I have become endeared of the following anecdote from Tales of Yesterday’s New England, about 18th century Connecticut Governor Matthew Griswold, who spent his youth at Black Hall, a great house in the town of Lyme—which is now, unfortunately, primarily known for a tick-born disease.
I like this quote not only for the romance, but the cleverness of the dialogue, and the archaic usage of the words “lover” and “love-making,” which referred to courting rather than sex. Also intriguing is the moral and personal strength of the female character, something we might be misled by politics to expect was impossible in the 1700s.
Governor Matthew, when a young man, was grave, shy, tall, and somewhat awkward. He courted a young lady in Durham, who put him off, delaying to give answer in the hope that a doctor, whom she preferred, would propose. He finally tired of his long rides on horseback, and suspecting the state of her mind, pressed for an immediate decision.
“I should like a little more time,” reiterated the fair one.
“Madame, I will give you a lifetime,” was the lover’s respouse [sic, response?]; and rising with dignity, he took his leave.
The lady took her lifetime, and died single, as the doctor never came forward. Young Griswold returned to Lyme so deeply mortified with the failure of his suit that he was little disposed to repeat the process of love-making. In course of events his second cousin, Ursula Wolcott, came on a visit to Back Hall. She was a modern edition of her grandmother, the historical Martha Pitkin, bright, beautiful, accomplished, and self-reliant. She was a little older than Matthew. She became assured that his affections were centred upon herself, but he was provokingly reticent. Meeting him on the stairs one day, she asked, “What did you say, Cousin Matthew?”
“I did not say any thing,” he replied.
A few days later, meeting him, she asked in the same tone, “What did you say, Cousin Matthew?”
“I did not say any thing,” he replied as before.
Finally, meeting him upon the beach one morning, she again asked, “What did you say, Cousin Matthew?”
“I did not say any thing,” he still replied.
“It is time you did,” she remarked, with emphasis.
Whereupon something was said, the result of which was a wedding, and the brilliant bride had a queenly reign at Black Hall.