List Of Contents | Contents of The Courtship of Susan Bell, by Trollope
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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

"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

"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

"Mr. Beckard seems quite to take to him," said Mrs. Bell to her
eldest daughter.

"It is his great good nature, mother," replied Hetta.

It was at the end of the second month when Aaron took another step
in advance--a perilous step.  Sometimes on evenings he still went on
with his drawing for an hour or so; but during three or four
evenings he never asked any one to look at what he was doing.  On
one Friday he sat over his work till late, without any reading or
talking at all; so late that at last Mrs. Bell said, "If you're
going to sit much longer, Mr. Dunn, I'll get you to put out the
candles."  Thereby showing, had he known it or had she, that the
mother's confidence in the young man was growing fast.  Hetta knew
all about it, and dreaded that the growth was too quick.

"I've finished now," said Aaron; and he looked carefully at the
cardboard on which he had been washing in his water-colours.  "I've
finished now."  He then hesitated a moment; but ultimately he put
the card into his portfolio and carried it up to his bedroom.  Who
does not perceive that it was intended as a present to Susan Bell?

The question which Aaron asked himself that night, and which he
hardly knew how to answer, was this.  Should he offer the drawing to
Susan in the presence of her mother and sister, or on some occasion
when they two might be alone together?  No such occasion had ever
yet occurred, but Aaron thought that it might probably be brought
about.  But then he wanted to make no fuss about it.  His first
intention had been to chuck the drawing lightly across the table
when it was completed, and so make nothing of it.  But he had
finished it with more care than he had at first intended; and then
he had hesitated when he had finished it.  It was too late now for
that plan of chucking it over the table.

On the Saturday evening when he came down from his room, Mr. Beckard
was there, and there was no opportunity that night.  On the Sunday,
in conformity with a previous engagement, he went to hear Mr.
Beckard preach, and walked to and from meeting with the family.
This pleased Mrs. Bell, and they were all very gracious that
afternoon.  But Sunday was no day for the picture.

On Monday the thing had become of importance to him.  Things always
do when they are kept over.  Before tea that evening when he came
down Mrs. Bell and Susan only were in the room.  He knew Hetta for
his foe, and therefore determined to use this occasion.

"Miss Susan," he said, stammering somewhat, and blushing too, poor
fool!  "I have done a little drawing which I want you to accept,"
and he put his portfolio down on the table.

"Oh!  I don't know," said Susan, who had seen the blush.

Mrs. Bell had seen the blush also, and pursed her mouth up, and
looked grave.  Had there been no stammering and no blush, she might
have thought nothing of it.

Aaron saw at once that his little gift was not to go down smoothly.
He was, however, in for it now, so he picked it out from among the
other papers in the case and brought it over to Susan.  He
endeavoured to hand it to her with an air of indifference, but I
cannot say that he succeeded.

It was a very pretty, well-finished, water-coloured drawing,
representing still the same bridge, but with more adjuncts.  In
Susan's eyes it was a work of high art.  Of pictures probably she
had seen but little, and her liking for the artist no doubt added to
her admiration.  But the more she admired it and wished for it, the
stronger was her feeling that she ought not to take it.

Poor Susan! she stood for a minute looking at the drawing, but she
said nothing; not even a word of praise.  She felt that she was red
in the face, and uncourteous to their lodger; but her mother was
looking at her and she did not know how to behave herself.

Mrs. Bell put out her hand for the sketch, trying to bethink herself
as she did so in what least uncivil way she could refuse the
present.  She took a moment to look at it collecting her thoughts,
and as she did so her woman's wit came to her aid.

"Oh dear, Mr. Dunn, it is very pretty; quite a beautiful picture.  I
cannot let Susan rob you of that.  You must keep that for some of
your own particular friends."

"But I did it for her," said Aaron innocently.

Susan looked down at the ground, half pleased at the declaration.
The drawing would look very pretty in a small gilt frame put over
her dressing-table.  But the matter now was altogether in her
mother's hands.

"I am afraid it is too valuable, sir, for Susan to accept."

"It is not valuable at all," said Aaron, declining to take it back
from the widow's hand.

"Oh, I am quite sure it is.  It is worth ten dollars at least--or
twenty," said poor Mrs. Bell, not in the very best taste.  But she
was perplexed, and did not know how to get out of the scrape.  The
article in question now lay upon the table-cloth, appropriated by no
one, and at this moment Hetta came into the room.

"It is not worth ten cents," said Aaron, with something like a frown
on his brow.  "But as we had been talking about the bridge, I
thought Miss Susan would accept it."

"Accept what?" said Hetta.  And then her eye fell upon the drawing
and she took it up.

"It is beautifully done," said Mrs. Bell, wishing much to soften the
matter; perhaps the more so that Hetta the demure was now present.
"I am telling Mr. Dunn that we can't take a present of anything so

"Oh dear no," said Hetta.  "It wouldn't be right."

