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The Courtship of Susan Bell
by [?]

“I guess I don’t,” said Susan–“only that they oughtn’t to tumble down when the frost comes.”

“Ha, ha, ha; no more they ought. I’ll tell McEvoy that.” McEvoy had been a former engineer on the line. “Well, that won’t burst with any frost, I guess.”

“Oh my! how pretty!” said the widow, and then Susan of course jumped up to look over her mother’s shoulder.

The artful dodger! he had drawn and coloured a beautiful little sketch of a bridge; not an engineer’s plan with sections and measurements, vexatious to a woman’s eye, but a graceful little bridge with a string of cars running under it. You could almost hear the bell going.

“Well; that is a pretty bridge,” said Susan. “Isn’t it, Hetta?”

“I don’t know anything about bridges,” said Hetta, to whose clever eyes the dodge was quite apparent. But in spite of her cleverness Mrs. Bell and Susan had soon moved their chairs round to the table, and were looking through the contents of Aaron’s portfolio. “But yet he may be a wolf,” thought the poor widow, just as she was kneeling down to say her prayers.

That evening certainly made a commencement. Though Hetta went on pertinaciously with the body of a new dress, the other two ladies did not put in another stitch that night. From his drawings Aaron got to his instruments, and before bedtime was teaching Susan how to draw parallel lines. Susan found that she had quite an aptitude for parallel lines, and altogether had a good time of it that evening. It is dull to go on week after week, and month after month, talking only to one’s mother and sister. It is dull though one does not oneself recognise it to be so. A little change in such matters is so very pleasant. Susan had not the slightest idea of regarding Aaron as even a possible lover. But young ladies do like the conversation of young gentlemen. Oh, my exceedingly proper prim old lady, you who are so shocked at this as a general doctrine, has it never occurred to you that the Creator has so intended it?

Susan understanding little of the how and why, knew that she had had a good time, and was rather in spirits as she went to bed. But Hetta had been frightened by the dodge.

“Oh, Hetta, you should have looked at those drawings. He is so clever!” said Susan.

“I don’t know that they would have done me much good,” replied Hetta.

“Good! Well, they’d do me more good than a long sermon, I know,” said Susan; “except on a Sunday, of course,” she added apologetically. This was an ill-tempered attack both on Hetta and Hetta’s admirer. But then why had Hetta been so snappish?

“I’m sure he’s a wolf;” thought Hetta as she went to bed.

“What a very clever young man he is!” thought Susan to herself as she pulled the warm clothes round about her shoulders and ears.

“Well that certainly was an improvement,” thought Aaron as he went through the same operation, with a stronger feeling of self- approbation than he had enjoyed for some time past.

In the course of the next fortnight the family arrangements all altered themselves. Unless when Beckard was there Aaron would sit in the widow’s place, the widow would take Susan’s chair, and the two girls would be opposite. And then Dunn would read to them; not sermons, but passages from Shakspeare, and Byron, and Longfellow. “He reads much better than Mr. Beckard,” Susan had said one night. “Of course you’re a competent judge!” had been Hetta’s retort. “I mean that I like it better,” said Susan. “It’s well that all people don’t think alike,” replied Hetta.

And then there was a deal of talking. The widow herself, as unconscious in this respect as her youngest daughter, certainly did find that a little variety was agreeable on those long winter nights; and talked herself with unaccustomed freedom. And Beckard came there oftener and talked very much. When he was there the two young men did all the talking, and they pounded each other immensely. But still there grew up a sort of friendship between them.