April 1992

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A New Home: Who'll Follow

Life in the Clearings


Caroline M. Kirkland

First published in 1839
Click here for an index to the chapters of A New Home.

Chapter 53

A Fond Farewell

The growth of our little secluded village has been so gradual, its prosperity so moderate, and its attempts so unambitious, that during the whole three years which have flown since it knew "the magic of a name," not a single event has occurred which would have been deemed worthy of record by anyone but a midge-fancier like myself. Our brief annals boast not yet one page, enlivened by those attractive words, "prodigious undertaking!" "brilliant success!" "splendid fortune!" "race of enterprise!" "march of improvement!" "cultivation of taste!" "triumph of art!" "designed by Vitruvius!" "unequalled dome!" "pinnacle of glory!" Alas! the mere enumeration of these magnificent expressions, makes our insignificance seem doubly insignificant like the joke of our school-days—"soared aloft on eagles' wings—then fell flat down, on father's wood-pile." Irredeemably little are we; unless, which Heaven forefend! a rail-road stray our way. We must content ourselves with grinding the grists, trimming the bonnets, mending the ploughs, and schooling the children, of a goodly expanse of wheat-fields, with such other jobs as may come within the abilities of our various Jacks-of-all-trades. We cannot be metropolitan, even in our dreams; for Turnipdale has secured the County honors. We canot hope to be literary; for all the colleges which are to be tolerated in Michigan, are already located. The State-Prison favors Jacksonburg; the Salt-works some undistinguished place at the north-east; what is left for Montacute?

Alas for Tinkerville! less happy under the cruel blight of her towering hopes, than we in our humble notelessness. She rose like a rocket, only to fall like its stick; and baleful were the stars that signalized her explosion. Mournful indeed are the closed windows of her porticoed edifices. The only pleasurable thought which arises in my mind is that connected with her whilome president. Mrs. Rivers is coming to spend the summer with Mrs. Daker, while Mr. Rivers departs for Texas with two or three semblables, to attempt the carving out of a new home, where he need not "work." I shall have my gentle friend again; and her life will not lack interest, for she brings with her a drooping, delicate baby, to borrow health from the sunny skies and soft breezes of Michigan.

The Female Beneficent Society grows, by dire experience, chary of news. The only novel idea broached at our last meeting, was that of a nascent tendresse between Mrs. Nippers and Mr. Phlatt, a young lawyer, whose resplendent "tin," graces, within the month, the side-post of Squire Jenkins' door. I have my doubts. This is one of the cases wherein much may be said on both sides. Mr. Phlatt is certainly a constant visitor at Mrs. Nippers', but the knowing widow does not live alone. He praises with great fervor, Mrs. Nippers' tea and biscuits, but then who could do less? they are so unequivocally perfect—and besides, Mr. Phlatt has not access to many such comfortable tea-tables—and moreover, when he praises he gazes, but not invariably on Mrs. Nippers. I am not convinced yet. Miss Clinch has a new French calico, coleur de rose, and a pink lining to her Tuscan. And she is young and rather pretty. But then, she has no money! and Mrs. Nippers has quite a pretty little income—the half-pay of her deceased Mr. Nippers, who died of a fever at Sackett's Harbor—and Mrs. Nippers has been getting a new dress, just the color of blue-pill, Dr. Teeny says. I waver, but time will bring all things to light.

Many new buildings are springing up in Montacute. Mr. Doubleday has ensconced himself and his wife and baby, in a white and green tenement, neat enough even for that queen of housewives; and Betsey, having grown stout, scours the new white-wood floors, merveille. Loggeries are becoming scarce within our limits, and many of our ladies wear silk dresses on Sunday. We have two physicians, and two lawyers, or rather one and a half. Squire Jenkins being only an adopted son of Themis. He thought it a pity his gift in the talking line should not be duly useful to the public, so he acts as advocate, whenever he is not on duty as judge, and thereby ekes out his bread and butter, as well as adds to his reputation. And in addition to all the improvements which I have recorded, I may mention that we are building a new meeting-house, and are soon to have a settled minister.

And now, why do I linger? As some rustic damsel who has, in her simplicity, accepted the hurried "Do call when you come to town," of a fine city guest, finds that she has already outstaid the fashionable limit, yet hesitates in her awkwardness, when and how to take leave; so I—conscious that I have said forth my little say, yet scarce knowing in what style best to make my parting reverence, have prolonged this closing chapter—a "conclusion wherein nothing is concluded." But such simple and sauntering stories are like Scotch reels, which have no natural ending, save the fatigue of those engaged. So I may as well cut short my mazy dance and resume at once my proper position as a "wall-flower," with an unceremonious adieu to the kind and courteous reader.

Read A Fond Farewell to Caroline Kirkland by Bill Treichler
Click here for an index to the chapters of A New Home.
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