful seclusion from all improper society, and a perfect liberty in her country rambles, acting upon a mind of great power and activity, was the very reverse of what might have been predicted. It had produced not merely a delightful freshness and origin
ality of manner and character, a piquant ignorance of those things of which one is tired to death, but knowledge, positive, accurate, and various knowledge. She was, to be sure, wholly unaccomplished ; knew nothing of quadrilles, though her every motion was dancing,
nor a note of music, though she used to warble, like a bird, sweet snatches of old songs, as she skipped up and down the house; nor of painting, except as her taste had been formed by a minute acquaintance with nature into an intense feeling of art. She had that real extra sense, an eye for color, too, as well as an ear for music. Not one in twenty — not one in a hundred of our sketching and copying ladies could love and appreciate a picture where there was color and mind, a picture by Claude, or by our English Claudes, Wilson and Hoffland, as she could — for she loved landscape best, because she understood it best—it was a portrait of which she knew the original. Then her
COUSIN MARY. 27
needle was in her hands almost a pencil. I never knew such an embroidress — she would sit “printing her thoughts on lawn,” till the delicate creation vied with the snowy tracery, the fantastic carving of hoar frost, the richness of Gothic architecture, or of that which so much resembles it, the luxuriant fancy of old point lace. That was her only accomplishment, and a rare artist she was — muslin and net were her canvas. She had no French either, not a word ; no Italian; but then her English was racy, unhackneyed, proper to the thought to a degree that only original thinking could give. She had not much reading, except of the Bible and Shakspeare, and Richardson's novels, in which she was learned; but then her powers of observation were sharpened and quickened, in a very unusual degree, by the leisure and opportunity afforded for their developement, at a time of life when they are most acute. She had nothing to distract her mind. Her attention was always awake and alive. She was an excellent and curious naturalist, merely because she had gone into the fields with her eyes open; and knew all the details of rural management, domestic or agricultural, as well as the peculiar habits and modes of thinking of the peasantry, simply because she had lived in the country, and made use of her ears. Then slie was fanciful, recollective, new ; drew her images from the real objects, not from their shadows in books. In short, to listen to her, and the young ladies her companions, who, accomplished to the height, had trodden the education-mill till they all moved in one step, had lost sense in sound, and ideas in words,