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The Courtship of Susan Bell
by [?]

In the evening, leaving his work when it was dark, Aaron always returned, and then the evening was passed together. But they were passed with the most demure propriety. These women would make the tea, cut the bread and butter, and then sew; while Aaron Dunn, when the cups were removed, would always go to his plans and drawings.

On Sundays they were more together; but even on this day there was cause of separation, for Aaron went to the Episcopalian church, rather to the disgust of Hetta. In the afternoon, however, they were together; and then Phineas Beckard came in to tea on Sundays, and he and Aaron got to talking on religion; and though they disagreed pretty much, and would not give an inch either one or the other, nevertheless the minister told the widow, and Hetta too probably, that the lad had good stuff in him, though he was so stiff-necked.

“But he should be more modest in talking on such matters with a minister,” said Hetta.

The Rev. Phineas acknowledged that perhaps he should; but he was honest enough to repeat that the lad had stuff in him. “Perhaps after all he is not a wolf,” said the widow to herself.

Things went on in this way for above a month. Aaron had declared to himself over and over again that that face was sweet to look upon, and had unconsciously promised to himself certain delights in talking and perhaps walking with the owner of it. But the walkings had not been achieved–nor even the talkings as yet. The truth was that Dunn was bashful with young women, though he could be so stiff- necked with the minister.

And then he felt angry with himself, inasmuch as he had advanced no further; and as he lay in his bed–which perhaps those pretty hands had helped to make–he resolved that he would be a thought bolder in his bearing. He had no idea of making love to Susan Bell; of course not. But why should he not amuse himself by talking to a pretty girl when she sat so near him, evening after evening?

“What a very quiet young man he is,” said Susan to her sister.

“He has his bread to earn, and sticks to his work,” said Hetta. “No doubt he has his amusement when he is in the city,” added the elder sister, not wishing to leave too strong an impression of the young man’s virtue.

They had all now their settled places in the parlour. Hetta sat on one side of the fire, close to the table, having that side to herself. There she sat always busy. She must have made every dress and bit of linen worn in the house, and hemmed every sheet and towel, so busy was she always. Sometimes, once in a week or so, Phineas Beckard would come in, and then place was made for him between Hetta’s usual seat and the table. For when there he would read out loud. On the other side, close also to the table, sat the widow, busy, but not savagely busy as her elder daughter. Between Mrs. Bell and the wall, with her feet ever on the fender, Susan used to sit; not absolutely idle, but doing work of some slender pretty sort, and talking ever and anon to her mother. Opposite to them all, at the other side of the table, far away from the fire, would Aaron Dunn place himself with his plans and drawings before him.

“Are you a judge of bridges, ma’am?” said Aaron, the evening after he had made his resolution. ‘Twas thus he began his courtship.

“Of bridges?” said Mrs. Bell–“oh dear no, sir.” But she put out her hand to take the little drawing which Aaron handed to her.

“Because that’s one I’ve planned for our bit of a new branch from Moreau up to Lake George. I guess Miss Susan knows something about bridges.”