Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Doña Quixota

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Doña Quixota

By Tabitha Tenney (1762–1837)

[Born in Exeter, N. H., 1762. Died there, 1837. Female Quixotism: Exhibited in the Romantic Opinions and Extravagant Adventures of Dorcasina Sheldon. 1808.]

  • The conceited Barber has been persuaded, by a wag, that the lady has fallen in love with him at church.—EDS.

  • MONDAY being come, the barber, arrayed in his Sunday clothes, with his hair as white as powder could make it, set out, at four o’clock, for the arbor, which had been pointed out to him by Philander; who, previous to this time, judging that Puff would arrive at an early hour, had taken possession of a thick tree, to enjoy, unobserved, the coming scene. The barber found the hour of waiting very tedious. He sang, he whistled, and listened attentively to every passing noise; when, at length, his ears were saluted by the sound of female voices, which were no other than those of Dorcasina and her attendant. “Betty,” said the former, “you may seat yourself with your knitting work, without the arbor, and at a small distance from it; for it would not be treating the young man with delicacy, to admit a third person to witness his passion.” Betty did as she was desired; and the little barber no sooner discovered Dorcasina approaching the arbor, than, stepping forward and taking her hand, he addressed her with the utmost familiarity: “Gad, my dear, I began to be very impatient, and was afraid you had changed your mind; but I am very glad to see you at last! Pray, my dear, be seated.”

    This familiar address, so different from what Dorcasina had been led to expect, and from what she had been accustomed to from O’Connor, so totally disconcerted her, that she was unable to answer a single word. She, however, did mechanically as she was desired, and seated herself upon the turf in silence. The barber placed himself by her, and still holding the hand which she had not attempted to withdraw, pitied her for what he thought her country timidity, and kindly endeavored to encourage her. “I suppose, my dear, you feel a little bashful or so! but don’t be afraid to confess your love. Be assured you will meet with a suitable return; and that I shall be ever grateful and kind for being thus distinguished.” Dorcasina, still more confounded by this strange speech, and wholly unable to comprehend its meaning, continued silent. The barber, after waiting some moments in vain for a reply, again began: “Why, gad, my dear! if you don’t intend to speak, you might as well have stayed at home. Pray, now, afford me a little of your sweet conversation, if it is but just to say how much you love me.”

    Here Dorcasina could contain herself no longer. “I had thought, sir,” said she, hesitating, “I had expected, from your professions, a quite different reception from this.” “Did you, indeed? Gad, my dear, you are in the right.” Upon this he threw his arms round her neck, and almost stifled her with kisses. The astonished Dorcasina endeavored to disengage herself, but in vain; for the enraptured barber continued his caresses, only at intervals exclaiming, “Gad, my dear, how happy we shall be when we are married. I shall love you infinitely, I am sure.” Dorcasina, at length finding breath, in a loud and angry tone exclaimed, “Let me go this moment; unhand me, sir. I will not endure to be thus treated.”

    Betty, who had hitherto sat quietly knitting upon a stump, hearing the angry voice of her mistress, darted towards the arbor, and instantly recognized little Puff, who had been once or twice at the house (though unseen by Dorcasina) to dress Mr. Sheldon, and whom she had observed to be a pretty, spruce young fellow. Her indignation being raised at the treatment of her mistress, she sprung upon him before he was aware of it, and gave him, with her large heavy hand, a rousing box on the ear; exclaiming, at the same time, in a tone of great contempt, “The little barber! as I hope to live, ma’am.”

    This unexpected blow had the desired effect. Puff, surprised in his turn, instantly released the mistress, and turning about to the maid, desired to know what the d——l she meant. Betty did not deign to answer him, but “stood collected in her might.” Recollecting with indignation the treatment she had so lately received in this very spot, of which she now supposed him to be the instigator, and incensed at his unpardonable insolence to her mistress, she now rejoiced in an opportunity of taking an ample revenge, in kind, for all the affronts they had both received. Rudely grasping him, therefore, under one arm (for though naturally mild, she was a virago when exasperated), “You pitiful little scoundrel,” she cried, “what is it you mean by thus insulting Miss Sheldon? You pretend for to inspire to love her, and decoy her here, on purpose to be impudent to her; besides setting some impudent varlet in women’s clothes to insult me, t’other night.” Thus saying, she boxed his ears with great fury, till the terrified barber bawled to her to desist; which she did not do till she was heartily tired.

    Meanwhile, the wicked scholar, perched on the tree (determined if matters should come to extremity to descend and take the part of Puff), enjoyed the scene with the highest relish; being obliged to stuff the corner of his gown into his mouth, to prevent laughing aloud and spoiling the sport.