It was a cold frosty evening in March, and the fire was burning
brightly on the hearth.  Aaron Dunn took up the drawing quietly--
very quietly--and rolling it up, as such drawings are rolled, put it
between the blazing logs.  It was the work of four evenings, and his
chef-d'oeuvre in the way of art.

Susan, when she saw what he had done, burst out into tears.  The
widow could very readily have done so also, but she was able to
refrain herself, and merely exclaimed--"Oh, Mr. Dunn!"

"If Mr. Dunn chooses to burn his own picture, he has certainly a
right to do so," said Hetta.

Aaron immediately felt ashamed of what he had done; and he also
could have cried, but for his manliness.  He walked away to one of
the parlour-windows, and looked out upon the frosty night.  It was
dark, but the stars were bright, and he thought that he should like
to be walking fast by himself along the line of rails towards
Balston.  There he stood, perhaps for three minutes.  He thought it
would be proper to give Susan time to recover from her tears.

"Will you please to come to your tea, sir?" said the soft voice of
Mrs. Bell.

He turned round to do so, and found that Susan was gone.  It was not
quite in her power to recover from her tears in three minutes.  And
then the drawing had been so beautiful!  It had been done expressly
for her too!  And there had been something, she knew not what, in
his eye as he had so declared.  She had watched him intently over
those four evenings' work, wondering why he did not show it, till
her feminine curiosity had become rather strong.  It was something
very particular, she was sure, and she had learned that all that
precious work had been for her.  Now all that precious work was
destroyed.  How was it possible that she should not cry for more
than three minutes?

The others took their meal in perfect silence, and when it was over
the two women sat down to their work.  Aaron had a book which he
pretended to read, but instead of reading he was bethinking himself
that he had behaved badly.  What right had he to throw them all into
such confusion by indulging in his passion?  He was ashamed of what
he had done, and fancied that Susan would hate him.  Fancying that,
he began to find at the same time that he by no means hated her.

At last Hetta got up and left the room.  She knew that her sister
was sitting alone in the cold, and Hetta was affectionate.  Susan
had not been in fault, and therefore Hetta went up to console her.

"Mrs. Bell," said Aaron, as soon as the door was closed, "I beg your
pardon for what I did just now."

"Oh, sir, I'm so sorry that the picture is burnt," said poor Mrs.

"The picture does not matter a straw," said Aaron.  "But I see that
I have disturbed you all,--and I am afraid I have made Miss Susan

"She was grieved because your picture was burnt," said Mrs. Bell,
putting some emphasis on the "your," intending to show that her
daughter had not regarded the drawing as her own.  But the emphasis
bore another meaning; and so the widow perceived as soon as she had

"Oh, I can do twenty more of the same if anybody wanted them," said
Aaron.  "If I do another like it, will you let her take it, Mrs.
Bell?--just to show that you have forgiven me, and that we are
friends as we were before?"

Was he, or was he not a wolf?  That was the question which Mrs. Bell
scarcely knew how to answer.  Hetta had given her voice, saying he
was lupine.  Mr. Beckard's opinion she had not liked to ask
directly.  Mr. Beckard she thought would probably propose to Hetta;
but as yet he had not done so.  And, as he was still a stranger in
the family, she did not like in any way to compromise Susan's name.
Indirectly she had asked the question, and, indirectly also, Mr.
Beckard's answer had been favourable.

"But it mustn't mean anything, sir," was the widow's weak answer,
when she had paused on the question for a moment.

"Oh no, of course not," said Aaron, joyously, and his face became
radiant and happy.  "And I do beg your pardon for burning it; and
the young ladies' pardon too."  And then he rapidly got out his
cardboard, and set himself to work about another bridge.  The widow,
meditating many things in her heart, commenced the hemming of a

In about an hour the two girls came back to the room and silently
took their accustomed places.  Aaron hardly looked up, but went on
diligently with his drawing.  This bridge should be a better bridge
than that other.  Its acceptance was now assured.  Of course it was
to mean nothing.  That was a matter of course.  So he worked away
diligently, and said nothing to anybody.

When they went off to bed the two girls went into the mother's room.
"Oh, mother, I hope he is not very angry," said Susan.

"Angry!" said Hetta, "if anybody should be angry, it is mother.  He
ought to have known that Susan could not accept it.  He should never
have offered it."

"But he's doing another," said Mrs. Bell.

"Not for her," said Hetta.

"Yes he is," said Mrs. Bell, "and I have promised that she shall
take it."  Susan as she heard this sank gently into the chair behind
her, and her eyes became full of tears.  The intimation was almost
too much for her.

"Oh, mother!" said Hetta.

"But I particularly said that it was to mean nothing."

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